Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guangzhou 1

The five-goat statue is the symbol of Guangzhou. Legend has it that five immortals came to Guangzhou riding on five goats. They blessed the city with wealth and prosperity before they returned to heaven, leaving behind the five goats. Ever since, Guangzhou has been a rich city. Till today, it is still one of the richest cities in China.

Guangzhou has a history of more than 2000 years, plays an important role in the spread of Zen Buddhism to China, is a sacred site for Muslims, and the base for the nationalists who overthrew the last feudal dynasty.

The founder of Chinese Zen Buddhism - Ven. Damo (达摩) first landed in China at Guang Xiao Temple (光孝寺), before he further his journey to the north and eventually settled down in Shaolin Temple. There are still legacies of his stay at Guangxiao Temple, including the well where he washed his ink stone.

Guangxiao Temple is also where the 6th Zen grand master Ven Huineng (惠能) was ordained. His hair was buried underneather the 7-level pagoda behind the main hall.

Guangziao Temple's official site is available here.

The Hair Pagoda of Ven Huineng

Guangzhou one of the earliest mosques in China. It is called Guangtasi (怀圣光塔寺), literally meaning in memory of the holy prophet. It has an Arab style tower in the mosque, which also served as a light tower in the ancient days. More information (in both Chinese and English) is available here.

(To be continued...)

The Duchess

The Duchess is a costume drama based on the life story of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire.

It is a story of love, adultery, addiction to gambling and political gaming. The Duchess is a prominent political figure in the British political circle, and well-loved by the people. However, behind that facade, she has a husband who sleeps around like nobody's business. The Duchess herself, in return, has an affair with a politician Earl Grey, and bears a daughter with him.
Moral of the movie: Don't bother too much about the so-called public role models. Everybody has a dark side :)

In terms of acting skills, all the actors and actresses are good. In terms of story development, it is slightly slow. This movie may be good for the academics but not for entertaining.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, January 30, 2009

If You Are The One (非诚勿扰)

If You Are The One is 2009's Chinese New Year movie directed by Feng Xiao-gang (冯小刚), starring Chinese comedian Ge You (葛优) and Shu Qi (舒淇).

It is supposed to be a romantic & comedic movie, then it is not so romantic but a bit slow, however, still fun. The opening is quite cliche in the sense that it started with Ge You going for different blind dates with different girls, and finally settling down with Shu Qi, after a long journey to Hokkaido, Japan.

Lots of typical Ge You style of black humour. Typical of Chinese movie focusing on the comtemporary attitude towards marriage among the young and old in China.

More information is available here.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Going Home...

Heading off to Hong Kong tomorrow morning, for my annual Chinese New Year holidays. Tomorrow is going to be a long day for me.

First, I have to get up early in the morning and catch a bus to Changi Airport terminal 3. It will my first time departing from T3. Hopefully this new terminal will impress me.

Then from Hong Kong, I need to take a bus to Grand China Hotel Guangzhou, then take subway home. The total journey will take about 8 hours (Praying going through Hong Kong/Mainland China custom will be smooth, I don't want to get stuck in the long queue).

Why don't I take a direct flight to Guangzhou? SIA doesn't allow me to claim my free ticket for the direct flight from Singapore to Guangzhou, from Singapore to Hong Kong is the only possibility. So, no choice! I have to first go to Hong Kong. But at least I am traveling on SIA. There will be food, and drinks, and entertainment. I am wondering whether I will get to watch 'Red Cliff 2' during the flight. I watched 'Red Cliff 1' during my flight to Tokyo, but dosed off half way.

Ok, I will take this opportunity to wish everybody

新春快乐 恭喜发财 牛年好运连连!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kyoto 2: Ginkakuji (银阁寺)

Ginkakuji (temple of the silver pavilion) and Kinkakuji (temple of the golden pavilion) are the two most famous temples in Kyoto, or even Japan. Ask my opinion about Ginkakuji?

My answer: A great disappointment!!


See for yourself...

The silver pavilion itself is under renovation. It seems like they had torn down the entire pavilion and then rebuild it. Although the name is 'silver pavilion', the pavilion has never been painted silver before. I hope after this renovation, or re-building, they will actually paint it in silver to match its name.

I couldn't see the silver pavilion, so I was left with the grey Zen sand dune in the court yard to stare at, supposing to meditate in the tourist crowd ;P
In addition, the students on their study tours are the additional 'scenary' for you to see in the temple. There were flocks of Japanese students doing their study tours. If you happen to get lost or don't know how to go to a certain place, following the students will be a good idea.

When I was there, it was the special month that they put their national treasure kept the temple up in display to the public. I walked around the place where the treasure was supposed to be displayed, but I couldn't see anything. Never mind, I am used to it. It seems in Japan, their national treasure is always something small, maybe a small painting, or a small buddha's statue, or something hard for you to see.

Oh, never mind, at least I can still enjoy the good view from the small hill behind the temple.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fuji acrobatic troupe performance at Raffles City Shopping Centre

This is a video clip of the performance by Fuji Acrobatic Troupe at Raffles City shopping center. My virgin video upload to YouTube. The image quality is bad, all because of the stupid YouTube ;P Haha...Not really. Just that my Nokia 6300 is not good enough. Even shooting at 'high' resolution, it is only 176x144, not really that 'high'.

I actually kind of like the Chinese New Year atmospher in Singapore. The shopping centres here put up nice Chinese New Year decorations, everywhere you go, you see a sea of red, the Chinese lucky color. They also invite performance troupes from China to peroform at the shopping centres. It gives people like me, a good opportunity to enjoy some free entertainment and have some exposure to the Chinese culture.

In contrast, back in China, there is really not that much of Chinese New Year atmosphere, other than the super crowded train stations before the New Year, and the empty streets on the 1st day of New Year, and then again jam packed crowds everywhere after that. But then we have the half hour fireworks on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year. I have never watched it myself, because I don't like to stand in the packed crowd, in a chilling winter night ;P

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Guangzhou Arts Academy Troupe Performance at Raffles City

Guangzhou arts academy troupe having performance at Raffles City shopping center till 24 Jan. Here are some shots to share.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Muscle and Fitness War 2009

Muscle and Fitness War is a body-building competition organized by an NUS sub-club. This year it was held at Vivo City this afternoon.

There were lots of BIG guys there. They have really big muscles, so big that you might think it is a bit out of shape, or too big to be naturally beautiful. Anyway, they have their own standard of judging the muscle beauty, although I cannot fully appreciate it.

Just to share some of the shots I took today.

This is one guy I think looks more natural and more acceptable, but he only came in the 5th place in the above 170cm catagory.

This is our 1st runner-up from NTU. His muscles look more like fibres than muscles to me.

Here is our champion. Every single piece of muscle on his body is perfect. There is no body fat. Looks great.

Anyway, congratulations to all the winners. It is a reward for all that effort and commitment and sacrifices they have made for the sport of body-building.

In terms of photography, I like the photo of the champion because the sun came out and shone directly on him at the golden hour. His body is literally 'glowing' :)

More photos can be found here:
Muscle and Fitness War 2009 Part 2
Muscle and Fitness War 2009 - Part 3

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pay Freeze or Pay Cut

The National Wage Council today recommended the wage guidelines for the next 6 months. The recommendation is to freeze pay or make pay cuts to help business keep their operating cost low and keep jobs.

The current financial crisis is the 3rd crisis I have ever encountered so far in my life and it is the worst of the 3. Comparing with the current crisis, 1997 Asia Financial Crisis, 2000 Tech bubble burst look so trivial.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, so wish everybody to have good life in the coming year of the Ox and survive the current crisis, and become stronger :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crisis Deja Vu

The STI has been going down for the last week? I didn't really keep track of it. The current financial crisis has so much similarity with the Asia Financial Crisis back in 1997. Business vanished over night, people lost their jobs over night. All the good things vanished over night. Bungalows were selling at half price. STI went all the way down to 800+ points. At that time, one of my investment guru friend advised me to buy some if I had some spare cash. Unfortunately at that time I was saving up for my postgrad studies overseas. If I had bought some, I would be laughing to the bank now, even after STI had droped more than 50% from its peak of 3900!

The 1997 crisis was because Asian companies and governments borrowed too much, expanded too fast & furious. The current crisis is because some western countries borrowed too much.

It seems like the old wisdoms are still the best. Always be prudent in your finance, have savings (not necessary in the form of savings account savings though), and a positive cash flow at all times.

The current crisis is bad. It may take us years to recover, but then a word of caution here is that once we recover, we might get into a hyperinflation period, as a consequence of the inflating money policies the US FED is adopting right now. In fact, what do you expect other than inflation if the FED keeps printing money. Wealth is NOT created by printing money but by improvement in productivity and efficiency. Printing money from thin air is NOT counted as wealth creation, rather, it is wealth destruction.

Be prudent, and shop around for good value goods, this crisis may present you with some good opportunities. :D

Monday, January 12, 2009

Can You Tell Me?

I encountered something strange today. I have a photo approved at ShutterStock. Looking at it at my home computer, the background looks clean - it is white. However, when I look at it at my office computer, it looks ugly. The background is not white, but with patches of gray or something on the left! Ok, the same photo may look different at different monitors. And it is only 'accurate' on a 'calibrated' monitor, while neither my home monitor nor my office monitor is calibrated, but so far I have never had any issues with my home monitor. It is not the best, but then what looks good at my monitor must have looked good at the reviewer's as well; otherwise, the photo would not be approved in the first place!

But for this one, I am a bit confused. Below is the photo in question, do you see some strange patches in the white space on the left of the orange?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Breakout - Extreme Dance Comedy

Got my ticket for the Korean extreme dance comedy of "Breakout".

According to the brochure by Esplanade, this performance is

"A story of 5 prisoners who are clumsy but appealing. When a mysterious ancient sacred text drops into their prison one day, it inspires the desperate prisoners to pan a daring escape into the outside world where they could have a brief taste of freedom. Fiercely loyal, and valuing friendship above all, these hilariously funny escapees are hardly menacing. Come meet the most loveable prisoners in the world!"

In addition, it is also

"a comedy performance blend with hiphop music and breakdancing"

"a newly designed nonverbal extreme dance comedy"

"performed by Korea's award winning and top quality leading BBoys"

Looking at the trailers they show on their TV ads, I am having high expectations of this performance, hopefully it will not disappoint.

The ticket is selling fast. I wanted to get the ticket for 14 Feb (Sat) 3pm performance, but then the last few sold out while I was still hesitating! I also wanted to get the S$78 ticket, but then for that category, only left with some not-so-nice seats (in terms of angle). At the end, I had to settle for a $38 ticket, and on the 4th floor, and I think the seat is a bit far back. A bino will be a must, I reckon.

Anyway, looking forward to this performance. It will be the first time I watch a performance at the Esplanade after don't-know how many years after it was first opened. Time to cultivate some 'culture' into myself :)

You can find my review of this performance here:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photo Marathon at ShutterStock

A new year has started, so has a photo marathon at ShutterStock. Participants will update their number of approved photos at ShutterStock.

I have been very lazy in the past, as there was hardly any pressure for me to submit me, as the money generated is just some side income. Now there is some 'competition' here, you can see how hard other photographers work. When you see someone have a couple of hundred photos in less than 9 days into a new year, you will feel a bit ashamed of yourself. You're propelled to submit more, to get more photos approved, to get more downloads.

Take a look at the number here:

Take it as your inspiration to work harder :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

葉問 Yip Man (Ip Man)

Just finishing watching Donnie Yen's latest movie Ip Man. It is a story of a great Chinese kungfu master, the master of Wing Chun, also the guiding master of famous kungfu star Bruce Lee.

The story is set in before and after Japanese invasion in China. Before the Japanese invasion, Ip Man was only a great master without any students. He was a wealthy man and had a comfortable life. The only thing in his mind was to perfect his kungfu strokes.

After the Japanese invasion, he was more or less forced by the Japanese to arise his own nationalism in the bottom of his heart. Then he started to get more involved in the society and social issues, started to teach students of Wing Chun.

It is a touching movie. I have not seen such a good Chinese movie for many years. It is better than Red Cliff, better than Painted Skin. Better than lots of other crappy stuff. Highly recommended.

However, it is great as a movie, it does again raise the hatred between Chinese and Japanese. The unhealing scar of the Japanese invasion of China in the last century is like a ghost that keeps coming back to haunt the people in these two countries. I admire the courage of the Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (池内 博之) for acting in the movie as the Japanese general who was beaten by Ip Man. I am not sure whether the Japanese will view it as an insult to the country and people.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fang Da-Tong 方大同

A new pop-star, Fang Da-tong. You may have not even heard of him half a year ago, but now he is THE man in Hong Kong pop music.



Deception Point

Title: Deception Point
Author: Dan Brown

Deception Point is written by Dan Brown, the same guy who authored the controversial novels The Da Vinci Code & Angels & Demons. This book is not controversial as it is not like the other two books that centred around the dark side of the Catholic church. This time, the story revolves around a presidential election in the United States.

This book retains the style of Dan Brown. Just when you think you can predict the ending of the story, you are able to 'uncover' the bad guy, the master mind, then the story twists & turns, and the truth comes out almost completely opposite of what you had thought. Dan Brown is a cunning author, he always misleads his readers, giving false hints here and there along the way, bringing you right into the trap he has set up for you. By the time you realised, you are already deeply in his trap. Luckily in this case, no harm will be done, except you feel you have been fooled :)

Anther feature of Dan Brown's books is he will 'teach' you lots of historical, or whatever knowledge. They are presented as scientific facts, good only for his novel. In my opinion, those 'facts' should be verified independently before you consider them as facts, as there are so many jargons, technical terms that may scare anyone off.

It is novel worth reading, highly recommended.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goals for 2009

Ok, today is the very first day of the year 2009. It is time for new year resolutions.

What should I set my goals on this year?

Well, maybe just a simple goal: to have 800 photos at shutterstock! It is only 343 photos away from that goal now, and it only amounts to 1 approved photo a day on average. Yes, it is an achieveable goal, and let me work on it.

For last year's goal, I am actually short of 43 photos :(