Singapore, and more specifically Nanyang Technological University, a sumptuous campus set on the edge Singapore. The sounds of birds fills the air, as do tropical leaves. This mostly very new campus, much designed by famed Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (white, techno, ship-like), is filled with buildings, a vast auditorium here, sprawling out-door arcade there, Olympic plus sized swimming pool, tennis courts, student housing and faculty too, all rather well done, with spacious breaks of field and foliage – a veritable little academic paradise tucked away a degree from the equator. Or so it seems at a glance. On one hand the facilities are without question first rate – all the buildings, grounds, and so I am told inside the labs are similarly equipped with the best. Perhaps the film-media department has a Red already. A peek in the equipment room door shows dozens on dozens of lighting stands, reflectors, tripods, a steady-cam mounted on one of those gyroscopic walk-mobiles, sound equipment, and oodles of cameras, HDV and otherwise. 5 editing suits, mixing room, 3 sound stages, green room. Millions of bucks worth of would-be bang in technological gear. Clearly NTU has $$ to spare. And a very nice swimming pool.
School of Art Design & Media
I’m here for a look around, and obliquely to be looked over. Nothing formal, though, just vague hints. This because the media/film department is presently a bit rudderless, awaiting a new chairman for the whole arts school, so everything is on hold, no one out to stick their neck out lest they make some wrong choice. Undercurrents of the usual academic politics show up quickly, a cauldron of seething resentments, back-biting, and the quivering of insecure souls grasping for a hold on tenure, safety, security, power. To say another academic department, in this case one acting as I’ve seen others. Been here 2 and a half days and thus far those of the film/media sector have managed to avoid meeting, even for a handshake, though a poster with my picture is found on the walls announcing my afternoon talk. Seemingly par for the course in this kind of thing. Maybe I have AIDS (Academic Insecurity Distancing Syndrome)? This afternoon in a few hours I give a little presentation, a run-through of clips of work from 1972 to present, a casual talk, hopefully some good grilling, and then the talking-dog show is done. [Update: did the talking-dog show to a fistful of students, a few non-film faculty and a (really) sleeping temporary head of the film section, specifically one Assoc. Prof. Russell Pensyl, who had the days prior been, if one cared about such things as an ego matter, just plain rude. He continued on same path. I was told he is gunning for Chair of Dept. Of such souls are our institutions of learning composed, and through such do the poor students get bludgeoned into submission by persons of no talents, cowering in insecurity the second a person who actually makes things walks in the door – unfortunately this is a repeated pattern to my experience. Anyway it is clear that while the setting is opulent, the equipment is obscene, and the potential is great, this sad school is certainly not going to be interested in yrs trly and I certainly wouldn’t want to be involved with negotiating the shoals of academic politics that apparently pervade the idyllic tropical setting.]
Meantime we haven’t had a chance to see any of Singapore outside an early morning walk on arrival near and around the China Town area, and a costly evening out to Holland area, where a pizza, not bad but nothing great, ran S$19, or about $13, and the red wine that went with it – 2 bottles chosen by our hosts, ran a mere $250 or so…. I would have stuck with beer if informed. The taxi to-from was another $45. To say Singapore is a bit schizoid, a very rich little enclave, catering to those able to spend the bucks in such a manner, but then housing a large population of others, placed in nicely designed and kept public housing, with ample parks, athletic fields, and such to keep everyone “happy.” Singapore is known for an authoritarian and strict government, which, frankly, makes sense to me as the place is a melting pot of a handful of cultures, which given a bit of space to do so, might break out in communal warfare anytime. Muslim, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian, Anglo all crammed onto this tiny island, 4 million or so. So, while “rich” and appointed for such, it is also poor. So a 10 minute walk off-campus finds one in a lively, clean, well-kept slice of public housing where good street-type food (or better) can be had for S$2.50 a simple veggie meal, or S$4 or 5 for some meat, fish or whatever, take your ethnic choice of flavoring. I.e., at least on the food front one can live cheaply here, and well.
Tomorrow we’ll go nose around central Singapore, and perhaps meet up with some other potential could-be job souls. Meantime though an email from Seoul brings a seemingly eager note from Yonsei, saying they’d like me to stay a few more years….
In another day or two off to Malaysia for some relaxation, and to visit a friend, Malay filmmaker U-wei, in Kuala Lumpur. Then back to Seoul from here.
[Oh, and yesterday in the email came a notice from the Singapore Film Festival rejecting PARABLE; no word yet on LOVE IN THE SHADOWS so maybe it gets in and the Yonsei folks can come for some tropical warming. 3/04/09 – further word said no to Love too.]