My claim to cinematic expertise comes from the one Film module I did back in university, but I do watch quite a lot of movies, which I believe counts for at least something.

And I’m pretty sure I can recognize a French film when I see one (even without the benefit of the large noses).

The question I’d like to ask is – do French films use scripts? And if they do, who writes them? How? My idea of a French screenplay looks something like this (translated, for the benefit of my non-French readership):

(Scene 1)

Matthieu: (whispers, haltingly) Go.

(Camera lingers lovingly on Marie’s face for one minute. Switch to Matthieu, who has on face expression of tremendous pain mixed with longing. Switch to Marie, who has single tear fall from cheek. Switch to stock footage of 2 seagulls flying along a beach set against fading sunset. Switch to Marie, who sobs and runs from the door in anguish. Switch to Matthieu, who looks blankly at the empty doorway for five minutes, while violin-music plays. Switch to seagulls, who continue to fly. Switch to Marie, driving along a highway, tears running down cheeks. Switch to Matthieu, in exact same position as he was in previously, but now staring at the ring on his right hand with an empty smile filled with pain and sadness, yet twinged with melancholic happiness. Switch to seagulls. Switch to Marie, sitting on the beach, looking at seagulls and sea-things, the sea breeze blowing through her hair. On her face is an expression of sadness mixed with the happiness of freedom from a tragic relationship. Switch to Matthieu, who slowly crumples onto his bed, crying softly in anguish and pain. Switch to seagulls, who fly for a bit longer but finally land. Switch to flashback of Matthieu and Marie laughing whilst running along a beach. Fade to next scene.)

(Scene 2)

(Matthieu stands on the platform of a train station. Matthieu looks around nervously. Five minute scene of Mathhieu waiting for train, cut rapidly for cinematic effect. Five more minutes of frenetic editting featuring Matthieu boarding train and getting onto his seat. Matthieu looks around at his fellow passengers. Matthieu gets out of his seat. Cut to Matthieu standing outside the dessert counter buying a bottle of mineral water. Camera lingers on Matthieu’s funger, where we see the ring from previous scene. Matthieu takes inordinately long amount of time to put money back into pocket so that ring and significance of said ring can be communicated to audience through its repeated appearance. Cut to Matthieu back in his cabin, where a Strange Woman has taken his seat. Cut to Matthieu standing over Strange Woman.)

Matthieu: (whispers, haltingly) Pardon, but…

Strange Woman: (looks up at Matthieu, surprised) Oh, I’m sorry… I thought no one was sitting here

(Strange Woman gets up and leaves, flustered. Camera stays fixed focused on scene whilst she leaves and Matthieu avoids all eye-contact. We will never get to see Strange Woman ever again in this movie, despite all the screen time that she got. Matthieu gets back into his seat slowly. Cut to scene of Matthieu sitting, staring blankly out of his window into beautiful French country-side view. Cut to French country-side view. Emphasize Matthieu’s fragile internal state of mind with images of golden fields of grass softly waving in the wind. Cut to scene of Matthieu sleeping in his seat, as people walk about him to get off train. Cut to scene of Matthieu alone in cabin, still sleeping as everyone else has gotten off without him. Emphasize how alone Matthieu feels now with long, drawn-out images of emptiness of train cabin, with sweeping scenes of empty seats, abandoned sweet wrappers and the closed cabin doors. Cut to next scene.)

(Continue said along similar lines, until requisite dramatic scene arrives, during which there will be five minutes of excited, nauseau-inducing-camera-movement followed by an endingthat makes no sense and ending credits set to funky French music, in which Strange Woman will be tragically billed as Woman Who Takes Seat on Train, though it was perfectly reasonable for her to assume that the seat was empty given that Matthieu took half-an-hour to buy a bottle of water.)

And it’s not that all French films are like that, but the vast majority of them tend to be, even the supposed-comedies. And it’s not that I don’t like French film – in fact I adore them when I’m in the right mood, but sometimes you just want to have a bit of a laugh and see something on screen without having to feel painfully conscious of Film Art and having to remember everything you learnt about mise en scene.

I have the sneaking suspicion that French scriptwriters are all trained in design rather than literature. Either that or French literary narrative differs very much from English, with Jane Austen plots set to Dickens prose. Will let you guys know once I can read anything in French.

At the moment I’m struggling to get past Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Les Adventures des Orphelins Baudelaire in French), which is sadly not very French at all. Nor easy.

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the lack of posts in the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, I have no defence other than the fact that I am an extremely lazy person with a contempt for writing for my readership and that you are not important enough for me to spend an hour typing on my computer for.

That’s right, Pokemon-hentai-seeking reader. I do not care for you.

It is most regretful that I have to break it to you this way, but I do not see any alternative, since I bear no wish to meet Pokemon-hentai seekers in person.

Oh, and I have also been nursing an injury from a monkey bite in recent times, which you can read about further down.

In concluding, let me say that I have things sorted out somewhat and that you can expect more posts in the coming months. To my readership that does not consist of perverse-cartoon-animal-lovers, My sincere apologies and I hope I can draw you back into the fold with my semi-humourous drawings of violated cartoon animals in the future.

With warmest regards
Alex Huang


Alrighty – that’s over. And now to recount the events of past weeks before I forget entirely what has happened in my life.

First off, I’ve signed up for French classes at the Alliance Francaise. Their placement tests indicated that I should be placed at an intermediate level of study, where I now struggle with strange grammatical forms with names like Subjonctifs and Conditionnels. It strikes me now that despite my conceit of possessing an above-average standard of the English language, I never consciously learnt the syntax rules, which is contributing to my slowness in learning French at the Alliance.

My French teacher, an Indian national (you can outsource ANYTHING to India) tends to rattle on about some technical grammatical form and then try to relate it to English language forms, such as “…and that would be the equivalent of the English past-participle blah blah”, to which I nod sagely but in truth I have no idea what a “past participle” is. This is terrible to me because, as a programmer, it is ridiculous to try to learn syntax without knowing the meta-syntax, and I find it incredulous that I could have learnt to speak and write without knowing the meta-syntax of English at all.

I blame it all on having an English-language teacher for a mother, who has managed to instill in me the (entirely false) certainty that knowing not to split your infinitives is about as important as eating your vegetables, or brushing your teeth after meals, or doing homework.


I was also in Bali last week, where I got bitten by a monkey (no doubt divine retribution for having a blog attracting perverts who sodomize cute cartoon animals).

It was up in the mountains of Uluwatu where I got bitten – a temple famous for it’s beautiful sceneray, towering cliffs, magnificent waves and monkeys. To be fair, my guide had warned me that the monkeys would steal my glasses, but I hadn’t quite expected there to be quite so many monkeys, or that it wasn’t so much that they might steal my glasses but that they would-with-a-certainty-rating-of-100%-cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-you-stupid-tourist-better-listen-to-advice kind of thing. I was admiring one of the above-mentioned scenic cliffs overlooking some above-mentioned magnificent waves when a shadow flitted past me and suddenly my sight was gone. One of the damned simians had appropriated my glasses, and had parked himself on a tree with them, tantalizingly out of reach of my short human arms.

Those of you who know me better will know that I am short-sighted in the extreme, to the point that my spectacles are necessary for me to tell apart human beings (unless said human beings dress in garishly bright colours, giving me the benefit of colour-coding). So of course I had to get them back, a process that involved several temple-dwellers throwing fruits up at the monkeys so that they would eventually drop the glasses (which cost me US$5) and several other tourists standing around snapping pictures of my misfortune. In any case, I got the glasses back and this time stuffed them into a pocket, safe from simian hands (and feet – those guys have pretty limber feet).

Just as I had taken such precautionary measures and the crowd of photo-taking tourists had started to dissipate, another simian stole my water bottle. It parked itself right beside me, in obvious contempt of my impotency, and proceeded to chew the bottle-cap, in an effort to get at the juicy goodness of plain not-even-Perrier mineral water inside. It was really just a very worthless bottle that was only a quarter full anyway, but I was feeling rather anti-simian and feelings – deep and terrible feelings inherited from my ancestors – flared up inside me, that overwhelmed my brain and said HOW DARE YOU TAKE MY MY MY BOTTLE, YOU LITTLE MONKEY ONE QUARTER MY SIZE AND WEIGHT WHOM I CAN EASILY CRUSH WITH A SINGLE POWERFUL BLOW and I reached out to take my bottle, my righteous property, my sovereign claim back.

And of course nature showed me that quickly that it isn’t quite so easy to crush a little monkey one quarter your size and weight, because the monkey bit me, and ran off with the mineral water.

So the end result of my battle against nature was:

Monkeys – now with their hands full of fruits, courtesy of my US$5 and my mineral water bottle.

Me – too scared to put my glasses on, half blind, standing in the middle of a temple couryard with blood dripping down my arm, a little poorer and bereft of drinking water.

Of course the tourists came back with their cameras, and I’m pretty sure one of the little girls (or boy, I couldn’t tell without my glasses) started crying (no doubt in shame for the pathos of her species). To my credit, I didn’t scream or cry, though I was of half a mind to pursue the monkey (though I couldn’t see it).

Being half blind is actually a pretty good state to be in when there is a large group of people standing around you, pointing and taking pictures.

My guide hurried me away to a public toilet, dripping blood all along the way. Despite my injury, I was culturally sensitive to ask him if it was ok that I was dripping heathen blood on holy temple grounds, which he didn’t answer but if I’d had my glasses on I am sure I would have seen a look of amusement on his face. I washed the wound, which was rather deep and wouldn’t clot straight off, and my guide would have liked that I’d gone straight to the First Aid station, but I was determined not to allow a monkey one quarter my size and weight to destroy my trip and insisted that we continue our tour of the temple. So we walked around, me half blind and actually pretty much oblivious to the beautiful sights that he pointed out (I can only guess – he could have been pointing out overweight walruses mating and I wouldn’t have been able to make them out).

We turned back when he warned me about an area that might contain snakes.

The monkey bite took about a week to heal (I think it’ll leave a scar) and gave me a bit of a rabies-scare when it swelled up and I got a little feverish, though I should have known that monkeys that eat expensive fruit and drink mineral water should be pretty much disease-free.

Sadly, the monkey-bite is probably going to be the most vivid thing I remember about Bali, though the rest of the time I spent there was amazing. Bali is one of the most beautiful places I have seen (when I had my glasses on), blessed with nature’s bounty in a way that makes the rest of South-East Asia look like runners-up in the Who Does Nature Love More competition (of which I am an early loser). I wasn’t there quite long enough to fall in love, but given some more time I’m sure I would.


And in other news – I tried to quit and my boss is trying to get me to stay with a raise and other assorted incentives. Rather, he completely ignored my resignation, steamrolled over my personality and told me to set my price. I should have seen this coming, since I can’t even stand up against a monkey. This story is unresolved, though it will hopefully work itself out in the coming week.

Piracy = Murder

July 12, 2006

Piracy = Murder

I’m not really that fond of the b-squad, but this one reveals a logical fallacy that I can’t believe I missed. Ahh, the power of mass morality.

July 9, 2006

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Mr Brown’s sacking, Channel NewsAsia.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “If you feel there is a problem with cost of living, say so, let’s collectively explore solutions. But don’t in the name of humour distort or aggravate on an emotional level…

Can someone explain to me how humour that does not “distort or aggravate on an emotional level” works? Unemotional unexxagerated humour? I can only think of maybe fart jokes.

Having to be politically correct must give MPs and their writers such a headache. Somewhere there must be some poor Political Science or English graduate who has to come up with phrases such as these for a paltry salary, which explains the strange incoherence.