Wednesday, 30 June 2010

These relics of remembrance are just like shipwrecks
Only they're gone faster than the smell after it rains

So long, Astoria
I found a map to buried treasure
And even if we come home empty-handed
We'll still have our stories and battle scars
Pirate ships and wounded hearts
Broken bones and all the best of friendships
And when this hourglass has filtered out it's final grain of sand
I'll raise my glass to the memories we own

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Think Less, Just Do It

While I would be conservative and stop short of calling myself a daredevil because I don't have much in terms of experiences to show for it, I think I can safely say that I've always had an independent, individualistic and adventurous streak in me.

Although I don't quite recall specifically since when I've adopted such a stance to life, I know that the period when I was in the army was quite a trying time when I was thrust into many situations fraught with uncertainty. Those moments definitely contributed to a firm personal belief that more or less sums up into the general notion: "think less; just do it mannnn".

There have been many instances where I was confronted with making a decision of whether to go ahead and do it. To take up that job I've never done before, to try out that weird activity, to backpack in a place I've never been to, to try running to the edge of Singapore, to night cycle at the age of 14 alone. Most of the time I just do. In the process, what I've learnt is that, usually, I never regret having done it regardless of the outcome. Thinking just either wastes time or sets you back as you over-rationalize or allow the fear to creep in, and then you miss out on an experience.

Some might take caution and say, rightly, that there is always the chance that something bad might come off it. I might get into harm's way, for example, by not doing enough preparation or not thinking enough about what I'm getting myself into. Or I might disappoint people when I take up a task and fail to deliver because I was irresponsible by not assessing my abilities clearly beforehand.

That's where my caveat comes in. Just do it, and do it well. Always deliver no matter what. Along with the fact that most of the time I never regret latching on to opportunities, most of the time I always come out tops. I always deliver and I always have a good time.

At any rate, one emerges stronger and equipped with new bragging rights. And most of the time people do have a decent amount of resolve to pull through, succeed or achieve, so it's always worth a try.

I'm not sure what comes first. It could be because I'm confident of my abilities, which is why I'm daring enough to follow such a mantra. Or it could be because I began throwing caution to the wind, and in the process had no choice but to develop the skills and an attitude that ensures that I pull through. Either way, my character is moulded in such a way that I believe, more often than not, that I can do it.

Whatever it is, I'm glad I see the world this way.

Most people spend much of their time deliberating whether or not to take on a challenge. Much of that time spent rationalizing often only results in fear, apprehension and letting opportunities for a memorable experience slip by.

The times we grab life by the balls always create fond memories while the times we fail to do so only breed regrets. We remember the times we broke the rules, not when we stood in line.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

I've mused about how much more patient the people I met in China were when dealing with my terrible grasp of Mandarin. While it is most probable that their command of the Chinese language is better than Singaporeans and thus would find my pathetic attempts at conversing in Mandarin a joke, it is also possible that:
  1. Their expectations of my ability to speak Chinese, as a non-native, are already very low. Every time I successfully string a coherent sentence together could be a pleasant surprise.

  2. They are just purely patient, or not elitist. This is quite possible as the interactions I'm referring to here are those with the villagers I met and stayed with when in rural Guizhou. Given that I'm not dealing with urbanites who might have an inflated sense of self (like Singaporeans), perhaps it's dispositional - they were being kind, respectful, patronizing, whatever you might want to call it. Giving me a handicap.

  3. There is no alternative besides Mandarin. In Singapore, it is easy to label someone a non-fluent speaker because there are other language channels that might be more useful (dude, stop being a poser!). Over there, we'd give each other double the time and attention because there's just no choice.

Liquid Courage

Still loving how the study area feels, as I treat myself to shiraz while doing my research work.

Nothing beats alcohol in getting the intellectual juices going. This is the stuff that drives philosophy and art.

And as I was debating this (in a one-sided contest) with Kok, alcohol is functional because it's taken to get high, then it gets fun. It's taken to make people around you look better. It's taken to become more artistic, poetic or lyrical (some people even claim that it makes them more logical, like Peng Li). It's taken so that you'll do the things you've always wanted to, barring social considerations; thus the name I give it - liquid courage. Granted, many of these things are recreational, but alcohol is definitely the functional means to these other wonderful ends.

Alcohol ♥ forever.

Insurance Advertising Does Good

Despite my prejudices against insurance companies, I thought this advertisement from AXA was delightful.

Another great insurance advert comes from NTUC Income.

Hot on the heels of the flooding incident at Orchard Road, NTUC Income promptly splashed out an advertisement in The Straits Times the next day, playing on the loaded word 'pay'.

Why do I particularly appreciate these advertisements so much? I'm not entirely sure, but I think a lot of it has to do with the appeal to wit. It'd be great if insurance companies could leave it to our own personal desire and intelligence to choose who provides our protection rather than have it shoved down our throats.

Friday, 18 June 2010

How about a pop gospel song that I actually think is nice and makes sense?

Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open
Don't hold in your anger or leave things unspoken
Wear your red dress, use your good dishes
Make a big mess and make lots of wishes

And have what you want, but want what you have
And don't spend your life looking back

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances and let it all out
'Cause you won't regret it
Looking back from where you have been
'Cause it's not who you knew
And it's not what you did
It's how you live

So go to the ballgames and go to the ballet
And go see your folks more than just on the holidays
Kiss all your children, dance with your wife
Tell your husband you love him every night

Don't run from the truth 'cause you can't get away, no
Face it and you'll be okay


Oh, wherever you are and wherever you've been
Now is the time to begin
So give to the needy, and pray for the grieving
Even when you don't think that you can
'Cause all that you do is bound to come back to you
So think of your fellow man
And make peace with God, and make peace with yourself
'Cause in the end, there's nobody else


How You Live
Point of Grace

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Legen... Wait For It, DARY!

I've finally gotten down to watching How I Met Your Mother proper, and it's seriously the best serial comedy (if I had to categorize it) I've ever watched by far. Not a single episode has disappointed, and virtually every joke has hit top draw. I think the humour is right up my alley - an explosive combination of social dynamics, wit, slapstick, sarcasm, irony, absurdity, knowing reference jokes and pure epicness at high speed. No more F.R.I.E.N.D.S kind of cornyness, or the static and limited small-town humour of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Finally, I'm no longer the dude who knows all about the show but hasn't watched it before, which is really just lame.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

With you
I'm ready to take on everything
Because we've got the world at our feet

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Political Science Study Mission In Guizhou

So it's been about a month since I came back from Guizhou, the second poorest province (on official records) in China.

I think the month-long delay before putting my thoughts down isn't bad at all, because time erodes the memories that weren't really worth fussing over.

For three weeks, a good 20-or-so of us stayed at the border between the inner village and the rural town area, setting off, on foot, on journeys that took us deep into the history, politics and culture of agricultural China.

I do not speak for the others on the trip, but it was personally an extremely enriching experience.

For one, it's comforting to know that some of my speculations are true. You do not need to be 'materially' rich to be happy. You do not need to be wealthy, you do not need to be popular, and you do not need to top your school with fantastic grades. If anything, the villagers I met, interacted with and lived with provided that alternate reality. Here was another paradise altogether in a far more profound way than most people can imagine.

Sure, it is always easy to skeptically say, "but seriously if they had the chance to be rich, they'd want to be." On the contrary, I met people who were self-reliant, had rich and enduring relationships with their community and had virtues that are often lost in living in a modern city setting.

For a start, one can immediately see it in the way services are provided. A meal bought from a hawker store was always prepared with lots of heart, because the cook believes he has a part to play in society by providing his food service. When I'd asked them about the desire to make more money (as part of my research), I'd always be met with bemused responses saying that it's sufficient to just earn enough to send the kids to school.

A strong sense of self-sufficiency breeds self-reliance, as these people know the value of being able to hold one's own through hard work and gaining skills. It is indeed a pity that the fast-paced economic reforms of China since 1978 has resulted in a drastic rich-poor divide that has marginalized these people such that their financial insecurities have denied them the chance to get proper educations. Less than perfect village governance has also led to poor infrastructure, such as the lack of roads. Taken together, the vast potential of the village population is undermined.

At the same time, my travels have given me the impression that, for these people, home is still where the heart is (not money). Being a good person and not being greedy and exploitative is not just a norm to obey - it is a norm to be upheld, simply because it's good. No rational calculations are needed to justify this. There are so many more virtues present that I simply cannot list them all, and many of them are sorely lacking in modern capitalist states.

Part of the comfort also comes from knowing that here was a place my inner village-boy could go to if I ever get rejected by the current society I live in with my idealism. There were countless times I was sure that, if I had no responsibilities or ties back in Singapore, I could just settle down in a place like Guizhou. A common criticism to that assertion, whenever I was ever prompted to articulate it, is that I'd either get bored out of my skin or I'd be letting myself down because I'm not fulfilling my potential. But I think that only happens when you're well-aware and constantly reminded that you have to 'fulfill those potentials'.

What are those potentials anyway? Earning more money? Buying a bigger house? Having a respectable job? Those are standards imposed by being in a place that has given far too much weight to realist glories - such as being economically rich, attaining a high social status, having a swanky position in a corporation and constantly having to seek social proof and validation.

Take a step back. Look at the world. Those achievements only serve to fulfill social and material desires in limited fashion within Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. There are a whole range of other things we will fail to fulfill when we get trapped in a competitive lurch, and I'm strongly of the opinion that those other things are far more important and noble. (Of course, I do not mean to say that all people who strive for material wants lack self-actualization. I just believe that the tendency arises.)

Where I stayed for three weeks, none of this mattered. If I lived there, I owned my own vegetable patch, raised my own cattle and had close-knit relationships that aren't tinged with social networking. Of course, there are perhaps downsides to living a farmer's life. As the song reminds us, "planting rice is never fun, bend from morn til set of sun." But why are those things unpleasant? I think that's usually because we're city-bred wussies. I participated in farming and helped to dig roads with the farmers, and I can safely say, you don't wanna fuck around with these guys. Here's a society where people drink and smoke all day, and still live up til healthy ripe ages and, even at the age of 80, can wield digging tools and ploughing equipment better than me.

And if anything, many of the difficulties that farmers face now are precisely because China's capitalistic rush to establish itself as a global economic superpower has made it even more tough to lead a life as a farmer. Farm inputs are getting more expensive, and agricultural produce is increasingly controlled by corporate politics such that grain prices are low. Your worth is increasingly measured with wealth because it is a urban-imposed yardstick, and that's not even the farmer's typical way of measuring worth. There are so many injustices, and suffice to say I observed and felt many of them when I visited households along the mountainside. And perhaps I feel them because I'm quite aware that in a twist of fate, it could be me in their shoes any other time.

I felt comforted because I can't really say that anything I saw or experienced was shocking or surprising; in my day-to-day musings I do consider quite a number of things and many of which that would usually be met with skepticism in Singapore were confirmed by the life I experienced in the village.

So don't stop questioning, and always leave room for surprises or change. Maintain a healthy wonder of the world. Think beyond your immediate circumstances and reality. There is more than meets the eye.

This post has turned out to be somewhat more edgy and emotional than I thought, but I think I wouldn't have it any other way. Ultimately, I really enjoyed myself there and would yearn to return in future. The great people I met there have convinced me that I'm very welcome to visit again - such was their amazing hospitality and the sensation that they would give everything of themselves when developing friendships.

Here's a pictorial rerun of my trip, somewhat biased towards myself. :]

Monday, 14 June 2010

Danish Dynamite

"Winning is for losers. Many of life's more interesting stories focus on those who didn't quite make it; who didn't get the girl or the job or the epiphany or even the Jules Rimet trophy. Johan Cruyff said his Holland side of the 70s were immortalised by their failure to win the World Cup and, when World Soccer invited a group of experts to select the greatest teams of all time a couple of years ago, three of the top five sides won nothing: Hungary 1953, Holland 1974 and Brazil 1982. Lying 16th on the list – above any side from Argentina, Spain, Germany, Liverpool, Manchester United or Internazionale – was the Danish team of the mid-80s."

(See the rest of the story here:


[15/06/2010 - 14:48]

I'd just watched the extremely tight game between Italy and Paraguay. As the commentator aptly put it, four-time world champs Italy will definitely feel like they've been in a game. Paraguay matched them ball for ball throughout the entire match, and forced Italy to chase the game after taking the lead from a good set-piece.

This really makes me think about the state of the game in modern day football, along with the article I'd just posted. Denmark's coach, Olsen, who came from the Danish Dynamite era, commented that the modern game can't be played with the sort of wild abandon that accompanied swashbuckling, 'romantic' teams of old - the modern game is extremely streamlined, tight, efficient. You can't just win with skillful players alone - that's for the weaker teams to depend on. Every team that hopes to claim the label of being a contender needs to have resolve, very sound basic skills and touches, physical strength, speed and fitness. You can only then begin to discuss flowery soccer skills.

In a match like the one between Italy and Paraguay where both teams delivered a performance at the highest level, the only things that can differentiate both sides has to come from either a mistake committed or a solid set-piece.'

And that was precisely what happened. Paraguay took the lead with a good cross and header from a set-piece on the left side, while Italy equalized with a mistake by Paraguay's goalkeeper as he totally flapped at a dangerous corner kick.

This is an era where most players at the top-level of the game don't even have the luxury of taking multiple touches of the ball - the opponent is going to be fast enough to close you down so you'd better pass it. The ball moves around the park quickly and the team that loses will be the one that can't chase it. Having a player bring the ball around by himself will be a rarity when he is up against a solid opponent.

So perhaps gone are the days when players could afford the space and time to dribble about. One wonders if the likes of Zidane and Figo could play the way they do in today's soccer arena.

Also gone are the days when there are colourful players who drank, smoke and lived decadently, and still boasted skills and commanded respect on the pitch. It also seems that this isn't a trend in football; many other sportsmen, such as tennis players, F1 drivers and basketballers, are also evolving to be at the top of the game, and nothing less.

I'm not too sure what to feel about this.


These advertisements promoting a smoke-free lifestyle are seriously reminiscent of the spate of 'SFW' porn pictures inspired by the very cheeky Diesel advertisement.

To see what I mean, see here: and here:

Well, perhaps with the right direction, porn inspiration can be positively channeled.