When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

NDP commentary:

Even in NDP we have foreign talent (kids dancing to Where I Belong, Black host with Black Flower - so unPC). Pfft.

Military band members gracefully fanning selves with red Geisha-esque fans softens the military edge of this parade.

MPs balancing on motorsikals reminds me of that scene from Eating Air.

Ooh, Lee Youth.

The parade commander lives in a very nice house with a private pool and 2 kids. Maybe it's an ad for why you should join the SAF.

The PAP MPs wearing Cream/off-white clothes must be signifying diversity of views.

The cameramen are very smart. When parachuters stumble, or rifles fall, or opera feelers drop, they pan away.

The father of the nation has donned a pink garbage bag to protect him from the rain.

The twirly lollipops of the choir must be to hypnotise people.

Having dancers prancing to a [bad] musical rendition of your pledge seems insulting.

The dancers prancing about in the drums remind us of a James Bond movie.

Innovation is: a harlequin dancing in a bubble. The "Renaissance" exhibits are unanimously agreed to be hideous.

Give me Triumph des Willens anyday.

MPs waving those red blowup hands is hilarious. I want a shocker.

The guy gliding with pyrotechnics like a Phoenix was not the old CEO of Ren Ci.
"My theory is that if you look confident you can pull off anything - even if you have no clue what you're doing." - Jessica Alba


Required National Day reading:

Consuming The Nation: National Day Parades in Singapore / Laurence Wai-teng Leong New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 3, 2 (December, 2001): 5-16

"The nation is therefore a commodity to be consumed... The National Day parade is packaged and marketed for the largest possible number of Singaporeans. Although the costs of the parade run up to a hefty sum, the expected returns are obviously not economic, but socio-psychological. Given the accounting mentality of state élites, who expect monetary or tangible returns for every public expenditure and who take great pains to avoid any budgetary deficit, the commodification of National Day is calculated with intangible gains in mind...

The National Day celebration is a highly ritualized and stylized event. It is produced with the same kind of detail, scale, skill and intended audience as the making of a Hollywood blockbuster movie... Like an epic movie, the National Day event emphasizes scale: the greater the participant rate, the grander is the event perceived to be. This focus on scale means that there are no stars in this event; everyone is an anonymous extra in a crowded scene. But everyone is also an unpaid extra...

For thirty years, National Day parades have been dominated by militaristic elements (an issue which I will elaborate below). Military music tends to be solemn, very much like the background of a funeral procession, and military marches are deadly serious in the emphasis on drill, regimentation, discipline and order. By contrast, modern consumption practices centre around the pursuit of pleasure... The consumption imperative obliges state élites to make concessions in order to win popular consent. In the modern age, hegemony is achieved not just through efficiency (by an élite skilled in the business of government administration), but also by appeasement (élites, however stoic they may be, must concede something to the hedonism of their subjects)...

The populist attempt to engage Singaporeans to participate in National Day celebrations includes the admission of popular cultural items. In 1986, a local rock group was allowed to perform during part of the spectacle. In 1989, students sang ‘La Bamba’, choreographed steps of Michael Jackson’s ‘moonwalking’ and also break-danced. However, given the pervasive anti-Western xenophobia of state elites, and the apparent contradiction of ‘Western’ pop and the commemoration of things ‘national’, such items were subsequently banished or relegated to the end-of-the-day bash when a tamed version of carnival provides relief from the regimentation of the parade.

Another populist strategy to engage the masses is the introduction of songs... Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, some Members of Parliament and government officials took to the stage in the finale, singing ‘We Are Singapore’. For state élites, who are typically unrelenting in their policy decisions, strait-laced in their exhortatory speeches and austere in their sartorial codes to relax publicly in a moment of fun was a rare sight, a spectacle in its own right...

National Day in Singapore is commemorated through a series of events: a parade, post-parade party, fairs at community centers, dinners at electorate constituencies, and some cultural performances. However, none of these public ceremonies in any sense constitutes a ‘carnival’. Carnivals like the Roman Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools, Mardi Gras, and Southeast Asian water festivals are marked by a spirit of licentiousness and rituals of inversion, which add a politically radical edge to their impact (Babcock 1978; Ladurie 1979; Bakhtin 1984).

Since community centers, resident committees and electorate constituencies are para-political organisations established by the dominant ruling party, fairs and dinners held at such locations are starchy events and formal occasions... Even the post-parade party is orchestrated, closely supervised and delimited: there is a conspicuous absence of camp parody of the Mardi Gras sort and, within an hour, the crowd is made to disperse (The Straits Times, 11 August 1994)...

The parade is overwhelmingly military in emphasis. Indeed, all National Day parades have been a military enterprise, planned annually by colonels and lieutenant-colonels, led by sergeant majors, marched, staged, performed and de-staged by soldiers. Even the glossy souvenir programme is produced by the Ministry of Defence.

The sequence of each National Day parade follows the logic of military protocol... In this schema, the highlights are always some military display, while civilians and students trail behind in the last half-hour of floats, show and dance... The military emphasis of the parade dramatizes the power dimension of the state, particularly with reference to violence.

Although a sense of oneness is promulgated in the celebration of Singapore’s National Day, the parade institutionalizes separation and hierarchy. The ritual dramatizes roles in clearly differentiated ways: there are officials, participants and spectators. Officials and authorities are not the participants in the marching contingents or the dancing troupes. They are the reviewers, and their position of dominance is marked off from subordinates by an elevated position or platform from which they can look down upon people and comfortably observe the event. And within this viewing stand, there are finer distinctions of status and power spatially given in the seating arrangements...

The rigid hierarchy of the event is further exemplified by the rank-order of the marching contingents: commando battalions, infantry regiments, police force, civil defence brigades, and uniformed school groups (national cadet corps, national police cadet corps). The uniformed school groups are miniature versions of the defence forces. Throughout the parade, the music played is militaristic: infantry brass bands, school military bands and police pipers. The civilian contingents tend to be represented mostly by civil servants and statutory board employees. Private organizations are led by males who are identified by their military designation as reservists...

The militaristic elements, the rank-ordered hierarchy, and the orderliness and regimentation of the event render the National Day parade similar to the May Day ceremony in Moscow’s Red Square before the Kremlin, Nazi Germany’s military processions, and official rituals in Beijing, Hanoi and Vientiane under communist rule (Scott 1990: 58)...

The resemblance of Singapore’s National Day parades to state rituals in fascist and communist regimes is in large part a consequence of the military dominance of the parade... Why does the defence force occupy center stage in National Day parades? The answer to this question depends very much on the intended audience of such spectacles. Devashayam (1990: 50) argues that National Day represents a symbolic dialogue with Malaysia. In a sense, National Day in Singapore does not connote independence or liberation from colonial rule. The 9th of August 1965 was the day Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian Federation. Given this inauspicious expulsion, the display of military might in National Day parades calls Malaysia’s bluff...

Such military exhibitionism is also targeted to the local population, not only as visual entertainment of the Top Gun and Star Wars epic film variety, but also as reassurance of safety under the current political leadership. How far this reassurance is realistic or not is a moot point, but military exhibitionism usually indicates anxiety rather than security. It is precisely because Singaporeans are still not courteous that courtesy campaigns have been waged for more than twenty years to drum into people the need for behavioural change. So too, thirty years of annual displays of the defence forces serve to instill confidence where this is waning or lacking...

There is no feminine analogue to ‘national service’; if there were, the most likely candidates would be a contingent of pregnant women marching in university gowns and mortarboards. Graduate mothers who procreate in line with the eugenic policy that the more educated a woman is, the more children she should have, would be deemed to have executed their duties and responsibilities of ‘national service’...

Although the above responses demonstrate the emotive intensity of some audience members responding to the National Day parade, they are not to be taken as representing the unanimous consensus of a national collectivity. Just as pop fans who are moved by the melody or tune of a song need not comprehend the literal and symbolic meanings of its lyrics, so too national fans entranced at the specific moment by the mobilizing power of a ceremonial ritual need not at other times express loyalty or patriotism (Street 1986)... the media in Singapore are unlikely to give voice to dissenting individuals and alternative views. One has to read between the lines to tease out an unknown number of repressed consumers.

In the report on overseas Singaporeans celebrating National Day abroad, an incidental reference was made to a lucky draw at the end of all the rituals of flag and anthem observances (Tan 1994). Lucky draws can be said to be a typical ‘Singaporean’ way of enticing consumers to buy a product and luring individuals to participate in some official function. In the latter context, the lucky draw always takes place at the end of the event after all the ceremonial rituals have been performed; this is to make the participants stay till the end...

Among spectators, the motive for attending the parade may be less than patriotic. Each spectator gets a parade kit... Carried to the extreme, the kiasu habit confuses ends with means: one may join a queue without knowing what it is for, but nevertheless one assumes that since so many people are in the line, it must be for something highly desirable...

Because the ruling political party in Singapore is a dominant party, and claims to represent ‘Singapore’, there is a conflation between Singapore and the PAP. By association, the Singapore flag takes on the meaning of the PAP too. The differential distribution of flags based on support for PAP institutions reinforces this conflation. Thus, Singaporeans who resist the flag do so in order to dissociate themselves from others who are PAP supporters or sycophants (The Straits Times, 3 September 1994). Those who are able to differentiate between loyalty to the nation and loyalty to the PAP thus refuse to hang the flag...

Singapore’s National Day parade is so highly structured, so meticulously coordinated, so scripted to a protocol and so hierarchically arranged that it resembles communist state rituals more than street carnivals. Its structuredness underscores the values of order, discipline and compliance...

Short of this free articulation of multivocality, the category of repressed consumers suggests that nation-building in Singapore again bears resemblance to the Soviet model of socialist realism. Socialist realism was the state formula for aesthetics in the Soviet Union. Art should picture reality, not in terms of an accurate portrayal of society, but in terms of what that society should be. Art should picture life, not as it is, so much as life as it should become (Schudson 1986: 215). So fiction should dramatize politically correct heroes, art should inspire people to socially correct behaviour.

Nation-building in Singapore follows this logic of socialist realism by suppressing social realities and replacing them with social ideals as defined by state elites... history is erased through collective amnesia (nationalist images in Singapore seldom refer to the past for inspiration)."
"In the end, everything is a gag." - Charlie Chaplin


By Randy Cassingham, author of This Is True:

Yahoo Debacle Update

"For anyone to use the "This is Spam" button on mail they asked to get is despicable: such people are LYING and accusing responsible e-mailers of a crime. In extreme cases, like what happened to TRUE, they are depriving others of getting the mail they really do want. They cry and whine about how bad it is to get spam ...and then they falsely accuse the good guys of doing it. In my book, falsely accusing someone of spamming is worse than spamming. It's no wonder virtually all of the good e-mail newsletters long ago died off: they were not only not supported by their readers, they were actively interfered with. And what a shame for such good newsletters to have gone away! You say you want e-mailers to act responsibly? That's certainly reasonable -- but only as long as you are responsible too."

For someone whose newsletter is, in part, about laughing at people who are self-righteous and/or take things too seriously, it is ironic that he often displays these same characteristics.

This is one of the reasons I didn't renew my Premium subscription (and won't be doing so for the foreseeable future).
"A bachelor is a selfish, undeserving guy who has cheated some woman out of a divorce." - Don Quinn


Japan trip
Day 5 - 10th June - Kiyomizudera Temple, Jishu Shrine, Kyoto
(Part 6)

(You can read a great page about the temple and learn stuff I didn't know while visiting. Doing your homework is nice, but it's very time-intensive and unless you print everything out you won't have it to hand while visiting the place - which negates most of the benefit anyway)


Darkie God

Looking down from the temple building on stilts

From the temple building on stilts

City View



Next was the Jishu Shrine. It seems that after the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Government separated the Shinto shrines located in Buddhist temples and vice versa, relocating or destroying one of the two; Jishu was one of the few that survived.

Although the Temple closed at 6, the Shrine closed at 5, which I didn't know. Luckily I arrived just before 5, so I could buy the Love Amulet requested by someone. Luckily too, the premises themselves weren't closed at 5.

Jishu Shrine plaque

Love Stone blurb. Given the copious English at this shrine you know it's popular with tourists.
"This stone is called “Love-fortune-telling” stone. If you walk safely from this stone to the other with your eyes closed, for once, your wish’ll be granted soon. If you can’t, it will be long before your love is realized. And it is said taking advice requires you to have someone who’ll help you achieve your love."
I didn't read the fine print so didn't know about 'cheating' (getting someone to help you).

One of the stones

Shrines: "Fulfilment of Various Wishes Nade-Daikoku-San. If you pat this bronze statue 'Nade-Daikoku-San' (Daikoku to be patted), your prayer will be answered

Okage-Myo-Jin. The Japanese cedars behind were used for 'Ushinotoki-mairi' or '2a.m. visit' which was popular among ladies the old days. They would nail a straw doll on the cedar as their enemies putting a curse. We can find lots of marks of the nails on the left of the back of the trees even now"

Incidentally, I wonder whether voodoo is more popular among men or women.


Woman doing the walk

The Path

"Please write down your troubles on this paper doll and put it into the water nearby. When the paper dissolves in water, your troubles will be cleared up"
I was wondering if they were going to ask you to drink the water, but maybe only the Chinese do that

Various shrine merchandise:

There're charms tailored to your Western Zodiac sign (wth - syncretism?!)

"Find Love" is Y500 and "More Chance for Love" is Y1000. Maybe the latter is more powerful. Or the former finds you your love but doesn't make you love love you.
Since this shrine is for love, presumably the love charms from it are more powerful.

In the end, I tried walking the path between the stones myself. I was told I was doing alright until I tripped and lost my orientation, overshooting a lot. This explains a lot; all is made clear.

This one was 'Cheating': the other 2 talked to her so she knew where to walk towards. Now she'll need someone to facilitate her love.
Note the use of a disposable camera.

Although, even at this late hour, there were still quite a few people at the shrine, apart from the 3 girls pictured above, all of whom (IIRC) tried the walk and all of whom (IIRC) 'cheated', only some attempted the walk (and IIRC one schoolboy was the only male to do so). Maybe they were all afraid of failing.

More 'Cheating'

The third of the trio also 'cheated'. Hurr hurr.

Washing up point

Inari makes an appearance

Attack of the Killer Rabbit. Notice the ema with a huge rabbit attacking a girl in green.

What seemed to be the main Shrine, and strange offerings

Love God and Killer Rabbit (notice its ominous red eyes, upright posture and dangerous weapon held aloft)

Holy Gravel (?!)

Shrine entrance

From their actions this should be: "the Nurete Kannon (Water-soaked Kannon); an image of Kannon in a water basin. To pour water over the image is considered an act of purification."

Nurete Kannon (Water-soaked Kannon)

A view (not) to kill for

Silhouetted temple

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