Archive for February, 2009

Annie Hall – the original romcom

February 26, 2009
via BBC

(picture from Guardian)

In his blog, screenwriter compares Annie Hall with the romcoms of today, and explains how Woody Allen created a relatable character in Alvy Singer, in spite of his neuroses:

Anyway, yes, Alvy Singer is the protagonist of Annie Hall. And yes, what he wants is “the eggs,” but he doesn’t really understand that until the end of the movie (and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Allen didn’t know that until he was done editing the movie). The reason Annie Hall feels so lived-in, so detailed, so real, is because there was a whole hour’s worth of other material in there, a whole tapestry of narrative, that got cut out. The result is that the characters seem to have rich inner lives that continue after the scene is done. Annie Hall is, nominally, about Alvy’s failed love affair with Annie, but because of all the details about Alvy’s life and career, all the odd little neuroses and flashes of magic realism, it seems to be more about “love itself,” re-defined for a new, more self-aware generation.

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Shinjuku Incident website is up!

February 26, 2009

jackiechan

The Shinjuku Incident, starring Jackie Chan in a non-Kungfu-sidekick role, finally has a website up and running!  Here’s a synopsis of the film, which IMHO, gives away too much of the plot:

The foreign migrant communities in Tokyo live shadowy lives. The Japanese neither acknowledge nor welcome them. They are shunned by the mainstream society, hounded by the yakuza, and go about their days under fear of being discovered and repatriated.

It is an alien world for Steelhead – an honest, hardworking tractor repairman. Steelhead had decided to take the perilous journey to Tokyo after he lost contact with his girlfriend, who had arrived in the city earlier.

Trying to exist in the underbelly of Tokyo long enough to find Xiu Xiu, Steelhead has come to realize the migrants had to stand united if they wanted to go about their lives without fear of oppression by not only the Japanese underworld but also gangs formed by foreigner.

In his search of a decent living, Steelhead unwittingly finds himself pit against the Japanese yakuza. Ironically, he also discovers that Xiu Xiu has adopted a Japanese identity and married Eguchi, an ambitious up and coming yakuza chief.

Steelhead wins the respect of his friends by establishing a base for them and forms an uneasy alliance with Eguchi. When he helps Eguchi dispose of a rival, he is given the control of Shinjuku’s night establishments. But, uninterested in living a gangster’s life, Steelhead finds a new love and takes the chance to start a tractor repair business outside Tokyo. However, his peace is shortlived when word gets to him that his former compatriots were now being used by Eguchi to front the yakuza’s drug business.

Steelhead feels responsible for this turn of events and feels obligated to bring Eguchi down. He also has to bear in mind that if he goes after Eguchi, he would be destroying the newfound life of the woman he once loved. In any case, can one simple migrant take on the yakuza alone?

Dias’pura II promo videos

February 23, 2009

I’m guessing they’re meant to be somewhat viral, so here’s me playing a part in the chain.

Edmund Chen Zhicai in Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li!

February 23, 2009

While cringing at the big pile of suck that the new Street Fighter movie appears to be, I saw one video that sealed it as a MUST-watch, and no, it’s not Kirsten Kreuk in a Chun Li outfit – it’s Singapore’s very own Tom Cruise, Edmund Chen Zhicai!  Check him out in this fight scene where he pulls out all the stops to protect his young daughter, Chun Li (a child actress resembling Kreuk), from the evil clutches of M. Bison (Michael Clarke Duncan).  Most impressive is Chen’s inventive use of the steel fridge and an unpopped champagne bottle to defend himself!  Video here – watch it before they pull the clips offline.  The movie is generating some serious criticism from the internets, but I will catch it just to support another Singaporean actor making it in Hollywood.  What a great year for Singaporean actors – first Chin Han in The Dark Knight, and now Edmund Chen kicking Michael Clarke Duncan’s ass!  Some screenshots:

Wall Street Fighter 4 video from Hong Kong

February 19, 2009

A funny video by an Asian American comedy sketch group based in HK called CBFresh, doing something really relevant (er financial crisis and the release of Street Fighter 4 – perhaps the two most important events in the news now?).

Interesting to see that someone is trying to bring a G4-style lifestyle program to Asia.  CBFresh website here.

Interactive online video – The Outbreak

February 19, 2009

I recently condemned interactive online videos, but here’s one series, “The Outbreak”, that I actually sat through to its final conclusion because of the higher-quality production, moral dilemmas and zombies – lots of bloodthirsty zombies.  Also, the video takes up the whole screen and loads really fast, so you can finish the story within 8-10 min without having to squint and hunker over your laptop.  Warning: scenes of gruesome violence.

outbreak

Gosh zombie movies look so fun to be a part of.

IKEA ad plays on naked Holland Village couple

February 19, 2009

This TV ad from IKEA about their Home Furnishing Sale is an obvious play on the recent wardrobe malfunction involving a naked couple in Holland Village that caught the attention of  international news agencies (interesting nugget is that there was a bar owner by the name of Terence Chia who witnessed the incident).  The ad features a nude couple, an ang moh and an Asian woman walking around IKEA dressed in only cardboard boxes and flip-flops, not unlike what actually transpired at Holland Village.  You can see the ad here (for now).

ikea-ad

Pretty funny, but I wish they’d taken it further and somehow integrated their marketing with the actual couple in question – I’m still mystified as to who that man and women were, and what they were trying to prove by walking around Holland Village naked, so I would have been ready to believe that it was just a viral marketing campaign gone too far.  Another funny read is from a ST Forum contributor, who got all riled up about incident because of his perceived “erosion” of “our morals” and lamented the lack of decency in the people at the scene who applauded the couple.  Read about it here.

Dias’pura II

February 17, 2009

5 reasons to attend DiaS’pura II:

  1. Film screenings by the filmmakers – we really wanted to do this at the first DiaS’pura, but were unable to do so due to time/logistics constraints
  2. Singaporean food – nothing can beat homefood!
  3. Mambo afterparty – another institution.  Would love to mix my mambo tunes if I could
  4. Sing, City! is back!
  5. You get to throw tomatoes at Huntsman Hall and blame it for the financial crisis

Danny Tan, NeuroMOD on Business Times

February 13, 2009

Here’s Danny Tan, someone with whom I worked on a business plan with during my final year at Penn, featured in an article in The Business Times Singapore:

Winning with a strategy for commercialisation

BY DANNY TAN, Founder of NeuroMOD

FACING off against 500 other teams in an international competition was no mean feat, but emerging champion was something that I did not expect.

I was part of a team of Singaporeans who competed in the prestigious Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge 2008. The competition, hosted by the Haas School of Business at the University of California, had a judging panel comprising more than 30 Silicon Valley-based investors, including representatives from Intel Capital, the giant chipmaker’s venture capital arm.

I founded the winning team, NeuroMOD Technologies, when still an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) School of Design and Environment. The firm is a development stage company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets implantable medical devices for patients suffering from neurological disorders such as epilepsy.

It was selected to represent Singapore and NUS at the Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge after impressing judges at Start-up@Singapore 2008, a national business plan competition organised by the NUS Entrepreneurship Society and supported by NUS Enterprise.

At the international competition, we locked horns with national winners from various countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, France, Brazil, India and China.

The business idea for NeuroMOD Technologies was first conceived in late 2006 during my year-long work-cum-study stint at the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme in Bio Valley, Philadelphia. As part of this programme, I was doing a full-time internship in an early-stage venture fund while taking technology management and venture finance courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

Through the NOC programme, I met Karen Anne Moxon, a researcher at Drexel University who was facing difficulty in attracting commercial interest for her invention. She had developed an electrode that could chronically record precise neurological signals from patients, which can then be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

I was excited when tasked by my internship company to help Dr Moxon further develop her commercialisation plans, as I was impressed by her technology and its potential to improve the quality of life of epilepsy patients.

The team working on this project comprised Andrew Khair, then a PhD student in Dr Moxon’s laboratory, and Terence Chia, a fellow Singaporean who was pursuing his final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reaching out to epileptics

After a series of discussions with Dr Moxon, our team decided that the first application of the technology should be targeted at epilepsy, a disorder which affects more than 50 million people in the world today.

About 20 per cent of all epilepsy patients currently do not respond to any available treatments, and suffer from regular seizure attacks which affect their daily lives.

At the same time, developments in other treatment methods are expected to hit major roadblocks. Here was an opportunity to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from epilepsy, and fulfil an unmet medical need.

Since none of us had any experience in bringing a biomedical device to the market, we spent many hours trying to understand the highly regulated and complex biomedical device industry. We were fortunate to meet many experienced industry practitioners who were willing to guide us along.

The thing that surprised us the most was how supportive people can be when they see that you are fully committed to something meaningful. In fact, we found that there was almost no stigma attached to us being students when it came to seeking advice from our mentors.

As we felt that the competition was stiff, it came as quite a surprise when NeuroMOD was announced as the winner. I think what differentiated our business plan from those submitted by the other teams was that we had a well thought-out commercialisation strategy.

This was the result of extensive research to better understand the needs of customers, and also spending time to talk to industry experts about the best way to bring our invention to the market.

In short, we made sure that our business plan was robust and could stand up to scrutiny by the experienced judging panel and potential investors.

The prize money of US$25,000 that we won will be used to invest in the further development of the product. Following the competition, NeuroMOD has since received private funding, and is presently conducting animal studies for our device in the US.

While I am currently back in Singapore to further my education, my partner Andrew is working full-time to bring our technology to the next stage. If all goes well, we expect our first product to reach the market in four to five years’ time after undergoing additional tests and clinical studies.

The writer is a fresh graduate from the 2008 class of the NUS School of Design and Environment.

This article was first published in The Business Times on February 09, 2009.

I was really proud to see Danny featured in the Business Times.  Although I was mentioned in the article, it didn’t feel deserved as I was unable to play the more active role that I had initially envisioned for myself when I first joined the team.  Danny did all of the heavy-lifting for the business plan and I was just happy to have been along on the ride, building a faulty 3-statement model and neglecting to build in more assumptions about working capital and the long approval processes in the medical device industry.  We had a good run with the first iteration of our business plan – making the finals of the Jungle magazine business plan competition (which, coincidentally, was held in the now-defunct Bear Stearns’ NY corporate office) and the semi-finals of StartUp@Singapore 2007.  Unfortunately, we never won any of those competitions due to the skepticism surrounding the  nascent and unproven technology at that point of time.  It did, however, alert us to the strengths/weaknesses of our business plan and presentation skills.

The business plan was deemed to be premature when we first pitched it – one of the judges at the competition thought that the idea of wirelessly charging an implanted medical device was completely ludicrous, and suggested that we should have written the business plan about that technology instead.   Thankfully, Danny never lost faith in the commercial potential of the product, and continued to work on it even while finishing his last year of school.   He took the criticism, learnt from it and used it to fashion a bulletproof business plan which he brought all the way to 2nd place in Startup@Singapore 2008, and then to US$25,000 in California.  Definitely a proud achievement for Danny, NOC, NUS and even Singapore.  Shows you that hard work does pay off.

Oh, and as a final note, we know today that the concept of charging wirelessly using electromagnetic induction is no Blade Runner fantasy.  In fact,  it’s going to be on a soon-to-be ubiquitous communication device – the Palm Pre.

New blog to read: Groundnotes

February 13, 2009

http://groundnotes.wordpress.com/

Not sure of the background of the blogger, but my guess is someone who studied PP&E – for someone like me who knows little about philosophy outside of Sophie’s World, his analyses are helpful in framing current political debate in philosophy, while his disdain of mainstream media’s Jim-Goldmanish mouthpiece coverage is better articulated and justified than in other blogs I’ve seen.