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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Cathay Cinema Connection

GH and I have been watching a number of French gay movies. "Times Have Been Better" (2007), directed by Régis Musset and starring Bernard Le Coq, was one of the better ones. Gay son comes out to liberal parents, who freak out.

Watched last week Greta Garbo and John Gilbert smolder in "Flesh and the Devil" (1926), directed by Clarence Brown, with cinematography by William Daniels. The black-and-white silent film, based on Hermann Sudermann's novel The Undying Past, was completely absorbing. After seducing the John Gilbert character, Garbo marries his childhood friend, played by the very handsome Lars Hanson. When her husband finds the two of them in a compromising position, the men fight a duel. In an attempt to stop them, Garbo falls into the icy lake, in a memorable scene. A melodrama, sure, but very pretty.

Last evening, I watched quite a different movie, Yasujiro Ozu's "An Autumn Afternoon" (1962). The Japanese director's last film, it ret…

LoveSingapore? Call It Hate Instead.

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Over the weekend, proof was uncovered of a systematic campaign of hatred against LGBT people in Singapore. A secret guide, compiled and distributed by LoveSingapore, the proselytizing arm of Faith Community Baptist Church, calls for churches to form "Action Groups" to pressure the government to uphold Section 377A of the Penal Code. The infamous law, a legacy of the British colonial government, criminalizes sodomy, and so stands in the way of equal rights for all citizens of Singapore, straight and gay. Titled "Support 377A: a simple guide to giving feedback," the church document is astonishing in its deviousness, hypocrisy and self-deception.

































































































































































































































Good Morning, Late Spring

The plot of Late Spring (1949) reminds me a little of The Golden Bowl. A daughter who loves her widowed father so much that parting, in the form of marriage, is such sweet sorrow. Setsuko Hara plays Noriko Samiya with real inwardness. Having just recovered from an illness during the war, she is seen at the age of 28 to be ripe for marriage. Her father (Chishû Ryû), knowing her attachment to him, and concern for his old age, tricks her into leaving him by pretending to contemplate marriage with a widow. I was thrilled to see Ryōan-ji in the film. The visit to the famous dry garden in Kyoto is the last trip that father and daughter take together, before she leaves the home to be married.

Set in suburban Tokyo, Good Morning (1959) is a humorous satire of postwar consumerism and adult mannerisms. Two boys, brothers, take a vow of silence when their parents refuse to buy them a TV. Their silence comments nicely on the use of small talk as a social lubricant in the adult world. The boys can…

The Foucault Reader

After encountering the critical thought of Nietzsche, I have wondered how to apply it to social and political problems. Foucault shows one way of doing so, through the genealogical analysis of power relations in society.

From an interview in Power/Knowledge:
The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning. History has no "meaning," though it is not to say that it is absurd or incoherent. On the contrary, it is intelligible and should be susceptible to analysis down to the smallest detail--but this in accordance with the intelligibility of struggles, of strategies and tactics....

What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn't only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse....
From the essay "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History":
Humanity does n…

Poem: "storm warning"

storm warning
shops will receive Washington
on his birthday

Poem: "the snow unscrolls"

the snow unscrolls
for the personal seals
of children’s feet

Poem: "between snowfalls"

between snowfalls
he gives the final touch
to the twisty branch

A Separation

Watched last night "A Separation," a superb Iranian film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. A couple seeks a divorce because the wife wants to leave the country to give her daughter a better future whereas the husband wants to stay to look after his father suffering from Alzheimer's. The separation begins a chain of events that is completely involving in its human drama. The acting is uniformly strong: Peyman Moaadi as the husband Nader; Leila Hatami as the wife Simin; Sarina Farhadi as their daughter Termeh; Sareh Bayat as the hired help Razieh; Shahab Hosseini as Razieh's hot-tempered husband Hojjat. Even the minor characters such as Termeh's teacher and Razieh's young daughter are entirely believable.

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This morning's haiku does not have anything to do with the film. Or does it?


what kind of birds
live in these nests of snow?
they must fly young

Poem: "in the snow"

in the snow
the stone sits on its shadow
a courtier on his robe

Poem: "red dot in snow"

red dot in snow
I go closer to the fence
a fallen leaf

Zen Landscapes

I'm still thinking about Zen Landscapes by Allen S. Weiss. The unity of Zen aesthetics in landscaping, flower-arrangement, ceramics and poetry, all ultimately informed by the tea ceremony. A stone on a bed of gravel may constitute a garden worthy of contemplation. Raked to represent waves, the gravel is thus both fixed and moving, permanent and transient. Flaws are part of the beauty of the contemplated object. I don't think W. H. Auden was into Zen, but he captured the sentiment in "And the crack in the tea-cup opens / A lane to the land of the dead."


again I passed
the garden without looking,
some snow, a stone

Missing Subject Line

Wrote a poem to thank Elsa for her Christmas present of Arthur Yap's Complete Poems. The poem "Missing Subject Line" is now published as part of a Singaporean collaboration with Prairie Schooner in the latter's Fusion series. Thanks, Alvin Pang, for editing the Singapore selection. Thanks, Kwame Dawes, for the brilliant idea behind Fusion.