gambitch - now available in blue
Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Blogger gets a new typing interface! Haven't used it enough to comment on it, but I sorta liked the way it used to be done in Courier font. Too computer-y, maybe, but I liked it.
Anyway, the Emmy nominations are out, and The West Wing has bagged the following nominations:
Martin Sheen (President Jed Bartlet) for Lead Actor in a Drama Series;
Allison Janney (White House Press Secretary CJ Cregg) for Lead Actress in a Drama Series;
John Spencer (Chief of Staff Leo McGarry) for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series;
Janel Moloney (Assistant to Dy. Chief of Staff Donna Moss) for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series;
Stockard Channing (First Lady Abbey Bartlet) for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series;
Matthew Perry (Associate White House Counsel Joe Quincy) for Guest Actor in a Drama Series;
Casting for a Drama Series;
Drama Series;
Episode "7A WF 83429" for Cinematography for a Single-camera Series;
Episode "An Khe" for Sound Editing for a Series;
Episode "Gaza" for Art Direction for a Single-camera Series;
Episode "Gaza" for Single-camera Sound Mixing for a Series
Notably, it lost out on Writing for a Drama Series. Guess things are just different without Aaron Sorkin.
I'm actually trying to raise money to buy a full set of the second season, having a nearly-full set of the first season, less the first three episodes. It's just great television, I tell you!

gambitch [ 7:12 AM]

Friday, July 16, 2004

Okay, I'll admit this upfront, I didn't get enough sleep, I'm feeling cranky, and I don't know why I'm writing this one, but bloody hell, I'll rip away.

One arcade game character that to this day still captures my imagination is Iori Yagami from the King of Fighters series. For those who don't know, Iori's the dark guy in the game, the antagonist as opposed to the protagonist Kyo Kusanagi. He's not the "big baddie" or the "final boss" in the game, but he and Kyo are the two most important characters who have perpetuated the story since the 1995 instalment.

Iori is cool, he really is. He cuts a powerful figure, with his blazing red hair, black PVC-ish jacket, white Oxford shirt and red leather pants. He can raise haunting purple flames in his hands, and that's something that just captures my imagination. I've always seen mastery of fire as a really cool and challenging special ability; never mind that nobody can do that in real life, it's just way too cool.

But it's not just these things that make Iori unique. He's also got this bloodlust about him, and there is an additional instability that can at least in part be attributed to his Orochi blood. The story goes that his clan had signed a pact with the Orochi, who is in short a powerful being, and as a consequence every member of the Yagami clan has Orochi blood in his veins. From time to time they thus fall into a state referred to as the "Orochi Riot of the Blood", where they lose all human sanity and turn into savage, bloodthirsty monsters who move with high speed and can slice people into half.

Iori Yagami is violent, pure and simple. Almost a killing machine, except he can still eye his victims with a cold, sharp smirk, or collapse into a convulsed maniacal laughter. You've got to believe he is mad, and he probably is, but that adds to his strangely attracting charisma.

Iori is dark, that there is no doubt. A cold white crescent adorns the back of his jacket, and there is a very werewolf-ish feel about him. Not altogether surprisingly, Iori is a loner. In the world of King of Fighters he has no friends. It's tough being a killing machine like Iori; he may have a streak of bloodlust in him, but it's not as if killing brings him joy or fun.

Strangely enough, I see shades of myself when I see Iori. For the most part I'm very much a loner, and there is that streak in me that seeks to be violent and bloodthirsty. I'm not the ninja-assassin type, although I'm not the wrestler or boxer type either. I just enjoy overwhelming force of the slashing and clawing variety. (Although, having said all that, I actually am a bit squeamish about violence scenes, in war movies as much as in slasher flicks.)

My favourite line from Iori? Well it's Japanese, but this is what it translates to:

"Play time is over! Cry, scream, and then... DIE!"

gambitch [ 11:07 AM]

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Oh dear.

Someone I know - let's call him X - was recently disturbed by a series of articles published in a local Chinese evening paper. That series of articles discussed the lifestyles and activities of the homosexual community, and apparently the stance taken by the reporter(s) was on the very conservative side. That got our friend miffed.

It gets worse. It appears that some people have since picked up on the subject and have threatened a boycott of that evening newspaper for biased reporting. Our miffed friend X has apparently written a letter to a rival English morning freesheet (come to think of it, I'd better drop the word 'rival' since it doesn't fit) to condemn the Chinese evening paper. It looks like we have a shortage of happy campers.

Oh dear.

I really think these people should have their heads unscrewed and reassembled, and it's not because I have a problem with homosexuals and the gay movement. For the record, I generally don't. My problem is with the way these people don't seem to bother to stop and understand the dynamics of newspapers in our society.

From my days in "the profession", I recognize there is a tendency to whip out arguments of the press being the fourth estate (never mind how many people really understand what that term means). I've heard hoo-ha arguments about how it is important for the press to report the truth and be unbiased in its writing. Indeed, the power of the press in shaping popular opinion is crystallized in this haunting line I still remember from Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun - "control the media, control the mind".

But believing in all that often conveniently ignores another crucial fact, that the press does not exist in a vacuum. More correctly, it is wrong to say that the press can influence the people without acknowledging that the people also influence the character of the press. In any society where various newspapers are available, each newspaper usually takes on a life of its own, and is characterized at least in part by the people who form the bulk of its readership. That's why there are conservative newspapers and liberal newspapers, and that's why newspapers written in different languages tend to highlight different issues that are of interest to specific communities.

In the multilingual society I live in, the Chinese press specifically caters to the concerns of the Chinese community. The corresponding same is true with, say, Malay newspapers. I have once been challenged by a big somebody to read the Malay papers to understand their concerns. Embarrassingly, I haven't done that yet, but I see the point - understanding the ground really means knowing about every different facet of society, and not just your own. The English press fits a different profile from the Chinese press, and while there may be overlaps, there is no identity (in the mathematical sense).

What am I trying to get at here? Well, there are a few things. First of all, who reads the Chinese evening tabloids? Well, the Chinese of course, but not just any Chinese. I don't have the statistics, but I'm inclined to believe that the make-up of readers includes housewives and old men of the lower middle-class, who often have some level of Chinese education and are heartlander through and through. For entertainment they probably watch Chinese melodramas in the evening (some of which are imported from Hong Kong). They may be buying the papers to find out whether they won some money in the national lottery or the races (that is, if they didn't personally make a trip to the turf club).

In short, we're talking about a very heartland-ish readership who are more comfortable with Chinese than English, who probably tend to take a conservative, bread-and-butter view of things. They are not your English-educated so-called intellectuals who have been raised on what some say to be Western values. It shouldn't surprise you to hear me say that these two groups of people think very differently and have very different base attitudes towards many things.

And that list of many things includes homosexuality. I am being speculative here, but my guess is that those of us who have been exposed to Western society and discourse would tend to be a little more open and comfortable dealing with the issue of homosexuality. This doesn't mean that they are all okay with homosexuality, or that they understand the issue totally, but their rationalization of the issue is different, and perhaps on the whole, more tolerant.

However, we live within a conservative society, and a sizeable chunk of that society happens to be made up of heartlander Chinese (and Malays and Tamils, though regrettably I haven't yet created chances to learn about their opinions on various issues) who haven't had the most advanced education (academically or otherwise). That's not a particularly solid correlative reason for them also being less interested in the homosexuality issue, or being less tolerant of homosexuals, but funnily enough that is the case - the conservatives don't really care, and there is still an intolerance (for want of a better ward) that is somewhat instinctive.

Granted, maybe the reporters who wrote those essays got their facts horrifically wrong. But the more important thing to draw from this is that there is still a long way to go before the conservative majority actually understands, never mind accepts, homosexuality. Maybe they don't understand because they don't want to understand. Maybe it's because it's just not part of their priorities. They're more concerned with earning their daily bread (after all, God doesn't give it to them for free) and other issues that concern themselves. Call it selfish, but if they didn't work for their survival, who's going to grant it to them?

If the gay movement wants to get itself understood and accepted, it needs to realize that understanding is a two-way street. If they want to persuade the conservatives to accept them, they need to properly acquaint themselves with the concerns of the conservative majority, and know what it thinks and feels, before formulating a way to effectively communicate with them and get them to understand. To quote the Art of War, "know the enemy and know thyself, and every battle will result in victory". A boycott may draw attention to the gay issue, but it's not going to endear the gay movement to the conservatives, who if the homosexuals' beliefs are to be bought, probably dislike them already anyway.

There's only one other thing I want to say about this whole episode. I don't actually think the boycott attempt is going to have much of an effect on the paper's sales figures. I don't have the figures, and I actually want to know the figures, but my impression is that the gay movement does not really include too many people who actually read the Chinese evening tabloids on a regular basis. Actually, I'd like to know how many of these people even read the Chinese newspapers. Like I said before, readers of the Chinese tabloids are mostly conservative people who don't really have sympathies for the gay movement. Expecting them to support the boycott is, in my view, rather strange.

Oh well. Some people are just so impulsive.

gambitch [ 8:40 AM]

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that Alison and Donny have been eliminated from The Amazing Race 5 tonight.

The reality is that I should have seen it coming when they made not one, but two mistakes. That's usually costly enough to set a team back. First, the Detour. Walking a horde of 8 dogs - okay, saying it's a horde is an exaggeration - isn't that easy, and the fact that you could do it immediately rather than travel out to somewhere else doesn't really help matters much. Not that identifying a face in a crowd of similar-looking people flooded in blue lights is easy, but the truth is teams didn't have too many problems with that option.

It definitely didn't help matters that Alison and Donny were screaming into each other's face. It created a bad atmosphere for the two to push forward, even when they tried to team up with the Bowling Moms. They were not really moving that much quicker even after that. That was just plainly wrong.

The second mistake was trying to get to the Roadblock by bus rather than cab. They had the cash, they could have asked a cabbie, and they probably knew that all that was left was a Roadblock so they might as well burn some dosh to stay alive after the first mistake. But no, they had to take a bus. If Charla and Mirna realized that a bus trip could mean elimination (and they were way ahead of many others at that point) then Alison and Donny should perhaps have realized the same. Or maybe they were too busy being mad with each other.

It's a big pity, really. I like Alison. She's great TV material. She looks beautiful in the athletic, "I can fend for myself but I like company" sort of way. Maybe it's television, but she looks a little filled out without being fat, and it's pleasant just seeing her wearing those snug tops that just aren't too tight and battling her way through streets of danger. And Donny's a decent bloke too. But in the end that wasn't good enough reason to keep them in the race. I'll mourn their departure - they were my favourites for the million at the start of the show, and I really wanted to see them snap at each other longer and still collect the money. It'd just be so sweet.

Chip is really shaping up well and morphing into a tough, competitive player. The twins may be really pissed about that, but sorry, they should have known better. Underneath that soft exterior is a man who is willing to fight using every trick in the book without having to resort to be dirty. Chip said it himself, he's not going to bump one of the girls down on purpose just to get an advantage, but he would resort to cleverer manoeuvres to seize a lead. They'll go far, I think, even with the way they are still lagging dangerously towards the tail end of the pack. Other teams will drop minutes soon enough.

I like the way Charla and Mirna are progressing. Sure, they lost a foot race and got pipped to first spot today, but the fact that they even got this close must not be lost on us. Charla is really playing up her physical disability to get an advantage from strangers, and the other teams can say what they like, but they can't stop strangers from helping the cousins. They are tough, and already Brandon and Nicole evidently realize that. Other teams may still be thinking that it's an accident, but it's obviously not.

It's hard to pick favourites now, but I am liking the way this race is shaping up. Sure, no more darling Alison who gives us lots of great footage, but there are other stories quietly going on in this race. Bob and Joyce turned around a last-place finish at the Detour to tuck themselves somewhere in the middle of the field, and I'm looking forward to seeing how far they will progress. The young ones don't necessarily have an advantage in this race - two twentysomething couples have already been dumped, and the usual suspects for the quick drop are still amazingly in the running. Things will sort out, but who else will be eliminated first?

gambitch [ 11:09 PM]

A local talkshow on TV today was discussing the problem of roving prostitutes, which I have referred to (perhaps a little untastefully) as "the Chinese prostitute problem". I have to clarify here that the only reason I refer to it using such shorthand is that the women found soliciting in residential areas, according to media reports, are mostly Chinese nationals. I mean no malice towards Chinese nationals as a whole (I have utmost respect for many of them), so that should be made clear before anyone brands me as racist or anything like that.

Anyway, one of the suggestions that drew much mention was the idea of reporting these offenders to the police, usually by means of phone call. This should be easy, given the high proliferation of mobile phones in my area. There are, however, two problems. Firstly, most people do not know the existence of any number by which they can contact the police to report sightings of harlots on the streets, or sightings of people selling illegal pornographic VCDs for that matter. Perhaps you'd think that the thing to do then is to dial the standard police hotline, which in the case of my area would be 999 (rather than the American number of 911). Ah, but that's the second problem. The triple-nine, as we are always told, is an emergency number, and people who make prank calls to this number can be found to have broken the law. We are so gripped by fear of being branded a criminal, we'd rather not call. Besides, we're skeptical that the police would really care since solicitation isn't quite as severe as burglary or arson.

Here in this fair country, we do not yet have a culture of reporting on these offences. We may be brought up on a diet of neighbourhood watch schemes, but the truth is many of us don't really care, and the design of some high-rise flats just doesn't help the cause. It's often complained that people here care about themselves and nobody else. There is some truth in that, and unfortunately the consequence is that neighbourhood watch doesn't work quite as well. The sense of community is weak, and if you live in a high-rise estate, it is probably limited to within your own building or the one or two next to it. (Our concept of a block, as I appreciate, is a little different from that used in most other parts of the world, particularly the USA.)

It gets even worse when we talk about the local town centres, where people shop for their groceries and little children usually hang out (before they learn of the marvels of our central downtown areas). The town centres are usually one feeder bus trip away, which is anywhere between five and twenty minutes, but that's often far enough for the town centre to be out of sight, and therefore out of mind. So while we claim we are unnerved and affected by news that prostitutes have made inroads into our residential areas, and I would believe we really are, we aren't responsive enough to do something ourselves and chase them out.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have been guilty of this inaction as well. Many a time I have seen people set up makeshift stalls and sell illegal VCDs. Yet I have never once called the police despite pretty much wanting to. There just wasn't a police post within short walking distance of the sighting, and I did not know what number to call. Like everyone else, I am also afraid of breaking the law by being labelled a "prank caller".

So, yes, maybe I'm like everyone else I seem to have a comment about. But I want the status quo to change. Vigilance and cooperating with the police are good virtues, so why shouldn't more be done to help sort that out? It doesn't mean I will start calling the police every day to report on a roving prostitute. I don't do that for a living. But it does mean giving us a chance to do our bit for society. That can only be a good thing.

gambitch [ 9:02 PM]

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Currently I am holding auditions for the following:

1. A piece of freeware that will allow me to input in UTF-8, so that I can type Chinese, Japanese and other cool characters onto my blog.

2. A blog-friendly site visitor counter.

3. A prospective new blog layout template. I've seen websites using templates from Love Hina and other such manga, and I find them (I don't usually say this) cute. Wonder who personalizes these things.

You know where you can send suggestions. Yep, that's right, down below where the comment "button" is.

gambitch [ 4:12 AM]

Global football transfer news have always featured highly in the months of June and July, when most European leagues (with the exception of places like Russia) are off waiting for the new season. Speculation is one thing, actual news is quite another. If all speculation were to be believed a single player as good as Wayne Rooney would be at five different clubs at the start of the season. But speculation is not reality; news is.

That said, there has been a whirlwind of transfers in the past months. Davids to Inter, Deco to Barcelona, Kezman to Chelsea, Walter Samuel to Real Madrid... It's easy to lose track of all the big movements involving a good number of big stars. What this means is that the complexion at a number of clubs are set to change almost unimaginably.

What's up at United nowadays? Well, we picked up Alan Smith soon after the last season ended, and there is of course Louis Saha who joined up midway through the season. There's also the capture of Gabriel Heinze, which will definitely stiffen up competition at the back. Fabien Barthez has formally left and returned to France - bless him - but there have not yet been any significant departures. There's word that Butt might go, but given that there have been no real midfield additions of note, I'd prefer for him to stay.

At some other clubs it is a rather different story. Jose Mourinho has definitely kicked up quite a storm with his clearout at Chelsea, although in fairness a few of their players have never really featured even remotely. Who remembers Albert Ferrer, the Spaniard who was once part of the national setup? He's disappeared very quietly some time ago. Equally quiet but more recent is this guy called Winston Bogarde. If he sounds familiar, that's because he used to represent Holland at international level. What has he been doing? God knows.

More high-profile have been the departures of Marcel Desailly and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Desailly is still good, though perhaps the last four or five months have proven that at 35, even world-class defensive acts have to fade. As for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, he's gone on to Middlesbrough, who have made some very curious acquisitions such as Michael Reiziger and Mark Viduka as well. With purchases like these you'd think Boro are now going to be worthy challengers for a spot in the halls of fame. I wouldn't bet on it, but only because I believe clubs like Boro still have a lot of anonymous players who may not quite be as compatible with these star players. Not everyone can generate the same affection as Juninho, and even then he's not a perfect fit at the club.

The thing about football transfers sometimes is that they happen so quietly nobody notices. I don't know how that is supposed to reflect on the players, but then in some cases it might not be much good. For example, I have never been a big fan of Real Madrid's Esteban Cambiasso. You can say I didn't understand what his contribution at the club was. In my memory Cambiasso was a midfielder who didn't really appear in the Champions League much because Real always played a central pairing of Zidane and Makelele. Even then I thought Santiago Solari was a better-defined player than Cambiasso was. How do you classify him? I never got around answering the question.

So it becomes a surprise for me to learn that Cambiasso has switched to Inter. When I read about it in the papers I just went "Oh, you mean that happened?". But this hasn't happened for the first time - there are so many players on the move in any given year that it's hard to really track down every single movement.

With all these transfers going on, I am struggling to recall who is playing at what club. This is easier for the big boys - their exploits are well-documented and they would not need too much of an effort to make the papers. Information on their transfers would go on for days. But for less high-profile players this can happen really quietly. For example, if I hadn't been following the news I would today still think that defender David Unsworth is still at Everton. Unsworth's a good defender, by the way, and he built his reputation at Merseyside. In fact he's stayed there so long I was somewhat surprised he moved to Portsmouth (that happened yesterday).

Somewhere between the spectrum bounded by high-flying superstars and comparatively anonymous journeymen lies a group of players who are good household names but don't necessarily have a big reputation. These can be thought as the bricks and mortar at brick-and-mortar clubs like Everton, people I would have almost imagined to be fixtures at such clubs, men who would never move on except as a form of retirement to a less stressful place, men who would have earned that retirement. And when these people move, a fragment of the known world according to you breaks away, and you start looking for other fragments to build your knowledge all over again.

Closing transfer news: Jesper Gronkjaer stays in England. The move to Sevilla collapsed after he asked for more time to think about the transfer (and perhaps persuade his family). Which has thus paved the way for Birmingham City to snap him up and add to their string of good purchases. A different blue strip for him, then.

gambitch [ 12:57 AM]

Monday, July 12, 2004

You can sort of say I was waiting for it to happen. Someone wrote a letter into one of the readers' forums to add his thoughts to the debate over the Chinese prostitute problem. The reader, one Mr Teo Kueh Liang, says that the prostitution problem is ultimately one of supply and demand, and until something is done to cut demand the problem will remain.

This happens also to be the position espoused by one or two government ministers. Quite a coincidence, perhaps? Perhaps not. There will always be people who echo what the leaders say simply because the leaders said that. Then again there will always be people who happen to think along the same lines as the leaders do, though the work is independent. But I shall not comment on that, simply because there is little point in doing so.

All I want to say on the matter now is this: It is a strange state of affairs that we acknowledge there is a demand for sex (and by extension, prostitutes) in this society, yet at the same time marriage rates are going down, divorce rates are going up and we are having a national baby shortage, forcing us to resort to attractive immigration packages to draw in Chinese and Indian nationals to make up the difference.

The propaganda people definitely have their work cut out for them on this occasion!

gambitch [ 4:39 AM]


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