Thursday, 31 January 2013

Test for the Great Firewall of China

This article I wrote about 2 months ago about the Great Firewall of China concluded that my blog, which was accessible within China, was blocked after I tried to access it in Beijing. To recap very briefly, I got page views at least once a week from China before the trip. Nearly 2 months after I wrote this article, there had not been a single page view from Mainland China. Perhaps, Baidu - the Chinese Google - had stopping crawling my blog.

I could only arrive the conclusion by inferring from circumstantial evidence from such things as hits from China via Google Analytics (or any other traffic reporting tool). But this is only circumstantial evidence, not direct evidence that my blog is definitely blocked. My blog also don't get hits from more than a hundred other countries, albeit that China has more web users than there're people in USA. On the other hand, the number of English readers in China are indeed much lower than, say, Kiwis (c'mon New Zealanders, I visited your country 3 times), who had never visited my blog. So this could only due to my blog's low page rank, which in turns due to it being quite new (less than 5 months old).

So the conclusion that my blog was accessible before, and only being blocked after my Beijing trip was inconclusive (even if it makes a lot of sense). Until now, that is. I have discovered a tool that put that question to rest once and for all.

Interestingly, this website actually provides the tool for the specific tests for the Great Firewall of China. You can select locations within China and outside China. The locations outside China will give you references to compare the results with, side by side. Of course, if your site shows the same results to locations like NY, Munich or Melbourne to those locations within China, then there's something wrong with your blog. It means your blog couldn't be reached in those cities outside China either.

Not surprisingly, after putting my blog's URL into the tool for the Great Firewall of China, all tests confirmed that my blog was blocked. Except for HK, which I know would have no problem accessing my blog. Since my readers don't have access to my GA traffic report, simply look at my Flag Counter in my sidebar, you could see a HK flag, but no flag of PRC in sight. This isn't surprising, as everyone knows (and I stated clearly in the above mentioned article), HK enjoys one of the most free media in the world (and it has less internet censorship than Australia).

One simple straight forward way for the Chinese readers who wants to read blogs that are blocked in China would be to subscribe to the blogs' feeds. The Chinese firewall only blocks high profile blog sites like blogger's (and Wordpress's), but not the publishers of blog feeds. Because publishers of feeds could be any Chinese or other foreign internet firms, and reasonably standard feeds (like Feed Burner) are supported by many feed readers.

The problem is, they have to be quite familiar with your blogs before they decide to subscribe to your blogs. Without access to your blogs in the 1st place, there's no reason anyone would subscribe to your feeds. This is a catch-22 situation. Unless you're so very well known within China that your readers would just do it without reading your blogs first. Well, there's little risks of that with my blog.

Another simple way for a blog to be available in PRC, as far as I'm aware, is simply have a non-blogger domain name. Just need to pay annual subscription. But hold my words for it as things are always changing very fast in China. This might work in the past, but there's no guarantee it will work in the future as the Great Firewall of China is catching up with that as well.

Great Firewall of China is another website offering the same service, except this one provides much less info, and therefore insights. But it does offer availability for different locations like Yunnan, Inner Mongolia, etc. So running these 2 software together would give more confirmation for the availability of your site in China.

UPDATE (5/2/2013)  I had run further test on the 2 websites, and I found their results inconsistent. Having run different tests by entering different URLs into these 2 websites, I have to conclude that Website Pulse is more reliable than Great Firewall of China.

This conclusion is based on the fact that with the same URL entered into Great Firewall of China, sometimes, different results are returned for the same URL entered. While results returned by Web
Site Pulse are always consistent.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

My 1st Casting Call

I joined the Singapore Reel Frenz group in the Meetup website when I learnt that this group is into movie making.

Anyone who's familiar with my blog knows that I'm into movies. And not just in watching it, but in the business of film production. I've participated in some Hollywood blockbusters like Superman Returns (2006), Happy Feet (2006)[1], and whatnot in the Sydney's Fox Studios as movie extra.

The thing about being an extra is, while it's an interesting experience, especially if you're a movie nut, your role as an extra doesn't guarantee your appearance in the final cut, even if that appearance is tiny dot in a sea of extras. You can't point out to your friend and say, "you see that tiny head with the shocking pink shirt in the bottom left corner of the screen among the hundred other head? I know you can't tell it's me. But let me tell you, it's me! C'est moi!" Quite often, you simply got cut out completely. Nothing personal, of course, me and a few hundred other fellow extras suffer the same fate of oblivious existence to the world. The 5 seconds of fleeting fame on the silver screen is like the candle in the wind that had been extinguished forever, and ever.. That's the life of an extra. A spare. Additional. None essential.

Ok, now that you're weeping tears of sympathy, or crying like a big baby (I don't judge) after reading this pathetic tale of an insignificant movie extra (my apology to people with big heart condition), here's a bit of heart warming news. When I heard Reel Frenz is making casting call for a short film titled Once Upon a Stormy Night, I jumped at the chance to sign up. I might or might not be selected, but just getting a chance to experience the process is gold for me.

Ok, let do a bit of postmortem or self-debriefing of my casting session.

The casting consisted of groups of 3 people reading lines from a script. We each take turn to read from the script. After done with the reading of each round, we swapped to play different roles. I was quite relax turning up in the meeting. And was still quite relax when I entered the casting room, and reading the script (to ourselves just to get familiar). My heart beat suddenly raised without any warning when I was asked to introduce myself briefly. Fortunately, as soon as I started to read the script out loud, my focusing on the job soon dispelled the nerves.

casting sessionWhen I asked if Rahul - the fellow Reel Frenz sitting next to me in this photo - had the same "stage fright" issue, he told me that he wasn't really concerned about the outcome, and so he was pretty relax. Maybe he was right. Perhaps I was a bit more serious about the session than I realised.

I feel that I delivered the lines reasonably ok, but not too happy with my facial expression. I gave my audio performance 3/5, and my video performance 2/5. I feel I didn't really get into my character sufficiently. The inexperience, the nerves, and the lack of preparedness caused my under-performance.

I'll stick with those excuses until I find better ones. I'm quite talented in finding excuses. I had been able to pull off unbelievable - I couldn't believe it meself - excuses (believe it or not). One is more brilliant than the next. Practise makes perfect!

This is valuable experience and fruitful for my next performance (if there's more. I hope so). Regardless it was an enriching way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon. I'm really glad I went.

As the little Pig in the Warner Bros Studios likes to say, "Aba-dee-aba-dee-aba-dee...That's all folks!"

Return to My Movie Making Main Page 

[1]  This movie is actually an American-Australian joint production. And you might probably ask, "This is an animation. What are you doing there?" I'm glad you ask. I've no idea. Maybe they decided to cut out the scenes with real people in it. I watched the movie from start to finish, I can't say I saw any real people. Maybe they drawn over the people? Whatever that means.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Google's Driverless Car or Self Driving Car

I won't talk about the technical aspects of this technology because it had been done to death by thousands other people.

Google is a huge company, and so they diversify into making all kinds of products. In some cases, more like buying them. E.g. Blogger, FeedBurner, Picasa, YouTube, etc. These are all quite understandable because these are all internet products that fit together really well.

And then when I heard Google goes into driverless car, I said, what the?

I know this is a strategy of diversification of business, but hearing Google going into driverless car is like hearing KFC or Macky start to make photocopiers, or into banking. It comes out of the left field. Where does the idea even originates? Did some engineer/board of director in Google wake up one morning and said, let's make a self-driving car just because we can? And then, when I saw the Google's driverless car, it struck me, and it all makes sense.

Google driverless car, self drive car
This is a Google driverless car

google car take photos at street view

This is a Google car that takes street-view photos

Mounted on one car is a sensor device for detecting obstacles, and the other are cameras that take 360° view of the streets that the car driven past. Now this is purely my speculation, just having fun with the ideas. Taking photos for Google maps from space with satellites is a snap. That's what they designed to do. But to take photos at the street level are much more expensive and time consuming. At the moment, Google sends out thousands of cars around the world taking photos of all the streets for its Google maps (except for places like Area 51 in USA or Pine Gap in Australia. Well, there're no streets there anyway. Only aerial photos are available).

As you can imagine, this is very time consuming and expensive as it involves actual drivers, and all that logistics in getting the pictures taken. I guess it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination for somebody to say, "wouldn't it be nice if we could automate this process?"

At the early stage, in a busy city, a driverless car would produce less accidents for the drivers. In the countryside, especially the more desolate parts of the world, the driver can have a snooze on a very long distant drive, or do work on the computer while this self-driving car takes you to your destinations. No worries about sleeping on the jobs. And then when the self-driving car reaches the next stage of evolution/design, Google could send them out to take photos on any streets without any actual driver at all. Total automation. This should be suitable on quiet country roads.

Not that this technology wouldn't make Google a fortune if they could pull it off, and sell it to the wider market. The worst scenario is that nobody buys this technology, and Google only uses it to take photos for their Google maps, which saves them lots of money and minimises accidents by automating the process as much as possible.

And I suspect one day, it would merge the technology of the driverless car with the Google maps, much like Google merging the different application so well for so many times before. And the mororists could do away with GPS, or at least Google Maps is used in conjunction with GPS. Why not? If they haven't got that idea. Well, here it is Google. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense about the strategy that Google has for this car.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

China's Area 51 ?

Amazing Chinese Maze-Like Structure. Chinese Area 51.

In 2005 when Google Maps released the bizarre aerial images over NW desert of China. The images stirred up a huge number of conspiracy theorists on the internet.

Actually this old image shows partial construction of the zigzag lines pattern we come to know so well today that could be seen at the coordinates (40.4, 93.7). Enter this coordinates into Google Maps and you'll get the following satellite map. And this map shows the above partial maze-like map been completed.

View Larger Map

Friday, 11 January 2013

Blogger Vs FlagCounter PageView Stats

For visitors who come to my site today (the post published date) and inspect my blog stats on my sidebar will see the following,

Blogger vs Falg Counter pageview

keen visitors quickly noticed the vast difference between the page view stats of these 2 counters.

The page views in the upper half of this screen capture comes from Blogger and is showing a count of 2316. The stats in the lower half showing a total of only 259 page views from Flag Counter.

Of course, if you read this post sometime after I published it, the page views of these 2 counters will show different numbers, but 1 thing remains the same for awhile, the 2 figures will be differed by a huge margin (in this case Blogger is showing almost 9 times more traffic than Flag Counter).

Why is Blogger and Flag Counter showing such a large difference in page views counts? I'm glad you ask.

There're 2 reasons:

Firstly, the Blogger's pageviews are somewhat inflated by referrer SPAM. When these referrer spammers 'hitting' my site, their links shows up in the traffic stats. These spammers are operators whose aims are to get traffic by luring unsuspected web users - meaning novice Blogger users like myself - to click on their links in the "Traffic Sources" section of the Blogger stats, thus giving them traffic. A few such spammers reappear on my site regularly include Pregolom from Russia, Kallery from South Korea, and a few others. There's no shortage of web users ranting about Pregolom. Even a youtube page did some spamming before, but had given up after awhile, and no longer appears on my radar screen (meaning Traffic Source stats).

I dug a little deeper into Prelogom, and I found this. And you see that  it's administered by an Aussie company in the Sunshine State of Queensland in Nobby Beach (been there, lovely holiday place). They clearly needs the protection of this Queensland company to protect itself from the very thing that they do so well - spamming. Good thinking, Pregolom! As Pregolom makes itself Public Enemy Number 1, the Aussie battler has its hands full safe-guarding Pregolom. In fact, if you check a different site, say Yahoo or whoever, with the same domain tool, you don't get that disclaimer at the bottom.

Secondly, the above scenario only accounts for about 10 - 20% difference in the stats of these 2 counters. Not the huge difference. This boils down to the difference in the starting dates where these 2 tools begun to record their traffic stats. The Blogger of course begun to record traffic from the 1st date of my blog, which was born around Aug - Nov 2012. So the Blogger page views showing traffic for my blog in the last 4 months or so. On the other hand I installed my Flag Counter only this week. And the Flag Counter shows my traffic from the last few days, and is spammer-free traffic. This is how I come to this conclusion. My Blogger stats is telling me that I have some traffic from South Korea in the last few days, but I didn't get any South Korean flags at all.

Unfortunately, Flag Counter has no access to Blogger's internal stats, so it could only keep count of my traffic from the day I installed it. I wish they have access to the internal stats, but they don't. Because my site is still new and so the difference is huge. But in a few years the 2 stats will narrow. By then, I might even get rid of the Blogger page view counter. It will live for another day for now.

The referrer spammers' traffic, which account for less and less of the total traffic as time goes by. In the 1st month, the spam traffic accounts for 80% of my traffic. Now it's about 15 %. I have a feeling that they will fade into the background as white noise in a few months time.

One of the reason I installed Flag Counter is because it's not only let me share my traffic info with my visitors, it's also looking quite pretty. A nice decoration for my blog. This counter also shows spam-free traffic, which is quite handy.

Many people didn't just get it for serious traffic data, they're part of the hobby fun of collecting flags around the world. I was tempted too to join in the party in the Flag Counter forum to get my hands on some exotic flags. I resist my urge as this fun flag collection activity will distort my real traffic analysis. And I want to study who my readers are from organic traffic data.

Oh well, maybe one day when I get so much traffic (finger cross) that I could start collecting some exotic flags without having too much impact on the traffic analysis.

UPDATE (10 March 2013) After sitting on the side line for awhile, I've decided to join the Flag Counter forum for the flag collecting party. Ok, it isn't just about flag collection. In addition to this fun activity, it could also lead to getting more visitors to your site. When they visit your site (to give you their flags), they might like what they see on your website/blog and decide to become returned visitors (you'll never know). In fact, I've discovered some interesting sites this way. So it's entirely possible other forum members would find your sites interesting.

While it isn't the most efficient ways to get new visitors, it's doing 2 things at the same time (increase flag and visitor numbers). And have fun doing it (if that's your idea of fun). Who know, you might even make some friends there.

UPDATE  (5 May 2013) I have taken off the Blogger Page Views counter. As I said in this post above, the difference between Blogger page views count and Flag Counter page views count is going to narrow to the point that their differences is negligible. So there's no reason to keep 2 counters showing the same (more or less) page views count.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Inception (2011)

Inception (2011)Christopher Nolan had outdone himself in terms of creating another original mind-bending, thought-provoking story with unconventional narrative structure since Memento (2000). This article doesn't contain any plot spoiler. In fact, it doesn't say anything about the story. The article tries to find out where Nolan got his ideas from.

While Inception is a work of fiction, it's based firmly on real science. What I'm trying to do is discussing the real psychology research that Nolan based in crafting the film script for the sci-fi thriller.

When a task is a little bit challenging for us, it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we're on top of it. It's like a difficult puzzle that we could eventually solve. But when it's way too challenging and goes over our head, and we're losing the plot (so to speak), doing this task, meaning watching this movie becomes a frustrating experience.

The complexity of this SF thriller lies in essentially 2 areas. The 1st is due to the inclusion of a full range of dream phenomena, and the 2nd is its unconventional narrative structure. A couple of dream phenomena just isn't enough for our director. He puts in the whole hog.

Some of these dream phenomena are well known, others are obscure. In fact, a few are not even well understood by researchers. Some are explained explicitly in the movie, others are not.

Here is the list of Dream Phenomena that are made use of extensively in this sci-fi thriller.

1. Shared Dreaming / Mutual Dreaming / Mass Dreaming.
2. False Awakening.
3. Incorporation of External Stimulus into a Dream.
4. Perception of Time in Dreams.
5. Lucid Dreaming

I'll shorten the words "Dream Phenomenon" to DP.

You could watch it without any of the background knowledge of these DPs, it will just seem random and complex. You could simply watch all these strange things like the kicks, zero gravity, the totem, etc as part of the logic of the movie, and had nothing to do with real life science behind it. While it can still be very entertaining, you learn nothing about real life. Knowing the actual science will deepen the appreciation of the film, instead of thinking everything in the film are nothing but artificial constructs of the writer, it tackles these real world abstract concepts in an imaginary setting.

DP#1 - Shared Dreaming / Mutual Dreaming / Mass Dreaming
Inception, extraction
Shared dreaming requires telepathy to occur. I.e. when one person dreams, another picks up its dream telepathically while he/she is sleeping. Traditionally, Chinese doesn't believe in mutual dreaming. They do, however, believe that the spirit of the departed could communicate with them through dream. I guess it's easier to swallow that a spirit has telepathy than mortal being.

Regardless if we believe such thing, the mutual dreaming in Inception is done by having several parties hooking up to a machine. So no telepathy is necessary.

Whether we believe this DP depending very much if you believe telepathy exists. I'm somewhat sceptical, but I'll keep an open mind. Those who have telepathic power could plant an idea into my head to make me change my mind. Seriously, I just touched on the central idea of the movie. By combining these 2 things - DP#1, and planting an idea using the machine - is what Inception is.

DP#2 - False Awakening
This is a more down-to-earth DP than DP#1. While it isn't very common, I'm sure a number of readers would have experienced it. I have to say, I haven't, yet. I'm quite boring as far as dreamers are concerned. Basically, in a false awakening, dreamer thought they have woken up from a dream, but in fact, they're still dreaming. In other words, this DP is a dream within a dream.

Inception, water flowing into vanThe existence of this DP is critical in the plot of movie. Without it, there's no Inception. Only normally, we've 1 level of DP#2, which is why sometimes this DP is also called Double Dream. In this film, it takes the idea a step further, and takes the dreamers to 3, even 4 levels deep. You could call it triple dream, or quadruple dream.

Many movies have exploited this DP before this film, but none have gone so far, and so deep, literally and figuratively.

DP#3 - Incorporation of External Stimulus into a Dream
This DP sounds a lot more mouthful than it really is. It's actually quite simple to explain. While you're sleeping outside, the temperature drops significantly. If you're dreaming, you might find yourself dreaming you're in a ski slope with no clothes. Or when your dog licks your cheek while you're dreaming, you might end up dreaming that you get wet kisses from your girl; or that you're wiping your cheek with a wet towel, or you're lying on a wet pillow, etc.

Inception, water flowing into castleThis DP is very common place not just in our dreams, but it also had been shown in many movies/TV series before, usually comedy. The example I just gave about the dog licking your cheek is a case in point. In Inception, this DP is used with great effect. In fact, some of the most memorable scenes in this movie come from the application of this DP.

When Cobb falls into a bathtub while he's in a middle of a dream, water flood into the windows of the castle in his dream. As the team is sleeping in a van, undergoing mass dreaming, the shared dream incorporates the dramatic free-fall of the van into dream that takes place inside a hotel.  Everyone in the hotel is in weightlessness because that's what happens when we're in a free-fall. We experience zero gravity.

While this DP is the least crucial in the story plot, it gives the film's dreamscape its most theatrical effect.

DP#4 - Perception of Time in Dreams
The movie makes it very clear about the lengthening or slowing in the perception of time in dream. While this question isn't completely settled by dream researchers, I'm not going to convince you one way or another. I'm going to give you an example that I imagine many people experienced before: falling out of bed while dreaming.

I remembered a few times I fell out of bed when I was a kid (adults have probably bed trained to avoid falling off  the bed, much like training to avoid bed wetting), I dreamt I fell over a building or cliff. So the experience of time during the fall seems longer. After all, falling from a building or cliff before hitting the ground are surely takes longer than falling to ground from a meter of my bed.

Scientists said that time seems to move slower when we're young because of the larger intake of oxygen into our brain. Maybe when we dream, and since our whole body is at rest, our brain could extract the most 'juice' or oxygen from our body. Or simply expect that falling from a cliff or building should take longer. It's a question of expectation, not perception. But then, could we separate perception from expectation?

This falling off the cliff or building is a very good example because it captures both DP#3 and DP#4 in a dream. 2 for the price of 1. What's more, our mind is so quick in creating a new scenario - the falling of a cliff or building - to incorporate the external stimulus of falling off the bed. How long does it take to fall from the bed to the floor? That means our brain takes a fraction of that time to conjure up the falling "scene" in our dream. One might ask, if that's not fast thinking - therefore slow dream time - then what is? Well, is it possible that we create the falling scene after we hit the bedroom floor? And the falling scene could take as long as our brain like. I suspect, our brain incorporates all these from external stimulus to alert us of any external danger. So no, the dream should occur ASAP.

This danger signal - like hitting the ground after falling from a cliff or building - usually jerks us from our slumber. Indeed, in Inception, they call it the "kick". This is usually a very dangerous action - like killing somebody - to wake somebody up from their dream. This obviously borrowed from my example of the falling out of bed.

This falling out of my bed is a good example for one more reason. The falling of the van from the bridge in the movie is the ultimate expression of falling out of bed.

DP#5 - Lucid Dreaming
This last, but not least DP is perhaps most most central of all the 5 DPs. The whole idea of the blurring and confusion between reality and dream is highlighted by this DP. Simply put, a lucid dream is a special kind of dream where the dreamer is knowing that he's in a dream.

Inception, artificial worldNormally we don't know we're dreaming. When we have a nightmare where we're chased by a 'monster', we got freaked out and run amok. If we knew we're dreaming, we probably wouldn't run. We most likely stop and check out if the 'monster' is a person wearing a suit. Even if we're not checking it out, at least, we would stop and think instead of running amok. Most likely, we would think to ourselves, there's no such thing as monster. This is a practical joke.

But in a nightmare, there is no stop and think. We react. Well, we're dreaming, not thinking. You don't think in a dream. You do that in a waking state. And you don't aware you're in a dream. If you do, you would start thinking, reasoning.

In short, in a dream, we're not aware we're dreaming. In waking, we aware we're not dreaming. It's awareness that makes the difference between dreaming and awake.

Is it possible that we both dream and aware that we dream. In other words, both dreaming and waking. Well, that what a lucid dream is. Our paradoxical DP#5.

I may not have convinced if I didn't experience it myself. But only once. Why once, and not more, or never? I had never experienced, in fact heard of the term "lucid dream" about 20 years ago. Not until I read a few books on dream research (this is before the World Wide Web). That night, I read about lucid dreaming. I had the habit of reading before sleeping. So it's the fact that I read about lucid dreaming before sleeping that led me to have a lucid dream.

That night, I dreamt I had dinner with a bunch of friends in our favourite restaurant. After dinner, people were getting comfy and they rested their feet on the dining table. I followed suit. It was a reasonably upmarket restaurant. Only then I suddenly realised this has to be a dream because I know either any of my friend or myself would rest our feet up on a table like that, ever. This has to be a dream. Without that realisation or awareness, I would continue to dream normally, not realising I'm dreaming. The book explained that I should keep telling myself before sleeping to look for clues that something isn't real. A reality check. In fact, the term wasn't even invented yet. It wasn't used at all in the book I read.

In the movie, this example of reality check with a spinning top is much more convincing because there's nothing impossible about putting feet on table. It's just a faux pas we never do. But not physical impossibility like a spinning top that never stop spinning. The example in the movie is much neater, but my own example works just as well for me. In movie, thing needs to be neat. In real life, things are more loose and messy.

I remember the book also suggested that one of the reality check could be trying to flick a light switch. Several volumnteer dreamers said that the light switch doesn't work in a dream. While the book never explained why. My guess is, if the light switch works, the light would be switched off, and the dream would be in total darkness. As far as I know, there's no such thing as a dream in total darkness. I think that's called "no dream". In other words, if you can't switch off a dream, the light switch shouldn't work. It's weird, and yet toally logical. Welcome to the weird, and wacky world of Lucid Dream. It's really much more strange than this movie. Well, reality is stranger than fiction. No doubt about it.

Anyway, it was what happened next that's interesting. Once I realised or was aware that I was dreaming, I recalled in the book - yep, I was thinking in a dream! - that once I knew I'm in a lucid dream, I could control it. Instead of letting the dream carries me powerlessly, helplessly as always, I had the ability to shape the dream, control its direction. Yep, I was the director in my dream.

The 1st act, something that naturally came to mind was levitation. I told myself to float onto the ceiling. I had some difficulty at first. But with some effort, I did float onto the ceiling. Unreal! Ok, let float out the window. I told myself. It took even more effort, but I succeeded. And I told myself to fly like Superman. I did! Hey, tell me, who's not dreaming of flying? Apparently, you can do it in a dream at night, and not just daydream about it.

It took a lot of mental effort though to do those gravity defying acts in my lucid dream. This is note-worthy. In The Matrix, Neo is having problem doing gravity defying act because he's new to it. His mind hadn't been used to these experiences at first. I imagine if I did the floating and flying a few more times, it would become easier. Just like Neo in The Matrix.

It's one thing to read in a book that there's such a thing call Lucid Dreaming, it's another thing to actually experience it. And what an experience it was too. But I didn't have another one of those wonderful experience. Why? There're many technical reason that are too tedious to go into it. Let's just say I couldn't repeat another one.

Was it because I wasn't serious about my dream study. No. I was quite serious. I kept a dream journal with 30+ dreams recorded. I just didn't have another one. Mind you, that it was books that I read 20 years ago (and the book maybe 5+ years old). The point is, there weren't as many as techniques to help me to get into DP#5 as they do today. I'm sure there're great strides in dream research in the last 20+ years. Another thing, I also a little bit nervous about controlling my own dreams. Are they meant to be controlled like that? At least, that was what I thought. This mental adventure may carry certain risk. After all, it's an undiscovered country. Or at least, a not very well explored frontier. I decided to play it safe, and quit the whole enterprise. Maybe I'll take it up again one of these days.

What I learnt about DP#5 is the paradox of reality and dream. Even before my fantastic brush with DP#5, I mulled over the nature of dream and reality. Most Chinese would have heard about the musing of Zhuangzi, a Taoist Chinese philosopher who lived nearly 2400 years ago about the famous Butterfly Dream. Let me just summarise a very deep philosophical discourse into something like this. He dreamt of a butterfly. On waking up, he asks himself if he's a man dreaming a butterfly or he's a butterfly dreaming that he's a man.

This ambiguity of reality and dream lies in the heart of Inception. The various characters asks the question at various times in the movie, "Is this a dream or reality?" And the idea of being lucid while dreaming is absolute central, without it, Cobol Engineering wouldn't be able to have a business. No business, no movie.

There were movies that explored or made use of some of these DPs before. E.g. The Matrix (1999), Vanilla Sky (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), and Shutter Island (2010). But none involves such a spread of DPs. This director threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Well, He probably feels that he couldn't just do the same thing as his predecessors. He has to push the envelop. Another thing this movie has in common with the examples is that all these movies show how dreams could be constructed from reality and memories, and are quite indistinguishable. This is the very essence of Lucid Dreaming.

I'll probably write articles on these movies if I'm in the conducive mood. I probably have something of interests to others to say.

In my article on Memento (2000), I focused mostly on the convoluted narrative structure. In a way, the narrative structure in this movie is even more innovative. The narrative structure of Memento consists of 2 narrative thread or time-lines. And the 2 time-lines are colour coded so that the audience could tell them apart. In the process of Inception in the 2nd half of the movie, there're actually 4 time-lines going on in parallel. It should be more confusing, but it's in fact easier to follow. This is because the different time-lines occur in very easily identifiable locations - inside the plane, the van, the hotel and the hospital among the snow field. This way, the viewers always know exactly where they're in the story.

Hopefully all this will help the audience who hasn't seen the movie (where have you been?) would find the movie easier to follow if they decide to watch it. If you had seen the movie and didn't get it, I hope you will do so after reading this article. If you have watched it, and was able to follow the story without any problem, I hope this article will shed light where Mr. Nolan got his ideas from. And if you're the person in the latter case, I hope we could swap notes.

Happy viewing!