Archive for January, 2009

/Film on Slumdog: Poverty Porn?

January 25, 2009

Slumdog has attracted even more attention since its GG award and its premiere in India.  /Film dissects the criticisms of the depiction of India as a stereotypical slum-ridden, sleazy, child-prostituting, gang-infested cesspool of a country.

Despite these critiques, many are upbeat on the film’s financial prospects in India, with director Shekhar Kapur saying that “what’s most important is that Slumdog is the most successful Indian film ever.” Even Sengupta believes that Indians will see the film to see how they are viewed by Westerners. “There is still a fascination with seeing how we are perceived by white Westerners,” said Sengupta. “It’s a kind of voyeurism.”

Where things get complicated is in the film’s depiction of a rags-to-riches story that happens to be set in India, a locale that has its own rich culture, but also a history of very specific types of portrayals in American pop culture. Slumdog, the critics seem to be saying, propogates a sensationalistic, stereotypical, and inaccurate depiction of India that lowers that country’s stature in the eyes of the world. Again, my perspective on this is that this film does the same thing that any artistic work accomplishes while using its setting to great effect.


Celebrity CEOs

January 24, 2009

The recent hoopla about Steve Job’s health and the ensuing hysteria among Apple shareholders (later proven to be unfounded, given Apple’s latest quarter results) has demonstrated the downside of having a headline-grabbing CEO at the forefront of a public company.  Investors, journalists and web pundits rigorously analyzed every single word in his interviews, press releases and memos, right down to the intonation of delivery (sparking a great catfight between CNBC’s Jim Goldman and Gizmodo, which can be seen as the perennial battle of old media vs. new media), and announced their findings through Apple’s stock price.  The SEC even deemed it necessary to step in and see if Apple had been misleading investors about Steve Jobs’ health.

You’d think this Steve Jobs episode might have scared some corporate bigwigs into downsizing their ambitions of becoming “celebrity CEOs”, but still they press on.  The latest to step up to the plate is Domino’s CEO, and it’s great viral material:

In a shocking ad aired during a commercial break on ‘American Idol,’ Domino’s CEO David Brandon tosses a cease-and-desist letter from the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust into the pizza oven. The ad has since gone viral, and there’s even a place on the Domino’s website where you can torch your own letter.

A great way to respond to your rivals’ lawyers, except that the lawyers in question are probably NOT watching American Idol, but are locked up in some conference room in Midtown, crafting another iteration of a more threatening cease-and-desist letter.  At least it’s more engaging than watching a talking head go on an ego trip:

Singapore has its own Steve Jobs too in Sim Wong Hoo, whose Creative Technologies fell off the rails ever since they signed Paris Hilton a few years back to endorse their MP3 players.  Much like the discussion about who’s gonna be the next celebrity CEO of America, Singaporeans are all wondering who’s gonna take over Sim Wong Hoo’s place as corporate Singapore’s “it” CEO?  One candidate might be CEO of Apex-Pal, Douglas Foo, who owns the Sakae Sushi chain in Asia.  I remember going to a talk organized by Contact Singapore in NY where he was speaking.  He eagerly showed us a corporate video, which had a line that said something about [paraphrasing here, don’t send me a cease-and-desist] “all this success [of Sakae Sushi] would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of our CEO” or something like that.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to him to see his facial expression when that part of the video was playing, but I guess he was just enjoying his own MacWorld moment – he was in town to finalize details of Sakae’s first restaurant in NY in the iconic Chrysler Building.  Which recently closed.  NEXT!

Here’s a review of the East Village Sakae outlet in NY by a Japanese show:

Foreign Film Distribution

January 20, 2009

Not sure where NYT gets this information from, an anecdote from a distributor or some hard data, but this article states that Video On Demand is a viable alternative for film distribution:

Video-on-demand still accounts for a tiny fraction of revenue for new feature films. But it is already changing marketplace dynamics, especially for movies that had little or no chance of attracting interest from a theatrical distributor like Focus Features or Fox Searchlight.

For one thing, foreign films, while considered box-office poison by many conventional distributors, have been viable, if not exactly hot, on video screens.

Upcoming: John Rabe / Shinjuku Incident

January 20, 2009

Two movies that I’m looking forward to, both Sino-other country co-productions.

“The Shinjuku Incident” is a thriller starring Jackie Chan in a non-kungfu/non-Asian-sidekick role.  China/Japan co-production.  The trailer was leaked recently, and it looks good (in Chinese/Japanese):

“John Rabe”, the film about the man dubbed as the “Oskar Schindler of Nanking”, has already won awards in Germany.  A China-Germany co-production.  The star of the film was also in The Lives of Others, another German movie that won major awards two years ago.  Trailer (in German):

DiaS’pura speaker from Singapore featured in TrendHunter!

January 20, 2009

Trendhunter is a site that I like to browse through occasionally, as it captures all the quirky design/architecture/fashion/art stuff from all over the net, be it high-brow or low-brow.  If there’s a new cool thing in town, they’re usually the first on it due to their extensive network of “journalists” who scour the world for new trends.  Imagine my surprise when they featured the work of Jing, one of the speakers at DiaS’pura whose talent we (at Penn) spotted and recognized almost 2 years ago!

From TrendHunter:

His subjects are often beautiful women in humorously posed orgasm-orgy scenes with a twist. Often beer and milk are poured over his models in suggestive poses; instead of being set in the bedroom, however, these scenes are enacted on a stage-like set in the street, a classroom, a stadium, or outside a grocery store.

Nice to know we were ahead of the curve there.

Obama Girl’s duet with Obama

January 19, 2009

Citing YouTube / Taylor Momsen Nike Commercial

January 18, 2009

Back in Penn, I remember how the professors were adamantly opposed to the use of Wikipedia in our essays.  We were not allowed to cite a Wikipedia URL in our footnotes, which was troubling as I sometimes based entire essays on information gleaned from Wikipedia entries.

A NYT article suggests that the younger generation is now using YouTube videos as an academic source:

As more video is added to the Web, the proportion of video searches that deliver satisfactory answers will grow, too. The question is, how far will video go as an alternative to text?

Mr. Iskold said that two factors would naturally limit video’s potential to supplant text on the Web. First, much content doesn’t lend itself well to video. And the Internet derives much of its utility from the web of links connecting its sites. But Mr. Iskold said that a shift toward video would continue, and that young Internet users, like Tyler, would only accelerate it.

The numbers are staggering:

And now YouTube, conceived as a video hosting and sharing site, has become a bona fide search tool. Searches on it in the United States recently edged out those on Yahoo, which had long been the No. 2 search engine, behind Google. (Google, incidentally, owns YouTube.) In November, Americans conducted nearly 2.8 billion searches on YouTube, about 200 million more than on Yahoo, according to comScore.

Quite a worrying trend, given that kids wouldn’t be able to tell that this AWESOME viral video of Taylor Momsen from Gossip Girl was actually conceptualized within the staid, bare walls of a large conference room by a collection of suits:

Watch heist at Cortina Raffles Place – Burglar wanted by Interpol

January 18, 2009

This is the face of a man wanted by the Interpol, who orchestrated a heist of $7.9 mm SGD in timepieces and cash this past Christmas Day:

Hai Chiizu!

Couldn’t the Straits Times at least have found a more suave photo with a less cheeky pose, befitting an international thief wanted by the Interpol, like:


From The Straits Times:

Cortina burglary: Ex-staff wanted by Interpol
By Teh Joo Lin

A FORMER employee of the Cortina watch outlet that was cleaned out of $7.9 million in timepieces and cash on Christmas Day is now a wanted man internationally.

Mr Jerry Ee – who has been missing since the theft was discovered and got the sack from the company – has been listed under Interpol’s wanted list for theft.

This came in the form of a red notice – the same alert level used for escaped terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari – against the 35-year-old to the international police organisation’s member nations.

This means that any of these 187 countries can arrest him on the spot and extradite him to Singapore.

Mr Ee’s height and weight was given as 1.62m and 50kg on the notice, which is available online and included pictures of him. He is stated as being conversant in English, Mandarin and Thai.

The international alert against him comes after the Christmas Day heist – said to be the biggest burglary in Singapore in years – at the Cortina outlet at Raffles City.

Staff at the Raffles City outlet discovered 386 timepieces and cash – with a total value of $7.9 million – missing when they turned up for work on Dec 26.

Security guards who were on duty on the night of the incident said that no alarms had gone off, and there were no signs of a break-in at the store.

Mr Ee has has been missing since the theft was discovered, with police attempts to contact him futile.

He had worked with the luxury watch retailer for at least four years and is divorced with two young children.

Singapore: Creative Wasteland?

January 15, 2009

Came across yet another interesting read, this time from  The article is about creativity in the advertising field in Singapore.  Advertising agencies are at the frontline of creativity, having to balance their creative ideas with practical expectations of their clients as part of their daily tasks, so if an agency is saying that Singapore “is a creative wasteland that lacks a distinct culture or even a soul”, we might be condemned to being a city in spite of the best intentions.

“Unlike countries like Japan, the Singapore market is very small,” he says. “We don’t have a big enough niche market or enough early adopters to spawn creativity. As a result, many of our creative talents end up churning out creative pieces that will cater to the masses. It’s not their fault but this is reality and commercialisation, and this I think is the root of the problem.”

Architecture in Singapore

January 13, 2009

I was looking up Art Deco / Streamline Moderne architecture in Singapore, and came across this great read: Beyond The Facade – Geometry in Singapore Architecture.  It explains some basic concepts about architecture and goes on to explain how some of the most recognized landmarks in Singapore such as the Fullerton Building, Maybank Tower, Shaw House, etc.) reflect the eras during which they were built.  A very readable 39 pages.  An excerpt:

A common feature of classical architecture is the vertical symmetry possessed by the structure. The Fullerton Hotel constructed in 1929 at the mouth of the Singapore River, has vertical symmetry. The red line bisects the building into 2 identical halves. This symmetry is further emphasized by the use of roman columns. The use of columns gives the illusion of a “perfect balance” to the building.

Fullerton Hotel in Singapore

Fullerton Hotel in Singapore

PDF here.