May 28, 2009

Discovering Judge Dee

Posted in Books tagged , , , , at 2:37 pm by myrlinn

I recently found myself hooked on the Judge Dee detective series. I had never heard of Judge Dee, until I happened to spot The Chinese Gold Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story at the local library. I’ve since read quite a few more of the Judge Dee series, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

What I really like about this series is that the novels are really adaptations of old Chinese detective stories, and gives you a glimpse into Chinese culture and the stories enjoyed by the Chinese some centures ago.  The author, Robert Van Gulik, was in fact a diplomat serving in Asia who himself discovered Chinese detective novels through his interest in Asian culture and literature. He didn’t start off wanting to be a writer of fiction, but decided to try his hand at it after realising that the stories deserve a wider audience. And that probably contributes quite a bit to the charm of the series — Van Gulik, being more of a scholar than a writer of fiction, tried to be as faithful as he could to the style and tone of the original Chinese detective novels he himself had enjoyed.

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“Inclusiveness” an excuse for condoning sin?

Posted in Musings tagged , , at 11:29 am by myrlinn

During Bible Study this week, the focus was on the incident of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). And one of the issues we discussed was how Aaron was quick to shift the blame with excuses along the lines “it’s the people who wanted it”, “you were gone so long, Moses”.

What gave me real food for thought was one of the responses when we were talking about the kinds of excuses people make today to justify wrongs or sins. Someone suggested, “inclusiveness” citing the recent Aware controversies. [ Background: The organisation was accused of promoting homosexuality in certain activities/programmes. One example cited by critics: the labelling of homosexuals as “neutral” in a sex education programme for schools developed by Aware. One of the arguments used by those supportive of Aware activities was the need for “inclusiveness”. ]

However, in the context of a discussion on whether inclusiveness is a modern-day excuse for condoning sin, I think it’s important that “inclusiveness” not be confused with “going along with the crowd” (which was what Aaron did in Exodus). Inclusiveness is about treating others, particularly those at the margins of society, particularly those who are not like you, with respect and love, without judgment.  If you look at Jesus’ life, he demonstrates inclusiveness – he conversed and dined with outcasts, with sinners, with those considered unclean. He had love for those who faced rejection and contempt by society. Surely, then, the Christian view should not be a rejection of “inclusiveness”, but rather an embracing of inclusiveness as a way to guard against being unloving towards your neighbour in the service of “righteousness” (and thus being like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time).

May 21, 2009

Idol finale thoughts…

Posted in Television tagged , , at 11:53 am by myrlinn

I tuned in to the Idol finale not expecting anything much, but it was actually a show that’s worth rewatching, with very good guest artistes, and memorable performances from the idols

David Cook was AMAZING, vocally and performance-voice. What an intense, heartfelt performance.

And in what turns out to be a foreshadowing of the results… Kris Allen more than matched vocals and paces with Keith Urban; while Adam Lambert was overshadowed by KISS.

Not a result many in the media would have expected, and I guess many people will point to excuses like:

* Adam fans pissed off Gokey fans, causing them to vote for Kris
* People who liked Adam were more complacent about voting
* Kris was the “safe” choice for middle America.

Perhaps all that contributed to Kris’ win, but I’ve been thinking for a while now that Kris has been gaining votes through his obvious affinity for catchy melodies and rhythms that people enjoy listening to, thus consolidating the popular vote week after week. His clear enjoyment of and passion for music-making is also very infectious, and endearing. He may also have been inadvertently helped by the coronation song. Sure, he didn’t sing it as perfectly as Adam, but I think Randy was absolutely right in that that song suited him better.

And Adam sure wasn’t helped by Simon Fuller’s choice of song for the final. Sure, he did really well on the song, but I think he would have had a better chance of a water-cooler moment with a more dramatic rock song which would have allowed him to give full expression to the outlandish side of his personality. Without that type of “moment”, his performances on final night only slightly edged out Chris’s, and only because he had better vocals.

I’m rather curious as to the vote difference. I’ve been speculating for a while now that Adam hasn’t been getting as many votes as the show would have liked you to think (I mean, Simon asking people to vote for him in the Top 3 show.. that’s telling, I think).  The fact that they didn’t announce the vote difference makes me think that Kris won by a decisive margin.

And, I must say I’m actually looking forward to checking out Kris’ CD. Not sure I’d be buying it, but well, with his talent for arrangements, I’d be waiting to see what original ideas he comes up with, what he does with the plate of generic-pop most Idol winners have been served with.

May 14, 2009

American Idol 8: So it’s Adam vs. Kris, a surprise and yet… not

Posted in Television tagged , , , , at 8:20 pm by myrlinn

There’s only so far the judges can go in hyping up a contestant, as proven by the exit of Danny Gokey, a judges’ early favourite. I could never see exactly what’s so great about his vocal talent, and it seems I’m not alone, judging by the reactions of people around me. My brother has been predicting Danny’s exit for weeks now. He FINALLY got it right ha ha. (I gotta say, though, I LOVED Danny’s “You Are So Beautiful” last night. If he had had more performances like that, maybe he’d have changed our minds)

Danny’s departure makes the competition more interesting for me because it makes it less clearcut who I think should win.

On the one hand, there’s Adam. No denying his vocal prowess, even though I don’t love the tone of his voice which I find a bit thin. His singing is largely effortless, though, and I appreciate that.

What I can’t really get into is his performance. I’ve said before that I think it’s theatrical, but thinking about it, that’s not really the problem. The main thing is that it all seems too choreographed, the moves coming from the head rather than from the soul. His theatre training and background showing here, I suppose I’d like to see him appear more spontaneous (even if his moves are practiced).

Also, I think his singing style has become a little too predictable, it’s all starting to sound the same to me. I haven’t really enjoyed any song since “Ring of Fire”. And the judges’ obvious championing him is not helping me to like him.

Yet… he can definitely sing. So, if we judge on vocals alone, he should hands-down be the winner.

But then there’s Kris. Vocals can be described as competent, pleasant, nothing distinctive.  But I can’t help but be drawn to his commitment to his music. He often performs like him and his music are one, like the music is pouring out him, like he’s really loving the making of the music. Personality-wise, he also seems “real” (A bit awkward, but definitely real). What strikes me also is that he seems to have a more pop-inclined musical sensibility — his song choices reflect a love for catchy melodies and rhythms. So he could actually do rather well as a pop recording artist.

With Kris relying so much on his ability to improvise on a song, it’d be fascinating to see what unfolds next week. Will it be like Blake Lewis’ year, when as I remember it, he was not allowed to change up the arrangement of the original song, thus making it glaringly obvious that he doesn’t match up vocally to his competition???  Now, that would be doing a disservice to the strengths which brought him this far.

Even if he doesn’t win, I’d like to see him wow everyone at the finals. First, because I like him, and second, because I don’t think it’s fair for the judges to “campaign” for one contestant over the others. I mean… Simon Cowell asking people not to forget to vote for Adam *rolls eyes* at the end of the top three show. Tacky, and seems a little “desperate” (hear that, Simon?).

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