When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

"Hollywood is a place where people from Iowa mistake each other for stars." - Fred Allen


Assorted photos from Johnny Malkavian from Shanghai and Hong Kong:

Hong Kong

With HWMNBN in an alley

Outside Bubba Gump at The Peak

At The Peak

At Snake restaurant

Jiak Zhua

These can be combined for a money shot:

Johnny Malkavian: "fuck man
i'm getting motion sickness watching you eat"

Keywords: eat snake, eating snake, getting sick watching you eat


Boyband pose (not my idea)

Equally blur picture of the alley I also did not manage to capture


Waiting for JM to finish in KFC
He says he prefers Singapore's KFC. He must go to bolehland!



Probably the most unflattering shot of me I've ever seen
Just found out why my last.fm chart blog display kept screwing up.

When I inserted it as an Image widget, Blogger fixed the width and height at what the chart was at time of insertion. Since this is a dynamic, not a static image (it keeps changing), this screwed up the aspect ratio whenever the chart dimensions changed (as they do when songs with long artists/titles are played and then disappear).

Looks like inserting everything as "HTML/Javascript" widgets is the best way to go.

Friday, August 31, 2007

"We MAXIMISE your potential!"

Given the context (that it was in Business and this is Singapore), maybe it should read "we make you appear to have something you don't!"

(Spotted by Meishi Hurhur)

"got many 

got another seamless bra
then caption is our work is seamless

China Trip
Day 10 (2/7) - Hong Kong-Singapore

There was a Krispy Kreme at the airport (Terminal 2, where there was almost nothing else), so I bought back 36.

Half of the flavours were less sweet, for Hongkie pallettes.

KK had some fruit festival promotion, but their "lemon quencher" made me even more thirsty. Gah.

Johnny Malkavian likes his KKs frozen. I couldn't quite see why, except for the Chocolate Cake donut, where it was a great experience.

Hong Kong names: Riva (a guy)

As I went through security screening, a horrible thought occured to me: the fillings of the Krispy Kremes might be considered gels or liquids, and they'd suspect me of buying so many 'donuts' on board because I wanted to blow up the plane. Luckily, this did not happen.

When I'd returned from Stanford, someone had claimed that the fast passport lane (where you scan your passport and thumbprint) in Changi was only for people with the newest, biometric passports. Seeing the line at the normal lane, I made enquiries and found out that this was not the case, and I used it. Gah.
"Perhaps the suggestion is that good and evil, are related in much the same way as great and small... in this sense greatness is not a quality, not an intrinsic feature of anything ; and it would be absurd to think of a movement in favour of greatness and against smallness in this sense. Such a movement would be self-defeating, since relative greatness can be promoted only by a simultaneous promotion of relative smallness. I feel sure that no theists would be content to regard God's goodness as analogous to this-as if what he supports were not the good but the better, and as if he had the paradoxical aim that all things should be better than other things.

This point is obscured by the fact that ' great ' and ' small ' seem to have an absolute as well as a relative sense. I cannot discuss here whether there is absolute magnitude or not. but if V there is, there could be an absolute sense for ' great ', it could mean of at least a certain size, and it would make sense to speak of all things getting bigger, of a universe that was expanding all over, and therefore it would make sense to speak of promoting greatness. But in this sense great and small are not logically necessary counterparts : either quality could exist without the other. There would be no logical impossibility in everything's being small or in everything's being great...

It may be replied that good and evil are necessarv counterparts in the same way as any quality and its logical opposite : redness can occur, it is suggested, only if non-redness also occurs. But unless evil is merely the privation of good, they are not logical opposites, and some further argument would be needed to show that they are counterparts in the same way as genuine logical opposites. Let us assume that this could be given. There is still doubt of the correctness of the metaphysical principle that a quality must have a real opposite : I suggest that it is not really impossible that everything should be, say, red, that the truth is merely that if everything were red we should not notice redness, and so we should have no word 'red'... God might have made everything good, though we should not have noticed it if he had.

But, finally, even if we concede that this is an ontological principle, it will provide a solution for the problem of evil only if one is prepared to say, "Evil exists, but only just enough evil to serve as the counterpart of good ". I doubt whether any theist will accept this. After all, the ontological requirement that non-redness should occur would be satisfied even if all the universe. except for a minute speck. were red, and, if there were A , a corresponding requirement for evil as a counterpart to good, a minute dose of evil would presumably do. But theists are not usually willing to say, in all contexts, that all the evil that occurs is a minute and necessary dose...

I should ask this : if God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good? If there is no logical impossibility in a man's freely choosing the good on one, or on several, occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong : there was open to him the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good.

If it is replied that this objection is absurd, that the making of some wrong choices is logically necessary for freedom, it would seem that ' freedom ' must here mean complete randomness or indeterminacy, including randomness with regard to the alternatives good and evil, in other words that men's choices and consequent actions can be "free " only if they are not determined by their characters. Only on this assumption can God escape the responsibility for men's actions ; for if he made them as they are, but did not determine their wrong choices, this can only be because the wrong choices are not determined by men as they are. But then if freedom is randomness, how can it be a characteristic of will ? And, still more, how can it be the most important good ? What value or merit would there be in free choices if these were random actions which were not determined by the nature of the agent ?...

There is a fundamental difficulty in the notion of an omnipotent God creating men with free will, for if men's wills are really free this mmt mean that even God cannot control them, that is, that God is no longer omnipotent. It may be objected that God's gift of freedom to men does not mean that he cannot control their wills, but that he always refrains from controlling their wills. But why, we may ask, should God refrain from controlling evil wills ? Why should he not leave men free to will rightly, but intervene when he sees them , beginning to will wrongly ? ' If God could do this, but does not, and if he is wholly good, the only explanation could be that even a wrong free act of will is not really evil, that its freedom is a value which outweighs its wrongness, so that there would be a loss of value if God took away the wrongness and the freedom together. But this is utterly opposed to what theists say about sin in other contexts. The present solution of the problem of evil, then, can be maintained only in the form that God has made men so free that he cannot control their wills.

This leads us to what I call the Paradox of Omnipotence : can an omnipotent being make things which he cannot subsequently control ?"

- Evil and Omnipotence, J. L. Mackie in Mind (Apr 1955)

"What is the coldest temperature recorded in Singapore?

The lowest minimum temperature ever recorded in the month of December is 20.6 deg C ( on 2 Dec 1964), while the lowest temperature ever recorded (since record began in 1929) is 19.4 deg C (on 31 Jan 1934).

Cool weather over Singapore are caused by the following conditions :
i ) periods of cloudy to overcast weather accompanied by rain which blocks out the heat from the sun
ii ) season and prevailing wind

Usually the Northeast Monsoon months of December and January are the cooler months of the year with average highest temperature of 29..9 deg C as compared to 31.5 deg C in the months of April and May, and with average minimum temperature of 23.1 deg C in Dec and Jan as compared to 24.3 deg C in the months of April and May. The early part of the Northeast monsoon (months of December and January) is usually characterised by generally cloudy and windy conditions with rain periods lasting for 2 to 3 days at a stretch.

The cool north-east winds which blow over Singapore during this time of the year originate from the cold winter conditions of the interior of the Asian continent. ."


23.1?! Where do you get that, at the top of Bukit Timah Hill at 5am?

Whirling dervishes

The food sucked (though it was free). It was from Anatolia. I don't know why people go there. You can get much better Middle Eastern food in Arab Street.

On the up side, I have done yet another of the "things I want to do before I die"

All of the performers were male, including the musicians and not just the dancers.

A lot of feminists would criticise this, but they're scared of being accused of being racist and ethnocentric.

I'm sure they criticise the Catholic Church for being sexist though.


Fuller version in my LJ.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one." - Joan Baez


Older students tend to dislike the new Arts canteen and younger students (Year 2s, at any rate) tend to like it. This is, of course, due to nostalgia and romanticisation. One thing anyone can agree on though, is that the servings are now smaller. AND THERE ARE NO MORE COLD DESSERTS (the stall holders said there was no space in the new stall). I WANT MY CHIN CHOW AND LONGAN!!!

Alternate IVLE version:

For example, it’s interesting how some of my seniors dislike the new Arts Canteen because they feel its bland and has lost its unique ‘identity’ and ‘soul’. Personally, I believe the unease stems partly from how the people have not had time to ‘grow into’ this new, unfamiliar structure; it hasn’t been fully habituated by the community and has yet to acquire that deeper sense of meaning which elevates mere ‘dead’ landscapes to a cherished part of one’s lived community.

I find it interesting how most of the older students dislike the new Arts Canteen but most of the newer ones like it. I think it has to do with notions of authenticity, hearkening back to a halcyon (and often imagined past) and the imbuing of tangible space with emotions, memories and other aspects of intangible space. The euphemism for this is "character", "cosiness" or the like. In fact, the older students are not evaluating the new canteen per se but seeking a symbol of their happier times in NUS, which the new place inevitably cannot be.

On the other hand, students who only experienced a semester in the old canteen are less encumbered and better able to judge it on its merits. Alternatively you can look for a positivist, but since it's become unfashionable you probably won't find many of those around.

Research projects are supposed to clear ethical guidelines. On my ISM form there're fields for the supervisor and coordinator to make sure these are not breached by the project. Yet the stupid IRB site (Institutional Review Board) is not available for students to read to make sure the projects they propose don't breach these guidelines. Bah.

I was suffering from Year 4 Ennui for a while, but now it's shrugged off most of the time.

USP Science modules usually involve some Arts component, but to my knowledge no USP Arts modules have Science components. This reflects how immediately irrelevant Science is to our daily lives.

Some people wanted to organise a lunar eclipse viewing session. I wasn't sure what the point would've been, since you would see literally nothing. But it appears that you don't see literally nothing, as a time lapse movie of one on the Wikipedia article shows. Damn.

I notice classes with Indian instructors have a disproportionate number of Indian students.

I noticed that the FASS computer lab technically (according to the rules no one follows, anyway) is for FASS staff and students only. And 'lab supervisors are not obliged to help students in using the software and programs' (so what are they paid for?)

Some classes have what I dub the American Syndrome. ie People talk a lot, everyone has an opinion, there're various lame jokes cracked but ultimately very little is said.
[the fell bat: btw whole of SMU is subject to American Syndrome
it's how to score
The 24 Year Old Virgin: this is also known as the SMU syndrome
we are catching up]
In the Central Library:

Author: Pascoe, C. J., 1974-
Title: Dude, you're a fag : masculinity and sexuality in high school / C.J. Pascoe.
Imprint: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2007.

1 Making masculinity : adolescence, identity, and high school 1
2 Becoming Mr. Cougar : institutionalizing heterosexuality and masculinity at River High 25
3 Dude, you're a fag : adolescent male homophobia 52
4 Compulsive heterosexuality : masculinity and dominance 84
5 Look at my masculinity! : girls who act like boys 115
6 Conclusion : thinking about schooling, gender, and sexuality 156
App What if a guy hits on you? : intersections of gender, sexuality, and age in fieldwork with adolescents 175
This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.
"A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her." - Oscar Wilde


"Technology never solves a problem without creating another"

A: Hello Everyone,

Recently, I watched the once-famous comic film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" shot in South Africa, featuring San bushmen and exhibiting their ways of life, as compared to the fast-paced life in nearby South African cities like Pretoria and Cape Town.

The film begins with the narrator explaining the bushmen's primitive ways of doing everyday things, like gathering food, hunting, and communication, after which he tells us about their utter lack of any technology whatsoever. We see that these San families and communities live very happily, completely oblivious even of the fact that there are other more advanced civilisations outside their territory.

The narrator then takes us through a busy street in Cape Town, where he points out to us the gadgets and innovations which are being used so often in everyday life that most people don't even realise the fact that they once didn't have such things. But the most interesting part for me was when he said that our modern world is so advanced that the human baby has to take the first "16 years simply to learn the essentials of human life and how to fit into human society." (Cf. The San children who start gathering food and hunting once they start walking.)

I think that though technology has done so much good for us, eased and elevated the standards of our living styles, and saved so many lives through medicine and disaster prevention techniques, we would have been perhaps happier had we remained in a state of ignorance and primitivity, as says the proverb "Ignorance is bliss." Since we would not have even known that there could have been something called an aeroplane or a laptop, we are ipso facto not going to yearn for it or miss it. The San are not aware of outside societies, so they don't miss anything, and this complete lack of desire gives them happiness and satisfaction. I think this is a problem intrinsic to technology. We cannot have technology without having to face its wrath.

Though I'm of Indian parentage, I have lived all my life in Uganda, which is perhaps the quintessential underdeveloped country of the world. The Western influence has not yet pervaded most of the country, so people still proudly retain their ancient practices and ways of life (some of which may be considered a little strange, like cannibalism, religious mutilation and flagellation, black magic, and child sacrifice, to only mention the least offensive). We don't have wireless Internet (in fact even our usual internet is off satellites, not fibre-obtics like here), railways, or even unadulterated tinned food. But on the positive side, we don't have GM foods, pollution, or a breakneck pace of life like here. The Ugandan peasant is happy with his small plot of land which he believes his ancestors have blessed, and tills it from morning till evening, when he goes back to his mudhut and sleeps at sunset (people wake up at sunrise and sleep at sunset, for want of artificial light sources).

By the way, all the above is accurate only in rural Uganda, which is where I've lived. Kampala town is just like any other African town, a little more modern.

To reiterate my point, the Ugandan plebes do not desire the benefits of technology because they are not even aware of them.

I shall end my post here now, but I shall continue using Uganda as an example, since it provides a good vantage point to look at the destructive effects of technology.



(PS: One can discern a similar plot in Night Shyamalam's 'The Village'.)

B: Hey,

I think the example of Uganda is not so relevant to the motion. The motion states that 'technology never solves a problem without creating another', implying that we should be discussing technologies which have already solved problems. As for the example you gave, it is possibly true that 'ignorance is bliss'; However, the society you described has been exposed to little technology, and thus, does not qualify as an example.

Nevertheless, I must say, it's a very refreshing example, really enjoyed reading it!!


Me: "we don't have GM foods, pollution, or a breakneck pace of life like here. The Ugandan peasant is happy with his small plot of land which he believes his ancestors have blessed, and tills it from morning till evening, when he goes back to his mudhut and sleeps at sunset (people wake up at sunrise and sleep at sunset, for want of artificial light sources)."

Life expectancy in Uganda is also 51.75 (2007, CIA World Factbook). I don't mind some pollution if I can live 20 years longer.

As for GM food, in a developed country I think even if you buy organic foods you can eat more sumptuously than the Ugandan peasant.

Lastly, it is possible to escape the breakneck pace of life here. You just have to lower your expectations a bit:

"What some people mistake for the high cost of living is really the cost of high living." - Doug Larson

A: Hello B,

I feel that Uganda is still a good example, because it can be considered as an ideal country where technology has not yet shown its evil face. It's only if we have an example of the negative, that the positive can be proven true or untrue. If I were to merely talk about modern countries with a high level of technology, we would have but our imaginations to come up with the opposite case. Here, fortunately, I'm actually able to describe to you an actual example of a situation where technology is largely absent.



Me: Here is another situation. Here, technology is almost totally absent, so it is an even better example of where technology has not yet shown its evil face:

Back to Uganda, here are some statistics I found:
Life expectancy at birth (years), 2005 - 49
% of infants with low birthweight, 1998-2005 - 12
% of under-fives (1996-2005*) suffering from: underweight, moderate & severe - 23
% of population using improved drinking water sources, 2004, total - 60
% under-fives with suspected pneumonia±, 1999-2005* - 22
Crude death rate, 2005 - 15

Compare them to Singapore, where technology has shown its evil face:
Life expectancy at birth (years), 2005 - 79
% of infants with low birthweight, 1998-2005 - 8
% of under-fives (1996-2005*) suffering from: underweight, moderate & severe - 3
% of population using improved drinking water sources, 2004, total - 100
Crude death rate, 2005 - 5

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Community" in the Kampung and Tiong Bahru

"The notion of 'community' is one of the most compelling, if complex and elusive, themes in social research, well testified in the original works and the abundant reinterpretations of Durkheim, Weber, Tonnies and Simmel (see Cohen, 1985). Hillery (1955) reviewed 94 definitions of community and concluded that beyond the fact that all definitions deal with people, there was no other common factor...

Seet, in his paper on Kampung Wak Selat... employs the notion of 'community' as a symbolic construct. He suggests that daily activities are 'elevated... to the stature of significant rituals' which then enable 'the individual villager to imagine the communality of kampung life'. In other words, there is much mythologising at work in constructing an idealised picture - an imagined community - through elevating everyday trivialities to the status of metahistory...

Residents feel that Tiong Bahru's built environment is unique partly because of the historical significance they attach to it... others attach meaning to more exaggerated accounts of reality that sometimes reach mythical proportions (for example, the structural strength of prewar buildings are compared to 'early citadels')."

- The Meanings and Making of Place: Exploring History, Community and Identity; Lily Kong and Brenda S.A. Yeoh (in Portraits of Place: History, Community and Identity in Singapore)
Gourmet Dutch food:

23-24 Aug, 2007

(Amber, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel)

Three michelin star; “pure” cuisine from the
Restaurant De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands ◦ ◦ ◦

menu; new invent ions & some classics in mini version:

crispy tomato risotto with garlic ◦ ◦ ◦
beef tartar with smoked hering ”spekbokking” ◦ ◦ ◦
cauliflower with avruga ◦ ◦ ◦

gooseliver with smoked eel ◦
young fennel, orange & macvin ◦ ◦ ◦

seared scallop with flat beans ◦
“pata negra” & dried dutch sausage ◦ ◦ ◦

blue lobster ◦ omelette with veal kidney
in veal paleron broth ◦ ◦ ◦

texel lamb confit ◦ carrot bouillon & young vegetables ◦ ◦ ◦

epoisse with dates ◦ roseval potato extract &
star anis foam ◦ ◦ ◦

crème brulée “minute” with lime leaves & coconut sorbet ◦ ◦ ◦

chocolate with pineapple & licovice ice cream ◦ ◦ ◦

illy coffee ◦ ming cha teas ◦ tisanes & petits fours ◦ ◦ ◦

per person HKD1,200
wine pairing by Thérèse Boer available

menu by Jonnie Boer ◦ ◦ ◦

Monday, August 27, 2007

Since Gabriel has (finally) revealed his transgender tendencies in public by wearing a dress, I think the time has come to release some archival footage which only a select few have seen thus far.

Behold a sample of the horror that has driven men mad, milk to curdle, women to miscarry, streetlights to shatter, children fleeing in terror.

(Note: Despite my love for the truth, I've applied electronic censorship in order to avoid the threat of litigation by outraged parents... not to mention the fact that **REDACTED BY GREATER AUTHORITY**. Oh well.)

One day the world will be ready for the videos.


MFTTW: the photoshopped photo makes it look like you have ginormous boobies.
it's the shadow effect of the pixellation

... yes, the pixellation really makes it look a lot worse than it actually is.
"A number [of anthropologists] have commented on the role their discipline played in constructing and even inventing cultures. Sometimes, this was done at the behest of colonial authorities, who needed the anthropologists to give them an angle on the societies they were seeking to control. At other times, it has seemed that the only way to make sense of something is to treat it as a thing and investigate how it works. The objects of the investigation have, on occasion, proved willing participants because they have come to see claims about culture or cultural authenticity as a way to tap social or political power. Terence Turner’s study of the Kayapo villagers of the Brazilian Amazon is a classic example. When Turner began his fieldwork in the 196Os, the villagers did not perceive themselves as having a culture—they just saw themselves as human beings— and partly under pressure from the missionaries, had started to evolve different practices, including adopting a more Brazilian style of dress (wearing shorts or trousers) when they went into town. Through contact with anthropologists keen to document the Kayapo way of life, but even more important, through coming to realise that their culture could be a resource around which to mobilise the support of environmentalists and human rights activists, the Kayapo later discarded some of their Brazilian ways, elaborated old and new rituals, and made effective use of the Western media in their struggle for survival...

In the United States, multiculturalism became a way of talking—but not really talking—about racial disadvantage and inequality, which then got refracted through the prism of cultural differ enc, even where the cultural differences between white and black Americans were slight. When culture is employed as a euphemism for either race or ethnicity (and ethnicity, being thought to be more cultural, is itself commonly employed as a euphemism for race), this can encourage policymakers to propose cultural solutions to problems that are better understood as social or economic.

For many on the Left, this is what brings multicultural policies into disrepute. The pursuit of multiculturalism has been described as “a handy and inexpensive solution to the problem of ethnic politics,” or as diverting attention from structural and class domination, fragmenting what might otherwise be class-based oppositional movements. For me, this evokes memories of socialist critics of feminism who used to allege that women’s seif-organisation was undermining class unity, and my instinctive response is to say that this take on multiculturalism ignores the real harm that can be done to people when their cultural identities are trivialised and ignored. But it would be an appropriate criticism if something that has little or nothing to do with culture is misrepresented in exclusively cultural terms...

The deconstruction or de-essentialising of culture looks the more radical position because it rejects fixed notions of culture and refuses to see the other as profoundly different from oneself. But it can also be seen as worryingly ethnocentric because of the extraordinary potency it attributes to Western anthropology, Western human rights activists, or the Western media in producing this thing called culture. Marshall Sahlins puts it like this:

There is a certain historiography that is quick to take the 'great game' of imperialism as the only game in town. It is prepared to assume that history is made by the colonial masters, and that all that needs to be known about the people's own social dispositions, or even their 'subjectivity', is the external disciplines imposed upon them: the colonial policies of classification, enumeration, taxation, education, and sanitation. The main historical activity remaining to the underlying people is to misconstrue the effects of such imperialism in their own culture traditions... In the name of ancestral practice, the people construct an essentialized culture: a supposedly unchanging inheritance, sheltered from the contestation of a true social existence. Thus they repeat as tragedy the farcical errors about the coherence of a symbolic system supposed to have been committed by an earlier and more naive generation of anthropologists.

... Renee Rogers, who failed in her 1981 bid for damages against her employer, American Airlines, because she did not manage to convince the court that wearing her hair in cornrow braids was a crucial part of 'the cultural and historical essense' of a black American woman. On the whole, claims regarding cultural discrimination have found a less ready audience than those concerning religion or race...

[A case of honour killing in 1995: Shabir Hussain] clearly raised the spectre of culture being invoked to explain and minimise violent crimes against women. It also returns us to one of the earlier questions, about whether intensely held religious convictions should be treated differently from intensely held political convictions, or whether culture should be elevate above other concerns. One might imagine a parallel case in which a member of a white racist organisation claimed that he found it deeply offensive to see his siter with a black lover, and that something blew up in his head that caused a complete and sudden loss of self-control. There have been occasions in the not-too-distant past when that would have been regarded as a legitimate enough claim-but it is hard to imagine any court today accepting this as provocation... Critics of multiculturalism might also say it is because a public discourse of cultural pluralism gives credence to claims about culture or religion in a way that no longer holds for race...

There is a large literature on veiling... In one particularly subtle account of a Bedouin society in Egypt in the late 1970s, Lila Abu-Lughod argues that the deference expected of women (and most visibly expressed in veiling) was part of a social system that attached a high value to autonomy in men and scorned docility in women. 'Those who are coerced into obeying are scorned, but those who voluntarily defer are honourable.' This was clearly a double-bind situation-women were expected to veil, but were also expected to do it voluntarily-and Abu-Lughod does not present the life of Bedouin women as one of great self-determination. To the contrary, she shows how women have expressed their feelings of anger, frustration, or unhappiness in a subversive tradition of poetry that they shared only with other women. This was not a life of freedom and gender equality, yet it was also not a life of passive submission. Representing these women as constrained by their culture does not begin to capture the complexity of their choices...

In a study published in 1995, Francoise Gaspard and Farhad Khosrokhavar had argued that there were three distinct patterns of hijab wearing in France... younger girls at school or college who wore it at their parents' insistence, but thereby bought the freedom to go out by themselves, attend college, and continue their education... most of these young women stopped wearing the hijab a few years after leaving school... when the Stasi Commission produced its report in 2003, it claimed that there had been a resurgence of sexism in France's Muslim communities, and that young women were now exposed to high levels of verbal, psychological, and physical pressure... For many young women, it reported, covering one's head in public places-including at school-was becoming the only way to avoid being stigmatised as sexually loose or a heretic. For those who refused, the fact that others of their age group were wearing the hijab made them even more vulnerable to accusations of impurity. The commission therefore doubted whether young girls really were choosing the headscarf...

Consider smoking, which is clearly influenced by both gender and class. A number of countries have now introduced bans on smoking in public places. One counterargument to such initiatives is that this policy is unfair to working-class people because it fails to take into account the way that class affects the capacity to give up smoking. it is easy enough, it is said, for the middle classes, most of whom have already given up smoking and whose lifestyle is increasingly smoke free, to support a ban; but for someone who is out of work or living on the poverty line, being able to smoke may be one of the few reamining pleasures in life. By what right, then, do the complacent middle classes impose their own view of the healthy life on others? John Roemer provides a more theoretical version of this in his discussion of equality of opportunity. He maintains that if the propensity to smoke is statistically correlated to sex, race, and class, such that a black male steelworker is more likely to be a heavy smoker than a white female college professor, then the steelworker can be said to have had less opportunity not to smoke than the professor. He should therefore be seen as less accountable for a failure to give up smoking. So if the society decides that heavy smokers must pay their smoking-related medical expenses, the steelworker should not be expected to pay as much as the (more culpable) heavy-smoking professor.

This line of argument has clear echoes of the cultural incapacity one... people do not take readily to this kind of argument when it is offered in relation to class... [Sometimes] they reject it because they see the suggestion that being working class makes you less capable than others of giving up smoking as insulting or patronising... a class exemption would be regarded as enormously insulting...

On the whole, notions of inability are not now used in relation to either gender or class. You don't hear people saying, 'I can't do this because I am working class,' or (except sometimes, tongue in cheek), 'I can't do this because I am a woman.' Few would deny the constraints asociated with gender and class, but there is a willingness to accept that people act autonomously even as they bow to gendered or class constraints. There is much less willingness to accept that people are acting autonomously when the constraint reflects culture."

- Not Chapter 1, Multiculturalism without Culture, Anne Phillips
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen



See, this is where Social Science comes in. We look at the evidence and disagree with their theories. [Me *sotto voce*: So humanities are just talk cock lah.]

[On playing to the ground] That's why you see a lot of the PAP leaders in Singapore talking about kampung spirit as if they actually live in a kampung. I bet with you a lot of them are actually more individualistic than us.

We have heartland multiracialism for the masses. CMIO. Keep them happy so they won't rebel... Individualist multiculturalism for the middle class. Live your dreams, go to NUS.

[On a 1990 One People yada yada music video] The one who's represented as most modern is the Eurasian... wearing the tie here. Worker.

[On a 2003 We Are Singapore music video] You have a Chinese, you have a Eurasian - Jeremy Monteiro. You have an Indian - Jacintha. Where's the Malay? [Student: Cameraman]

Have you ever met someone in the USP who's cool? [Student 2: Me] Fuck off lah.

I was wondering "who is Shafiqah"? [Student 2: Looks like her *points to other tudung girl*] So racist. [Student 2: For the first 2 weeks of school I couldn't tell them apart...] [Student 3: Anything you say here can get your into a whole lotta trouble. Shut up now.]

He was talking about Space and all the time, I was "hahaha, I know all this already" [Me: So you got mindfucked last sem, so you won't get mindfucked this sem.]

[On D&D] You're out token lao3 lao3... [Me: I can't get that many lao lao to come. They're not that gullible.] If they're lao3 lao3 and they're that gullible, it's quite sad.

[On USP] Last time it used to be a bunch of queer people. Strange people. Eccentric people... Now it's a bunch of elitist people.

[On the debates] It's more fun. You can start looking for someone to attack... If everyone is saying such wonderful things, just play Devil's Advocate... and provoke him.

Just now that was ***. She took this class a long time ago and she was afraid she would fail. But she survived. [Student: Did she get {an} A?] Survived doesn't mean get {an} A. She didn't fail.

[On a demo] I need volunteers... It's a bit dangerous, I forgot to mention.

You will just stand there in case the chair flies there. You will protect the ladies. [To another] You protect the whiteboard.

The cold war en'showed (ensued)

[On Man not landing on the moon] The simplest reason against the conspiracy theory... The people who'd want to prove you wrong: the Russians. They didn't say anything.

[On China's moon ambitions] Is it because they want to see if they can see the Great Wall from the moon?

[On first aid boxes in her country] Sometimes it's green. Sometimes it's red and white. It's Malaysia, there's no system.

[On Economics] It gets a little boring to lecture on mathematics

Your notes are more than what you'll need. I got carried away writing them.

The Rybczynski theorem. That's the one with no vowels in it until you get to the very end.

Probably by the end of class there'll be so much notation it'll all look like garbage.

[On the course and by extension the department and degree program] We want to prepare those of you who might be going on to graduate school.

It was so bad that one day I sent my child to school with a note excusing him because he had to go to the dentist or something. They actually had to call me up to find out if the child had written it. My son tells it to all his friends. 'My mom writes like a second-grader'.

Technically it's called a caret, but economists always call it a hat. I don't know why. We're about to embark on what is called hat algebra.

The last time I taught the class, almost nobody knew what Cramer's Rule was, and their eyeballs just rolled back in their heads as I proceeded with the derivation.

We have just proved the Stolper Samuelson theorem. Tada. *dances* We can start tapdancing.

[On theodicy] Picture this as a sort of table tennis match.

[On theodicy] I think people have defended this. 'The perception of evil is just human error'. This was the view propounded by Mary Baker, the founder of Christian Science. But this seems pretty implausible... I'm just gonna say: 'This is not a very good response'... From the point of view of a theist, none of these are good responses. This *points to 'Yea. There is no good.'* is pretty bad.

[Student: Maybe he's lazy.] That's a great way of explaining God's perfect goodness.

Can an omnipotent god do, I don't know, make it 2 degrees in Singapore?

Can an omnipotent god make a triangle with 2 obtuse angles? [Student: What's obtuse?] I'm gonna try... *Fails to* Crap. [Student 2: You should draw it in non-Euclidean space.] Damn, all the science people.

There are some theists who say that. God is sovereign over life... If he created the laws of logic... If he's omnipotent, he should be able to change these things... This is confused. There's nothing to be done. There's nothing to be sovereign over. It's incoherent. Literally.

'Can God sit in the corner of the Oval Office? Yeah, he's omnipotent!'

[On utilitarian moral theory and god ignoring rights] To achieve good, these things have to happen to you. Sorry.

[On contingent evil and natural laws] You need to know what winter clothes to buy, how the seasons change. You don't know that. Let me look for a better example.

Theodicy is a word that comes from 2 ones. This one *points at 'theo'* and this one *points at 'dicy'*.

[On the evidential problem vs the logical problem of evil] [This was really popular] in the 1960s, 70s... Most people agreed that it was logically possible. But that didn't keep our atheologians down, nosiree. They switched tacks.

The reading assigned for next week is not going to be available online. It's possible the library will get to it, but the probability is really low.

[On a field trip] I don't think any of us wants to be in a big group of 40 with me waving a flag.

[On a field trip] I'll schedule early morning activities to discourage people from partying the night away... Watch the sun rise.

What places are important in your lives?... [Female student: Toilet] Someone in the earlier class said that. How long do you spend in there?... How about the back row? [Male student: Army camp.]

You don't drink in the karaoke? How do you do it?

[On places making up our landscape] What's the difference between school, home and places of worship and the rest? [Student: You don't have any choice.] Oh, I forgot one. *circles 'Army Camp'*

When you go to the shopping centre, you dress differently from the pasar malam. My sister does, I don't.

It's kind of interesting, the nostalgia... You guys in your young 20s. 'Ah, for the days'.

How many of you speak in dialect with your grandparents? How many of you speak in dialect with your parents? How many of you speak in dialect with your friends? [Student: Sometimes, for the fun of it.]

You see all the knee'chers there (niches)

I come from the second last kampung in Singapore, opposite Nee Soon Camp... It could've been such a cash cow. [Instructor: Turn it into a Night Safari]

[On the tragedy of Singapore] When you're 20 years old and you get nostalgic, that's quite tragic, really.

verse (versus)

[On having no heritage] It can be very liberating... It's very easy to be scandalised... Most of my colleagues find the idea of Vivocity repugnant.

Expats spend way too much time talking about politics here when they know nothing about it... 'It's like Nazi Germany'... [Though they have] a $18,000 per month housing allowance.

Boat Quay. People say there're plenty of drunk Australians. Every city in Asia has lots of drunk Australians. There're probably more drunk Australians in Bangkok than in Singapore.

[Student: Asia is so big. What is [the] True Asia?] Malaysia. Truly Asia.

A lot of expats who live here... They feel disturbed because they feel too close to you... Live in London, live in Singapore. Live in New York, live in Singapore... 'Singapore is not different enough for me'.

Here's another rule of thumb. The people who want authenticity usually have a lot of money.

Rich Gulf Arabs. It's insane, the things they do. I've hung out with them, it's crazy... I don't argue. Now and then, they pay for dinner.

They're on the ILVE, which I'll open up tomorrow. [Student: Just say 'the online system'.] (IVLE)

If people fall asleep during your 15 minute presentation that's bad. You should be able to get through at least 15 minutes before they pass out.

I'm an Indian after all. I don't do much work.

[On a square] Is this an ox? This is the engineer's version of an ox. They reduce everything to a square.

[On manipulating a weighing scale] Come... we get a lady to verify [the gentleman's results]. You don't have to reveal your real weight... She just wants to start at a different zero point. Is that what you do at home to make yourself appear-?

[On someone solving the problem with an advanced technique and getting the wrong answer] Usually the physicists and engineers make such mistakes. They use some sophisticated formulas and then they forget to change the units.

[On a Chinese paternal response to interracial relationships] If I marry a white guy he'll cut me off from the inheritance. If I marry an indian guy he'll disown me. If I marry a black guy he'll probably murder me.

[Instructor on impulse: You do karate? Do you break bricks?] I can show you more impressive things than that.

[Instructor: If you want to injure someone do you follow through or do you pull back?] You attack him from the back.
Gah gah gah.

Email in my inbox:


You might not know my name yet but will recognise me by my face. I am ***, taking *** with you. If you were there last class, I was the guy who was arguing about karate moves with ***!! Yeah, made the whole class laugh!! :)

Well anyway, I am running for the *** elections for the post of ***!!

The campaigning week has begun and I request you to kindly come down and vote for me on any of the voting days (namely 3rd, 4th and 5th September). The voting booth will be at Level 6, Block ADM.

I am a [non-first year] year student and have had quite a lot of experience in financial matters in ***. I was the Treasurer for

1) *** committee
2) *** committee

I will put in my best efforts into ensuring that *** so you can trust me to my job well!!

When you come down to vote, you may read all the candidates’ application forms. You will notice that I have one contender for the position, who is a freshman. If you are not convinced that I am the best person for the job, kindly go through the applications for more information!! You will notice that I have a fair amount of organisational experience in addition to ***.

You might notice some modest posters around the corridors (I have taken a lot pain and painted them, to be more economic!). So as the posters say, kindly

Vote for *** as ***!

Also I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends who are not taking this module that I am experienced and dedicated and therefore the best contender for the position!

Thanks a lot for your time!

Cheers! :)

"I query what I see as one of the biggest problems with culture: the tendency to represent individuals from minority of non-Western groups as driven by their culture and compelled by cultural dictates to behave in particular ways. Culture is now widely employed in a discourse that denies hman agency, definining individuals through their culture, and treating culture as the explanation for everything they say or do... culture is employed to explain behavior in non-Western societies or among individuals from racialised minority groups, and the implied contrast with rational, autonomous (Western) individuals, whose actions are presumed to reflect moral judgments, and who can be held individually responsible for those actions and beliefs...

The least sympahtetic to [Susan Moller] Okin's work associate her with a hegemonic Western discourse that views non-Western cultures as almost by definition patriarchal and the women in these cultures as victims in need of protection. Okin has been accused of imagining women in traditional societies as duped into a kind of false consciousness that leaves them incapable of noticing just how oppressive the traditions of their society are (as in her comments about older women being 'co-opted into reinforcing gender inequality'); failing to recognise the many ways in which women already contest power hierarchies within their cultural groups; ignoring the value women in a minority of nondominant group actively attach to their culture membership; and generally treating minority women, in Shachar's phrase, as 'victims without agency.'...

Joan Scott has described it as the constitutive paradox of feminism that women organised themselves to eliminate 'sexual difference' in unemployment, education, and politics, but had to make their claims on behalf of women, who were discursively produced through the very sexual differences feminists were trying to eliminate... insofar as [campaigning against discrimination against a group] involves organising as members of that group, you implicitly call the group back into existence...

That people sould be treated as equals has become the default position in discourses around the globe... this is now commonly said as regards the general principle of equality. In my view, the same also applies to the principle of gender equality. Before the irritated reader throws this book across the room...

There is no great value disagreement in contemporary Europe over the acceptability of forced marriage... at what point do the familial and social pressures that make arrange marriage a norm turn into coercion, and how, short of banning all arranged marriages, can public agencies act to protect young people from ones that are forced? Differentiating between choice and coercion is central to solving this problem. This means understanding cultural pressures, but not assuming that culture dictates."

- Ch 1., Multiculturalism without Culture, Anne Phillips

Sunday, August 26, 2007

China Trip
Day 9 (1/7) - Hong Kong: Stanley etc

Bras are not as padded in Hong Kong as in Singapore. HWMNBN says this is because the Chinese ideal of beauty does not involve big breasts, unlike the Western one which Singapore partly shares.

The pork in Hong Kong is more tender than in Singapore. wt thinks it's because pig farms in China are dirtier. Johnny Malkavian's theory: "they are raised with love hence they are more tender"

On Hong Kong buses your fare is paid when you get on and is based on the distance to the terminal.

This was the day of the 10th Anniversary Handover Celebrations.

Celebration banner. Further up there was an anti-Falungong one.

Military vehicles

Antique cars

We took a taxi to Stanley, on the other side of the island.

Old people singing their praise of the PRC

Stanley shoreline

Murray House
They took it apart and reassembled it on the other side of the island but couldn't figure out where some pillars fit, so these were erected on one side of it (I can't see the extra pillars in this photo)

Tin Hau Temple

We had lunch in one of the ubiquitous Hong Kong cafes away from the tourist restaurants. They had chicken cooked with Coke, chicken cooked with Fanta and chicken cooked with Coke with Lemon. Uhh.

HWMNBN and Johnny Malkavian

Murray house side

Going down a path

Temple at the end of the path

Altar at floor level

Back at a building near Murray House

Then we went to look at a giant Guan Yin statue. Not quite as big as the Giant Buddha, but big enough.

We then took a bus back to the other side of the island. The following pictures were taken from the upper deck of the bus.

Repulse Bay

Deepwater Bay (I might've mixed up the boundary between this and Repulse)

Cable car line going to Ocean Park

Then we arrived back in the urbanised area of the Island.

For some reason there was a cemetery in Happy Valley.

The side of Wanchai police station had handdrawn manga-style posters.

HSBC building and Town Hall

HSBC Chief Manager statue

Then we got to look at the weekly refugee camp.

Trilingual warning sign

To protest against Orchard Turn's development, maids in Singapore should do this too.

Then there were the hilarious Falungong banners.

"Bring Jiang Ze Min To Justice"

"Heaven destroys CCP"

The best of the lot: "Falun Dafa is Good"

Banners and protests aside, the Epoch Times isn't distributed in Hong Kong.

Refugees camping under a mall bridge extension, taking advantage of the road being closed.

nw.t with a drain cover (?) bearing his initials

More refugees. These had constructed a castle. At the time I took this, one refugee had bent her torso down to hide behind the cardboard to the right of the woman in blue.

We went to the ferry terminal to cross the harbour (which was also quite cheap). Before boarding, I had a cinammon Liege Waffle. It was more cakey and moist than a Brussels waffle, and stuck to my mouth.

At the ferry terminal I saw a girl wearing a "I ♥ NUS" shirt. Maybe she was from the PRC. If I was from there I'd wear that shirt too.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Victoria Harbour from Kowloon side

Jordan Street

We stopped at Mak Man Kee Wanton Mee to eat a bit. Hong Kong Wanton Mee comes in soup.

Later we stopped at a random place for goose and pigeon. I was quite pissed off because I'd asked for roast goose (even calling Singapore to check the pronunciation for both dishes) but they gave me braised goose (so both tasted the same). In any case, neither was very good.

We dallied a bit too long in a pasar malam and so were unable to get a good spot to watch the handover fireworks. The streets were thronged by the time we were close to Victoria Harbour and the top 2 viewing zones (along the harbour and along the road parallel to the harbour) were taken; since late afternoon camera tripods had been set up along the harbour. In a last-ditch attempt, we tried the Sheraton Skylounge but it was booked. We contemplated going into the lift and throwing the breakdown switch, which'd get us at least half an hour but they'd forseen this possibility and blocked off the lift. We would've gone to HWMNBN's office, but entry into the MTR was forbidden, so we were stuck in Zone 3, where the zone was still not bad.

The fireworks started off boring but after the audience were warmed up I saw a few things I hadn't seen before (those that zigzagged through the sky, those that looked like fireflies [some of which even 'flew' up] and those that looked like golden rain falling in an angled trajectory instead of just straight down). Doubtless the view would've been even better if we'd gotten a good spot.


Since the Chinese invented fireworks they should come up with fireworks that display Chinese words reading "Long Live Maozedong".

Amazing Barbecued Crispy Pork snack made in Thailand. They were like potato chips but less oily, more tasty and made of pork. The nutritional information was slightly suspect: "1 pack 25g. 100 calories 1.5g fat", with no saturated fat and no palm oil.


There are angels walking on the streets here.
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