Saturday, October 31, 2009

People's Association Songwriting Competition and Copyright Thuggery

I was so excited to hear from my wife that there would be a songwriting competition organised by the People's Association.

But became absolutely gutted and incensed upon reading their terms and conditions. (And they probably have added more stipulations in the weeks after this blog post)

It states that participants will relinquish ALL the rights to their song and lyrics to the People's Association (PA) in the event they win a prize (there are 11 prizes to be won any way). It is also obvious that they had consulted a decent intellectual property lawyer, either that, or they do the normal thing and copy and paste the rules and regulations taken from other songwriting competitions. Talk about the ironies of copyright terms and conditions if that were to be true.

All the rights! Distribution, reproduction, performance and even sales. They won't attribute the song to you in the future. Worse, is if they attempt to capitalise on the winning songs.

The prizes range from $300 to $5000. I think that is severe underpayment for full rights to a song. If it is for partial rights to the song, for reuse without commercial intent on the part of the PA, I feel that is reasonable enough.

This is absolutely ridiculous. I worry for would-be participants who do not understand the severity and implications of the terms and conditions of the contest, or understand the implications of relinquishing all your rights to your own musical creation. They should know what they are getting themselves into, and that includes no attribution/credits either, should they win. (in a check with an intellectual property lawyer, I found out that the second owner of the rights must still attribute the creation to the original creator, so I might be wrong here.)

You do it because you have a sense of ownership. It is further an insult to your creation (song) if you "sold" it for a pittance of a cash prize. If the PA has all copyright and all related intellectual property rights to your song, they can choose not to credit you, because attribution right is part of copyright. (Copyright is a bundle of rights, as you should know by now.)

In my opinion, judging from the terms and conditions, I think the contest organisers are bullies that either do not recognise the value of artistic work, or are smart enough to leverage on copyright laws for its advantage and whatever commercial intent it may have. A songwriter deserves to have rights to his own creation and deserves royalties too.

This is copyright thuggery. Of course, the government follows the private sector. You have Streetdirectory.com and ODEX, using intellectual property (copyright) laws for their commercial benefit. The idea of copyright is to protect the creator, and not for businesses to use as a revenue-generating part of their business model. Unethical scums.

I had a strong interest in participating in the People's Association Songwriting Competition, but think that it is contrary to my idea of artistic integrity.

Furthermore, the competition's terms and conditions is anti-music. Shouldn't you allow people to keep their own creations? The remuneration (i.e. prizes) is pittance, and not worthy of a relinquishing of all rights. Musicians and songwriters will know that.

It is perplexing and preposterous that a statutory board (government organisation) is interested in owning - exclusively - the creative and emotional labour of people! On the one hand, it aims to promote peace, harmony and togetherness among Singaporeans; but on the other hand, they do so by exploiting people.

Why would a stat board bother about owning full rights to someone else's song? They probably want to save up on paying royalties and licenses. And if they exclusively own the song, they could profit from royalties themselves. But isn't the PA about fostering community togetherness? I find it unjustifiable they adopt this "peripheral competency" of owning rights to a bunch of songs.

In Singapore, the government has taken significant measures to have a sound intellectual property regime, but that does not mean its minion organisations can exploit people and their creations like that. Attitudes and behaviours like these impede creativity, because you take ownership away by cleanly divorcing individuals and their works. Of course, welcome to Singapore, where "rights" is not an entitlement to any human being, but the state.

Hey, I believe in community and harmony too. But that doesn't mean I should consent to giving up all the rights to my own creations. People need to have a sense of ownership to their own things first before they can even have the hint of a sense of ownership to a community.

I have sent an email enquiry to the organisers. Wonder what they have to say.

I'm so disappointed. Maybe I should write a song about this. (And I did, and I've submitted it for competition.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

General Elections rally crowd chants





Imagine we have (non-violent) crowd chants at the PAP elections rally (in the upcoming General Elections).

- "What?!" chants after every pause by the speaker.
- "This is bullshit!" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- "You suck!" chants
- "Change the channel!" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- "Liiiieeerrrrrrr, liiiiieeeeerrrrrr...."
- "B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T Bullshit!!!" chant
- "Bullshit, you are so full of bullshit. You are so full of bullshit. You are so full of bullshit" song in the tune of 'Blue Moon'.
- "Stop the rigging" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- "Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" chants
- "Fuck you xx xx!" chants (where xx xx is the two-syllable name of the speaker)
- "We're not voting!" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- Clap, clap, clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap... "BUTOH" (your favourite Malaysian Cup chant)
- If you're misogynist, you can chant at the female speaker, "You're just tits! You're just tits!"
- "Suck cock buddies!" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- "P A P!!!" followed by "suck my ****" chants (insert your favourite body part)
- Take out a $2 dollar note and wave it in the air and chant "You want money!" You want money!" or "Strip! Strip! Strip!"

Of course, if you would like to voice your support, you can chant:
- "You have my vote!" clap, clap, clap clap clap
- "Who's da man?" followed by "You're the man" chants
- "Let's go xx xx xx" clap, clap, clap clap clap (insert name of speaker)

What's your General Election rally crowd chant? Must make it really mean and sexist, k? I mean we don't normally get to express ourselves like we do on election day, so since you have a crowd around you, you could engage in some cheering without being violent.

Gay rights in Singapore and the double-edged sword of science

Nice interview by the SDP's Chia Ti Lik with Alex Au, blogger and activist.

http://www.yoursdp.org/index.php/news/singapore/2954-lets-talk-with-alex-au

I refer to Alex's view on gay rights, at 3:53 of the video.

He speaks about "recognition of known facts... scientifically deduced information."

And he also mentioned about the political landscape being in a state of fuck, I mean flux. (at 5:39). Not everyone is perfect when doing interviews (See criticism of Ris Low).

On the first level, scientific facts break apart wrongful stereotypes upheld by society. They directly confront ideas that homosexuality, for one, can be taught, learned and spread. Along this fear-inducing line of thought, people will naturally feel that homosexuality can be not taught, unlearned and be stopped from spreading.

Scientific facts challenge social mentality that equates homosexuality as a unchecked and undesirable social phenomenon. People think you can become homosexual through differential association, i.e. hanging out with gay friends. They see homosexuality not as personal sexual identity, but a behaviour you can pick up, just like other perceived ills like smoking, drug use, gambling and secret societies. And since these entities have their social remedies in the form of rehabilitation and resocialisation, they encourage religious organisations that feature reparative therapy.

I believe that people's prejudice against homosexuality or sexual diversity stem from the following reasons:
1) They do not recognise that different persons have unique sexual preferences; everyone is assumed to be heterosexual.
2) The inability to recognise (in point 1) is stemmed from socialisation, indoctrination, lack of information and contact with people of diverse sexualities.
3) Oweing to the factors mentioned in point 2, people make their prejudices a moral truth, and gladly have the endorsement of existing social and religious institutions, entities entrenched into our social fabric.

However, when we take the spotlight away from homosexuality, does heterosexuality, an identity so coveted by our society and religious institutions, exists as a homogeneous entity? For example, does an ordinary heterosexual Singaporean man fancy all the women in the world, regardless of aesthetics, beauty, physiology, biology, race, ideology, etc.? Are there some types of women he might not fancy at all? Does that qualify him as heterosexual then?

When we see heterosexuality not as a homogeneous entity but heterogeneous, it becomes threatening to many champions of straightness, who are also homophobic.

Individual taste is part of one's sexuality. Different folks have different emotional preferences, aesthetic tastes, preference as to how and with whom they would want to spend quality time, different fetishes and desires that turn them on, and so on. These factors, among many others, cause a person to have specific desires related to sex, whether he/she wants sex or not, how he/she wants sex, with whom and where, and so on.

From here, we see heterosexuality as a myth, loosely held together by simplistic and ignorant social hearsays.

That said, I feel that when we give science too much credit, we risk losing ourselves. Science will always play catch up with social phenomena. Science generalises and tries to break down complex realities into bite-size bits of digestible information. Science is that double-edged sword.

As far as my apprehension goes, I still believe - not sure if Alex personally feels this way too - that science, no matter how advanced or lagging, is the tool to engage the ignorant and/or hateful homophobe. As an advocate of ideas that takes a people out of their comfort zones, you cannot bring in your own tools to engage people. Everyone will be on different wavelengths. You speak the language people speak and you use the systems they have most faith in. People believe in the currency, truthfulness and objectivity of science, for a long time, and for the moment. And Alex is right in supporting the push for information to enter the public domain.

The hindrance to the entry of such information in the public domain is perplexing. The government holds the key, but chooses not to allow for such mainstream exposure to science. This scenario may be jarring for a large number of people, who have been fed religious doctrine and social stereotypes for a long time. And instead of adjusting and reconciling the information with their personhood, they bunker in and charge this as the "gay agenda".

The government, with a parliament overrepresented by Christians (maybe they saw a need to represent Christians who are rich, poor, liberal, fundamental, male, female, quiet, psychotic, born again, aborted, and so on), may see this is a conflict of interests. The backlash will be stronger, as anti-gay stereotypes are reinforced and the age-old weapon of using children comes into play. "What if my son/daughter grows up thinking gay is normal, or becomes gay himself/herself?" would the common ploy.

They still question not their prejudices and predispositions, as to why they even moralise homosexuality in the first place. This is where religion comes in. Religion protects the institution of marriage and procreation, and in most monotheistic strains, they see homosexuality as an external threat to the institution. Religion locks you into its infrastructure and embeds moral mechanisms into your psyche and you begin to conform and to differentiate between what is right and wrong. It is not without religion that we come to rationalise and repackage specific acts and experiences as sinful or virtuous.

The problem science poses to religion is that it is less moralising, though not void of moralisation, than religion. Science is just a process, but you can either have a hippie or a Nazi steering it, with its objective results presented in a way aligned to a certain ideology, which either supports or challenges existing social systems.

I personally feel that sexual diversity should not be subjected to the realm of science. Personhood matters too. You don't need science to explain how gay or straight you are.

Unfortunately, science is our social gatekeeper. We could express our sexual identities in other ways, but when it comes to the public domain, we use science to represent (and distort or simplify) our experiences.

For me, heterosexuality and homosexuality are just general categories that do not account for the specificities of human experience, but these are necessary for the visibility of people who identify as queer.

It is both desirable and problematic when society finally accepts homosexuality as legitimate and not "wrong", as it makes acceptance for sexual diversity a lot more difficult - we won't be able to easily accommodate people of sexualities outside homosexuality and bisexuality. A step forward for some, a step backward for others.

The discourse of sexual diversity in Singapore is contingent on science, medicine, religion and economy. For the last bit that is economy, sexual minority rights often take a backseat when the economy is being discussed. Given our regime of pragmatism, we see it practical to put aside our sexual identity issues and focus on bread and butter issues. We are unwilling and afraid to see how sexual rights and diversity dovetail with the economy. Most of us work, earn and pay taxes any way.

Coming back to the topic, I feel that sex and sexual identity should not be exclusive to the domain of science. You do not give people the freedom to articulate their sexualities if science were to be the only lens through which sexuality is scrutinised.

We may have put an end to the pathologisation of non-heterosexual identities, but how have we dealt with the medicalisation?

Essentially, categories dilute experiences. Whether you believe that heterosexuality/homosexuality is natural or learned, you end up ignoring the grey in between, and how individuals personally rationalise their identities and feelings, sexual or not.

To play with categories, I feel that there are more queer people in this world than "straight" ones. The "straight" identity is a mystical one. It assumes you are sexually attracted to all the members of the opposite sex. If that doesn't happen, how less "straight" can you be? Take body shape and skin colour for example, are you more spontaneously attracted to certain types over others? How does that figure in your straightness?

If you are selectively straight, does that make you queer?

Labels and categories are for a society that has high levels of discomfort dealing with heterogeneity and exceptions. We just can't simply accept that people are a persons with different ideas. We have the economy, nation, religion, concepts of race and community, and others, just to keep us together. This reflects how uncomfortable we are in accepting difference as a reason for acceptance, respect and solidarity.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The mob has spoken: Ris is over, who's next?

Most of us are predictable. We pounce on and drain the blood of errant characters in the Singaporean ecosystem, surfing the snowballing wave of newsworthiness, maximising its utility and eventually discarding it.

We leave behind footprints of our characters as we trample on others in the frenzy of the mob.

Like the torch of every lynch mob, every lynching has a short shelf life.

What is interesting is there seems, to me, to be a trend in the victims of the internet lynch mob. Well, we also have the internet lynch mob to thank for, for making news newsworthy.

I predict the next victim of the internet lynch mob to be an ethnic Chinese woman.

In recent times, we have noticed a succession of ethnic Chinese women, who have fallen foul of, and lynched accordingly by the mob:

Wendy Cheng, Wee Shu Min, Mrs Goh Chok Tong, Thio Li-Ann and Thio Su Mien, Wong Kan Seng, and Ris Low.

We seem to have a fascination with women. As in the blogosphere, female bloggers are more appealing than male bloggers, and probably are not subjected to the homosexual stigma should they post a critical number of photos on their blogs.

The "common man" on the internet is more fixated on women. Well, that's one trend for starters.

Until the first coming of Ris Low, our sense of political correctness, as inferred from internet musings and discussions, reflects the preservation of working class values (paradoxically by the middle-class who can afford time and resources to go online and make some noise), as well as the disdain for extravagance and hints of elitism.

Having made comments reeking of elitism, Wee Shu Min and Mrs Goh Chok Tong were quickly shot down like crows in your HDB estate by cullers.

A growingly stratified Singapore, a situation the government probably acknowledges but will not do anything about, is probably causing strain on some segments of the citizenry.

The ones who have access to the internet are representing their views, as well as views from the underclass. And we see some degree of solidarity between the working class and middle class (just to generally categorise), for they have a common enemy, or at least created one.

Netizens complain about the financially irresponsible government, losing/abusing taxpayers' money and all that, even though a majority of netizens pay relatively little or no tax. As pointed out to me by another person, that which helped me get revive some common sense, the richer (folks in the higher income brackets) pay far bigger amounts of taxes, but the netizens are the ones who are most vocal. Maybe they are displaying the nationalistic solidarity the government so badly needs.

Faults of the upper strata of society are considered more wrong than faults of the lower strata, if our culture of politically correctness even allows us to recognise these faults at all.

Perhaps, conscious or ignorant expressions, deemed elitist by the "common man", hit a nerve in the "common man" and his lived reality.

When Ris Low came, I see how the working and middle class solidarity divorced. In the criticisms of Ris Low, people ridiculed her poor spoken English. Such an action is, in my opinion, microcosmic of middle class cultural bigotry against the working class, a section of people in our society who do not have privileges and access to "proper language", in a stereotypical sense.

This is very generalising, of course. But I believe the "true colours" of the Singaporean netizen, or internet lynch mob, are revealed, thanks to the Ris Low episode. We reveal our disgust, impatience and intolerance of poor spoken English, limited vocabulary and her "Ah Lian" aesthetics, in our criticisms. These are the areas the working class Singaporeans are trying to address as they seek, like any one else in our rat-race society, upward mobility and a comfortable life.

We are ashamed and embarrassed that Ris was going to represent Singapore, indicative of the extent to which we are selective in deciding how multi-cultural and diverse Singapore is. Diversity in Singapore, in this case, obviously excludes the girl with poor spoken English.

To negate this, we state that this is in the context of an international beauty pageant, and we risk being embarrassed by such a person. All the more this shows our desire for readymade products, rather than unpolished gems, a reflection of our society and economy today, an ideology impressed onto us and eventually internalised and reproduced in our criticism of Ris.

I see a food-chain of elitism. On the one hand, we despise elitism and extravagance; but on the other, we are embarrassed by folks who speak poor English, because we are concerned about the image we are projecting to other nations.

What happened to this solidarity where netizens care about the lesser "privileged" (access to resources and education)? By privilege, I am refering to the comparison of others to the "common man" netizen, who generally has the privilege to education and access to the internet.

I feel animosity towards society and the government is grounds for such solidarity, a push, rather than an attraction on the part of being together. It seems like it is almost a parasitical relationship we netizens have with classes "below" us, as we focus on exposing what is wrong with society and the government.

How the ethnic Chinese woman victim of the internet lynch mob fits in here, I don't know. But we are highly strung to the tune of political correctness, which we assume to be a safeguard against attacks on a culture that is more right than other cultures.

For example, the working-to-middle class is more "right" than the elite culture. The former's visibility should be at the expense of the latter, because that is politically correct. But again, the whole idea of well-spoken English, perhaps a hallmark of middle-class Singaporean life, surfaces between the enlarging cracks between the working and middle class, or rather and unrelated, the English and non-English educated folks. It is after all a middle-class thing when English is enforced and supported as the primary language, followed by your second language or mother tongue.

It is very interesting to see what happens next and see who will be the next person to be lynched, not that I personally want to see someone lynched. Prejudices will be revealed each time someone gets flamed by the mob.

We have tensions brewing, such as sentiments against elitism, what we feel are poor representations of Singapore (so diverse, yet we want "proper" representations, paradoxical, huh?), we have Christianophobia (not the hatred towards the footballer), and we love our social policing. Since the government is more preoccupied with political power and the economy, we are left to socially police ourselves. We have Stomp! to thank too.

Perhaps, given how politically and economically disempowered most of us are, we relieve ourselves by playing social police and thief, where we let self-righteousness, under the guise of political correctness, pull the reins of society.

You say something out of line, you get lynched, and you get immortalised in Wikipedia and you become a hot Google key search word.

We have an intolerance for mistakes and imperfection towards some segments of society, while we are more gracious and flexible in the same area towards other segments.

The more folks that are lynched, the more we will come to know the make-up and psyche of the internet lynch mob.

Honesty is not a virtue so long as political correctness is mandatory.

As we bully others into conforming to the political correctness we subscribe to, we forget that we ourselves have been bullied into conformity in the first place.

It is interesting we have had issues of money, class and culture being part of the public discourse in view of cyber lynching. I look forward to religion being talked about and it will most probably be Christianity, given the government appears to care more about policing discourses and movements concerning Islam than that of Christianity. There are some fixed conditions for someone to be the next victim of the internet lynch mob.

And religion is probably one of the very few items that could further divide this internet lynch mob. But of course, the vocal anti/non-religionists might claim a larger territory. And I think that people with faith, should just keep their faiths and religious doctrine to themselves.

We just enjoy finding the next pinata to smack, the next cultural icon to make t-shirts, lampooning videos, generate discussion forum participation and visits for blogs. But what do these trends say about our personhood, our society and our relationship with one another in society?

For me, I personally feel that it just boils down to our dislike of the government and the decisions they have made that put us in our place in society - the unhappy place that is middle-class-dom. Such a place is limiting, and we are unhappy as a result. We either suck our thumbs or use it to thumb-choke (that's a chokehold technique by the way) someone else. So, who is next?

Hmmm MinDEF still has not got back to me on my question - whether they would pay for my school fees in the event my scholarship expires and I am unable to complete my course on time in view of the 2.5 weeks I have sacrificed for reservist. My thumb is for sucking.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The water stains on my master toilet ceiling

The water stains on my master toilet ceiling. What a good song title it will make.

The unjustifiable HDB rule requires both the upstairs and downstairs (me!) neighbours to foot the bill.

It might be structural wear and tear, independent of my upstairs neighbours and obviously not concerning me. I do not make camp fires in my master toilet, and cause my ceiling to erode, if that is ever physically possible.

The upstairs neighbours had their renovation done about 10 years ago. So there is a high chance their waterproofing might have been worn by now.

But essentially, the problem lies with the structure, isn't it? So why isn't HDB taking full responsibility for its structure? How is this justifiable? I strongly doubt they will ever come up with a justifiable reason. They'll probably go pro wrestling on our backsides and say with their redneck accent, "That's the bottom-line. Why??? Because Stone Cold HDB said so! Give me a Hell Yeah!" and you can hear the apple-polishing people's association chanting "Hell Yeah!" in the background.

I think the downstairs neighbour, or rather, the residents whose ceiling is patchy with shades of grey, yellow, brown and black - you know, the colours of the skid mark of every wayward person the PAP has tried to intimidate - are on the losing end too.

We did our renovations middle of last year in 2008 and moved in late last year. And we get these stains. The stains grew considerably. The flat is about 26 years old, around my age. If I shit my pants right now, I'll have to clean it up myself, and not ask my mother and my wife to do it for me.

Okay, since times are bad (and so are analogies), HDB has a grant, and they would be able to foot 50% of the hacking, waterproofing and retiling, with the other 50% borne by both residents, top and bottom. Speaking of top and bottom, I feel we're both being fucked by this policy.

But HDB is as holy as monotheistic religion - you just don't question it.

I believed and the officer confirmed that the neighbour upstairs is unwilling to go through with this. Not only will they have to pay, but also suffer the inconvenience of a day or two without the toilet and having to replace their toilet door, which means extra costs for them.

Yes, I do have sympathy for the people living upstairs, who occasionally shower our air conditioner compressor with cigarettes, cigarette boxes, food, sweets, used sanitary pads and other unidentifiable solids and liquids; neighbours who move their furniture pretty often and whose children obviously lead a healthy lifestyle doing their heavy-footed shuttle runs at almost all times of the day.

I anticipate neighbourly backlash. I hope they don't throw down more stuff or do more shuttle runs.

Then comes the most important question. Why should we (the residents below) pay?

How is this justified?

In the end, the structure between both residents is left as it is. Imagine a hamburger without the patty and we're just solving this problem by replacing the top bun - it is still a fucking hamburger without a patty! 10 years down the road, or hopefully not less, the stains might reappear.

HDB 1, residents 0. gg all.

http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/showthread.php?t=2472883
http://www.singaporebrides.com/forumboard/messages/5/1180264.html?1251948059
http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=415097
http://forum.punggol.org/index.php?topic=8401.0
http://www.renotalk.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=23067
http://talkback.stomp.com.sg/forums/showthread.php?t=83958
http://www.singaporebrides.com/forumboard/messages/409/402662.html?1229010805
http://www.renotalk.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=21663

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_280974.html

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sam cooks fried rice!

Hi, welcome to the OMY Most Insightful Blog.

Like probably any one in this world, the things I do and the person I am get conveniently pigeon-holed, categorised by others. Yes, I have some "insightful" posts. But I do write songs, jokes and parodies.

Unfortunately, many people would like to conceptualise Sam as insightful or analytical, rather than creative, funny (in a positive and humorous way, of course) or be recognised for cooking some decent meals.



My latest creation is fried rice, with broccoli, pork and chicken.

Seasoned the pork fillet with sweet soy sauce. For the chicken, well, it's the usual oyster sauce chicken. Broccoli's boiled briefly, to prevent discoloration, is it is discolouration?

The fried rice is the interesting part. I boil/steam the rice with chicken stock. Heat the sauce pan with good old unhealthy butter. Fry diced streaky bacon till golden brown. Not golden brown technically, but ethnic Chinese folks like myself like our bling. Add in the rice and stir furiously. Later add in the diced fried egg (which I earlier prepared using egg and fresh milk). Voila! It's done!

The wife and I were so excited looking at the food we dove in and forgot to take a picture of the dinner and my efforts to decorate it. Oh well.

She says I cook restaurant-quality food. Awwwww.

But her words quickly filter through my over-socialised mind and I found myself wondering if she either meant if it actually tasted good, or that it was simply too unhealthy. Flashbacks of fresh milk, butter and bacon sauntered into my consciousness.

With regards to this blog, I feel that I am at the point where I have something to say or share, but do not feel like writing it down here.

For example, I would like to talk about the following issues:
1) Mio and Starhub football programme subscription.
2) The thuggery businesses (and soon government-related boards) resorting to when dealing with bloggers they alleged to be defamatory.
3) Recording devices in the Singapore Armed Forces, which is more of an issue of public relations rather than an issue of sensitive security. I am sure the organisation is more concerned about ill practices, bullying and eccentric behaviours being exposed rather than actual training. For once if we as a nation concentrated on swiftness and efficiency, rather than image, inane foot drills and bullying tactics of what some perceive as "discipline", I think national service would be less than one year.
4) Children and masturbation. I think people don't like to talk about children masturbating, but I think this is a reality most of us like to avoid ever discussing. Perhaps this reality does not fit in with our idea that children are asexual, until a special magical age, institutionalised by the state, say 16, or 18, or 21, when their (hetero)sexuality is naturally "switched on". We are ostriches whose heads are buried in the filth of political correctness.

I am doing my thesis and reading on various transgender theorisations and transgender theory. It's quite confusing. But I guess confusion is a good thing to talk about. It is not going to be the best thesis in the world, but I hope it will make the points relevant to and for local transgender theory.

I'm beginning to, reasonably, doubt my abilities in pursuing a PhD. Such a project involves a commitment I do not think I would want to give. Furthermore, I do not think it will be good for my health. I tend to get obsessed with a topic, in a way that the concept of "working hours" do not apply. This makes rest and relaxation difficult.

Have been thinking about jobs too, even though my scholarship ends next August. Quite an exciting world, but I like being in my well. It is just by convention that people devalue the frogs and the wells. This one upmanship is also common when people compare the proverbial penis length and use age, experience, perceivably greater street cred, invoke "in the real world" narratives just to put others down, as if the said positions are inferred to be more desirable. But in actual fact, these have their economic measures, while the measures of the heart find no place in such a heartless society.

I have many distractions too. On top of periscoping out of my well for jobs, I look forward to writing a National Day song and submitting it, and also writing a play. Will probably start being more aggressive in sending demos of my songs to local and regional music executives, but they will probably have other ideas.

Domestic life is good too and I am enjoying it. There are chores to do but that's okay. I enjoy cooking and cleaning, and exercising in between. I sort of look forward to having kids, but of course, the paradox of having children in Singapore involves you not spending enough time with them, because you'll probably have to work so hard you forget how big they have grown, and that the only time you actually get to do some parenting is when you finally become a grandparent yourself. Of course, I could potentially be a bad parent because too many people think I'm out of my mind. Imagine a 5 year old waving his/her hand and saying, "Bah! It is social constructionism!"

My mum turns 60 today. In my eyes, she never ages. No matter how educated I am, I see not her lines and her greys. She made sure I never had to pay tuition loans and be saddled with debt, and that made sure I never had to ever consider graduating earlier without honours just to find work to pay off tuition loan debts. Every right and wrong she had done have made everything a right for me.

I am a sheltered mummy's boy who knows how to make a home safe and warm with unconditional love. I know what is right and wrong, and act accordingly to these beliefs. I can become convicted or obsessed, but I am also aware of moderation. I learn to pursue things I like, but also am able to make sacrifices. I am a product of my mum's parenting.

It seems that with marriage and moving out, I leave one woman for another. Both take care of me in their own way, give me the bubble wrap I need to be comfortable with myself. So that is why I think (my) life is good, never mind how horrible the world is. It is only most unfortunate that money is part of life and we're compelled to earn it. But we love our materials, don't we?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A letter from the government

(See the label 'humour'. I'll be really shit scared if I got this in my mail, but in case you're a civil/public servant reading this, that doesn't mean you should be writing this.)

Ref no. xxx-xxxx-xx

Dear Mr Ho Chi Sam,

1. On behalf of the government, I would like to tell you to fuck off.

2. Your incessant pestering of civil and public servants, as well as personnel in greater positions of authority have compelled us to blacklist you forever. This includes ignoring every complaint or feedback that you produce via email, phone and snailmail. Your email addresses (xxx@gmail.com, xxx@hotmail.com, xxx@yahoo.com and xxx@yahoo.com.sg) are hereby blocked. All calls from your phone line (6xxx-xxxx, 9xxx-xxxx) to government numbers will also be blocked. And any letters from you addressed to government officials will be taken out of the postbox and shredded immediately.

3. Your blacklisting will be with immediately effect, and we will make sure that you will never get a job with the government or any government-related organisations. We will tell the CEOs and boards of directors not to hire you.

4. In the event you wish to speak to the media to air your grievance, we will ensure the relevant and proper censorship to protect our image. On top of that, we will ensure the media portrays you as a psychopath.

5. We believe that you have abused the "no closed/wrong door" policy of the government, and jumped the chain of command too often for our liking. We do not take too kindly to the exposure of the inefficiencies, irrationalities, the lack of transparency and the lack of compassion of the government.

6. Since you expose the government as uncompromising, we will not be held responsible for any intimidation or inconvenience or accident that you or your loved ones may or will encounter for the rest of your stay in this country. We will also not be held responsible if your children are blacklisted too and deprived of kindergarten education.

7. We will ensure that you are financially crippled to the point you are unable to speak up any way. We will also do many things to you that will make you wish you were dead, and there will be nothing you can do about it.

8. We will also intercept any cable signal to your home, so you will have to watch your weekend football matches in black and white grainy visuals. We will also rain sludge outside your kitchen window, so you will never be able to hang your clothes out to dry, and your neighbours will hate you so much they will splash bucketloads of urine and faeces at your door.

9. Since you have long expressed that replies from the government offer no definite help, specific explanations and no proper answers to all the questions posed, we have finally taken that feedback into consideration and changed our communications policy.

10. Therefore, we would like to say a big "FUCK YOU" to you. We're not obliged to answer every question. We see what we want to see. Your feedback doesn't matter, neither do your complaints. NEH NEH NEH NEH NEH NEEEEEEHHHHHHH..... PFFFTTTTTTTTZZZZZZ

11. We thank you for your feedback and support of the government.

__|__ HERE'S A BIRDIE FOR YOU, SPECIALLY FLIPPED BY MINISTER OF STATE FOR xxx __|__
Minister of xxx will also like to give you a lanjiao 8==D because he thinks you are a dick.
Minister of xxx wants to say you are a neh neh pok (.)(.)
Senior Minister for xxx says you are a chao chee bye (v)~ ~

This is a computer-general mail. No signature is required.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Singapore Election Fever

The PAP government has done a good job, like they always do. But there will always be people who see it as chocolate-coated shit - same colour, sweet exterior, but still shit on the inside.

The PAP government are the tiles on the floor, but they leave gaps in between, and most of the time, they do acknowledge that.

Thus, we will always need grouting, to make the floor waterproof. There's civil society, grassroots organisations, public feedback and for the moment opposition parties.

There previously was talk about a "freak election result". There was talk about the mobilisation of an army, but played down by Lee Kuan Yew, in response to Catherine Lim's question.

What is "freak" to some is not the same to others.

And here is one moral dilemma. Ah Seng voted for the opposition, and if the President mobilises the army in the event of a "freak" election result, which involves mobilising Ah Seng, what can he do? Is the end result a compromise of a citizen's right for the perceived national imperative?

Hey, I am only talking about Ah Seng. What if it was Ahmad? Add some "colour" into the mix, and do we risk further marginalisation of our ethnic minority Singaporeans? Ethnic minorities are more real than the caricatures in your Hao Gong Ming book.

Any way, the upcoming elections, we will have a better idea of the fate the awaits Potong Pasir and my beloved Hougang. Which Group Representative Constituency (GRC) will they be sucked into in the next round of calculated gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is a problem on its own. At the next level, I feel a bit uneasy, as an ethnic Chinese Singaporean, that we use race (racial/ethnic representation) to justify gerrymandering. If that isn't race-based politics, the notion we so often criticise our Malaysian neighbours of, I don't know what is.

It is rumoured that the government (related to PAP okay?) knows your secret vote.

It is rumoured that the government knows which block and area voted for which party.

Rumours aside, it is a reality, that with public housing ethnic quota, ethnic Malay and Indian Singaporeans will always be the numerical minority. The only salvo for them is the presence of ethnic Malay and Indian candidates. As an ethnic Chinese, if I feel a Singaporean, can do his/her job and take care of the constituency, I'll be least concerned about the colour of his/her skin.

However, the realities that ethnic Malay and Indian Singaporeans are slightly better communicated by their respective candidates/politicians. There are certain things ethnic Chinese Singaporeans take for granted any way.

On a sidenote, I would like to say that talk of multiculturalism in Singapore is usually the invitation of ethnic Malays to engage the Chinese elite discourse, in the process excluding the Indian voice. Funny stuff.

That is why GRC is a good idea when it comes to representation. It does benefit citizens to an extent, but it surely impedes the participation of other political parties, setting up high barriers of entry.

It will be very interesting to observe the upcoming elections, held in a country that is growingly media literate, growingly cosmopolitan, growingly stratified and well, just growing.

When you deal with "bread and butter", you discuss it along the axes of class and race.

The incumbent will always have a difficult job, because they have more to lose. When they present their achievements and contributions to society, people might see it as boasting and a kind of "who's your daddy" guilt-trapping. When they engage their race-based (specifically ethnic minority) politics, some people might see it as pandering to the swing voters and tokenising the minorities. (I believe that Aljunied in 2006 was won because of the Malay swing vote, if only someone could verify this)

When you vote, you decide for yourself what you actually want. If you want to give a party a chance to live up to their words, you can give them your vote. If you are fed up with the party for not living up to their words, you can choose not to vote for them.

I worry for Potong Pasir and Hougang. The government can, at any time, decide to "relocate" people out of these constituencies like what they did when they demolished a few flats in Hougang at short notice, which angered MP Low Thia Kiang.

There are so many possibilities that Hougang may fall victim to "policy":
1) Hougang may be broken up and its parts absorbed into nearby GRCs (like what they did to Cheng San GRC after 1997)
2) Hougang may be expanded and combined with neighbouring minor wards from the GRCs. For example, bits of Alunied GRC (Hougang ward), Pasir Ris-Punggol (although some Pasir Ris residents are part of East Coast GRC... BOOMZ), or Tampines GRC (maybe the residents of Lorong Halus are PAP supporters).

Hougang reminds me of North and South Korea. Hougang is (less than) half red, (more than) half white. Whichever half is analogous to North or South Korea is up to you to decide. But will Hougang be "united"? The MP for PAP Hougang (of Aljunied), Yeo Guat Kwang, is well, this the part where words can't describe what expletives can. Maybe, if the public knew the votes cast in the Aljunied-Hougang ward, an emotionally-neutral numerical language will probably best describe the situation. I would like to know too.

I would also love to see more women (or mums) participating as candidates. That will be a good solution for political male blinkeredness. It's not so much about the stereotypical "woman's touch", but rather the need for an additional perspective outside the male gaze in the political system.

It'll be nice to see candidates who openly profess their faiths or lack of. Because in a country like Singapore, we all have a relationship with religions and faiths. The funny thing is, given my demographic profile, I don't encounter situations where Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu friends talk to me about their faiths or practise in my presence. For Taoism, there is the incense smoke and burning of incense papers on top of drain covers at the pedestrian walkways (very inconsiderate thing to do), and of course Taoist funeral processions when they get a brass band to play O Went The Saints. Well for Christianity, it's probably the most in-your-face religion here, considering it is, paradoxically, monotheistic and abstract. Since these things happen on a daily basis, it should not be all that bad if there is a candidate who is not shy about professing his/her faith. There is nothing wrong to professing one's faith.

We should be mature enough to have (overt) religious representation in Parliament, and more so, considering that affairs of religion A are not merely confined to A's community, but also other religious (and non-religious) communities - everyone has a stake.

Your faith and religious affiliation is your pillar, not your sword, the one that you could use to behead other "infidels", at least not in the modern day context. Enough about religion.

The opposition will also have their problems in fielding candidates. One thing "good" about the PAP is their scouting system. The PAP and the Singaporean government are like Venom and Spiderman, very connected and entwined, and perhaps inseparable for a long time.

The PAP has the talents and gets them through informal teas and meet-ups. Youths are talent-spotted and given scholarships with the government. Rotated here and there in the civil service and public service, till they reach a certain altitude that puts them in contact with top political brass, and then BOOMZ, you get the picture. Well fed, well reward for their talent and hard work, they are likely to be inclined to enter politics.

They'll do a bit of grassroots, rotated here and there again, indoctrinated in the PAP dogma and so on. Enter elections, win because of no-contest and then... hey! Who's this new Minister?

The PAP government has a good nurturing system. Say, like a West Ham youth academy and Arsenal scouting team put together. The opposition cannot do this. Top civil servants and top scholars are less inclined to join the opposition.

The PAP on the other hand, can shapeshift like one of those characters on X-men, and under the guise of the government, use public funds to nurture young talents and reward them accordingly. But of course, they do it quite cleanly, such that it seems that it is actually the individual's decision to enter politics with the PAP. Imagine the repercussions of a scholar who enters politics with the opposition. One snap of a finger, and we'll be asking, "What scholar?"

Lots of rumours and hearsays, but all contribute to a climate of fear, which poses a huge problem for the development of our opposition. The opposition, at the same time, should prove that they can work with the PAP, rather than adopt a confrontational position. They should offer solutions and alternatives and always continue to make suggestions. With suggestions, solutions and alternatives, people will have more choice.

The PAP has long been preoccupied with criticising the opposition, but the opposition need not criticise back. Singaporeans are already doing that. What the opposition need to do is to show that they have more alternatives and ideas to make Singapore a better place.

At the lower level of politics that is sexual minority rights and advocacy, and in SinQSA, I personally don't believe in solely criticising homophobic people, but rather feel that we should provide solutions and alternatives such as giving information/education, increasing interaction and encouraging people to listen to and care for one another.

You consult the people, get some ideas, and then you go, "let's do this" - and people will love you for that and will vote for you.

At the moment, it appears that the PAP government have their ideas and go "let's do this" without actually listening to people. Yes, they are not in the business of making everyone happy, but they make consultation with the public look as if it is a token thing to do.

This is where the opposition can come in. The opposition can work with the PAP to help Singaporeans, and people can judge for themselves, especially when the PAP continues to appear too preoccupied with eradicating the opposition.

I don't know why I am talking about Elections. But whether we have it sooner or later, we still need to be aware of certain issues. Again, there's nothing taboo about race, religion and elections. These are realities we cannot shy away from.

And if we do get a "freak election result", will Ah Seng's right be overturned by his obligation?

-add-

I realise after reading this post a day after it was written, that my thoughts and ideas are so fragmented. All over the place. Maybe I was having a headache.