Friday, 30 January 2009

Bystander Apathy Effect

"I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate - it's apathy. It's not giving a damn."

The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.
- Albert Einstein

Audio Candy:
Urbandux - Bozo

Punks Not Dead

"We need to remember that what mattered in the early 1960s was not what JFK knew about Casals or the music of Schumann and Couperin and Mendelssohn. What mattered was that Casals was performing at the White House, a great day for the arts in America that also served to remind Americans that art has no borders, that a Spaniard playing German music in Washington was indeed part of the American experience. Here was a lesson in the importance of art, a lesson that might help to jump-start music education in the public schools and inspire more adults to turn to the classical station on the radio and go to record stores and concert halls. For Obama, who is constrained in so many ways by the ever-darkening economic situation, the symbolic possibilities of the arts are one arena in which he can act with real freedom."

- Jed Perl, Obamalot, The New Republic

Audio Candy:
The Spill Canvas - Break A Leg

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Mid-Afternoon Drivel

I'm really quite baffled by the number of dubious-sounding URL messages being sent to me on MSN. At the rate things are going, I'm gonna get more virus URLs than actual conversation messages.

I know they're virus-related stuff and those online friends aren't deliberately throwing them my way but it's like. Dude why'd you click it in the first place? Some of the URLs are really so obvious that the best benefit of the doubt I could give is that people's muscular memories have replaced their minds.

I mean seriously, URLs like and deserve more suspicion.

On another note, one of the most cringe-worthy things I've ever seen are comments to Facebook relationship status changes. Breakup comments are often far more distasteful, but both get-together and breakup comments are really bad.


(heartbreak image) John is no longer listed as in a relationship with Jane.
Joan: oh no what happened?! are u guys really separated?
Jenny: sigh... i really thot it wld last.
Jian: are u ok?

Who on earth in their right minds would tell you their sensitive sob story on Facebook in the glaring light of the public, especially when they've just endured one of the crappiest periods of their lives? And, personally, even more so when one has good premise to believe that every snooper on Facebook has a ravishing appetite for lapping it up for misplaced reasons?

Or maybe my opinion is the misplaced one - people actually like the attention from such a display. At any rate, I never fail to cringe internally whenever I see such comments.

On yet another note, this is an amazing 'video'. Just do as the instructions say.

Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books.
- Jack Handey

Audio Candy:
Broken Social Scene - Anthems For A 17 Year-Old Girl

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Rise And Fall

I'm celebrating my reunion dinner today, a full week in advance from the actual day because tradition, once again, doesn't hold up to conveniences. My yearly reunion dinners are celebrated together with my extended family on my dad's side so it's a huge group. On the actual day, we'd be fighting the crowds and higher prices, in addition to being much busier doing Chinese New Year preparations closer to the day, so everyone figured that they'd be better off just coming together on an alternate day instead. Why not?

I've nothing against having my reunion dinner away from the actual date, my weak belief in this whole festival notwithstanding, but on an academic note I think this again shows that, somewhere between the adages that change is the only constant and that modernity has no room for tradition, we seem to have a natural social programming to gravitate away from saturated or expired practices; 'saturated' and 'expired' only so defined by the people of the age they own.

No one can say for sure that traditional Catholic axioms are absolute truths, that making it back on the actual day religiously for reunion dinner every year is the best way to preserve the family, that refraining from the television makes one a better person. But neither can anyone say for a fact that such thoughts or practices are outdated. Human nature doesn't provide the intelligence to discern whether moving in a certain direction ultimately leads to a demise for our species. For now, living in an information and internet technology-intense era just redefines what the masses believe should be the right way to live.

There is hardly a right or wrong here when the majority intends to ostracise and ultimately condemn and eliminate minority or dying practices. At the very basis of social human behaviour, people will instinctively frown upon acts that do not go with the flow. Even more deep-seated than that, when one considers Gestalt psychology, people naturally group even black squares and blue circles according to what makes it look most convenient to describe. When practices are perceived as obstacles, then people will evolve by changing those practices or ditching them. We are innately wired to deny those we perceive as deviant and as we move along the chain reaction from the mind to society at large, sometimes it really comes as no surprise when age-old practices are compromised to make way for convenience and efficiency, often euphemised with a seemingly innocent "why not?" by unknowing revolutionists while blasted as a blasphemous indecency by the generation we are leaving behind.

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to smallpox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

- Charles Darwin

Audio Candy:
I See Stars - Save The Cheerleader

Saturday, 17 January 2009

WTF Part Two

"This is important because research indicates that too little knowledge about a job can lead to inaccurate job descriptions."

- John M. Ivancevich, Human Resource Management, Pg 156

Just a snippet of the pain and stupidity I have to put up with while reading human resource textbooks.

Audio Candy:
Whitehouse - Mal De Amores

WTF Part One

ST Jan 16, 2009

Likely Mas Selamat has fled

ALMOST a year after he escaped from custody, where is terror fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari?

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng narrowed it to either of two scenarios: one, he is in Singapore and hidden by sympathisers unknown to the authorities, or, two, he has fled the country.

Asked which was the more likely, Mr Wong told The Straits Times: 'It's very hard to say. Both scenarios are plausible. Maybe the second one is more plausible.'

The act of diplomacy and being politically correct can sometimes weigh down heavily on actually sounding like intelligence is part of one's ministerial job scope.

Audio Candy:
Broken Social Scene - KC Accidental

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

4th Estate

Our upstarting from rags (and hopefully to riches) Social Sciences publication team had our first meet up today to discuss very rogue plans on commencing something like a faculty newsletter, and it was personally very exciting. SMU's publication stint is fascinating in that it boasts such a colourful history despite its rather young age.

But anyway, I guess Blue and Gold has fizzled out primarily because you simply can't generalise campus issues over the faculty-diverse and rather generally apathetic population here without being stretched thin, and that's where I think a specifically Social Sciences-run publication will work.

Especially Social Sciences! There is so, so much potential. There's nothing much to disclose now, especially so as not to disappoint.

Anyway, other than a miserable half-attempt at pretending not to brag about my IPPT conquests, school's reopened and I haven't said much since.

I think, as the university years roll along, I will get happily lonelier around these halls and walls that used to surround as well as represent much laughter and social activity I've had with friends who've made freshman year truly memorable.

We go through inevitable phases and this year is our time. We own the school now - the seniors have stepped aside, moved on, and the year 2s are running excos through a wide array of organisations, groups and societies. The other inevitable phase, I'd suppose, is to move on from the wide-eyed wonder of finally being a university student around other fellas only too eager to soak up the effervescent foray into what seemed like a neverending spiral of novelty and excitement, into being... well, the unsmiling, no-nonsense I-dunno-he-year-3-or-year-4-the-very-old-one-lah. Just kidding. Right now, it only seems too taboo to even have thought that the seasons would've went on forever during those times, but who would've blamed most of us?

So anyway, while I'm going to classes mostly alone (and sitting also mostly alone because I'm not of the friendly variety), I'm actually happier this way. I won't even go as far as to say that gone were the days of being eager and patronising, because for me personally it has evolved from wanting to know more friends into trying to painfully maintain your hi-bye ones instead. The year 1 bubble's burst and now I'm settled. It's very personal, but I'm lucky enough to be pursuing Psychology, which is something that is continuously self-preserving and self-generating in terms of interest, energy, curiosity and passion, and maybe I can't say the same for others where a social life needs to be intact to compensate for the painfully exciting and numerically-decorated modules they are wading through now. Especially when it gets more beautifully profound as the years promise to carry them forth on the wings of intense knowledge. Hmm.

So as it is, as I perceive it, classmates (I'd better specify them to be my Psychology ones) aren't casual friends anymore, but passion-driven counterparts and friendly semi-rivals instead, both friend and challenger in this knowledge quest.

I think I'm dangerously making my undergraduate sophomore experience seem like an incredibly noble adventure.

I guess part of the equation for making me work is making me feel like I'm privileged to be where I am. Versus the crappy Social Science Research Methods module in the unbecoming class room crammed together with a bunch of freshmen, Design, Measurement & Analysis in the professional setting of a seminar room definitely feels like a privilege.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of loan payments.

Audio Candy:
Alexisonfire - This Could Be Anywhere In The World

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Good Game

Audio Candy:
Ani DiFranco - Hypnotized

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

But Here We Are

I drove in a car and flew in a plane
To come to your house and kick your door in
Now it's down to this, it's just you and me
I'll blow your fucking head off for my country

"Most of the soldiers now fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza were three or four years old when the U.S. launched the First Gulf War. Most of them have no memories of this war, but their parents remember. They remember these toddlers being rushed to shelters, wearing the special child-friendly version of gas masks. They remember an Israel that doesn't respond to the daily barrage of missiles sent from Iraq onto Tel Aviv and Haifa. A wise decision at the time - the U.S. had asked Israel not to make trouble for the delicate international coalition in which Arab countries were also members - but one that added to the erosion of Israel's deterrence power. Thus, while the U.S. was slowly getting over its Vietnam Syndrome and getting its military groove back - for better or worse, Iraq was the prelude to the Balkan intervention, which was the prelude to both Afghanistan and the second Iraq war - Israel was losing points. The once-mighty regional force was being bombed without reciprocation."

- Shmuel Rosner, Getting Over the Lebanon Syndrome, The New Republic

The war is now somewhat truly affecting because my dad can't put his mind at ease with my business study mission trip down to the troubled country and is quite adamant on cancelling it. This is quite a stupid way of feeling for whoever's plight or frowning upon war and violence but it has no doubt become personal and, in an indirect and small way, much more significant.

Israel and Singapore are fascinatingly so similar and so contrasting at the same time. Both are young nations with small land areas and populations and both have conscript armies. Both lack natural resources and seek to trail-blaze in post-industrial sectors. Both had to do with the British and govern with states borne out of British mandates and laws, and both have an immigrant-supported population. But when one looks at the political situation of the two countries, Israel has been residing in a tumultous pressure cooker with no lack of neighbours with hostile appetites, while Singapore has had it relatively peaceful.

Some people think that this is like a bully whacking a boy in the face with a baseball bat just because the boy pushed him. Personally it feels that, if the baseball bat was indeed used, the boy must've been jabbing the 'bully's balls in a seemingly harmless and periodic fashion for a long stretch of time such that the baseball bat now becomes justified. Hamas militants have been firing rockets into Israeli towns for a while now. Short of a ground battle, Israel has been taunted for its air strike despite rising civilian casualties. Hamas terrorists just want the deadlier ground battle without regard for the escalating death toll of innocent people.

Life goes on in Israel, and even for civilian families who call the battered Gaza Strip area their home, in spite of the missiles whizzing overhead.

Audio Candy:
Damien Rice - Rootless Tree