Friday, December 18, 2009

Poster "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow." Outrageous?!

Is the above poster really "inappropriate" and "disrespectful"?

Put the fiery sense of defending your religion aside & bring forward your analytical thinking: No, I don't think so. Joseph is after all a legal husband of Mary. And it's not uncommon for a couple to feel 'disenchanted' about their relationship. Let alone if it's caused by the third party. Or in this case the Third Party...

The news was also featured in Straits Times multimedia here.

An unholy row has broken out in New Zealand over a church billboard aimed at "challenging stereotypes" about the birth of Jesus Christ.

A dejected-looking Joseph lies in bed next to Mary under the caption, "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow".

St Matthew-in-the-City Church in Auckland, which erected the billboard, said it had intended to provoke debate.

But the Catholic Church, among others, has condemned it as "inappropriate" and "disrespectful".

Within hours of its unveiling, the billboard had been defaced with brown paint.

The church's vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said the aim of the billboard had been to lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story.

"What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about," he told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).

"Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"

He told NZPA that the church had received e-mails and phone calls about the controversial image.

"About 50% said they loved it, and about 50% said it was terribly offensive," he said. "But that's out of about 20 responses - this is New Zealand."

But Lyndsay Freer, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, said the poster was offensive to Christians.

"Our Christian tradition of 2,000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph," she told the New Zealand Herald. "Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful."

The family values group Family First said any debate about the Virgin birth should be held inside the church.

"To confront children and families with the concept as a street billboard is completely irresponsible and unnecessary," Family First director Bob McCroskrie told the news website

From BBC, "Unholy row over New Zealand Mary and Joseph billboard".

World's Fattest Cat

Today, we ask the question, is this the fattest cat in the world?

Mercer 2010 forecast of salary increase

Any readers who are from pharmaceutical industry care to share their comment about the projected salary increase of 4.1%? (Higher than the average of 3.2%!)

Projected figures from Mercer Singapore:
- Pharmaceutical: 4.1 per cent
- High-tech: 3.3 per cent
- Aerospace: 3.2 per cent
- Consumer goods: 3.1 per cent
- Banking and finance: 3.1 per cent
- Chemical: 2.9 per cent
- Property: 2.6 per cent

With the recession over, the question among workers now is how well companies will pay them next year.

On Friday, human resource consultancy Mercer Singapore threw its hat in the ring with a forecast of a 3.2 per cent rise in salaries.

It is the rosiest projection among at least four companies that have recently given their forecasts for next year.

Mercer based its projection on its survey, done in October, of 262 companies in 11 industries.

Expected to give top dollars are pharmaceuticals, which plan to hand out 4.1 per cent more, and high-tech companies, at 3.3 per cent more.

The banking and finance industry plans to give a 3.1 per cent pay rise, a quick rebound over this year's average increment of less than 1.5 per cent.

From Straits Times, "Expect 3.2% pay rise".

WITH the recession over, the question among workers now is how well companies will pay them next year.

On Thursday, human resource consultancy Mercer Singapore threw its hat in the ring with a forecast of a 3.2 per cent rise in salaries.

It is the rosiest projection among at least four companies that have recently given their forecasts for next year.

Mercer based its projection on its survey, done in October, of 262 companies in 11 industries.

Expected to give top dollars are pharmaceutical, which plans to hand out 4.1 per cent more, and high-tech companies, at 3.3 per cent more. The banking and finance industry plans to give a 3.1 per cent pay rise, a quick rebound over this year's average increment of less than 1.5 per cent.

Only 15 per cent of the companies intend to freeze salaries next year, compared with 35 per cent that did so this year.

From Straits Times, "Rosy salary rise projections".

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Agents of Atlas: Dark Reign

Currently reading "Agents of Atlas: Dark Reign". I'm tickled reading how good guys playing as supervillains. Heh.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin: jail term doubled for this maid abuser

It's been more than one year since this post of mine, "3 entries to Hall of Shame of those who abuse their maid...Presenting: Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin, Tay Wan Leng, Maselly Abdul Aziz & family". I'm somewhat surprised to read the name Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin appears again in the news.

His jail term had been doubled to two years! No, it's got nothing to do with those seven charges of sexual abuse, including one count of rape, which Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin was acquited.

What I really don't understand, though, is why it takes more than one year to double his punishment.

A police staff sergeant who assaulted his Indonesian maid over a period of four months had his jail term doubled to two years on Tuesday.

In the first maid-abuse case to go before the three-judge Court of Appeal, the jail term handed down to Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin, 37, underscored the Singapore courts' firm stance against those who abuse their domestic maids.

Justice V. K. Rajah, in a 114-page written judgment peppered with denouncements of Lim's conduct, wrote:

'This is a sentence that appropriately encapsulates my profound aversion and disquiet with Lim's deplorable conduct without having the effect of being crushing.'

The case landed in Singapore's highest court because Lim, from the Criminal Investigation Department's Intellectual Property Rights Branch, was first tried in the High Court.

Typical maid-abuse cases are tried in the Subordinate Courts, with appeals - if any - heard in the High Court.

From Straits Times, "Abuser's jail term doubled".

Should the court follow sentencing norms based on the severity of an assault, or can judges consider, in a maid abuse case, the position of authority held by the employer and the vulnerability of the maid as an aggravating factor?

This poser has split the Court of Appeal in a case involving an Indonesian maid who was abused repeatedly by her employer.

The 37-year-old accused, Lawrence Lim Hwang Ngin, is a police officer who was found guilty of kicking the maid, hitting her on the head and rapping her forehead with his knuckles on five occasions between January and May 2006. The maid was 23 at the time.

Now, the appellate court - the highest court in the Singapore justice system - in a 2-1 judgment has opted to not only let his conviction stand, it has doubled his jail term to 24 months.

While the signal from Justices Andrew Phang, V K Rajah and Woo Bih Li is clear - that maid abuse cannot be tolerated - the three Court of Appeal judges were split in their individual conclusions.

Justice Woo, the dissenting judge, felt that the positions of maid and employer ought not to be viewed as an aggravating factor.

He also argued that "there is a current sentencing norm of one to six weeks imprisonment in cases where there is no serious physical injury".

But in the 114-page written judgment, Justice Rajah opined: "Surely, it cannot be said that an abusive employer who persistently mistreats and humiliates a maid and then later physically injures her should be sentenced similarly with one who ordinarily treats a maid well but then on a solitary occasion loses control of himself and then inflicts a similar injury?"

"Does that mean that anything short of a grievous or permanent injury is not a serious injury?" he wrote.

Justice Phang, who agreed with this conclusion, added that "the sentencing process is not - and ought not to be - a mechanistic one".

This case was unique, as the accused had admitted that he wanted to wage "psychological warfare" on his victim, added the judge.

Justice Kan Ting Chiu, who presided over the trial last year, had also noted a pattern of assault, which took place at regular intervals.

Lim had initially faced 13 charges for sexual and physical assault on the maid, who cannot be named, but was acquitted on all allegations of sexual offence, including rape, because of reasonable doubt.

He then appealed against the sentences for his five convictions and the verdict for three of those, while the prosecution had appealed against the length of the jail terms for all five charges.

Justice Phang noted: "When the severe physical injuries inflicted on the victim are coupled with the mental abuse which she was subjected to (all in a systematic and patterned fashion), it can be seen immediately that the sentence meted out by the Judge in the court below is, with the deepest respect, manifestly inadequate."

From Today, "Split judgment in maid abuse case".

Tiger Beer Classic Special Edition: a failure?

I've just realized that I have bought 3 beers from Changi Airport duty free shop some time in year 2007. It's 2 years back. And even though the beer is labeled 'Tiger Beer Classic Special Edition' (nice design of the can, huh?), the usual rule of 'best consumed within 6 months of the brewed date' still, unfortunately, applies.

Pity. I tried to console myself by gulping down those expired beers. Nah, just kidding. I tried to feel better by googling about 'tiger beer classic special edition', just to find out more about the beer.

This one site has two reviews about the beer:

1. Not good. Sweet and sticky malts. Little hops or bitterness to speak of, pretty bad, i haven’t had regular Tiger in a while, but it would probably be better than this. Not particularly special in anyway over the regualt Tiger, this is just more concentrated with atocuh more alcohol.


2. A Singaporean student brought back a three-pack of cans from Singapore for me. He says this is not the same as the standard Tiger Beer, but the taste is not far off. The 330ml gold can reads "Classic Special Edition" in big red lettering. The abv is stated to be 5.5% and "DFS" (?) is marked on the top.

The beer is a slightly orange-ish gold and clear as day. The foamy head is dense and off-white. Aroma is nutty and sweet. The sweetness shows up in the slightly strange-tasting front. The middle is just a little fruity, leading to a bitter, but sugary finish. Obvious alcohol betrays this as possibly the "strong" version of regular Tiger Beer.

There aren't really enough good beer flavors going on here. Just straight sugar + uninteresting bitterness. (Some nuts, too, to be fair). It's kind of like drinking with a cold.

I ought to feel better after reading the negative reviews on 'Tiger Beer Classic Special Edition'. But somehow I didn't. I love my Tiger Beer! (No, again, I am not vested in Asia Pacific Brewery shares!!)

Tiger Beer related posts:
- Tiger Beer: "The Last Tiger. Worth Playing for" TV ads with 2 different endings
- The Last Tiger. Worth Playing for? (More like 'Paying')

Kseniya Simonova, sand animator: 2009 Winner of Ukraine's Got Talent

Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent." She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and "sand painting" skills to interpret Germany's invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII. (Oh, and she has earned herself a place in Wikipedia post on herself. Heh.)

Check out the amazing video as she does the magical painting here or in YouTube, "Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation (Україна має талант / Ukraine's Got Talent)" which has so far gathered 9,005,753 views!

Not many people around the world watched the inaugural season of Ukraine's Got Talent on TV last spring. But since then, the winning performance—a live sand drawing by Kseniya Simonova—has received more than 7 million views on YouTube and won raves for its mesmerizing depiction of the Soviet Union's fight against Nazi Germany. Gracefully manipulating handfuls of sand atop a light box, Simonova created ever-transforming images that were projected onto a screen: a bucolic village disintegrates into a war zone, a woman grows old waiting, her piteous face transforms into the Ukrainian monument to its Unknown Soldier.

Thanks in part to Simonova's performance, live sand drawing—also known as live sand animation—is quickly winning new fans and widespread notice from Mexico to China. Part performance art, part visual art and part storytelling, the craft has been featured at Cirque du Soleil and Christian youth camps, Russian nightclubs and corporate events. Live shows enchant audiences not only because the visual effect is riveting, but because they tell a story, typically about love, war, or faith. Artists, who can command tens of thousands of dollars for a single gig, storyboard their shows the way directors do their movies, so that each image flows seamlessly into the next. The effect is like a patriotic fireworks show or a pop concert, designed to pluck heartstrings and astound crowds.

So far, there is just a handful of well-known sand artists. But Mexican-American artist Joe Castillo, who also performed live sand drawing on America's Got Talent, expects that to change. "Right now sand art is new and unique," he says. "There are lots of artists out there, and once they get light tables ... well, I've got a couple years before there's a sand artist on every corner."

Sand-animation films first appeared in the late 1960s. But Canadian filmmaker and animator Caroline Leaf, a pioneer of the art who completed her first film while at Harvard, doubts the performance-based live form grew out of her work. "I was always alone in a dark room doing very meticulous adjustments," she says. "It seems instead they're responding to the plasticity of the material."

Although sand is malleable, it is not easily controlled. Once it is poured, pinched, or flicked away, there's no going back. Artists must relinquish perfectionism. "You can't fix or erase it," says Ilana Yahav, an Israeli artist who has performed at the Kremlin accompanied by four live bands. "You have to move your hands with the music, so you can never stop for a second." As a result, no two shows are the same—and oftentimes, says French artist David Myriam, an accident creates a "marvelous effect."

The most established live sand artists—Castillo, Yahav, and the Hungarian Ferenc Cakó—also create TV commercials for clients such as Qwest, Animal Planet, and Mercedes-Benz. But they say nothing compares to the energy of working a live crowd. After Castillo performed at the September opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, people approached him weeping. Even the judges at Simonova's winning appearance sobbed. With such strong reactions, it's little wonder companies—and countries—increasingly hire these artists for big events. "There's a natural fascination with artists at work," says Leaf, who regrets she has only seen live sand drawing on YouTube. It won't likely be long before she can see it on any street corner.

From Newsweek, "Drawing Lines in the Sand".