Friday, May 30, 2014


Pali text translation.
Vinaya. Mahavagga. Chapter one, parts of...

This is one of the books in the basket of discipline. Chapter one is quite long, talking about the events after the awakening of the Buddha.

After enlightenment, the Buddha went from tree to tree, staying cross legged for 7 days at each place, enjoying the bliss of liberation. In the first week, he contemplated on dependent origination. In the second week, a brahmin whose practice is to say hum asked the Buddha on what is a Brahmin, and got an answer that the Brahmin. Is not one who says hum, but one who cast out evil.

The third week, there was a great storm that lasted for a week. The serpent king came out of his meditation, coiled around the Buddha 7 times, and spread its hood over Buddha's head, determined to shelter him from cold and heat.

The fourth week, two merchants were advised by their deva relatives to offer barley gruel and honey ball to the Buddha, for their blessing and happiness for a long time. When they offered, the Buddha says that the Tathagatha does not receive with hands. The 4 deva kjngs, having known this, send bowls to the Buddha. The Buddha received bowls made of rock crystals from 4 directions from the 4 deva kings. Thus the Buddha received the food and partook it. The two merchants then took refuge in the Buddha and Dhamma and became the first lay followers of the Buddha.

On the fifth week, the Buddha was reflecting that the Dhamma he had realised is subtle, hard to realise and understand. To teach it would be tiring to him, bringing vexation. To be continued....

I have read the chapter in Sylvia Bay's book in between the lines, an analytical appreciation of the Buddha's life that described the period after Buddha enlightenment and before the first sermon. She contrasted the popular Theravada account of the period with what is said in the Sutta and Vinaya. The Theravada account has 7 weeks, of which a lot of events like staring at the Bodhi tree for a week, walking on a jeweled bridge, contemplating on Abhidhamma, and the three Mara daughters were not found in the Canon. Thus, this remind us to look beyond what we were told and to not attach to even the words of Dhamma, but to practice non attachment in daily life.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Poh Ming Tse- Bodhicitta M.U.S.I.C programme batch 2 graduation ceremony

On 28th May 2014, Wednesday, a new batch of MUSICians has been born out of the collaboration between PMT and Bodhicitta.

PMT is a quite an old temple in Singapore, but has gotten a new modern looking building in 2009. Since then, Poh Ming Tse has been nonsectarian, allowing any Buddhist groups to rent their place for an event or class. Many classes are held there from all three traditions. Due to it's dedicated and super good committee members, staff and patron, PMT is open enough to make a collaboration with Bodhicitta.

Bodhicitta is a music band formed in 1997, inspired by the Dhamma, since then over 100,000 albums they as produced has been circulated. Their music style is smoothing, and they are nonsectarian, they sing songs based on any of the three traditions. They were looking for young talented Buddhist musicians to train and keep Buddhist music alive and has been in talks with many temples before PMT.

In 2012, the temple and the music band has formed their collaboration and decided to train a selected group of students with interviews to train every week, starting 2013.

Now it's 2014 and the second batch of their first of three modules has just graduated from 10 weeks of weekly Wednesday training. M.U.S.I.C. captures the aim of the MUSICians group. Motivate and Unite the practice of the Dhamma. Smooth the mind, Inspire and Care.

Personally, I know a lot of the batch one and not so many of the batch 2 people. I usually go to these music events as a karaoke session, singing with them. You see I have a large collection of Buddhist songs totalling almost 24 hours of playtime and I played them over and over again during my uni days. I believe I have two of the Bodhicitta albums. So I am quite familiar with their songs. These are nice stress out sessions for me.

Now for the structure, the songs are in many languages, with the session conducted in English, with Chinese translation. The opening puja song was in Pali, then there are English songs, Tibetan Matra songs, Chinese songs were featured too.

The programme trains them in using their musical skills to conduct a Buddhist activity using songs. There are also vocal trainings for the students. After graduation, they have a commitment to fulfill a certain hours of song presentations in PMT and their own Buddhist society. The batch one had presented in concerts, conferences and weddings in addition to the current monthly Sunday service with songs and Dhamma talk in PMT.

The style of their Buddhist music is to use music to allow the Dhamma to sink into people's heart. Thus it is very suitable to bring beginners or your free thinker friends to come and join in their performances. Some songs can even be a guide to relaxation and meditation. Some can lift the spirits up and motivate the listeners. It's also a very suitable place for those who can't learn Buddhism well from sutta readings to learn the Dhamma from the lyrics, tone of the songs, presentation, and the mind of the Buddhist songs leaders. Or if you just like Music, this can be the door for you to enter into the Dhamma.

Here's to greater heights and wider reach of the MUSICians!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Golden age of superheroes movies

For the purpose of this article, only marvel and DC superheroes are considered to make it simple and to avoid having to list down every superhero movie during this age.

The golden age began since the release of x-men in 2000. Superhero movies received a welcome back party. Previously, there was only the superman movie series (1978-1987), and the batman series (1989-1997), each lasted 4 movies wherein the last in their series has been disappointing to many.

At that time, the box office mark of superhero movies are not expected to exceed half a billion USD. X-men did well but didn't broke that mark, not even for the next 5 movies (2000-2013) based on it. Following x-men was everybody's favourite, spider-man (2002-2007). The series was very well received and broke a lot of box office records for all three of its movies. The third spiderman became a bit disappointing, and even more so when Sony decided to reboot it barely 5 years after the last we saw of Spidey. The only other reboot that happened that soon was the hulk.

Released in 2003 with liberal imagination that Bruce banner's father is the main villain to the hulk, it was not as good as it's reboot. Anyway, hulk not getting a series on its own may have been because of the 2003 movie. Along with the avenger's version, we had seen enough of a different version of the hulk for now, thank you.

Another superhero series that is going to get rebooted is the fantastic four. At least it has been a long while since we saw those and they only lasted 2 movies (2005-2007). The upcoming 2015 movie would mark 8 years since we saw them last.

But all these reboot started with Batman Begins (2005). It was also 8 years since the bat nipple, and it was high time for Nolan to deliver the best Batman we have on the big screen so far. For the second installment in 2008, joker took the movie to great heights and it landed over the billion dollar mark and stopped at no. 3 globally. This was the first superhero movie to do so. It's a shame that heathe leager died and they can't have joker for the finale.

What's more shameful for DC is superman returns in 2006. This counts as the fifth installment of the earlier superman movies and it earned below the half billion dollar mark. Why is it shameful? It's because they missed the opportunity to reboot superman then. Man of Steel (2013) arrived 7 years later and now they had to use a different actor to play batman in it's sequel coming out in 2016. If this batman is not in the same continuity with Nolan's trilogy, then we have the shortest reboot yet (4 years). Say if they decided to plan coherently early on in the game, (but Warner brothers was busy with harry potter then) right when x-men came out, then superman return could had just been man of steel back in 2006, and they can have man of steel 2 somewhere before batman vs superman in 2012! Now that is a movie that could rival the Avengers. Well to be fair the dark knight rises did well too to earn slightly more than the dark knight and is about 2/3 of the avengers in earning terms.

In 2008, the year that marked the entry of superhero movie into the billion dollar club, also marked the coming of Iron man and the Incredible Hulk. Iron man became a very successful movie trilogy with maybe more on the way. The third in its series (2013) beat the dark knight rises in the box office. No doubt this is due to the avengers help, but it was amazing considering that he is a totally unknown superhero in the big screen before 2008, as compared to batman.

Marvel studios pushed on and linked their movies, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and generated so much hype that was part of the factors that made the Avengers the highest milestone so far in the golden age of superhero movies. My personal opinion is that it is unlikely that Captain America would receive much attention had it not been for the premise of a shared universe. It is set in world war 2 which most of the living people now did not personally experience. Now, in 2014, Thor the dark world and captain america winter soldier each earned more than its first movie, no doubt fuelled by the avengers hype.

And now for the biggest movie event in history, the Avengers (2012). The movie combines separate heroes with their own movies and pit them against a threat greater than what each of them is capable of defeating alone. Hulk, Iron man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and black widow. The box office response to this is tremendous. More than 1.5 billion dollars has been earned, putting it at the third place behind the two Cameron movies. To Marvel studios, this is the end of phase 1. Now we are nearing the end of phase 2, with only guardians of the galaxy (2014) left before Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

This upcoming movie is expected by everyone to earn more than its predecessor, possibly even beating Titanic's record. Thus, a lot of other superhero movies avoid getting a 2015 release year. Only ant man, marvel studios own movie and fantastic four, a reboot that need not suck in too much money are the notable scheduled superhero movies then. Even Warner brothers wised up and pushed batman vs superman back to 2016. (They initially wanted to release justice league in 2015!)

However, the year of 2016 is now full packed with sequels. Batman v Superman, The Amazing Spiderman 3, captain America 3, X-men apocalypse, and an unnamed marvel movie. This year alone we are treated to 4 of them, last year too (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, the Wolverine, Man of Steel). By comparison, 2015 would feel a little empty.

Although this means that we might have to wait a long time before spiderman or wolverine joins the avengers, I am glad that there are 3 studios that produces marvel character movies. It makes the presence of marvel so much more stronger on the silver screen and gives us many different forms of enjoyment.

As with all ages, the golden age of superhero movie will not last forever. The end of the golden age might come when the superhero movies saturate cinema so much that the overall sales for them drops down to below half a billion and keeps on going lower. It might also come if marvel decided to reboot its cinematic universe. Or simply that the studios are so engrossed with money that they sacrificed the art element in the movies.

Regardless of how it ends, the superhero genre are here to stay, like the romance, western, horror, sci-fi etc...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

X-men days of future past review

This is the best amongst the 3 superhero movie this year so far, the other 2 being captain america 2 and the amazing spiderman 2. Spoilers below.
X-men dofp just gives the right trailer yet still save the main course for us. There was bisharp travelling in time as in the comics, that was nice. Then they explained why it has to be wolverine who goes back to 1973.
The future sentinel is really deadly, convincing enough that they can even take out the future x-men + magneto. Blink's attack is really like playing portal. And there is the coupling of shadowcat with iceman. Good fan service.
Wolverine in 1973 has no adamantium. So when he meets up with young striker, he goes into shock at future pain. It was a nice reference to the origins movie. They (the producers) even hinted that quicksilver's father is the man he helped to break out. Magneto becomes lovingly predictable to become the bad guy again. But strangely enough, we don't mind. There is an amazing feeling of hopelessness of near or certain defeat at the climax, and a clever resolution to it that brings across the message of hope, the ultimate weapon of Charles, to the human population.
The most inspiring part of the movie is when Charles talks to himself. You are not afraid of others' pain, its yours that you fear. Face the pain, accept, see it because it would make you stronger. Our greatest gift is to bear all the pain and suffering of others and not break, and still have hope. Reminds me of the bodhisattva path. It's so awe inspiring! Its the compassion of the prof that ultimately changed raven's mind and saved the future.
I like how dangerous the young magneto can become too. Putting metals into sentinels to control them, lifting a stadium to cover the white house, effectively shutting out the police and outside help, and pulling the safe room from under the white house to above ground and rip it out. It's even funny that he managed to deal with wolverine the same way as in the first and third movie even when wolverine has no adamantium in him.
One of the fan screaming best part is when the future is saved and wolverine wakes up with 50 years of history to catch up and we see rogue (presumably a mutant again) with bobby, shadowcat with colossus, jean and Cyclops. All still alive.
End credit scene, which nowadays has about 70 or 80% of the audience sitting back for, is the hint of Sabah En nuh building the pyramids with his mutant power, and his 4 horsemen.
Apocalypse is coming! And we can have the full x-men again!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What I do with my free time

Since I had quit gaming yet again and reduced the amount of shows I am following, I had a lot of free time to finally catch up on my long term plans. I had just made a list of what I did and it's amazing!

  • Science Fiction Novel- Editing "Problems, Try this!" I had the first draft for a long time now.
  • Physics and Buddhism blog entry.
  • Temple Explorers Singapore book writing.
  • Physics Textbook reading and learning.
  • Dhamma books reading and learning.
  • Science Fiction story books for inspiration, learning and style setting for my own story.
  • Physics and Buddhism books written by others so that I can be more informed of what has been explored on this subject.
  • Popular Physics books reading
  • Buddhist presentations for Medical Dhamma Circle.
  • Awaken Challenge organizing
  • Degree in Buddhism
  • Other Buddhist events and volunteering (this plus the degree takes up 6 or 7 days per week)
The readings and writing were mostly done in the train, smartphones or individual book. There are some more stuffs that can more comfortably be done on the computer. Like this blog. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 review (Spoiler alert)

Hi guys, today I'm going to review a movie I've waited quite long to watch: The Amazing Spiderman 2 (ASM2). Let me said first that this is a positive review.

Granted that the reboot series comes quite fast after the Raimi series and thus has some disadvantage, either they had to portray the same story (like Uncle Ben's death and Goblin dropping Parker's girlfriend), or entirely avoid what has been shown on the last trilogy (like not having J. Jonah Jameson or Mary Jane on screen for two movies now).

After this movie, I feel like ASM 2 has earn the right to retell the same story we already know just to make the universe a bit more fair. The main reason I said that is because Norman Osborn died without having become the Green goblin first. It's obvious why the direction of the story had went this way, it's been told and done with. In this sense, it's clever for the writers to modify and yet stick to the comic books, that a goblin (Harry Osborn) killed Gwen Stacy. However, after the death of Gwen Stacy, it's about time to introduce Mary Jane on screen. Jameson got an email cameo now, but it's getting harder to avoid showing him as the series goes on. One most notable villain I want to see coming back is Doc Ock. He is simply indispensable in the Sinister Six team as well as having the tentacles on display in Oscorp secret lab helps a lot.

The plotting wise, it's very tight, with many subplots jumbled up together, jumping here and there. To me it's clear where and how it jumps, and it makes sense. Spiderman is about Peter Parker managing his normal life with crime fighting. In normal life, we tend not to focus on only one ongoing process at a time, but several of them. Peter has to deal with his strong feelings towards Gwen, his responsibility as Spiderman, his promise and knowledge that being close to Gwen would put her in danger, also his parent's mystery and Harry Osborn. Other than that, the film also juggles on how Max became Electro, how Harry hate Spiderman, and the backstory for Rhino.

It's a good jumble, mixed in just the right way for us to ride with Peter's complicated life. Now, let me go into a bit more detail about how the subplots make sense to each other. The subplot of Peter wanting to know more about his parents and Gwen Stacy leaving is that he felt that the people he loved keeps dumping him. He had lost his parents, so he doesn't want to lose Gwen too. This is why he feels so much empathy towards Harry, who just lost his father. Later, Harry had discovered the research that Peter's father had done on Spider and human hybrid (Spiders with Human DNA in it) and asked Peter for Spiderman's blood to cure his disease. Having seen what Dr. Conners had become because he rushed the testing phase, both Peter and Spiderman doesn't want to give the blood. Yet, Spiderman could not tell Harry that he is trying to find out more about Peter's father's research without revealing who he is, and also he had not yet discovered the secret train hideout yet. This lead to Harry hating Spiderman. Later, when Peter found out that the spiders hybrid contained his father's DNA, he didn't have the time nor the urgency to inform Harry about it.

First off, it is because of Richard Parker putting his DNA inside the spiders that Peter turns into Spiderman instead of some undesirable side effects, or being killed. So anyone else knowing about the research of Richard Parker and the truth would easily suspect that Peter Parker is Spiderman. Thus, Peter would still need more time to reverse engineer and make new Spiders that is suitable for Harry before being able to give Harry his cure.

Second, the timing. Harry was very impatient, resorting to freeing Electro after getting kicked out of his company just to get to the spider serum instead of waiting for Peter Parker to help him. To be fair, Peter didn't know that he could help Osborn or how before the train, thus he didn't make a commitment to do so. Spiderman's promise to find another way is empty to Harry after his refusal to give the blood. Thus, by the time Peter had discovered the train, Harry was already at the point of being injected with the serum. So even if Peter had the sense to call Harry up (what would he say without revealing that he is Spiderman anyway?) he could not had stand a chance to persuade Harry to wait for a bit longer for more research as Harry is already seeing his salvation just minutes away.

Third, the reason Peter didn't call is not just the need to protect his identity, he might conceivably give it up to save Harry, but there's a stronger reason. He was reminded about Gwen Stacy. He picked up his phone (maybe he was going to call Harry then), and there was the message. Gwen Stacy is leaving for UK now. Having been through the pain of being left behind because his father had placed responsibility over parenthood, he temporarily forgotten the lesson of "With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility" and choose to follow his emotions for Gwen instead. He doesn't want the pain of being left behind to happen again, no matter what, he could have a love life and being Spiderman at the same time, right?

No, it was a fast paced series of events during the night that ended up with Gwen Stacy dying due to Harry's involvement. Peter had webbed Gwen's hand onto a police car, but that wasn't enough to stop her from helping him. It could be said that Gwen ran into her own death, but also, Gwen would not had the chance to do so had Peter not pick her up from the bridge and say he wants to move to England with her. Yet, if he hadn't done that, Peter stand little chance in his fight against Electro. So in the end, it can be said that Gwen saved Spiderman, and sacrificed herself (even when it was unintentional). In the end, Gwen died. Peter who had a last look at Captain Stacy in the Electro fight must had felt triple guilt. First off, he broke the promise and eventually led to Gwen's death. Second, the love of his life died because of him. (In retrospection, she died to saved him during the fight with Electro). Third, he had abandoned the calling of "With Great Responsibility comes Great Power". He went a different direction that his father didn't took. His father did the right thing in the end, at least Peter was still alive. Peter's choice had killed Gwen.

Due to these triple guilt, he could not forgive himself for 5 months, no Spiderman during those 5 months. Only when he found hope again, did he come back as Spiderman, fighting Rhino, whom we had seen in the first action sequence to the movie at the end. So it was a nice wrap.

I like that despite having 3 villains, Spiderman took them on one by one. It doesn't distract from the villain he was fighting at the time and there would be enough time for simultaneous attack on Spiderman later on in Sinister Six.

There's another thing I would like to touch on. Peter's relationship struggle with Gwen Stacy is complicated, and it can be compared with a person who wants to be a celibate having to struggle with his or her hormones. I would feel that Peter's suffering is greater. The girl actually faces death and danger, not just emotional complication.