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

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Watching the American presidential debate replay last night, I couldn't help but feel that Kerry was having the better of the exchanges for much of the event. I've not really been following American politics with much care, partially because I've been depressed by the stuff I read from Greg Palast (whose material is actually believable because, well, he works for BBC). Also because I no longer live a life where I scour the web for all sorts of reports on a daily basis, as nowadays everything costs more. But I was able to compel myself to watch Kerry vs Bush just to see what they have to say.

Bush was having problems here and there in terms of making himself credible and explaining his actions in a way that convinced me, an outsider with no voting interests in America. One of the noticeable things I caught was how frequently his eyelids batted when he delivered his closing statements. As we know, the average human being bats his eyelids once every five seconds or so. Bush was going at a rate of once every two seconds, which was very often, and definitely above his average for the rest of the night. This can only suggest one of two things; either his eyes were horribly dry because the air-conditioning was quite dehydrated, or he was having a porky.

Among other things said in the course of the evening, Bush stated (without much of an invitation) how he would persist in not having America join the International Criminal Court because he didn't like the idea of "joining a foreign court... where our people could be prosecuted". As Robert Fisk points out here, Bush talks so often about having an international law framework, and then when the ICC comes up, he rejects it. Personally I don't see why there should be one set of laws for America and another set for the rest of the world, but then I'm not George W Bush so that should not be too surprising. Dubya says he wants international law, but I think what he really means is he wants American law applying internationally, complete with President-appointed court justices picked on a set of criteria flexible enough to allow individual presidential preferences to influence the court well beyond his own term. That sucks, but it reflects a mentality among America's leaders that the world is their oyster in a pearl farm.

We've heard lots of statements from Kerry about how Bush has been doing so many things wrong, slashing funding for domestic first responders and pouring that money into Iraq, or telling the rest of the world they can't have nukes when he is in fact pushing for more advanced American nuclear arms technology that can bust bunkers in Tora Bora and Pyongyang. Criticism of Bush is obviously quite damning among large sections of the American intelligentsia, and there should be pretty good reason to believe that Kerry is hitting all the right notes in whacking Bush senseless.

But that should not be confused with the claim that Kerry would therefore be the likely winner once America actually goes to the polls. Kerry can basically do bloody well at the debates, but he's also offending lots of people who are in power at the moment. He wants better securing of nuclear resources so that they don't fall into the hands of terrorists or smugglers, but that is going to come at a cost to nuclear power plant operators. He wants to sort things out more quickly in Iraq and try to smooth the path to better relations, but that's just going to upset Big Oil (and we know how much money they must have poured into Bush's war chest). Increased funding on police, firefighters, healthcare and education is going to translate to no tax cuts for the rich, because there's not very much left to squeeze out of the poor. Ratifying treaties like Kyoto (and there's good reason to believe that Kerry would reverse Bush's reversal of Clinton) would infuriate the corporates and industrialists who want to pollute as much as they can from the comfort of their air-conditioned private jets. The list goes on.

These are powerful people, and they have money, and for the most part they'd rather have Bush back in the White House than see Kerry taking that seat. Here's a man who they can do good business with, so why not? My own guess is that, in the run-up to voting day, America is going to see a number of smear advertisements and commercials funded by mysterious groups, most of whom are actually going to be financially backed by these biggies. And these smear campaigns might actually work. Hey, they killed McCain's chances back in the GOP primaries in 1999/2000. Goodness knows how they affected Gore's chances in 2000. Who's to say the same stunt won't be tried out this year?

And in case that fails, there's always videogame voting thanks to those touchscreens Bush wants to use for this election. And there's Floridagate waiting to happen all over again thanks to the Help America Vote Act. Forgive me for thinking that America might witness all those vote-rigging tricks we used to believe would only happen to fledgling democracies moving out of autocracies their leaders allegedly don't want to move out of. Then again, this excerpt from The West Wing might suggest something:

President Bartlet: I'm sitting out there trying to figure out how this guy (ed. the President of Indonesia, visiting the US and due to have a state dinner thrown that evening in his honour) could campaign for something and win, then I remembered - we usually rig the elections.
Leo McGarry: There you go.

For the buffs, that came out of the episode "The State Dinner". When even the "good guys" of the show admit that they do rig elections in other parts of the world, you just have to think what the chances are that the real world White Housers rig their own elections. Call me a cynic or a conspiracy theorist. I don't care if you call me names. But I am not so innocent as to believe it just won't happen because it's America. Those days are long gone already.

gambitch [ 7:20 PM]

Friday, October 01, 2004

Random snips from worldwide news today...

Silverstone dropped from 2005 F1 calendar - I'm not exactly a Formula One fan, though I know the names of several drivers and not just Michael Schumacher. Still, the news raised my eyebrows. I guess it's really great that in recent years, we've had new race locations like Sepang and Shanghai (which opened last week - and Schumi lost) because the sport has thus spread to new outposts. But it can be upsetting to lose traditional tracks like Silverstone, Nurburgring and Le Mans. Some insiders have already said that Silverstone must stay.

Kyoto Protocol gains Kremlin backing - Great news for the environmentalists indeed, some of whom have already hailed the Duma's decision to ratify the protocol after long periods of dawdling. But it has been made clear that the decision to ratify the protocol was politically motivated rather than out of a genuine concern for the environment. Indeed, some have gone so far as to admit that it won't achieve its objective of saving the Earth, but it was better to make Russia look good by saving the protocol. Bush certainly won't be happy about this latest turn. He doesn't exactly want the environmentalists to be on his back while he's concentrating on rigging - sorry, winning - a presidential election.

Sudan backs down on African Union presence in Darfur - After more than a month of ridiculous drama, just as it seemed increasingly unlikely that the Khartoum government would give in, suddenly the African Union was allowed to monitor activities in the ravaged region. Amid allegations that the perpetrators of the genocide are firmly backed by the US (which is a surprise only because I'm not sure how the genocide benefits American business interests; at least with the alleged attempts to remove Hugo Chavez we could talk about the oil) the latest twist in the Darfur drama could be very interesting indeed. I'm not sure what triggered the about turn (even if it isn't a total one), but future developments warrant close scrutiny. The show isn't over yet.

Taiwan: Up to 800 Chinese missiles to point south by 2006 - The situation across the Taiwan Straits is rapidly reaching a new low thanks to the recent war of words, this time obviously triggered by Taiwan. Personally I think the Beijing government has to stop pretending that the Taiwanese politicians (never mind the Taiwanese people) are willing to think about reunification under the communist banner. The fact is they won't. Any negotiations regarding the "three direct connections" are operating under the Taiwanese assumption that this is part of a greater normalization of relations between two states. The Taiwanese believe they are a separate political state, and the politicians are just trying to work out how they can make this conceptual belief a factual reality. As for the rest of the world, despite the official governmental positions of the majority of nations we do treat Taiwan as a separate economic and sociocultural entity from any part of China, even the more advanced cities of Shanghai and Beijing. It's more clear-cut than the situation in Hong Kong, and even there things are looking a little uneasy.

Libya wants permanent seat on UN Security Council - Are they having a laugh? I certainly think so, because while Libya should definitely be considered for a non-permanent seat given that it has been getting itself out of the bad books in recent years, a permanent seat is something else altogether. Why Libya should deem itself best suited to represent African interests on a permanent basis is unclear to me. Egypt and South Africa may seem better picks, and even then a permanent seat is a little questionable. On a related note, the whole talk about revamping the Security Council isn't really going that far. Yes, we realize that the UN Security Council is now a damp squib of an organization, with the US and China taking turns to veto resolutions mounted by each other, and resolutions so weakly worded that they do little more than send out messages with no teeth. But is the situation going to be better following a revamp? Are we going to have a UN Security Council with real teeth and a unified willingness to sink them into the baddies? Or will the changes just impair this sluggish creature even further thanks to still more politicking (bearing in mind that Japan, a country lobbying for a permanent seat, isn't exactly best of buddies with China, which is already a permanent member) and a predisposition to put self-interest before the interests of the rest of the world (who aren't all subjects under some Pax Americana)?

Okay, that's about it. Enjoy reading the articles. If the links expire, leave them alone; these are usually news sources so you'd have to subscribe to them if you want to dig into their archives. That's a decision for you to make, not for me to enforce.

gambitch [ 12:10 AM]

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The screenshots for Total Club Manager 2005 look pretty good.

Interestingly, they've confirmed what the outer box cover is going to look like. And this year's manager featuring on the cover? Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. No surprise there!

Chelsea played pretty well last night, and Porto just didn't look anything like the side that won the Champions League trophy in May. They're going to find it pretty tough now, since the next match is against Paris St. Germain and the French are desperate to get their first points of this campaign. It'll be interesting, I'm sure.

Okay, that's it for now. I need to pop some pills for the headache I'm getting today.

gambitch [ 7:29 PM]

We all know what happened last night. AS Roma led at the Bernabeu after a shock first goal that could have been offside, and then went 2-0 up thanks to Cassano (who looks better than I had imagined, as his image has been built up in a way that made me think he was some snarling monster). Then Raul struck a sweet shot, Figo tucked away a controversial penalty, and suddenly Roma were deflated and lost 4-2. Pretty decent match, but I thought the penalty mistake was really bad. Had the Russian referee not given that one Roberto Carlos would probably have found a goal anyway, but the point was that decision really deflated the Italians. Ivanov has plenty of explaining to do.

The big result of the night, however, must have been at Old Trafford. It doesn't get better than a 6-2 roasting of Fenerbahce, the club with players like Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber and that famous Dutchman Pierre van Hooijdonk (who basically won the Dutch their World Cup Qualifiers game against the Czech Republic some time back). Apparently Wayne 'what a waste of money' Rooney helped himself to a hat-trick after Giggsy opened the scoring. It's a great result for the club, and I'm still attached to it, but I'm one of the rare few not among the crowd chanting Rooney's name. I don't quite know why, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've recently been flipping through old magazines and clippings and I saw the faces of Cantona and Cole, and my memory of Ruud van Nistelrooy is still somewhat fresh in my mind.

I'm one of those people who hasn't really taken to Louis Saha yet, and while I've every bit of faith in Alan Smith, I'd pick Solskjaer over him when the superhero from Norway returns from injury. Rooney is the same, he's still an outsider - to me he still doesn't quite belong despite what is a superb start by any standards. Unlike some of the other newer recruits, he's got a lot of persuading to do. Then again I'm not the United manager, so why should my opinion matter?

That War and Peace game is finally getting a little tricky. It's late 1806 or thereabouts now, I can't remember, and I already have over 100 cities under my control. After completing my global sweep outside of continental Europe, I've finally marched my troops through Afghanistan and Novosibirsk and surprised the Russians. The French and Ottoman Turks joined the party, funnily enough, and Napoleonic France grabbed Kiev and Smolensk, while the Ottoman Empire also grabbed Minsk from a peace treaty. However, I had the best land, blasting through the mountains into Moscow and claiming the port cities of St. Petersburg and Arkhangelsk (which in English is also written as Archangel - now that's an interesting name).

I've also marched my land-based troops into cities like Prague, Budapest and even Stockholm. The Baltic Sea is safely in my hands now with every coastal city in the area taken except Hamburg. But that's where the easy part ends. Thanks to a whole bunch of peace treaties that happened while I was conquering Africa and India, the Ottoman Turks managed to suddenly get a piece of land in the Innsbruck region, and from there they amazingly expanded into places like Munich and Zurich. A westward advance into Italy by my troops stopped at Venice, which means I'm not able to claim Rome and Milan - at least not yet. Even though I've got the Turks split down the middle thanks to the capture of Venice (the game AI made the curious mistake of not trying to connect its Alpine territories with its base in Istanbul), the fact that they've now built a shipyard and produced a couple of fleets has threatened my naval dominance. Thanks to their ships, they've opened a third front by conquering Lisbon. Only the presence of my armada (thanks Admiral Nelson) has prevented them from thinking of taking Porto as well.

The French are another problem. I currently have an alliance with them (which is historically odd given that I'm playing as England, but did I mention I'm playing this particular game in fictional mode?). It's slightly tenuous, but it works out fine for me so far. The French haven't got many cities - Metz, Cologne and Nuremburg count among their few possessions, and mind you, Napoleon is struggling to secure control of even cities like Lille and Bordeaux (told you the game AI is crazy). But they've got that little chunk of land in the middle of old Russian territory.

Then of course there are the little powers of Prussia and Austria. Prussia has nothing but its capital in Berlin, but they're my ally right now. I could still use them for a little moment, but they're really spending all their effort building up the science and technology. Which means that they'll eventually be a nuisance. Austria has been chased out of its capital in Vienna, but there's one last stronghold in the city of Frankfurt, and I'm unable to reach them without getting past the Turkish sentry at Munich. So just get past them, you might say? Oh, did I mention the fact that I haven't declared open hostilities with them yet because I'm still securing my position in Poland?

I play this game a little strangely, I suppose. Despite my position of apparent strength I'm not in a hurry to openly declare hostilities. In fact, my belief is that the computer AI would often be foolish enough to make the first move. I've had threats of war before with other nations demanding I give them Liverpool, Bristol or Dover. Those feeble demands make me laugh. But I don't refuse the demands outright either - I usually just ignore them. Earlier in the game that was not a problem - I wasn't getting my hands dirty taking everyone else out in continental Europe. But now things change a little bit and it gets trickier, because my cities actually border someone else's. That demands something slightly different. I've to actually move my troops in preparation for hostilities, or make sure my cities are adequately fortified for the job.

My best battle so far? That's got to be the capture of Klausenburg and the immediately following defence of the city against a really massive wave of Austrian retaliation (we were both fighting to be first to the city). As soon as I conquered the city, all the troops were pulled around and backed up against the mountains, waiting for all the Austrian troops to come in. And come in they did, but they were no match for my ranged infantry and field artillery, deployed in a manner that was intended to offer maximum cover. For good measure, I kept them close to the city so the fortifying cannons could take them out too. The computer AI, stupid as it was, completely fell for it and were decimated while my cavalry swung around and struck the siege troops from the side. It's a little difficult to describe all this in words, but I don't have the means to illustrate the whole thing in graphical form on my blog either. Sickening, I know, but that's the story.

I remember a phone conversation I had with a young friend the other day. We were just talking about the importance of information. As Sun Tzu puts it so well in The Art of War, "know the enemy and know yourself, and every battle will end in victory". I'm a nut for these things, and I've great respect for Sun Tzu's wisdom when it comes to marshalling troops. Having said that, I think I want to expand my knowledge in this area by reading things like the Book of the Five Rings. I think it's by Miyamoto Musashi, yes?

They're showing on TV now this Japanese period drama based on the life of Maeda Toshie, a famous general of the Sengoku Jidai (warring states period) in 16th Century Japan. I generally like the show, and more than most people around me I know of the events of that period. Strangely enough I again have computer games to thank for that, specifically from Koei Corporation (to whom I've linked somewhere on the sidebar), but also the old board game Shogun. I'm not sure if I can still buy the game now - I saw it only once and that was over a decade ago, when I was young, innocent and unweathered.

But I digress. The point is that the history of that period made for interesting reading, and more so when you also get cross-references from literature that can be described as "historical fiction". If anyone is interested in knowing more about that period, I recommend you start with the super-long novel Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa. Yoshikawa is better known for writing Musashi, but Taiko should not be missed either.

Again it's about time I switched back to watching football. Curiously enough the game tonight is Chelsea vs FC Porto at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's new boys are favoured to overcome his old charges, especially since the Portuguese have lost a number of key players (some of them to Chelsea!) over the summer. I just want to see the match, since I don't have any money on anyone. It's better that way - I can then concentrate on the game itself.

gambitch [ 1:27 AM]

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Just the other day I said something about not drinking that much tea anymore, and what did I do last night? That's right, go out to some tea joint and have a nice little pot of tea. Unfortunately it went cold after a while, which isn't that much of a surprise given the air-conditioning. Perhaps they could brew the tea a little warmer, because cold jasmine tea has a sourish taste once it turns cold. Alternatively they could serve it in small cups like they do with Chinese tea. (As you can tell, it wasn't a Chinese tea place I went to.)

I was going through the teletext on my TV (where else?) and noticed that the dear teletext provider was still giving information on the coverage of the Olympics. You know, things like what will be shown when. Could somebody please tell the teletext service provider that the Olympics has been over for about a month now, and they should really take this information off? I mean, goodness, doesn't anyone follow up on these things after events end? It just reminds me of how people put up all sorts of posters to announce events, then forget to take these posters down when the event is over. That's just poor, although it's also common.

Anyway, speaking of the Olympics, I came across an interview in some magazine today starring a certain lady by the name of Otelli Edwards. The connection? Miss Edwards was among several presenters who provided live coverage of the Olympics, where they rattle on about this and that. A facilitating role, but one that's needed or else something just feels missing. It's a bit like a hot dog without the bite of mustard.

But back to Otelli. It seems that people have been picking up on the 'fact' that she's pretty well-endowed. The interview says her figure is an impressive 35-26-35. Okay, fine, except when I saw Otelli on television I wasn't thinking about that. It did strike me that she had a large overall body frame, as opposed to being this petite figure, but there's nothing wrong with having a large overall body frame now, is there? Frankly, for the most part, I didn't care if a sports news presenter had big boobs or not, and she was never dressed in a way to highlight her figure. Now some of you can come in and say that that's a really un-male thing to do. I don't care, and if it comforts you, I'm still single and past caring about that too.

I have no problems with admitting that Otelli has a charming look (and the face and hair have a bit to do with that at least), and she comes across as an interesting person to talk to. I have no problems with talking to women who are interesting and have their brains on and primed. Then again, I have no problems with talking to anyone who is interesting and has a brain that's on and primed, and while it helps if the person in question is a charming woman, it's hardly a swing factor. I like getting my brain worked through a conversation, and that's the bottomline for me.

I had a chat with a couple of friends. In the course of it I was bringing myself back through history and relooking some of the things I had done, as I often do. Old men have nothing left but memories, and this one's not that different in that regard. There have been some decisions that didn't turn out as well as I would have liked, and now and then I still blame myself for some things I didn't do. But as so many friends remind me, I can sit back and tell myself two things. One, in most if not all cases I made what was probably the best of a number of bad choices and so it really wasn't my fault. Two, despite my personal limitations I presided over one of the most successful periods in known history. That can't all be put down to luck alone - it needed graft and that was there.

Of course, that just makes me want to go out there and do it all over again. Success is a drug and it's bloody addictive. But I've to wait patiently and bide my time, because building a successful career in management can't involve just arbitrarily managing anyone picked at random. Sam Allardyce couldn't have made it if he was at some hopeless club that didn't care. Sir Alex couldn't have been as famous as he was if he went to an outpost like Southampton. It takes the right man and the right place to make everything combine and tick.

Oh, Real vs Roma is coming on in a minute. So I guess this is a good place to sign off. I wonder who Real are fielding tonight. And will they overcome the anguish of losing to Bilbao? Stay tuned.

gambitch [ 1:51 AM]

Monday, September 27, 2004

Newspaper reports today revealed that there has been a decrease in consumption of mooncakes, the traditional food associated with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Based on surveys in Hong Kong alone, it is estimated that some 1.75 million mooncakes are thrown away by the territory's citizens each year primarily because they've gone bad after being kept for too long.

The situation isn't that much better in Taiwan. From street interviews, it appears that young people today are not particularly interested in eating mooncakes either. While some people shun mooncakes because of its high calorie count - attributable to the fact that the stuffing that makes up most of the mooncake is made of sweet lotus paste - it also appears that young people today dislike the taste of mooncakes. A Taiwanese man was apparently quoted by one report. According to the quote, his children prefer the desserts on offer at places like McDonald's.

I don't actually have statistics on how many mooncakes made each year never end up reaching the consumer, but from the Taiwanese reports the number can't be small. I'm a mooncake lover, so I find it a real pity that so many young people don't like to eat mooncakes. I like them so much, I eat half of one every other night or thereabouts during the mid-autumn period. I can't get enough of them, but that's me. It seems I'm going to be part of a fast-shrinking minority, because the same situation is happening in China too. Mooncakes aren't selling the way they used to. The innovative things people have done to reinvent the mooncake doesn't seem to be improving matters.

Reading news reports like these leads me to several very different thoughts. On the one hand, it's never nice to hear about food going to waste. Mooncakes store quite well, at least compared to things like bread, which can't last more than a week. As long as efforts are made to remove water vapour during storage (silica gel anyone?), they can be kept for a month or so without worries of spoiling. That should make them pretty good sources of food aid for both the domestic poor and parts of the Third World (as long as there's a bottle of water to wash it down). Although it's a little strange to give people really sweet food like mooncakes as part of food aid, I don't find it that unimaginable. We're talking about some one million of them going into the trash bins every year; surely we could do something better with all that wastage? Bakeries here already give away overnight bread to elderly homes and the very impoverished; isn't it possible to do the same with mooncakes?

Moving away from that, there's also the fact that news like this seems to be symptomatic of the greater cultural malaise striking the Chinese people worldwide. When we start dumping traditions like these and ditch mooncakes for banana splits, we're sending a powerful signal that we don't want our culture. The old topic of the Westernization of the yellow race isn't one I like to touch upon, but I have to admit it pretty much hurts me to hear of stories like these. Now I'm proud of my own race and my own culture. Sure, I cook pasta every now and then, and I'm fine with a good number of supposedly Western culinary delights and cultural traditions, but at the same time I truly love my own culture. Mid-Autumn is about mooncakes and tea; when I talk about mooncakes I think about the legendary tale of Chang-E the moon fairy, and I think about the Chinese uprising that supposedly triggered the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. How many people know or appreciate that? How many people care more about that than they do about, say, when Britney Spears' next crap album is coming out?

I'm fine if people say they don't want to touch mooncakes because of genuine health concerns. Those with blood pressure problems and such are justified in keeping strict diets. But people who aren't even willing to have a sampling of the food at all - just one or two whole mooncakes a year is not too much to ask, surely - are really something else. I can't expect to do anything about it to change their minds; I'm no dictator with godlike powers, and I don't enjoy softer approaches to persuade people because I don't think that's the right way to do it either. But I think people should stay in good, firm touch with their own culture.

Sometimes we do things like family reunion dinners on New Year's Eve for nothing more than the symbolism. The good spread on the table helps, but the symbolism comes first. There's nothing wrong with that. When we wash away the cultural symbolism and stop doing things like eating mooncakes and letting kids parade around with their beautiful lanterns, that's not good. When we all start subscribing to American cultural superiority, and we start believing that the sweetness of McFlurries and Hershey's pies is more palatable than the sweetness of mooncakes just because it's American and it's all around us, that's just setting off the klaxons in my head. It can't go on like that. We can't keep on shafting our own culture like that.

I hear about people switching to e-mooncakes. For the most part it's just some kind of interactive greeting card, and the intention is to spread love and happiness and stuff like that (I'm not a big fan of these things - the electronic greeting cards, I mean). That's fine, and people can send all the greeting cards they want. They just have to remember that the idea borrows heavily from the experience of eating real mooncakes. At the rate young people seem to be moving away from doing exactly that, it's a matter of time before the e-mooncake becomes something foreign as well because there's just no experience to relate to. It could be in two generations, or just one generation, maybe even less. That just scares me, because it means I'll see it in my lifetime. And I won't like it if (and I hope it's if and not when) it happens.

So, as we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, I leave you all with these thoughts.


gambitch [ 2:10 PM]

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hey guys, look what I found in the laundry!

That's just a prank line. A meaningless one, to be sure, but there's nothing in it.

I guess that's how it is when my brain's on enforced shutdown and I've left a few of my thoughts in the distillery. Every now and then I think it's good to learn to live life like a plant, doing nothing out of design just for a change. Okay, so I could talk for a moment about that Chuang Tzu story about two men thinking whether the fish is happy swimming in the river. But really, does anyone care? I don't. Do you?

I sometimes wonder whether I have a future in the entertainment industry. One of the things I had thought about picking up is the art of stand-up comedy. I'd like to think I won't exactly be half bad if I could con someone into becoming a partner. I'm the bantery type of stand-up comedian, which means I think I flop really badly when asked to do a one-person gig. I prefer feeding off someone and having laughs at the other person's expense. Of course I give as good as I get, so getting jokes off me is only fair game. But I like bantery stand-up comedy.

Unfortunately it seems that the local scene isn't interested in stand-up comedy. Or at least it is not part of the mainstream. And that's such a pity, because the mainstream here is hopelessly shallow. Just take tonight for instance. I had to watch a half-hour telematch-y programme that had practically nothing to sell, and another half-hour game show of sorts where I don't even know what the whole fuss was about. Maybe I'm a bit overfed on Taiwanese entertainment, but I'm increasingly disliking variety programmes that are only thirty minutes long. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's because it promotes a certain kind of sloppiness in programme production. I can't pin down the cause. And even if I did, what's the point?

"What's the point" is a phrase that keeps repeating itself often when I think about the local media scene. If it's not uttered out, then at least it enters my thoughts too often for my own liking. I could rant on and on about all sorts of different things that seem so atrociously wrong with the entertainment scene, but sometimes I wonder what's the point of saying all these things if we're going to keep on having some really pig-headed people running the show. Things like talent recruitment and development policies, things like what kind of shows to do and what kind of scripts to write, things too many to possibly enumerate and name. Just too many things are wrong, but even if I said them all, nothing will change, because I'm not the minister of culture and I don't sit on some content advisory board. Also, because I don't have half a million bucks in my bank account.

Once upon a time I wrote a whole thesis (well that's exaggerating, but you get the point) about how a single star actress was the embodiment of everything wrong with the television industry there. To this day, I maintain that view. Unfortunately, to this day, nothing has really fundamentally changed with the company in question. Which is why I fear that we'll soon be going back to rubbish days. But then, to quote one of my dear departed friends, "we deserve to be disappointed" because we don't have the courage (moral or otherwise) to stand up and say "No thanks, I'll switch to cable TV," and actually act on that threat. And even if we did, every country that has television has at least one terrestrial television studio. So we're stuck.

Pass me the salted bittergourd, please.

gambitch [ 10:53 PM]


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