Showing posts from September, 2004

Mr Darcy: smouldering or simply emotionally unavailable?

Cherry Potter (what a name to have) thinks it's the latter: Why do we still fall for Mr Darcy?

Miss Misery

Drink up, baby, stay up all night. With the things you could do, You won't but you might. The potential you'll be, That you'll never see, The promises you'll only make. - Elliott Smith, "Between the Bars" I'm currently listening to a track ("Twilight") from Elliott Smith's upcoming posthumous release From a Basement on the Hill . As usual, Smith's sparse acoustic guitar showcases his voice, poised on the point of heartbreak. And what heartbreak it is: Smith's lyrics are filled with regret and with tales of paths closed and not passable ("You're wonderful, when it's beautiful / But I'm already somebody's baby"). Such misery, so undeserved, so impossible to anaesthetise ("those drugs you got won't make you feel better / Pretty soon you'll find it's the only / Little part of your life you're keeping together"). Reflective, sadly, of his internal turmoil. RIP, Elliott - a talent

Keeping abreast of the latest ringtones

If you think these ringtones work, I've got a few rare religious artifacts I'd like to sell you.

Space pens are useful

I really hate the hooey that makes up urban legends. Something about people's credulity when it comes to these overly pat stories really aggravates me. I especially hate it when a supposedly distinguished speaker goes up on stage, gets paid thousands of dollars, and delivers a completely false story to illustrate his or her point. If you're that smart, why don't you check out your anecdotes? So has been a godsend, and it's nice to check in from time to time to debunk whatever makes the rounds on e-mails. ( Coke doesn't dissolve teeth , for one.) Was thinking about this because someone mentioned the "NASA spent $1.5 million to develop a pen that would work in space, while the Russians used a pencil" story. Sounded like complete bullplop to me, so I checked it up, and it was nice to have it affirmed that in real life what happened was the other way around. Both Americans and Russians were using pencils, but pencil lead could cause a host of probl

More pictures of my dog, just because

Coconut and his friend Bogart. I like Coconut's somewhat indignant look in this pic.

Status Anxiety

"I was sad because I had no on-board fax until I saw a man who had no mobile phone" - New Yorker cartoon I 'm presently reading Alain de Botton's Status Anxiety , about one of the fundamental paradoxes of modern capitalism and meritocracy: by making it possible (or at least trying) for anyone to succeed in a society, the corollary must be that those who don't succeed somehow brought it upon themselves. It's the troubling flip side of opportunity, perhaps because of the fundamental attribution error: people tend to discount the role of luck and fortune in judging success, and so create these assumptions of morality associated with success. De Botton comes from a philosophy background (he wrote How Proust Can Change Your Life ), but there are lots of strands of thought that parallel the economist Juliet Schor (whom I had the privilege of taking a class under). What I think is interesting is how their solutions to status comparisons tend to suggest individual a

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna eat some worms

It's Banned Books Week in the US, and here's the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books . I can understand people's objections to certain themes (Madonna's "Sex", #19), but I can't see what's objectionable about Thomas Rockwell's "How to Eat Fried Worms" (#98).

Bovine intervention

Apparently Malaysia is home to the world's only wild cattle. I didn't know that. But then, as the Register informs me, scientists are being paid to go there and see if there are lesbian cows in the wild.

Mother-in-Law / Woman Hitler

If you're not prudish, here's a bunch of rude anagrams . The one for "the menstrual cycle" is unprintable here, but made me laugh.

Suburbia in the Developing World

"Let's take a ride, run with the dogs tonight, in suburbia" - Pet Shop Boys, "Suburbia" Dynamist Blog touches on a process that looks ultimately like suburbanisation in China and Brazil. Instinctively, this Crabgrass Frontier reader dislikes suburbia, but thinks it's inevitable in those two countries - the awful conditions of the urban areas there are a good parallel to the awful conditions of 19th-century American cities.

Voting - It's What's For Dinner

Old friend/editor Alan Wirzbicki writes in the New Republic Online on the futility of those "voting is cool" drives to encourage youth voting in the US. Makes a good point: ... as non-partisan groups, these outfits all promote voting for voting's sake, and stay away from endorsing candidates or anything but the most vague causes ("change," "justice"). Maybe I travel in cynical circles, but I have never met anyone who votes solely out of an abstract sense of civic responsibility. Makes sense to me. Never quite understood how "rock the vote" or "choose or lose" worked without any appeal to the value of the political process to the would-be voter. I suppose campaigns can make voting cool (debatable), but ultimately it has to motivate someone to drag her butt down to the polling station. Edit: Apparently, according to James Wolcott, in so linking, I've just perpetuated the " Harvard Crimson-Washington Monthly

Singaporean Film

J ust joined , an online forum for Singaporean film buffs and filmmakers. (I just lurk, really - haven't said a word yet.) Found this interesting piece on " why cinema is important to Singapore ", which carries the reminder that this used to be a thriving film centre back in the 1960s. Here's the sgfilm blog . Speaking of online forums, one day I'd like to study the sociological relationship between the rise of the Internet and the corresponding expression of the passions of Singaporeans... seems like a lot of people with previously obscure hobbies (always a problem in a country with just 4 million people) can coalesce much better with the Net.

Timeless Blogging

One summer, one of my housemates worked in a lab where he conducted sleep-related experiments. He'd keep people up for ridiculous periods of time, and not allow them any way of telling what time it was (hence: no watches or timepieces, no TV, VCR clocks presumably all unset with that annoying blinking "00:00" timestamp). Freaky. I would feel so unanchored without any sense of time. Having said all that, I thought the timestamps on the blog posts were messy, which is why I got rid of them. Blogger sets the timestamp based on when you first create the post, not publication time, and since my style is to leave about a half-dozen posts hanging in draft format before I get around to tuning them up, the time was hardly accurate.


Okay, I'm slow, but I just found the blog of Biz Stone, the Blogger exec who literally wrote the book on blogging. Two links from his site: 1. Yhis blog will be deleted by tomorrow . Because I love that it opens with a Kierkegaard quote. and 2. The guys who created Am I Hot or Not? have created Vote or Not , giving away $100,000 to an American who registers on their site and votes in the Presidential election on 2 November. Man, it would be fun to have money to spend organising random lotteries for various causes.

Scissor Sisters

The Guardian has a long profile of Scissor Sisters . Just thought I'd share because "Comfortably Numb" is a kickass song.

Recycling in Singapore

I consume way more Pepsi and Coke than is good for me. So anyway, on my way to the post office today I passed by a wizened old man who was collecting soda cans from a trash can presumably to exchange for cash. Using my very halting faculty in the Hokkien language, I indicated to him I had all these cans upstairs in my apartment and asked him to wait. Came down with 3 bags of soda cans. Boy was he happy. So I didn't have to carry all those cans to the recycling bins (no recycling collection in my apartment, annoyingly), and this man has a good day at the office. I think that's a fair deal.

Lantern Festival

Tonight marked the Lantern Festival , and stupidly I went downstairs to watch the fireworks on the Singapore River without bringing my camera. But it was great stuff - rockets, maroons, that sort of thing. Lately there've been loads of firework displays on the river, which makes for a magnificent sight against the backdrop of the skyscrapers. (What if you were working late in one of those skyscrapers? Isn't it bizarre to look out and see a plume of coloured flame rising up?) They've set up a huge 3939-ft. dragon lantern running alongside the bank of the river near Parliament House, and I did bring down my camera for this one.

Get in the ring

All those years of listening to Guns N' Roses (standard adolescent fare), and I only just realised what "Axl Rose" is an anagram of. Oh, and he's had awful plastic surgery .

You better shop around

From A Capital Idea , I learnt that the Christian Science Monitor has a language blog, Verbal Energy , by Ruth Walker. Here's an excerpt from a piece on the morphed transitive form of verbs like "graduate": An official in Washington holding forth on education policy told National Public Radio the other day, "What's important is that young people graduate high school college-ready." Well, if they want to graduate with honors, they might want to consider "graduating from high school," I sniffed. I'm enough of a linguist not to stand in the way of linguistic change: as Walker points out, a generation ago proper usage was to say a school graduates a student e.g. "Tom was graduated from Harvard". But I can still say I dislike certain changes on purely aesthetic grounds. For one, I can't stand the parallel development of a transitive form with the verb "shop": I guess I still believe you shop at a store, not sh

Thoughts upon reading the Style Issue of the New Yorker

One day, I'd like a photo of myself taken by Richard Avedon .

Nursery Rhymes

Over at John and Belle Have a Blog , proud mum Belle Waring notes her kid's predilection for rocking out to the Shins . Very cool I thought, for a mother to play music like that. Made me think of what my parents sang to me growing up. My memories of the songs sung are mostly older tunes -"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?", "Walk Like a Man", "Wake Up Little Susie" - although I do remember hearing a lot of Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love". If you think these aren't the usual songs Singaporean parents sang to their kids in the 70s, you'd be right. At least judging by the looks some of my friends gave me when I tell them the songs of my youth. Don't ask me what hearing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" did for my psyche.

Britney, Defender of Tradition

The Smoking Gun has the official, deeply cynical documents on Britney's sham marriage . Britney's recent spate of publicity desperation reminds me of the Simpsons episode ("Treehouse of Horror VI", if you want to be precise, and yes, I've watched way too much of that show) where giant advertising statues come to life and the only way they can be stopped is if people don't pay them attention. Just don't look. But I can't avert my eyes from a trainwreck!

Cod Linguistics

A quote highlighted in my weekly e-mail from the Plain English Campaign : "If you sat at home spouting cod scientific terminology, management-blah and corporate catchphrases, your partner would soon slap you or ask you to leave. And you would really have issues around that." Not a win-win situation, then? In any case, I highlighted the sentence not just because it's a funny thought, but because it uses the very British word "cod" to mean "faux"/"bogus". As in, "I couldn't stand the cod philosophy in the Matrix " (and neither could the Scotsman , apparently).

Phallic buildings

I guess this is what they mean when they talking about erecting buildings .

Axe to Grind

Jammed for a bit with two friends yesterday. Right now we have two guitarists (I play rhythm) and one singer/guitarist, but we're just starting out so we don't even have a name, just building up our repertoire. Two things learnt: I apparently have latent talent as a bassist, and the E to G#m7 transition in the verse of the Beatles' "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" is deceptively simple, but sonically very effective. Thoughts: why are there so many women bassists in rock bands? Melissa Auf Der Mar of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins. Kim Deal of the Breeders. D'Arcy Wretzky, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins. And of course, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, probably the mother of them all.

Westies rule!

It's quite scary how much love one can feel for one's dog ( click for more pictures of Coconut ). Funny too how loyal one becomes to the breed one owns. Can't imagine having a sedate dog after getting used to the hyperactivity of a Westie.

Britain and Third World Debt

Apparently, Britain is going to offer to pay off 10% of Third World debt to international agencies like the World Bank ( New York Times and Guardian stories). Text of Gordon Brown's intended words to the Trade Justice Movement, based on those stories: "Because the poor cannot wait, we intend to lead by example by paying our share of their payments to the World Bank and the African Development Bank... We do this alone today, but we urge you to use your moral authority to urge other countries to follow suit so that poor countries can look forward to a future free from the shackles of debt." The debt forgiveness movement has really come a long way. Spending money on aid is hardly a vote-winning measure (Brown says so as much in his interview with the Guardian ), and it's nice to see the Chancellor putting money where his mouth is. Even if the money comes from already-budgeted funds, it still seems a powerful symbolic gesture. Lots of movement on the debt forgive

The L Word

Cynthia Nixon is in a relationship with a woman now, a la Samantha in Sex and the City . "My private life is private. But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy." Good for her. I suppose you could say she now falls into the stereotype of "lefty activist lesbian", but I think you take love where you find it. Speaking of stereotypes, the Girlfriend reports that on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy , there was a male figure skater who was trying to learn to show more love to his wife, which I thought nicely goes against the stereotype of the gay male figure skater. After all, it's not like the Queer Eye guys themselves are doing very much to shatter stereotypes...

Rosabeth Moss Kanter on Confidence

The New York Times has an article on Rosabeth Moss Kanter , business guru, on the topic of confidence. I really like her definition of confidence as "a belief that persistence and hard work will yield results": it's certainly not self-deception, and it's certainly achievable. She believes that self-confidence is less important than confidence that things will work out, and that the most lasting form of confidence is often not self-generated, but nurtured by others. She posits that sports teams win because coaches instill a belief that they will, and that children succeed when parents and schools create an environment that encourages them to do their best. I really do believe that expectations of success breed success, and expectations of failure breed failure. In a way, Kanter's thoughts reminded me of Martin Seligman's work on learned optimism . It's not the same as mindless rah-rah "positive thinking" - learning optimism is utterly realistic a

Tales of the City: Naked Yoga

If you ever feel inclined to adopt the Naked Downward Facing Dog pose , San Francisco is your place. Flowers in your hair optional.

Blogger - Categories?

Every time I think about moving this blog over to Movable Type , the folks over at Blogger add stuff that I like, use, and incorporate... the WYSIWYG editor, individual post pages, well-designed templates (well, only for my reviews page), convenient picture uploading, commenting. I'm not a very demanding blogger, really. I know my PHP and my URL rewrites, but I'm not really at the stage where I need to switch. I don't care that the commenting facility is kind of strange and should really show the previous comments. Okay, I do care, but not that much. But I would like one thing: categories. Please. A quick search shows I'm not the only one . Oldcola has a workaround , but that's a stopgap.

Firefox 1.0 PR

As anyone who knows me knows, I try scrupulously to avoid using Microsoft products, as an aesthetic choice. (WordPerfect 11 user, checking in.) So I've used Firefox since the days it was Firebird, and was very pleased to see its growing success. Freaked out a bit when I downloaded Firefox 1.0 Preview Release because the extensions link didn't seem to have Tabbrowser Extensions , which I depend on (I link to open all bookmarks & all history in new tabs), but a quick Google search fixed that. The thing about tabbed browsing is, once you've used it, how could you ever go back to Internet Explorer and its multiple windows clogging up the taskbar? Anyway, Firefox things I learnt today: Ctrl-0 resizes all text back to original. Nifty.

Hurricane season

Hurricane Ivan hit my Jamaican relatives a few weeks back. What's scary is that that same storm is forming again . Went north, came back. Speaking of hurricanes, this is so, so wrong . Or at least prone to alternate interpretations. (Incidentally, Hurricane Ivan also destroyed Hell .)

Impact on Driving: Drinking and Cellphones

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution discusses a study comparing cellphone users and drunk drivers that found: When controlling for driving conditions and time on task, cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers. Two possible conclusions: 1. cellphone usage affects driving or 2. legal definitions of intoxication are at levels too low to affect driving. The first conclusion is similar to those studies that show that sleep deprivation is like drunk driving. (I personally can't talk and drive at the same time, even with a hands-free set; just takes too much to focus on either.) On the second conclusion, the paper finds that legal intoxication limits don't affect driving much: When participants were legally intoxicated, neither accident rates, nor reaction time to vehicles braking in front of the particpant, nor recovery of lost speed following braking differed significantly from baseline. This can hardly be said to be politically correct, and I

Riff Braff

Zach Braff, of "Scrubs" and Garden State fame, is now blogging too. But under the Fox Searchlight website, so goodness knows how long it'll last. Can't wait till Garden State comes to Singapore. If ever.

Travel Diaries

My old friend Alice DuBois writes in the New York Times about rediscovering a diary she once wrote of a trip to Uffizi. Made me want to dig up all my notes from my stints writing for Let's Go . I'll see if I can find any choice bits.

The Godfather horse head pillow

Ah, don't you love recreating classic movie scenes ? Just when you thought you got out, they pull you back in.

Microsoft Optical Mouse by Philippe Starck

I admit it, I'm a design junkie. Bought the Philippe Starck optical mouse today. Complements the Alessi juicer I have. Early verdict: I love the way it looks, of course, and the tactile response of the buttons is really solid for a left-handed mouse user - satisfying click, not too much bounce. I especially like the big buttons which let you click not just with your fingertips, but with your whole hand. Even the packaging looks good. The only complaint I have really is that I now need a better-looking mouse pad to go with the mouse. Best Microsoft product I've owned, although that's not saying much. Engadget has its opinion of the mouse.

Site design news

Yes, the blog's been redesigned and flipped so that the sidebar's on the right, so that when it loads at least you get to read the text of my posts first. Some other optimisation stuff went on too, so the page should load faster.

Eight Reasons I Never Got Around To Making That Second Hit Song

No Rain Waiting for a Star to Fall (Love Changes) Everything I Love the Nightlife Dancing in the Moonlight I Kissed a Girl She Blinded Me With Science I'm Too Sexy

More of the World's Cutest Dog

Bleah! ( More photos of Coconut )

Fly boys

You know, maybe I am the Lindbergh baby .

The skinny on diets

You know, there's something offensive about the number of ads for slimming centres in the Singaporean newspapers. I mean, I wouldn't criminalise it, but it's just a sad reflection of the mad quest for skinniness in this society. Big White Guy, writing from Hong Kong, notes a similar phenomenon in his city of residence, quoting a South China Morning Post article on a dancer's diet: Just sit in a bathtub with ice and water. The frigidness will burn up your natural fat to keep warm. At this time, you’re actually shrinking. Ugh. BWG makes the very valid point that "torturing themselves in ice water will make sense to some women, but no man I know would be willing to try it". Although perhaps that may be due to the male gender's averson to shrinkage ...

Translation Hurdles

Randomly stumbled on this quote from Liu Xiang, the Chinese winner of the Olympic 110m-hurdles: "My victory has proved that athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skin." ( Link ) Um, if you have "black and white" skin, you'd better check for the vitiligo . Or you might be a zebra . Someone needs a better translator.

Ut si!

Handy Latin phrases . In case, like, you need to talk about that episode of "Insula gilliganis" where the Professor and Mary-Ann engaged in tomfoolery. I love the bumper sticker section: Sic hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades "If you can read this, you are both very well educated and much too close."


Waterbones made some nice comments about this blog, so I'm returning the compliment - check out her piece on belly-dancing. Plus, I liked the line: "never, ever, dismiss something by saying oh, it's just semantic to a woman with a linguistics degree".

Illegitimis non carborundum

I've been annoyed by the preachers on both the Tube and the New York subway. Antagonising potential converts just doesn't seem a very good means of spreading the Word. But to sing back ! That's genius.

Sons and Daughters of Lenny Bruce

"That's great it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid" - REM, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" Lenny Bruce's personal recordings are now released. One of the most influential books I read while growing up was Paul Krassner 's Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut , which only built up the Lenny Bruce myth in my mind, and then I read Bruce's own How to Talk Dirty and Influence People , which at times is laugh-out-loud funny and at times is really a bittersweet portrayal of a censorious past, with tut-tutting cops staking out comedy clubs just to see if Bruce would say certain words. Between Krassner, Bruce, and Mad magazine, I think my formative years were spent reading up the canon of puncturing hypocrisy. has a list (note: premium content) of the top 10 comedians in the spirit of Lenny Bruce. From #10 to #1: Upright Citizens' Brigade Louis C

News Asia

Simon World is an interesting pan-Asian news blog, sort of like Instapundit for Asians, by an Australian bloke living in Hong Kong. I liked his everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask (good links too). Particuarly this line: " Blog is an ugly word but we're stuck with it". How true. You take the globe. Spin it around. Drop some E. Um, I mean, drop the e. There, "blog".

Retail Therapy

Here's an old favourite, Acts of Gord , all about a video-game store owner and the stupidity of his customers. The tone is classic: it reminds me of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Emmy Award Thoughts

"Thanks to my wonderful husband, Mark. Someday soon we can have a legal marriage and you can make an honest homosexual out of me." - Tony Kushner, in his Emmy speech So glad to see Angels in America won at the Emmys, but it's kind of a sign of the irrelevance of the Emmys that it feels like The Sopranos and Sex and the City have been on hiatus/off the air forever. Good Kushner speech. Meanwhile, Britney ties the knot again . Marriage, such a wonderful institution she did it twice! How weird is it for the kids to have Britney Spears as their stepmother? But then, at least she'll have a school uniform for the girl.

Found Art

Never lose your digital camera or a memory card. Someone might decide to reconstruct your life through the pictures.

Wired Sex

Even Wired has a sex column now, in which ostensibly they talk about the interactions between technology and sex but really seem to boil it down to adult toys. Frailty, thy name is prurience.


Obsessive-compulsive that I am, I got really frustrated that did not translate nicely into Little did I know what I was in for. First, I had no idea where to start. Some Googling let me to learning about the editing of the .htaccess file on my hosting server, which only led me to these following insistent changes: Learning how to do basic URL redirecting , so that just shows as Solving the trailing slash problem , so that becomes And finally, the fix that started it all. And then lots of checking . Still some minor changes to be made. Hopefully, I've learnt enough to claim search engine optimiser capabilities on my resume. Apache programming, here I come.

Thanks you

Mmm, bad grammar enshrined on a receipt.

Childhood Games = Adult Profit?

So Dodgeball is finally showing in Singapore. Ben Stiller really only seems to have one character: Man of Rage. That's not necessarily a bad thing - Hugh Grant can do great work within a very narrow range - but with Stiller it's a bit hit or miss. Anyway, I can't believe they made a movie out of dodgeball. What next, kickball? Are all childhood pasttimes fair game for movies now? I'll make the great Singaporean trilogy then: One Leg , Hantam Bola , and Pepsi-Cola-1-2-3 .

Spam Maps

Where spam comes from . I don't buy it though - North Korea as a major source of spam, and no Florida? I suppose they're just measuring where the servers of spam are located, not the senders.

Review: The Motorcycle Diaries

Watched the Che Guevara youth biopic The Motorcycle Diaries as part of the First Brazilian Film Festival yesterday. (Seems like every embassy here in Singapore wants to start its own film festival - good work by the Singapore Film Society !) I've put up a review on Delta Sierra Arts , my arts review site. An extract is here: If you had to choose an actor to play Che Guevara, Gael Garc í a Bernal would be near the top of that list (he apparently already did so in a TV show). As anyone who saw Y Tu Mama Tambien knows, he's got charisma to burn; as anyone who saw the 2003 Oscars knows, he's got the lefty politics. The Motorcycle Diaries is about a cross-continent trip the youthful Ernesto Guevara (played by Bernal; the "Che" name came later as a reference to his Argentinian origins) took with his companion Alberto Granado ( Rodrigo de la Serna) ... (click here for the rest of the review) This guy 's looking to recreate the Guevara-Granado journey. Good

Rover Phone Home

(From Gizmodo ) Apparently Pets Mobility , an Arizonan firm, is developing a cellphone for dogs. Cool. Funny they don't sell the "travelling and need to talk to your pet" angle. What Gizmodo calls the "Lassie function" is quite cool too - you can use the phone to tell your dog to go fetch help.

"Scary" White Chicks

They're releasing the Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks on 30 Sept here in Singapore. Except they're calling it Scary White Chicks , which is clearly an attempt to cash in on the Scary Movie name but makes no sense in the context of the movie, seeing as the "women" that Shawn and Marlon play aren't supposed to be scary at all. I suppose adding the "Scary" to the movie title helps people know that it's not some movie with dubious "artistic" value 1 . I don't know how well a movie that parodies a very American phenomenon will do in Singapore, but I must say the bit in the trailer where Shawn and Marlon, playing a couple of white girls, are forced to endure a singalong to Vanessa Carlton's piano-plunking in "A Thousand Miles" is a hilarious bit of observation. Oh, and seeing the poster made me haul out my Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood DVD. 1 Note for non-Singaporea

You won't lose weight

Jim Carson writes on Why You Won't Lose 95lb by September . You know those diet pills that they try to sell you through spam? Here's the calculations that say why they can't be working.

Thinking too hard about cliches

Why do we say "comparing apples to oranges"? What's wrong with comparing apples to oranges? I do that all the time! I go up to a fruit juice stall and think that I'd like some orange juice, which implicitly means I don't want apple. I think lots of people compare apples and oranges for very legitimate reasons.

Mad Magazine Memories

When I was younger, a lot of my sense of pop culture and pop culture references came from Mad magazine, since there was a huge collection over at my grandparents' place. So long before I ever watched Five Easy Pieces , One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , Shampoo , or basically any movie predating the 80s, I had some skewed sense of them. I was therefore very gratified to learn, in listening to the audio commentary on the Simpsons Season 4 DVD, that one of the Simpsons writers - couldn't really tell from the voice, maybe Al Jean? - got that same Mad -influenced warped version of pop culture, since his mother wouldn't let him actually watch those R-rated films. Good to know I'm not the only one. What, me worry?

Enneagram test, and thoughts on Gladwell and the MBTI

Another one of these personality tests: the Enneagram test, more about motivations than the MBTI, which is about behaviour. Kottke mentions that there was a Malcolm Gladwell article on the MBTI in a recent New Yorker , which I must have missed - scouring my archives now. Edit: found it, read it. I love reading the redoubtable Gladwell - often his articles are a tour de force of ideas. One part intrigued me: "Myers-Briggs has a large problem with consistency: according to some studies, more than half of those who take the test a second time end up with a different score than when they took it the first time." Clearly this is, as Gladwell suggests, a function of the dichotomous scale (E vs I, N vs S, etc.). The question is: does it just mean that some people are on the borderline between, say, E vs I, and slip across fairly often, or does it mean people are really very different in their expressions of their personalities at different points in time? I'm inclined

Lives on Parade

Even Margaret Cho is blogging these days. Actually, it's interesting when public figures blog, if only because they spend so much time revealing aspects of themselves (particularly a gifted comedian like Cho) that it's a wonder they even want to reveal any more.

Serious Growing Pains

Oh, these child stars. Tracey Gold - aka Carol from "Growing Pains" - got arrested for DUI. Here's the mugshot from the Smoking Gun.

Urban Planning Blogs

I studied urban economics in college, and even wrote a thesis on the relation between income and people's desire to move into cities. So I was quite happy to find Beyond Brilliance, Beyond Stupidity , which catalogues good and bad developments in urban planning. Good to have something else to read besides Otis White 's (engrossing) pieces on Civic Strategies.

Drunk Drunk in Court

If you're in court for drinking and driving, it's usually not a good idea to be drunk: link .


Cody Wiewandt answers some of the questions in the Jadakiss song "Why". Hilarious.

More Singaporean blogs

Stumbled upon Sometimes Always , which has funny recollections of interviews with various DJs (yay, Peter Kruder!), as well as thoughts on film.

Only Tommy left

Farewell, Johnny Ramone .

Myers-Briggs results

Should I be reassured by the fact that I've taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test dozens of times and it always points to the same thing ? Or should I be worried? "My Bloginality is ENFP " Ah well. I don't believe in the fixity of personality, or that people can be classified into just 16 categories. But then, someone might say, that's a natural ENFP characteristic, to not want fixity and to disdain categorisation. Catch-22.

Law and Order Street

Law & Order gets a street named after it in New York . Well, it should, if the claims of bringing in $700 million to the NY economy are accurate. Why, every time I see L&O, I think "New York, what a lovely city! Bizarre homicides! I must return!" I kid because I love... So, if the show's called "Law & Order", why does the Order part come before the Law?

Yiddish to Irish, via Google

So, I was trying to remember one of the Yiddish words Mike Myers used to use on Saturday Night Live (it was "verklempt"), and so I typed in, naturlich, "yiddish mike myers" into Google. Besides the search results, it actually asked "Did you mean: irish mike myers". Hey, normally the "did you mean" corrects typoes. I can't believe it tried to change a language into an ethnicity. No, I did not mean Irish Mike Myers. And Mike Myers isn't even Irish. His mother's Liverpudlian if I remember right. Weird.

North Korean News

An entry in John & Belle Have a Blog spoke about North Korean news pronouncements, which reminded me of all those ads they used to take out in the Straits Times with the praises of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il and their juche philosophy. The thing is, shouldn't propagandists learn the language they're, well, propagandising in? The KCNA (Korea Central News Agency) website is a font of unintentional hilarity. Sample: The U.S. imperialists are now bent on their moves to send midget radios and TV sets into the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] in an effort to break up the single-hearted unity there and degenerate and disintegrate it from within. This fact alone well shows how desperately they are running about with bloodshot eyes to destroy the DPRK, the bulwark of socialism. Out of the same motive, the U.S. imperialists are trying to send impure publications into the DPRK. Funny thing I've learnt: North Korea actually has a film festival . Featuring

Rock, paper, scissors

More on rock, paper, scissors , thanks to Dean's World : rock, paper, Saddam . "DUDE, DOUBLE YOU TEE EFF is two papers ?" Hilarious.

World's cutest dog

High five! More Coconut photos

The Thudfactor Polygeek Quiz

A geek test that doesn't involve tech/computer knowledge. Results sound true, I guess. You are 27% geek You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator. Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend. You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines! Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals! You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime. Take the Polygeek Quiz at

Robot Maids

Robot maids. I grew up seeing science fiction filled with ROBOT MAIDS. Now it's the fourth year of the 21st century, and I still have to do my own ironing. Someone's got some 'splaining to do.

Why does the Queen move diagonally?

On how the Queen in chess abrogated power .

Genetic engineering gone awry


Cross-promotion: Delta Sierra Arts

Whenever I write reviews of music and films and so on, they usually go into Delta Sierra Arts , my reviews blog. According to my stats, I usually get hits there from people looking on information on Kristina and Mirtha Jung - I interviewed Ted Demme when the George Jung biopic Blow just came out and reviewed the movie, so there's quite a bit on the site abut the Jung family. I'm not sure what to make of this... In any case, I just wrote a post there, on songs about dancing in the face of adversity. And if you want to read more on film in particular, here's a good list of film blogs .

Which Simpsons character are you?

Damn, I wanted to be Carl.

My whole world is media consumption

Two completely unrelated things: 1. Firefox 1.0PR is out! Man, I can't even imagine going back to Internet Explorer - not until IE introduces tabbed browsing, at least. 2. The Village Voice has a review of Showtime , the new album by Dizzee Rascal, he of the brilliant Boy in Da Corner . Exciting.

Subconscious feminism

Random Singaporean moment: listening to a male cab driver sing along to ''I Am Woman". I suppose I'm just glad I didn't get this guy .

Will to Power

Wow, suddenly I feel inundated by Shakespeare. Just read the excerpt from Stephen Greenblatt's new book Will in the World , on how the trial of Ruy Lopez may have inspired Shakespeare to make the creative leap that was The Merchant of Venice . Greenblatt (an excellent prof, incidentally) makes an observation I've heard before, but never expressed so well: In each of these mature tragedies [ Hamlet , King Lear , and Macbeth respectively], Shakespeare's characters reiterate certain words -- ''remember,'' ''nothing,'' ''tomorrow'' -- whose uncanny echoing enables the audience to enter a dark interior space. Then on the way back from work I read Adam Gopnik 's glowing review of Greenblatt's work in the New Yorker , although Gopnik's not too convinced by Greenblatt's arguments about the Lopez trial, saying essentially that Shakespeare was more bourgeois than Greenblatt sometimes gives credit for. Gopnik's re

Isometric Screenshots

Again, I thought I should comment on something that's been in my blogroll for a while. I chanced upon Jon Haddock's isometric screenshots a while back, thanks to a writeup in a copy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that I happened to pick up in the Frankfurt airport. (I can't find that article online, although I did find something on Haddock from the Süddeutsche Zeitung . Did I get the papers mixed up? As for the question of why I was reading a newspaper in German, the logical answer is - "because it was there".) Back on point: Haddock's work comprises famous historical and movie scenes, done up in the style of the Sims. Fascinating to see the directions computer-based art can take. Check out his blog for more recent work.

Penguins on Parade

The Penguin Cam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Talk about cute.

How to watch a movie in Singapore

1. Buy tickets. This is easy. Call the movie ticket hotline. Enter 1. Then 1 again. Then 2-7-6-9, for the hell of it. Then the 4-digit code of your movie. If you don't know the code, listen to the helpful woman read out the movie names. If you're wondering what the hell she said, that was her attempt to pronounce the name of that foreign film you want to see. Stop being so pretentious. Select the movie. Press 1. Press 3-2-4-3. Press 9-2-7-4. Press charges. Enter your 16-digit credit card number, 4-digit expiration date (which is technically not a date, but a month), 7-digit identity card number, 6-digit postal code, date of birth, spouse's date of birth, and the date of birth of person you're watching the movie with, you no good cheating bastard. Made a mistake? No problem. Just start all over again! 2. Before the show, buy popcorn and Coke. Buy the largest Coke you can find. How else will you have enough fluid in you to need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the m

Search for humour

Random Google in - jokes . Pigeon rank, indeed.

Spread the word

The nifty little envelope icon next to my name on this post is part of Blogger's new "e-mail this post" service, in case you'd like to share a particular post I've written with anyone. Or just make fun of what I write with anyone.

A Dog's Right to Self-Defence

Dog bites man is not a story. Dog shoots man is. Man got what he deserved, is all I can say.

Gnomic Statements

This was a link on my sidebar for a while, but I thought I should just talk about it: the Front de Libération des Nains de Jardins believes that garden gnomes are slaves, and "liberates" them. Apparently they've "freed" 6000 gnomes since 1996. So for those of you who believe the idea of sending the gnome around the world in Amelie was original... hate to disappoint you. But gnome-napping does seem to have been popularised - here 's an April case from Duluth, Minnesota.

A capital idea

The New York Times' style section devotes a whole article to the decline of the thong , with the usual sociological analysis of the rise of the trend: The thong underpant became a cultural touchstone, the very symbol of the tease. It caught on at a time when lad magazines like Maxim and FHM, with their photographs of panty-clad but never entirely nude women, took over from the old-man's magazine, Playboy, with its gauzy, fully naked pinups; when adolescent love was celebrated with the soul-free hookup, a form of physical connection without the burden of intimacy. Ms. Lewinsky flashed her thong to begin an affair that didn't feature real sex, at least by the definition of one of the parties. Right. Of course, beyond sociology, there's the simple fact that, as the article notes, the boy short became trendy. I presume part of that was that a woman can wear a boy short without feeling like she's flossing her butt. Anyway, the English hound in me was more intrigued by t

Always remember

Always. In memoriam September 11, 2001.

Sex Machine

Tried out the Gender Genie - which guesses whether you're male or female by what you enter in a text book - on some of the entries in this blog. I'd read the same article in the New York Times that had inspired the bookblog people to create the Genie (it postulated that you can guess a person's gender solely based on his or her diction - not the subject matter, but just whether you use a lot of articles like "the" and other such criteria), but to take that article and spin it into an application is quite a feat. Anyway, my piece on weather and voting is apparently quite male-sounding, while my piece on losing the impulse to do things sounds female to the Genie. And if you enter all the text before this sentence, the Genie concludes that I am male. 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Weather to Vote

Just finished going through the Aug 30 issue of the New Yorker in which Louis Menand discusses how political scientists see the voters. (The article is online in which discusses how political scientists see the voters. (The article is online here.) I love Menand's literature-review style of article - he dissects all the key books in a field with the incisive touch of a fine surgeon. In the article, Menand makes the point that people cast votes for a whole variety of reasons, and cites the following doozy, from a 2004 paper by Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels: An estimated "2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or two wet" as a consequence of that year's weather patterns. Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election. There's a follow-up in the Ann Arbor News , in which Achen elaborates that "droughts and fl

Design and Conquer

An old acquaintance James Khing designs for Zouk , and he sent me this link to a site that showcases Zouk's flyers and videos of some club nights... boy, that's a club that's done some excellent work in promoting club culture in Singapore.


Met up with Andrew Ing of the Filter Group (he's the former Zouk marketing manager) today on something work-related, but something he said got me thinking. I remember back when I was in America, when I wanted to DJ and clearly not ready for the big time of club work, I just got together with my friend Dave, we put together some flyers (which I will scan one day), invited loads of people, and put together one hell of a party. He opened with Japanese house, I closed with Latin/disco house, with nods to each other's playlist. Two great sets, if I must say so myself. Or when I helped organise a rock festival (we called it Blast!), four bands slamming in the Harvard Advocate building, because - well, because I thought it would be fun to help out, and I could provide the press coverage as music editor of the Crimson . No great grand motives, and no consideration of all the reasons not to do it. So... why don't I do that sort of thing here in Singapore? Why don't I just

Aisle of You

I've been meaning to note for a while now, but the name of the site kept eluding me - kept having these conversations where I would go "there's this really cool site, it gives you the seat configuration for lots of airlines' planes, and then when you rollover the seats tells you why certain seats on each airline are good or bad" and then couldn't name the site. Well, here it is .

Rock on

"It's rock paper scissors as to whether I will get over you at all. It's hand against hand and both hands are mine." - Ani DiFranco, "Rock Paper Scissors" My former Harvard Crimson colleague Jennifer 8. Lee writes a piece on rock-paper-scissors tournaments for the New York Times (love how the newspaper puts the obligatory period after the "8" in her middle name, as though it was short for something). In Singapore, we call the game scissors-paper-stone, presumably reflecting the British English "stone" rather than the American "rock", but either way the idea faint boggles the mind. Tournaments! With sets and matches and strategy and everything! And an official society ! Looks like people are just aching to compete for competing's sake. Soon we'll be challenging chickens to tic-tac-toe . From the article: "I was told that most people have a go-to throw, reflective of their character, when they are caught off

Culture is for yogurt

I get very annoyed by people who glibly use "culture" as an explanation to explain why anyone behaves a certain way. "Singaporeans are naturally conservative, because that's Asian culture", or even "I'm Asian, therefore I'm conservative". My argument against using "culture" as an explanation is in part based on the fairly common argument that group explanations do not encompass the whole range of individual behaviour: at some level, there's an element of free will in which you made the choice to be the way you are. (In any case, don't people making that statement find it kind of insulting to lump all of Asia together as one mass? Even if "culture" existed I doubt it's universal throughout Asia.) But the argument is also dependent on something else: to think that some form of behaviour stems from culture often carries with it the implication that culture is fixed throughout time. Yet I suspect culture is extrem

Hatin' on Friendster

"Whatever you do, don't tell anyone" - Queens of the Stone Age, "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" Jeremy Zawodny writes about Joyce Park aka "troutgirl" , who was fired from Friendster for blogging. You'd think the creators of a social-networking program would be more accepting of something that increases social linkages such as blogging. But then, Friendster has gone all corporate - they're now advertising the fact that all the new "Apprentice" participants have profiles. Sigh. I put up with their formerly slow backend (which troutgirl helped improve by converting it to PHP) for so long, and with the fact that the e-mail alerts which tell you you have messages stopped coming in, and then they go and oust an employee for blogging about something which was public knowledge. Talk about alienating your customers.


Random fact: "facetious" is one of the only English words to feature all the vowels in the order AEIOU. "Abstemious" is another. Anyway, just a little word about the links under "fatuous and facetious": not all are completely facetious. The " 34 Million Friends Project " is a fundraising project to help raise money for the United Nations Population Fund after the US government withdrew its financial support (for a loss of $34 million, hence the name). Give a buck or two - help increase access to family planning and reproductive health services throughout the world. (Note: money doesn't go to abortions, but to programmes such as healthcare to reduce infant mortality.)

My Beautiful Neighbourhood

You know something? I'd like to see some sense of actual neighbourhoods in Singapore. If I lived in London there's an actual difference in meaning between someone living in Notting Hill and in Islington. In New York there's a big difference between living on the Upper East Side, the East Village, or Chelsea. Sure, in Singapore the part of town you live in can reflect wealth, as it does anywhere: so you live in Bukit Timah, you got cash, that sort of thing. But I wish I could make guesses about who you are: that there'd be somewhat more liberal or conservative parts of town, artsier neighbourhoods, quirky neighbourhoods, more family-oriented neighbourhoods - the whole panoply of human types. As it is right now, Singapore is all city, but it's also all suburbs.

The Minnow would be lost

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip That started from this tropic port, Aboard this tiny Ship. - "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island", written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle The Ludwig von Mises Institute has an article on the monetary system of Gilligan's Island , answering the burning question - why do people still accept the Professor's dollars when there's no government on the island to back up the money?

My so-called TV watching

I've gotten burned over Cheryl Tiegs, Blown up for Raquel Welch. But when I end up in the hay it's only hay, Hey Hey. - Lee Majors, "The Unknown Stuntman", theme song for "The Fall Guy" Was thinking about all the random TV shows I watched as a kid. There are loads of shows that everyone watched, of course, but then there are some in there that no one seems to ever talk about anymore. My dad was particularly addicted to "The Fall Guy", so I watched along. In conversation I've heard references to other 80s TV shows, such as "T.J. Hooker", but nary a peep about a show like "The Fall Guy", even though it did go on for about 5 seasons. I wonder if this is just a function of the TV-watching habits of the people I hang out with? Other obscure series I was really into: "Misfits of Science" (starring a pre-"Friends", heck, pre- Ace Ventura Courteney Cox), "Herman's Head", and "Profit&