Monday, July 21, 2008

The Last of the Mohicans

Taking a break from my hectic day, I will give myself a quick breather in the form of a quick post, a slight and indeed now rare indulgence. Time affords no such luxuries nowadays, although, to be fair, it could be attained if I sacrificed some other aspects of my life, which I am wont to do.

There was a period of time in my college days when I was heavily invested in the American Red Indian; his culture, his habits, his habitat, his ways, his looks, his warrior image, and, their vaunted wisdoms. I bought posters of Red Indians, played with my “pencils”, drawing up magnificent landscapes for my various tribal factions of pencils to fight in, amidst rivers, streams, valleys, mountains and forests. I became infatuated with the North American bald eagle, one of their emblems, and was in awe of their mastery of the forests.

But what first fuelled such an interest, one might ask, in a boy born and bred in modern day KL?

It all started from a soundtrack! Yes you go that right. I heard the OST to the Last of the Mohicans from Darr, borrowed it, and as I sat in his living room (as a high school kid), both of us shoulder to shoulder head leaning back, the very music conjured up images in my mind, fancies that were built entirely on my own imagination mingled and fuelled by that OST. After that, I just had to get the movie. And I have since watched it several times.

Let me first state here that one of the best movies I have EVER watched, is the “Last of the Mohicans”, starring Daniel Day Lewis. Even though he was one of the heroes, the movie was definitely enhanced by the superb effects, wardrobe and acting of those who acted as the Red Indians, mainly Magua, Incas and Chingachgook. It really helped that these 3 men really did look like Indians themselves (and after research, I found out that they really had Red lineage).

The acting was superb and first class. The wardrobe of the whole ensemble cast, down to the last Red Indian and British soldier, fed the imagination and lent an air of real credence to the scenes, making them believable. The scenery really took your breath away. There is a part where one of the scouts says they do not need Bibles to believe or validate the existence of God; the hidden hand of God is in all of creation for us to see, and the only evidence that one who spends his time out amidst nature needs, is nature itself. Agreed!

The actors looked like Indians themselves, drawing us into the plot deeply until we forget that we are watching a film. I admired the stature and the physiques of the Reds, sinewy, lean and athletic, running through the forests silently, tracking, scouting, leaving trails, following routes, hunting, fishing, experts with the tomahawk and with the knife, their way of fighting and hunting, their knowledge of the wind, the sun and the natural elements. They scouted and tracked by feeling the direction of the wind on their cheeks, the light of the sun on a tree bark, the effects of an echo. I was fascinated by the reading of signs of routes taken, the meaning of a twig at a certain angle of another twig, etc.

The OST to the movie is definitely one of the top 3 OSTs ever to grace the big screen, or, for that matter, the small screen. The promontory, the elk chase, the pipes, “I will find you”, and the fitting accompaniment to the movie scenes played by the music, at once enhancing and elevating the movie and the emotions they stirred. The various subplots (no spoilers here), and “I will find you” coming in at the exact correct timing, the build up to the climatic finale, which the hype of the OST built up to, was not let down and was delivered by the movie.

Currently I am, for the first time, reading the original and unabridged version of the story written by James Fennimore Cooper. I recommend you to watch the movie before you read the book. Michael Mann has really brought the movie to life, and enhanced it. It’s the best movie you’ve never seen, if you haven’t. You’ve got to see it. The cinematography itself is worth the price of a DVD (you cheap wretches).

For those of you who have not seen the movie, please exercise some discipline and stop here and go and get it. Spoilers lie ahead. For those who already have seen the movie, check this out, which features the second best scene in the whole movie, bound to evoke some memories and emotions and a very apt build up to the finale. When DDL goes “UNCAS!!!!”, you can really hear the emotion in his voice. To appreciate the whole scene, you need to watch the film in its entirety, but since you’ve already watched it before, let this serve once again to remind you why this is one of the top movies you have ever watched. One last point, before I let you to the scene itself. There is romance, romantic scenes, and there is ROMANCE, ROMANTIC scenes, like this one. This is the sort of lovemaking scene (eluded to very briefly in this clip, but very gripping in the movie) and experience that I sought after! If I was a single lad of 22 years old now, ok, after this, I would cast aside my corporate life and go and live in the wild, awaiting the day I rescue a damsel in distress and fall in love with her and then we do what alice and uncas did amidst the waterfalls. Ok go enjoy.

And after you see that link, you definitely would want more, and this is the best part, the finale, together with the climax, the fitting theme song building up the hype. When DDL goes “UNCAS!!!!”, you can really hear the emotion in his voice.

And now, I must slowly dial myself down from this emotional pedestal I have worked myself into, and get back to work. And reality.

New objective in life to add to current list: visit Native Indian heritage and historical sites in America.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The world around us

Everyone knows that the world is facing climate change, and that the environment is rapidly changing for the worse as a result of Man’s activities, and that we are very near to if not at/over the tipping point. Several factors have been blamed.

But one of the most baffling, and recently gained much public attention, factors, is the methane gas produced by cattle farts. I shall pause a moment to let you digest that sentence. Yes ladies and gentlemen, while we are enjoying our steaks and chops, the cattle is having the last laugh – yup, eat me if you want,
but my flatulence will slowly kill you anyway. Over the life of cattle, from birth to death, it would have released a significant enough amount of methane into the atmosphere. That’s just something really odd, to ponder over. Those cute harmless, white, furry animals playing king of the hill just beyond the stiles, who look so nice dotting the countryside on rural drives, yup, they are slowly strangling us. And who said eating cows is cruel because they do nothing to harm the human race? We have to redefine ‘nothing’. These guys are the real poker masters and assassins, for while we fawn over their cuteness and make furry soft toys in their likeness, they can look us in the eye, while chewing cud, knowing that they are secretly planting poison in the air that will kill us.

It gets personally worrying & irritating when my job prospects and livelihood are affected by factors that were not at all attributed to anything I did. Due to escalating costs of living here, unstable politics, and safety issues, I have been seriously considering taking advantage of my PR and moving back to Australia, and am just awaiting the timing. However,
recent unemployment reports, wages snapshots and economic assessments in Australia are not so rosy either. Australians are abandoning home ownership dreams, and the previously already hefty price of homes has increased again and looks set to continue. The petrol prices are inevitably rising everywhere, with the bad news that it is also rising in Sydney, and in Malaysia would also raise eventually hence the Government has to remove the subsidies anyway. Demand for managers in engineering and IT are declining in all Australian states, except for WA and Queensland, which are very resource based, as opposed to corporate. Jobs overall ARE increasing; it’s just that the right sectors aren’t particularly growing. I guess at this time everywhere in the world is shaky now, and we might be jumping from the pot into the frying pan. I guess if one is stable and secure in where they currently are, they better wait it out for a bit.

Assume there is a lottery prize to be won. There will DEFINITELY be MORE than 1000 people vying for 1 prize money over the course of the week. That makes the odds of claiming first prize roughly 0.1%. And that’s a very optimistic calculation, obviously. And loads of people gamble for that 0.1%. Assuming that the odds are now raised to 6.5%! Suddenly, the chance of winning the top prize in the lottery has jumped by 6500%! Hence if I now told you that there is a venture that has a 6.5% chance of making you a billionaire, would you jump at it?
Well, 6.5% of the world’s billionaires were school drop outs. That means most of you reading this article right now would never be in their class, as I am pretty sure we are all tertiary educated. At that point in their lives, all they had was passion, courage and a certain amount of idealism. At one point in our lives I am sure we all encountered the same thing. What stopped us? Pragmatism? Insufficient confidence in ourselves? This has really got me thinking hard. Is it too late then? [A post for another day.]

Proof that increasingly, we are pairing up with the wrong people.
Partner hopping is on the rise, and the oft floated suggestion that cohabitation earlier results in more successful marriages later is being turned on its head. Personally, partner hopping is something I don’t quite like. It suggests sexual experience, promiscuity, a bigger number of ex partners to possibly be compared to, an inability to settle down, some other deep seated issues which resulted in break ups previously, and a higher propensity of the same thing recurring. People getting together without being mature enough about relationships, people misreading signals for love, and people being too self centred, and people wanting love and relationships more than they are ready for it, these are some of the myriad causes of this phenomenon. On a side note but related, we should be having babies earlier if we can afford it.

This is just bizarre. Boys arrested for attempted necrophilia. That is rampant enough in morgues, especially to young female victims. What is really disgusting about this is that the female accident victim, all of 20 years old, was buried a week before. What if she had started decomposing? Which brings me to another point: can one catch diseases, e.g. STDs and AIDS, from having sex with corpses?

A Toyota engineer has collapsed and died. This is yet another case, and highlights the working culture in Japan: long hours and high stress + high living costs. No wonder so many Japanese are going mad. This is just more proof that one can really work oneself to death. Toyota has a famed manufacturing system, the Toyota Production System, which is the envy of all manufacturing establishments and held in high regards. Perhaps they should now start focussing on employee welfare, instead of merely on quality, cost, productivity etc. It just makes me feel really bad and reconsider when buying a Toyota car, when I think that each dollar I pay will have a certain % going to the families of engineers who died on the job.

OK, enough for the day.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Relationships today are weird

There are some things I will never understand about relationships. Anne Hathaway, the leggy beauty in Get Smart, apparently dobbed in her boyfriend of 4 years for doing illegal con jobs. Scams. Anyway, she apparently realized what he was up to, struck a deal with the cops to escape, and then they arrested him.

I don’t know, I could never dob in any ex of mine if all they did was some con job of some people. Its not like he killed someone, or cheated some poor old pensioner of her life savings. He just ripped off rich but wanting to be richer (read: greedy) people.

And I’m sure we’ve all heard of people who take thrills in watching their partners in bed with other people. That, I really cannot fathom. I reckon those couples will not last. It is dysfunctional. It is definitely not encouraged in the bible. The bible says 1 man 1 woman, 1 woman 1 man. So when this article popped up about the rampant practice of swinging in a major Australian city, it really blew my mind off. What in the world is the world coming to? How can people exchange lovers? Even if its, as the article alleges, only for a weekend?

Thats y I know i couldnt ever marry an actress. i'd be mortified when i see the scenes of her being in love with someone and all that hugging and crying and worse still, the kissing, and heaven forbid, any lovemaking scenes. i'd run on set and strangle the shit outta the actor involved, beat the crap out of him, set fire to his corpse, and burn down his house, kill his family and eradicate all his pets, including the goldfish and the pet persian.

thats y i know i couldnt be an actor either. imagine coming home to a sulky wife who says "well, that kissing scene you had with brooke..was a tad too real wasnt it?". and then banishing me to the couch.

Who is your leader?

I have been watching the West Wing. And I am extremely uncomfortable with the fact that our national policies and what is allowed, disallowed, legal, illegal, etc, are decided by a small select group of people. This group of people, who are human just like the rest of us, and are just as liable to make mistakes, are imposing what they deem acceptable or not, based on their own morals.

Their own morals. That’s a bit hard to accept, when flawed humans are dictating to the rest of us what is black and what is white.

We should have our best brightest and smartest running the show, but we end up having the most corrupt doing it.

In our country, the daily soap opera being acted out on the highest political stages are a source for amusement, if it wasn’t so serious and had such deep reaching implications. I am genuinely concerned about this place. However, it IS quite entertaining, if one is to just sit back and let the drama unfold, without worrying too much about the consequences to ourselves. This country is being destroyed.

Anyway, below is an article that just goes to
show how stupid we are. We allow someone else to use our facilities, and then we have to beg them to let us use a slice of it, and then, because they wouldn’t allow us to, we are forced to inconvenience our athletes, forcing them to settle for a crap training routine. Well, no surprises if we wouldn’t even make the tiniest literal splash in the pool in Beijing. Whoever drew up such agreements should seriously consider switching careers.

And we want to position ourselves and market ourselves in the world as technically competent people, a genuine partner in the ongoing global storm of outsourcing. Well,
no one is going to find us attractive anymore, after this. Aircraft maintained by us are shoddy and are not world class. Are we still going to fly MAS and AirAsia?

Is this yet another case of our Education Ministers sending their kids not to local schools to undertake the education curriculum they designed and endorse, but to international schools, and not to local colleges and universities, but to academic institutions in the UK and US? For the record, our current DPM’s kids both go to the same high school I used to go to, which is an international school practising the IGCSE Cambridge curriculum, and which costs A BOMB. Well, well. Telling.

1907 vs 2007

Yes, in the last 100 years, the world hasn’t advanced at all, as a race.

What is the world coming to nowadays?

What was said 100 years ago is true today, revealing that the human race has not done much improvement and evolution in the last 100 years. If anything, although our scientific knowledge might be at its peak, the human race as a whole, is nowhere near as enlightened, classy and innocent as it was in days of yore. Gone are gentleman, classy women, and educated people, and not just in the academic but also the cultural sense. Greed has become the number one emotion among human beings, with the chase for the green overriding all other concerns, ranging from the ethical to the environmental. Everyone is fighting to put themselves in their kids in the position to make a lot of money. The richest institutions are banks, and the biggest investors are banks. The richest paid jobs are banking jobs. But what do bankers do?

Bankers sell you crap financial products that you either do not need, or that are bad for you, all just to earn the commission on that. Insurance packages are designed to frighten you. Everything is designed to strip you of your hard earned cash. Nobody pays with what they have. Everything is done on credit, on loan, and when there’s nothing to borrow or sell, they sell trumped up marketing products, and long before the general public knew of the sub-prime woes that are today besieging the global economy, bankers already knew, but were still selling anyway. It is consumerism and capitalism at is frenzied peak. Buy, and if you can’t afford it, borrow!

"Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card gas."- Earl Wilson 1907-, American newspaper columnist

Institutions are all about making money. Trying to afford an education is getting harder and harder. It is probably more worthwhile financially to send your kid to TAFE than to university. At my alma mater, they are having an accommodation crisis, where
university students are hot-bedding it, which basically means they take turns to sleep on the same bed.

We are hot property. Institutions are scrambling to decode what is in my head. Everyone wants to know what I am thinking. Everyone is trying to strip as many dollars from me as possible. As a Gen Y (is that even me? At 25 years old?) member, I am merely a statistic, a cross section of the socio-economical fabric of the population, and am targeted as a hot marketing prospect, an eager beaver consumer. Everyone is trying not to understand what makes us tick, how to harness our energy, how to make the world a better place with us, what is screwing us up, what makes us happy, what motivates us. No. everyone, every research dollar is hell bent on squeezing every drop of blood from us, and when we are broke and bankrupt to our knees, they will conveniently dispose of us, and move on to Gen Z.

Y'day, we fought over land. Today we fight over oil. Tomorrow, we will fight over water and food. Mark my words.

Yes, in the last 100 years, the world hasn’t advanced at all, as a race.

Wishful thinking would...

...have me going back to uni all over again. In the UK this time.

What sparked this post? Well.

Read in The Age that the Fremantle train line will be closed.
Now, that’s sad. Remember I used to take that to the Showgrounds for my uni exams. Or was that the Epsom line? I remember very clearly visiting Fremantle when I was in Perth, so maybe this is a different line haha.

Hm.. it was fun to sit on the train gazing out the window confidently en route to the exams while everyone around me tried to do last minute cramming, and I just listened to my Discman while watching the world zoom by outside the window trains. One moment you’d see the sign for, say, Malvern, and the next, you’d be in a dark tunnel gazing at your own reflection, and then you’d see the sign for Croydon, then you’d see graffiti, then you’d be in a tunnel again.

And it was fun on the way back feeling confident while the people around me chatted and discussed what they answered wrongly, beat themselves up over wrong answers, or did over the top celebratory gestures (read-emphatic fist pumps). I always thought that was rather pointless as we can’t change anything anymore anyway so let’s just chill and enjoy life. Be cool. That was my motto. Even when wearing my beanie, blowing on my cold hands while fervently clutching my Discman. Be cool.

Anyway, as a kid, perhaps due to all those Enid Blyton books, my favourite country was England. It still is, due to Roald Dahl, and very significantly, my History lessons. I always thought I’d go there for my overseas education, but due to the economic setbacks of the late 90s, I ended up going to economically sensibler Australia.

Even now, I harbour the occasional fleeting thought of going there, and this is stirred up
whenever I come across any reminders. I’ve never been, but I can already imagine it. I really envy those people who can say they’ve been there, and on weekends they’d take the train down to London, and then hearing them throw out names like Picadilly and Soho and the thousand other places you read or hear about, especially in Tony Parsons’ books. I wouldn’t talk about this anymore, but, really, that’s a big wish of mine. I want to visit the Tower of London, Big Ben, go to Salisbury Plain to see Stonehenge, go to Hampton Court, rent a car and drive from Scotland to the Lake District (Darren did it, so I can too), visit Bath, stand on the Cliffs of Dover, touch a part of Hadrian’s wall, visit Westminster Abbey (where Kings and Queens were crowned and buried), take the tube, explore the backstreets, go to Liverpool, go to Bristol where Joanne spent a year, want to see Stratford upon Avon, visit the Globe Theatre, stand on London Bridge, throw a pebble into the Thames, use the phone in one of those red phone booths, take pictures on top of a red double decker while the wind is blowing my hair back, touch an old fashioned postbox, walk on the streets when it snows and everyone is rushing to do their Christmas shopping, experience Christmas there, visit Townsend court, visit Sevenoaks, gaze upon a real castle or two and imagine this was medieval times, the Middle Ages, and a siege was taking place.

I want to live in the country for a few nights, take long walks, over hedges and stiles, see the farming fields and the knitted patterns on the fields, see Longhorn cows, visit Nottingham Forest, and be able to paste photos in my travel diary of me standing next to signs that read Brick Lane, Camden Town, Jermyn Street, Marylebone (that’s from Monopoly), Bonds Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street…such wonderful names, you definitely don’t see those in Melbourne. I want to see what is this Strand, Savile Row, Leicester Sq, Elgin Crescent…such names that evoke stirrings in your imagination. I want to go to Trafalgar Sq (though I hear Lord Nelson has been besieged by significantly fewer pigeons then in older times). I want to go to Hastings.

Whenever I hear about or read about university life there, my mind stirs up scenes conjured by the words from the books I have read. Is it the same as in Melbourne, with uni students standing on platforms, red cheeks puffed out, blowing and huffing on their gloved hands to keep themselves warm, stamping their feet, while waiting for the train to come in? Do they really have dinner together at those dinner halls, and call it something college? Ah…

I probably can’t finish it all in one holiday. I’d probably have to do the working holiday thing there, which Teong is hoping to do. I wish I had a career that was much more mobile than this. I guess those who have been there probably can tell me it is nothing like how I imagined, but I rather find out for myself.

A turntable, & some records, please

I’ve always toyed with the idea of owning a record player, those that uses needles and looks like a gramophone, and plays vinyl tracks, and we can use terms like layering, spindles, grooves, records. Really cool.

I imagined I’d have a room with a single light bulb on top, with low wattage of course, and I’d come in here to play old Frank Sinatra classics on my record player, and dust off dusty sleeve jackets and pull out a treasured and scratched copy of the old classics, perhaps something by the Beatles, or Cream, or Dire Straits. Just for that old, classic quality.

So, now that I’m no longer a dirt poor student trawling the junk markets of Fremantle and Camberwell looking at and letting go of dusty old LP jackets that have ]loads and loads of extra information about the artistes included], I might consider buying one here. Just did some research, and here’s a bit of info I will store here and perhaps print out when I go a-hunting for one.

Always try to buy a record of an artiste from the artiste’s country of origin. This is because the artiste’s label will have access to the first generation master copy, from which other LPs are cut.
Look at the spindle marks (the hole at the centre of a record) and condition of the record. Scratched records and ones with numerous spindle marks will indicate how frequently they have been played.
Go for widely spaced grooves on records (which means records with minimal playing time per side). Widely spaced grooves sound better.

Choose a belt-drive turntable over a direct-drive as it sounds better.
The turntable’s tone arm should have anti-skating compensation device to reduce tracking error.
Get an MM (moving magnet) cartridge, as it is easier to achieve good sound because it is more forgiving compared to an MC (moving coil) cartridge.
Opt for a turntable with 33 1/3 and 45rpm playback capability.

Where fact is stranger than fiction

There’s a reason why I hate Courtney Love. I believe that had she been a better wife, Kurt Cobain would still be alive, and we’d all have spent our 90s in our rooms as teenagers smoking while listening to the latest incarnations of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Lake Of Fire, Come As You Are, Lithium, About A Girl, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Never Mind, Dumb…instead, our last album is From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah. That woman single-handedly destroyed the rock and music dreams and the vehicle of escapism for light rock/ grunge rock fans, and not just in the Seattle area. Other pretenders like Pearl Jam, Guns n Roses, can try to emulate them, but no 1 can top Nirvana.

We cannot include Metallica coz that’s a whole different genre.

At any rate, she was fat during her Hole days when Kurt killed himself, and she looked like a whore. Now apparently she has slimmed down and is drawing alarmed responses from people around her. Perhaps, just before she hits menopause and starts wilting, she has decided to improve her looks. Well, she can try but ain’t certainly going to endear herself to the millions of Nirvana fans.

In the same article, apparently everyone’s favourite Friend, Rachel, aka ex Miss Pitt, aka Jennifer Aniston, is opting for a major, and I mean MAJOR, surgical overhaul of her body. She thinks she is a bit too lean for her younger boyfriend, John Mayer’s tastes, and needs to add some voluptuousness to herself. If you read the procedures she intends to go through, seriously, you’d tell her that it’d be much easier to dump him and get a new boyfriend. And after knowing that this is how John Mayer is like, you know, it kinda throws severe credibility issues on the lovey mush crap he sings. Which is fine coz he isn’t much of a singer anyway.

In other BIZARRE news, apparently
this MAN* is now pregnant. Note that the ‘man’ has an asterisk next to his name. Why, you might wonder. Read it! I literally felt weak kneed and had my stomach churning as I read the article.

Are you miserable?

Well, in my ongoing quest to figure out more about what makes people happy, I stumbled upon this article. So apparently, 25% of Australians are miserable and lonely. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised. With the cold dark gloomy weather during winter, especially in Melbourne, it CAN get rather depressing at times, and as one who is easily influenced by the weather, I can vouch for that! In fact, statistics and science have irrefutably proven that depression/suicide incidences in countries with cold climes far exceed those with hot climes, and such incidences spike typically during the winter months.

A fortuneteller (if you buy that stuff) once said that I'd flourish in a place with lots of sunshine.

At any rate, volunteering and doing charity work might not necessarily make one happier. That is something I have always maintained – people who do the above 2 activities to make themselves feel better at the end of the day aren’t doing real charity, and they aren’t doing it with charity in mind, but are doing it for self interests anyway.

Here’s a secret: socializing with extended family, friends and neighbours is a good and happiness inducing thing, apparently. What I didn’t realize was that taking an active interest in current affairs actually makes us not just more knowledgeable, but it also makes us happier. Time to get out from your silos, people.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Freedom of choice


…is invariably linked to freedom of choice. Linking back to my previous post yesterday to how freedom of choice is but a perception in today’s world, in this post, I’m writing about the direct correlation between freedom of choice, represented by a true democratic government, and the happiness of a country’s citizens. Realistically, the results of such exercises are shaped heavily by the relative wealth of the country’s citizens. At any rate, the study reveals that
Denmark is the world’s happiest country.

And in one of the all time most memorable quotes of the century, the political scientist behind the study said, and I quote:

“I strongly suspect that there is a strong correlation between peace and happiness”.


I also strongly suspect that Bill Gates wakes up every morning and goes “I’m such a lucky sod.”.

At any rate, in all seriousness, freedom of choice is really an illusion, and a perception. If you want to bring it up to a higher level, in some religions, our lives are already scripted out, and there is an element called Fate. In ancient Chinese customs, their belief is that somewhere out there, our entire lives are already charted out in some Book up in the Heavens. In Christianity, it is believed that everything works out according to God’s grand plan. That is why the terms destiny, pre-ordained, etc, even exists in our vocab.

I love that strip where Calvin says to Hobbes that he likes the idea of there being some fate/destiny and how everything is written in the stars, as it is far nicer to believe that one is not really responsible for one’s actions.

Of course, that is manipulating and twisting the concept, but no1 has really been able to, thus far, come up with a coherent and convincing argument that really explains everything properly and I guess until then, we live on faith.

Anyway, yes, we do not really have freedom of choice. Name me 1 thing that you do that is not to some extent shackled by some constraint or other. A more succinct way of describing our existences is that we have freedom of limited options.