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Are We All Alone? – [A National Week Message]

Posted by intellisg on August 9, 2007

alone.jpgSomewhere in Middle America on a spring June in 1947, a traveling salesman by the name of Kenneth Arnold proclaimed to the world; he spotted the first flying saucer in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. At first everyone brushed him off as a Looney. But this didn’t stop Arnold and his motley crew from spreading their message through out the American radio circuit. No one really took them seriously beyond regarding them as freak shows in between advertising slots for detergents and soda pops.

But it was just after WW2 and most Americans were tired of looking down, flying saucers offered a good excuse as any to lift one’s head towards the heavens. Today – ‘UFO’ ranks as the second most Googled word and scores the second highest hit just after ‘porn’ – three in every five people believe our planet has been visited by an alien civilization – there’s even an US government funded program (SETI) to look for little green men.

I wonder are they all delusional? Perhaps they know something, you and I don’t know….

These days anything to do with UFO’s is serious business. Gone are the days when the likes of Arnold and his motley crew were treated like inbreeding cretins paraded around like circus freaks. These days UFO believers make the Freemasons look like a consortium of bus drivers. Don’t believe me –check it out yourself;

Reads like a who is who’s list. Right? Still think we’ve crazy? Not so sure now are you? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in B'hood, National Day | 2 Comments »

Home, Where My Singapore Is.

Posted by intellisg on July 17, 2007

I am a Singaporean, a title conferred by where I was born, in a time when borders were highly consistent even during general elections.

Singapore was my home for 20+ years, including the first formative phase. Then, I stepped out to discover a much bigger world with fewer rules and much more chaos than the orderly home I knew. And so began my second formative phase.

I drifted from one city to another, fellow countrymen come and go – some went on drifting and some instinctively returned to Singapore, their home.

Someone asked, “where really is home in your heart?” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Dan E, National Day | 17 Comments »

The Right To Be Rightly “Educated.” – A Personal Journey.

Posted by intellisg on June 14, 2007

harvard.jpgHOW many Harvard graduates does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one – he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him. It’s supposed to be a private joke that’s reserved for those who had the privilege of an Ivy League education, but there’s a serious under current. For one, it implies there’s a mythical quality surrounding an Ivy Leaguer that somehow allows him to “open doors” which would otherwise remain firmly closed.

How true is this myth? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Education, Philosophy | 7 Comments »

Why I Think Mixing Money and Education is just Poison!

Posted by intellisg on June 3, 2007

poison.jpgMY university life was a blur. I probably consumed enough alcohol to stun or kill a herd of elephants. Smoked may fair contribute to global warming by melting a few icebergs. Neither do I have any recollection of ever attending a single lecture, not one where I didn’t either lapse into a coma or found myself waking up in an empty lecture hall. Fortunately despite my out-of-control university life, there were a few things that remained steadfastly dependable. You know what I mean don’t you? Stuff like trains running on time, girls saying “I will call you, pleeeeeeeze don’t call us loser!” on the follow up date, the sun making its appearance every morning which would otherwise make an ordinary life unbearable. One of these irrefutable constants had to be my lecturers. In those days – neither I nor any of my colleagues thought much of them. For starters there was an almost surreal and detached quality about all of them. They were shambolic, barely coherent mumblers. The ones who were genuinely intellectually stimulating were invariably far better at writing than at lecturing, so it made more sense to head to the library and read their yarns than try to stay awake with faint pity as all of us tried not to lapse into a comatose state.

Despite their flaws the lecturers and academics I knew were people who were truly committed to the ideal of real education. They were passionate about their work, people and planet. They believed rightly or wrong what they were doing embodied a noble ideal which involved molding hundreds of us into future leaders in industry and government (if only they really knew how I turned out I’ve probably have to give them all CPR!). Looking back, it seems a stretch, but believe it or not that was how it was. They (our lecturers) really meant it. They had to mean it, otherwise the whole thing would mean nothing.

Only that was then and as I reflect now on the whole UNSW Asia fiasco, I can’t help but feel something’s amiss. I can’t put my finger on it, not just yet, but if I am pressed: – “something is very wrong somewhere when academics start prioritizing money ahead of education and students” – would do quite nicely to describe the long tail of my decaying impression of present day education. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Economics, Education, Sociology | 22 Comments »

The Season of Mumbo Jumbo Galore – Conspiracy Theories

Posted by intellisg on February 15, 2007

Conspiracy theories are the tag along of the brave new age: espoused as your right to think freely, brought to you at the press of a button, pronounced true twice, false thrice and undecided four times every minute.

Long before the internet, man had shown an insatiable appetite for the bizarre and superfluous. In the middle ages, the legend of Prester John riveted European courtiers no end as charlatans recounted the legend of a mighty Christian king who supposedly ruled a twelfth-century Asian realm rich in sapphires and free of snakes, scorpions and noisy frogs. And long before that Romans believed the waters of the river Tiber were poisoned by a dwarf like creature (now you know why dwarf throwing is a sport on the continent), boosting the production and sale of cups made of lead which supposedly neutralized this poison (this could explain why the Romans are no longer a super power these days).

These days with the advent of the internet, conspiracy theories abound like demented jacks-in-the-box. One in five Americans believe the World Trade center was brought down by the CIA to justify a war against Iraq. One in ten Americans do not believe a plane slammed into the pentagon. (If that is so, where did a plane, half the size of a football pitch, and over 200 passengers, go?) Yes, in conspiracy theory ganja land, when all fails, we always have the trusted “get out of jail free” card: The Bermuda triangle. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Culture | 14 Comments »

2001: A Space Odyssey – The Story of a “Covert” Monolith in Singaporean Blogosphere.

Posted by inspir3d on February 6, 2007

If I had to do it all over again, I would never watch Stanley Kubrick’s seminal futurist epic “2001: A Space Odyssey” unless I knew I was going to die the following day. I say this only because after the show all other sci-fi movies just look like soggy two dimensional pop-up bedtime stories.

In its glorious digitally restored DVD format, it doesn’t take one very long to realize that this is how all sci-fi movies are supposed to be crafted. Kubrick’s work is perhaps the finest in 2001 – the most visionary- and arguably the best the sci-fi genre has ever produced. It is certainly one of those rare films that merits consideration as a work of art.

It was inspired by Arthur Clarke’s fascinating short story “The Sentinel,” and I wouldn’t even try to explain the deeper meaning of the film; as Clarke once said,

“If you understand ‘2001’ completely, we failed.” So there you go, in a neat nutshell. If you happen to figure out the film, there are one of a few possibilities, you’re are either a reincarnation of Kubrick or you’ve been watching one of those South American dubbed versions, where the evil computer HAL (incidentally this is the computer from hell which also happens to be the name of the server, I am posting from, now you know why there are so many spelling and grammatical mistakes) actually laughs like a mad pirate. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Culture, Philosophy, Politics | 19 Comments »

The “Intelligent Design” of Monkey Business – Lessons from an American Classroom

Posted by inspir3d on February 1, 2007

The struggle between evolutionists and creationists has never been so cogent – as the world begins to define and sharpen itself through the process of globalization, schools of thought and states of mind are continuously being hammered, harmonized and reconciled into one extruded long stream of logic. Sticking up along like kinks on a smooth straight line remain two lumps strangely at odds with each other, standing at opposite lengths and eyeballing each other menacingly – they are the evolutionist and creationist.

Central to the evolutionist and creationist debate is how policy makers, educators and parents reconcile the eschatological gulf between these two opposing camps: to effectively profile an educational program to holistically explain both the sciences and the phenomenon of evolution without compromising on accuracy and depth – against this goal lies a complex tapestry of contradictions. For one, both creationist and evolutionist have rival narratives accounting for man’s origins, rival roadmaps about what the deeper meaning of life is, rival sets of philosophies governing change and stasis, and above all, rival endings about how the book of life will come to an end.

One way to understand the various aspects of this great divide is to look at its recent historical baseline in the US and chart its course to where it has settled these days. The present struggle over evolution is often seen by defenders of Darwinism as the clash of the titans in which creationism is a part of a general right-wing ideology that justifies the formation of a traditionalist autocratic class, wholly based on the ideal of protecting, “our way of life,” against assaults from post modernist adherents who they see as intent on overturning long held moral values into immoral compromises. These adherents are usually found in Marlboro land in the US (you know the cowboy who only shots blanks because he is puffing himself to extinction), more popularly known as the rural, South, the Midwest, and the Southwest, proudly counting themselves among the supporters of the current Bush Republican administration than among urban Northern Democrats (Coincidentally, this is also the place where they all believe aliens go around abducting people after getting bored of that, they go around forming crop circles.)  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Education, Religion, Science | 15 Comments »

In The Mood For Love – The Art of Stopping and Smelling the Roses

Posted by inspir3d on January 30, 2007

No one really knows when poems started appearing in the metro, underground and train stations all around the world. Some cognoscenti’s swear the first poems surfaced in Moscow during the mid eighties in the Electrozavodskaya in the Moscow underground. Others credit the British who once ran a crazy project simply called Poems in the London underground.

The idea was simple enough. Over a few experimental months, the London Arts Council and two poetry publishers would support some posters with poems to be read by commuters and exhausted shoppers, alongside adverts for duty free cigarettes, cars or holidays in Spain. The commentators were pretty vitriolic,

“Far-fetched if not preposterous….” said one.

“The exposure of an obscure and esoteric passion” wrote another.

But curiously, the public loved it. Now, the scattering of poetry about in public places has been adopted by mass transport systems in New York, Paris, Dublin, Tokyo, Shanghai, Moscow, and in capital cities in Scandinavia. Poems on the underground are now assumed to be part of the urban landscape, a model for primary school projects and a subject for Ph.Ds in media studies and semiology. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts, B'hood, Culture | 13 Comments »

Fahrenheit 451 – Intellectuals, We Dam Well Need Them So Singapore!

Posted by inspir3d on January 27, 2007

In Fahrenheit 451, a 1966 film, based on Ray Bradbury’s classic, director Francois Truffaut paints a frightening vision of a dystopian future, where firemen don’t put out fires – they start them to burn books. In this world books are evil. In this future scope, society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal – a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad and anything resembling intellectualism and philosophy is simply corruption.

Fire Captain Beatty (the main protagonist boss) explains it this way, “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

The main character, Guy Montag, bears the number 451 on his helmet. Coincidentally, this is also the temperature at which books ignite. Montag seems to be a robot of sorts, a machine simply following orders.  His mission to destroy homes contaminated with books is mandated by the government. Though he initially seems moderately content with his job and his life, Montag’s mind reflects the condition of his futuristic society: empty. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Culture, Philosophy, Politics | 14 Comments »

The Great Divide – Hopes and Fears in a Brave New World.

Posted by inspir3d on January 25, 2007

The great divide in my life isn’t about whether computers are going to take over the world, or whether globalization is going to dumb us all down into faceless nuts and bolts. It’s about my relationship with my 20-year-old TV.

Manufactured at an age when TV’s still had the courtesy to pretend to be furniture, it’s encased in real wood veneer and shutters which slide shut and lock with a tiny brass key. Quaint, you may say, only because you never had to hold a coat hanger in one hand and a co-axial cable in another while massaging them furiously to figure out the final score on a football match into the 60th minute – that’s the only way to get a picture from my TV when she goes on the blink. She lives by her own rules, she has a mind of her own.

Recently I have been toying with the illicit idea of getting a new TV – you know, one of those sexy ultra thin ones that don’t even see the need to pass off as furniture because through the years, they have sashayed their way into the privacy of our living rooms and claimed their right to intrude upon our lives. That, at least, is what the technocrats keep telling me, “you can’t stand in the way of progress,” even though anthrax, bird flu, SARS and Polonium didn’t look much like progress when you got real close to them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Culture, Economics | 6 Comments »

The Great Experiment Called City Living

Posted by inspir3d on January 25, 2007

If you are wondering why the word “Urban” doesn’t sound English, it’s because it has everything to do with an ancient city called Ur. Located in Southern Mesopotamia, present day Iraq – at its zenith 4,000 years ago, over 30,000 people clumped together to work, live and play in Ur.

Today Ur is universally recognized as the first urban experiment in city living and very successful was Urland. Ever since then, our species has continually defined cultural, economic, political and technology diversity through their cities. Think Paris – the image of the impressionists and the fin-de-siecle which fills the senses with evocative smells of freshly baked baguettes – and you will get an idea of what I am trying to convey. It’s a linchpin – a peg – a capstone of how we make sense of who we are in relation to an ever changing world.

Cities have always fascinated me – I remember with fondness during my university days, building 1/142 scale model skyscrapers out of card board and subjecting them to wind tunnel tests to simulate the effects of 100 mph tornadoes. It was part of my thesis on wind dynamics; the whole idea of lower Manhattan spreading out on my table jostling for real estate next to my half eaten pizza simply blew my mind away. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Culture | 1 Comment »

We Live in Singapura – MTV Version

Posted by inspir3d on November 29, 2006

Posted in Culture, Videos | Comments Off on We Live in Singapura – MTV Version