Showing posts from April, 2005

Japanese school experiences

I am a Japanese School Teacher - a funny series of columns by a black American guy teaching in Japan. I went to a hip-hop club with a friend a few weeks ago, and pretty much everyone there was wearing the exact same thing. The guys ALL wore NY Yankees caps, to the side, a sweater, a coat, some "bling-bling" for good measure, and big pants. The girls all looked like a tit-less, ass-less version of Beyonce from one of her videos. I swear, it's like they went to K-Mart and bought "Hip-Hop in a Can" for $9.99 and popped it open....voila! I'm ghetto now! ...No you're not! The other thing that depressed me about this club was that no one really danced...they all "swayed" to the music, while holding cigarettes. In neatly arraigned lines. That's Japan for you. ( Link ) There's funnier stuff where that came from.

The Adelphi Hotel

Speaking of prewar Singapore, here's a picture of the Adelphi Hotel on Coleman Street, one of Singapore's big 3 hotels in the 1900s, along with the Raffles, which of course still stands, and the Hotel de l'Europe, which is now our present Supreme Court building. The Adelphi was acquired by Arathoon Sarkies and Eleazar Johannes in 1903 - adding to the Armenian domination of the hotel industry then - and I'm trying to figure out when it was torn down. (There's a reference to the Adelphi still being around in 1962, since that's when the Singapore Contract Bridge Association was formed .) One thing a little web sleuthing led me to learn was that the Adelphi was the site of a simultaneous chess exhibition by grandmaster Alexander Alekhine back in 1933: For four hours, Dr. Alexander Alekhine, the world’s chess champion, battled against 25 members of the Singapore Chess Club at the Adelphi Hotel yesterday, and in winning all the games demonstrated that uncanny skills

A patchwork history

Many thanks to fellow Singaporean blogger Mr Miyagi for the link. Miyagi took time off his schedule of teaching Ralph Macchio to wax on and off to blog about an effort to collate the voices of Singaporeans - a sort of folk history or oral history of Singapore and Singaporeans via podcast. Recording down the voices of our grandparents and others who've spent time on this island and preserve their stories - I think this is a very worthy project. When I travelled around England and Wales and stayed at little bed-and-breakfasts around the country, I would occasionally meet people who said "you're from Singapore? I served there". As I was walking around Holyhead , I was randomly approached by an old drunk man who immediately said - proclaimed, really - "you're from Singapore!" Clearly, I was stunned, and just said, "yes, I am", to which he responded "I served there", and promptly listed out all the roads named for London streets near Se


Wow, I'm on Daypop's Top 40 Links , thanks to some weird way they've counted citations of my blog from Blogcritics . Number 35 with a bullet, baby! Welcome all. I'm probably going to be ousted tomorrow by news of Tom Cruise dating Katie Holmes , but I'll bask in the one day of Internet fame. For anyone new to this site, here's the rundown: the most popular links seem to be to posts on why I won't buy an iPod , World Jump Day , the origins of English words , and Coconut, the world's cutest West Highland Terrier . I guess that's a nice representation of the grab-bag nature of my posts. I put up random fun links every now and then. In my other blogs, I review films and music and write about the Boston Red Sox . Um, that's it. Tarry a little, Internet sojourner. Okay, I admit I just wanted to revive the use of "tarry", since I get a kick out of anachronistic-sounding words. Next up: how to incorporate " skedaddle " into my dai

Penguins at the airport

You can tell that airport security has reached new levels of strictness when even penguins have to go through metal detectors. What, penguins can pack heat? If they could, leopard seals would be in for some serious whoopin'. At least they were smart enough not to wear shoes. Boy, that would be troublesome. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but we've been told to look out for two short guys, dressed in tuxes" Given how shiny the floor looks, I'm surprised the penguins didn't do a belly-flop-on-the-ice-floe-style slide through the detector. (Pic taken from a Denver Channel slideshow on the penguins' journey. Lots of other funny pics, mainly of the penguins looking rightfully bemused.)

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

Speaking of space, I'm a big Craigslist fan, and it's funny to note that their expansion has brought them to outer space: Recent posters to craigslist may have noticed a little checkbox that asks if it's "ok to transmit this posting into outer space." In a few weeks everyone who answered "yes" will have their messages beamed into the heavens by the Florida-based Deep Space Communications Network via a five-meter parabolic dish antenna. A March test transmission of the first 138,000 messages went swimmingly. Act now and you, too, can offer our intergalactic pals a low, low price on your used computer peripherals. ( East Bay Express ) Here's an actual Craigslist post to extraterrestials . And here's a personal that was quoted in the East Bay Express article: It would be cool if you had like a transporter or something because I'm not good with LDR's [long distance relationships]. Either that, or a spaceship that goes really really fast but

Review: Far Side of the Moon

Wrote a review of The Far Side of the Moon , a wonderful film that I watched on Sunday during the Film Festival . The Far Side of the Moon , Robert Lepage's adaptation of his own play, is a beautiful, quirky meditation on a pair of brothers in Quebec coping with the death of their mother from kidney disease. Reflecting the title, Lepage plays both lead roles: Phillippe, a grad student of the philosophy of science, and his brother Andre, a glib weatherman. The two form opposing faces of the same family, Phillippe the more distant, uglier one - the far side of the moon - and Andre the less cerebral pretty boy, and LePage distinguishes them successfully. Read more

Down where it's wetter

Thanks to Otterman leaving a comment and some clicking around his blog, I've discovered a whole set of Singapore nature blogs. So, for all the marine biology fans in my life (you know who you are), here's three of them: Pulau Hantu , Labrador Park , and the Blue Tempeh . Some great pictures in all of them - the one above, of a seagrass filefish , is taken from the Pulau Hantu blog .


The Guardian visits Liverpool , in preparation for the upcoming Champions League semi-final. Stories such as this one make me nostalgic. Despite the stereotypes, Liverpool was a really great city to visit. Unless you have no interest in either football or the Beatles. Then I weep for your soul. Random travel tip: if you do go, check out the loo in the Philharmonic . Embassie hostel - one of the most fun hostels I've stayed in, run by Everton supporters.

You say orchid, I say Joaquim

The Vanda Miss Joaquim is Singapore's national flower, appropriately for a city that's a hodgepodge of ethnicities, since it's a natural hybrid (of Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres ). But here's the part I never did figure out: how do you pronounce "Joaquim"? Apparently Agnes Joaquim was a member of Singapore's small Armenian community , but that gives me no sense as to whether I should pronounce the name "JOE-kim" as I've always heard around here, or "wah-KIM", as in Spanish names (as in Joaquim Phoenix, even though I think he isn't Latino). Of course, the right answer is "you pronounce any surname the way the person wants it to be pronounced" - if your last name is "Smith" and you want it to be pronounced "Tan", more power to you. But unfortunately I don't know anyone with the last name Joaquim in Singapore, so there's no way of using that avenue to clear up the question. So I sent out a

Linksfest: Old news

Remaking the pill bottle . Bill Watterson, artist of Calvin and Hobbes, gave this commencement speech at his old college, Kenyon College. Viagra is good for climbers and those with pulmonary hypertension. "It was good to be able to breathe freely again and no longer feel that oppressive feeling on my chest." I don't want to know where all the blood went. KarmaBanque sells the idea of selling boycotted firms short. Interesting economic experiment - it's the reverse side of the idea of " ethical investing ", but I'm not sure it'll be as successful. Famed New Orleans restaurant Uglesich closes . Po'boy, you bound to die. RanKing RanQueen in Tokyo, where only the most popular products make it on the shelf. The very opposite of the Long Tail idea that we're moving away from mass to niche markets .

JC days

Was in Anderson Junior College for work today. Funny that while we Singaporeans don't use the word "college" to mean "university", we still have the phrase "junior college".

Songs I learnt to play over the weekend

Some noodling on my guitar this weekend, as I figured out (mostly) how to play Franz Ferdinand's "Dark of the Matinee" and Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (ah, 4 chords and the truth). As film festival denizens will know, there's a great CD sale going on at Shaw Tower - the one with Prince and Jade cinemas. Apparently Gramophone bought over the stock of some firm that was closing, or so someone I overheard was saying. Picked up copies of albums by the Inmates, Bob Dylan, the Bad Plus, and 50 Cent. Woo!

BusinessWeek - Blogs Will Change Your Business

BusinessWeek has an article on how "Blogs Will Change Your Business" . Some predictable blogs-as-Gutenberg stuff follows, but I'm more interested in how blogs change BusinessWeek - and the magazine industry - itself. As I noted before, the Guardian has adapted quite nicely , and so it'll be interesting to take a look at BusinessWeek 's newly started blog .


Grey Album and Jay-Zeezer be damned, I don't think I heard a better mash-up last year than Party Ben 's "Boulevard of Broken Songs". His "Finding Out Sharona is Blind" - which combines the contagious sound of Louis XIV's "Finding Out True Love is Blind", the Knack's "My Sharona", Devo, and Fatboy Slim's "Rockafeller Skank" - is a bit on the side of stoopid fratboys jumping around, but damn if it isn't catchier than fleas.

How to build a Singaporean quilt

A shot from the Fabric of the Nation exhibition at the HDB Hub. Massive project - reminds me of the AIDS quilt in its collaborative aspect.

Nick Hornby - A Long Way Down

The Guardian has a good interview/feature on Nick Hornby since Hornby's about to release A Long Way Down , his new book. The article uses Hornby's dual life as a theme - the duality of being a Cambridge-educated football supporter at a time when football was equated with yobbery, and this bit: Hornby's history is rather complicated. One potted biography could read: age 48, son of successful businessman Sir Derek Hornby, graduated from Cambridge University, became a literary critic, then bestselling author and friend to the great and good. Another potted biography could read: lower-middle-class son of secretary mother Margaret, drifter, failed teacher, failed journalist, failed screenwriter, achieved surprising success with memoir of a football fanatic and loser. Both biographies would be equally true. I'm excited about the new Hornby novel, even if it sounds closer to How to be Good than High Fidelity ... Hornby's column in the Believer . Further discussion of Hor

Zouk hair show

I went to a hair show at Zouk yesterday - my friend was launching a line of Italian hair care products in Singapore. A slightly surreal experience. The Italian hairdressers that had been flown in from the event were clearly very skilled - it's quite interesting how good hairdressers can cut so swiftly and deftly, with their scissors flying seemingly randomly but with a hidden sort of order. Still, I can't say watching people get their hair cut on stage is my cup of tea. Actually, come to think of it, I don't drink tea, so nothing really is my cup of tea.

Linksfest: News of the weird

Blue Oyster Cult's response to the famous "cowbell" sketch on SNL . Man turns self into cat . As expected, the Wendy's "finger in food" case is probably a hoax . Cookie Monster goes on a diet . What's next, the Salad Salamander?

Eating worms

Poor Coconut is sick with an upset stomach, most likely caused by eating worms during his walk (vet's best guess). Ah, dogs, they're such scavengers. All that reminds me of the classic campfire song "Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, I'm Gonna Eat Some Worms". Here's the lyrics and an MP3 version . Searching for the lyrics led me to the entire treasure trove of bawdy songs that is Immortalia . I love folk music archives . Immortalia also made me realise the source of the latter part of the title of Edward Albee's " The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? ".

When You Say Nothing At All

In the cab today, the radio was playing the Alison Krauss version of "When You Say Nothing At All", which basically pummels the Ronan Keating version into the ground and makes it beg for mercy. I discovered the Krauss version, admittedly, by watching the Notting Hill DVD with the commentary on and learning that it was Krauss's take on the late Keith Whitley 's song that inspired the producers to hire Ronan Keating to cover it. Why not use the Krauss one, then? Of course, the same producers also hired Elvis Costello to cover Charles Aznavour 's "She", but at least you could argue in that case that they needed a more straight-up and bright rendition, rather than Aznavour's somewhat louche melancholic rasp, for the context in which the film used it. The original Whitley version of "When You Say Nothing At All" is great stuff too. The song needs singers with a country/bluegrass background to work, methinks.

Singaporean Bloggers

I suppose I talk less about what goes on in my personal life than other Singaporean bloggers, but to let everyone know, yesterday featured a meetup at NYDC (free Wi-Fi) of some bloggers to discuss a potential Bloggercon as well as , a sort of Boing Boing/Slashdot for Singaporeans. Present at the dinner: yours truly, plus Adri , Calm One , James , La Idler , Miyagi , Mr Brown , and Xiaxue . After the dinner, I went home and promptly ate a second dinner (mee pok tah), instead of being diligent and blogging about it like some of the others, so I'm a day late and a dollar short. Mr Brown has the report of what went on and Adri has the pics .


Trying out tools that use the Blogger API... this post was written on Avantblog for the Palm, on the back of a #77 bus. Edit: Woohoo! Clearly it works.

Linksfest: Geek toys

A 7-day alarm clock , to take into account unusual schedules - like those of college kids. A James Bond-style hidden camera . You pay peanuts, you get monkey SWAT team members .

New Pope Elected

It's Ratzinger , who was the front runner. This bit about the new Pope is interesting: Joseph Ratzinger, 77, one of the heads of the Vatican leadership, a conservative and a close aide to the late pope. He deserted from the German army during World War II. He is well versed in Jewish issues and admitted that "a certain insufficient resistance by Christians to this atrocity (the Holocaust) is explained by the anti-Judaism present in the souls of more than a few Christians." ( Link ) Ratzinger becomes Pope Benedict XVI, which is what the oddsmakers were saying .


Do you hate corporate-speak? So do lots of people: Warshawsky, a "recovering jargonaholic," said he hopes to rehabilitate otherwise smart business people who pollute their communications with terms like "results-driven" or "paradigm shift." "Copernicus's revelation that the Earth revolves around the sun brought about a paradigm shift," he said. "Your revelation to outsource the payroll department probably shouldn't carry equal cachet." ( Boston Globe ) I've used Bullfighter on presentations and documents for a while now, and it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the people who developed Bullfighter also wrote the Why Business People Speak Like Idiots book that the Globe article refers to. And yes, that last sentence ended with a preposition, and this one begins with a conjunction. Plain English Campaign .

Had we but world enough, and time

Over at SPASTIC, the Society for the Preservation and Acknowledgement of Subjunctive Tense In Communication , there's a post that captures what annoys me about Gwen Stefani and Eve's "Rich Girl": they changed the nice subjunctive of " If I Were a Rich Man " to "If I was a rich girl". Does no one respect the subjunctive tense? It's my only peeve about Sophie B. Hawkins' "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover". Of course, since Gwen Stefani is rich, perhaps she's just going with the rule that the subjunctive expresses improbable or hypothetical occurrences and the indicative expresses probable ones ... Marvell, "To his Coy Mistress" : "Had we but world enough, and time..." The Oscar Meyer song (well, the other one, not the one about baloney having a first name): "if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener / Ev'ryone would be in love with me"

Ayn Rand at 100

Reason has an evaluation of Ayn Rand by Cathy Young, 100 years after her birth, noting how "Objectivism remains, for most people, a way station on a journey to some wider outlook". These two extracts struck me: In its pure form, Rand’s philosophy would work very well indeed if human beings were never helpless and dependent through no fault of their own. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that so many people become infatuated with Objectivism as teenagers and “grow out of it” later, when concerns of family, children, and old age—their own and their families’—make that fantasy seem more and more impossible. ... Rand’s philosophy admitted no contradictions or paradoxes in reality; but reality is full of apparently irreconcilable truths. The truth of what Rand said about the heroic human spirit and individual self-determination does not negate the truth that human beings often find themselves at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control and dependent on others through no fault

500 Internal Server Error

What's with Blogger and the dreaded "500 Internal Server Error" page these days? At least their support sent me a nice message when I e-mailed them yesterday, saying I apparently have to clear my cache and cookies. Wired compiles a litany of complaints , including the double-post problem (Blogger sometimes get stuck at the Publishing... 0% page - so you go back, hit Publish again, voila, double the pleasure)... Blogger Status page .

Singapore Film

The Singapore International Film Festival recently kicked off, and Tokyo Godfathers screened last Sunday morning. I've seen it on DVD already, and it's a great film - it really speaks to the power of anime. On a more sober note, Karen over at Snog Blog reminded me of Bertrand Lee, the Singaporean filmmaker who lost a leg filming in India , noting that he's now "on so much painkillers that he's become incoherent". Apparently there have been lots of further complications. Poor guy.

Light Rail in New York

Maybe of interest only to an urban-planning wonk-wannabe like me, but this New York Times article discusses the possibility of building a light-rail line across 42nd Street . I think it's a good, or at least intriguing, idea - I remember being stuck for a good half hour on the M42 between Fifth and Sixth... they still need a Second Avenue Line though. Speaking of 42nd Street, former Ziegfield dancer Doris Eaton Travis is returning to Broadway to the New Amsterdam on 42nd St... let's put it this way, when she first danced at the Amsterdam, the flu pandemic was sweeping the world , and the Boston Red Sox had just won their third World Series in four years (from waterbones , who also linked to this really lovely story about a wholphin ).

Break time

As a person who can't endure long car rides without the need for frequent rest stops, I think it's funny that Paula Radcliffe stopped to relieve herself in the London Marathon - and still ended up setting a world record. (The article uses " spend a penny " as a euphemism for using the toilet - now that's a phrase I haven't heard in ages.)

There is such a thing as too thin

Sometimes Singapore seems like it's populated by anorexics. I know, I know, the pressure to be thin exists in many developed countries: it's at the heart of Bridget's insecurities in Bridget Jones' Diary , teenage girls write to their Goddess Ana in America, and so on, but when I was in Boston or New York or London, I don't think I ever felt it to be as pervasive as it is here. At the very least, even if the "ideals" being promoted through ads and so on in those cities were of inordinately skinny women, there was a sense that to make disparaging comments about a person's size in public would be inappopriate. Whereas here in Singapore, the newspapers are filled with ads for slimming centres which seem to depend on shame to succeed. I can't forget the one in which this woman said that back in school they called her "fat girl" - and then displayed her current size in triumph, instead of reflecting that she went to school with some seriously

Linksfest: the weekend has landed

How the Onion is written . Looks like Herzog and de Meuron have another success in their revamp of the Walker Art Center . Making fun of the New York Times' wedding page . I can't read this Japanese page (literally - Asian fonts aren't installed on my computer), but it's got lots of pictures of old Singapore, such as this one of Victoria Memorial Hall . Intriguing. Speaking of which, on the 2nd floor of Shaw Tower on Beach Road, there's a nice set of photos of old Beach Road, back in the days when the Raffles Hotel was actually a hotel by the coast. A dictionary of Singlish .

See-through toilet

Would you use this loo ?

Caine admiration

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Alfie , Get Carter , and The Italian Job together are three of the coolest roles ever. Michael Caine was one cool SOB back in the day. And the modern remakes of all three pale in comparison. Speaking of remakes, I presume the next 60s Caine film that's up will be the Ipcress File ?

What makes a successful hit song?

On Salon, Thomas Bartlett mentions the Music Lab experiment at Columbia : A research team led by Columbia University sociology professor Duncan Watts is conducting an experiment called Music Lab … an experiment that involves a lot of free MP3 downloads. After signing in and answering a few questions, you'll find yourself on a page listing 48 songs. If you click on a song, you'll hear a streaming version of it, along with a prompt to rate how much you like it. After answering, you're given the option to download it (free and legal) or to move on. I've listened to a handful of the songs, all of them by bands I've never heard of, and so far haven't found them particularly good. How the experiment works, and what the Columbia researchers are actually measuring, isn't explained anywhere on the Web page. ( Link, may be premium ) The description of the experiment made me think of Hit Song Science and how the firm that owns it ( Polyphonic HMI ) breaks down succes

On the jukebox

I've realised that I don't talk enough about music on this here blog; I know I maintain a pure reviews site , but sometimes that's too much writing when all I want to do is note how good some songs I'm listening to are, or just want to talk about bands that have excited me. So, here's a partial list of tunes I've heard and liked lately: The High Speed Scene, "The IROC-Z Song" - a song about Camaros and spinning donuts out in front of Taco Bell is totally SoCal - didn't even need to look it up, but a Google search confirmed that the band is from El Lay (as Christgau might say). A classic candidate to be featured on "The OC", if it hasn't been already. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate. The Silent League, "Christmas Time Is Here" - totally out of season, but it's delicate. Death Cab For Cutie, "All is Full of Love" - I love cover versions, and this is one to love. Points added

Napoleon Dynamite

A really good, really funny film. Laconic.

Trivial pursuits

Whatever happened to Trivial Pursuit ? According to Slate , Google and the game's lack of repeatability did it in. By the way, winning in the specialist Trivial Pursuits ( Star Wars , Lord of the Rings ) is like winning in exhibition games. Unless you're playing the Genus edition, it doesn't count.

The Wisdom of Crowds

I just bought James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds , which articulates nicely a fundamental belief of many economists (it explains why I don't believe in managed mutual funds, for instance). I've always been a fan of Surowiecki's columns in the New Yorker , and the book's great. Even in my brief reads on the subway there've been a few bits that struck me... the idea that the best ideas do not require everyone to buy into them, but simply require that there is a means to aggegate judgements: An intelligent group... does not ask its members to modify their positions in order to let the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it figures out how to use mechanisms - like market prices, or intelligent voting systems - to aggregate and produce collective judgements... Here's Surowiecki's speech at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies conference , where he makes the same point: The wisdom of crowds works well when there is a true answer,

More technical enhancements

Decided to bite the bullet and change this blog to use CSS and DIV tags instead of tables. Hence the new look. Tech geeks will also be pleased to learn that this page has been rewritten to be XHTML compliant . There're other behind-the-scenes changes. The basic template for this site was coded in Dreamweaver 4.0, which predates XHTML and converts all the checked="checked" code back into just plain checked . It's an old problem , but it still bugs me. Edit: ugh, just realised that Blogger saves individual post pages as HTML, which precludes a PHP include... dagnabit, Apache calls.

Selling FF miles

Apparently, you're not allowed to sell your frequent flyer miles to others . This strikes me as strange. I guess that's why the folks at Jet Set Travel are so antsy about the system.

Things I hate about Gmail

I was an early adopter of Gmail - was one the first 1000 they invited . And now Gmail keeps increasing its storage space in the e-mail arms race, so now I've got 2084 megs of space. But it's not the space that I want from Gmail. Whereas lots of programs have come under fire for not being friendly to keyboard users, Gmail is the converse: it doesn't seem particularly mouse-friendly. Something as basic as sorting by name can't be done, whereas Yahoo! and other providers just let you click once to sort by name. For that matter, finding an e-mail often involves typing on the keyboard, whereas sometimes it's just so much easier to use the mouse to cycle or scroll through the various mails. Like Dan Isaacs and No Fancy Name , I find it very annoying that Gmail shoehorns you into its way of thinking, just because it wants to change the way people think about e-mail. For my account, I use Eudora, which has a search bar built into its main toolbar, and I've nev

The mobile phone - petrol station myth

Was at the Shell station yesterday to pick up the Sunday Times and saw a new poster asking people not to do unsafe things while refuelling. Most of them were sensible, such as asking people not to refuel while on motorbikes. But one of them struck me as giving in to urban legend: asking people not to use their handphone at the station. As always, Snopes debunks the myth : As for incidents elsewhere in the world, after several reports in the United States where mobile phones were blamed for fires at gas stations, both the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the American Petroleum Institute issued statements denying the risk. The CTIA said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that a wireless phone has ever caused ignition or explosion at a station anywhere in the world. Wireless phones don't cause gas stations to blow up. Warnings being posted in petrol stations simply perpetuate the myth." The American Petroleum Institute said, "We can find no ev

Say it ain't so

Apparently, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie is not very good, according to MJ Simpson, Douglas Adams' biographer : The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie is an abomination. Whereas the radio show, TV show, books and computer game are all recognisably variations on a theme, this is something new and almost entirely unrelated. It's not even a good film if viewed as an original work: the characters are unsympathetic, the cast exhibit no chemistry, the direction is pedestrian, the pace plodding, the special effects overpowering (lots and lots of special effects, none of them funny mind you) and above all the script is amazingly, mindbogglingly awful. Oh, and they have taken most of the jokes out. ( Link , via Slashdot ) Simpson also has a list of things not in the film . I hope this is just the opinion of one man, albeit one man who's clearly a walking Adams omnibus... I really want this to be good.

Religious sensibilities

As described in the Guardian , the Norfolk guidelines for the teaching of religious education , while well-intentioned and probably a sensible reminder of the importance of religious sensitivity, come across as oddly patronising... here's some excerpts. Judaism Don't refer to the first 39 books of the Bible as being 'the Old Testament'. It suggests that the books are old-fashioned or out of date. Don't use the term the "Wailing Wall". It suggests that Jewish prayer is negative and moaning. The proper term is the "Western Wall". Sikhism Do be careful when showing pupils the kachs. Without preparing pupils they seem to some like merely voluminous underpants and can give rise to a poor response. And don't they know that the following was the basic heart of the debate that underpinned the Reformation and helped spark the French Wars of Religion ? Don't, when exploring the Eucharist, suggest the bread and wine become 'the body of Jesus

Another earthquake off Sumatra

Sigh .

Photos from the royal wedding

Apparently a giant bird decided to nest in Camilla's hair. It's nice to see that Laura Parker-Bowles takes after her mum in terms of their affection for ludicrous millinery. Even Rowan Atkinson - kind of a random guest - joined in the hat-related fun: Ah, but since I'm a sucker for weddings and pomp and circumstance (I fear this may be the influence of all the Hello! magazines foisted on me in my youth): to the happy couple. Photos of the royal wedding from the Guardian

Review: Hitch

Dir. Andy Tennant Hitch is premised on an old chestnut of a romantic comedy setup: a guy with all the theories about love (Will Smith, playing the titular character) falls for a girl who makes him rethink all the theories. Smith plays Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a man who makes a lucrative career as a 'date doctor', sprucing up his clients, teaching them to hide their flaws, and engineering situations that make their chosen women fall for them. Of course, the title, besides being the lead character's name, is a reference not just to marriage but also to interruption, and Alex's blithe take on love as strategy is rudely broken when he meets and falls for Sara Melas (Eva Mendes, who's far warmer and far better here than in any of her previous films), gossip columnist. And so Hitch comes unhitched: the latter-day Cyrano's smooth gliding through the downtown New York social scene (oh, to eat the bread of Balthazar again) gives way to klutzy behaviour, allergic

Harvard prof accused of stealing manure

I knew some of my professors had a shitload of work to do, but I didn't think any of them meant it literally .


Boy, talk about being punked . I'm amazed at the equanimity of his response...

Tech stuff

After all my nice work at importing my reviews blog from Blogger into Wordpress , I find out that there's a way to do so while preserving all the comments . Gosh darn. Here's an illustrated tutorial . I did do some modifications to this blog - there's now an implementation of Nice Titles , and the Linksfests now have nifty little icons, thanks to some tooling around in CSS.

Sad week

Been a busy week for obit writers, what with the Pope, Saul Bellow , and Prince Rainier all passing away, among others (including a great comedian, Mitch Hedberg ). A lot has been written about the Pope, often very eloquently, so I'll write about Saul Bellow: I read Henderson the Rain King and The Adventures of Augie March back when I was 17, and then again when I was 21, and it still remains fun to dip into portions of Bellow. Amazing books, and really helped shape my love for American literature. So filled with life, these sprawling novels containing multitudes. Just so - just so vital . An interview with Bellow in the Paris Review .

Linksfest: April showers

Random words learnt: " tierce " and " cran ", both units of measure. Great Big Stuff . Bluebirds in Spring , an art film starring muffins. Funny photos: dogs deflated (via Cowboy Caleb - notice that the Dove soap bottle disappears?) and KFC mistranslated (via Jay-Walk - is that real or Photoshopped?). An MP3 player with a DJ interface .

Tsunami aid

I walked through the photo exhibition on the tsunami relief efforts by Mercy Relief (I think) next to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. Very sad to see the devastation. And it was also very sad to learn that people in Aceh are still not receiving the billions in tsunami aid pledged .

Nick Rodrigues, Portable Cellular Phone Booth, 2002

Sometimes I feel I need one of these. At least, I wish there were convenient booths to duck into to make/take calls in private. (From artist Nick Rodrigues .)

Are you thinking what I'm thinking B1?

In reading the Economist , I amused to learn that the new slogan for the Conservative Party of the UK is " Are you thinking what we're thinking? " (as a speech from party leader Michael Howard notes). On the one hand, it sounds weirdly sinister, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. On the other hand, it sounds like something the Bananas in Pyjamas would say . I always did want B2 to ask "are you thinking what I'm thinking B1?" and B1 to answer "Good Lord, man, I'm not a mind reader! Just say what's on your *$#@ing mind!"

Puns Intended

Via No Rock & Roll Fun , the South Wales Echo makes a mountain out of a molehill with a heroic pun of a headline : Strolling Jones gathers Kate Moss. Yup, Mick Jones of the Clash went to pick Kate Moss up from the Cardiff train station. Best headline I ever read was the Sun 's " Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious ", celebrating the victory of severe underdogs Caley Thistle over Celtic in 2000. Also up there was the Boston Herald 's "Felonious Monk Had Heavenly Resume", on a con man who impersonated a priest. Speaking of visiting Wales, Cardiff is a very lovely city, or at least it was when I visited 7 years ago. Stayed at the Cardiff Backpacker when it first opened. Has it really been that long? Beautiful scenery, fun people, and Cardiff Castle was fun to see, with its strutting peacocks and what not. This was before my month travelling around Wales made me realise that Wales has castles like Singapore has Starbucks, apparently - there'

From Blogger to Wordpress

I stumbled upon Minima Plus , a Wordpress template by Theron Parlin that was, just like the template that I use on Delta Sierra Arts , a variant of Douglas Bowman's Minima template for Blogger. That was all the incentive I needed to try out Wordpress, since I knew I didn't have to painstakingly recreate my CSS stylesheets. I wanted to port to Wordpress for three big reasons: categories, trackback, and future posting, none of which are implemented in Blogger. (There are hacks to put categories into Blogger , and I've received some advice on that front, but it's just so much uglier than a pure implementation.) Categories are really useful for people who wanted just to look at, say, only posts on film . And future posting lets me space out the timing of posts, since I tend to work in bursts. So here's my experience: I must say Wordpress 1.5 was a quick, easy install. The whole thing took about 20 minutes, and that was including checking my e-mail and other stuff whil

Water on Mars

Meanwhile, in science-related news, NASA finds water on Mars .


Here's Wiili Chevalier , the reigning world champion in the "partial beard, freestyle" category in the World Beard and Moustache Championships . Next championship is in Berlin on 1 October 2005 if you want to compete.

Dining alone

Had dinner by myself at Prima Taste on Saturday (crispy chicken rice - decent but a bit soggy for my liking). I suppose there are always those who eat alone and rush off, like salarymen at the noodle house (images of Tampopo come to mind), but I find that there's a certain pleasure to be had sitting down in a restaurant with a good book and just myself for company. I suppose it's a thing I picked up from my travel writing days, when there was little chance I'd know anybody in the town I was in to have dinner with anyway. My favourite burger place ever, Bartley's , had a long centre table for solo diners. Solitary, and yet communal. I like the idea of catering to those who eat alone.

Dude, I'm gonna hurl

From Majikthise, why rats can't vomit , and which animals can . Seems like humans and dogs blow chunks most easily. Rerun, the family Cairn terrier, seems prone to it. But then he likes to try to eat snails in the garden, and escargot in the raw certainly seems like it would be emetic.

Mother and child

The companion pic to this one , taken at the Drake Hotel . For a pup of less than a year, Coconut 's already done quite a bit of travelling.

First Class Sin


Man eats faeces to fool breathalyser

I suppose that only if you were drunk would doing something like this make any sense. Talk about a s***-eating grin.

Review: Laws of Attraction

Laws of Attraction is a passable rom-com with a standard adversaries-become-lovers plot. Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore play two of Manhattan's top divorce lawyers with very different styles (he's casual and often unscrupulous, she's straitlaced and takes the high road) who predictably fall for each other. Meanwhile, Michael Sheen and Parker Posey chip in gamely as an over-the-top rock star-fashion designer couple whose divorce proceedings pit the lawyers against each other. There's a generous dose of Irish blarney as Moore and Brosnan, examining an Irish castle that's the centre of a divorce dispute, consume a bit too much ale and wind up inadvertently married. Brosnan and Moore's bickering and subsequent attempts at keeping up appearances constitute the film's attempts at generating sparks, but the pair's colossal dramatic talent falls flat in this comedy, and ultimately Laws suffers from an inescapable gravity.