Saturday, February 24, 2007

We finally got to watch Ghost Rider after a couple of aborted attempts in the last week. Marvel's supernatural heroes have a niche audience, and GR is no exception. This movie, however, isn't going to turn him mainstream anytime soon.

The dour Day-Walker, Blade, made quite a credible transition to the movies by focusing the trilogy on lots of hard-hitting, tightly choreographed fight sequences, giving the audience at least a visual treat even if we didn't buy the plot. Sadly, GR is one Marvel character that can't make the transition without the use of CGI, and even CGI can't help a character whose head is a skull and is therefore virtually expressionless regardless of his circumstance.

So what to do? Call in Nick Cage to play Johnny Blaze, GR's human side. But though Cage plays tortured souls quite well, his skeletal other-half behaves with too much kiddish glee that the 2 sides don't mesh believably. While Blaze has to live with the consequences of his choices, "forsak[ing] friends, family and love," the stuff of human drama, GR is so invincible, so powerful that there is little that can threaten him and keep us on the edge of our seats.

It's even less thrilling when GR's nemeses, Blackheart and gang, fall so easily as GR takes them out one by one. That Blackheart himself falls due to his own stupidity makes this plot more worthy of a Saturday morning cartoon than it has potential for. Of course, dealing with the ultimate baddie, Mephistopheles, is another story. Literally.

A safe, kid-friendly rendition of a classic conflicted hero. The image of a demon on the side of the angels, a flaming skeleton in black leather-and-chains astride his All-American chopper looks cool but, like GR himself, this movie needs more meat on its bones.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sometimes I wonder if I'm being fair to the people who write in to the ST forum pages, in the way I select easy targets to pour my bile over. But some people's peeves are so badly argued, they really get my goat. Case in point:

Heng Cho Choon, who took the trouble to write in today in response to Roni Roberts, another forum writer from last week. This is truly a case of a knee-jerk reaction to a misreading of a phrase in Roberts' letter without any comprehension as to what Roberts was talking about in the first place:

I REFER to the letter, 'Important to take the time to understand a culture before making judgments' by Mr Roni Roberts (ST, Feb 16) in which he commented on whether HDB flat dwellers should or should not keep pets as 'an integral part of the family unit'.
If you read Roberts' letter, Roberts was simply relating survey data collected from HDB dwellers themselves about how they view their pets. He was not advocating anything of that nature either way.

Some people keep pets because they truly love them and care for them with utter devotion. They do not mind spending a fortune to take their pet to see the vet whenever it is sick. Some keep pets because they are childless and want to drive out the silence and monotony of the home.
Sounds supportive of pet owners at first, but attempts to be clever with sly digs at how pets are a waste of money and are no real substitute for children.

I once visited a friend who lives on the second level of a block of HDB flats. On the ground floor is a pet shop which sells birds and hamsters. Residents nearby have to put up with the noise, smell and mess 365 days of the year. With the spread of bird flu, I wonder if it is safe to live in such an environment.
Wow. He has a friend who actually lives in HDB housing, whom he took the trouble to visit once. I guess with the noise and smell and mess of the pet shop, he's never visited his poor friend again. This kind of prejudice has caused more animal deaths than bird flu has caused human deaths, if you think about it.

He goes on to talk about how people can be cruel to animals, and how we should have an animal cruelty police force to show that he is actually quite the humanitarian.

He then suggests that if we want our kids to have contact with animals, we should take them (the kids, not the animals) to the zoo or to the farms in Choa Chu Kang, anywhere as long as it's not in his own back yard....

How far off on a tangent can this guy get? If this was an Application Question response to Roberts' letter, it shows very poor comprehension skills, a high level of bias and prejudice, hijacking the question and running his own agenda, and little coherence in how his ideas flow from para to para. Fail, lor. And embarrass himself in public some more.

I'm worried for our GP kids because they constantly exhibit the same errors in their AQs. If we don't fix the problem quickly, the long-term effects could be devastating. The local papers might soon be filled with half-baked arguments like this one.

Just to be fair, Heng's letter is here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ST's "Mind Your Body" section has a story on how a bed-ridden Mr Lu, who's suffering from ALS, is being helped through his ailment by the 6 cats who live in the house with the family. The cats keep his mind off his worries, and their tendency to snuggle up to whomever they like and trust also give him some relief from his physical pain as well.

The same cats have helped the younger Lu through an episode of depression, and cope with his O levels.

Despite there being 6 cats, there is no mess. They just require food and water, and a clean sandbox. Not bad for low cost, low maintenance family healthcare.

Only 1 thing I can say about this story: I bet they don't live in an HDB flat.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Had a reunion of sorts with Anthony and Vince at the CSC lanes. As a team, we're out of practice though it didn't take too long for us to find our rhythm again.

I had an unusual starting game, hitting a turkey and a 4x4 for a total personal high of 227. Guess I had quite a bit of aggression to get off my chest first. Satiated after taking it out on the pins, I settled back into my usual scoring bracket for the rest of the game.

It was quite a fair match in that out of the 5 games we played, each of us won at least 1 game apiece.

Nice to catch up with the Boyz again. We're all struggling to clear our respective marking backlogs, so knowing that everyone is equal in our workload is quite comforting.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Day 2 of CNY means dim sum breakfast with the Wongs. We wanted somewhere other than our usual this year, so we made a reservation at Spring Court in Chinatown. No problem getting a table, we could even pick and choose which one we wanted since we were early.

We did, however, forget one crucial detail: no dim sum on the menu today, just a selection of CNY set meals at rather unappetizing prices. No thanks.

So the Wongs and I upped and dashed back across the street to Yan Palace, but because we hadn't made any reservation there, the place was already packed, no room for us. For the first time since I married into the family, we had to set our sights a little lower this year, and have our family brekkie at... McD's. Quite a break from tradition, and perhaps the start of a new one.

Still, we made up for our disappointing breakfast by having a late lunch at the Marche in Vivo. OK, also not particularly traditional, but at least they were open, and they could manage a table for 9. And their shopping.

The pix shows (L-R) M-i-l, s-i-l and wife pigging out on seafood paella, minestrone and deep-fried calamari. Not bad, though the variety at this Marche is limited, compared with the one that used to be at the Heeren.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Last night's reunion dinner was slightly different from the traditional 10-course. The clan met at the Chinese seafood place on Casuarina Road (the staff wear red Ts with"SWIFT" printed in front) for our annual feast. Apart from the now-mandatory new year lo hei, the other dishes were house specialties.

One thing about reunions is that occasionally we discover that our family tree extends further than we think. I found myself sitting next to Vince's CT/GP kid from a couple of years back, name of Rudy. He called my cousin "auntie", which makes me his uncle, sort of, twice removed, by marriage, that sort of thing. His mom said that it was fortunate I didn't teach him, else I'd have lots of stories to tell about how naughty he was. I was thinking, vice versa.

In my usual fashion, I blessed our newfound family togetherness by showering him with crab shell and gravy from an ineptly applied nutcracker to a large, tasty pincer. From the corner of my eye, I could see his mom discreetly picking stuff out of his hair. Oops.

Oh well, happy year of the pig, people!