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Saturday, July 02, 2005

When I told people that I was going to help out at the Economics Society camp ('Infinite Horizon'; last year's was 'Exotica' and apparently one OG called themselves 'Erotica'), they asked if we were going to draw ISLM diagrams, sketch GDP trends and the like. Hopefully they were just being retarded as usual and trying to irritate me, for no one expects the Business Administration camp to be about managing offices, the Engineering camp to include bridge design, the Computing camp to involve reverse-engineering Microsoft's Advanced Systems Format (ASF) file format or the Law camp to end with a visit to the Supreme Court to see someone's jail sentence doubled on an unsuccessful appeal. As everyone knows, orientation camps are, of course, first and foremost about mass humiliation and juvenility.

Being a helper instead of a normal camper, I not only got a small discount on the camp fees (though Arts camp helpers got a hefty 50% discount off the $50 fee and the head honchos got to go free - hah!), I also got to slack off here and there: whenever there was an activity that the helpers weren't keen on taking part in, we'd just cheerfully proclaim: "Freshies [Ed: Freshmen] play! Freshies play!" and hide in some corner. Knowing what was on the program, we were usually not caught unawares by strange forfeits and activities, and had a behind the scenes look at happenings: "Do you know what happened to these straws before you put them in your mouths? I do! Muahahahaha!". Most importantly, I got to spend Monday and Tuesday helping out instead of hiding at home and meditating.

The goody bags contained the usual stuff: Newater (they give the stuff away to anyone who asks), a Yeo's H20 apple drink, old magazines, pens, biscuits and an M1 plastic bag as the bag itself and the like. Apparently the goody bags for guys attending the King Edward VII hall orientation last year had condoms.

We had a small turnout of slightly more than 15 people (or slightly less than 20), which was slightly more than usual: last year I'm told they had slightly more than 10 campers (?), and the year before they had less than 10 so they actually camped in tents in Sentosa (and it rained and the tents flooded, so they had to hide in the monorail station). This means that we actually had more helpers than campers, but since we usually took part in the activities, this wasn't much of a problem. I was musing that maybe we should merge with the Sociology society (say) to hold a camp next year. But then a small camp is cozy, with only 2 Orientation Groups (OGs), less time is wasted due to there being fewer people and OGs to manage and less manpower is required; since games are always between the two OGs, less movement is required and only 1-2 facilitators need to co-ordinate them. People also get to interact with each other more. We were also one of the very few camps to accept non-freshmen as campers, so we got some Year 2s (and possibly some Year 3s too) joining us.

On Wednesday, we lodged at TMS (aka Temasek) hall, and I got a little look at what being a hall inmate is like. Of course, the most famously restrictive part of life as a hall inmate is the interminable list of silly rules which are unreasonably foisted on young people already past their teens. Some might argue that no one cares to follow the rules, but their mere existence and occasional enforcement can tell one about the attitude that the administration takes towards students.

Instead of keys, inmates in NUS get transponders - high-tech devices that probably emit some radio signal to unlock doors and access certain areas. The catch is that pressing said gadgets only makes it possible to turn the locks on doors - one still has to rotate them manually to lock or unlock them. So you have the disadvantage of modern technology (the batteries need to be replaced every now and then) without any advantages (you have to manually turn the locks).

Everywhere in Temasek Hall was locked: the laundrette, kitchenette and TV room. One wonders at the need to keep everything restricted and barred. In contrast, a source who lived at King Edward VII hall the last academic year told me that there, everything except the rooms and the girls' toilets (because they had a history of peeping toms) were unlocked. Eusoff hall, bordering non-NUS territory, has some fancy transponder-locked gates to stop outsiders from trespassing. Ingenious people (presumably NUS students) have however found a way around the gates: a plank has been laid over a drain and people can go in and out of Eusoff hall as they please. So you have the disadvantage of fancy locked gates (bother and hassle) without any advantages (those up to no good can easily sneak in). Is anyone detecting a pattern here?

Meanwhile, my forays into PGP have revealed a seemingly endless number of grilled gates barring corridors, lifts requiring the transponder to unlock access to floors and emergency fire escape staircases, the exits to which are locked. My sources inform me that some halls also have grilled gates sealing off corridors. Of course, students usually leave such gates and doors unlocked, so the end result is, all together now, that you have most of the disadvantages of these security measures with almost none of the advantages (pitiful though they already are).

I hear that some halls have darkened corridors, making them look like asylums, but the names of said halls are unknown to me.

Many hall inmates are afflicted with hall fever, making them "go to mad extremes for the sake of hall". Which explains the recycling bin in the Arts canteen which says: "Stop vandalism! Prevent theft! Unauthorised person found in possession of the bins its contents will be referred to the police!" I figured no one would be desperate enough to steal the contents of soft drink can recycling bins, but I forgot about rag. If they're willing to buy cartons of soft drinks and pour the liquid inside away just to construct their floats, they're certainly willing to plunder recycling bins.

This being an orientation camp, there were plenty of forfeits for those who lost the games, or somehow picked the short straws. The art of thinking up forfeits is most fascinating: one needs to have the suggestion of prurience to tickle even the jaded palettes of worldly university students just past the cusp of teenagehood, without being blatant enough to offend the sensibilities of the NUS administration or the slightly more conservative bunch. The same goes for the games and activities, albeit in a more attenuated way (since forfeits are supposed to be 'punishments' of a sort). So we had forfeits like Body Parts (2 guys have to put requested parts of their bodies together. Examples: Hand and knee, face and armpits, elbow and calf), 'Do a pole dance with someone of the opposite gender' (few were up to standard though) and the banana dance, and games like 'With straw quarters in your mouths, pass a rubber band to the person beside you - who surprisingly enough is of the opposite gender'.

Of course, the crowds going for different camps differ: not being funky and kinky like the Arts camp people, we didn't have speed dating (SDU sponsored them some money, but still!), clubbing or the Nutella game (this involved smearing Nutella on someone's neck and having someone else of the other gender lick it off). One thing about orientation camps in co-educational institutions is that they all have pseudo-kinky activities which play on the male-female divide and the latent sexual attraction that is presumed to exist. This of course excludes certain non-negligible constituences, so next year I might want to help organise a GLBT camp (Gay, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered) to cater to those communities. Instead of salacious activities pairing people of different genders, this will have people of the same gender pairing up. But then, in the shape of Body Parts, we already have a little of this (same-gender pairing up and engagement in semi-lurid activities), so [Ed: For those who don't get it, this is a joke. Our dear conservative NUS administration would never approve this kind of thing].

Incidentally, one reason single-sex (rather, male) secondary school orientation camps are the most extreme and punishing ones is because they only have guys; another reason of course is that the students are not free to pontang (skip) them, being powerless and clueless Secondary Ones - in University they're optional, and in JC they're effectively so (which is also why conscript armies treat their slaves worse than volunteer ones, but by now I'm horrendously off-topic).

The T-shirt was, as usual, too small for me. Gah.

Lunch was catered by Temasek Hall. Some people complained about its quality, but I found it okay. Given that the food there is supposed to be one of the best (Raffles Hall, for instance, serves its inmates "health food", so I'm told), they're in for a rude shock if they choose to be inmates anywhere else. Besides which, I suspect the caterers up the quality of their cooking for orientation camps to con naive freshmen into staying there during term time, whereupon the quality of the cooking will plummet. The Law camp people were also dining there at the same time, and they had one more dish on their plate. I always knew they were filthy rich; even their orientation camp meal plans are more expensive than others'!

We had haram food all the way except for the last meal. Yay.

For the station games, I was appointed a station master, so I got to sleep, muse and read my periodicial for a few hours, albeit in a location without air conditioning and indeed fans or ventilation (MPSH 6). One group played the game (Win, Lose or Draw) a bit dodgily (with the drawer vocalising words even after a warning from me), so to get a point withdrawn due to disqualification returned to them, they gave me a saucy cheer about their coconuts, their bananas and their being chopped off. Having people perform so enthusiastically for you in meaningless but amusing rituals for the sake of empty points that merely serve to lubricate the functioning of an ultimately pointless game that has no significance at all in the grand plan of things is most amusing [Ed: For the clueless, this means that I enjoyed it]. Both orientation groups went by me relatively quickly, so I could run an errand or two before returning to my cell room for an undeserved pre-dinner nap.

Not having quite enough time on the program and worried about lack of enthusiasm, we very cunningly offered the campers a choice about whether to forego the Talentime, a customary camp activity whereby people humiliate themselves further. Not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly decided against it. Which makes one wonder why camps have Talentimes in the first place: it can't only be to kill time.

At night we had more games, the forfeit for one for which was for the males of the losing team to be adorned with makeup, and the females with camouflage cream. Then there was one where two team members had to sandwich a plate between their faces (the original plan was to use a slice of bread, but we decided that that was too disgusting), run to a tray of flour in which was scattered unopened sweets (which was unusual - it's de rigueur to remove the wrappers first), grab them in their mouths, run back and spit them out in a tray - all without letting the plate drop, naturally. I'm told that on the way back, I had the guy running with me in a wrestling armlock, with my arm around the front of his neck, so it looked like I was supporting him. And when we were running to the tray he, and not I, was yelping, so I'm not the only male who does such things!

The night ended with a "trust walk", with the campers blindfolded and made to walk down a long road. It was much too long, with not enough props to spice up the action: mustard, ketchup, chili sauce and cornstarch were all missing. We had lousy Made In China water pistols (damn, I miss my Super Soaker 200) which kept clogging up and malfunctioning, but after a while that got stale, even with my aiming at their ears and into their shirt sleeve holes. While the campers were being herded through the canteen, I found some stuff that hadn't been locked down by the vendors: a shaker of pepper (I shook some in the air but in the end I was the one who suffered the most), some wooden sticks (which we used to prod their legs with) and loose eggs (which we didn't use. Pity.)

The night walk ended with a slide which was lubricated with soap water; cornstarch would've been better but apparently we couldn't get any. Unfortunately the slide was too short, being about a storey at the most: I'm told last year's KE VII orientation had a 3-storey high slide. There was also a complimentary shampoo (and with Clairol too!) at the end, but I think that was just either an excuse to get everyone wet or a way to use up the shampoo since its original purpose was to lubricate the slide when diluted with water (what a waste!)

There was an obligatory midnight supper expedition, but as usual the cheese prata shop was as usual overpriced and delivered substandard food; even though we waited a long time for our food, it was cold, soggy and not at all satisfying when it came. Though I liked my watermelon milkshake.

I also found that the 7-11 still stocked the vibrating condoms which I can't find in other 7-11s:

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ViCon: FIRST Vibrating Condom in Singapore. A top draw at Geneva Inventors' Trade Fair. Extra sensuality for both partners. Extremely safe and easy to use.

Checking out of Temasek hall the next day, I noticed a poster politically incorrect in the extreme: "Retarded? Look for more retards in the RAG room....". The words were accompanied by a picture of a guy putting a roll of film over each eye. Tut tut.

After a boring and awful sponsors' talk, we left for Sentosa. After making our way to Siloso beach, my OG (Group 2) won the first game so while the unlucky member of Group 1 who had been nominated to perform a forfeit was carrying it out (looking for a male stranger, finding out his name and getting him to come over and say hello), I had one of my numerous strange, perverse and twisted fantasies fulfilled: I was buried up to the neck in sand. While I was given a mermaid's tail, figure and DD cup breasts (incidentally, that wasn't part of my fantasy. Even I have my limits). Following which we had wet games while being pelted with an unearthly quantity of flotsam and jetsam, most of which I searched out and disposed of.

After the wet games had finished and we were cleaning up, we had some time before the next item in our program: some night confidence walk and Fright Night. We then proceded to attempt to finish some of the prodigious quantities of (nearly expired) Apple-flavoured H20 and Bubble Justea (with an indeterminate expiry date) that our sponsor Yeo's had gifted us with by playing a drinking game: A deck of cards was shuffled and each person drew one in turn. Those drawing cards between Ace and Five inclusive could assign to other players in any combination the requisite amount of sips of beverage to consume. Those drawing a six could keep it and throw it any time, whereupon everyone had to show a thumbs up; the slowest to respond would have to imbibe a number of sips between 1-5 chosen by the thrower. A seven would result in the drawer coming up with a word and everyone offering a rhyming word in turn; the first person to be stumped would get the same punishment. An eight resulted in a category of things which everyone had to provide a member of, with the usual punishment. A nine was a toilet card that could be redeemed at any time. A ten resulted in the drawer being able to make a rule that would last the session unless rescinded, the flouting of which resulted in the usual punishment. Jacks or Queens did nothing and a King let one deflect an order to drink X number of sips.

In the end those who suggested gender-specific rules (eg "All guys must at all times flap one arm like a chicken wing", "all girls must place one finger on their heads") got targeted by the other gender. And towards the end some wacky rules came out ("All girls must pinch themselves and say 'ow' when someone draws a card", "all guys must do star jumps when someone draws a card"). I was asked to provide a list on two occasions; the first time I suggested "Monarchs of England", but when I suggested "polearms" on the second instance, everyone was stunned, so I had to think of something else.

At a suitable interval, I extricated myself from the fray to prepare for Fright Night while the campers had their confidence walk down a dark trail. We held ours at perhaps the most famous abandoned house on Sentosa, just opposite the DBS/PA holiday chalets, and up the road from both the Scripture Union campsite and the Tourism Academy. I think it was the same house which I glimpsed when, during the GEP camp in Sec 1, someone in my class got lost and Tay Poh Huat led a search team to look for him, and we found some Malay drug addicts getting high at the entrance of the place.

After our setup, the path went something like this: the camper(s) would walk up a slope to the porch of the house, where they would see a dark room. Moving through the room, they would be accosted by a ghost. They would then exit the room and walk down a covered pathway. At the end of it, behind a shed, I would lurk with a white cloak (of sorts, which I later removed because I was baking in it) and with a bottle of silly string in one hand and snow spray in the other, and spray them liberally with it. I would then give them directions to U-turn (a term that no one understood, strangely), walk back towards the dark room, turn right and go up the corridor. A disembodied human head (a ball with 'hair' stuck to it) would roll down the stairs. When they walked up the steep staircase, they would turn around and walk into a large room, whereupon another disembodied human head would come flying at them (another ball sliding down a length of comms cord). Exiting the room from the right, they would walk down a long corridor, past a tree branch with a white cloth thrown over it. At the end of the corridor they would encounter a woman and her fetus, the former of whom would proposition the camper(s). Going down the stairs, a little boy would greet them ghoulishly (though the makeup unfortunately made him look more clownish than ghost-like). They would then be free to leave the house, to their delight. At least, that was the plan.

In the end, I think the ghosts were more scared than the campers, even with some helpers to keep them company in the night. The night was quite bright, so moonlight illuminated the trail somewhat (except, sadly, where some of us ghosts were stationed) We also didn't have enough props or enough preparation, so we were quite shoddy as ghosts. The guys strolled past merrily, especially the first (and only) all-male pair. Most of the girls yelped softly or otherwise didn't display their fright in a very audible manner (perhaps they had looks of dread on their faces, but it was dark where I was, so). I did notice at least one gripping her (male) partner's arm very tightly though. One guy, entering alone, had the decency to ejaculate token yelps of surprise, so there's some credit to him.

Above all, we probably went around scaring people the wrong way, and our impact was lessened despite - or probably because - of our antics. It was reported to us that before entering the house, many participants were "fucking scared" and that some didn't want to enter (no doubt due to some judicious seeding of suggestions and messing with their minds through the telling of ghost stories after nightfall). Ghosts which actively try to scare you ("Boo!", "I'm scared...", "Muahaha!") merely reassure participants that a live human that they know is in front of them, especially if they recognise the ghost's voice and/or visage. Ghosts which actually give you directions (as I did) totally spoil the effect. The campers' imagination is probably our most powerful weapon, especially for the females (witness the popularity of romance novels). Ghosts which ignore you, look through you or flit past the edge of your vision, uncaring, are probably the most effective spirits (IIRC, Haw Par Villa used to hire a woman in ghostly makeup to stand around with an umbrella in their "10 Courts of Hell" attraction, and she wouldn't take heed of passers-by). In fact, if we'd left the house totally empty, it'd probably have been more scary than it was with us inside.

Despite our ineptitude, some girls (naturally) put on such a good show that it was worth hiding for hours in a house stinking of bats. One pair of excitable girls came in together, and spent what must have been at least 15 minutes hesitating on the lintel marking the entrance to the first room, talking loudly to each other all the while about how scared they were ("I'm very scared, I'm very scared). When they finally reached my station and I sprayed them, they screamed and screamed and screamed: these were not the usual pathetic yelps or squeals which most girls are fond of; these were good quality, resonant and piercing screams. First one screamed, which prompted the other to start. Hearing her, the first became more agitated and continued screaming. And so on for at least half a minute. It made up for all the others' non-response.

Another pair of girls later wasn't quite so spectacular in the screaming stakes, but they were so spooked by the bouncing ball that they fell out, and someone had to guide them through the rest of the house with a light, "disarming" the reamining ghosts.

After Fright Night, I got a ride home from Gilbert and returned the following day after lunch. We had some dry games by the beach, I rode in the aforementioned contraption (merry-go-round variant), got horribly disoriented and screamed too much (for some inexplicable feminine reason, some girls were screaming even when the thing stopped, so I decided to scream for fun too. Oh, and it was rather scary also), for which I'm currently suffering (sore throat).
"Life is a sexually transmitted disease." - R. D. Laing


For lunch I had a tim sum buffet at Mirama hotel with erstwhile fellow slaves after their latest high key ICT.

Nigel was psycho and ordered the equivalent of 80 dishes/baskets (for non-dim sum items, I counted a "small" order as equivalent to 1 dish/basket, "medium" to 2 and "large" to 3) for 8 people. Somehow, we managed to finish them and had another 10 bowls of dessert. The other table had the equivalent of 55 dishes/baskets for 7 people, and they were also having difficulties.


Miranda is so helpful. Some weird ICQ users wanted to add me (I haven't seen these scum for a while actually), but Miranda told me that the user client was "Spam Bot".


Phantasy Star Online" / a game review from Christian Spotlight

""Phantasy Star Online" has been in development for a few years now. Heralded as the most epic game yet in the famous "Phantasy Star" series which started with the now-obsolete Sega Master System. Promising eye-popping graphics, deep gameplay, and the ability to play online with thousands of players across the world has risen this game to the pinnacle of hype. Just released mere days ago (as of this original writing), is Phantasy Star Online an acceptable game in the eye's of God?... "Phantasy Star Online" is one of those rare games that I believe is totally alright in God's eyes. Highly recommended."

No, this is not satire.


The next time I see someone describe herself in her profile as a "simple girl" (or any variant spelling thereof), I swear I'm going to interrogate her as to the criteria of simplicity, and what a complex girl would be like.


dunkindohnut and the_fell_bat both inform me that they want Wo-hen Nankan badges.


(If anyone else wants them, they should contact me. I might actually make them for everyone.)

Friday, July 01, 2005

The extended advertisement for NUS that's masquerading as a news supplement in today's Straits Times is most amusing. I wonder if they had to pay for it. Given that there wasn't any obvious indication of its being a paid supplement, I think the answer is no.

And people wonder why the Straits Times isn't taken seriously, or as a real newspaper.

(Also see: Singapore...boleh! Other countries...shitleh!)

My throat hurts.

Maybe I shouldn't have screamed so much on Sentosa, on a playground contraption (a merry-go-round variant) which I will now describe: A pole is stuck into sand and 4 beams extend out horizontally from its peak, forming a symmetrical cross shape. From each beam another extended down, with a saddle attached to it, together with handles.

Each person using the piece of equipment would sit on the saddle, facing the pole in the centre. Someone would then push one of the four vertical beams around, rotating the contraption around the pole (Alternatively, the users would bounce up and down, causing the contraption to rotate).

Come to think of it, it was like a carousel, keeping the saddles but sans the horses, except that it was manually-powered.

If anyone knows what this thing is called, please tell me!

Someone: it sounds like a convoluted sex toy
merry go rounds don't have saddles

Someone: so what did u volunteer being?

Me: err. stuff lah
station master
move stuff
paint banner
pack goodie bags
be a ghost in the haunted house

Someone: Were u the ghost of indulgence?

Me: no I was the ghost of christmas past
go and die lah

Someone: (u be station master? u must have tekan the girls by pulling their ponytails)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Currently acting as hired help in a camp. Will be back on Friday with tales of intrigue and prurience aplenty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Eagles may soar high, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines." - David Brent


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'Benign Girl'

The gods know we need more of them around.

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'Gay Wah Flower Shop'


Gladiators battle to restore tourism

"“AD SIGNA!” the centurion shouts, and 45 legionnaires raise their spears in unison as the command echoes off Roman columns and through the surrounding olive groves.

It is the start of a day that bristles with Roman battles and gladiatorial contests, culminating in a full-blooded chariot race contested by four teams of horses. This is a re-enactment with a difference. In the ancient Roman city of Jerash, Jordan, an hour’s drive north of Amman, it takes place in the hippodrome where 15,000 fans witnessed the real thing 1,800 years ago."


Overweight who diet risk dying earlier, says study

"The finding needs to be backed up by further research before sweeping changes are made to public health strategies, the authors warn, but it highlights how poorly the long-term health effects of dieting are understood.

The study, which was carried out in Finland, followed 2,957 overweight or obese people who had been screened to ensure they had no underlying illnesses.

Each participant was questioned about their desire to lose weight in 1975 and again in 1981. Records of their weight and general health were kept for the next 18 years, during which 268 of the participants died.

Analysis of the data showed that those who wanted to lose weight and succeeded were significantly more likely to die young than those who stayed fat.

The researchers were unable to identify why the dieters were at a greater risk of dying younger, but believe it is caused by fat being lost from lean organs as well as other body tissues.

The finding is supported by an earlier study by researchers at the US National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta.

It followed 6,391 overweight or obese people for nine years and found that those who had no intention of losing weight and even gained weight were least at risk of dying young. "


Goodle Good News - "Scientists pack up: 'Everything explained'. BBC News - 0.3 femtoseconds ago. Scientists all round the world today went home for a nice cup of tea after a revolutionary breakthrough explained everything. The new unified theory (NUT) unites science and religion, explains genetics, the origin of the universe, quantum phenomena, and provides the first instant cure for a hangover in human history."

Monday, June 27, 2005

"If you look good and dress well, you don't need a purpose in life." - Robert Pante


Grumblings on the never-ending efforts to perpetuate the MLM scam (aka Christian evangelism) which perpetually afflicts Young Republic:

A: Actually I think the real problem with proselytising is not that it includes unsubstantiated assertions, since there are many occasions where one may seek to change the opinions of others without necessarily having iron-clad proof for everything one is saying.

For example, I may try to persuade someone else that we need more generous welfare provision, and in so doing I may appeal to notions such as fairness, justice, equality of opportunity, etc etc, for which no special 'substantiation' or proof can be given. That is, the ideas on which I base my appeal cannot be said to be beyond doubt or re-evaluation.

The same applies if I try to persuade someone else of, for example, the need to protect minority language rights, or to preserve a part of architectural heritage, etc.

Ppl get annoyed by evangelists for two reasons:

a) Ppl often get the feeling that they are emotionally manipulated. For example, evangelists may befriend someone, but with the ultimate/added intention of converting them. This does not mean that their friendship is insincere, but still, ppl in general like to think that their virtues -- as opposed their eternal soul -- are the reason why others befriend them.

b) Christianity, and monotheistic religions in general, are total ideologies which, if accepted, expect to assume a central -- if not paramount -- role in the lives of adherents. In the Calvinist form which it commonly takes in S'pore, Christianity also tends to denigrate the christianity-less lives of non-believers (I believe the Calvinist formulation is "total depravity"). In its fundamentalist form, also one of the most common forms to be found in S'pore, it also takes on an uncompromising and 'flat' aspect, which makes it appear unpalatable and simplistic. Also, evangelists tend to be excessively sure of the truth of their convictions (which they think is 'faith'). This makes them appear arrogant and also makes arguing with them frustrating. What I mean is that all of us have some personal experience of life and have formed our own conclusions and evolved our own responses. To have someone come along and, with a smiling face, trash all of that and instead propose a small set of assertions which will somehow solve everything and indeed *is* everything -- and that
if not accepted will result in eternal hellfire -- is generally insulting and annoying.

So it is not the lack of substantiation but the flatness, totality, demandingness and unwillingness to engage in real discussion which annoy.

> Evangelism is an integral part of
> the Christian message.

Well, yes and no -- this depends on what you mean by evangelism. An evangelism which proclaims 'believe in Jesus and the literal and inerrant truth of the Bible or you shall burn eternally in hellfire' is very different from an evangelism which says 'the Christian faith tradition and Christian ethics present a unique and important voice, and potentially an enriching and transformative life experience.' Liberal Christians see no need to diss other ideologies wholesale, nor to resort to threats of eternal punishment and hellfire. If you think liberal Christianity is ahistorical, you may also consider the pre-Vatican II RC view of evangelism as a spread of the Church militant -- a church and parish priest, and finally even a diocesan structure with a bishop, in formerly 'pagan' territory as the ultimate goal and emblem of evangelisation. This view, based on the understanding that instituting a Christian culture would be the best way to protect the religious freedom of Christians and to facilitate the practice of Christian ethics, is clearly at odds with the form of evangelism fundies have in mind.

> The minute I tell you what I believe and you listen,
> evangelism is going on. It's no different from people on this list
> suggesting than NS should be scrapped because it infringes on certain
> fundamental human rights. Nobody formulates and holds that opinion with the
> intention of keeping it to himself; if they did, I would doubt the sincerity
> of their belief.

I agree, but as I said, this is not what is wrong with evangelism as it is often encountered in S'pore. I certainly agree that trying to persuade someone else of something, even if that something is an opinion and cannot be completely backed up by 'facts' is not in itself inappropriate. But that is not the point.

B: And as such, do we get to attempt to deconvert christians or other religions?

You do realise that people on this list don't go on an anti-religion tirade until someone decides to start spouting evangelitical crap. Most of us signed onto this list to argue about "NS, democracy, free speech etc", not to listen to the so-called "good news" shoved down our collective gullets, as religious zealots attempt to weave their religion, thundering "MY GOD IS GOOD!!!!" into every arguement written here, be it on "NS, democracy, free speech etc".

As for me, I figured that watching the latest Power Rangers SPD episode, playing Rome: Total War and wringing my wrists about the Bloggers.SG T-shirts was a much better, more enjoyable and productive way to spend my time. Or perhaps the placidity I've been enjoying since my return from the States, which may be due to serendipity has something to do with it. Which reminds me: I better settle the T-shirts before I go off for the NUS ENS camp (I'm helping out as a minion).

Nonetheless, my arsenal is readied for the next debacle which witnesses the degeneration of debate into evangelism (this time, somehow talk of Science was painted as an attempt at mob-lynching, which does tell you something about the other side).

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke


Things you always wanted to know, but never got around to asking:

What's the purpose of washers (the round metal things)?

"A humble flat washer is used for many purposes, some proper and some not. The two most common proper purposes are:

* To distribute the pressure of the nut or bolt evenly over the part being secured, reducing the chance of damage thereto, and
* To provide a smooth surface for the nut or bolt to bear on, making it less likely to loosen as a result of an uneven fastening surface."


Site feedback:

"Just want to say that not all sc girls are slutty or whatever you mentioned. Though I won't deny that there are some who are like that, they only make up a small percentage of the student population. Most of them are in fact very sincere and modest.

Next time, do watch what you post on this site.

Have a nice day."

Since when has quoting various people's opinions constituted endorsing them?! Gah.


Noah's Ark allegedly found:

"And so it was - while there were the rare accounts of Ark sighting and the procurement of ancient, crafted wood from the heights of Mt Ararat, no one had been able to visually document the vessel itself. Thus it was really suprising that this feat was ultimately achieved by Mr Yuen and his team - a team, which originally, was supposed to be a tag-along to a team of 30 scientists from the States who set out to find the Ark in response to satilite images"

There is a reason why the putative ark's existence and authenticity has never been verified independently.


Mimi Spencer takes a look at French women's eating habits

"According to established lore and several new books (the latest is French Women Don't Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano), if you really want to kiss your ass goodbye, you should take a lesson from the French.

Despite a diet stuffed with cream, butter, cheese and meat, just 10 per cent of French adults are obese, compared with our 22 per cent, and America's colossal 33 per cent. The French live longer too, and have lower death rates from coronary heart disease - in spite of those artery-clogging feasts of cholesterol and saturated fat. This curious observation, dubbed 'the French paradox', has baffled scientists for more than a decade.

In Chic and Slim: How Those French Women Eat all that Rich Food and Still Stay Slim, Anne Barone seeks to unravel the puzzle. As it turns out, it's all about knickers. 'Never underestimate the power of a black lace garter belt,' she writes. 'Even French women's lingerie helps to keep them slim, [it's] a constant reminder to make choices that pay off in slimness. Their belief in this principle is demonstrated by the fact that there are almost as many lingerie shops in Paris as bakeries.' Vanity, it seems, is a very useful vice if you want to fight the flab."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 12 - New York

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover
Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont
Day 8 - New Hampshire-Bretton Woods-Portland Head
Day 9 - Portland-Kennebunkport
Day 10 - Marblehead-Salem-Boston
Day 11 - Westpoint-New York

In the morning, my sister and brother-in-law came with me on the train from New Brunswick to New York, and we went to see the Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval art.

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My sister claimed I liked the place because it was Disney-fied. However, the place was essentially a museum, differing from most others only in the way the material was presented, housed in a constructed monastic setting more approximating the artefacts' original surroundings than a typical museum, and with some of the collection set into the architecture of the place (eg Arches integrated into doorways). There were no rides, no talking friars and no people dressed up as monks, so it was very far from Disney-fied.

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Column detail

My brother in law went around taking picture after picture of column and carving details, for some unknown reason. Of course, he probably doesn't know what the details are of now, whereas I took care to note down what it was I photographed when it wasn't immediately clear from looking at the photo. And since it fell to me to caption the photographs, with his leaving them named with such inspiring filenames as "NY 2 041", I now have 13 files imaginatively named "XX - Stained Glass.jpg".

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Cloister and fountain jet

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"Wth?!" shot 1

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"Wth?!" shot 2

Digging around in the Bonnefont cloister garden, I finally found my mandrakes! I didn't dare to pull one up to expose the roots, though, since having no ear protection, I wouldn't be able to abide the screaming.

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The only really wroth-inducing aspect of the Cloisters was the so-called "donation". To maintain its status as "tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code" and to be "eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes" (The Better Business Bureau National Information System), it likely is forbidden from levying an admission fee. Nonetheless, the ingenious folks over there have hit upon a way to impose a de facto ticketing system. Not only is a receipt and a token (some badge that one clips to one's garments) given when the "donation" is given, visitors are told that becoming a member entitles one to "free admission". The best part is that if one wanders into the Cloisters without being processed at the "donation booth", as my sister did, one is called back by the security guard for "processing". And when I shelled out $7 for my "donation", we were asked derisorily by the staff member at the counter if that was for 1 or for 3. If I ever go back there, I figure that since they're shameless enough to ask for "donations" so brazenly, I can decline equally shamelessly.

I proceeded to the main part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, leaving the Louvre as the last missing feather in my cap of the Holy Trinity of art museums. Probably due to the greater number of visitors there (only the hardcore people go to the Cloisters), they weren't as anal about "donations".

Most people walked briskly through the galleries, going straight for the crowd favourites, not stopping to smell the roses (or examine the hydriai, as the case might be), with various items on display that were uncharismatic but still interesting in their own peculiar way, like 'Terracotta vase in the form of a phallus' ('Vase en terre cuite ayant la forme d'un phallus') and bronze libation bowls. The sheer size of the kraters were frightening - one now knows just how well the wheel of ancient discourse were so turned. However, I ran away from the awful Cycladic figures, having had ten lifetimes' worth of them at the Benaki museum in Athens.

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Marble grave sculpture of a young girl

Many parts of the museum were closed, including the Etruscan, Roman and Hellenistic sections, so I didn't get my "donation"'s worth. Though there was a very respectable collection of non-Incan South American artefacts. I tried peeping into the modern art gallery for kicks, but ran away screaming.

The easiest way to distinguish Classical Greek and Roman statues from the Neo-Classical ones: the former are castrated, while the latter aren't.

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Innocence protected by fidelity

Some art pieces were placed in the Museum cafe. Very smart way to tempt people in.

There was a sculpture by Bernini of Priapus, but a basket of fruit conveniently obscured his identifying feature.

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Room from Hotel de Varengeville. They had several reassembled European hotel rooms, many of them Parisian (I wonder why), from the 18th Century. How opulent. Though for sheer shock value, it couldn't beat the whole choir screen from the Cathedral in Valladolid, or indeed the whole tomb of Perneb they carted in.

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A most lovely rosary

They had a very nice arms and armour exhibit, but unfortunately almost all the items were from the late medieval period and later. They did have some Qing ceremonial armour though, as well as some Middle Eastern specimens, and a whole (small) room dedicated to horse armour. The pamphlet proudly proclaimed that they had the 'finest collection of Japanese armour outside Japan'. But of course that would depend on how one defines 'finest'.

There were a few Byzantine galleries, but my feet were in too much pain to do more than breeze through them, let alone read blurbs and scribble commentary.

I was looking to steal a Book of the Dead to speed my ba to the Land of the West, but it was much too long for me to smuggle out, despite being in hieratic. Maybe a demotic Reader's Digest version is available somewhere. I must contact my local bookstore one day for details.

I didn't get to go to Columbia, but I met with my brother-in-law and sister as the gestapo at the Met was chasing everyone out 15 minutes before the official closing time, and they told me that it didn't have ivy. Pity.

We went to Ground Zero, which was underwhelming, looking more like a construction site than anything and lacking even a simple memorial after more than 3 years. No "co-ordinated continuous expressive activity as a part of a group of 25 or more persons" was allowed without a permit. That said, it beats the law on Illegal Assembly.

We then went to Ellen's Stardust Diner, where the waitering staff sang (sometimes while serving people), and they were all nametag-ed after TV show characters: "Scooter", "Jughead", "Judy", "Buffy" and "Jess" (this and the Boston restaurant were the only places with more male than female serving staff). The staff (at least those who sang) looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves and had a great deal of chemistry. Oh, and their singing was quite good. However, they were sneaky, for as the evening went by they sang less and less, and in the end they just turned off the music and turned up the volume of the TVs playing videos.

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'Buffy' and us

The diner had an Elvis Special - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The portions at the place weren't American-sized, though. Maybe it's something to do with New York City. Or with how people there are smaller than in suburban America.

The ads and animated billboards in Times Square are very aggressive and invasive. From here it's just a short hop, skip and jump to holograms jumping out at you ala Minority Report.

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Big Butts. We got 'em. Spanky's BBQ.

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Eats flies. Dates a pig. Hollywood star. Live your dreams. Pass it on. (The foundation for a better life)

The Nissin cup noodles billboard was very smart. They positioned it in front of a steam duct, so steam appeared to be coming from the cup.

Sister's food diary: "Day 12 : Breakfast at Penn station - Krispy Kreme donuts, 99c hotdog. Korean lunch - dumplings, beef bulgogi, beef short rib noodles. Afternoon snack - Chicago pizza. Dinner - all-singing diner. Coconut shrimp, bacon cheeseburger, sampler plate, milkshake, death by chocolate."

I think I took worse shots with my brother-in-law's digital SLR (Canon Digital Rebel 300D), despite it being better than my normal one (Canon Powershot A70).

The weight and bulk of the former made it more unwieldy, unstable and unsteady. The lack of movie and photo-stich modes also constrained my designs, and there was also no helpful camera shake warning flashing when the shutter speed was too slow, and no preview of what the captured image would look like. That removing and putting on the lens cap was annoying didn't help either.

On the upside, the lens was very wide angle, and zooming could be controlled precisely. But overall I prefer my own camera. Now to get the loose connection tightened...

People are noticeably less friendly in New York. If they even bother to mutter the requisite words, you can tell they're just going through the motions. Which was why at the McDonalds at New York Penn Station, they had to offer customers a free hashbrown/small fries on their next visit if the person serving them didn't smile.

In London it is easy to get cheap tickets (let alone normal-priced ones, and online too) to shows, even if they are lousy ones (the seats, not the shows). Maybe New Yorkers are more rich (or bored) and so can afford to watch shows more often.

I saw 2 Hummer stretch limos. Wth?!

If something like Central Park existed in Singapore, it would long ago have been paved over and used to build condominiums.

Maybe I should get a wheelchair the next time I travel, so I can move around and rest my feet at the same time.

Some subway stations have the strangest and/or most awful smells.

I don't know why we can't get amusing advertisements on TV. Maybe Singaporeans can't appreciate humour. That said we also don't get ads where a guy comes up and gives a lecture to viewers about how good his product is.
To clarify, we were actually supposed to meet Gabriel in front of the Masjid Jamae at South Bridge Road. The Dwarven Porter suggested the mosque instead of the massive Sri Mariamman temple because Gabriel in his corpulence might have been mistaken for a benevolent idol and people would have started throwing coins at his feet.

And while we are baking our heels in the sun, Gabriel stops off to blog about his ponytail fetish!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Without telling us!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Ed: Actually I did tell them when I was given a call just before I started recounting my sad tale of woe.]
"I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling, I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle." - Mitch Hedberg


Being at my brother-in-law's long-unoccupied but finally moved-into Tampines apartment now for the night, I was going to finish Day 12 of my travelogue, leaving me with only 1 more day, but my sister forgot to bring my scribble sheet, instead bringing blank paper for some reason.


On Friday, I went to check out the Carl's Jr at Marina with Tym, to see if they really sold "Burgers for grownups" (given that I can't seem to get any Google results for that phrase, it just might be one adopted just for Singapore as a jibe against the local fast food chains).

I held little hope, but my faith turned out not to have been misplaced - instead of the flavourless cardboard that passes for bacon elsewhere, they had the real, robust thing. Albeit not quite crispy and flavourful enough, probably due to insufficient grilling, it was still much better than the ersatz substitute used by firms forsaking culinary principles.

Otherwise the burgers were big, and I had no complaints about my Bacon Swiss Chicken Club. The fries couldn't match up to McDonalds, though, and Tym said her beef patty wasn't quite thick enough.

The only beef I have with Carl's Jr is that they're pricing themselves out of the market. At ~$8 for a single-patty beef burger combo and ~$10 for the chicken and double-patty beef burger combos, I don't forsee people eating there often, since even someone like me, so fond of the Meat of the Gods, is leery of the price.

In tangentially-related news, I had Pork Nasi Briyani today at New Bridge Road near Chinatown, just down the street from the Indian temple. The place had a sign reading: "Nasi Briyani Indian Food. First in Singapore". Maybe they were referring to the fact that they served pork.
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