Saturday, April 28, 2012

The cream of Singaporean entrepreneurship

The enterprising spirit behind this company has been seminal in making Singapore what it is today.

Sighted by my homie Jerry Yeu while out and about in Singapore.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Obama eating dog meat as a child: proof of his unspeakable evil?

The latest reason Barack Obama is a terrible human being is that when he was a child growing up in Indonesia, he ate dog meat.

“With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.”

Well, it's not really news; that's an excerpt from Dreams from my Father, which was first published in 1995 and has sold a bundle. So millions of people have read this paragraph before and never cared before. However conservative website The Daily Caller decided to make it into news recently. It's essentially a response to the stories of Mitt Romney driving around with a dog atop his car back in the 80s.

Now, to their credit, most conservatives don't seem to be treating this as a serious issue. Rather, it's a light-hearted way to mock the President. And fair enough, it's good fodder for some gags. Like when Republican strategist tweeted about this picture of Obama with his dog Bo (left): "In hindsight, a chilling photo." I'll pay that one.

Yet amazingly some on the right think this is actually a story, a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the liberal left. Here are some excerpts from a ridiculously deluded post from The American Thinker:

Condemning the transportation of a dog in a pet crate on a car roof while supporting a President with a history of eating dog is indicative of the imperious elitism the left often promotes.

Yes, people actually believe that something someone a 50 year-old man ate when he was around 8 years old, living in another country, has some kind of relevance to anything at all.

Dog jokes aside, if the President were truly concerned about dogs' well-being, he would still to this day be sickened at the thought of the lunch his stepfather Lolo served him 40+ years ago. Therefore, when signing the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, Obama could have redeemed himself by citing his personal exposure to animal cruelty as a child in Indonesia. The fact that Obama never mentioned eating dog meat is an illustration of how liberals excuse their own past offenses and feel justified standing up for contradictory arguments, even if that defense is accomplished by merely failing to expose past wrongdoing.
Think about it. Who else, knowing full well that at some point in his life he dined on Rover for lunch, would allow his campaign to express disapproval for the sin of letting a dog ride in a crate on the top of a car? Who, other than liberals, would dare to condemn the treatment of a family pet being taken on vacation, however the dog arrived there, after the candidate they support nonchalantly described snake meat as a little tougher than a mutt burger? In the end, if one tries to comprehend the rationale behind supporting a dog-eater while protesting cruelty to animals, the only justification can be that America's polymathic president is excused because his life experience includes a sincere reverence for an ancient animist tradition.

Regarding Romney putting his dog on top of his car, that's also a non-issue to me. I'm no expert in canine welfare, but I can think of plenty of other reasons to dislike Mitt than something he did back in the 80s which may or may not have been an inappropriate way to treat a beloved family pet.

But Obama-eats-dog is even less of an issue. With Romney, if it can be proven that his treatment of Seamus the Irish setter was indeed cruel (and I'm not sure that it was), then that at least it might say something about his character, since he was a grown-ass man at the time. What Obama ate when he was a kid has nothing to do with anything. It's not like he personally tortured and killed the dog before consuming it. A relative gave him some meat to eat, and he ate it. As you would expect of any well-raised child.

The American Thinker article even attacks Obama for not mentioning dog-eating every time he talks about animal welfare, and not being openly horrified when he does so. This is a really odd way to look at things. Is someone who campaigns for better treatment of cattle, yet who eats beef, a hypocrite? No.

It's a decidedly Western perspective that views dogs as being some kind of sacred beast that must be treated with reverence, in contrast to the millions of cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens that are raised in horrific conditions yet nobody gives a shit about.

Don't get me wrong, I don't support the eating of dog meat. I've had my own personal run-in with the stuff which had a major effect on me. But a dog is an animal, no more and no less than a cow or a pig. What separates one from the other is a purely arbitrary classification. I might be cuter and smarter than the guy next door, but that doesn't make my life worth any more.

And eating dog meat is a fairly common practice in much of Eastern Asia and elsewhere; in many cases, in regions where meat is a scarce commodity. (Ironically, it occurs only rarely in Indonesia, as it is considered haram in Islam.) I would hazard a guess that Obama recognizes that while the eating of dog meat might be unpleasant in concept, it is just a reality of the world. Putting Americo-centric judgements on the practice serves no great purpose in this context.

For conservatives, the dog-eating anecdote serves to boost one of the long-running avenues of attack on the President: that he is really a foreigner who is radically different from "real" Americans and doesn't understand them. Ironically, they are going to put their faith in Mitt Romney, a man who is far more out of touch with the average American than Obama ever was.

Friday, April 20, 2012

An unbleached vadge? Eww, how horrid!

Oh, India. Birthplace of Buddhism, the mathematical concept of zero, cotton cultivation, cataract surgery, and Ayurvedic medicine. Now add vaginal bleaching to that list. Dear God.

Yes, apparently there are dudes out there who simply can't get enjoyment out of their woman's vagina because it's just too dark. If that sounds weird and kinda f*cked up, that's because it is. But this is the bizarro universe that so many South Asians inhabit when it comes to skin colour.

It's notable as well that the Indian woman in the above commercial has a lighter complexion than just about any Indian in the history of Indians. She could actually be one of the Cullen family from Twilight. So if HER vadge is too dark, what chance does anyone else have? How much paler can she actually get? Perhaps the object is to have genitals that are actually transparent.

What happened to the days when guys were just happy to be getting anything at all? Now they are all hung up on the aesthetics of the punani. Now, I know it's important to have standards when choosing one's significant other, but that is just a wee bit too fussy.

There's a pretty funny take on this at Jezebel that you should check out as well.

See also:
Indian film stars vs Regular Indians

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Meanwhile, in Japan...

Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

TOKYO (Reuters) - In the suburbs of Tokyo lives Kenichi Ito, the world's fastest man on four legs.
For nearly a decade, the 29-year-old Ito, long a fan of simians, has been perfecting a running style based on the wiry Patas monkey of Africa, winning himself a Guinness World Record in the process.
"You know, my face and body kind of look like a monkey, so from a young age everybody used to tease me, saying 'monkey, monkey,'" Ito said in his neat apartment, sitting in front of a large poster of a chimpanzee.
"But I wasn't really bothered because I really liked them, and somewhere inside of me I had this ambition to adopt one of their traits. When I saw a monkey that could run fast, I knew I'd found it - and from that point on I practised running like a monkey every day."
For eight-and-a-half years the slender Ito has walked around his neighbourhood on his hands and feet, wearing gloves and cleated shoes. He has turned his household chores into challenges on all fours and squats like a monkey while talking.
Constantly honing his style, he looks for inspiration from across the animal world by using the Internet and a season ticket to the local zoo. So far he's developed six distinct forms of all-fours movement, from his top-speed "gallop" to a more leisurely walking pace. His speed at running 100 metres on all fours, just under 20 seconds, won him a Guinness record.
Occasionally Ito, who survives on money earned through his running as well as part-time jobs, gets together with fellow four-legged running fanatics to race each other. Sometimes, they bring cats and dogs to join in the fun - though a well-trained dog will usually win.
Ito believes so fervently in his form of "sport" that he is convinced athletes of the future will eventually come around to his point of view.
"Certainly four-legged running isn't an Olympic sport yet, but my prediction is that in 500 years' time all track athletes will be running on all fours," he said.
But his passion for simians has not been without setbacks.
"In the streets around here I get stopped by the police, so I went up into the mountains for about a month for a kind of four-legged training camp," Ito said.
"But on the first day, a hunter mistook me for a wild boar, and he tried to shoot me." [Source]
So many questions:
He "survives on money earned through his running". Why didn't my careers counselor tell inform me of this possibility?
Does Kenichi have a girlfriend?
If so, does she also run on all fours?
And how bad is that hunter's eyesight?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Key and Peele on the auction block

The first thing I ever saw of comedy duo Key & Peele was a bit meh, so I never bothered to look any deeper, but a friend of mine has been talking them up incessantly. So I gave them a shot, and he's right. Damn funny.

Thanks Newt, but no thanks

What a shame Newt Gingrich's chances of being the US Presidential candidate have dwindled so much. From the LA Times:

... displaying the outsized thinking for which he is known, he said he would work to get the United Nations to recognize the right to bear arms as a universal right.
"The right to bear arms comes from our creator, not from our government,” he said, to cheers. “It is one of the inalienable rights alluded to in our Declaration of Independence. ... Far fewer women would be raped, far fewer children would be killed ... and far fewer dictators would survive if people had the right to bear arms everywhere on the planet.”

And some of you would claim that Americans don't pay much heed to the rest of the world... here is a clear example of a guy who knows what we need so desperately.

He's obviously quoting the bit from Genesis where it says, "And the Lord so loved man that he gave him the right to carry a machine gun around everywhere, knowing that man was responsible enough to use it solely for good purposes."

Seriously though. There are lots of things about the US of A that I'm more than happy for them to export. Gun culture is not one of them. And I think I speak for most of us rest-of-the-worlders when I say that the "universal" right to bear arms is not something we particularly want or need.

As an example, allow me to make a quick comparison of my own country, Australia, to the USA. I think it's a fair comparison since they are demographically similar in many ways (despite Australia's much smaller population).


United States      =    88.8 (#1 in the world)
Australia             =    15 (#19 in the world)


United States      =   3.6 (#8 in the world)
Australia             =   0.3 (#26 in the world)

Of course, some of you might argue, "But maybe in countries with lots of guns, people are killed in other ways, like stabbing."
So to save you the trouble of bothering to argue that, read this first:


United States      =    5.9 (#63 in the world)
Australia             =    1.5 (#108 in the world)

Of course, in the murder rate and the firearm homicide rate, there are other countries that rate worse than the US - in some cases, far worse - but none of them could really be described as a first-world country.

So yes, murders still take place in countries with low rates of gun ownership, but having a gun makes it far easier for the potential killer. Anders Breivik could not have killed 69 of his fellow Norwegians with a knife.

Of course, the US is a sort of special case - it has so many guns already (not to mention a creepy obsession with them) that gun control becomes extremely complicated. But most other developed countries don't have that problem. So we'd appreciate it, USians, if you didn't try and extend your "freedoms" to us. I prefer the freedom from being shot at.

See also:

Guns, courts and white supremacy

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Should I allow comments from racist trolls?

Ok, so it seems like there's been an upswing in race-hating douchebags leaving comments on my blog recently. Most of them have just been on a couple of old posts.

So far I've let them stay up, but I've been thinking long and hard about that. Generally, I have only deleted comments that are obviously spam (most don't make it past the spam filter anyway), or the rare comment that I decide is too objectionable to stay up.

I want to point out that I don't have a problem with someone having a different view to me. One person who comments here quite regularly, Bay Area Guy, identifies himself broadly as a White Nationalist. This would mark him as having a very different ideology to me; however, he engages in intelligent discussion/argument without being rude or inflammatory, so I have no reason to moderate any of his comments.

On occasion, there are commenters who think that aiming personal abuse at me is the appropriate way to behave. I generally allow those comments to stand, primarily because my competitive instincts take over and I like to argue with stupid people.

... but then there are those that are on another level of douchebaggery.

Here are comments on two different posts from two people named Anonymous.

WARNING: If you are easily offended, read below at your own risk. Explicit and racist language follow.

These are from my rather old post on the TV show Merlin having a black actress playing Guinevere (read it here). These are replies to other comments, which I have not included here.

Charming. He must be fun at a dinner party.
This next lot of comments is from my post about the ethnic diversity on display amongst journalists on Australian TV channel SBS (read the full post here). I have reproduced the entire exchange between myself and the commenter. 

Should I allow their comments to stay up? Or should I send them to the trash?

Here are some of the reasons to allow them and not to:

  • These people have abhorrent views and I don't want to give them any more air.
  • By being vile and aggressive towards me and others, they have forfeited their right to express themselves in this forum. Sharing an opinion is fine, but if you can't do it in a civil manner, then you don't get to share yours.
  • I don't want readers to be unnecessarily confronted by racially inflammatory language, as ideally this would be a relatively safe space for readers to frequent.


  • Given that this blog often discusses the subject of race and racism, comments like these serve as an example of the sort of views that are out there.
  • By being vile and aggressive, they undermine their stupid cause anyway, because it makes them look like morons. Anyone who reads the above comments is unlikely to be converted a racist way of thinking; indeed it may well do the opposite.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Although to be honest it'd be nice if your thoughts didn't include the words "nigger" or "cunt".

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Phi and Me Too"

Caught Phi and Me Too at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival last night, which triumphed over the sauna-like conditions (due to some heating malfunction at the venue, Hairy Little Sista) to easily win over the sweaty audience with a tour-de-force of ethnic humour.

The brainchild of Fiona Chau (playing geeky teenage boy Phi Nguyen) and Diana Nguyen (as his very tiger-ish mother Kim), the 1 hour comedic play centres around the theme of growing up Vietnamese in Australia, and a Vietnamese mother's particularly gruelling brand of matriarchal love. The pair are assisted by Steve McPhail playing a variety of characters; I'm told he was originally their high school drama teacher.

All three give good performances (seeing McPhail play a Vietnamese auntie is hilariously surreal), but the star turn undeniably comes from Diana Nguyen - her expressive face, stage energy and over-the-top Vietnamese accent make the larger-than-life Kim an unforgettable character, yet one that all the Asians in the audience found instantly recognisable.

Personally I love this kind of fobby humour, although I understand it's not for everyone. But anyone with even a mild familiarity with Asian parents - or even "ethnic" parents for that matter - will get a kick out of this. For those who have never experienced tiger parenting, it's still a very enjoyable peek into that world. There were occasionally jokes that my Vietnamese friends found hilarious that went completely over my head, but for the most part, it was easily relateable.

Phi and Me Too is on until Sunday the 8th of April.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More (cross-cultural) thoughts on "The Raid"

Just a couple of things I wanted to add to my previous review of Indonesian martial arts flick The Raid.

* Read the subtitles of this film, and it's not shy on swear words. There are plenty of f-words, and at least one c-word. But if you happen to speak Indonesian as well, you'll notice that there's no such thing actually spoken - I didn't make out any Indonesian words that were actually that dirty. Indonesian has swear words, of course, but you don't often see them in movies. A lot of the flavour of Bahasa Indonesia is in the tone and expressiveness of those whose speak it, rather than the words themselves, and so the English translation tries to capture those emotions in words, rather than letting the tone do the work.

So when a character says "Step back!" sternly to his subordinate, the subtitle reads "Step the fuck back!" and so on.

The rudest Indonesian words I noticed were bangsat (bastard), which was translated as the c-bomb by the subtitlers, and anjing (dog), which seemed to take on several different meanings, including "fuck you!"

* By contrast to a lot of the reviews going around which are hailing this as one of the greatest action movies of recent years, respected US critic Roger Ebert panned it and gave it one star in this review.
Now, opinions are opinions; I have a lot of respect for Ebert and can't complain if something is not to his taste. What did interest me though were a few lines in the review that puzzled me and seem to show a US-centric perspective on the world. That's interesting to me because so much of how we evaluate things is due to our upbringing, culture and vantage point. He says:

"What country are we in? The movie never tells us. (It was filmed in Indonesia.) Establishing Rama as a Muslim seems pointless, except as a cheap fakeout in character development."

What country are we in? It's interesting that a reviewer would write such a thing, because consider this: do most American movies need to state that they take place in the USA? Sometimes they might state the city, but certainly not always. So why must a movie that is made in Indonesia, and in which the characters are clearly Indonesian and speak Indonesian, point out that it is taking place in Indonesia?

The Muslim thing is also odd. Given that 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, and it's widely known as the world's most populous Islamic-majority country, why wouldn't it show that the main character is a Muslim? Given that the opening sequence shows Rama, up before dawn, preparing himself for the gruelling day ahead, what is odd about seeing him praying? If anything, it just shows him as a spiritual man of good character, who as any religious person would, seeks divine strength for the risky business that awaits him.

That praying scene can be read in another way, though. While it shows the main protagonist as a devout Muslim, it is a minor detail overall. Yet in the current global climate, is writer-director making a statement by having Western audiences cheer for a Muslim hero? I'm reminded of the brilliant series The Wire, in which perhaps its most beloved character is Omar, a fearless stick-up guy who just happens to be gay. His sexuality is just a minor background detail, as you could argue Rama's religion is in The Raid, as if to remind us that people are so much more than whatever category they belong to.

Thoughts on "The Raid"

So this will sound like a cheesy ad voiceover, but... if you only see one action movie this year, make sure it's The Raid. Actually, screw that. If you only see one action movie in the next five years, you still need to make sure it's The Raid.

First, let me state that this movie is not going to be for everyone. It's virtually 100 minutes of Indonesian dudes fighting each other, recovering from fighting each other, and getting ready to fight each other. If that's not your thing, no one will blame you if you go watch a rom-com instead.

For the rest of us, The Raid is edge-of-the-seat stuff. The plot is nothing amazing, but since when have martial arts flicks required an amazing plot? All you ask for is that it basically makes sense*. In this story, 20 cops, mostly rookies armed to the teeth, are sent into a derelict apartment building to extract the landlord, drug kingpin Tama (Ray Satehapy). The only problem is that the building also serves as a safe house for the cream of Jakarta's population of gangsters and thugs, who the cops will have to fight their way past in order to get their quarry on the 15th floor.

It's a lot like a video game, with the protagonists facing an onslaught of different baddies as they climb the levels of the tenement. Most of the cops get wiped out early, leaving just a few survivors, including the team's leader Jaka (Joe Taslim), and rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), who has his own motives for coming along on the mission.

There are hints at Indonesia's ever-present police corruption, with the cops merely being pawns in something bigger, but that's secondary to the main theme, which is dudes letting loose with fists, knees, machetes and machine guns.

There are two main stars here. One is writer-director Gareth Huw Evans, a Welshman who 5 years ago was teaching people how to speak Welsh. Then after his Indonesian wife suggested a change of scene, he decamped to Indonesia and helped make a documentary about the local martial arts, a path that led to his first  film, Merantau. Now with the release of The Raid (titled The Raid: Redemption in the US for copyright reasons), Evans is improbably being hailed as the saviour of martial arts. The reason is simple: the guy really knows how to shoot a fight scene, and can come up with new and interesting ways for his characters to kill people.

During the making of his earlier documentary, Evans came across Iko Uwais, a pencak silat practitioner who was working as a delivery driver at the time. Evans cast him as the lead in Merantau, and now again as Rama in The Raid. Uwais is reminiscent of Tony Jaa, the Muay Thai star whose 2006 film Ong Bak also reinvigorated the chop-socky genre. Like Jaa's characters, Rama is the mild-mannered, virtuous guy who just happens to be extraordinarily good at kicking bad guys' asses.

The best characters though are the baddies. Ray Satehapy as Tama is a great villain, loathsome yet sort of likeable. The scene of Tama speaking into a microphone, inviting his residents to help remove the "infestation" that has taken over their building, could be routine in another actor's hands but his lazy, chilling delivery makes it one of the best scenes in the movie. It does help if you speak Indonesian though. Likewise, his right-hand man Mad Dog (played by the film's fight choreographer Yayan Ruhian), is a great villain who likewise challenges the audience to admire him as well as recoil at his brutality. He's a wiry little guy with a somewhat honorable manner of being an insane killer: he passes up the chance to shoot people in favour of beating them to death with his fists and feet. Which is summed up in his best line: "Pulling the trigger is like ordering take-out". Gotta love a psycho who keeps it real.

Already I can see this movie achieving several things.

It's going to be the highest-grossing Indonesian movie of all time, internationally, although that wouldn't be hard. Apparently made for just over a million dollars US, this still looks fantastic. And while you'd normally think a movie featuring a little-known Indonesian cast, all speaking Indonesian, would hardly result in much backing from the big-time movie promotion business, it's been picked up for major release in an odd show of good taste from the big players when it comes to these things.

It's going to be the movie that has people all over the world interested in pencak silat, the Indonesian martial art form. I'm hardly the expert in these things, and couldn't really tell you how it's different to any other style, but I'm sure plenty of fans of the genre are taking notice. (On this evidence, it seems to feature a lot of kneeing dudes in the head.) The movie is basically one long demonstration of pencak silat being inflicted on a cast of scruffy bad guys.

One thing it is going to achieve is not merely a sequel (Evans has already announced it's in the works), but also a Hollywood remake. And it would hardly take Nostradamus to predict that the remake is going to suck in comparison. So forget that and enjoy the real thing.

* In the way that Tony Jaa's Ong Bak made sense, while the follow-up The Protector/Tom Yum Goong also had great sequences but unfortunately had a plot that was almost insulting in its stupidity.