Saturday, February 25, 2017


HIDDEN FIGURES gets you metaphorically under the skin of racial and gender discrimination through the career trajectories of three African-American women – two mathematicians and an engineer - who worked at NASA in the earlier days when racial segregation was normal and legal.

It brings to mind the sociological conflict theory (Karl Marx) of power conflict that originally focused on class conflicts between the haves and have-nots, but exists today in the form of gender conflict, the digital divide, old and new citizens, and ageism.

Being black and female, the three protagonists endured open discrimination from white women and misogyny from the men, yet kept their focus on doing what they were gifted to do excellently. (It seemed to me that the saddest part was the animosity from non-black women.) However, they dignified their personhood in a way that no education or class status could attain, and no humiliation could take away. They didn't deny themselves self-respect even when others denied them due respect!

Even with the advancement of science and technology, the movie will resonate with female engineers and engineering students who are still vastly outnumbered by their male cohorts in Singapore. My childhood neighbour, who worked for IBM her entire life, was an anomaly when she studied engineering back in the days.

Some forms of discrimination have changed for good, but many still prevail behind the veil of security and job threats, and in the form of xenophobia where older migrants are hostile towards new migrants even within the same ethnic groups. 

Finally, I love this biopic not only for its women-centred theme, but also its reminder that courtesy and faith in God are personal choices more than they are cultural products.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Three reasons why advertising is important to people: time, love and death. 

"We long for love, we wish we had more time, we fear death," Howard said to his staff, three years before he lost his only daughter to brain cancer.

Three of his partners and closest friends hired three actors to personify time, love and death and to engage Howard upfront face-to-face. They figured that if he opened up to these elements that were important to him, he would no longer need to write them off and cut himself off the principles he had lived by. 

We cannot regain any loss that we don’t allow ourselves to feel, to grief and to acknowledge are still important to us. That is the beauty of life – to recognize that what causes us hurt and disappointment may actually point us to what really matters. To live without facing pain and our fears is to allow passion to atrophy. And passion is what makes us happy, fulfilled, laugh and what can also truly hurt us, cause us to cry at night, and let us down. Passion is all this collectively. To accept only the feel-good aspects of it is to deny ourselves of what living with passion is all about.

The three friends who were alienated hired three actors to orchestrate face-to-face encounters with hurting Howard because they knew that truth and grace could only be delivered in person - something their friend was running away from for three years.

A movie I can watch over and over again. Have tissue at hand.