Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Contemplating a new look

Eeps was down from Melbourne and after an exhausting 5 hr trek of Singapore's "premier" shopping belt, we ended the day with fruit tarts at the delicious new Fruit Paradise.

One thing's for certain, the Singaporean food critic is an odd creature, review websites across the red dot have commented that the tarts are not sweet enough.

I disagree.

The sweetness of the fruits is precisely the reason why the cream stays light and fluffy- to have both topping and base in sugar synchronicity will kill both taste senses and liver processes. I've noticed that the average Ah Teck is going to shovel the entire dish down, essentially skipping the palette and aiming for a general taste before rapid chewing and a trip down the throat.

The degustation process is best aided with a slow and appreciative enjoyment of the taste contrasts and flavors. To wolf down your meals would do your tongue a complete disservice and deprive the brain of all the possible taste sensations. Additionally, some genius chose to comment on the japanese curry and rice at a FRUIT PARADISE.

But I digress. Eeps, myself and the gf enjoyed the tarts immensely, but it's what followed that was the greatest fun by far. Like food tasting, the review and conceptualisation of a new look is a fairly slow but wonderfully enjoyable process.

Helping Eeps look for new spectacles before he headed back to cost-prohibitive Melbourne prompted us to head to Eye-play over at the Heeren. It wasn't the gorgeous BOSS glasses that caught our attention.

It was the wood veneer (or were they completely wood) "Buddy Holly" glasses that caught our attention. After screwing around with the Potter glasses, we had more or less settled the glasses for Eeps. Leaving the gf to muck around and decide a new look for me- the nerd.
Not that I'd mind.

$206 for the glasses and hi-index lens. What I am interested in is however a new suit to match the glasses.

Ah decisions decisions.

I've just sent my Louis Khoo LevelNine rimless glasses in for servicing and the thought of returning to my consumerist lifestyle after two months (successful I might add) cold-turkey non-shopping lifechange reeks too heavily of failure and defeat for me to find even the most fashionably attractive ideas intriguing.

The psychological battle rages on but most importantly, how could I ever measure to THE MAN- Buddy Holly- He's the epitome of Nerd Cool. Rocker Nerd, an anti-thesis and an accurate description of my personality. The very idea of this tempts me to the core.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Planet Earth

"That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

Carl Sagan
describing Earth


A good reason to start smoking.

My next wardrobe (in the middle of a hunt for a new place).
The Gant Belt I regretted not buying.

I haven't been blogging about fashion trends lately cos I've been busy:
  1. House hunting
  2. Dealing with drama
  3. Choosing a diamond
I will return soon.

P.S. that crocodile skin black bag does not make me look gay. The term's metro.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Boy's Prayer

Father, your hand guides us
In you our faith
Your will unseen
Our mortal fears deceive
Give us today your gift of peace
When enemies beesech us
Our daily bread speed us
Lead us not into self condemnation
Deliver me from despair

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Supplemental: The Great Purge

Those who fail to remember history, are condemned to repeat it.

In the summer of 1932 Joseph Stalin became aware that opposition to his policies were growing. Some party members were publicly criticizing Stalin and calling for the readmission of Leon Trotsky to the party.

When the issue was discussed at the Politburo, Stalin demanded that the critics should be arrested and executed. Sergey Kirov, who up to this time had been a staunch Stalinist, argued against this policy.

When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin. In the spring of 1934 Sergey Kirov put forward a policy of reconciliation. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. Once again, Stalin found himself in a minority in the Politburo.

After years of arranging for the removal of his opponents from the party, Joseph Stalin realized he still could not rely on the total support of the people whom he had replaced them with. Stalin no doubt began to wonder if Sergey Kirov was willing to wait for his mentor to die before becoming leader of the party.

Stalin was particularly concerned by Kirov's willingness to argue with him in public. He feared that this would undermine his authority in the party. As usual, that summer Kirov and Stalin went on holiday together. Stalin, who treated Kirov like a son, used this opportunity to try to persuade him to remain loyal to his leadership. Stalin asked him to leave Leningrad to join him in Moscow.

Stalin wanted Kirov in a place where he could keep a close eye on him. When Kirov refused, Stalin knew he had lost control over his protégé.
Sounds familiar? Look North to Malaysia at another former Master/Protege relationship- Mahatiar and Anwar.

Sometimes, the need to "fix the opposition" and "buy votes" can make the current rulers miss the forest for the trees. The bit of history was Stalin's legacy, he purged all opposition and opposing voices so efficiently that eventually when the Nazi armies came knocking on Soviet borders, all that saved Russia was the harsh winter cold and a bit of luck.

Singapore exists on the equator in a tropical region and Fate is a fickle mistress.

Monday, September 7, 2009

We need to balance our policy of survival with the democratic process

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has been and still is right in many aspects of governance.

Before you brandish pitchforks and flaming torches, please allow me the pleasure of explaining my opening statement. Please take comfort in the assurance that my current thoughts fill me with as much dread as you might feel.

In the not-too-distant past, MM Lee has flirted with the idea of rudimentary eugenics (graduates marrying graduates in order to spawn smarter progeny through SDU) and giving a bigger share of voting rights to the entrenched citizens.

According to MM Lee, "I’m not intellectually convinced that one-man, one-vote is the best. I’m convinced, personally, that we would have a better system if we gave every man over the age of 40 who has a family two votes because he’s likely to be more careful, voting also for his children."

I'm not too convinced that one-man, one-vote is best either. And since, unlike himself, I'm not a politician I can discard the notion that a family man votes wiser and postulate that family or no, there are more "stupid" people than smart people. Taking probability and the intellectual curve, it's safe to say that at any given time, the majority is comprised of citizens less intellectual than the upper quartile of the population.

Democracy distilled is therefore akin to "majority rule".

In many situations, "majority rule" is a bad way of making decisions, essential taxes might be voted off, unpopular but socially affirming policies might be voted away killing minority rights etc (e.g. a greater "white population" might vote in a way that puts blacks at a disadvantage).

That's why even in "leading democracies" like the United States, they practice a form of democracy, better known as a Republic- The citizens elect a leader to make the decisions for them.

For a small city-state like Singapore uses its small size and stature to practice acts economic (bio-science is important, push for bio-science industries islandwide now) and political agility, true democracy would paralyse an otherwise nimble nation.

And while MM Lee is correct in his assumptions, his or his party's application of these ideals leaves much to be desired.

While a strong mandate may be required for a ruiling party to pass and affirm what they believe to be good policies for the nation, the uneven playing field for opposition parties makes the thought process that leads to these policies a little less earnest.

Let me put it this way, if it was debated in parliament that "we need take the opportunity to buy into Bank of America." The pro-faction in this case, being the PAP and Ho Ching would state their case, the opposition would debate the cons to buying too early etc.

When this level of discourse occurs, certain points and facts may have highlighted the fact that buying now would not have been the right time. Not to mention the positive spill effects on Singapore's citizenry.

The citizens, once exposed to policy decision making and debate, can form their own opinions and ideas and essentially engage in participatory democracy. This should form the corner stone for all fledging democracies.

The pledge need no longer be aspirational, it could be a practicising, functioning pledge of dedication to Singapore Inc. Malay, Chinese, Eurasian and others will all have their own opinions on essential public policies and foreign policy decisions. More importantly, leadership renewal will be less of an issue for those wanting to take office to genuinely serve his fellowmen.

The key is this- how can we find the middle ground?

Take this hypothesis: The World is flat.

In a system like ours currently, if the PAP says it's flat (casinos are good). It's flat (they're good). End of discussion.

In a democracy, the majority believes the world is flat. There is initial resistance as the naysers in the majority refuse to accept the premise that the world could be round. A debate occurs where members of a council argue facts. Eventually, the proof bears overwhelmingly that it's round, the public begins to accept the fact that its round especially since the intelligentsia are now convinced that it is round.

Where do we find the middle ground?

Terrible bi-partisan politics occasionally paralyse the United States, how do we find that middle ground of agility and yet practice democratic governance?

Is it safe to have a government so firmly entrenched in it's own "World is flat" beliefs?

It doesn't make me happy that MM Lee, once advocate and champion for union rights (he took pro-bono cases during his days as a lawyer), eventually banned trade unions and co-opted the NTUC into the government.

But MM Lee saw accurately, that in a small country like Singapore, the strategic importance of attracting and retaining foreign investment made it paramount that ours was a business environment secure from crippling strikes (e.g. UPS in 1997). Even then, how does co-option of trade unions safeguard the employee rights of its citizenry?

While I must admit that Singapore stands rather precariously (no hinterland) on the ability of its people to outproduce and out-attract investment better than its regional neighbours, I find it rather odd that the ruling party treats us (it's biggest shareholder) rather carelessly.

I put this forward, as a tired and soon to be apathetic blogger- Can we unite at least on one front, agree with the PAP that pure democracy might be our way to a united nationhood, but that we aspire, as one people, to seek the Singaporean dream without forsaking our forebears that have made this possible.

The post-separation workers who worked three shifts without complaint to make Singapore the jewel of South East Asia. These are the men and women who are now reduced to picking discarded cans off our streets. Can we at least agree, they need better care?

Might I also put forward, that while the ruling party continues to barrel down the path of courting the money of the wealthy through Integrated Resorts and luxury homes, that they take the time to consider that the wealthy are prone to flights of fancy. Have they considered that Singapore might be heading down the path to nothingness ala Dubai?

More importantly, could we avoid Dubai's fate if we started to have decent debates on the prudence of such pursuits we might avoid such an ill advised short term move?

Might they also consider, that once the rich and powerful are moving on to their new playground, Singapore will be left with the husk of an improverished and unhappy underclass of Singaporeans who have no other choice but to stay.

Foreign talent remit money overseas, they don't invest like citizens (in HDB flats) or put roots (through National Service), when they're gone, leaving keys in abandoned cars at the airport, any guesses to who's left to pick up the pieces?

While pondering these few points- might MM Lee also take the point to consider, the 5 years it may take the opposition to squander money in our reserves, the PAP and it's GLC investment corps like GIC and Temasek Holdings has proven that they have managed in 1 year.

And that while we don't begrudge or fault those who make mistakes, could these mistakes have been avoided through better debate in parliament? And most importantly, without checks and balances, what impetus (since no opposition exists to force resignation or discipline on the errant decision-maker) is there to avoid this mistake from ever being made again?

I would like to end, with MM Lee's own words during an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria in 1994-
"Westerners have abandoned the ethical basis for society, believing that all problems are solvable by a good government, which we in the East never believed.

Eastern societies believe the individual exists in the context of his family. He is not pristine and separate. . .The ruler or the government does not try to provide for a person what the family provides best.

Governments will come, governments will go, but [family] endures. We start with self-reliance. In the West today it is the opposite. The government says give me a popular mandate and I will solve all society’s problems.

We focus on the basics in Singapore. We used the family to push economic growth, factoring in the ambitions of a person and his family into our planning.

Nobody really believes that the government can provide in all circumstances. The government itself does not believe in. In the ultimate crises, even in earthquakes and typhoons, it is your human relationships that will see you through. So the [American] thesis . . . that the government is always capable of reinventing itself in new shapes and forms, has not been proven in history."

Does MM Lee really believe the PAP can re-invent itself after 40 years of dominance where Barisan Nasional and LDP have so recently fallen? Can a people, so coddled into apathy and so unpracticed in the ways of active participatory democracy be counted on in pulling ourselves out of the rut?

Count on Me Singapore or Count on PAP Singapore?