Rant and Rave: A History Lesson

Singaporean theatre has evolved through the decades, much of it I was never involved in, not being born early enough. Not that it makes any difference to my enjoyment of The Finger Players’ “Rant and Rave”.

Running for 90 mins, and broken into 3 broad segments, the show gives a succinct recap of the formative 80s, the tumultuous 90s and the transformational 20th century of Singaporean theatre. Played by 2 amazing actresses, Arts NMP Janice Koh and veteran Karen Tan, both seamlessly weaving in and out of characters, with some characters played with such accuracy it brought a smile to my face the moment the character first appeared. I have to point out that Karen’s portrayal of Alvin Tan (Co-founder, The Necessary Stage) was so spot on that many members of the audience were heard giggling.

The one segment that I felt really strongly about was Arts and the Media. There are many times when I find that much of the arts community have this innate sense of martyrdom, and that they are quick to jump against what they perceive as injustice dealt to them, especially by the media. A recent memory was that of Straits Times Life! writer John Lui’s article where he commented about Ilo Ilo not going to be a box office hit in Singapore, despite all the winnings at various international award shows. So many theatre folks on my Facebook timeline went up in arms, calling Lui a fraud, a disgrace and whatever they can think of. The only thought I had at the point in time was, it’s just his opinion. Right or wrong, that’s up to the reader to determine. The industry complains so much about the government thinking that Singaporeans are stupid and not able to think for themselves, yet this incident shows that they don’t even believe Singaporeans are able to think for themselves and judge if an article has its merits or not.

Watching “Rant and Rave”, I feel really sorry for the art critics who are bashed, judged and scorned for their opinion piece. How can the practitioners expect their audience to have an open mind, if they themselves are not willing to give their audience some credit for having a mind of their own. I also do not believe in a comment that was made by a practitioner that basically judged theatre reviewers for their lack of understanding of the process of putting up a production. Why should they need to have that background or experience? Art is about what it means to the viewer, less so about what the director or scriptwriter wants to force down the audience’s throats. The reviewer’s job is to take his experience and put it into context for the person reading his article. A review is, in its very nature, subjective. The very nature of theatre is also the life it takes on its own, sometimes contrary to what the creator’s message really was. Different aspects of the same show will appeal and stand out to different people, and that has always been what makes theatre truly magical. Maybe, instead of snarling at the reviewers, we can take a step back and see how our works have been interpreted, and seek to understand the rationale behind the interpretation. It could even bring a whole new perspective to the show.

In any case, we have only been growing the arts scene for 30 years, I believe it is still too early to demand for maturity in all aspects. And that includes the arts practitioners, the critics, as well as the audience. All the major arts and cultural hubs around the world have had the vast history and more than half a century’s worth of evolution as their foundation and backbone. I also believe that all the challenges that the arts community currently face, will simply become fodder to continuously feed the public as we grow beyond fulfilling our basic needs of food and shelter, and seeking nourishment of the mind and soul.

“Rant and Rave” is on for one last show tomorrow afternoon as part of Esplanade The Studios Season 2014, and I recommend everyone to go catch it while you can.

X: Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock

I’ve been counting anniversaries a lot this year. 2014 is the 15th year since I’ve fallen in love with the band that changed my perspective, X-JAPAN.

Thinking back, there are many firsts that I can count that are related to X.

  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I downloaded from mIRC
  • First MV I searched for to watch was ‘Endless Rain’
  • First time I went to watch a movie (Windstruck) solely because of the ending song ‘Tears’
  • First celebrity that I researched online to find out about their history
  • First time I wrote to the radio station’s Japanese music program to request for a X special, and sending them all my research (I almost went on air as a guest, but I chickened out)
  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I tried to memorise the lyrics for by searching for the romanisation
  • Their ‘Perfect Best’ CD box set was also the first, and only, box set I have.

When I bought the ‘Perfect Best’ box set, I played it so often that I could memorise the order of the song, and I could recognize the song just from the opening few lines of music. The 2 CDs, together with Luna Sea’s compilation album, were always in my CD booklet that I carried around. I was always plugged into my Walkman and secretly hated meeting a classmate on the way to & from school, because I had to pause the music and socialize.

I’ve talked about X before, and even till now, I’m still impressed at the amount of strength & determination that is inside someone so seemingly vulnerable as yoshiki. Someone who is soft spoken, loves to giggle, and is so polite that he finds it hard to reject if you ask him more than once. Even when he gets mad, he’s adorable. But when it comes to music, the focus and the perfectionism shines through the roof. It was the most obvious when they were in the midst of their fifth, and what turned out to be the final, album “Dahlia”. The album took 3 years to write, record and produce, because yoshiki was tweaking it so much.

Enough about yoshiki. Even though yoshiki is definitely the soul of X, I love the band, not just him. Their creativity and songwriting skills were impressive, as well as their arrangement capabilities. I was 16 when I first listened to ‘Forever Love’ and toshi’s voice is nasal yet not annoyingly so, and the music was just enchanting. I was totally caught up in the melody, picturing it with the manga I was reading. X-1999 by CLAMP was what introduced me to X, if anyone really wants to know. It was the first time I realised how powerful music really is, the ability to pull you into a scenario and fire your imagination and emotions. It also struck me how important the vocalist / the voice really is. I didn’t understand the lyrics, didn’t know what it meant, but toshi’s voice matched the music so well, it’s like an instrument in itself, part of the entire arrangement. It was the first time that I realised that lyrics is not everything. You do not need lyrics to feel the emotions and message of a song, if it’s well written. This also set the foundation of my music taste till now.

The variety of music that they write is also another defining factor. Their styles range from various styles of metal, to classical, to acoustic, collaborations with philharmonic orchestras, purely piano ballads; it’s just simply amazing the range that they display. The tempo changes drastically mid-song in ‘Silent Jealousy’ and ‘Kurenai'; including even a short excerpt of ‘Swan Lake’ in ‘Silent Jealousy’.. They released a 30 min long single with one song, ‘Art of Life’, a song which brings you through various emotions

But what I really truly love about them, is that they are rebels. True rebels through and through. Why else would you persist in this pioneering road of visual kei in conservative Japan? KISS is acceptable, but only because they are gaijin, or foreigners. X is not. They are true blue Japanese. All that dressing up as Victorian chicks with long wavy hair and copious amounts of make-up was simply unfathomable to the Japanese, especially the media. But still, they sold albums. Amid all the hate, they sold tens of millions of albums, leaving those Japanese press with no choice but to grant them interviews. No major label wanted them, so they released their albums as an independent label. And they still sold albums. They write songs about sex and death and other taboo / unorthodox topics that were touchy in Japan. Yet they still sold albums.

I’m still waiting for the day I get to see them in Singapore. L’arc-en-ciel has been here. Luna Sea has been here. When will it be X? Every time I remember the Taiwan concert I went to, the emotions I felt when I was shouting WE ARE X!… I just wish I get to see them again, soon!

p/s. This post is posted today, because it is hide’s death anniversary today.

Annyeong Daehan Minguk!!!

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in South Korea, the first, and the only time I’ve been there was during the year end school holidays in 1999. I was only 16 at that time and the whole family went on a package tour. Don’t really remember much about the trip, only that we were luckier than the other bus in that we got a better local guide who kept us entertained with random jokes and stories. The first Korean word I learnt was ‘ippoyo’, because he said that it sounds like 一包藥 (a packet of medicine).

Those who know me will know that I’m loyal to a few Jrock bands, but otherwise my celebrity flings come and go at lightening speed. And I hardly pay much attention to a celebrity when they are at their peak, and only start being interested after they’ve passed it. Thus, 9 years after their debut, I’ve recently been taken up by Super Junior, and in particular Kim Heechul. He’s pretty, handsome, funny, witty, and crazy, all rolled in one. Just the type of unorthodox celebrity I’d like. Anyway, fan-girling aside, the whole reason I brought up Super Junior (other than continuously telling the world Heechul’s my bias), is that I’m finally going to South Korea again! After 15 long years!

Flying off in a few days and really looking forward to eating the local food and visiting all the tourist spots that I missed, and the museums that I didn’t get to see. Plus, maybe do a bit of Heenim stalking.

7 years of Twittering

2014-02-20 21.40.26

On this day (and time), 7 long years ago, I signed up for a little application called Twitter. Social Media, social networking, microblogging were not terms that were popular in those days and it was Twitter’s explosion at SXSW in 2007 that caught my attention and made me decide to try it out. It was an odd thing to use, as it forced users to be much more succinct than blogging, and you were not essentially communicating to any specific person like SMS services.

I was here,

  • Less than 1 year after the official launch on July 2006.
  • Just a little over 1 year from their founding date of March 2006.
  • One month after their wild popularity at SXSW in March 2007.

My Very First Tweet! #notmymostintelligenttweetunfortunately

firsttweet

Tweeting now is a lot simpler, cheaper (to non US / UK residents) and more meaningful than it used to be back in the early days (for me, at least). As an early adopter of this service, I’ve seen how Twitter can impact our daily lives and our social interactions, especially how it changes the way we accept how information is shared with us.

  • SMS shorthand

Unfortunately, I’m going to start with one of the annoying things that I believe is in part correlated to how users adapt to Twitter formats. Many of the newer users may not be aware that the reason why you are restricted in the number of characters in each tweet really goes back to how it was during the early days. There were 2 ways to send a twitter (as it was called in those days), via the web / via SMS to a UK based cell phone number. The 140 character limit that Twitter has is largely due to the restriction of characters in SMS. It had to be short to be able to be sent via SMS. This brevity means that if you want to say something a little longer than 140 characters, you had to get creative. So ins8 o typin in eng, u typ in shrthd so u cn put mre in a twttr dan norm. n typ lol so u cn luff.

[rant/] I remember I spent quite a bit of moolah on Twitter then, as we had to pay (~S$0.60) to send a tweet as it could only be sent via SMS to a UK number! For folks living in US or UK it was cheap, as they had local numbers to send to, but for all overseas users, each tweet actually cost us physical dollars. Plus, you get an SMS every time someone you follow tweets. So if you follow 10 people, and each person tweets 5 times a day, you would get 50 SMSes a day! It was so annoying that I even remember tweeting something like “People who twitter 3 times in a row needs to have a life.”. Imagine how invasive Twitter used to be without these mobile apps. [/rant]

  • Popularising of URL shortening services

This is definitely a result of Twitter. Even though URL shortening services were already available (Remember TinyURL?), their use was very much limited to sharing on IRC or for easy remembering. With the character limits of Twitter, if anyone wants to share links, it will be impossible to comment, as some article links just take up the full character limit. Thus services such as TinyURL became extremely useful. Why I believe Twitter is a mover in the URL shortening service world is really because TinyURL was launched in 2002, many years before Twitter, and it monopolised the URL shortening service ‘industry’. It had no competition, because usage was low. Then Twitter came about and with the character limit, the need for such services grew so much that many more blossomed, each domain getting shorter (bit.ly) and shorter (t.co). This is basic economics of demand and supply. Without Twitter users’ demand, TinyURL could be the sole supplier for more than 5 years, until that product could no longer satisfy the users’ needs (TinyURL’s shortened URL is 25 characters, yet bit.ly is 14 characters).

  • Instant information

What I mean by this is that before Twitter, we got opinions from blogs, news sites, forums; we got social updates from friends by texts, emails, phone calls, and meetups. With Twitter, there is instant updates about every thing they are doing, from what they are eating, reading, or watching; where they are going to; how they feel about the last meal they had… In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do with Twitter, so we over-shared.  It became a platform for regular people to be ‘famous’ by shouting out to the world. Then regular folks started getting into conversations with people they followed. People started sharing news and information about the things that are happening around the world. 2009 was an incredible year for Twitter. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) realised the brand enhancing power of Twitter and ballooned to 1M followers. Barack Obama won the US Presidential Election. Michael Jackson died. These news were spreading like wildfire and for the first time since the launch, Twitter found itself a new path. Even the company realised it, and changed the question asked to “What’s happening?”, instead of the previous “What are you doing?”

Whatever the type, these are all information. News, gossip, sightings, tips, all information that we can get as soon as the incident happens. There is no waiting a day for the newspapers to write it up, or the bloggers to draft a post analysing the situation. Everyone can be a reporter, posting updates on the fly. If you didn’t read it on Twitter when it happened, you would be getting ‘old’ news, because everybody else would have (I’m exaggerating, of course). This is sometimes to the point if you hear a rumour on the streets, your best bet would be to search Twitter. If it’s word on the streets, you bet it was tweeted first.

 

In any case, with this Anniversary, I became curious about how Twitter has grown over the years and their major changes and milestones. I can’t say I’ve watched Twitter grow up, as the cost put me off a bit, till I got a smartphone & Twitter got an app; but then work piled up, and the excuses went on… Now that Twitter has grown to the mammoth it is right now, and I’m back more actively in various forms, I went back in time to see what everyone else is saying on the internet. 

Dr 4ward posted a really interesting infographic of Twitter since it officially launched. I’m a bit curious why his number of registered users state that it’s 1.3M registered users in March 2008, when my Twitter ID seems to be #3,189,741… I’ve assumed that the Twitter ID is allocated sequentially, but a variety of possibilities could account for Dr 4ward’s numbers, such as deleted / suspended accounts, engineering test accounts etc. Though I have to say, the numbers are quite massive. Possibly Twitter did a major account wipe-out of dead accounts?

Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) from The Next Web created a new Twitter account to look at Twitter from an entirely new light.. I absolutely agree with what he says about handles deviating from the person’s names. When we were first asked to create a handle, all we could think of was just using our names, or variations of our names.. There were a lot of @jack @crystal @mhofner around.. Nowadays, you get more complicated handles

Newsweek hits the nail on the head back in 2007, when the article discussed Twitter, the lure and the potential.

More history of Twitter infographics on Mashable (@mashable). I love infographics!

Ah.. the good old times…

1 Step Forward, 10 Steps Back

So once again, Singaporeans discuss homosexuality. However, this time round, it’s not a discussion about repealing Section 377A (which I still maintain is archaic and should be abolished), but about our very own Health Promotion Board posting a FAQ on sexuality, and touched specifically on issues / topics surrounding homosexuality.

Screenshot from HPB:

hpbscreenshot

 

Other than an obvious filter for gays/bisexuals (where are the lesbians in this FAQ?), I was rather glad to see this type of information being available online with a neutral stand. Taking a sample question on “How and when will I know if I’m gay or bisexual?” The answer that was provided is neutral and provides simple & good information. 

hpbscreenshot2

 

So we can now all look to the sky with tears running down our faces, thinking how much of a progress this is for our nation.

BUT OF COURSE, WHO AM I KIDDING?

A Minister of Parliament has to feel ‘disappointed’

A magic-wielding pastor is shocked and deeply upset

Online petitions to take down the FAQ

Online petition to restore the FAQ

And more discussions online as usual, since this is the internet.

At the end of the day, there really isn’t anything different whether you are homosexual or heterosexual. I don’t even care if you are into bestiality if that’s what floats your boat. (I do judge pedophiles very much)

In a way, I’m glad we are having this type of conversations or discussions, or even moving one step forward at all.

Personally, I see Singaporeans as rebelling teenagers to their archaic parent / government. Some teenagers rebel and fight because they can, and for no particular reason. Most teenagers fight back because they finally see that things are not the way their parents say they are, and they are refusing to just swallow everything that their parents say without questioning. They are finally coming into their own skin and very eager to cultivate their own personality and be themselves for the first time. Those who succeed at changing their parents go on to become strong men and women; those who fail simply slide back into their personal oblivion. Most of us, however, find a middle road and pick the battles that actually matter to us, and let some things go. I think we will get to see who we truly become in the next couple of decades. It took us 50 years to get to this stage, I do not expect us to grow up as a nation in one or two elections. I just hope to see progress before I leave this world.

9 years of blogging

Amazingly, it has been 9 years since my first blog post. The first time I wrote something and posted it for the world to see. The first time I’d shared my thoughts with people I don’t know, and will possibly never get to know. Isn’t it quite incredible? That there are people who are interested in what you say and your thoughts and opinions. I will always be thankful that even though I’m just a little voice in the world, the internet is big enough to accommodate me.

Happy birthday to the blogging me.

 

The Master’s Sun

My first impression of Korean dramas started with Autumn’s Fairy Tale back in 2000, which was the first show that was brought into Singapore. Now, I have never had any liking to tear jerking shows that basically have the main characters cry from episode 1 to the last episode. And the story is all love drama with terribly unfortunate characters. And this was what Autumn’s Fairy Tale & the next show brought in, Winter Sonata, was like.

It wasn’t till My Name Is Kim Sam Soon in 2005 which finally gave me a different view of Korean dramas. The show, albeit really good, was not enough to reverse the impact the earlier shows had on my aversion to Korean dramas. Until The Master’s Sun.

Imagine a horror romantic comedy with cheesy situations and corny lines. Throw in great acting, charming actors & actresses, intriguing cinematography; perfect recipe for a great prime time drama! If there’s one reason to watch this show, it’s the awesome acting by the main female lead. She’s cute, pathetic, funny all rolled into one neat little package. And she actually convinces me that she can see ghosts and there are really ‘people’ around her.

It’s only 16 episodes and will end on 2 October 2013, so go watch it online!!!

wR4nQ4D