Articles
 
The return to innocence
 

In the last couple of weeks, the interweb has been filled with voices arguing about the decision of the National Library Board to first remove, then pulp, then backtrack in spectacular fashion —flip-flopping like the Brazilian back-line during the recent World Cup — in relation to two allegedly objectionable books: And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express. One of those voices included that of the editor of the Singapore Review of Books, Lim Lee Ching, who posited that “this [issue] is no longer merely about book banning; it has crossed the threshold to take on the spectacle of a pyre … from which no hope may rise.” [1] This was a position which clearly resounded with many a reader, echoing as far as the Irish newspaper, The Journal.ie [2]

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In defense of lost causes; On teaching, or to sir with love ....
 

As Singapore is coming to terms with what has been dubbed the "sex for grades scandal"—where a university professor has been accused of inflating a student’s grades in exchange for sex and a slew of expensive gifts—what has been brought to the fore is the question of the relationality between a student and a teacher. Which is also the question of: what does it mean to teach alongside what does it mean to be a teacher?

 

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Walking up mountains with John B. Will ...
 

At 11am on a Saturday morning, 28 April 2012, having stepped into Top Gym Singapore, I found myself facing a predicament. Having incurred a minor slipped disc about 2 months ago, I was put on ice by the doctors until at least the middle of the year. Which in itself is not the worst thing. However, being on the side-lines is the last place I wanted to be at a John Will seminar.

 

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Popping not propping; quite possibly on propane ...
 

Discovery and possibilities. The possibilities in discovery. The very discovery as a possibility in itself. Not one that looks for something, but stumbles upon, perhaps blindly—stumbling around in the dark—but in that blind moment, quite possibly also seeing.

 

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Red dot.
The tiny red dot.
That is the comment that echoes. That stays in the minds of many. The assessment of this island-state by then Indonesian President Habibie; whilst pointing to a map no less.
Meant as a jibe of course.
Habibie as agent provocateur.

 

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Coffee, Tea, or me ...
 

When Osama bin Laden was executed on May 2, 2011, the biggest shock to the world was his abode. Contrary to popular belief, he was not holed up in a cave but living rather comfortably in a resort-like fortress. If we were shown an aerial view of his compound, and did not know that it was in the middle of Abbottabad, Pakistan, we would have probably assumed that it was a holiday villa of a rich—and slightly paranoid—businessman.

 

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In defense of lost causes----on John Galliano
 

One of the questions haunting art is: to whom, or what, is the artist responsible? Which translates to: should an artist be held accountable to any domain outside her work? And we saw this question play out recently in John Galliano's fall from grace.

 

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If I wanted a tan, I'd lie in the sun ...
 

On 27 August, 2011, Singaporeans went to the voting booths to elect their 7th President. And were faced with an interesting conundrum—all 4 candidates bore the same last name: Tan. As expected, there were numerous jokes revolving around the notion that regardless of whom they voted for, citizens of the city-state were picking the same person. Predictably, the response from the ruling nomenklatura was: Singaporeans should focus on the fact that this is a watershed Presidential Election. After all, previous incarnations of this exercise were either walkovers or had at most two candidates. Moreover, the last time Singaporeans had to select a head of state was in 1993, when one of the two candidates—Chua Kim Yeow—openly expressed his reluctance at the possibility of becoming President.

 

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On the unbearable likeness of being; or who the fuck is Alice?
 

The question that haunts all modern society is that of the individual. It takes the form of either "who am I" (the question of identity) or "what is my place in society" (the question of relative value). Even though they may seem to be unrelated, they are actually the same question. For, the notion of individuality is meaningless without a point of reference, an externality: in other words, there is no self without another, the other, all others.

 

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On writing; or syphilitic fragments
 

One can only write in an attempt to write. For, writing comes to one—from somewhere else, everywhere else, anywhere else; often-times in spite of one self. Hence, even as all writing can only happen through the self, the self is—and can only be—the medium through which it occurs. The only thing that one can do is attempt to respond, attend to, the possibility of writing itself.

 

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On Heresy; or thinking, jiu-jitsu, and the question of time
 

One of the greatest challenges in recent times posed to the art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was the advent of the 50/50 guard. It was not as if the position itself suddenly appeared; they don’t come out of nowhere: but one certainly cannot discount the fact that the massive success of the Mendes brothers certainly put it in the spotlight. The problem of course was not the position as such—it was clearly effective, it was within the rules, no one could solve the puzzle—but the fact that everyone else seemed to be befuddled by it

 

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Waking up with Obama; or the morning after ...
 

On the 20th of January, 2009 , there was euphoria when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America . Five days earlier, the Lunar New Year arrived, heralding in the Year of the Ox. Perhaps there is no guiding symbol more apt for the year than a castrated bull; a work-horse, domesticated, obedient, and non-independent. After all, in this current climate of an economy in disarray, this seems to be a prudent call—"herd together, buckle down, and move in the same direction."

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On Diving (ft lali puna --- sb rmx)
 

On 1 September 2009, the Control and Disciplinary Body of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) slapped a 2-match ban on Eduardo Alves da Silva of Arsenal FC, for "deceiving the referee" during the UEFA Champions League play-off second leg match on August 26 against Celtic FC. Eduardo was accused of going down in the penalty box, despite there having been no apparent contact with Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc: referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez awarded the penalty, which was subsequently converted by Eduardo himself.

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On Beauty
 

In the after-math of the 2009 of the World Jujitsu Championship, the difficult question posed by Luca Atalla still rings strong; ‘should athletes from the same team face each other in competition’? The irony of course was that Sergio Morales and Marcelo Garcia from Alliance decided to close out their division, whilst Roger Gracie and Romulo Barrral from Gracie Barra disputed theirs; this is of course in contrast to the opinions which arose from their respective camps only a short time ago. Regardless of this, one should take the words of Flavio Almeida and Romero ‘Jacare’ Calvacanti with the utmost seriousness, and consider them as such.

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The power of silence; on AWARE, pornography and prostitution
 

At some level it is almost absurd that pornography is banned in Singapore. After all, any self respecting port would measure itself by the number of banks, bars, and brothels; the entire premise of the ‘nation state’ is commodification and trade.

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In Defence of Stupidity; on Love and Valentine’s Day
 

Every year, on the fourteenth day of February, one is bound to hear numerous complaints from just about everyone (besides florists) about how Valentine’s Day is mere commercialism. The ones amongst the nay-sayers who maintain a soft spot for Karl Marx would proceed to call it the commodification of relationships; those who prefer the gods would claim that the sanctity of relationships has been profaned; the gender theorists would note how the fact that males buy the gifts only serves to highlight the unequal power-relation between the genders.

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Homo-phobia or What’s Love got to do with it
 

Clearly we have reached a point where the sexuality of the subject, or more precisely, the sexual orientation of the subject in a state is in focus. Hetero-sexuality is the legitimized sexual relationship, whilst homo-sexuality is generally frowned upon, but in terms of state regulation and public opinion. It would be too easy to launch into the standard Marxist analysis (where the subject is alienated from her own body and is now a datum of information) or even open the register of Fascism (where the private and public spheres are no longer separated).

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Parenting 101 with Josef Fritzl
 

The world-wide condemnation of Josef Fritzl opens up an interesting question: why is it that we are so hasty in condemning this man?  Whilst it is no surprise that a crime that is reprehensible should bring forth the outrage of people, it is also equally surprising how this has become almost a universal pogrom.  One almost suspects that there is the logic of the scape-goat at play here: and just like how the sins of the community are passed onto the goat (which is then sent away to die) have we all passed our sins onto Fritzl such that we never have to confront them?

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The Olympic Games or how Stalin was finally proven right

 

On 8 August 2008, the People’s Republic of China taught the world about Stalinism. 

During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, Yang Peiyi, the voice of “Ode to my Motherland” was literally relegated to the background for having bad teeth, whilst the more telegenic Lin Miaoke took center-stage.  A few days later, as the world was still swooning over that same ceremony, news of this switch-a-roo broke.  The reaction was the usual liberal outpouring of how this is unfair, discriminatory, inhumane and such.

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To cheer or not to cheer; that is the question
 

On the evening of 17 August 2008, Singaporeans were faced with a dilemma: do we cheer for the table-tennis girls that are standing on podium at the Beijing Olympics? 

On the one hand, this was the first Olympics medal that Singapore has won for the last 48 years.  On the other hand, many were still skeptical whether these athletes – donning Singapore colours – were actually Singaporean at all: after all, they were born in China and had been acquired by the Foreign Talent Scheme to boost our sporting success.    

 
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The 'unknowable' of Mat Selamat's escape

 

When Mas Selamat escaped on 28 February 2008, there should have been pandemonium: allegedly one of the most dangerous men in South-East Asia was now roaming with evil intent.  However, what we encountered was ambivalence and even mirth: there were numerous jokes surrounding the escape ranging from his name (Mas Selamat Kan-diri) to how Prison Break should just be renamed Toilet Break.  What these jokes reveal – regardless of their actual content – is a desperate attempt to find a reason for his escape.  They function in exactly the same way as conspiracy theories; bringing us a perverse comfort of knowing that there is someone in charge – some reason behind – all things that happen.

 
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Melamine or the might of the dragon

 

When Felipe Massa drove off with the fuel-line attached to his Ferrari during the Singapore Grand Prix, effectively ending his challenge for the Formula One World Championship, techno-phobes were up in arms.  Most of them cited the fact that if Ferrari had stuck to the manual signaling system – instead of relying on this newer semi-automatic one – Massa might still be in contention for the title.  In effect, the techno-phobic claim is as follows: if each of the Ferrari pit crew had been independently functioning units, the accident would not have happened; it then follows that this is the danger of over-connectedness and being part of a network. 

 
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The Uniquely Singapore campaign or the perfect defence against terrorism

 

Whenever one brings up the Uniquely Singapore campaign, (s)he can be assured of howls of derision. It is not so much that it is bad, for that would be a matter of taste (and hence surely you would find someone that actually likes it), but that it is an absurd campaign. The most telling sign would be the fact that the city state is branded as a ‘global city’: whilst there is nothing intrinsically problematic about situation oneself as global, it would suggest that there is nothing unique about Singapore, that it can be like any other city in the world.

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