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Rethinking Community 101 [01 Mar 2007|12:23pm]


I’ve noticed something in Singapore.


Whenever I visit a friend’s home, or the  residence of a relative, most times the key form of entertainment seems to be vegetating in front of a television, with occasional conversation punctuating the silence filled with the tinny laughter and blaring soundtrack from the goggle box.


Another trend I’ve noticed is that a small number of my friends hardly interact with their families, especially their parents, save for grunted replies to persistent nagging, or demands to stop messing with their stuff. This number seems to be growing in size.


These 2 types of behaviour can be summed up thus: lack of communication.


It seems to point at a growing malaise in Singapore. Family life is suffering. And no wonder, for with the lengthy hours each family member spends at work, hardly enough time is left over for proper relationship building, the capstone of which is communication.  


Assuming that the family is a basic component of society, it’s no wonder that the general fabric of society is deteriorating as well.


Evidence abounds for the lack of basic courtesy, consideration for others and civic-mindedness in Singapore, and despite the “4 Million Smiles” Campaign initiated by our Dear Leader, all I see in the streets are sombre faces and dark frowns. But wait, there’s more.


From the commuters who go instantly to sleep (like faulty video recorders that stubbornly refuse to record your favourite shows at the proper time) when a lady with child enters the MRT train carriage, to the recently newsworthy young litterbugs who think cleaners will do all the work for them, Singaporeans have lost much in manners that should have been ingrained at home, in the family.


Perhaps fixing the family will lead to positive knock-on effects for society. To do that, it’s important to tackle the lack of communication I’ve noticed. I think one good way is through engaging family members in play.


Play is an important component of any relationship. Why else do parents devote so much time and energy to playing with their young children? Perhaps it’s sad that play becomes less important to parents as children grow up. Families that play together, stay together.


As a board gaming evangelist, it’s natural that I think board gaming satisfies this.


Board gaming is a form of sedentary entertainment, like watching television or reading books, that is social in nature. After all, not many people enjoy playing board games against themselves. Much time can be spent laughing and interacting with each other, through a board game, instead of in silence in front of a television, and this definitely aids in communication and relationship building.


Playing a board game allows a person’s character to be shown very well. Some may choose to play nice, to avoid hurting other’s feelings. Others play aggressively to win whatever the cost. Through games, families may get to know each other better.


Another advantage of board gaming, as compared with other kinds of entertainment, is players learn lessons in an active manner. For example, instead of learning to manage finances passively through reading a book or watching a programme on that topic, you can do that actively through a game like Payday or Cashflow 101.


Perhaps instead of spending so much money on national campaigns to promote family life, anti-littering and courtesy, which arguably have had only limited success, we could create a National Board Gaming week (already a custom for years in America) to promote board games as a form of interaction and opportunity for time together in the family. Hey, come think about it, what have we got to lose?

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Dreading February [23 Feb 2007|12:24pm]


Around the beginning of February, I come down with a dread feeling.


Usually, February is a good month, short and thus proportionately filled with more days of weekend breaks for the less work-inclined among us. Happiest of all would be the florists, what with the over-commercialised St Valentine’s Day on the 14th, virtually guaranteeing their biggest day of profits for the entire year.


What I really don’t care for is the annual Chinese Lunar New Year.


Oh, the customary money in the red packets is usually a bonus, at least until you tie the knot and then, you and your spouse have to repay all those years of free money to the next generation of bratty kids.


I can’t complain about the food either, but days of waxed duck/pig/chicken/nameless hunks of meat can be really tiring for the palate.


Some female (and male) friends, tempted by the feast of treats displayed, gorge on the sweets, the candied fruits, chocolate, the roasted melon seeds, the barbequed pork, the pineapple tarts and various other baked goods, only to end up paying for it the next day with an attack of the zits or extra inches to show on their waistline.


What I really can’t stand is the customary visits.


For those not in the know, Chinese traditionally visit each others’ homes to offer wishes of prosperity, good luck and health for the year ahead.


Ordinarily, I’m all for the custom of letting extended families celebrate the New Year together. I do appreciate that in times ahead, such customs may be all that stand between individual alienation from the broader society. I definitely appreciate chances to bond with my extended family.


The part that I dislike is the whole superficiality of it all.


In the past, perhaps things were different. When people used to live long distances from each other and when life was hard, a holiday where you not only get a break, but also get to see kin and friends you miss is not a bad thing at all.


However, with Singapore being such a small place, there are plenty of opportunities for people to see their relatives. We don’t have to wait for the excuse of Chinese New Year to see our relatives and friends, and to build relationships. It becomes a poor replacement for healthy bonds with each other. The visits become a crutch for relationships that we don’t care about, the ones that only come onto our radar once a year.


We visit the home of someone for nine-tenths of the year we don’t give a hoot about, we mask our boredom with joviality, we try to make awkward conversation about yet another relative we don’t care about. We then try to leave as quickly as possible to reduce the apparent waste of time that it is to us.


Worse still, there will be relatives whom we can’t get along with, and for traditions’ sake, pay the grudging visit during the New Year instead of trying to mend relationships in the long term. No wonder so many here prefer to fly off to another country for a holiday trip to avoid the ordeal that Chinese New Year has become.


There are exceptions, of course, and it’s always a happy thing for me to witness gatherings in the true spirit of Chinese New Year.


Chinese New Year should be a time of joy and celebration and a time where we remember the meaning behind the unique traditions we have.


To properly understand what the festival meant to our forebears is to prepare for it throughout the year via caring for our friends and relatives and building strong bonds with them. Until we are able to do so, all talk of maintaining and remembering customs is for naught.

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My Funny Valentine [25 Feb 2007|02:17pm]

So about few weeks ago it was Valentine’s Day. I have to say, I’m pretty glad the day have come and pass.
Reminders of this day of love were literally everywhere. It was on TV, on the radio, in every newspaper and magazine in town and along every road in Singapore. You walk down the road and suddenly, smack in the middle of the mall - a big red heart or some overly Photoshop picture of a couple so deeply in love. So, if you actually, in anyway, forget that it was Valentine’s Day. You’re really something huh?
Let me tell you my little secret.
I have a thing with Valentine’s Day. I hate it. I’m not saying this just to sound cool. I mean it, I really hate Valentine’s Day. I know a million and one other girls out there would feel the same way. But I have a different story as to why I hate it.
I’m not single nor am I lonely. I have a valentine. I have a boyfriend for more than 3 years now and god knows I love him with all my heart. But, ok, this is a very big but.
I have never, ever had a nice Valentine’s Day.
It’s weird, I know. But I think Shaun (my boyfriend) and I are just jinxed when it comes to Valentine’s Day. 3 years and we have never celebrated what most people call V Day together. It’s not his fault really, it’s not mine either. I have come to the conclusion that we are just simply not meant to celebrate Valentine’s Day together!
Every time February 14 approaches, something is bound to happen between us. We would either:
(a)    Argue about something
(b)   Get into a silly disagreement
(c)    Some miscommunication/misunderstanding will happen
(d)   All of the above leads to “the silent treatment”
It’s not like we didn’t try. Trust me, we did. I would go to him and I’d say, “Ok, we must not fight ah, V Day is coming.” But life has a funny way of letting everything go wrong just when you need it to be right.
In the 3 years that we have been together, I have had my fair share of roses, chocolates, candlelight dinners, and all the mushy stuff. He showered me with these and for that I’m pretty lucky and very thankful. However, for some god forsaken reason, cupids decided that it will happen every other day except Valentine’s Day.
Does it bother me? It did at first. But now, I see it in a different way. Maybe, it’s just a mere coincidence that for 3 years, something crappy happens on Valentine’s Day. Maybe, it’s just not meant to be.
But why let one silly, overrated day determine your happiness?
I’ve always believe that if things are meant to be, somehow, it will find a way. Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t meant to be for me and him. But hey, we got the other 364 days right?
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day World, till next year J
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I don't really want to grow up [24 Feb 2007|10:40pm]

When I was 12, still in primary 6, I heard about the Mass Communication course in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. I remember reading about it in the papers. I asked my dad, “What’s a polytechnic?” and he told me that if I studied there, I’d get a Diploma.
At that time, I didn’t care about a Diploma, I was happy to just get my PSLE certificate. But I knew I wanted to write when I grow up. So I figured that Mass Communication would be perfect for me.
I am pretty easy to please, so when I heard lots of good things about Mass Communication, I was set and nothing was going to change my mind, not even my mom’s little dream of me going into a Junior Collage. I wanted to be in Mass Communication and that was it.
3 years came and went and now it’s over. As I watch all my fellow “mass commies” get all excited that finally, finally it’s over, I can’t help but feel sad. It feels like everything just happened yesterday. Now that it’s over, we will all go our own separate ways.
Some of my friends are going into universities, some locally and others overseas. I decided to work first. After talking to a lot of people, I’ve been advised that experience matters a lot in the industry. So, I bravely decided to work first for the experience. Of course, I still want my degree, just maybe later.
The thought of working itself is scary. I’m 20 this year and in a few months, if everything goes well, I will have a job. That means I’m going to have to really, really grow up. Not that I’m not grown up now, of course.
Stepping into your 20s and getting a job means I’m going to have to pay my own bills, buy my own things, and the option of going to mummy and daddy gets a little more remote. In a few years, I will have to worry about my health, my finances, my job and I might even have to start caring about politics or the stock market or something.
Life isn’t going to be as carefree as it is now. I don’t know if I’m ready of it, but it doesn’t wait for you to be ready, does it?
We all know the day will come when we will all have to really, really grow up. The day will come when it’s no longer going to be a party every weekend. The day will come when you can’t go to mummy and daddy for the latest iPod or a new pair of heels anymore.
They must be the only ones smiling.
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Tiny Dancer [07 Feb 2007|04:25pm]

A man named Hans Bos said, “When I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole, that is why I dance.” Although he is not a professional dancer, his words seem to echo an immense amount of truth and passion, which is why this quote is dear to many dancers in the world, including myself.

I still remember the day I put on my first pair of ballet shoes and the beauty that seemed to surround me the moment my four-year-old feet were encased in the smooth satin. While this may seem extremely dramatic, it is moments like these which remind me why I have to put aside my fears and insecurities and get back on the dance floor.

There are some things in life which we can immediately feel a connection with. For me, dancing and writing are two passions which I hold closely to my heart. But what happens when your passion is taken away from you? That is what I’ve had to deal with for the past few years.

Personally, passions take over my life. They fill my heart and mind to the brim, threatening to explode in a riot of energy, but I welcome such chaos. So you can imagine the emptiness that has flooded me ever since I officially took a step back from dancing professionally. By professionally, I mean pushing my body to limits it still doesn’t know of, spending regular hours in the dance studio and offering back to the dance community.

I was plagued with serious knee problems in secondary school after twisting ligaments, which continued to affect me over the years. Despite this, I continued rehearsing and performing till my ligament suffered its most serious injury, which was when I realised I had to stop and recover properly before attempting to exert myself again. I was suddenly overcome with emotions; most significantly, the frustration of having to give up dancing, the envy of others and the loss of what made me feel alive.

However, the long wait and numerous injuries have injected an extreme sense of fear and insecurity in my mind, even though my knees have shown improvement (though not completely recovered) over the years. While I believe that I can start making my way back on to the dance floor (albeit more carefully), I am scared. There is a difference between merely dancing around in your room, and actually dancing properly, and that is where the fear sets in. The frustration of not being able to dance professionally for the past few years has driven me to get back on my feet, but the fear of injuring myself permanently has pulled me back.

But frankly, I am tired of being held back by fears. This is no way to live my life and even more so, no way to live out a passion. As I grow older, I corner myself into being more cautious. Gone are the days where I could just throw myself along with any whim or fancy, but this is something I hope to regain, that bit of spontaneity which will help me to be a tiny bit fearless again.

So if there’s anything I want for the New Year, my birthday or for the sudden burst of freedom after graduation, it is this. To get back on my feet, face my fears head on and hopefully, come out on top.
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Nice guys finish last? [06 Feb 2007|05:23pm]

A conversation with a close guy friend opened vividly with “Nice guys finish last!” and I haven’t been able to shake it off since, especially with the onslaught of Cupids and hearts since Valentine’s Day is approaching.

I got to thinking about it – whether you’re a male or female, it’s obvious that we live in a dog-eat-dog world where survival of the fittest always comes into play. Unfortunately, our world today is also terribly superficial, so the fittest may no longer be the best, but simply the most desirable. While parents used to preach that we should always look out for the pleasant and filial boys, this piece of advice has seemed to fallen on deaf ears as it becomes more evident how bad boys have become the new black.

The nice guys are those who cheer you on by the sidelines but are never the ones getting cheered for, the ones who let you cry on their shoulders but always seem to go unnoticed when they themselves are down, the ones who are seen as great confidants but never as potential partners … in short, always overlooked.

Romantically, girls do appreciate the nice guys, but unfortunately, their eyes always seem to fall on the bad boys first. The rare few who manage to make it through then move on to try pleasing the girls' mothers, but the seven year (or in our case, usually a few months) itch hits and the girls are soon running off to set their sights on another bad apple. In other words, the nice guys always appear too boring, too dependable and just too nice.

Having met my share of bad apples and nice guys, I can’t help but feel indignant for the latter. While the bad boys may take you on an exhilarating ride, they’re also the ones who break your heart. They may offer you a week of excitement, but soon enough, you’ll be lucky if they even give you the time of day. But the nice guys, they’re the ones who we ought to look out for. All their years of experience of being an emotional cheerleader has taught them how to look out for you and how to treat you well.

So what is it about the bad boys? Is it their brooding stare, or cocky jokes? It all boils down to this – it is simply human nature to want the unattainable.

The question is, the moment we actually manage to set our hands on the unattainable, is it what we truly want? Most of the time, no, and yet, we never seem to learn our lesson and thrust ourselves into this vicious web time and again.

If anything, I don’t think we should entirely be blaming the bad boys for hurting us, but we should blame ourselves for even setting foot onto this emotional landmine.

So what am I saying exactly? Do the bad boys need to get their act together? Or do the nice guys need to start playing a little rough? Everyone has their place in the world so we can’t expect each person to be the same. But for those who lament on how you always seem to meet the wrong people, the only standard you should set for yourself is to open your eyes a little more – the nice guys are everywhere, you just haven’t been looking at the right places.
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Relatively relative relatives [06 Feb 2007|11:08am]

So Chinese New Year is approaching again and I’m prepared to gorge on Bak Kwa (barbequed pork) and am thinking of what to spend my Ang Bao (red packet) money on. Chinese New Year means gatherings with family members distant and close, mahjong, red banners and lanterns, waxed duck, fish maw soup and other unique practices and traditions. Yippee.

Honestly, I never really enjoyed Chinese New Year. There are probably various contributing factors to my bland perception of the celebration. Stereotypically, you can say I’ve been a mild version of a banana person, yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Growing up in the MTV generation and coming from an English speaking home and an all girls Methodist secondary school, government efforts to ingrain cultural appreciation like racial harmony day were yes very interesting, but more of an opportunity to dress up in something other than my pinafore and cultural clubs like the Guzheng Tuan were more for the Ching Chongs and Ah Lians. Chinese lesson periods were for sleeping or talking and the teacher was sometimes left in tears. I feel bad for her now, and I’m sure Mandarin teachers know exactly which group of students my kind were. Now that I look back it’s really absurd how being bad at a subject was actually cool.

Besides the Ang Baos, Chinese New Year was always somewhat a chore with its tolerable but seldom appreciated traditions and its gatherings with Mandarin speaking relatives that don’t really relate, except by blood. During visiting, it didn’t help that my father was very strict about my attire and about being extra polite to relatives. And even though I hardly knew them, I’d have to answer a barrage of questions (I’m sure most people will find this familiar about their teenage years), and then I’d be stuck there watching Mandarin films and television programs the whole night, as it was impolite to leave.

Well, I’ll be 22 later this year and I find my attitudes towards my culture and relationships with relatives very different. Perhaps beginning to work in our cosmopolitan society has forced me to differentiate myself from the throng and appreciate my identity and culture as a Chinese Singaporean.

And in the wake of globalisation I realise my heritage and traditions will only continue to dilute in coming generations and there isn’t much I can do about it, since I don’t really know all the meanings behind the traditions or speak any dialects, let alone Mandarin, very well. Thus this Chinese New Year I’ll strive to relate to and learn some things from my relatives in an effort to embrace whatever I can salvage.

Steps to get become less of a banana this Chinese New Year:

1) Make an effort to speak and relate with relatives
2) Pick up some Hainanese phrases from my relatives
3) Help out in the kitchen while my auntie prepares the dishes and ask for recipies
4) Visit Chinatown shops, eat and observe the people/ take photographs
5) Buy some decorations while I’m there and spruce up the house
6) Learn to appreciate Chinese music starting with Faye Wong CD.
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Do you cut it? [05 Feb 2007|10:28pm]

“What don’t you like about yourself?”

Television junkies would have heard that line in Nip/Tuck. It’s the question the plastic surgeons in the American television drama series always ask potential patients. The series reflects an affluent society that has little room for failure or anything less than success, much like ours, where most of us straddle the fine line between self-improvement and self-mutilation, suffering for our goals. Whether it be over-working overselves to get a good grade or promotion, painfully removing hairs in various regions of our bodies to look better or starving so that we can buy clothes and gadgets, our society is familiar with the term no pain no gain.

At the same time we ogle at the graphic procedures done on American television series Extreme Makeover, where ugly ducklings, depressed and discontent with their lives are transformed into (fake) beautiful swans. We are exposed to Korean drama serials like Seikei Bijin (Plastic Surgery Beauty), which aired in 2002 about a main character who got plastic surgery to fit in and be successful and recent Korean films like Time and Cinderella all dealing with similar issues.

Plastic surgery is reported as increasing trend in other countries like Japan, Korea and China, yet friends left and right are subjecting themselves to one procedure or another right here in Singapore. Last year I read in the newspapers, heard from friends (incessantly), and saw before and after pictures online about the Dawn Yang plastic surgery scandal, which she still denies. The whole shebang put her on a fast track to fame and she became one of the Star Bloggers on STOMP and has potential contracts with talent agencies.

A week or so ago, I saw the other Star Blogger Wendy Cheng a.k.a XiaXue on the local variety television series Girls Out Loud deciding to get a “new nose” much to the dismay of her mother who was shown crying before her operation. Power98 DJ Rosalyn Lee underwent less invasive procedures like a botox injection to shrink her jaw line and plump her lips. The procedures surprisingly seemed easy enough, except for a few tears shed by Rosalyn, but for other young ladies already familiar with such methods, the program was probably more of an encouragement than a mere eye opener.

Wendy’s mum might have thought she was beautiful the way she was, of course we all have different perceptions of beauty, but I’m sure most of us wouldn’t exactly term Wendy as a gorgeous hot babe. So the cusp of it really is how we perceive each other and ourselves as compared to images in the pervasive mass media, which reflects societies standards.

There are the few influences that are pro “real beauty” in the media, like the Dove campaign that incites you to think that nothing stands between you and "real beauty" except “the courage to believe you possess it”, however it is too convenient that the women featured on the dove website all have at least petite noses and smooth skin.

At least half of the Singaporean population look worse than the women with “real beauty” on the Dove website (what with problems like acne, obesity and crooked teeth) so if “real beauty” is supposed to be the alternative to the industry standard, super model worthy beauty then a lot of other women must belong to a whole other category of “real ugly” then. The campaign that incites excess flab, flat chests and white hair as OK, is also telling us to buy Dove firming shower cream to help rid us of cellulite.

If anything lets be real about this, with all the garb and mixed messages thrown at us by the media, coupled with the need to succeed in society, it’s not that hard to understand why Wendy Cheng or Dawn Yang would undergo surgery, afterall people risk their lives everyday doing other things. Although I don’t condone total image overhauls and love myself as is, I know it probably won’t be long before plastic surgery becomes common practice in our increasingly affluent society, whether we choose to cut it or not.
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Why Starve? [04 Feb 2007|01:19am]

There’s something I don’t get about most girls.

It ties in with the recent news about a 21-year-old Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, who died of anorexia, a disorder characterized by an extreme fear of being obese and results in rejection of food and severe weight loss.

According to washingtonpost.com, Ana Carolina Reston died weighing a grand total of 88 pounds (39 kg).

Which brings me to my point: Is being skinny tantamount to being beautiful?

In response to Reston’s case, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen spoke up against how everybody seems to be blaming the fashion industry for encouraging weight loss and in turn, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

“I never suffered from this problem (anorexia), because I had a very strong family base. Parents are responsible, not the fashion industry,” said Bundchen.

Though one must wonder if Bundchen’s statement makes sense because … truth be told, it is popular culture that influences youths the most after all. Even the clothes on our backs are based on what we see on movies, television, magazines, etc. And since all youths go through a phase of teenaged rebellion, parents would then have no way in.

‘Monkey see, monkey do.’ The same rule applies to youths. We see what we think is the perfect body on advertisements, and so we aim to follow it. And let’s face it, almost all the advertisements we see everyday consist of slim and slender models.

Yet, why is it that models have to be slim? Why can’t we have plus-sized models? Does this mean that people of bigger sizes are worthless?

Is plus-sized Academy Award-nominated actress Queen Latifah worthless? Judging by her many award nominations and wins, I don’t think so. In fact, she herself told US magazine Woman’s World in an interview that women ought to love themselves for who they are and what they have.

“I wish every woman would love herself and embrace what she was given naturally.”

Perhaps it is time for everyone to sit up and start paying attention to what is really going on. Bigger girls are starting to starve themselves and suffer, just to achieve the ideal weight they’re longing for.

A friend of mine who was once bulimic told me that one of the reasons behind the emergence of her eating disorder is the many billboards and advertisements showing slim and pretty women. Feeling insecure about herself, she would starve herself during break-times, eating only steamed cashew nuts and dried persimmons brought from home. She would only drink water and eat no more than a spoonful of rice every day.

Is there really a need to be skinny in order to be beautiful? And whoever said that a slim body is a perfect body anyway?

What is given to us is something we cannot change. Nobody can change the fact that they’ve got big bones, or wide hips, or a rectangular face. Plastic surgery is an option, but a risky one that should not be taken unless it concerns your health. The only other option we have is to accept ourselves and what we have.

As iconic American actress Lucille Ball once said, “love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
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My 2007. [04 Feb 2007|01:12am]

It has been 35 days into 2007, yet it feels like it’s only been a few hours. And even though we’re in the midst of 2007 and everybody’s beginning to get into the rhythm of a whole new year, I still look back at my 2006 and wonder if I’d change anything.

If I had to sum my entire 2006 up in one word, it would probably be … ‘Hazy’. It may seem a little strange to you, but my 2006 was more of a blur than anything else. I feel as though the first day of 2006 was just yesterday, when I’d spent the first few hours eating and laughing with my friends down in Holland Village.

And then all of a sudden, I’m sitting in my room, doing the last few bits of work for my very last semester in Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Mass Communication.

This actually reminds me of the recent Adam Sandler movie, Click, in which the main character Michael Newman (played by none other than Adam Sandler himself) receives a universal remote control that actually allows him to alter time and reality with just a click of a button. True to Hollywood fashion, he finds that abusing the power of the remote control has caused him to miss out on years of his life, and that he can’t simply rewind and have everything back to normal.

I feel as though I’ve missed out on 2006. Even though I was there all the time and had no remote control whatsoever to fast-forward the times I’ve had to wait in seemingly endless queues, I feel as though 2006 had simply zoomed past without warning.

They say that ‘time flies’. In my case, I’d say that it pretty much zipped right past me.

Sure, I went through various important and memorable experiences in the year. Sure, I made some new friends, gained a new perspective on things, watched a few great movies and listened to a few great bands. And yet, I still feel vaguely disappointed with the way 2006 went. It’s as though there was always something more, like a well-hidden pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and I failed to reach it.

It’s nothing to feel sad or sorry about, just rather … discontented.

So amidst all the shouting and confusion as people around me scream their New Year greetings, I made my mind up there and then that my 2007 was going to be anything but dissatisfying.

With my impending departure to Western Australia for further studies, I have yet to do something so outrageous and unforgettable in the country in which I’ve been living in for all of my nineteen years. I long to make my mark in something or someone, to ensure that even when I leave, I will still be remembered.

No more living vicariously through other peoples’ stories because I’ve made the decision to spend this New Year doing what I want, when I want and however I want it to be. It’s going to be my 2007, and nobody else’s. I’m going to live life to the fullest and do things I’d never dared to do before such as bungee jumping or swimming with sharks.

So … anybody know where I can find some … friendly, toothless sharks? :)
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Finally proud of this country [03 Feb 2007|07:38am]

A quarter of Singapore’s population is made up of foreigners, our local channels are filled with foreign programmes, and the DJs here try very hard to have an American accent. It’s so glaring that we Singaporeans lack national identity and pride.

I love Singapore because I’m so comfortable here, but I just can’t find any part of it to be proud of. The Japanese have their mangas and sushi, French have their Eiffel Tower, and England has their pubs. How about us? Lee Kwan Yew? Merlion? Singlish?

I don’t remember feeling a single tinge of national pride until yesterday night. It was the ASEAN Football championship, and I was lucky enough to watch it live at the National Stadium. The best part of it was that my father had connections with the hardcore fanclub, and got us the best seats in the house.

As I settled down and took in the fantastic view facing the middle of the field. Encircled by the fully packed stadium, I can’t help but feel good to be a Singaporean. The enthusiasm of the fans around us was very infectious, and my Dad and I found ourselves standing and cheering even before the sun was down.

The place roared and shook when Singapore’s players got onto the field. Banners were waved frantically and horns blasted continuously. With the help of the loud booming of a drum, the crowd around us chanted and cheered with the ferocity of, cheesily, a lion.

It all came down to the point when they played our national anthem. I’ve never sang it so loudly and proudly since the first National Day celebrations when I was in Primary 1. It felt was an extremely touching moment, singing it with 55,000 other Singaporeans. As dramatic as it might sound, dad and I were moved to tears. I could literally feel the passion inside every single person present, and their whole hearted support for our national team.

The match kicked off, and among the crowd, strangers cheered together, bonds formed unknowingly, and we were one. One people, one nation? It happened right then. Everyone stood up when our team was attacking, and encouraged when they were defending. For 2 hours, thousands of Singaporeans, who wouldn’t even smile at each other if they were in the same lift, formed a special relationship.

However, Singaporeans are a cold bunch, and without a football team to support, every single one of us who roared and clapped together last night would return to being our everyday rigid selves.

It’s pretty sad, the way we aren’t friendly at all with each other, but hopefully, with an open-minded and more westernised generation like mine, Singapore might just become the next Thailand!

Click here for a short clip of 55,000 participants singing the Singapore national anthem.
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Leaving Singapore [03 Feb 2007|02:41pm]

I’ve been toying with the idea of an overseas education for a long time. And maybe the rest of my graduating batch is too. Sometimes I’m tempted to work here and see how things go, sometimes I’m tempted to just chuck everything and go.

In a family where going overseas is practically a rite of passage, I’ve seen first-hand the decisions that my siblings have had to make. And I have been trying to be as objective and mature as possible about my own decision-making.

These are the rules that I set aside for myself, and you should try to too:

Personal life is out of the picture. Yeah you’ll miss your friends, your family and your boyfriend/girlfriend (note: this one’s the hardest) and maybe you’ll miss how safe and familiar Singapore is to you – or how clean the toilets here are - but keeping all this in the decision only makes things harder for you. And whatever you think, those will always be the wrong reasons for staying.

Making a list of the pros and cons of staying here versus going overseas will always be useful to you. Then you can look at everything from a wider angle and weigh your options more objectively. You know, things like starting your career, saving time and money that an overseas education will cost versus a completely different teaching environment, the experiences of cultures and western culture.

Sometimes having western education gives you the opportunity to understand both sides, allowing you to integrate both when you start working eventually. In other words, a more rounded education. This is probably one of the biggest factors in my decision, because whatever industry you’re in, knowing everything from a purely Asian point of view may not be enough.

The next best thing for you to do is to talk to as many of your friends as you can who have studied overseas before. Ask them about their experiences, whether they loved it or regretted it and most importantly, why.

Oh and one thing to leave out of your decision too, don’t get tempted by partying overseas. That’s the wrong reason. You want to be thinking about your career and your future. Not just excuses to club while your parents aren’t around.

I’m sure many of you have been having this exact argument in your head and I hope that sharing what I’ve learnt from my siblings and friends will help you in your decision.

And at the end of the day, I think that if I decide to go, I’ll ultimately miss Singapore terribly. When I was young I used to hate this country. But as I grew older, I’ve learnt to love it. It’s safe, familiar and comfortable. And I hope then if I do go, I’ll come back one day and say that Singapore had become an even better place than it used to be.
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That Taxi Driver Story [02 Feb 2007|12:35pm]

So your driver’s license is so fresh that the ink is still wet. The first things that other drivers will warn you about are cab drivers and women drivers. I’ve had my license for just over five months and I’m ready to skin the next taxi driver I see. They are most famous for cutting into your lane and driving in front of you at 20km/hour. Frustrating isn’t it?

And women drivers, oh don’t get me started. I’m a woman driver myself, and I’ve got to say that I’ve got my parking down to pat and I always stick to my lane, I signal at least three seconds before changing lanes and I always check my blind spot. But somehow, when a driver in front of me signals right and then cuts across four lanes of traffic to the left, my first thought is ‘bloody woman drivers!’ (that one turned out to be a man actually.)

Not to mention the hate that every driver has for bikers, and vice versa. And as someone who both drives and bikes, I’m finding it hard not to hate myself. Of course there’s always the factor of ah-bengs who weave between traffic and cause other vehicles to swerve out of the way. But cars seem to go out of their way to irritate bikers as well. A taxi tailgated me once when all I did was stick to my lane. I sped up and the taxi almost knocked me over by trying to squeeze between the road divider and me.

When I complained to a fellow biker/driver, he said, “next time just slow down, and force the taxi to slow down. If he switches lanes, just switch with him. Always stay in front of him so that he can’t overtake you. You’re sure to irritate him.”

In fear of my life, I’d rather not try that.

The point is that there has to be a reason for all these terrible drivers in Singapore. As it is, our teaching system is formidable enough. I’ve heard stories of bikers who take up to eight attempts to get their licenses and drivers who take as many as five attempts to pass. But these are rare stories, I myself passed on my first attempt for both car and motorcycle.

I remember a girl who ‘dropped’ her bike during a lesson just because she was daydreaming. She’s the most air-headed girl I’ve seen in awhile. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. She was ‘blur’ and oblivious to traffic, and she passed on her first attempt as well. I was shocked.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that passing or failing is mostly luck. On my warm-up round before my driving test, I knocked down a pole on parallel parking and I accelerated by accident when I was told to emergency brake. Maybe it was the nerves, but on my actual test route it was smooth sailing. So what if it had been my tester in the car with me on my warm-up round? Did it mean I didn’t deserve to pass?

I expect the same thing happened with that girl. Maybe she just got lucky on her test-day. All I’m trying to say is that maybe we need to be a bit fairer when we hand out our licenses. Or maybe the system needs to change. All I know is that if we can take some of these idiots of the road, Singapore would be much safer for the rest of us.

And maybe there’ll be less road rage too.
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So the next time you see fireworks... [15 Aug 2006|03:55pm]


Author: Judith Tan

I was thinking about the fireworks the other night as they went off at Marina Bay. It was the last night of the Singapore Fireworks Festival 2006. 

No national celebration is ever complete without at least one round of fireworks and audiences are always dazzled by the explosion of colours and lights. The booming echoes can be heard for miles… and that’s what got me thinking.

From the time I was in Secondary School, I’ve always remembered that there were people (well, namely one teacher who brought it to our attention) speculating about the costs of these fireworks displays.  And when you think about it, the cost has never been mentioned at all. Sure, countries can talk about how many million they’re putting into building a new stadium or artefact, but fireworks is something always hush-hush. In fact when I was younger, I used to think that there must be this big storehouse of fireworks and every time there’s a national day, they just take a few out to wow the audience.

Just by simply inquiring, [less patriotic] people will tell you that the country is running up millions just for fireworks. How many million exactly? Well, nobody knows. So I’ve always thought it was about 2m. And if every year the country spends more and more to add a few more seconds to the fireworks display (that if you can remember, they always boast about: “And this year the fireworks display is going on for 5 more minutes… that’s 15 minutes altogether!”), it’s got to cost quite a bomb after so many years.

So I did a search online for fireworks as nobody knows the basic cost of one of those big ones. I mean sure, you can get the mini sparklers that kids play with all the time, but that’s hardly what we’re talking about here.

Okay, so there are many categories of fireworks, enough to write a full length feature on. I went for the obvious choice: Aerials.  At Fireworks.com, the most extravagant glitter display fireworks costs 75 USD per piece. And the video looked like a miniscule version of the fireworks we see at the National Day Parade (NDP). And since I forgot the exact pricing on the other fireworks website I was on, let’s say a really good, big and glittery fireworks estimates about 200 USD per piece/rocket/whatever it’s called.

Now then, according to the NDP website, the 2006 celebrations use 9,000 rounds of fireworks per show. Assuming the 9,000 is taken to mean literally 9,000 rockets, we’d have an estimated cost of about 1,800,000 USD per round. For the Fireworks Festival alone, there were four days of displays. I can’t remember how many rehearsals there were, but let’s just say there was one dress rehearsal and then the big NDP. So that makes a total of six days of fireworks. 6 x 1,800,000 = 10,800,000 USD. If you convert that to SGD, it would be x 1.7 = 18,360,000 SGD

I don’t know about you, but I’m gawking at the numbers. 18m! Well it’s no wonder that national governments never boast about this figure. How would the citizens like to know that their GST is going into that and that their money is literally going up in smoke? And to add salt to the wound, they have to pay for NDP tickets to get a good look, or tickets on the junk boat that gives them a better view from river. It's a rather ridiculous way to waste your money, if you think about it. Why don't we all get free cable television instead? Or renovated HDB estates that have elevators to stop at every floor?

So the next time you see a round of national fireworks, just remember, that’s your money going up in smoke.

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Uniquely critical Singapore [28 Nov 2006|02:55pm]

In a critical society like Singapore, where everyone is stingy on praises, I find myself most comfortable.

I’m glad that I don’t get empty compliments when I show my friends and family my latest photograph or art piece, I’m glad to receive harsh comments and blatant views on my work and I’m glad that my loved ones don’t lead me down the road of disillusion.

It’s far better than the American way of doing it - we see hordes of shameless American Idol wannabes during the audition rounds, season after season, exhibiting their horrid performances. After being rejected by the judges (and for obvious reasons), they are then filmed with their family and friends, who defend the contestant’s vocal ‘gifts’ and slam the judges for not being able to see what real talent is.

Why would anyone encourage a friend of family to go on the show if they do not think they have the right stuff? If my best friend was a terrible singer, and she had the intentions of joining Singapore Idol, I would tell her nicely that she needed more practice and save her from a nation-wide humiliation.

However, I think that this critical attitude towards everything and everyone else around us also has its down sides.

Locals are known to be insatiable with the service industry, and full of complains about the government. Of course, there isn’t one thing that everyone agrees on, but by being more open-minded and flexible, all of us can enjoy living in a supposedly oppressed city like Singapore.

Even when I’m deciding what to wear to school, it’s hard to pick an outfit which won’t allow people to judge me from it. If I put on a black band tee shirt, I’d be labeled emo or punk. If I decide to wear a pink skirt, I’d be called ‘act cute’, and if I dress up a little, everyone in school would condemn me as a ‘mass comm student who comes to school dressed for a fashion show’.

Well, there is no set solution for this since it’s just human nature to judge. I have to admit that I enjoy labeling and critisising people. I consider it harmless entertainment among your own clique, since they all see things the same way as I do. Of course, I try not to be a bitch and rattle off to everyone about how gross that girl looks in that leopard leggings.

Sometimes, when I realise how unnecessarily critical I am about something, I steer myself in the opposite direction. For example, yesterday’s lecture was shortened from two hours to one, and everyone complained about how the lecturer had wasted our time for making us even attend it at all. I bet if the lecturer used up the two full hours, the students would complain that he was too longwinded. So now, I try to be grateful if a lecture’s short, and also if the lecturer went into detail, for our own good.

I strongly recommend that everyone get a technique to regulate yourself from condemning everything in your way. Be a little more grateful, and I bet you’ll be glad to be where you are.
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I like me, you should too. [04 Mar 2006|11:28pm]

Why do the people close to us constantly want us to change?

The ones that force you to are the ones that apparently "love you the most".

When left to my own devices and faculties, I'm extremely capable and surprisingly (even to me) driven to churn out the best possible outcome.

Do they realise that what made them care for us in the first place was us being us? No pretense, no facades and no posturing. Thats how I tried to live my life. Operative word being tried as I was susceptible to lapses of judgement and through reminiscing, still makes me cringe.

So I'm American-sized. (cue the trombones and the rest of the band) Thanks Shaun.

Not that I didn't notice it before, but it never seemed a big deal to me. Maybe it shouldn't be a big deal to anyone else as well.

I have my hobbies, that people seem to think is a waste of my time. However, watching copious amounts of television and DVDs of films and even more television has actually shaped my mental landscape. I've cultivated the right attitude towards politics and the law by repeated watching The West Wing, The Practice, Law and Order and documentaries. The right way to kill vampires by rewatching Buffy and Angel episodes etc.

Right, so its a little skewed. But who's to say what anyone does is wrong. I enjoy my life, every minute of it and anyone who tries to take it from me by bringing up portents of impending havoc or having an unexplainable "bad day" again and still finding the time to be around me, infecting my mood. (Phew!)

I just can't be around bad vibes. I've too much empathy to shut that out, so I suppose I shut out everyone and everything just to be safe and dwell in my den of iniquity.

I just need to reiterate that I'm not an "out-of-touch sociopath who's blind to his own bliss born out of ignorance to the world around him".

It's a lot like how people mistake Homer Simpson for being a dimwit.

But Homer is far from being the purported failure, he has raised two happy healthy kids (and perhaps not exactly mentally stable Bart). He's managed to keep the peace at home by holding on to a happy marriage against all odds, became an astronaut for NASA and achieved his lifelong ambitions of driving a monorail, managing a country singer, owning the Dallas Cowboys, bowling a perfect game, being a blackjack dealer and being a mascot to the Springfield Isotopes.

Don't forget that he managed to accomplish this while holding down a responsible job as safety officer of a nuclear power plant and still find time to spend 12 hours in front of the television.

We still love him, don't we?
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Films aren't just momentary escapism [04 Mar 2006|02:28pm]

While others were out during St. Valentine's day, was I drowning in the sea of loneliness? Hell no!

I was in good company with some goodfellas.

In Good Company - Starring Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson

Goodfellas - Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci

Given all the recent hubbub concerning the Vice-POTUS-shoots-a-78-year-old-man-in-the-faceGATE and Nanyang Polytechnic's talent pool being showcased to the world, we've forgotten that we're on the cusp of the Oscars!

All since the my first flirtation with the movies when I was 3, with Star Wars and my realisation that movies were much more than moving pictures when I was 9, watching The Crying Game (really, don't call the authorities on my family).

I've had to skip school and classes for the past 8 years whenever the Academy Awards were on, however, this year, I don't have to go through the charade of being suddenly stricken with a life threatening cough that goes away as soon as it's noon.

This year has proven to be the toughest to call in recent times, with great performances and fantastic movies not even making the nominees list.

Here are my bad predictions for the main categories (blogs are supposed to this generation's vanity symbols, right?):

Best Picture: Munich (Why not? It's solid in every area while Brokeback Mountain could possibly face a backlash in all its recent pre-Oscar success)

Best Actor: Heath Ledger (For acting American and gay)

Best Actress: Felicity Huffman (Seen Transamerica, about the bravest thing a woman verging on being a sex symbol due to Desperate Housewives could have done)

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney (Cause he's George Clooney)

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Alright she probably wouldn't win, but I loved her role in Junebug when I got the DVD the other day as a saccharine sweet pregnant debutante who isn't sure of her husband's love for her anymore. Likely to go to Dawson's first sweetie, Michelle Williams though)

Best Director: Ang Lee (Even though first-time director Paul Haggis of Crash and Million Dollar Baby should win for managing to keep all plot threads as, if not more interesting than the ones preceding it.)

Best Foreign Film: Paradise Now (Now this is all based on hype since I've seen only Merry Christmas and Sophie Scholl from the list of nominees but any film regarding inculcation of terrorism which this film deals with heavily, and Munich are always in with a shout)

As you can see, this might seem of a more "who should win" rather than a "who would win" but I just have a feeling about some surprises come March 5th.

Pretentious and self-important events don't come any bigger than the Oscars!
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Reading is fun. Really! [01 Mar 2006|11:42pm]
From reading picture books as a child to novels and newspapers these days, reading has become one of my greatest passions or favourite hobbies. Now, I can’t even imagine a day without a book to read. Even the newspapers are nice to read! I mean, where can you find a book that offers you a variety of content and changes everyday?

I guess saying I love to read does make me sound like a nerd but hey it’s fun and definitely more enriching than playing computer games all the day! With choices like classics, comics, Chinese sword-fighting novels, romance novels, historical books and even travel guides, who can say there’s a lack of choices?

It’s especially sad when I see less and less people reading these days. Many people around me don’t even read the newspapers at all! I was rather disgusted when a friend of mine actually said she reads a lot when the last few books she read were her textbook and a comic a long time ago. Let’s face it. If you’re not going to read, don’t go pretending that you do so you can seem smarter.

Okay, reading may not increase your IQ but it will definitely enrich your imagination and general knowledge. With books, you can visit worlds you’ve never imagined, know people you’ll probably never have a chance to meet and know what it’s like to do things you probably would never dare to do in real life! So what’s so bad about it?

I seriously get quite pissed when I meet ignorant people with no general knowledge and no interest in anything but trivial stuff. I get even angrier when they put reading off as something dumb. Ok, granted, I guess not everyone enjoys reading but you’ve got to at least give it a chance somehow!

So the libraries have been doing their best lately. To my surprise and joy, during the December holidays, the libraries increased the loan quota to 8 books foe regular library members. Of course, after some thinking, it only encourages current readers to read more than usual but doesn’t really do much to persuade non-readers to start. Still, at least it’s better than nothing, I guess.

Hopefully, one day, you’ll pick up a book, a comic or a newspaper and give it a go. Choose something you have an interest in- art, gaming, science fiction, cooking etc. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something! So just give it a try today!
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The horror... [28 Feb 2006|02:06am]
It’s sad, knowing that I’ll be ending my days as a student soon and entering adulthood. After 19 years of waiting to be an adult, now that the time has arrived, I’m not looking forward to it anymore.

This weird feeling inside me still refuses to accept the fact that I, Halawah, is going to graduate in less than 2 months and that I, Halawah, must now act like a mature adult.

I’m really sad knowing that I no longer have the freedom to choose whether or not I should worry about anything other than school.

Neck to neck with group mates and attempting to finish projects and reports in the nick of time were more than enough to keep me occupied. But that is only when I’m a student.

Oh, wait. I am no longer a student. All because school has officially ended 2 weeks ago. I am now an adult. So, I must act like an adult; soon-to-be tax-paying Singaporean.

This worries me. I don’t know what will become of me when I’m officially recognised by the Government as an adult in a year’s time. I’ll officially be legal, having full access to all the R21 movies, clubs and whatnots; the big 2-1.

I am really scared. No, that would be an understatement.

I am horrified.
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Too old for the mosh pit? [27 Feb 2006|11:02pm]
Adila Makhdoom

Franz Ferdinand was performing in Singapore and my friends and I HAD to get tickets. As soon as we heard, we purchased “free standing” tickets, also known as the “mosh pit”.

We had three reasons for our decision:
1. Who sits at a rock concert?
2. To be close to the band
3. To dance and jump about

We arrived at the Singapore Indoor Stadium 3 hours before the concert started to be as close to the stage as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of people had the same idea. Although we were not in the front, we were still pretty close. As the minutes passed, our excitement intensified…and so did the rest of the mosh pit’s. After half an hour, it became hot, stuffy and we couldn’t move. However, our excitement did not wane. It was Franz Ferdinand!

The band finally came on stage and the audience went wild. As the opening chords to the first song resonated throughout the stadium, the crowd surged forward like a tidal wave, crushing everyone ahead of them. Any attempts to stay in a single place would be rendered feeble. We were being pushed left, right and centre. And when the taller guys jumped, well, they kind of landed on you.

Halfway through the first song, I looked around and noticed that I was surrounded not by my 6 friends, but by absolute strangers!

Everyone was jumping in synchroneity and if you weren’t part of it, the force of those around you would involuntarily thrust you into the air. We were getting crushed and elbowed in the face. People pushed their way to the front and if you fell, you would undoubtedly be trampled on.

It was so packed that you could feel the heat and hear the heart beats from those around you. That was not the worse thing about the close proximity. When people jumped, you could feel them gyrating against you and that was very uncomfortable. We must’ve been violated at least 62 times. It was well worth it though.

A little discomfort could not take away how much we enjoyed the concert. Franz Ferdinand were charming, energetic, stylish and such amazing performers. They really got the crowd jumping, dancing and singing along with them.

At the end of the evening, we came out with aching limbs and were drenched with the sweat of the 50 people encountered in the mosh pit. However, we had goofy grins on our faces as we gestured animatedly about how great the concert was and how much we would like to see them play again. Next time though, we'll leave the mosh pit for the 15 year olds.
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