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#09

Monday, May 30, 2005

My Grandmama versus the TV

The television was showing a jewellery commercial. I'm not sure which brand they were advertising exactly (edit: Lee Hwa Jewellery, watch for it), or even what the commercial was about - after prolonged viewing, they all tend to blend together into one cohesive syrupy-sweet glittery monstrosity that sends boyfriends and husbands scurrying.

Without any warning whatsoever, my Grandmama launches into something of a tirade against the idiocy of that particular jewellery commercial.

Cantonese expletives aside: "What is that stupid woman doing? Walking down a deserted street alone and wearing so much jewellery! Nobody to show off to, what is the use? She walks under the street light, flashes her jewellery. Stands in front of a shop with nobody inside and her jewellery flashes some more. So bright but still no people around. Later she get robbed than she know! So silly one."

That had me chortling for about ten minutes. My brother must have thought I was having an epileptic fit, especially when I keeled over and kept laughing. Formidable logic there is.

Another night, while messages were scrolling across the television screen telling the public Channel 5's version of breaking news: the OC will air at 11:30pm.

My Grandmama takes one look at the information and wonders aloud, "What is that? Oh-see? Aw-see ah?" Which in Cantonese, translates to: What is that? O-shit? Passing shit?

Even for (or perhaps especially so for) one who doesn't watch the much acclaimed the OC (ed: sounds rather like The Chinese High, donnit? Can't miss out the the in there. And then it became Hwa Chong Institution, although no one is fooled)
, hilarity ensued.

en at 7:35 pm

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Gahmen says we not scared, ok?

Reuters reports:
Singapore says no climate of fear in city-state
Singapore defended its media laws on Friday and balked at the suggestion that its citizens live in a climate of fear... [Singapore's home affairs minister Wong Kan Seng] was quoted as saying in Singapore's Straits Times.
"Get real. Come on, we live in the real world in Singapore."

Yessir, whatever world you want us to live in, we will live in it. Real or fake also can. No problem.
Wong, who will assume the post of deputy prime minister later this year, also defended a law which bans political videos, saying that the law is applied in an even-handed manner...
"Political videos, by their very nature, will be political, will be biased and, therefore, will not be able to allow the listener or the viewer to see a whole range of arguments."
Statements by politicians, by their very nature, will be political, will be biased and nonetheless will be entertaining.

Actually, I not very greedy. I know all the 3-in-1 products - like shampoo-conditioner, fax-copy-print machines, handphone-organiser-gaming handset, gaming-dvd-chatting console - all very popular nowadays. I know the gahmen work very hard to make Singaporeans happy. Maybe Singaporeans should not expect our political videos to be also 3-in-1.

Even if I don't get all the arguments in one package, I won't be unhappy. I can go see other videos to have the full range. Then maybe we can have a political dvd box set like LOTR and Star Wars. Imagine the collector's edition: we can have the PAP video, the opposition video and the behind the scenes 'Making of' footage and interview clips with more political statements inside. Not bad marketing idea leh.

Can charge S$200 per box set. Soundtrack and miniatures included.

en at 7:57 pm

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School of Tai-Tais

From singaporean schools defined:
SCGS:
the bitchiest girls’ school in existence, rivalled only by WASPy east coast schools of america. the total income of the kids’ families in SCGS (and MGS) would easily surpass the GDP of most third world countries...they have a tendency to morph into tai tais post-marriage.
Quite amusing. I never had the financial fortune to aspire to such... heights.

The amount of flames on the guy's blog probably serve to suggest that Singaporeans had their sense of humour surgically removed in a vast government conspiracy. Lepak lah.

en at 1:27 am

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

To the Marketplace, my minions!

(also entitled Why I Will Get Burned At The Stake)


'It'd be our subcultural expedition!' Jan proclaimed.

I was noticeably less enthusiastic. After weeks of insistent whining, pestering and bugging by one of my students of the decibel level and frequency that prompts martial homocide (or at least aggravated domestic violence) in households worldwide, I finally caved.

And with the assurance of like-minded company (my unfortunate associate Jan), we took a deep breath and took the plunge into the nortorious, infamous, treacherous waters of City Harvest.

Over 3,000 souls packed into an auditorium 4 stories underground. The electric band onstage dutifully assaulted our eyedrums. The flashing colour strobe lights finished off our other remaining senses. Youths, teenagers, young adults were jumping, singing, stretching out their arms, their eyes shut and faces grimacing in obvious effort.

In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Belief can be distilled into a liquor and Mr. Jacquel, a modern incarnation of ancient Egyptian god Anubis who runs a mortuary with his partner Mr. Ibis - also the god Troth - warily observes, "Jesus does pretty good over here."

Having travelled halfway across the island to ulu Boon Lay and in the intrepid spirit of our subcultural expedition, we paid careful attention to the entire duration of the sermon - all 2 hours of it, given by a pastor (a Rev. Kong Hee) with a Texan twang, sporting a tweed grey business suit I think God will want to have a word with him about.

To surmise the 2 hour endurance test (I wonder how much of the sermon the teens actually listen into - I can barely get them to pay attention to an hour of teaching): there are 7 pillars holding up society. These are: Family, Religion, Education, Government, Arts, Media and Business. In Singapore, Christianity has done very well in the above two (Family and Religion).

Curious that there was no mention of science and technology as foundations of society. Then again, I doubt the Church and the Sciences have been on good terms since the latter propsed that the Earth revolved around the Sun and people evolved from apes.

Dare say science and tech not important in Singapore? Later City Harvest kena sued by A*STAR then they knoe.


However, sayeth the Rev. Kong Hee, this is not enough. Religion is not just about transforming people, friends or family. It's about changing societies and nations! We must push our influence into the other 'pillars' of Media, the Arts, Government, Education and Business - collectively known as The Marketplace.

Ay, sorry ah. Isn't that a tad dangerous, bordering on religious fundamentalism: when religion ceases being a personal matter and becomes a state-governed issue? Courtsey of en.wikipedia.org:
"Very often religious fundamentalists, in all religions, are politically aware. They feel that legal and government processes must recognise the way of life they see as prescribed by God and set forth in Scripture."
The Pastor continues: promoting Christianity need not only fall on the 1% of pastors and priests, we need more influencial people to push the religion to the masses. We need to make religion more accessible to the people, through the Marketplace.

Sayeth the Rev. Kong Hee, 'Jesus wore the modern-day equivalent of a business suit. That is why I'm dressed like this. I want to be like Jesus! Hallejulah!'

Something seems amiss when Jesus gets an Extreme Makeover going from humble carpenter to Donald Trump.

The pastor proceeded to give many examples from the Bible of people Jesus met and formed Marketplace business contacts with, including tax collectors - which happened to the most depised people in society at the point in time, so I wonder what kind of connections Jesus was making. Not to mention what kind of argument Rev. Kong Hee was making.

Rev. Kong Hee also says Jesus attended high-class functions and banquets to further his Marketplace influence.

From Donald Trump, Jesus now become wedding singer liddat. I dunno leh, if Jesus so well-connected and popular, why he still crucified ah?


Apparently, according to Rev. Kong Hee, God thinks the whole Marketplace idea is great so God knows alot of multi-millionaries that have their own helicopters and 5-star hotels (cue: 3000 'wooo's and 'ahhh's - amazing how sensitive their ears are to some words). And God likes his multi-storey multi-complex stadiums (churches too small and so yesterday alreade) so much that he bestows great wealth of those who want to build some for him.

Like in this example Rev. Kong Hee gives, this businessman wants to build a super stadium dedicated to God in the middle of urban Jakarta. He owns a field with tons of coal underneath but the price of coal is so low it's not worthwhile to mine it and make money.

So how? (This is where Rev. Kong Hee sounds really excited) God answers this guy's prayers. Hundreds of miners in China die in multiple mining accidents forcing all the mines in the country to close. The price of coal goes up, giving the guy a profit margin to mine his coal! Hallejulah!

I've been to Sunday school as a kid. My parents are Christian. Although my knowledge of the religion is nothing to boast of, I've come to expect something from a church service. It's a vague, indefinate impression, formed more of instinct than acquired lore.

The idea of a church, of a place of worship cannot be seperated from a higher sense of spirituality, of holiness. This loftiness and tradition might not appeal to the 'hip and in' crowd. The younger generation might not respect or enjoy the rituals of the church. But that shouldn't matter. God's house deserves a sanctity, a dignified detachment that preserves and elevates.

Mass appeal or popular marketing shouldn't be a church's main agenda.

Oh wait, in the future, maybe there won't be any churches. Only auditoriums, stadiums and raves. The pastor made it a point to emphasise that City Harvest is moving to the Singapore Expo. Singapore Expo leh! Can seat 7,000 people you know! Shiok right? Got more space to jump up and down.

I did not see a single cross in that auditorium.

en at 10:10 pm

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Star Wars ROTS (oh, but who cares)

Some of you may have heard of this movie.

Boys, I don't care what people say. No matter how many hundreds of dollars you fork out for a lightsaber (apparently duplicated painstakingly from the very props they used on the set - using real shiny metal no less! Exactly the same weight! The same grip! The crafted exquisite detail!), it never looks as good as the real thing lah. You look like you're carrying a glowing plastic stick, a fluorescent tube - not very intimidating. Don't even compete with CGI.

Girls, summing up the plots of all 6 movies very tiring leh. Can I have some water? Mouth dry liao.

I watched it the day after opening night, which by fandom standards, seemed like an embarrassment. We went to the suppoedly wu-lu Beach Road cinema to evade the hordes. Our strategic foresight was rewarded not only with the hordes, but also with a 2-and-a-half hour experience breathing in a thick lingering stench of sweet pee, sitting amongst inconspicuous mounds of bagged rubbish in the asles, more
inconspicuous mounds of un-bagged rubbish in the seats, as well as a floor so sticky small animals and children might die trapped in its deadly syrupy suction while the audience spends the hours puzzling over what emotion Hayden Christensen is trying to well, emote.

There are two lines that an successful actor must master. Firstly, the script lines. And secondly, that well-moulded, furrowed crease you get in between the eyes after sharpening your brooding skills to perfection.

Hey, I mean, just look at Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator. Golden Globe Best Actor huh.

My own forehead started to throb for the sustained effort of Christensen's brow - solely channeling all that stormy inner turmoil, bitter confusion, seething envy, smouldering anger, tender worry, naked fear, wavering guilt and dark ambition.

Ian McDiarmid, on the other hand, looks like he's having fun. And lots of it. Oozing diabolical fiendishness, Senator Palpatine a.k.a Darth Sidious shows just how good it is to be bad - skilfully, singlehandedly plotting wars, manipulating both heroes and villians, along with his own disposible Sith Apprentices, he is the big bad villian to savour before Darth Vader steps in for the later episodes.

When Palpatine sneers 'Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?' (oh, the delightful weighed naunces), you know this is where the movie really takes flight. The range, from his pathetic, pitiful whimpers of 'I'm too weak! Don't kill me! I give up! Please! Please don't...' to his triumphant ghastly, crackling howl
of 'Power! Un-lim-mited POWER!' is a sheer delight to watch.

Ewan McGregor also seems to be enjoying the ride, although his somber, tragic Jedi role limits his fun to a more subtle brand. Anyone else think he was trying to hide a smirk when Obi-Wan Kenobi first righteously proclaims, 'You won't get away this time, Dooku.'?

I'm sure that name strikes fear in the hearts of many.


en at 11:21 am

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

What doesn't kill you

There was a bird at the side of the road. I approached the clump of grey feathers and it struggled, scrabbling to move away. So it wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway.

I picked up the creature and admired it. It was a grey pigeon. White bone peeked out from a joint in the middle of a wing. Broken? I tried not holding onto it too tightly. As I repositioned my grasp to avoid crushing a probably fractured wing, the bird tried flapping its wings, squirming loose.

It fell. I felt a small horror as it hit the ground squarely and bounced off the grass, feebly fluttering.

Upon closer examination, I saw a similar bone sticking through the feathers of the other wing, unnaturally white, sun-bleached and exposed. Instead of a lush belly of feathers, there were large dry patches of pink skin, punctuated with tiny nobs where the larger feathers wouldn've been. It appeared very thin. And tired.

I wondered if the bird was sick and if, by handling it, I'd exposed myself to some avian-related virus. The paranoia engine in my brain started churning, under the heat of the afternoon sun. Beads of sweat didn't wait to form before I felt my forehead getting wet. I suspected I looked silly, holding a bird, standing at the side of the road.

A cold logic surfaced in the midst of the heat.

I picked up the bird and positioned my thumb and forefinger around it's neck, gently. I feel bone underneath the meager layers of feathers and flesh.

How do birds see? Out of that black tiny dot, passively immobile in the center of their eye? Its brain is the size of a pea, yes? Does it think?

I hesitate. I take my hand away and try going through the motions. A firm grip. A quick, solid twist to the side. There will be no noise. The theory is sound.

A quick violent death or the slow corosion of starvation?

How many religions will applaud and how many condemn?

It's a stupid pigeon. I tell myself. But the imagination is a powerful thing. Who knew killing a dumb bird would be so hard?

You can teach someone how to shoot, how to kill someone with your pinkie but no one really trains for war. One trains to fight. Training to kill is another matter altogether. That is a spiritual battleground.

I left the bird alone and walked off. It felt wrong.

Sucks to play God.

en at 12:35 pm

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Aw, shucks.

(Leave your staffroom desktop alone and by the time you get back from class, it has resetted itself and your last post has disappeared. Damn it. Either the machine is possessed or my collegues are.)

My English Secondary 4 class gave me a going-away present. It came as quite the surprise - considering I can't remember what and if I'd taught them anything. They are supposed to be mugging away for their Mother Tongue. I guess any alternative to that is motivation enough.

Ok, I kid. They are a bunch of lovely buggers.

A group of them were frantically waving at me from outside the staffroom. I exited, feeling returning to my extremities after being compromised by a combination of rainy weather and air-conditioning set to repell the hotter Singaporean humidity.

As embarrassing as it is, I can't recognise a whole lot of my students. Not after one month. And when they thrust this happy green envelope under my nose, the first thought that jossled for attention was 'Dang, there's no clue here!' So absorbed as I was in the search for their identities. And the reason for their... enthusiasm...

Upon realising that it was a goodbye-sucks-that-you're-going-and-the-old-****'s-coming-back gift, I didn't know how to react. Again! Confound it! I stared. I gaped like a goldfish. I stared some more, trying to figure out what class exactly they were from so I could just plunge into the thank yous. I stood there basking, glowing in magnificent idiocy until one of the girls asked "You're not gonna cry, are you?"

Uh, no. Just uh, well, um. Er. I uh, how sweet.

Spontaneous eloquence was never my forte.

en at 12:00 pm

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Hip 'n' Cool

So exciting. I've been Brown'd (or something like it). The lack of Kids Central cartoons that I like on Sundays (I'm usually sleeping late on Saturdays) was suddenly offset by my noticeable jump in blog traffic - not of xiaxue-magnitude of course, more like the number of comments one of her average, less controversial, flame-less, obscure posts gets.

Nonetheless, I feel hip and cool.

And I say hip and cool because I'm kiasu mah. The term cool feels kinda old. Like it's on its way out but we can't seem to find a suitable candidate to replace it. Fetch didn't catch. AwwwSUM! couldn't survive the climate beyond US borders. The most likely substitue seems to be Hot, as per Paris Hilton's uber-versatile 'That's Hot.'

The only problems I see barring Hot's triumph over Cool is that one, enough people hate Paris Hilton. Having her enormous semi-orgasmic self sprawled over the walls of Guess at a popular junction in the middle of a hectic shopping centre is not helping. (Is anyone going to help that poor chihuahua? What are those PETA people doing?!) Two, people will be immensely confused:

Dude: 'Whoa, that's cool.'
Dudette: 'No, that's hot.'
Dude: 'That's cool.'
Dudette: 'I told you, that's totally hot!'

If cool is a tad outdated, then the prehistoric hip should balance out.

In my quest to reach newer, greater heights of hip coolness, I have cut my hair. More specifically, I cut my hair short. Consequently, as I walked into class, my ears picked up whispered, horrified exclamations of 'Oh my god, what did she do to her hair?!' and the more subdued ''cher, why you cut your hair?' Hey, they should've seen it when I woke up in the morning. It looked alot like carpet grass - complete with the trampled look of random cow-nibbled-ness.

Wait 'till I do highlights.

en at 10:06 am

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Aye, the rub

Yes, inviligating is boring. And yes, as per the cards Life usually deals, it could always be worse.

I could have been teaching the buggers.

I believe teaching is causing my IQ to plummet. Yesterday, I was overcome by the hilarity of chunky french fries. More specifically: the fat potato slabs you can get in a basket at Billy Bombers that cost an inordinate amount of money. Atkins can spin away in his grave.

A year ago, I would have slapped myself for finding fried potatoes funny. Now it's just Oh look, I can make bite marks of my entire row of front teeth in this single fry! Wow! and They're as large as fishfingers! and Do you think that with some ketchup we could take all these chunky fries and piece 'em back together into one BIG potato?!?!

I blame teaching for making me stupid. The excess of food helped, that's all.

*
Hot elitist babes.

That's what the NUS law interview more than a week ago churned up. A lobby of well-groomed chio bus. Girls strutting their stuff, dabbing on make-up in the toilet, balancing on microscopic-point heels, suits so sharp they could cut and generally looking kinda dumb since it's only an interview for cryin' out loud.

My interview started about an hour after the scheduled time. Cicak observed how when one traverses down the long and winding corridors to your assigned room, the other shortlistees that you past on your long and winding trek- your ahem, competition - suddenly find floor-gazing or ceiling-inspection a fascinating study. She concludes that this a sure omen of ill-will. Of course. Evil is afoot. Lawyers are being spawned.

I was interviewed by an indian chap and what I assumed to be a chinese lady in her mid-forties. After consulting my peers, I have concluded that watching a pot of water boil might hold more interest than holding a conversation with the Indian associate. Having to hear him lecture might make local sitcoms entertaining to endure.

And the lady professor is in her seventies. I was perhaps, too dismayed at her murky green plastic spectacles hovering right in front of my face to have noticed. She is evidently quite well-preserved. We should carbon-date her, just to be sure. The living fossil might hold potential significant contributions to the world archaeological community.


She had the nerve to ask: "...But don't you think Shakespeare is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today's society?"

It was one of those prime Ally McBeal moments. A loaded silence. A raised brow. Someone getting dumped into a giant trash compactor. Arrows shot at the chest. One of those big roundhouse knockout punches. K.O.

The words of Shakespeare's Henry VI wrafted through my head. 'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'

en at 7:46 pm

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Fun shall now commence

I had been out of the house for over 24 hours. But things were cool. I had my fun.

And I was assured that a missing person's report could not be filed until after 48 hours. So that was well, nice to know. But things could have been worse, I could have ended up like my country. Our very own Minister Mentor recently noted how Singapore was having no fun. It was quite the proclamation. Our very own Straits (I'd linked but they'd made me pay) Times dutifully followed with suggestions on 'Injecting fun into Dullsville Singapore', a smart neat one-page article outlining several strategies on how to combat the boredom.

Yes, so here is a structured response to MM Lee's speech in which an 'anti-structure' solution, placed aside other structured arguments and strategies, proposed to combat the problem due to the strict structured nature of Singapore; a suggested solution that is housed in a structured newspaper article belonging to a structured media network (ranked only above Iraq in several internet surveys).

Another solution proposes that to have fun, the gah-men should have nothing to do with it. This sounds neat, but the only reason why we're even hearing of this solution is because the gah-men has already decided to do something about it. Why else would your suggestion be in the Straits Times?

Fortunately, there will be no campaign. There will be no advertisments, no posters, no slogans, no t-shirts, no logos, no fines, no mascots. After all, we're still busy trying to learn chinese well, learn english well, be courteous, practice life-long learning, stay fit for life, not do drugs, not smoke, report suspicious articles, not leave belongings in our cars, be vigilant in our neighbourhood, be cultured, not drink and drive, eat healthy, check for various cancers regularly, use the electronic tax-filing system, rest our eyes after staring at computer for a long time, not litter, not sell gum and vote for NKF leh.

Instead, going fun will be a gah-men structured hands-off spontaneous hands-on affair by Singaporeans.

There appears to be a problem. And I'm not sure where to start.

I think the Singaporean definition of fun-ness and the means of indoctrinating introducing it to us young yuppies needs some tinkering. I found this lime green booklet lying around the house, from A*STAR. Like all things A*STAR-ish and government sponsored, the booklet looked expensive. And since it was from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, this former Arts student could not resist reading it. Ha-ha. Especially since the cover (decorated with funky scribbled science formulae and DNA models) cried out "My Journal" in hip purple cursive font (it went with the apple green, perhaps). Oh, the fun awaited.

On the "Introduction" page, not only are we once again confronted with the horrors of 'The King and I' number Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You... as the heading merrily exclaims - the perky booklet prolongs the agony by engaging in jovial rhetorical banter, asking "ARE you humming to that ever-engaging tune?" Ha-ha-ha.

Several more rhetorical questions later, we meet SAM and TIAN - the apparent owners of the "journals" we will be reading. Ah, but just when you thought you'd be enjoying voyeuristic fun, it is revealed:
Are these two guys for real? Mainly "Yes!" with a bit of "No". They are composite characters formulated for the purpose of getting real-life information across in an appealing manner...
So these two people you've languished so much detail and colour on aren't actual people?
But they are based on real people, on seven living A*STAR scholars whose identities will be revealed...
Well, aside from the fact that these are two fake people whose fake journals and fake emails we will be falsely violating, I'm just wondering why they're both chinese. I mean, to be politically correct and accurate to Singapore's famously multi-racial demographic, shouldn't one of them be like, one quarter Malay, another quarter Indian and maybe throw in some "Others" blood in their "composite" character somewhere? And why they're both good-looking. Scholars are not supermodel drop dead gorgeous and the face of this imaginary girl here looks rather like Annabelle Francis.
Hey Sam,
Will happily read the attachment right now.
Really sweet dreams. tian.
If this is A*STAR's or the government's idea of fun, I find it somehow, somewhat unsettling. And funny.

en at 11:24 pm

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