About Halim

A Singaporean Malay male. 46 years old. Gay. In a relationship.

‘The Witches’ movies – 2020 and 1990 versions

I’ve read about how some people don’t consider the new remake of ‘The Witches’ which was released last month, as good as the classic 1990 original.

(Oh my God, that’s 30 years ago! How time flies. And I was only 17! *Gasp*).

I vaguely thought the same after watching the new remake. But after watching the classic one again, I was a bit surprised to find I feel it’s not as good as how I remembered it! Nostalgia struts around wearing rose-tinted glasses, I guess.

Of course, 30 years is a long time and I was a different person as a 17-year-old. Some of my tastes and viewpoints have changed and that contributes to how I feel about the classic movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the original to bits, and while Anne Hathaway did a great job as the Grand High Witch in the new remake, I still prefer Angelica Huston’s iconic performance in the original. But comparing the two versions overall? The new remake feels to be better, in my opinion, due to several factors such as Octavia Spencer’s performance in the grandmother role, and the set decoration which I find much more beautiful and interesting to look at.

Here’s my opinion about which version I prefer with regards to specific parts of the movies:

  • Grandmother role: 2020 remake.
    • Octavia Spencer has tons of talent and movie charisma and is incredibly watchable in every single role she does, and her work here is no exception.
  • The grandson / Luke role: 1990 original
    • Referring to the role itself, I feel the nerdy Harry Potter-like character from the original is more fun and child-like. That lightens the children’s movie a little bit more which helps because both versions are actually pretty scary.
    • As for the child actors portraying the role, they did an equally fantastic job.
    • I find Chris Rock‘s voice as the narrating grandson in the remake annoying and distracting, but only because I can’t detach his distinctive voice from the visual of the zebra role he did in the ‘Madagascar‘ animation movies.
  • Hotel Owner role: 1990 original
    • Both the role itself and the actor who played him in the original, Rowan Atkinson, were better than in the remake.
    • Stanley Tucci is a wonderful actor who I love and is usually fantastic, but the role in the remake is quite boring and does not deserve him.
  • Grand High Witch role: 1990 original
    • Angelica Huston is clearly the better Grand High Witch, in my opinion. She hams it up yet somehow she is perfectly at ease and natural. I think this is also why her Morticia Addams portrayal in The Addams Family movies is also so perfect and iconic, just flawless, and so, so much loved.
    • Anne Hathaway‘s version is certainly entertaining, but her portrayal is more cartoony and over-the-top, but in a fun way.
  • Set design: 2020 remake
    • The ‘Grand Orleans Imperial Island Hotel‘ in Alabama is stunning. The room the Grand High Witch occupies with its balcony is particularly fun to look at, featured in important scenes including the Grand High Witch’s final appearance.
    • The ‘Excelsior Hotel‘ in England in the original is beautiful and charming too, just not as much as the hotel in Alabama.
    • I also love Grandma’s House and town in Alabama much more than I do the one in Norway in the original, although beautiful too.
  • Mouse pet (Daisy/Mary): 2020 remake
    • Called Daisy initially, the talking pet in the remake is a great character and adds substantially to the fun.
    • In the original, the pets can’t talk and are not important supporting characters like Daisy is.
  • Special effects and make-up: 1990 original
    • The 30-year difference between the two movies means the remake features more polished effects technically, but the original comes across as more winningly charming to me. Jim Henson‘s puppetry is still wonderful to watch after all these years.
    • The Grand High Witch’s ‘real’ face in the original is also more morbidly fascinating to me.
    • If I’m a parent, I would be far more concerned with the ‘real’ face of the Grand High Witch in the remake. The one in the original is also very scary, but somehow it has more of a ‘fantasy’ element (if that makes sense), whereas in the remake it’s what nightmares are made of, to me.
  • Deformed 3-claw hands of the witches: 1990 original (for not having them!)
    • This reportedly did not feature in either the book (which I have not read) or the original movie, and was added to the remake, resulting in backlash from some people with physical impairments, who are concerned it may cause people with physical impairments to be seen as abnormal or scary.
  • The Grand High Witch’s end: 2020 remake
    • The remake’s version is far more thrilling and fun. Also, I can’t help but notice she’s not shown actually dead/defeated. Is this to pave the way for her appearance in a sequel, in case the movie does well? For years now it seems that everything must have sequels and trilogies! So more money can be squeezed out from them, why not! LOL
  • Ending of Story: 1990 original
    • I much prefer the relatively simpler and sweeter way the original ends. A happy ending with a little surprising twist for the character development of one of the witches.
    • The remake’s ending seems to be very sequel-friendly, so I won’t be surprised if there is one in the future.

I’ve just changed my mind! After considering the points above, I now feel that, although it’s not as good as I remember it, the original from 1990 is still better than the 2020 remake, overall. Nostalgia wins! :-)

Much more importantly, the original also does not feature limb differences in its villains, that may cause kids and adults suffering from such physical conditions in real life to feel bad, or worse, made fun of by other kids.

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The following is a cool and interesting video comparing the two versions:

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Related:

  • BBC.com – The Witches – Backlash over film’s portrayal of limb impairments – 4 November 2020

Patterns with Inkscape, Pt.2: Geometric

The next stop in my journey of learning how to create patterns: geometric ones. And my usual go-to guy on YouTube for Inkscape tutorials, Logos by Nick, has just the video:

Well, purple being my favourite colour, and light blue goes ever so well with it, I decided to go with those two. To make the trio, a dark grey on one of the panels like the selection in the video.

I love the result! Although the purple is a bit too dark. And the dark grey could be lighter too to be more interesting.

After doing the second tutorial (detailed below) where the panels are given a linear gradient, I decided to return to this design to give it a gradient too. I love it even more now.

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The second tutorial, by Draw Simple Things, features practically the same design of polygon shape, except that they feature outlines of two different thickness, plus a subtle linear gradient on two of the three panels of the design.

As with the first tutorial, I enjoyed creating the design with the polygon shapes. However, turning it into a repeatable pattern involves duplicating the shapes themselves ‘manually’, as the following images show:

I prefer the method of the first tutorial, so I went back to the polygon shape to duplicate it to a cluster-of-7 thing, to turn into a rectangular template which I can clone faster and much more easily. So I applied that here:

which gave me this glorious repeated pattern:

Of course I just had to try it in purple:

Somehow I did my polygon ‘wrong’ in size or shape or both, so that when duplicated there is space (the white negative space) in between the shapes. That’s perfectly fine to me, though, I think it looks lovely that way too. More of a basket weave look. It has also given me an idea to incorporate my own design of vines of leaves and flowers, to be intertwined among them.

I’m loving this and can’t wait to try more! I have already chosen the next tutorial to try.

Patterns with Inkscape

I love patterns. On anything: shirts, upholstery, curtains, wallpaper, gift wrap paper. I like patterns that lean towards a retro vibe. I like geometric ones especially with a dash of Art Deco. Or designs featuring nature elements like flowers and leaves. I like simple, elegant ones, I like loud ones. Even ultra minimal designs like polka dots or stripes can be pretty and interesting too, as the variations one can play with them in colour, size and background are endless.

Recently I came across some YouTube tutorials on how to create patterns on Inkscape and decided to give them a go. They seemed easy but I was fumbling and had to keep repeating the steps. However I will do more of them to better get the hang of it. I like trying different types of digital drawing to see which ‘clicks’ with me, when I have the time. Drawing patterns is definitely something I’d like to explore further as a hobby.

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This is the tutorial I tried first, by Logos by Nick. The video is 11 and half minutes long. The first part deals with creating the crown design and the second part shows how to tile it via a clone tool.

After first creating the crown as designed by Logos by Nick, this is how parts of the crown is arranged on the original tile, ready to be cloned into a repeated pattern:

The resulting pattern reminded me so much of a sofa I once had, in navy blue :-) that I decided to have fun trying it in different colours:

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The second tutorial, by Paul Friedl, was more difficult for me to follow. The tile on which the design is based on is created first, and when you start drawing on it, it is replicated on the other cloned tiles. But I kept losing the link to the other tiles for example when I drew with anything other than the bezier (pen) tool, and I had to keep going back to re-link it. Just a matter of practice, I guess. Otherwise it is a pleasant video to follow.

After many tries I settled on this as the design on the original tile. In the process I learned two things: 1. I am utterly shit in drawing arcs and other curvy lines freehand, haha. 2. I had the idea to circumvent this by using the spiral tool to create arcs, by reducing the turn of the spiral to just 1 or 1.5, for example. And that suddenly led to spirals being the theme of the design hahaha.

The original tile design. Not pretty like the one in the tutorial video, but it’ll do. I’ve been watching episodes from the British crime drama series Endeavour, set in the 1960s, and wanted a somewhat retro feel :-) hence this blue.

Cloning the tile shows what it looks like as a repeated pattern:

Click to enlarge

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I certainly had fun with these two tutorials, and there’re a couple more I’m really keen to try out too next time.

Ramadan Mubarak

Today is the first day of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims like myself, who are able to, abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. But much more than just that, it is about devotion to worship and about spiritual reflection. Pausing to think how I can be a better person. Striving to be kinder in deed and thought. Being more charitable to the less fortunate where I can and reminding myself to be grateful for the blessings I have in my life (regardless of how lousy I’m feeling or how shitty my day has been).

But in the world we live in today, I think millions of non-Muslims are also in deep reflection. The lockdown many of us are experiencing around the world is a wake-up call for many of us to how flimsy and unsustainable many aspects of society is. It really is a rude jolt to discover that so much of our food supply, our medicine and medical equipment among many other things, can suddenly be interrupted and be in drastically short supply, causing serious consequences and great concern. Things will never be the same as before, post-Covid-19. Or will it? We humans can have short memories.

How I wish the world will change for the better. That governments and politicians will finally realize they are governing countries, not business entities for profit, and have the best interests of their citizens at heart. That every country in the world will scramble to prioritize growing food and making sure they have their own machines or factories to produce masks, ventilators and other equipment, to never be at the mercy of other countries again.

It is unbelievable and unacceptable that almost 200,000 people have died from this virus for now. Hundreds of thousands of families and friends are in mourning, and many more will join them. I just desperately want all this to end. Dear God, please help us. Even though, this won’t be the last virus, and deep in my heart I know we will never learn, and history will repeat itself yet again. But it is just horrifying how people are suffering, whether themselves or people they love, and also economically.

I should stop before I start sobbing away at the computer like a bloody fool haha.

Wishing a blessed Ramadan to all Muslims.

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I came across this video from the UK, on YouTube from the user account East and North Herts CCG. I like it a lot. Even though ‘stay at home‘ starts to sound like a drill to the head, it’s a very important message.

 

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Other related links:

Some migrant workers are now housed in multi-storey car parks

Two days ago on Friday I wrote about the terrible living conditions of migrant workers in a dormitory in Singapore, and the outbreak of the coronovirus in their cramped living areas leading to dormitories being gazetted as isolation areas, which means workers are now quarantined in these dormitories for fourteen days.

I included some of the action taken by the government in handling this, because I felt so relieved to read in the news that something is being done. Not just about the spread of the virus but about the welfare of the migrant workers.

I had read that one of the actions being taken is to thin out the population in the dormitories (which can be in the thousands or tens of thousands) by taking out the healthy workers and placing them in alternative residence like military camps and vacant public housing blocks.

So I was really so disappointed and saddened to read in a Yahoo News Singapore article yesterday that some of these workers have been put in multi-storey carparks, instead of actual vacant HDB (public housing) flats, as shown in the video above and in the Facebook page of the HDB:

 

Questions I was thinking of when I read the Yahoo News article as well as HDB’s Facebook post:

  • Safe distancing measures, such as no visitation to other levels…“. But the person taking the video (featured at the top of this post) was walking freely between levels. And some of the men were gathering close together. So where was the safe distancing measures?
  • What happened to those vacant housing blocks the authorities spoke of previously?
  • Why this ‘temporary housing’ at car parks? The time it takes to set up the beds and other furniture at these car parks, is the same time it would take inside flats, so why not put them directly in those vacant flats. Do we have them or not?
  • Living in the ‘open air’ like this subject them to mosquitoes. Not only is it cruel to subject them to itchy, uncomfortable mosquito bites, but why risk a dengue fever outbreak on top of the existing logistic headache of the coronovirus?
  • Do those other alternative residence other workers are being moved to, such as military camps, also feature ‘open-air’ living like this? And therefore, also subject the workers to mosquitoes especially at night when the workers are trying to sleep?

Even refugees from war-torn countries are given tents to stay in which would protect them from mosquitoes. And these men are not refugees. That they are being put to live in car parks is just so terrible to me.

They live and work in Singapore, not some poor country. Not only do we fancy ourselves a First World country, not only are we considered a rich country, but our government collects a levy of between $300 and $950 for every single worker, every month. So I just don’t understand why we can’t even give them basic, decent, humane living quarters. Oh, the shame!

I hope these workers now living at the car parks will be quickly moved to a more humane living space. Whether temporary or permanent, one with walls, windows, doors. I can’t believe one has to write that, but yes, please give these human beings a place to stay with walls, windows and doors.

 

We treat our migrant workers shabbily, and we need to do much better.

On Monday 6th April, Singapore’s newspaper The Straits Times published an article: Coronavirus: Workers describe crowded, cramped living conditions at dormitory gazetted as isolation area. Among other things, it mentioned:

  • workers saying they do not have masks
  • that they are living in unsanitary and crowded conditions
  • their rooms are infested with cockroaches
  • their toilets overflowing with urine
  • having to queue for food with no social distancing measures to keep them apart.
  • trash not disposed of, and rubbish bins placed near their rooms

Such terrible living conditions for our migrant workers is not a new concern here in Singapore. It has been around for many years, and yet it continues. We have known for years of such horrible living conditions, and yet we are too selfish to do anything concrete about it. In the meantime, we continue to benefit enormously from having these foreign workers as cheap labour for our country.

As long as the government do not force the dormitory operators and the construction companies (the industry most of these workers work in) to improve their basic living condition to something more humane, this story will never end. We are all to blame for quietly allowing this to happen in Singapore, our so-called First World country, and for such a long time too. It’s truly shameful.

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Writer Andrew Loh remarked in a Facebook post that:

Well, what else is new? Same old problems for 20 years – crowded dorms, bad and inadequate facilities, poor hygiene, poorly paid workers, etc.

These problems have been raised to death.

 

 

Retired diplomat and Singapore’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Professor Tommy Koh, also pointed out on his Facebook page that, among the ‘disgraceful‘ ways these workers are treated, the employers of these workers transport them in flat bed trucks with no seats. This is really like as if they are cattle, not human beings. And this has been going on for many years.

 

In a Coconuts Singapore article published on Tuesday 7th April titled: Filthy, cramped dorms come to light as virus afflicts Singapore’s migrant workers, I came across this scene from Facebook user Roy Prakash:

 

Just look at the overcrowding resulting in how they are forced to be cramped together. If it’s like that with the police officers stationed there now, I can’t imagine what kind of horrific chaos it was like before the officers got there. Is it any wonder if the virus spread like wildfire in there.

Another Facebook user Jason See shows some scenes from an S11 Dormitary:

And more here:

The plight of the workers came to light again because of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Sunday 5th April, that two dormitories housing migrant workers have been marked as isolation areas because of the growing number of transmissions of the virus among the workers. This means these workers living in those dormitories have to be quarantined in their rooms for 14 days.

Some of the action taken by the government

I read in a Yahoo News Singapore article published yesterday that the government is intervening in this “very major and urgent issue” by:

  • working together with dormitory operators to ensure effective management of basic issues like cleanliness, hygiene and food delivery.
  • putting in active screening and testing of workers. Medical posts on-site at the dormitories, first the critical sites, then scaled up to cater to some 200,000 workers spread across all 43 dormitories in the country.
  • Workers who are healthy are to be separated from infected or suspected infected, and placed at activated sites such as
    • Singapore Armed Forces military camps,
    • Changi Exhibition Centre,
    • ‘floating hotels’ (used for offshore accomodation), and
    • vacant public housing blocks in Tanjong Pagar and Jurong.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) published press releases on their website on Wednesday 8th April and Thursday 9th April. Some of the points detailed included:

  • Dormitory operators are stepping up on waste management and sanitation regimes.
  • They have been working with multiple caterers to ensure meals are distributed on time.
  • Initial logistical constraints have been progressively resolved, resulting in improved meal distributions. They have also roped in more manpower for cooking meals and engaged more drivers and vehicles for delivery.

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Related Links:

  • Raising standards at worker dormitories is in everyone’s interests: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (Channel News Asia Youtube video below, 6th April 2020)

Forza, Italia! I love you. Stay strong.

I have a special affinity with Italy, thanks to having met my Italian partner who I have been together with for just over 25 years now. Like millions of people before me, I fell in love with the country almost immediately upon my first visit, and fell helplessly in love with the culture, especially the language and of course the food. Their music, their movies, their art and design. I have been to Italy many times over the years to visit his family, around 20 times, and while I have not been to every single town and city in Italy, every single one I have been to is incredibly, stunningly beautiful and steeped in fascinating history, filled with people famous for their passion and zest for life.

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Bergamo, which I am privileged to have visited many years ago, is the city hardest hit by Covid-19 in Italy, one of the hardest hit countries in the world. Singer Roby Facchinetti was born there and still lives there. He co-wrote and sang this beautiful song as a tribute to Bergamo, but now it has become an anthem for all of Italy, and for many throughout the world who have been affected by the pandemic.

Rinascerò, Rinascerai” means “I will be reborn. You will be reborn.”. If you don’t see the English translation subtitles when playing the video, please click the ‘cc’ button at the bottom of the screen to activate the subtitles.

In an interview with Billboard published a few days ago, I learnt that many of the people featured in the video are doctors and nurses from the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, where Roby’s wife Giovanna is a volunteer. The video also features images from the city, as well as players and coaches from the city’s major league football club, Atalanta.

In that same Billboard interview, Roby spoke of how the song came to be:

It began when I saw the footage on the news of army trucks taking away coffins. This was just 50 meters from where I live here in the center of Bergamo, and so it was even tougher to watch. Two days earlier, two of my relatives had died. It was very painful, and so I sat down at my piano. This is because my whole life has been in music and it has always been the best medicine in the most difficult moments. I simply wanted to play the piano in order to take my mind off things, and the melody and harmony just came. I immediately rang Stefano D’Orazio. I told him about the tune and that I had these two words in mind — “Rinascerò, Rinascerai” — and I asked him, “Could you write the lyrics?” 

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I love you, Italy. Ti amo per sempre. I will always have you in my heart and thoughts. Keep on fighting. Take care. You will come out of this stronger than ever.

To everyone, please stay safe. Love and best wishes from me.

Landscape with a rope bridge

This took me hours on Inkscape to slowly do, but it was fun and I’m starting to get the hang of the software.

Thanks to the following YouTube tutorial that taught me how, by a channel called grafikwork:

I’m thinking that maybe for next time, I should try to create something I designed myself, whether a landscape or something else! I’ll have to see whether I can do it. I’m excited to try!

Painting with GIMP

I enjoyed the experience of creating an illustration with Inkscape so much last week that I decided to also finally give GIMP a proper try yesterday.

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. As the name suggests, it is like Photoshop, the photo editing software. Like Photoshop, you can also use GIMP to create your own artwork. GIMP is free, and is actually considered the best free alternative to Photoshop.

I learnt how to ‘paint’ the landscape above using GIMP thanks to the following tutorial video from an artist and illustrator named Ronnie Tucker on YouTube.

The video is just under 30 minutes, but I took hours because, just like with Inkscape last week, it was my first time trying GIMP to paint so I was struggling a bit. Also, I think some of the paintbrushes used were not available on my version of GIMP. I didn’t want to install plug-ins (additional features) just yet, I just wanted to explore further the basic tools, in this case the paintbrush, so I just ploughed through, following along to it step by step, making many mistakes and adjustments along the way. The effort was worth it as I had a lot of fun! It was fascinating to learn the basic idea of which elements go on first when it comes to constructing a landscape.

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Related:

  • gimp.org
    • To learn more about GIMP and to download it.
  • 40+ Best Free GIMP Tutorials for Beginners (Drawing and Painting)
    • An excellent resource. This is also where I found the Ronnie Tucker tutorial featured in this post.
  • The following video from Chris’ Tutorials makes a great introduction to GIMP, and also demonstrates using a few tools to edit a photograph or image.

Inkscape

I’ve been meaning to learn how to draw and paint for the longest time. The thing with living in a small flat is that there is simply no space for a hobby that will accumulate paraphernalia like paints, brushes, notebooks for sketches and especially canvases, among other things probably. As it is I have already given away so many books over the years, keeping only a few shelves of the most loved novels, the ones which for various reasons hold the most sentimental value. These days I borrow e-books from the National Library.

I’m actually fine with this. I like living in a small space because there are less housekeeping and maintenance. Having to think twice (or thrice or more) before I buy and add anything, including clothes, is something that actually makes me happy. It’s a big blessing in disguise because I believe the best thing we can do for our planet is to buy less, consume less, so we end up creating less trash.

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I discovered Inkscape, the free (free!) graphics software a year or two ago, but never got around to exploring it until recently.

I really enjoyed making the illustration below and I hope it will be a regular activity, a new hobby.

I learnt how to do it thanks to the following video from a YouTube channel called Draw Simple Things.

The tutorial is done in real-time but there is no voice over. The audio is just music and you learn the steps by looking at where the mouse cursor goes. Apparently this is common for tutorials in YouTube because it cuts down the duration of the video. I tend to do 3 things when I watch such videos:

  • The music tends to annoy or distract me, or both, so I set the audio to mute and listen to my own music from another source (haha).
  • Slow down the speed so I can catch the steps better. When you play the video, there is a ‘Settings‘ button at the bottom right corner of the video window, where you can access the ‘Playback Speed‘. I usually bring it down to 0.75 or 0.5.
  • Rewind it often anyway because I’m still too slow and keep missing the steps. Something very useful I just discovered for viewing YouTube videos:
    • To rewind 10 seconds, press J on your keyboard
    • To rewind 5 seconds, press the left arrow key
    • To pause or play the video, press K

The following tutorial by the channel Davies Media Design seems to be similar to the one above, but with its host Michael Davies guiding the viewer step by step. I haven’t tried this one yet.

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Related links: