29 June 2004

Film Review: Winter Days

Review for 冬の日(Fuyu no hi), also known as Winter Days
Dirs. Kawamoto Kihachiro et al.
Runtime: 105 mins

"Trust the Japanese to make a one-hour documentary about a 30-minute animation."

Fuyu no hi marks its debut in the English-speaking world with its screening at Singapore's Animation Nation minifestival in June 2004.

The animation film is a print-to-screen adaptation of the seminal renku (連句 chain poem) written by the mid-17th century master haiku poet Matsuo Basho (松尾芭蕉) and his fellow poets. Just as Basho et al take turns to compose verses for the lyric poem in 1684, 36 master animators - including 3 Oscar winners for animation - around the world take turns to visually interpret each verse of the original poem.

Drawing from specialities as diverse as coppperplate engraving, bunraku (traditional puppetry), calligraphic drawing, stop motion filmming, as well as traditional and modern cell-animation, the creators of Fuyu no Hi adopt the aesthetics and production techniques of the original renku literary form and make it a wholly new, as well as a captivating feast for the senses.

On its own, the animation film manages to capture the abstract and impressionistic effects of chain poetry and haiku, but like all obscure poetry, a reader might actually gain a better understanding of what IS going on in the original interpretive community the poets operated in, by reading the footnotes. Hence, the (page-long) footnote is to a 3-line poem, what the hour-long documentary is to the 30 minute animation.

And this is what Fuyu no Hi (the documentary) achieves, in its alternating show-and-tell and interview segments for each verse of the poem/film.

From the simplest explanation of a renku, its structure, and its rules of composition and reading, one understands how each animated sequence relates to the previous, and sets the mood for the next, and how much leeway for free, unique, and personal interpretations each animator has in his/her adaptation of their assigned verse.

It is nevertheless apparent from the interview segments that the understanding of the literary allusions and codes of the renku is not a consistent value in each and every animator. The average pieces came from contributors who had an adequate cognition of the original verse; the best and most original from the artists' re-cognition and re-interpretation of the poetry to their own modern understandings; and the really boring and bland ones came ironically from mis-recognition.

If the animation portion sought to place the animators in a parallel position to the poets, the documentary seeks to recreate the film audience as the 'reading community' of the period, who understood the same literary rules, codes, and allusions which the poets worked within.

Of course, it is precisely because such a community of readers no longer exists that we need to have copious footnotes to even the shortest traditional poems, and why a film made in the philosophy of a traditional poem would need a much longer documentary to make sense of it.

It is then a marvel to realise at the end that it actually works, and works beautifully.


Notes. This reviewer is frankly disturbed by the fact that many in the audience chose to leave the cinema after the 30-minute animation concluded, without bothering to watch the documentary. Perhaps these Singaporeans were expecting to watch an anime instead of an animation piece.

冬の日 is also showing this month at the World Festival of Animated Films in Croatia, and will screen at the New York Asian American Film Festival later next month.

Official website for 冬の日: http://www.fuyunohi.com/

25 June 2004

What Just Might Happen in November

GW Bush: (Holds a round object to reporters in the White House press room and proclaims)
Behold, the head of Osama Bin Laden!

Crowd: No, it's not - it's a large pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!

23 June 2004

Not A Nigerian Moneylaundering Scam Email

filed under: and now, for something completely different


request for urgent financial relationship

first, i must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction. this is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential and 'top secret'. i am sure and have confidence of your ability and reliability to prosecute a transaction of this great magnitude involving a pending transaction requiring maxiimum confidence.

i am lynn cheney, wife of the vice president of the united states of america. $180 million dollars invested by my husband's company, halliburton is presently trapped in nigeria. in order to commence this financial transaction we solicit your assistance to enable us transfer into your library the said trapped financial goods.

the source of this financial opportunity is as follows; during the last military regime here in nigeria, the hallibrton corporation made "improper payments" to government officials.the securities and exchange commission has set up a formal investigation. there is also an iquiry by the u.s. justice department.

however, by virtue of our position as financial officers and members of this corporation, we cannot acquire these funds in our names. i have therefore, been delegated as a matter of trust by my colleagues of the panel to look for an overseas partner into whose bank we would transfer the heretofore mentioned illegal funds. hence we are writing you this letter. we have agreed to share the profits thus; 1. 20% for the nigerian government. 70% for the halliburton corporation 3. 10% to be used in settling taxation and all local and foreign expenses. it is from the 70% that we wish to commence the financial transaction.

please,note that this transaction is 100% safe and we hope to commence the transfer latest seven (7) banking days from the date of the receipt of the following informatiom by tel/fax; 234-1-7740449, your company's signed, and stamped letterhead paper the above information will enable us write letters of claim and job description respectively. this way we will use your company's name to apply for payment and re-award the contract in your company's name.

we are looking forward to doing this business with you and solicit your confidentiality in this transation. please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above tel/fax numbers. i will send you detailed information of this pending project when i have heard from you.

yours faithfully,

lynn cheney

note; please quote this reference number (ve/s/09/99) in all your responses.

(from keywords.oxus.net)

22 June 2004

Dispatches from the War on Cliches

"There is no smoke without fire." This is a proverb that's been around for ages, but apparently is more often than not misunderstood and abused by its users.

This proverb is generally understood to express the real-life observation that "wherever there is smoke, there is fire". In predicate logic, the relationship is transcribed as "Fire only if smoke", or in more mathematical terms, (Fire → Smoke).

In logical terms, a necessary condition can happen on its own. So while you can't have fire without smoke, you can have smoke without fire.

However, the standard understanding of the proverb precisely believes that you can't have smoke without fire.
How is this a 'misunderstanding' and an 'abuse'? That's adequately illustrated by how people apply this proverb in real life.

"There can't be Rumours without Some Truth"

This new proposition is phrased in parallel with the original proverb. From predicate logic, again we note that while you cann't have Truth without some Rumours of it, it's entirely possible to have Rumours without any Truth.

But try convincing that to any idiot who spouts that proverb (in either form) to you.

And if you sincerely believe there can't be Rumours without Some Truth, or there can't be Smoke without Fire...

Tell that to the innocents who died in witch-hunts.

Tell that to Joseph MacCarthy and the victims of his hunt for Communists in America.

Tell that to victims of slander and character assasination.

Tell that to the millions of Americans who believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 bombings because their leaders kept insinuating and suggesting it, even without any proof, and indeed are now known to have LIED about it.

Tell that to the thousands of prisoners the coalition forces arrested and detained in Abu Ghraib on grounds that they could "possibly be dangerous", and the US Senator who claimed that those prisoners are all thieves, murderers, rapists, who deserved it, and the Red Cross, who says that the majority of the prisoners were actually innocent, and were detained without even knowing their charges.

There isn't any rumour so false and baseless that people won't believe eventually, because they believe that "there can't be smoke without fire".

18 June 2004

Return from Planet Reagan

AKA it's been a fun week with nice speeches, grand ceremonies, hagiography and a secular canonisation, but let's get back to reality.

From the BBC:

US probes trainee soldier beating

The US Army has opened an investigation into injuries suffered by a serviceman who was beaten up during a training exercise.

Sean Baker says he received injuries from fellow soldiers while posing as a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay camp for al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects.

He blames officers for the botched exercise, and says he suffers seizures as a result.

Mr Baker, 37, was a member of a military police unit based in Kentucky when it deployed to Guantanamo Bay in 2003.

He argues that other participants were not made aware that he was a soldier.

During the exercise, Mr Baker says, military police choked him and slammed his head against the floor. Mr Baker says he told them he was a US soldier but the beatings continued until the jumpsuit was yanked down, revealing his uniform.

Impeach them. Impeach them NOW.