Thursday, 28 February 2008


The week is flying by with such reckless abandon that I'm really starting to worry about the work that I know I have to do but haven't done. Although it somewhat sucks that the Sentosa outing never really worked out, I've got some precious borrowed time at least. Still, it's gonna be one heck of a busy day tomorrow with meet-ups and the Lift Off party, and Saturday's full day Waikiki event as well.

And Jethro dropped what could've been a major bombshell when he told me about the AS individual assignment (20%!) due on Monday which I hadn't an inkling of a clue about. Would've been seriously disastrous if I'd found out on Monday itself.

Kinda went for my first night spin on Tuesday when Timsum, Richard, Rachel, Mikaela and I went for supper (Yinyin left earlier) and Rachel lent the car for a ride. From RK, we eventually ended up at Ang Mo Kio's al fresco McDonald's and played a variant of daidee called 'asshole', which was pretty interesting; something like daidee with a ranking system (king, queen, commoner, prostitute and asshole - 5 players), which made me think of social class divisions and how it was both a vicious cycle of either affluence or poverty and yet, by playing your cards right even if fate deals you with a shite hand, with a little cunning and resolve, you can still break the cycle. It was so engaging that we kinda had to reluctantly force ourselves to leave at 3am.

Just came home from my 2nd straight day of capoeira, and my 4th since last Saturday; fuckin' intense shit - my muscles, joints and feet soles are getting seriously busted - but it's damn fun now that things are gelling up.

And I've learnt how to do the S-dobrado, which is - allow the childish poseur exuberance for a bit - that damn cool kick that you'd see parkour and free-runner people do.

S-dobrado: A sweeping leg motion that can lead into any number of different kicks. Usually its used to go into a macaco.

(Definition and image from Chimp's)

I'd have beaten myself up if I watched Meet the Spartans at the theatres. It's a funny show but for 65mins worth of really stupid bullshit toilet humour, I'd rather strangle myself and get a semi-high than pay $7 or whatever rate it is they're charging now to see it at the cinema. Thank goodness for movies online.

My karma ran over your dogma.

Audio Candy:
Paramore - Born For This

Monday, 25 February 2008

This Overdue Glory

Went down to NUS today for the futsal tournament organised by Khairul (who couldn't play because of his knee ligament injury) with the good ol' assemblage of Sanchin, Koon, Arvinder, Chengjun and Zhiquan, and some much-needed goalkeeping help from Xuanyou, our ex-NYJC volleyball winning team's captain.

We then went on to blaze through our qualifying group stages and the knock out rounds totally unbeaten and came out champions, with the following scores:

Group stages:



Bagged myself 3 or 4 goals. The team we won 3-2 in the group stages eventually became our final opponents whom we beat 2-1, both very tight games.

As I type, the vibe still reverberates as strongly as ever; a combination of a truckload of thoughts and emotions about where I, or perhaps we, stand today and of all the circumstances that have preceded this.

For one, to say I love soccer is an understatement. I owe a huge part of what I am today to the sport because of the many things it entails. And I take a lot of pride in my game; I don't think it's unfair for me to say that I'm quite a decent player who might've deserved more.

But me, and the other guys as well, have never really lived up to that potential due to many circumstances, such as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, having to focus on studies more, not having a good enough coach etc. And I daresay that the team mates I played with today, the same guys who went through NYJC soccer with me, can really whip up a very mean game. From the way we played today, we were practically obliterating every other team and clearly coming out tops each time, and those were good opposition in a conventional sense. Who'd expect a bunch of university kids to be pwning much fiercer non-university opponents? The way universities always lose to polytechnics and ITEs is somewhat embarassing. Circumstances in the past have cumulated to deny us so many chances and opportunities to have achieved any form of illustriousness with soccer and most people may not understand it, but it has been quite upsetting for me at times and I won't doubt the frustrations the others feel too, especially when we had so much in us to achieve. It is really such a pity.

Sab says it's better late than never, and yet also that being over-competitive can kill the passion for the game, especially when team mates start fighting for personal glory. And one other thing is that the ones who've achieved success can start to lose their desire to keep going once they've tasted the sweetness of being at the top.

I think it is this predicament of ours, because of our circumstances leading up to our prestige-deficient present, that has built in us a character that I'm quite proud to say we have. From what Sab has said, I guess we can be considered as the perpetual underdogs, the under-rated team or the under-performing team, depending on how you'd wanna look at it. Because I really think we've got what it takes to get to the top but we always never make it far enough somehow.

And this character of ours is something that is quite different from the many lame mainstream teams out there. The guys I play soccer with and call my team mates every weekend have really modest roots and are incredibly humble for the skills they possess. Perhaps it is this humility that has been a restraining cap on any audacious initiative on our part to take a step forward towards more ambitious ends such as going for club trials and playing for varsity, but it has allowed us to compete at the highest level without any selfish personal glory or senseless egoistic pride taking over. I see these inflated egos in so many teams and players I've played against and I wouldn't hesitate to classify SMU as a really egoistic team that promises too much and under-delivers; and for all that lack of glory they seriously still think very highly of themselves. Most other university and JC teams are like that too, because the big talkers with huge egos tend to be the ones who believe they're good enough to make the team and are more willing to prove their point. There are many far more talented players who are simply overshadowed by the less humble.

We don the old NYJC PE shirt that belonged to a past era and I don't even wear branded shoes to play, but we were scalping the ones who had their Adidas jerseys and Nike shoes and shouting at each other for making mistakes and then making mistakes themselves. When we play, I think our team's quietness can seriously be scary to our opponents, and yet our play and teamwork is almost telepathic. Simple passes, effective runs and discipline in marking; that's all we do. A lot of local soccer players have got it misconstrued that you have to be technically gifted or individualistic to play; they seriously have no idea. We were scoring goals by stringing countless simple, unbroken passes without even needing to be showy or dribble past anybody. And our opponents, though seemingly more technically gifted, couldn't even break out of their halves. That's the vintage way we play and today summed up over a decade of frustration and destroyed it for good, my only gripe being that it might be somewhat too late. Who knows what else we might've achieved and conquered if only, if only.

It may be asked what's with this glory obsession. It's somewhat like 300, as Dilios says of King Leonidas' wish, "'Remember us.' As simple an order as a king can give. For he did not wish tribute, nor song, or monuments or poems of war and valour. His wish was simple. 'Remember us,' he said to me. That was his hope, should any free soul come across that place, in all the countless centuries yet to be. May all our voices whisper to you from the ageless stones, 'Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here by Spartan law, we lie.'"

Of course, I do not expect anyone to know of us as of today because in the bigger scheme of things, we're like mere grains of sand in the Sahara. But victory, at long last, like today, does solidify things and, to some extent, is a form of closure to this flickering light of potential, just like finally giving a name and destiny to an old yet unnamed child. So we won't be forgotten to ourselves of who we were and what we know we were capable of when the light has finally died and we will play no more.

It's the first time I've won an official tournament, though we've come close a couple of times in the past. I'm just really glad to have such a team to play in. The team we played against twice provided for some really dramatic moments, reminiscent of the other times we came so close to winning it all only to lose it at the end. Both matches were close fights and, in the final when we won 2-1, we actually went 1-0 down with 3 minutes to go but clawed our way back to draw 1-1 and score the golden goal in extra time. On top of that, they were much older and were starting to get extremely hostile and a fight seemed to be tethering on the edge of breaking out. Soccer's such a game of male pride sometimes that the dark side of it all keeps rearing it's ugly head.

Arvinder scored both goals in the final, making him the hero, and the funny thing was that after he scored the golden goal and won the game for us, he immediately changed and went off because the tournament was dragging way too long and he had a meeting to attend, so it was almost as if he's saying, "eh don't waste my time already la" and scored so that he could end it and leave.

Had a quiet and simple celebratory dinner at Vivocity's Kopitiam (anti-climax) before heading home. It's been a really good day.

People are very open-minded about new things as long as they're exactly like the old ones.

Audio Candy:
Jason Mraz - Curbside Prophet

Loose Constrictions

I watched View From the Top on Channel 5 today as I was preparing to leave for capoeira in school. I don't mean to say that it was a fantastic movie, but sometimes, such shows have a somewhat inherent feel-good quality about them fit for a lazy afternoon and you can really unearth such 'gems' every now and then when Channel 5 airs them off prime time.

Gwyneth Paltrow is really pretty in an interesting way.

I watched Breakfast At Tiffany's at Jacq's over a week ago before the midterms onslaught afflicted everybody. I don't know howta put it, but perhaps you can say it's just one of those shows you must watch to be able to say you led a wholesome life. Now I guess I can see why it is so iconic. Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly has an extremely alluring quirky charm. Had to leave halfway through it though; now that it's been planted in my head I've gotta watch the rest of it.

Since the midterms ended on tuesday I've been bumming around and practically flushing time down the drain. If I keep this up I'm gonna regret it sooner or later I suppose, because I do foresee some killer weeks ahead so it'd be wise to start a little early on some school work, and this 1-week's worth of midterm break is seriously too short considering the colossal amount of activities I already have in store.

Tomorrow I'll be joining a street soccer tournament at NUS with the usual saturday AMK soccer people. Khairul thinks we've got quite a chance - I certainly hope so, not so much because it's a duh thing but because all these years I've never really achieved any glory with the sport I love most.

There's gonna be Sentosa on tuesday, capoeira on wednesday and thursday (and perhaps Mambo?), Lift Off @MOS on friday (nudged over the edge by Elizabeth!) and Waikiki on saturday (Farhan wants to make it an overnighter as if the remaining sunday wasn't much-needed enough :\). This formal schedule does not include the informal meet ups with old friends in between dates and some design errands I have to run.

Capoeira has been slowly growing on me and I'm starting to really love it, especially when the moves are beginning to gel and my kicks are getting more polished. Where I shunned many other things because of the commitments and entry-level socialising to be had, I'm actually looking forward to this coming wednesday's trip down to the Substation where I can finally meet the other people all around Singapore who're in this 'family'.

Been at it all weekend in fact, coming down to SMU twice for informal sessions that 'never happened' (because sessions somewhat have to be formally run by maestres), and these sessions have been really fun and effective in speeding up my learning so far. Today, we formed a roda as usual and I finally got to play as one of the active elements in the roda. Liberating stuff, albeit the obvious mediocrity that has to be tolerated haha.

Revived some really old vibes when we went to Marina Square yesterday and Yitwen, Kok and I had to lobo around trying to occupy our time looking at girls and weird people while the ladies shopped their hearts out; determined post-exam-and-everything-else therapy. Perhaps it's just that I've simply not done something like going to town for such pointless, hedonistic purposes for the longest time when I'm ironically so near to it every single day and I honestly miss this feeling. It's just that compared to last time, especially with a small group or a bunch of guys, we/I can never find enough things that would interest us/me enough. You need ladies with the objectiveness of shopping to validate a downtown trip like this.

We went to the Esplanade after that and sat by the river. That spot is seriously conducive for emo-talk.

And I found it terribly amusing in an exasperated kinda way when I saw the merlion 'shut down' at 1am. Angie and I were just getting into the political science zone and talking about how Singapore has a state but no real national identity when we started musing about how Singapore's culture and identity resides in the things we do rather than any concrete, tangible things that the creators of Singapore Inc. would like to have us believe. Seeing the merlion turned off just had me thinking that our national identity indeed isn't the merlion itself, but the fact that we're calculated, we're conservative, we're kiam/kiasu, we've got a water scarcity issue etc all embodied the action of turning the merlion off.

Jack and Rai at Wala Wala's was really nice too.

Time to get some sleep before kicking some NUS ass tomorrow.

Mary had a little lamb and the doctor fainted.

Audio Candy:
Maroon 5 - It's Not Over Tonight

Friday, 22 February 2008

If She Gets Nowhere In Life...

At least she knows she's pretty.

I really like these lines from the song Straw Dog by Something Corporate. At first glance, it sounds somewhat sad in a trifling way as she only has a very perishable quality; it's the one thing she's good at, and good looks don't last.

But on further thought, it actually really is a warming and empowering thing to know of; that the girl is able to come to terms with her predicament of not getting anywhere in life and acknowledges the fact that she is still pretty nonetheless.

To begin with, consider the esteem problems that virtually every girl faces. Deep down inside, no girl thinks she's pretty enough, and I think this afflicts even the prettiest and the most egoistic of girls. Regardless of whether it is because of the media-portrayed unattainable ideal beauty of a woman or a fundamental biological issue due to the emotional and perfectionistic nature of girls in this aspect, every normal, average girl seems to have some degree of insecurity about the way she looks.

'At least she knows she's pretty', then, is a celebration of the girl who has come to terms with her insecurities and accepts that she is pretty. Or pretty enough. That is more than anyone can really ask for I guess. Prettiness may be superficial, but here's her clincher - so what if it is? Strong indeed is the girl who can acknowledge her prettiness (or beauty), whether she really is or not. Such a girl has truly come to terms with her feminine propensity.

To dig further, the 'if she gets nowhere in life'-line represents the idea that we all must get somewhere in life and this 'place' of destiny is often not self-defined, but rather ascertained by society in the forms of a job, an education or a husband. Or looks, as the media, amongst other socially-reinforcing means, deems fit.

This part of the lyric is about chasing after a societal benchmark and then falling short of it. Here, then, we celebrate the girl who doesn't let the all too familiar criticism get to her head and instead revels in the self awareness that she's 'pretty'.

And by 'pretty', this could mean every single trifling, frivolous quality she has, such as a liking for flowers, a great voice for singing, some graceful dancing feet and other passions she owns that society tries to suppress by telling her that she naturally ain't good at math in school, to get a real job or find a typical man for a husband. When at least she knows she's pretty, at least she knows that she has passions and as long as her heart is open, she will get somewhere someday.

This is still a very optimistic interpretation and I may be criticised for that, but that's how I'd see it beyond the typical sadness of having only to rely on a very transient and temporal quality when you haven't lived up to society's yardsticks.

And boy, I'd toast my heart out to any girl with the innocence and courage like that.

Staring into the intersection, she thinks that she can fly and she might
Holding on in a new direction, she's gonna try it tonight
The closer I get to feeling, the further that I'm feeling from alright
The more I step into the sun, the more I step out of the light

Jessica is covered in a blanket on a Sunday porch
Thinking of weekends she would party in the city
She doesn't have a flame, she'd prefer to burn out like a torch
If she gets nowhere in life, at least she know's she pretty

She said, "Hey, now, the straw dog's out in the street
Hey now, there's chemicals in the clouds
Hey now, they're calling the police
They won't get to us, anyhow."

The moon is shining now and shadows are what's left of all the noise
Simple silhouettes and cutouts as if we had the choice
He listens closely now, swears that he can hear a voice
That's calling him

And saying, "Hey, now, the straw dog's out in the street
Hey now, there's chemicals in the clouds
Hey now, they're calling the police
They won't get to us, anyhow."

What does it take to be a superhero in our world?
Make no mistake that these villains always get the girl
We can escape, and then we'd skate away from all of this
And no one ever does.

She's saying "Hey, now, the straw dog's out in the street
Hey now, there's chemicals in the clouds
Hey now, they're calling the police
They won't get to us, anyhow."

Straw Dog
Something Corporate

On the lyrics, SoCo says, "that actually comes back to that book I was telling you about, the 'Dao De Jing', it’s a reference from that book. A 'straw dog' is like this ceremonial figure in some, I’m going to really fuck this up, but in some eastern culture it’s almost how a crucifix is looked at in Christianity. The only difference is after it’s one of the most respected thing in their ceremonies, they trash it out in the street, they beat it up and disregard it."

"To me that was kind of a pretty decent statement about the way youth is treated in America. Like everybody says that they’re our future and most important thing in the world. Then you see the way that teachers and police and everybody treat them, they kind of treat them like shit even though they supposedly the most honored thing in the world. That’s kind of like my take on it."

"It’s not anything I would ever expect anybody to decipher, it’s like the most senseless babble. To me writing was never more of an inventing type thing. If I can’t relate to it on personal level then it’s bullshit to me anyway, so it ends up being more specific than general."

Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.

Audio Candy:
Buckcherry - Sorry

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Random Bickering

This is gonna sound angsty, but I'm not, honest. :]

I've been told I'm lucky countless times. The most salient reason for that now resides in the fact that I'm done with my midterms much earlier than most others. I'm told I'm lucky that I only have a 3-day week, CT in the first part of the term, that I'm a guy, that I have a desirable metabolic rate so I'll always stay skinny etc.

In fact, I got a lot of this during my army unit days, because my carefully thought-out actions led to a rather smooth-sailing journey.

I guess I won't deny the obvious - I do seem much more well-off than most others, but I must say that these are all things I've never desperately hoped for. Actually, I didn't ask for any of this either. In some profound way of thinking about it, I reckon that the more you despairingly desire for something the more it will seem to elude you because your high hopes then fall resoundingly flat whenever you don't get the right end of the bargain. As always, we take for granted what we own and lament and long for the things we don't have, so to many people it seems like they've got the short end of the stick.

In some way or other, perhaps I simply seem luckier because I have less to complain about than most other people do. You may say that's true only because indeed the grass is greener on my side, but hold on a second; the grass is only greener as you perceive it to be - I could blacken this whole scenery by being a real bitch myself but I just simply won't.

Of course, I'm not complaining about the stuff I'm blessed with. But at the same time, I don't lament that you're smarter or richer than me, or that you've got a closer-knit family than I do. When I was barraged with stats, psychology, sociology, LTB and a 5-day week last term, I hardly ever grumbled about it unless someone else compelled me to. And on the flipside, I was never desperate to be a consistent IPPT gold-getter. I never asked to be 180cm tall. I was never dying for the midterms to be over. I could have 10 more midterms than anybody else and still I wouldn't bitch about you being luckier than me the way everyone else seems to do. Maybe it isn't easy being as optimistic as I am, but I guess anyone can take it from me that the more you don't give a shit, the less turdy you'll feel about life. I'm only just peeved at the endless trivial you're-so-luckys I always get for just being myself.

On another issue, sometimes I really wonder how I'd gotten myself entangled in your mess.

And in yet more unrelated things, I guess I'm a real asshole sometimes in relative sense to what is expected of proper social behaviour. But I don't really care I suppose; less modest but more honest, as I always believe.

I'm really not being angsty here haha.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Audio Candy:
Saosin - Sleepers

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Accidental Eureka

Sometimes, you read blog posts, and some of them are so 'cryptic' that you just pass. Then days later, you talk to people and someone says something and you go, "hmm that's interesting." Then for some reason you chance upon that old 'cryptic' blog post and you suddenly realise, "oh shit, so that's what he meant," as things come full circle.

Trivial epiphanies in the bigger scheme of things, but still revelatory on a personal scale.

Dreams evaporate into oblivion so easily. I had a pretty quirky one last night which I thought would be funny to share but as the day bore on I could hardly remember any of it.

Added Blogorithm to my recommended links. Has some fantastic bite-sized reads about science, nature and religion.

Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.

Today's Listenables:
Smile Empty Soul - Jesus Is The Manager At Wal-Mart


And in a flash, my midterms are over and I won't have pesky CT classes on monday afternoons to contend with anymore. It's somewhat surreal to know that from week 8 onwards, I'll be virtually having a 2-day week.

I don't really know what I was thinking cos I handed in my econs paper with 2 questions left out. In fact, I left out 3; while on my way towards wherever, I realised there was a question I forgot to answer and practically ran back to class to request for a last minute fill in. Prof said it was okay I guess because it was just a yes or no opinion (will the US suffer a recession?). Then on my way out again I realised there were actually 2 more. Pah.

CT turned out pretty alright I guess. Political science was totally by the book, no surprises; not much I'd wanna elaborate on them, but the political science questions may pose some real good food for thought:

1) How persuasive are the arguments for a proportionally representative government?
2) "Nations are imagined communities." Should this worry us?
3) Is democracy a universal value?
4) Norms are the foundations of a healthy representative government. Agree?

Been labelled a chao mugger over the past few days. The weekend seriously didn't feel like a weekend. Matter of fact, come to think of it, I don't really recall much since the last post on Valentine's day, so I can only hope the grades for once reflect the effort I guess. Hope dangles on a string, so I suppose I'm not too bothered with that. There's so much more to look forward to once the papers are over anyway.

There's a futsal tournament at NUS next monday, and Waikiki next saturday. Barbara's roping me into her Bossaball team, whatever that really is, and I'm hoping to bring a team down for beach soccer. So yeah still gotta head down to school to do registration saikang stuff.

Newspapers are so much easier to read now that I'm empowered with some basic understanding of economics.

1 tonne weights are pulling on my eyelids. So long and good night.

A wedding ring is sort of a tourniquet worn on one's finger to stop circulation.

Today's Listenables:
Something Corporate - She Paints Me Blue

Saturday, 16 February 2008

In Suspension

BGS 2 straight days in a row. Personally, if I have to make up a class for a lesson I'd miss on a weekday public holiday, I would rather not have the public holiday and go for lesson as per normal. Weekend mornings are sacred!

So I had to adjourn Richard and Irving's birthday party rather early last night, which was really hard to do since things were warming up just as I had to leave. Farhan and I dragged ourselves off into the waiting cab at 2300h (he stays at Jurong, hence). The only piece of news I've got so far is that Irving chucked at Mikaela's plants like I did to Yitwen's. Haha. It's 2pm; I'm wondering wassup over there or where everyone is now (some were staying overnight).

But just as well since I hadn't had proper sleep in days, I tried to revise a little after reaching home - something I should've started 2 days ago already - but KO-ed prematurely at 1am. Duly overslept and reached class 45min late. Stunned everyone, I'd reckon, by still being able to class-participate even though I had barely moments to adjust myself to what the prof was lecturing about.

Sigh, BGS.

Actually, I thought today's lesson was particularly useful because An Inconvenient Truth was screened, something I'd wanted to watch since I got the movie from Qinhong last year but never really had the time to get down to. Film critic Roger Ebert said, "In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to." Al Gore got a lot of political flak as a result, with some criticizing him for connivingly using the movie industry to gain a political advantage, but certainly those global statistics and environmental problems raised deserve some attention.

Mug to death or die from the slack. Time to make some tough decisions, hmm...

Food has replaced sex in my life, now I can't even get into my own pants.

Today's Listenables:
Closure - Whatever Made You

Thursday, 14 February 2008

All We Need Is

After re-reading the last post, I really feel like I'm dispensing lousy thesis-length papers for posts and I felt like deleting it. But on second thought, this is pointless philosophy anyway.

Today is a really special day because... It's the end of my 1 year driving probation period! Woot. Amongst other things, uh. Valentine's day incidentally happens to share the same day as that so yeah happy valentine's day to those who feel inclined to enjoy it. As for those who don't, well suck it up. Happy valentine's day to you too balls!

Justin was broaching the somewhat inevitable, irritatingly typical and yet chat-worthy topic of 'wassup with valentine's day anyway' and he mused about whether it was really necessary to set aside a special day and then promulgate a culture of 'love', especially since it's unlikely that we as young stupid people would know what the hell love entails to begin with.

I really think that the necessity here depends and that valentine's day exists on many grounds. The hopeless romantics will always make this day happen, whether it is because of those in love or those who lament about not having someone to love on this day (a rather narrow point though, cos on elaboration you can also include people dating, girls receiving flowers etc where love may not exactly be existent). Then there will be capitalists who will market it and milk it for all it's profit's worth. The media needs material anyway, so it will talk about valentine's day. Etc etc.

It works because a lot of people don't really know what they want anyway.

All these things, whether knowingly or not, come together to breathe a certain life into this somewhat silly day in my opinion. Because not only does it create a rather superficial lining to the idea of what love really is, it also unfortunately makes those who are forlorn even more so. FFS!

And Justin just said that from the viewpoint of capitalism, he then applauds it. Haha.

Went for capoeira training in the evening today. We had to end it off early because the triathlon equipment is in the sports hall and the supervising people had to go early (and we weren't actually supposed to be in the hall). Naf has shockingly never been to Clarke Quay, so we decided to head down to save her from suakudom.

Got to know Jia En, this bubbly 17 year-old tomboyish SCGS girl also. It's been nice meeting the capoeira people so far, though I must add that officially, SMU's capoeira CCA only has 7 people now (5 noobs including me) so I haven't had to deal with the CCA being a big one which entails more social obligations, commitments and differences - stuff I had to deal with at Samba Masala and eventually couldn't, resulting in my subsequent falling out and quitting. But capoeira is really a 'fraternita' thing. Everyone in there is family. Maybe when I've achieved a certain level of pedigree I'll start to drop by the Substation where the group really is. They've got hundreds of people there.

This capoeira CCA is a branch of the main capoeira association in Singapore headed by Maestre Ousado (he is, I swear, this really fuckin' fit and zai capoeirista and he's like 60), and we've usually been having lessons under him but he recently had to travel so Xereu, this dreadlocked Indonesian dude who's a really high-level capoeirista, has been handling the last 2 sessions and giving us training.

The last session, which was before CNY, I was stunned to learn that Xereu is actually a 1986 baby. From his skills (he was basically proficient in every aspect of capoeira and can really use capoeira to fight) I thought he must've been practising the art for a decade at least, and with his dreadlocks and all that I thought he was perhaps 25 or 26. So it was really interesting to know how different someone who's the same age as me can be, coming from another country and all that.

So we talked and stuff through bits and pieces of halting English - patience is a virtue :] - and I found out a lot about him and his culture back home and how insanely different things are and yet similar at once.

For starters, he has only been practising capoeira for 4 years and, even though he says he trained everyday in the beginning, that's astonishing. Like I said, he looks imbued enough in the culture to seem to have trained a decade or so.

He is also proficient in karate and tae kwon do and has his own parkour and breakdance crew back home. On further probing, he has actually acted in an Indonesian movie titled 'Battle' (he calls it the Indonesian version of Tokyo Drift with lots of gang references, guns and breakdance battles) and is actively involved in the media, which I guess makes him a media celebrity back home actually. Just the other day, Men's Health magazine interviewed him for their February issue. I dunno but perhaps I'm indeed sitting by the riverside at Clarke Quay talking cock with this dude who just might be a real celebrity figure in Indonesia.

And what really strikes me is his down-to-earthness. It is so pure that it makes me wanna revisit and rethink things. Having done breakdancing and now capoeira, I'm aware of the fact that there's always this old school vs new generation conflict where, for example, the older ones will criticise the new kids for not toprocking and popping enough, only wanting to go straight into the windmills and flares and do the glamourous stuff while skipping the traditional and boring basic steps. But here's the deal with Xereu and what I gather to be the same with his friends: it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that you joined breakdance because its cool, or if you decide you wanna wear hiphop clothes cos you think its cool. Locally, we get labelled as posers for some of the things we do, and then we don't do them anymore. It's just like the institution of marriage in the idea of love. Across this spectrum of love, the more you focus on the practical things, the more you lose the basic passion behind love itself.

So although he didn't say it explicitly, I was told by his actions, "yeah so I may seem like a poser, but so what? I like what I do." But don't get me wrong, Xereu has really really sick skillz and is no poser. It's just his very innocent, boyish disposition that tells you that he chose to pursue the things he does because he felt they were cool stuff to do (he took up capoeira because he was playing Tekken and was fascinated by Eddie Gourdo's fighting style!), and is a strong advocator of following one's passions. In spite of the obvious cultural differences, I think we all need a little bit more of that perhaps.

On the bummer side of things, my laptop came back yesterday but crashed last night, and has stayed crashed since. My MP3 player hung up and when I brought it to the Creative Care Centre, all they could do was format it for me, effectively erasing my 1955 songs, hundreds of videos and photos. I think I can liken this to some invisible hand of change dealing me a huge blow like some social upheaval leading to a complete political turnaround, so I think I seriously will be much less IT-reliant from now on.

Growing old is nothing more than mind over matter; If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Today's Listenables:
Default - Blind

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Happiness Is A Warm Gun


- You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown

Yinyin says, "happiness is 70% delusion."

The bottomline is happiness is a state of mind. Human desire is innately insatiable and what lures us to the future is the renewal of this appetite. When you live in a culture that is obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, it reflects a sad chasm of sorts. Sure, I'm not saying that we should all then seek to be sad, or as tautology would have it, be not not sad, unhappy or seek the lack of happiness. It's just that when so many people place such a high value on something that you can't always count on, then it gets overrated.

People mug their lives off to get the degree, which would give them the chance to slog their lives off to get that house, which in turn gives them the opportunity to incur more housework and bills, all in the name of pursuing something that should've made them happy. It seems that our brains are all wired to form logic-processing errors that make us want the things that cause us to be unhappy (and perhaps not want the things that produce happiness).

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
- A.A. Milne

It's then easy to see how many people can find a happy state of mind to be delusional. It is transient, lifts one up above level 0 and then drops you down to -1 when it's over because the you dwell on the fact that the happiness wasn't real and convince yourself that you were better off without that temporal state of joy. Everything that happiness promises therefore becomes something you'll never have. Happiness then becomes something to shun and that in itself causes further burden.

I think this is a self sustaining reinforcement of general unhappiness which starts from somewhere. It could be self created when there is evidence that happiness is mostly genetic, or it could've been triggered by an event that makes one believe strongly enough that there really is no true happiness and that such a revelation plunges one into a dungeon of despair that is always at odds with happiness itself, thus creating that self sustaining cycle of unhappiness with any state of mind: happiness as well as unhappiness.

As psychologist Daniel Gilbert writes, "it's as though we're equipped with a hedonic thermostat that is constantly resetting us back to our emotional baseline." Happiness could very well be a biological tool. "How do we manage to think of ourselves as great drivers, talented lovers and brilliant chefs when the facts of our lives include a pathetic parade of dented cars, disappointed partners and deflated soufflés?" Gilbert asks. "The answer is simple: We cook the facts."

That's why they say the insane ones have it better, as parts of their brains designed to fool us with the right amount of delusion to get through life are impaired. The clinically depressed seem less susceptible to these basic 'cognitive errors'. Healthy people can be deluded into greater happiness when granted the mere illusion of control over their environment; the clinically depressed recognize the illusion for what it is. All in all, it's evidence that unhappy people seem to have the more accurate view of reality — and that learning how to healthily 'delude' ourselves may be the key to leading a better mental life.

A great deal of this gripe with the realisation that we are deluded stems from the fact that we, especially the more westernised, are spoon-fed with an ideal concept of happiness to keep us complacent. Once that fragile delusion we define as happiness is crushed, so are many people who can't handle it.

I know my own happiness, and I'd also like to think that I know enough to ensure that I'd never fool myself about what's real and what isn't. There is joy in being in the company of good friends, of having the opportunity to be pensive on a long bus ride, of having a can of beer and a packet of chips, of buying a new gadget, of having a satisfying discussion about stupid and pointless things, of having something to do, of having nothing to do, of being able to simply be alive. I know I am pissed if someone tells me I am damn bo jio, I am sad if I end up doing badly for psychology, I feel loss if a loved one passes away or whatever unhappy emotion that accompanies forgetting to watch an Arsenal vs Manchester United match of the season when I didn't have anything to do anyway.

In fact, paradoxically, there is joy for me in being a cynic; i.e. I can be happy being skeptical of happiness. I know happiness is flawed; the resultant 'happiness' is my ability to spot it, deal with it, etc. The problem lies in the pursuit of joy because happiness is funny - the more you want it, the more it eludes you; the more you place it on a pedestal, the more it becomes the worst hypocrite; your worst nightmare.

Personally speaking, it is when your focus in life is right and you can transcend the superficialities of what others would like to have you believe is happiness that you can embrace the moment. Embrace the wondrous by-products (for lack of a better word) of the means to happiness, and then learn to let go.

People always dwell on guilt or regret, which is such a waste of mental and emotional resource. A lot of life is lived on hindsight, and a barrage of things such as, "I shouldn't have bought that Mango shirt I never ever wear", "NS was crap, but looking back I guess it was okay" or "I feel cheated having come to SMU" only to say it wasn't so bad years later when you're in the workforce.

Why not just realise the situation you're in and then embrace it? This is an honest, in-the-moment assessment; any other hindsight revisiting is self-lying delusion. Such post-hoc self-rationalization for irrational behaviour, to me, also contributes to why so many people are unhappy with happiness and the resultant delusion that seems to accompany it.

That said, much of the unhappiness that comes along with happiness itself centers on the aspect of one's expectations of happiness and how one deals with it. It is thus unfair to say that happiness is detrimental and is hence unnecessary/evil/a burden and we could or should do without it. This is a somewhat controversial point but it is largely agreed that a universal determinant of emotion is one's level of happiness (i.e. anger, sadness, etc all only have value in relation to the benchmark of happiness - think brightness as amount of light, goodness as degree of morality, coldness as lack of heat, etc arguments). Hence to eliminate the potential for happiness is to kill off emotion altogether. How much of a human does that make? There's only an issue when one is at odds with happiness itself.

There are many tenets to life that show that dwelling on the fact that happiness is delusional (which really may not be a bad thing) is unnecessary. Focusing narrowly on a love lost is forgetting that it is a greater deed to have loved than never. Brooding excessively over a broken dream is unfairly shutting out the beauty of having had a sense of purpose. We all could have it so much better if we stop romanticising the unnecessary dwelling over unhappiness. It is all a matter of coming to terms with things the moment, especially when you are fully capable of it.

"There is no mystery to happiness.

Unhappy men are all alike. Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn - or worse, indifference - cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He doesn't look ahead. He lives in the present.

But there's the rub. The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning - the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life - a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them."

- Jed Rubenfeld, The Interpretation of Murder

Essentially, happiness being a delusion isn't the problem. We are often as unhappy as we can allow ourselves to be. Sure, people may dismiss this as being further disillusioned, but the equation is really simple. Some people have to be enlightened to the fact that it's all a matter of perception and focus in life that allows you to seek happiness when it matters and seek meaning when you have to. These are two different things but, when well understood, they sum up to make our lives so much better.

Go forth, enjoy the process of being in school, of being a teenager, of being a friend, and when that is over, move on. Dwelling on the fact that your happiness was inevitably short-lived is but a futile attempt to cling on to something that cannot last. Look forward where your passions lead (rather than be told what degree to choose, what job is best for you, what you should do at all) not because you will find joy, but because it will give you a sense of meaning in life. The pursuit of happiness only leaves you flailing at thin air; true joy will come inevitably when you seek meaning through your passions.

Happiness is a Warm Gun is a Beatles song written by John Lennon. The American Rifle Association adopted Charles Schulz's Peanuts book titled "Happiness is a Warm Puppy" and came up with the controversial phrase for their cause: "Happiness is a warm gun in your hand" which John Lennon chanced upon in a magazine. He said, "I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something."

And since this is a post on happiness, I might as well have a couple of quotes rather than the usual one liner.

If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.
- Edith Wharton

Nobody really cares if you're miserable, so you might as well be happy.
- Cynthia Nelms

Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness.
- Robertson Davies

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.
- James Openheim

There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.
- Logan Pearsall Smith, Afterthoughts, 1931

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tranquil pleasures last the longest; we are not fitted to bear the burden of great joys.
- Christian Nestell Bovee

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
- Frederick Koenig

Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.
- Hosea Ballou

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.

Today's Listenables:
Angels And Airwaves - Demise

Feelin' Da Heat

I'll be having my economics and political science midterms next tuesday, as well as my Creative Thinking presentation next monday. In the preceding days, thursday, friday and monday will be fully packed with things to do so that effectively leaves me with 3 days to prep everything and muggg (if I can finally get down to it I guess). So this is some really serious crunch time.

On the upside, once CT is over on monday it'll be over and done with for good. As for economics and political science, well its just the midterms I suppose, and that can't be as bad as revising for a full term's worth of syllabus.

I'll also be getting my laptop back finally. And so Euodia says, "you're so positive." I'd like to think so, because why not? I could choose to whine and gripe about things (siala 2 subjects for midterms but both on same day!) but it's not like that's gonna change anything. :]

The Chinese New Year celebration at Yinyin's hostel went well in a somewhat random and haphazard fashion, proving the adage that it doesn't matter what you do as long as you've got great company. Other than the yusheng with gummies, at other times we were just doing really crappy stuff without anything planned and even ended up pouring a whole pail of water down 2 storeys.

It was nice to see a real foosball tournament materialise. Haha I sucked and Rachel rocked. Here's the standings:

It's been a long week (I'm not kidding though it's only tuesday) and I was grateful for a chance to indulge in pure abandon (okay I'm exaggerating I guess but it's comparative) by heading down to Coffee Bean and chill out over really typical boy-girl discussions that will never die out.

Here's to having enough hours of sleep as I can finally wake up late tomorrow. It's been seriously days since I've slept adequately.

Only in America can a homeless combat veteran live in a cardboard box whilst a draft dodger lives in the White House.

Today's Listenables:
By The Wayside - Long Time Waiting

Working Class Romance

I was random-surfing and I dug up a really old article that Yucheng wrote that I felt is quite worth a read. Actually, it's not old in the sense of me not having seen this article for years, as I did ask him to reproduce it for Love Airways last year when I was still working there, but it's old because he wrote it way back in 2004.

Well I mean... Heck, we were lamenting about working class romance when we were 18. I now know that I felt infinitely more ignorant when I was 18 as compared to now (not just in not knowing much, but saying and thinking things that really don't make sense or are reflectively immature) and 18 is hardly the age to be worrying about stuff like working class romance, but this is one of the things that I believe holds durable truth and it is impressive to say the least.

since i have time i'll give y'all an older man's perspective on love and romance and all that. so a while back me and the semi professional juggler min jiang was going home and somehow we was talkin abbt all that love and all that. and somehow he said that at his age(i think he's like 24-25 or something) you start worrying about saving up for marriage. but the thing is he's single! so here's the deal.

teenagers look for the girl. than worry about marriage finances and all that. them working people worry about the finances than see who pops up.

so i was telling him that whenever i see 20,30-some couples i get the feeling they're not all falling head over heels with each other, i always get the feeling that the girl's with him '50% cos i like him and i enjoy his company, 30% cos he's rich and can support me and maybe future kids which translates to capabilities which translates to good genes which translates to i-want-his-genes, and 10% cos im getting old and i need to marry and bear children, and 10% cos i don't have a sex life and i'm a horny bitch inside although i look fairly decent in office wear'

and than you look back at secondary school romances that were born solely out of mutual attraction(usually physical on the dick side)(call it love or infactuation or crush or lust and all that i dont give a shit) and you..well, secondary school romances just seem so much more innocent and pure compared to working adults trying to complete their life.

now don't get me wrong. i'm not putting down working class romance. it's just that there are so many other factors that come into play. not trying to flaunt superiority complexes here but i've been brainwashed to think that love is pure and there's that someONE out there that we'll just click and all that. now THAT happened with the dumb close friend(altho i'd rather belief it did not). and already there was so much in between us to piss everyone off. so maybe true love or wat y'all choose to call it really isn't just about mutual attraction. maybe 2 people need to have attributes like family background and monthly income and house and car and all that to click before they marry each other and say she/he's the one and all that mushy jizz. i mean i guess love and all that has to have a practical touch just to screw things up eh?

so i guess a good monthly income and house and short car without good looks and good personality still makes a mildly eligible bachelor although everyone will be saying the gals sucking me for dollars, i still get to bone hot girls. but that's if i become successful. maybe i'm just trying to say that im not really gonna hope to marry a girl tht im just attracted to and we click. i'll probably get successful or a stable income than see who pops along and settle with her and all that, and convince myself she's the girl of my dreams. wat a life. wat a wife. or maybe not. pah. so much for 'don't get into a relationship unless u're gonna marry her' screw love. shit's fucked up.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

RK Eating House

Was doing a random search on RK Eating House when I stumbled upon ieatishootipost's review of RK's prata. I thought he was being very kind on their standards. You can view it here.

Because of the close-to-heart nature of the discussion I decided to post a reply.

Amusingly, people started digressing towards (what else? WHAT ELSE??) the RK no pork video and some of the comments remind me that in spite of Singapore's small size, we don't really know a lot about what's going on around, and so there are still a lot of people who go, "wtf? So RK really exists??"

I think the video (its actually not really even a video) is really a hoax.

Anyway, personally I've always felt that the standard of food and service there has been in decline since it first appeared about 4 years back, if I'm not wrong. The food and drinks served are rather inconsistent and sometimes it can be rather substandard. And back then, RK still aired soccer matches.

An additional piece of trivia that might interest you: There are other RK Eating House branches; one in Bishan and one in Hougang. But both pale in comparison when it comes to popularity (or infamy if you'd like) to their big brother in Serangoon Gardens.

What's the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts? Beer nuts are $1.50 and deer nuts are under a buck.

Today's Listenables:
Fall Out Boy - Don't You Know Who I Think I Am

Day 2

After watching I Do, I Do yesterday, it reaffirms my stand that Adrian Pang really is God's gift to Singapore TV.

And in Yitwen's words, the world came to a standstill. During CNY, bus services slow down and nothing's open which really sucks.

I traveled down to Justin's (the SMU guy) place today for a visit, and along the way past memory lane as he stays at Sennett Lane, East Coast Hill. A significant part of my childhood revolved around Stangee and Katong area and a horde of recollections flooded my memory which would've stayed forgotten in the deep recesses of my mind otherwise, as each passing coffeeshop along the road triggered nostalgic experiences one by one. I recall the run-down kopitiam where we used to have reunion dinners, which was actually already very luxurious when I was just a kid, and all of us little kids would run off to the nearby 7-11 (which, I presume, is gone because I couldn't spot it) to get self-service assorted candy in the plastic bag, and the other provision shop to get Tora Tora, that thing with the surprise toy inside.

There were other steel and concrete reminders as well, but they're only as fascinating as they matter to me on a personal level, so I guess I shall stop short of rattling on about it.

I must honestly say that my visit to Justin's was the visit I enjoyed the most thus far, even though I didn't do much there. If visiting is all about socialising and socialising is all about having a good time talking to people about things that matter or even make sense to begin with, then every relative's house visit has paled extremely in comparison to this. Beer, cards and guys who can share a wisecrack or two don't hurt either.

There was a 91.3FM deejay named Audrey at our table too and I thought she was quite interesting.

Left after an hour and went back to school to get my books home because the readings overdue were piling up to 150-odd pages, excluding political science. So yeah alarm bells are ringing there and tomorrow's the weekend already.

Today involved a lot of long bus rides and I really think these long bus rides are a huge medium for pensive energy. If I were to put a notepad and pen in every chair and anyone who had a decent thought - some inspiration, an emo moment, thoughtful reflection - was to write it down, I cannot imagine what we'd come up with. One day, I would just like to dedicate an entire day to traveling to nowhere on buses - board a bus I've never boarded before, drop at a place I've never been to, take the next bus that comes along - and after many next buses that come along see where I end up. I'd do this not least because it also reflects how carefree I am if I can dedicate so much time to such an act of frivolity.

I like it when my mind starts running off on its own and a whole train of thought develops itself without any conscious effort on my part to do so, and then I'll 'snap back' and see where the thought chain ends up. This peaked during the time between ORD and the starting of school around the most part of early last year, and I've found it increasingly hard to engage this nowadays, perhaps because studying in school can constrain thinking.

Had supper and more beer til 3am. This is what I'd call an enjoyable CNY day. 心想事成 to everyone, because really every other CNY greeting/wish is redundant next to this one. Kinda like wishing for 'happiness' on your birthday before you blow out the candles.

Friday, 8 February 2008

That Gaudy-Red Festival

It's gaudy-red time again!

Kickstarted CNY eve yesterday by helping out in the spring cleaning effort, but soon my dad's anal-ness made me go out earlier than I'd wanted to. With nowhere in mind, I aimlessly took 147 towards school and then met up Mikaela, the only familiar living soul I could encounter within the deserted premises.

It was like a ghost town with all the shops closed, so we headed down to Long John Silver's at Plaza Singapura for some bites and talked for a bit to while the time away.

I was told to be at Tanjong Pagar MRT by 6pm so when it was about 15mins to five I started embarking on a hike towards Tanjong Pagar from Dhoby Ghaut. Past the majestic Supreme Court edifice at City Hall and the tranquil river dividing Raffles Place from Boat Quay, I suddenly started losing my way and was determinedly trying to find directions from the Raffles Place MRT map when my mom SMSed to say that rendezvous has been delayed til 8pm; what a bummer.

So in all randomness, I took a train back to town and eventually went to Borders and read bits and pieces here and there from at least 10 good books ranging from Tony Blair's biography to consciousness philosophy to space-time-universe theory, reminding myself that bookstores are undoubtedly the best places to be to kill some time. Then I headed down for dinner proper.

Been sleeping way too little to be sociable (on top of being already naturally unsociable towards my relatives), so reunion dinner was yet another somewhat awkward affair with an annual dose of really bad food. We perhaps all know what constitutes to a satisfactory serving of food for me, so sharing dishes with that stipulated amount per table really doesn't cut it for me. And not forgetting that I hate mushrooms, sea cucumber, brinjal, etc etc. Someone remind me why this is supposed to be fantastic, because in my case neither 'reunion' nor 'dinner' went well.

Justin, my 25 year-old cousin, is what I'd really call the darling son in the family. He never fails to be the life of the party and it's not that he's an attention-seeking person or the things he says aren't funny or witty. The uncles all love to banter with him and that includes my dad too. I've always wondered what the outcome would be if Justin was his son. My dad and I can ever hardly talk, and it felt as if the both of them exchanged more words between them in those 2hrs than my dad and I had ever done in my lifetime so far.

That preceded the usual neighbourhood temple visit which I absolutely dread, because amongst other more obvious religious reasons, my eyes are extremely sensitive to the smoke. Yet another late night and early morning next, and a truckload of visiting which I effectively space out to deal with.

I'll skip the usual gripes I'd whine about. One of the interesting things I've noticed is that conversations, however few and awkward, are starting to gravitate towards the degree/girlfriend/job/studies side. It's the only thing I can seem to sustain a conversation about, and I'm always musing in the background of my mind while I conversate, "here we go again."

What made CNY day 1 a little more interesting was the visit to my nanny's when I was between 3-6 years old, whom I used to call Auntie Mama. Some fleeting memories returned, such as the porch and the long and narrow living room that made you sit really close to the TV. And since it had been almost 20 years since they last saw me (I never visited), I was given celebrity-status attention as they endlessly exclaimed, once past the shock, that I was unrecognisable/so tall/so dark/etc.

There was this guy, Freddie, who's the husband of this lady, Jane, who is my nanny's daughter and he's a managing director. So there was plenty of allusion towards that job standard (complete with 2 maids and a Merc) because he is now the man apparently. More job comparisons, more getting told that I've gotta achieve that kinda career level or better it.

When Kenny's dad (I prefer to refer to uncles this way) found out about my breakup and that it was due to religious issues, he went on this Buddhism preaching barrage and all that jazz about karma and got so excited and carried away that when Kenny tried to interrupt him to ask about something (important, I'd actually reckon), he just sharply snapped, "Shut up la! People talking!" and continued going on and on. Geez. But it was extremely amusing when it happened.

Went over to my mom's side of the family for more visits, and I guess the only stuff that were worth mentioning were the beer and my conversation with Suihar because it finally didn't feel like an obligatory chat.

Went to RK to supposedly celebrate Yap's birthday but the scrimpish prick was too stingy to give a treat. So ends day 1, and I doubt day 2 or another subsequent day for that matter will mean much to me. Even the red packets don't anymore - with the money, my dad'll just take a month off giving me allowance anyway so it'll sum up to be essentially the same. Sometimes I feel bad for them having to give out red packets (which is ridiculous I'll admit cos it's probably been already budgeted in their financial plans) so I did offer to give them my red packets so that they can give them out. 'Cos in all honesty, everything just eventually comes full circle in terms of such financial economics anyway (i.e. zero-sum game) and I don't quite need the guise of red-packet-giving to give me a false sense of happiness in that respect.

Haha okay sorry for being such a cynical prick but I've also gotta add that I didn't shop for anything at all this CNY, and my mom was really starting to worry that I'd end up wearing a pair of old 2nd-hand jeans that uncle William gave me (which isn't auspicious since it doesn't reflect on our propensity for wealth) so she ended up buying a striped red polo tee for me. I don't quite know the figures, but that definitely brings my tally of clothing owned but not bought by me to an all time high. I can't quite recall the last time I shopped, or even wanted to shop, for that matter.

I believe we should all pay our tax bill with a smile. I tried — but they wanted cash.

Today's Listenables:
Finger Eleven - Drag You Down

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Blah, Seriously

The efforts of last week's prep for today's political science presentation totally went down the drain. I guess Rahul Sagar was just being particularly utilitarian (in the literal sense, not the ideology you pol science freaks) with regards to this presentation thing. In a sense he wanted this presentation to be a means of the group 'teaching' the class and then raising the topic of debate which he will then address, and he will sum things up after.

But perhaps time has been a constraint, so he decided to open things up by lecturing a little first, then letting us present. The problem was that he touched on so many things that we were gonna present on and eventually perhaps got somewhat impatient that we were reiterating what he had said and told us to skip parts of the presentation. I think we skipped about 3/4 of what we were gonna present.

So our presentation just looked really terrible.

I'm not that bothered pertaining to the grades although I know the possibility of this being a flunked presentation; I'm just feeling really blah in an extremely unfulfilled way that we really had a lot to offer but couldn't because of something we weren't fairly prepared for. And it kinda sucks to know that Angie and Benita, who both wanna major in political science and thus would take huge pride in this for, might potentially have their grades compromised due to this really ridiculous misadventure.

And the efforts man. Also, I liked this chapter alot because for once it wasn't so much about stuff like parliamentary systems, but rather about rationality which is really within my philosophical capacity to deal with.

On the bright side of things, I can take a breather of sorts now that a major project from an absolutely gargantuan module has been done with.

Anyway, this is really a personal opinion but I think sociology with a little more effort put into it would simply be political science. Sociology is such a half-assed subject to me that it's just like political science without the conviction of coming to some conclusive ends.

Chinese New Year's comin' and usually my family would have a personal reunion dinner together the day before CNY eve. It's been quite awhile since I last had dinner at home, or even a meal for that matter, and I missed dinner today though I could've easily just have went home early. I came home to a really huge spread that had gone cold on the table so I felt bad and that kinda sucked on hindsight.

Sucks that the laptop will be back only after CNY too, and all the doubled homework from not having any lessons for the rest of the week.

Actually one of the reasons, or perhaps the fundamental reason that led on to other things, of why I ended up going home late today was because a smart-assed me went to raise the philosophical morality question about God to Benita after class, and we (including Isaac and Angie) ended up talking about it for a solid hour after everyone else had deserted the classroom. It led me to revisit my own beliefs which I haven't talked about for quite some time, and they are beliefs I used to talk about with much fervour before I mellowed down, for whatever reasons (the understanding that nothing can be conclusive anyway, or just simply realising that I can be too imposing perhaps). But I think it might be quite useful for me to formally address this so that I can solidify what I think, rather than being really g4y and telling people that what I believe in entails a long story and procrastinate only to say it in the end in a really half-assed manner 'cos I cannot grasp my rusty train of thought. So yeah, I'm dedicating a post to that.

After you've heard two eyewitness accounts of an automobile accident, you begin to worry about history.

Today's Listenables:
I Am Ghost - We Are Always Searching

On A Personal Take Of Religion

I must disclaim firstly that this is not an article about what is wrong with/why you shouldn't accept Christianity (and other religions if you will) or why pantheism is good/why you should adopt pantheism. This article seeks to familiarise the reader with the concepts of pantheism, the scientific and non-scientific foundations that undergird it (and perhaps why they are sound and worthy), pantheism's stand in relation to science and other religions and how it works for myself as it might for anybody else.

When it comes to the question of what I believe in, what my faith is, or in popular terms, what's my religion, for starters I'd always like to state that I am largely inclined towards pantheism. A problem with that is that not many people know what pantheism is to begin with, so a brief Wikipedia overview would be:

Pantheism is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe (the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be) is represented in the theological principle of an abstract 'god' rather than a personal, creative deity or deities of any kind.

An oft-cited feature of pantheism is that each individual human, being part of the Universe or nature, is part of God. One issue discussed by pantheists is how, if this is so, humans can have free will. In answer, the following analogy is sometimes given (particularly by classical pantheists): "you are to God as an individual blood cell in your vein is to you." The analogy further maintains that while a cell may be aware of its own environs, and even has some choices (free will) between right and wrong (killing a bacterium, becoming malignant, or perhaps just doing nothing, among countless others), it likely has little conception of the greater being of which it is a part. Another way to understand this relationship is through the Hindu phrase, tat tvam asi - "that thou art", wherein the human soul/self or Atman is understood to be the same as God or Brahman - only people do not realize it. In this Hindu context, they believe that one must be liberated through enlightenment (moksha) in order to experience and fully understand this relationship - the part becomes no longer dissimilar from the whole.

If you haven't been bored til this point, fantastic.

Admittedly, a significant factor that contributes to my adoption of this faith and not that of Christianity (or, to a lesser extent, some other mainstream faith) is my rejection of some of the basic absolutist axioms of Christianity.

But essentially, I'm not an atheist, for I believe in a God of sorts, except that I simply do not wish to personify this Being. But with that said, there is a huge conflict on many grounds, especially with that of Christian-related beliefs. For easier functionality, I shall continue to use 'God' for the rest of this writeup.

A lot of what contributes to my pantheistic inclinations at this point stems from a lot of reading on quantum physics. I know many people will then be extremely skeptical of this: science and religion are two different things; how then can you attempt to reconcile your 'religion' using such a scientific basis and attempt to refute my religion which is based on faith? My short cut answer to that would be that I really believe science and religion are two sides of the same coin. Yes, I am making the claim that science and religion/faith/etc fundamentally share the same truths and can be said to be the same things, and if this can be understood the way I do, I think it can be truly breathtaking. I'll touch on it in brief.

(This is a truncated post which excludes the explanations and mechanisms behind the history and processes that led to these findings, as well as their implications. You might find this truncated version inadequate in your understanding. To read the whole post, click here.)

Through the double-slit experiment, quantum physics opened the doors towards understanding that:

  1. we live in a universe that is 'an undivided whole',
  2. we are one with it, and part of it,
  3. the universe is a world of potentiality rather than predictability, and
  4. that we actually participate in the operation of this universe - it responds to us.

Through the EPR Paradox, science discovered that the basic substance of the universe is composed of invisible quantum fields, rather than atoms, which:

  1. are non-material patterns of energy that exert visible influence (e.g. magnetic, gravitational, etc),
  2. exist throughout space and time,
  3. are the medium through which energy is carried in the form of waves,
  4. are the means that particles emerge, and
  5. are infinite in number in the universe and are endlessly interacting with other fields.

Although much scientific work remains to be done, every step continues to verify the idea that the quantum realm is the transitional realm between God, or for that matter, Intelligence, Force or Power if you wish, and the material world, which is where this Force that created the universe continues to move into physical expression.

Researchers such as Robert John and Brenda Dune have suggested that the realm of the mind where thoughts are born behaves much like the quantum realm of waves and particles. When a thought moves in the mind, it creates a field. When that field interacts with another field, something happens - a particle forms. An idea begins to take place.

As it states that there exists a realm that responds to the expectancy of the individual participant, this can explain the power of the subconscious mind.

Consider why hauntings seem to be more prevalent in rural areas and less so in developed cities. The collective consciousness of the people who are superstitious enough can be a contributing factor towards the manifestation of ghosts. This might also explain why the presence of God feels so strong in church especially during a very collective event such as mass. On an individual level, it has been shown that a sportsperson can significantly up his game if he is able to effectively tap into his subconscious mind a belief that he can play better, even without training, as if he had been training for days prior to the game.

Here, subconscious thoughts manifest themselves into tangible forms and through an understanding of the universe through quantum physics, it is explained due to the existence of 'universal laws', or 'spiritual laws', whichever you want to call these natural laws that quantum physics tries to understand.

If I were an atheist, I would believe occurrences to be random and independent of any form of theological governance. In a pantheistic sense of belief, things do not occur at random; the 'force' of God is manifested through these natural laws. It is in this belief that there is a sense of an engineering force that gives rise to the belief that there is a core set of truth(s) that can marry science and religion.

Take the Big Bang Theory for example (you can remain skeptical of it, but consider the example for the sake of this discussion). Around 15 billion years ago, energy compressed into a speck smaller than an atom was released and it had enough energy to form the universe and everything that exists today. This is mind-bogglingly incomprehensible, especially if, within 1 second of the moment of creation, the rate of expansion of cosmic energy had been different by 1 part per quadrillion (1 divided by 10 to the power of 15), nothing would exist. Less, and the expansion would be too fast for anything to form. More, and the universe would have collapsed in on itself.

This would be a huge case to note against randomness, for its chance occurrence would be too small to be possible, which would mean that there is indeed some form of order to things.

In the parallel between science and religion, how prayer works can perhaps be explained in the aspect of expectations and the subconscious mind. In knowing that the subconscious mind is allusional to the quantum realm as the place of transition between God and the material world, it helps to comprehend how the force of God and the natural laws of order permeate the universe and move into the material world. The laws always remain; it just depends on whether we know how to live in harmony with these laws. Just like the fact that the law of gravity exists doesn't mean people cannot fly; in understanding how Newtonian physics works, a 'miracle' like defying gravity, so to speak, or flying can indeed occur. Prayer essentially seems to manifest itself most when faith is at its strongest, which is a simple possibility when you consider how this works within the framework of quantum physics.

Who knows? Christian scientists have indeed used quantum physics to explain Christianity. In danger of sounding absolutely blasphemous, perhaps quantum physics could really be the semiotic term for explaining the means of God.

Sages, philosophers and mathematicians such as Platos and Pythagoras have long since believed we live in a world of connectedness, but it is not til the exploration of quantum physics demonstrated that this is, in the sense of the word, scientifically true. This explains the pantheistic idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe, as represented in the theological principle of an abstract God and that each individual human, being part of the Universe or nature, is part of 'God' in this sense, as man's role is no longer an observer but a participator as well.

That said, I personally believe in an abstract God, a core set of truth(s) and natural, spiritual laws and that they are probably somewhat synonymous and that every religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, stems from some desire to understand and live in harmony with this core truth, of which science is a relentless hunter of as well. The fact that a huge majority of the world partakes in some of form of religious belief can be testament to its existence too.

Insofar as my belief is broadly-encompassing in this aspect, I can also consider how the Bible can be right even if I, as a non-Christian, do not subscribe to it in its literal sense. I would view the Bible as an allegory of the real events of creation and tenets of law and truth, where the 7 days of genesis might not have been 24hr days, or that Noah's Ark might really have meant something else since no concrete proof has ever been found to confirm its occurrence.

A better allusion between science (reality) and the Bible (religion) would be that behind all Einstein's thought lay the role given in the Jewish-Christian religion to the primacy and constancy of light. The Genesis account of creation states the primacy of light in the line "And God said, Let there by light: and there was light." It is stated that God is himself eternal uncreated Light, but he created the universe in such a way that it is governed by created light. Light cannot be seen, but we can see only what is lit up by light. It is through deciphering light signals that all our knowledge of the cosmos in macroscopic and microscopic levels is learned. The mathematical properties of light have a central role in scientific theory, such as in the scientific description of the space/time universe. Light is not defined with reference to anything else, rather it is the opposite. Light has a unique physical and metaphysical status in the universe – it is an ultimate factor, the Constant expressed as C in scientific equations (E = MC²). If light were not constant, if the movement of light varied or wobbled in any way, there would be chaos. It is light that reveals the orderly nature of things. The constancy of light throughout the created order reflects the faithfulness of God of which the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures all speak – God does not play dice.

People have pointed out that pantheism seems to fall short of being a religious belief. Questions that pantheism might not be able to truly answer include things like:

  1. What is the meaning of life?
  2. How are morals established? Do you, in terms of pantheism, think that humans are inherently evil?
  3. If you do not personify God, how can you relate to this Power you are talking about?
  4. Do you know what this Power really is, and can you see it? If one day the 'truth' is found, how do you know that is indeed the truth?

In certain discussions I have been termed somewhat agnostic, as I stated that I do not conclusively know the answer to these things in a pantheistic sense, which implies some degree of apathy meeting defeatism as I choose to refrain from finding an answer while believing I probably wouldn't know. However, I would like to assert that such questions are inherently existent due to Christian heuristics and have value only because they are largely Christian or conventionalist/fundamentalist in religious nature, i.e. you might not even explore these questions with me if you didn't think they were important and you felt that they were because Christianity has an influence on what you consider important to know.

The thing is pantheism, to me, broadly seeks to enlighten one to the fact that we are co-creators in a system that has a natural order to it, which means that I know that I am the navigator of my own destiny (and thus perhaps the meaning of life is as much as you yourself want to determine for yourself) which is extremely self-empowering, and that in this understanding of pantheism I have found that alot of things can somehow be explained. I mean, to be able to marry science and religion is indeed a wondrous thing in itself already. It is a very abstract and intelligent faith so to speak, and what really strikes me is the humility behind its ways.

It personally doesn't bother me that I do not know what the meaning of life is supposed to be (as opposed to what kind of life I want to achieve for myself thus self-defining the meaning of life), how good and evil came about or if I will miss the truth when it stares me in the eye, amongst other things. Einstein, a pantheist himself, 'thought of God as revealing himself in the wonderful harmony and rational beauty of the universe, which calls for a mode of non-conceptual intuitive response in humility, wonder and awe which he associated with science and art. It was particularly in relation to science itself, however, that Einstein felt and cultivated that sense of wonder and awe.'

Essentially, what draws me to this faith is its all-encompassing ability to unify beliefs, understand with seemingly absurd clarity our place in this world and our potential to create, and stand side by side with nature and creation in an entirely unconflicting and humble manner.

In the words of Einstein, "Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Late Night, Come Home; Work Sucks, I Know

Politikal Sai-yence all the way til 4am just.

I must, however, say that political science is at once alluring in wit as it is extremely intellectual. Admittedly, all that reading has trained my comprehension to reach a certain unprecedented level thus far, rendering BGS and econs stuff pertaining to those such as globalisation, supply and demand and investments pretty much jiao wei. I will definitely hold a political science major student in a different, probably more esteemed light from now on, because it is seriously a very intellectual subject to study and it really takes some character to meet those challenges posed by the sciences of policy-making.

Our last meeting for our presentation next week opened up a debate that eventually based itself on philosophical grounds. In a discussion of rational choice theory, as always the definitions of what is truly rational becomes a bottomline for contest, as we attack away the subjective aspects of the issue and deadlock at what's left. We were then relegated to 2 distinct schools of thought: can EVERYTHING eventually fall under the broad umbrella of rational choice? Or is there another set of forces that govern what we do without us knowing, and thus rendering our actions independent of making rational choices altogether? In typical circular argument fashion, we couldn't decide whether or not the perceived independent part, described by Clifford Geertz as symbolic interactionism, is a stand-alone and is permanently independent from making rational choices, or if it is eventually still a part of rational choice in eventuality.

Heavy duty thoughts aside, I've been playing Tower Bloxx on Facebook, the next thing since Scrabulous that I ever really used Facebook in frivolous fashion for (aside from the more practical aspects of storing photos and keeping in touch with friends in a really trivial manner), and now everyone's on it. I've watched the leaderboard grow from like 4 people to more than 10 now and, while I'm tops with 111 blocks, the scores are steadily rising and gaining ground too! Feelin' the heat man.

In totally random and pointless fashion, at times I think nothing beats instant gratification in a simple sense. When I'm hungry, I would love to have my food immediately, because once that hunger is gone, the food wouldn't taste as good as it might. When a lecturer's drawl starts to induce sleep, I would LOVE to be able to sleep. I really think that's one of the best ways to sleep so much so that I think such therapy of allowing people to attend some kinda workshop just to let them sleep by engaging a really lousy speaker would be fantastic. And that's also why I don't like watching Just For Laughs sometimes on TVMobile (aside from the fact that I'm motion-sickness prone). I can't really laugh out loud, and I always enjoy a good guffaw.