Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Merdeka 51st Birthday Malaysia!!!

Above: Iban National Costume, one of the ethnic costumes of Malaysia...

Above: I love the new Malaysian Airline tagline...: "More than just an airline code;MH is Malaysian Hospitality" heh??

Above: Bringing a little bit of Penang hawker fare to Sydney .....

Above: Someone whom obviously loves his country alot:)
More Pix on my Online Photo Album at the Right Hand Side...

Happy 51st Merdeka Day Malaysia!! Today marks the 51st Anniversary of Independence Day for Malaysia (Malaysia gained its independence in 1957). I spent it at the Malaysia Fest at Darling Harbour(or as it is also known:M-Fest)...apparently its held annually but i only knew about it this year......
It was a fantastic way to spend the Merdeka Day Independence and I thoroughly enjoyed it...there was fantastic Malay, Indian, and Chinese Dance as well as a fashion show showcasing the myriad of traditional costumes found in Malaysia...(personally, i found the highlights to be the Indian dance and the traditional costume fashion show;)
The food was ok, but then again, nothing beats the good ol' fare you can find back home in Malaysia, not least its culinary capital of Penang (my hometown,hehe)...

So...Happy Merdeka Day Malaysia!!!~~~

Update 9/9/08: Anwar Ibrahim of the Pakatan Rakyat (Malaysian Opposition Alliance) has won the by-election at Permatang Pauh....this has catapulted him back into Malaysia's parliament and also paves the way for him to set up a new government (if it happens, it'd be the first time that Malaysia has had a change of government since gaining its independence in 1957!) . He'd have to persuade around 30 odd legislators to defect from the ruling Barisan Nasional alliance coalition to the Opposition by September 16 (his set date to form a new government). He has already declared that if he were to become the next PM, he would dismantle the NEP policy (the preferential treatment for majority muslim malays policy in force since the early 70s) and set up a new system based on needs and merit covering all races...hoorah...long overdue. I hope he wins...but even if not, its fine too, just means that the opposition gets more time to practice governing the five important states they currently already hold;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 15, The 63rd Anniversary of the End of WW2..抗日戰爭終戰63週年... 第二次世界大戦終戦63周年...

As per usual, I'll be posting a special anniversary post for the End of WW2. As i do every year, come August 15th, I post a post commemorating the end of that important and poignant time in our historical consciousness and in our time.

This year marks the 63rd Anniversary of the End of WW2. This year, I shall be focusing on some movies which are coming up or have been released in the last few yrs with a focus on WW2 and Japan. Different from past yrs, I will not be mentioning Chinese films with a japanese world war 2 theme anymore but will shift my focus to non-Chinese films dealing with the period of the pacific war....

Films below, one from the Philippines (a country i've grown fond of and have a positive image of due to their wonderful entertainment and celebrities) and the other from Australia ( A place which i've grown to leave a special place in my heart, for the land and its ppl, having lived here for the past 7 or more years):

The Philippines:

'Mahal Kita 1941' (2004):

This was one movie I DESPERATELY wanted to see, with my current year long love-affair with pinoy entertainment and not least being the break-out film for Dennis Trillo as a cross-dressing gay spy whom falls in love with a Japanese military officer stationed at the small town of St Nicholas, in the Philippines. Dennis plays the gay friend of Judy Ann-Santos and they with another guy have been best mates since childhood...the film opens with this elderly filipino woman whom wakes up from a nightmare and is taken by her granddaughter to meet the town planners whom are planning a celebration for the town and wanted to get her to tell them abit more about the town's history (or what i can make out cos the film was in tagalog with no eng subs!!) So basically the grandmother now starts telling her story. The film shows the friendship of the three children and then fast forwards to 1941 on the eve of WW2. Somehow, there's a town night gala and Dennis cross-dresses and sings amazingly as a woman...Judy falls for the other guy and the two get engaged whilst Dennis secretly also loves the childhood buddy of his but knows its impossible as his friend and other best friend Judy truly love each other (and besides, his friend is not gay) and so wishes the very best for the two of them. One day, the Japanese attack and as the troops march into St Nicholas, the Japanese officer sees Dennis singing on stage at a town gathering (as a woman of course) and falls in love with him...I won't go on anymore but do try to watch the film..i liked this gay subplot in a mainstream film about WW2, i mean where else can you get brokeback mountain set in a town with the backdrop of WW2 but Filipino films??!! Hahaha...dun i just love Pinoy films??


'Australia' (2008):

I have been HIGHLY ANTICIPATING this film's release since early this year and just can't wait for its release!!!;) At last, a big-budgeted Hollywood (Australia's biggest n largest film in history actually!) production which deals directly with the Japanese expansion during WW2, since 'Pearl Harbor' in 2001. It is an epic love story set in 1940s Darwin, Australia up north, and the only part of Australia that was directly attacked by the Japanese during WW2. ( In fact, like America, Australia has only ever been attacked by the Japanese with no outside countries having attacked American or Australian home soil besides the Japanese during Ww2.)

Nicole Kidman is in it which is one big reason for my anticipation for the film as she's simply beautiful and stunning and also in the film, there's a slight Chinese theme with the main night evening outdoor party they're at having asian style lanterns lighting up the nightsky and even more amazing (for a cheongsam fan like me) is the fact that Nicole is wearing an unmistakably red chinese-inspired dress in one of the scenes in the trailer watch out for that people!! It premieres in Australia this year on 13th November 2008 (one of the few films to get an Australian premiere but with the title and the theme, no surprise i guess?) and worldwide starting in late December in time for the christmas blockbuster period...i'll definitely be one of the first to watch it and heck its even ignited my interest in the Bombing of Darwin and i've done some research on wikipedia since then as well as set up my mind that i'd visit Uluru, the Outback, and most definitely Darwin just before I leave Australia in the future;)
Australia" is Baz Luhrmann's first feature film since the 2001 musical success Moulin Rouge! The highly anticipated film centres on an English aristocrat in the 1930s, played by Nicole Kidman, who comes to northern Australia to sell a cattle property the size of Belgium. After an epic journey across the country with a rough-hewn drover, Hugh Jackman, they are caught in the bombing of Darwin during World War II.

Australia (homepage and trailer)

As a sidenote, being watching the Olympics in Beijing and its been good...loved the Opening Ceremony however, a few pretty major faults! For instance, the usage of special effects to compliment the natural fireworks was totally inappropriate and a big wonder i thought it looked pretty fake when i was watching it! Further, one of the worst things that they did was to pre-record and have the girl lip-sync the song during one of the sequences ...and you know why they did that?? Cos they were of the opinion that the girl who ACTUALLY sang the song (yep, u got that right, the 'voice' behind the song sang was NOT of the girl we all saw at the opening ceremony) was not 'cute' or 'pretty' enough and thus she could only record her voice for the opening ceremony whereas the 'pretty enough' girl was deemed to be 'presentable' enough but not to have a good enough voice was allowed to take all the credit for about sexism...we are starting young aren't we?? (there was already abit of controversy earlier on when it was disclosed only tall,slender, and fair young ladies would be chosen to be medal presenters..)

I mean when i first heard about the pre-recorded voice and not-pretty-enough incident, what came instantly to my mind, besides being real angry about it, was the Korean surprise box-office hit '200 pound beauty'...(trailer:; full movie:

In the film, the main protagonist was considered too fat to be the lead singer and so she had to 'hide' behind the sexy lead singer singing all the songs for her (the lead singer didn't have a good enough voice)...and that film's underlying message (at least to me) was about the sexism which occurs in our society even now (even though it was set in Korea, i think it still applies to us all....) and of how, women are still judged on their looks first and foremost...guess the organisers behind the Beijing Olympics didn't see that film? Or never understood the message behind that film?

But bad points aside, i think the plus side of the Opening Ceremony was that i felt the massive scene of all the men beating the drums was breathtaking and also i loved the fact they allowed all the guys at the end to wear a cap worn backwards on their head..i thought that made them look real cool and casual...and my favourite scene was of the little girl drawing her kite along over the world renowned pianist Lang Lang playing the piano with a group of performers with lighting around their bodies forming the image of the Olympic Stadium..i thought that looked real for the Olympics Tally, my am I amazed at China's record with it currently far ahead of the USA and on top of the medal score tally...its makes me feel real proud to be Chinese actually..i never thought the Chinese were a race capable of such athletic performance, academically yes, in the field of science or maths, but it just never occured to me that even in the field of sports the Chinese could outperform physically compared to other has certainly made an impression on me and am sure changed the perception of others towards the Chinese. Talk about ethnic pride!!

But of cos i am incredibly proud of Malaysia's single silver medal won by Lee Chong Wei, whom is from where-else than my beloved hometown of Penang!! hehehe, this is Malaysia's first Olympic medal of any colour in 12 yrs;) He apologised for not being able to beat China's athlete who won gold but i believe he has nothing to apologise for, he has done ALL Malaysians proud, and certainly made me proud of his achievement, not least being another shining example of the quality and amazing people whom come from Penang.

Go-go-go China and Go-go-go Malaysia!!!! And one phrase which has become commonplace and heard at sporting venues since the Olympics started: Jia You, Jia You, Jia You!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Beijing Summer Olympic Games 2008 special posts...!!!

Above: Awe-inspiring photos of the Beijing Olympics Main Stadium, nicknamed the 'Bird's nest'...

China unveils its 'soft-power' campaign: Canonize Confucius, no mention of Mao

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
August 6, 2008 at 3:05 AM EDT
BEIJING — You won't find mention of any Communist leaders in the glossy "Introduction to China" brochures that are being distributed to 21,000 foreign journalists at the Olympics this week.
Instead of revolutionary heroes such as Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, the official brochures prefer to extol an ancient philosopher who is becoming the figurehead for China's new national identity: Confucius.
At the glitzy show that China will unveil to the world at the opening ceremonies on Friday, it is Confucius again who will be exalted.
Leaks from rehearsals suggest there will be no mention of Mao or any other Communist, but plenty of ancient dynasties, calligraphy, painting, giant scrolls and a quotation from Confucius about the pleasure of welcoming "friends who visit from afar."

The long-awaited opening of the Beijing Olympics, the biggest event in China's recent political history, will help define China's emerging self-image as it shifts into a new era of power and pride on the global stage.
Reaching deep into its pre-revolutionary history, China is increasingly drawing on the patriotism of its people, a patriotism based not on ideology but on the glories of China's ancient culture, bolstered today by the technological and military prowess of an economic superpower.
At the opening ceremonies, the Chinese will emphasize the "Four Great Inventions" - printing, papermaking, gunpowder and the compass - that China gave to the world.
It's a way of evoking Chinese pride in its ancient - rather than revolutionary - history.
Confucian ideas, which were banned in the Maoist era, are mounting a resurgence under China's new leaders, whose emphasis on social harmony has strong echoes of Confucianism.
The Olympics will mark their debut in the global spotlight before an audience of billions around the world.

Some observers are optimistic that the Olympics could signal the beginning of China's shift away from the Maoist tradition, which drew on the earliest Chinese emperors and their Legalist ideas of a powerful state, harsh laws and blind obedience to the ruler.
"I see the Olympics and the opening ceremonies as a chance to symbolize an important transformation in China's self-image," says Daniel Bell, a Canadian scholar who is now a political philosophy professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"For most of the 20th century, China viewed itself as a weak and vulnerable country that has been denied its historical place in the sun," said Dr. Bell, author of China's New Confucianism, a book published this year.

"It was bullied by foreign powers, and it drew upon the Legalist tradition to ruthlessly strengthen the state and mobilize the people for that purpose. Now that it's more powerful and has begun to re-establish its 'deserved' place in the sun, it can relax a bit, and the traditional Confucian ways of 'soft power' can begin to reassert themselves."
It's not a coincidence that China's biggest soft-power campaign these days is its financing of an international network of Confucius Institutes, academies that promote the Chinese language and culture. China has established more than 140 such institutes in at least 50 countries and regions around the world, and they are prominently praised in China's literature for the visiting Olympic journalists.

In his new book, Dr. Bell points out that Confucian classics are now taught at the Communist Party's central school in Beijing. He describes how senior Chinese officials have held meetings with Confucian scholars who want Confucian material to replace the Marxist curriculum at Communist schools.

"It is not entirely fanciful to surmise that the Chinese Communist Party will be relabelled the Chinese Confucian Party in the next couple of decades," Dr. Bell writes in the book.
If the future brings a softer China with more Confucian influences, it may stem from the country's greater confidence in itself. A recent survey of more than 3,200 Chinese citizens, conducted for the Washington-based Pew Research Center, found a fast-growing sense of self-confidence and satisfaction.
For example, the poll found that 58 per cent of Chinese citizens believe that China will surpass the United States as the world's dominant superpower, or has already surpassed it. By comparison, only 43 per cent of people in other countries have the same belief, the poll found.
The survey also found that 86 per cent of Chinese are satisfied with the country's direction, compared with 48 per cent in 2002. It was the highest level of satisfaction among the 24 nations surveyed in the poll, fully 25 percentage points ahead of Australia, the country with the next-highest level of satisfaction.

Interviews in the streets of Beijing show that many people have suffered inconveniences or even hardship as a result of the Olympics, yet the vast majority still support the Games.
One 47-year-old restaurateur, who lives near one of the Olympic venues, said the government had shut down her small restaurant for the duration of the Olympics "in order to guarantee the safety of the Games." As a result, her family is suffering an economic loss, but she says it's a sacrifice that she is willing to make. "It's good to take a break from my hard work, and it means that I can spend my time watching the Olympics on television," she says.
A 71-year-old pensioner, who gave her surname as Ding, said she is excited by the Olympics, even though she can only watch it on television. "This is once in a thousand years," she said. "Some of my relatives died a few years ago, and I really wish they could have lived to see this."
Many Chinese have travelled huge distances to reach Beijing to admire the Olympic buildings and savour the Olympic atmosphere, even though they don't have tickets to any events. Every day, the streets near the famed Bird's Nest Stadium are clogged with photo-taking Chinese tourists, content just to get a glimpse of the Olympic architecture.

"Four of my family members have come to Beijing for the Olympics," said Gao Baiyun, a 46-year-old woman from Inner Mongolia. "Today we spent two hours on a bus to see the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. They're wonderful. I think every Chinese should be patriotic about this. I feel very excited about it."
What's still unclear is whether this patriotism will spill over into aggressive nationalism during the Olympics, especially if the patriots feel that Western protesters are trying to ruin the Olympics.

Just four years ago, mobs of Chinese fans vented their fury at Japan at an Asian Cup soccer match in Beijing. They burned Japanese flags, hurled bottles and fought with the police.
But the government has launched a massive campaign for "civility" among Chinese spectators at the Olympics. It is encouraging Chinese fans to refrain from excessive enthusiasm for Chinese athletes, and even to applaud for losing teams and opposing athletes.
This, according to Dr. Bell, could be a sign of China's revival of Confucian philosophy.
"If China can pull off the first truly civil Olympics - where spectators cheer for opposing teams, where winning athletes go out of their way to treat losers with respect and dignity, and where ordinary Beijingers treat foreigners with kindness and civility - it will be a memorable Olympics, something that Chinese should feel proud of," he said.
Beijing Olympics opening ceremony footage leaked on Korean TV
Posted: July 30, 2008, 3:55 PM by Ronald Nurwisah

Chinese security officials might be able to clamp down on Tibetan protesters and block out all of those pesky Web sites that talk about quaint western concepts such as 'human rights' and 'freedom' but they can't keep a plucky Korean TV crew away from one of the biggest secrets of the Olympics.

A Korean TV crew has managed to capture footage of thousands of performers rehearsing the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. The Telegraph has the story:
In a breach of China's fearsome security apparatus, a Korean television journalist was able to walk straight into the National Stadium - the Bird's Nest - and film long sections of a rehearsal.
The results were shown on his network, SBS, and the video was later put on the internet by News Limited, and Australian media group.
Watch the video.

Like previous opening ceremonies, Beijing's will lean heavily on its national culture and iconography. The leaked footage shows that the ceremony will showcase Chinese acrobatics, dance and martial arts. The opening is being choreographed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, best known outside of China for martial arts films such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.
Chinese authorities have been scrambling to get the video pulled off video sites, particularly on the mainland. Fortunately, the security leak didn't reveal the biggest secret, how the torch will arrive to the stadium and how the Olympic cauldron will be lit.

According to the Canberra Times, workers and volunteers on the ceremony were forced to sign confidentiality agreements and could have been punished with up to seven years in prison for breaking the contract. It is not known whether Korean broadcaster SBS will face actions from Olympic organizers for capturing the footage.
There will be a few quirks in Beijing's ceremony. At previous ceremonies national teams march in by alphabetical order, with the home team arriving last, at this Games, teams will march in determined by the number of strokes in the nation's Chinese name. The Chinese delegation will still arrive, to the 3 1/2 hour long ceremony, last.
The ceremony is scheduled to start on August, 8, 2008 at 8:08 p.m. Beijing Time. The number eight is considered auspicious in Chinese culture.

Tan Dun: Harmonizing music with athletics for the Olympics
By Sheila Melvin
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BEIJING: With the 2008 Beijing Olympics about to begin, the Chinese capital is awash in a dizzying array of culture festivals, gallery openings, concerts, museum exhibitions, lectures, dialogues, forums and informal talks.
"Everybody is trying to provide a platform for political exchange, cultural exchange," said the composer Tan Dun, who is himself participating in a "Forum of Champions" with Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger. "But we also need a philosophical platform. So recently in all my music I'm interested in trying to find not just the phenomenon of harmonics, like water meets fire, but an internal basic Chinese philosophy."
The Chinese philosophy that interests Tan most is Zen, which originated in China around the seventh century and is known here as Chan.
"Among all Chinese philosophy, Zen is the most predesigned by the gods for the future," Tan said. "Zen can be the philosophical guide for all people to share in the 21st century. I want to pass this Zen experience on."

The Olympics and the ongoing "Meet in Beijing" Olympics culture festival have presented Tan with two major opportunities to do just this.

Although the Paris-based composer Chen Qigang is the music director for the Olympics' opening ceremony on Friday, Tan composed the logo music that will resound at the start of each event - 18,000 times, according to him - and the award music that will be played when each of the 6,000 Olympic medals is presented to winning athletes.
Composing for a major athletic event presents challenges that commissions for concert halls and opera houses do not.

"Sports music has a specific way to handle speed, key changes, mode; it is very intense," Tan said. "We had to analyze normal people's walking speed and sportsmen's walking speed and average it - we had to find a middle way for the tempo to have the most comfortable pacing for everyone."
But Tan - an avid swimmer and self-professed sports fan - found the process to be enjoyable, even Zen-like. "In the beginning you are a sports lover and a music lover - then you put them together," he said. "Now I find that it is quite interesting to see both as one - it's big fun!"
In his search for a philosophical base for his Olympic music, he was determined to find something that would both preserve the Olympic spirit and "be a key which lets people open the door to China."

"I was struggling to find a format, an inspiration," Tan continued. "Then one day I was in Beijing and the winner of the Olympic gold medal design was announced - it was gold and jade together. So I started researching this in the Chinese encyclopedia."
Tan soon came upon the term "jinshengyuzhen" - gold sound and jade vibrations - and discovered that it was both a musical and religious term that is carved in temples across China.
"It is the very high stage of Taoism - it expresses the highest state of harmony. So I decided I wanted to use gold and jade materials to make my music."

Tan chose a giant bianzhong - an ancient instrument consisting of bronze bells hung on a wooden frame - to represent the gold. For the jade, he consulted with specialists at the Hubei Museum (which is home to China's most important bianzhong, dating to 433 B.C.) and bought five tons of gray-green jade with which to create "a stone orchestra" that he designed himself. The nine sets of jade instruments, which cover the same scale as a piano, were carved by 55 workers over a six-month period and then trucked to Beijing for the recording session.
"So now the 'gold' and jade ensemble serves as the basic ceremonial colors mixed with the China Philharmonic symphony and chorus," Tan said. "We took very, very ancient culture and very, very modern culture and they will meet at the Olympics."

This same sort of philosophical convergence occurs in Tan's opera "Tea," which was staged last week at the National Center for the Performing Arts. Since its 2002 premiere in Japan, "Tea" has been performed in New Zealand, France, the United States and the Netherlands, but this was its China premiere - and, in fact, the first time one of the composer's four operas has been staged in his homeland.

"I'm so glad it was 'Tea,"' the composer said of his operatic premiere in China. "I think it's a wonderful choice because of its philosophical base - water and fire - and its East and West musical culture." He added that it also had "the Zen idea, which tells you to share and to understand things from a different angle, without requiring you to unite."

"Tea" takes its inspiration from "The Classic of Tea," the Tang Dynasty classic by Lu Yu (733-804). An orphan who was raised by a Zen monk, Lu Yu rebelled against monasticism as a teenager and ran off to become a circus clown. His antics caught the attention of an official who provided for his education, and Lu Yu then spent five years researching and writing a monograph that chronicles tea cultivation and consumption in near-obsessive detail.
"Tea," which was performed by the China National Opera House and conducted by Tan himself, is permeated by the rituals that surround tea consumption. It tells the tale of a Japanese Zen monk (the baritone Sun Li) who chose the tonsure after an ill-fated love affair with a beautiful Chinese princess (the soprano Wang Wei) who shared his passion for tea.

The opera begins and ends with the mesmerizing sound - and sight - of gowned percussionists scooping water from illuminated glass bowls and dripping it back in through their hands. It also includes on-stage percussive performances on hanging paper screens and glazed ceramic pots. The orchestra performs on traditional Western instruments mixed with Chinese and occasionally supplemented by kazoo-like mouthpieces and the flapping of the paper music, a sound evocative of doves taking flight.

Despite a very tight schedule, the director Jiang Qing's production transported the audience smoothly through the blue-gray ether of the Zen monastery, the shimmering rituals of the imperial court, and the doomed passion of the romance in which tea serves as a metaphor for life, love and death.
I may be adding more interesting posts on China or Beijing during the duration of the Summer Olympics in Beijing....enjoy the read....

Taisho Chic..大正時代年華...大正チック....

Chinese Chic....................
I went to the 'Taisho Chic' Exhibition at the Gallery of NSW last Wednesday night when they had the Art after hours program (which is like when the Gallery is open till 9pm at night.)
There was a talk along with this special exhibition as well by Ben Hill, author of the international bestseller 'Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne'..the exhibition itself was great n i really enjoyed the japanese works of art and paintings from the Taisho Era (1911-1925) below...


Above; A 'Modern Girl'..1920s Japan..below: Ben Hill...

I thought of a title for this blog post, which is.........
Chinese Chic goes Taisho Chic!!;)

..........................Taisho Chic!!;)