Friday, April 27, 2012

An Affair To Remember

I used to think I would find my soul mate if that person could tell me the linkages among the 3 movies: An Affair To Remember, Love Affair and Sleepless In Seattle. Yes, these are all the so called chick flicks, but to me its a lot more than that. Who doesn't adore An Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Love Affair, an absolute labour of love from Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, was a remake of An Affair To Remember.


Sleepless Seattle made tons of references to An Affair To Remember, and it would have layered meanings when Meg Ryan met Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building. But, you should watch all 3 movies to truly appreciate what I am saying.


While some knew that the 1994 Love Affair was a faithful remake of the 1957 An Affair To Remember. What most do not know was that An Affair To Remember was also a remake. The film is considered one of the most romantic of all time, according to the American Film Institute. The film was a remake of McCarey's 1939 film Love Affair,  starring Irene Dunn and Charles Boyer.  An Affair to Remember  was almost identical to Love Affair on a scene-to-scene basis.


Some of the more memorable lines from the movie:
Annette Bening: How long were you married? (on learning that Kath's husband has passed on)
K Hepburn: Dearie, I am married ... (long pause)  .. even though he died 12 years ago. I am still married.


Cary Grant ):
"Why didn't you tell me? If it had to happen to one of us why did it have to be you?"

Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"What makes life so difficult?"
Nickie Ferrante ( Cary Grant ):
"People?"


Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories."

Nickie Ferrante ( Cary Grant ):
"You've been crying."
Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"Beauty does that to me." 

Grandmother Ferrante ( Cathleen Nesbitt ):
"He's always attracted by the art he isn't practicing. The place he hasn't been. The girl he hasn't met."

Aunt Ginny ( Katharine Hepburn ):
"The trick is life is not getting what you want. It's wanting it after you get it. For people like you and Mike, the getting is easy."

Kenneth Bradley: I really hope you've found happiness, and if you're ever in need of anything, like someone to love you, don't hesitate to call me. 

Terry McKay: The Empire State Building is the closest thing to heaven in this city. 





The 1957 version was sublime. Though many did not like the 1994 version, I thought it was excellent and the music was brilliant, in particular they inserted my favourite Beatles tune as well, "I Will", so appropriately. Cannot really discuss the movie without revealing the plot, rest assured its easily the most romantic movie of all time, next to Somewhere In Time (Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve).


When you watch these two movies, the modern day chick flicks such as Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail pale into insignificance. The only good one for the last 20 years has to be When Harry Met Sally. I think its time they do another remake of An Affair To Remember, maybe with George Clooney and Zooey Deschanel.


One should really watch the full movie, but if pressed for time, the second video is a 10 minute condensed version.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 7 Puzzles Of The Global Economy


JPMorgan's Jan Loeys and others are out with a cool note looking at "seven puzzles" regarding the global economy.
In each case, they lay out a question, and then give their best stab at an answer. The not so humble me will also offer my own take (in colour).
Here's our condenses/summarized version of each one:
  • Why haven't Greece or Germany left the Euro yet? Basically, the monetary union was always the first step to full-on political union. Leaving the Euro would be a return to the dark days of a divided Europe. (Greece cannot leave because the alternative is disastrous for Greece, it would have to go back to their drachma, which will see massive higher inflation day to day for a long time; making it near impossible to raise any drachma bonds, thus creating an economy that really runs on black market USD and Euros anyway. Germany can exit but having an undivided Europe is a major platform which they have taken leadership from the start. Its almost come to the point of no return for Germany and France).

  • Why has the Euro currency not collapsed? The region has no external trade deficit, and funding concerns have led to Euro trade repatriations. (It is still the most liquid currency after USD, though not reserve status, its the closest we have to USD).

  • Why are high-grade corporate credit spreads still so high? They're being distorted a bit by financials, which are now permanently seen as riskier in the post-Lehman world. 

  • Why do investors love yieldless Treasuries? Basically, there's still a big appetite for risk-less appetites. Also: Financial repression. (This ties in with th previous question, while central banks have been pumping liquidity, much of it has gone to so called riskless Treasuries and other similar bonds, at the expense of corporate bonds, and only a fraction are finding its way back to equities. This is why there is currently a huge bubble in these type of bonds, as not enough consideration or risk have been allocated to the debasement of all major currencies).

  • Why is there no deflation, given large global output gaps? The output gaps may be overstated. Central banks are doing a good job keeping inflation expectations high. (This is a surprising thing. The gold bugs have been harping on hyperinflation following the deluge of easing, but that did not happen. Now there are people harping on deflation because the real economy may be a lot weaker than anticipated even with the multiple injections of liquidity. Finance experts and economists are a dime a dozen, they can swing from one end to another all within the same analysis - and sound convincing at the same time. Be careful).

  • Why have commodity prices soared despite the mediocre post-crisis recovery? Because commodity project financing evaporated during the crisis, output has been constrained. (This points to the pockets of sustained economic activity that is not in the US or Europe. Not enough attention being paid to the markets in Asia and Latin America, misinformation).

  • Why do Japanese corporates keep buying Japanese Government Bonds, despite sky high government debt? Domestic financial repression, as well as high real yields, given ongoing deflation. (Technically, Japan is the most indebted country and by right the yen should halve their value. But Japan has one thing that most other developed countries don't - a homogeneous society. Call it what you like, to them savings in postal offices and local banks are paramount to safety, a false impression. Do they know that they are funding the enormous debt incurred by the country - maybe, maybe its part of being patriotic. Most other nations would have seen their citizens withdrawing these funds and shoving them in other currencies to mitigate losses. The same goes for most Japanese corporates, they are still repatriating foreign exchange back to yen, thus increasing demand for the yen. Give that to US corporates, they will find ways to mitigate their yen exposure). 


Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/jpmorgan-solves-7-big-puzzles-about-the-global-economy-2012-4#ixzz1sjaQULhk



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heard Of MetroVocalGroup?

Put a lot of native speakers to shame. They are a pure acapella group, all the sounds, vocals and instrumentation are done aurally.


Metro is a versatile and dynamic vocal group originally hailing from the United States. Now based in Hong Kong, they have performed internationally for the past 13 years. Eric, Kevin, Sean and Michael are supremely talented individuals who present high-energy, uniquely arranged music of the world's most popular tunes. Their songs embrace such genres as Pop, Doo-Wop, Classic Rock, Barbershop, R&B, Broadway and Jazz.


In addition, Metro also serves under the umbrella of the American Vocal Studio, passing on their extensive knowledge to all generations through teaching vocal classes, clinics and master classes.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Be There - Double Take (Roger Wang & Mia Palencia) Concert

The photo on the banner was the standing ovation Double Take got from the vibrant Kota Kinabalu crowd. Come and experience the wonderful talents of Roger Wang and Mia Palencia this Saturday. Have you bought your tickets???

Roger Wang, possibly Malaysia's best guitarist next to Paul Ponnudurai, rehearsing with Mia Palencia at my friend's place today. Have you got your tickets???
Double Take...Mia Palencia and Roger Wang


KUALA LUMPUR
Date   : Saturday, 21 April 2012
Venue : Bentley Music Auditorium, Mutiara Damansara, The Curve 
            
(http://www.bma.com.my/contact.html)
Time   : 3.00pm - 4.30pm (matinee)
            8.00pm - 9.30pm (evening)
RM80 and RM50 admission pass available at www.airasiaredtix.com or call 012-2083790
To book online:
http://www.airasiaredtix.com/



Malaysia’s premier vocal/guitar duo, Double Take, will celebrate their 12 years of musical partnership with this highly anticipated concert.

This will be Double Take’s first public performance since their sold-out 2009 concert at the prestigious Petronas Philharmonic Hall in Kuala Lumpur and will most likely be the only one for 2012. 

Double Take will also be releasing an EP featuring 4 brand new recordings exclusively for this concert.

Special Incentive offered by pop pop music

Those who own a copy of Roger Wang's "Milestones" are entitled to a 10% rebate (RM5 and RM8 respectively). Remember to bring that CD to claim your rebate and get  Roger's autograph as well. Rebate counter will be set up outside the auditorium. 

Those who buy the "Milestones" album at the venue will also be entitled to 10% rebate!   


Monday, April 16, 2012

A Spell Binding Performance

If you managed to catch last night's HK movie awards, you would have also caught a spell binding singing performance by the multi Best Actress awards winner, Deanie Ip Tak Han. Though many music lovers never really appreciate her tone and her style, but her performance in a song tribute to people in the movie industry and to movie lovers, was nothing short of spectacular. It was most moving, emotions tinged, goose bumps all over kind of heartfelt, real rendition. Superb.


Even the normally very staid and laid back crowd woke up and was mesmerised.

Various Investing Methods

After the seminar, someone said that maybe what Koon Yew Yin said about investments and what I said about investing do not quite gel with what Glen Arnold had been talking the whole time.
Image Detail


Well, the seminar was about the gurus of investing, what they did and why they did what they did. Koon Yew Yin shared how he make his investing decisions. They may not be an exact replica of most of the investment methods of the guru but the essence of it remains.


I don't think Mr. Koon or I must follow these methods exactly. We learn from experienced teachers, we take what we think its suitable for ourselves. We may be wrong, so can the gurus. Who is to day Mr. Koon or I may not be able to generate even greater returns than the gurus?


If we were to follow the Fischer or Buffett methods religiously, we might as well just invest in Berkshire Hathaway, why bother learning. Time tested investment methods are tools we can use to our advantage. I do not see Mr. Koon or myself violating much of the principles touted.
Image Detail


Readers of my blog will know I am more of a value-momentum person. Maybe I should write a book, but I do not intend to be a guru. I just write about what I like. If you want me to follow the Grahams and Fischers to the letter, then read their books or invest in funds that religiously do that.


Mr. Koon and I think that it is a good seminar to get more investors to discuss more about the concepts and investment thinking of gurus. You may choose to take as much of it and apply to your investing decisions, and may need to research a bit more diligently.


Nobody is owing anyone a living here. You want to follow what Mr. Koon and I are buying, fine, you don't want to, fine also. You want to be Malaysia's Warren Buffett, go ahead, its all out there the information and tools you need. Good luck to all.
Image Detail

Friday, April 13, 2012

MBA Debate Ignited

Walla said some points which brought another reader, whom I respect and is an avid reader of the blog, to bring forth his views. His views are in blue, pretty solid points. My previous reply to Walla in yellow.


:33 PM
 Delete

Blogger walla said...

It's the old academic-practical question. But there is a difference. The MBA can with observation and mentoring become more street-smart but the street-smart without proper training cannot do the academic things the MBA can.

Kuok was a savvy commodity trader during his days. But if he is to present at an analyst conference today, he won't be able to answer with industry-wide terms the questions they will throw at him.

The last part of what the blogger wrote to say the street-smart can do this and that ..actually how many nonMBA street-smarts think enough like that to be able to know what to do next to get quantitative answers to acceptable levels of confidence?

Unless what is being pushed here is some zen-like qualitative personal insight seared out of big-time losses rehashed as street-smart wisdom.

But street-smart wisdom is about three chapters; MBA is at least three-hundred. And that's how investors have been looking at proposals since they have to answer on what basis they would plough in billions.

A lot of the success stories is by reverse engineering. Karma, luck, and dogged persistence lead to one big killing out of fifty, and it's success to be reverse engineered into some nice homilies.

In the end, arc knowledge-practice with culture. Then imponderable forces will be the only variable left.

No links, this one.
5:50 PM
 Delete
It's the old academic-practical question. But there is a difference. The MBA can with observation and mentoring become more street-smart but the street-smart without proper training cannot do the academic things the MBA can. Where is the basis for this comment, where is the data to support the supposed fact that the street smart with no proper training cannot do the academic things the MBA can. Whats so difficult, clever and/or unique that the MBA can do because of their academic training that the street smart cannot muster the common sense to master, after all is it not a fact that most of MBAs supposed knowledge and brilliance is simple cut and paste or unoriginal plagiarism. This is a world full of copy cats... ask Steve Jobs, lol.

Kuok was a savvy commodity trader during his days. (Well, MBAs trades on information and knowledge) But if he is to present at an analyst conference today, he won't be able to answer with industry-wide terms the questions they will throw at him (The Kuoks of this world make up the top 1% to 5% of the world population, they do not need to do the presentations themselves. They surround themselves with people with brains to do the work, as Henry Ford once said, " You do not need to have brains to run your business, you can always hire them").It is the brains and killer instinct to build the businesses from scratch that the MBAs lack and would take a lifetime to acquire cos there is such a thing a information overload and over analysing an issue to death before one musters the courage to make the killing before it is too late or someone swoops in.

The last part of what the blogger wrote to say the street-smart can do this and that ..actually how many nonMBA street-smarts think enough like that to be able to know what to do next to get quantitative answers to acceptable levels of confidence? Why dont you provide the answer if you are so smart, and please quantify and support it with solid scientific data from your so called skilled academia schooling.

Unless what is being pushed here is some zen-like qualitative personal insight seared out of big-time losses rehashed as street-smart wisdom. Pompous sounding goobledigook.

But street-smart wisdom is about three chapters; ( the 1% to 5% Kuoks of this world are more focussed on making things happen and creating real emplyment and multiplying wealth and adding value to the world they live in, unlike MBAs who have too much time on hand to wonder how is it they are so brainy and yet they are left behind to ponder what has actually happened, and then with hindsight, write thesis about the art of management and leadership as if they know better than the rest of the world) MBA is at least three-hundred. And that's how investors have been looking at proposals since they have to answer on what basis they would plough in billions.

A lot of the success stories is by reverse engineering. Karma, luck, and dogged persistence lead to one big killing out of fifty, and it's success to be reverse engineered into some nice homilies.In the end, arc knowledge-practice with culture. Then imponderable forces will be the only variable left.No links, this one. (Pompous assertions yet again with no basis and solid scientific data to support, how disappointing coming from a supposed highly trained mind).

Fair comment Walla, (More like smart arse comments to me from a probably very clever guy but a career lifer who has reached the zenith of his profession who doubles up as an expert pedestrian commentator).
I am not into bashing MBAs, its the rote learning of methods that removes the fine art of business dealings. The inability to use their tools for the softer skills required. (Why be defensive, nobody saying you were bashing MBAs. you were only making a statement of fact)

Its true, you probably can find 1 or 2 out of 10 MBAs who are also street smart. You would need 100 street smart personnel to get four or five that can do what an MBA can without getting one. (Ambivalent statement I am not smart enough to comprehend).
True or not, most MBAs end up working for the street smarts. You are spot-on here.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why MBA Is Not All Good


Blogger Ivan said...
Hello,

What was so important about academic, if MBA is not so call important?
11:23 AM
 Delete
Academic achievement is good provided it is part of an well rounded education. I have had to hire many people for various roles, analysts, sales traders, etc... To me, a degree tells me you can read and write (I hope), thats all. Nowadays, a number of graduates can read and write, maybe write horribly, but cannot even carry a conversation in simple English. I say that as English is a business language, and I am talking about business graduates primarily.
In some developed nations and some high-esteemed corporations / GLCs, they value the pedigree degree from the Top 20 universities globally because they get to pick from the cream of the crop. Fine, if thats the kind of graduates you want. In the end, you want performers, enthusiastic workers, people who think outside the box, people who can work around issues and problems, good interpersonal skills ... street smartness. We all know that a degree will not tell you any of those quality.
I think why Robert Kuok frowns upon MBAs is that an MBA gives a person who has had some biz background a sort of license that they are now biz experts, which is clearly a silly proposition. The most galling thing to me about MBAs is the "schematic way of thinking through problems". Got an issue, lets do a data collection and analyse them. Lets do a client testing before rolling out a product, do a client survey, etc... All these while inherently OK, are all ass-covering methods of doing business. I believe Steve Jobs would not have rolled out the iPhone, iPad if he had a room full of MBAs.
If you put an entire room full of analysts, fund managers and bankers with a company that wants to boost its liquidity, valuation and raise funds - how many will come up with the right solutions. There are textbook solutions which will prescribe the usual: bonus, placements, new share issues, analysts coverage, press coverage, etc. MBAs will always attack everything with financial modelling, variance and regression analysis, case studies, client surveys, ... cause thats what they have been trained to do.

The ones that get to achieve more in their careers will go further to focus on potential dilution, company's branding, management's perception in the market place, concentration of business in value-add segments, margin maintenance, longevity of market share/penetration/growth of segment, their place in the ladder of competitiveness, and get to the real end objectives of the owners (fear of losing control, no money or don't want to spend their own money, family control issues, lack of foresight/drive).
To do all that well, an MBA will not get you there, its the interpersonal skills, the connection you can make with people. Basic concepts, knowledge are just basic tools for you to leverage on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Has Happened To My Good Friends?

Just got back from a short trip to Singapore. I meet my good friends there 3-4 times a year, all of them are Malaysians who studied in NUS, some may have married other Malaysians or Singapore girls. Plus I worked in Singapore for 3 years in the early 90s, mixing with the same group of friends.

I do not have many good friends, maybe less than 20 but the group in Singapore (some taken on citizenship there even) has evolved like Darwin's best pets.They are still inherently the same people but the stuff they talk about PISSED me off no end:

a) "waaa... so cheap" - everything to them is so cheap, one must be empathetic enough to visualise how their attitude or even genuine statements make themselves appear in the eyes of other

b) "flaunting of brands, labels, airline miles, etc.." - you can be a consumerism victim, you may even say what things you bought or which ski lodge you holidayed at ... BUT NOT ALL THE FUCKING TIME ... these are THINGS. If I come to visit and have dinner, talk about you and your family, your aspirations, even your troubles or happy stuff. Things are things are things.

In terms of being successful in the careers, most of them are, my friends in Singapore but I also have a similar group in KL, just as successful, but do not engage in pathetic marialistic talk ALL THE TIME. It gets very tiring when you talk about queuing up for LV bags, how many you are limited to buy, the bloody ski holiday in Korea and planning your next ski holiday in Europe, getting enough Biz Class frequent flyer miles, where to get the most expensive ham, how you attended the expensive Chinese dinner drinking S$300 soup ... ALL IN the first 20 minutes of dinner ....

Real friends, good friends when we have little or no money .... the trouble is when some of us get a bit of money. I know my friends, if they read this they know what I am talking about and why. Is it the recognition, the need to be validated, the high life you are living, you need people to know ... Just like the ostentatious HK rich man who said, when asked why he keeps flaunting his wealth: "IF I DON'T DO THAT, HOW WILL PEOPLE KNOW HOW RICH I AM ... IF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW, WHY BOTHER GETTING RICH".

If you can find ten things wrong about that person with that last statement, you can be my good friend.

It is sad and it makes me angry, but I guess they have been Singapor-ed ... I hope they realise before I give up on them.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ubuntu ... Do We Have It In Us?

Ubuntu sounds so much like many swear words in our mlulti lingual society. Sounds like buntut, pundek ... Are we all conditioned not to have ubuntu in our capitalistic, survival of the fittest, winner takes all, meritocracy only society???
Give me a Ubuntu society anytime. Naturally, its hard to just have unbuntu in the modern world, just that no matter how tiny the flicker of flame of ubuntu we all may have, just don't let it die out. If we can pass on "courage, survival, interpersonal, integrity" skill sets and values to our children, make sure you pass on the essence and beauty of ubuntu to your kids ... to be totally human and to live well.





An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they ran like that when one of them could have had all the fruits for himself, the kids responded: "UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?" UBUNTU in the Xhosa African culture means: I am because we are. 


Ubuntu (Zulu/Xhosa pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼú]English: /uˈbʊntuː/ oo-buun-too) or "uMunthu" (Chichewa) is an African ethic or humanist philosophyfocusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other. Some believe that ubuntu is a classical African philosophy or worldview[1]whereas others point out that the idea that ubuntu as a philosophy or worldview has developed in written sources in recent years.



Ubuntu: "I am what I am because of who we all are." (From a translation offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in a 1999 book:[3]
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:[4]
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:[5]
A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?
Tim Jackson refers to Ubuntu as a philosophy that supports the changes he says are necessary to create a future that is economically and environmentally sustainable.[6]






Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Hunger Games, Yes and No

To many in the Western world, The Hunger Games will be a massive hit and its going to be a trilogy as the author has 3 books out on the subject. As usual, given the horrendous dysfunctional utopian theme, moral issues abound with the books and the movie. For pure entertainment, its very good 9/10. Those who cannot take gore, brutality, senseless killings (who does), ... will find it a turn off. For ethical reasons: its disturbing to say the least.
The Hunger Games - the-hunger-games wallpaper


To me, movies tell stories and make us think, and entertain at the same time. The Hunger Games accomplishes all. The fact is this kind of scenario where the powers to be keep pulling strings to "manufacture" empathy, restore political balance, gain power over the people ... are all evident in various facets of life. You take that scenario and mesh it with the reality TV craze over the past 10 years, you get The Hunger Games. Reality TV intrudes private space, people generally like to watch "others suffer and/or pull through hardships". Reality TV dumbs us all down to the lowest common denominator. I think some were really well planned, such as Survivor and even The Amazing Race, but much of the rest tries too hard and voyeuristic viewing is too cruel and deplorable. Producers "jiggle" with participants emotions, manufacture situations to create conflicts, sensationalise situations all for the viewing public.


What is The Hunger Games? Its a potent mix of The Truman Show, Reality TV, Rambo and copied extensively from the great Japanese movie Battle Royale. Its Big Brother Orwellian gone bad. We needed to go there to know what could happen if we let certain values get out of hand. Too much credit is given to the author, not enough for the blatant plagiarism of Battle Royale.


In Battle Royale, massive unemployment has caused enormous anger stemming from the younger generation. The government passed a Bill to "control" that and to make sure their youth do not get "weak" Every year one junior high class will be selected at random to participate in Battle Royale in a secluded island with only one person allowed to come out alive. They have to kill because all of them have a special necklace cuff which can be activated to blow up if they do not do so. The event is broadcasted like Reality TV.


The Hunger Games, saw many states warring over a long time. After the war, they were classified into Districts 1-12 depending on the line of work/industry they do. Every year one male and one female teenager will be selected to participate in the games, One lone victor emerges, the participants are called Tributes ( to commemorate the war struggle and maintain peace ... go figure).


Its a nasty side of human nature as putting a group in a boxed environment with specific rules, will cause most to work towards that objective. Survival of the fittest, the will to live will almost always win out the morality and ethical aspects. The Hunger Games is good entertainment, bring your teen kids along, not your under 12s though, and make sure you discuss through the issues in the movie. Too many parents are too protective nowadays. If you live in clean streets all the time, you do not understand how people live in poverty. If The Hunger Games is a 9/10, Battle Royale is 11/10.


Sydney Morning herald op piece: The arrival of The Hunger Games on the big screen has sent thrills around the world. Already a publishing blockbuster, Suzanne Collins's sensational trilogy is cleaning up at the box office as well. The first instalment is an enthralling film that keeps audiences spellbound throughout. Or so I hear, for I won't be going. I read all three books in my professional capacity as a reviewer and experienced first-hand their hypnotic quality. But while they may provide gripping entertainment, they carry some worrying ethical messages.

Collins conceived the idea while channel surfing between reality TV shows and news coverage of a war zone. Many are convinced that the trilogy presents a violent, unjust and horrifically dystopian future world as a poignant critique of reality television, totalitarian government and screen violence as entertainment.


But could Collins's skill in turning this critique into pulse-racing entertainment ultimately leave her young audience less sensitive to violence? More importantly, by constantly putting her good protagonists into worst-case scenarios where they must make decisions that under normal circumstances would be wrong, is she gently pressuring her young audience into stretching moral boundaries? I believe so. Here are five reasons why.

Firstly, Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion. The lead character, Katniss Everdeen, clearly has more courage than most people on the planet. In addition, she seems to have no choice but to go along with the Games and try to survive. If she refuses, not only will she die, but her family and friends will also suffer.

But is it real rebellion to allow herself to be trained up for a killer-survivor episode? Could one say no? Other heroes have shown it is possible. Passive resistance was the ''weapon'' of choice for Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and anti-Nazi activists Sophie Scholl and her brother. And may we mention Christian martyrs? In all these cases, even where their protests led to sudden death, their story didn't end. Katniss is courageous, but her ''rebellion'' is a compromise.
"Author Suzanne Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion".
"Author Suzanne Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion". Photo: Getty Images
Secondly, survival justifies killing in this story. By participating in the Games, even the heroes allow themselves to be infected with its kill-or-be-killed ethos. Katniss reluctantly begins by dropping an insect nest on someone's head so they swell up and die ''naturally'', then destroys others' food so they will starve. Later, she has no problem shooting a citizen who blocks her path.

Thirdly, characters are desensitised to sexual exploitation. The reality television framework makes body appearance important: each contestant has a stylist who must first assess them without clothes (Katniss ''bravely'' resists the urge to cover herself), and then a full body wax makes them camera-ready. This is probably normal for reality TV, but don't tell me it's brave.

A fake relationship between Katniss and the male lead, Peeta, is also played up to win sponsorship. So physical affection is given for food, or later because she's ''so desperately lonely [she] can't stand it''. This selfish mockery is all the love that is shown in The Hunger Games.

Fourthly, feelings replace right and wrong. For Katniss, the pattern is repeated over and over: a catastrophic situation is followed by her passionate but often unethical reaction, then a soul-searching analysis of her feelings to deal with her guilt, followed by defiant justification that she had no choice, or that she was confused, which is the fault of those who created the catastrophe. Thus she becomes the victim-hero: they made her do it.

Finally, there is the seductive sensationalism of the storytelling. It is like watching a graphic news story that turns horrific events into entertainment. The screaming, the blood, the broken bodies - and when all this is no longer enough, the slow and graphic death of some poor, innocent character we've come to like. How can this series be a critique of using injury and death for entertainment when it does the same itself?

My argument is not against violence, moral ambivalence or outright wrongdoing in teen literature, but against justifying them and casting them in a heroic light.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-ive-lost-my-hunger-for-violent-unethical-games-20120402-1w8pl.html#ixzz1r2KtMTwz