The joy of a moonlit night

So I thought this quote was interesting:

“The true joy of a moonlit night is something we no longer understand. Only the men of old, when there were no lights, could understand the true joy of a moonlit night.” – the guest, “Toward Winter”, Yasunari Kawabata, 1926

My folks got married on 8 Sep thirty years ago, and tomorrow they are going away for a few days all by themselves.

Thirty years ago, like it was this year, 8 Sep was the fifteenth day of the lunar month, and the moon was round and round.

Love Letter

So I’ve had the VCD of this Japanese movie for years, and I just decided to watch it tonight. The movie involves Hiroko, a young woman whose fiance – Fujii – had died in a mountaineering accident. Two years later, she finds his address in his high school yearbook, and writes him a letter. And to her wonder, it is answered. It turns out a young woman with his name now lives there. Through a steady exchange of short poignant letters, Hiroko realises that this young woman had been her fiance’s classmate, and Hiroko asks her new penpal to tell her more about her fiance.

Thought it was a really enjoyable, touching movie, but I was a bit disappointed about the ending. Some more things I think I think:

  • The movie was beautifully filmed. Most of it was shot in winter, with snow. Snow is just so evocative visually, isn’t it? People who live where snow is a natural occurrence must surely experience life differently from people who live elsewhere. They would have different metaphors, different frames of reference…
  • Hiroko must have really missed her fiance to have written that first letter:

“Dear Fujii Itsuke,
How are you? I am very well.
Hiroko Watanabe”

  • It must have been strange, learning about a lost love from someone who knew him before she did. (Here I am, talking about the movie as if it were real.) In one of her letters, Hiroko wrote: “There must be many places and times he was in. I probably know only a portion of him.” I think that is so true, and lucky couples get most of their lives to find out more about their loved ones.
  • To me, the movie was about how people leave marks in one’s life and lost opportunities for love. It made me wish I had been braver when I was in school.

I heartily recommend this movie. If you want to watch it, drop me an email, and I can pass the VCD to you :)

A bitter rant

So I was thinking about this upcoming IMF meeting, and the lengths to which our government is going to show Singapore in the best light possible.

Can’t help but feel everything’s a bit too mercenary (flowers and new paint for the high-rollers and important people) and staged (smiles and service training). But I guess that’s what one may feel when one is not the target of all these efforts lah. It almost feels as if citizens normally aren’t worth this effort…

Still, I’m sure loads of Singapore folks – the retailers, security folks, drivers, tour guides, tour attraction operators, hotels and restaurant operators and more and more – are going to benefit.

Gosh I sound bitter…

Reading

So I think I’m carrying my reading binge a bit too far. Over the past three months, off the top of my head I believe I have finished or partially read over a dozen books. Now that I think of it, that’s like a book a week, so it’s not as if it’s an groundbreaking feat or anything like that – it’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever read so much in such a span of time in my life. What does this mean, I wonder.

Okay, that’s enough wondering. The thing about me is, I leave my books lying in piles around my room, so it’s easy to track my reading choices. I realised there were four books I’ve left lying around, partially read, for a couple of months liao:

The Daily Drucker – Peter F Drucker Started on this a while back, before Mr Drucker passed away. I have not read enough of his work and others’ work to know for myself how significant he is, but many more knowledgeable than me think of him as a sage in the management field. This particular book is organised into 366 pithy executive summaries, and I’m stuck on 7 May. I plan to start again on this one soon.

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories – Yasunari Kawabata Bought this attracted by the short-short stories. Some of them are barely 3 minutes long. I like to write, and reading some of these stories help me understand how plots can unravel in the tightest of spaces.

Developing strategic thought – Bob Garratt, ed. Was recommended this book by Weijie. Reading this book made me realise how ingrained the habit of reading a book from cover to cover is. I couldn’t just read only the chapters that sounded interesting to me; I just couldn’t.

I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume The idea of a cat as narrator intrigued me.

Books I’ve read in the last three months include:

A right to die – Rex Stout; Homicide trinity – Rex Stout; Three for the chair – Rex Stout Am a huge fan of Rex Stout, who wrote nominally in the genre of mysteries. To me, his stories about the eccentric garrulous gourmand detective Nero Wolfe and his wisecracking worldly sidekick Archie Goodwin represent the most realised fictional world ever. I love so much to read about them and spend time in their company that I re-read his books most nights before falling asleep.

First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham; The One Thing You Need to Know – Marcus Buckingham
Thought the books made a lot of sense. Would be a good experience to interview the folks he did to gain these insights, I think.

Teacher Man – Frank McCourt Teaching always struck me as an increasingly thankless career choice in Singapore. Frank McCourt’s memoirs about his travails as a teacher were funny, heartening and inspiring. I think learning is a human instinct, and all young people want to learn, and teachers can make a big difference.

Books I’ve started in the last couple of weeks and will finish [grim, determined look on face]:

The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman My own interpretation of a flat world was from the point of view of diffusion of knowledge or innovation – generally, if you are plugged into this flat world (and one could make the argument that more than half the world’s population are not), you can now have access to new knowledge very quickly. I think from what I’ve read so far (merely 30-plus pages) Friedman’s flat world refers more to an equality in power – every individual with access to this flat world can now become a powerful individual and advance his or her interests. Not so sure I agree with that yet.

What Should I Do with My Life? – Po Bronson I am asking this question, so I wanted to to see what other folks had to say. I suppose I was looking for a short-cut, an easier way to determining and achieving my end/meaning/desire/goal, but from what I’ve read, the book essentially says: there are many ways of arriving at a satisfying, energising state that resonates with your core. And I think this is both an encouraging thing, and a letdown. The search shall go on…

Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury I used to be a big sci-fi fan, and therefore a big Ray Bradbury fan. This book has been a really encouraging, motivating read so far.

Winning – Jack Welch A couple of speakers I heard recently mentioned this book, so I’m reading it :D

P/S. Am trying out a new “skin” for my blog :)

Tasteless (pun intended)


Got this image off today’s Life!, and I have to say I think this is a really tasteless ad. But I suppose it’s attention-grabbing and unlikely to corrupt minors. Wouldn’t have thought the actress would endorse an ad campaign like this, but apparently she “loves the new Imedeen ‘I Swallow’ campaign” and thinks it’s “a fun and refreshing concept”. Imedeen’s International Communications Manager said, “The upfront, teasing direction of Imedeen’s ad campaign was aimed at breaking away from the typecast, thereby creating a campaign that speak to the modern woman.”

Well, if there are any modern women reading this, do let me know whether this particular ad campaign actually spoke to you…

Roger Federer

So I saw this really readable David Foster Wallace article on Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis world number one by a considerable margin. If you’re a tennis fan, you may want to check out especially the second paragraph describing a typical jaw-dropping Federer moment. I think tennis is going to enjoy a mild surge in popularity (the fan base is still too small globally and Federer is too dominant for the surge to be a huge one) purely because of Federer’s transcendental talent – he makes tennis exceedingly watchable.

P/S. This David Foster Wallace person sure can write.

You're… er… a few fries short of a Happy Meal…

So I had bookmarked this podcast about Slate‘s Euphemism Contest a couple of weeks back, and I finally got around to listening to it. The podcast hosts had invited listeners to submit euphemisms for “stupid”. For example, the subject of this little post: “a few fries short of a Happy Meal”. The podcast was quite funny. You should really download it and listen to it if you can. I particularly liked these ones:

His elevator doesn’t go to the top floor (or its Spanish counterpart: His pail doesn’t come up to the top of the well)

The wheel is turning but the hamster is dead [A bit morbid, this one.]

As sharp as a blimp / the leading edge of a basketball [There must be many, many of these similes around…]

He’s got his solar panels on the north side [Err… I don’t know… even if they’re on the north side, they’ll get some sun, no? But I liked the thought put into this one.]

At the blackjack table of life, he stands at 11 [If you don’t get this, see if you can ask someone who plays blackjack to explain this to you.]

All vacuum and no tube [Very evocative, this one.]

Homeschooled by poodles [Well, at least one would know how to bark and prance around…]

His faculties will never be tenured [For those pursuing higher education :p]

Leader as shepherd

So a few days ago, I heard Mr Lim Siong Guan speak about leadership. I knew who he was, and had heard someone I respect say that he was an inspiration, so I was impressed with the man even before this. After hearing him speak, I came away a little disappointed with the quality of the presentation – the slides were obviously ill-prepared – but even more impressed with the man.

Of many interesting things he mentioned, one was the idea that a leader can be compared to a shepherd (the way shepherds are in the Middle East, not those in Australia and New Zealand, who I understand rely a lot more on sheepdogs).

A shepherd has a crooked staff. This is so that while he directs his flock across the meadows and fields to graze, if a sheep should fall into a ditch, he can help it up. A leader likewise supports his charges when they have difficulties.

A shepherd wields a strong stick. This is not to cajole or threaten his flock to go where he wants them to go, but to drive away predators that may endanger his flock. A leader likewise protects his charges.

Sometimes you will see a shepherd lugging a lame sheep, usually a lamb, around his shoulders. There are always a few sheep in a flock that persist in going in different, more dangerous directions, possibly into ravines or cliff edges. So, to prevent the rest of his flock from coming to harm, the shepherd may break the disobedient sheep’s leg. But since it then cannot walk, the shepherd would have to carry the sheep around his shoulders and nurse it back to health. A leader likewise has a responsibility to his charges to prevent unproductive or detrimental elements from affecting the team’s work.

I think that’s interesting – the concept of leaders as shepherds.

Eyes on me

So “Eyes on me”, that not-very-well-pronounced but still captivating theme song of the hit role-playing game Final Fantasy VIII, is playing on my iTunes now. Faye Wong has such a fantastic voice, and the song lyrics are sometimes so evocative (“I kind of liked it your way, how you shyly placed your eyes on me; did you ever know that I had mine on you?” always gets me), that one can more or less overlook the mis-pronounciations. (Wait, I need to stop typing a bit – the flute part is just starting to play now…)

I’ve never played FF8, though my sis is a gi-normous fan (she hates Rinoa, I think). I first heard “Eyes on me” when I saw the music video. This girl with a serious case of porcelain complexion was on the screen, and I instinctively saw that the grass in the meadow on which she was prancing was too green, too well defined, the shadows too sharp-edged. And after about ten minutes of playing the video on a loop and struggling to visually comprehend it, I realised it was animation – the girl with the serious case of porcelain complexion was a cartoon, albeit with the most lifelike of expressions. Heh – as I listen to the song now I can remember exactly how I felt; I can feel again what I felt: the wonder of it; staring at the girl’s flawless complexion and thinking that’s too perfect, it’s got to be animation; then seeing the girl smile a quick wry smile, smile in her eyes, in the most natural motion imaginable and thinking, that cannot be fake.

It was only after I convinced myself that it was animation that I realised that Faye Wong was singing this incredibly moving song, with its kooky yet touching lyrics and nigh-perfect blend of Faye Wong’s voice and orchestraic composition.

Through the magic of youtube, many community-produced versions of the “Eyes on me” music video can be viewed. Here’s one. Enjoy.

A little tip for youtube newbies: Hit the “play” button, then hit it again to pause the video. This allows the video to download. Wait for the entire video to download before hitting “play” again to savour the video in its uninterrupted entirety :)

P/S. Found this little tidbit about the role of the song in the continuity of the game world on wikipedia. Amazing how deeply realised game worlds are.