Bye Bye

January 22, 2008

Dear Valued Readers,

Recently certain events have prompted me to re-evaluate the role of the my blog “Just Stuff.” These events I do not claim to comprehend completely, partly because things have moved so fast and the only reason Darkness ever seems to keep telling me is, “it has to be this way, there is no other way.” By the looks of it, the rest appear to be quiet adamant as well. There are times, when you just know it’s useless to try to persuade them. You just know they will hold the line right down to the very last man. I don’t know the real reason why; they don’t seem to want to share. It may have something to do with the NLB, AIMS or maybe something they have not told me about (we would have to wait for the sleeper ships to come back and narrate the full account of the story – it is stored in folder 1889/08 and they have even archived it with their channel partners – Google - we will have to wait till then – I really don’t know and I don’t wish to embellish the situation by speculating further. One thing surprises me, they don’t seem too bothered and there is even an air of expectancy about it all, just like before a thunderstorm.

It’s as if, they are all standing in one line preparing to greet the beginning and the end of it all.

This evening I met up with Darkness and the boys for a spot of cycling in East Coast Park – it was an opportunity for me to speak to him face to face. During the ride, there was one moment when I asked him why? To which he remained silent and looked out towards the eternity of the sea. His demeanor conveyed the belief, he had seen it all before and it was really not such a big deal. Or maybe, he was simply putting on a brave front - it’s hard to say with Baby Darkness. 

I believe he was trying to comfort me. It became clearer when he asked the rest to go ahead leaving both of us alone.

We spoke for hours under the shade of a tree. Forgive me, if I say, I don’t feel comfortable to reveal everything – I wish to keep some of it to myself.

As the evening unfolded, the boy shared with me many things – I told him that I have always been fascinated by his stories since I first read them when I was only 22. I even told him, that has the reason why I read Law and subsequently stayed on to complete my LLM in King’s College, just in case, I had to defend the Singaporean Gangster one day. He smiled wryly as he listened on and when it grew dark. I asked him whether he had any regrets? He told me; if he could do it all over again, he would do it very differently. When I asked why; he intoned, he might have been wrong all this while.

Living he said in the age of the $2.2 million man imposes certain realities on our understanding of what it means to be a human being - one of them is that we have to earn as much money as possible and very little else matters. If you only have $2.20 in your pocket in the world of the $2.2 million man, “it’s no good, it just doesn’t come around Dotty,” not even if you have all the bullet points and Gandhi and Mother Teresa standing beside you. That’s what it really means to live in the age of the $2.2 million man – life has to be brutal, ideas count for little and the sum of a man’s thoughts is worthless – the only thing that can possibly command any authority has to be the power of money. If one had $2.2 billion in the world of the $2.2 million man, there is a chance something good can happen. That he said was something his recent trip to China imposed on his understanding. He even said, it made a “good” economic case to throw out everything he has ever believed in and to start all over again.

This he said was how the game would have to be played from this moment onwards. The rest was just talk and sweet fantasy amounting to very little. (That could be why I saw Astro Boy punching numbers into a small calculator – I think, he too wants to be rich and influential).

Darkness went on to say this is where he and the rest will focus on from now onwards - the enterprise of making money. Listening to him, I wondered to myself, how his recent visit to China must have changed him – there, he said, he saw the power of money to move mountains, to change society on a scale and speed that could never be imagined before – he mentioned how whole stretches of “Hutongs” had given way to fly-overs and over head bridges – that he said, struck him like a “diamond bullet” – “here for the very first time in my life, I saw clearly there was no God, no reason, no logic even, only the omnipresent levelling power of money and how it was linked to power. Dotty, it struck me with a force of a thousand freight trains! Imagine what we could do with that sort of influence? We could build schools, hospitals and even bring about real and meaningful change for the betterment of the people. The rest was simply rhetoric amounting to nought.” He went on to say, there were thousands of innovators in the brotherhood network, especially their foreign legion, he described it as a “land within lands,” where most of them now were just soldering lousy components and writing dumb programs in rooms where clothes go to die or in garages and sheds, but if this ramble could be mobilized into a disciplined supra- entity, they could take the world by storm and he could lead them as he knew each cell personally, very much in the way he once led them to conquer the virtual realms, only this time even governments would shake and tremble, because it would be real this time - so real that it would not even require one molecule of imagination as the cost would be so apparent that it’s impossible to deny. That he said had to be “The New Order.”

Through it all, the boy kept staring out into the sea and repeating the words, “It’s no good Dotty, it just doesn’t come around. It’s no good…..I have finally realized I am going around in circles, big and small circles, that’s all.”

I believe, he may have finally reached the finality of the realization blogging after all is just talk and amounts to very little – it doesn’t have the capacity to ‘change’ anything – only money can do that.

After the conversation, he took me home. I invited him in to which he said he would wait for me.

You see I have always loved those stories and the man who wrote them ever sinced, I could ever remember.

You could say that is all I have ever had, I am an ordinary girl, not too tall, not too beautiful, abit plum but always dreaming and I am not abashed to admit it.

I had bought him something recently in Malaysia for the New Year, but when I went out to the gate. He was gone.

I of all people should have known better, the boy simply can’t bear farewells.  

I knew it would end this way. I don’t feel sad. I am happy that I had this one moment in time to share, experience and live.

Standing by the gate. I thought of the last page of Swann’s way; the wind that “wrinkled the surface of the Grand Lac in little wavelets.” The great passage of time that helped Marcel “to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one’s memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from their not being apprehended by the senses.” And his conclusion, like mine; “The reality that I had known no longer existed.”

Darkness, I finally realized is just an ordinary man. Cut him and he bleeds like any other man, slight him and he will take to anger…a very ordinary man.

This I believe was what he was always trying to tell to me.

This may not be such a bad thing; ordinariness; Darkness once wrote, “nothing last forever and all that life really teaches the wise is how to gracefully lay down the things, we once picked up…..so there is never any reason to be sad.” 

This was a lesson I’d gathered from my brief association with Darkness & The Brotherhood, so I shan’t feel sad.

Have a happy life Darkness, Harphoon, Astro Boy, Scholar Boy, Chronicler and the rest.

Darkness, I hope you find what you are looking for in life. You must believe me when I tell you, you of all people have the right to be happy.

See you again in my next life.

Love Always, Dotty Forever More.

Pls note that everything in this blog and every article that bears the Brotherhood Press tag has been copyrighted circa 2007 / December

In simple English, I will sue the shit out of you, if you archive it without my EXPRESS permission. Please DO NOT ASK either, unless you want to be publically embarrassed.

Trust me in Singapore, there are only less than 5 experts in this field. I happen to be one of them, not your BS variety that you pass off as “experts.”

I just made a big hole in your archive . I am happy, that was the very least, I could do for those boys.

Dotty

To Read ALL the archives of the Brotherhood Press, click here B’hood Press and Brotherhood Press Articles 

Please also feel free to check one of 14 of our FREE internet novelsThe Confessions 

“It has been a Privilege” Darkness / Jan 2008

Happy Reading

From Your Happy Webmaster

Dotty

P.S; This is from the Wanchai Read Club, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GG-OdnpQ3w take flight Darkness. The privilege has been entirely ours! Just remember the Wanchai Club has more than 800 ppl – talk about networking! Remember you can’t piss all of us off! Just you bear that in mind boyo!

If you want to catch Darkness, he was last spotted here: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2008/01/all-quiet-on-blogosphere-front.html

[Foreword by Dotty: This is written by Darkness. He just wrote and wrote. I edited it. It's long, so take it one bit at a time - it's best read that way because that was how it was written, in little bites along the way - happy Reading. Dotty] 

Day 1,2 & 3 – [Part 1]

Foreigners doing business with today’s Chinese must often overcome a maze of cultural, political, and bureaucratic barriers that range from the irritating to the bizarre. I am in Beijing now, and after 4 days of endless dinners and waiting, I am leaving. 

I have done extremely well considering in the last few days, I had a meeting with someone who wore pajamas, who tried to kill me and later claimed to be my long lost relative. Through it all I never even flinched once.

I travel everywhere by motorbike. I’ve memorized every single route and know it by heart – if I get lost, that’s not a problem. Beijing is spread out like a giant North, East, South and West map – just keep the sun to your right if you want to head South and the other way if you want to go North – the rest, you can more or less make up as you go along.

Here, the perpetual dust plays havocs on the bikes. I don’t need bent mechanics telling me I need a new bike. I improvise with my Swiss knife, if my bike sounds funny, I just ride slower.

Somehow I feel more is expected from me in China than any country, I have ever visited. Not just simple adaptation, something else. What is it? Acceptance. Yes, acceptance of a way of life that’s completely alien to me even as a Chinese – why do people keep forcing me to drink here? I just gulped down two bottles of paint stripper to give you face! And you people are still not satisfied? Fuck you lah! Why do they keep wasting food here? What’s all this talk about guansi? No, I don’t want to go to the whore house after dinner, I just want to go back and read my book!

You get the drift. If you don’t, don’t sweat it, just go with the flow, because this is all coming out in one steady 10 minute stream. I ain’t even going to spell check it.

Oh its tradition, silly me! But it’s not the good variety. Here in china ‘tradition’ the tag phrase is just a scapegoat, what I call a coat hanger word. You will find “tradition” all over the place, especially this time of the year; dragons, bats, pelicans, rats, cranes, elephants and recently, I even saw a turtle with claws, it’s everywhere spilling out at every corner. You will find ‘tradition’ in China more than any other place in this planet, but it all adds up to a big zero here. Usually when people think about ‘tradition,’ they can at least conjure up a few good things to say about their culture, but not here. Here tradition and culture have an equal measure of good and bad currency. Here culture has no higher elevation resembling wisdom or lore. It’s foremost the way things have always been done, and many a time nothing else. Somewhere there’s probably a good reason, but it’s all gone, lost or forgotten and just like a dirt trail everyone is just following it for fuck sake. 

This creates a surreal attitude where you just know that the local Chinese are perhaps one of the most well off people on this planet, you can tell by the cars they drive, the size of the diamonds they wear and number skyscrapers fingering the skyline, but they’re also one of the most bankrupt people, I have ever come across on this planet. I have seen Bedouins who own half a goat and who are infinitely richer than these people.

Day 4 – [Part 2]

The China that is today, isn’t nearly the ancient and unique traditions that we usually expect it to be or read about in the Nat Geo – yes, like everything else in this dust basin, it’s permeated with crushing greyness that squeezes out everything that’s good leaving very little else except the mindless pursuit of the capitalist dream. I am sure there must be a higher meaning somewhere, if you care to dig it out, but I just can’t be bothered.

The China that I know isn’t about old and new, capitalism vs communism etc. Framing that sort of dichotomy sells magazines, keeps foreign press bureau’s humming but it barely peels the lid of what’s really amiss in China - like the first McDonalds outlet that juts out in the Northeast corner of Changan and Wangfujing, it looks benign enough, till you stop and take a closer look, then you realize how it must have been when it first hit this part of town some thirty odd years ago. It must have packed as much punch as a 10 megatonne cultural meteorite. Ever since then it’s thrown up enough dust to blot out the sun blinding the whole of China - they struggled then. They’re still struggling; to find that mythical line that once radiated from this one epicenter where old and new once collided, vaporised and congealed into one giant incomprehensible glob. Somewhere down the line you just know they’ve given up prodding it. Nothing can be more depressing than witnessing a nation this big struggling to remember their wispy past, to try to find unity in some distant memory, and failing so tragically.

No where is this search for national identity more evident than in Beijing with it’s pheltora of experimental architecture. It really boggles the mind and when one surveys the skyline. One can’t help but lament, “they will never find it in glass and stainless steel.”

I guess if you’re forgiving like me, you can’t blame them from trying to find higher raison in bird’s nest stadiums, stainless steel eggs, watercubes and 5 storey high TV’s. After all, what did you really expect? They’re like one of those stowaways that clings to a under carriage of a Boeing 747 called change. They didn’t even have the slightest clue where they were going. Maybe only a hope and a prayer. And in a country where they can lay down rail tracks faster than a bullet train – they never stood a chance in finding a higher meaning. Here in this new road to prosperity everything moves at the speed of light. There’s no time to think, no time to even to tease out that happy line that even allows for such a thing as serendipity. Everything is just one incredible blur. On the surface, change has never been so highly choreographed, not on this mega Stalinist scale as Beijing prepares for the Olympic games; she is completely transformed and even that’s an understatement; once symmetrical Siheyuans kneaded into miles and miles of spaghetti fly-overs. Even the hutongs have been given the URA taxidermy working over. These days, they even look haute couture, hardly the place old women sit down split peas and trade gossip. 

But when one takes a closer look. Not from lobby of a 5 star hotel, but from the 5 foot way when one’s munching on a Jiao-bing* with street kids scampering around (*sidetrack; incidentally, this happens be our fav food. We eat it 5 times a day! Best thing about it is, you could stick into the manifold of a bike to warm it up, if it gets cold) it hits you! The truth. Communism isn’t just a political system – that’s just not possible in a country of 1.2 billion people - for it to even pivot it needs to be something much more than an ideology or philosophy – it’s a ‘way of life’  here. The only one the people have ever known. You don’t need to be a political scientist to figure out communism in China is just one big puppet or getai show between the classical good and evil sling out. The story’s trite; toss a child into the abyss of extremity and then rescue her from the jaws of death throw in a few Panda bears for good measure. The communist narrative has always presented both the protaginist and, vicariously, the reader with only one problem; China is fucked; everyone wants a piece of her; it’s her against the big bad world! The narrative isn’t about surmounting the problem as much as it tries to skilfully elide it by sending a surge of sentimental warmth into the crowd. That way anyone watching the puppet show can even pretend that they, too have confronted evil or sorrow and made it through to the otherside. Yeah, it’s fucked up, but we pulled through! And somewhere in this narrative of selfless sacrifice, blood and sinew, the individual has grown through his or her experience, and that’s all that really matters. History and tragedy forster personal growth and what doesn’t kill you will eventually make you stronger – long live the great patriotic struggle!

You know what? That’s a crock of state inspired shit! Don’t doubt for one moment, it sells tickets. Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find ‘growth’ or ‘development’ in tragedy. In fact, the dull truth as Dotty once shared with me, is that pain is tautological; the only thing suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering.

No where does this truth bear out clearer than in China; here …”whole masses of people who are going here and there, never ever knowing exactly what they gave up, or even why they have certain quarks and philosophies foreigners find so quaint. Truth is if you asked me, the Chinese don’t really believe in the capitalistic future or philosophy despite the prevailing mood of prosperity. They’re to entrenched in the whole idea of impermanence. You can tell, like any emerging class of the nouvelle riche they’re struggling too hard to accumulate it, in the way a drowning man clings to a flotsam just to stay afloat – it’s at every turn and no where else is this feeling as climatic as in China – I believe that’s because most of them still don’t quiet believe they’re living in this era – they’re still think, it’s a dream and reality is waiting for them when they awake.” Jerry Kwang (Singaporean Working In Beijing Since 2003 / Conversation With Darkness)  

Day 5 – Part 3

You see the local Chinese as a whole rarely stick things out for the long haul this applies to everything from business, politics, relationships to something as simple as waving a cab – it’s always about the short term narrative – how much? – lets makan him, he’s a dumb foreigner.

You can’t blame them, historically they have had too many snakes on the plane - someone is always trying to bag someone in China. If it’s not blood sucking landlords, marauding warlords, Japanese invaders even the local Party auntie has a hachet hidden somewhere. Here a man learns to value nothing except his own mortality. He can betray everything he believes in, in the span of time it takes to empty his bowels. Here they learn to make do - the Chinese are the biggest consumers of duct tape, superglue and rubber bands only because they have mastered the Tao of living in ever decreasing circles. In order to have faith in a better tomorrow - they don’t make peace with their pain as much as slice themselves in half and try to fashion a mini ‘me’ existence. Here women stay with drunk husbands because things could get worse if they try to dream for something better – they make do with illicit afternoon shows in the matinee to dull the pain. University students dream no end of migrating to “Shang Tao” – America. It’s the ultimate ‘having to make do’ society – less goes a very long way here. Cab drivers, bell hops, police, reporters, bartenders, ladies of the night only have one thing in their mind – to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time to break out from the cancophy of endless noise and movement. As for the bureaucrats they do the same, albeit with white gloves, dentures and false promises. Here, the nakedness of China’s desire to change the world has a mass appeal, “the promise of a better tomorrow,” but it’s simultaneously simple, disingenuous and tragically mindless.

Capitalism will never assume primacy in China. And even if it has that capacity, it can never ever acquire the patina of sophistication that it has in the West. Here capitalism just goes through the pseudo bullshit communist system like a meat grinder and comes out completely different like Frankenstein - I cannot describe it - it’s definitely leaner, faster and deadlier, but there’s hardly a trace of humanity in it.

I really don’t see how far down the line a country can go down that road – maybe 10 years max. After that, there are no guarantees.

Look there is no way make this go down happy, so I am not even going to try; I am a business man, I like a fair and square deal; I like to give one and I also like it to come around now and then. But with the Chinese, they’re just have this inexplicable gift for being one of the most manipulative, two-faced and conniving people on this planet. They’re not interested in business, they just want to stretch me out on a pelt rack and see how far I can go to make a coat or some funny hat - that means it’s time to say adios, bye-bye, sayonara, chia chen.

I am trying very hard not to be bitter, but I am tired – tired of the games they play, tired because a man can only take so much shit.

I realize capitalism as a school of thought has never really had time to work itself properly into the collective psyche. People tell me China is still in a state of transition, I don’t believe that for one minute; this is as good as it gets – it doesn’t get any better than this – this, I am afraid is the final version.

Windmills of the minds, a hundred things coming in and going out.

Here in Beijing nothing ever stays the same – the winds roll in and out continuously bringing sands from afar. For a very long time the Chinese have lived with this cruel wind. It’s a bitter reminder, you may try to change the world, but if you can’t change it, you might as well just join them. And who am I really to judge them? No one I guess, except perhaps the man who sees it all from the eye of the storm in the tea cup called China.

They’re not interested in my invention here – they think I am a light weight, they have never ever heard about the brotherhood – puiih! that’s cut and dried – bounced off me like a shell on slope armor. The sun looks happy, it’s a new day, the boys are smiling, moral is high and my bike is purring and just begging me to split her in half – Puih! (Damn it’s dusty here) I am just getting older by the minute, I am off to the South.  

Darkness 2008 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbHBrSVbyYI

The Brotherhood Press 2008

I am sure you’ve experience it before. It goes like this: you read, see or hear something in the real world and form an opinion on it. Then you log on only to find the same subject is written in a completely different and opposite way. It leaves you wondering,

“Hey, did I miss something, or what?”

Calm down, you’re not in the “twilight zone,” you’ve just stepped into the “parallel universe.” – the internet.

The Parallel universe is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with our own known world, it implies a relationship with our own universe. The internet and the MSM is perhaps one of the starkest representation of this motif where truths are as malleable as potters clay. Often differing to such a degree one can even draw endless contradictory accounts to suggest they are two different worlds set so far apart, they may not even be the same world – take the case of the recent NLB initiative to archive blog history – how many of the blogs there really represent the ‘real’ blogosphere? – is the NLB right to proclaim that it’s a “comprehensive” account? Or is this just another case of heaven and earth?

You decide.

What really accounts for this contradictory depiction of the truth?

Before we start peeling off the lid on the parallel universe conundrum. Let’s take a closer look at how most of us regularly make sense of the known world. To paraphrase, how do you derive at the known truth?

Well you could say you read, watch TV or even think about stuff. But bear in mind all this is happening inside “you.” To be more precise: a large chunk of human nature kicks in and this is where we really need to ask, does our nature work for or against us when we seek to understand something?

To put it crudely, what if I said, the more ways we have to do what comes naturally to us e.g reading, the more we will do it, but that hardly adds to our understanding. 

The problem is having a big stomach for information doesn’t mean getting the best diet all the time - like junk food, usually what we do is load up on the fast, easy and artery clogging stuff - that’s to say instead of reading 4 pages to understanding X,Y and Z. Most of us these days just opt for the condensed and highly processed one paragraph version – something has to give – there has to be a cost to all this short cutting - and usually, it’s comes at the expense of greater depth and understanding.

Could this be one reason why we have the parallel universe? Again you decide.

Another clue why the internet is often referred to as the parallel universe is because you don’t really choose what you read -  Bingo! What did I just say? No it’s not a typo: neither am I controlling your brain with high powered magnets, let me say it again slowly this time in BBC special English, YOU DON’T REALLY CHOOSE WHAT YOU READ! That’s to say you’re subsconsciously prompted and that simply means what you may decide to load up on may not even be a matter of that has anything to do with conscious decision making.

Now I understand this sounds cracked! Hey, but what most of us fail to consciously recognize every time we log on; is how the internet as a medium possesses an ecology that regularly amplifies millions of communication channels which allow the inputs of others to be registered, filtered and processed into a collective voice that either prompts or nudges you – it’s subtle, but trust me it’s there.

Now don’t bother yourself with the details. In simple terms, it’s a bit like path ways - some run and fork out, others lead to open squares and of course there are those that just lead to a dead end. A good way of tracking movement in the net is the visitor counter which does a decent job of capturing collective psyche by cataloging the sum of all our beliefs and preferences to underscore what is or isn’t worth reading. Yes, I know I am stretching the model somewhat, but conceptually, if we draw upon the main strands this will form much of my assumptions for this article.

My point is this: how you and I regularly make sense of the known world whenever we read something in the net is a function of collective imitation that leads us to the most “popular” fads and fashions.

This could well account for the disconnect (real or imagined) we so often experience between the net and MSM. The latter is usually apathetic to happenings in the net. While the former appears to promote certain discussions heightening them to levels which aren’t even reflected in the same order in the MSM – we see this sort of disconnect often enough to suggest the whole idea of a parallel universe isn’t so much the stuff of speculation as it is a reality.

It throws out the question: what’s happening here?

In a nutshell what this means is the imitation program or roach mentality of making sense of the known world =  what you will eventually read will not be so different from me or the next reader who logs on in the net. There is a collective psyche here that supports the tendency for imitation.

By the same corollary, what you consider important will in most likelihood also stimulate the same level of interest in me. Extend the remit slightly and it simply means in all likelihood we may even share the same point of view albeit with slight differences.

So next time when you decide to log on and feed off the mental buffet in blogosphere, just remember one thing; you may not be so original after all. And this brings me to my last point; what do I think about the NLB initiative to archive?

Do what you like! It matters very little here!

You decide for yourself.

Either way, you can’t really be completely right or wrong here. And if that answer doesn’t make any sense, don’t sweat it………we are in the parallel universe.

Written by Darkness – Trajan, Pretoria and Astroboy   The Brotherhood Press 2008

Check Out The Latest Articles In The Brotherhood Press

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(You may wish to increase the font for your reading pleasure – due to an operating error, we are not able to adjust this encrypted document sent on a Nokia Communicator) 

Recently, during a luncheon I was asked by my host what I thought about the new OLPCThe New York TimesTake an excellent look at the commentary by the BBC (the rest of the reviews, you can throw. This is probably where they ripped it from! Remember, I am the man who calls a spade a spade).

First touch: Great stuff. Loved the curved edges, reminded me of the corn yellow child proof chairs in McDonalds. Shame about the key board though, what’s wrong with them? Well for starters they’re too small.

Besides we all know the the Linux-based XO laptop is so bug infested, the OLPC might as well come with a year supply of free roach spray. From an operating standpoint, the implementation of the tech is just incredibly difficult to understand. And I am going to say, it’s one of the dummest configurations I have ever come across.

Let me give you an example: In their zeal to hatch the machine that could change the world, the folks in OLPC used a cumbersome operating system. Look I have nothing against using Flash to load a game or to watch some kid setting his hair on fire in YouTube, but because it uses Flash, it also requires users to go into a terminal line-code i.e machine language and type a long internet address instead of just cutting and pasting the address – who the hell does that these days!

Now am I saying some impoverish kid in central Africa is going to get so frustrated he’s going to stick voodoo needles into his new freebie computer – no, but my point stands; couldn’t they come up with a simpler way to make stuff work?

Through out the demo, I chewed on my hanky. Yes, P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E is definitely the word, yes I was even benevolent, enough to even say to myself come, come darkness, this is for kids who have never ever sat on a jet plane before, never known running tap water. OK, the OLPC is hardly a new concept, it belongs to the genre of products and initiatives that carries the “world” tag – we have all see it before haven’t we in the form of the Volkswagen – the peoples car. Hey that was hardly a perfect concept. First of all it was designed by none other than Adolf Hitler aka the man who gave a whole new meaning to communal showers, can you think of a worse marketing agent? But that didn’t haf kill off the beetle. Yes, we all know the VW looked dorky with it’s air-cooled engine and armadillo clam shell design, but it had one redeeming feature; designed to be so common and basic, it left a lot of room for improvisation; that was simplicity unto it’self and it made it; a sure fire winner with millions.

That could just be the decider that tips the scale for the OLPC. Yes, the OS is slow, but then again, I  am reminded speed is relative. The advantage of using an open system like linux is if it goes on the blink, one doesn’t need to call any of the famous rappers in IDA or write in to the 2.2 million dollar man. Neither are users beholden to fat cat ‘you either pay or go and die’ vendors who extort no end rates like they do for Apple and IBM to fix them – here the local economy kicks in, what I call the rubberband, super glue and duct tape brigade – (trust me, even the brotherhood cannot do without them, every time our system goes on the blink, it’s these boys who step in and get it running again – cheapy cheap). Here we really see the real punch of the OLPC, it’s limitless capacity to recruit hobbyists, amatuers or just a bunch of kids soldering lousy components in garages. The real beauty of the OLPC is anyone with a bit of computer know-how can aspire to be a service provider and value adder, so don’t be surprised. If a Bill Gates emerges from the heart of darkness one day.

If there is one compelling reason why I had to say ‘yes’ to this machine, it would be for this one reason alone;  Ultimately the OLPC initiative will be remembered less for what it delivered in terms of quality and performance than the products, people and state of minds it spawned. The initiative is significant as it’s really like trying to drive around the whole of Singapore with just one gallon of petrol; they said, it cannot be done! No one even believes it can be done because price has always been it’s prime nemesis, but now that it’s done –  the sound barrier has been broken, the imaginary line has been crossed, the world is finally round! That could well be the only legacy of the OLPC – it’s price.  

The OLPC may not hit all my hot buttons - do I think it was a big mistake not to incorporate solar panels? Yes (I even wrote a 4 page engineering report to the OLPC team and believe it or not, they actually came back with a 48 page reply!). What about the componentry? Yes, it could have been much better, but, hey, it’s easy for me to knock it no end. I am not the one who needs to balance the books or deal with the tech mafia. Whatever, you want to say about the OLPC, one thing stands tall, the price: it’s  impossible to fault. It definitely sets a new benchmark in costing and this could well be the only reason why the OLPC may just be the machine that stands a good chance of changing this crummy world. If you can’t see that then you might as well go and give your money to that crooked pastor who keeps telling everyone Jesus asked him to build anothe good-for-nothing shopping mall – between empowering a few poor kids somewhere with OLPC or forking out a small fortune for a gold plated shit pot for some pastor to plant his fat ass on, the choice is clear for me this 2008 - I’ve go with the OLPC and those kiddies any day!

Darkness, Pumpman & Scholarboy 2008

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NLB + Blogs = History?

January 7, 2008

The Czech novelist Milan Kundera once wrote that

“the struggle of all humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

The powerful not only stay in power, Yes, they regulary write history – you can even say, this is the only kind of history there really is.

Whilst those who seek to preserve ‘history’ may choose to tell you otherwise – even they cannot deny, the ebb and flow of how someone who makes the news today quickly becomes yesterday’s forgotten hero, nothing more than a footnote in a history book. 

By now all of you have heard that the NLB has decided to include blogs in it’s historical archives – what do I think about it?

As the adage goes, it’s hardly news, but how important really is history? Why should it even be worthy of perservation? 

The short answer is it’s as important as how much of it fritters away – history doesn’t rot, as much as it gets rewritten – what’s often elided by even modern day historians is how the past is always used as a means to make sense of today - rehashing and re-packaging reality to remain relevant is really the only reason why some one goes through the whole business of perserving history. That’s to say, it’s often re-constituted like potato crisp to make it more palatable for mass consumption. After all didn’t you know the truth is really the truth as much as it remains a version of the truth? What if politicians and corporate honcho’s bare their souls and tell us all they really have as much control over the economy as a butterfly flapping its wings in Tokyo? Where would we be? How would this revelation sit alongside our notions of power and politics? Truth remains, if we really take a long look around these days, everyone is into the business of rehashing history – novelist are the worst, often passing off the old as new. Musicians are just contrite, continually lending their own swagger to old scripts and historians are shambolic. Since they keep telling us, “actually this wasn’t what really happened!” while furiously cutting and pasting huge chunks of events which they regularly pass off as humanity’s on going disquisitions. Though of course, they’re always polite enough to insist they are merely – “rediscovering” instead of “rewriting history.”

How justifiable is this form of tweaking? Does it really add any value to our understanding of the truth? Or is it just plain self-serving white washing?

Well that’s something we are going to leave to you: despite all the panic about the truth being white washed, it’s missing a vital ingredient: a genuinely alarmed public. The vast majority of us have already taken to the idea of rewriting history like fish to water – believe it or not! – in more ways that I can possibly recount -thereby acquiescing in part to this would-be-conspiracy, real or imagined. Granted, it may all be occurring at a subconscious level, but have no doubts: It already happening in earnest even as we speak! Our history is being re-written right before us!

While I don’t doubt, from time to time the notion of some political, corporate and religious leader attempting to rewrite history does genuinely cause some of us to jump up and down no end. For example: when the Japanese historical institute keeps insisting the term, “military campaign” is synonymous with “invasion” to describe Japan’s WW II history in China.

In the vast majority of cases most Singaporeans care about history only mainly in the abstract. Sometimes and only very occasionally, a well-informed community unites to voice its concerns and displeasure on topical issues like the ministerial pay rise and the UNSW Asia debacle. But by and large, even as politicians and corporate figures continue to cover a blemish or two by re-writing history: vis-à-vis: layering the truth by glossing over the so the account, most of us remain happily bovine and indifferent.

The danger is: if we remain bovine to the corrosive effects of word and statement ‘creep.’ Eventually, our grasp of reality and meaning will simply leach away. Essentially, this is one way how history typically gets re-written most of the time.

While I remind myself, I am not yet a cynic, I really should be. Only because real dangers exist when history is continually re-written without either the possessors or those who are trying to make sense of modern sound bites today.

History is indeed fragile – what will cyber archeologist discover when they sieve through the Singapore internet in the distant future?

Will they successfully unearth the Mr Brown saga – Shin Corp and UNSW Asia fiasco -Wee Shu Min incident intact? Along with countless other miles stones that has shaped the contours of the Singapore narrative? I don’t doubt for one moment, those archeologist will do roughly the same as those before them – piecing together, forming and shaping their impression of the known truth in the early half of the 21st century. Only as they winnow through much of the electronic dust which we presently term internet chatter in virtual excavation sites like either the Intelligent Singaporean or Aaron Ng’s blog.

What will they glimpse from our long-dead civilization? What voices and libations will they discover? And what will be scooped out of the gunk Singapore internet’s enduring eloquence? Perhaps the truth or maybe only baby mutterings, either case, one thing will remain certain – there will be more than one version of history….what did you expect?….Did you really believe we would allow you to pick and choose which parts you consider deserving, while we just watch on?

You have to be joking.

 [A Brief History Lesson: Two hundred years ago, during the battle of Aboukir. When Napoleon’s troops were strengthening the foundation in Fort Julian on the West Bank of the Nile, French soldiers unearth part of a large stela, incised with writing in three different scripts. The stone is a fragment of an ancient slab proclaiming the “Memphis Decree” issued by Ptolemy in 196 BC. One of the scripts was Greek, and it stated in its concluding paragraph that all three texts carried the same message. Since the other two scripts were hieroglyphic and cursive demotic respectively, it was evident that this was a discovery of great importance; a key had been found to the history of ancient Egypt, till then hieroglyphic had remain indecipherable – the Rosetta stone had been discovered!> In the year 20482 (strangelands aka brotherhood time) during the Reign of Padishah (earth time: 2003) – a series of automated capsules christened as the “Rosetta’s” – was successfully launched by the brotherhood into the infinity of cyber space. In the sealed sarcophagus, the entire repository of the brotherhood press is stored in 49 languages and formatted in 62 versions. On the aft section of each Tritium powered capsule is a replica plaque similar to the version mounted on Voyager 1 blasted into deep space by mankind on September 5, 1977. To date, 2 such repository robots or “library drones” as they are often called, have been successfully launched into cyber space – the first of the “Rosetta” modules serial no: 00001 ERT is scheduled to return home to earth and re-enter the Singaporean cyberspace in 2999 AD (earth time). It has been pre-programmed to broadcast in 59 known languages “we come in peace” followed by 30 variants of binary codex / machine language - “We shall never forget.” – The Book of Ages, The Chronicler]

“Why is history important…simple. If you do not even bother to read up on your own history. Don’t be surprise, if someone just comes along and tells you where it all begins and ends - a few things will happen. One you will end up shoving a stick of dynamite into your ass and blow yourself  up in the name of Mickey Mouse. Or worse give 10% of your hard earned salary to some crooked pastor instead of giving it your moma and papa to buy economy beehon bc you were so [delete] dumber than dumb to believe Jesus actually told your pastor to impersonate Donald Trump….by buiding a shopping mall…..Understand this! History is fragile, if you do not believe me, go and type “the brotherhood  press” in certain blogs and try to post it, you will NOT be able to do it! Cannot, means cannot! Don’t say I am paranoid, don’t say that I am a trouble maker, go and try this simple experiment in Mr Brown, BL or some site run by those kampong heroes and then come back here and tell me, I am wrong…. go do it!….. and I will gladly eat your shoe and mine. Now you know why we need to write our history ourselves. Now you know why we need to regularly launch those expensive sleeper ships at a cost of 130,000 Imperiums a piece…but what astounds me even more is, there are still some mother [deleted] here, who cannot even understand this basic fact! They really believe if they dont bother to write their history, some one, some where will do it for them….dream on lah….go and die lah!”

Darkness / Great Hall Debate 2007

(A longer version of this article is published in the Intelligent Singaporean / written by Scholar boy & Harphoon – Socio / Political – EP 992002- The Brotherhood Press 2007) 

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To be alone is an opportunity, a state brimming with the prospects of reclaiming the ‘I’ that has been mortgaged to the ‘we’— no this is not a page turner, but if you allow it, it may very well be a life changer. The art of being alone these days is underrated, so it should be. After all don’t we live under the sodium ark light of the internet age when tangled sheets are strewn before us.

However, as I stand early this morning on a stretch of the great wall that doesn’t look so great. I am trying very hard to remind myself, my right to be alone should never be an apology if it stands any chance of being transformed into an art.

What really is the allure of solitude? I have absolutely no idea. I guess if I am stretched out on a pelt rack to state the case; the right to be alone is really where we have the opportunity to discover that we are ‘not half’ but a sovereign whole. It took me a while to gather this – you must forgive me, how I struggle with these things. I wouldn’t say it came to me in the first cut, but rather through the years when I was apart from you. The gnawing awareness surface. I saw it everywhere once, in places people least expect to see it, in conferences rooms etched across the face of an older woman who looked at me with desire – there amid the balmy chatter, she might as well be in a sphere of her own making, in a space of aloneness as removed as a desolate island in shark infested waters – what was going through her mind?

Yes, in this place, a woman, any woman is free to admit and act on her desires. It’s where she can really be honest and forthright to herself. Here she doesn’t need to nurse her hatred of men who have two timed  or treated her like dirt – here in this place called ‘Me and myself against the world,’ so far removed, you can even say, she doesn’t have a choice but to discard the remnants of what it means to be a woman the way the world wants to see her -the spoiling belief that accounts for why she has to remain timid, insecure, and fearful - here in this secret garden, she’s whole, complete and true to realize true autonomy - she has wings.

Here, she says, I don’t need a man, I don’t need a partner. I don’t need someone to take care of me - she says that to herself, at least three times a day, when she looks at herself in the mirror to affirm her belief, it simply must be this way – the world, my world, a world without him - that’s the funny thing about a woman who has learnt the art of being alone, she can just as well derive joy from afar in a way a painter and poet wax lyrical no end about the affairs of primroses and turnips in July.

Breathe don’t worry, don’t flush, where I stand is where I shall go no further, not even so much, as a single step.

I respect your decision.

I have to don’t I? Though forgive me, if I say, I don’t pretend to understand why – I know you are reading this, I know, but what can I say, except to comfort myself in the early morn balm, yes, surely providence must reward such a man who chooses to stand before the crumbling granduer of what used to be, she must give him; redemption, if she is still to remain providence - there, there, here it comes….. the jester of life knows a few tricks and one of them is how; two people can still remain apart and still walk side by side – do you feel my warmth? Do you feel the soft fluttering rush?

It’s time to jog back, it’s time to rejoin the ‘we’ and say good bye to the ‘I’. The vermillion sun will rise soon and where will we be in the ferment of the imagination when the world lays seige to our ordinary lifes?

Somewhere in this sea of grey, I am here and you are there and there’s the beginning and end of our story.

You have no idea how much I have missed you. Absolutely no idea.

How could you? You’re the woman who has mastered the art of being alone, and. I am simply whose standing before a wall…..a great wall…..breathe….it’s another day.

你是我的女人

I am Darkness 2008 (Beijing)

[Live Report!]  After spending a whole week in the provinces in China, it’s enough to challenge all those pre-conceptions of China we once carried around without the illusion of slipping into rose-tinted glasses diatribe. One thing about spending so much time in the provinces – one soon realizes, one can’t possibly be Chinese, even if I happen to be born a Chinese! We are too different. Please understand that my opinions are limited to my own personal experiences, I am not deliberately trying to come across as offensive, only what needs to be understood from the onset is there’s a world of difference between us and the local Chinese. It’s all too clear that the population density and political environment has all had a strong impact on shaping how the society has evolved and that’s one of the reasons why people only regularly do basically 3 things in China.

First, they spit. They spit alot. I mean if you’re not used to it, you would be pretty soon because in China everyone has to spit to survive. Dust is all over the place – donkeys, parrots, dogs, pigs and even tractors all spit, if you don’t learn to spit in China, you’ve just keel over and die.The other thing one learns to do in China is squat. If you don’t know how to squat, again your knee caps will give way and you will die – nothing goes according to plan in the provinces in China. Everyone is either late or early by give or take a few days – derailments and air crashes are a common occurrence in these parts.Finally developing a sense of happy resignation – in these remote parts is a pre-requisite, if one doesn’t want to die before peaking at 40 – here where, the encroaching sands stands menacing before mankind – it’s a stark reminder, the desert is always the nemesis, the great equilizer, the great leveller, if a couple breaks up, it’s not because of money, drink or irreconcilable differences, it’s because of the sands. If someone commits murder, its never because of  rivalry, again it could just as well be blamed on the sands – in this remote outpost in nowhereville, the truth is the thing most present to the mind of man – is always the desert; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and mulls over his destiny in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life. For once that he remembers exactly how tied he is to the desert, the work and how it produces his wages and exactly how those wages go back to the desert and starts all over again, here, the average Chinese may reflect ten times that this may be the day, he wins the national lottery, that’s the ticket for him to leave this miserable hell hole, no Chinese wants to be here, not even the ones who are here, but the desert has a hideous way of weaving itself into the history of these people – The truth is that the thing most present to the people here is the desert itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.The other thing that reminds you, you are definitely not Chinese when you’re in China is the dual pricing system. Basically, there’s local and foreign price, you don’t ever get the former unless you know how to spit and squat, so there you go, never say that I am not giving you got advice – another good trick of getting local price is to pretend that you’re deaf and blind, it really easy just bang into the nearest person next to you and take out his kidneys – but whatever you do, don’t ever try to fake being a local Chinese. It’s virtually impossible for one you have to smoke 3 packets of cigarettes every day for 10 years to get that raspy nasal intonation and if you haven’t already died of lung cancer. You probably also need to drink a quart of peng san brand liquor that smells a bit like high performance military grade jet fuel – and if you’re thinking of dressing like a Chinese, forget it, it’s not possible, because they don’t iron their clothes, they bake it.It’s important to know that when you’re traveling in china it’s a good idea to stay as local as possible, China is not a cheap country not by any standards. Keeping local is a sure fire way of cutting your travel expenses by half – keep that in mind, so try to go local, local food, local hotels, local everything. However, don’t over do it, and just to make sure you don’t go over the top we have come up with a few guidelines – for example you know you’re gone over the top when you look out of the window of the plane and black smoke is spewing out of the engines and yet it doesn’t bother you – you definitely, over done it when the plane takes off or lands when you’re still trying to find out your seat. Or you’re finally find yourself sitting next to a farmer and his pet hog.Another thing, always remember safety rules and regulations only apply to foreigners. In China if you’re a local dying is just a minor detail.Yes, I know it has always been said China is a very cultured country, but the only variety we have come across in the provinces is the Prima delli variety i.e bacteria – if you’re seriously thinking of going local on the food just remember everything is roughly X 10 the salt content in Singapore – from the looks of it, the locals have managed to develop immunity to high blood pressure, temporarily blindness and through the years their tummy is roughly as durable as a concrete mixer. Food is definitely something to be wary about when one is going local in a big way. Don’t be surprise if an alien looking creature breaks out from the main dish – anything you can’t understand is supposed to be a delicacy. You know you’ve definitely gone too far when you start having a conversation with your trout. Please don’t get me wrong some food stuff in China is really nice, only you need to be really so open minded your brains are spilling out, like fried baby scorpions. Never mind there’s still enough venom in one of those babies to kill an tribe of elephants – and if you really need to wash it down, do try the local baijiu that incidentally, smells and taste like turpentine – now don’t be surprise after downing one or two cups in rapid succession, the whole room suddenly browns out. No it’s not an electrical black out, it just means your vision has gone on the blink – like I said, in China dying is just a minor detail.That’s why we are glad to get out of the provinces tonight. It’s cold and we’re all exhausted. Our bikes are all busted up and our mission has been a total failure. The plane was supposed to be here 6 hours ago – nearby, a stout magnolia building with an antennae stands, beneath it’s a post office cum sundry shop, above it, that’s the control tower – a few uniformed men are watching football, someone is holding on to coat hanger wire to get a better reception. They piped it to the public broadcast. At the end of the runaway, a tail wing of a plane is sticking up frame against the flank of the Yabulai Mountains, from the looks of it crashed a few years ago – yes, this is China, the unplug China that no one every tells you about, the one that is so far tucked away in one little corner of this planet, it’s probably hermetically sealed off from the rest of China itself and looking on amid all this chaos high above us is a portrait of the great helmsman – he seems to taking all the chaos in his stride, smiling supremely with hardly a care in the world.Checking my Nokia Communicator with the Satellite link – the message reads: “Everything will be alright, we are all waiting for you in Beijing – just remain calm – everything can be solved….(private deleted) – Darkness.” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_VsabMTANo&feature=related

(This is written by Nacramanga – 2008 China Expedition sponsored by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008)

Read the complete first parter here:

December 30, 2007

(Live Location Report)

Somewhere in the west edge of the Badain Jaran some 2 days ride from Dunhuang – we pulled up on a small farming village. It’s not much - a few thatched roof mud huts – a few goats – a few old men. It’s being a long ride and our local guide who was supposed to see us through this leg of the expedition hightailed off because he claims to be sick – we left him in Dunhuang sneaking out of the hotel without paying the bill, so that’s fair – should have known better than to trust computer geeks who moonlight as tour guides one regular meets in the internet, but none of us are complaining. We have been on the saddle for nearly 9 hours straight. There are more pressing issues at hand, one the radiators on our bikes is leaking coolant and the manifold on the other is making strange growling noises.

This is desert country, we don’t take these things lightly. It’s no joke to be stranded in the middle in the middle of the desert. 

The trail is bone dry this time of year, hot in the day and so cold at nights that even the coolant freezes up – added to that the winds billowing from the North West is relentless, it whips up everything in it’s path making it impossible to travel in single file – instead we have to ride off road abreast, that just plays havoc on man and machine, our nerves are all on edge, our machines have seen better days. We’re exhausted – all of us pretty much stopped talking yesterday and we are still not talking much today – ridding rough across sand dunes was something that we didn’t count on being so sapping. It demands every ounce of concentration, one misjudgment at 110 kmh and you’re as good as done for.

I don’t even know where we are. The maps we are relying on is outdated by 20 years (I’ve explain later while we are using old maps) and the folks around here speak a strange hoarse like dialect that none of us can understand – we try putong waoh – it’s no use. The farmer, who claims to be a certain Mr Chou Weishian, yet frequently calls himself Henei or Wen on several occasions wears a faded olive green army uniform, hiding half bodied across the door way he might be hiding a AK 47 or a cast iron skillet, we look abit like aliens in our skin tight leathers and helmets – it takes him a while to figure out the tripods we are carrying slung across our backs aren’t semi automatics. We’ve here on an experimental project sponsored by the Mercantile Guilds to test out a scaled version of a solar cooker a few of us have invented. It’s called a heliostat cooker, a parabolic dish concentrates the suns rays like a death beam to heat up a pot of water or cook something. They tell me if connected in series, it can even drive a decent sized turbine and generate enough electricity to power a whole city. I don’t really believe them. Another dumb idea if you asked me. So dumb that even the guide who was supposed to shepherd us here said, “if it’s such a clever idea we (the Chinese) would have already invented it a long time ago – didn’t you dumb Singaporeans realize we invented paper and gun powder?”

Life in these parts sucks big time, from the looks of it the sand dunes are slugging it out with the arable land. The former seems to be winning hands down.

Desertification is a major problem in Western and Northen China. According to farmer, brigand or smuggler Chou (he claims to be a farmer) who has been farming here for the last fifteen generations, the desert used to be somewhere over the crest of hills in the far distance – peering towards a sliver of dark ochre he claims the land once held it’s ground there against the encroaching sands during his grand pa’s time – we take a quick compass reading and tack off the position with Theodolite and check it off against our dodgy map. It’s a fiddly soviet find one of cheapest that we could afford with our meager funds, everything is pretty much busted up except the distance finder – that’s all we really need for this project. Finally after 10 minutes, we get the approximation – 21.6 miles SW. We took a whole lot of similar reading through out our journey from Duo hang and guess what?

There’s a big deficit between what the map shows and what we are seeing. That’s why we are using an old map to trace out the before and after image. It’s starting to piece up very nicely, the desert seems to be swallowing up everything around it like a whirlpool – what happened? Is it a natural phenomenon? Or was it man made?

One clue lies in the history of China itself in the tumultuous period just before the cultural revolution when millions of cadres flooded into the countryside in an effort to barrel China into the industrial age. The commissars set up communes to produce everything from pig iron to uranium. Result: they cut down every single tree to fuel their furnaces. Fast forward today: The Chinese government is facing an ecological disaster of it’s own making. Gone are the natural wind barriers offered by trees. Gone also are the natural retaining walls of shrubs that used to draw a line in the sand. Now nothing stands in her way, the fast-growing desert makes up more than a quarter of China’s land mass. There’s a renewed urgency to combat desertification and drought, and step up a drive to halt the ochre menace. The danger is greatest in these parts in Northern China which is battling its worst drought in a decade.

The lack of renewable resources is the No.1 reason accounting for desertification. It’s such a big problem the government has even installed communal methane gas facilities that use animal dung and human waste to produce energy so the people no longer need to chop down trees. This is the reason why we on this expedition, to show case our new solar invention and hopefully go one stage towards redressing the need to use precious natural resources. We need to test it first and gather empirical data for our home team to research on further – our mission is critical.

To hold back the desert, the Forestry department has planted shrubs, they look like the hardy variety. According to the locals, the roots go deep and hold the ground firm  – Mr Chou tells us that his donkeys like to munch on them when it gets really hot – the government has since warned the farmers not to allow their livestock to stray into these anti-desertification measures. It doesn’t seem to be working – we see a few goats munching on them indolently. From where we stand the dunes look menacing. Peering at us through leather worn faces, a group of elders brew tea with a dash of aniseed oil, we trade cigarettes for petrol, they’re getting a better deal judging from the poor quality of the fuel but we don’t have a choice – our tanks are nearly dry. I consult one of boys and there’s a possibility we may have to abandon one of the bikes here and proceed on only 3 remaining vehicles, the leak on the radiator needs a spot of welding and the nearest village is a good 3 days ride from here – I decide to put off the decision and turn my mind inwards sitting around a camp fire, listening to the old men as they take turns to look at 1:15 scaled parabolic dish holding it up towards the setting sun. “This looks like something we could use in the kitchen” Says one, the others burst out laughing, their tobacco stain teeth mirroring the splendor of the coopery sun – they spit so do we. Everybody learns to spit in china, even the donkeys spit and those who don’t just choke and die on the sand. Miss Manners will die in China.

In these parts the farmers grow mainly cotton and condiments – it’s not the high grade variety because there isn’t enough water to irrigate the land properly – the government has built a pipe line, but the farmers lament that the pump station breaks down all the time. Long before that according to one of the elders pointing to a rusty Soviet anti aircraft gun some distance from the moat during Mao era. The farmers were trained to fire off silver iodide rounds skywards to facilitate condensation in moisture-laden clouds. In the beginning, the idea worked like a charm to ease the drought. It was so successful that it was even used to control sandstorms and avert famines. These days as one of the elders lamented “the kids use it as a play ground.” Some looks up at the steely cloudless lapis sky to punctuate the statement, he spits and we all do the same.  

I look around, the women folk are looking at us through thatched screens. A few of them are giggling. One of the elders nudges me, “I think she likes you?” Another adds in, “Who, the donkey or the goat?” Another round of rapturous laughter breaks out followed by another spitting fest. As night approaches, we slip the old some money and trade him a 12 volt motorcycle battery – I tell him, it’s foreign, it will last forever, he looks at it suspiciously and throws it to another elder, who nods agreeably – that’s sorted out.

I am reminded even in this remote outpost at the edge of the Badain Jaran desert capitalism has scissored it’s way cutting across values and cultures, people in China these days only get off their butt for one thing – money. It highlights the constant struggle against trying to eek out a living in an environment of acute scarcity – here in these parts the encroaching desert is the nemesis. During the days of Kublai Khan and army fully armored even marched against an ochre sandstorm historians document as the “Rah-Mat-there” – this is what life is like for most farmers in situated at the Northen provinces. It’s a hard land and inhospitable land where live hangs perpetually in the balance – it wasn’t always like this, 2 days ride from where we are about 300 kilometers straight across the delta that over the lip of a salt lake used to be one watering holes along China’s famed ancient silk road. We passed it three days ago and although the sand dunes had engulfed the once prosperous trading outpost, there was plenty of evidence to suggest a lake even once existed there.

These days, only old men and slivers of land is all that stands against the path of the menacing desert.

I better save some batteries on my Nokia Communicator. I may need it tomorrow, just in case. Just in case.

(Nacramanga / Memphisto / Atomic Monkey / Keith Ho – travelogue – The Brotherhood Press 2007 – This Post Has Been Brought To You Live By Aurora your trusted Interspacing Logistics Teamster – Your Trusted Com-Sat Provider)

According to market predictions see here Financial Times and TODAYonline The future belongs very much to big juggernaut firms, well I am sorry. I cannot buy into that logic. Only because if one really takes the trouble to peruse the landscape of winners and losers in the last 4,000 years. Most of the big have gone the way of the dinosaurs – hey, I got news for you, they didn’t half make it –  not the Greeks, not even the Roman Empire neither did the Ancient Chinese – the same goes for Communism – remember Enron? What about Arthur Anderson, Worldcom, Panam and so on, the list of the deader than dead goes on and on. Question: Does God reside in the big or small?

(Italics As This Was Narrated In A Conversation During A Cycling Session)

These days big is fast becoming a dirty word in certain quarters, a liability even. Not so long ago, no conversation about innovation would be complete without recounting the story of 3M inventor Art Fry’s eureka moment that led to the Post-it Note. Today, that tale, which verges on the staid, trite and cliche, has almost universally lost its zinger replaced by the story of the iPod, Apple’s omnipresent icon of design.

It should come as little surprise, then, that Apple tops the BusinessWeek-Boston Consulting Group’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for the third year in a row. That sort of staying power speaks volumes about the sort of innovation that matters today.  

Unlike the Post-it narrative, which is all about the story of juggernaut big businesses – the iPod is all about the God of small, don’t forget where it all started, in a garage and in rooms where clothes go to die – the first computer that rolled out in the late 70’s looked like dorky dinky toys which their creators claim would increase office productivity, but induced migraine no end – fast forward 40 odd years and for the first time small isn’t just beautiful it’s the way to go – it a cogent case that epitomizes today’s innovation sensibilities. These includes everything that goes with the whole idea of being dwarfish, having a lower profile so that it can hug the terrain and be a moving target, the agility and speed that comes with being compact. The responsiveness and ability to shift gears rapidly to changing conditions. All these are reflected very much in the logic of being small.

I am not a big fan of big firms, hyper markets, mega malls or churches who regularly spend millions building shopping malls – one of the problems associated with bigness shows up only to evidently in how size can often become a menace – not only business wise but socially as well. All of us have seen only too clearly what happens when oligarchies get so big that they start to diversify into all sorts of mind numbing Byzantine mega projects in the name of economic progress – town councils that think that they should moonlight as Warren Buffet – pastors who get so delusional, they actually believe Jesus ask them to play Donald Trump – charities that get so out of touch with reality, they cease completely to be charitable in every sense of the word – sure they’re making money – sure, they’re even maximizing opportunities – and probably getting a good return on their investments, but what happened to the focus, philosophy and raison of their existence? Hello, what happened to the goal?

What’s the real cost when they grow so big that they ultimately lose sight of why they were even created in the first place? Did Jesus pull into a Jerusalem in a gulf stream private jet or did he ride a donkey? Are town councils supposed to looking into ways and means to enhance the quality of life for citizens? Or should they be preoccupied with the whole idea of maximizing their returns on investments? Are mega state owned corporations supposed to be defined by how many small enterprises they can start up or is it just a case of chasing a few percentage points.

That’s the problem with being big. After a while the whole idea just gets so conflated, that big becomes the end rather than the means to serve a greater end. Like communism that started off as a great experiment to uplift the livelihood of millions, it was despite its ideological flaws noble and even good, but it too became a victim of bigness and with it, walls, snipers and rotweillers crept into the picture.

That’s the whole problem with big firms, big churches and big anything. After a while the big gets so big, it squeezes out the good currency. Instead of it serving people and enhancing their quality of life, it just degenerates into some mindless mantra of chasing something that is so far off from the original goal.

That I am reminded may be an economic success, but in every practical term of the word it is still a social menace as it creates gross inequalities. Because big means, it has the ability to monopolize, dominate and control, it was the capacity to exact a powerful leverage on society. For example the price of electricity determines the price of hundreds of goods and services. Religion determines very much how you will treat others. That degree of being able to change determines whether one is either just existing or living, enjoying life or just languishing, human or an simply an ant.

It brings into start focus the whole idea of pursuing size for the sake of size. The issues relating to what constitutes ‘real’ growth should never be mindlessly pursued. We all know what happens when big business, big churches and big anything is given free rein - the environment suffers, people and planet have to pick up the pieces. The challenge for leaders these days to regularly keep big small by continually questioning the goal – what is it all for? Are we doing the things that serves the goal? Or has the means taken over the goal?

Asking these sort of questions goes a long way towards supplying the logic; for instance what’s the point of investing X billion in Y company somewhere in the yodeling Alps in a bank that used to bankroll Adolf Hitler and his motley crew if all it does is produce Z yield and does absolutely nothing to spawn local innovation and creativity? In the final analysis, that’s just a travesty of rational logic and a waste of opportunity cost – that’s the real problem with bigness, it gets so big that after a while big power tends to develop into a government in itself.

Big power needs to be decentralized. It should be broken up and scattered into many small stakeholders so that the fortunes of the people will not be solely dependent on the whim or caprice of only a few. The fact that these select few may even be imminently qualified not the issue or that they may even be socially minded is irrelevant. That is precisely the philosophy of seeing the virtue of small – Society needs the small stake holders, if it is to progress holistically, but there is an increasing tendency to focus on practical utility of pursuing the big to the exclusion of everything else related to the small. This leads to a new ‘post-biggie’ culture in which every oligarchy, from statutory boards to town councils treat everything as an opportunity for mindless wealth creation and a saleable commodity; Result: society risks losing many of the benefits that these oligarchies were originally develop to address. 

If the history of innovation and creativity tells us anything from the examples of silicon valley and the numerous inventions that emerged from garages where kids were struggling with rubber bands and super glue, it is simply this: real wealth can only come when the big empower the multitude of the small to nurture their dreams – not for the big to grow bigger and bigger at the expense of the small, after all did they ever stop and ask, how the hell did they get so big in the first place?

You go figure that out. My money is on the small any day. You don’t believe me? Let’s compete! The bigger they are, the harder, they fall…just make sure, you remember to get out of the way…….timbeeeeeeeeeer!

 

Darkness 2008 / Harphoon / Astro Boy - The Brotherhood Press

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How much do you really value your privacy? When was the last time you audited your privacy? Is it really even important? What really makes up privacy? Did you know Singapore has been rated as “an endemic surveillance society” in survey: The 2007 International Privacy Ranking survey by Privacy International (PI) puts the republic in a category where it scored the worst for privacy protection.

I don’t know about you, but I have been pretty big on privacy ever since I could remember being dropped as a baby. I am so big on privacy, that’s probably the only reason why I became a prefect in school, it offered me an opportunity to read the newspaper all alone in the perfect’s mess room – the rest was just aerobics. This affliction carried through to NS when I gathered only officers in my unit had a right to a wooden partition, it wasn’t really a room, but at least I didn’t have to share a bunk bed with some stranger – yeap, I am big on privacy.

That’s why whenever I come across things like this; it just rubs me the wrong way - a crass case of neglect that has led to the loss of discs containing the names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account details and National Insurance numbers of 25 million people in the United Kingdom, (see reports by the BBC, the Financial Times, the Guardian and The Times).

It just sends me reeling. Yes I know, I may sound a bit on the edge regarding this topic but to me its important enough to still provoke fainting spells. I happen to be one of those who believe privacy is important; important enough to stick to cash purchases when buying stuff and I never ever sign up for freebies. I am one of those who model my life after nuclear submarines circa 1960, who run deep and silent, leaving hardly any electronic trails, not even so much as a residue. For starters, I am unabashed about paying a higher price for a little bit of privacy. I don’t really know why. If I am pressed, I guess it has alot to do with the way I am hardwired as a person, I just don’t want my thoughts, my ideas and my possessions being known to others unless it comes from me.

These days with the digital age privacy is frittering away imperceptibly. Firms even know how much you typically spend on food – with your 5% rebate link point card they can track everything you purchase right down to; how many rolls of toilet paper you’re using, pretty nifty, if you happen to be the shit snooper in Prima Deli. Now, now I know all this loss of privacy talk may seem trivial to some of you. After all aren’t we living in the full unedited glory of the blog era? That great age of emancipation when the likes of Otto Fong prances around baring and telling all?– really privacy must look like a corset lamp shade in a Martha Stewart show. It just doesn’t quiet fit, does it?

Why should privacy even matter in this age and time? What actually makes up privacy as a concept? Is it even a right?

The right to privacy – defined by Louis Brandeis is the right to be left alone i.e the right not to be kachau – at first glance it seems to be an elemental principle of civilized life. It’s the rallying cry of activist fighting for everything from the right to breast feed in Orchard to the sanctity of keeping those pesky camera’s away from the water cooler in the office. The problem with privacy only reveals itself on closer examination; it’s missing one vital ingredient; it lacks clarity.Infact, as a concept its incredibly shambolic and messy.

Let me explain what I mean. For one it’s self selecting; I don’t mind those snoopy camera’s in danky underground underpasses but I don’t like them in hotel lobbies eyeballing the way I look at those waitresses with high slits – besides when you really think about the whole idea of privacy, its hardly a robust concept. It really only becomes an issue when you realize your ‘rights’ have suddenly been violated – so just as my neighbor in my block can sometimes see me skipping out of bed for a quick bench press whenever I find it difficult to turn in. I too can see her busying herself over her internet binges over Victoria Secrets – now providing all of us continue doing a good job of pretending in the lifts and common corridor ‘everyone is minding their business’ and we are all happily playing prudish Victorians. Everything remains fine. The illusion of privacy is maintained.

So there you go, privacy is really flakey, nothing more than a state of mind.

I know just saying that may sound preposterous in an era where everything seems to be an inflation of rights. Almost everything we want or need we state in the form of a “rights” these days, whether it’s warranted or not. As a result our “rights per se” has become increasingly sloppy and petulant often appearing more shambolic than clear.

One of the main problem I believe about privacy is that it really means different things to different people – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Even in the sphere of the internet, there are some bloggers who are very prepared to step into the lime light like Yawning Bread (one of the few who still writes intelligent articles) and then there are those who prefer to behave like the phantom of the opera, scurrying here and there in the shadows, that just goes to show, there’s hardly even any consensus on what we all typically refer to as the ‘right’ to privacy. We’re not very clear on exactly what we mean by the term “right,” and while many people can state what they think their rights are, my experience is that the claims are not very well thought out.

An initial challenge is to separate legal rights from moral rights. Many confuse the two, leading to some unacceptable conclusions. Legal rights are those that are specifically given to us by the political system in which we find ourselves. They do not always coincide with what we consider our moral rights to be.

For example, until the middle of the 19th century in the South in America, some people had the legal right to hold other people as slaves. But no one is willing to argue that they had the moral right to do so, no matter what the law at the time said.

The right to privacy is even more problematic from a legal standpoint ( I am not a lawyer but Dotty is and that’s what she tells me). One reader asked where our right to privacy was written down, and the short and easy answer is that it isn’t, at least not specifically. Most court rulings involving privacy have come from reading between the lines, which is why so many proclamations involving privacy are controversial.

From an ethical point of view, our concern isn’t with the legal right, but with the moral right, but really that’s a tome and probably takes a good hour to flesh out. So let me gut it out the long and splice in the short, why should we all have a right to privacy?

My view is that the right to privacy comes from our notion of having sovereignty over our own person – that each of us are very much like independent nations. Even if that whole idea of control is illusionary, it’s necessary, if we are to remain responsible for our decisions while maintaining our sense of autonomy.

This requires us to keep appropriate boundaries between us and other people. An important aspect of psychological health is to maintain these boundaries appropriately. To share intimate details of tangled sheets in our lives to all comers even strangers is just as much a sign of mental disorder as is allowing no intimacy at all.

When we allow people to have unwarranted access to us, it diminishes the control we have over our own lives. I am reminded knowledge is power – but power to whom? Power, at what price? Power, at whose detriment?

Some things I believe should be kept as far as possible from all of us. If we are to remain whole and mentally healthy individuals, that’s one more reason why, I am not a big fan of loud people, loud governments, loud firms, loud leadership, loud religion, loud music or loud anything - for me whenever, I am faced with anything that challenges my decibel intolerance. It just breeches that imaginary line in my head that just says, “hey you’re too close for comfort,” I just switch off. I am all for quiet firms, quiet religion, quiet food, quiet leadership and quiet governments, the type that respects my sense of space and scale. The type that’s polite enough to respect my right to say ‘no.’ The type that’s considerate enough to know it’s place like a well heeled terrrier, there but still not kinda there yet - like elevator music, it’s doesn’t try too hard, it’s effortless and knows it’s place.

That reminds me, I need to get a better pair of binoculars – I think my neighbor who likes to parade herself in Victoria Secrets just upgraded hers.  Guess what they say about technology may after all be true – we may not need to try so hard after all – at pretending that is.

Have to fly now!

Darkness 2008 – The Brotherhood Press. 

Don’t Miss Out On The Future!

Looking At The Crystal Ball For 2008

December 31, 2007

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