Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's a challenge to find things to occupy your time with. I haven't been home much, so the blogs have stopped. It'll resume soon enough when I start school and get a semblance of routine back into my life.

But faced with so much time on my hands, I feel totally lerthagic.

There's things I want to do, but stuff has happened and I'm putting everything on hold till I get some answers. Till then... what to do.. no mood.

I can't believe how I've absolutely nothing to say.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Unconditional Love

I've heard people say that they are capable of unconditional love, but I suppose I'm much to selfish to be able to do something like that. But, as I've realised, maybe the only kind of love that even comes close to being unconditoinal (for me) is what I have between me and my cat.

That's because it's totally one-sided, but I don't mind. I really doubt whether she feels any form of affection for me.. my fault lah, go out so much never play with her. But still I love her to bits.

Why I cannot extend the same courtesy to humans.. I don't know. I think it's because there's so much more at stake. And ya, I'm selfish when it comes to my own happiness.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Haven't quite sunk in yet that I'm back, though i'm expecting it to hit me sometime this week, probably in a scenario where i'm sitting alone in some coffeeplace at night.

Kitty is fine, if not totally over the moon with new found freedom and a whole lotta more space to roam. Not that my house is bigger than the second floor of Pathshala, but at least over here she can go everywhere without worry.

Its nice to see how she's completely elevated the mood of everyone in my house. She's a happy-feelings-maker.

I haven't really been over the moon myself, with my 0wn re-found conveniences. But I did realise that I'm looking at adverts differently.. or at least getting a very different sort of feeling. Almost everything they advertise here is basically useless.

Am feeling a bit stretched out at having to meet so many people. Well.. not many, but four separate groups. I never was good at this kind of stuff - but I remember resolving to be! And I will try....

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Singapore: One Jess + One Cat

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Goodbye, goodbye.


Drik Picture Library, Bangladesh
Originally uploaded by elsija.
So it's the last working day here, since Friday's are our off-days. And Reza very kindly put together a bit of a farewell thing for Gwen and myself. i knew it was last minute, but I didn't expect anything, so it was a nice surprise all the same.

I wish they didn't have to invite EVERYONE though, even those who I think don't like me very much. But well, I never had to give a thankyou/goodbye speech before.

But still, I think I was a little surprise to find myself tearing when the photo above was taken. I just hadn't thought about leaving at all, I've been too busy to even think about it - and that little time they forced us to spend with them made it all sink in. I mean, i was going to come to office tomorrow anyway.

But well, click on the photo, I added some notes on it for a little more info. And just for all of those who are wondering who the guy that i've always been complaining about... Let me just say: It's fucking obvious. Look for kuai lan face.

Geneva and the Backstreet Boys

Very interesting situation right now, with the Biharis in the Geneva camps, i'm doing a short story on them, just wanted to say a bit about it.

Just a brief summary, the Biharis live in about 66 camps throughout Bangladesh, often called "stranded Pakistanis" that were left behind after West Pakistan pulled out when Bangladesh won its independence. So Pakistan doesn't want them, because of politial complications and Bangladesh obviously doesn't want them either, because they sided with the Pakistanis during the war.

So they live like refugees, no rights as any sort of citizen even though it's been 35 years and so many of them born here without any inkling as to what it means to be Pakistani.

But the shitty thing is, the situation is getting worse. The Bangladesh goernment seems to be losing interest in taking care of these people, and the Pakistani government hasn't said or done anything recently.

AND here comes the rub.

The UNHCR has said that their hands are tied because these people do not fall into their definition of refugees.

Sound familiar?

I can't explain it entirely, but it has something to do with them being neither Bangladeshi NOR Pakistani - so where is the UN supposed to send them to? And they were displaced citizens lost in the creation of a country.

And the moment they put their hands in, then i think they'll get dragged in totally, and that's like accounting for 400,000 people.

i've never seen a more dead-end situation.


Can someone remind me about how the UN's problem with definitions hampered something on genocide? Memory fails me.



--------------------


Just a little bit of nostalgia, triggerd by a song.. well you'll see:


We were really quite young, I don't think I was even 15. It was an adventure, even with my teachers and friends all around. I cannot remember most of the trip anymore, but I haven't forgetten the mountains towering over me with long evil-looking faultlines down it sides, threatening to spilt the thing into two. I haven't forgotten my first breathe of truely fresh air, high up on the cliffs, with nary a concrete block in sight for miles. I haven't forgotten the lakes, with water so clear and cold it broke my heart.

It was five of us, on a boat speeding across the lake to the other side. Just 15 years old, no worries about anything, except for whether I looked "cool" enough with all the other kids. I lost touch with all of them except for one, who I hardly see because she's not in Singapore.

But yes, the five of us, truely and genuinely happy because we didn't even have to pretend to not have any worries, and we started to create our own Music Video for the Backstreet Boys' hit, I think it was called "As Long as You Love Me". Funny thing about the song, the lyrics are impossibly easy to remember.

So yes, there we were, singing at the top of our lungs to this song which none of us dared to admit to like, yet we knew it well enough to harmonize the bridge. Blue sky, open waters, post-card perfect moment.

It's an impossibly corny memory to have I suppose, but I'm glad I haven't forgotten it.

And it's been only a mere 6 years or so since i last heard that song, and how strange it is to hear it now, in Bangladesh. Initial reaction was the automatic repulsion to boybands, of course, but now I want to hear it again to imagine how it was like on that boat in the middle of China, singing till I lost my voice the next day.

This would be a point to compare where I was then and now, quarter-life autobiography if you want to call it, but nah.

I'll wait till i'm home.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My weakness


My weakness
Originally uploaded by elsija.
Lousy shot. Great Kitty. I love my kitty.

Too little days.

How many more hours to go? I daren't count.

Too much work to finish, and no time to do the sightseeing the photos that I wanted. Well... i do actually, but I procrastinate too much.

No worries.. Plenty of time to come back and do it without having the worry-weight of work on my back.

And one thing I discovered - 6 months of staying sober doesn't put you off alchol. Astrid mentioned South African wine (which she had for lunch at some fancyschmancy UN thing) and it made my mouth water just as much as when I think about sambal belachan or nasi lemak.

And ya... it's watering now, because my mind-game association goes as such - sambal-nasilemak-grandma'snasilemak-grandma's pig organ soup-pig organ soup in jalan besar-jalan besar bak chor mee (undiscovered!)-bak CHOR MEE!!!!!-bak chor mee in east coast which I wanna try-satay in east coast-char kway teow in east coast- CHAR KWAY TEOW!@!!!!!!

die lah.

I give myself ONE WEEK before i regain all weight.



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

4 days: Rebuttal.

Ph, I won't shoot you, just don't pay you back 30 bucks and none of the Jalan Kayu prata treat lor.

I wonder what my blog looks like on your computer. Can you all tell me? Cos I love the way the words look on my iBook, maybe that's why I keep on talking too much. Are you guys seeing Serif or Sans Serif fonts?

I was kinda thinking about it, and I realised that I should stop trying to be diplomatic and "agree to disagree", because my point is to incite debate, however fiery. Of course, I don't meant anything to be taken personally, but i think everyone here is capable of having a good solid bashing session and still sit for beer later. If you are incapable of that... then don't argue lor.

Just a recap, Kevin's points were that (open to correction):

1. Why can't you just accept the situation is like this, and shut up and live with it?
2. Politics is the least important thing to be arguing about, after bread-and-butter/family/health etc.
3. Because of 2., it's completely alright to be apathetic
4. Talk with no action makes you a whiner/self righteous/upright.


1. Why can't you just accept the situation is like this, and shut up and live with it?

I say before. Some people can live with the shit, some people can't. And its easy to point fingers and say "if you can't tolerate it, you're a total whiner". Is it seen as a sign of weakness or what?

Unless of course, you actually get up on your ass and do something about it. But, i say before, unless you have a crystal ball and can see my future self still seated on my ass and not doing anything - you don't know for sure, can you?

I know it's awfully big to ask for the benefit of the doubt. If you don't want to give me that, ok lor.


2. Politics is the least important thing to be arguing about, after bread-and-butter/family/health etc.

Erm. Entirely up to individual's opinion, no?

A strange observation though: If I use that line of argument, then in Bangladesh, I would expect politics to mean even less to them than Singaporeans because DAMMIT we are so damn poor and medicine is so bloody expensive and high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy etc etc.

But no leh... even common rickshaw drivers got big Union to meets with governemnt to argue over issues which affect them. Don't fight them ah... when they've strike whole country comes to standstill.

And how come it's an either-or case... if I worry about politics, does that mean i won't have time to look after my family? It doesn't require you to quit your job and join a political party - increased awareness, ocassional participation when you feel it affects you, or if you feel enough for the cause.. etc.

3. Because of 2., it's completely alright to be apathetic

Hey, I say before. It's all up to you man. If you can't be bothered with it, then go ahead and turn a blind eye.

I can't do that, because I don't want to have to blame myself for "not doing anything when I could have" in the future.


4. Talk with no action makes you a whiner/self righteous/upright.

Wah lau... must i repeat myself : If you want to judge me because you are a super duper smart person who can see into the future - GO AHEAD.

But you're not really judging me, since without crystal ball whatever you say isn't accurate... isn't it yourself that you end up judging, since you're using yourself as a benchmark.

I must confess, there is a kind of talk that I can't stand, that i've heard so much: Eg.

Tom complains about situation. I suggest a solution that is entirely doable and feasible. Tom gives me STUPID excuses. And proceeds to complain more.

If I ever do that, SLAP me (verbally) please.




--------------------

and by the by, for all those of you vaguely interested in animals out there, the owners of Pet Hotel that has monopoly of pet quarantine facilities ought to be SHOT for exploiting this little niche of theirs because charging 544 a month for a tiny cage in a one-window room with a pathetic fan is RIDICULOUS. And to add on BASIC things cost even more... a bloody floorboard is 50 bucks????????????????????????

I will visit that Pet Hotel, and I will tell them what I think. Bloody money suckers.




Saturday, June 11, 2005

7 days: BRB

(Gone with the Wind is one goddamn irritating movie.)

Alvin's "war' will continue LAH. Can gather ammo first? Why are you so into conflict ah?

Plus very super duper busy, and was actually doing a reply halfway but got very sian about typing about the same points over and over again just because people never read my entries properly/in its entirety. I think I won't address points already addressed - repetition is stupid, and i've been quite an idiot already.

But have been thinking about apathy... the different types and reasons. Here's my generalised typecasting:

1. Young : Apathetic by choice because politics is a dead and done deal - why save a drowning person who doesn't want to be saved?

2. 30s- 40s : Apathetic by choice because they've run out of emotions and energy to invest in caring. Not that they can't be bothered anymore, they just haven't seen any effects from having cared before.

3. My parent's generation: Apathetic because really, bread-and-butter are the only things worth worrying about. Singapore life so good - let the govt have their way lah. It's a fair exchange.

4. Others: Apathetic not by choice, but because it's completely not on their radar.

Wanted to include a 5th catergory for taxi drivers.. haha nevermind. How? Am I right or not? Add on leh.

More to come about Kevin's passionately argued "live with it" speech, when I get enough time to gather togther some stuff.

Maybe I should have a rule that you can't post comments unless it's to disagree with me.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fire fire burning bright....

This must be the "fanning the flames" scenario which i've heard alvin talk about so much last time in Chron.

But anyhoo, Kev, despite your rather passionate speech (not quite as apathetic as I thought you'd be, as pointed out by ph, given your tough defense of it), I have to say that I still disagree on almost all counts.

And its quite difficult to answer someone who thinks that you're talking cock.. whatever i say wouldn't really be valid anymore right?

So i'll respond to the points raised, which are entirely valid, and I'm sure everyone's familiar with that line of argument (bread-and-butter more impt than politics) and not to the person,but later tonight lah, cos got work to do.

But Joce: haha you know me too well.

And also, just to gently point out, that I do not only gripe, if you'll be so kind as to scroll down, you'll see that i do talk about other happy shiny things, like pig marathons, black boots and my great-grandmother.

And well, yes i'm allowed to do as I please on my blog, like Joce said: but i also don't mind other people doing or saying as they please - censorship free zone please!


--------


Also, i think Pong raised good stuff in his own blog, here

He's right... And i do get very irritated when I read AP/Reuters/AFP churn out another typical nanny-state article. I really believe it's all in a damn cut-and-paste word file!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reply

(The agreeing to disagree thing starts here:)


I don't quite understand what your point is Kevin, because

1. I never felt like some kinda solo crusader trying to save the world.

But its interesting that you see me as being one. Is anybody who raises criticism trying to be a matyr?

I know what I'm saying is nothing new at all, explored a million times in a million ways. But the point of all this discussion is to see hear what other people have to say, see if I'm looking at things wrongly, if there's a point-of-view that's better which I missed out on.

2. How do you intend to "save (yourself) from all this rubbish"?

I think you mean, just fuck care right? Distance yourself from politics because it'll never be perfect and there's always something to whine and gripe about. Or migrate lor.

But isn't this kind of rubbish kind of inescapable unless we migrate? I mean, we live right in the middle of it. I can't make myself blind/deaf.

But yeah sure, some people can live with the rubbish, and others can't. And here's where we agree to disagree.


3. Why should I only be allowed to talk politics if I'm in politics?

I never quite understood why GCT said that. It's just a way to hold critics accountable isn't it?

This all comes from an assumption that we have been assuming to be absolutely true and correct.

That is, you can only make a diff in politics if you are INVOLVED in politics. And thus, to quote Kev, "and if u r not going to [enter politics], juz fuck it, loosen up and try to make a difference to your own life."

I don't think it's supposed to be like that - but in Singapore it IS because the government has made it such that only politicians can dabble in politics, and they make the others look stupid and.. hmm.. self righteous? They say they've no guts, cowards etc ...

But erm, if I remember correctly, democratic nations are supposed to let its people have a say in the way the country is being run – right? Or do I remember wrongly? I think the D-word appears in our national pledge. I can't seem to find it in official govt pages, so maybe our pledge is out of date?

Why can't I complain or criticise as a common citizen? Am I not entitled to having my views heard and count for something? Why is politics a Out-of-Bounds topic?

It doesn’t make practical sense either. Wouldn't more criticism help them improve, and better serve the people? And make them more popular?

I really think we should stop believing the "politics are only for politicians" line, because their politics directly affect us.

And yes, I hope that if the opposition ever takes over, I will continue my “whining and griping” because that would mean at least that I’m being fair. And you seem to think I'm actively trying to look for things to be unhappy with.. complaining for the sake of complaining?

Well ok lor, but if that's true, then you're actively trying to look away. Apathy?

4. Save me!

Kev, it would be really useful for me if you pointed out how I've been acting self-righteous. I checked up the definition of the word, and it ain't pretty.

10 days: More verbal diarrhoea

You all damn one kind. So long never say anything, then now suddenly when I'm about to go home already then come out of the woodwork. WHERE WERE YOU when i needed conversation three months ago?????????

Anyway, where's the Anonymous person. Had a one-night stand with my blog then never come back *tsk*


1. Alvin


Alvin, why do you think that the promise of "whoever wants to be heard will be heard" is not as wonderful as it's often made out to be? Explain lah.

Sure, there are the obvious cons, people will say mean things, wrong things, piss other people off, cause misunderstandings and etc etc.. and of course not forgetting that we will be hearing a lot of nonsense at the same time.

So i guess this is a difference of likes and dislikes, kinda like with icecream flavours. If you can't stand having to hear irrelevant and ridiculous statements in the press or from wherever, of course you'll like the way the system is now. But if you're willing (like me) to take the shit that comes along with the good, then you'd be fine.

But it appears to me that former is actively involved in a form of restriction, and that's something I'm very cautious about advocating. On the other hand, it can also be argued that with a million voices out there trying to get your attention, no one will get heard at all.

So, in a very very funny way - repression and restriction allows people be heard better, because the moment a voice wriggles out of the woodwork and manages to scream a word out - everyone hears and remembers it.


HMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

2. Red or Blue pill?

So it all comes back to choice doesn't it? What do you want?

Fear-induced silence, as Joce puts it, but with the occasional scream OR a barrage of noises where everyone who is anyone can speak?

I'm sorry for the simplification of things, I usually hate this bipolarisation thing, but... well you can see what i titled this page.

I think we would have to look in the long term - which one is good in the long run? Which is the one that would enable us to progress further both as individuals AND as a country (since we can't shake off the country bit). I mean, for me at least, its the big picture that counts. PAP believes in this also.

Well, here's what I think:

I think the barrage of noises scenario - initially will be terrible. There will be so many people trying to speak, trying to be heard, we will have a information overload, a flood of irresponsible media and the what not... the government will lament and say "see? this is worse than before! we told you so!"

But, after the initial novelty of having a voice wears out - then the good party will start.

And as for the other scenario - there will be order, and all that, which is basically what you have now. You'll have the great opinions and voices - few and possibly rare, but well and loudly heard.

But in the long run? Well, the majority of the people would be too lazy to try and have their voices heard, even if they felt something should be voiced out against - its so difficult to be heard, and you've to be either really rich or really smart to be heard. So, the entire society laxes into this "can't be bothered" attitude and it becomes the norm. As joce says, "it's really hard to kick the instinct of repressed silence sometimes...".

And in this scenario, what happens when the "veil of repression" is lifted? Will the society suddnely turn around and start speaking out? Nope.

(all hypothetical and all my own beliefs)


3. Pong Pong

Well I say cut the ole uncles and aunties in power some slack.

What for? I don't feel like doing that. It's tough to lead a country, and I don't think they should expect any favours. I'm working with the idealistic assumption of what a democracy means - you offer to 'serve' us, we elected you in, and you damn well better do your job properly because.. it's your job.. not some burden placed upon your shoulders by God that you didn't ask for, and we the tax payers are paying for your big houses and cars and chauffeurs.

Well okay, i'm not a tax payer yet, so i speak on behalf of my parents.

We will be able to accept the government committing mistakes here and there, giving wrong signals/mixed cues and making abrupt U-turns...etc etc if we see that the country is progressing generally. Well, I personally believe that we are indeed moving forward - just that 'the vast bureaucracy is hampered by its own bureaucracy'.

Explain further please? Well, yes we are moving forward, in small steps, but this means all the more than we should NOT cut the slack, we should push even further. Because if we let up, and let go, I'm worried all this movement will stop.

Because on the one hand, while some of what they're doing is because they're tired of handholding us, and they genuinely want us to start doing our own stuff - other things they're doing because of the pressure to do so. And if you remove that pressure, then this progress will slow down till it reaches that equilibrium where the govt is comfortable with, and it'll just stay right there.


This much is true. I have colleagues absolutely petrified at changing the laws at ministry level. 'Takes about six months of endless pushing', they say. But generally speaking, things are good. I see exciting opportunities for local budding filmmakers."

So you're saying, things are changing and moving behind the scenes, but we just haven't been able to see it yet? Do you mean.. wait and see?

And well yes, exciting opportunities. As long as it's not a political video, right? haha you got inside info is it?

I suppose the thing now is that, things are much more liberal than before, and we really should be happy with that, and cut the guys up there some slack, because they're moving and progressing, albeit slowly.

I am glad to see things "progressing" and yes it's much better than before. But there's two ways of looking at it:

1. Being grateful for this new freedom.
2. Seeing this freedom as something that we rightfully should have and thus, why feel grateful for something we're supposed to have in the first place?

I'm more inclined towards No. 2, it's like the Speaker's Corner. All that fan fare behind it seemed like bullshit to me, because it was like the govt bestowing some great gift upon us, when seriously, it was something we originally had in the first place (how u think LKY give speeches last time right), they took it, repackaged it, and then give it back and say "ta da! be grateful and happy!"


4. Admission

I know i've always been some sorta back seat driver/whiner, always talk big then chicken out at the big show. Let's see whether I have more guts to do stuff now when I get back ok? I is also testing myself. Even at stupid NTUSU AGM i also keep quiet. *sigh*

and i know i'm starting to sound very angsty and anti-govt right now... but hiyah i'm just participating in discussion ok?


5. Question

I remember in Year 1, Cenite's class, there was some discussion over whether or not open dialogue and no censorship helped in eradicating misunderstandings.

The argument kind of went something like :

"If you allow people to say whatever they want to say, they will bash it out and argue and fight till they reach some sort of equlibrium and balance and coexist, even if they still don't agree."

The fear of allowing free speech and the what not, in Singapore anyway, is that it would upset our "fragile" multiracial/religious/cultural/ethnic community.

*CUE: Race Riots in 1960s*

So, my question remains the same: Do you think our society can handle it? If tomorrow a film comes out with racist comments about how Indians smell and Malays are lazy - what will happen?



-------------------------------------

from Mr Brown, Journalistic cliches... Very funny.

Excerpt:

War-torn: We can't find it on a map

Knowledgable observer: The reporter

Knowledgable observers: The reporter and the person at the next desk

According to published reports: We got scooped

Intermission

The continuaton of prevoius post will continue in next post.

Now, we stop for a intermission:

---------------------------------

Conspiracy Theories, anyone?

Escape from Paradise.

At first site, damn bloody melodramamama... The site authors wrote a book by the same name which exists, I checked at Amazon. Although it has a very un-pro looking cover.. and the website looks even more unprofessional.

But.. the website is damn scandalous to read man.

Am currently at the page on "The Straits Times Threatens to Sue.."

It's about some remarks the site authors made about an alleged cover-up by ST because SM Goh's son heads the clnic where a SARS-infected patient was examined but not diagnosed correctly... ST threatens to sue.. the email correspondance is available in seemingly entirety, although i'm not sure what happens after the last email.

Excerpt:

Coverup? Goh Chok Tong's Son Conceals SARS case?

The Straits Times is hiding the fact that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's son
failed to diagnose Singaporean Lee Chong Kian as having SARS
even though Goh, Jr. / his clinic had seen Lee five times in a week.

The Straits Times in its article of May 20, 2003 (which it has removed from the Internet) does not reveal that the doctor whose clinic is at fault is Goh Jin Hian (right), the son of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Was Goh Jin Hian concealing the SARS case with the
knowledge of the Singapore Government?

Any other doctor in Singapore would be quarantined and penalized...
Instead, Goh, Jr. heads up a multmillion dollar medical empire called International Advisory Group (IAG).
Since we mentioned this, Goh's name has been removed from IAG's website



---------------------------------


I don't want to buy the book above. I want to buy this book.


Lee's Law: How Singapore Crushes Dissent
by Chris Lydgate

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

11 days: Let's agree to disagree more okay?

Firstly, apologies for the hastily written comment previously, and thanks Joce, for the support. As if we're fighting some big battle haha.. which we I KNOW we're not, even though i get worked up, because there's a nice audience of all five of us, if we absolutely have to include Anonymous.

Haha. And btw, ain't Alvin's GEP/pseudointellectual side so completely adorable. Aw... but arguing in person is always so much more fun.

Anyway, the more I think about what Anonymous said, the more pissifying it became, and it's a very old argument you're presenting my dear, and I will try to take it lightly.

1. Criticism ≠ Ungrateful

It's realy quite a common reaction, almost human nature, to counter whining/complaining with the "be thankful for what you have" speech... I think, however, some distinction has to be made between irrelevant whining and criticism.

For instance:

Me complaining about having to put up with all this dust and drilling noises because they're upgrading my estate

VS

Me complaining about not being able to produce a film about an opposition party.

Very different, no? Well, it is to me.


2. I am not indebted to the Singapore Government.

As Anonymous bravely said:I wonder if you can say with a straight face that if you were stripped off of everything singapore has provided for you, you'd be better off.

you are where you are because of your coutry's system.
you could have been worse off, and not have a say on the worldwide web.
you may not even have the means/ability to voice your views.


No, of course I can't say that with a straight face, and erm... it is ridiculously irrelevant because I've never insinuated that I would be better off without what they have so-called provided for me. Like.. HUH?

Anyone with half a brain in Singapore knows that the government achieved a minor miracle in 30 years with sound economic planning. I think they are damn smart to have done that.

But, I will repeat, I am not indebted to them to be grateful and obliging and silent and obedient.

I will scrap that other countries example, since Alvin pointed out that I was unknowingly using them as yardsticks, which I really shouldn't.

Regardless, I will repeat, the whole "you could be worse off" attitude is out-dated, and regressive. Why are we not looking at how things could be better? What's wrong with making things better? Does a desire to make things better immediately mean that I am not grateful for the status quo? Since when did everything become bipolar? It's not an either/or case.

For example, if said thatI think Singaporean mothers should be given an extra two months of maternity leave = are you going to tell me:

"I wonder if you can say with a straight face that if the mothers were stripped off of all their maternity benefits singapore has provided for them, they'd be better off.

they have their few months of leave now because of your coutry's system.
they could have been worse off, and not even have any baby bonus.
they may not even have any maternity leave at all."

I know how ridiculous it sounds, wouldn't be my logic of choice either.


3. What I want?

Alvin asked: "if you could make singapore anything you wanted, what "good" things would it have? complete freedom of speech? viable alternatives to the political incumbent? the press as fourth estate?"

Well i'm glad you said it was "good", because it's a value judgment if you take a look at India VS China and how democracy doesn't seem to be helping the former progress much faster to the latter, but I would say yes to all those.

(And erm, incidentally, Alvin, I never did mention the words democracy or freedom or anything like that.. did I? Other than the word 'free' in the title.)

Let's be more specific, I want the government to change their policies so that I can do a documentary on JBJ without worrying about police calling up my house and asking me to go to the station.

Or, they can say: "oh you want to do a video on the opposition? do lor... next month we're doing our own video so no problem." or, "oh you want to hold a political rally in NTU? hold lah... next month we're coming down to give talks also let's see who the students will listen to." or "want to hold a convention so that students can get together and discuss about our country's capital punishment rates? ok lor..."

Get the picture?

What's gonna be the consequences? Discourage investors because we no longer have a stable and obedient political scene? Spoil the economy because of possible riots and strikes? In the first place, we no longer have a labour-intensive workforce, so can cut the crap about worries about Union strikes and the what not, and we ALREADY have a expensive workforce so who's going to worry about increasing wages? And it is my belief that we have already built ourselves to an adequete position of advantage which is still held strong by the fact that we are one of the few non-Muslim states in our region, and very strong English and existing infrastructure. We've a good track record.

I am saying all this, because it seemed to me that most often cited reason for needing a "stable political situation" is that it will spoil us economically. Hong Kong and Japan and South Korea has more political freedom, strikes and etc you don't see investors not wanting to head there.

You know, they have all these educated-overseas-in-Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge economists in the government. Can't they come out and produce these data and say look, if we allow you guys to do all this, this and this will happen, and in 20 years we'll be right back where we started - little backward nobodies.

They said that freedom can be dangerous, Wong Kan Seng said to look at the example of Indonesia. Why can't he look at examples of other countries, where freedom has proven NOT to be dangerous?

And what kind of thing doesn't come with a price. Everything has a price - it depends on which one costs more. Which is all up to personal opinion - which is why personal opinions count in a so-called democracy - but it doesn't count here. Well, it is solicited, but we know who has the last say.

But well, it is obvious that to the government, the price of having freedom outweighs the price of controlling the freedom, and I suppose we've to make it "bor hua" for them to do so.


4. Ideals and Cliches

There's not need to be afraid of embracing the cliches I think.. they've become like dirty words "press freedom, freedom of speech, political space, fourth estate" - why are we so disdainful of these things? I am not saying we should embrace them without thinking - but there's no need to push them away either.

But I am not arguing for these ideals for the sake of having them just because they're the yardsticks of Western democracy. (Which is what Chee Soon Juan seems to be doing).

I am only saying all this because these are things that we are prohibited from having without good reason.

So, I am not arguing FOR something that we do not have, I am arguging AGAINST something that exists. The main point of contention here is not so much "I want freedom of speech", but "I want you to stop preventing us from having freedom of speech."

You know the saying, "ask me no questions and i'll tell you no lies", well in this case, it's the opposite.

If there were no Martyn See, no JBJ, no A*Star incident, no conspiracy theories floating in ST and Mediacorp - if i had not witnessed the act of disallowing us to have this political freedom/space/whatever you want to call it - then I probably would have no argument at all.


5. Being noble but ultimately futile.

(or, being Hamlet. hahaha.)

Alvin: attempting to fix these flaws, be it from within or without the political sphere, is a noble but ultimately futile goal.. especially if the method amounts to angry words on the internet and little else

giving the benefit of the doubt, internet-only dissidents are patriots who truly care about their homeland and the people in it.. put bluntly, they suffer from a serious case of over-education


I agree with you that angry little words amount to little else than mere rhetoric and indulgence of someone's ego at some point or other. I agree that we should do more than just argue, then forget.

And so, does this mean = unless i can do something about it, I should shut up?

That's exactly what the PAP says, isn't it? Unless you've something constructive, unless you're part of a political party = don't do empty talk.

Most of such conversations end nowhere, but some do lead somewhere. That's how it all starts, isn't it? There's debate, and discussion, and ideas, and sooner or later, one of these discussions get strong enoough to motivate its participants to do something about it.

And also, what is the alternative of empty talk is silence = which is a lousier option, in my opinion.

Everyone always says, "what's the point", "so what?", "makes no difference" - when are we going to discard this mentality, and realise that we can try fighting for whatever it is we feel we should have?

It's not all big and idealistic stuff - even with the small things, we can't even be bothered.

Big words.. big words, I know. Well, just shoot me and judge me if in 10 years I still saying the same things, ok? But you don't know that for sure, and if you laugh at my idealism - take note that it is your own that you scorn, not mine.


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I really wish that I could've been more concise and coherant and give a good argument.. but I am limited laaah. I shudder to think about how many other pple in their 20s have had the exact same conversation. Its unavoidable.

Could we not end this lovely debatel? WHERE IS PH????? PH!!!!! COME OUT!!!!!!!!

My brain is yelling at me cos i know i got more stuff to say and i am not finished, but my stomach is more pissed cos its hungry. Must satisfy physical need first then tend to mental needs - Maslow say so one.


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Once again, my favouritely phrased "complaint" by Tym.

I've said this to many people before, and I'll put it in writing here: I don't disrespect all the decisions this government makes, but I wish they'd come right out and say what they want to say, instead of leading us on a merry dance of consultation that twirls us right back to the starting position, from which they weren't going to budge in the first place. Be bold, be blatant, be unapologetic. Have some balls about it, for goodness's sake. Don't dick around with the faux courtship --- small talk, plastic corsages --- only to turn alpha male once the dance is up.

Monday, June 06, 2005

12 days: As free as a barnacle.

In other news from the homefront, which i'll be visiting so soon it scares me:

Apparently,all the cynics in Singapore are not being real.. we gotta get real lah, says Minister Wong, we don't live in the real world at all, we're like in the Matrix you know? Forever thinking there's a conspiracy theory.. but as you all know, the Matrix is a real as it gets. So ya.. get real people.

A ST Version available here, and also on Singapore Rebel VERSUS the Reuters version:


Stuff in Reuters that ST left out:

"In an annual report released on Wednesday, rights group Amnesty International slammed Singapore's human rights record, saying that control on political expression in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state remained tight despite Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's repeated calls for more openness.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2004 report on Singapore, sharply criticised the country for using libel suits to intimidate opposition politicians, saying the threat of libel has stifled political opinion and disadvantaged opposition.

Early this month, a 23-year-old Singapore student in the United States shut down his personal Web site after a government agency threatened a libel suit for comments he made on the blog.


..... International free-press advocates have repeatedly criticised Singapore for its tight media control.

The government bans non-commercial private ownership of satellite dishes, and publications need permits to circulate. Films and TV shows are routinely censored for sex and violence.


..... Singapore has been ruled by the People's Action Party since independence in 1965. Its 84-member Parliament has only two opposition members."



I wouldn't be surprised if they had a word file titled "S'pore extra filler info" with all of the above and just cut-and-paste into every relevant story.. but still, fact is fact mah. And how come never appear in ST version? M. Nirmala don't read Reuters ah?



And the most important section to me, from the ST version, my comments in bold:


Singaporeans on the one hand are being asked to be open and express their views and feelings. But on the other hand, the police have called up film-maker Martyn See over a documentary on opposition politician Chee Soon Juan. Is there a conflict or contradiction here?

No, there is no conflict.

A political video is not a good means of reaching out to people and engaging them and explaining rational policies.

(then how? hold a talk? oh no wait... must apply for license.. give a speech? oh no wait.. must apply for license.. wah difficult man.)

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.


(ohhhh.. but this interview with you... and without Mr. See or any other "alternative arguments" does provide in itself a full range of the arguments... so the government speaking with one voice is not biased because they always give us a whole range of arguments, but when extra pple want to talk, they are biased and not adding to the full range of arguments. Big scale lah Mr. Wong.. u must see Big Picture. And your logic very weird)

So that is why many years ago, a Bill was passed to amend the Films Act to disallow political videos. And this law doesn't just apply to opposition parties or to Martyn See. The law applies to the PAP, too.

Last year, when we had our 50th anniversary celebrations, there were many ideas about doing a video on the party's achievements.

But in the end, even though the idea was very good, we did not proceed with it.

(No need what. Already go Lao Lee's memoirs. Best seller in Popular! Last time I also got a CD program on Lao Lee and his achievements u know, but i guess that was made before all the laws about non-political things came into effect. Lao Lee very lucky.)

And the Women's Wing also wanted to produce a video about its work in the last 10 years and we said 'no'.

So the law is even-handed and it is applied to everyone.

Where we have laws, we must enforce them. We must not make a mockery of the law.

(Warning: Cheap shot : No need to mock something that mocks itself lah)

Does the law apply to television stations that put out interviews and programmes on PAP ministers?

That is not a political video. That's a broadcaster and a content provider doing a job.

It is done in other places.

I is confused. Films on political figures also done in other places mah. Programmes on PAP ministers is okay? Please lah, some of the ST interviews read like a PR release from PAP can? Summore last time had that follow an MP for a day thing. So can assume broadcaster and content provider to be completely neutral and unbiased, even though Mediacorp is completely owned by Temasek Holdings. And plus Mah Bow Tan used to work in SBC as some chief ed or something. The plot thickens.

This is da man who wants us to get down and get real:






And dear how's-the-curry PH, who wouldn't let me quote him unless I called him The Great and acknowledged I owe him S$30 bucks, made me laugh like crazy over MSN when he said in response to my comment on the Singapore Rebel:

"U must understand da PAP lah, can say they fuck up, but cannot say other pple better."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

13 days: X'mas came early this year

In a utter fluke of luck Corydora from Flickr has given me a Flickr Pro account - absolutely free-of-charge!

And just as everyone knows, in my world (or the Singaporean world) of simple joys - getting free stuff ranks.. right up there with excellent bak chor mee.

Was very frustrated because I had not realised that Flickr would have limited me to only 3 sets... and it's always such a hassle to pay for something online (irony: noted) but I always eyed the Pro account.. figured something I'd buy for myself in the future. Flickr really does have some excellent stuff... too much digital if you ask me, but interesting topics and themes such as this one called "The Last Person On Earth".. very Vanilla Sky.. I like.

So now when you view my stuff on Flickr, i got this little icon that calls me a "Pro". Cheap cheap thrills.

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Astrid Stort from the land of legal happiness has arrived. It's really quite a kick ass way to end the trip, because Astrid has got to be one of the best sources of inspiration I've EVER met.

She's not a photographer per se, she works for the UNHCR. She's lived in Africa, Balkans, China, Middle East, speaks 8 languages including French, German, Italian, Latin Mandarin, Arabic and others. She studied in Amsterdam intending to be a journalist, but just happened to have an interest in languages which led her to a year-long exchange in China which led her to be an excellent candidate for a junior officer post in UNHCR which just happened to want people in China... to cut a long story short, she's been everywhere, almost every major crisis region in recent years, and she doesn't even look her age (which is 38).

And it's just so unbelievable to meet someone who have such a fairytale life... Seriously.. working with the people, seeing your efforts in real life, not just making calls from some office in Geneva, getting to write about what you experience and take photos.. I thought it was only in the movies because I don't think it gets any better.

Don't believe how kewl she is? Just Google her name Astrid van Genderen Stort. I got her in Jordon, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Iraq and Liberia on the first hit page. And she's stayed in all those places, not touch and go, shake hand give speech hello byebye kind of trip.. but real work.

And she's nice too. Down-to-earth and completely normal. Sillier than I am with Kitty, and prone to breaking out into songs as and when she fees like it. Not one of those super over achievers who got scholarships and went to the best universities... just completely normal. And yet after 10 years in the business, still as enthusiastic as ever in chatting about her work to me. I mean, how frustrating must it be to talk to someone young who doesn't know shit about what you do.. having to explain all the basic stuff? She seems fine with it though.

I am very relieved to meet people like that, because they are living proof that my dreams are not out of reach. And ya you know me, I always need proof.


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Feline update:

Peter has agreed to take kitty with him to his village. Initial plans to smuggle her back illegally has been scrapped because I'm very afraid i'll overdose it on Valium and kill it. And erm.. I'm really not kidding leh.

I had a very long post that was lost yesterday about how much I love kitty and all the cute things that it did, but now I don't want to talk about kitty anymore.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

16 days: Sufia's Grandson (and more)

Sufia - The Grandson

The grave of Sufia's son, Shahuddin, is in Azimpur, just about a 15 minute drive down the road from where the family stays. It is massive Muslim cemetary, and I follow the solemn family past rows and rows of graves and marble slates, noting how different people try to make their loved ones comfortable even after death - carpet grass, fresh flowers, miniature fences and ocassional ornament.

We reach the end of the compound, and right next to the low wall is a plot of land vastly different from the rest of the place. Here the soil is hard and brittle, it looks almost bleached by the sun. There are no trees, no grass, to shelter those lying underneath. These are the unmarked graves, where the poor lay buried anonymously.

Sufia walks along a narrow path, and suddenly she stops and kneels, running her hand over the raised ground. I am puzzled. There is not a single marker on this plot of land - how does she remember where her son is?

A religious man arrives, and the whole family stands at the side while he chants prayers standing over the grave. Mama stands next to him, scattering water from a vial over the ground and us. Midway, the women kneel, their faces completely shrouded by the sari cloth they have pulled over their heads. I cannot see their faces, but their shaking shoulders tell me all I need to know.

Throughout all this, Sayara looks on silently. He knows it's not the right time to make trouble, and I wonder if he remembers his father. He spots my camera, and grins in glee at the anticipation of some fun.

Later, when the prayers are over, Sufia leaves the path and steps onto the grave, running her hand gingerly over the soil as she kneels down slowly.

Then suddenly, the whole world drops away. It is just her alone in the cemetary, mourning for her dead son. She cries out in Bangla, choking back heavy tears. I cannot understand what she says, but it seems to me she is angry, angry over the injustice of it all. Not once did she let the cloth drop from her face.

Sayara senses he should remain quiet, but his face betrays his impatience. He is after all, only four, and it has been a long afternoon in the sun.

- Jessica Lim 20.05.05

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Happier things. I am a walking photographic cliche. Children children children. *tsk*

Tea Boy

Village Girl Begger Girl


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Very very very glad to have come across eeshaun's link on Cowboy Caleb.. Been a fan since the days of Ang Tee Yew.. Shaun's humour has an edge to it. Way to go man... I love it when people are so talented.

Welcome to Gardensilly



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You see ah, you'd think with photos and links and stuff I would talk less, but NOoooooo still rambling on like a monkey. Going for lunch. Ciao.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

17.25 days

The titles are getting ridiculous, I know.

Just bored, internet too slow to load mundane pages, brain's too fried to think of work, so shall ramble on.

Scanning in photos right now.. long and tedious process. Won't have much to upload or show though... these aren't exactly nice stuff.. its for work.

Fuck! I'm so hungry.

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If this interests anyone:

From the enlightned being called the Feedback Unit of Singapore :

The NUS Society is organising a dialogue session with the Minister for Health, Mr Khaw Boon Wan:

Date: 16 June 2005 (Thu)
Time: From 7.30pm (Registration at 6.30pm)
Venue: Guild Hall, Kent Ridge Guild House
Topic : Is Falling Sick More Scary Than Death?

Free admission. Light refreshments will be provided. For registration, please liaise with Alethea Tan, NUSS Events Executive, at 65863736 or via email at aletheatan@nuss.org.sg.

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Just go and make trouble lor. PH? Oh sorry.. not trouble.. - constructive criticism.

I'll keep posting up all these stuff I get when the Feedback emails me, one of its many members that do not participate because whenever I want to, they tell me I can't sign up online cos my password's wrong, and I haven't been able to retrieve it since. Conspiracy theory anyone?

But I did just take a survey for the Singapore Green Plan, which I guess you all should too, so at least at the end of the day cannot say "They never ask me."


Other topics to go say something if you so feel like it:

Law to curb child-sex abroad

One recent study by Johns Hopkins University cited reports that Singaporeans form the largest group of sex tourists in the Riau islands, including Batam, where many of those exploited are aged below 18. In contrast, only three Singaporeans have been arrested overseas for sexual offences involving persons aged below 16 from 1994 to April this year.

Review of Trim and Fit (TAF) programme

A National University of Singapore study of 4,400 Singaporean female students has found that the TAF programme in schools may contribute to girls developing eating disorders. The survey revealed that more than 300 of them, about 7 per cent, were at high risk of developing eating disorders. Of those found to be at risk, about one-third had been in the TAF programme in school.

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Because most of the pple I know are (not) religious, I thought they would be able to appreciate this nugget of (bullshit) truth that I found:

I would link the site, but I just would love to type out its title:

Mr Moron talks about his religion at My Daily Bread

Contrary to popular belief, Christians are not boring people. (May 15th)

As a Christian, I have always had a beef with that misconception. Ok, sure, so some people find us irritating. Or they can't fathom the way we behave. But seriously, I like it that way. It gives me a sense of individualism, and I get a kick out of it.


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Aw shucks, I don't know where to start lah.

17 days: A Major Minor issue

This post is kinda for Joce:


JOCE OH MY GOD NEIL MURPHY IS GOING TO BE TEACHING A COURSE IN POSTMODERNISM IN JAN 2006 AHHHHHHHHHHHH

That's like the best combination EVER. The best literature topic plus the best lecturer. AHHhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!


And in NTU, to get this kinda luck, is like striking jackpot lor. It NEVER happens.. either exam clash or timetable clash or this or that nonsense... but this time... looks like no obstacles!!! Oh my god!! Are they actually going to let us get a semblance of education?? Are they actually allowing the students to have their way?? *GASP* I think I can't breathe!

Sorry lah, but this is luck on an unprecedented, never-before scale.

And I only have 2 sems to go.. so it's really either now or never ever ever.

In my six semesters at NTU thus far, I have never missed out on taking a Literature module. With the exception of the first semester (when i didn't know shit) and this current semester (when I am physically unable and technically not allowed to be in school).

But yes, people in NIE have thought CS pple to be nuts to be taking third and fourth year lit subjects when they themselves are whining about having being forced to do them as PEs.

But for myself, and the many other CS people I know who also keep taking Lit stuff, it's not really an extra workload - it's a break from the nonsense that we've to study in CS... its the "education" that we always wanted.

It is a pity I never had a flair for Literature.. one of those resigned to being appreciators and not masters of the art. But it doesn't really matter either way.

Not all the modules have been good, but at least two of 'em have been exceptional. Contemporary Literature and Madness in Lit - both taught by a certain Mr Cornelius Anthony Murphy, or Neil, since he doesn't seem to want to be associated to his real name.

I had the sheer blind luck of choosing Madness in Lit as my first Lit module... Sylvia Plath, and Blake and Margaret Atwood and John Banville... it's a drug man I tell you.

So, since we humans are intelligent, learning animals - I've learn only want to take Neil Murphy's class. Why buy another brand when this one is CONFIRM damn good right?

So right now, I am enquiring if i will still be allowed to get my Minor in Lit if I take 4 NIE subjects plus 1 HSS subject.

If they don't allow me, then I'll just do a simple lit course in NIE this sem, and travel back to godforsaken Boon Lay twice a week next sem for that one lit module. And of course, I will also kick up a big fuss, write in letters and all that to show how STUPID the system is.

*sigh* I'm so looking forward to next year, either way.

I would buy his book but it freakin' costs US$109.95 and it has a title that makes me *blink*

And while at Amazon.com... I really wanna buy this book too. *yummy yummy*


Haunted
Haunted
by Chuck Palahniuk