Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mad Men: The End (Spoilers)

Just watched the end of Mad Men. The ending was ok. Maybe a bit too happy sappy.

The confessed love between Peggy and her art director was rather vacuous. Wasn't he still married to a nurse? I felt Peggy's end was more or less settled when she swaggered into McCann's office half-drunk and with a cig in her mouth carrying Cooper's pornographic Japanese painting. Trying to conclude her story arc with an office romance was ... pointless, bland, stereotypical bullshit.

Don's meandering as he journeys to California seemed also a bit... convoluted padding. I thought the small town scene opened up a possibility that his former past may be brought up to condemn him. I was waiting for someone in that small veteran party to say - "Don Draper? My former bunk mate in OCS ?" or "I served with you in Korea - who the hell are you???!!" and bust his balls later with the cops when he got accused of stealing the vet funds.

I didn't mind Don's affair with the waitress - another lost and damaged soul worse off than Don. I get that the writers are trying to show him trying to help women in distress - like his own mum - but getting nowhere.

We've come a long way

I was walking in the city and noticed a number of Asian men walking with attractive white women... lucky bastards :)

That wasn't possible 50 - 100 years ago - because of Australia's pro-white policy. In 1918 Australia led the way in vetoing Japan's demand for racial equality clause - this despite Japan being on the side of the allies; Japanese warships had helped to escort Aussie troops to the Western theatre.

So when people talk about the good old days... yeah its bullshit.

"Anna May Wong portrayed by Ruth Harriet Louise."

The Forgotten Story Of Classic Hollywood’s First Asian-American Star

Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong was a trailblazer despite the openly racist industry in which she worked. Remembering her story and contemplating how much things have changed.

By Anne Helen Petersen posted on Oct. 1, 2014, at 2:08 a.m. BuzzFeed News Features Writer.

The following is a bonus chapter from Anne Helen Petersen’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema. You can read previous instalments — on everyone from Katharine Hepburn to Marlon Brando.

In a December 1933 issue of New Movie Magazine, society reporter Grace Kingsley described her visit to screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart’s famed costume party, where the who’s who of Hollywood showed up dressed, as the year’s theme dictated, as other Hollywood stars. The actress Fay Wray described the scene to Kingsley, cooing over each of her friend’s excellent costumes (“There’s Jack Gilbert as Lionel Barrymore in Rasputin!”) but really losing it when she sees “a little Chinese lady dancing about.”

But that lady wasn't Chinese: She was the (white) comedienne Polly Moran. “I'm Anna May Wong!” she said, running over and brandishing her hands. “And my fingernails cost me a dollar and a half!”

As the picture that accompanied the article shows, Moran was decked out in full yellow-face — including make-up to darken her skin, a wig, Chinese-style dress, and approximations of Wong’s signature long, pointed nails. In the picture, she makes a face intended to simulate a “Chinese” expression, and if you look closely, you can see that her eyes are taped up in an exaggeration of the Asian facial structure.
Moran, and whoever dressed her, would be familiar with this make-up technique (often achieved by using fish skin as an adhesive) because so many non-Asian women had been made up to play the role of Asian women. These were leading roles that could've been (but were seldom) given to classic Hollywood’s first and only Chinese-American star.

Anna May Wong, like other Hollywood actors of colour, was not allowed in society, and would not have been invited to Stewart’s party. She couldn't hang out with the very stars who exorcised and imitated her. In classic Hollywood, not only was it OK to act Asian, it was celebrated. And even though Stewart’s soiree was just a party, the behaviours modelled there bespoke the dominant understandings of Hollywood and America at large: White people can play at other races, and other races can play at very little.

Anna May Wong never scandalized Hollywood with her string of fiancés, like Clara Bow, or an outré sex philosophy, like Mae West. Ultimately, the scandal of her career had little to do with her, or her actions — it’s the way that Hollywood, and the audience that powered it, remained so hideously stubborn about the roles a woman like her could play, both on and off the screen. Wong was a silent-film demi-star, a European phenomenon, a cultural ambassador, and a curiosity, the de facto embodiment of China, Asia, and the “Orient” at large for millions. She didn't choose that role, but it became hers, and she laboured, subtly, cleverly, persistently, to challenge what Americans thought an Asian or Asian-American should or could be — a challenge that persists today.

Wong was born in 1905 in Los Angeles, just off Flower Street on the outskirts of Chinatown. Fan-magazine renderings of Wong’s childhood didn't shy from evoking the discrimination she faced, especially in her integrated elementary school. One boy would stick needles into her every day, to which she responded by simply wearing a thicker and thicker coat. A group of boys pulled her long braids, shoving her off the side walk and yelling, “Chink, Chink, Chinamen. Chink, Chink, Chinamen.” Sometimes the profile would admit that such children were of “lesser parents,” but the anecdotes were framed as a simple trial of childhood: no different than a white star getting teased as a child for an embarrassing name or pair of glasses.

Profiles also laboured to reconcile an identity that was at once wholly Chinese yet also American. She worked in a Chinese laundry, but that laundry wasn't in Chinatown. Her parents forced her to go to Chinese school after American school, but she skipped it to go to the movies. She had a Chinese name (Wong Liu Tsong) that meant “Frosted Yellow Willows,” but she opted for the Americanized Anna May Wong. Her parents were sceptical of the moving image — her mother purportedly believed that cameras could steal a bit of the soul — but Wong eschewed Old World superstition. She was, in many ways, a classic child of immigrants, incorporating the behaviours, beliefs, and vernacular of her homeland with the heritage of home.
As Wong grew, she became increasingly fascinated with the Hollywood pictures that would film in Chinatown, which, in the late ‘10s and early ‘20s, studios would regularly use as a visual substitute for China — a conflation that made it even more difficult for Americans to understand that Chinese-Americans were a distinct culture from the Chinese.

To make Chinatown seem like the bustling streets of China, directors needed Chinese faces — which is how Wong first appeared, as an extra in Alla Nazimova’s The Red Lantern at the age of 14. She had asked for her father’s permission, but he was reluctant: As one profile explained, “Of course, many Chinese girls had played extra, but there are many Chinese girls who are not nice.” It was only after her father made sure that other “honourable” Chinese extras, all male, would guard her that he agreed to let her participate.

Over the next two years, Wong appeared in bit parts in various films, still attending school, before quitting in 1921 to focus full-time on her career. She was immediately cast in her first leading role in The Toll of the Sea, a non-operatic take on Madame Butterfly that blew up the screen for two very simple reasons: It had Techni-colour (two-strip, which meant only tones of reds and greens, but no matter, COLOUR, that was sick), and Wong was actually a decent actress.

Wong’s acting was subtle and unmannered; her eyebrow game was on point. She had a piercing stare that made you feel as if she saw the very best and very worst things about you, and her signature blunt-cut bangs made her face seem at once exquisitely, perfectly symmetrical. Given the quilt work of exotic roles she’d played on the silent screen, audiences expected her to speak with a broken, accented, or otherwise un-American English. But her tone was refined, cool, cultured, like a slap in the face to anyone who’d assumed otherwise.

Her early success, like that of Japanese star Sessue Hayakawa, can at least partially be attributed to the global market for silent films. Yet to truly understand Anna May Wong’s unique place in Hollywood — and the particular type of racist role available to her — you have to understand both the rampant fetishsation of the “Orient” by the West and the place of Chinese-Americans in California in the early 20th century.
In very broad terms, “Oriental-ism” refers to the overarching tendency of the “Occident,” or the Western world, to fetishise and exorcise the “Orient” (“The East,” or civilizations and cultures spanning the Asian continent). Scholar Graham Huggan defines exoticism as an experience that “posits the lure of difference while protecting its practitioners from close involvement” — and that’s exactly what Westerners wanted: a taste of “difference,” usually in the form of an evocative song, poem, or painting, without the actual immersive and possibly challenging experience thereof.

Mediated through the lens of Oriental-ism, members of distinct Asian, Middle Eastern, and African cultures are grouped together into one vast sultry and quasi-backward “Orient,” replete with heathens, pungent spices, snake charmers, mysticism, and all sorts of other offensively stereotypical renderings. For the Occident to rectify its position as potent, masculine, and dominant, it had to figure the Orient as diffuse, feminized, and passive. It’s bullshit, but it pervaded everything from political speeches to children’s bedtime stories. Think Madame Butterfly, think the entire oeuvre of Rudyard Kipling, think “Rikki Tikki Tavi,” think Aladdin.

When Anna May Wong rose to stardom in the 1920's, the “great” empires of the West were in decline — but that simply made it all the more important to shore up the ideas and attitudes that were under threat. Which explains why every. single. article. I found about Anna May Wong somehow manages to sexualise and exorcise her while also placing her — her upbringing, her family, her heritage — in diametric opposition to “American” and Western practices.

“Anna May Wong symbolizes the eternal paradox of her ancient race,” wrote one fan magazine. “She reminds us of cruel and intricate intrigues, and, at the same time, of crooned Chinese lullabies. She brings to the screen the rare comprehension and the mysterious colours of her ivory-skinned race.” That sort of rhetoric — directed to an almost entirely white audience — that’s Oriental-ism. That Wong was American, however, complicated the normal Orientalist discourses: She forced magazines to perform a lot of tricky rhetorical manoeuvring where they acknowledged that she was somehow, magically, almost inconceivably, at once American and Chinese.

Wong was also opposite of what many had come to associate with Chinese-Americans, which, at least in the late 19th and early 20th century, comprised a subculture that was conceived of as being segregated, unknowable, and almost entirely male. The reasons for that reputation were complicated: When Chinese laborers first came to America in the mid-19th century, men traveled to make money, while women mostly stayed at home. With the passage of the Page Law in 1875, Chinese women with even a hint of “immoral character or suspect virtue” were banned from entering the United States, which resulted in even more gender imbalance.

Because Chinese lived in these nearly all-male configurations that didn't match with American understandings of what community should look like, it was easy to further stigmatize and exclude them, both socially and legally. See, for example, the 1882 passage of the “Chinese Exclusion Act,” which prevented Chinese from entering the U.S. based on claims that as a people, the Chinese were immoral, unhealthy, and posed distinct threats to the American way of life and labour force (rhetoric that may sound familiar to anyone following contemporary immigration debates).

That was the environment of systemic racism in which Wong was operating in the early ‘20s, when her turn in the Technicolour Turn of the Sea was such a novelty that all of Hollywood saw it — including Douglas Fairbanks, then-ruling King of Hollywood, like Tom Cruise meets Brad Pitt only with a swashbuckling moustache. Fairbanks needed a dastardly “Mongol slave” for his production of The Thief of Baghdad, and immediately wanted Wong for the part.

What do these two roles have in common? In one, Wong plays a Chinese “Lotus Flower” who falls for a white man who loves her but can’t possibly be with her; in the other she plays “the scheming handmaiden” who tries to prevent the love between the handsome, swashbuckling lead and his princess (the daughter of a caliph who is unaccountably white). So: a victim who can’t have love, or evil temptress who prevents a white woman from having love — these are the two roles that Wong would play again and again, with slight variations for ethnic specificity, time period, and plot, over the next two decades. A victim or a villain, with very little, in most cases, in terms of character development, ethnic specificity, or anything else to suggest that the depth, charisma, or worth of white counterparts.

Wong’s roles may have been shit, but the fan magazines loved her, unlike black actors, who were either relegated to even more demeaning bit parts and/or ghettoised in black films shown only in black theatres for black audiences. For various complicated reasons that have a lot to do with American racial history and the way that Oriental-ism actually weirdly celebrates the people and civilizations it fetishises, it was OK for the fan mags to profile her, run pictures of her, and generally acquaint American audiences with her — but not put her on the cover.

To prove that she was Chinese:

From Crown to Sole, Anna May Wong is Chinese. Her black hair is of the texture that adorns the heads of the maidens who live beside the Yang-tse Kiang. Her deep brown eyes, while the slant is not pronounced, are typically Oriental.

But oh, wait, she’s totally American:

Improbable as this sounds, it is absolutely true. Anna May Wong, among Americans, is so thoroughly one of us that her Oriental background drops completely away.

No, seriously, guys, she’s Chinese:

She is as Chinese as kumquats and the lotus. … She is of centuries ago and yet of today. … Animation scarcely ever ruffles the tranquillity of her round face.


Anna May Wong has never even been to China, and you might just as well know it right now. Moreover, she has seen NY’s Chinatown only from a taxi-cab, and she doesn't wear a mandarin coat … her English is faultless. Her conversation consists of scintillating chatter that any flapper might envy. Her sense of humour is thoroughly American. She didn't eat rice when she and I lunched together, and she distinctly impressed it upon the waiter to bring her coffee, not tea.


You can see how Wong would grow weary, both of this treatment in her publicity and the relative dearth of roles, especially complex ones, available to her. She was also understandably pissed that when an Asian role did come along, directors found an actor of basically any other ethnicity — Latino, Eastern European, Irish — to cast as the Asian character.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Life lessons by Anthony Bourdain

But I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money. Anthony Bourdain

If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go. A.Bourdain

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Unforgettable sex

I'm not sure why there is such a hang up about sex in this modern age.

Usually I find the biggest detractors of sex are also some of the most tense people in the world. Maybe they could do with some.

That's also a nasty habit among some men are trying to shame and ridicule females who enjoy expressing their sexuality. Personally i find the men to be awful, obnoxious and parochial creatures. In this day of age of equality what's wrong with a female enjoying her sexuality? Men do it all the time.

Criticism usually speaks more of the critic.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The wealth of Singapore

You know what the wealth of Singapore is?

Some countries - have natural resources. What will the Middle East be without their oil for example.

What differentiates us from Taiwan, or even Malaysia which has tremendously more land, natural resources than Singapore?

Its a few things - our strategic geographic location, our hybrid culture and also the willingness of our people to work with the system. Our location. Singapore sits in that sweet spot - astride major trading routes which overtime will become sweeter as Asia increases its dominance.

But above all else - its our system. I'm not just talking about our government. I'm talking about our culture. The sort of culture that allows Christians, Muslims, Chinese, Malays and Indians to sit on the same table and eat a meal together. The sort of system that can create an international banking system in a world where corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies is the norm. A world where women and children can walk safely in the streets. A world where rapists, triad, and gangsters live in fear of the law as opposed to having lawyers take advantage of loopholes. A world where Government housing commission is not dirty word but a success.

Our government had a hand in creating this. But so did our people too. Would the PAP have been successful in Malaysia, Burma, China even Australia in the 1960s 70s etc..? There was a lot of give and take. And that's something I hope our government leaders would respect.

Can we out manufacture China?
Do we have the resources of Australia?
Are we as inventive as America?
Can we be as steady as Japan?

Comparisons are problematic. Comparing Singaporeans with mainland Chinese is actually pretty dumb. One is a small young nation of less than 4 million people. The other is an ancient empire that has over 1 billion people.

But Singaporeans - esp. Singaporean Chinese - are fond of comparing - and it starts from primary school if not kindergarten.

No amount of hard work will  enable us to be a China, America, Australia. We have to find our niche. What is it?

Singapore is a unique society, a special culture. As much as I dislike the PAP, like the majority of Singaporeans I cannot deny it did well by the people. I only wish that it would improve and build on the successes and strengths of Singapore for the benefit of the citizens. But I fear that the government is now run by scholars. Nothing bad about scholars - but their experience and very nature built behind a wall of academic success, books, is limited. There is also now a growing disconnect between the ruling class and the people - in much the same way as how the academically bright kids at school huddled in their corner of the library and shunned the rest of their school mates. You cannot govern a country successfully in the long term when the leaders were all assured of their positions by their success in primary and high schools.

There is also a growing insular nature in Singapore society. I'm not just talking about the rise of xenophobia. When the government can castigate Singaporeans who leave the country and work or live overseas as "quiters" you know that something is seriously wrong in the government logic. When government ministers can justify their exorbitant high salaries as necessary to prevent corruption while demanding low income families to sacrifice the lives of their sons for national service for peanut pay you know its seriously haywire. On  the other spectrum we see many Singaporeans retreating into an parochial mindset - despising foreigners and migrants.

Criticism shouldn't be seen as treason. The old school kind of rule - "shut up sit down or get out" has resulted in one of the world's highest migrations. More Peranakans were lost to Singapore - emigrating to other countries - due to the PAP rule than in WW2. And to make matters worse the government system of discriminating Singapore immigrants by slamming the door shut to them in comparison to new immigrants is baffling. Won't the branch of the same tree be more suitable for grafting than the member of some unknown tree?

The Singapore govt seeks to attract foreign talent while forgetting the unique nature of Singapore. All those former Hong Kong residents, and now Chinese and India nationals that the government is seeking to attract - the vast majority of them will only use Singapore as a transit lounge before migrating to greener pastures. Heck one China migrant even vehemently objected to the smell of curry from his neighbor. And what was the solution offered by the government representative? Stop cooking curry... stop cooking our national dish.... Whaaatttt??? might as well tear down our flag and paint it blood red with a yellow scythe and hammer and stars Good grief.

I see the future of Singapore as a cosmopolitan city. A city where its people are well traveled, speak and are fluent in many languages. Where Chinese people speak not just English but Malay, French, German, Japanese. A government which encourages and helps its people to excel - to go overseas, to work, to return - and not to take advantage of. A government which encourages its citizens to be innovative and respects their intellectual property rights ... which at the moment doesn't seem to be happening.

A city whose main export is the system of efficient corruption-free, nepotism-free, religious-free, ethnic-free, meritocracy bureaucracy. :) This is what our region needs.... badly. We should want and we should do all we can to get Malaysia, Indonesia to be heading down that path and not towards religious extremism.

A city where the Ministry of Education and Culture are not run by parochial minded people but people who understand that academic knowledge in math and science and mastery of "the mother tongue" is not the prerequisite to a successful life. But when I heard about my friends being blacklisted because they chose not to accept foreign govt scholarships issued by MOE but bonded to Singapore... I despair.

Ask yourself - why does Hong Kong a similar city to Singapore have such a vastly stronger movie making industry?

Some thoughts while traveling

Stuff my mind churns up when I travel on buses.

On the tearing down of church crosses in China.
Its not the outward manifestation of the church that makes a difference - the buildings, the concrete and iron icons - its what Christians do that matters. One of the letters of the Apostles stated that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." You could build a thousand churches bigger than the tower of Babel and get the same result as the latter. Vatican City and the great cathedrals of Europe are testimony to that - built on the sale of indulgences.

What is the point of being rich if you are a miser. You are only hoarding up wealth for someone else.

Good ideas are not good enough if you do not act upon them.

There are no such thing as the good old days. People who think that the past was great forget the many great evils that have been largely overcome for now - mass famine, total war, Nazism, polio, the Black Death, the utter subjugation of women, Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot era communism, the tyranny of religious governments, racist colonial empires...

Everyone will die. Not everyone lives.

We live in a superficial world. People are judged by what they wear, how they look, how much they earn, what family they came from - no one decides that they want to be born beautiful or rich, or tall or which country or religion they get to be born in. We can only decide how we choose to behave - abominably, maliciously, cruelly, without empathy or sympathy - or with kindness, compassion, consciously, and in due time with wisdom.

some were born to fly, some were born to swim. Somethings we don't get to choose.

No one dies truly. Our consciousness lives on. Who we are, what we are, our essential being is immortal.

Don't look at what you currently are - look at what you may become. Does a caterpillar dream that it will become a butterfly? Does a baby swan dream that it will remain an ugly duckling all its life? The biggest tree was once a humble seed. Grow. Overcome.

Some thoughts on life

Some people are vampires - they will drain the life out of you.

An example of this are people who when they are unhappy want everyone to be as miserable as they are.
"If I'm unhappy everyone else has to be unhappy."

These are people to be wary about and to most certainly avoid if you are able to do so. Unfortunately a lot of bosses are like that.

The question is - will you allow yourself to be infected with the same "virus" as them?

Will you also become a vampire if they bite you? Unlike vampires and disease carriers - this one carries more choice for the victim.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Death Penalty - Capital Punishment Asia vs Australia

There's been much uproar over the execution of the two drug smuggling leaders in Indonesia. Personally I don't have much of a problem with the death penalty if it is meted out against 100% convicted murderers and violent gangsters and pedophile rapists.

Over here in Australia and indeed in most Western nations - there take a decidedly lax view towards such people.

Sometime ago in Melbourne a gangster shot his girlfriend and two people who came to her aid in broad daylight in full view of the public. The good samaritan a father of two was killed. I suspect that the gangster will be paroled due to good behavior at some stage.

Governments and justice systems in the west frequently parole criminals who are most likely to re-offend. In this example the parole kills a mother and tortures her children.

It happens so regularly here in Australia that most people here don't give two shits. Strangely however they have more time to protest over the sentencing of two drug leaders.

There is a distinct moral apathy in the West.

Partly its due to their belief in human rights - for prisoners. Keeping a criminal in jail in the West is very expensive - due to their adherence to basic "human rights" of all human beings - even a criminal who murders 50 women and children in one day - ie Martin Bryant, the Port Arthur mass murderer.

In Australia it cost $100,000 to keep an inmate in jail per year. The state is responsible for his welfare including his dental. And many criminals are happy to go to jail for that reason.

Example: The murderer rapist who bashed to death a young female pastry chef on her way to work said he was happy to go to jail because he finally had a roof over his head and food to eat.

Seriously wtf.

So Tax dollars that could be spent on improving public schooling, the health system, is being diverted to feed and house murdering rapist thugs.

Honestly, I'd put them on the end of a beach during low tide and let nature take its course. No need to hang or shoot or electrocute - too drama. Goodbye!!

But in Australia and the West they much prefer to put them in jail for a short while and release them back into the community... the fact that they will quite likely reoffend again doesn't seem to faze the authorities.

Rapist thug who got caught only when he attacked a celebrity the media care for.

When an imported criminal brought over to help his rehabilitation - raped and murdered two sisters who came to the city to work and start a good life -the then Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks was very dismissive of the tragedy - saying the system was working. A little while later convicted child rapists escaped from jail - true story - and the authorities prevented the release of their names on the grounds of their privacy.

Seriously. This is Australia for you. Political leaders more concerned over the welfare of violent criminals than for the safety of its most vulnerable citizens.

The fact that Australia recalls its ambassador from Indonesia over the deaths of two certified 100% drug lords speaks volumes over the lost direction of Australia's morality.

In the West - there is a strong belief that reform, second chance, redemption is the more noble approach to crime. This stems from the Christian religion of forgiveness. But in this case its corrupted in this application. The State isn't suppose to forgive. The State exist to protect the public. Otherwise wtf are we refraining from arming ourselves to the teeth and paying taxes for?

I come from the East and I believe the first and foremost concern for the authorities is to protect the lives of innocent people - esp young women and children.

Why should they be given a second chance - to reoffend again?

OK. Having said that - there is a huge... a massive reaction against capital punishment.

Politicians, Priests, top judges, many thousands of people will rally in the street to protest against the capital punishment even of an absolute criminal.

You would think that the executed criminal was a hero.

Even simple honest, hard working teachers, nurses don't get this kind of celebrity treatment. The moral compass of the West is sometimes really haywire.

And for that very reason I think capital punishment should be... set aside. It just causes too much problems.

Indonesia should have commuted the sentences for drug smugglers to life imprisonment. It doesn't cost a lot of money to house criminals in Indonesia, even Singapore.

Put them in a remote location - a desert, an inhospitable island. Harsh life. Allow them all the tax-free cigarettes they want. Let them take drugs if they like. Let nature take its course.

Make them do hard labor, break rocks etc..Swim in the sea.

No protests. No adverse reaction. Everyone happy. And criminals don't get a hero treatment.