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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

"I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It wasn't mine." - Rita Rudner

Random Playlist Song: The Phantom Of The Opera OST - Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer

Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known?
God give me courage to show you, you are not alone!



Random Trivia bit: Tiresias, a blind prophet, was a woman for seven years.

According to one myth, when he saw Athena bathing, she blinded him, but granted him prophetic powers instead. Another story is that Hera blinded him for claiming that women enjoyed love more than men; Zeus recompensed him with long life and the power of prophecy.

(Alternative Sexuality in Greek Myth - what was that about Natural Law again? Ahem)

***

First draft of a short questionnaire for Christians that I hacked out; comments are encouraged in the YACCS comment box - click on "Amused? Stimulated? Offended? Click here to fire off an angry comment" / "(Number) angry comment(s) in the bag - leave more". Christians are also welcome to answer the questions in the comments box:


Seminal questions to ask Christians across the spectrum, and not just fundies:

1) Do you believe that the bible is literally true?

If so, how do you explain its internal contradictions (2 creation accounts in Genesis, 2 genealogies of Jesus - one cannot be of Joseph since he wasn't the father, Jesus' parents not knowing why he stayed in Jerusalem's temple when he was 12 [Luke 2: 42-50]) and historical inaccuracies (no geological evidence of the flood, no town of Nazareth in the 1st century BC, no record of Herod's slaughter of the infants)?

If not - how do you know which parts are false, which parts must be 'interpreted' and which parts must be taken in 'context'? If some parts are false, how do you know others aren't as well? Who's to say that your 'interpretation' is correct; with sufficient 'interpretation' anyone can make the Bible say anything they like? Can 'context' ever justify acts of misogyny, evil and genocide (Timothy, the Flood, Joshua & Numbers)?

2) Do you think all non-Christians/those not of your specific denomination go to hell? If so, how is it just or fair to condemn billions of innocents to hell for all eternity just because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if you were wrong and, when you died, you went to the Islamic hell? What would you say to Allah?

3) Do you believe that your god is the ultimate arbiter of morality, yet is supremely good? If so, didn't he merely define himself as good, making a mockery of the concepts of morality and goodness? If one defines morality, wouldn't he be amoral rather than supremely good?

4) Do you think your mythology unique? If so, why are so many elements shared with previous religions? (Salvation: Mystery pagan religions - Osiris, Eleusinian mysteries, Alleged virgin births of god-men: Romulus, Augustus, Dionysus, Perseus, Baptism: Mithraic mysteries, ablutions, Miracles: Asclepius raising the dead, Resurrection: Dionysius, Osiris)

5) Have you ever communicated with, or felt your god or his presence? If so, how would you distinguish your experiences from similar mystical experiences in other religions, people on an acid trip, those who believe they've been abducted by aliens or those who hear voices in their heads claiming to be gods telling them to kill other people?

6) How does your faith in your religion differ from that of others in theirs?

7) If Christianity is such a good religion, why has so much evil been done in its name? If the evil was done only by evil or confused people in Christianity's name - despite their faith, wouldn't the same logic apply for the good it has encouraged?

***

In view of the difficulty that my No. 1 fan: She with dyed hair that used to be rebonded, an attitude problem, curses freely and loves to wear dominatrix pumps, but who disavows the title of "ah lian" (tamade to you too) has deciding whether Lindsay Lohan had a boob job done, Alwyn suggests that we check out Lindsay Lohan's latest music video: Rumours (don't Americans spell the word differently? Hmm)

Rumours

Buckle up for Lindsay Lohan's latest video, "Rumors," featuring a scantily-clad, highly-glossed Lohan showin' us how to shake it like a superstar--and dodge paparazzi at the same time. Here's part of the treatment:

"Through the people moving to the beat of the track we see a guy. He has a sexy look--edgy and real, more than model-cute. He makes eye contact with Lindsay through the pulsing bodies and we sense their instant connection. Lindsay keeps right on going, performing as she makes her way through the bodies. The lighting makes her stand out--sexy and iconic amidst the club scene."


Smashing, absolutely smashing. And when she wears those retro shades and dances, she looks like one of Gunther's Sunshine Girls.

The song is hilarious: basically telling the paparazzi to crawl back into the hole they came from (and in a relatively civil manner, too). Unfortunately, the shots of her jiggling in the video are hardly going to quell rumours, so.

After playing a few rounds on Fake or Not.com, and consistently getting 8/10, I think it's quite say for me to say that they're fake. Be that as it may, not being a subscriber to Natural Law Theory, I do not think that there's anything wrong with enhancing your body surgically.


Incidentally, while I was browsing Kontraband for the Linsay Lohan Harry Potter video for someone's benefit, I dug up the following:

Harry Potter / Lost Film Script at Kontraband

Harry Potter / The Rise Of The Pheonix (assorted pictures) - I particularly like the following:


Girls potty over Potter broomstick

A toy firm has axed a vibrating replica of Harry Potter's broomstick after mums complained their daughters spent too long riding it

Makers Mattel advertised the battery-operated toy as having "a grooved stick and handle for easy riding".

One mum in New Jersey, US said: "What were they thinking of?"

Another in Ohio told how her daughter played with the broomstick for hours.

She said: "She likes its special effects - so does her 17-year-old sister".

***

On censorship:

"That's puritanism for you, plain and simple - burn all the women alive in the streets, but don't let them show an ankle! Censors will ban anything that speaks of the kind of sex they'll never have."

And it seems the Thought Police intercept shipments of DVDs and replace them:

"A recent shipment was intercepted though. I got a letter informing me of it, and that I would have to pay to have the MDA censor it as well as post it to me. They never got around to returning one DVD, ***, to me. I guess they were too busy being transfixed by the Evil Liberal Western images of a male British pianist have sex with another man and use ice cubes while at it. Nasty, nasty! I eventually did manage to get the DVD by re-routing the parcel to Hong Kong, where my aunt sent it to me in Singapore by labelling it as a "present".

The logic of paying people to go through my purchased DVDs and deliberately remove sections completely escapes me. I'd like to be a censor when I grow up."

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Phantom of the Opera

I think Andrew Lloyd Webber embarked on this project because most of his recent musicals were flops, so he needed to relive his past successes.

The quality of the singing isn't as good as that in the Original London Cast Recording of the Musical; the cast is quite airy in places, and I distinctly heard an error at one part - unforgivable, since this is a movie, not a musical, but otherwise it's acceptable, especially since only Minnie Driver had a singing voice, presumably because the annoying Italian diva singing voice is so hard to produce.

Though she doesn't sing as well as Sarah Brightman did, sounding a little flat in some places, Emmy Rossum sounds more like the innocent girl that Christine is supposed to be. Perhaps because she is only 18, whereas Sarah Brightman was 26 in 1986. Gerard Butler actually isn't bad as the Phantom, but after Michael Crawford, pretty much anyone is left behind. And Jennifer Ellison (Meg) has a very sweet voice.

The instrumental scoring is more evocative than that of the musical in some places but mostly, where changes were made, they were for the worse. At other times, the orchestra sounds hesitant - reluctant to play, shy even. I also take issue with some of the changes to the lyrics. Even one who detests poetry as I do knows that:

"Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent we were" (from Think of Me)

would sound much better like so:

"Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent were we"

There is quite a bit more speaking in the movie than in the musical, and usually this works out well - some lines are more evocative spoken than sung.


As for the acting - Emmy Rossum seems to have one look she puts on half the time: eyes glazed, gaze fixed, as if she's stoned. Meanwhile Gerard Butler doesn't have enough presence as the Phantom. But I like Raoul's hair!

I'm divided with regard to the accents - on the one hand they add atmosphere and authenticity to the story, but on the other they are unevenly applied (the 3 main characters all don't have French accents), and they make characters' speech harder to understand (eg Madame Giry).

Meanwhile, the cinematography is stunning - the Opera Populaire comes to life in all its glory, with the sights, sounds and smells of a 19th century Opera House, but as usual the film utilises too much CGI. I don't blame them too much, though. Not everyone has the budget to redo Cleopatra.


My sister seems obsessed with women who have had boob jobs - she commented at least 3 times to me within an hour of the movie's end that Jennifer Ellison had had a boob job. Bah. But anyway corsets distort the bosom so much that boob jobs become less obvious.

She also claims the Phantom of the Opera is an allegory about how an ugly musical genius seeks to seduce and marry a young woman through his music.

Right.

This is what doing too much literature (and being female) does to you.
"Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." - Yogi Berra

***

A plea for assistance

I have a burning question (well, two) that I am unable to solve satisfactorily:

For those who do not believe in a theistic system of morality, how does morality for them (if any) originate? I am currently in an intermittent debate on Young Republic about whether the moral systems (as it were) of many Liberals, which is based on the harm principle, is in any way a more objective form of morality than those grounded on theistic principles.

Secondly: If, once again, one does not have a theistic framework for morality and rights, is there any basis for saying that humans have an intrinsic right to free speech, freedom of worship and generally "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

***

OUR UNSTABLE LAN
An original ditty by Patrick Kingsley
(To the tune of "Winter Wonderland")

Phone bells ring,
Are you listening?
In IT,
Neck hair's bristling,
A server just died,
We'll be working through the night,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

Print server spazzed,
It's horrific,
A million pages,
of hieroglyphics,
A proposal's due at 8,
Looks like we'll be working late,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

User downloads pornos on the internet,
Gets a virus, brings our servers down,
We'll ask if he's the culprit, he'll say, "No, man!,
So you guys must have broke it; fix it now!".

Error logs,
Looking dire,
Our mail server,
Just caught fire,
Got paged at 1 a.m.,
Time to head back in again,
Trying to keep up our unstable LAN.

User emails 10-meg file attachments,
Our network quickly slows down to a crawl,
Four thousand users working for our company,
And she sent "dancing babies" to them all,

When it snows,
We're all chilling,
All IT's,
Gone snowmobiling,
The backbone's gone away,
LET THEM USE PAPER AND PEN TODAY!,
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"

Repeat to fade:
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"
"To Hell," we say, "with our unstable LAN!"....

***

First they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the immigrants, detaining them indefinitely solely on the certification of the attorney general, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant.

Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a suspect.

Then they came to prosecute noncitizens before secret military commissions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a noncitizen.

Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peak" searches, and I didn't speak up because I had nothing to hide.

Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn't speak up because I no longer participated in any groups.

Then they came to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely without any charges and without access to lawyers, and I didn't speak up because I would never be arrested.

Then they came to institute TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) recruiting citizens to spy on other citizens and I didn't speak up because I was afraid.

Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it only aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America's enemies, and I didn't speak up ... because I didn't speak up.

Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak up.

- Stephen Rohde

***

I'm quite disappointed that people are actually resorting to evangelising on Young Republic. Sigh.

Anyhow, another rebuttal of our favourite conservative intellectual:


> 1. The basic logical fallacy you guys are making is that simply because I
> appeal to absolute morality, that must be equated with the morality of the
> past, i.e. torture, slavery and all those multifarious crimes of illiberal
> Christendom. But firstly, why should Christianity be taking all the flak?

Christianity is taking the flak, my dear, because we are critically evaluating Christianity now.

> Related to this fallacy is the absurd notion that Christianity equals the
> established Catholic Church. I would have been hunted down by that same
> Establishment as a Lollard or Huguenot during the times of which you speak,
> so I hardly feel obliged to defend its numerous errors. So far nobody has
> produced proof that true Christianity (read: the Bible) advocates anywhere
> the nefarious evils of torture, domestic abuse of women, slavery, or that
> the world is flat. I anticipate some feeble attempts to challenge this
> statement - go ahead and do your worst. I'll be ready =).

So the notion is absurd. What then would true Christianity equal? It is also rather feeble to dismiss whatever wrongdoings Christians have done in the name of Christ as not 'true Christianity'. Of course, since you already presume true Christianity to be perfect, which in definition it is, your conclusion is a given and of course our attempts to challenge the statement will be feeble. I contend that what is done in the name of Christianity must be answerable to it. The Bible may not have advocated the 'nefarious evils of torture, domestic abuse of women, slavery, or that the world is flat'. (By the way, your attempt at humour once again undermines your seriousness. It is very likely that one would misinterpret your ironic hyperbole as a belittling of torture and slavery and the domestic abuse of women.) But the fact is that people, who might have meant well, have used the Bible as justification for this. And the fact that you claim that all this isn't 'true Christianity' doesn't seem to my mind convincing. You could say that of anything and win any argument.

> On the contrary, I read in the Bible that husbands should love their wives,
> we should turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and love our enemies.
> Also that masters should treat their servants with fairness and justice,
> bearing in mind that God is their master. And that Christ underwent torture
> without retaliation. If anyone is to blame for the historical examples
> cited thus far, it is the Catholic Church and not Christianity. It goes
> without saying that when I say "Christians" are responsible for leading the
> charge against these abuses, I am NOT referring to the Churchmen who
> behaved in complete contradiction to the teachings of the Bible they
> claimed to believe. After all, Christ Himself defined His disciples as
> those who heard and obeyed His words. You don't have to rely on subjective
> visions and voices in your head when the injunctions are staring in your
> face from the page, neh?

I find your direct and literal interpretation of the Bible disturbing. Just out of curiosity, do you also believe that women are responsible for Original Sin? And by the way I also read in the Bible that women must cover their head in church, that homosexuality is wrong, that everyone must be a Christian or perish in hell, that all other beliefs are false.

So blame the Catholic Church, it's all their fault. Because Protestantism has no blood on its hands. The witch hunts were all fiction. But then again such actions are totally not of 'true Christianity', whatever that might be, neh?

[...]

>And the founders of the modern scientific
> method were Christians such as Francis Bacon who believed that scientific
> laws were a reality because of the existence of a divine lawgiver (as
> opposed to the illusionary world of the Eastern mystics). And until the
> advent of Christianity, women were given the same legal status as cows,
> furniture and other property in the law courts of ancient Greece and Rome.
> As were slaves, but one only has to read Philemon and Colossians 3 to see
> how Christianity changed their status. The true origins of the exclusion of
> women from secular politics must be sought in the constitution-drafters of
> Athens and the other Greek city-states, who needless to say were not
> Christian.

Well of course using your 'true Christian' argument one could argue that since those who committed atrocities weren't 'true Christians', then neither can illuminaries such as Bacon be considered 'truly Christian' (after all, he was by his own admission guilty of bribery), and thus you can't seize his contributions to science in the name of Christianity. Your argument goes like this: whatever bad deeds that Christians do in the name of God I will dismiss as not 'true Christian', whatever good things accomplished by people in any way associated with Christian belief I will claim as the work of Christianity.

And, surprisingly, as a reading of Foucault's History of Sexuality will reveal, Greece and Rome had surprisingly liberal system protecting women: even within marriage, we find that men could not pressure their wives into having sex. Mutual respect was rather important. And yeah, Christianity changed the status of slaves. So that's why slavery in Christian America persisted into the 19th century.

[...]

Here is your paragraph again, in its original splendour:

> Me, I say simple: you really want to stop the problem that you claim is so
> serious, let's do it in utilitarian fashion with CBAs and all that jazz.
> Start with a compulsory yearly blood test (or however often you want,
> depending on the seriousness of the problem), identify all the problem
> cases and offer treatment. Do the same for people coming into the country,
> and make it an offence for them to engage in intercourse until the results
> come out (it takes only 3-4 days, surely you can abstain that long). Tada,
> problem solved. Then whoever wants to have sex with person A can ask
> him/her for proof of AIDS status. If you don't want to ask or want to go
> ahead with a positive status, it's at your own risk, but we will still
> offer treatment thereafter. It's expensive, yes, but eventually the AIDS
> problem will become even more expensive. If the AIDS problem becomes too
> expensive, we can turn to more drastic measures like making everyone carry
> their AIDS status on their ICs, or laser-tattoing it on their necks, or as
> a last resort criminalising sexual intercourse for infected persons. That's
> the amoral, utilitarian approach for you.

[...]

As someone who doesn't have the backing of the one true God behind me, who certainly isn't as assured of salvation, I don't have all the answers. That's why I ask questions.


My shorter follow-up

***

Commissary to the Gentiles by Marcus Eli Ravage [biographer of the Rothschilds] from The Century Magazine, February 1928

"You call us subverters, agitators, revolution-mongers. It is the truth, and I cower at your discovery. It could be shown with only the slightest straining and juggling of the facts that we have been at the bottom of all the major revolutions in your history. We undoubtedly had a sizeable finger in the Lutheran Rebellion, and it is simply a fact that we were the prime movers in the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the century before the last, both in France and America. If we were not, we did not know our own interests. But do you point your accusing finger at us and charge us with these heinous and recorded crimes? Not at all? You fantastically lay at our door the recent great War and the upheaval in Russia, which have done not only the most injury to the Jews themselves but which a school-boy could have foreseen would have that result.

But even these plots and revolutions are as nothing compared with the great conspiracy which we engineered at the beginning of this era and which was destined to make the creed of a Jewish sect the religion of the Western world... when you talk about Jewish conspiracies I cannot for the world understand why you do not mention the destruction of Rome and the whole civilization of antiquity concentrated under her banners, at the hands of Jewish Christianity.

... Perhaps the bitterest foe of the sectaries was one Saul, a maker of tents. A native of Tarsus and thus a man of some education in Greek culture, he despised the new teachings for their unworldliness and their remoteness from life. A patriotic Jew, he dreaded their effect on the national cause. A travelled man, versed in several languages, he was ideally suited for the task of going about among the scattered Jewish communities to counteract the spread of their socialistic pacifistic doctrines. The leaders in Jerusalem appointed him chief persecutor to the Ebionim.

He was on his way to Damascus one day to arrest a group of the sectaries when a novel idea came to him. In the quaint phrase of the book of Acts he saw a vision. He saw as a matter of fact, two. He perceived, to begin with, how utterly hopeless were the chances of little Judea winning out in an armed conflict against the greatest military power in the world. Second, and more important, it came to him that the vagabond creed which he had been repressing might be forged into an irresistible weapon against the formidable foe. Pacifism, non-resistance, resignation, love, were dangerous teachings at home. Spread among the enemy's legions, they might brake down their discipline and thus yet bring victory to Jerusalem. Saul, in a word, was probably the first man to see the possibilities of conducting war by propaganda."

***

"Leonard said: "It is my conviction that the God people make for themselves reflects what kind of person they are." Truer words were never spoken. Couple this with the fact that scripture can be contorted or selectively read so that it supports a *vast* array of different beliefs, and the fact that there are literally hundreds of denominations, each espousing their own peculiar interpretation, and what you have is basically a giant Rorschach test: the religion (god) you want is the religion (god) you see. (At least to a first approximation. Of course, peer pressure and the like certainly do exert influence too.) I have relatives who are devout Christians who disagree on very fundamental points of doctrine; each thinks the other is in danger of going to Hell. They have the same book open in front of them and can read the same words in unison. Yet they reach completely different conclusions; conclusions, I might add, that just happen to match their predispositions. To an outsider (i.e. non-believer), it's very revealing." (link)

Very revealing indeed.


On the cosmological argument:

Ramona said: "But if there ever was a time when nothing at all existed, then there would be absolutely nothing today. It is an axiomatic truth that if nothing exists, then 'nothing' will be the case - always, for nothing simply remains nothing - forever!..."

This is a common "axiom" that apologists often invoke, along with "every effect has a cause". So, where do these "axioms" come from, Ramona? Are they just common sense? Are they empirical? Are they hard scientific facts? Well, you may want to sit down for this one. According to modern physics, they are both FALSE. That's right, they are flat out false. Both are falsified by "vacuum fluctuations," an effect that is predicted by quantum mechanics and is observable in the laboratory. Vacuum fluctuations are the spontaneous creation of particle anti-particle pairs out of NOTHING. Absolutely NOTHING. Vacuum. Indeed, according to modern physics, there can be no true vacuum, because nature immediately introduces a "foam" of particles that spontaneously pop into existence, then (usually) self-annihilate. Before you throw up your hands and say I'm crazy, or that scientists are crazy, do a little research. Also, ask yourself what your "axioms" are based on. My guess is that they are rooted in nothing more than naive intuition, which is heavily based on every-day observation. Because you have never seen anything "pop into existence" you assume that it is impossible. Well, nature reveals some very strange things when studied under conditions that are not normally experienced by people: i.e. very high speed (i.e. relativistic), very small or very large scales, very high temperature, etc. In almost all cases what is observed in counter-intuitive. Our intuitions are honed for terrestrial living, so they end up being dead wrong under extreme conditions.

Ramona: "The very fact that scientists attempt to assign an "age" to the universe is revealing within itself."

That is the time since the Big Bang. Cosmologists have a fairly clear picture of what must have taken place back until about the first millionth of a second (actually, more like 10^-30 of a second) after the Big Bang, but have thus far been unable to get a clear picture before that. Many cosmologists (such as Stephen Hawking) have struggled with the "singularity" that exists at time zero. There is no clear consensus yet (to my knowledge) except on this point: naive intuition is absolutely useless when contemplating such things. In your imagination you probably picture the Big Bang suddenly happening at some point in time, then expanding into empty space. Well, if that is so, then you are already completely off base, lead astray by "common sense" and intuition. If you want to have a serious discussion of these matters, start by reading about some of the recent theories cosmologists are contemplating (such as bubble universes) and read at least a lay introduction to quantum mechanics. You will forever cast off the type of argument that you have offered here.


Ramona: "If you get on a plane you have faith it will not crash. You cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it will not crash, therefore, you have faith that it won't."

I'm sorry Ramona, but I have to call a spade a spade. That is complete bullshit. (Maybe I'm just getting tired.) When I get on a plane, I do so because I have ***confidence*** that it was designed and maintained well. That confidence is based on many things. It is based on an understanding of science and engineering, and it is based on a rough assessment of statistics (i.e. relative number of plane crashes to auto crashes, how many plane crashes in this type of plane, at this airport, etc.). Finally, when I get on a plane I ***know*** there is a chance that it may crash, just as I know that every trip I take in my car may end in a crash. But I deem the level of risk to be acceptable, just as you do when you get on a plane or into a car. (I honestly cannot fathom why so many religionists want to paint everybody with the "faith" brush!!! It never works, and all it does is to make "faith" look sillier. Someone, please explain it to me.)

Hahahahahaha

***

The following 2 articles were sent to me by the same person:

Nazism - Its Brahmanic Origin [ Nazism has clear Links to Brahmanic India. Apartheid, the Swastika and Fascism are all Vedic concepts adopted by the German Nazis ] - I don't know how anyone can read this without flinching or laughing. Random, disparate facts are thrown at the reader and no attempt is made to make a case of any kind, and they try to pull a quod erat demonstrandum (aka QED) on you. Wth?!

Meanwhile, we have the almost as illogical but at least slightly amusing Brahmins do not have the right to call themselves Indians by a "Dr Kancha Ilaiah". What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

***

Debate upsets some in audience - "Singaporeans rely too much on the Government for social welfare provision"

Ooh, sneaky; the person who formulated the motion is begging the question. Having a debate on this motion is like debating the motion "Why is the Earth flat?"

People's comments:

"I came from schools where the debate teams were top notch, and I gotta say, I often find debating a rather pompous affair - using big words to impress and confuse, rather than being concise and getting straight to the point."

"I think a debate's a poor format for it, mainly because what these people know about a debate is really "Who wins?" rather than expressing opinions that you care about, and then backing them up with facts and arguments rather than throwing insults."

"I think the prob with most debates I've seen is that if it goes wrong, it ends up being a fight over semantics, definitions, fact-checking etc etc. And that it's cleary a platform for being [too?] partisan - you'd only consider the Opposition/Propositon's views with the aim of crushing them."


I'm not surprised, really. Debates don't aim to advance the cause of mankind or human knowledge; they are mere vehicles for rhetorical steamrolling :)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

"Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is." - P. J. O'Rourke

***

Merenwen:

Most of my guy friends have told me they like girls small and skinny because they look good in clothes. They can wear all sorts of skimpy clothing and not look like shit, see.

Skinny and anorexic are not quite the same. I bet they also like curvey women.

My retort to that is, wait till you see them with the clothing off, and their protruding ribcages, protruding pelvic bones, and mosquito-bite-sized boobs are on glorious display for you.

And about the Cum VS Moisturiser thing, ok look, I've never tried
anything as disgusting as that (it's really gross, it's practically
bukkake isn't it? Having cum on your face?), but I really have heard
stories from people who swear by it. Apparently it's got something to do
with the proteins and hormones that sperm is made up of that makes it so
good for the skin.

It's just something guys came up with to trick girls into swallowing/accepting facials lah.


Anyhow, I present: anorexic women with protruding ribcages, protruding pelvic bones, and mosquito-bite-sized boobs. I can't be bothered to place little pictures of Asian Prince over their naughty bits, so those with delicate sensibilities: Too bad. Anyway no one is going to be turned on my the following pictures (then again there's a fetish for everything, so).



























***

Conception of Jesus

Do you think that Mary and Joseph should have remembered the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus? You would naturally think that when a woman goes through a unique conception, that she would remember it, and that the man who’s wife became pregnant while they were engaged, without any effort on his part, that he would remember it also. It is not something he would easily forget. Yet the gospel writers seem to have strange memory lapses.

According to Luke 2: 42-50, Mary finds Jesus in the temple, she chastises him for causing so much trouble, whereby he replied "Why is it that you are looking for me? Did you not know that I must be concerned with the affairs of my father". Luke’s gospel adds, "and they (Mary and Joseph) did not understand the saying that he (Jesus) spoke to them." Mary does not understand, Joseph does not understand, If Mary and Joseph were both visited by angels before the birth of Jesus, how is it that they don’t understand, some twelve years later. Has Mary forgotten that Jesus was supernaturally conceived in such a way as was never experienced by any other person?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"I say if you're going to go for the Angel bullshit, you might as well go for the Zombie package as well." - George Carlin

Random Playlist Song: Bach - Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 - Symbolum Nicenum (Credo) - V. Crucifixus (Basler Madrigalisten - Hans-Martin Linde)

on budak's recommendation: "Much less overblown musical hyperbole and enough twists and turns (and musical riddles) to keep mathematically-inclined musicologists awake for nights."

Nah, I'm a plebian. I only listen to music for its aesthetic value *g*

Bach's Mass in B Minor as Musical Icon, J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor


Random Trivia bit: Richard & Betty James created that coil- like toy The Slinky in 1943. Actually he invented it and his wife Betty came up with what to name it.

Mr. and Mrs. James developed it in 1948. He was a successful mechanical engineer and discovered the toy completely by accident. Betty got the job of naming it, doing that after a word of Swedish origin meaning 'stealthy, sleek and sinuous'. It has become multiply-used as it went. The simple little Slinky has been used in pecan picking devices in Texas and Alabama, on lighting fixtures in Harrah's Casino in Las Vegas (because of the unusual shadows it casts), as drapery holders, bird repellers, therapeutic devices, gutter protectors, even makeshift radio antennae in the Vietnam war!

(Balderdash 2)

***

I was in Orchard Road again today at about 5pm and on my way to Screwed Up Girl's Barbeque, when I saw that the Angels were at work again. Since I had my camera handy, I managed to get off a few shots.

Today there were 4 of them. 3 were hiding behind the banner relacing one corner while one was busy ambushing people asking for donations. I noticed that the one whom I had talked to the previous day kept peeking at me from behind the banner.

(Apologies for the bluriness of this photo. I could've done better definitely, but I don't have the patience of a Pro Photographer, and taking pictures of people is harder than taking pictures of scenery. For one, it's more awkward looking like a cheekopeh / cheekopeh on Orchard Road)

So I went up to talk to her, and in doing so, I noticed that one of the new angels had dyed hair (so much for my theory) and was (perhaps justifiably) giving me weird looks. She said that she knew I was from NUS, because she'd seen my matriculation card when I'd opened my wallet the previous day (damn, there goes my evil plot). So maybe one day in NUS, if/when she volunteers for some other charity project, I'll be accosted and asked to donate. I asked if she minded the humiliation, and she said that it was a good cause. Of course; anything for charity!

So after that I went to ambush the sole angel preying on passers-by.



And then I got her attention and she posed for me. I then gave her a most generous (if I do say so myself) 70 cent donation.



Most importantly, I got her name from her certificate and school (RJC) from her, so I can write the letter to the school with glowing words of praise! Now to decide how to phrase it. To talk about Good Old Asian Values or not to talk about Good Old Asian Values?

PS: Despite what Andrew Gan might have you think, I never asked them for their names or their phone numbers. So there.


Courtesy of Alwyn: An exclusive study in voyeuristic photography. Unfortunately, he violated one of the seminal rules of voyeuristic photography: Always get the face of your subject.



2 more pictures of the angels on his blog.


Christie said that she'd seen the angels previously, but thought that they were giving out perfume samples, so she avoided them. Heh.

***

"I was thinking of going to the NUS pool immediately after that to swim by myself. I rationalised that since it was the holidays, the pool would probably be quite empty.

I swear, I had my gear all ready in a backpack, shampoo, towel and all. I even wore my swimming costume underneath my outfit of T-shirt and gym pants. I was all ready to conquer the pool, in honour of the days when I was a lean, mean swimming machine (though fortunately, without the broad shoulders and flat chest).

I walked over to the NUS pool and stopped short at the cafe positioned strategically next to the pool.

A gaggle of guys were sitting, facing the pool, presumably to check out any delectable female flesh on display. Not only that, but the pool was filled. With guys, mostly.

I decided, since I was all geared up, I shouldn't let my self-consciousness defeat me. I took a deep breath and took one step forward.

At that exact moment a bunch of skinny beanpoles, the kind that cannot fill out the tops of bikinis unless they stuff the cups with socks, and with protruding rib cages and protruding pelvic bones, but which, conversely, men find so perversely chio, came sauntering out of the changing rooms in various 2-piece outfits, much to the delight of the guys sitting at the cafe (judging by the twinkle in their eyes, visible even to me standing 2 metres away).

I thought of my utilitarian one-piece Speedo swimsuit that had served me faithfully for years, both in competitive and leisurely swims, and my rolls of fat, and my doughy, cellulite-dimpled thighs, and I decided that even my added advantage of real boobs and cleavage would not be enough to defuse the humiliation should I have to walk out and swim before these guys.

I slunk away home, head down in disappointment."

(Sheena's Little Fragments of Time)


I thought guys like girls with more meat.

***

budak on the right to speak and the right to be slimed: "If faith-based arguments can be used to shape national agendas, why should anyone not be allowed to freely question, deconstruct, demolish and even lampoon the very assumptions, underpinnings and inconsistencies that religious lobbies harbour and shield from criticism under the cloak of infallible spiritual authority and communal harmony?"

***

I may be in bad company, but this law [on speech inciting religious hatred] will not work

"A similar law in Australia ended up driving the courts to despair as mad evangelical Christians and extreme Muslims sued and counter-sued, endlessly reporting one another's hate-speech. The director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Amir Butler, had supported a religious hatred law until, he told the Melbourne Age: "At every Islamic lecture I have attended since litigation began there have been small groups of evangelical Christians with notepads and pens jotting down any comment that might later be used as evidence in future cases."

This will be a bad law, inflaming, not calming, religious passions. Prosecutors will not have to prove a breach of the peace occurred, nor that one was likely, nor even that one was intended. The law does not define what religion is: it never has, leaving the wretched charity commission to decide that, for instance, Odin worship is religion and tree-hugging paganism is not. The Bible and Qur'an are full of incitement to hatred of other faiths. I have experienced how any criticism attracts an outraged charge of "Islamophobia" as a synonym for racism - which it is not. Now the Pope is demanding that the UN general council next week include Christianophobia in its monitoring. No more Posh and Becks as the holy couple in Madame Tussauds, then. Already self-censorship on religion is rife."


The left's retreat from universal human rights

"Liberal humanitarian values are under threat. Much of this threat comes not from the far right but from the left's moral equivocation and compromises. Sections of progressive opinion are wavering in their defence of universal human rights. In this era of post-modernism and live-and-let-live multiculturalism, moral relativism is gaining ground. This holds that every community is different, and there are no eternal humanitarian values. In the name of "cultural sensitivity", we are expected to respect other people's religious beliefs and ethnic traditions. But sometimes this means colluding with religious-inspired barbarisms like female genital mutilation...

The threat of being labeled "Islamophobic" is inducing a new wave of moral paralysis, as evidenced by the way most leftists ignore the role of fundamentalist Islam in the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where racist Islamists are exterminating the black African population.

We see similar double standards in Britain when many left-wingers fail to speak out against the sexism and homophobia of organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Muslim Association of Britain."

***

World's Biggest Santa Gathering Turns Nasty

"The world's biggest gathering of Santa Clauses has ended in a mass brawl.

CS spray and batons had to be used to break up the fighting Santas.

Some 4,200 people dressed as Father Christmas gathered in a small Welsh town for a charity festive fun run. But it turned into festive fisticuffs after some of the Santas headed to the pub for a seasonal tipple.

The goodwill evaporated, to be replaced with around 30 Santas swapping punches. Five St Nicks were nicked by police."

***

The Common Sewer: Satire/Parody

"Satire is an exaggerated imitation of people or institutions, which tries to show them to be ridiculous or evil. Parody is the adaptation of literary tendencies (often exaggerated) to unsuitable matter. Swift’s Modest Proposal is clearly both a satire (on cold-blooded economists) and a parody (of their mode of writing and reasoning). These lines of Pope are satire but not parody"

I think his definition of satire is too strict. If pressed, I'd say that parody imitates the form of something to lampoon it, while satire more imitates or plays on its content.

My correspondents suggest that parody is meant to be funny, and is easier to execute, while satire isn't and is harder. Not always true, but that holds often enough.

"satire is dry. parodies are wet" - wth?! Supposedly this means that parodies are meant to be funny, while satires are meant to be darkly funny.

A nebulous distinction, this.

***

Top 10 Blog Design Guidelines

#5. Hard-to-read text
You write so well that you shouldn't make it too easy for your readers to read your writings - make them work for it. An easy way to do that is to use tiny fonts, which also makes your blog design look cool. Plus you don't want those old and farsighted geezers reading your blog, do you? Or use low-contrast text that blends nicely into the background. When your readers work hard to read your posts, boy, will they appreciate your words so much more.

***

Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

"Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found."

An anonymous commenter adds:

the recent survey of "Christian" abstinence-only literature in the US also had a whole bunch of really incredible stereotypes involving gender roles. According to the Washington Post, "Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's need for "financial support." One book in the "Choosing Best" series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance
may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."" (See WaPo Dec 1 or Google "Waxman abstinence survey". I would post the link but don't know if it would screw up the formatting.) So much for
the feminism of the abstinence-only brigade. But you probably knew that :).


Anonymous: Actually the top search results on Google are of conservatives *dissing* the Waxman report, so.

***

Four Academic Plagiarists You've Never Heard Of: How Many More Are Out There? - "Among the cases we found were a political scientist who swiped five pages of his book from a journal article, a historian who cribbed from an unpublished dissertation, and a geographer whose verbatim copying appears to span his lengthy career. While this article delves into a few cases we uncovered, our reporting suggests that what we found is not exceptional. Indeed, an editor at History News Network receives so many tips about purported plagiarism that he now investigates only those involving well-known scholars"

Santa Claus brings much more than tradition to Asia - "Retailers have learnt that Santa Claus brings something more valuable than tradition: people willing to spend money, and shops and shopping malls in major cities across the region aggressively promote the occasion."

How can I trust Firefox? - FUD from a Microsoft employee. His only valid point is that Firefox extensions and binaries aren't signed, but how many programs and files on the net are signed, really? Besides which, there is malware / scumware that's signed - a file being signed is no indication of its safety.

Sex visits at nursing homes - "Most homes would do it if asked. It is part of our job to make sure people are socially and sexually and emotionally happy and healthy."

Jello treat gets Jefferson Parish 4th-grader suspended - "Eight-year-old Kelli Billingsley brought homemade Jell-O cups to school at Boudreaux Elementary. Her mom says the school tested the Jell-O and determined it didn't have any alcohol in it. But the school suspended the girl for having a look alike drug."

Santa encourages good morals - "Teaching children about Santa is a useful ace up a parent's sleeve as it encourages their moral development as they believe he knows which children are good or bad"

Business student invents glow-in-the-dark underwear - "Beau Carpenter, an avid runner who also works at NASA, initially thought of creating glow-in-the-dark jogging clothes, but practicality evaporated when thongs captured his attention during his Internet research. He enlisted Chris Harris, an electrical engineering student at Rice, and Marcus Brocato, a chemistry lab manager at the Houston private university, to develop the GloThong. "Being guys, it didn't take us long to gravitate to them... my co-workers find it endlessly entertaining.""

CUM VS MOISTURIZER - Vice Settles the Score! - "People have been telling me that cum gets rid of zits since I was sixteen years old. I remember my best friend Caroline saying, “It works. Look at me, I always get it on my face and I don’t have any zits.” She also insisted that if she didn’t have a boyfriend after a while she would break out. The verdict was that swallowing it was pretty good but nothing got rid of zits like getting it on your face."
I can't believe anyone would actually perform this kind of experiment.

Fake Or Not.com - "My creators and i have set up a little, but exciting game. See if some tits are boobs (fake) or breasts (not). Now you can show the world your meat-expertise!"
I can never get all correct... Damn. Maybe some of the "fake" breasts are of post PrettiBosom customers, so the enhancement isn't so obvious!
"I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave." - E. M. Forster

***

Xephyris: My Firefox does not take noticeably longer to startup. Extensions are not the same as plugins. They work with FF code, and do not necessarily add bulk to it.

***

Ben Stiller should star in every movie - "Better yet, why not create a movie where Stiller stars in every role? It could be like "Multiplicity," except good. They could call it: along came something about royal focker's envy for the dodgeballs of mystery men. It would be the best movie ever. It would start out with Ben Stiller trying to revive some obscure children's ball game in order to impress his highschool sweetheart, only to learn that she has psychotic ex-CIA parents who hit it big when they discover a formula that makes shitty movies disappear."

***

Lisheng, Young Republic's resident conservative intellectual, speaks, and is demolished by a chorus of incensed liberals:


Lisheng: All hail the community of the angry frustrated liberal youths, who occasionally let their anger spill out into hot-blooded vulgarities and
fulminations against the evil Other, aka the government, moral minority,
NUS law professors, religious right-wing nut-jobs etc. I am sure that this
category of people represent the future in all its glorious inevitability,
and carry in their persons the salvation of our Republic, as embodied in
their progressive and trendy views. Dictators around the world can rejoice
in the knowledge that our youths are supporting you, unless you happen to
be ruling in Singapore which means that you, by a cruel twist of fate, have
become a part of the Other, incapable of doing right and deserving of our
youths' moralistic and priggish condemnation.

Also, for all those who are too poor to buy your own condoms (or too lazy),
rejoice for "safe sex" is close at hand. If our youths get their way, as
they inevitably will, free condoms will soon be available at every Geylang
street corner, Hotel 81 reception desk and China Air/Thai Air flight (to be
distributed to incoming "foreign talent" and outgoing "local talent").
Never mind that subsequently the quality of your personal enjoyment during
the process will be somewhat reduced - after all you don't want to be
getting a terrible disease that you don't deserve now, do you? Very good.
Now you have been educated, and therefore the world will be saved from
AIDS. Another good deed done by the nice people - all in a day's work.

Cheers, Lisheng PS There is an absolutely safe way to avoid AIDS, and it's
eminently practical: limit yourself to sex with one partner. But then
again, if I were to educate people accordingly, I'd be accused of being
illiberal, right-wing and totalitarian, taking away the fundamental freedom
to spread your genes around (after all, the animals do it, so it must be
natural). So I suppose we must go with the free distribution of condoms as
the more "practical" policy. Never mind that the birth rate is falling =P


Caleb: And now to address Lisheng's attempt at irony:

You seem to enjoy setting up a caricature of 'liberals' so that you can mow
it down. That isn't very intellectually honest at all.

Most liberals -- unlike the ones dreamt of Edmund Burke and friends -- do
not think that by educating ppl all problems will miraculously disappear.
BUT surely it is right that education helps ppl understand their world
better and to make more rational decisions which will benefit both them and
the ppl around them. If ppl knew that condoms will protect them against
AIDS, and they had a rational understanding of the kinds of risks they are
taking by not wearing condoms, then there is likely to be an increase in the
use of condoms in the sexually active population at large. Of course there
is no guarantee that it will happen, just that it is likely.

And more importantly, what I am advocating is a govt policy which
concentrates on getting ppl to practice safe sex, I am not saying 'ok ppl,
pls go out there and enjoy your god-given right to fuck around -- just don't
forget your condoms!! Don't leave home without them ppl!!'. Really you have
misrepresented my views in the most inaccurate way.

UNAIDS, as well as countless other NGOs, have produced evidence showing that
countries which have used an 'abstinence-only' policy have been far less
successful than countries which use a safe-sex policy. This is a
well-documented fact. It has nothing to do with promoting promiscuity. It
has everything to do with saving lives.

UNAIDS has shown that women in Africa are now a high-risk group. This is not
because women in Africa are particularly promiscuous. It is because their
husbands are, and they have to suffer conjugal sex without condoms and
therefore get infected. Their husbands are able to use societal pressure to
prevent the use of the condoms in the conjugal bed -- and this is partly to
due with ppl like Lisheng and John Paul II who continue to see the use of
contraceptives as morally wrong and leading to promiscuity. Well promiscuity
is better than death isn't it -- oh but wait for some ppl this is not true :
'I would rather die than to offend thee my Lord because thou art all good
and deserving of all my love' says the Act of Contrition.

Oh and btw, I do not love leaders of poor countries who abuse their
populations while attacking capricious and unaccountable govt here. Have I
said here in any context 'oh that wonderful Lenin, first fruit of our
socialist society'? Or 'all hail Robert Mugabe, avenger of the black man
against the evil colonialists!' Or anything of that sort? Well... no. So pls
don't fabricate a view for me. I have quite enough of my own as you can see.

And finally, since you bear so much dislike for liberals, perhaps you would
prefer to see a return to a world where the slave trade still exists, where
torture is routinely used by both Church and State, where most ppl do not
have a say in how their lives are run, where workers earn subsistence pay
and work 15 hrs a day, where one can be imprisoned indefinitely without
charge (oh wait that still happens in a certain island in the sunny
tropics...)

Because of reforms made by liberals, life expectancy has almost doubled in
the last 150 years, and there is mass education, mass political
participation and security for common ppl under the law. But of course,
these gains are not the important ones at all. Better that ppl pray, and
have only one sexual partner -- as in one *public* sexual partner of course,
and learn to be content with this best of all possible conservative
Christian worlds.


Lisheng: Oh dear, I seem to have made myself misunderstood again! It wasn't all irony. "Attempt" is a good word, Caleb =)

I suppose that when the "liberals" want to get down to practical policy
making, I am quite happy to sit down with them, and to stop AIDS I don't
think more condoms or even free condoms is a bad or ridiculous policy at
all. So I was at least 50% serious when I said that our liberal youths are
doing a whole lot of good. Serious. Oh yes, I am personally very much in
favour of condoms indeed, and I am not in favour of the Pope, so perhaps I
too have some grounds for complaint about being stereotyped!

As for sex education, I do see the need for changes, although I think that
RI wasn't that bad - I still remember about things like IUDs and such for
example. The point, of course, is that the high risk group is not going to
RI, and in all likelihood may be out of school by now. So what do we do?
The usual - TV ads, bus stop posters, instructions on use inside condom
packs, NTUC promotions on condoms. I have no problems with all the above.

I suspect that the high risk group, however, is getting their "education"
from another altogether unhelpful alternative source (or sources) of
information. By which I mean wholly unrealistic fiction that never mentions
condoms when it gets to narrating sex scenes (plenty of them on offer in
our national libraries), and more pertinently, porn sites which (I believe
- someone please confirm) hardly ever figure condoms in their pictures or
erotic stories. I have also read studies of NS youths in which interviewees
complained that using condoms was 'no shiok' and therefore preferred coitus
interruptus. So perhaps that is where a big part of the "unaddressed
problem" lies. As I said, I was half serious.

In other words, Education is only one part of the issue, the other has to
do with human choice. Here the liberal faces his classic dilemma: man and
woman (or man and man) want to engage in unprotected sex (despite knowing
the risks) because it is more shiok. It is a perfectly rational decision
because utility is a metaphysical concept of impregnable circularity, to
quote Joan Robinson. Yet by exercising their "freedom of choice" in
promiscuous and consensual fashion, they contribute to the spread of AIDS
and harm others. What do we do, leave them to the consequences of their own
choices (which gets some people really upset because they are choosing
something bad that they do not deserve...) or intervene from on high on the
assumption that their meta-preference is that they do not want to get AIDS?
You make the choice, since you're the "liberals".

Me, I say simple: you really want to stop the problem that you claim is so
serious, let's do it in utilitarian fashion with CBAs and all that jazz.
Start with a compulsory yearly blood test (or however often you want,
depending on the seriousness of the problem), identify all the problem
cases and offer treatment. Do the same for people coming into the country,
and make it an offence for them to engage in intercourse until the results
come out (it takes only 3-4 days, surely you can abstain that long). Tada,
problem solved. Then whoever wants to have sex with person A can ask
him/her for proof of AIDS status. If you don't want to ask or want to go
ahead with a positive status, it's at your own risk, but we will still
offer treatment thereafter. It's expensive, yes, but eventually the AIDS
problem will become even more expensive. If the AIDS problem becomes too
expensive, we can turn to more drastic measures like making everyone carry
their AIDS status on their ICs, or laser-tattoing it on their necks, or as
a last resort criminalising sexual intercourse for infected persons. That's
the amoral, utilitarian approach for you.

Coming back to "education", perhaps the government should use its media
muscle to "influence" the content of pop culture magazines like 8 days or i
zhou kan (as well as more "yellow" publications) to promote condom use.
That's a positive use of censorship for you! Although historically I should
point out that a strong anti-yellow culture and anti-vice stance was a
foundational part of our struggle for independence (these unsavoury
lifestyles being associated with the decadent colonial masters, of course).
No kidding.

Now about intellectual honesty: firstly I do not think that Singapore is
quite the same as Africa. I also think we should legislate against marital
rape, so I guess that makes me a liberal *wink*. As for the reference to
dictators, I was referring to people who are dead set against intervention
in Iraq. I would like to know how they would have not intervened at all,
thereby indirectly supporting a dictator, or intervened in a "nicer" way.
Until then the "ostrich approach" to international relations (aka
isolationism) is, as far as I can see, supporting dictators.

If you wanted to be utilitarian and invoke raison d'etat, then yes I agree,
in the final analysis states intervene not because of ideals but because of
national interests. We can argue about what constitutes a state's "proper
interests" although I suspect that eventually the Joan Robinson quote will
come into play again, this time albeit on a larger scale (since
international law treats states like persons). Ultimately it's hard to
moralise from this perspective - states take action because the power
holders have made the calculations and come to the conclusion that they
stand to gain. There's little point in carping from the sidelines about
past actions - all you can do is to hope to influence their present
calculations about future ones, and hecne their present and future actions.
That is, if you think you're better at calculating than the power holders,
which may or may not be true.

My final point is this, without any irony intended: it is futile for the
liberals to moralize from a materialistic worldview. The best you can
settle for is the amoral utilitarian approach. If you want morals and
"true" liberalism, you need God - and that is why it is the Christians who
have led and won the battles of history against torture, slavery,
commodification of women etc. Anything else is mere opium for the masses.

Cheers,
Lisheng

PS you would also find that Christianity places the emphasis not on the
transformation of the institutions, but of the individuals. Good
institutions can only at best constrain bad individuals, who will be
constantly finding loopholes... in contrast good individuals will put in
place good institutions and live harmoniously under them. So I think
Christianity has got the emphasis right. =) Not to mention the many
problems that simply cannot be solved institutionally...


Someone: > I suspect that the high risk group, however, is getting their "education"
> from another altogether unhelpful alternative source (or sources) of
> information. By which I mean wholly unrealistic fiction that never mentions
> condoms when it gets to narrating sex scenes (plenty of them on offer in
> our national libraries), and more pertinently, porn sites which (I believe
> - someone please confirm) hardly ever figure condoms in their pictures or
> erotic stories.

I'm sorry but once again you are wrong. The 'high-risk group', by which I take
to mean the homosexual community, is always quick to point out the limitation of fiction. Erotic literature is frequently preceded by a warning with regard to the use of protection; pornography tends to portray safe sex. Barebacking is very out in the
international gay scene. No really. As I've pointed out many times before: the 'high-risk group' knows it is at risk and does all it can to minimise it.

And frankly I found your flippant dismissal of sex in your previous post
(something along the lines of 'after all animals are doing it so it must be right!') most unamusing, although I'm fairly sure it was supposed to be funny. Firstly there is the issue of the misrepresentation of animals, some of which, like the elephant (which Aristotle and random Catholic saints points out as a paragon of marital virtue), tend to be monogamous their whole lives, if they can help it. But that was a farcical point. Then there is the issue of denying sex its power over human beings. One may of course deny the 'base' instincts. But I would suggest a thorough reading of Shakespeare's M4M: 'it is impossible to extirp it quite till eating and drinking be put down.' Thirdly there is the implication that there is something bad about promiscuous sex -- which may be justified but in this case was merely a rather feeble attempt at hyperbolic phrasing.



> Me, I say simple: you really want to stop the problem that you claim is so
> serious, let's do it in utilitarian fashion with CBAs and all that jazz.
> Start with a compulsory yearly blood test (or however often you want,
> depending on the seriousness of the problem), identify all the problem
> cases and offer treatment. Do the same for people coming into the country,
> and make it an offence for them to engage in intercourse until the results
> come out (it takes only 3-4 days, surely you can abstain that long). Tada,
> problem solved. Then whoever wants to have sex with person A can ask
> him/her for proof of AIDS status. If you don't want to ask or want to go
> ahead with a positive status, it's at your own risk, but we will still
> offer treatment thereafter. It's expensive, yes, but eventually the AIDS
> problem will become even more expensive. If the AIDS problem becomes too
> expensive, we can turn to more drastic measures like making everyone carry
> their AIDS status on their ICs, or laser-tattoing it on their necks, or as
> a last resort criminalising sexual intercourse for infected persons. That's
> the amoral, utilitarian approach for you.

You say simple, I say simple. In fact, let's take your suggestion to its logical
extreme. We round up everyone everywhere with AIDS or who is HIV+ and gas them to death! This way we can be rid of them even before the disease comes to claim them.

I don't even see how this fits into the benthamist-utilitarian model. What
happens to the happiness of those who have to undergo such social, legal and political ostracism? Do we disregard them because they are subhuman?

And whatever happened to finding a cure for AIDS. Wouldn't a more sensible
'amoral, utilitarian approach' involve trying to seek the key to recovery?

There's little point in carping from the sidelines about
> past actions - all you can do is to hope to influence their present
> calculations about future ones, and hecne their present and future actions.

Oh there is a point alright, and that's why people study history. And politics.
And international relations. And etc. Which are disciplines which involve 'carp[ing]
on the sidelines about past actions.' If one does not look to the past then how does
one perform 'calculations' for the future.


> My final point is this, without any irony intended: it is futile for the
> liberals to moralize from a materialistic worldview. The best you can
> settle for is the amoral utilitarian approach. If you want morals and
> "true" liberalism, you need God - and that is why it is the Christians who
> have led and won the battles of history against torture, slavery,
> commodification of women etc. Anything else is mere opium for the masses.

Why is the best that liberalism can settle for the 'amoral, utilitarian
approach'?

More importantly, why does 'true' liberalism require God, and the Christian God
at that? This sounded incredibly patronising, complacent and offensive, and is intensely ironic. Your thrasonical claim, full of surety, that 'anything else is mere opium for the masses', suggests that you aren't exactly very open to differences in opinion, and at any rate you have the backing of the one true God and are going to heaven so it doesn't really matter.

Plus the fact that you claim that it is the Christians who have 'led and won the
battles against torture, slavery, commodification of women etc'. Which blatantly ignores the fact that the Church has much blood on its hands. The inquistion (oh, Christians certainly behaved very Christianly, with their use of torture!) comes to mind, as does the excesses of pre-revolution France, as does the imprisonment of Galileo et al, as does the denigration of women (a la Pauline epistles), as does the tacit cooperation of the Church with Italian and German fascism, as does etc etc. And by the way -- it is far, far, far too simplistic to assume that the ending (partial ending) of torture, slavery and commodification of women was due to Christians acting on Christian belief. Please.

> PS you would also find that Christianity places the emphasis not on the
> transformation of the institutions, but of the individuals. Good
> institutions can only at best constrain bad individuals, who will be
> constantly finding loopholes... in contrast good individuals will put in
> place good institutions and live harmoniously under them. So I think
> Christianity has got the emphasis right. =) Not to mention the many
> problems that simply cannot be solved institutionally...

So does rousseauism, which isn't in essence very christian. And certain taoist
beliefs, which aren't very Christian either.

Your ending paragraphs, which you so claim are without irony, are bursting with
it.


Caleb: >My final point is this, without any irony intended: it is futile for the
>liberals to moralize from a materialistic worldview. The best you can
>settle for is the amoral utilitarian approach. If you want morals and
>"true" liberalism, you need God - and that is why it is the Christians who
>have led and won the battles of history against torture, slavery,
>commodification of women etc. Anything else is mere opium for the masses.

Torture: now disavowed by the church, but the historical record is clear.
First steps to abolishing torture arose from efforts of the Enlightenment
philosophes, e.g. Voltaire, who condemned the grisly torture and execution
of the Chevalier de la Barre. The chevalier had been sentenced to having his
tongue cut out and having his body mutilated for having committed some
adolescent acts of sacrilege on a crucifix by an ecclesiastical court.

Of course, torture was abolished in France by the Constituent Assembly in
the Constitution of 1791 -- and it was a very liberal, not a very Christian
assembly.

Slave trade: Yes Christian humanitarian groups were instrumental in
pressuring govts to take steps to end the trade. But these groups were both
Christian and Liberal (with a capital L and with a small l). As you will
remember, the non-conformist ethic was very much associated with the Liberal
party (against the C of E tories).

Feminism: Yes feminism has its ultimate origins in the Christian valuation
of the infinite (and therefore equal) worth of each human being. This much I
agree with -- I did say after all that I was a Christian humanist. BUT by
this measure then democracy and individualism are also 'Christian',
something which would muck up most of the underlying assumptions of your
general scheme. The tensions in the C of E over the appt of female bishops,
the absolute refusal of the current Pope to consider the ordination of women
(despite the fact that most respectable Catholic theologians -- except of
course Cardinal RATzinger) and the current fashion in independent S'pore
churches to insert 'and to submit [to you my dear husband] in the Lord' to
the bride's wedding vows suggest that Christianity has been as much
responsible for the subjugation as the liberation of women.

And now that I've warmed up, lets talk philo anyway:

It is true that a law conception of morality is impossible without a
lawgiver (usually God). Also as I have mentioned before I would think a
deontological conception of ethics commits one to at least deism. So yes in
a sense an atheistic worldview would lead to a consequentialist ethic. But
this *is* an ethic; utilitarianism is an ethical system which is fairly
robust -- ethicists like Peter Singer still work within a utilitarian
system, though of course Singer advocates killing infants who are severely
retarded, so...

Furthermore, one can conceive of a value theory of ethics without being
either a consequentialist or a deontologist. One would then be a teleologist
(if such a word exists). Therefore one can say that certain things are
'virtuous' depending on what a man/woman is meant to be within his/her
society, a la Aristotle.

yup.


Someone else: The other befuddling thing is your view on pornography. This would probably reflect badly on me but:

a) I have never seen this warning to use protection at the beginning
of any form of erotic literature that I've seen and;

b) I really CANNOT imagine a porn film where the film star says, "Eh,
hang on ah, before I screw you in the locker room I put on my condom
first, okay?" Or the rape "victim" going, "Ahh ahhh don't rape me...
but if you do, use a condom!" Or the cow going, "Moooooo use
condoommmooooooo".

The porn industry goes to relatively great lengths to ensure that
their actors are HIV negative so that this sort of semi-farcical
situation doesn't occur on screen, although their checks are not as
air-tight as one would like (there was a scandal some time back where
a porn actress contracted a disease - possibly AIDS but i can't
remember - on the set.)


Me: Ah yes. Our resident conservative intellectual. You should really go
talk to Ann Coulter. Both of you would be writhing in ecstasy as you
slandered, defamed and misrepresented liberals. Though to be fair, at
least you're cheerier about it than her :)


Worthier minds than mine have already aptly demolished your divers
delusions. Suffice to say that liberals have always been at the
vanguard of the movement to advance Man as a progressive being, while
conservatives have always tried to hold us back by appealing to
tradition, morals, religion and fear of the unknown.


"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The
radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative
adopts them." - Mark Twain

"I never dared to be radical when young
For fear it would make me conservative when old."
- Robert Frost

Just imagine: A century ago you would have been one of the liberals
that you seem to despise so! How awful. (And even more awful is the
thought that in a century I would be considered a conservative. Ah
well. C'est la vie)


The very same arguments that conservatives are using in the present to
legislate for such worthy causes as banning gay marriage have been
used in the past to suppress the heliocentric world view, support
slavery, deny women the vote and elevate some races above others.

I must admit that the cries of utilitarianism do not strike people on
a visceral level, but more on a logical level. Nonetheless, if it is
not good to make as many people happy as is possible (generally
speaking - let's not quibble about specifics yet), the concept of
goodness itself would be questionable, in which case there would be no
point arguing about morality and immorality. If you subscribe to a
world view that dictates that being miserable (a bad) is good, then
one could question whether it would be good to try to be good. If
feeling bad is good, then being good might be bad, and being bad might
be good. I shall attempt to make this argument more cogent in future.

One is much more easily filled with a sense of divine righteousness
and morality when one is told what to do by voices in their heads, or
vague feelings and pricklings that they might have, but the problem is
that everyone hears different voices in their heads; Christianity
transforms people in different ways. You have such shining examples as
Jack Chick, Jerry Falwell and all the fundies in the good ole USA
whose faith has transformed them radically into paragons of virtue.


Just a point about Christianity and women: Though Christianity is not
quite as mean to women as some cultures/religions, it is still a
century or so behind our current secular humanist consensus about
gender equality.

I recall that the Catholic Church still does not ordain female
priests, and the other big group of Christianity, the American strain
of fundamentalism, adheres to a literalist interpretation to support
putting women down - some fundies get the misogynistic part of
Ephesians recited at marriages, for example, and I vaguely recall
others using Timothy to justify women's diminished place as well. And
this is not a recent phenomenon either. Through history, woman has
been blamed for original sin, etc.

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/women/long.html


And now I depart to shoot Silly String at people by the pool.
"There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it." - Mary Wilson Little

Random Playlist Song: Bach - Concerto for 3 harpsichords D minor BWV.1063 - 02 - Allegro


Random Trivia bit: Alcestis, the subject of a play by Euripides, was the wife of Admetus. When she learned that her husband had not long to live, her love for him was so strong that she was willing to make a bargain with the Fates to trade her life for his, dying in his place. Admetus, recovered from his illness after her self-sacrifice, was unable to bear the misfortune of surviving his loving wife; his grief and his wife's beautiful gesture inspired Heracles to enter Hades, wrestle Thanatos, and return to the land of the living with Admetus' wife restored to full vigor. Who was this paragon of courage and love?

Apollo's son Asclepius, the healer, had brought Hippolytus back to life, an infringement upon the prerogatives of the gods and of the Fates which enraged Zeus to the point of slaying Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Apollo, incensed at his son's death, slew the Cyclops who had forged the thunderbolt. Zeus, bitter at the death of his Cyclops, ordered Apollo to live for one year as slave of Admetus, king of Pherae. It seems that Apollo ended up liking Admetus, or perhaps he was worried about the effectiveness of his purification task, but in any event, when he discovered that Admetus had but a short time to live, he petitioned the gods to extend the king's life. The Fates agreed to do so, but only on the condition that someone else volunteer to die in his place. Even Admetus' aging parents were unwilling to face death for him; only Alcestis' love and courage were equal to the prospect.

(Women in Greek Mythology I: the Strong)

***

Blogger's Note: All of the events mentioned in this post took place today (well, yesterday).

***

"Kill a million people with a star cruiser and you are a mighty war hero. Kill a hundred with a thermal detonator and you are a terrorist" - Lorgal


“[You] must trust human beings; with friction there is energy.” - Sonam Tobgye, Chief Justice of Bhutan


Creon: Men of my age are we indeed to be schooled, then, by men of his?

Haemon: In nothing that is not right; but if I am young, thou shouldest look to my merits, not to my years.

- Sophocles, "Antigone"

***

I do not dislike pieces of literature per se - reading is fun and enriching - but it's the study of it - the analysing to the last inkdrop of every comma, the pondering of the significance of every ink blot caused by a malfunctioning fountain pen, the colour of the spots of coughed up phlegm and the celebration of tracts which, for all you know, could have been written when the author was roaring drunk, that I object to.

For example, I recall that when we did Romeo & Juliet, we explored why Act 1 and 2 had prologues with the chorus trotting in to same something, but Act 3 did not. After prolonged analysis, we came up with some reasonable-sounding answer, but why does the lack of a prologue have to have a significance?

What if Shakespeare had just plain forgotten to put in a prologue for Act 3 and onwards? What if he had been lazy? Or what if he had done this on purpose to excite literature students a few centuries later who assumed that anything and everything had significance? It's the modern music/art syndrome - seeing meaning and depth where none might exist.

How Girls Waste Time
111. Analysing and cross-analysing in excruciating detail the words and actions of others, often reading into them implicit meanings that don't actually exist, and seeing daggers where there are none (which explains why girls like to do Literature)

***

I was walking down Orchard Road today, when I saw 2 girls dressed as angels canvassing for donations to help the elderly outside the former Liat Towers. There was a large signboard at the side of the pavement with the words "Touched By An Angel" and a back view of an "angel" (who obviously didn't want her face shown for fear of never being able to walk down the road again).

I was looking on in amusement as I walked by, but one of them came up to me and pleaded her case. I briefly considered giving her 5 cents, but more out of amusement than anything else, I donated 30 cents.

While dropping my coins into the box, I noticed the charity license prominently displayed with her name and IC number (which started with "87", making her a J1-soon-to-be-J2) on it, but I only got inspiration as I walked off; I would enquire what their schools were, and write glowing words of praise, exalting them for being true to the Asian Value of helping the elderly despite certain mortification, and the letter would be read out to the whole school during assembly, inspiring the populace to similarly commit social suicide and dress up as angels for this project - at least for the girls, since guys dressed as angels would be rebuffed as looking gay (or resulting in her being unable to go to school for a month without being inundated with bad Angel jokes, depending on how you see it).

And so, when I passed by the area again, I prepared to ask them for their institutions of study. However, I was forced to bide my time, since first one had her wings and costume adjusted while a videocam-toting tourist filmed, then next they had photos taken of them (in getup, naturally), by a male assistant, and finally they went to the nearby Espirit to have photos of them in front of the Espirit sign taken (go figure).

When finally one of them started touting again (the other having disappeared, probably to the toilet), I went over to make my inquiries, while Andrew sat at the side, held my bag and pretended that he didn't know me.

To my surprise, the girl (the same one who had accosted me at first) said that she was from NUS, and explained that she had been given the wrong charity certificate (thereby making their activities illegal, I must add). My surprise was compounded not only by the fact that they did look about 17, but that they didn't look like NUS girls at all: they looked normal (ie abnormal for NUS and indeed most girls that age). Not only was their hair not dyed (not even highlighted!) or rebonded, they donned no loud (or hoop) earrings, had no brash manner and generally weren't (say it with me now!) Shrill, Anorexic, Chinese-speaking Ah Lians.

Andrew later suggested that maybe they weren't from Arts, but were from Science or Engineering instead, but they didn't conform to that template either. Basically they looked like 17-18 year old future Arts girls (not the hardcore sort, merely the normal kind) currently in JC.

For my troubles, the girl asked me playfully if I wanted to know her friend. Not being W*** Y*, I declined. Ah well: LPPL.

***

When I first tried Carona Chicken (don't ask me why the url is http://secure.caronachicken.com/ - it's not a HTTPS server and you can't buy chicken on the site), I found it to be a cut above the normal fried chicken wings you find at your neighbourhood pseudo-Western hawker / food court stall, being crispy, juicy and tasty.

My sister has been hunting for Carona Chicken ever since she came back. Today, acting on information on their website, we visited Tiong Bahru Plaza, but were disappointed. Later today, I spotted a Cavana outlet at Marina Square, so I decided to eat dinner there.

But wait, you cry. Cavana and Carona aren't the same. One is a blatant ripoff of the other.

Well, no they aren't: Cavana is the Halal version of Carona. The fella who started Carona found he couldn't get Carona outlets Halal certification from MUIS because many foodcourts did not separate Muslim and non-Muslim utensils for dishwashing purposes. So in a brilliant stroke of marketing genius, they set up "Cavana Chicken" with a slightly different logo and - more importantly - halal certification.


- Note how the Crescent Moon, formerly covered by the Cock, is now shining bright

The sheer ingenuity of the managing director made such an impact on me that, despite the Nation Building Press's article on this being published 5 years ago, I still remembered these details. The article in question is archived on the Carona website, and reveals that only by creating the Cavana brand would Malay customers know that they would be able to eat the food there, it being a Halal outlet, ignoring the fact that most people are able to stride into food outlets and look for a giant Halal sign. So as a result of this bold move, sales at the Marina Square outlet dropped by 30%.

Anyhow, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I had dinner at Cavana Chicken. I was struck first by the price - $3.80 got me 2 chicken wings, rice, a slice of tomato and 2 slices of cucumber. $1.70 bought me a drink (I saw the $1 cup of some sweet-sour concoction too late), and $1 fries which came in - of all things - a styrofoam cup, driving home to good ole Ma-laysia feeling. I noticed that the menu did not display the drinks' prices, and that the prices listed were subject to GST, so I felt distinctly ripped off. But, I thought, the proof was in the eating - perhaps the prices were justified.

How wrong I was.

Perhaps the memories of yesteryear served me wrong. Perhaps the recipe had changed. Perhaps "Mr Yap" (as the CEO is enigmatically billed and referred to) had decided to cut costs and leave out certain ingredients. Or perhaps it was the "Malaysia Halal Restaurant" syndrome (all the Halal restaurants I've eaten in in Malaysia are lousy). The chicken was lousy.

There are two main components involved in the grading of fried chicken wings - crispiness, dependent on the batter used and length of frying, and tastiness, determined by the spices and marinade used. Good chicken wings retain a measure of both qualities even when cold. Though the Cavana Chicken was as crispy as any found in your average (note the emphasis) pseudo-Western hawker stall, it was lacking in taste, and even had a slightly bitter aftertaste - by no means as bad as what I'd had in one hawker centre once, when I could taste the flour and was hit by a distinctly bitter aftertaste, but a slightly bitter aftertaste nonetheless.

Carona Chicken has always adhered more to the Chinese school of chicken wing cooking (which emphasises leaner chicken, less batter and subtler tastes) than the Malay school (which emphasises fatter chicken, more batter and more striking tastes), but the chicken I had for dinner was an affront to both schools of chicken wing cooking. (My sister confirmed that the wing I got her sucked, so it's not just me)

The best chicken wings I've ever had are still the ones cooked at "Cheng Dian Zhu Chao" chinese stall at the Armour Training Centre (ATC) in the middle of nowhere (Sungei Gedong Camp).

***

I was walking through the tunnel from Citylink to the Esplanade and at one point I heard a disturbing tone pulsating through the air. Mindful of the possibility of it being a mind control wave played over the PA system, I hastened my steps, ignoring the underground cavern which was even more full of breakdancers than usual.

Coming up the escalator from the underpass, I heard some singing and went to check the disturbance out. I saw waiters and bibiks, both wearing tops the colour of white chocolate slightly past its best, so I knew I was looking at the ACJC choir.

It was lucky that they were carolling, instead of performing their usual repertoire of Asian Songs, but being ACJC they managed to impress their unique mark upon the carolling session. They managed to find odd sounding and obscure carols, and horrific arrangements of familiar favourites like Winter Wonderland and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, which had been transmogrified to the point of being only semi-recognisable and semi-tuneful.

Not only did they add harmonies, they added discordant and displeasing ones. ie They formed chords which weren't the most natural and pleasant sounding ones (some of which I suspect were jazz chords), probably in an attempt to "surprise" the listeners. But then, if one knows what one is in for, one can anticipate which harsh chords will be chosen, thus obviating the need for writing in dissonant chords. They also inserted funny twangs, played with the tempos, and had hints of sleazy accents at times.

The MC also had a weird accent, rolling her Rs overly much, even in syllables with no Rs to roll. And they had a new conductor, a Mrs Tay Sze Chien (?), which should have come as no surprise, given that they change conductors like people change underwear.

Heck, none of the above should come as any surprise.

***

I was at Suntec City's Fountain of Wealth and noticed a gaggle of people performing the "good luck" ritual, which involves:

1) Stretching out your right hand and touching the waters
2) Going around the fountain in a clockwise direction
3) Making 3 rounds (3 is Cantonese for 'life', as I recall)

The last time I was there 3 years ago, I performed the ritual in reverse:

1) Stretching out my left hand and touching the waters
2) Going around the fountain in an anti-clockwise direction
3) Making 4 rounds (4 is Cantonese for 'death', as I recall)

Some time later, I got a hearty dose of bad luck. Today, I did the same thing, so if I get bad exams results I'll know what to blame :)

***

I happened to pass by a Brekz Buffetaurant today and popped in to ask if it served pork. Apparently it does; only the one at Wisma Atria which is twinned with some Zen noodle bar doesn't. Whew.

If Brekz went Halal, it'd be bad enough, but I'd the cry the day Tony Romas went Halal or set up a Halal outlet. The menu would read:

Original Baby Backs (Beef)
Carolina Honeys (Beef)
Blue Ridge Smokies (Beef)
Bountiful Beef (Beef - originally beef too)

***

Kairen said that his sources (whom he will not name) told him that I was very eager to return to the flock.

I told him that that was the absolute furthest thing from my mind. It's just like asking a former alcoholic to start getting wasted again, or a former cigarette smoker to start chain-smoking. Frankly, I'd rather slash my wrists than plunge back into self-delusion and self-deception.

I suspect that said sources were either:

a) Wildly delusional
b) Trying to sabo him
c) Heard a voice in their heads claiming to be their god (lucky it didn't tell them to kill anyone or sacrifice their son)

***

My mother saw that my Yahoo account had 161 messages, 156 of which were spam, and exclaimed: 'No wonder you spend so much time on email'

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