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Indisputably, the greatest change in Singapore over the last ten years is its culture – namely the growing preoccupation with money. Let’s be clear, this isn’t going to be another money is the root of all evil rant or preachy take on how people should regard the idea of money – the way I see it, there is nothing wrong with striving for money per se. There is however something very wrong when money becomes the predominant activity where it even assumes an end by itself – this hardly requires any elaboration – when the money only culture roots itself into any society, it’s effects can be pernicious – as not only does the measure of a person and his worth become inextricably linked with the whole idea of money; but what also happens is it becomes the preeminent benchmark that determines everything that is good or worthless – in short it narrows out the field of possibilities squeezing out all else.

Question: Is Singapore barreling inexorably towards that kind of money obsessed culture, that I have just described? I’ve be honest with you, when I read about high flying civil servants who are so disconnected with the ground swell as to even splurge out on Fin de siècle Parisian gastronomic holidays – public servants who scam taxpayers just so they can crash their Italian sport cars into lampost – ex civil servants who have no qualms about blowing $800 on a tryst – and how our political class seem to be only interested in rhapsodizing endlessly about our stellar GDP growth and gilded cage standard of living despite failing to deliver any discernible benefits to the average man in the street or how that might even bridge the chronic income equality. Then say what you like, but what begins to emerge is an unsavory picture where its even conceivable money now rivals or even exceeds the whole idea of values vis-a-vis not only does this single track goal subvert good values, but it may also lead good people to do things that are morally questionable, if not reprehensible, thus inflicting a deep gash, in the concept of the whole idea of public service.

I realize only too well when the moral narrative is juxtaposed against a regime where minister regularly get paid million dollar salaries – the whole idea of higher principles and values sounds rather out of synch and may even be closer to an admirable sentiment than something that can offer a real workable solution – after all say what you like but just as no one can run away from the law of economics – a corollary of that logic also imposes on us the belief, if you are only willing to pay peanuts; then all you’re probably going to end up with is monkeys – and we all know that it pays naught to have monkeys managing the levers of power.

True as that may be, but true to only a point. And this is what many may have forgotten – instead they may have elevated this notion into the upper reaches of a fait accompli i.e a fantasy.

I guess one reason why the idea of money and high performance is so often seen as one of the same reality in Singapore may have something to do with how we have all been subtly conditioned to only perceive value on in quantitative terms of yield, profit and return on investment terms – my point is before we can even begin deconstructing the myth that money = talent = high performance = good life for all, it’s necessary to understand this uniquely Singaporean mindset is an acquired taste and not something that comes naturally to whole idea of the public service culture in any part of the world (though in the banking community, for some funny reason it seems perfectly normal to pay out creamy bonuses even when they are foreclosing, that could also be one reason why so many taxpayers want to light them up) – to me, that explains why the money culture has managed to entrench itself so deeply in the Singaporean mentality -coloring not only our worldview; but also how we may define personal and organizational success. In summary, if we cannot define progress in terms of GNP and GDP, then it simply doesn’t exist – the flip side of that myopic lens of seeing the world in only utilitarian, pragmatic and functional terms is it’s bound to squeeze out all other considerations which cannot measured. Wonder no more why moral considerations and so many other factors that should normally feature in the decision making process are simply extinguished?

A side effect of pursuing this corrosive logic is not only do we end up debasing the whole idea of public service as simply a transactional quid pro quo exchange but what it also does is cast out the spirit of public service and idealism. Neither is it possible for us to gain a deeper understanding of how inuring the system with chasing the buck culture brings only untold grief to the submerged classes who have been ravaged by unbridled competition. I realize only to well when we speak these days about engendering and nourishing this spirit in Singapore it’s like talking about snakes in Norway – the bloody thing doesn’t exist; but when I read about the great endeavors that mankind has undertaken throughout the course of history – putting an end to slavery; seeding the idea of democracy and saying no apartheid and banishing parochialism and sectarian violence – I am reminded none of these great endeavors would have been possible without recruiting the idea of nourishing higher ideals and principles - it’s inconceivable for me to see how we can work towards a better world if the system is designed to attract only those who wish to benefit financially from government service. I don’t deny that idea may have of late gained currency as we are always informed that there is only one type of man that resides in every one of us – and he is none other than Homo economicus, or Economic human, a being so pragmatic and rational and driven by self-interest that he has even come to color the entire discipline of the economics along with the marketing manifesto and how policies are regularly crafted – however what’s so often elided about the story of Homo economicus, is he’s first and foremost a primal and feral creature – if Homo economicus was a real man, we would probably have to shoot him with a tranquilizer gun, put him in chains and pack him off to get his head examined by Lee Wei Ling as his serial single mindedness to seek out profit at every turn and opportunity is the very reason why the financial world is in such a mess and so many continue to be shackled in the chains of income inequality- to me this is a curious state of affairs, as since most of us will have very little difficulty in understanding why it may be a lousy idea to hire someone who regularly hear voices to pilot a 747 – or that it’s might not be an ideal fit to employ someone who has a habit of breaking out in tongues whenever he is stressed as an air traffic controller. But when it comes to managing the free market enterprise or crafting policies that affect millions of lives no one seems to be particularly bothered about putting a psychopathic profiteer in charge who probably thinks moral probity is a name of a range of womens panties – that’s why I don’t believe this flawed model of humanity can ever be allowed free rein let alone predominate so much of our thinking as to even shape the outlook of the civil service culture right down to coloring the broader complexion of statecraft, if the goal is to create a progressive society.

If the 2008 economic meltdown has taught us anything at all – it is simply this, life is not so simple where all one has to do is pay the highest dollar to attract the best talent thereby securing a lasting and stable future – it’s a gross simplification to assume the profit motive alone can be the the central linchpin that reliably translates talent into high performance or for that matter deliver the idea of the level playing field – as if we continue to pursue his jalopy of an idea to its logical end not only will there always be a divide between theory and practice, but as we all saw so clearly in the carnage of the financial crisis, if the profit motive is not coupled to the idea of higher principles, values and ethics – then the shit will hit the fan – neither does it profit us to frame the ills of our age in purely technical and mechanical terms while decamping from the importance of values and the role it might have on the outcome: while palpably true globalization may have exacerbated income inequality but so has unbridled run away train immigration along with the state sanctioned habit of passing cost spikes to the end user automatically – while no one denies the capricious forces of globalization do not lend themselves easily to control, but can we say the same of policies that guide immigration and the corrosive culture of passing the cost to the end user like an automaton?

Doing away with a principled approach may be fine and well, if you’re fixing a broken pump; but as we all witnesses in the financial crisis and even the recent BP fiasco: avarice, greed and willingness to trade short term gain for long term benefits simply create perfect conditions for grief. And this again underscores the importance of having moral coherency instead of what we may mistakenly believe to be talent, if we are to craft good policies that do not only serve to heighten the already acute anxieties of our times.

If there are any lessons to be gleaned from the shattered dreams of the last economic crisis, it is only this: this is not an economic glitch or a failure of financial system as we are so often led to believe by the apparatus of mass assimilation, but at the heart of the problem its an old fashion moral dilemma –  where idolizing the money culture played a preponderant role in the anatomy of failure. To me the lessons are clear, we cannot do without a moral compass – if the goal is to build a holistic goody good machine where the public is to continue to trust the system. It’s conceivable we may even need to set a new bearing so that we can begin to ween ourselves from this idea that high performance can only had at the expense of seeding a culture that encourages only people whose only metier is to know which side of the bread is buttered – if we continue on the current path all we would be doing is filling up the ranks with parvenu’s and the automata – Rather what is required instead is to revivify the system by placing a renewed emphasis on moral and ethical wholeness – Neither should we discount character so completely as to believe for one moment that what a person chooses to do in his personal life has nothing whatsoever to do with his professional life – if he were a businessman then I say; let the market sort him out, even then as we all saw from the Madoff scandal, there are limits in the absence of ethical safeguards – and this begs the question: what more if the person in question happens to be a public servant? Can we then say, the only line that will keep this man in check may well be the very same “admirable sentiment,” that our custodians of power once considered expedient to dismiss as irrelevant and incapable of eliciting the right attitude for public service?

I think not. You see I just happen to have a wonder weapon on my side, history is dead stacked against Homo Economis.

Darkness 2011

(This write up is a condensed version of a speech running 12 pages delivered by Darkness during the eve of the New Year sitting in the Laanstrad before the four houses of the Confederation in Primus Aldentes Prime – as a result the Imperium voted 45 to 389 in favor of continuing to subsidize all underground gaming subscriptions for 2011 – The Brotherhood abstained from voting and exercised its powers of veto under Article 19 of the Interspacing Pact – recorded and edited by the Chronicler – Hansard 88371-2948AD)

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“I think sooner or later when you come to a certain point – whether you make 10 or 20 million; it doesn’t really change anything –  I used to hate Bill Gates, because I saw Microsoft as some some giant vacuum cleaner; wherever they went, they just sucked up everything and McDonalized it – so whatever came out at the other end of his evil empire was just bland, tasteless and more of the sameness. I wrote a long 6 page letter to Bill Gates when I was an angry young man and ended it with, “I hope you choke on your money!” I still think Bill Gates was bad for the industry especially gaming. He nuked it! If he didn’t run Microsoft in the 80’s and 90’s we would all probably be togging iPad’s as far back as 10 years ago that’s why so many people called him Darth Vader.

But something wonderful happened to Bill Gates, he met Belinda – and she changed not only his outlook; but I believe also his philosophy and values; so today he sees the world very differently – because its not easy for a man to just drop everything like a hat do a 180 degree turn and devote himself to a cause that no one is really interested in – helping people and planet. I believe Belinda had a positive influence on him. My young apprentice, I think you should always strive to marry a girl like that, thats why I think (deleted) is good for you; she may not be a looker; but hey you cant be rolling around in bed 24/7 your pecker is going to drop off. Besides sex is overated after a while every man eventually learns nothing beats online porn – trust me the power of imagination can move the earth. So the way I see it, she’s good to go! So what the fuck are you waiting for?

As for me. When I make it one day; I want to buy one hour of Mr Gates time – I want to say sorry to him for all those nasty things I once wrote in that letter – I want to tell him that he’s just a swell guy – he’s got it all together – I don’t think many people can cultivate that sort of wholeness when it comes to money and power – most of them are still on an ego trip.”

To catch up on essays you may have missed click on the “Brotherhood Press Articles” clicker directly below this article.

 


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Seems like many PRC girls find the lure of quick money by jumping into the sack with rich fatties irresistible.  I am not here to do a reenactment of  George Yeo & Co, “join me for a spot of cocktail talk session.” So if you happen to be the Chinese ambassador reading this – please remember that I am in no way speaking anecdotally about PRC girls;  neither should anything I write here be treated as a statement of fact- this is just a blog and it’s strictly based on my personal take on the matter.

I guess one reason why so many PRC girls resort to this illicit stream of income – has a lot to do with how comparatively, the average Singaporeans is better off when compared to the average soyabean farmer who is probably surviving on mud cakes and tree bark congee in China.

The typecasting of the young Chinese women who come over to Singapore only to end up into the sex trade seems to be so prevalent these days – that image is fast rooting itself in our national landscape. In a couple of years it may even be able to compete with our Merlion – the situation however is not as bad as In some countries, where the sex trade has become so entrenched in the national pysche, that it has even morphed into a national pastime – in Thailand for example the sex industry generates $4.3 billion annually and accounts for an estimated 3% of the country’s economy. And guess what? Most of the demand is driven by the domestic economy. My point is when society goes down that road; then its conceivable the problem is here to stay given time it will become so ingrained that it will simply be intractable.

While law enforcement agencies, researchers and women’s rights advocates continue to point the crooked finger at flesh traffickers, triads, pimps, brothel owners and corrupt cops for being responsible for the illicit sex trade – no one really looks at the root cause – the way I see it; these aren’t the main culprits who are responsible for fueling the China connection sex industry in Singapore.

The way I see it is Simple Simon – the primary reason why the flesh trade continues to flourish in Singapore is due primarily to the people who are responsible for generating the “demand.” It’s simple economics – demand since time immemorial has always been a function that has driven supply. And to suggest that it can be the other way round is simply disingenuous – that’s one reason why every governments since man first experimented with city living in Ur some 4,000 years ago located in present day Iraq has failed to stamp out the oldest profession in the world. Because whenever they go for the pimps, brothel owners etc, all they are really doing is constricting the supply, not realizing that only increases the demand exponentially thus provides further incentives to perpetuate the flesh trade.

Solution would appear simple, kill the demand and the supply of China hookers will simply die out – that’s easier said than done – perhaps as most of us look on from the five foot way at this sordid episode; it may be a good opportunity to press the pause button and ask ourselves – why is it although the vast majority of us who would have absolutely no hesitation for saying NO to funding child labor, slavery, apartheid or any form of exploitation that demeans another human – but when it comes to fueling the sex industry, its another story all together? Something to consider – how then do you even begin to talk about managing the demand – when you get fatties who are so completely fucked up in their heads, that they are even willing to pay $800 for a one night stand? I have no illusions who is to blame here; none whatsoever – like they say, it takes two to tango.

I am very clear.

Darkness 2011

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“If you want to know the real value of a man. Look very closely at what type of woman he is goes out with – I find that, that’s a very good litmus test of character.”

“I agree Singaporedaddy, that is why we prefer camels to horses, they are more loyal, less finicky and more even tempered.”

“But hold on a second Al Khaleed, (Liaison officer of the Saffron route), Zorro also has a horse and it is quite loyal, he whistles and the horse comes like a taxi.”

“True very true Singaporedaddy, but camels are better, when we whistle, they come into our tents.”

“You don’t say now Al Khaleed.”

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Singaporedaddy, the elders of the tribes in the gulf gaming sector have requested me to ask you whether it is possible for you people to fashion a camel with two humps instead of one?

That’s out of the question Al Khaleed, you see we already have enough problems trying to make camels walk naturally using computer graphics with one hump; so two humps is definitely out of the question.

The Maliki and the Al Shaud tribes are willing to pay handsomely Liaison officer.

Listen here, every time I visit the Saffron route we cross legs in a wadi for a tribal meeting with you rag heads; and we always end up talking about nothing but bleeding camels! No Al Khaleed. Enough!

The Prince is most insistent and besides you both went to school together, so you owe us besides we bankrolled this gaming chapter so we want two hump camels or no humps at all!

Don’t you rag heads know anything. You cant bloody have a camel with no humps. For good sake camels we all know that camels with no humps are all Christian animals.

Christians! Blasphemy!

Oh is that so. Then pray tell me why do they call camels with no humps….Humphrey then????

Conversation captured by an auto-bot somewhere along the Saffron Route in the planet Sahhidinana – The Brotherhood Press 2010

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Hi there, lets dive in for a quickie – have you all notice something that is sorely missing from this whole Wikileaks business? Yes, a genuinely alarmed public; coming to think of it, did you know that 9 out of 10 netizens actually agree its a great idea to dump loads of classified information like rubber ducks in the internet? Coming to think of it, why is there so much sympathy for Wikileaks & Co? Could it be, the whole idea of a bunch of cyber snoopers hacking away in rooms where pizza and T-shirts regularly go to die conjures up homily sugary images of a svelte David squaring it off against big moustachio Goliath?

What’s behind the psychology that drives this gleeful schadenfreude?

Consider this, what if we take the trouble to reframe the whole Wikileaks dilemma in personal one to one terms of whether every person deserves to enjoy the right to privacy? Then don’t be surprised if the response of most undergrounders and netizen is they support the idea – since many have long winced come to regard the idea of privacy as synonymous with the notion of nursing their own oppositional identity against an ever more intrusive state – most if not all will rail against the idea that no one should ever be denied a right to privacy. Yet paradoxically, when we ask by what legitimacy do under grounders derive their higher authority to breach the private sphere of governments all round the world? Then these same people not only begin making teeth sucking sounds but they show no inclination  whatsoever to defend the same rights that they claim to be so passionate about vis-a-vis, safeguarding the right to privacy – and instead go off on a wide tangent about how evil needs to be defeated blah blah blah blah –  this just happens to be my first hand account based on my many discussions with under grounders and netizens since this whole Wikileaks issue tanked.

And this should prompt us to ask, why don’t most of us see the need to extend the same “rights” which we consider elemental to governments? It’s curious, as When Edison Chen inadvertently splayed pictures of all the tangled sheets exploits of his dearly most unfortunates online? Most netizens lamblasted him by packing him off to Coventry. But when it comes to politicians and power brokers the same spirit of empathy is not only missing; but some even rent, good lah, you deserve it lah!

One reason why I believe no one seems to be particularly sympathetic about governments losing their right to privacy – may have something to do with public perception that has eroded the cultural authority of governments since 9/11 – unlike those heady days some ten years ago when the public would rarely question officialdom – these days the public has grown smarter and more skeptical about the whole idea of power and politics – gone are the days when the public could just be counted to buy into whatever claptrap governments and the apparatus of mass assimilation are willing to dish out – in the wake of a generation that now looks back (whether they experienced or are reading about it, it’s the same thing) with regret at not heeding the Biblical wisdom: never have conversations with a Bush – if you don’t want to end up wandering around the desert for a very long time asking for directions – the Americans and her allies once ignored that stricture and rushed head long into a war only to discover the illusion that the weapons of mass destruction was merely a fiction created by the neocons to sell the idea of a good fight – this coupled with the recent financial crisis of 2008, where governments and big business seemed not only to be collusion but complicit in fleecing the tax payer – along with the recent BP fiasco simply goes to suggest governments and fat cat businesses don’t deserve to be trusted at all – they are all rotten right down to the core – besides when you’re powerful and pay yourself loads of money its hard to sell yourself as the underdog – hence the belief (real or imagine matters very little) that the world could from time to time do with a few cyber-pranksters to keep old-boy networked centers of power and politics, like governments and fat cat companies, in check. Cyber hooliganism may still be frowned up, but so long as they are perceived to be the underdogs in the fight against big power – they are certainly almost impossible to hate. And no amount of moralizing is going to change that.

Darkness 2011

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“Sir, it’s a giant cup cake, topped with a cherry and loads of twirls, but its armed with a 88mm, fires a photon loaded armor piercing shell – the skin looks like chocolate but it’s actually kinetic armor – I think it can blunt our best anti tank ordnance.”

“Gentlemen say hello to the future of warfare; this is how our Japanese and Korean friends are playing the game these days, no wonder our armor aren’t picking them off sooner – Gentlemen, they are using the power of cute; why didn’t our defense scientist think about that? If a kitty cat can drive everybody gaga crazy and make all their knees weak like jelly; then why do we even need to spend millions developing our arms industry in the virtual? I happen to know the team who made this; the man who developed this is Hiroshi Kondoh, he is 60 this year, he grew up on TOHO productions and moonlights as a designer for the Korayabashi stable – and these people want to return to their childhood where there is no ugliness, to an age of innocence – where everything was once white as spring snow.”

Review of a captured YK-88 enemy tank in the region of Inchi-Oso-Bahn somewhere along the marsh plains in the planet of D”ni – the Brotherhood Press 2011

No this is not written by moir. And another thing the Brotherhood usually doesn’t allow people to post – but I am told I have to put it up, because someone knows someone who is someone – it’s a response from a reader responding to my recent essay, Why does Malaysia need to go nuclear?

Darkness 2011

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Submitted on 2010/12/29 at 9:08 am
Saw your post on Global Voices.

As someone who is studying nuclear energy, I want to address many of the things you said here. It’s fantastic to see a blogger expressing interest in these issues and offering their participation.

I should point out that Chernobyl involved neither a mushroom cloud of green from radiation, but it doesn’t matter very much to the debate at hand. Of greater importance is the energy situation and perceptions of it in Malaysia.

Some context:
(history)
From 1990 until today, Malaysia’s economy has ballooned and electricity use with it. Demand increased and electricity production from coal, oil, and natural gas followed it closely with hydro production almost constant (not including the soon to be online Bakun Dam)

(energy)
Malaysia’s energy comes from oil (41%), natural gas (35%), and coal (15%). Almost all of the rest is from hydro and the rest of the renewables remain as a rounding error. Half of the coal is imported. Half of natural gas production is exported (with few imports). And oil is basically all imported.

I am sympathetic to your frustration with TNB, and I hear very similar attacks on the electric utilities in my own nation. If you can fix that, then all the better, but how and who should do it? How else should the sector be managed? And how can we answer the key question – where will the energy come from? Double your natural gas production and use it all domestically within 2 decades – good, but with future economic growth that will probably only keep it at 35%. Develop all new hydro possible – great, but that only adds a handful of GW upon a grid that is 23.3 GW and straining under current growth, not to mention irrevocable damage to rain forests and species extinction, which is possibly the greatest damage humans can do.

But then there’s oil and coal. Global demand for these will continue to soar and Malaysia must DECREASE what it uses to remain competitive.

I agree with you that the issue is framed very poorly. Nuclear isn’t Malaysia’s only option. To tell the truth, this isn’t about meeting future energy needs. They are already not met domestically since Malaysia is a rampant energy importer. It is less energy independent than the US and the EU in fact. Today it imports what it needs and it will do so in the future – the question is how much. This may or may not be a big difference for citizens, but for major industries it makes all the difference. In fact, the entire issue comes down to global competitiveness. If Malaysia becomes more energy independent then it can keep a strong export economy but otherwise it could fail to compete.

Nuclear aids in these economic goals because the fuel (which needs to be imported) is a small cost relative to the cost of the plants and their technology. Thus a nation with few energy resources can use human resources to compete with energy superpowers. But TNB is unlikely to accomplish this. Possibly so. Nuclear power is a major undertaking and Japan and South Korea had to become experts in the technology to use it like they do, it’s difficult to see Malaysia do that.

It will not happen this way. Nuclear power in Malaysia will be dependent on foreign technology and services. That model has failed in the past (look at the Philippines), but times have changed. The UAE is buying nuclear plants in a near turnkey manner, and the nuclear nations are eager to sell plants in this way. Additionally, new plant designs are helping this change. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are designed to operate in a nation with little domestic expertise and do so safely. But we all know human factors are important for safety, so it’s likely that the vendor will be involved in operation and training for the life of the plant. Areva, Westinghouse, and all the companies will have special designs that allow companies like TNB to run a nuclear plant with only a modest educated workforce.

There remains an important question. If the goal of energy independence is global competitiveness, then how will foreign technology aid in this goal? Well, it still provides emission-free power and a secured energy resource once it’s built. It’s easy to see how a national government would want this, and I think that’s where the frustration should be directed. TNB will act in it’s own interest. It’s the government’s job to oversee them and do what’s best for the people. It’s also the government that wants energy independence for the purpose of global competitiveness.

To conclude, it’s not about options like you say. But hydro and natural gas will not “solve” the problem (of energy imports) that will not be solved regardless of the nation’s choices.

Retrieved for read club No.21. Damansara Heights / The Brotherhood

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As some of you may already know. I’ve been using the Apple’s Ipad for a while – I have to admit, it took me a while to warm up to the idea, nearly 6 months passed before I even decided to open the box. And to be honest, I was very skeptical- I suspect a big part of my cynicism stemmed from that sanguine seen that, done it and even got that T shirt attitude. 

Despite my initial reservations, I do have to admit there are many things going for the iPad culture – but this has nothing to do with the ipad itself as it has everything to do with the economy that drives the idea – truth of the matter is so much that is written today has already migrated online – newspapers, magazines and books. So what choice does one really have in the whole say of wanting to continue to read on real paper? I think most people who continue to insist that paper will rule come what may, simply haven’t bothered to do the math – when one considers that the cost benefits of plumbing to go from paper to digital, its a no brainer – the latter wins all the time in terms of formatting, speed, variety and most importantly, cost.

But will this shift be a positive development in human culture? I can only speak in terms of having used the ipad for the last 4 months. On one hand, although I acknowledge that a device like the ipad offers remarkable opportunities for self-expression and generally getting stuff on the go. On the other hand, having a limitless field of possibilities to choose from can at times be daunting and here there is a danger of being swarmed by a tsunami of noise and distraction.

I am not one of those who believe the iPad will change the world radically; so it may be a good idea for us to reframe the whole ipad versus paper debate as one where it may even be unrealistic to expect a clear winner and loser to emerge – observation suggest just like that other ancient writing instrument, the pencil, both paper and the digital page can subsist along side each other –  I find this line of argument most agreeable as it accords well with my own experience of having used the ipad and not been able to quite ween myself off physical paper – and while reading on the iPad is certainly fun and closer to the literature equivalent of l’art du déplacement – there are limits, for one, the iPad doesn’t lend itself to serious reading which requires concentration and discipline, here less is more, but the iPad simply has too many distractions (maybe its just moir)- that it’s almost impossible to sustain the focus that comes intuitively with books.

In the final analysis, no review is complete without the man who uses the machine – to me, the very idea that a handful of sexy microchips, aluminum and glass can somehow alter me along with the world borders somewhere between mumbo jumbo and effrontery; an attempt even at appropriating my right as a member of the human species – while true in very sense that I don’t see us ever returning to the physical page after iPad, any more than the steam engine is going to make a come back. I don’t expect the iPad to change the world that radically – that’s because whenever people postulate about whether this or that technology will change the world; they often discount the human condition not realizing that its usually the most important link in the causal chain that shapes everything.

As far as the human condition goes, it too has its own governing program. During my university days and early years of working for example, I found Socrates’ statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” true in every sense of the word; the clarity of thought Impressed me. The notion that the human being is a rational animal made perfect sense, and I internalized it as a basic assumption. You could say in those days, I saw the world prosaically, in very matter of fact terms.

I now find myself interrogating many of those ideas that once formed many of my assumptions, and I must admit the questions that I ask often fit awkwardly into the Singaporean landscape. Is it really true that the unexamined life is not worth living? And is it accurate to say that all there is in life is to aspire to live the rational life?

I do not know how far I wish to go on demystifying these thoughts that I have carried with me most of my adult life. All I will say is it started some 6 years ago, when I began noticing a shift in my character – I started to dine alone; this might not seem odd to most people; but to me, that was reason enough to suspect that might have been the point where I may have renounced my membership from the human tribe – shortly after that, I began to use my mathematical skills to submerge myself deeper into the virtual world, it was as if every layer I passed posed yet a series of awkward questions about the whole meaning of life, which required me to go beyond to the next level. 

It would not be entirely wrong to say my adventures in the virtual can be viewed from two distinct vantages – from the reasoned eye of Aristotle, I had perhaps lived a life of dissipation, exhausting vast amount of my intellect on nothingness; often cultivating the friendship of unworthy people who were less than desirable – then again from that other vantage where I would question the usefulness of ideas along with things, it cannot be doubted that my forays into the virtual may even have ranked alongside the great epic journeys of lore. You see I saw many things – some of which I cannot even explain as words are finite – for instance whole communities who developed their own language using sound waves complete with phonemics which allowed them to communicate silently virtually undetected – an underground culture where people would just built stuff that kept on moving frictionlessly – and much more, but nonetheless these experiences helped me to understand how wrong it is for us to even try to impose our own beliefs, prejudices and sentiments on those things that we know very little about – most importantly they allowed me to resolve that nagging question that Aristotle once posed – is it true to claim that an unexamined life is not worth living? Perhaps, but even if one’s life is filled with meaningful things they do not mean anything in and of themselves – neither do they have any intrinsic significance or value over the lives of those who we often consider unexamined. They simply are what we wish to call them. This idea of value and worthiness is hard to explain, even harder to grasp, but one thing is patently clear, its self selecting – what for example is the worth of a castle in the virtual; sure one might say that one cannot reside it it, in the physical sense – but the question that is seldom posed is why would anyone want to do that? 

That is not to deny that nifty tools like the iPad will not have the power to change the world – if I were to use my schizophrenic mind to review the iPad – the Aristotle mind would probably conclude that in 5 years everyone will be togging one of these nifty gadgets – they would be as indispensable as the ubiquitous mobile phone is today.

The other side of my brain would probably conclude iPad’s and the genre they belong too will always remain mere tools and very little else; some may conclude, reasonably, that I have become enamored with what I have seen in the virtual – that my intellect has even been seduced by imaginary worlds, intrigues and distant places that only exist as digital pixels – if they are right. So be it. I can live with that summary. There are after limits to reason. And I am glad to have discovered where the line begins and end.

Darkness 2011

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“Who are you stranger? How do you know how to speak our tongue? How long have you been watching us?”

“Shssss…one question at a time, my name is Darkness…..what is your name?”

The Valley of the Whispers – somewhere in the 7th level of Kildron – The Book of Ages – The Brotherhood Press 2010.

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You all know the adage, ask a stupid question and be prepared to get a stupid answer – in this case, when the three major ISP’s (Singtel, Starhub and M1) were asked to reveal their respective average surf speeds all of them just said, No!

How smart was their reaction? Coming to think of it, does the question even make sense? Well it depends….

Let me put it another way – how reasonable would it be to ask Ferrari or for that matter Porsche to reveal the average speed that their cars are usually driven in? I guess that sort of question would depend on a host of supplementary questions that’s quite hard to answer – locality, temperament of the driver, road conditions, weather, density of cars per stretch of road, local bye laws, commuting distance and probably 1,000 other variables.

My point is, just as it may not be reasonable to expect a car manufacturer to pin point the average speed that their cars are driven in (the best we can hope for is to ask what its rated performance under a given set of conditions) – in the same way, it may not be possible for ISP’s to reveal the average surf speed of their users; as when speed is measured in the internet, it is really a function that involves not one or two but so many variables that it may even be impossible to track let alone account for –as these would involve, the IT architecture of the ISP, the International nodes that is in use between to host country to country transactions, baud rate, average number of people logged in, infrastructure of the host server, security architecture and just as analogy of the car, a 1,000 other factors.

The problem as I see it may have something to do with how the public still doesn’t really understand the internal workings of the internet – the internet since its inception has not really changed from its original architecture – strip down the internet to its bare chassis and all it is, is a military post apocalyptic communication system.

The idea sounds simple enough, after the first nuclear strike, all the telephone lines will be down, but some linkages may still be up and running – so when a message is sent via the internet, it’s really not so different from a rat trying to get to the other side in a maze – how it does it till today believe or not is still largely unknown and a mystery, there has been many elegant math theories and I have eve formulated my own version, but none of them can claim to exhaustive – you could for instance type “dotseng,” on two separate occasions in Google, but the route by which you arrive at the site will never ever be the same.

Now take that model that I have just explained and now superimpose it on the original question asked on the ISP’s – can you please tell me what is the average surf speed of the user – and what becomes clear is it’s really one of the dumbest questions in the world.

The way I see it, a better way of making sense of this mountain of a molehill is to reframe the whole question of what is the surf speed of A,B and C ISP as a statement of fact i.e do most subscribers realize that advertized surf speeds are based on test results under optimum conditions and may not reflect the actual internet surfing experience? What steps have been taken (if any at all) by ISP’s to communicate this information to their customers so that they are able to make an informed decision? And since surf speeds vary outside test conditions; should ISP’s even be allowed to use them as an advertising crowbar to influence the public since whatever speed is advertised bears absolutely no relationship with reality? Or maybe someone in IDA just needs to get off their fat ass and earn this months salary, pronto?

I think that’s the gist of it, but above all one adage rules all, caveat emptor.

Darkness 2011.

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Singaporedaddy: “We come in the name of peace.”

Al Khaleed: “Yes, I understand what you are saying envoy of the Brotherhood, but is it the good or bad peace this time?” 

Singaporedaddy: “Al Khaleed, trust me, it is good….open the gates my friend.”

Al Khaleed, “Syukur that it is the good variety – one more question Singaporedaddy which good does this good belong too? Is it the same good that the confederation regards as bad – or the good that the gulf states consider good when we play your games?”

Singaporedaddy: “That is a very good question Al Khaleed with only bad answers.”

Somewhere along the Saffron route when it was first open in the age of the rocket – the Brotherhood Press 2010

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In the award winning documentary (barely two minutes into this and I guarantee you – you will not be able to tune off!), Food, Inc – moviemaker Kenner peels the lid off the tin on the global food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s so cleverly hidden from most of us with the complicity of regulatory agencies like the food police and the FDA. 

Kenner asserts food supply is now controlled by only a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, workers safety and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising – and often shocking truths – about what we eat, how it’s produced, how so much of our assumptions about what we regularly see in NTUC and Seng Shiong is just pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

Trust me after this, your view of food in general will go through changes like I cannot even begin to describe. I want you all to pay special attention to Part 5 at around 4.51 minutes, this is something that I am going to share with a group of super rich women in the Siglap read club – you see – I do not want the same thing to happen to Singaporeans – so I am going to wear my tightest jeans and I am going to talk to these ladies to see what we can do.

I am taking this holiday season to catch up on some of the really great documentaries that I have been hoping to chow down – I hope you scroll to the first part follow through to complete the series on Food Inc – Enjoy.

Thanks Catherine the Cat forwarding this to me, meooooooooow!

Darkness 2011

Three giant spaceships are heading towards Earth. The largest one of them is 240 kilometers wide. Two others are smaller. At present, the objects are beyond the orbit of Pluto.

The spaceships were detected by HAARD search system. The system, based in Alaska, was designed to study the phenomenon of northern lights. According to SETI researchers, the objects are nothing but extraterrestrial spaceships. They will be visible in optical telescopes as soon as they reach Mars’s orbit. The US government has been reportedly informed about the event. The ships will reach Earth in December 2012.Source: Pravda

Ten possible reasons why 3 giant alien spaceships will be landing in the padang in 1212

1. LKY just happens to be an alien elder disguised as a human(he even looks like one of them).You want proof? Why do you think he keeps insulting the human species?

2. Mas Selamat did not actually escape from Whitley Hall. He was abducted by little green men, now he has escaped back to earth and they want him back.

3. The aliens heard from Wikileaks that Singapore’s MFA talking heads have been snitching behind their backs, so they are coming to plug the leak.

4. We insulted the Gods of the aliens by allowing Las Vegas Sands at the Marina to build something that resembles too closely the ancient ruins of Stonehenge.

5. LTA has been erecting too many ERP’s and alien radio signals are jammed, so they are coming to tear them down.

6. They think that PAP stands for Pro Alien Party.

7. They think that we are actually aliens stranded on earth descended from that other ancient alien race that once vanished mysteriously in Atlantis. Since we have been underwater so many times in Orchard Rd – there can be doubt that we are all related to the Atlantians, so they aren coming to take us all back home.

8. They are coming to Singapore to learn more about space management – as even they cannot figure out how we can possibly fit 6 million people into our city state without looking like sardines.

9. They can’t figure how someone like Eunice Olsen with no brain can be a MP. They want to find out how many brainless wonders are running the govt.

10. They don’t understand how 6 out of 10 Singaporeans and residents believe that Temasek Review is a genuine independent site and not funded and operated by the Govt as a covert site – the aliens think we are all fucking stupid not to see the obvious and they want to vat our brains!   

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“I told you all to pay your subscription on time. God knows I tried. But no, you all didn’t want to listen to me. You all said, they weren’t real and now they’re coming….”

Intercepted by an auto-bot from a gaming outpost located in Belarus @ 1625 GMT 24-12-10 / The Brotherhood Press 2010

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It goes without saying, politics is all about power. Try as we may, we can neither negotiate or run away from this harsh reality. But how this power is defined, what philosophy guides its usage is the crux of the matter in this sharing. And when we speak about power in the context of Singapore Inc, one word dominates the field of possibilities squeezing out all others –

PRAGMATISM! And this brings into sharp focus the question: are we too pragmatic?

The cult of pragmatism hardly requires any elaboration in Singapore. You could even say pragmatism in all it endless shapes and forms (some even reduce us all into lesser mortals) permeates every aspect of life in Singapore. And as a metaphor, ideology and philosophy, pragmatism has become one of the same reality as the PAP – ironically, the quintessential guiding force that explains pragmatism is best summed up not in a Singapore idiom, but one that is Deng Xio Peng onced used,

“Black cat, white cat – what does it matter? Providing it catches mice.”

Implicit within the idea of pragmatism is the feudal concept of power. This is because when a word is taken out of its dictionary meaning and elevated to the upper reaches of a political science, it’s not so different from trying to sail around the world in a bath tub or using a washing machine to mix concrete – for that nutty idea to work (notice even the communist have relegated Deng’s idiom into the dustbin of history), it is first necessary to marginalize principles in the name of solving problems. Consequently the idea of pragmatism requires the destruction of principles, ideology and any higher philosophy – as to promote expediency efficiently, it is first necessary to do any away with principles. Now you understand why soundbite culture has managed to root itself so successfully into the social political culture of Singapore; instead of whole narratives which are supposed to provide an exhaustive account of why this or that policy is required; politicians are not only able to hide under the cloak of pragmatism whenever they are lazy to flesh out the rationale of policies – and since pragmatism doesn’t have any ideology to speak of, the political class is able to get away with mere vignettes, nanobites and sometimes even animal grunts.

To reframe the question therefore whenever we consider whether pragmatism should be dispensed? We are ineffect asking whether it makes more sense to premise Singapore on principles or is it better to base the decision making process on what is expedient using the trade off analysis and the cost & benefit calculus?

This question acquires a renewed edge especially when one considers how pragmatism when it is elevated to a political and social science in Singapore seems to be creating more problems than it solves in the face of globalization – this is at least how I see it. I could however be wrong of course, then again, I could be right. 

Consider for example the GINI coefficient which is an index that measures the divide between the have’s and have not’s; and consider how policy makers continue to eschew at every turn and opportunity the negative side effects of income inequality as a “necessary cost” of globalization – one may even take issue with how pragmatism has mesmerized so many policy makers to pursue the idea of privatization blindly without due consideration to the broader social questions, even when it fails to produce any discernible benefits to the tax payer – what for example is the point of privatizing wet markets when all it does is create optimum conditions for prices to be raised thus exacerbating inflation for those who are already economically challenged? And is it possible that some state services such as healthcare and transport should not even be privatized in the first place as ideally they should run at a lost as these will always be social services in any society that values principles above pragmatism? – the question then arises – have we taken the idea of pragmatism too far? Or worse still has the pragmatic approach morphed into just another one of many ways to justify and legitimize the turning of profit even if it produces grief? Is it time for us to consider buying into a governing ideology, philosophy or a set of principles to temper the stream roller approach of pragmatism that only focussed on efficiency and effectiveness and discounts all else?

Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider before it is too late?   

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“My young apprentice…Our German friends have come up with a new toy, it is the latest in digital immersion technology – the idea is to put one into the folds of history. It is still in the prototype stage…but let us switch it on.”

“It is the signing of the Bill of Rights….but it is so real master”

“So it is apprentice. Have you asked yourself why the founding fathers went through the fuss of codifying certain rights? Bear in mind these were not a bunch of people who were just growing cotton and fermenting moonshine in their backyard. These were intelligent folk, they were well read and men of the letters, who knew only too well the moment, they put on paper certain rights…then those rights would be considered elemental…that means neither the executive, legislature or even the judiciary can negotiate them. There is nothing pragmatic here, as it is akin the tying one hand behind the backs of government…..yet they did it nonetheless – so you have to ask why apprentice? Maybe they knew only too well the limits of the human condition; they especially knew how crafty the political mind can be. Because given half a chance, there will never be a shortage of reasons and justifications not keep to principles; there will never be a shortage of people who will say, we need to suspend this or that for the greater good – but I think above all else the founding fathers knew that certain rights will always be timeless and universal, it matters little whether you live in the age of candle or the incandescent light bulb; but freedom denied in any age is freedom denied, so these men knew that the only safeguard against abuse was by putting principles before what is expedient – in Singapore, we find this inconceivable as we are constantly told changes are inevitable and that we have to be realistic and pragmatic and accept these changes for better or for worse. But what these men were trying to do was say, not all progress is necessarily progress. There is a metaphysical dimension here, a Faustian irony even.”

“Yes, I see your point master, one where they recognize that to live a purpose driven life, men will always need to put principles before what is expedient…..tell me why do you allow our German friends to spend so much money making over the top holograms.”

“Yes, you are right, it is not very pragmatic. But its fun…it seems…”

Undergrounders and Street Art

December 26, 2010

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It’s a vampire thing. What am I talking about? To the uninitiated, the images purveyed in the ever-changing street art scene can strike you as just mindless scribbles and doodles – but to those who really stop and take the time to seek out the hidden meanings of these mysterious lines – street art offers an intruiging peek into the underground culture.

What makes street art so fascinating to those who produce them and the people who pour over them for their hidden meaning – is that these are not just stuff that people put up on the spur of the moment on a whimp and fancy. Rather these are projects which are undertaken with as much dedication, energy and creative spirit as it takes to produce what we would usually term kosher art – as graffiti is still illegal in most cities – though some cities, such as Berlin are literally begging graffiti cognoscenti’s to deface their cities – street art has through the years acquired an underground and illicit flavor – my personal take based on my personal first hand experience about street art is it’s feared as most people simply don’t understand it.

My first encounter with ubderground street artist was not in the real world, but in the virtual; over there, I caught a group of undergrounders painting a virtual tank – my first reaction was, “this is rubbish!” To which the leader of the pack replied, “its rubbish to you because you don’t understand the philosophy of this medium.”

It has been nearly 10 years since that life changing conversation and I have agree that it takes effort, imagination and time to really understand the philosophy that goes into this art form –unfortunately, the term “underground,” can often be mistaken as sub-culture or even carry with it a hint of the subversive and oppositional – nothing can be further from the truth; it just means these people have their own ideas about how they define both personal and organizational success – I happen to know underground culture very well as I spend a lot of time in the underground mixing with these folk – some people may say that is a real waste of time; but that is only because they don’t take the trouble to stop, look and maybe step out of their own skin and seek out new experiences – for me, I derive a lot of inspiration from interacting with undergrounders and I take this back into the real world to enrich my life. If I am lost in the virtual or I need to get directions to get in or out of a secret passage, undergrounders are good to go – this documentary that I am watching now captures that underground mood, energy and spirit beautifully – I’ve seen at least 3 or 4 documentaries about street artist, most of them just don’t seem to be able to go beyond the veneer; but this one I hits it directly on the head! 

The pace is heady; the repertoire punchy and the narration covers all the bases.

I hope you catch all the parts of this great documentary, enjoy and remember graffiti is illegal in Singapore and many other countries. But using your imagination is perfectly legal.

Darkness 2011

 

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How important is the idea of national identity? Let me start out by saying that I have always found this supposedly nagging question of Singapore’s national identity to be slightly irritating – as there are so many ways to answer this question. Most people will probably tell you that the idea of national identity is a fixed idea that is inextricably linked to the persona of the state and probably the idea of citizenry.

Well I for one don’t buy into that corseted definition of national identity; to me, the idea of identity in the context of nation need not even be equated with the idea of physical state; it could just as well be something really loose and fuzzy like a school of thought, state of mind or even an attitude that is commonly shared by a community – the Jews for example before the formation of Israel, didn’t really have any political entity within defined borders of a sovereign state – but who is to say that precluded them from carrying the idea of national identity wherever they decided to settle – think about it – so from this, analogy, we know that the idea of national identity is not necessarily a fixed idea – in some cases the idea of national identity can be linked even to food and beverages – think kebab’s and Turkey springs to mind, malt whisky is synonymous with Scotland and in other cases – the idea of national identity may very well be just a characteristic; think diplomats with mouths as loose as one of those BP well heads and who comes to mind?

You get my point.

I guess one reason why some people remain fixated with this question is they see this idea of national identity as some kind of mental linchpin that unifies people and drives them towards a common vision. Then it follows, if identity creates a sense of purpose, fleshes out personalities and works to unite us all, then what happens when that sense of identity gets sloughed away? Do you we then lose part of identity along with sense of belonging?

I for one don’t buy into the idea that people can either be enable or disabled so easily – the only people who seem to subscribe to that nutty logic just happen to be the same people who claim the internet is some social solvent that will secretly steal the souls of people in the same way aliens suck up people with tractor beams into their flying saucers. These people if you notice are also responsible for forwarding the narrative that the social consciousness needs to be constantly defended against lies, disinformation and other “suspicious” sources for fear that it will somehow contaminate their version of the Singapore story.

And let me share with you all why when it comes to this national identity business it’s really horses for courses rather than what most of the rah rah brigade would consider to be only one definitive version of the Singapore story – for starters if all of us just sat back and took a chill pill and try to see the world for what it is; rather than what others want us to see, believe and think- then the first thing that hits you like a freight train is this whole national identity business that is so often forwarded by governments is at best a choreographed script – that is to say, it is designed for one sole purpose to provide legitimacy for the right to continue to rule; and this should prompt us to ask if what constitutes the guts of our national identity is something synthetic, artificial, superficial, false, kitsch etc – how can buying into it possibly nourish us? Since the function of national identity here is to perpetuate the mythology of what the relationship of citizen and state should be and very little else.

That presumably also compels us to ask, if we cannot trust the official version of the Singapore Story  to flesh out our national identity, then who do we trust?  

Where I might perceive a problem in the Singapore narrative is how it consistently fails take stock of the broader narrative that would have added further depth and breadth to the whole idea of our national identity vis-a-vis who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I heading?- I will be honest and frank with all of you. I wonder for instance if the Singapore story is so complete, why does it even need to stop ex detainees from speaking publicly in the National Library? Why was it necessary to incarcerate so many union leaders, oppositional thinkers and intellectuals under the broad banner of communism and even worst still under the aegis of “building a better tomorrow.” I’ve often mulled over the narrative forwarded by officialdom describing how in order to secure our economic primacy it was necessary to sacrifice so much of our elemental rights on the altar of the common good? I’ve even asked myself whether the price was worth it? Along with whether we paid too high a social price in pursuing some of our policies, like blindly pursuing free market fundamentalism which seemed to only exacerbate income inequality by further polarizing our society– I can really go on and on for ten or twenty pages, but you get my general drift – the gist is I am not wholly convinced the Singapore Story is what it is so often represented by both the custodians of power and the complicit MSM. 

I guess most netizens are already attuned to this state of cognitive dissonance – where they may even harbor that “something is rotten in Denmark,” attitude whenever the official version of the Singapore Story is narrated to them. One reason why that “once upon a time in a sleepy fishing village at the tip of the Peninsula…blah,blah,blah,blah,” is beginning to ring hollow may well be the paradox more people are beginning to flesh out their DIY version of the Singapore Story very much in the way folk customize factory made cell phones to give them that individualistic appeal – a corollary of that would mean stakeholders in the Singapore story will define how they wish to see themselves alongside the broader question of what it means to be a part of a community – in this sense, it’s conceivable society is becoming more individualistic than generic – gone are the days when society could simply be defined in neat pigeon boxes using a binary code of you are either switched on or off, engaged or apathetic, scholar or cookie cutter, functional or dysfunctional, constructive or destructive, beneficial or useless, team players or trouble marker – with us or against us – I think somewhere in all this mess; there might still be a sliver of land where we could even call home to flesh out an identity that connects you to me and beyond – only don’t expect my version to be similar to yours and vice versa – in a kooky sort of way, for all we know, what may continue to unite us under the banner of national identity in the digital age may not even be our similarities as in the past when the idea of common ground was king, but rather our willingness to accept differences and even learn to be at ease in the discomfort zone .

Darkness 2011

“Not everyone sees the world as you apprentice. You say whenever you want to say about Vivian Balakrishnan, but I say it was not easy to have successfully pulled off YOG (the Youth Olympics Game) – for starters there was no template, so these people were ineffect the pioneers, everything had to be done from scratch, it’s like flying the Kitty Hawk, breaking the sound barrier or shooting a rocket up into space for the very first time – so I don’t think it was an easy enterprise to pull off – but I also think it was spoilt.

Sit down apprentice, let me tell you why – when you think back about the Berlin Olympics in 1936, do you notice that no one ever talks about how Telefunken, first broadcasted it on live TV in Munich and Lintz – do you find anyone asking you why Leni Riefenstahl shot in 16mm instead of  the industry standard of 35mm film format, or how Afga first invented high speed chemicals just for this Olympics – coming to think of it, does anyone even know that BMW developed the first, gessenschaft planetry drive that today we call the automatic transmission just for the games – or for that matter any other wunderbar innovations – fact is this, and even the people today in the Olympic committee all know this, the Berlin Olympics set the benchmark for the Olympics games. Before that it was just a bunch of barefoot people running around in diapers in a dust bowl. But do you notice, the only thing people seem to remember today about the Berlin games is how Jesse Owens put Hitlers Aryan Superman into the dustbin and how the latter just stormed off like a petulant child – in the same way many years for now how many people do you think will remember the 1st Olympic games in Singapore as the setting the benchmark for excellence – no one, they will only remember it as the games where a blogger was arrested for using a four letter metaphorically. You can say what you like, but you cannot alter this cachet of opinion, as it is the truth to them and that is all they will remember.As I said apprentice you cannot stop people from thinking what they want to think. I am so sorry, really I am, but that is as good as it gets.”

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Most people believe the internet is just a good for nothing cesspit. I guess with the help of the MSM, it is possible to turn night into day and the moon into the sun. But I believed the internet is a treasure trove; a great experiment, where we as humans are the very raw material itself – that is why the internet has always fascinated me.

I am watching this documentary now:

This perspective is very intriguing as it takes an oblique view of the occupation of Iraq through the eyes of an obscure Iraqi village doctor – the plot shuffles along at roughly the speed of a motorized wheelchair in the first 30 min, only to gather speed; there is no plot from what I am being able to discern, except perhaps a day to day chronological account – but I believe this is the reason why this documentary is so powerful and riveting, as what it captures is an angle of the Iraqi occupation that has never ever been seen or told before – I hope some of you will scroll back to part 1 and try to catch the entire series in Youtube.

Happy Watching

Darkness 2011

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“You really want to know why they couldn’t plug the leak? It was the same mentality as why BP couldn’t plug that busted well headed in the Gulf of Mexico – it boils down to one word, arrogance – mind you these same folk are willing to spend billions buying the latest fighter bombers from McDonnel Douglas; they have even the latest frigates and the latest this and that – but when it comes to the internet; they allocate it the least priority; now you know why we were able to walk right into Wayang Party and download so much incriminating data – that we have stored away in a very safe place – why do you think they take pot shots at everyone except us? Because they jolly well know we can bloody their nose –  now you know why they were ass fucked by Wikileaks – and when it happened what was their response? A big fat nothing – and who had to plug up the leak at the end of the day….guess how many people are reading this?…..guess who is reading this…..my point is this apprentice….numerical superiority gets you only to a certain point. Beyond that it is the standard Pareto 80/20 rule. In the internet it is more like the 999/1 rule. As to make a crowd believe that elephants can fly you do not need to have a readership of  10,000 per article. That is a fiction, all you need to do is get the movers and shakers to buy in – I mean apprentice, how many people do you imagine started the French Revolution? Do you want to know???????? 3, that is all it took, 3 intellectuals…how many people started world war 1? Less than 5. And how many do you think ended it? 4 and a parrot, the bird came in whenever there was a hung decision…see my point. I think this summarizes the situation aptly…that is why I do not believe the cyber team that is assembled by the government is making any progress in the internet – they don’t know this simple principle of management – after all how the fuck can you expect to influence the 20% when all you do every fucking day is feed them soundbites that only the 80% lap up – so where do you think the 20% will go…..Ah…that is the rub my young apprentice…..this is how the game is played…so far I have played it like a sportsman, I hope that I can continue to do so now and in the future…but if things should get dirty…I want you to know one thing…I will not hesitate to shift gears. I have a feeling we should hedge our bets when we are dealing with monkeys who think they are very clever. Meanwhile move everything to Malaysia within 24 hours. Singapore Inc is Kaput!” 

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I’ve be dead honest with you. This year Christmas seems to ring hollow – at least that is how I see it whenever I walk around in Singapore. The spirit just isn’t there.

To be honest, I had this sinking feeling a couple of years back ago when the economy was just about to turn sour – where I remembered saying to myself, maybe Christmas is just for kids and I am just pinning for something that I’ve simply outgrown?

But in truth, I just don’t see Christmas the way I used too. These days, Christmas is just kitsch – another opportunity for the marketing manifesto to sell me something that I don’t really need or want – just the other day, I came across a bunch of Nigerian cyber conmen in the virtual pretending to be the three kings of Nativity demanding for virtual gold – I gave them shrapnel lah – on the economic front; I don’t find anything worthwhile celebrating over, 2010 was only a so-so year for me.

You get the general mood of the times, as for the economy everything seems to be going up except my take home. 

I am not saying in the digital age, the evil Decepticons have dun in father Christmas with their plasma canons; or that everything goody good about the whole idea of Christmas has been gutted out by the cult of consumerism.

In fact, i believe even in such tiring times the true Christmas spirit still lives. Only it must be buried beneath our mounting anxieties and the endless culture of hype and spin – the solution? we just need to work harder to find it.

But is it worth it to eek out the real Christmas spirit? Granted, in this age where money seems to be the only measure of a man and very little else – it’s all too easy to be cynical about Christmas – but I am reminded, although times have changed and we may all be marching towards the glorious life of the battery chicken – there is also a pull in the opposite direction. The search for real meaning, real experiences along with whole idea of real fellowship with family, friends and community still endures -these things are timeless and universal and above all valuable. 

Maybe Christmas is really only about these thing and has nothing to do with the gahmen, economy or even shopping malls – family, loved ones and friends who really matter – yes maybe that’s all it has always been about? Before my cynicism reduced Christmas into just another mawkish display of materialism on a Byzantine scale.

In the moment of my youth; I remembered celebrating Christmas not with chestnuts, puddings, hot custard and eclairs with brandy infills – my parents for some curious reason always cooked curry for Christmas under the stern eye of a generation who could only dream of living in our age of Babylonian excesses – neither did we have a rocket shaped conifer Christmas tree either; ours was a tropical bouganvilla adorned not with stockings; but with painted blown out lightbulbs and dried ketupat; and we shared all these with our Malay, Indian and Eurasian neighbors who come in and out of the house like it was Bedok interchange – in those days Christmas was about family, community, church service and the singing of carols. Granted it may not have been hip or even cool, but at least it was real, so real that you could even say Christmas was just a quiet event marked with faith and reflection, no ostentatious frivolity, no one trying to sell us stuff that we didn’t need – one where we just came together held hands and with a hope and prayer wished for a better tomorrow.

My genuine hope is that you will all find this incredibly edifying spirit of peace, happiness and tranquility this Christmas -may I on the behalf of the Brotherhood Press wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

If you are new to the brotherhood press, this goes out especially to you. May I welcome you to our little family.

Darkness 2010

(Christmas message was broadcasted on board the rebel deep space cruiser Les Enfants Du Paradis somewhere in the Carphatian System – the Brotherhood Press 2010)

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“Commander, something has happened?”

“Yes, what is it, do spit it out man!”

“The Aryanians, they are singing Christmas carols along the trench line, what shall we do?”

“What can we bloody do! It’s Christmas for god sake, we will just have to sing louder than them. Where the hell is the brass band when we need them?”

Somewhere along the Sardonyx Trench Line known as Sector 13 – in the Andullisian Plains during the Ascension Wars – the Age of Propeller – recorded the Chronicler of the Book of Ages – The Brotherhood Press 2010.

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This may have something to do with that MOE scholar who got booted out of York University. It may also have something to do with why George Yeo & Co doesn’t seem to have any hang up’s about slagging off our neighbors with impunity – then again it may have nothing to do with all of the above – I am just writing with a rough plot in my head nothing has really congealed yet – so lets just go with the flow for 15 minutes and see what we end up with – consider this an experiment in serendipity.

Question: Is the scholarship system responsible for creating the ugly Singaporean? For those of you who may not know who the ugly Singaporean is? He’s the nasty guy that all our Asean neighbors and beyond have accounts to square off with – he’s quick to lavish praise on Singapore Inc – quicker it seems to criticize and look down on those who he claims isn’t up to his standard of homegrown excellence – in short, the ugly Singaporean is just an asshole par excellence.

What’s really the psychology that drives the ugly Singaporean attitude? Its conceivable a large chunk of it may have something to do with our education and our scripting. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s intellect and academic achievements – or for that matter aspiring to be a scholar. There is however something very wrong with the smugness and self-aggrandizing tone of the scholarship program in Singapore. The message is implicit: You’ve made it, Welcome to the club. And the corollary is equally clear: You deserve nothing but the very best!

To me that sort of single track thinking has to be the creche that gave birth to the ugly Singaporean – it could also account for why Singapore unlike HK, Taiwan, thailand and Malaysia lacks a broad band of entrepreneurs -it’s even conceivable most of us suffer from what I call the scholar fixation; and implicit in this fetishesness is we aspire to be nothing more than salarymen – this cultural aberration is most evident when one stops people on the streets and carry out a simple experiment by asking them:

“Who do you most want to be?”

In the US, its a toss up between Britney Spears and Steve Jobs; in Hong Kong its been Superman Li Kah Shin for the last 20 years and he is still going strong; even our Northern cousins would prefer to be Fernandez of Air Asia or Francis Yeoh the tycoon who runs YTL corporation – but in Singapore, everyone wants to be a scholar. To paraphrase everyone wants to be minted in the image of LKY.

And this should prompt us to ask the question: is this something that takes or adds to society? Is it good or bad? And what does it really say about our psyche as a nation?

To me where our government may have failed is by failing to perceive the wisdom of nurturing a healthy balance, between entrepreneurism and scholarship – as a result this myopic idea of promoting ONLY scholars as the gold standard means that we end up producing really well educated people who have a strong sense of entitlement, but they don’t nearly the breadth of experience or business acumen to prosper in the global market place.

To exacerbate matters since these scholars harbor that misplaced mightier than thou attitude – not only do they think they deserve more than other people, it inculcates them with a false sense of superiority over others.

Now you know why George Yeo’s motley crew lashed out at everyone who they consider either “stupid” or “incompetent.” Had those cocktail slurping monkeys just sat down and a crunched through the numbers; they would have realized that they were sticking their necks out.

My point is this corrosive attitude stems directly from the scholarship system – its an accretion of an elite education – and there is nothing contrived or even conceited about it; its perfectly natural for most scholar to identify their sense of worth, self esteem and in some cases even flesh out their identity from where they once graduated from – where it becomes a travesty of reason is no one bothered to tell them those test they once took really measured just a very small slice reality. 

To further exacerbate an already acute delusional state the Singapore system is designed to encouraged these newly minted scholars to forget this truth or at least elide it from their consciousness; in this cognitive shift, academic excellence becomes synonymous with the idea of excellence in an absolute sense – to paraphrase, a lie is elevated to the status of a fait accompli – and since the state continues to promote the idea that the scholarship system is the gold standard for both personal and organizational success – then what inadvertently happens is eventually this idea becomes so fossilized and ritualized, that even the apparatus of the state i.e press, TV and radio are responsible for embellishing, exaggerating and mythologizing the importance of scholars – given the benefit of time; this kernel of truth becomes a kind of governing metaphor that shapes not only the eventual social form; but it also exerts an influence on the way we look at scholars and the scholarship program.

That in a nutshell is how the scholarship program acquires its raison detre and legitimizes itself.

Compare and contrast this with run of the mill cookie cutter colleges, polytechnics and tin pot universities. Here the students are being trained for positions somewhere in middle management; in what we the brotherhood call, the faceless depths of bureaucracy.

Paradoxically, when I compare my own education with lets say someone like Darkness who had to hold down 2 shift jobs and pay his own way through university – they’re being conditioned for lives with no safety nets; say what you like, but these days, if you cant cough out the money; you cant even sit for the paper – in this world of no safety ropes, no support, no margin for error and everything is mission critical. Compare and contrast this with elite institutions and of course, it’s the reverse. The irony here is the elite like to think of themselves as perpetuating the idea of meritocracy and excellence; but that’s true up to only a point. Firstly where is the motivation for continuous improvement when one is already bubbled warped in a world where door open automatically? Secondly while elite schools claim they nurture excellence, they also nurture a self delusionary state common known as “entitled mediocrity.” Basically this means, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. You may not be everything that you are cut out to be; but since we have to keep up the myth that we are all the masters of the universe; that also means we will not allow you to let the side down.

I didn’t understand this until I began comparing my own experience with those around me – I guess these a just things you get to know about when you’re into the 5 year of working – the awful truth that is: we all live under the same sun, it seems.

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“If you go to the US or EU and you told a panel of managers that you are a scholar – they would just say: so what? Do you want to know why they are so ambivalent? Let me explain to you; when I was doing my Master’s of Science in the UK, there were at least 7 CEO’s in my class. And when I looked at the CV of one of them – this was what it read like,

“worked as a bus driver – got bored after I started dreaming about traffic jams. Decided to go to South Africa, came back a bankrupt. Thought it a good idea to go back to school, so worked in a circus and attended correspondence school – started a company, got it listed and decided to sell to retired before 40. Sailed around the world a few times – got bored, so I went into a business that I knew absolutely nothing about and again listed it. Now I feel really bored again.”

This is how it is in the West – I think the lesson here is very clear – to make progress, we may not even need to learn anything new at all. All we have to do is forget or better still remove what is already stuck like chewing gum in our minds. I have to admit it; I am not entirely comfortable with this free & easy idea, but I am slowly getting used to it….slowly….I think…I hope.”

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Chernobyl Revisited – The Star of the East (Travelogue Special)

Is the Scholar Program responsible for creating the Ugly Singaporean

James Lovelock, the futurologist par excellence and the father of Gaia Hypothesis once proclaimed that nuclear energy was the greenest form of energy ever harnessed by man – is that true? Well it has been over 20 years since the Russians set off a nuclear mushroom cloud somewhere over Chernobyl and judging from how the abandoned cats, dogs and bears there are still glowing green in the dark – Lovelock may well be right!

That should give you a rough idea where I stand in the nuclear debate – this should prompt us all to ask: why does Malaysia suddenly feel the need to go nuclear? Oh oh oh, and they are not planning to build only one, but two – is this double happiness? Or double jeopardy? Coming to think of it, what is really driving the nuclear craze in? Is it just the insatiable demand for power or is there a far more insidious motive for going nuclear?

Let’s begin with a lightning analysis? For starters, I find it impossible to believe Malaysia has exhausted all it’s any energy options. For one, unlike Singapore; they don’t have an issue of scarcity of this and that  – and we all know Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of natural gas, petroleum, thermal energy and all year sunshine – besides they’ve already built the Bakun Dam, located in Sarawak on the Balui River, its the tallest concrete dam in the world and the largest dam in Asia outside of China – with a powerhouse with 8 mega dynamos it’s capable of generating about 2.4GW of electricity. Just to give you a rough image of what we are talking about, that’s about what it takes to power a couple of Singapore’s plus or minus a couple of other banana republics. So if they’re really short of energy why not build a couple more Bakuns instead of opting for nuclear?

To me it doesn’t make one molecule of sense for Malaysia to go nuclear before exploring further whether it can better manage its energy resources more efficiently and effectively – if the truth be known, the problems that continues to mire Malaysia’s power woes can at best be summed up in 3 alphabets – TNB.

TNB, the sole electricity distributor in Malaysia has become a caricature that is synonymous with everything that is wrong with Malaysia – gross mismanagement, patchy preventive maintenance, peek a booh blackouts complete with soviet era Aeroflot customer service – the only thing that TNB seems to be able to generate reliably seems to be pengsan headaches along with high blood pressure for the vast majority of Malaysians – don’t say I am making up stories, go and ask any Malaysian lah!

One reason why TNB seems to be stuffed may have something to do with how it has to buy power from fat cat independent power producers under lousy terms (thanks of course to Mahathir who just happens to be the patron saint of corruption on an institutional scale). This nutty arrangement between TNB and IPP, not only condones unscrupulous practices but worst of all produces spikes in electricity prices, leading many Malaysians to cry foul.

I don’t mean to be rude, but the way I see it – there is nothing fundamentally wrong with power supply structure in Malaysia – IMHO, it is not a problem that is linked to supply and demand but rather an abject failure to effectively manage both the opportunity cost and the entire value chain that makes up the business process.

And this should prompt us all to ask the most important question – if Malaysia can’t even manage its power supply with gas and fuel furnaces; how can it be expected to manage high tech space age nuclear power to deliver value to customers and still do it safely? 

I am not saying like George Yeo et al Malaysians are an incompetent lot; but what cannot be denied is the nuclear game isn’t exactly peddling burgers or selling batik shirts; it’s a business that has very little margin for error – and when one superimposes these mission critical demands on the abysmal trek record of TNB et al – what becomes palpably clear is the goals set by Malaysian politicians to go nuclear may well be premature, unrealistic and possibly even suicidal for the rest of the region.

The other point is: why is Malaysia jumping onboard the nuclear bandwagon, when most countries are stepping off? And why isn’t this counter narrative even forwarded by the ruling BN party to the vast majority of Malaysians? The general consensus amongst experts is the amount of energy derived from nuclear power worldwide will continue to slowly decrease during the coming years as governments wean themselves off this corrosive energy source; judging by the fall out rate; this slow down is inexorable; and uranium demand in Europe will fall from 22,000 tonnes in 2010 to roughly only 16,000 tonnes by 2025.

These numbers indicate that the EU already have a master plan to decommission more nuclear reactors than they are building new ones – so why is Malaysia even considering to build two nuclear plants? The reasons for the EU deciding to jetisson nuclear could be due to risk, high cost, lousy return on investment, safety issues etc – but my point is the facts about the viability of nuclear energy as the green fuel of the future that is so often forwarded by the Malaysian government just doesn’t square off . Furthermore, contrary to the idea that nuclear is currently experiencing a new renaissance, what really happening instead is it’s going down sunset boulevard towards oblivion. Indeed, the facts point toward an inexorable slow phasing out of nuclear energy in most of the OECD countries.

The other issue is risk management – since the stakes of going nuclear are so exorbitantly high; Malaysia’s decision to go nuclear should involve a referendum amongst it neighbors – as the Chernobyl disaster and the recurrent haze from forest fires in Sumatra has aptly demonstrated – no one is really an island in a literal sense, especially when what’s dabbled with can so easily take to the skies and be carried by the vagaries of the winds.

Unless Malaysia is able to clear up its mind boggling litany of mismanagement horror stories; such as how did a military grade jet engine disappear from its inventory and end up in Iran? How did a Mongolian tourist get blown up by military grade C-4 explosives? How is it possible that a billion dollar submarine cannot dive underwater? The list of malfeasance goes on and on lah. My point is Malaysia first needs to square off its litany of arthritic woes of mismanagement, questionable practices and abject failure to instill good governance before considering to go nuclear – otherwise all it may end up doing is building a nation called Absurdistan.

“Gentlemen, let me tell you that the Dimitri Class Space Station is in every practical definition of the word, the most versatile platform ever designed and manufactured to meet the uncompromising demands of space; we have built, operated and successfully transferred over 200 Dimitri’s – since its inception, the Dimitri has gone through no less than 19 generational improvements and over 58 upgrades from the Dimitri C-1 to the current Super Class C-19 – the platform of the Dimitri is so versatile; that it can be retrofitted as a supply base, profiled as an interstellar communication and navigation hub to even a hospital vessel. The possibilities are only limited by ones imagination ladies and gentlemen.”

“What about its military capabilities Singaporedaddy? I mean, I don’t mean to be difficult, but you people seem have them all over the place wherever you go.”

“Did I hear you right old boy? Military did you say? Yes, I imagine one could stage fireworks from up here.”

 Arrullian visit on board a Dimitri Class Space Station in geo-orbit in the Sardonyx System – captured by an auto-bot.

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“The really funny thing is my young apprentice, virtually anything can trigger off a classical Richardson arms race, I mean anything – did you know that all it took for the crossbow to supersede the long bow was a slight increase of no more than 0.5mm in medieval armor – that’s all it took to tip the scales. The same with jet engines; had the British and Americans not invented fuel injection for their fighter planes; we would all still be flying in propeller driven aircraft – my young apprentice, pay close attention to the God of the small here; look at how one thing comes together to color the rest; how it dies and is reborn again – all it takes it a bit of epiphany mixed with serendipity – you take the case of that blogger that got arrested for using a four letter word and you look at the leaks – then you ask yourself what is the connection? What is the connection?”

“Master, you are completely neutral; nothing moves you – this is the highest state in Kendo.”

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What General Yeo doesn’t want you to know is really in cocktail talk

I came across this piece in Unspun. Its a fascinating take by the New York Times about the Power of Wikileaks, The Press and who changes whom in the process of publicizing the diplomatic memos and cables.

What’s so rivetting about this write up (IMHO at least) is how imaginatively, the author underscores the fact that while the digital  medium is powerful by itself, the message gets amplified when traditional media is enlisted as well.

The point being made here is that Wikileaks would not have made such a ear shattering bang had it not successfully manipulated the traditional press by adding legitimacy and credibility to itself by collaborating with the MSM.

Many a lesson here for the PR practitioner. Media pundits. Or someone who is just interested in how stuff come together to create unexpected outcomes – there are however exceptions to this epiphany, one of them is of course our much beloved daily rag who remains quite unaffected by Wikileaks since it’s hermetically sealed in a time warp of it’s own making.

Happy Reading!

WikiLeaks Taps Power Of the Press By DAVID CARR

Has WikiLeaks changed journalism forever?

Perhaps. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Think back to 2008, when WikiLeaks simply released documents that suggested the government of Kenya had looted its country. The follow-up in the mainstream media was decidedly muted.

Then last spring, WikiLeaks adopted a more journalistic approach — editing and annotating a 2007 video from Baghdad in which an Apache helicopter fired on men who appeared to be unarmed, including two employees of Reuters. The reviews were mixed, with some suggesting that the video had been edited to political ends, but the disclosure received much more attention in the press.

In July, WikiLeaks began what amounted to a partnership with mainstream media organizations, including The New York Times, by giving them an early look at the so-called Afghan War Diary, a strategy that resulted in extensive reporting on the implications of the secret documents.

Then in November, the heretofore classified mother lode of 250,000 United States diplomatic cables that describe tensions across the globe was shared by WikiLeaks with Le Monde, El Pais, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. (The Guardian shared documents with The New York Times.) The result was huge: many articles have come out since, many of them deep dives into the implications of the trove of documents.

Notice that with each successive release, WikiLeaks has become more strategic and has been rewarded with deeper, more extensive coverage of its revelations. It’s a long walk from WikiLeaks’s origins as a user-edited site held in common to something more akin to a traditional model of publishing, but seems to be in keeping with its manifesto to deliver documents with “maximum possible impact.”

THIS IS AN EAM (EMERGENCY ACTION MESSAGE) – MEASURED RESPONSE WILL BE TERMINATED @ 2330 GMT 20-12-2010 BY ORDER OF THE LAANSTRAD

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 Did Anwar really play backside? Does Gadhafi’s Ukrainian blond bombshell nurse give a good hand job? What about short cake Nicolas Sarkozy? Does he suffer from an inferiority complex every time he has to stand next to his wife when the French national anthem is played? Is it true LKY is getting senile and confusing Madame Tussaud’s for the Burmese generals?

At first it’s easy to buy into George Yeo’s notion much of what WikiLeaks has to offer is less the treasure trove of state than the idle chatter of the diplomatic corps. But is that reason enough to dismiss cocktail talk?

 

Going by traditional wisdom, George Yeo’s recent stricture where he advised, the public not to “read too much” into the leaked memos beyond regarding them as cocktail talks even seems Biblically sensible: “Gossip (after all) separates the best of friends,” the Book of Proverbs tells us, so should we pack our bags and go back home and hit discovery channel?…….after all, what can possibly be more edifying than the truth? – Should we all not show scorn over tittle-tattling?

Wrong! I guess one reason why George Yeo and his Singapore slingers want us all to register the puih factor over Wikileaks is because he wants to draw an imaginary line that separates fact from fiction, serious from trivial, trustworthy from plain dodgy  – if you think real hard about it, it’s a subtle perceptive shift, one that has to be so effective as it attempts to recruit the power of our revulsion; but does absolutely nothing to answer the question why should we treat cocktail talk any differently from official speak?

After all weren’t the substantive contents in those memos and cables used primarily to make strategic and tactical decisions? Wasn’t it part and parcel of the decision making process of scaling strengths, opportunities, threats and weaknesses in the geo-political chessboard?

This should prompt us to consider: is cocktail talk and gossiping really that unreliable that it doesn’t even deserve to be treated in equal standing to other kosher versions of the truth?

I think not, as when one boils down the whole idea of conveying a thought or idea, its almost impossible to gut out the human condition i.e it has to include pettiness, parlance, quirky perversions etc -my point is when we decamp from the idea that gossiping can offer nothing beyond an indolent pastime; we deny the existence of the humane view that usually accompanies every motive and action –what is often discounted is cocktail talk and gossiping like poetry and fiction often has the power to penetrate right down to the marrow to reveal the truth – reporting every facet of the emotional nuances, warts and all. 

Unlike cold clinical slabs of facts, which are often served up devoid of all human context; the gossip usually captures the nuanced version of the transgression along with framing the scene on the canvass of society – to dismiss the power of gossip is akin to denying the idea humans are essentially social animals.

George Yeo is simply disingenuous to dismiss the power of cocktail talk. Or for that matter to treat it as something so alien where we are expected to regard it as irrelevant and inconsequential to the whole scheme of things.

The prosaic irony may well be nothing can really compare to detailing an event as well as the power of cocktail talk – granted, gossip may range from the entertaining to even the feral back bitting. It can even claim to be factual when it lacks fidelity or is sheerly so speculative that it trends to an exaggeration. It may at times even be trivializing, voyueristic, reprehensible and inter alia  -nonetheless cocktail talk and gossiping remains humanities most honest social preoccupation; perhaps even mankinds only way of building alliances and friendships.

Wonder no more why diplomats seem to be so obsessed over cocktail talk.

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“How can he say, Oh every thing is fine, it’s business as usual? Has he been drinking and dealing again? If politics is the art of possibilities. Then diplomacy is the means by which these probabilities can past from the realm of theory to reality, but all this can only happen if there is trust. 

Whether that trust is real or not, high grade or fell from the back of a lorry is not the issue here, that question is sterile, academic even in this game of cat and mouse, but nonetheless you still need the presumption of trust before you can play this game. 

As trust is the primary raw material of diplomacy. But when you don’t even have trust, then you are no longer in the game. In other words you are no longer in the business of managing probabilities to create possibilities. This is not about skill, experience, opportunity cost or even what you may be up against – this is tooling yourself for a job. In which case, you have to ask yourself one fundamental question, where would Michelangelo be if lets say he was denied fine Palermo marble to work with – I think my young apprentice it is fair to say, the best you can hope for under those conditions is a very nice flower pot. You would have to be pretty crazy to expect a masterpiece like David. 

In diplomacy you learn only one thing, probabilities do not make for possibilities. Now you know why it’s kaput.”   

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Shalimar the Clown: Do you remember Darkness, how you people broadcasted a SOS to all of us?

Darkness: What do you mean Shalimar?

Shalimar the Clown:  measured response?

Darkness: Yes, of course Shalimar, but what does this have to do with the leaks that have been targeting Singapore lately?

Shalimar: Everything Darkness. Sit down. I need to explain this to you from the very beginning so that you understand; you have to see it from our point of view; we cannot have people just coming right in and arresting bloggers who use four letter words metaphorically…Darkness, do you remember the early days when there were just green dots and strokes in the digital realm? Darkness do you remember this?………Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere; The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst; Are full of passionate intensity la la la blah blah la la….do remember Darkness?”

Conversation capture in the Temple of Yawns at the edge of the known universe.

(due to measured response, this has either been removed, re-edited, withdrawn or withheld from general circulation)</strong

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rakheeh.jpg

Rumi once whirled his way to spiritual fame in the same streets I am wadding through. Are ministers getting paid enough? Will we eventually lose talent? What did Philip Yeo say again? What didn’t he say? Is our government really going to regulate the new media? Who really cares? I am going to take you to a place, a secret garden tucked somewhere deep amid the labyrinth of Moorish minarets, cupolas, lime washed walls and narrow streets. I am in Istanbul for business a world away and in a while, I am going to take you deeper into another world within this world.

Like Rumi, Istanbul is a poet, and much what she has to say changes with the timbre of the light. In the evenings, when the sun turns everything a golden splendor, she whispers a verse that reaches out to the spiritual voyager in all of us.

In the twilight, the ambiguity of shadows cut in sharp relief across ancient stones conveys the arrogance of the very old juxtaposed starkly against the new; like the haughtiness of an aged actress whose prime has long past. She struts around as if the world is still beneath her feet, snubbing her inferiors. Its only when one pauses long enough to look closer that the illusion begins to peel off revealing the creases of despair on her haggard face.

The mix of despair and hope is climatic in Istanbul. Its one that seizes and shakes the lonely traveler as he wonders no end whether this country is either the golden light destined to shape world history or a hopeless mess certain to remain mired in wretchedness. Never mind these lofty struggles – my feet is killing me! – it’s time to sit down and have a drink of raki.

Raki pronounced “rah-keeh,” is much more than just the national plonk. The mere fact a Muslim country can still find a way to reconcile boozing by secreting it away in some corner is enough to suggest there is something truly mystical and tantalizing about raki’s allure. The traveler still needs to search out places that still serve the local moonshine. Most western educated Turks wouldn’t go near raki except to use to remove stubborn stains on their carpets. Or when they can’t seem to get petrol, most prefer to settle for a Chardonnay or some liquor with a European pedigree.

Fortunately, in the crumbling East quarter of Istanbul, raki is still very much alive in meyhane’s; a sort clandestine back room bistro where hookahs, belly dancers and odd game Turkish chess still features. After taking off the shoes and putting on embroidered slippers one is ushered into a common large sized sitting room, filled with pleasant greenish light, mixed with the haze of hookah pipes and incense burners. The room is lined with very low wood craved furnishings and cushioned in plush silk carpets, heralding back to the days when reclining was once a much more serious activity than it is today.

Lounging looks indolent to the unpracticed eye. I am reminded every time I lose balance or shift my weight to try to find a comfortable spot. Like all aristocratic body techniques, it’s a highly skilled preoccupation. I am told it takes years to learn how to rest gracefully on the left elbow and eat with the right hand and balance the hookah pipe without showing fatigue. The Greeks and Romans perfected it for no other reason other than to pursue the convivial; facilitating friendship and conversation.

Raki is usually served in a clear glass. It is bright, but it rarely last that way for long. Soon a tea boy draws a red hot poker from the open fire burning just outside the verandah and dipped it into my glass transforming the liquid milky white (I gather this is only one of three meyhane’s in the whole of Istanbul that serves it in this manner.) I realized just then as I looked out into the open. The sun had waned completely giving way to the twilight of the evening, graying everything throughout the skyline of Istanbul.

According to my host a Moroccan French who was interested in commissioning a geo static space station for some obscure planet drinking raki involved a certain ritual.

“Mix it with a little water. Inhale the aroma, lick the lips and take a small sip. Then throw back the rest. And wait here comes the best part: the sensation of feeling as it courses down the neck and into the belly. Here you try it.”

“Yes, it hits the spot.” I replied.

Raki and meyhane culture are one of the same. For one Raki is rarely served by itself, it stands along side an elaborate stylized ritual of dining. With raki always comes “meze,” small copper plates secreted by tea boys who crouch low to avoid breaking the tempo of the conversation.

“Meze” are appetizers, sauces and salads, a bowl of melon, a slab of white cheese. What comes next just comes unbidden. No one really orders. It’s a ritual that suggest the idea of planning what to eat is somehow vulgar – sacrilegious even to insinuate its trivial to the whole of idea of continuing the discourse and deepening friendship. Like drinking raki, meyhane dinning does not require any action, decision or choice. One isn’t forced to drink competitively. There are no “saluts,’ no “down the hatch.” Only a silent repertoire; where one is simply expected to know the wisdom of when to stop and go. It’s a miniature of Turkish life. As it embodies the whole idea of offering almost infinite possibilities by attempting to blends two opposing ideals; determination and resignation seamlessly – a desire to rebel along with an acceptance of the inevitability of submission.

The main dish is called “Imam Bay-il-dih,” meaning literally, “the holy man peng san,” (presumably after eating himself to a stupor), which is usually a lamb or veal goulash flavored with heady spices and served with crispy thin kiln fired bread. Raki “fires up the gut,” one that sharpens the appetite considerably and imparts a unique taste to food, as my host recounts a quatrain once written by Rumi to celebrate its gastronomical magic,

“Everything you now see will vanish like a dream.”

With these words, he sipped his raki closing his eyes.

Rumi seems to be telling me; go with the flow. Journeys so often lead us to profundities, deeper ways of realizing all that we have planned are after all ruled only by accidents at the end of the day. Why not flip the process? I am inclined to say yes. After another glass of raki, what at first seems clear becomes obscure and distant. Times oozes out, concepts lie splayed out and even a straight line melts away, but the conversation is still unfolding.

By the time the third bottle, everything appears murky and confused. Yet through this evocative haze, truths about how much had been agreed on for the space station, when it should be delivered or the mode of payment hardly mattered any longer.

Like the whirl of the dervishes there was something utterly compelling about the transformation. As if we had entered a trance, forgotten our bodies and become pure light. When I sealed the deal with a hug, my host seemed pleased with the morning sun which had begun to break over the horizon. For a while we held the gaze over the city.

He said, “Beautiful.” I agreed in silence.

Then I went walked down the narrow steps into the labyrinth of narrow streets. When I looked back to wave the interstellar middle man had disappeared.

(by Harphoon / Travelogue Series – sponsored by the Interspacing Metal Exchange & The Navigation Guild of the Brotherhood  / Turkey / EP: 9937383 – Archived by an auto-bot built and operated by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild of the Brotherhood.)

Wikileaks – Cui Bono?

December 16, 2010

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)

“You may not believe this; but I am genuinely fond of General Yeo. He embodies everything that is noble about the scholarship ideal; most scholars just mug really hard for 3 years to get a piece of paper to land themselves a cushy job; to them it’s a meal ticket. And once they get it, they just ride on it like a man on bicycle cruising downhill.

But General Yeo is very different; he is one of the few who applies his scholarship purposefully, he is well read and displays both the right blend of intellect and curiosity; so he has been able to reinvent himself to the emerging challenges of our times – most importantly, unlike the others, his mind is fluid, like quicksilver – this is rare, very rare indeed.  But even then , if this continues, I think, he is kaput….all I see is a dead man walking.”

“I want to ask you a question Darkness, what is happening here? Are these leaks indiscriminate, random or is there something more to it?”

“How can they be random your Excellency? The way I see they are just serving the Aperitif, we have not even got to the really hard stuff yet that will send your mind spinning your Excellency.”

“Who Darkness?”

“Not Who. Why your Excellency. Do you mean to say it is one man doing all this in the way it is like in one of those James Bond movies where there is a baddie stroking a cat trying to control the whole world? That’s a fantasy. This is not Assange. We have to look at who is behind the shadows using Assange.”

“What are you saying Darkness?”

“I am saying that there are not many people who could have pulled this off in the virtual – Shalimar the Clown is right; first, let’s look at the tools of the trade – we have cross-overs in 4 times zones; these are all coordinated not centrally but in each is a stand alone – so we know that high powered computers are used – let’s look at the security; if one cell gets painted, it doesn’t affect the rest, they all have multiple feeds so it’s almost impossible to trace them, to do this, you need at least 4 cells in 4 continents in 4 different times zones  – we are dealing with professionals – then you have to ask, who is picking what the world should see and not….but most importantly your Excellency the skeleton key that will open the door to this delightful mystery is, Cui Bono?”

“Cui Bono? Indeed Darkness….what else are you saying Darkness…please don’t hold back.”

“I am saying your Excellency, this is not a case of scaring a few monkeys by threatening to throw the book at them just because they used a four letter word in their blog….I am saying this is the big league….I am saying it is so big that these people don’t even know where to begin plugging this hole. I kid you not, they have no idea. I am saying… this may even get worse before it can get better your Excellency.”

A secret conversation onboard the Laanstrad Deep Space Starcruiser -KDD Concordat

(Due to Measured Response some sections of this transcript has been censored, deleted or removed)

Auto-bot has detected a related article:

Wikileaks – Does Obama, LKY, General Yeo et al have a right to diplomatic privacy?

Can the US fix Mr Julian Assange like Shardrake?

 

 

“Why have the Brotherhood sent their spaceships here? We have not seen them for years.”

“Maybe they just need to refuel?”

“Maybe they know?”

“How is that possible?”

“Impossible you say! Anything is possible when you work for the bloody circus!”

(Due to Measured Response this excerpt intercepted by an auto-bot crawler has been censored, deleted or withdrawn from general circulation)

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