Thursday, December 23, 2010

Psalms 117

What better way to give thanks than this Psalms?


Praise the Lord , all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast
love toward us,
and the faithfulness of
the Lord endures forever,
Praise the Lord!

Psalms 117

Friday, December 17, 2010

Going Back to Basics

A Collection of Flutes: Modern, Renaissance, Quena

It is common to find ourselves disillusioned or jaded with an activity after some time due to difficulties or certain experiences that shaped our perceptions. Hence,  I often find it useful to revisit the reason why I started on a particular activity and I leave with a sense of inspiration and insight.

As my LCM Flute Grade 8 exam is around the corner, it means that I am at the height of practising for it. In the midst of my practice, I find it frustrating that I can't meet the standards of the examiners and thought that I should go back to basics to seek inspiration and encouragement. While it is awkward to conduct such a personal exercise in a public domain, I realise that it is also a good chance to share with my readers an activity that plays a large role in my life.

I first fell in love with flute or the idea of playing the flute for a childish reason. As a kid, I watched countless drama serials based on Chinese legends and pugilists. As such, I am often enthralled by the aspect of the mystical qualities of the flute in which one can summon animals, spirits or possess magical powers by playing it. Such a thought was definitely tempting and I pestered my mother to find a teacher for me. However, playing the flute was generally uncommon in those days and it was not until when I was 13 before I had my first lesson. In the meantime, my interest in the flute grew out of the childish notion and into a deep appreciation of its melodious quality and its earthy tones.

With youthful enthusiasm, I embarked on learning the flute and took various examinations and, in a flash, it has been 8 years since I had my first lesson. On hindsight, I often smile at the thought of my younger self and my wide-eyed wonderment with regards to this mystical instrument.

Having matured in character, thoughts and musicianship, this mystical instrument has evolved into a sensual as well as a spiritual one. The sensuality of the instrument stems not only from its earthy tones but the intimate relationship between the flautist and his listener. This is due to the fact the need for one's breath is a very personal aspect of oneself. Without breath, one cannot live and listening to the flute is akin to the flautist singing softly to you as you can feel the warmth of the flautist's breath on the nape of your neck. Furthermore, this idea is further enhanced by the idea held by many that the flute imitates the human voice.

My take on the spirituality of the flute is inspired by one of its greatest players, Sir James Galway. In one of his earlier biographies, Galway remarked that playing the flute is an act of paying homage to God; to play the most beautiful melodies in which the composer can only be inspired by God to be able to write such surreal music. What a beautiful thought! I was also reminded that as God gave life to us by breathing into Adam and Eve, I give life to music by breathing into the instrument and pay my homage to Him. Perhaps that is why the beauty of music transcends culture, language and time.

That is how I started my lifelong relationship with the flute.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blast from the Past

Every once in a while, we are reminded of certain things we used to do as children that may seem silly or amusing to us now. But I often marvel at that young boy many years ago for his innocence, purity and the sheer altruism of helping people. I'd thought I would share one of those memory that I was brought back to as I was staring out of the car window. 

As I was returning home from lunch today, I was staring blankly out of the car window and my gaze started to drift the the various number plates of the cars beside the vehicle I was in. As I was wondering what is with the number plates of the cars that caught my attention, I remembered that I had a habit of copying down the details of license plates of cars I saw. This habit was borne out of the intention of potentially assisting the police in an investigation should the need arises.

While the act was totally naive, the altruism of the intention, the sense of adventure as well as the keen conception of such an idea after noticing the license plates on cars reaffirm the sad fact that we live less and exist more as we mature.

Perhaps, that is why we often find ourselves insisting that children should have a proper and happy childhood and should not be forced to grow up ahead of their physical development.

Being Thankful

It is good to give thanks to
the Lord,
to sing praises to your name,
O most High;
to declare your steadfast love
in the morning,
and your faithfulness
by night,
to the music of the lute and
the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made
me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands
I sing for joy.

~ Psalms 92:1-4

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prayer & Dedication

Father,

Bless the work of my hands.
For if my heart is stirring,
 I know that  you are calling.

Yet, I am daunted by the tasks before me.
Hence, I look to You to arm me
with the strength of David
to defeat the Goliath
that stands before me.

In return, the spoils of my success
will raise the needy in Your name.
And all shall know that
You are here now and forever
in Jesus' name.

Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspiring Stories Need To Be Shared

Out of sheer boredom, I decided to visit my old blog and found an inspiring story that I heard while I was in hospital. The following is a recount that I wrote on my old blog..

Clearing the Cobwebs   (24th Feb 2009)


I duely apologise to my gentle readers for not updating my blog in months due to my military commitments. The problem of national security has not made me at ease to share my experience through such an open domain lest I risk my form of literary expression being closed down. Yet, fret not as I attempt to clear the cobwebs from the nook and cranny of this blog and update my gentle readers on the ongoings of my life.

For those who do not know, I was recently warded at Changi Hospital due to a knee infection which was incurred during my outfield training. My knee swelled to twice its normal size and a minor surgery had to be done to remove the pus and infection. I am now discharged and am focusing on recovery.

My first experience as a patient in a hospital has indeed been a colourful one as I met many different personalities during my week's stay. I am not at ease to go into details of these colourful personalities but I promise that it will be left to another post. However, within the week of my stay in the hospital I was entreated to an inspiring life story.

There was this elderly man who was admitted to the hospital on my third last day (I was warded for a week) for a urinary tract infection. Towards the final two days of my stay, I got acquainted with this man as he went on to relate to me his life story and how he struggled to make himself a considerable success in life. That man was absolutely elated when he found out that I'm from AC as he was an ACS boy many years ago during the era of those ancient principals such as C.B. Paul and such. As a summary of his life, he was generally dwarfed by the many famous kids in ACS (kids of Lee Kong Chien, the Shaw Brothers, Tan Chin Tuan) but he still managed to struggle through and got rather decent results.

However, tragedy struck as he contracted tuberculosis from his uncle during a short stay. In those days tuberculosis was absolutely fatal and that would deter many employers from employing you as should the illness have a relapse, it would incur a huge cost for any company. Hence, despite having recovered from the illness, he couldn't find any decent job except to be a temporary staff of the City Council (I think it's the equivalent of the Public Utilities Board in those days). It was a relatively easy job and he had much time on his hands and somehow, after reading books from the library, he developed an interest in photography and began to self-teach himself through books on taking photographs.

After having refined his skill he decided to take the sights and sounds of the places around him (he was staying in Mosque Street in Chinatown) and write stories based on his pictures. This interest in photography got him recognised by the local newspapers after publishing a few of his short stories and prints in a weekend newspaper. Soon after, he was engaged to publish a weekly picture column and he proceeded on to be a freelance reporter for the newspaper as he got to interview royalties (the various Sultans of Malaya) and other noted personalities.

His biggest break came when he went to purchase a new camera from Kodak and the manager, seeing that he was extremely knowledgeable with regards to photography and has established contacts with various photo studios around the country, employed him despite the knowledge of his medical history. He was promoted within the next six months and his monthly income (his job as an advertising and sales manager in Kodak, his work at the City Council plus his contributions to the local newspaper) amounted to over $500! That is a lot of money considering that a plate of noodles was only 30 cents then (the stats was provided by the man himself). His experience, interest and determination thus led him to eventually outdo many of the rich ACS schoolmates (some of who went on to be bums and waste their family fortunes) he had then as he got to rub shoulders with the rich and famous through his work with the newspaper as well as making camera sales to these personalities.

This is a story of a man's struggle to make something of himself despite his predicament. The inspiration of story is that this elderly man took an interest, refine it and took a stab in the dark and see where it took him. In today's environment of pressures and expectations, sometimes it is most important to listen to our hearts, take a chance and see where it leads us.

A Call Out to My Gentle Readers

The thing with writing a blog with no intentions of making money and getting famous is that you don't know who your readers are. This is mainly due to the fact that you don't advertise your blog nor shape it in a way to cater to a target readership. Rather, all one does is to present the most truthful side of yourself through your writing and hope that whoever reads it will return.

As such, I've often wondered who have chanced upon this blog and their reactions to it. I'm always under the impression that the only reader of my blog is yours truly and the rest are just passing by. However, as I checked the statistics of my blog, I realised that I have more than 10 readers the past month and most of them are from overseas!

So here's an official shout out to all readers out there! If you are not merely passing by, write something in the comments and let me know who you are! I am utterly curious!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Soldier's Lesson in Humanity

Here's something that I found lying around my computer's hard-drive which was written during my BMT. Enjoy!

Everyone has their own version of how military life has affected them for the better or worse. These versions are so different and vibrant that it casts a cloud of confusion in judging the effect BMT has on a callow eighteen-year-old as he is being made to serve the nation. Yet, one thing is for sure – BMT has a resounding effect on anyone and it certainly changed my view on humanity.

Before coming to BMT, my only perception of war and the military is a detached one which is taken from war movies and documentaries. Through these sources, we are made to view the extremities; the glory of dying for one’s country or the horrifying destruction that war brings. Such a view is often shallow as it results in us supporting or condemning the need for war while ignoring the role that humanity plays in it. However, BMT allowed me to consider many important questions about the sanctity of life and sacrifice and nothing reveals so much other than the live firing and hand grenade exercises. These collective experiences both make me a better soldier and a better human being.

Firing the SAR 21 certainly left an indelible impact on me. I distinctively remember my initial fear of firing that first round and the adrenaline rush of euphoria afterward as I get increasingly accurate at my shots. Taking a step back, I realise how the surge of adrenaline is a very dangerous feeling; the excitement one gets from firing the rifle strips part of our humanity as we forget that what we are firing at – human beings. As a result, we become overly engrossed in completing our mission and lose our compassion and even our own moral compass. Therefore, instead of defending our country, we engage in mindless slaughter. Thus, while we train hard to be a competent soldier and claim a ‘swift and decisive victory’, we must always remember to be ethical in our treatment of our enemies for they too, share the same hopes, fears and dreams as us. For while there is an inevitable need to be on opposing ends for the sake of our individual country, on the most basic level, we are still flesh and blood and have no personal grudge against each other.

Such an experience made me understand social scientist, Philip Zimbardo’s, ‘Lucifer Effect’. One of his postulations is that genocide occurs as soldiers are made to think that their enemies are less than human which removes their sense of conscience and remorse which is exacerbated from the loss of personal identity due to implementation of uniformity and regimentation. Consequently, excessive brutality tends to be easily justified when dealing with our enemies. This also highlights an important point that while we must put our trust in our commanders and follow orders, we must retain our sense of ethics and humanity to put our foot down and stand against it should our orders be blatantly unreasonable which is rarely the case.

Another defining moment for me was during the hand grenade exercise. The effect of the explosion as ball bearings are sprayed in the air was certainly impressive. Yet, in all our awe of its effect, we often forget that such a simple technology would sound the death knell for anyone in a split second as our lives are made so vulnerable like a candle flame in the wind. Such a frightful thought does bear a valuable lesson in humanity. It teaches us, soldiers, to cherish the fruits of life and everyone that is around us for in the merciless scourge of war, no one knows when our time will come. It emphasises on the need for the generosity of the heart in showing care to our fellow soldiers out in the field for in the most trying of times, the triumph of the human spirit in brotherly bond will bring calm amidst the storm.

Never has these concepts been so real to me before the experience of wielding weapons that could wipe out a portion of humanity in a matter of seconds. As much as our time spent is in the hopes of becoming better soldiers, we must understand and maintain a sense of our humanity. While Hollywood may proclaim ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patrica mori’ [1], it is more important that we could place our hands on our hearts and say that we were human in the battlefield. That is one lesson in humanity that I will never forget.

~~~~~~~

[1] ‘It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’ – a famous line taken from one of Horace’s poems which was made popular by Wilfred Owen’s poem, ‘Dulce Decorum est’

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Excerpt of Psalms 60:1-5

O God, you have rejected us,
broken our defenses;
you have been angry;
now restore us!
You have caused the land to
quake; you have torn it
open;
repair the cracks in it, for it
is tottering.
You have made your people
suffer hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us reel.

You have set up a banner for
those who fear you,
to rally it out of bowshot.
Selah.

Give victory with your right
hand, and answer us,
so that those whom you love
may be rescued.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Father, heal those who are suffering from calamities, illness and in any other way.

Indeed, 'answer us,/ so that those whom you love/ may be rescued' and those who have not know you will get to do so.

Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Psalms 56:3-4

O most High, when I am
afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust, I am not
afraid;
What can flesh do to me?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Chang's memoir which chronicles the lives of three generations (grandmother, mother and herself) serves to be more than just a recount of past experiences and a retracing of one's roots. It also serves to be a detailed testament to the living conditions of China under Mao from the inside and a hard look at the facets of millions that are living in fear, death, hate and destruction.

The appeal of the book lies in the fact that it never pretends to be a critical work of analysis and commentary about the Maoist regime. Rather, it is a portrayal of what life is like through the anecdotes of author. Having said that, I applaud Chang for her lucid expressions as she weaves a sense of poetry and prose into a tapestry that inspires, shocks, saddens and enrage the reader. Never once did she let her personal emotions mar her writing for she never succumbed to exaggeration or off-the-cuff kind of ranting about the misery of the time. Instead, she lets the events speak for itself and speak for itself it did.

These qualities make this book an important document for it helps to clarify what the various revolutions that brutalise the country was really like. It stretches far beyond ridding China of capitalist elements as it also sheds light on how the revolutions are a tool for Mao to galvanise power as well. It is certainly a far cry from the commonly perceived notion that the Maoist experiment consists a crazed man bungling through and brutalising the country in the hopes gaining power. An unsettling piece which shows how Communism started out as a hope for the future and ends up as an unspeakable display of horror. This certainly compels one to contemplate the nature of governance and the distribution of political power.

On a personal front, Chang's work presents the polemics of human behaviour. It is moving to see how one can be selfless, resolved to protect the ones we love and an unyielding faith in a good cause while, on the other extreme, the paranoid witch hunts that becomes a game of revenge, the rape and the perverse tussle for power certainly makes a sick in the stomach. Yet, it is a sobering reminder of the potential as well as the vulnerability and perversion of the human condition.

However, I do harbour some doubts as to the ability of Chang to research and relate the events to such a minute detail. For there is quite a lapse of time between what happened and the start of this endeavour. Furthermore, the details of the lives of her grandmother and mother is even farther back in the pages of history and the only few sources Chang has would be her elderly mother and perhaps a few other elderly friends who have known the family.

While such lingering doubts are important in the consideration of this work, it does not mar the excellence and the strength of the story-telling to any degree. A must-read!

As such, I will now set out to buy a copy of the biography of Mao by this fantastic author.

For a detailed summary and review of this book please visit: http://www.davesnowdon.com/review/review-wild-swans-jung-chang

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Verse of the Day

Our steps are made firm
by the Lord,
When he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall
not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us
by the hand.

Psalms 37:23-4

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Leadership

'In this day and age, clone armies are weak armies. Rather, leadership is now about chemistry among people, allowing them to draw energy from one another.

For that to happen, those who are in leadership positions have to respect each individual in his own right.'

~ George Yeo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Fullerton - SJI Leadership Lectures

Scribbles

Here's a rubbish poem that I wrote as my mum needed a poem to describe a plant as part of some cohesive activity she's having at work. I'll buy anyone drinks for whoever can guess the plant!


I hail from the Peruvian lands,
Where I decorate abodes
With my wide foilage, and
Emerald leaves which the
Creatore adorns it with mosaic
Pattterns for all to see.


I also boast beautiful white flowers
And a curly stem,
In which if you keep me
Warm and sheltered,
I'll bring the beauty
of Spring to those who
Possesses me!

Excerpts from a Soldier's Diary II

The previous post chronicles the days before my first ever book-out. This set of entries is written in the middle of my BMT.

280109

This would definitely be one of the hallmarks of my life as firing a live round into a target is the closest one gets to experience real combat.

Firing the rifle is both an exciting and harrowing experience for me. The excitement comes from the adrenaline rush if a series of good shots. Yet, as I step back from the experience and contemplate the implications, I shudder in utter horror for it means that I have killed innocent men. What a lethal mix it will be when rage and excitement meet on the battlefield and killing becomes more than just winning the war, or staying alive, but a sport that disregards the sanctity of life!

As I was pondering on this issue repeatedly, I start to weep for the many children out there that are made to be soldiers. Their innocence is stripped at such a young age as they will be either plagued with nightmares of war or turned into a dehumanised killing machine. Peace is the best gift upon this broken world.

~

290109

Another long and slow day has just passed as the other half of the company spends the day at the range, we were dismayed to find out that our second bookout will be on a Saturday rather than on a Friday. Nevertheless, bookout is always a welcoming prospect.

The movie, 'Drumline', do bear an extremely close resemblance to the army. Yet, there are some compelling insights that I was left with. The first would be the idea of professionalism, the balance between craftsmanship and a crowd-puller. I, for one, am a fan of the former and the motto of '[Excelling] through Basics' does hold true because at the end of the day, we have no one to prove except ourselves.

Another theme that runs through the movie would be the flexibility in instilling discipline. While those two ideas seem in direct conflict, I believe that it is very important to marry the two. Doing so will actually motivate one to endure the tough training but it will also forge a closer bond between the superior and the subordinate.

~

300109

Today was by far, the most boring and uneventful day as half of the company are at the range re-shooting while the other are back at the company line rotting away. As for me, I came down with a nasty bout of cough and sore throat. Thus, not being able to go for the re-shoot.

We literally spent the whole day cleaning the rifles and getting frustrated of the fact that the rifle never seems to be clean enough. All I could think was the fact that I'll be going home tomorrow and will cherish the pathetic day's rest before returning to continue training.

~

310109

We were all quite surprised when we were told that we will be having an excursion to the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC). To my delight, it meant that I will get to bookout somewhere nearer to home.

The exhibition in SDC and especially the Army Museum was certainly intriguing as we got to see the different operations that the army was involved in. The various operations and historical events came alive thanks to our wonderful guide who added a personal touch to these events be relating his personal experience in the various operations. The most compelling story amongst them all was the story that made our guide signed on with the army. The story of how he was prohibited from entering a local pub, during the colonial days, due to the fact that was Asian stirred patriotic sentiments within myself. I sometimes wished that I could return and spend a few hours with the guide and listen to his stories.

~

030209

To my surprise, I was awarded two days of light duties due to the fact that I had an MC till yesterday.

However, the officers seemed suspicious of the fact that a case of influenza warrants my staying away from camp. Yet, I believe that it is better for someone who has a serious illness to rest well for a day than to do menial work in camp and be perpetually sick.

Nevertheless, I do envy my fellow mates during the training as they get to do a routine of punches and kicks with the punching bag. In addition, I wonder if my results would improve from the last horrific IPPT results this Friday. However, I doubt that I would ever get to book out.

~

040209

I'm glad that I'm feeling much better as I went on a long march and completed the fall grenade course despite being on status.

To my surprise, throwing a grenade is rather difficult and not as glorious as portrayed by the likes of many movies out there.

The combat training lesson was absolutely interesting as new techniques are incorporated into the training routine. The elbows, jabs and 'kneeing' certainly compels most of those on status to kick and punch a little. Ah well, I shall get back to full training tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Excerpts from a Soldier's Diary I

As I was clearing my camp locker, I found a diary in my drawer in which we were required to write about our experiences during Basic Military Training (BMT). It would be a waste if I dispose the diary without saving the pages of reflections. So here are excerpts from the diary as there are certain details that I am not at ease to disclose.

~

200109 (3 days to book out)

Today's training certainly proved how much I'm lacking in arm strength and stamina. I am increasingly worried that my physical inadequacy would result in me actually failing BMT.

The route march was interesting as we were able to see other parts of the island besides the usual training compound. Our captain's plans for us to do so certainly emphasise the point that to be good in anything, one has to know the subject inside out. This is perhaps what being a professional means.

The highlight of the day would be a lecture on core values by our captian in which he mentioned a compelling point that as soldiers, we do not hold a personal grudge against our enemies as the war is waged over a political reason. Therefore, we should always have a firm set of morals in dealing with our enemies.

Yet, this raises questions about the ethics of war and the government's role in it.

~

210109 (2 Days to book out)

Today was one of the unique days in the army as our schedule is not packed back-to-back.

The area inspection conducted was certainly tiring as all of us were appalled at the degree of precision that we were made to arrange our things and standardise it to a microscopic degree. This is something I have yet to get used to.

Speaking of standardisation, I do undestand the need for it as it ensures a quick, organised and efficient army. However, I still believe that variety is the spice of life and that a controlled measure of individualism will make the army more vibrant and dynamic in that respect.

An army that is worth serving is one which achieves unity in diversity.

~

220109 (1 Day More!)

Today we finally got to experience how it would feel like to shoot with a rifle. I'm absolutely intrigued by the sheer amount of mental control and concentration one must have in order to shoot well. Yet, one cannot help but wonder how is it possible to exhibit such control in the backdrop of a raging war?

Speaking of shooting, distant shots can often be heard due to the firing practice of the other companies. I often tried to put myself in a situation of war - the gragility, the fear that everytime a plane flies past, a bomb may land on us at anytime.

The precious commodity of life in conjunction to having experienced a sneak preview of a solider's life truly makes me consider whether the saying, 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori', is true.

~


230109 (Book out day!)

There is a jovial atmosphere as everyone looks forward to their first book-out. The confinement weeks are definitely the longest weeks of our lives.

The obstacle course still worries me for I do lack in arm strength may result in me failing it. My poor fitness level is certainly a source of disappointment for me.

The topical discussion is slightly boring though it was useful in helping me understand the general direction that the SAF is taking in terms of its policies. I'm actually quite surprised at the drastic changes that the army is making in grooming the third generation. Such a shift definitely busts many myths about the army. What a welcoming change!

~

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mature Lamentations

I am turning 20 tomorrow. While I have no idea what happened to the past 19 years, I am excited to hit big 20. I have finally step out of the ambiguous category of being a "young adult" into a real adult. At this juncture, there are so many things to celebrate about but I shall take the road less taken and lament. Yet, do not be repulsed for there is a good reason to lament.
I am going to be 20 and here are my achievements:
  • Completing PSLE, O Levels, A Levels and a tad more to go before National Service is out of the way.
  • Got a place in University (which I am grateful and totally excited about).

Isn't it a cause to lament when after 20 years of living your achievements can be summed up with 2 bullet points?

In taking a leaf out of history, people my age have invented stuff, commanded legions of troops (Napoleon was an officer at 16) and even start to conquer the rest of the known world while I am sitting here wondering what am I doing. Why?

My point of lamentation stems from the fact that when I look back at my parents or even grandparents generation, they are out there shaping their destinies in their own little way. Be it finding a job or going on further up the path of education. Even with extremely limited choices then, they seem to know who they are and what they want. What is it with my generation that we are so scared to carve out something for ourselves?

Most importantly, I often ask myself: what are you so scared about? You have unlimited opportunities; chances your parents would kill for and you are hesitating?

I guess it's time to leap.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank by Ellen Feldman

What if Peter Van Pels were to survive to tell the tale? Feldman's historical projection in her novel, 'The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank' answers this historical "what if" in a realistic, novel and a profound way.

Peter (known as Peter Van Daan in Anne Frank's diary) survives the war but hides the fact he is Peter Van Pels, even from his wife. In living his new life, he strives to build all the vestiges of stability and security around him but the ghosts of his past soon comes to haunt him which manifests in the strange occurrence of him losing his voice. This is finally broken when he confronts the only living document that details his past; The Diary of Anne Frank. This triggers a complex journey for Peter as he tries to make sense of his past while being constantly reminded of those dark times with the ongoing hype about the endeavours surrounding the diary.


What makes this a gripping read is Feldman's faithfulness to the psyche of Peter in which she breaks the mould of the naivete of Anne Frank's portrayal and induce it with a strong modern sensibility. Her skillfulness in blurring the lines between what is happening, Peter's thoughts as well as his memories of the war produces a surrealistic landscape that enhances our understanding of Peter's viewpoint and the horror of his past that keeps haunting him. In the course of the exploration of Peter's psyche, certain truths become incredibly evident which is why this offering is such a gem. Firstly, the novel addresses the modern treatment of horrific events such as the Holocaust in which it appears that it has become more of a fascination that a grieving remembrance. Such a truth is enhanced by Feldman's wonderful gift of imagery and I was choking with grief when I read the following lines:

'I was crying for the innocence of that father walking home through the blushing Amsterdam evening, for the hope of that woman scrubbing a new flat for a new life, for the boy who thought he was safe. I was crying for a world that saw a war coming, that feared the worst, but had no inkling how bad the worst could be.'

Truly, who would have thought that such a thing will happen? And it is sad truth that no matter how hard we try, we can never truly understand what it was like to have been there. Therefore, rather than belittling the experiences of the victims, the greatest tribute we can give to them is our sincere grievance, respect and to open our eyes to similar events happening in our time and try to stop it. What a profound truth and it certainly takes a gifted writer to present it to us in such an impactful way.


To all who have passed on,
Rest in Peace.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gender II


The most striking aspect of the picture is the colour contrast which highlights the comparison between male and females. The black font which details the struggle of females to be strong and adopting "masculine qualities" as opposed to the pink font to highlight the struggle of males hiding their vulnerable or "feminine side" while maintaining the perceived bravado. Such a contrast is certainly laced with a glaring irony that reveals the shallowness of societal perceptions.

What are masculine or feminine qualities anyway? Who decides the criteria? It is with such boundaries that lead to hypocrisy, insincerity, deprivation of love and depression. Who are we to truly judge?

I believe in the universal qualities of a human being. We all have our strengths, vulnerabilities, unspoken desires and dreams. And who is to say certain manifestations is out of line with what is male or female? Don't we all have male and female hormones? Therefore, isn't calling someone "masculine" or "feminine" denying part of oneself? By extension, isn't this is a prejudice of one's true identity?

At this juncture, I feel that it is important to touch on the issue of homosexuality. It is baffling that the world is so willing to condemn a demographic that they know so little about. Many would term the relationship as "unnatural", "perverse" and a string of derogatory terms that is unwise to repeat them in this post. This is certainly uncalled for because, as far as I know, there is no definitive research to prove whether homosexuality is inborn or bred (do feel free to correct me if I am wrong). Therefore, how can we judge something that we do not know?

With regards to the religious arguments (I can only speak for Christianity as it is the religion that I'm more inclined to), while the Bible does state that God does not condone homosexuality, there is this grey area with regards to one's hormones. If a male is born to have more female hormones than male and were to be attract to male, can this be called "unnatural" if he were so created? The bottom line to this huge cyclical argument of nature versus nurture is that it is presently totally inconclusive.

As a final note on homosexuality, the thing about this issue that really bugs me is that we often treat immoral behaviour by homosexuals much more severely than that of heterosexuals. Is a homosexual harbouring paedophilic desires and acting upon them worse than that of a heterosexual? Certainly not and it is totally ridiculous to assume that as both are acts that are abhorred and should be punished by law in the same measure. As such, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we should not treat homosexuals different from anyone else.

I'm sure we all face the dilemma of gender at various points in our lives but the beauty lies in the strength to truly embrace our identity as well as that of others fully. Go on, take a chance on yourself and others and be slow to judge.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Appreciating the Boring Days

The problem with being forced to serve the nation is that it is an unpopular option where one loses one's identity, freedom, and often, intelligence. The regimentation of it all equates to having every single day repeating itself with negligible variance for 22 to 24 months of one's life. Hence, it is common to feel bored and dread as one wait for time to pass, and hopefully, quickly. Isn't that part of the Singapore story? Yet, a cultural exchange with the US soldiers brought home a very sobering lesson.

We were taught personnel and vehicles check to our dismay for such an activity has been haunting us for the past year as part of my vocation. This meant that we were bored to tears and would grab anything to stab ourselves to get away from it all. Sensing our boredom, disinterest and at times disrespect, Hill (one of the instructors) decides to share an anecdote that rings true.

He told us that in his line of duty, he has checked countless of cars and personnel. It is a tiring and boring job because the level of checks there is so thorough due to a much higher possibility of an attack there than it is in Singapore. This meant that at any moment, he and his comrades may lose their lives and the thought of that spurs him to ensure that each check is as thorough as possible. As such, he enjoys the utter boredom of his work because being bored means that nothing has happened. At the end of the day, everyone returns to their loved ones safe and sound. In this light, he told us to appreciate the boring days and he hoped that everyday will be as boring as possible for us.

Touched by his "blessing", I realised that Memorial Day was a couple of weeks ago and the passing of this commemoration certainly made what he said utterly sobering. As such, let us offer a prayer to those who have served and passed on as the proverbial rose upon their graves.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Difficult Question

How are you today, my dear readers? Hands up for those who said, "I'm fine. Thank You." Sometimes, the simplest questions are the most difficult ones. Why is that so? How many of us are really interested in another's well-being when we enquire about them? On the flip side, how many of us ever gave thought to this simple question and answer our friends sincerely rather than preparing "ready-made" answers? I'm sure most of us will take the easy answer, "I'm fine." I'll admit that I'm no exception in my answers. But on hindsight, it really bothers me that I did not answer this question sincerely especially to people I love and care about.

After some reflection, I came up with three possible reasons for such an answer. Firstly, we are not close to the enquirer and the most appropriate thing to do is to give a polite answer. Secondly, even if the enquirer is someone that we are close to, we do not want to burden them with our problems. Lastly, we are neither euphoric nor melancholy and for a lack of an adjective so using the word 'fine' is the easiest way out.

For the first situation, I do not have a better alternative and would definitely like whoever who has generously taken their time to read this to comment on this post should they have one.

With regards to the second situation, while we should not expect anything of our friends, I'm sure that if I were to enquire about someone I would definitely love to catch up with that person. By extension, I will take an interest in their well-being. Hence, I feel that we should be honest when our well-being is enquired of. That said, one must still exercise some tact in unburdening ourselves as we should try not to make our friends uncomfortable in the process of doing so.

As for the last situation, I feel that since someone we care about took the effort to enquire of us, we should pay back in kind with putting some thought and depth in our replies.
The track by which my train of thoughts travels on is actually the need to recommit to our relationships and to take time and effort in investing in them for this are the things that truly matter in life.
With that said, how are you today?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Cuz!


An Excerpt of Psalms 51

' Create me in a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.'
~ Psalms 51:10-12

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Conversation with Non-Acsians

Me: I will be going to school on wednesday

Friend: School? What school? You are serving NS right?

Me: ACJC

Friend: Oh! Say your ex-school lar!

Me: It is Still my school. I never really graduated nor left it.

Friend: (rolls eyes) Whatever man.. you AC people...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Something I've Written a While Ago

Here's something that I found lying in my room. It is a poem written on 30th October 2005 in the dead of the night when I could not go to sleep. While I do not profess it to be any good, I thought it would be interesting to feature a literary fragment from my past.

Dreams of Past Pursuits

Flashes of dreams
in an unfortunate time,
that haunts and gave
me its worth of dime.

I rendered it as a hopeless
pursuit and sobered.
Yet it still haunts me
with intentions of a pervert.

Tell me now, O sickening things!
I aborted you and yet
you still leeched.

So tell me now, what
do you want from me!

Admit It, We Are Like Our Parents

Think about this: we are really like our parents. While we may rebel, start a new trend or consciously choose to be the opposite of the character of our parents, there is an essence of what they are in us.

My mum has this interesting habit of wrapping her books with cut-outs from magazines or newspapers when she was younger. This meant that all the great novels of hers are adorned with numerous pictures of her favourite celebrities. I used to resent that because this habit is odd and I do not want people to question me when I read the book in public. As such, I asked my mum if I could remove all the cut-outs and keep it neatly in a folder but she refused and told me if I am uncomfortable with it, I should not read the book. This stubborn refusal from her certainly made me cross and I had to be contented with reading the book at home.

As I am always ready to dismiss her as being a stick in the mud, today certainly proved that I am not much different either; I am as odd as my mother! As I was looking through my collection of books to pick my next read, I inevitably grimace at the old cut-outs that adorns my mother's books. However, after choosing a book that I wanted, the next thing I knew I was browsing a magazine sometime back and I instinctively took a scissors and cut out some of the pictures! While I do not adorn my books with the pictures, I cannot help but realising that I have the same habit as my mum of cutting stuff out that interest me!

Upon this realisation, I grinned to myself in full knowledge that a couple of decades later, when we are advanced enough that our cars can fly in the sky, my children will think that I am odd and an ancient relic to do so when I can get everything online.

So mum, if you ever happen to chance upon this post, I take my words back and I do wish you a very Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Heard on the train

Boy: Mummy, maybe I will go out and play soccer with my friends tomorrow.

Mother: Aiyoh, you better study hard ah... exam coming already still want to play play play!

Boy: I'm not playing what...

Mother: Soccer is playing.

Boy: Where got? Soccer is exercise (grins)

Mother: ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Boy:1 Mother: 0

God Bless the children of the world!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quiet Wisdom


The past three weeks have been really bad for me as I had to deal with changes, responsibilities and life's unpredictability. I do not plan to write everything that have happen to me here. It just serve to bring back anger and resentment. I'm searching for a sense of serenity and clarity; to find that quiet wisdom and to experience life with only those who really matter to me.

While I have gone through flashes of anger to throw it off my chest, I've only sunk deeper into a state of depression. Therefore, I'm seeking the other alternative.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Letter to the Forum

Dear readers, I've just written to the Straits Times Forum about our nation's postal service. In the event that my letter does not get published or is edited, I've decided to post my original letter here.

Singpost - Good Advertising Move but Should Improve Service Standards

I am writing in reaction to Singpost's advertising move in engaging artists to paint their post boxes as well as my recent experience at a post office. Firstly, I do congratulate Singpost's decisions to get artists to paint their post boxes as an effort to bring art to the city. It is a wonderful move to showcase our local artists as well as to inject vibrancy in the city while using the post boxes as a canvas. Additionally, this commissioning of artworks in celebration of the Youth Olympic Games is a wonderful reminder of our progress in being able to host such an event despite being a small nation.

However, a celebration of our nation’s progress must be matched by the progress of service standards of our postal service. In this case, two separate occasions at a particular Singpost branch have left me sorely disappointed. On both occasions, I was at a post office branch in my neighbourhood to post a greeting card to a friend studying overseas. When it was my turn, the staff failed to greet me and render their assistance in a polite manner. Furthermore, when I requested to buy stamps and obtain the necessary postmarks, they did not ask me if I would like to attach the stamps and the “By Air Mail” sticker myself. Worst of all, they took the letter from me and attached the stamps and sticker in such a nonchalant manner that it made the envelope appear very unsightly.

Such a service is unacceptable as not only did they fail to meet the basic service standards, it is also disrespectful to the customer by treating the letter in such a horrible fashion. While the practice of sending greeting cards and letters via. the postal service is uncommon nowadays, one must still treat the letter with respect for it contains the sincere thoughts and wishes of the sender. It also leaves a terrible impression on the recipient of the sender when the stamps and postmarks are attached in such a haphazard manner.

As such, I urge Singpost to review the service standards and practices of their staff as the standard of the national postal service does affect the image of the nation itself.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ode to a Mockingbird

Without a doubt, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is a literary gem. This means that whoever attempts to stage its play adaptation will either make it or break it. They have to deal with doing justice to the piece, being constantly compared to many productions before them and the actor playing Atticus is up against Gregory Peck. But against all odds, Toy Factory's latest offering certainly made it.

The move to stage it in a surrealistic concept is certainly an edgy and a creative one as it serves as an experiment to see if this creative idea brings home the message better. The sparse and open stage sans side curtains has this raw feeling to it as all the mechanics of the stage can be seen even whilst in transition from scene to scene. This, together with the microphones hanging down, presents a vague and uncomfortable environment as if it seems to strips the whole play to its essential message as we watch the scenes unfold. It forces us to sub-consciously be so overwhelmingly aware of what is happening onstage.


This sense of unfamiliarity and discomfort is further enhanced by the lighting, sound design and props. The use of lighting that primary consists of blue and green hues with the occasional dash of red certainly creates this nightmarish dreamscape that emphasises the possibility of how severe and frightening a society can become when it is plagued by racism. This is complemented by the haunting soundscape that consists of civil rights song and rhythmic, industrial yet harsh sounds. To top it all off, the use of steel stools to depict the various setting is certainly new and it serves to distance us and create this vague but familiar dream-like sequence.


As for the cast, they really did bring out the profound message of this play to life despite some misses along the way. A big congratulations goes to Brendon Fernandez for his impeccable portrayal of Atticus Finch. His passionate version is a definite delight to watch and while we will not be forgetting Peck's performance anytime soon, I am glad that he has defined Atticus in his own unique style. The consistency in his accent, physicality and energy on stage is much to be admired. However, it is such a waste that he focused on the natural rhythms of speech instead of putting emphasis into his closing statements in the court case for it is in those lines in which Lee's case is made.

Another notable character, Scout Finch (played by Julie Natalia Wee), is to be praised. The sheer energy exuded by Wee to portray the strong-willed yet innocent child is the life of the show as it keeps it buoyant. Her chemistry with Atticus, Jem (played but Jae Leung), Dill (played by Tan Shou Chen wonderfully as he brings out the childlike curiosity of Dill well) is fantastic and a great fun to watch. A powerful scene I would like to point out would be when the townsfolk came to the jailhouse to wreck havoc with Atticus guarding Tom Robinson inside. In the midst of the tussle, Scout recongises Mr. Cunningham who is a farmer and whose son is her classmate as she asks if it were really him. That innocent and juvenile imploration for Cunningham to affirm his identity certainly brought tears to my eyes. It is a stinging reminder of how warped and complicated the world has become and that our children have to live in it and try to make sense of it which they should not have to do so. Once again, a standing ovation to Julie Natalia Wee.


Among the supporting cast, the actors of note are Pravin Saivi as Bob Ewell and Rayann Condy as Mayella Ewell and Stephanie Crawford. Saivi's portrayal as the crude and brutish Bob Ewell is certainly great to watch. His realistic southern accent and daring in his acting certainly bring chills to one's spine as I sat in the audience feeling outraged, disgusted and terrified all at the same time by his racist attitude, violent behaviour and the possibility that Finch's children may be killed. This is in light of the fact that I know what will happen in the end which goes to show the utter magic of theatre and Saivi's acting.

Condy provides an amazing anchor as the coquettish Crawford and the victimised Mayella. Her veracity in playing both characters who are poles apart is indeed impressive. This is especially so in Mayella during the court trial. Her ability to portray the shaken, disturbed and pressured Mayella with such consistency, stability and control is certainly a mark of a good actor. Her presence as Mayella certainly made that scene ever more poignant and sobering.

Additionally, I would like to praise whoever made the casting call to put Saivi as a white man and a fair Fauzie to play Robinson. This ironical and brilliant choice did bring some nervous laughter in the audience as it truly made us to be so consicous of the skin colour of the actors throughout the play which calls to question whether racism is just a matter of black and white or something more.

Finally, I would like to thank Toy Factory not only in staging such a great play but also in highlighting how racism features in Singapore which is often being swept under the carpet. I'm glad to see how Art has such a potent function in society and to see the most creative of minds bring a literary gem to life and to new heights in an exciting way!

Truly, 'courage isn't a man with a knife in his hand' but to speak out and fight against the harsh silence of injustice that pervades society.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do

Earlier in the day, I had a little squabble with my mum regarding learning driving. Unlike most of my friends, I do not think it is an absolute need to learn driving because I can't afford to buy and maintain a car and I have a terrible sense of direction. However, my mum is insistent on it saying that as a man, I MUST learn how to drive. Furthermore, it is a skill and it is shameful that my female friends know how to drive and I don't.

That sets me thinking. Are there prescribed things that a man MUST know or are we desperate to fulfill the gender stereotype?

Why do we impose all these "requirements" on ourselves? Shouldn't we be free to do what we want and what is necessary in relation to the choices that we chose? What is being a man anyway? It is with these rigid mentality that we often find ourselves trapped and bogged down by life and thus, falling short of living a life.

To me, being a man or a woman is essentially just being yourself.
Let's consider this case in point:

A man does not go out to work to provide for his family. Instead, as he chose to have a family, he cares about the welfare of the family. This includes emotional, material and spiritual welfare of his family. As long as he and his partner works out how to achieve and maintain the general welfare of the family, it really doesn't matter who does what. A man is not less of a man if he decides to stay home and take care of the children while his wife is the sole breadwinner.

But a man is not a man if he just decides to have children just to fulfill his base desires. He has no self-control and it appears that his only consolance in life his through his sexual prowess which can be terminated by various means.

Therefore, being a man is truly about being active in choosing how you want to live your life and being responsible for the choices you make and there is no textbook way of how one is supposed to do that.

So mum, if you are reading this, I ACTIVELY CHOOSE NOT TO LEARN DRIVING FOR I DO NOT SEE THE POINT OF IT NOW! Besides, I'm being eco-friendly ;P

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old Beginnings

The new year heralds a new beginning and a clean slate. Often, we are too engrossed in starting anew, to throw away what's past as if it were a drunk mistake and promise ourselves that this year will be better. Yet, it won't be long before we relent and get intoxicated with the mess of the world and am willing to throw the year away as it draws to a close. It is interesting how we acquire this habit as if we are going to live forever.

This new year, I realise that this habit is extreme. Have we not considered that the reason why we want to restart afresh is that things have gone so terribly off-course? 2009 was a shocking year for me as I left my JC, place my life to a grinding halt and see how all my friends grow up and take on their respective journeys.
As I sit there and savour all the wonderful memories I've had, I sometimes wonder why the little things that I share with different people have now become a memory and not a habit. Why did it stop? Why can't we commit? How can we not preserve the shrine but only take an occasional pilgrimage and reducing its frequency as time past?
This year, let's keep the beautiful things going rather than set useless resolutions for ourselves.