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Saturday, May 09, 2009

"I have just returned from Boston. It is the only sane thing to do if you find yourself up there." - Fred Allen


Facebook | Singapore Men's Rights Watch

"The Singapore Men's Rights Watch was set up with the following goals:

1) To increase awareness of the lack of national-level support for men's health in Singapore.

2) To highlight that, in Singapore, prostate cancer fatalities rival cervical cancer fatalities, but most campaign sponsorship goes towards cancers that affect females only.

3) To highlight the lack of specialised health facilities and medical professionals for men. As opposed to personal gynaecologists, men typically have to be content with generic urologists.

4) To discuss the issue of equal pay for men and women in Singapore.

5) To increase awareness of the damaging (mis)representation of men and fathers in mass media. From The Simpsons to Night at The Museum, men and fathers are increasingly portrayed as lovable but emotionally-impaired, bumbling idiots.

On the other hand, it's very fashionable in Hollywood to represent most women/wives as strong, independent women who are morally and intellectually superior to men.

This has spilled over into everyday life, and into the dynamics of today's male-female relationships.

The long-term mispresentation of men could result in the undermining of the value of fathers, leading to the breakdown of families (like in the West).

6) To ask why violence against males in mass media is called PG humour, while violence against women gets an M18/R21 rating.

7) To increase awareness of the suicide rate of males. Studies show that males are four times more likely to die from suicide than females, although women are more likely to attempt suicide than men.

8) To raise awareness of the fact that substantial public money is spent on women's campaigns, while little is reserved for men. In other countries, this is the result of having a female vote-bank. In Singapore, the reason is not clear.

9) To discuss about the increasing pressure on males to fulfill traditional roles as good 'providers' - while taking on new roles as home-makers and caregivers in the family.

10) To raise awareness about the lack of protection and the lack of avenues to turn to for help in cases of marital disputes.

11) To discuss about the falling standards of men's tertiary education in developed countries. In the U.S., females significantly outnumber males at college level."

This wasn't really new to me, except for this point:

7) To increase awareness of the suicide rate of males. Studies show that males are four times more likely to die from suicide than females, although women are more likely to attempt suicide than men.

2 possible explanations for this (which are not mutually exclusive):

i) Women are trying to attract attention
ii) Women are so incompetent they can't even kill themselves successfully

Someone suggested an alternative explanation, that "once embarked on a stupid course of action men are less likely to reconsider their actions".

I rejected this because I doubt you are counted as having attempted suicide if you reconsider your actions and stop trying to kill yourself.

For example if, a minute before you fling yourself off your balcony, you come back into the building, that's not called attempted suicide.

Similarly if, 5 minutes before I slit my wrists, I change my mind and climb out of
the bathtub, this is not counted as a suicide attempt either.

Having suicidal thoughts or plans or fantasies does not count as making a suicide attempt.

The only way this explanation would be valid is if most women try to kill themselves but, once having undertaken the deed, try to reverse it. Some examples would include calling 995 after slashing their wrists or inducing vomitting after swallowing a whole bottle of sleeping pills, but this doesn't seem intuitively plausible to me (at least not more so than explanation #1).
"Scientia non habet inimicum nisi ignorantem."


The Exercise Myth - "My lab at Tufts University summarized 36 years of published studies on exercise and weight, conducted between 1969 and 2005. What we found would frustrate anyone spending upward of $800 a year on a gym membership to lose weight. The averaged results of the studies showed that an hour of exercise per day results in an average fat loss of just six pounds over the course of several months... Research doesn’t have good answers to the question of why exercise doesn’t work for the average person as well as it seems it should, but I suspect the reasons are increased hunger (you eat almost as many extra calories as you burn) and reduced energy expenditure at other times (exercise may make you more relaxed and less fidgety). So, you end up fit, healthy, and less stressed out, but wondering why you still have pounds to lose... Which doesn’t mean you should tear up your gym membership—being fit remains good for your general health"

Seeking for relationship to marriage - "I'm a white collar working gal with a local uni degree... I'm a classy and inteligent... Norma l executive, dun send in. please... erasian"
I thought working girls were blue collar

Doodle: Easy Scheduling - "How does Doodle work?
1. Create a poll.
2. Forward the link to the poll to the participants.
3. Follow online what the participants vote for."
To some extent, this solves the coordination problem of finding out the option which most people are in favour of

Get your values out of my face - "Your rights to keep your child ignorant about sex ends where my tax dollars start to fund public medical programmes for STDs, juvenile delinquency schemes and prisons for people screwed up by being born to poor teenage mothers... People from well-off, educated families are the ones who are statistically the least likely to suffer from the problems of teen pregnancy and STDs. Yet they feel driven to restrict sex education for the people who need it most: Teens from lower-income families. But it makes sense. After all, the harm that these well-meaning people could cause will never affect them directly. They get to feel holy but will never experience the misery born of their actions."

Marks & Spencer caves in, cuts prices on big bras - "Britain's largest clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer, has backed down on its incendiary policy of charging a 2 pound ($3) surcharge for bras that are DD or larger in the face of a spreading consumer revolt... "They didn't want a lot of big-breasted women storming their meeting""
Of course, the price of other bras will have to go up to cross-subsidise well-endowed women. Hurrah!

Why MOE suspended Aware project - "GP lessons are meant to promote critical thinking and discussion on contemporary issues... They should also adhere to social norms and values of our mainstream society."

Igotanenvelope - "Igotanenvelope is a continuous art project where people leave empty self-addressed stamped envelopes in public places to be picked up and filled by others, who then send them back."
Doubt this will work in Singapore. You would get fined for littering, or endangering public safety.

YouTube - An "Intel Star" TV ad -- Sponsors of Tomorrow

The monetary-policy maze - "Macroeconomics in general has come under fire for depending too much on assumptions of efficient markets and its inability to incorporate the spasms of emotion that create economic manias and panics. “As a monetary policymaker I have found the ‘cutting edge’ of current macroeconomic research totally inadequate in helping to resolve the problems we currently face,” said Mr Blanchflower, a labour economist, in a speech he gave on March 24th."

Does micro-credit empower women : evidence from Bangladesh - "The effects of male credit on women's empowerment were, at best, neutral, and at worse, decidedly negative. Male credit had a negative effect on several arenas of women's empowerment, including physical mobility, access to savings and economic resources, and power to manage some household transactions."
What would be interesting would be the effects of female credit on male empowerment - in developed societies as well.

Saints and Sinners: The Science of Good and Evil - "What is surprising is how little attention science has paid to the dissenters in Milgram's experiments. Some participants did balk at following the command to torture their partner... De Waal once saw a chimpanzee pick up an injured starling, climb the highest tree in her enclosure, carefully unfold the bird's wings and loft it toward the fence to get it airborne... "We know that women tend to be more altruistic than men on average, older people tend to be more altruistic than younger ones, students are less altruistic than nonstudents," he says. "People with higher IQs tend to be more altruistic/cooperative." However, there is little or no correlation between altruism and standard personality traits such as shyness, agreeableness and openness to new experiences... "Consumer capitalism makes people feel they don't have enough, so they feel they don't have enough to give away."... panhandlers on my subway so often seem to do better with people who are scruffily dressed and struggling than with the pearls-and-pumps set... People who are emotionally secure, who view life's problems as manageable and who feel safe and protected tend to show the greatest empathy for strangers and to act altruistically and compassionately... "there are virtues that can be thought of as the product of trainable mental skills.""

Mikhail Pletnev Interview with Bruce Duffie . . . . . - "For modern music, I am not very keen of doing this music... Unfortunately, the modern musical language is more tending to be not touching, you know, because when even I see the score, I see more constructive things. I see more sonorous experiments. I see more mathematics. And this is not what I’m attracted to... I think there are two purposes [of music], two reasons why to play or not to play.  First is enjoyment.  You play nice tune, you enjoy.  It’s lovely.  Second, and this more when we talk about the more sublime — like Beethoven’s last sonata or Ninth Symphony — it tends more to be more
spiritual... A lot of modern music is like this. The proof of music is if you would like to re-listen to it or not. Sometimes you enjoy the music, but if people say, “No, I have understood it well; it’s enough,” I guess it means that it’s meaningless... when you listen to this modern junk age — which is not modern anymore — it comes back to these primitive sonorities produced by any object, even a stapler... if we’re talking about melodies, which for me is important, which touches me, the modern composers are afraid of melodies... If the melody comes, it comes in a very distorted way, somehow. The whole feeling is sort of frustration."
"There it was, hidden in alphabetical order." - Rita Holt


Singapore male fetish come true:

(from the OHMYGOD series of jing quek)

Someone had to ask me to explain (he's gay), so I outlined the appeal as:

- (Perceived) Youth
- Sexual variety (different women)
- Sexual simultaneity (at the same time)
- Uniform
- Reverse bukkake analogue

(Schoolgirls are a recurrent theme in his photography)

Friday, May 08, 2009

"The trouble with America is that there are far too many wide-open spaces surrounded by teeth." - Charles Luckman


Jogjakarta trip
Day 2 - 29th April - Borobodur
(Part 1)

A disproportionate number of the ang mohs I saw were Dutch. Perhaps they were assuaging colonial guilt by pumping money into the local economy.

The decimal point and thousand separator follow Dutch (Continental European) style. You also see a lot of Dutch books on book exchange shelves.

One similarity to the land of Pot, Hookers and Euthanasia I didn't expect to see was all the "100% Halal" signs. Given that a huge majority of Indonesians are Muslim and that's it's so hard to find pork, you wouldn't think this would be necessary (it also raises the questions of whether 99% Halal, 50% Halal, 1% Halal and 0% Halal food is possible).

Even after having been to Penang and Cambodia within recent memory, I found that there were a ridiculous amount of touts in Jogjakarta, peddling everything from taxi trips to becak rides to cheap expensive souvenirs to batik "art exhibtions" (no drugs or their bodies, though). Yet, in Cambodia it was vaguely endearing, with the cries of "laydee laydee" and "Sir sir". Here, it was just "Hello!" or "Becak!".

We struck out for Borobodur quite early, at around 6, but since we had to change buses once we only reached there at almost 8.

"Rossa. Selebriti". As I observed, if you have to say you're a celebrity, you're not one.

"Borobodur the World Cultural Heritage"

Empty carpark. Most tourists (except those who went to catch the sunrise) got there later. Though I must note that since it's East of Singapore and yet an hour behind, like Cambodia, going on the 5am tours didn't help (by 6am it was bright already).

Being forewarned, we tried to sneak in through the second-class visitors' gate, but were hurriedly ushered to the "International/VIP" entrance, and faced with:

The people who ran Borobodur were fervent exploiters of tourists (Prambanan was marginally less bad), charging foreigners 10 times what locals paid (having a foyer with limp air-conditioning and free coffee and tea, and offering a free bottle of mineral water later as a pitiful salve). Amazingly, some people defend this practice.

Insect on floor of entrance hall

Amazing consideration by the people running the place: "Hawkers... and all kinds of sellers are prohibited to operate within Zone 1 of the Temple" (of course, this didn't stop some merchants offering to take photographs of visitors inside the structure itself)
Also: they ask for "direct or indirect critics and suggestions for the improvements in management and preservation of the cultural heritage". Maybe I should send them this blog post.

In the foyer, an ang moh couple who had taken the same buses up with us told us that on the longer bus they had been quoted 50,000 Rp for 2 people at the start, but bargained it down to 20,000 (in contrast, the both of us had been charged 15,000 Rp per person on the longer of the morning bus journeys). The guy (who spoke what he claimed were the few phrases of Bahasa he knew very fluently) also told us that he had asked 3 people what the bus fare was, but all 3 cagily refused to tell him. It is clear that Korupsi is so entrenched in Indonesia, the cesspool of corruption, that it pervades and infects every layer of society.

On reflection, since they cheat you on the public bus anyway and you waste time waiting for buses, transferring buses and making stops along the way, it isn't that bad to go on the overpriced tours (at about 100,000 Rp - which don't include admission), unless you want to take your time (like me). In contrast, if you visit Versailles on the RER it's a quick, cheap and easy trip - and you don't get cheated.

Before we entered the compound-proper, we were asked to sign the guestbook. Foreseeing the wrath of foreign tourists, they had not left space for a "Remarks" column, so under "Hotel" I wrote "the street" in a pointless act of passive-aggressive protest. I also pointedly did not give them my e-mail address, since I didn't want to be spammed with ads for Jamu sticks (I should've written "damn you", but they might've hired thugs to beat me up in an alley, so).

Temple approach


World Heritage plaque

Looking up from the bottom, and a CMI World Heritage sign

Borobodur is actually smaller than I expected (and had been given to believe).

Expanse. The trees make it hard to get a good overall shot, unless it's from a helicopter.

Steps up

First layer of sculpted walls

According to the information we had, the bottom third of the temple represented the base desires (you discard your desires as you move up), but CWN later read that the parts depicting the base desires were concealed except for a small part the Japanese had excavated. This didn't seem totally plausible to me, since it contradicted what all other sources said (then again, many of those sources were Indonesian in origin, rendering them suspect), and I had some reasonable guesses as to what some sculptures represented, but what do I know (Wikipedia says what we saw was the Buddha's life)?

Buddha Net:

"The lowest level has 160 reliefs depicting cause and effect; the middle level contains various stories of the Buddha's life from the Jataka Tales; the highest level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square in shape with round walls: a circle without beginning or end"

(Okay, the hair should've tipped me off)

Lotus. On the right you can see what looks like a tempted guy - his lingam (phallus) seems to have been lopped off. Well, that's one way to avoid desire.

Thinking the murals depicted sins, the primary one I could identify was lust (then again, the Buddha did live a worldly life before hitting the road, so I was probably partially right).

Topless women offering their watermelons to the Buddha

Me: I still can't identify anything other than lust
CWN: Which says something of you. And me...
Me: For all you know they could be 'here, have a watermelon' and you think she's offering her breasts
CWN: Can you please quote yourself?

If you're bad, you'll be turned into a monkey with human proportions and have to play with mangoes

The top one resembles an orgy. Notice a man smelling a woman's armpit?

Perhaps this was pride, and being worshipped.

These people were smaller than the ones in the other sculptures, so either they're burning in hell or they're depicted as morally inferior (this is the cue for dwarves to take offence and start a Dwarf Rights Movement)

Inter-species bestiality. Cool!

Stair up to the next level

Sylar-ed Buddha

Me: The woman is kneeling in front of the man, and a man is stuffing his hand up her skirt
CWN: Right. I don't know why you're not doing archaeology and deciphering otherwise indecipherable panels

I have to admit it was fun playing Arthur Evans.

Buddha in niche

There was a bloody beehive in the stone.

Row of Buddhas. Most Buddhas lack their heads for obvious reasons. A few were recovered but IIRC the rest were reconstructed.

War and Buddhism. Or they might be dancing.


Aww. You bring your bear everywhere. [Me: That's not my bear. That's one of my bears. My bear is at home] Oh yeah, that's not the ratty one.

[Me: I still can't identify anything other than lust] Which says something of you. And me... [Me: For all you know they could be 'here, have a watermelon' and you think she's offering her breasts] Can you please quote yourself?

It's not the power of Woman. It's the cockness of Man.

[Me: The woman is kneeling in front of the man, and a man is stuffing his hand up her skirt] Right. I don't know why you're not doing archaeology and deciphering otherwise indecipherable panels
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