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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

ku10's last take

ku10's parting thoughts on Singapore. Many of his observations are spot on and I totally agree with them. I mean, how can you teach creativity? How can you expect creativity to flourish in a country where, from cradle to grave, one is told what to read, what to say, how to say, when to say, what to watch, when to watch, and even, when one dies, how long one remains buried?

I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters—who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.
         (Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987)

Yes, life in a hamster's cage is safe, efficient, and predictable. Meals are guaranteed, and shavings changed regularly; you will never be eaten by predators; and, if you fall ill, someone might even take you to a veterinarian. There is even an exercise wheel for you to run in; getting nowhere whilst imagining you are running up and down vast, open mountain meadows. And if your illness is incurable, there is the quick and easy end of euthanasia. Thank the powers that be for little mercies. Majulah Singapura.

The complete post here.

On takchek's blog, luckysingaporean commented:

Elitism 101

Elitism 201

Elitism 301

Elitism and being an elite are 2 different things. Some of us will be better educated than others - it is natural. The fact that I have a Masters or a PHD does not mean I subscribe to elitist view or elitism. Elitism is a belief that only the opinion of the elites matter, the elites have an elevated importance hence entitlement within our society.

Once you understand what elitism have no problem why some people in our society dare to ask for the highest salaries in the world for the role of serving the a public servant. You will have no problem understand why there are no debates in Singapore and why our daily reading is unstimulative propaganda...and why alternatives have to be fixed, crushed and will also understand why everything is done for your own good so you should shut up, stop whining and learn to appreciate the grand achievements of our elite leaders.

Not all of us are content to live out our lives in simulacra.

Raise your head and look outside the ring sometime.

No cell phone

I am loathed to pen this post but I am weary of being repeatedly badgered about my steadfast refusal to own carry a cell phone. (For those not in the know, I was given a cell phone. Where it is now? Why, it's in the freezer somewhere. No, really.) This way, when I am asked the same dumb question(s) again, I can direct them to the URL of this post and save myself a lot of time and effort.

Eh bien, continuous. . .

Let me first give you a glimpse of my life in North California. I didn't carry a cell phone. Didn't even own one. Once a month, Mom calls on my land line and we talk for 30 minutes. That's it. In fact, there was a complete year where I didn't even have a land line; that spared me from solicitations for donations to John "Flip-flop" Kerry's doomed presidential campaign, and telemarketers touting anything from timeshares in Cuba, to instant salvation and rapture for US$500 through Landmark Education, to elephant dildos. Didn't need a telephone. Didn't find the need to yak about trivial nothingness.

Many years ago, I spent 3 days attending an Ignatian silent retreat at El Retiro San Iñigo, administered by the Jesuits. 3 days of absolute silence; even meals were consumed in silence. I only spoke for half an hour a day with my spiritual advisor. Tucked in the foothills of Los Altos, deep within the sanctum of dapple-lit groves and glades, draped in the deepest hues of red in fall, silence bore witness to my spiritual exercises, personal reflections, and communion with God. Cloistered in my bare cell each night, I wrote volumes in my journals, reflecting, analyzing, digesting, praying — changing, evolving. Those drizzly 3 days of absolute peace and reflection, in the crisp cold of late November, changed my life. Someday I will sign up for the 36-day silent retreat. 36 days of absolute silence. How many of you can shut up for 10 minutes?

So, there you go. I treasure silence. Silence is almost an extinct commodity in Singapore this fool's paradise. Every day, every hour, every second, we are assaulted by the din of traffic, mindless TV programs, advertisements, radio, and the inane chatter and banter of housewives, self-styled tai-tais, and unwashed school kids. (To my friends in NoCal, you think ricers cruising round, with their rap music blasting and their windows down is hell, you ain't heard nuthin' yet. Wait till you come to Singapore.) The last thing I need is a cell phone ringing in my pocket and some motormouth telling about his latest colonoscopy.

Cell phones are emblematic of the "Me! Me! Me!" generation addled by instant gratification. Can't get hold of me when you want to? Well, too bad. Life is unpredictable. Learn to deal with it. Learning to postpone gratification is part of growing up. If it is an emergency, you are better off dialing 999. The emergency services will get to you faster, I promise.

With regards to "What if YOU need help?"

Let's see, I have:

* Cycled 937.5 miles (1500 km) in East Java, Indonesia on a self-supported mountain biking trip;

* Cycled Singapore-to-Kuantan, as well as Singapore-to-Penang;

* Cycled solo 638.5 miles (1021.6 km) from Thailand-to-Singapore, via the east coast;

* Cycled solo 257.18 miles (411.48 km) through the bush in Western Australia, on Stage 1 of the Munda Biddi Trail, for 13 days;

* Gone on many solo epics in North California; some in mountain lion territory; many from dawn till dusk; some of them multi-day;

* Cycled solo road and off-road; up and down hills, mountains, valleys, canyons, and ravines; day and night;

* Hiked Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy alone;

* Gone caving alone in Santa Cruz;

* SCUBA dived alone (I'm trained and certified to) in North California, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia;

* Dived and touched the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales;

* Driven from Meteor Crater, Arizona to Santa Clara, California, an 11.5-hour journey of 817.5 miles (1308 km), stopping only to refuel;

* Spun and crashed my car twice (once in the rain, the other time, snow); changed smashed rim and limped home at 10 mph (16 km/h);

* Languished in my apartment, in bed alone with a 105.8 F (41 C) fever and bronchitis — drinking only water from the faucet — for 7 days, losing 13.2 lbs (6 kg);

and never — NEVER — have I found myself in need of a cell phone. Besides, the places I often go do not offer cell phone reception. E.g. what are you going to do 75 meters down on a trimix dive when you run low on (breathing) gas? Call the boat captain to deliver some to you before you drown? When I was lost and wandering around in circles on the giant bays in Point Reyes, even if I had a cell phone, it would be useless deadweight. There are no cell phone towers there. I had to figure out how to get out myself — and I did.

So, what makes you think I will need a cell phone on this tiny, insignificant, little island?

I rely on myself. I ensure that I'm prepared. That's it.

All your comments and conjectures are but monday morning quarterbacking. You dream up "what-ifs" — I have done it.

People tend to fall into this false sense of security with cell phones. Thinking that they can always summon help, they become complacent — ill-prepared. Last winter, 5 hikers got lost on Mount Hamilton. Between the 5 of them, all they had were 3 cell phones. No lights; no food; no water; no matches; no emergency shelter; no additional clothes; no compass; no map. When the sun set, they were hopelessly lost, thirsty, hungry, and in danger of hypothermia. In the end, they called in a rescue helicopter on their cell phones. What a bunch of fools, endangering the lives of rescuers due to their stupidity. IMHO, as a warning to others, they should have been left on the mountain to die.

Cell phones, in this case, soften the "penalty" for being unprepared — and inexcusably stupid — and that goes contrary to my beliefs. We should be all accountable for our actions.

So, expect trouble, but don't expect a rescue. Be responsible for yourself by going prepared. In addition to learning to recognize the pitfalls above, a little gear and planning is in order.
(Yosemite Search and Rescue)

So, the only reason which remains is contact. You see, I view contact very differently from most people. When I am out with someone, or engaged in an activity, I am there 100%. You can say that I am hyper-focused. I do not wish to be interrupted. It annoys the living shit out of me when I have to answer a call when I am in the middle of something, especially a meal. To me, that implies gross disrespect for my companion(s) or/and me. So, if a friend wishes to contact me, call my land line. If I am not contactable on my land line, it means I am not available, period. Go annoy someone else. If it is an emergency, dial 999.

And, to anyone attempting to contact me via a 3rd party's cell phone, be forewarned: if I even deign to speak with you at all, you would be instructed in unequivocal terms to bugger yourself silly with a retractable baton. There is a reason why I do not carry a cell phone, Sherlock.

Why should the onus be on me to purchase, maintain, and lug around a device which facilitates the convenience of — and enables instant gratification in — others?

Why should I be saddled with maintaining the settings of a device (on, off, audible ring tone, vibrate mode, et cetera.), and paying for services which I derive no utility from?

(Those are rhetorical questions, by the way.)

The act of carrying a cell phone is an invitation — and acquiescence — to the invasion of my privacy. That's how I view it. I know the concept of privacy is a difficult thing to grasp for most Singaporeans. After all, they are conditioned to readily write their Identity Card (IC) number on any list or form without demanding the inquirer's authority to make such a request. I know it might come as a surprise but there are very few cases where one is required by law to reveal one's IC number. In fact, you can even refuse to pen in your IC number when you sit in as a visitor to a session at Parliament. (The police at the registration desk will give you a hard time, but ultimately, they have no legal basis to coerce you into doing so.) Similarly, hospitals cannot refuse you medical treatment for refusing to reveal your IC number.

So, I value privacy. The last thing I need want is a device that reminds me of the presence of other people — or worse, let them contact me — when I am writing a poem, constructing a thesis, enjoying a book under a tree, or out savoring an experience alone.

L'enfer, c'est les autres.

For those whom subtlety is lost (or wasted) upon, a stanza of Nick Cave's caustic brilliance shall suffice:

Amateurs, dilettantes, hacks, cowboys, clones
The streets groan with little Caesars, Napoleons and cunts
With their building blocks and their tiny plastic phones
Counting on their fingers, with crumbs down their fronts

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rescue me

No, I'm not talking about that awesome, extremely politically incorrect, FX TV series created by, and starring, Denis Leary.

Monday, 18 June, 2007

Last week, whilst browsing through pet shops on this fair tropical island fool's paradise, I came across a rather distressing sight: a 12" x 8" ft x 8" (approx. 30 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm) tank housing 8 large freshwater lobsters (crawfish). Overstocked, with neither mechanical nor chemical filtration, the water was cloudy and smelled foul. To add to the awful (and stressful) conditions, there was no substrate on the tank bottom — only bare glass — a definite no-no for crustaceans. Two of the lobsters were especially large — easily 10 inches (25.4 cm) long; three were at least half-a-foot (15 cm) long. It is a wonder they remained alive at all.

Not exactly lobsters, but this picture gives you an idea of how terrible conditions can be at some pet stores. You don't need a degree in biology to figure that the ammonia and nitrite levels in this tank must be at deadly levels.

One of the larger lobsters is an especially gorgeous specimen: an electric-blue body, with the outer curvature of its pincers highlighted with a stripe of fire-engine-red. Even in its appalling surroundings, it looked majestic.

I have been ruminating over the prospect of purchasing this critter. Due to space and maintenance constraints, I cannot offer it a tank larger than Pinchy's 6-gallon tank (i.e. 40 cm x 25 cm x 25 cm) — hardly adequate space for a 25.4 cm lobster that might still molt and grow bigger. I also have no experience handling a full-grown lobster: water changes and gravel vacuuming, for example, would be significantly more complicated with the presence of a pair of powerful pincers.

At the same time, what little I can offer is not exactly insignificant for the poor creature: it would leave 7 battling tankmates behind; be the master of its own tank; have a good diet; live in filtered water; enjoy regular water changes, with clean gravel substrate to walk and burrow in; even a cave to hide in and call home.

Of course, I am not deceiving myself here, even if I rescue this critter*, I leave the other 7 to suffer in abject conditions; and the only reason why I am even considering acquiring this lobster is because its shape and form pleases my eyes — I am no crusader for animal welfare.

So, while I twiddle my thumbs in an Onanist exercise of animal welfare ethics / theatrics / hysterics, the unnamed lobsters — some with feelers and antennas snapped or broken off, others with entire pincers missing — struggle to live, in a disgusting pet store shucked in a corner of a wet market in Bukit Timah.

* Yes, I do have a heart; often, I just find it more satisfying to get people's goat and piss the crap out of them.

Some people write to please, to soothe, to console. Others to provoke, to challenge, to exasperate and infuriate. I've always found the second approach the more pleasing.
         (Edward Abbey)


Tuesday, 19 June, 2007

Deciding that I just couldn't ignore the plight of the poor creatures, I felt I had to do something. Purchasing just one of them is not an answer, neither is attempting the unsustainable task of setting up eight 6-gallon tanks for them in my room. I had another idea.

The pet shop had changed the water since my last visit, but as any individual who ever owned a fish tank can attest, water in an overcrowded tank quickly fouls.

I guess it was her lucky day when I said I would take them all.

A short cab ride and a half-hour hike later: the lobsters' new* home, a 6.12 billion gallon lake, far roomier than their former 2.7 gallon tank.

Food, space, and crevices to hide in, exist in abundance, and the water always pristine.

Awaiting patiently inside the bag.

They're fast — most of them scurried into the numerous crevices before I could snap a picture.

But the large lobster, which originally caught my eye and brought about this effort, stuck around to wave goodbye (or is it "Thank you"?).

Have fun, little guys  :-D

I guess, in the grand scheme of things, what I did is pretty ineffectual: the pet shop may (and probably will) replenish its stock of lobsters by calling for another delivery tomorrow. I could have contacted the Center for Animal Welfare and Control (CAWC), of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), or even the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I still might. But the impetus of my actions was to do something for these lobsters. I am not out to be some animal activist or to save the world. Besides, not everything (nor everyone, for that matter) in this world is deserving of saving.

For the price of a few pizzas, I now know that 8 lobsters live free; whether lobsters can feel happiness or not is irrelevant as I feel it myself; and that, IMHO, is hell of a deal.

*It's not exactly "new" as they were captured from such bodies of water, so I am merely returning them home.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Free Cut 'n' Save Coupon

Save it for a rainy day. E.g. if you decide to make false allegations against others, such as in the Duke University lacrosse case.

Meine & Sartre

If we'd go again
all the way from the start,
I would try to change
the things that killed our love.
         ("Still Loving You," from Scorpion's 1984 album, Love At First Sting)

If you get the chance for a new beginning, you commit the same things and there is never an escape.
         (Jean-Paul Sartre)

I think what's closer to the truth is, neither Klaus Meine's anguished regret nor Jean-Paul Sartre's deadpanned fatalism leads to any real sense of hope — for hope only leads forward, into the future.

Yes, I was a metalhead and I read Sartre (though I disagree with much of his writings). I was also one of those waving flickering Zippo™ lighters in a darkened National Stadium at the first Metallica concert here; and one of those sweaty numbers moshing when Henry Rollins came to town.

And before that, I regularly blew Lord British, immortal sovereign of all Britannia, to bits — on an 8 MHz machine — to the beat of a certain British pop duo.

Damn, I'm a veritable fossil...

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Update on Pinchy:

So far, she has gone through 2 molts and is 3 times her original size. She has her own tank now, and a complement of 15 14 13 12 11 fish to practice her hunting skills on.

Here's Pinchy saying, "Hello!"

Pinchy sizes up her quarry.

Pinchy approaches.

Pinchy leaps into action.

Pinchy charges, yelling, "Banzai!!!"

Crazy lobster :-D

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A little pot of gold

Rainbow as a storm clears, Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

All of us under its spell,
We know that it's probably magic!

Have you been half asleep? And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm s'posed to be...
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Laa, da daa dee da daa doo,
La laa la la laa dee daa doo!!!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Kaleidoscope of years

Matisse in a wad of expired CA vehicle registration tags.

Ramblings & Rants

It's 2:25 AM now and I should be asleep but for some reason I've a lot on my mind, so I thought I'll just write and let my mind wander.

Read this via takchek and it left me rather incensed.

What if I was adamant about not having a little one?  What would have happened to our marriage?  What would have happened to us?   

And all I will say it would never have been the same.  Our relationship would probably not have come this far if not for the kid.  As a matter of fact, it might not even have survived.

I would write a lot more but there are people (believe it or not) I care about who may be hurt by my acerbity (e.g. "What a bunch of crock! People like you shouldn't breed."), so I shall exercise a measure of restraint. This much I'll say though: any relationship that needs the presence of children to survive or exist, isn't much of a relationship at all. Bringing children into this dying, polluted, conflict-plagued, world just to salvage your pitiful little relationship; just so that you can have someone to call your significant other; just so that you won't feel lonely; just so that you can fit into your social circle, and fill those empty hours, days and years; is about the most selfish act imaginable.

It is illogical that one who is deemed "selfish" for not having kids (where's the logic in that?) is suddenly crowned with a halo of admirable — even emulative — parental generosity after bearing a child. News flash: just because the motive of your actions shifted from grabbing as many opportunities for yourself to grabbing them for your scion does not mitigate your greed and selfishness. A soccer mom who's a jerk behind the wheel is still an asshole on the road. And worse of all, now there is another (partial) copy of you competing for resources in this sad, sad world. So, please, please stop with the nauseating self-congratulatory pats on the back for successfully rutting. Pigs reproduce; bacteria reproduce; H5N1 reproduce; you are nothing special.

How can the bringing of another sentient being into this screwed up world be a cause for joy?

It is unconscionable to create another human for the sole purpose of "cementing" a crumbling or shaky relationship. The absurdity which lies behind such an infantile act exposes the absolute dearth of reasoning, all-consuming narcissism, and immaturity, in the mindsets of the perpetrators. Here's a clue: divorces still take place with the presence of children — it just gets messier; the fallout worse.

And, even if the dysfunctional (or lackluster) marriage doesn't dissolve in a divorce, the children are saddled with the horrendous — and unasked — responsibility that they are the "glue" which keep their parents' marriage together. But I suppose these matters are hardly a concern for those who rushed down the aisle for the wrong reasons. Act first, think later. Brilliant.

Having children to cement or "save" a relationship goes beyond wishful thinking, it is selfish, stupid, and myopic — be prepared to fork out for therapy and medications for your screwed up kids (and maybe even grandkids) down the road. Here's to your happy family (and profitable drug companies).

Xanax. BuSpar. Valium. Paxil. Zoloft. Serlift. Effexor. Celexa. Elavil. Prozac. Wellbutrin. Lexapro. Desyrel. Zyban.

Ahhhh! Numbness!

Related posts:

Why breed?
Why breed? II
Obey! II
Paternal Instinct
The damndest lie


Spent 1 hour swimming laps in the pool last night, slept 2.5 hours and then went for a 106 km (66.25 miles) road ride at 4:30 AM. Boy, I love the new tires! The first couple of hours were blessed: feeling like you are the only one out there, silently pushing against the wind and the darkness, to the constant rhythm of huffs and puffs — a thin, inch-wide, thread of rubber flowing silkily over empty roads — when everyone else is asleep. Feeling a little under the weather now. I guess I got a little dehydrated; one water bottle is insufficient in warm and humid Singapore (and I was feeling too good to stop for refills). 106 km, that's not even a full century (don't talk to me about metric centuries. A real century, IMHO, is 100 miles (160 km)). Jeez, I'm becoming soft.


Dominic's latest toy, a multifunction analyzer, BC-554, by Tanita, is cute: it not only weighs you; measures your body fat and visceral fat percentages; reveals your metabolic rate; but also calculates your metabolic age. Mine turned out to be 16 years of age. So... Hey! I AM Peter Pan after all. So, to the hoity-toity detractors always admonishing me to "grow up," here's a quote from an old Western flick, The Shootist (1976), "The day they put you under, what I do on your grave won't pass for flowers."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The new face of imperialism

From "Letters," National Geographic, May 2007:

A tree is a plant, no more, no less. It is no problem at all to reconcile harvesting trees with loving the forest. Ask any forester. As to Brazil, the surest way to continue the destruction of the Amazonian forest (or any tropical timber) is to attempt to conserve it all, irrespective of the needs and wants of all the people who live there and who do not really fancy being "conserved" to satisfy the emotional needs of some Americans thousands of miles distant.

         Leonard M. Guss
         Woodinville, Washington

This reminds me of a letter published in "Forum," The Straits Times, a few weeks ago: written by a well-meaning British tourist, the concerned gentleman remarked that his experience of the exotic Far East was somewhat diluted by the fact that the majority of Singaporeans spoke too much English and not enough Chinese (Mandarin). We should remain closer to our ethnic roots, he advised, least we become — Gasp! — too much like him.

I guess we should all grow pigtails, smoke opium, drink rice wine, fly from treetop to treetop with swords, to give tourists a run for their money, eh?

I have a better idea: how about Mr. Well-meaning-tourist bend over and I go native on his posterior with a genuine, made-in-China, opium pipe?

Friggin' wanker...

Sleep is for the weak

Meth good.
Meth your friend.

5 years later.

More here: Faces of Meth.

Why I am not Chinese

Clicking on each of the images (or captions) leads to a different photo essay.

Survival in China.

Relationships in China.

Desires in China.

I never bought the spurious claims of the Chinese Culture Chauvinists: I am of the Chinese diaspora; I have as much in common with the Chinese in China as a sports bar patron does with the mute images of African tribal life flashing on plasma TV screens, set to thumping electronica.

Piss off and leave me alone.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Disciple Strikes Back

Yoda:    The other side is dark.. very dark.

Obiwan:    Quit whining and eat your toast already

Props to kuhbaert.