After more than a year’s absence, this blog will soon emerge in a new form with a new focus. Watch out for it.
Her stage name is A Fine Frenzy.
I’ve been hooked to this song for days. Can’t get enough of it.
One thing that as the Blogger Samurai in training, that leaves me gasping for air is the seeming ebb of wisdom and honor from the world. Sometimes it is enough to drive me mad.
It is for this that I will attempt to start a new category called FOOLISH AND DISHONORABLE SPECIMENS OF THE DAY, and today’s Foolish and Dishonorable Specimen is:
NGUYET ANH DUNG!
According to this source from Robert Parry;
U.S. forces in Iraq soon will be equipped with high-tech equipment that will let them process an Iraqi’s biometric data in minutes and help American soldiers decide whether they should execute the person or not, according to its inventor.
“A war fighter needs to know one of three things: Do I let him go? Keep him? Or shoot him on the spot?” Pentagon weapons designer Anh Duong told the Washington Post for a feature on how this 47-year-old former Vietnamese refugee and mother of four rose to become a top U.S. bomb-maker.
Duong justified this biometric-data program as a humanitarian way of singling out “bad guys” for elimination while sparing innocent civilians.
“I don’t want My Lai in Iraq,” Duong said. “The biggest difficulty in the global war on terror – just like in Vietnam – is to know who the bad guys are. How do we make sure we don’t kill innocents?”
One wonders what possesses Ms Duong, whose own people were once subjected to unbelievable horrors herself, to believe that ultimately that you can ensure that there can be a “humanitarian” solution to war, which is itself never humanitarian. Does she think that ultimately with intelligence that you can ensure that war will be humanitarian? No, in war the individual is always subject to the most barbaric of impulses, in the midst of fear and distrust, how does one expect to act ever humanitarian at all? Does she ever think that intelligence ever runs war? NO, wars are run on emotions, desires, the will to power, the will to profit, the will to protect, the will to defend, the will to KILL. If there’s a WILL, there’s a KILL. That is the essence of war, and nothing can ever hide it.
And of course, that you want the US soldiers to carry out EXECUTIONS rather than submit enemy insurgents to the due process of law? Where is your Honor, Madam? Where is your Honor?
Besides, how honorable does Ms Duong think she is being by choosing to create technologies that stink of such hubris that they can simply label who they wish to as a “terrorist”? Terrorism is a means to an end, and therefore anyone can be pushed to terrorism when he or she gets mad enough. There is no such thing as a professional terrorist. There is only the fact of whether there will be MORE TERRORISM or LESS TERRORISM. The way to avoid another My Lai, is to decide that there WILL BE NO WAR. That is the way to avoid another My Lai.
And wait, there’s more. Let’s look at these choice quotes from Ms Duong, shall we?
Ho ho ho, I swear, those things sound like something Hitler would have said about the menace the Jews posed to the Germans.
Those compassionate and generous Americans were only “compassionate and generous” because they were living in a “war-free environment” when you got there. Also, does Death favor the South Vietnamese or the Americans any more than the even more North Vietnamese that died fighting for the Cause that they believed in? You would have impressed me if you stuck up for them too, but not any longer.
For your lack of a basic knowledge in human nature, your selection of quotes that would have made Hitler proud, and your ignorant commitment to utter evil by any standard, you have won for yourself the title of Foolish and Dishonorable Specimen of the Day.
Apparently New York Times columnist David Brooks has in seeking to describe China, ended up describing Singapore.
The Dictatorship of Talent
Let’s say you were born in China. You’re an only child. You have two parents and four grandparents doting on you. Sometimes they even call you a spoiled little emperor.
They instill in you the legacy of Confucianism, especially the values of hierarchy and hard work. They send you off to school. You learn that it takes phenomenal feats of memorization to learn the Chinese characters. You become shaped by China’s intense human capital policies.
You quickly understand what a visitor understands after dozens of conversations: that today’s China is a society obsessed with talent, and that the Chinese ruling elite recruits talent the way the N.B.A. does — rigorously, ruthless, in a completely elitist manner.
One of the best films in recent years to have been overlooked by nearly everyone, let alone in its native USA, where it was unceremoniously dumped in a handful of theatres and left to disappear on its own and therefore never surfaced over here as well, has been seen by me several times in a row.
For those of you who don’t know what it is about: a modern day average American named Joe Bowers is frozen in a cryogenic experiment along with a prostitute named Rita. They expected their slumber to last but one year, but instead it lasted 500, and when they wake up, society (or at least America) has become unbearably stupid, because smart people are not reproducing enough, and stupid people doing it too often, to the extent that they are the two smartest people in the world…
I have no idea why it was not shown in Singapore, cos its message can’t be timelier to our society with its increasing PSLE scores every year and kids just getting smarter and smarter…yes, folks, we Asians are on the way up, as we always knew we would, and the West is on the way DOWWWWWN. Hey, the movie can even serve as a promo piece for our SDU…what with the whole smart people don’t reproduce enough thing…shouldn’t we be SMART enough to think about it that way?
Actually the movie is so smart it works on another level. In a way, the decline of mankind is not just due to stupid people outbreeding smart people, but also smart people choosing to make their society increasingly stupid. Can we be smart enough to avoid thinking that we’re too smart and instead cultivate wisdom? Hell, I must admit that I’m in some ways already pretty stupid, I can’t even write and format a letter properly these days without Microsoft Word. And forget about starting a fire, making a bow and arrow to shoot animals, and all those valuable skills that our ancestors knew. In the movie, we see that smart people waste all their energies on curing pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction only to die without solving the really BIG problem: people becoming stupider. Nowadays our society is trying to get more creative and to innovate, as the MDA rap has shown, but can this creativity and innovation solve our real problems? Do we even KNOW what our real problems are? Very often the real problems in any society are always the hidden ones, the ones that no one takes care of or bothers to look at. Can we detect those problems before they find us? Can today’s PSLE top scorers really become tomorrow’s elite that we wish them to be? Or will their eventual lives be wasted in some small cubicle in the middle of nowhere?
If we’re smart but not wise, we’d realize too quickly…we would have been an Idiocracy without knowing it, and nothing can be more stupid than that.
OK, in case you were wondering why my sudden departure for so long…it’s cos other things in life have kept me very very busy of late, and part of that is related to this thing you see down here.
I’m sure all of you have seen it by now. The MDA rap.
Yes, I have been preparing to register for grad studies at various US universities for film. So, I am glad that MDA has produced this video, if it means what I think they mean.
Now, regardless of what reaction you might have to it, it’s earnest and sincere, maybe too much of both. But whatever, all I have to say to the MDA is: I don’t care how goofy your corporate videos are, your actions are going to speak louder than words.
So I hope that means you know what you should do when I apply for your Media Education Awards next year, don’t it?
Because my dear MDA, I dunno if you have heard of a guy named Pearry Reginald Teo, and quite unlike anyone in the MDA video above, he looks like a poser you’d find crowding in the underpass near the Esplanade on weekends:
But looks can be deceiving, he has become the first Singaporean as of today to have made a film in the USA starring Bai Ling and Faye Dunaway (yes, that Faye Dunaway, who remembers BONNIE AND CLYDE, one of my favorite movies?) called THE GENE GENERATION, a dark sci-fi action flick. And yet, he is the sort of person that our industry and education system have too frequently overlooked;
Teo could well be making history with The Gene Generation as he appears to be the first Singaporean director to make a Hollywood film.
The Whitley Secondary School alumni never tried to make his name in Singapore, starting his film-making career in the United States.
His is perhaps the road less travelled. He completed his high school education in Australia when learning Chinese at secondary school in Singapore proved to be too big a hurdle to clear. But he had to return to complete National Service.
“I kind of knew when I got out of the army that I wanted to go into film-making, but I never thought I would do a million-dollar-budget film in Los Angeles,” he admitted.
“I wanted to do commercials and music videos, maybe work in a smaller production company in Singapore.”
He wanted to apply to enter Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but realised he’d still be in the army when the semester started. So he went on to study at the Santa Monica Community College – but dropped out midway because he did not agree with the way the lecturers taught.
“Coming from Singapore, I thought I should get an education because it meant everything. But the funny thing about school in the US is that people don’t respect it the way we do in Singapore. The big directors are trained hands-on,” he said.
“My parents, being the traditional sort, were not happy when I dropped out of school. So I made a deal with my dad, that he should give me two years to try and make it. If I failed, I’d go back to school and get a double degree.”
He didn’t fail.
And you know what, we hear so little of him in our local news. Now, I can understand why. Personally I don’t take too kindly to angsty-pangsty dark sci fi films watched by fat Wiccans with nose rings. Plus, this guy’s Myspace page looks like it belongs to one of those overgrown adolescent metalheads that specialize in mass-market alienation and think Marilyn Manson is the apex of all subversiveness. Nevertheless, he is still an artist, and he has made it without help from MDA or the likes, with a very unique and personal vision.
So, MDA, are you listening? If you’re going to specialize in Singapore made content, you have to realize that it’s got to be all sorts of content that are to be made. Even if that content is the sort of brain-numbing massmarket alienation created by overgrown adolescent weirdos.
Here are just some assorted thoughts of mine on points raised in the National Day Rally Speech. They are not always, and often not, political, they are mostly thoughts of my own on the sort of life I want to live now, especially at the stage of my last year in NUS, a formative stage for anyone who is going on in life.
As such, two sections of the speech in particular caught my eye.
I have to admit that I have received an excellent education in Singapore so far, and I am pleased at the changes that have come over the Singapore Educational System, but what makes me think is: HOW FAR are those skills going to go in terms of where we are going? It’s all fine and dandy to be exposed to St Exupery’s THE LITTLE PRINCE at a young age, but whether that is going to enable you to write anything like THE LITTLE PRINCE later in life is going to be dependent on myriad factors. Let’s look at one right now. So far the MDA’s Book Publishing Schemes may be there, but have they capacity to keep publicizing, let alone know, a classic when they see one? Harry Potter didn’t become Harry Potter because JK Rowling knew how to write, so many people go into the making of her book. One of the publishers that discovered Rowling’s humble novel has set up a publishing company of his own for children, and one newly discovered children’s novel, TUNNELS, is now facing the same kind of attention that Rowling’s novel once did. PUBLISHERS are now as much names as writers. Can Singapore nurture, let alone allow, a star publisher to grow? The world is evolving at a dizzying rate, and for our efforts, how are we doing in catching up with it?
What strikes me about the yarn that PM Lee told about Lim Swee Say:
Lim Swee Say (coming back from the US) told me:
“During a walkabout, I talked to a resident at the market. He was healthy looking.
(1) LSS: How old are you?
(2) Resident: 72.
(3) LSS: Wow. You are looking healthy for your age. Are you still working?
(4) Resident: No. I retired a long time ago, when I was 55.
(5) LSS: 55! Why did you retire so young?
(6) Resident: Because I didn’t know I was going to live so long!”
What struck me about this speech was that it got me to rethink and redefine for myself the meaning of WORK.
To this Resident, I could have suggested that his early retirement at 55 could have been used to live an Hindu-like life of renunciation, to acclimate himself in the spiritual. But of course, growing up and living in an environment as spiritually deprived as Singapore, he might not have understood that.
Singapore, like most of what our honorable Minister Mentor might call societies of “East Asian Man” (cited by Paul Krugman in “The Return of Depression Economics”), is a society intensely focused on WORK. Work is supposed to define the useful man, and a man’s worth in the world is defined by his ability to work. In Singapore that is of course carried out to a logical extreme, such that, the ability to WORK into old age becomes a useful paradigm to measure the worth of an individual in society.
Granted, I am not a believer in spending twilight years idle, but I think that work should not become that defining an ideal of the useful man/woman. PLAY is simply the most neglected element in our society, and one that is nurtured only lately. And in a sense the Hindu idea of renunciation in old age is PLAY elevated to its highest, doing nothing too useful in particular except for examining within one’s relationship between body, soul and spirit, and amongst others too. For all play is such a relationship. All work in the modern sense is about removing these relationships. When one thinks about: “Why work LONGER?” one might as well think of “Why WORK?”
Is it not only right that we should work to live, not live to work? Singapore has but discovered the value of play for its younger citizens, but for its older citizens, will they yet discover the value of renunciation? It’s an age old question that has been answered in lots of older but not necessarily simpler cultures. In some way, we have depreciated as a culture from one whose remnants we are indeed struggling to preserve.
Together, the treatments of the very young and the very old strike me as perhaps a portrait of the future Singaporean: eager in youth, fed and bright, and to be a person condemned to an entirely contextless, meaningless paradigm of work for the rest of his or her life without ever knowing why. And we’re competing with countries that have such exploding populations like China and India, each one with thousands willing to send themselves over as foreign talent, thousands that are bright and eager as our own. We will produce excellent workers by any means, and workers whose variegated knowledge might instead become a way to serve the paradigm that they are in, and providing an additional asset.
If the paradigm that we are living in dictates that we keep working to support a level of endless growth for our small nation, what does it say?
But what about excellent human beings? I have no doubt that most people out there are decent, but excellent human beings are way more than that. Can someone that lives to work ever be a really excellent human being?
North Korean animation is THE BOMB.
“Squirrels and Hedgehogs” is like a cuter and even MORE militaristic GI JOE, since the latter’s characters are superheroes, and not ordinary people, which the characters in “Squirrels and Hedgehogs” are, thereby they are removed of the over-the-topness of GI JOE and make the militarism even more palpable, whereas a layer of unbelievability surrounds the character designs of GI JOE anyway that makes the suspension of disbelief something the audience willingly engages in. The basic storyline revolves around an utopia of peaceable woodland creatures who are about to be ravaged by a group of fearsome predators and find a fifth column in their society. No prizes what they are supposed to be representing.
For Singapore’s National Day, let us pay tribute to this master of subversive wit from our neighboring country, to which we are organically and yet inseparably joined in culture, history and heritage. Wee Meng Chee, and his anthem, “Negarakuku”. For nations are unforgiving mistresses, few willing to indulge that one can love them, warts and all.
This is one of those things in life that is often too awesome and too dramatic to believe, but Iraq just won the Asian Cup in Soccer. One of those few occasions when even briefly, your faith in human potential is restored.
Message to US Occupying Forces: Get out NOW. This is not a society or a country you WANT to get ticked off. Which apparently you have dozens of times by now with your indiscriminate damage to the civilian population and infrastructure. Considering how much you already have done so, please do as I say. If you get out now, twenty years from now you guys will be back in Baghdad as businessmen and investors and drinking beer with the Iraqis , and you will watch maybe replays of this soccer game and realize just how MUCH you guys had in common. Come on, the Iraqis are so much like you guys: they’re indomitable, barbarian sonsabitches descended from indomitable, barbarian tribes on the edge of Empire, just as most of your ancestors were, who hate losing and love winning. Which is why they’re not greeting you as liberators. Doesn’t it remind of you of your days at the lines of scrimmage and your cadences and your battle cries in high school?
Message to Saddam in his little corner of Hell: I know that you and sons tried to get the Iraq soccer team to perform well by whipping them and torturing them, but hey, chump, look where that got you? This is proof that people can be spurred on to perform well on their own for such things as dignity and honour…things that people like you have always been too willing to take away, of course, you will not be the last to attempt to take those things away from the Iraqi people either. Think about that while that pitchfork slides up and down your anus. Want a lubricant?
Message to President George W Bush: The Iraqi People have achieved a BENCHMARK of an entirely different sort than you can ever have hoped to achieve for them. It’s time you know that if they achieve anything else, it will not be due to you, or your cronies, or your mismanaged and totally unnecessary war. You and your chums in DC would be class dunces if I were to grade your knowledge of history. Just take in one lesson and take it good: let PEOPLE build their own countries and they will do everything you and your puppets cannot, and MORE.
Message to the Iraqi People: You are a bunch of indomitable, barbarian sonsabitches. I repeat that. In the best way possible.
Message to the Singaporean government and people: Forget your new stadium, forget the sports school, forget everything else. If you want to produce a world class soccer team, nothing beats the last-minute stamina and the pure will to win that must be searched for in the human spirit itself. Champions are not made by gyms. Neither are they made by the ridiculous academic requirements that you put up in your sports school necessarily enable you to attract the best and the brightest in their respective games. Champions are made by something invisible…and it is up to each and every man and woman to search his or her own soul for that something that makes a champion. Think about our Sports Vision for 2010 and the farce it has now become…we have less than three years…and Iraq just made a mockery of all our goals. What can we do?