Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Commonplace: Atonality


This is the second post for commonplace. The features in this section are different from that of my usual features. Click here to read what the various posts filed under this section are about.
On 19th September of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend a concert entitled "La Noche" (the night in Spanish) which is a collaboration between Roberto Alvarex (Flute) and Katryna Tan (Harp). The duo premiered eight pieces by various composers comissioned to compose a duet for Flute and Harp based on their perceptions of the night. As all the pieces are written by composers that are still alive, most of them were atonal (ie. the piece of music is not written in any key).

Before playing one of the songs, Katryna Tan mentioned that most people would view atonal music as a piece of music that is composed of random notes. But to the composer of that particular piece, atonality means that every single note that is written is just as important as the other. That got me thinking...

If one were to extrapolate this idea to society as a whole, isn't this a statement about embracing diversity? It is definitely a good thing to embrace a difference in culture and opinion and accord the same importance to every single member of society. The more important question is, how do we harness this diversity to produce something productive and beautiful such as the duet I heard in the recital hall? In writing music, there is a science to it but is there one in a societal construct?

If we were to water down the construct to a mundane one such as a project group, another question pops up: where do we draw a line in embracing a difference of opinion and decide on the way forward? It is easy to say that the leader should take charge and decide. But in doing so, it negates the diversity that we are embracing in the first place.

While I do not have an answer, I love how the concept of atonality triggers off such thoughts. A beautiful metaphor too!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Communication: It gets worse as it becomes easier


Being the semi-Luddite that I am, the number of social media networks that I am on often amazes me. In fact, the medium I am engaging in now can also be considered a form of social media. Such a technological trend is often paradoxical. While it makes communication and socialising with others easier, we become increasingly anti-social and often take the ease of communication for granted; a backlash. To prove a point, this post is composed through the Blogger app on my iPhone. While I will eventually communicate to you my thoughts and ideas on the go, I have switched off from my surroundings and people around me in the process; becoming anti-social.

Due to the ease of communication, we become slack in our attitudes towards punctuality, etiquette and sincerity. Running late? No problem! A text to your friend and you know that your friend won't worry and would bother himself with something else while waiting for you to arrive. Thus, one finds oneself never being able to be punctual for anything. This differs from the pre-cellular network era in which the embarrassment of having someone wait for you meant that one would leave the house extra early to give a buffer time for any delays or problems with transportation.

Aside from punctuality, the ease of writing this post or an email through my iPhone meant that I can easily type out my thoughts in a stream of consciousness. If you are still reading this post, the words I have typed so far are still within a span of a train ride home and I have not reviewed what I have written thus far. As such, we slowly become less concerned with the nuances that are implied in our choice of words. Instead, we're more interested in stating what we think even though if those thoughts have not been processed properly; a need to insist on the world listening to oneself.

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*The remaining of this post below is written on my computer*

Perhaps that is why we can be considered as the "soundbite generation". As an illustration, we should look back on January of 2009 when Obama assumed office and gave his Presidential Inaugural Address. The whole world watched on and various political commentators were furiously giving their analysis on what is to be considered a watershed event in the history of USA. Amidst the cacophony of voices, one of them spoke to me. Clay Jenkinson, social commentator, historian and Chautauqua practitioner, was describing what a different world we are living in and wonders how could one even give a credible analysis on a speech mere minutes after it has been made. It would be impressionistic at best or utterly inaccurate at worst. Such comments certainly reflect the world we are living in; consuming a greater amount of information almost immediately but often missing out on the important points.

As a final anecdote, someone did point out the absurdity of the need to text someone to read an email that was sent and to reply to it promptly. This was done in spite of the fact that the reciever was expecting such a mail. It does seem to me that the efficiency of communication makes us less efficient in such a way that we are bombarded with all sorts of mail and messages to such an extent that we naturally just ignore all of it and, in the process, miss out on the important ones. Thus, we see the emergence of a seemingly irrational habit of actually texting people to remind them to respond.

While the bulk of my post is more of a lamentation on the falling standards of the way we communicate and conduct our relationships with others, it would be silly to reject the benefits of technology and do what the Luddites did. The synthesis should neither be a magic nor a mind-blowing solution because that just means that no one would be able to do it. At the end of the day, it truly boils down to how important the particular person is to you because if they were truly important, taking the effort to slow down, communicate clearly and promptly and being mindful of your conduct should not be a chore. In short: slow down, think through and be on time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thoughts of a College Student



Hello readers, I do apologise as it has been a rather long time since I have last written on the blog. It has been 6 weeks since I have started college (a month and a half!) and I'd thought I'll dash off some thoughts here just to give you a feel of what I am going through.

College is certainly a brand new experience. Everything seems much faster; time, expectations and comprehension of what is being taught. Amidst this manic rush and overloading, it is interesting that I feel a sense of liberation. Freedom and independence can be exciting and scary at the same time. While I am free to do whatever I want and take whatever subject that interests me, it does beg the scary question of what do you want to do with your life? That is certainly a loaded question because it not only forces you to make a choice, it also signifies all the responsibilities that growing into adulthood brings.

Aside from all the excitement and pressures of college, I can't help but compare myself to what others have accomplished when they were my age. The Inklings were discussing original compositions of what became some of the greatest books of literature, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson were busy writing comedy sketches as members of Footlights ; the birthing stages of what became Fry and Laurie, and if I could not feel any smaller, Alexander the Great was already a force to be reckoned with when he was my age. 

By comparison, the various students groups in NUS really pale in comparison. Do not get me wrong, I totally admire all the leaders of the various groups because having to run a society in University is a no mean feat. But what are we lacking that the Inklings and Footlights did not? Are we not creative enough? The thing is, we are ten thousand times more exposed to influences all over the world than the Inklings and Footlights (during the time of Laurie, Fry and Thompson) combined. So what is it that is stopping us from creating something of that calibre?

It is interesting to note that while grades are important, what people remember of the Inklings and Footlights are certainly not what GPA/CAP (whichever way you call it) those luminaries got...

I guess it's time to start on that 1000 word essay.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Commonplace

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the launch of a new feature on my blog! It's called, "Commonplace". Basically it is an online version of a commonplace book where I'll offer snatches of my thoughts, quotes or lines from books/magazines that caught my fancy.

In due recognition that I have started college and the workload is gradually piling up, commonplace will be great as I will still be able to provide you guys something to read and digest without taking too much time to compose them. And through these short entries, I hope that it will serve as a prelude to who I am in considering the material and content that interest me.  

So here's the first entry of Commonplace:

From the swirl of its initial letter to its sighing vowel and feather-soft final consonant, the very word - "swan" - suggests grace. Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky did not, after all, write Duck Pond

~ Untherthiner, Stefano (December, 2010). Swan Serenade. National Geographic, 57.

Whoever thought one can describe a swan by examining the linguistic construction of the noun attributed to it and extend the idea of gracefulness to music!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Stand Corrected


For those who read my previous post entitled "Update", you would expect this post to be a rant. However, as the title suggests, I won't. Allow me to preface this by explaining why I'd thought that the Orientation Week (O Week) would not have been enjoyable at best and a total disaster at worst.

I am not a very sociable person and am a creature of comfort as I don't fancy myself getting dirty unnecessarily. Additionally, I am a student of the old school of thought when it comes to social conventions. Getting to know someone entails shaking hands, introducing oneself and engaging in some meaningful and thoughtful conversation.

 This overture could later be extended by  going on outings or gatherings to further develop this friendship. This is definitely a far cry from the wild cheering and somewhat meaningless games as people immediately categorise you based on how you acted throughout the whole thing.  

So what was different about this O Week? The truth is that it is not very much different from what I expected in terms of itinerary (actually it is slightly less wild than I expected which is fortunate for me) but what made a world of a difference is the people. Every single one of them. There is this sense of acceptance and open mindedness in the air; I have never felt judged or isolated in any way whenever I appear lukewarm about certain activities.

Instead, my group mates took stuff as it is and gave everyone a benefit of the doubt which was quite rare. Another aspect that made O Week great for me was that the House ICs did a great job of imbibing a sense of house spirit in me which was a miracle in itself.

So would I step forward to become an OGL or House IC? Nope (a leopard doesn't change its spots that easily) Would I crash for a couple of days? Maybe... with a leaning towards the affirmative.


To my fellow Topplers:

Thank you for making O Week such a wonderful experience! While I am sorry for not being able to get to know of you (our OG + crashers + seniors = one really huge group!!), I do hope that you enjoyed your O week as well.

I hope that in the days ahead, we would take time to get to know each other properly. And I do hope a friendship will develop from there; not just for the sake of tutorials but something that would last and enhance our lives in one way or another.

As to the leaders and seniors, thank you for being there and making O week great! O week won't be the same without you guys!

As such, I wish you the very best for your future, take care and keep in touch!

With much love...


Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Personal Touch to Communication

Personalised Stamp and Calling Card

When one comes of age, the way one communicates change drastically. We no longer communicate with others through our parents nor do we reside withing their protection when it comes to honouring what we say. Instead, we leave our name and reputation in whatever we do and are solely accountable to the promises that we make. As such, I am a firm believer of acquiring personalised stationery as a symbol of independence and maturity.

While there are some who feel that going to such degree of personalisation is pompous, superficial and a waste of money, I beg to differ. The act of presenting your name is a sure sign of confidence in one's own identity and the details in the personalisation of your stationery emphasises that identity. Additionally, writing a polite letter or presenting your calling card with such details certainly come across as sincere as you are telling the other person that you are willing to go to an expense just to communicate with them. Let's face it, who wouldn't feel special if one were to receive something so unique?

Furthermore, there are several options when it comes to customisation and one need not go for the most exclusive or expensive option. Ordering a customised stamp to personalised your letter pad and 200 calling cards cost SGD $66. It is a relatively minor expense for something that will last for a very long time and afford you  a touch of sincerity, refinement and style. Having said that, let us look and the two items of stationery that one can easily customised.

Calling Card
The calling card is steeped in history as its tradition dates back to the 19th Century. Basically, the calling card is used as a tool to announce one's arrival or to express a formal greeting by turning the corner of the card downwards. While many of us will be confused should we follow the tradition to a tee, there are many modern ways of using it. I personally use it as a polite means of extending one's friendship and a line of communication to another person. It is certainly a memorable way of ensuring that the other person has your contact details.

For those who are looking for a recommendation, I got mine done at Focus Print. The great thing about their service is that they provide free design services and delivery. It certainly is extremely suitable for those who are busy and have no idea how to design using a computer. All you need to do is to go down to their office for an initial consultation and any revisions to the design will be made via. email. 

Stamp (from the desk of ....)
Initially, I wanted my own customised note pad with those words printed on every page. However, after much consideration, I realised that it would chalk up quite an expense in the long run. Hence, I came up with a practical and economical solution of ordering a stamp which would allow me to customise any letter pad by stamping my name at the top. After using it for a while, I realised that it really gives the paper that you are writing on some character and a totally different feeling that just scribbling on it and signing off.

The stamp can be ordered from Durachop. However, you need to provide the artwork yourself as they do not offer design services. The fantastic thing that I love about this company is that you can order via. email and collect it from their office after two working days. Most importantly, the prices are rather reasonable as my rubber stamp cost me SGD $9.

In the age of instant communciation, stylish customisation and a tip of the hat to the past definitely goes a long way.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Update


For the very few who do follow my blog, you would probably realise that I tend to update this blog weekly with an assortment of features of various topics. However, this week will be slightly different as I will give you an update on what is going on with yours truly. 

Well, I have a confession to make... The reason why this week's post is not one of my regular features is because I was exhausted from writing about the Terracotta Warrior exhibition on another blog that I manage, Essential Culture. Well for those who have no idea what Essential Culture is or have not read my feature, you can start by clicking the link and liking the facebook page.

I am really glad that my feature has gotten two followers for the blog as it means I must be doing something right. I can't wait for it to be incredibly active where people will bounce around ideas and write articles just to increase one's cultural capital. At least that would be much of a consolation given the fact that I draw no income from the writing.

In my personal life, I am about to take my IPPT later today and will be waiting for college to start in less than a month. Aside from that, I am slightly occupied with the administrative errands with regards to registering for college as well as preparing for my flute exam in November.

Of course a big highlight (not in a good sense)  in the coming days would be my varsity orientation. If I survive that, I will probably write a short piece about that to my social peril. But in the spirit of freedom of expression, I must have my own opinion. Lofty as it sounds, it will turn out as sort of a rant but I will try not to overdo the ranting part for I do not want to bore you. 

I end this update in looking forward to the new and exciting opportunities that my future will bring and hope that I will continue with the writing when life gets busy. Who knows? Maybe all these thoughts that I lay it here will bring in a modest income in the future.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Relatively Speaking

In case you're wondering, it's not my family photo

I always look forward to seeing my baby nephew whenever he comes to visit. His laughter, tricks and antics never fail to brighten up my day. While I shudder at the thought that this boy will soon been calling me Uncle Isaac when he learns to speak, I can't wait for him to grow up as I am curious to find out what amazing things he will achieve. While I wait in anticipation for that day to come, one of his recent visits made me ponder about family relations.

During a recent visit, my aunt (his grandmother) tried to teach him to call her grandma. On seeing this, my mother remarked that he should call my aunt "Ah Ma" as compared to grandma. Being the liberal that I am, my initial reaction was to scoff at this suggestion as being old-fashioned. But it later led me to muse about the importance of the language in relation to one's culture and its bearing on family ties.

While I do agree that it is important to preserve one's culture through the usage of the language in one way or another, I feel that this would be at the expense of strengthening family ties. In the case of my nephew, he is being brought up in which his mother tongue* is English and to ask him to address all the branches of the family tree in a different language would immediately distance himself from them.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the dialect is confusing as it distinguishes the maternal and paternal branch. It gets worse when it comes to uncles such as myself as I am the maternal cousin of his mother. For those who are wondering how to address an uncle that is the maternal cousin of your mother in Hokkien, it is "biao gu". As an icing on the cake, his father is Hainanese and he would probably have to address his paternal branch in the Hainanese language! Talk about having identity crises!

So for those who were initially unconvinced that one is distanced from one's relatives when forced to address them in the native language to their race, would you approach this uncle if you have to call him "biao gu" (it gets even more complicated if I had siblings which fortunately for my nephew, I don't) or would you do so if you only need to address me as Uncle Isaac?

In this light, one's efforts in preserving one's culture actually leads to the disintegration of the family tree as the child already being distanced by language will not keep in contact with the extended branches. Sooner or later, these extended relatives are acquaintances at best and strangers at worst. 

Having said that, how does one synthesise between preserving one's heritage and keeping the family as close as possible? The best solution I can think of is to teach the child to address relatives in the mother tongue but to train him to be as multi-lingual (in consideration of the child learning mandarin and a dialect) as he grows up and exposing him to facades of his heritage. That way, he will still be in touch with his culture but not at the expense of distancing himself from the extended family.

Do you have similar experiences as you were growing up? For those who are parents, what are your thoughts about this issue? Share them by leaving comments below the post!

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* For the purpose of this discussion, mother tongue refers to the dominant language that one learns from birth. While it is a different definition from what the Ministry of Education prescribes, it is important to define it as such due to the multi-lingual make-up of Singapore.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eye-Rolling Cliches



If one were to ask a child to write a short piece about an act of kindness, we all know that there is a possibility of the essay turning out to be the protagonist helping someone to cross the road. The question is, how many of us would roll our eyes as this is the millionth time someone thought about that? Additionally, what is the possibility of that happening in real life? While I used to have such a reaction, recent events have rendered me as the kid who is writing that essay.

As I was on my way to lunch, I saw a plump lady sitting by the bustop and she called me as I walked past her. Lo and behold, I was asked to perform that act that millions of children have written about at least once in their lifetime. Being an eye-rolling cliche, one would expect that one would know exactly what to do.

Yet, what happens next will shock me into a revelation. I felt extremely awkward in helping her as I did not know what best to do (kids please write clearly what the protagonist did and not "he helped her across the road"). Do I hold her arm and guide her across or offer my arm for her to hold onto it for support? Being a strong believer of modesty, I limply offered my arm as she held onto it to get on to the curb. This experience certainly left me feeling empty as I felt that I did not really help her at all.

So what happened here? An act that was meant to help someone became a self-conscious act of deciding what to do. And what was usually regarded as something trivial became a real test for me. It really drove home the point that kindness is not merely performing the act but in being there and ensuring that you are doing all you can to make the life of the other person better.

It is amazing how an eye-rolling cliche made me a child that day...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pieces of Memory: Hero Fountain Pens

Hero fountain pens
In the second feature of Pieces of Memory, we are going back to school to revisit an item that would resonate strongly with those who are born in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Hero fountain pens.

While the children of today are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing their preferred pen for school, the previous generation had to stick with three: Hero, Parker or Sheaffer fountain pens. But more often than not, most children of that time will be using Hero fountain pens as the other brands are rather costly.

Simple, needle-like nib
While we are accustomed to fountain pens with a large and fancy nib, this humble pen has a simple, needle-like nib which is great for writing small and very suitable for school work.


Pump mechanism to draw ink
As for the drawing of ink, this pen adopts a simple pump system in which one presses the plastic tubing repeatedly to pump up the ink into the pen's reservoir. A simple mechanism that is certainly very suitable for children.

Two websites that you need to know
In terms of writing, the pen dispenses ink fairly smoothly and it does not leak as one writes. Of course, it does not provide the scribe with a sense of luxury as compared to the upmarket ones but it serves its function well. Regardless of whether one writes clearly or in cursive, one can do so rather easily. However, the only bone I have to pick is that the pen feels slightly scratchy when one writes. 

Personally, it was a joy to discover what my parents used to write with when they were school children. In the process of using the pen extensively, I began to realise how vastly the education system differs from one generation to the next.

The previous generation certainly emphasised on good penmanship and the need to write consciously; not only in terms of how the words appear but the right choice of words which one uses. This meant that the school work our parents produced would definitely be more thoughtful and well-written as compared to the blind regurgitation that is characteristic of the students of today.

Such ideals certainly extend to the culture and character of that generation. The music, books and perhaps behaviour of people in our parent's generation are generally meaningful, well-chosen and refined; a far cry from the repititive, tuneless and vulgar self-glorification that is inherent in today's culture and philosophy.

For those readers who are interested in buying the pens, they are sold at Mustafa Centre for approximately SGD $1.20. What a steal of a price to own a humble piece of history!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Collaboration: Essential Culture

Dear readers,

I have started a new collaboration with my friends on a new blog, Essential Culture. It is a space where people can learn and share with one another on the basics of all things culture. Such a collaboration recognises the need to widen one's horizons and enrich oneself. 

From time to time, I will write a brief on the various new features on this blog so that you will be informed of any updates. If you have a Facebook account, do like our page and share it with your friends. For a start, I have written the first feature about the colours of roses and its meanings so do check that out.

I will still devote time to this blog as this is a platform to document my personal observations so don't worry. As for those who are wondering what to expect of this blog, I will be continuing my series on Pieces of Memory as well as writing my latest purchase from a vintage boutique, By My Old School. So watch this space.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rewarding Consumers With Advertising

Being in a consumerist world, we are constantly bombarded with loads of advertisements and certainly thought that we have seen all that there is to advertising. But I realised I was wrong when I came across an advertising model by EmailCash Pro. The model adopted by EmailCash Pro is based on the idea that the consumer is rewarded on two fronts; monetarily and discovering new services that may be useful to them.  

They are rewarded monetarily as they earn points whenever they view an advertisement sent to their emails for 30 seconds. These points are later converted into monetary value at the end of each month in which they are able to cash out once it reaches a certain threshold. It must be noted that the monetary reward is not a lot if you do it alone. Yet, a small sum can be earned by referring the service to several people as you will earn extra points by doing so. 

Of course, as with all other forms of advertising, consumers are able to find services that will be useful to them. But what makes the EmailCash Pro model arguably more effective is that the monetary reward will motivate the consumers to truly stop and look through the advertisements. And correct me if I am wrong, the first step to any kind of advertising is really to get consumers to stop and stare isn't it?

Having said that, if you would like to find out more about the service or join it, click here. By clicking any of the links in this post and actually signing up for the service, you will be referred by me. I do hope my readers will consider joining the service as it is no harm getting more advertisements through your email while earning a little on the side. It will go a long way to sustaining this blog as the extra points I earned by my referrals will generate more revenue for me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Being Schooled at 21 by 13 year-olds



Recently, I had the fortune of being asked to conduct a drama enrichment programme at Edgefield Secondary School. The thought of teaching drama to secondary school students filled me with a mix of excitement and dread. Such feelings are influenced by the fact that I am finally getting paid to do something that I love but if my relief teaching experiences were anything to go by, it may not be what I expected. As it turns out, it was indeed not what I expected. Unexpected in all senses of the word for I felt that they taught me more than I taught them.

Despite being in normal academic* which, in this country, meant that they shoulder prejudice and the occasional dismissal of their ideas or capabilities, they were able to carry their own weight and stand by their ideas. They possess a strength that most of us seem to have lost in face of an overpowering authority or someone that we truly admire for their knowledge for the fear of appearing silly or childish.

While they are learning the basic principles of drama through games or working on their project of creating a short ten-minute skit, I am often struck by their immense creativity and how it is translated to solving various problems that cropped up along the way. While they often expressed their awe when I worked with them on improving their plots, I am more amazed at how they managed to deliver on the several occasions when I said to them, "I don't know how you are going to do it, but I want this done." That is why I find myself cringing whenever I had to impose boundaries on them as I know that it will kill their creativity bit by bit.

Another instance of maturity and strength was illustrated by one of the boys in the class. The director of his group was absent as one of his grandparents had unfortunately passed away. Most of his group members were panicking, as the director was the only one who knows what was going on and what the blocking should be, except that boy. What he did next was simply amazing. He picked up the pieces by asking his group members if they knew anything about what is happening next and tried to block the piece to the best of his ability while constantly seeking my opinion. For someone who has no experience in drama whatsoever, he really puts all of us to shame.

Seeing these children reaffirms my love for drama and how it is so important to help them fulfill their potential and not stifle it by expectations and academic grades. While it was only a very short span of time that I got to train them, I certainly missed them and definitely will do so for a long time as they are my very first class. And till now, I have no idea who was the teacher and who was the student.
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*For those who are not familiar with Singapore's education system, click here to find out more.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Building Blocks



Recently, as I was waiting for my bus to IKEA from the bus stop opposite Queensway MRT Station, I was shocked to find that the apartment block beside it that I have grown so used to awaiting demolition.










Built in the 1970s, such an apartment block is indeed a rarity with apartments above and provision shops below. While I do not go there often, I used to buy snacks and drinks to fill my tummy whenever I am waiting for a bus to go to IKEA. It really feels like seeing an old friend go without you knowing. Hence, I decided to capture some of its features that are no longer seen in the modern apartment blocks.












(Clockwise from top left: A Shopfront, Letterboxes, Old Pawnshop, Sign Spotted at Pawnshop) 

While taking these pictures, I thought to myself: in the face of rapid changes, what is worth preserving? I turned to my aunt and asked her if she thinks if such an apartment block should be preserved or totally demolished. She replied that it should make way for change as it does not have architectural value such as the likes of Raffles Hotel or the shophouses in Arab Street.

While it is a rational argument, the nostalgist in me could not bear to see it go and I struggled internally to find the architectural value in this apartment block to render it worth preserving. After much thought, I realised that while apartment blocks in the '70s are built with practicality rather than aesthetics in mind, it does reveal how one lives way back then. When this apartment block was built, Singapore is still a fledgling nation and a main concern for the government is to find ways to integrate the people. As such, it is no wonder that this apartment block is a self-contained community where housewives buy groceries below and share the week's gossip or the children could play catch in the open spaces while their mothers keep a watchful eye from the corridors above.

In this light, I feel that at least one of such apartment blocks could be preserved for posterity. Singapore's history should not be found only in pictures. Unfortunately, in the hunger to push ahead the physical remnants of history becomes a thing of the past.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

我的父親母親, The Road Home



我的父親母親 is a heartwarming film that illuminates the pursuit of love and how it still resounds in one's heart after so many years. The audience are brought on this beautiful journey through the eyes of a son who returns home after the demise of his father, a respected village teacher, to handle the funeral arrangements.

As he tries to balance between his mother's seemingly stubborn request of a traditional procession to the limitations of reality, he relates the love story of his parents as we (the son and the audience) collectively discover the reason behind his mother's insistence that is borne out of an unwavering devotion for her husband. This motivated the son to fulfill his mother's wishes to conduct a tradition funeral against the odds.

The courtship all those years ago started when Luo Changyu comes from the city to teach the students in the village. On seeing him, Zhao Di, the belle of the village, becomes infatuated with him as he is taken aback by her beauty and kindness. This sparked off a blossoming romance that consists of exchanged glances and the silly things one would in the midst of being intoxicated by love.

Yet, the course of true love never did run smooth as they are separated due to the ambiguous political trouble that Luo has gotten into. But Zhao's devotion never wavered as she awaits his return at the expense of her health. Fortunately, true love did triumph in the end as they were reunited and never to be separated for forty years.

This film, anchored by the brilliant performances from Zhang Ziyi, Zhao Yulian (young and the elderly Zhao Di respectively) and Zheng Hao (Luo Changyu) as well as furnished  by Zhang Yimou's directorial vision, is certainly a masterpiece.

The innocence and chemistry between Zhang Ziyi and Zheng Hao certainly moved me as the flush of first love between their characters unfolded. The subtleties between the actors through each sideward glance and emerging smile communicated so much more than the usual melodramatic fare. Despite having little screen time,  the quiet strength exuded by Zhao Yulian in her devotion to provide a proper funeral for her husband and fulfill his last wish of rebuilding the school is a beautiful contrast to that of Zhang Ziyi's portrayal of innocent anticipation. The evolution of Zhao Di's devotion provided by the contrast in the portryal of the two actresses gives us a more realistic sense of the strength of her devotion in different times of her life.

Having said that, the direction of the film provided by Zhang Yimou is simply outstanding. His interesting choice of presenting the present day in monochromatic colours to enhance the bleak physical and internal landscape of winter and Zhao Di's mind respectively as opposed to the lush and vivid colours to paint the flush of love in Zhao's youth enhances the brilliance of the love story. The same could be said of the pace of the plot as there are extended scenes of nothingness in the present day as compared to the quick unfolding of the love story. While the scenes in which the young Zhao is waiting for Luo to return may be long, the emotional beats of anticipation, longing and hope somehow increases the pace of the scene emotionally in the midst of the stillness.

Another aspect of the film which must be credited to Zhang Yimou and Bao Shi (screenwriter of the film which is based on his novel, Remembrance) would be the use of silence in the film. The economical use of dialogue is meant to explain and accelerate the plot and nothing else but images of Zhao running clumsily in a state of pure happiness or close up shots of a bowl being mended act as symbols of love and understanding. This truly appeals to the raw emotions of the audience. While it is unknown to us if Zhang Yimou ever intended his film to reach beyond his Chinese audience, he has certainly woven a beautiful story poised for the international screens.

This cinematic work of poetry transcends all boundaries and I challenge anyone not to be touched by it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Opening a New Chapter



"A new chapter has opened in Singapore's history..." as the people, rightly or wrongly, have truly spoken. The close statistics in the polls have shown that the incumbent has taken a much smaller slice of the political pie even in those constituencies which were once considered their strongholds. Many of us will definitely be still reeling (either in euphoria or disappointment) from the results as we all wonder: what now?

To answer this  question, we can look to an intellectual luminary that has witnessed the birth of the world's greatest democracy, Thomas Jefferson.

"But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren  of the same principle." - Inaugural address, March 4, 1801

This beautiful phrase really sums up the symbolism behind electing MPs. The people have placed their trust in the elected MPs  to look after their needs and voice out their opinions in parliament. Therefore, regardless of which party they come from, they are all working for the good of their constituents.

In this light, the MPs  and their supporters must note that:

"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people."   - Thomas Jefferson to John Dickinson, 1801.

Personally, I am slightly disappointed with some of the results but at the end of the day, we as a people must celebrate the strength of democracy; the ability to make a once powerful incumbent sit up and pay attention. That is why I truly believe so strongly in exercising our birth right. It is with such results that call for a strong celebration come August as it is a mark of a mature society that we can decide for ourselves as well as the ability to field a resonant alternative voice in the parliament.

Yet, a bigger task and responsibility lie ahead of us, we as a people who have awarded the responsibility and trust to these MPs must hold them to task and ensure that they have delievered on their promises to the best of their ability. Their actions in the next 5 years that should inform us of our decisions in the next General Elections when we look back then for:

"History, in general, only informs us what bad government is." Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807.


Till 2016 then and all Singaporeans say: Majulah Singapura! (Onward Singapore!)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unwitting Archivers



In any landscape that has undergone rapid changes, there will come a time when there is an underlying need to capture moments in time as a means to chart out the evolution of the social and phyiscal landscapes of the past. Be it for the sake of nostalgia, safekeeping or academic reference, an archive is a valuable resource as the recent re-run of the documentary, 'Lost Images', on Okto has proven.

The documentary consists of footage taken by Dr. Ivan Polunin when he visited Malaya and later resided in Singapore during the 1950s-70s. Such footage were incredibly valuable in reflecting the lives of the people then as well as presenting the sights and sounds of certain aspects such as the orang laut community or the farming methods within the kampongs. These images would have otherwise been lost had it not been for Dr. Polunin who decided to record them now for his own remembrance and unexpectedly, for generations of Singaporeans.

Having enjoyed the film thoroughly, I realised that in 50 years time, we would not need to worry about finding archives that documents the major events of today but what about the sights and sound of everyday life? Who is the next Dr. Polunin among us not only in Singapore but everywhere else? I need not look any further than to switch on my computer and be bombarded by videos, sound bites and photos. So yes, the Facebookers, Twitterites and Youtubers will be the next Polunin!

It is undeniable that the videos and photos on these social media platforms do not have the focus of capturing a slice of life as what Dr. Polunin has done. But it is interesting to note that Dr. Polunin took those footage for his own record but never did he expect that the rolls of film sitting in his house will become a precious resource in depicting Singapore's past. Similarly, it is the candid nature and rawness of the various photos and videos that will inform our future generations of the current sentiments and culture of our time. That is why the editors at Time magazine celebrated You in 2006 and I am sure they will do the same in 50 years time. 

So what are you waiting for? Start shooting!



Rallies for Thursday, 5/05/2011

Dear Readers,

The venues and time of today's rallies have been updated. Kindly click on the "Rallies" page at the top of the page to find out more.

Today is the last chance for you to catch what the parties have to say. Do take some time to attend some of them.

2 Days to Polling Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rallies for Wednesday, 4/05/2011

Dear Readers,

The information for the rallies that take place today has been updated. Click on the "Rallies" link to find out where and when the various parties are holding their rallies.

Do take some time to attend some of them to aid you in taking an informed decision on Polling Day. 3 Days to Polling Day!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rallies for Tuesday, 3/05/2011

Dearest Readers,

I have updated the information about the rallies taking place today which can be found by click the "Rallies" link at the top of the page.

Do take some time to attend some of the rallies.

4 Days to Polling Day!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rallies for Monday, 2/05/2011

Dear Readers,

The information about the various rallies taking place today has been updated. Click on "Rallies" at the top of the page to find out more.

Do take some time to attend some of the rallies. 5 days to Polling Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rallies for Sunday, 01/05/11

Dear Readers,

The rallies for Sunday, 01/05/11 have been updated. Do take some time to attend the rallies and hear what the parties have to say.

6 days to Polling Day!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rallies on Saturday, 30th April 2011

Dear Readers,

I have updated the Rallies page and the details for those happening on Saturday 30 April 2011 can be found on that page.

Do take some time to attend those in your area so as to get a clearer picture of what each party offers. Thank You.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rallies for Friday, 29th April 2011

Dear Readers,

This is to inform you that I have updated the Rallies page to reflect the various rallies that are taking place on Friday, 29th April 2011.

Do take time to attend some of them so as to aid you in making an informed decision.

New Feature Added

Dear readers,

I have added a new page to inform you of all the political rallies that will be held around the country. I urge you to take some time to attend them in order to make an informed decision for the country's future.

Thank You.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't Wave The Flag In August

Don't wave the flag in August if you are not interested in the General Elections. Period.

Today is the Nomination Day in which all political candidates toss their hats into the ring for the upcoming General Election. The elections this time round is a milestone in many ways. It is the first time in 20 over years in which the the incumbent is challenged on all fronts with a credible opposition. By extension, it is also the first time in decades for the younger generation to wield their birth right to vote. By all accounts, this election should be exciting and a proud moment when we as a nation are able to go to the polls; an opportunity that does not extend to many nations around the world.

Yet, it is utterly disappointing that there are people that show a sense of indifference or disillusionment. A few comments that I have heard or read go like this: "I'm going to support PAP anyway, why can't it just be a walkover so that I don't have to go down to vote?", "Is it compulsory to vote?", "Huh? What does this have to do with me?", "I don't like either parties, can I not vote?" 

For those who are wondering if voting is compulsory, it is compulsory to vote. While countries like the USA or UK have made voting optional, it is not feasible here and I am thankful that it is mandatory. With the amount of indifference here, there is a possibility that only half the population that is eligible to vote would turn up at the polls. If that is the case, it would not be much a political mandate which is affirmed by the people would it? Won't this result in a failure of democratic processes?

As for those who are indifferent or disillusioned, I could understand why you may feel that way as what various parties have done prior to this is to engage in theatrics as they focus on the candidates' character and impressions rather than important issues. However, Electing a party or a single candidate to represent you is a chance to have your voice heard in the parliament. It is your right and duty to ensure you are well represented and to hold them to task by casting your votes for or against them in the next election. It is your birth right to vote regardless of whether you are voting the incumbent back to power or not. 

As for those who missed the chance to vote by the skin of the teeth, myself included, it is important that you take interest in this election as the opposition has turned out in full force. This will be an opportune moment to take a look at what plans that the PAP has vis-a-vis that of the opposition's which will lead to a more informed decision that we will take four years later. This will give all candidates a fair chance to convince a new generation of voters. 

To sum up, don't wave the flag in August if you are not interested in the General Elections for the partying will not happen should the parties that decides the future of the country are found wanting.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter Day!

Here's wishing all my readers a very Happy Easter Day!

Take some time off to spend some time with your friends and family and enjoy their comapny!

To those readers who believe, may the glory of the risen Christ remind you that sin is conquered through Him! I wish you blessings, grace and mercy for you and your family.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life
~John 3:16 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Odd Feeling

Imagine this:
It is the death anniversary of your loved one. You have invited family and friends over to catch up as well as to share stories of the loved one in the hopes of taking some time to remember what a great live he or she has led. However, when your friends and family arrive, they started partying as they put some loud music on, drank and danced the night away with a total disregard of the occasion.

How would you feel?

~ ~ ~ ~

That was the odd feeling I had the whole of yesterday, Good Friday. Everywhere I turn, I see people enjoying themselves and even the television programmes are showing cartoons or feel-good movies. I had this sinking feeling inside me as if the whole world does not give a hoot about what the significance of the day is. Granted that not everyone is a believer and that the public holiday has brought about an extended weekend which is definitely welcomed, I still could not shake off this odd feeling.

As I was pondering over the situation I was in, my thoughts immediately turned to the various discussions on religious harmony as well as the need to integrate foreigners into our society. If Singapore is trying very hard to truly integrate all the religions as well as foreigners, wouldn't it go a long way to inform the public about the significance of the holiday?

Perhaps Mediacorp could take a cue from BBC Knowledge in which they screened a documentary, "The House of Windsor: A Royal Dynasty", in the run-up to the royal wedding to inform their viewers of the long and rich history of the modern royal family. This not only drums up interest in the event but it puts the wedding in its historical and symbolic context. 

Personally, I am ashamed of the fact that I have gone through 20 over years of various festivals, religious and cultural, and till now have only a very superficial understanding of these festivals. While the significance of such festivals are taught in school, it is utter naivety if you expect anyone to remember or pay attention in that context. Instead, if a documentary is commissioned in which film makers are challenged to inform the public in a most interesting way, I am sure it would be more effective than any textbook or teacher can achieve.

Now, wouldn't that be a great way of marrying the need for widespread civics education as well as supporting the Arts?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pieces of Memory: 555 Notebook


This simple and unassuming notebook is certainly an integral part of our childhood as well as our parents' younger days. I remember that I used to buy these notebooks in bulk as they usually go for 20 cents each. while I never really make full use of all of them, these notebooks are a repository of my thoughts, doodles and scribbles whenever the lessons in school are boring.

Not being contented with my childhood musings, I decided to investigate further into how such notebooks are used in the adult world all those years ago. In speaking at length with my older relatives, I am amazed at the many uses of the notebook.

Before Excel spreadsheets came into existence, these notebooks are primitive account books in which merchants record their transactions for the day. As for budding entrepreneurs, such books are the bane of their existence as the moneylenders will come hounding while waving it for them to pay off their debts. For the layman who wants to make a quick buck, the notebook becomes a punter's manual with all the supposed lucky numbers one can think of.

It is certainly interesting to see how this simple notebook resides in many pockets many years ago as it faithfully contains our dreams, hopes and struggles to make a living.





I plan to start some kind of a project using the 555 notebooks and would appreciate your suggestions.

What are your memories of the 555 notebook? What should I write in the notebooks? What other items brings back fond memories of your childhood? 

Drop a few lines in the comments section!

A Renewal of Commitment

My Dearest Readers,

I know most of you have probably given up on checking on my blog regularly due to my lack of updates. This is mainly due to the fact that I'm caught up with various freelance projects and temporary jobs; most of which are writing jobs.

While these writing jobs do not pay very well, at least they still offer a couple of bucks now and again. But over time, I realised that I'm still a creature of freedom and would love to be able to express myself without much restrictions. Hence, this is a renewal of my commitment to you people that I will update more often.

Having said that, one must realise that I am still in need of an income and it is an unfortunate fact that sometimes financial necessities may overshadow interest and passion. Hence, I am appealing to you readers to look through some of the ads by Google that are now up on the blog and click it only if it appeals to you.

Also, it would be much appreciated if you could steer any like-minded friends to this blog if you think they might be interested in the content that is here. Your help will go a long way as if I can generate some money through my writing here, I will be able to turn down some projects and devote more time to this space.

Finally, I would like to announce a new series that will be launched on this blog entitled, 'Pieces of Memory'. It is a feature on anything that evokes a sense of nostalgia in us as it reminds us of our childhood or it might even be from the previous generation. So watch this space!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Untitled

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All that Glitters is not Gold
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2 + 2 = 5

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Monday, March 7, 2011

iPod Sleeves by Inkleaf Leather Co.




Recently, I have had the great honour of receiving Inkleaf Leather Co.'s new product, the iPod sleeve. Initially, I was considering to get one for my iPod Classic but was unsure if it would fit. To my surprise, they sent me a complimentary one to test it out. Hence, as a display of my appreciation, I decided to return the favour by writing a full review on their new product.

The Look

My first impression of the chestnut brown sleeve (other colours available: Buffalo Brown, Dark Mahogany, Mahogany) was how beautifully simple it is. The sleek lines and compact design makes the sleeve unassuming and yet exudes an old world charm. Additionally, such dimensions means that no bulk is added to your device. In other words, the sleeve is like a charming leather glove for your iPod. 

The leather feels sturdy and its close stitching at the sides makes it incredibly durable. It is unbelievable the sleeve is made by hand due to such a fine finish to the product. A quick survey with my family and friends elicit the same response which is a great testament to its fine workmanship.





The Fit

iPod Sleeve with iPod Classic
It is most unfortunate that the sleeve did not fit the iPod Classic as it is shorter in length and thicker than the iPod touch and iPhone. I had to use a great amount of strength to pull the device out of the sleeve as it was too tight. 

iPhone 3G(s) Vs. iPod Classic
                                                              
Next, I decided to test it out with my iPhone 3G(s). It fits extremely well as evident from the following pictures.

iPod Sleeve with iPhone 3G (s)

While it fits like a glove, I was worried that the close fit of the sleeve to the phone may scratch its surface. On closer inspection, such worries are unfounded because the texture of the leather inside the sleeve is relatively smooth and the sleeve was made in such a way that the two panels part slightly when the phone is inserted into the sleeve. Therefore, the panels would not come in direct contact with the phone surface which eliminates the chance of it being scratched. 


Panels of Sleeve not Touching iPhone 3G(s)

As for the iPhone 4, I realised that it the fit was slightly loose as the iPhone 4 is slightly shorter and thinner as compared to the iPhone 3G (s). Hence, it would immediately slip out should you turn it upside down. Nonetheless, one is still able to buy the sleeve as long as you do not turn it upside down.

iPod Sleeve with iPhone 4
Lastly, I decided to test the sleeve out on Nokia E5. The results were the same as the iPhone 4.

iPod Sleeve with Nokia E5

Overall Satisfaction

While the sleeve could not fit my iPod Classic, I am incredibly satisfied with the overall look and feel. And it shall now be the new cover for my iPhone 3G(s). With regards to every shopping experience, the working ethic of the company is just as important as the product. In this regard, Joe and Stef (the people behind Inkleaf Leather Co.) has been kind in sending me a complimentary iPod sleeve.

They are also open to your suggestions as they tried to incorporate my idea of adding a pouch to the sleeve to keep one's earphones. Their initial experimentation in incorporating my idea failed and they had to order a new batch of leather to do it. Meanwhile, they immediately emailed me to explain what was happening and, in order not to keep me waiting, sent the chestnut brown sleeve as you see in the pictures. Such accountability to one's customers is rarely seen and indeed admirable which made my dealings with the company extremely enjoyable.

So for those who have an iPhone 3 or iPod Touch, the iPod sleeve is certainly a good buy and will add a touch of class and style to complement your device. For more information about Inkleaf Leather Co. you can visit their website by clicking here or access their Facebook page by clicking here.