Thursday, July 29, 2010

We ask different ‘whys’ as we grow

When we were kids, we always ask our parents and teachers why certain thing happened. Usually, they were related to something visual, and we asked questions out of curiosity, like ‘why the sky is blue?’ The reason why we ask the adults because they were the authoritative figures in our lives. They always told us what we should/should not do. It seems like they know more than us, so we seek answers from them. If the adults were happened to be educated, they may know the answer right the way, or they would know where to go to get us the correct answers. However, most of the adults were not able to do that unfortunately, and they simply provided cunning answers like ‘go ask your teacher’, ‘sky is just blue, don’t ask why’, ‘when you get older, you will know’, i.e. just to make us go away.

As we grow older, we would still ask questions, but those questions were getting harder to answer, like ‘what will happen after we die?’, ‘does God exist?’ These kinds of questions have been asked for thousands of years without proven answers. Naturally, most people would not be able to answer them correctly. Cuz. Even if they try, based on their religious beliefs, or philosophical knowledge, the kids will have follow up questions on top of previous answers up to a point of no resolution. I guess that would be similar to the situation when Confucius or Socrates spoke to their disciples for hours and hours under a tree or something.

On the other hand, I would guess that many older kids would simply not ask adults those questions, and try to seek the answer themselves by going to library or searching the net these days. However, with the overwhelming amount of information, the young mind may not be able to filter them and got to the bottom of the answers. So, they may either give up, or select a school of thoughts to believe in, kinda like find a resting place for the mind to cling on, i.e. to settle for a theory though it is unproven, it is comforting. That’s why it has always been easier to preach to the young people and to recruit them into certain religions or cults.

Well, when we are getting older, most of adults (including me), unless they have some strange encounters or experience, would be relatively more practical or down to earth in their question. We may ask ‘what stock to buy today?’ or ‘which place to travel in next month’s vacation?’ Most adults do know where to get answers for those questions. I’m not saying all adults are all alike. There are far and between great minds throughout our modern history. Certainly, human minds are capable of and are diversified enough to ask different kind of questions. What’s I’m saying here is simply generalization.

Obviously, many adults still have questions of non-materialistic or practical levels. They may no longer ask if God exists, but they would still question ‘what is the meaning of life?’, ‘Am I cursed for being a bad parent?’, ‘why she doesn’t love me?’ etc. They will look for answers themselves by reading books or ask some experts in person or online. Rarely, they would ask about complicated incidents that happen in reality but from a relatively detached prospect. For examples, questions like ‘why can’t the U.S. win in war on terror?’, ‘how the economy can turn around?’ If they do ask, most typical adults would ask question like ‘how can my son be able to come back safely from Iraq?’, ‘what should be done in case bad things happen to my husband who is serving in Army in Afghanistan?’, or ‘What is my personal financial strategy in the next 12 months when the economy is still in doldrums?’ Those are more personal level of practical questions that relate to a broader scale of issues. The reason why they think that way is understandable, cuz most adults are simply experienced enough to understand that individuals are powerless in changing any large scale international problem. If we can’t solve it, then why bother to try to understand what the causes are. We are simply too busy to manage our own lives. That is the major reason why many people in developed countries are so ignorant or badly informed about world affairs in spite of the fact that information can be easily accessed simply few clicks of mouse away.

I’m not saying here that I’m very special or sophisticated for being interest in learning global affairs. I just find that enjoyable for being able to satisfy my curiosity by being informed. Information to me is like ‘food’ to my soul. I love of being ‘fed’. That’s it. However, I do find that many global affairs are just somehow too complicated for me to understand their causes. Using the analogy above, it is somewhat like trying to swallow the whole chicken with bones in few bites, that’s just can’t be done! I guess that’s why people like me would find that certain conspiracy theories are simply appealing to be accepted. Cuz, they somehow simplify the causes of many complicated things into sizable trunks that fit for swallowing.

For example, ‘why the U.S. is in two wars in Iraq as well as Afghanistan right now?’

I don’t really buy the official reasons (lip services) presented by the NATO governments. The previous ridiculous reason of WMD was already debunked. The other ‘reasons’ why troops were there like fighting terrorists, liberating people from dictatorships and promoting democracy and freedom, are just not credible to me. As most politicians are liars and governments are simply serving their self-interests for whatever actions they are taking, I would rather looking at what some ‘odd-ball’ theorists have said about the causes and trying to make some senses of them. I will never be able to prove if the following are true or not. But, somehow, I think that dots can be somehow linked among them:

- Jews have great influence in the U.S., particularly in businesses, such as in media, finances, energy, and MNCs.

- Anyone wanna be winner in U.S. politics needs money, and special interest groups are willing to provide financial support to candidates of all levels for their support on the groups’ stakes.

- Israel lobbies and other Jewish background interest groups are the most powerful and efficient among all, with their connections inside out.

- Israel’s only friend in the world is the U.S. which provide unparallel support to the tiny country since its foundation back in 1968. That support alone allows Israel to be what it is in spite of fact that the country is surrounded by ‘enemies’ in M.E.

- Jews and Arabs don’t get along in the last 2,000+ years. The problems are historic as well as religious, and territory is a key issue.

- Religious issues are typically extremely difficult to reach compromise or agreement, and people in the M.E. region are very religious, since religions have been a major binding force and governing tool by the governments there in view of the absence of other alternative that can be offered to their people.

- The bond between Israel and the U.S. results as a force of one side in the conflict. NATO is dragged in because of the U.S.

- Besides religion, wealth is another driver in international relations.

- Cruel fuel is a big business. M.E. has oils and the U.S. needs oils, lots of it.

- Alternative energy is good for the world, maybe a profitable business in future, but it would be bad for the quarter-to-quarter bottom line of those giant energy groups which want to monopoly on energy control in the world.

- U.S. has diversified its geographical sources of crude fuel, but the economic cost of getting them from M.E. is just lower than others. Also, U.S. wants to secure not just the current source of energy but also the expanding region beyond M.E., i.e. Central Asia which is rich in natural gas and other materials as well.

- The U.S. is the sole superpower in the world and would do ANYTHING to defend its status.

- China and Russia are rising powers. China in particular is thirst for energy that makes it a logical competitor to the U.S. for both short and long term.

- China and Russia will never be ‘alliances’ – aka. subordinates of the U.S. So, they are naturally regarded as challengers and threats that the U.S. will try to ‘contain’ their rises by all means economically, technologically, and military in particular.

- The U.S. military budget is unchallenged regardless its national financial well being, not only the R&D in new weapons system is just supreme, enormous amount of money has also been spent on its overseas bases and on buying alliances with countries (India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Eastern Europe, Australia, etc) that encircle both Russia and China.

- On the chessboard of international geopolitics, Afghanistan and Iraq are happened to be pieces of puzzles from the aspects of against China and Russia, securing energy sources for the U.S. in the long run, as well as the national security of Israel. Meanwhile, rather than confronting China and Russia diplomatically, countering so-called ‘threat’ from North Korea and Iran as well as terrorism are being used as targets to justify the legitimacy of many activities.

Taking a glimpse of the factors above, you can imagine why the U.S. is currently in two wars. As I said, I can’t prove the above are all true, but hopefully, thoughts has been raised for readers to think about.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heroes in Hollywood’s blockbusters

Sylvester Stallone, while promoting his new movie ‘Expendables’, has made a comment recently in Comic Con 2010 in San Diego about his view on how heroes in Hollywood movies has changed from macho men like him to become ‘anyone’ (e.g. Keanu Reeves) can play heroes these days. He said that if he could know how that would change, he wouldn’t need to spend so much time in the gym to pump his muscles. He also cited that change in movie heroes has started by the movie ‘Batman’ in 1989 starring Michael Keaton with a body frame of 5’6’’without bulging biceps, could play the cape crusader and fought villains without sweat. I think that’s an interesting issue that Sly has raised that get me wanna share my view on this issue.

There have been movie heroes throughout Hollywood’s history. The standout ones like John Wayne in war movies, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, etc did plant the idea of what heroes in movies would look like back then. With the concept of blockbusters started with Jaws, movies with heroes became the tent poles of Hollywood’s big movies since then. Heroes have a wide range from everyday folks like those in Jaws or the fireman in World Trade Center, to total fantasy sci-fi cyborgs like Arnold in T2 or Navi in Avatar.
However, comparing both, the latter is getting bigger and bigger in the last 20+ years or so. Cuz, movies after all are entertainment, a mean to let us escape reality. Therefore, in terms of room for creativity, it would always be easier to create fictional heroes than present real people as heroes in adaptation of reality in movies.

Regarding fictional heroes, I believe that there are several reasons why human character heroes like those Sly represents has been fading in Hollywood movies in the last 2 decades as he suggested.

(i) The advancement of technology makes fantasy possible to be realized in movies.
(ii) Studios would like to steer away from the dependence on stars as well as to have greater control on the making of franchise.
(iii) Studios want better coordination of its products during the globalization of Hollywood movies.

Technology Development
Gone are the days of using mechanic pops in movies like Star Wars and Jaws. Since James Cameron first gave us a glimpse of what CG can do in Abyss (i.e. the few minutes scene of ‘water’ manipulated by aliens) and his subsequent T-1000 in T2 in 1992, the floodgate of CG driven movies just can’t be stopped.

You might argue that Arnold was the star in T2. Yes, he was, but that was also the last ‘bigger-than-life’ role that Arnold was able to find in Hollywood even he was in his prime then. With the aid of Stan Winston and ILM, Steven Spielberg was able to make dinosaurs came to live in Jurassic Park. Summer blockbusters just don’t need big stars anymore. Considering the speed of CG advancement, the effect has been getting more and more creditable by years. On the one hand, the animation side of CG got better and better, if you compare the original Toy Story to Toy Story 3. You can see the difference in the action scenes as well as the human characters. On the other hand, along the way of the usage of CG in human character movies, the mix of CG and human became more and more non-distinguishable in fantasy movies like Harry Potter, Lord of the Ring, The Pirate of Caribbean series. I would say that the status of CG in those movies is probably on par as actors/actresses. Hollywood has no intention to slowdown the deployment of CG in making of movies, the Beowulf, Polar Express, and Avatar just advanced the role of CG into the prime attraction of the movies rather than in supporting roles.

Less dependence on stars
Sly, Arnold, Bruce, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, etc were the biggest names in front of camera in the last two decades. Most of them became ‘bigger-than-life’ characters of their own. They could ‘open’ movies, i.e. called big shot at the box-office. Movies were green-lighted with their name attached. They did prove that they can deliver in many occasions in spite of some high profile misses along the way like Sly’s comedies, Bruce’s Striking Distance, Arnold’s Last Action Hero, Harrison Ford’s Devil’s Own, etc. However, Studios are in business to maximize profits. One way is to control cost, particularly the star’s paycheck. It might not be the greed of actors/actresses, certainly their agents must have their hands all over in paycheck negotiation. The upfront pay of many big stars in fact dwarfed by what they end up getting with those fancy financial deal of getting x% of returns of the movie profits. That’s why we heard that Jack Nicholson made US$60M from Batman back in 1989-1990, Tom Cruise made a Gazillion dollar from Mission Impossible series, etc. That had built benchmark as common practice for many other stars to follow. Money in Hollywood is a zero-sum game, actors’ gains are coming out of movie studios’ pocket. As such, studios has been driven to find other ways to tighten their wallets. An extreme example that I heard was playing with some accounting rules to make some profitable movies into losses legally on paper, so as to avoid paying those stars those x%. Also, studios have considered that their high-cost, high profile movies could strive as well as tank by the stars, i.e. they could both be assets as well as liabilities to movies themselves. Besides the stars do age which would affect the roles that they play, and they sometimes would also do stupid things off the screen that affect their movie appeals. Those are just things that studios would love to avoid if possible.

Globalization of Hollywood movies
Hollywood movies used to be for American mostly. The N. American market matters the most, the returns from old Europe and Japan were like caveat for the studios. Basically, what American wanna see was the only thing that matter. In other words, Hollywood movies used to live or die by the reception in American market. However, with the opening and speedy development of global movie markets that need products to be put up on screen, Hollywood as the biggest source would happy to satisfy their appetites. Yes, Hollywood is still U.S. dominant, but over the last 2 decades, many mediocre movies in American market were able to get somewhat compensated by box-office overseas, e.g. Troy, Robinhood, Waterworld, etc. For the blockbusters, the share of foreign box office has become bigger each year. At the end of the day, Hollywood is not black or white, but green! That’s why we start to see greater diversity both in front of and behind the screen in Hollywood products, particularly if they can attract the audiences of many local markets. Theoretically, the stars would have greater negotiating bargaining power to the studios as many overseas audiences are believed to be less sophisticated that they are more star-struck than the American audiences. However, that wasn’t much the case indeed. Cuz, for audiences of newer markets, the starting point of getting to know Sam Worthington is about the same level of getting to know Green Hornet.
Therefore, Hollywood is hedging its bet to build up and cultivate new generations of stars at the same times as building franchises with ‘character’ heroes, like those in Marvel and DC Comics.

In addition, building those ‘character’ franchises make much more economic senses than making stars. Movie franchises can create greater universe of merchandises and other auxiliaries products to make money especially for global audiences. For example, audience would be more likely to buy Spiderman related merchandise, seek to ride on Spiderman ride in theme park than buying a ‘Commando’ (an Arnold’s movie in the 1980s) lunch box if it were available. Though we know that Peter Parker is a white man but covering him in a persona as well as costume of Spiderman does help to shield the ethnicity of character for easier empathy of global audiences. Also, those comic heroes were fighting evil characters which are largely unrelated to politics, ethnicity, or that sort of divisive and potentially controversial characteristics. That has helped in adoption by global audience as well. Meanwhile, Hollywood can still keep the hidden agenda of promoting Americana to the world (e.g. seeing the American flag waving in the background at the end of Spiderman.) without alienate audiences of any specific countries. That’s why, if you pay attention to the Hollywood movies in recent 2 decades, most of villains are different from those in the Cold War years. Except few villains from some alienated regimes like Burma (John Rambo), North Korea (Die another day), or terrorists of unidentified nationality still popped up in some movies, most of villains became evil scientists (Spiderman 2), aliens or monsters (Alien, Predators, ID4, Cloverfield), machines (Terminator, Matrix) or even American (Jason Bourne movies) themselves, so as to make the movies more marketable globally.

Looking forwards to the summer blockbusters in the recent years and the next few years, it seems that three types of movies are getting more and more dominant which has proved what I mentioned above as the strategy of studios.

(i) CG animations – It started with Antz and Toy Story 15 years ago. Since then, Dreamwork, Pixar/Disney, Fox, Sony Pictures all over them keep on making this type of CG animations each year. Some of them are hugely successful on both artistic and commercial basis (e.g. Toy Story Trilogy, Up, Wall-E). Even for those not very big in box office (e.g. Over the Hedge, Madagascar), they are still much better investments than human movies. Cuz, they can make up a lot of off screen profits from DVD and merchandises. Also, the costs of making sequels are cheaper and profits are higher for those successful one. Just think about the cost of making Ice Age 3 have comparing to that for Men in Black 3. Stars would jack up their asking price and need to be pampered to get their schedules right to make sequels, but animated characters are always available 24/7. That’s why Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2, Monster Inc.2, Puss the Boot, etc are gonna be on pipeline in next few years.

(ii) Comic Book Heroes – They are just more enduring than human characters. Indiana Jones, Rambo just aged, Arnold’s T-800 would no longer be the draw of Terminator. On the contrary, the franchise of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, etc, can be rebooted over and over again. If an actor that played those comic book heroes asked for too much money to reprise the roles, like the rumor of why Edward Norton is not gonna play Incredible Hulk in the upcoming Avengers, studio won’t hesitate for a moment for making replacement. Also, creativity wise, the deep sea and decades of history of comic book heroes are treasures for studios to make them into franchises with much less risks. Just looked at the success of Marvel characters for examples, X-men series have 4 movies with more Wolverine and Early Year in the making, 2 Fantastic Four movies are decent, Spiderman has a great trilogy with an upcoming (unnecessary in my opinion) reboot, 2 Iron man are hits. Though Hulk has been rebooted with so-so result, that hasn’t stopped Thor and Captain America to come next year, and the most anticipating Avengers is coming afterwards.
The possibility of crossovers and sequels, prequels is endless. DC Comic side is relatively poorly developed so far compared with Marvels. Batman had 2 good ones and 2 bad ones until greatly rebooted by Christopher Nolan with Batman Begin and The Dark Knight. The third one is pending to be made. Superman Returns didn’t meet expectation. Warner Brothers also relies on Christopher Nolan to reboot it somehow. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman are all on drawing board. Unless they can reach decent success, I doubt that Justice League would be seen anytime soon. Nonetheless, studios would certainly keep on churning out this type of movies in spite of some failures along the way, like Punisher, Ghostrider, Electra, Catwoman, etc.

(iii) Aliens/Monsters/Sci-Fi
– they started as B movies back in the black-and-white movie era. However, those movies are getting bigger and more successful with CG advancements. Though there have been hits (ID4, Cloverfield, District 9, Aliens, Star Wars, Star Treks, Jurassic Park, Terminator, Avatar, Matrix, Transformers, etc) and some misses (Gozilla, Aliens vs. Predators, etc), Hollywood will no doubt continue to make them, as they are relatively easy to translate in other cultures as well as being less star-dependent. As it is known, ID4 sequels, Avatar sequel, Transformers 3 and other alien-invasion movies are being planned, so just stay tune.

Having said all these doesn’t mean that Hollywood has totally ruled out the genre of human heroes movies at all. They are still milking some old concepts or making the last shot of the genre (like Expendables, Indiana Jones 5) or trying to reboot some old franchises (A-Team, Karate Kid). Also, Men in Black 3, Priate of Caribean 4 is also in the works. However, it is very obvious that Hollywood is not very keen in making new generation of global stars. There is not shortage of young actors/actresses, even if they get famous in some franchises, like Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter series or Robert Patterson in Twlight series, they would not just as bankable as Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson in their heydays. The young guys can try and may reach a reasonable success, but I believe that the days that stars can charge US$20M plus per movies are gone as the existing group of aging stars past their batons to the new groups.

For audience like us, we care less for what the actors/actresses can make, rather we would be more interested in what kind of movies are gonna come out. I don’t think we have reached the point of ‘heroes-fatique’ by those molded Hollywood products…yet. Certainly, we would make our choice based on the quality of the output and I’m sure Hollywood would continue to adapt in making products that would entertain us, aka. squeezing every penny from us if possible.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Considering myself a frugal guy, I don’t easily open my wallet for gadgets easily. Being a full time worker and dad of young boy, I just don’t have much time to play with any gadget even if I’ve money to spend on them. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve not dived into DSLR photography as well as getting a Wii at home. Nevertheless, the toy that I still bring along with me as a need as well as a hobby is the iPhone. Therefore, I still try to squeeze time to check out new apps and got new music/podcasts on, so as to enjoy them during my commute and other brief but cherished timeslots. In contrast to many iPhone users, I use it extensively as a replacement of my old iPod Classic, so I do take the headset with me 80-90% of times that I’m out of my shack.

I don’t have a very unrealistic requirement for headset. To me, as long as it does its job of playing whatever is on on my iPhone clearly and comfortably, then I will be happy. However, the original headset that comes with the iPhone just doesn’t do the job as much as I want it to be. It worse thing about it is the comfort level to my ear while I’m in motion. I’m kinda surprise that I’ve bear that for so long until today. Yes, I bought a new headset and it costs more than the DVD player that I’ve at home. Ah, not because my DVD player was expensive, but the headset does cost about US$100. It is from the brand of Ultimate Ears, called ‘Metro.FI 200v’. On the package, it says – Noise Isolating Mobile Headset – Balanced Microspeaker design for premium sound high sensitivity in-line microphone voice/music control button’. Similar to iPhone, it is designed in California and assembled in China, like most of things these days.

I did contemplate the idea of getting a new headset for a while, finding time to research and really go to a shop to check out one were things that I just never got them done until now. This time I did research a little bit and finally went to a headset special shop near my office to check out the final four selections on my list. Out of the ‘seems to be honest’ recommendation of the staff in the shop, I got this one.

I’ve thought for a while on my headset purchase is not because of issues like cost, color, brand, quality, etc. It is actually about a ‘risk’, whether there is any tradeoff or getting a balance among comfort, quality, and ‘SAFETY’. I’m not talking about the common sense issue of keeping the volume of headset down, so has to protect our hearing capability. I think I’m old enough to understand that. The real issue here is that most of the good headset replacements are those ‘in-your-ear’ model where they can deliver most acute sound to our ears by blocking most of the ‘noise’ in the surrounding. This design can do that as it really plugged into your ear while you are wearing the pairs of ear pieces. My concern was firstly the comfort level. I don’t know if it is because my ear is too big or too small or has weird shape. Many people can wear the regular headset comfortably and have the ear pieces safely clanged on their ears that I just can’t. My old headset would come off easily with or without the traditional sponge wraps. That’s why I had been searching everywhere to get some plastic wraps for my traditional headset so as to hold the ear pieces on my ear in a more secured way. However, the newly purchase headset should have no such problem after trying the earplugs on today. I just need to push them a little it, they stuck comfortably in my ears and I could listen clearly with only 60% of the volume that I used to turn on. Nevertheless, my concern is the catch 22 case that, the new headset can block out most of the background sound, but that may raise the risk of safety while walking down on the street or other matters. Cuz, I may miss horns or calling by others, or else in some situations with the headset on. Thus, I must pay extra attention to my surrounding for safety. Well, you might say that it is something we should do all the times. Yes, that’s true, but knowing it and doing it are not 100% overlapped. We are human after all, so there expects slippages; hopefully, they won’t lead to something tragic…with my fingers cross. I just need to remind myself to be more alert without letting my guard down while enjoying my audio entertainments.

Anyway, I can say that I’m preliminarily happy with this purchase. I hope it is really proved to be worthy as days go by.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Toy Story 3

Just got back from cinema with my wife for Toy Story 3. Well, what a nice movie it is! I read quite a bit about this movie beforehand. Learned that people, I mean adults do cry for this movie. However, I didn't feel sad at all for any part of the movie. That didn't make me enjoy it any less. The story is still tight and the funny parts are very entertaining.

I think Woody is still the major character in this one. Buzz's Spanish twist is funny, the dance is just amazing. Surprisingly, Mr. Potato head has a bigger share than I expected. Ken is funny, but it is a bit too much than it is needed. Seeing Totoro is such a surprise! The new toys are nice and outtakes are good as well. The three eyed alien playing Mid-Summer Dream just cracked me up. Also, the great escape of toys from the Sunnyside Childcare Center recalls Prison Break, just hilarious.

Anyway, I just can't find any bad things to pick on in the movie. Much more enjoyable than Shrek 4. Also, as a completion (so far) of a trilogy, this one does provide a high-quality closure than many other trilogies. I would say the Toy Story trilogy is the best among most trilogies that I have came across in last 2 decades. Anyway, I just can't recommend this one enough and the DVD is gonna be a keeper to watch with my son when he is few years older.

At last, 3D does help this movie a bit, but it doesn't grab you or I would say distract you too much. Just a very heartwarming and entertaining experience! *****

Friday, July 16, 2010

More dreams

My vivid dreams continue...

I had a very movie like dream last night that the vivid images just left stamps in my mind. Though, I can recall all the pieces, but there are few items that I still remember hours after waking up. I've no plan to make my blog into a dream journal, but I just wanna blog this for my own sake, these are pieces of what I saw in my dream last night:

Gillian Anderson (the actress in X-files) was in my dream playing a FBI agent again. What's different this time is that, there is no Fox Mulder. She was the main character and she has to deal with difficulties alone. She was somehow trapped in a situation that she has to turn into a fugitive that is hunting but other FBIs. She has to pursue a case related to 'teleporting' power or 'worm-hole' something that the U.S. government want to get a hand of. Somehow, she is accidentally linked to a situation that there is a 'worm hole' located in her apartment in a high rise building that she doesn't realize herself. I was many men in black guarding her apartment 24/7, motionlessly, didn't knowing that there is worm hole that pop up every now and then that things would pass through back and forth into another worm hole which was in a restaurant kitchen where a chef was cooking and handling out dishes which were passed through the worm hole to be put in Gillian's apartment. She has dogs in her apartment and those dogs were chowing down the dishes from the chef.

Gillian somehow realized that she has to go, she told some money from her FBI office as 'road money'. She left the building and hopped into the luggage storage of a greyhound bus. Hidden herself there while the bus was travelling down the interstate highways overnight. She dropped her mobile onto another vehicle which was on the way to Canada so as to distract her pursuers. She only made calls on pay phone. She had good pals who are willing to help to on the way while those pals were in government but they are the 'good' guys.

Somehow my third person view of the dream starring Gillian shifted to become being as a first person as myself. I started to be running in the woods in the evening. Trying to find way out. There were public vans that passed me by but I couldn't make up my mind to stop any of them to go the place that I want to even though the sign on the vans clearly show that I can hop in any of them. I was somehow in a time strain and need to go somewhere in a hurry. There was a girl in blond hair also need to take a van, she hopped into one and left. I then still somehow got lost in a wood. There were concrete roads, but I somehow ran into a mud road on the side. Suddenly, I saw a lot of people, they looks like Korean or Chinese. It seemed that that road was leading to a mass cemetery which almost occupy the whole valley. I then run up the valley where the upper part was still landfill. I struggled to the top and saw the night scenery of a big city in the background. Somehow I looked up and saw there were construction going on at the landfill which looks like something like a stadium or a dam. There was a ticking clock there but it looked more like a ticking bomb to me. Underneath the ticking number, there was a word 'Corp.Action' (how strange is that?!).

Then, my dream shifted to another scene where I saw a Chinese female ex-coworker, my ex-boss, a black ex-ex-ex-ex-coworker with the name Brian, and an American Thai ex-ex-ex-ex coworker who became a dear friend of mine later. We were in a discussion about checking on something at a round table. Somehow my ex-boss suggested my American-Thai female friend to lead in checking, but my Chinese female ex-coworker doesn't like it. My ex-boss then pounding the table with a pen in hand saying something like...why didn't you tell Brian to check this, this, this and this.....last time. As the job wasn't done properly, you need to listen to my Thai friend this time....something like that.

Then, I was awaken up by my alarm clock.


Thursday, July 15, 2010


While I’m waiting for my most anticipated movie of this summer – Inception, a movie about ‘dream’ directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo Dicarpio, I also feel like talking about ‘dream’.

Recently, my sleeping quality has not been too good. Usually, I function quite well with 7 hours of sleep. That means I wouldn’t need any caffeine, nor yawn throughout the day. However, in spite of 7 hours of sleep per night that I have recently, I felt tired and sleepy during the day. I think that’s related to the fact that I’m lacking exercise in recent months, perhaps squeezing some minutes to do some brief workout as part of my daily routine would help my sleep.

Anyway, my poor quality sleep also has a side effect; it is that my dreams lately have been getting a bit too vivid that I got a bit tired after I wake up. That had happened before, so I know that I will get over it, so I’m not too worried about it.

In contrast to others, I enjoy having dream in my course of sleep; usually I don’t get tired at all. Rather, having dreams in my sleep proves that I sleep well. Most of the time, I wouldn’t remember exactly what I’ve dreamed the night before, but I usually would subconsciously know whether I’ve dreamed or not. Having dreams make me feel like I’ve a lengthy sleep. Otherwise, I would feel like the whole night went by in a snap, which makes me feel tired and unfulfilling.

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged before that most of my dreams are very graphic with unrealistic content. That’s why there is just no way my dreams would ever come true, cuz, they just won’t. Like I would dream of a weird combination of people (such as celebrities and my old friends) together at a place doing things that they just won’t do that together.

Sometimes, I would be in my dream as one of the character that I would see myself from the prospective of a third person, like watching a video with me in it. But most of the time, I would be there in first person.

The way I realized that I have multiple dreams is that I subconsciously see that the people as well as the environment in my dream changes, e.g. being in a forest with few people and somehow shifts to be in a classroom or something.

I had experienced before the case of ‘a dream within a dream.’ It is like myself doing something in my dream and got really scare or worried, but somehow I told myself in my mind that it was only a dream, then I realized in my dream that what I had done was just a dream. It sounds complicated, but it was a fascinated experience.

There are funny things that I found interesting about my dream: ‘the shift of place’ and ‘emergence of new people’ in my dream. That happened before after I move to a new place, like being abroad in real life; I would start having dreams with the new place as background and even start speaking different languages. Also, after getting to know new friends or colleagues a short while, they started to appear in my dreams as well.

What I don’t like to dream the most is not nightmare, but dreaming about coworkers. Not that I hate them by any mean, but see them in my dream and then see them for real in few hours afterwards just make me tired. Usually, when that happens, it means that I would need to take time off from work in real life.

I don’t mind nightmare, like being in dangerous situations, cuz I always feel relax after waking up. That was a good feeling.

Only in very rare occasions that I would be able to continue good dreams after being waken up for some reasons. In most cases, I just move to another dream.

I like to see old faces in my dreams, namely people that I would rarely or never be able to see in real life again, like old school friends or relatives that have passed away. Dreaming about them, usually seeing them doing just some normal day-to-day things are very comforting.

I do believe that dreams and reality do have some connections. Every now and then, I would dream about something or someone in some places that I might have just acquainted in my waking hours not too long ago. Like saw a photo of someone on a magazine, listened a song on my iPhone, or things like that during the day, those acquaintances somehow would sneak into my dream that night.

Nonetheless, though I believe that there is dream-and-reality connection, I don’t believe any of the current theory of dream interpretation. Like, dreaming of certain color, or animals, or incidents means X, Y and Z that is happening or will happen to me in real life. Cuz, I think dream interpretation is really personal. Like dreaming of coworkers for me means I may be stressful at works that I need to take time off. However, that may not apply to other people. In terms of color, objects, etc, those things are also subjective to culture and personal preference/experience. That’s why I think that those dream-interpretation books are jokes, for leisure only.

As I said, I enjoy my dreaming experience. I used to think that if we can control what to dream, that would be the best thing happen in life. Cuz, sleeping is supposed to occupy about a third of our life. Imagine you can control what to happen to you in about a third of your life. That would be fascinating, isn’t it? In particular, some of dreams were so vivid that I usually can’t tell if I was dreaming when I was in dreams. However, come to think of it, one great reason why I enjoy dreaming so much is its unpredictability that always comes with surprises. If I can control what to dream about, then that would be no surprise.

I think I’ve talked about dream enough, time to wake up and face the reality.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not sure is sarcastism or dark humor

She said: ‘Honey, do you miss me?’
He said: ‘I can’t start missing you unless you leave! If you want me to miss you, please leave .’

Birthday is not worth celebrating. Cuz, as long as you didn’t die in last 365 days, you will reach today. Also, one year older you are, it means one year you are closer to your death.

She said: ‘Honey, wait, I’ve not done with my make up yet.’
He said: ‘I don’t understand why women after cleaned their faces, would then put dirt back on again.’

If ‘getting married’ is equal to ‘tomb of love’, then married couples are zombies. We are all living in cemeteries and still paying for them. Marriage certificates are death certificates. Wedding planning is funeral planning. Don’t wonder kids are called child from hell! And ,divorces are reborn!

Friday, July 9, 2010

NBA 2010

Now, Lebron James announced that he is gonna join Dwayne Wade and Christ Bosh in Miami Heat in coming NBA season. So, the fiasco is over and the real works begin. As the free agent bonanza of this off season is about to be over when most of the big names have announced their new home, the coming season is gonna be very interesting to watch. I’m sure analysis of what will happen this year is gonna be done to death in the next few months. I just wanna put my two cents of thought in this circus.

People are gonna put Miami as the instant favorite considering the brightness of three ‘young’ all stars. Some people may compare the 2010 Miami to the 2007 Celtics when Ray Allen, KG, and Paul Pierce were first put together to form the ‘big three’ who eventually won the champion in their first season together. However, I don’t think that’s gonna happen to Miami. Yes, they will win a champion or more, but not this year. The difference are (i) the ‘bench’, (ii) mentality the second.

Celtics 2007 has a decent bench besides the big three. PJ Brown, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkin, James Posey, Tony Allen are all fine role players at the time. The rest of Miami 2010 is still pending to be filled. However, the team has only jump change of $ to spend to do that. With that, they will most likely fill the team with players of D-league quality. Surely, there may be surprise, but that’s just a best wish. They can only hope to find players who would only wish to strike for the chance of getting a ring but playing at minimum money. This kind of players do exists, but will be far and between these days. For any unknown to be good enough to be ‘surprise’, that may take more than a year to work within the team and whether Pat Riley can pull any rabbit out of his Armani hat in next year or two. Regarding ‘mentality’, the big three of Celtics 2007 are veterans that were beaten up in the lead for decade without getting a ring. They had already passed the stage of chasing their individual glories. So, they could work together to make sacrifice for the team to win. I doubt that will happen to Miami this year. Not with D.Wade already got a ring and LBJ’s attitude towards the game as a team spot. Even the sharing with spotlight would be an issue. The new young big three may be good friends off the court, but would they get along on it is gonna be very interesting to watch. Off course, I could be wrong, but…unless the disclosed contract of those 3 players will show that they get less money than it was predicted, i.e. a sign that they don’t mind to leave some money on the table for Pat Riley to fill the rest of the team with decent players, I would say that Miami is not gonna be as good as what they look. The end of the day is that basketball is a game of 5 players on the court, and a champion team is never composed of a 3 headed dragon.

In view of the rest of the league, the Knicks got one star, Bulls got one, Clippers and the Nets got none. Lakers remain the team to beat in the league. Celtics’ core will come back for their last dance (with Doc River as the coach). Cavaliers, Jazz will be in misery for years to come. I would rank the top teams in the league in next year as follow: Lakers > Celtics > Bulls > Miami > Magic > Suns > Spurs/Mavericks. Let see if I’m right about that…..:)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sick of LBJ

LeBron James is gonna have an 1 hour special on ESPN this Thursday to announce his whereabout in the next x years under a $100+ contract that we will sign with “?” That “?” can be Cleveland or Miami or Chicago which are the front runners of the Lebron sweepstake this offseason in NBA.

To be honest, I don’t really give a shit where he is gonna sign. As a fan of basketball, don’t get me wrong that I don’t like stars. I like to watch star players playing. What I don’t like are those hyper-inflated stars who are made into something bigger than they are, not who they may become. I’ve no doubt that LBJ has shown all the potentials of how great he can and will be, but he is NOT there yet. My feeling is that he is still more interest in chasing individual glory than Championship. 2 times regular season MVP, that’s nice but so what? The bottomline in NBA for fans and most players are rings!

LBJ is great in regular season and fun to watch, but I don’t see a shift of his mentality during the playoff. The prime example is Game 5 against Boston. He just had no fire in his eyes, no killer instinct! That’s what separates him from Kobe or Michael. Unless he is seriously about chasing ring, I don’t think it matters where he will be next season.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shrek Forever After

I went to see the fourth Shrek movie over the weekend with my wife. Perhaps, I was a bit tired, I wasn’t enjoy it as much as I should. However, comparing with the previous 3 installments, this one is not bad. I would rank this one well above the last one, but still below the first and the second one.

The movie is still visually stunning considering the improvement in CG. Also, being a 3D movie certainly help. The story itself is fine, it is about the theme of cherishing what we have and don’t take things for granted. I would say that what’s lacking in this one is ‘surprise’. The villain is kinda weak, the new character – the flute musician could do more but didn’t. Other characters are simply doing the same old. The highlight is the fat Puss which provided most of the laughs here and there, besides the wigs of the villain. Well, I’m not complaining, but I just fell they could do more with this movie. However, considering this is supposed to be the end of Shrek in movie wise, I think this closure is not too bad. Anyway, my thought on this movie is brief as I really don’t recall too much to worth talking about. It is still an enjoyable movie, just not as engaging as I had expected.

Friday, July 2, 2010


My wife found a Blackberry on the back of a taxi yesterday on the way home. She brought it home and asked me what to do. Well, it is not like we didn’t know we can take it to the police station. However, it was late that day and she didn’t find it convenient to go all out of the way to do that. So, I was trying to figuring out if we can return the phone to the owner. To be the more gadget-savvy in my family, I’m by default to take on this task. I got a hand on the blackberry and try to navigate it without any guidance or user manual.

To be honest, Blackberry has been around for few years and it is quite prevalent in offices. My ex-bosses and folks in senior management all have it. I was once asked by my ex-boss if I want to have one. I simply said ‘thanks! But no!’ I love gadgets, and the popularity of Blackberry certainly means there is an allure of this product. I would love to have a chance to play with it, but to own it and be ready to be on call for work purpose all the time? I guess not. I don’t think with a Blackberry on hand has as much prestige as before. Few years back, a person with Blackberry on hand would be envied for being able to check emails on the go without being tying down to their desk or laptop. Also, the holder would be perceived to be a person of importance who can make vital timely decisions to manage his/her ‘troops’. However, when so many people are holding it these days, I think we have an updated perception of those holders as ‘Poor guys/gals who can’t really get off work with their boss on their back 24/7, as they have no more excuse for saying: ‘I’m not informed, I don’t know that…’” Also, as an iPhone owner, I don’t really think it is convenient to go everywhere with 2 smartphones. For women, they can use their handbags to carry them around, but for men, it is just nothing but a hassle to carry bricks around.

Going back to my session with the Blackberry, the owner left a yellow sticky with password attached on the back of it. What a dumb idea! So, anyone who picked that up can basically do whatever he wants with the phone before it got disabled remotely (if it can be done). Well, I didn’t do much on it after locking in. Cuz, I was not too nosy to sniff around to find out much about the owner. The only thing I wanted to do is to find the contact info of the owner. I did poke around the email inbox to see if there is any contact numbers, but without much luck. Cuz, there are simply way too many emails and the owner (I got his name) doesn’t have a habit to put his office number or else in his outgoing emails. As I was multitasking with other things as well, when I pick up the phone again later that evening, I found a message from the owner saying what number to call if someone picked up his phone. However, when I call that number, it was a helpdesk of a company who asked me to leave message for calling them in after hours. When I was about to leave my phone contact, my wife stopped me saying that we shouldn’t leave our contact to stranger. I thought that simply leaving my number and first name shouldn’t be much a risk in this aspect. It’s not like the owner would send that to telemarketers to call me in future. To avoid arguing with her (a wise move for any husband) for this not important matter, I then just left a message saying that please dial the Blackberry number again and I will try to return the phone as we speak.. I left the phone on…but nobody had called the whole night.
Today, I tried to call the number again and was finally able to speak to someone about the missing phone. The owner’s secretary is gonna to contact me to pick it up soon. I guess that would be the end of the story.

Based on my brief experience with the Blackberry, I think it is really a nice gadget. The screen is sharp and the navigation is not difficult to learn. Certainly, iPhone is much consumer friendly. But I can still see the attractiveness of Blackberry. Besides, the corporate support and the back end stuff, the phone itself is not bad. Nevertheless, I believe that even if Apple really want to push iPhone for corporate use (I know there are companies using it, but I don’t believe Apple has made full effort to push this product in the corporate area yet), Blackberry would still be able to put up a tough fight with iPhone.

My rationale is not about technical functionality of the products. Without doubt, regardless how much advancements Blackberry will and can put in product development, Apple can beat them hands down. On the contrary, it is more about the people’s practice and mindset in the corporate setting that would let Blackberry to stay alive. We are kinda in the second phase of product development cycle for smartphones. This market has not yet matured. However, there are already so many companies adopted this product category and many of them have chosen Blackberry when iPhone was perceived as a gimmick trendy product which was NOT what most companies were looking for. Money is the key issue, many companies’ approach to IT development and support is that, if it ain’t broken, don’t change anything. That’s why the most common OS in corporate universe is still Window XP, a product that release almost a decade ago. Every time there is any system upgrade, people are just putting up fence though they are not paying it out of their pockets directly. Improvement? Enhancement? These are not most white collars are looking for; rather they want familiarity, stability, and reliability. When Blackberry can offer them those, they will not wanna move to other platform easily. Companies wouldn’t want to spend extra money to make the move if Blackberry has not deteriorated enough and Apple has not yet convince them enough that they have to shell out money replace Blackberries with iPhones.

For this matter, I understand that it is not the same as Mac vs. PC. In spite of the fact that Mac is much easy and user-intuitive to use than PC, most people have not really got their hands on Mac. Also, Microsoft has kept on improving Windows by imitating Mac’s features. So, the war basically was over. iPhone on the other hand is much popular in general public than Blackberry. In fact, many Blackberry owners if not iPhone users themselves, must have hand on experience with the easy-to-use iPhone. Also, I don’t see Blackberry is on the same developing trend as iPhone, that’s different from Windows vs. Mac OS. On the other hand, there are more productivity apps in iPhone Appstore that can replace what Blackberry has. So, there should be much less resistance on the corporate user side to adopt iPhone. Rather, it would be the money to shell out support on the corporate side, how much control Apple is willing to give out to company IT, and how they are gonna work out the coordination of new iOS/iPhone releases. Also, the security issue would be important as well. Cuz, that’s why Blackberry is selling and how Apple is gonna create a separate camp for the companies only would be challenging. As I doubt many companies would like their employees to use their corporate phones to download games or with Hello Kitty wallpaper. I guess we will stay tune to see how the development will unfold in future, it would be quite interesting. Anyway, that’s just my two cents of afterthought of this Blackberry incident.