Sunday, December 30, 2012


The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

OK. I liked it. It wasn't perfect and I felt the middle and end part seemed disjointed. But if you like 80s music and the 1980s' teenage films then you'll probably like this film too. Heck, I'll watch it again.

"Wallflower" was set in the 1990s but makes a lot of use of 1980s music. In many ways it reminded me of the old John Hughes' movies, "Somekind of Wonderful", Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink" etc.  Its the usual story of a group of misfits in High School.

The main character - a geeky nerdy kid - goes to a new school and makes new friends with cool people - ie. the class clown played by the charismatic Ezra Miller (who could have been played by Jon Cryer aka "Duckie" if he was 20 years younger) and of course the pretty Emma Watson.

For Wallflowers they all have "colorful" backgrounds which I felt was a lazy way by the writers' to spark interest in the story. Its as if I'm watching Marvel's Uncanny X-Men.

- spoiler alert - don't read any further.

I didn't feel the childhood abuse background story of Charlie really did justice to the story. First off - I felt that the suggestion that someone who suffered from paedophilia can turn into the Incredible Hulk and beat up three school bullies who were twice his size as laughable. It got to a point when midway through the film I was seriously wondering whether Charlie wasn't stuck in a mental asylum dreaming the entire story all up.

The friendship between Charlie and Patrick (Nothing) was I felt one of the more interesting developments of the story - but the writers didn't seem to have the ability to expand it more than a WTF side-issue. Instead we have this childhood abuse trauma story being backscattered all the way through the film before it strikes the plot like the iceberg hitting the Titanic. Was it a plot device that was suppose to help make the character more sympathetic or to explain his supernatural powers? Or are broken things more interesting?

The story had a great question and answer - "Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we're nothing?" (answer) "We accept the love we think we deserve." They could have and should have run the theme of the story on just that eternal question, rather than branch off into Charlie's childhood trauma. I'm not belittling childhood victims but this sidestory didn't seem to help push the main story along.

I wanted to see more on Charlie's anguish and turmoil with Sam. That Sam's relationship with the Uni photographer ends just nicely for him to have a one-night stand with her came across as rather manufactured - almost fitting in with a school boy's fantasy.

So what's it all about? Pleasant tale of cliched characters. I liked the music though and the film had its moments. I liked the dance scene when Charlie meekly walked over to the dance floor to join and be accepted by Patrick and Sam. Come on Eileen - Lyrics  by the Dexys Midnight Runners. Awesome song.

I liked the moment Charlie gazed in wonderment at Sam (Emma Watson). Haven't we all dreamed such dreams?

I identified very much with Charlie in that regard. I was quite the misfit in school and I really wished I could have been friends with some of the coolest kids in school - I could if they didn't despise me so much. But we live and we learn and move on.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Julia Gillard the Feminist Defence

I read this article in the Australian and thought it made a lot of sense. I'm publishing an edited version of this - I can't publish a full version as that would not be fair to the newspaper publishers.

Janet Albrechtsen

The perils of the Prime Minister's feminist fantasies

Eric Lobbecke
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke Source: The Australian
IN an interview with women's magazine Marie Claire on sale today, Julia Gillard says her dream job outside politics is global philanthropist. Like so much of what the Prime Minister says, it sounds damn good but what it really means is far from clear.

This disconnect between rhetoric and reality segues into a deeper problem facing modern politics. Sounding good is too often used as a cheap and easy substitute for the harder yards of doing good.

Indeed, if there were a Walter Mitty Award for fantastical dreaming in Canberra, the PM would win it hands down. Mitty, the ordinary man with no particular skill, lives a grand imaginary life in his mind. Sometimes he's a heroic wartime pilot. Then he's a lifesaving surgeon. When he dreams, he dreams big. Now you see the link with Canberra.

Routinely castigated for lacking a vision -- or a "narrative", as Labor strategists call it -- Gillard surely has developed a penchant for the vision thing. Promises on the never-never include a grand dental scheme, a vision for a National Disability Insurance Scheme and, most recently, a project to launch Australia into the 21st Asian Century. Gillard's visions lack any sign of real-time implementation, let alone real-time funding. It's as if Walter Mitty has come to Canberra.

Ironically, the emptiest of Gillard's carefully crafted visions is the one where a lack of funding is not the reason the vision falls apart. This is the one where Gillard plays Julia, the Feminist Warrior, slaying misogynists whenever they cross her path.

While this vision costs nothing in terms of taxpayer dollars, Gillard's accusations of sexism and misogyny against Tony Abbott may end up may end up costing society dearly if her misplaced sexist rhetoric takes hold.

Clearly, the PM doesn't see it that way. Alternatively, she doesn't care about the longer-term consequences of her behaviour. Chuffed at the reaction from social media, foreign feminists and left-wing newspapers to her attack on the Opposition Leader in parliament last month, Gillard deliberately has chosen to milk the misogyny card some more. And why wouldn't she?

With rising poll numbers, Gillard and her minders must imagine they are on to something with their gender wars.

The Marie Claire interview with Gillard and six of her senior female ministers was not initiated by the women's magazine. Instead, according to the magazine's publisher and editor, Jackie Frank, the Labor women (read: people on the PM's behalf) contacted Frank asking her if she "wanted to come to the Lodge and do an interview and photos before they all got together for a dinner".

The result? A manufactured opportunity for the PM to bask in the glory of what she refers to in the interview as the "round-the-world-and-back-again reception" to her attack on Abbott. Described by American feminist website Jezebel as "badass", Gillard admitted smiling wryly and said: "I'm certainly taking 'badass' as a compliment."

Just as Gillard's other big visions demand thoughtful analysis, not hurried reaction in a fast-moving news cycle, the vision of Julia, the Feminist Warrior, demands more careful consideration than it has received to date. This is especially so in light of Gillard regurgitating her gender wars in Marie Claire.

The PM's political strategy is clear. An eight-page spread in Marie Claire taps Gillard into a younger demographic -- the 445,000 monthly readers of the magazine are mostly women aged 25 to 39. In fact, much younger women are also being encouraged to join the Gillard gender wars. Well-meaning schoolteachers have started showing Gillard's tirade to their female high school students as evidence that misogyny still happens. Disappointingly, when the YouTube video was played at one school, there was no classroom discussion of the underlying hypocrisy of Gillard's continuing support for Peter Slipper, whose distasteful texts about female genitalia should have required his removal from the Speaker's chair by any fair-minded and consistent feminist. Nor was there any real analysis of the man Gillard accused of being a misogynist.

One would think serious accusations of sexism and misogyny required serious evidence. Instead, Gillard conducted a most superficial show trial during her parliamentary attack before finding Abbott guilty. If Gillard can get away with producing no real evidence, why would other women bother when making similar accusations? And it's little wonder that overworked high school teachers fell under the Gillard gender spell when so many supporters in the sisterhood accepted it without an ounce of intellectual curiosity. Journalism lecturer Julie Posetti called it a "landmark speech" that was "utterly historic". Web publisher Mia Freedman said it felt "like a feminist awakening in this country". Writing on her Mamamia website -- where the demographic is young women -- Freedman said: "That speech is the one every woman gives in the shower or at 2am in her own mind or in the car as she's mulling over whatever sexist behaviour she's had to endure."
If this kind of unthinking acceptance of Gillard's hypocritical and misleading use of sexism and misogyny continues, we will find ourselves headed down a truly problematic path. The most senior woman in the country has told young women that it is acceptable, even laudable, to make shallow and intellectually dishonest accusations of sexism and misogyny when you are criticised by a man. If the Prime Minister can do it and receive uncritical applause, then young women may try it, too. Is this really where we want to go as a society? Sexism and misogyny are serious issues. If the PM devalues these terms and continues to do so with her glib remarks about being "badass", won't other young women, especially impressionable ones, follow her lead?

Moreover, we have reached the ludicrous position where serious questions about the PM's behaviour (during her time at law firm Slater & Gordon when acting for her former union boyfriend Bruce Wilson) have to be put by the Liberals' most senior woman, Julie Bishop, for fear Gillard will repeat her sexism and misogyny accusations against men who may dare to ask the same questions.

When will thinking feminists admit that Gillard's anger-laden feminist taunt was a regressive step, undermining the need for men and women to calmly and intelligently sift through the sometimes complex relations men and women? Just as some men can be sexist, so too can some women. Just as misogyny exists, so does misandry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

3MBS Young Performer Award

(Sorry the photo album site got terminated by the provider)

This the the 24th 3MBS Young Performers Award, 2012. The 2012 Finalists are Adoria Li - Piano, Lotte Betts-Dean - Mezzo-Soprano, Lina Heeseung Park - Flute, Aaron Ch'ng - Violin.

These are some of the photos I took of the event.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I'm spent the morning talking with one of my share brokers... it seems the consensus is that the market is way too high at the moment. So afterwards, I came back home and started doing my laundry. I got a pile of clothes to wash and afterwards I need to vacuum my room. The amount of dust that builds up in a week is surprising.

To while away my time, here are some of my thoughts on Australia, the Great Southland.

Australia like America - was a former British Colony. Both nations were setup as a prison colony. The big difference is that the Americans revolted against the British and threw them out. Then the Americans built their Republic and Democratic system "from scratch" - (notwithstanding their inspirations from the ancient Roman and Greek systems). And eventually they developed "The American Culture" and their way of doing things. Australia, however, was setup by the British- everything was passed down to them- their law courts, their govt systems- it was in essense- Britain's "mini-me". I hope any Aussie who reads this will pardon me for that comparison.

Inferiority complex- masculine culture- causing them to burrow to sports (real stuff) scorning acadmia or new developments. great inventors. black box, 747,

lefties loopy media/

breakdown of society

need for conservative govt

john howard- boring- john hewson loser of unlosable election

Summer is coming

Today was over 25C. Summer is here alright.

The Lavender needs some pruning back. Not too sure whether its too late to do it.

I didn't go for bible study group today. I haven't gone for months. Was toying with going for awhile. But to be honest I am finding the whole experience rather ... depressing is not the word.... anti-climatic? tiresome? disappointing...

The more I go the more I realize I have less in common with these people.

We go, we sing songs to God, we study another inspiring bible verse, pray for each other - and in my case, the same fucking problems - wait for supper, eat junk food, smile politely and go home.

I'm tired of fronting up to people I no longer have any affinity towards and share my godawful problems - which I think most of them don't give a damn about anyway.

I'm tired of making myself feel vulnerable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The train ride - draft 1

I wrote this short short story about the H- back in 2009 - not sure how the idea came to me.

mummy i want to go home

hush child we're nearly there

i love you mommy

I know dear. hold my hand tightly now. be brave.

and as they got out from the cattle cars, the sound of screaming terrified people coupled with the barking orders from the camp guards and dogs was defening.

Melissa tried to cover her ears to shut out the horrifying sound but her hand was tightly gripping her mother's hand.

The crowd pressed heavily against the, The smell of sweat, urine, excrement mingled with awful fear stank the night air. Melissa felt her grip of her mother loosen by the jostling. She screamed. Then Anna scopped her up cradling her like a baby. She kissed Melissa, and said with shaking voice - "Its going to be alright, dear."

Let's say the prayer mummy.

"Though I walk through the shadow of death
I will fear no evil.. Thy rod and staff comfort me..."

They walked steadily through the gates then down a concrete trench leading to the gas chambers.

The steel door slapped shut with a gut wrenching groan.

"Are we going to die, mummy." Melissa finally asked.


"Are we going to heaven?"

"I don't know dear.... I don't know."

"But we'll be together?"

Anna looked at her daughter who seemed so brave. She suddenly realized Melissa was not crying. It was her tears that was raining down uncontrollably. Momentarily, she lost her composure. Then she gathered it back -

"Yes, we'll be together."

"That's all I need."

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Mulching Machines

I bought an electrical mulching (shredder) machine from Bunnings about a year ago now.

Haven't used it much because I'm pretty bad at managing my time.

And I didn't use it because I was a little peeved that I paid so much for it. $350+ it was just as expensive as a petrol driven lawn mower. Seriously, the lawn mower companies should have produced an affordable petrol mulching machine ages ago. Excuses, I'm full of them :)

I used to use my lawn mower to shred the stuff - but the problem was that the only place I could do it was on the lawn area - and it could get messy.

Anyway, these machines have to be treated with special caution as any improper use will literally be life-threatening. Its not often that you have a device which can seriously harm, maim, kill you - but yeah, mulching machines have the capacity to really screw you up for life.

But why do it?

I do it because it is one of the best ways to turn garden waste into perfect mulch.

I have in my garden - plenty of shrubs, bushes, - Lavenders, Margurite Daisies, natives bushes, that need to be trimed back on an annual or semi annual basis. I used to simply throw them into the council green waste bin. But it was such a shame as they make the perfect ingredients for mulch.

They aren't weeds nor do they contain any virulent seeds - so they are the perfect ingredient for instant mulch. You throw them into the machine and hey presto you instantly have good stuff you can lay on your garden bed straight away without any delay.

Right now, I'm positively excited about mulching my lavenders because of the aromantic effect it will have on my garden and well-being.

Having said they I make it a point to go slowly with the shredding process. I caused the machine to jam three times by trying to stuff too much in all at once.

Some of the longer pieces have to be carefully positioned to avoid jamming it too. And it certainly helped if I tore apart the branches and fed the pieces in piecemeal rather than trying to stuff the whole lot in.

Eventually I got the hang of things - and I made sure that I pulled the plug and waited 1 minute each time I had to unjam the debris clogged inside.

So anyhow, not too bad. I think the price is a bit expensive. But overall it does its job. Just please exercise tremendous caution when using this.

1. Think carefully about what you are doing.
2. Do not put your hand inside the machine, unless the machine has totally stopped and the power supply disconnected. Even after you turn it off, the blades will still be turning and they will slice up your hand to bloody ribbons (think about that for a couple of seconds) if you put them inside.
3. Make sure its on a stable surface.
4. Make sure that no children or stupid teenagers are hanging around.
5. Make sure your wallet, phone, watch, glasses are well secured and DO NOT fall inside.
6. If they fall inside, they reach in to grab them (if machine is running)
7. Throw a ripe tomato inside - look at your hand and ponder.
8. Turn the machine off after 15 - 20 minutes to let it cool down.
9. Do not try and stuff everything into it at once.
10. Piecemeal is the best.

Meanwhile, the weeds in my wheelie bin compost are disintegrating very nicely. I filled the new bins up with weeds a month ago, and they've settled down, compacting naturally inside. I'm waiting for more rainy days to fill them up with water.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Flander Field Flower Gardening project: 100th anniversary of World War 1

In 2014, we will be marking the 100th anniversary of World War 1, the war to end all wars. An absolutely ghastly conflict as the empires of the world squandered their young men, and their wealth and vast amounts of natural resources fighting a stupid war.

You thought the GFC was terrible? You thought the 911 terror attacks were bad? - study history for awhile and you'll realize that events like World War One make our current problems look surprisingly small in comparison.

Anyhow, I thought I'd commemorate the terrible occasion which will last 2014- 2018 by planting Flanders Field poppies in my front garden.

75,000 of them.

You can buy the seeds from this online Aussie site called Diggers Rest.

The link is here:

Its suppose to cover 100 square metres. My front garden is about 80 sq metres. So they should cover it.

Obviously I'm not going to count every seed and I have no patience to grow them in a hothouse before transplanting them.

I'm just going to rake my front flower beds, scatter the seeds together with blood and bone fertilizer and water it in.

Come Spring, we should get a fair idea of how it will turn out.

I still have a lot of sourbob clovers in my garden beds but I'll just remove them bit by bit. We still have 2 more years before 2014 clicks over, so plenty of time to prepare the poppy garden for display.

I anticipate I'll probably have to buy more seeds. Thankfully they are pretty cheap. 75,000 seeds for $46 including postage. If need be, I'll buy another 140,000 next year. I want to get that mass "wow" effect.

Most of the WW1 veterans have passed away. Some of the WW2 veterans are still alive. I hope that my Flanders Field garden will help to encourage them that there are people who have not forgotten their sacrifices.

Postscript: The 75,000 poppy seeds have arrived in a rather small packet, no bigger than a normal envelope. I'm going to plant them this week and see how well they do. But there are still plenty of the oxalis soursob clover in the front flower bed for me to contend with.

Results - Bad news, I only got a 1% success rate. Actually maybe a fraction of that. Possible explanations are - 1. Inadequate Preparation: I didn't till the ground; I just scattered the seeds onto the mulch and the flower beds.

Mulching Machines

I bought an electrical mulching (shredder) machine from Bunnings about a year ago now.

Haven't used it much because I'm pretty bad at managing my time.

And I didn't use it because I was a little peeved that I paid so much for it. $350+ it was just as expensive as a petrol driven lawn mower. Seriously, the lawn mower companies should have produced an affordable petrol mulching machine ages ago. Excuses, I'm full of them :)

I used to use my lawn mower to shred the stuff - but the problem was that the only place I could do it was on the lawn area - and it could get messy.

Anyway, these machines have to be treated with special caution as any improper use will literally be life-threatening. Its not often that you have a device which can seriously harm, maim, kill you within the blink of an eye - but yeah, mulching machines have the capacity to really screw you up (or worse, your child or loved one) for life when you are doing a rather mundane activity.

But why do it?

I do it because it is one of the best ways to turn garden waste into perfect mulch.

I have in my garden - plenty of shrubs, bushes, - Lavenders, Margurite Daisies, natives bushes, that need to be trimed back on an annual or semi annual basis. I used to simply throw them into the council green waste bin. But it was such a shame as they make the perfect ingredients for mulch.

They aren't weeds nor do they contain any virulent seeds - so they are the perfect ingredient for instant mulch. You throw them into the machine and hey presto you instantly have good stuff you can lay on your garden bed straight away without any delay.

Right now, I'm positively excited about mulching my lavenders because of the aromantic effect it will have on my garden and well-being.

Having said they I make it a point to go slowly with the shredding process. I caused the machine to jam three times by trying to stuff too much in all at once.

Some of the longer pieces have to be carefully positioned to avoid jamming it too. And it certainly helped if I tore apart the branches and fed the pieces in piecemeal rather than trying to stuff the whole lot in.

Eventually I got the hang of things - and I made sure that I pulled the plug and waited 1 minute each time I had to unjam the debris clogged inside.

So anyhow, not too bad. I think the price is a bit expensive. But overall it does its job. Just please exercise tremendous caution when using this.

1. Think carefully about what you are doing.
2. Do not put your hand inside the machine, unless the machine has totally stopped and the power supply disconnected. Even after you turn it off, the blades will still be turning and they will slice up your hand to bloody ribbons (think about that for a couple of seconds) if you put them inside.
3. Make sure its on a stable surface.
4. Make sure that no children or stupid teenagers are hanging around.
5. Make sure your wallet, phone, watch, glasses are preferably kept somewhere else or well secured and DO NOT fall inside.
6. If they fall inside, DO NOT reach in to grab them (if machine is running)
7. If in doubt of the horrors of accidents - Throw a ripe tomato inside - now, look at your hand and ponder.
8. Turn the machine off after 20 minutes to let it cool down.
9. Do not try and stuff everything into it at once. It will just jam the equipment.
10. Piecemeal is the best. Throw things in bit by bit.

Meanwhile, the weeds in my wheelie bin compost are disintegrating very nicely. I filled the new bins up with weeds a month ago, and they've settled down, compacting naturally inside. I'm waiting for more rainy days to fill them up with water.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some thoughts on Mandarin as a 2nd language: Singapore the hybrid nation

April 6, 2011 at 12:48am
Since the 1970s, the Singapore Govt - the PAP - has made it compulsory for all students to learn a 2nd language according to their ethnicity - meaning, all Chinese people must learn Mandarin as a 2nd language. To emphasize the importance - the Mandarin (and English) exams had been double weighted for score marks.

I think the Singapore Government's excessive emphasis on Mandarin is misplaced. We aren't living in China. We are thousands of miles away and situated in the heart of the Malay Archipelago.

Singaporean Chinese should really be encouraged to speak Malay not Mandarin. Students should definitely be allowed to choose Malay over Mandarin as a 2nd language. At the moment, all ethnic Chinese students are forced to study Mandarin.

Speaking Malay and learning to blend with the Malay culture is vital for Singapore's national and economic security. We can't be this sore thumb - a Chinese bastion - sticking out, a distinct separate entity. Its hard enough that 70% of our population are ethnic Chinese and non-Muslim. We can't change our skin color nor our religion but by speaking Malay, understanding their culture we have a better chance of living in harmony with our Malay regional neighbors and hopefully influencing their culture to become more like us.

Regional Envy
Singapore faces a serious problem regarding with our neighbors. Both Malaysia and Indonesia harbor very negative views of Singapore.It combines the worse associations - race, revenue, and religion. Our population is 70% Chinese and we're a lot richer than them. The fact that we can achieve so much despite our lack their vast natural resources only causes greater resentment and causes all sorts of silly conspiracy theories to flourish.

Somehow our neighbors neglect to see that our relatively uncorrupt political, civil and administrative bureaucracy coupled with its old style British efficiency make us a haven for businesses to flourish. International companies seek to establish their headquarters in Singapore for this reason. Plus, we all speak the international language, the new "Roman Latin", English.

If there was one thing the PAP did right, and there were many things, it was to (carry on the British Colonial legacy and) establish English as the main language in Singapore. All our official correspondence is in English, our legal courts are conducted in English, Our Parliament debates are in English, the bulk of our education is conducted in English. It is no easy feat, as English would be the 2nd or 3rd language for most Singaporeans; more people fail their English language exams than their Mandarin tests. But as a trade language, English is beyond compare. You go anywhere in the world from Finland, Brazil, Holland, Argentina, Russia, China, and even France :D and you can find more people there that speak English (as opposed to another 2nd language), the European Parliament has recently chosen English as its main language for keeping records.

English really is the new "Latin" language. In ancient history when Rome ruled most of the world (except Russia/China), it established its  language, Latin, as the first international language. Thus, the recording of species and fauna is still done in that ancient language. Most European languages also derive their structure from ancient Latin.

It is true that Mandarin is necessary if you intend to focus on trade in China. But somehow the Australians, Americans can somehow get by (of course not without difficulty) in trading with the mainland Chinese. Maybe its because more Chinese are eager to learn English than there are English men :D

Mandarin is a very hard language to master. You've got to memorize over three thousand individual characters... Its an ancient language that lacks an alphabet (a huge stumbling block or should we say slapping offence) - its more similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs than it is to English. Seriously!! If you want to put it cruelly all that cute calligraphy is just a few steps away from a caveman's pictorial drawing. Pardon the ungracious remark.

But yes, of course China is going to be the powerhouse of the 21st century so "wo men yao zhang hua yi". That's what all the experts said after they realized that their earlier prediction about Russia or Japan being the next dominant superpower failed to materialize. :D

I doubt that China is going to be as all powerful as Alexander's the Great Empire, the Romans, the British Colonial Empire or even the American "informal" empire. Why? The Chinese culture is too exclusive, too distinct, parochial, too much inward looking - just like the Japanese for example.

But things may change - Korea was once known as the hermit kingdom too.

Does everyone (I mean all the Chinese people in Singapore) need to know Mandarin? Is it really necessary for "All Chinese to speak Chinese?"

I notice a growing trend among ethnic Chinese people in Singapore to converse in Mandarin when they are grouped together. And I wonder how the minority races - the Indians, Malays feel about it. Of course the same could be said about Tamils, Indians, Malays conversing in their own "mother" tongue. But the Chinese people, being the more numerous racial group should exercise a greater degree of sensitivity.

I think our relationship with our two (Malay/Muslim) neighbors - Malaysia and Indonesia is vastly more important than our relationship with China. Singapore can't think of itself as a "sunny island set in the sea". Our extreme close proximity to our two much larger neighbors should have sunk that notion a generation ago. Its highlighted each time Malaysia threatens to cut off our water supply or when Indonesia refuses to sell us more of their sand or when the two of them commence joint military exercises on Singapore's National Day like they did back in 1990. The idea that we can safely ignore our troublesome neighbors is irresponsible.

If we continue to emphasis our Chinese-ness, and pay frequent homage to China, surely our Malay neighbors might regard us as province of China. In fact, there has been some unpleasant comparisons comparing Singapore with Israel. God help us if we ever reach the same abysmal level as Israel's relationships with its (Muslim) neighbors. Israel has fought four major wars and numerous battles since its inception but can't achieve peace with its hostile neighbors. So pardon the French, Singapore is seriously fucked if Indonesia and Malaysia treat us as a Chinese version of Israel.

Our two humongous neighbors could close their borders to us, refuse to sell their food to us, restrict all travel, including international shipping to our nation. Malaysia and Indonesia could attempt to restrict the Straits of Malacca to our shipping... Singapore would be like a mouse caught between two Elephants.

Of course, sure, we could fight. But we'd better have a damn rock gold plated solid casus belli otherwise we'd end up an international pariah like Israel.

Heck we'd  probably win if we allow the maids to carry our young NS soldiers' backpacks when we attack KL and Jakarta :D

But even if we win wars. So what? We still have to deal with two hostile nations with vastly larger populations and land mass than us and who will be bidding their time to stab us the moment our backs are turned. And even if they didn't declare war, they could  find a million small chicken-shit ways to make life for us hell and what can we do about it???

For this reason, national security, Singapore really needs to do its utmost to convince them we are not a Chinese colony. Putting an end to the "Chinese speak Mandarin" campaign" would be a great start. If half of our Chinese population could speak Bahasa, I think that would make some progress.

At the moment, foreign policy wise, it seems we are trying our best to placate their leadership. Its easy to try and ingratiate ourselves with a few members of their elite. But the problem is that the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia are ineffectual and their people generally hate them. We could pour billions of dollars in loans, aid, consulting fees to benefit the ruling elite, but it could all come crashing down in a revolution. And then all of a sudden we're the bad guy because we sided with the arsehole in charge.

Of course just speaking the same language does not guarantee acceptance. The massive violent anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia in 1997 show that more needs to be done.

So then how do we influence them to like us or to think like us? How can we help make Indonesians and Malaysians Governments less corrupt, respectful of property rights (of foreigners), crime free, etc...

I don't pretend to know the answer to this vexing issue. But I guess for a start we could help train and educate their people to think the way we think. Offer scholarship to their best and brightest to study here (we currently do this for mainland Chinese students). We could open Universities, training centers, technical institutes and offer a way out for students who have no other choices than to attend the Madrases for their education.

By doing so, we could be training their next Prime Minister and a whole new generation who might have the same work and social ethic.

But if we can do this - the synergy we would achieve from this friendship would be truly awesome. Not just on the issue of National Defense, on a vast array of economically and social issues, Singapore would benefit tremendously.

Imagine what could be achieved if Singaporeans could live in Johor (safely) and commute swiftly and efficiently to Singapore city? Imagine if Indonesia ceded islands like Batam to us - a 100 year lease. Imagine if we could help the Indonesians manage and administer their tremendous raw resources effectively?

Lastly, the idea of Chinese people speaking Malay instead of Mandarin isn't radical. At one time, the Peranakans dominated Singapore's culture. They were Chinese people who had settled in the fledging Straits Settlements and had created a hybrid culture - a fusion of the Chinese and Malay culture. They spoke Malay and not Mandarin. In many ways they influenced Malay culture. Surely, the Peranakan legacy is Singapore's heritage.

We have to try and get away from this racial divide that separates us. We aren't Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans, Indian Singaporeans, Eurasian Singaporeans -

We are Singaporeans.

( I wrote this draft essay while watching the mainland Chinese and Indian national workers trying to communicate to each other in broken English whilst fixing my apartment windows)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet potatos

My Japanese... or rather Okinawa Sweet Potatoes have arrived.

But now what to do with them? Its too cold and wet to plant them in the ground now. (Still Winter here). They'll likely rot in the ground or get eaten by insects if I plant them now.

So I have to keep them in storage until Spring - September/October. That's over  a month away.

The seller recommended storing them in vermiculite for the winter.

Another thing to note is that – apparently – Japanese sweet potatoes called Satsuma-mio or kotobuki
did not originally come from Japan but from South America. They arrived in Japan only in the 15th century and the Japanese have happily claimed them as their own.

There are two varieties. The Okinawa and the normal Japanese sweet potato. The Okinawa also know as the Hawaiian has tan skin and a purple flesh. It is supposed to be sweeter and more packed with vitamins than the normal variety.

The Japanese sweet potato has purple skin and white flesh – turning golden when cooked.
Both are very small in size (the size of a baby’s arm) and incredibly tasty. They taste like chestnuts. And have an extremely high content of anti0xidents, vitamins and anti-cancer nutrients. My problems with irritable bowl syndrome were cured by eating this on a daily basis + exercising + avoiding processed foods + avoiding fried food etc..

I boil or bake or roast mine (never fried) and they taste like manna from heaven.

When I lived in Singapore I could buy them - but over here in Australia, it is extremely hard to find them sold in the ordinary grocer shops.

I did find two gardening sites which sell them but they aren’t cheap.

One problem is the identification of the Japanese sweet potato which goes by other names other than the "Japanese" names – and they are sometimes referred to as yams.

Like this one -
  Sweet Potato 'Northern Star' (1 Tuber)

It looks like a cross between the Okinawan Potato and the regular Japanese sweet potato.

The latin or technical name for the Okinawa sweet potato, also known as Hawaiian Sunshine, is Ipomoea batatas.

I think the only way to do this is persistence. Just keep on searching and buying different sorts of sweet potatoes until you hit jackpot.


Monday, August 06, 2012

Growing Japanese Sweet Potatoes in Melbourne

When I was in Singapore a few years back, I bought Japanese sweet potatoes - they were very cheap and they tasted like chestnuts when boiled/steamed.

The taste was so delicious that I'd eat a half-dozen in a day easily.

Best of all they were very nutritious and they cured me of my irritable bowel and constipation problems that I had been suffering since I was a child.

The common ones have a purple skin and a white flesh. The Okinawa varieties have a brown skin and purple flesh. They both taste of delicious chestnuts when cooked. I'm salivating thinking about it now.

Unfortunately I can't seem to find them being sold in Melbourne. 

The ones I usually sell are the extremely large varieties which don't taste as nice. Having said that, roasting them in slices and placing them onto beef sandwiches is excellent.

I found a site in Melbourne which talks about growing European sweet potatoes.

I bought the bullet and bought some more from an online Aussie shop for $5 each!!! I hope to have better luck growing them or have better luck on the share market to afford my food habit.

Postscript: I found that in one of the main grocery malls in Springvale, Vic - they do sell the Okinawa type of sweet potato - white skin, purple color flesh (but the Vietnamese/Chinese grocers call it another name) . It taste pretty good and I felt very healthy the whole week.

Update: I managed to source the "Satsumaio" purple skin sweet potato and planted it in Jan/Feb - but for some reason - they turned mouldy and when I pulled them out of the soil to give it a clean - "something" came along, probably a possum or rat, and ate them.

I planted the white skin "Okinawa" variant and at least one has taken root, grown leaves (which are indeed edible: I ate them) - now to see whether the "tubers" taste any good.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Dream of the Drunk

I had a pretty horrid dream last night. I was having another quarrel with my mum who has a serious gambling problem. I woke up when I said the words, "I'm in hell." repeatedly.

Fortunately lately things are reasonably alright. She is trying to restrain her gambling habit and doesn't rush off the to Taberat each time she gets upset.

We had a funny conversation as she got into her car to drive to church. She mentioned that one of the female church goers was extremely sad because of the sudden death of one the other parishioners.

I don't think they were close. But they have the same heart problem and the same doctor. Plus she's older.

Recently my mother had (what may be) a mini-stroke. And perhaps she's also contemplating death. Maybe it will give her a better perspective of life.

So many things to do and she chooses the most useless one - gambling and quarreling over insignificant issues to spend her time on.

Jade told me that face is the all important issue with the older generation - to be honest, I have little respect for my mother. She was given so much and she has literally squandered it all on the altar of her pride. And rather than facing up to her utter stupidity she chooses to blame others (me) for it when I was the one warning her that her decisions would lead to disaster.

I've refrained from telling her "I told you so" even though I'm totally justified in doing it. There is no point as it will just anger her and drive her further to the brink of insanity.

Deep down she knows what she has done is wrong. But she doesn't have the courage to leap over her pride (face) and face up to it.

Sometimes I feel like a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver. We've  just passed a petrol station and the drunk is asking me for cash to fill up petrol (and for more booze). Passer-bys yell at me to give her the cash and to shut up. Its 4am and I'm feeling tired.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Window dream

I had another vivid dream this morning. I usually can remember my dreams if I wake up a little too early then fall back to sleep.

I woke up this morning at about 6am. I tried not to go back to sleep but eventually I succumbed and went back to bed.

In the dream I was back in Singapore apartment. And a huge drama brewed up over my windows.

In reality, my windows had been done sometime ago but due to carelessness by the workers or the manufacturers - a lot of the window glass were scratched and had to be replaced. I had also asked that the window frames be filled up with foam to add density and an added layer of sound protection. However, in the process some of the frames were stained with glue and the frame insulation was also similarly stained. The contractor has refused to repair the fault and we had a falling out due to that.

In my dream, I was back in my flat and the windows were going to be fixed finally. My sister was also there. But not Aunty Mary, the house sitter who is minding my place.

The window installers came in early to fix the problems and for some reason I didn't get out of bed but kept on sleeping on.

When I woke up, I found to my horror that they had replaced all the stained white window frames with a bronze colored frame - and painted the non-damaged ones with a bronze paint. The paint was smeared on like acrylic onto enamel, resulting in a horrible watery streaky diluted finish. Don't worry the two Uncle contractors (not the original guy) told me, this is just the first coat. But I had realized that the windows were ruined.

I then spent ages talking about the problem with the window dudes but I was resigned to accept the whole mess and seemed totally complacent about the fucking disaster.

I woke up at that moment of acceptance and then realized I was in my home in Melbourne and.... and it did take a second to realize this - the whole thing was a dream. Thank God!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Composting weed tea problems dangers

I've been doing some research into compost weed tea and the amount of the information is quite a lot.

Click here for details - or just use to do a search on "compost weed tea".

Anyhow, it turns out that my idea of compost weed tea is known as non-aerated compost tea.

The literature suggests that keeping the weeds submerged in this watery solution for 3 months will kill everything.

However, as you may have smelled, your brew may contain dangerous e-coli bacteria. All that awful stink strongly suggests that something pretty disgusting and toxic is brewing in that wheelie bin. On the bright side, think of all the hated weeds that you've placed in that brew. I don't know about you but it makes me smile to know that the oxalis weeds and their tenacious children that I just spent precious hours removing are drowning in that horrible gunk.

But really unless you plan to be doing something stupid like drinking the mixture or spraying it onto your salad or onto plants which you will be consuming shortly - I don't think the "tea" should be a problem.

The whole point is really to kill weeds and  the seeds, bulbs and to use their very rich nutrients to enrich the garden. All that dead green matter would still be organically rich.

Right now there are plenty of healthy garden worms - the strong red variety - living in the top part of the tea float mix. Some of the weeds float up, eventually they sink to the bottom though. But I take the healthy existence of the worms as a sign that the compost tea mix is getting OK.

I'm a conservative gardener so what I do is to pour most of the gunk into my open compost bin where I keep most of the leaves and lawn clippings. (you might see a potential problem there). Then after 6 months - 12 months - the mix goes into my dalek bins (black compost bins where the ordinary house fruit/ food waste goes into).

The compost tea school however disdains this old-fashion method of compost - going instead for something more technically minded, and faster.

They use a formulae of mollasses, fertilizers and air pumps+heaters to create an aerobic compost mix. The infusion of air supposedly causes the good bacteria to grow and for the whole tea to mature at a faster rate - one to two weeks. They also sieve out the old weeds/seeds/bulbs using strainers (old pillow cases, hessian bags, etc..) But to be honest that seems like too much hard work. And its liable to get messy.

I like my solution of using a wheelie bin and dumping all the weeds into it - leaving it there soaking in gray water for 6 months untouched except for the occasionally stirring before using it - diluted of course into the garden soil or pouring it straight into the compost bin. It seems a much more simpler and easier solution than fiddling around with aquarium pumps, pillow cases and molasses formulas.

I try reading some of the compost tea formulas like this one

But seriously it just looks way too complicated for me.

Meanwhile I've ordered two more bins from Aussie Waste Management and am looking forward to filling them up.

I am really anxious to know how long it will take to disintegrate the weed seeds/bulbs in this solution. So if you happen to know, let me know.

I began an experiment placing the noxious weeds in a small 5 litre barrel filled with water and covered with a plastic bag to see how long it would take to destroy the weed seeds+bulbs.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Its 1.38am Sunday

Went for evening service - decided not to go for supper - came back and hello, mum is still not back.

She left at 10am for her church service but has disappeared since then. Called my sister but she's not there.

I hope she's at a friend's place but I wouldn't be surprised if she's at a Tabarat squandering the family fortune on the pokies (gambling machines).

I don't understand her gambling addiction and her desire to deflect blame by picking on any cock thing that I do to complain about.

Yesterday I had spent a day doing gardening - pruning the roses - and I had left the red bin containing the cuttings outside the front door. When she saw that - she freaked out and complained to my sister that I'm totally useless/idiot/moron/bloody idiot etc.. No mention of thanks that I do at least take time to attend to gardening chores.

I recently got an invite to go diving in Galapagos with a group of professional UW divers. It seemed quite cheap $2800 for a week including dives at Wolf and Darwin. I declined the awesome offer - mum is scheduled for an MRI and I've got to attend that event.

I try my best to be a good son but I think the hardest part is to face unwarranted criticism and unkind acts from your own mother. God I hope I don't become like her when I get old. 

In the meanwhile I baked an Orange cake while waiting for her to show up. Cake is out of the oven but no sign of mum yet. Going to get some sleep. I'll try and go to the gym tomorrow.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gardening blues

After spending two months overseas- I went scuba diving in Dayang, Layang Layang (Sabah), Moal Boal/Oslob (Cebu, Philipines) and a couple of days in Phuket getting massaged to death - I had to fly back home. Got an email from my brother-in-law back in mid-June telling me my mum suffered a stroke on the weekend (funny, I was praying about her when the event occurred) and I rushed back sans diving gear.

Anyway the old dear seems alright - but the doctors found some scar tissues in the brain which has to get checked out later on.

Meanwhile my garden looked alright. The dude I hired to come did his job. Well, he didn't do the top garden bed. But at least he did some serious work as opposed to the other jokers I hired the previous times.

Unfortunately the damn clover oxalis are still back in force despite repeated treatments of herbicides and weeding.

I hate the weeds so much. They suck up so much nutrients and to prevent regeneration you are advised to throw them away. What a waste.

I've been conducting an experiment. Rather than throwing them away, I am placing the oxalis into 140l wheelie bins and make weed tea.

 I buy them from Australian Waste Management which supplies them around $50 - $70. There is a $35 delivery charge per delivery so you save if buy more.

Click here to go there:

I chose the 140litre because the size is just right for me and my garden. The larger ones are just too big to man handle around - plus the bigger they are they harder it will be to scoop out the gunk.

Alright, weed tea is basically weeds in a container filled with water. Leave it alone for a week and they start to decompose and stink. Really stink. After about a month, the tea will stink so badly that any residue that gets onto you will make you only attractive to drunk skunks.

It will take ages for you to get the odor off you if you get it on your skin. Be warned.

But hey, on the bright side - all that awful oxalis and weeds -  is IN that infernal solution. Think about that!!!

So I leave the weeds in that solution for a long while. About 1 year. Earlier  on I may scoop out the stinky "tea" and pour it onto my lawn or open compost box. If any of the seeds regenerate at least on the lawn or open compost bin they would be easily identified and chemically destroyed in safety away from my precious real plants.

I try and not pour it onto my garden beds in case its contaminated with live grass seeds. If possible I keep it all in for as long as possible to totally eradicate the oxalis bulbs.

Actually come to think of it - I need to conduct an experiment - get oxalis bulbs, grass seeds and put them in three small containers filled with water and leave it there to rot for 3, 6, 12 months. And then try and plant the mix in pots to see whether the damn things grow back.

At the moment I don't know how long it will take before the oxalis bulbs gets disintegrated in weed tea.

But I've bought 2 wheelie bins and I'm buying another two more.

The contents of the first 2 wheelie bins have practically liquified. They were stuffed full of weeds and covered in water for over a year. Most of the weeds have been totally disintegrated but some of the more fibrous ones (uncut rye and kikuyu grass) are still in fiberous intact states, still dead but just one yucky spaghetti lump. I should have emptied out the contents ages ago rather than recontaminating it by throwing in more newer weeds. But 2 bins were never enough for my garden.

(postscript note: after about 2 years, it looks like most of the oxalis bulbs are dead. I emptied 80% of the content out already and it looks like they have all disintegrated. There might be some weed seeds hidden in the sludge at the bottom of the bin. But it looks like the experiement is going well. Having said that, its hard to say until after about a year or so after I've poured out the stuff. If my garden gets mightily reinfested with weeds I'll certainly let you know).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Holiday Sidewinder and Andrew Stockdale sing Fleetwood Mac

I watched their performance on the weekend (on TV). And wow, I was mesmerized... actually more by Miss Holiday Sidewinder - a curious stage name.

Its a beautiful performance of Fleetwood Mac's classic.
Click here if the embed link does not work.

I really like this song because the words are so real, the emotions sung so raw, the need for love so strong.

I also found the song to be a little interesting - notice that its the woman who is inviting the man into her home. Usually, its the other way around. Its the man who has built/purchased a home and seeks a woman to share it with. But giving the woman the ownership of the home immediately empowers her - she is the one who invites the man into her domain, into her territory.

On one Freudian level, the song reflects sexual intercourse. Instead of house read vagina. The woman allows the man into her body. He doesn't take her forcefully or unwillingly but is welcomed inside. And there he finds himself at peace, at home so to speak.

Here are the lyrics:

Is love so fragile and the heart so hollow
Shatter with words impossible to follow
You're saying I'm fragile
I try not to be, I search only
For something I can't see
I have my own life
And I am stronger than you know
But I carry this feeling
When you walk into my house
You won't be walking out of the door

~ Lovers forever, face to face

My city or mountain
Stay with me, stay
I need you to love me
I need you today
Give to me your leather
Take from me, my lace ~

You in the moonlight

With your sleepy eyes
Could you ever love a man like me?
And you were right, when I walked into your house
I knew I'd never want to leave
Sometimes I'm a strong man
Sometimes cold and scared
And sometimes I cry
But that time I saw you
I knew with you to light my nights
somehow i would get by.

~ Lovers forever, face to face

My city or mountain
Stay with me, stay
I need you to love me
I need you today
Give to me your leather
Take from me, my lace ~

Monday, July 16, 2012

Living with people suffering from bipolar disorders

Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic-depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes. The elevated moods are clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes, or symptoms, or a mixed state in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. These events are usually separated by periods of "normal" mood; but, in some individuals, depression and mania may rapidly alternate, which is known as rapid cycling. Severe manic episodes can sometimes lead to such psychotic symptoms as delusions and hallucinations. The disorder has been subdivided into bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia, and other types, based on the nature and severity of mood episodes.

One of my relatives that I'm close with suffers from some mental disorder. For many years, I suspected that this person suffers from bipolar disorder. I've tried my best to try and help this person - but its especially difficult when X refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem. I've heard from other people that X has admitted something is wrong with her. And recently, X suffered from a stroke? and was admitted to the hospital for a week.

At the heart of X's problem is the inability to admit mistakes, apologize and to fucking move on. X bears grudges and is keen to point out every kind of mistakes or errors while being silent on X's own fucking epic disastrous mistakes.

Trying to put up with X's shit is driving me insane. I need to go for a run.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Demon of Destruction

I celebrated my 1st birthday there
And her reply was "So?"

I try and reason with the woman
To no avail
A pointless waste of time
A waste of precious breath
She won't stop til she destroys everything we held dear

The demon of destruction that she has allowed to harbor in her soul will see to that
Bitter, malicious, hate, foolish, proud - she has allowed it to plant those seeds in her heart
And how they have grown to overwhelm her soul

The demon seeks to destroy all that we love
To tear, to destroy
Like a fire she won't stop til everything has turned to ash
Meanwhile we wait silently through her mad rampage
And I pray that we don't ever become like her
Or allow that vain spirit a foothold in my life

But time is on my side and so I wait
I wait for the Day of freedom
When she grows weary and exhausted
And the fire is finally extinguished
And the demon of destruction finally returns back to the hell hole where evil came from

I bid my time
And wait as I have waited before.

So much has been lost
But what was once lost may yet be recovered
May the Lord give us back ten fold what the locusts have eaten

But this evil presence that has plagued us
Its reign is strong in the land
In her heart
This demon of destruction
torments her and her us
I will not let it defeat us in the end
I will wait it out
Patiently I wait for its reign to come to an end.

Matt Corby's song - Brother

I don't usually listen to popular music. But this song blows me away.

Its about a man who offended his friend and is overwhelmed by his feelings of guilt and shame and trapped by his cowardice to apologise (or do whatever is needed to mend the relationship).

Sometimes we don't do the right things. I like this song because it acknowledges our human weakness. Its a powerful song.

Click here for the youtube link

Sorry, I can't embed the video due to Multiply's RSS framework.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Human Sexuality

If God didn't want men to be looking at women - why did He make them so beautiful and desirable?

Sometimes I don't understand why religion has taken a very negative view on human sexuality.

In fact, I'm more disgusted by the number of people who are delighted when a female (or male) gets into trouble due to promiscuity.

Men and women like each other. If its consensual, what's the problem?

When I see Priests, pastors, who frequently condemn a friendly attitude towards sex- and who later are exposed as hypocrites. I'm not pleased. But I wish they would get a life.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Genre: Horror
Prometheus the movie: I like it. I like it a lot.

When I was a child, I used to marvel at the awesome Science Fiction art done by master artists like Chris Foss, Vincent di Fate. They were inspirational, beautiful, magnificent artwork. They filled me with awe, wonder, excitement - they captivated my heart and imagination.

Beautiful, well crafted things fascinate me. And 30 minutes into the film - I'm pure joy at the sheer beauty of the set design and mesmerized by that haunting soundtrack - Chopin Prelude Op 28, 15 - listen here:

In fact, I think I could just watch the film with Ms Vickers (Charlize Theron) and David (Fassbender) walking around that huge space ship discussing the meaning of life or whether androids can dream electric dreams. There were similarities with other films - David's voice and sinister child-like curiosity and malevolence which bears a striking resemblance with the computer Hal (Space Odyssey 2001) that I also found cute.

This film is not for everyone -so if you are into action films with plenty of pew-pew scenes - minimal dialogue, plenty of female nudity and sex scenes, or if you are intolerant of illogical plots - then I may suggest you look elsewhere.

OK - so the scenery, set props, spaceship design, and Charlize Hardon:) in a jumpsuit are bound to win the Academy Award for sheer awesomeness. But what about the plot, acting, etc..?

Acting wise - I thought they all did a good job - see Charlize Theron - but plot wise was for me a tad disappointing.

Ridley Scott seems to have lost his touch - what we get in the 2nd half of the film is more like a B-grade Horror film. Stupid people doing illogical things which gets them killed. What we needed to see was a great sense of foreboding, dread, and an inescapable sense of despair - see Shutter Island, Inception, and the first Alien movie. I thought the Chopin's piece was foretelling that?

Anyhow - let's recap - the big ivory colored alien spacemen (BIAS) came to Earth and created life millions of years ago - they spent their time cultivating it - hence the drawings in different civilizations and times. However 2000 years ago - during the time of the crucification of Jesus Christ - something bad happened and the BIAS lab millions of years away get all killed mysteriously. Apparently we are meant to believe that its somehow people's fault. Let's see - technically Advanced space alien that can travel light years got infected by their creation's evil.

Hmm... so when the spacemen were watching the stoneage man's cannibalism, brutality, countless tribal wars, Mayan human sacrifices, and the multitude of horrors humans were inflicting on each other - they couldn't tell that we are capable of acts of great evil as well as good? And they were actually surprised that a provincial Roman governor executed JC, their messenger? Hmmm... maybe they weren't as intelligent after all or maybe they were untainted by evil and totally innocent? It has a nice Garden of Eden echo to it and makes for a nice wooly-headed background - like carpet under your feet.

More on religious parallels later on.

So back to the present - two Scientists/archeologists discover a dozen of ancient drawings which seem to point to a distant solar system that contain a planet like Earth. They - Holloway, a male scientist who screams woohoo a lot and Elizabeth Shaw, a devout Christian female scientist - notice the cross around her neck -convince Weyland, a Rupert Murdoch archetype, the CEO of Weyland Corp, that this could be the place where the Alien Space Gods who created mankind live.

Weyland is so impressed that he spends 1 trillion dollars of the company's money to sent them far into space to track down the planet.

Apparently inflation has really wacked out in the future because even with 1 trillion dollars Weyland can't hire a professional group of astronauts. So we're saddled with a motley crew made out of the "wrong stuff" - the typical smart ass spaceship captain, the (I F@#king goofed up) Navigator from the Spaceship Icarus (from the movie: Sunshine), a geologist who got his degree from the School of Scottish Soccer Hooligans - notice his fascination with balls and the usual riff-raff from the slasher horror movie genre - Alien fodder.

This haphazard approach extends to the science team who behave in a untypical stupid un-scientific ways like landing straight on the planet without first sending a probe, or conducting a planetary survey etc.. No, they just rush in, land and by some hapchance come across an Alien Space Temple - which they immediately rush to check out. No thought seems to be given to the possiblity that life or other cities may exist on other parts of the planet.

The shambolic attitude carries on - the scientists remove their helmets in the Alien space world in effect contaminating their environment - and allowing themselves to be infected with whatever bacteria human science hasn't encountered yet.

Then they make the Greatest Discovery of the millennial, they find a decapitated 2000 year old alien space head which for some inexplicably reason is still alive after 2000 years - and then they experiment on it without even a surgical mask or contain in a sterile contained environment. Considering that they are suppose to be top notch scientists it is baffling to see them experiment with the alien head with the aplomb of Sec 1 school students.

The only one who seems to have a clue is the humanoid robot - David. But he behaves like a child, curious. Constantly wanting to touch things - open Alien space doors - and seeking to conduct secret experiments with space alien goo, alien/human fetus. Typically the humans constantly choose to remind this machine who is built to replicate humans, esp. Holloway, the male scientist - that he is not a human and has NO SOUL.

Hey sister soul sister... there are many religious metaphors and Christian allusions running through the show - I think its a nice touch, cute, but I expected more subtley. But Ridley Scott keeps slapping us our faces with them and its gets damn irritating.

1. Prometheus - the god who gets his abdomen ripped out (endlessly, he regenerates) for giving fire to the humans.

2. Female Hero Scientist - rips out her belly to take out the alien space fetus

3. Alien - impregnates host through the mouth and fetus rips it way out through the host's stomach

4. BIAS Space Alien, with Jesus Christ like cloak, has to drink a cup to kill himself to create the world. He hesitates too.

5. Holloway allows himself to be burned to death carrying on the Prometheus theme.

Rain in Spain Falls mainly in the Plain... boring.

I was esp disappointed when Rupert Murdoch look-a-like got beaten to death by the BIAS spaceman - his last dying words were "So there's nothing out there?" Insert Atheism vs Religious arguments here. Frankly, how tediously predictable. I'd expect the rich old dude's last words to have been - "Damn should have stuck to the cryo crap", not a nod to religion, esp. when he came all the way out there to beat death and old age.

So I have some problems with the film - but then I see gorgeous Charlize Thezon with her golden hair walking down that white luminous spaceship corridor in her jumpsuit - and I go... wow, awesome, God loves man.

Ridley Scott seems to have lost his killer touch. To have clouded his film with 3rd rate religious metaphors, stupid stupid scenarios like the two lost frightened stupid 3rd rate geologist/biologist who get lost in the BIAS temple and who nearly die of fright upon finding dozens of dead BIAS spacemen and then freak out when they learn of a possible alien presence- but then suddenly become all too friendly when they see two Snake like creatures emerging out of the black goo. I mean, c'mon. WTF? Did Ridley Scott spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make a B-grade horror film with million dollar props? Disappointed, Dude.

But, let's not be too critical here- we did see Ms Royal Hawtness Charlize in a space suit. Let's keep some perspective.

OK. But we do have the ingredients of a possible epic here. Now this is how I would have done it.

Sticking a bunch of losers and misfits onto an alien world and watching them die miserably deaths is so predictable and boring. Instead, I would written the science team as extremely disciplined, skilled, integrated, coordinated and militarily trained. (Who despite all their superb training get killed by an incredibly horrible beast - now that's epic).

That's the way it should be if you had a budget of 1 trillion dollars and a spaceship carrying the CEO and also the heir to Weyland Corporation.

And did we even need to have the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" riding along as well? Frankly I'd have dump her back on earth along with the loony "Let's get Drunk cos I couldn't find any Live Space Aliens" boyfriend. Their characters were a joke - A ( for amateur) grade scientists. If they were going to come along - I'd make sure they had a very secondary role. The scene where Dragon Tattoo lady knocks out two co-workers- then runs out to get a emergency cesarean to pull the squid like Alien creature out of her belly and then gets her abs stapled before running all bloody to Weyland's room and then goes to join the final mission - was absolutely hilarious - in a bad way. Who the hell dreamed up this crap?

No surprise but I'd have put Charlize Theron - Ms Vickers - as the main heroine. The Alien's franchise has always been about a strong woman who survives against the odds and defeats the evil monster. I'd have soften her image a bit - make her character "religious" - and she's coming for the ride (instead of sitting in the comfort of her million dollar condo or scuba diving or skiing in some paradise) because she loves her dad, Mr Weyland.

I'd also have written a bigger role for Guy Pierce (or an older actor) - Weyland. I'd also have got rid of all that awful makeup and fire the makeup artists who made him look like the Star Wars Emperor!!! Can't they find a decent old actor? Sean Connery? Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister Game of Thrones)?

Weyland is there because he's seeking to attain longer or immortal life and also because he's actually curious about the big questions of life.

Vickers however is a believer and is closed minded about such things - all she wants to do is to help dad with his mad quest and then return him back to Earth. Cast wise: I'd give her a soul mate so that she can have a sounding board. I'd have chosen Chris Evans because I liked his character in Sunshine.

Vickers is a hardened leader but she has a soft spot for dad. It is clear that she loves him a lot. She feels the need to maintain a tough demeanor so that she can maintain her control over things, over men, etc.. In terms of character development - we see her mellowing out as she attends to the sick and injured and slowly cracking under the strain of leadership. But of course in the end, we get that "Rocky" moment, where she gets off the dust and the bodies of her dead men, and fights back and wins.

Anyhow, after conducting a rigorous planetary survey - the probe robots find the temple and the scientists proceed there on a secondary transport ship, leaving the mother ship orbiting in space. With the state of the art weapon system "Starcraft/Appleseed" mechsoldiers, they look unstoppable. The temple is big so the groups split up to examine the alien artifacts. The scientists/biologists/etc.. are all extremely excited.

But Vickers remains on vigilant.

One group led by Holloway finds the room filled with jars and filled with what looks like black oil, some of them have fallen down and cracked open. He wants to conduct a closer examination and take samples. Vickers orders them to retreat and let them robot probes take samples. But Holloway steps inside ignoring her, they look inert but upon further examination, more black goo oozes out and envelopes him and his team. They start screaming. The eyes turn black and they turn into what looks like zombies. The survivors rush out but Vickers does not hesitate she fires a missile and seems to destroy the whole lot of them utterly, much to the dismay of bleeding heart Dragon Tattoo girl.

Vickers immediately orders an evacuation. All samples are dumped much to the dismay and disgust of the scientists.

DT girl however is inconsolable. But she receives a brief transmission from Holloway who says he is alive and needs help. She convinces David who is programmed to help save human life (not destroy: first rule of Robotics).

They leave the spaceship to go look for Holloway... Vickers is not amused when she finds out. With stony indifference, she prepares the ship for takeoff without them. And for good measure plans to Nuke the place. The scientists and her father however are horrified. We didn't travel half way across the Universe to abandon and destroy such a major discovery.

She doesn't listen. And the ship slowly takes off. But from the side of the Temple, a shiny object emerges. Before anyone can say, "Fuck, its a gun." It fires a bolt of high energy at the ship, all power is suddenly lost and the ship plunges to the ground. Blackness.

When they wake up, Vickers asks her ship's engineers how long it would take to send another rescue craft down to save them. But in the meantime, they have to deal with that strange alien space gun. But most of the heavy machinery and weapons were damaged during the crash.

What will Ms Vickers do next? She mulls over the options -

1. Move to a safe zone and get the mothership to nuke that Alien Space Temple and gun

2. Go to the Temple and destroy that gun.

Easy. Option 1. However, dear Daddy had decided to remove the mothership with any plantary bombardment weapons to make space for more science research equipment - which causes Vickers to snarl, "All that f*&ing NASA Shit and they didn't realize that f@3king Temple had a motherf@3king big ion gun?!!!!"

Looks like they have to do it the hard way. Thank goodness Vickers likes it hard.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Some thoughts on the City Harvest Church situation

I find it very sad to read about the recent alleged financial mismanagement of funds at City Harvest Church  And so I don't. From the little I know about CHC - esp. the wife's involvement with the music industry and the church's involvement in sponsoring her career I find it very dubious and disheartening.

I do not doubt that the church probably does some very good things for the community. But I'm not too surprised if the allegations are true. Personally I find churches which emphasis a doctrine of health, wealth and prosperity a little odious and going too far. God was never meant to be an ATM machine for Christians

As Christians we shouldn't be too shocked or even disillusioned.  Even during the time of Jesus - one of the disciples, Judas, was stealing from the finances. Then you have Jacob, Samson, King David/Bathsheba/Solomon etc.. And if you care to dig deeper into church history - you'll find a lot of corruption going on. Just Google "the Sale of Indulgences" - you won't look at the ornate and beautiful Church buildings in Rome and Europe with such glowing optimism.

Scandal (impropriety) easily happens when you give a small group of individuals an excessive amount of power- we only need to look at the Great Financial Crash of 2009 - whole nations were duped into financing a property bubble orchestrated by banks and traders and it all came crashing done. The  banking staff responsible for that almighty catastrophe are still being awarded obscene salaries and fat bonuses instead of being thrown in jail. Where is the accountability there? Before this there was the Long Term Capital Management fund collapse - then the tech crash. Anyone remember Nick Leeson who bankrupted the Barings Bank with unauthorized trades that lost nearly a billion dollars? Why isn't languishing in Changi jail? No one seemed to learn a damn thing.

And what about our own Govt and its investment arms? A lot of people are wondering how the wife of a Prime Minister can hold such an important position despite a record of appalling losses. And who says Christians aren't the only ones who plead the need to forgive? One of our Presidents inquired about the nation's reserves and was rudely told to come back in 10 years. WTF indeed. Imagine a publicly listed company telling its share holders that it didn't know the state of its financial health and to not ask such impertinent questions ever again!!!

But that's what happens when you give a small group of individuals practically unlimited power - and don't hold them to account. Churches by their very nature are suppose to be spiritual places run by leaders of great spiritual excellence. We trust them to do the right thing. But we should also realize that we're human. We are not perfect and we do make mistakes. Just as we trust fathers not to rape their daughters - just as we trust mothers not to drown their screaming babies in the bathtub - we trust that church leaders will not cover up the misconduct of a Priest who molests his choir boys and shifts him to another unknowing congregation - we trust and hope that the people in authority do what's right and just and fair.

I've always been a bit skeptical about mega churches - they always seem to have a cheerleading - rah rah zing boom rah attitude. God helps anyone who tries to sing a different song from the hymn book.

And its not just the Charismatic churches that are at fault. When I was a student - the conservative church that I was attending had another church building project fund - and the preacher was urging people to give above and beyond - give in faith. Give! Give!! Give!!!!!!! I was only a student and gave til I ran out of money for food. As people who believe in the power of prayer, in the ability of God to move mountains, to heal the blind and the deaf and the dead, to turn water into wine, all this talk about faith giving, the obsession over money left me as a young fervent believer feeling a tad confused. The verses in the Holy Scripture are there of course to be quoted. But I think the whole emphasis was wrong.

But when we assume too much. When we become complacent. When we see what's going wrong but are not allowed to speak. When the system is designed to shut up dissenters. Things start going awry. Then no one should be surprised about the awful odor.

One of my cousins asked a few weeks back before the scandal broke whether I was concerned where my offering money was heading. Yes of course. But to a certain degree I regard my monetary offering (which is terribly small and irregular by the way) as a duty and obligation before God. I do not want to be like a relative who although he was a high ranking church leader was extremely cynical about Missions and church offering. We give because it is what God wants us to do. We pray that our church leaders will do what is right with our offering. Because on that Day, we are expected to give an account to God for all the things we have done.

And it is also up to us to try and hold the church leaders to account. Gone are the days of Inquisition and church sanctioned torture - nowadays the best they can do is to ostracize members. Sadly sometimes that subtle threat is more than enough to keep people quiet. Don't rock the boat!! Christians forget that Jesus walked on water.

Leaders of churches wield a tremendous amount of power. They are suppose to be mouthpiece of God - the disciples of the disciples that Jesus ordained to bind whatever on earth and it will also be done in Heaven. Believers listen to them and trust them. With that power comes great responsibility, great sacrifice and greater judgement.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Whaleshark Party Oslob Philippines

I went to Cebu for a couple of days in the last week of May 2012 to dive at Moalboal and Oslob. The resort - Quo Vadis (Visaya Divers) was very pleasant; it has a very good house reef where we found Mandarin fishes breeding, blue ring octopus etc.. However the lack of a jetty or boat means that you have to walk all the way back to shore - and hopefully you won't step on a sea urchin or crown of thorns (oh joy not). I found the DM and staff very helpful and friendly.

I much prefered the diving at Pescador Island which is about 30mins boat ride from Moalboal. Beautiful reef dives, magnificent wall dives, plenty of marine life, soft corals in abundance, just simply awesome.

Unfortunately, the waters had quite a lot of jellyfish on the surface - and most of us got stung. I got it in the face and have the tentacle scar as a very painful and dubious souvenir. The DM says that by June and July and jellyfish bloom is over.

The food from the Maya Mexican restaurant was superb. There are actually quite a number of good restaurants around the area. Best to choose this option rather than being tied down to the resort food; the service was rather slow at times.

The highlight of the trip was of course the dive at Oslob with the whalesharks. There were about 7 in the area at any one time. First dive got a bit boring as the ws were too busy feeding - so they were practically vertical throughout that hour. It was noisy and chaotic as the fishing "feeding" boats charged in and out dumping swimmers and snorkelers near or on top of the sharks. The 2nd dive got a bit more interesting as the whales went out into deeper waters. Maybe they had enough of snorkelers kicking them in the face or maybe they had eaten their fill. So we had a great time swimming with them at depth for a 30+ mins while they played with our bubbles. Awesome. The journey back home took 2 hours.

If you do plan to go to Oslob - whatever you do - avoid going there on a weekend, school holiday, or religious holiday - we went there on a Monday and it was crowded - I'd imagine it'd be 10 times as worse during a public holiday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Layang Layang

Went diving at Layang Layang, a small island north of Sabah. It was a very good trip. We managed to see hammerhead sharks a few times, a Manta Ray circled our group occasionally. And I swam with a Marlin Sailfish otherwise known as the Spearfish on account of its unusual nose. Haven't had time yet to organize the photos, pardon me if some of the photos are bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Text Message Love

She writes,
and her words dance across my screen
Shimmering text, that gleam magically, tenderly.
A world away, an ocean apart, her small little fonts touch my heart (in my cold room on this cold winter night.)

(A female friend sent me a small innocuous message. It was just a minor thing. But in my mind I saw her smile and it made me smile too. Drawing me out of my gloom. My room was freezing that night.)

Friday, April 06, 2012

Gambling addicts

I'm tired of living with a gambling addict - to a person who thinks its acceptable to spend a month's wages or the entire years budget in a day, week or couple of hours at the casino.

If I was king, I'd have it so that - a family member can alert the authorities if one of their members  is suspected of being a casino addict - and that person would be watched - and then barred from all casino or gambling areas.

I just got a call from (a close relative) and she's enraged that she doesn't have any more money in her bank account because she spent it at the pokies - and demands that I top it up.

When I tried to explain to her that money doesn't grow from trees - and that she has a gambling addiction - she screamed at me to shut up and stop lecturing her as I had no right.

Usually she gets like this when she gets depressed. And when she's depressed and sad - everyone has to be depressed and sad. No one else has the right to be happy or joyful.

"I'm unhappy - you have to cry as well."

There may come a day when I grow too tired of this bullshit. I'll pack up my bags and leave for good. And I'll write a short note to her and say, "Goodbye. I love you but I can't be with you anymore."

I'd send her the occasional postcard. And it will always be the same words.

"Wish you were sane"

Monday, March 12, 2012

I love sunsets

I walked out to the car park after evening Church service. And I saw the sunset. Wow. Simply wow.

The horizon was a beautiful blue, grey, and pinkish red hue. It took my breath away. And I sat and watched it, mesmerized by its beauty.

A day is like a living person. It was conceived in darkness and it will perish in darkness.

I was the only one gazing at the sunset. The others weren't interested, preferring the comfort of the building. Even those people who came outside to get into their cars did not give it a glance.

No point telling the people inside about the beautiful sunset - they wouldn't care. Or complain about the cold and then stare at me oddly.

I think its sometimes a curse to not enjoy the things that they enjoy, to like the things that they see - but I cannot help being what I am.

And so I stood outside watching the sunset alone.

It was so beautiful.

(This is the 2nd time I'm writing this blog out-  thanks to a RSS script error)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ranunculus 2012 - Planting Time

OK so I purchased 1,200 Ranunculus corms off Garden Express to plant in the garden. Note: this garden is in the Southern Hemisphere so planting conditions/months are different than USA and UK.

They corms came in January but they have to get a cold start if you wish to have them flowering in June/July and not in September (Spring).

I placed them in the fridge for 4 weeks as recommended by one New Zealand website. Another site recommended 8 weeks minimum. I chose the former.

I thought that by planting early in mid February - the ranunculus would have the benefit of the extra sunny conditions . On 2nd thoughts this is probably a mistake because mid-Feb is still Summer and the days can approach the high 30Cs. Apparently if the weather gets too hot, the corms fall backwards into dormancy.

I pulled them out of the fridge on 16th Feb and planted 200 of them in the garden bed opposite my study room. During that week the temperature rose to the high 30s for a few days. (Its roughly 2+weeks, 20 days, and I can see two of them sprouting.)

Because the weather was so hot, I decided to return the rest of the remaining ranunculus corms (1,000 of them) back into the fridge.

The hesitancy to plant may have had more fatal consequences for the rest of the stock.

When I took them out on the 28th Feb, they had a slightly pungent odor. I noticed that white moss (like cotton wool threads) was wrapped around some of the corms.

I placed them in a bucket of water to "plump" them up before planting. Some advice 14 hours - so I kept them overnight. I did not drown them in water - but did give them a good soaking.

The next day they were all fat like bananas. I planted half of them but didn't have time to do the rest.

When I checked them the day after they stank and a thick layer of white moss covered the top layer.

I suspect it was the hot and humid conditions - plus the fact that they were all wet that encouraged the fungus to thrive.


I soaked them in a white vinegar solution - half vinegar, half water - to try and kill that damn white fungus. And dried them out for a day.

They might be all dead. But might as well give it a try. What do I have to lose now?

By now, I'm running out of garden space to plant them - they only like sunny positions, sloped positions in the garden. They do not like shade so that excludes a large portion of the garden nearer the house which gets a fair bit of shade.

I planted the rest on the top garden bed - which was the original site where I first planted the ranunculus way back in 2002.

The fact that some of the 1st batch have sprouted - despite the appalling hot conditions - does give me some hope.

I don't know whether the white mold has killed the rest - only time can tell, ie. 2 to 3 weeks.

(Postscript - yes, I think virtually all of them didn't make it)

At the moment, we are getting plenty of rain so that's good. But we need to have more sunny days to encourage growth.

In the future, it will be much safer if I plant the corms on the 1st week of March - after storing them for 1+ month in the fridge (Jan-Feb). Planting them in mid-Feb was too risky due to the very hot days.

And it might be better to store than in a bar fridge or a fridge which I'm not using for daily use. The constant opening and closing is bound to affect the poor buggers.

Soaking them in water does help - but I'll be more careful to only soak the ones that I intend to plant on that day only. No point soaking the entire batch if only 200 can be planted at one time.