Friday, 26 December 2014

Thursday, 6 November 2014


This is Moscow's Kristina Pimenova, described as the "most beautiful girl in the world." As of today at the tender age of 6, Kristina has appeared on the cover of Vogue Bambini and has already had fashion collaborations with designer brands like Roberto Cavalli and Benetton. You can see more of her pictures at

Beauty is, to put it squarely, an enthralling subject. There is no line that captures the power of beauty as succinctly as that of Faustus in Christopher Marlowe's 1604 play, Doctor Faustus: "Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" (Act V, Scene I.) Chuck Palahniuk also attests to this as he wrote in Invisible Monsters, "It's all mirror, mirror on the wall because beauty is power the same way money is power the same way a gun is power." Beauty is powerful because historically, traditionally, and conventionally, beauty is scarce. To borrow another great quote from H. L. Dietrich, beauty is endowed upon those who have it because it's a destiny that's "decided by a cosmic roll of the dice". Beauty is something you're born with. Beauty is a gift. Beauty is a privilege of the lucky few who have it. Some people indeed see this as a matter of life being unfair. But that's how it is because if life is fair and the qualities that we value are no longer scarce because everyone is entitled to their share of them, then they will no longer be valuable.

This is happening in our world today though. Cosmetic products are increasingly available and sophisticated. People are becoming more and more adept at manipulating beauty. And if that's not enough, surgery can change everything. This shift in the perception and value of beauty is monumental, because beauty now becomes a commodity like many other common goods. Beauty is no longer given the due respect it has garnered in the past. If you weren't born beautiful, you had to find another place and role in society that you could be content with. To be fair, there are historical stories of people so envious of the beauty of their rivals that they kill. But there are also countless other stories of people who accept their lot and focus on other qualities that they have. The most degrading aspect of this modern change against beauty is that people are feeling increasingly entitled to beauty. With the vast number of people in the world today who have cosmetically enhanced their looks (certainly at a standard much higher than people in the past could), beauty's power and sacred place in the world is undermined.

Life isn't fair, maybe. But that's how life is. Perhaps with god-given aspects such as structural poverty, redistributive justice can go a long way to help those dealt with a bad hand in life. But with god-given beauty, life is fair in its unfairness, and rightly so, and our obsession to right this "wrong" has sadly turned beauty into something so ugly today.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Why Study History?

"People often ask, what is the purpose of studying history? They sometimes imagine that we study history in order to predict the future, or in order to learn from past mistakes. In my view, we should study history not in order to learn from the past, but in order to be free of it.

Each of us is born into a particular world, governed by a particular system of norms and values, and a particular economic and political order. Since we are born into it, we take the surrounding reality to be natural and inevitable, and we tend to think that the way people today live their lives is the only possible way. We seldom realize that the world we know is the accidental outcome of chance historical events, which condition not only our technology, politics and economics but even the way we think and dream. This is how the past grips us by the back of the head, and turn our eyes towards a single possible future. We have felt the grip of the past from the moment we were born, so we don’t even notice it. The study of history aims to loosen this grip, and to enable us to turn our head around more freely, to think in new ways, and to see many more possible futures."

- Yuval Noah Harari

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Check out for a look at your personality and motivations profile.

I'm quite unmotivated according to these rubrics LOL

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Female Vs. Male Identity Crises

Men and women chugged along just fine in their roles for the last 20,000 years or so (or earlier if you want to consider our evolutionary ancestors along the homo genus line). When and why does gender role and identity confusion come about?

This happens when the expectations of the role and identity no longer accord with "tradition". It is arguable what tradition really means, but if we go back to our evolutionary roots, males and females perform particular biological functions, and it all then branches out from there. While this may seem somewhat deterministic, it is the very basis of how we got to where we are. Tough luck.

Our gender identities are then a subsequent product of these biological functions. By the roll of nature's dice (which isn't actually all that random), mammalian females tend to be the more selective sex while mammalian males have to compete for access to the sexual resources provided by conspecific females (of course this pattern is moderated by all sorts of other environmental factors, such as sex ratio and the social status of males, but the general pattern holds true). Therefore, women have traditionally been bestowed nurturing and homely roles, while men have traditionally been expected to go out and bring home the bacon, so to speak. Females often are expected to be coy and charm the males when on the mating market, and then expected to spend a larger of proportion of time than males taking care of children. All of this, in general and on average, of course.

Fast-forward then to the world of today. The proliferation of gender studies associated with the female identity is certainly an offshoot of the changing expectations on females. The modern, urban, and professional world is increasingly a world that blurs the divide between men and women. The more that people are obliged, compelled, or attracted to work in big multinational companies and take up professional working roles, the more that people have to behave.... well, like men. Simply put, the competitive world out there is a world that men have traditionally populated. Whether men created the rules of the game or not, it's pretty much a masculine environment.

This picture pretty much sums a lot of things up:

Although veiled behind the issue of physical attractiveness, females constantly struggle with expectations (and their associated effects with self-esteem) as a consequence of standards that are varied and often contradictory. Is she supposed to be submissive or strong? Is she supposed to stay home or work? Contemporary expectations of females do not make it easy. On the other hand, the male role tends to be very specific, and has remained stable relative to the female role. In short, for men, often there is no issue. Either you fit (good for you), or you don't (better buck up, or lose the benefits associated with being manly).

As we move along, if expectations on the male identity become more complicated (as is starting to happen now with the expansion of stereotypes of men), we can also expect to see an associated boom in the number of studies and attention accorded to the male identity crisis.

Friday, 29 August 2014


Was having lunch at the coffee shop, when the cries of "Lai loh! Lai loh!" (i.e., "coming!") filled the air. The carpark ticketing uncle had been spotted, and now off go the sirens! All the guilty patrons paused mid-activity, got off their seats, and scampered over to the carpark to generally do something about the situation. The ticketing uncle looked over at the coffee shop and raised his hands exasperatedly, his facial expressions spelling out "walaoeh" rather palpably.

This is a community at work, and in this seemingly trivial example lies a powerful message. Power doesn't exist in a vacuum. There is no power without social endorsement of that power, and when a group of people do not obey, then the powers that be no longer exist. This is a trivial example, but the logic prevails in other, more consequential circumstances - such as in corrupt police forces and illegitimate authoritarian governments.

The community and its sounders at the coffeeshop serve to police the neighbourhood they care about in their own way, and that's why this silly little example is trivial yet heartwarming. The community is the most important, protective, and inclusive unit of society and through it the abuse of power from a source external to the community can be prevented. There are so many things that compromise on community spirit these days. When we lose community, we lose what is rightly ours.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Function before Form

We heat dead meat over a fire to kill bacteria before consumption. Then we make all sorts of cuisines as varied expressions of the ability to do this, to ascribe status differences to different groups of people, to satisfy tastes and preferences.

We wear the skin of dead animals or the woven products of plants. Then we make all sorts of fashion styles to denote rank and satisfy whims and fancies.

Survival defines the function, culture defines the form.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

You're in the house, but you're not sure if you are.

You ask desperately to clarify this, but the reply is in a foreign language.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Life Lessons by Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Wow. What a movie.

There are three wows about this. Firstly, it's the first proper movie I've watched in a long time (since The Dark Knight Rises, which wasn't exactly great either compared to The Dark Knight). The recent Hobbit movie and Wolverine were terrible. This one was a good hit.

Secondly, wow Ben Stiller. You've done good, really good, compared to your comedy counterparts.

Thirdly, there are so many feels about this movie.

Where to start? (There are potentially spoilers here, so don't read on if you don't want to know before you've watched the show)

There's the theme of taking the leap. Just going on a limb, listening to your heart, and taking the plunge. What's there to lose? We spend so much time nowadays letting our soul decay, as our bodies that were designed to totally take in the vastness of the world are left wanting.

I wonder if this movie benefits eHarmony. In some ways, it's publicity, but in other ways, it's such a dig at the whole concept of online virtual (read: unrealistic) dating. By actually going out there and really doing things, one becomes a valuable person. Very often, we hear of people complaining and whining about that crush who did not reciprocate his or her feelings. Look inside. Build yourself up as a person, and be someone that people want to know better. Have goals in life, and pursue them wholeheartedly. Be attractive not because you're hot, but because you can offer something of value to others. Your confidence will grow with your self-worth.

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention." What a quote. To seek it, you've lost it. True beauty radiates naturally.

When Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) refuses to take the picture of the snow leopard immediately, that's it right there. That we as an audience can be surprised at this act underlies the fact that many of us have forgotten how to enjoy the moment for what it is. This is one of my favorite scenes from the movie.

In our technologically advanced modern world, we are obsessed with certainty. It's true that uncertainty generally sucks, but with our modern technology, we are getting better at quantifying everything. It's fucking obsessive. We can increase precision to unfathomable lengths, we have numbers for everything, we want to know what time the bus is coming. There was a time when most of these things were unimportant, except for specialists whose jobs to ensure accuracy and precision we depend on if necessary. Technology enables us to do more things, but at the same time makes us crave for certainty. It's a mindfuck. The moment we know we can put a number to things, we will want to do it, even if we don't have to or were doing fine without quantifying things. Weighing scales telling us our weight to two decimal places make us obsess about how heavy we are. Prices on things make us count what people owe us. All this obsessive photography of all the most inane things as if we are afraid we will forget what we saw is craziness. We forget how to view life without lenses that will capture every goddamned moment, when instead we should be in the moment - the feelings that come along with that moment last a life time. The details - How did this food look? How did the singer look? How did the fucking giraffe look? - are far less important. And we kill feelings when we are overwhelmingly obsessed with capturing every single minute detail.

Embrace uncertainty. Let the numbers go. Be in control by letting go of certainty. Have meaningful pursuits, and don't be afraid to go for them.