Saturday, December 11, 2010

Makin' bacon (or eggs and green ham)

Happy Angry Bird Day Angry Birds!!! 'nuff said about my latest time-wasting indulgence. I have other important things to do too. Like expunging more ovivorous sus domestica with enraged avians.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Amazing Race: Narnia

I read the book and watched the movie, but I still don't quite get the point (if any) CS Lewis was trying to make in 'Dawn Treader'. Narnia:VDT reduced the vastness of the Narnian conflict of the previous two movies down to an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt on board a Pirates of the Caribbean wooden vessel. While the change of scale made for more focused storytelling, the plot felt like a series of episodic challenges in a checkpoint-to-checkpoint run with a souvenir to collect at every stop.

Now, scavenger hunts are fun, especially when the seekers don't always act in unison; argue and bicker a lot; and vent their frustration over their or their teammate's incompetence. That's why we like watching the Amazing Race so much. But I've come to expect that the conflicts in Narnia are bigger than that.

Narnian conflicts are clashes of wills between implacable foes that scheme and strategize against one another. Both sides are usually fleshed out, their natures explored and agenda laid bare. But VDT is more one-sided, POV firmly fixed on the Treader crew while the audience isn't sure if the antagonist has an agenda or is even intelligent in any way. There are no hints as to its plans or ambitions other than randomly capturing hapless Narnians and keeping them together aboard longboats awaiting... what? Rescue?

Perhaps this installment was just meant to introduce a new player in Aslan's Grand Design: Eustace, the skeptic. A disbeliever, a complainer, has a scientific turn of mind but totally unimaginative because of it, Eustace starts out quite useless to anyone. It isn't until he learns how fallible he is, and how dearly his mistakes have cost him that he grows to eventually become the salvation of the Treader's crew when times are darkest.

Oh, wait. Maybe that is Lewis' point right there. Conflicts are not always large-scale; often they are personal and internal. Threats are not always definable, yet they are no less dangerous if left unchecked. The key advice for the crew is not to give in to temptation -- mostly the temptation to strangle Eustace. As for Eustace, Aslan can find redemption for even him and turn him from impediment to a key partner in the Treader's success.

Despite not being too impressed with the overall storyline, the going home sequence has never failed to get to me. At this point Aslan finally shows up and commends our heroes for a job well done, then rewards them by returning them to their drab, mundane, everyday existences, occasionally telling them they can't come back. Regardless, they're a little stronger, wiser and more able to deal with life's curveballs for their experience. If handled well, crisis will do that to you every time.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The crack in the Hoover Dam

Although media freedom is a value I would like to see pursued, I can't support Wikileaks approach towards it. I see Wikileaks as having killed the golden goose even before it had a chance to lay an egg.

For me, the main problem is that Wikileaks has been selective about what kind of information and, more importantly, whose information to release. Of all the secrets in the world, it's been targeting one particular country's to expose, the USA. Because Wikileaks hasn't also published the secrets of the more security conscious nations, like China or Russia at the same scale at the same time, the USA has become severely disadvantaged strategically, diplomatically, and not to mention the loss of face in the global community.

Now because of 'disclosures... that Nato had secretly prepared a plan in case Russia invaded its Baltic neighbours.... Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Nato had to explain why it privately considered Russia an enemy while publicly describing it warmly as a "strategic partner" and ally.' Russia clearly has the moral high ground here, but only because Wikileaks hasn't seen fit to publish or has been unable to obtain similar plans from the Russian side of the border. It would be naive to assume that Russia doesn't have one of its own.

If it's freedom of information Wikileaks wants, it should have the resourcefulness and courage to publish such information from the more closed up nations too, like North Korea and Iran, that are much bigger mysteries to us in terms of their global agenda. At least, be fair and lay bare everybody's secrets all at once and not just pick on the one nation that also happens to be actively campaigning FOR information freedom. Or rather, was.

What's happened is that Wikileaks has exposed one player's poker hand while the game is still going on. Sure, the player may have a hidden ace or three up his sleeve, but so have all the other players. It's the whole corrupt game we want to end, and not just punish the least discreet player for not keeping his cards closer to his chest. It's no wonder, then, that the Obama Administration which once promised an increase in information freedom suddenly now has to fix the huge crack in the Hoover Dam that Wikileaks caused -- which they now use as evidence that the President is going back on his word, thus justifying their actions.

And now the thugs who are taking 'vengeance' on organizations that are distancing themselves from the horn-tooter whistle-blower website are just being ironic. They call their own organization 'Anonymous' and use cute codenames although they're all for transparency and no secrets. I guess it's ok for them to have access to other's secrets as long as they don't have to share their's.

Openness and transparency are earned through the building up of trust. They cannot be achieved by eavesdropping, coercion and blackmail, which instead tends to have the opposite effect. If anything is to be learned from this event, it's that information is going to be locked up tighter. There'll be more paranoia, more security and more filters to put an end to further 'leaks'. Instead of a world with more freedom, we're going to be a lot more careful about what we say and whom we say it to, while looking over our shoulders to make sure no one else is listening in. Thanks a lot, Mr Assange.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A coffee, an e-book and thou

Sitting at a neighbourhood Starbucks takin' it easy with my Tab as an e-book reader. It feels a bit self-referential reading Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything". It's all about me, and you, but from a vast historical, scientific (in all its myriad branches), geological and cosmological perspective.

I'm like taking forever to get to the end, but it's a story that spans all of the beginning of time and the 4.5 plus billion years for life on Earth to get here, so I should be entitled to ooze my way through the chapters.

But this entry isn't a book review. Just an observation that having an e-book reader means having almost the entire library of materials published or otherwise shared by humanity compactly placed in my pocket. It's an idea I haven't stopped gushing over yet.

True, there are limits like access, though cheap, still costs money; and maximum memory storage is only(!) 32gb, but still that can contain a LOT of books already. But toting around a Tab for an e-reader also gives me access to other distractions, like what I'm doing now, as and when I want to vary my media indulgences.

Oh, and the other reason why I've gone with the Tab, NBS, is because it's a size that is pocket-portable enough and yet with screen real estate large enough for my ageing eyes to view text without having to keep scrolling all the time.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Blessings from an old friend

Here's a name I haven't heard from in a long time. Our last contact was way back in '92. Through the miracle of social networking, -- she found a nearly defunct email addy of mine -- Chik and I have touched base once again.

In the span of years between us, I have been piddling around with electronic self-publication while she has gone commercial. See? An autographed copy of her first paperback anthology of Christmas themed stories (available from which she mailed over as a season's greeting.

Her stories are totally family-friendly, each presenting a strong moral point focusing on the Christian perspective of the purpose and meaning of Christmas.

A few are contemporary adaptations of biblical tales and other familiar narratives. Because they have realistic settings, easily identifiable characters, and very down-to-earth plotlines, they all have the potential to be re-adapted as short before-sermon dramas.

Anyway, it's a very novel greeting card from a very novel person. Thanks, Chik! Congratulations on being a published auteur, and all the best to you and yours this Christmas season!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Nex, please!

Trying out mobile blogging on my Tab. I'm now at Nex, the new mall that's just opened in the Serangoon heartland.

If ever we needed a place to hang out after work, this mall is a dream come true, and more! Don't be fooled by the entrance area. This mall starts out in narrow corridors but gets bigger as we go further in. It's designed almost like an inverted pyramid. The higher you go, the more shopping outlets become available.

Say goodbye to our cherished Cherish award! There're so many food options, from burgers to Japanese to, well, name any chain of popular food and it'll likely be represented here in one form or another. Cheap, expensive, multicultural, it's all here.

Lunch for me was a quarter pound Wendy's. The burger tasted as I remember, except in a proportion more suited to an American conception of Asian appetites. They don't understand us too well, do they? But what impressed was the speed at which the counter staff got to me depspite a long queue, and how attentive a table cleaner, Lisa, was. She noticed that I had not been issued any sugar or creamer for my tea. I said to "gimme some sugar, baby," and she readily obliged.

I can see this mall is going to be a great hangout for us staff and kids alike. Now, if only we could find the time when the new year begins.