When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, September 13, 2003


DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT EVER use mayonnaise on your sandwich. It will trigger thoughts of other things which you must avoid thinking about. If you are a female, stay away from the hot dogs, carrots, cucumbers and Italian sausage! And girls, NEVER put a candle on the table and light it, pretending you have class. Candles are used for only one purpose and you know what that is!

The Christian and the Professor, a rebuttal to an old xian story

Remember the one that ends: "Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain? Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain ... felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? It appears no-one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science, I DECLARE that the professor has no brain."

You Don't Love Me Anymore
by Weird Al Yankovic

We've been together for so very long
But now things are changing, oh I wonder what's wrong?
Seems you don't want me around
The passion is gone and the flame's died down

I guess I lost a little bit of self-esteem
That time that you made it with the whole hockey team
You used to think I was nice
Now you tell all your friends that I'm the Antichrist

Oh, why did you disconnect the brakes in my car?
That kind of thing is hard to ignore
Got a funny feeling you don't love me anymore

I knew that we were having problems when
You put those piranhas in my bathtub again
You're still the light of my life
Oh darling, I'm beggin', won't you put down that knife?

You know, I even think it's kinda cute the way
You poison my coffee just a little each day
I still remember the way that you laughed
When you pushed me down that elevator shaft

Oh, if you don't mind me asking, what's this poisonous cobra
Doing in my underwear drawer?
Sometime I get to thinking you don't love me any more

You slammed my face down on the barbecue grill
Now my scars are all healing, but my heart never will
You set my house on fire
You pulled out my chest hairs with an old pair of pliers

Oh, you think that I'm ugly and you say that I'm cheap
You shaved off my eyebrows while I was asleep
You drilled a hole in my head
Then you dumped me in a drainage ditch and left me for dead

Oh, you know this really isn't like you at all
You never acted this way before
Honey, something tells me you don't love me any more, oh no no
Got a funny feeling you don't love me anymore

(approximately 10 minutes and 2 seconds of silence)

(some loud and spontaneous noises)

"pirates of the caribbean is set in the 1670s-1690s for one pretty obvious reason... the obvious reason is that they had the balls to attack port royale
there was a fucking full naval ssquadron there by the 1690s"


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

A Singapore Story

'Mr Tan runs a business selling plastic toys. He hired managers Chan and Dick to help run the company. The production line has five workers: Ah Beng, Ah Seng, Ah Huat, Muthu and Ali.

As the CEO, Mr Tan pays himself a million dollars a year. His justification is: "without a good leader, the business will not be successful; and you won't get a good leader if you're unwilling to pay for one." Mr Tan has never worked in another company before.

Chan had won a government scholarship twenty years ago while Dick is an expatriate from America. Mr Tan thinks very highly of them and pays them each half-a-million dollars a year.

As an expatriate, Dick also gets housing, transport and relocation allowances amounting to a quarter of a million dollars a year.

The production workers each gets $1,500 a month with $300 going towards a retirement gratuity that the company would match dollar-for-dollar.

The business hasn't been going too well. In fact, business has been downright awful for the last few years. Consumers seem to prefer the cheaper plastic toys from companies across the street.

Mr Tan is furious. "These consumers are a bunch of idiots," he said, "don't they know that the companies across the street are not managed by talents like Chan, Dick and myself?"

Mr Tan has always been deeply impressed by Chan and Dick. Chan has the remarkable ability to use words like "synergy" and "paradigm shift" in every sentence. And Dick? Dick is white. ..'

Medieval: Total War:

"The princess is usually your best bet to getting an alliance or cease fire with a nation. This option is not always available since princesses are randomly created by your married king. It is also important to note that any muslim nation will not produce any princesses ever."


Anyhow, after reading up on strategy it will be "time to play properly".
Tweaked the opacity. Now it should be much more readable for IE users, but with the hint of a gradient still there.

Now you can see my phlog on the right! I wonder if the number of recent posts displayed is limited. Guess I'll get my reply from tech support next week.

For some reason, my comp got screwed up again and refused to boot. Random bashing with the WinXP CD seemed to work though. I wonder why it keeps spoiling after I bring it back from the shop *suspicious*

"Times are bad, so some dishonest shops try to generate more business for themselves"

How come Chinese vegetarian food practically revolves around mock meat, yet Western vegetarian food makes almost no attempt to replicate the texture and taste of meat?

Some people just can't bear to give up meat I guess.

Xteq X-Setup:

"Windows includes a "feature" (?) that lets you blue-screen (crash) the OS simply by holding the right CTRL key and pressing the "Scroll Lock" key twice.

After activating this option, reboot your system. Then hold the right CTRL key and press the "Scroll Lock" key twice.

Windows will react with a nice MANUALLY_INITIATED_CRASH (0xE2) blue-screen...


I'm currently waiting a hellishly long time at Chan Brothers to collect my Great British Heritage Pass. I tried looking at their website using the notebooks provided, but it's quite dull, so. I notice that someone added Sammyboy to the Favourites. Hah!

Tried to tweak my blog template so IE users don't freak out. Found the problem, but posted the wrong template so I screwed it up. Will fix it later.
w00tz! Nice funky features from Blogger Pro have been incorporated into normal Blogger (and the former closed down).

Bah. Was forced to stay back for 5BX, then set my alarm for the wrong time and missed it.

How to assassinate a third world despot with only a butt plug and a litre of raspberry coulis - This is so outrageous, it *has* to be a joke.

Was Sigmund Freud a quack?

More rave reviews:

"As for GSSQ. I don't know him personally. I just read on his blog alot. Love his writing. Its the honest, reflective, analytical writing with all the complexities of English. Even by reading it, I can say that the comprehension level required is very deep. Besides, I seem to share similar viewpoints on him on various political issues, exception being religion. =)

I ended up on his site after a bunch of ACJC boys told me that "there's an rjc guy who comments on his blog about girls who zaogeng in his school". Not a bad introduction indeed. Do a search on "Zao Geng" on google and his site will be amongst the top 10 I think! I think he remarked on his blog as well that "people who search for zao geng on google somehow always end up on my site" In the end, his site is more on funny musings and rantings than on such perverted stuff. =)

Ah, memories of the old canteen..."

I still don't know why I always get sex-related search referrals. But then it seems everyone does.

Does the old canteen bit have anything to do with zaogeng-ing? Haha.

Open Source Community Developing Their Own Viruses

'Helsinki, Finland - Open source developers plan to challenge Microsoft's dominance in the world of viruses by developing their own through the Open Virus Project (OVP), and unlike proprietary Microsoft viruses, the open source versions will infect across all platforms.

Heading the development of the OVP is Jukka Koskelin. He explained, "We took a look at the virus marketspace and realized that Microsoft has over a 95% share of all viruses developed. I don't think the Linux community can be taken seriously if we don't increase our share in that area."

"The viruses we're developing will work cross-platform unlike Microsoft viruses which only work on Windows systems. There are ports to Linux, *BSD, Solaris, and yes, even Windows. We should have a Mac port in a couple of months," Koskelin continued'

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It seems that I regularly run into the problem of offending people with what I publish on this humble blog.

Now, I don't post material for the sake of causing offence - my criteria are interest, meaning and significance. Any offence caused is purely peripheral.

Anyhow, anything can offend anyone. Whatever your beliefs, there will always be someone offended by them. For example, if my life revolves around sacrificing lame, green furred kids (the goats, not the children) in bloody, cruel rituals lit by the light of the waxing moon, I'm sure that most people will find that reprehensible. Even though this is what my life revolves around, not many would accept that I could take grievous offence from people merely discussing why they thought my beliefs and practice wrong (if most people in the world thought this way, then Comparative Theology, or even normal theology would be dead, the field of religion sterile and stagnating and the world an alotgether less lively place). Just as most think bloody animal sacrifice is wrong and take offence at it, when I read about how all of us are under a death sentence (nay, worse) for something we didn't do, I take grievous offence, yet I do not raise a hue and cry, but just share my thoughts on why we aren't condemned.

Nobody is forcing anyone to read the conceivably controversial and offensive material posted here (just like no one forces the "moral majority" to watch pornographic movies, but that is another rant altogether), and nothing (well, almost nothing) is directed at specific people. Reactions depend on the individual - your mileage may vary. If you find some paragraphs making you collapse in apoplexy, you are most welcome to skip them, or just give this URL a miss. A suitable analogy might be a girl meeting her friends for lunch, but before that, they are attending a talk by a conservative group which goes on about how foot binding is right and proper, and how females should be circumcised to stop them being over-sexed and unclean. If the girl insists on attending the talk despite cautions from her friends, then she has no right to rail at them. They may not share beliefs, but they can still remain good friends.

Case in point: The discussion that was underway at http://www.therandomwalk.com/archives/000031.html.

I think I am becoming more and more incoherent as the days pass.
YAILR (Yet Another Incoherent Long Rant):

As if I needed any further pressure, they are now threatening me with withdrawal of my nights off and long weekends (though I haven't had any of the latter for a long time) if I don't lose their 10kg in 5 weeks. Now, BMT's target was 1kg/week and with some effort, I hit 1.5kg/week. So that is why I do not believe 2kg/week is feasible (and neither does everyone else, most of whom suggested I try Marie France for those results). Not unless I go on a hunger strike.

Many know that negative motivation is much less likely to succeed than positive motivation, and brings a whole raft of unintended consequences too. You can lead a horse to water, but if you force it to drink it will drown. Since they persist in giving me 2kg to work towards, I shall not work especially hard towards it, and if they're going to whack me no matter what I do, I might as well not do anything for them - even the threat of death cannot make people achieve the impossible. Also, with the time they want me to spend exercising, I wonder where I will find energy and time to do my work. Perhaps I should relinquish my appointment and revocate.

Someone formulated a theory which might give an insight into why I am feeling so distressed. Others don't mind physical exertions much, and can just "go and train". Thus, they don't see why it upsets me so much, and can tell me to "just train lah, what's so difficult". However, I have an intense, pathological aversion to it. Indeed, on reflection, I realise that after physical exertion, I always feel like I've been raped. I'm supposed to, and have been advised to learn to enjoy exercise and work towards the goals set out for me. However, if I can condition myself to accept what every grain in my body rebels against (though some may say the same of my and Neverending Slavery), what else can I force myself to accept by morphing my personality? High treason towards "my" country (even though currently I have no great love for it)? Wanton killing, rape and looting? Religious fundamentalism? Heartless terrorism? Megalomania?

They won't let me go even for 6 months, after hounding me for 14. If 42 loves me so much, and wants me to do exactly the same thing their men do, and enjoy the same "privileges", maybe I should try to get attached back there and laugh as I sting them, before I am promptly murdered by all the regulars.

Their enthusiasm scares me. Driven relentlessly, I feel like a pack animal. I wonder where from comes their almost-religious zeal, and why they find such glee in tormenting me. No quarter is being given me, and the mental barrier I have erected to keep myself sane gets chipped ever so slightly with each day. Instead of becoming stronger and more confident, I feel I'm becoming weaker, more insecure, and breaking down more. I can but hope that the curse of my gender will be mostly lifted soon, and that the 13 years after that will speed by before I am fully free.

Someone advised me not to do anything to get blacklisted for university or when I go out and work, since supposedly confidential SAF records are available for all and sundry to flip through (though I have doubts about that - maybe it's just an urban legend spread by the SAF to stop people faking depression). But then, it's better to be blacklisted than end up broken, crazy or dead.

Some advise me to change my mindset - since I'm already stuck in hell, I should try to be as happy as I can be, since I can't change it. If everyone had that sort of thinking, though, women still would not have the vote, apartheid would still be practised in South Africa and most colonies would not be independent. If this sort of thinking is so laudable then, POWs should all betray their countries and spill the beans to make their lives easier, since they are stuck in the enemy's jails already and should make the best of it. Child prostitutes should try to enjoy their work, as should child soldiers.

In the middle of the week, I was unfortunate enough to have to go for a 16km route march, albeit without a BCS bag or a fieldpack. Before the route march, all the senior officers came to talk to me. I think by now, I've heard so many motivational talks that I'm semi-immune to them already, not that they ever had much effect on me due to my unwillingness to engage in self-deception. Of course, there was some sense in their words, but there is more than one way to look at the world, and much of it was rhetoric. The first 4km of the march was done at an unearthly pace - brisk walking, I swear. Thus, near the 8km mark, after I'd been pulled and dragged along for a great distance, I fell. After recovery, when I finally reached the 8km mark, my CO promised that if I completed the next 4km I wouldn't need to do the last 4km: otherwise, I'd have to march again on Friday. So in the end, I managed to complete 12km by the skin of my teeth (the RT we had that morning did not help) - proof that positive motivation works much better than negative (see above). Except that at the end I was shouted at, collapsed again and this time broke down in front of 100-200 people. It was probably the longest, most severe breakdown so far (including BMT). I think if this goes on, my screws are going to be loosened. I just want to go somewhere where all the bad people can't hurt me anymore.

I wonder what will come of all this. I still have some way to go before I practice Satyagraha successfully.

"Eat well, keep fit, die anyway"

CCO does bunk cleaning a grand total of once a month (sometimes less). Still, their bunk is not noticeably dirtier than ours. Ditto for the toilets, staircases and all around the HQ Armour building's 4th and 5th storeys. Moral of the story: Daily meticulous area cleaning is useless and just another means of repression.

People keep asking me how to downgrade. My response: If I knew I wouldn't still be around!

NKF just gave out some donation cards. This time, in addition to flaunting their wealth with a nicely designed card, they have given out a VCD bemoaning the plight of kidney patients! That they actually have the money to cut a VCD should be an alarming sign. I wonder why they don't just direct their efforts to *helping* the kidney patients, rather than chasing donations in a never-ending cycle. Why, next year we'll probably see a TV show by the NKF to try to coerce people to part with even more money. Oh wait, we had that already. What's next? A feature film? A "Kidney Disease" monument, made of burnished gold?

I've little energy, desire and mood to do socio-political commentary nowadays. That's a bad portent.

It's odd, really. Some people complain I'm too cynical and negative, while others say I'm too idealistic.

Everyone likes my new phone cover, and they all say it's chio and "doesn't look like a Nokia" except Geraldine, who thinks it's "hideous". But then I think her tastes are the pits too, so :) The cover isn't that well made, though - the shiny metal at the back turned out to be a sticker which wasn't stuck on properly, so I removed it, and one part of the plastic in front popped out when I dropped it (though it was easily fixed). You get what you pay for, I guess.

Apparently the irritatig Jay Chou song with chanting in the background is called "yi3 fu4 zhi1 ming2" (the name of the father?).

The CDs I got at Jurong East could be read by my CDRW drive since, as Xephyris says, "DVD lenses are weaker". In the end, though, the only thing that could install was Europa Universalis: Crown of the North. Bloody pasar malam con artists. In the end I went somewhere where the discs were cheaper, and so far they all work!

Notes on Pirates of the Carribean:

Keira Knightley doesn't look 18. She's really, erm, grown a lot since Bend It Like Beckham, too. She seems to have some magical skills in the show - while she normally wears nighties, at some points where they'd be inconvenient, lo and behold, she's dressed in pajama bottoms (did those even exist for women at that time?)

Johnny Depp looks like a drug addict. And as all the reviews say, he's wonderful in his role.

A band played Arne's "Rule Britannia" at one point. This song was composed in 1740, and I'd imagine took a while to gain popularity. However, I'm not an expert at identifying the time periods Men-O-War and swords of forged steel come from just from their appearance. The phrase "Davy Jones' Locker" was also used at some points. Apparently the first literary reference to this phrase occured in 1751, in Tobias Smollet's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. So that further narrows down the time frame. My gut feeling, though, is that the movie is set before 1740, since by that time piracy in the Caribbean was on the decline (but then they *did* say Jack Sparrow was one of the last pirate captains. Or something).

It's not often that you see bullets whizzing through the air in films. At most you just hear them. So seeing them fly was quite interesting. As were the shade-moonlight skeleton-human transitions, which were very fluid.

Lastly, how the hell is this based on the Disney ride of the same name? Though it's been 9 years since I was on it (maybe even 16), so maybe I missed something.


[On everyone ganging up to gang bang me] Wah lau, Gabriel, you're like the number 1 enemy in our unit.

[On my troubles] You can go and kill yourself. We'll build a statue of you... Your arm outstretched, and an eagle on your hand. Before enlistment, people will go there and pray... "Don't let me go [to] NS, don't let me go [to] NS..." Then the eagle will shit on them.

Enciks usually have the opinion of wanting everyone to die. (attitude)

Then I shall tell them I'm sick (Sikh)
Just wanted to say that i still exist (hello penny if you're reading this! heehee ... i think it's so funny to communicate by blog to ppl like u in melbourne. I have a joke! Why did the heart suffering from dextrocardia cross the road? To get to the other side! Hahaha ... okay not so funny. Are there any other ocfers reading this? or did you all get put off by the joke? penny how did you find my blog?)

I finished my essay on alzheimer's disease on wednesday! If you want to read it i'll send you a copy. I really enjoyed doing this assignment... and the second half is quite readable too... no jargon. (the first half is scientific jargon abt brains)

What else is there to say about me .... Hello to anyone else reading this. Hello hello hello! I was voting for the new uni student union, and in exchange i got a $8 food voucher, two badges, and a bouncy ball! One of the badges says "Kiss my ass: i voted International Alliance" oh well ... the other one's funny too... it says "Independent. Apolitical. For our union. Student-driven. Need we say more? IA". Can u imagine a political party claiming to be apolitical?

I finally bought hummous from vic market today... can't wait to try it! fresh hummous!! And swords (discount wine shop) was open as well... but i didn't buy anything from there. Ooh i miss dance! and i miss the dancers! For melbourne uni OCF's 13th anniversary a couple of fridays ago 8 of us put on 2 dance items- a jive and a hip-hop self-choreographed and nite after nite we were laughing at one another and cracking up.... there's a video as well and it's hilarious

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Mensa International - Mensa Workout - From a page Moses sent me. Apparently the next testing date is next Saturday. "Your score was 21 out of 30. That is a very good score, you would have a good chance of passing the Mensa test." - Bah. I wonder what the point of joining is, anyway.

The Gender Genie - Paste samples of writing in and by analysing keywords, it will predict (with a supposed 80% accuracy) what gender the author is.

When Will You Die? - "The World's Most Reliable Death Calculator"

Not all POWs survive - "A forwarded email, about a sergeant who was essentially killed during the Singapore Armed Forces POW training course"

The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment

The infamous 1971 experiment. Reading through the commentary by Philip G. Zimbardo, I am struck by how much the observations and findings apply to Neverending Slavery (to use Chinx's term), and BMT in particular:

1. Consider the psychological consequences of... shaving the heads of prisoners or members of the military. What transformations take place when people go through an experience like this?

The process of having one's head shaved, which takes place in most prisons as well as in the military, is designed in part to minimize each person's individuality, since some people express their individuality through hair style or length. It is also a way of getting people to begin complying with the arbitrary, coercive rules of the institution.

2. The guards were given no specific training on how to be guards. Instead they were free, within limits, to do whatever they thought was necessary to maintain law and order in the prison and to command the respect of the prisoners. The guards made up their own set of rules

I don't think those of non-enlistee rank are given much specific training on how to control their men.

3. At 2:30 A.M. the prisoners were rudely awakened from sleep by blasting whistles... these events provided a regular occasion for the guards to exercise control over the prisoners.

Push-ups were a common form of physical punishment imposed by the guards to punish infractions of the rules or displays of improper attitudes toward the guards or institution. When we saw the guards demand push-ups from the prisoners, we initially thought this was an inappropriate kind of punishment for a prison -- a rather juvenile and minimal form of punishment. However, we later learned that push-ups were often used as a form of punishment in Nazi concentration camps

At first push-ups were not a very aversive form of punishment, but they became more so as the study wore on. Why the change?

Read: Various forms of punishment (including knocking it down) and silly regimental stuff

4. The next day, we held a visiting hour for parents and friends. We were worried that when the parents saw the state of our jail, they might insist on taking their sons home. To counter this, we manipulated both the situation and the visitors by making the prison environment seem pleasant and benign. We washed, shaved, and groomed the prisoners, had them clean and polish their cells, fed them a big dinner, played music on the intercom, and even had an attractive former Stanford cheerleader, Susie Phillips, greet the visitors at our registration desk.

When the dozen or so visitors came, full of good humor at what seemed to be a novel, fun experience, we systematically brought their behavior under situational control. They had to register, were made to wait half an hour, were told that only two visitors could see any one prisoner, were limited to only ten minutes of visiting time, and had to be under the surveillance of a guard during the visit. Before any parents could enter the visiting area, they also had to discuss their son's case with the Warden. Of course, parents complained about these arbitrary rules, but remarkably, they complied with them. And so they, too, became bit players in our prison drama, being good middle-class adults.

Some of the parents got upset when they saw how fatigued and distressed their son was. But their reaction was to work within the system to appeal privately to the Superintendent to make conditions better for their boy. When one mother told me she had never seen her son looking so bad, I responded by shifting the blame from the situation to her son. "What's the matter with your boy? Doesn't he sleep well?" Then I asked the father, "Don't you think your boy can handle this?"

He bristled, "Of course he can -- he's a real tough kid, a leader." Turning to the mother, he said, "Come on Honey, we've wasted enough time already." And to me, "See you again at the next visiting time."

Parents' Visiting Day in BMT, and other displays to the public!

5. [We felt] considerable frustration and feelings of dissonance over the effort we had put in to no avail. Someone was going to pay for this.

The guards again escalated very noticeably their level of harassment, increasing the humiliation they made the prisoners suffer, forcing them to do menial, repetitive work such as cleaning out toilet bowls with their bare hands. The guards had prisoners do push-ups, jumping jacks, whatever the guards could think up, and they increased the length of the counts to several hours each.

6. There were three types of guards. First, there were tough but fair guards who followed prison rules. Second, there were "good guys" who did little favors for the prisoners and never punished them. And finally, about a third of the guards were hostile, arbitrary, and inventive in their forms of prisoner humiliation. These guards appeared to thoroughly enjoy the power they wielded, yet none of our preliminary personality tests were able to predict this behavior. The only link between personality and prison behavior was a finding that prisoners with a high degree of authoritarianism endured our authoritarian prison environment longer than did other prisoners.

7. Prisoner #416 coped by going on a hunger strike to force his release. After several unsuccessful attempts to get #416 to eat, the guards threw him into solitary confinement for three hours, even though their own rules stated that one hour was the limit. Still, #416 refused.

At this point #416 should have been a hero to the other prisoners. But instead, the others saw him as a troublemaker.

Which Backstreet Boy Is Gay?

We are, on fire,
we have, desires,
but one, is that way,
one backstreet boy is gay.
But we dont want to be mean,
since now he's a queen,
dont ask please,
"which backstreet boy is gay?"

Tell me who! Aint sayin that its AJ
Tell me who! Aint sayin that its Howie
Tell me who! I never wanna hear you say:
"Which backstreet boy is gay?"

Now I can see him, he's in womens clothes,
but he dont need an IUD, yeah,
He likes Village People,
he's playin croquet,
his dog is a pekinese.
He is on fire,
his back, prespires,
Wont say, wont say, wont say, WHOS GAY!
He's always sayin: Aint nuthin but a butt-ache,
aint nuthin but a fruitcake,
I never want to hear you say, which one of us is gay?

Tell me who! Aint sayin that its Brian
Tell me who! Aint sayin Nick or Kevin
Tell me who! He's bakin' up a soufflè

Which Backstreet Boy is gay?

Ok, we're all gay.

- by Mikeboyslim
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School uniforms
Japanese girls love them
Singapore students can't wait to shed this manifestation of conformity but in Japan, it's the opposite. Todd Zaun. AWSJ.
Aug 17, 2003

TOKYO - Browsing in the trendy 109 department store in Tokyo, 16-year-olds Sumie Tanaka and Saki Sanao are wearing what look like typical Japanese school uniforms: white blouses, navy-blue pleated miniskirts, knee-high socks and matching penny loafers.

But the outfits aren't the teenagers' real school uniforms. They are uniform-like clothes that the two girls from the Tokyo suburb of Saitama have specifically picked out to wear on their shopping trip.

"Everyone is wearing uniforms," says Ms. Tanaka. "They're cute and easy to coordinate."

Once seen as a symbol of conformity and oppression, the school uniform has over the past two years become ultrachic among young Japanese girls.

Many are wearing uniforms, or clothes that look like uniforms, on weekends and after school. Some girls wear uniforms even though their schools have no dress code.

Ozakishoji Co., a uniform maker in western Japan, is seeing stronger-than-expected sales despite a shrinking population of students.

Suddenly, it is incredibly hip to be a high-school girl.

After years of riding the cutting edge of Japan's fickle fashion waves, schoolgirls are seen as the ultimate arbiters of what is cool, and their tastes are monitored by everyone from fashion designers to electronic companies.

Schoolgirls were behind the rise of pop icons like Hello Kitty, and were early and enthusiastic users of e-mail messaging over cellphones.

In the matter of school uniforms, they dream of staying just as they are.

"They know they're under a spotlight," says Yasuko Nakamura, who studies high-school students at Boom Planning Co., a marketing consulting company.

"They cherish their three years in high-school and want others to know" they are students, she says.

The uniform-as-fashion trend hasn't caught on with high-school boys, who aren't caught on with high-school boys, who aren't considered trendsetters.

The uniform's popularity may also be a sign of anxiety about growing up. Japan's long economic slump has severely constrained career opportunities for the young, especially for women.

Uniform Code

Eighteen-year-old Eri Ishida, a student at Chiba Keizai High School east of Tokyo, says she dreads the day she will no longer be able to put on her navy-blue miniskirt, white blouse and burgundy bow.

"When I think that this is my last chance to wear a school uniform, I want to say in school longer," says Ms. Ishida, who plans to study fashion design after she graduates next March.

Matter of Choice

Uniforms weren't always so cool. Decades ago, the school uniform was widely reviled as the most visible symbol of the strict control schools exercised over students.

In addition to imposing inflexible dress codes, many schools forbid students to wear makeup and jewelry.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some students fought, without much effect, to shed their uniforms.

Mikiko Morimoto, now 28, gained national attention in1988 when she refused to wear a uniform to her junior high school in the western city of Takatsuki. "I thought it was important to show I had an identity of my own," she says.

Ms. Morimoto, who now studies physics at a university in western Japan, is bewildered by the sudden popularity of uniforms.

But she says there is a big difference between being forced to wear a uniform and wearing on voluntarily. "If they're wearing uniforms because they want to, what's wrong with that?" she says.

Meanwhile, schools have loosened or eliminated dress codes in an effort to attract students, as Japan's aging society has led to fewer children.

Some tried to update their image by hiring famous Japanese designers to create more fashionable uniforms, with shorter skirts and colorful bows.

Tatsuo Inamasu, a sociology professor at Hosei University, says some students may be embracing the discipline associated with uniforms as backlash against the loosening of school rules.

"They believe it's cool to control themselves to a certain degree by wearing uniforms at a time when you see so much freedom," he says.

Black Market

Of course, that doesn't mean the girls want to dress exactly alike.

In fact, more girls are putting together their own unique uniform ensembles. That is creating a black market in used uniforms.

Many schoolgirls barter with their friends at other schools for skirts, scarves and blouses. Others raid the closets of older sisters or cousins.

To expand her collection, 16-year-old Mina Ozawa recently sneaked into a used uniform sale at a friend's school to shop for skirts and bows. Such sales aren't officially open to outside students.

"I don't care where it comes from, as long as it has a cute pattern or nice color," she says.

One of the most coveted uniform designs is the traditional sailor suit, which features a dark blue skirt, a white blouse that resembles a navy uniform, and a colored kerchief.

Tokyo Jogakkan high school, where female students have worn this style for 70 years, now asks its graduating seniors to refrain from selling their uniforms to students from other schools, according to Masao Maruyama, the school's vice principal.

Tokyo Jogakkan students must also identify themselves when buying uniforms at the two campus shops.

The school implemented the ID check after teens from another school posed as Tokyo Jogakkan students to buy the school's silk kerchiefs - and later sold them on an Internet auction.

The quest for uniforms baffle school administrators, who are struggling to create a curriculum that fosters greater creativity.

"This trend is not good in the sense that [students] may lose some of their own personality," says Hiroshi Oguri, the principal of Tokyo 's Shinjuku high school.

His school has a designated blazer, although students don't have to wear it. But up to 60% of them wear it on any given day.

Still, girls like Sumie Tanaka and Saki Sanao, the pair from Saitama, say they see plenty of leeway to express their individuality through uniforms.

In addition to their miniskirts and white tops, Ms. Tanaka wears a big, burgurdy-colored bow that she chose herself.

Ms. Sanao's white shirt is actually her father's old dress shirt, which gives her uniform a baggy, grunge look.

The outfits, they say, are a world apart from their real school uniforms - knee-length, plaid skirt an feminine blouse - which they tucked away in their school bags during their Tokyo to shopping trip.
The real school uniforms, says Ms. Tanaka, "aren't as cool." ENDS.

(This article: "High-school confidential: Japanese girls in uniforms aren't necessarily students" was published in Asian Wall Street Journal on Aug 5, 2003.)
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