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21-31 July 2003

31 JulDisputes
30 JulThe cross-campus problem, Hornby
30 JulJapanese language modules
30 JulFaculty talks, Maths problem
29 JulMatriculation, NUSSU & the Chevrons
29 JulTaboo
29 JulAbusing the flag
28 JulSpeak Japanese, stop SARS
28 JulLong Love Letter
26 JulHot dogs
26 JulFlash mobs II
26 JulSometimes you just can't win
25 JulGive full-time NSmen voting rights
25 JulNSF voting rights redux
25 JulThe arrangement of Japanese novels; a spark
24 JulKitagawa Eriko, & what language(s) to learn
24 JulDeath by a thousand cuts
24 JulGlobetrotting rubber duckies
23 JulKaleidoscope
23 JulSophie's World, Berkeley, Tertullian
22 JulHomage to Blogalonia
21 JulCourage Fund uses
21 JulStars falling from the sky
21 JulModules

Disputes

31 July 2003 10:20 PM SGT (link)

The cross-campus problem, Hornby

30 July 2003 11:01 PM SGT (link)

OK this is definitely absolutely going to be my last post today about NUS administrivia which 90% of you all don't care a hoot about, but I do, because it's my life, no matter how dreary these things can be.

But this one isn't, actually. I was having problems finding the Goldilocks-right Writing & Critical Thinking module for me. This is a module that mainly teaches you, well, good writing & critical thinking - it's compulsory for USP students & is usually taken in the first semester of the first year. Why problems? There were no clashes, yes, but the tutorials were usually just before my other commitments like the Maths lectures, & so I'll have to rush from the Arts area to the Science area (across the campus, for those who don't know) & probably miss the first part or last part of the lessons consistently. I have some preferences, but I shan't reveal them here because (ahem) I have to bid for them first (kiasu? whatever).

I was however quite tempted to take Writing & Critical Thinking: Masculinities: Contemporary Theories and Representations (UWC2101L) because one of its required readings is Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, which if you've read it is a great portrait of a man's man; plenty of discussion material in there. But I am not going to take a module just because an enjoyable read is on its list: there has to be more than that.

The situation with PH1101E, Reason & Persuasion - an introduction to the subject for Philosophy majors & a GEM/CFM (general education module/cross-faculty module) for the rest of us - is similar: its only lecture slot ends just when one of my Maths lectures begins, & I'll have to traverse the rivers & mountains... OK, OK, the shuttle bus A2 gets me there soon enough, assuming they release us early & start late on the other side, but under Murphy's Law, it's practically inevitable that I miss something, & what's more not arrive for the lecture in tip-top shape. This is not a really big problem, & I might find that it's commonplace & happens all the time, but all the same I want my first semester not to be so stressful. It's really too bad.

Correction: Two errors in a row! goodness... The schedule was such that I had to travel from PH1101E's Arts to my Maths's Science, so it's actually bus A2; I've corrected it. A1 goes in the other direction.

Japanese language modules

30 July 2003 10:21 PM SGT (link)

Full module descriptions (PDF): Japanese language modules are offered by the Centre for Language Studies, under the Arts faculty. There are 6 courses called "Japanese", 2 "Business Japanese", 1 "Newspaper Reading", 1 "Expository Writing and Public Speaking." The 2 business ones are Level 3000, the latter 2 Level 4000; what I found interesting was that in just 6 modules, the highest being Level 3000, one can attain a level of proficiency in Japanese (speaking, listening, reading & writing) that precludes JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) Level 1, the highest of four levels. A-Level Japanese gets you to Japanese 5, short of the second part of the Advanced stage.

It's time to gambatte! If I'm not reading this wrongly, 6 modules, or 3 years if you take a module each semester, is enough to reach around-JLPT 2 standard, which I think is pretty adequate for my goal. I'm not too interested in doing business in Japanese or reading the Asahi Shimbun just yet.

One of the little things that I find amusing, but also very impressive, is what I've seen some times in Japanese dramas when office executives bow & apologise profusely to someone they've offended... when the person's on the phone! I guess they just associate sincere apologies with deep bowing, regardless of whether the person you're apologising to is actually physically in front of you.

Correction: My reasoning was erroneous: if Japanese 6 precludes JLPT 1 & Japanese 5 & below JLPT 2, then I can only surmise that Japanese 6 is about JLPT 2 standard, not JLPT 1. But I think it's still good enough, even though it's not newspaper-reading & public-speaking standard. Corrected paragraph 2.

Faculty talks, Maths problem

30 July 2003 9:56 PM SGT (link)

Alright, after my blast against the student union yesterday, today it's the faculty's turn. Tomorrow maybe the USP, & we still have the university, ECAs...

Haha kidding.

However, I can't say today's Science faculty & subject major/minor briefings were very informative. Everything that was said - the curricula offered by the Science faculty, requirements to graduate, using CORS, & later my major's structure, requirements, study plan etc. - are all available on the respective websites (Science, CORS, Maths & others) &/or in the student handbook. The only things I learned was on a slide about what CORS points to use for bidding for USP modules (which I later found is inside CORS's help files available online), & the answer to a question about a special case for a Maths module. If you're the kind of person who likes to hear it from a living breathing member of homo sapiens instead of going through your browser, & what's more, take copious notes instead of just referring to the said online resources, you would have had a wonderful day.

Anyway, being a curmudgeon about these things on a regular basis is hardly conducive to the maintenance of good health & the pursuit of happiness. When things deserve to be blasted, & scams (somewhat) exposed, then they have to be exposed for what they are. But at least here I actually think it would be counterproductive & pretty unfair if today's faculty & department staff left it to the briefings to say important things, because inevitably somebody would miss it, whether purposely or not, & complain to high heaven about screwing something up later during module bidding or after the semester's over. It's good that everything's online, & that there's also the chance for us to get the "warm fuzzy" feeling of listening to them "live," recognising their faces, & asking questions. I'm just saying, don't expect big news or revelations.

Maybe I should put the answer to my only question of the day: it's about this specialist version of MA1100, "Basics of Mathematics" with beefed-up tutorials. The quirky thing about this is that applications are subject to departmental approval, not through CORS bidding (they also ask us to attach a copy of our A-Level results, which is strange because the university has that already), & the deadline for submitting these applications is the 15th of August, with the results hopefully coming out soon after that. Since the result of the MA1100S applications won't be known until the CORS bidding's closed, the problem is this: what if one applies for MA1100S but doesn't get it; should one also bid for the normal MA1100 module through CORS? & if one does that, what if you get both (since you almost certainly will get MA1100 if you're majoring in Maths)? Won't you have to drop the MA1100 & lose the points? The Maths assoc. prof. (can't remember his name) whom I asked after the Maths major briefing didn't have a firm guarantee but he says it should be possible to get the MA1100 bid discarded if I'm successful in getting MA1100S.

I'm not too confident that things will turn out this nicely; I foresee an ugly situation about getting refunds for points, should I have to go down that course. But you must understand that I wasn't asking this because I fear losing the MA1100 points - my concern was the possibility of being left high & dry without a 1100, specialist or not. That's more important, IMHO. CORS points are just points - it's not like this kind of thing is irreversible, like somebody died or something. The cause of the problem, if it happens, however, is clear: a "rogue" department or module isn't following the proper system.

Matriculation, NUSSU & the Chevrons

29 July 2003 4:16 PM SGT (link)

"Hatred can become like food. It gives you this energy. You can, like, live off it."

- Angela, My So-Called Life, "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities"

For me it's not so much hatred as pent-up fury, pissed-offness.

Today's my Matriculation Day, whoopee. It wasn't very exciting or fruitful at all. At first we had to queue up to get our matriculation card, & do some administrative whatnot involving a form here & a form there & many guidebooks that really aren't too helpful. In fact, if the Admissions Office had set its mind on efficiency & convenience for everyone, there wouldn't even be a need for any of this, since the Office can jolly well mail forms to students, & students mail them back to the Office, & they mail us the matriculation card & confidential PIN too. It may be that the Office just wanted reassurance that their freshman applicant wasn't some kind of a phantom or an illegal immigrant who somehow got himself the right qualifications & IC & all that; I was waiting for the pinch test. Why did we have to be there personally? was the question I had at the back of my mind.

& that's not the worst of it. After everything was done on the first floor & I skipped the laptop exhibitions (because I already bought mine), I saw that a queue had formed at the door marked Exit. I, like many around me, thought it absurd that people should be queueing to get out, & after a while (more than 30 minutes, actually) we finally found out what was in store for us freshmen: a video presentation by NUSSU & the Matriculation Fair with the ECAs' booths, on the second floor.

I should elaborate: after we queued for more than half an hour, about 20 of us were led into a holding area, where a NUSSU representative apologised for the long wait, because of "technical problems & the crowd". He also reminded us to check whether the matriculation number on the Confidential PIN thing was correct, & things like that (which amazingly nobody on the first floor mentioned). 5 minutes later we were led to the adjacent "room" where we were shown a presentation of upcoming activities organised specially for freshmen by the NUSSU, to the pleasant sounds of the presto from Vivaldi's Summer Violin Concerto, part of The Four Seasons, accompanied by a disco beat. It was simply a PowerPoint presentation.

After that was over, we were led to the "entrance" of the Fair where another NUSSU representative encouraged us to buy the Union T-shirt (which is limited to the freshmen of 2003) & file for the low low price of $10, & what's more, it comes with all sorts of fabulous free gifts & vouchers. (I passed.) Only after this rigmarole we were finally "allowed" to enter the fair itself. I suspect many would have gladly passed had we known we had to wait more than 45 minutes in total before we could have the privilege of checking out the ECAs & societies on offer. It took a considerable effort on my part to remain civil to everyone after what the NUSSU put us through, & in the end I didn't spend much time in the fair itself. I felt claustrophic, almost.

NUSSU

(I'll pass on mocking the disco-beat "enhancement" to the Four Seasons violin concerto movement because it's just too easy to do, but I'm telling you poor Antonio Vivaldi's spinning in his grave like a top.)

After such a long wait in the queue, it was probably inevitable that the payoff didn't match the expectations one could have. But the NUSSU "beat" those expectations by making it clear that the sole purpose of making us wait so long to enter, as opposed to just opening up the fair like what they did at the Fiesta for prospective students, was for the union's benefit, hardly the school's or ours'. It was so that they could (1) give us that presentation on union events organised for the freshmen, & (2) to sell the $10 deal of a T-shirt, file & gifts. The presentation was totally unnecessary - I can't say this much stronger - because we would have heard of them in some way or another through their snail mail, email or ads & brochures (the events were the Rag Day, Bash, Ball etc.) And because they somehow didn't realise that there would be, wow, more than 20 or so people matriculating, they made everyone queue because of the inadequate facilities. The NUSSU seems to have problems booking an LT or something with space, & doing two or three screenings, so that people can watch the pitifully useless presentation - instead they opted for the makeshift screen & small rooms that led to long queues & waiting.

That's the first charge. The second: after this joke, they gather around us (& yes, it was almost one-on-one) & try to promote the great deal of getting all these stuff for $10, like that limited-edition T-shirt ("because you're only a freshman once"), so that the money can be used to "fund union activities & student projects". & practically everyone bought that hook, line & sinker. So what are these "union activities"? The Rag Day, Bash & Ball, I presume. After wasting more than half an hour of our time, & subtly intimidating us to support the union financially, they finally "consented" to let us go to the fair that for most was the only thing they were interested in in the first place. Even the most loyal union supporters must concede that there was something vaguely extortionary about this: the arrangement of the booths was such that you saw the Union setup & nothing else at first.

In short, their incompetence was incredible, topped by the chutzpah of asking us for $10 contributions. I sincerely hope I don't get caught in more of such incidents in my time at NUS.

The Chevrons

I will also like to share a tale of how an organisation similarly overturns an elementary principle of logic & fairness: that one should pay for what one uses. To NUSSU: Why should I contribute $10 or more to activities like the Rag Day, Bash & Ball which I have no interest in, & which I find are a big waste of time? Frankly, after all the "build-up" you'd think they'd be paying us for our troubles.

The Chevrons is a clubhouse for SAF specialists, warrant officers, & DXOs (defence excecutive officers) in SAF/MINDEF - a nice tan & beige edifice located in Jurong East with karaoke facilities & stuff like that. But the story of how it got built isn't evident, neither at the building itself or online. Basically NSF corporals, regular specs/warrant officers, & quasi-civilian DXOs were signed up to join the Chevrons. When I was a NSF corporal, I paid $1.50 every month to the cause; I understand the regulars & DXOs pay more, a few bucks every month I think. The fantastic thing about this is that there's no option to quit: I asked them myself, & there was an FAQ with this question (not online), with the flat answer of no. I don't remember the exact wording, but the reason given was basically that in order to amass enough resources to get the clubhouse built & pay for its upkeep, all the specialists, warrant officers & DXOs' contributions were needed.

The absurdity lies here: In order to allow those who would like to quaff duty-free beer, sing karaoke, & otherwise enjoy the facilities of the Chevrons like the chalets to do so, everyone chips in, whether or not one visits the place, or is even interested in its existence. The majority forks out money for the minority's sole benefit. Again, there's no way to extricate yourself & save the few bucks every month; it's like a secret society in that aspect. If you're a regular or DXO, you have to resign yourself to paying this token sum every month from your salary until your retirement.

I was pissed off when I found out about this, & to this day, even when I've been released from my Chevrons obligation, I'm still pissed off, because this absurd policy is still going on & nobody can do anything about it. We can't seriously expect DXOs or regulars to raise a ruckus or file a legal complaint because their employer is taking a small portion of their salary to fund something they didn't even want to be part of, mostly because they value their rice bowls more than the few bucks they give to the Chevrons. But that doesn't make it right, people. If you're trapped in this, every time you go to the Chevrons, be sure to point out that you paid for this brick, that tile & whatnot, & that the money to do so was literally taken away from you.

Taboo

29 July 2003 3:45 PM SGT (link)

Subtitled "morals, chickens & the yuk factor", Taboo is a new philosophical game that tests your moral intuitions. According to its creators, the idea came from the chapter "The Sanctimonious Animal" in Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, where he comments on the work of Jonathan Haidt, Silvia Helena Koller and Maria G. Dias in their 1993 article "Affect, Culture and Morality". Some questions are of an adult nature, so if you're offended by that you shouldn't try it.

I was reminded of this from the flag desecration & abuse/misuse that I discussed in the last post. OK, a minor giveaway: the Taboo game tests your attitudes & judgements regarding scenarios of flag abuse, incest & bestiality (mainly), all done privately, with consent (from the humans, obviously) & all that. The genius of the questions Taboo asks is that almost all the scenarios involve private behaviour & acts i.e. things where no harm is done to anyone other than the people involved (& maybe not even that, like for flag abuse), which means knee-jerk libertarians (like me) or utilitarians will have to wrestle with their moral outlook & whether this gels properly with things like moral judgement (of others).

My result was pretty schizophrenic: I feel some acts are immoral, but I don't easily prescribe judgement or punishment on others for those same acts. I am a conflicted person.

Abusing the flag

29 July 2003 3:37 PM SGT (link)

Conor O'Clery writes in Newsweek, reproduced in today's ST (Wear it, sneeze into it: how Stars and Stripes is abused daily), that the Federal Flag Code is widely & outrageously flouted as people put the stars & stripes on everything from tissue paper to a scanty wrap for "a prostitute named Air Force Amy". He doesn't suggest any solutions, unfortunately, but I suppose he implies that there should be tighter enforcement of the regulations, because he never addresses his readers directly but pinpoints the Other People that are besmirching the good name of the Union. In other words, he doesn't say "don't abuse the stars & stripes" but "look at the absurd & blasphemous ways people are abusing the stars & stripes - what, are we going to sit by & do nothing?!"

Compare this to one of the recommendations made by the Remaking Singapore Committee in its report (which I reviewed here):

...The proposal for the relaxation of guidelines on the use of the National Symbols rests on the importance of making a distinction between prohibition of use and prevention of abuse/misuse. To simply prohibit Singaporeans from using the National Symbols is pre-emptive, and done at the cost of denying Singaporeans the opportunity to affirm their loyalty to the nation through acts like flying the National Flag.

...To ensure that the dignity of the National Symbols is not compromised as a result of the relaxation of guidelines, the following measures could be put in place:

- Remaking Singapore Committee report, Chapter 2: "A Home for All Singaporeans"

This ties in too neatly, so much so that it leads me to wonder whether there's an agenda here.

Anyway, I have a response to the criticism that we shouldn't allow people too much freedom to use & also abuse/misuse the Singapore flag, or the American flag e.g. all the disgusting & irritating things that O'Clery lists have been done with the stars & stripes. Look at it this way: the flag is neither personal nor intellectual property, but a shared possession of the people. Everyone who calls him/herself an American will consider the stars & stripes, along with other national symbols like "The Star-Spangled Banner", Hollywood movies & huge Big Macs, as part of this identity. Hence, why prevent others from celebrating their identity through the symbol of their flag, however they may want to?

By all means have regulations & admonish those who sneeze into images of flags & or use them as rags, but besides these "soft" measures & maybe the gradated penalties for the occasional high-profile case, do we want to make a bigger deal out of it than what it is? O'Clery is practically contemptuous of the idea that allowing people as much freedom to use or abuse the stars & stripes is a part of "free speech", like the perennial controversy of whether flag-burning should be banned. The fact that there is a controversy at all, meaning most people don't think it's an obvious crime (the Supreme Court has ruled, & others argue, that it is protected by the First Amendment), is a testament to how important the Americans regard their right of free speech & expression, & how it may even outrank the importance of a national symbol & the "crime" of its desecration.

Speak Japanese, stop SARS

28 July 2003 11:50 PM SGT (link)

This has to rank as the 295th reason or so why Japan was happily spared from the SARS scourge, if it's true.

To avoid Sars, speak a lingo that 'spits' less

ONE theory that emerged during the Sars crisis was that general hygiene could have played a part in which countries were hit by the virus.

The Japanese were singled out for their good hygiene practices, with some people suggesting that this might have been the reason why the country did not register a case.

But an academic in Japan has come up with another theory.

In a letter to a recent edition of The Lancet medical journal, Ms Sakae Inouye of Tokyo's Otsuma Women's University proposed that the Japanese language could have played a significant role in limiting the spread of the virus.

Ms Inouye noted that when people pronounce p, t, k, q, ch and c before a vowel in Chinese, they produce an expulsion of breath that contains droplets.

The same result occurs in the English language when the consonants p, t and k are pronounced.

However, this is not the case for the Japanese language.

Ms Inouye noted: "A Chinese shop assistant probably speaks to American tourists in English and to Japanese tourists in Japanese. If the assistant is in the early stages of Sars and does not have a cough, American tourists will be more exposed to the infectious droplets than Japanese tourists." - Tan Hui Leng

- Today 28 July, To avoid Sars, speak a lingo that 'spits' less

Long Love Letter

28 July 2003 9:26 PM SGT (link)

I bought this pretty long ago, & I suppose I did because I found the plot intriguing (see my synopsis of the second episode & further). Its title is somewhat cliché: "Long Love Letter", or in Chinese, 漂流教室, "(The) Drifting Classroom". The synopsis that I found on some websites; perhaps the "official" one:

Yuka Misaki (Tokiwa Takako), whose parents run a flower shop, casually begins dating college student Akio Asami (Kubozuka Yosuke), and later falls for him. But due to some type of accident, the two lose contact with one another.

One year after the accident, the two suddenly meet again. Yuka is still working at her father Shigeo's flower shop, and Akio is a teacher at a nearby high school.

It's January 7, just right after the New Year begins. Make up classes are being held for students that aren't keeping up with their daily studies. Taking the classes are the popular Tadashi Otomo, and the leader of the delinquent students, Sho Takamatsu. And giving the lecturers is Noriko Sekiya, a teacher that has taken out all kinds of loans to pay for the popular brand items that she buys.

Yuka comes to the school to collect money from Noriko. While at the school, with thoughts of the past in the back of her mind, Yuka and Akio meet, and get into a fight. Then all of a sudden, there is a small tremor, and after it subsides...

- Synopsis of "Long Love Letter"

Ah but that's only what happens in the first episode, & by the looks of this synopsis this drama is nothing special. But let me reveal some more of what happens to the teachers & students from the second episode onwards, if you don't mind.

After the "tremor", astonished onlookers & neighbours find that where the school previously stood, there now is a huge empty crater, & the school & the people in it - students, teachers & ex-teacher Yuka - have disappeared without a trace. But they aren't dead - in their experience, after the tremor, they are similarly astonished to find that there is nothing surrounding the school compound but a bleak dark-soiled desert. (The computer effects to portray this & more are pretty good; nothing like MediaCorp's amateurish stuff.) It soon becomes clear that their school has become an oasis of life & hope compared to the nothingness out there, & after some (too much, IMHO) discussion & discoveries they realise their school, & them, has been transported some time into the future where the Earth has been devastated & humanity is near extinction. How do they survive? Will they return to their time?

Ah! now that it's post-apocalypse, my interest in the story is immediately elevated. Unfortunately I have to say that the premise was great but the follow-up fell short of expectations. Many reasons, & I don't think it's entirely the writer's fault. A 12-episode TV drama is a very constricted medium for telling a post-apocalypse story, not to mention that there's also the love story between Yuka & Asami to touch on. (The writer is 大森美香, Oomori Mika: her previous works include 二千年の恋 ("Love 2000"); this is the first time I'm watching a drama written by her.)

Seize the day, or look to the future?

The Chinese title is partially derived from a lesson Asami gives his class days before the incident (it was the last day of school for the year) - as he ruminates about his missed opportunity to develop his relationship with Yuka, he teaches them essentially Robin-Williams-inspired "carpe diem" with a bit of pseudo-scientific babble (he's a Maths teacher!) on how we are creatures of time & we live now, & as we can never know what's going to happen next, we should treasure the present. It's supposed to tie in with the post-apocalyptic thing afterwards, but I find that that's a leap of logic: the students mature not only because they realised that they should have appreciated their parents or friends more when they were back in a world where they received their protection & care, but also because they learn to care for one another & plan for long-term survival, rather than get at each other's throats & fight over their limited resources - in other words, to look beyond the present to an uncertain future, but with the resolution to continue surviving. As the classroom has "drifted" through time, so too its inhabitants' ideas of the meaning of life change & their role in their new society, & not necessarily towards "carpe diem".

Tadaima

I trust I'm not ruining anything for those who want to watch this show in future when I congratulate the writer on the idea that's done in a few scenes. After Asami & the students return to the school from forages & reconnaisance expeditions, Asami walks under the arch at the school's front gate & says tadaima, "I'm home," which seasoned Jap drama-watchers know by heart, & maybe even say themselves (!). (The person at home, usually the housewife mother, will respond with okaeri nasai (standard) or okaeri (casual). For more on these, see CJ Morikai's unbeatable Mini J dictionary with commonly-used words & expressions, like what's the difference between ja & sayounara.) OK, the point here is that the students have lost their homes & their families, & their "home" is now the school, & their fellow students & teachers their family, & so it's a mental step they take in acknowledging their predicament & their loss, & everyone takes their turn to announce tadaima when walking the school gates. It's uniquely Japanese, & it's quite touching.

The language of the future

It's practically inevitable that plot holes appear in a show that concerns itself with time travel, especially near the end, which I will not elaborate on here. There's also a quirk about the supposedly evolved language that the men of the future use. It's extremely kooky to hear them say it, because as I understand it (a smart geeky schoolgirl deciphers it), it works on a 6:3:1 rule for Japanese, Korean & Chinese respectively. You got that right: the guy will be saying mostly Japanese but suddenly will announce terms like 自私自利 (a somewhat poetic idiom, meaning to be selfish) ever-so slowly & carefully - to their credit, the speakers have obviously taken the time & effort to practise the Chinese well with hardly a Japanese accent. I can only imagine what fun the speaker of Japanese, Chinese and Korean will derive from listening to this surrealistic future language.

(If there's some genius like that around. Two lesser celebrity "geniuses": BoA, singer, knows Japanese & Korean, & apparently makes quite a good living in both pop realms. Kaneshiro Takeshi, or Jin Cheng Wu in Chinese, knows Japanese & Chinese, & is a real heartthrob.)

(Oops: I made it sound like I'm a Japanese & Chinese speaker. I don't know Japanese: I just know the regular Mini J dictionary expressions & how it sounds. I can't differentiate Korean from Japanese when they're spoken together though.)

I don't think one needs to be a linguist to realise that languages could hardly evolve into this algorithmic potpurri of older languages - more likely, if it was far enough into the future, the language would be hardly decipherable in phonetics, grammar & vocabulary, unless by sheer luck they had a practising linguist among them & he could find the commonalities that have been eroded by mutations & all that. So I gather this formulistic linguistic rojak is a time-saving & plot-serving move by the writer, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the moments.

Digression: It's either Jap-drama overdose or the effect this Japanese-Korean-Chinese language has had on me, but when I hear strangers' conversations around me they are beginning to sound like Japanese, even though closer & more attentive hearing reveals them to be Malay or Hokkien or something else. It's really scary, but in a way enlightening (or whatever the equivalent is for having one's hearing, instead of sight, restored or vastly improved), because I can imagine that native Japanese speakers really do walk around understanding conversations through the "cipher" of Japanese phonetics, like one who wears specs covered with red cellophane will see a "red" world. & that's how they also readily transliterate foreign words & expressions into katakana, like "Long Love Letter" is ロング.ラブレター, or rongu raburedaa - you need some practice to pronounce it like a Japanese speaker would, to mangle the English in the right manner.

Conclusion

(Whoa this post was never meant to be so long...)

It's not bad, as in it doesn't suck, & there are pretty good moments - believe me, I have watched some real stinkers in the Jap drama world. Tokiwa Takako is as cute as ever, of course - but I don't idolise her. In fact this is only my second drama with her in it, after "Beautiful Life" where she played a wheelchair-bound character, so you can imagine how unnerving it was at first (a little) to see her so animated. But you can see what the writer's trying to say - environmentalism plus exhorting apathetic students to live, to be engaged in their lives - & you'll appreciate it for that.

Hot dogs

26 July 2003 9:13 PM SGT (link)

Let the ladies show me their hot dogs (Today): A pretty incoherent title from Neil Humphreys, but the article's worth reading, & very funny. It talks about the recent incident where the URA took the idea of setting up food vans to sell food the city area from some entrepreneurs & started a fair, very fair, ballot. Unfortunately, one of the persons who came up with the idea in the first place didn't get the luck of the draw, & I think he can be forgiven for being totally pissed off. The original Today article that reported this news was titled "This is like killing entrepreneurship, URA", & was published some time ago, but I think it's not online now.

Flash mobs II

26 July 2003 8:34 PM SGT (link)

Sequel to this: Flash mobs are mentioned at MSNBC's Weblog Central (July 17, 2003 / 5:16 PM ET: "A New Mobster"); it's so irritating when permalinks don't work. The entry has links to photos & reports of flash mob appearances in "San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities around the world," although I've yet to hear any news of flash mobs appearing anywhere outside of the US.

Especially in Singapore. After my totally non-extensive non-professional IANAL research, I've concluded that we can't have one here, & it's a real pity because I was starting to get ideas. Almost immediately I saw the problem with the laws on unlawful assembly: there's hardly any 30-day money-back guarantee that a flash mob - provisionally a lawful assembly, if they don't indulge in the activities listed - will not turn into an unlawful one. It just takes one participant to shove a bystander, or some others to obstruct the way, or even some rebels to shout slogans, & hey presto, send in the riot police. This is even if one's flash mob emails instruct participants to invite only trustworthy friends, not troublemakers, because things like obstruction or flared tempers sometimes can't be foreseen. The essence of a flash mob is its unpredictability - if we wanted a nice list of people attending & organisers to be leading cheers or movements, it would be like any other event. So it seems flash mobs are almost doomed to become unlawful assemblies in the eyes of the law, regardless of the fact that the mobs' purpose is hardly as dangerous as those of gangs of rioting youths.

Even if miraculously, our Singaporean flash mob remains a lawful assembly through its brief existence as a flash mob (an important point to consider when one thinks about whether the police could even intervene fast enough - but that's contrarian enough that I don't want to emphasise that), the moment its members start saying/singing/shouting/whatever something, it could be construed as an act of public entertainment, & one needs a licence for that. The organisers of a shout-fest at the Speakers' Corner sometime back were warned by the police about that - speeches are fine, but demonstrations & slogan-shouting aren't without prior permission. There are very good reasons for this: considerations of noise levels, fire safety, overcrowding etc. but again, this law seems to be antithetical to the idea of flash mobs. A flash mob that can only stand there won't be much of a flash mob.

Even so, let's assume that everything goes well, the flash mob doesn't become an unlawful assembly, doesn't hurt anyone, doesn't even leave behind any rubbish, & whatever they did was brief & unimportant enough, or perhaps even "good" enough (see below), that no one's arrested or detained. I think it's almost guaranteed that the police & the government will speak up loudly against this kind of "irresponsible, rebellious" behaviour (just imagining the language that will be used). The backlash is going to be such a major tsunami that no one is going to even think of more ideas for flash mobs. IANAL, but I think that's going to happen.

So anyway, here's a brief idea I had for a flash mob: I'm putting it out there, but let no one accuse me of inciting violence or encouraging law-breaking because I said it loud & clear that it's not a good idea. Special NDP book captures 'things that make us Singaporeans' (Channel NewsAsia) talks about 6 "decentralised celebrations" to be held on this year's National Day, with "about 6000 people" expected to attend. I think they're just gatherings at the grassroots levels. I was thinking about whether a flash mob can do a really decentralised celebration, to let the common (but blog- & flash-mob-aware) folk demonstrate their patriotism, in addition to the boring parades & dinners & ceremonies for a change. Of course it won't be decentralised as in this mob of people really gathers out of nowhere, but what's deliberately left undetermined will be the organisers & the participants. Where: Somewhere that's spacious enough to let people gather & disperse quickly & without blocking anyone, & where there will be others watching. I was thinking the big shopping malls in town. What to do: No idea, really. Singing some long national song will be really corny, but on the other hand there isn't much else to do what will be relevant to a display of patriotism. Ideally no one should be asked to bring anything except themselves; it will also reduce the chances of trouble brewing.

Sometimes you just can't win

26 July 2003 12:38 PM SGT (link)

TV images of sons shock many Arabs (MSNBC): Sometimes you just can't win, it seems. Yesterday feedback from Iraqis & others as to whether Uday & Qusay Hussein were really dead, despite the release of the grisly photos of their bloodied faces, prompted the US to allow reporters to inspect the body & make videos of the process. Now people are saying it's un-Islamic and disrespectful to the family of the killed to be displaying them like this - when nary a word was said about this before. Now people have another excuse to say the US is high-handed & thuggish in its behaviour - despite its conduct in raiding the house & destroying it & killing the occupants only after a long standoff. Despite the previous doubts about the veracity of the news, & even of the photos. Despite what these two sons did to thousands of Iraqis that was hardly Islamic, & the important fact that needs to be broadcast: they're dead. It's over for them.

Seen at Instapundit:

Whether the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein were self-inflicted or not, the military operation to capture them was immaculate. There were no American deaths, 10 minutes of warnings were given over loudspeakers, and it was the Iraqis who opened fire. So sensitive was the American approach, they even rang the bell of the house before entering.

The neat operation fits squarely with the tenor of the whole American campaign, contrary to the popular negative depiction of its armed forces: that they are spoilt, well-equipped, steroid-pumped, crudely patriotic yokels who are trigger-happy yet cowardly in their application of overwhelming force.

- The Telegraph, American soldiers really aren't spoilt, trigger-happy yokels

Give full-time NSmen voting rights

25 July 2003 4:59 PM SGT (link)

Dear Sir,

I refer to the article "15 and going places" in Life!, ST 25 July 2003. In it Mr. Royston Tan complains about the cuts made to his film despite its rating R(A), where audiences already have to be above 21 to watch it. He says "If an 18-year-old can hold a rifle and defend his country, why can't he watch a film?"

Indeed, I feel it is a legislative lapse to require Singaporean males above the age of 18 to be enlisted and possibly take up arms to defend their country, while the minimum legal voting age is kept at 21. In comparison, the 26th Amendment was passed in the United States in 1971 by both houses of Congress and at least two-thirds of the states' legislatures to allow those above the age of 18 to vote in federal, state and local elections. This was done because some had complained that youths above 18 had been drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, and many had died, but they were not given the right to choose the political leaders that would in effect send them to their deaths. This was in effect military service without representation.

Amending the minimum voting age to 18, or more narrowly, giving full-time NSmen the right to vote, has the potential of not only acknowledging the time and effort put in by full-time NSmen as part of our military defence, but also encouraging them to become more involved in political matters that will shape their fate and that of the countrymen they are serving. Full-time NSmen have fallen through the cracks of the enlistment age and voting age - their contributions should not be forgotten.

Regards,
Mr. Lin Ziyuan.

Update: OK this is bad: I mixed up the issues of suffrage & the right to watch R(A) movies (or rather, the age guideline), so the second paragraph onwards - the whole thing, in other words - is a non-sequitur. How could I have missed that?! I hope it gets published anyway, though, because it's an important issue.

NSF voting rights redux

25 July 2003 4:00 PM SGT (link)

It's actually just a throwaway comment by local filmmaker Royston Tan, but at least we can see the issue is at the back of people's minds:

...Some of the scenes the censors found objectionable are musical segments where gang names are mentioned.

'I don't understand it. I made up some of the gang names - gangs like 18 Umbrellas just don't exist. The film has already been slapped with an R(A) rating which means it can only be watched by audiences above 21,' says Tan.

He adds: 'If an 18-year-old can hold a rifle and defend his country, why can't he watch a film?'

- ST 25 July, 15 and going places

It's hardly as simple as that, if you consider it further. As I said in my last post on this issue in June, it's not any 18-year-old, but (1) NSFs that (2) are enlisted that qualify for this category of "defending his country" i.e. females & those not enlisted are not included. Another separate thorny issue is whether we should include or exclude those who volunteer to serve their NS when they're above 16 (yes, there are such cases), since they may also be called upon to defend the nation - but I'll leave this for now.

Anyway this could just be the excuse I need to write a letter to the ST about this issue, so thanks to Royston Tan. I'll put it here when I've finished it.

The arrangement of Japanese novels; a spark

25 July 2003 2:19 AM SGT (link)

OK I thought this could wait till the morning, but evidently it couldn't. You know when you can't get to sleep, toss & turn, because your brain is consciously (or not) discovering ideas & formulating arguments & counter-arguments? This is one of those times.

When I went to Kino to see if I could find the Kitagawa Eriko novels I was looking for, as I said in my last post, I realised it was not as easy as that, because even though there was a section that stocked what were obviously novels, it didn't seem to be arranged in the conventional way i.e. by subject or author's surname.

Later I found out that these cheaper novels are arranged by publisher, & that got me thinking about whether this is helpful to anyone. It's conceivable that people would want to find books, & hence retailers want to arrange them, by subject, & then look for various books to do with that subject, be it Business Management, Philosophy or Self-Help; or else arrange them by author, like in the (English) fiction section, because in this case it's the author that counts, & there isn't a neat one-to-one relationship between subjects & fictional books. But if the books are arranged by publisher, then author (for those Japanese novels, I gather), one will have to know not only the author and/or title but also which publisher the author writes for, which strikes me as a piece of information that can hardly concern anyone save industry buffs. Trust the Japanese to do things in a needlessly complicated way.

A spark

I'm thinking of trying my hand at fiction using an idea from "Love Story". Of course I can't do it this week or next, because of the matriculation & all the briefings & talks & orientation activities I have to attend, but maybe later, when my schedule's more stable & all the administrivia's been settled.

Being a drama (also novel) about a romantic fiction writer who's been barren for 2 years & is struggling to find the enthusiasm to write again, embedded in "Love Story" is quite a lot of material for stories, or even novels. Some are really bad & are admitted to be so, like a bored housewife seeking love on the Net; others are meant to serve the plot, to illustrate characters' feelings & thoughts, & so aren't very useful when separated from the bigger story. But there's one I find promising:

A 12-year-old has to take the subway every week or so to visit his grandfather who's been warded in a hospital/convalescence home/old folks' home, & each time the journey takes 25 minutes. For a young person (bordering on adolescence, I think), 25 minutes is a long time, & during this period he begins to fantasise about an alternate life, perhaps something he hopes to do that's unfulfilled in reality. So the novel/short story runs in two parallel tracks: the real situation of the hospital visits, & how that changes for the better or worse; & the fantasies of the teenager as he conjures up a world of his own. Later the editor suggests that the teenager be changed to a middle-aged housewife, to add some realism, & the writer tentatively agrees, but in the show we don't see this story completed or published.

Preliminary thought: I think it would be almost irresistable to have both worlds collide, either in the middle or building up to a dramatic finale, but that's a bit too tidy for me. Plus in my experience, too much world-collisions, or self-referencing, can get a bit irritating when it's not in the service of any interesting story.

Kitagawa Eriko, & what language(s) to learn

24 July 2003 9:47 PM SGT (link)

I talked about finishing "Sora kara furu ichioku no hoshi" a few days ago. Since then I've also rewatched "Love Story", & again I have to wonder why it's not better recognised for its achievements, placed alongside Kitagawa Eriko's other greats like "Long Vacation", "Beautiful Life" & "Overtime." It's gone to the point where I'm actually interested in acquiring the novel versions of "Sora kara furu ichioku no hoshi" & "Love Story" (Amazon.co.jp), even though I know very well that I won't be able to make sense of them at all. My father says one needs 2-3 years of studying to get to the point where one can read children's books in Japanese; this kind of romance fiction, maybe 5, or more.

What is a good reason for picking up a language? Familial relations? The culture? The food? The sound of the twang? I also know very well that wanting to learn Japanese in order to better understand & appreciate Japanese dramas, & read Kitagawa Eriko novels, is like wanting to learn English to read Stephen King, or whoever writes all those romance novels one sees in second-hand bookstores with couples locked in tight embraces on the covers. Yet who really picks up English because he/she heard Shakespeare was great? What about business reasons: is that somehow more worthy than for pleasure, or because you're just interested in it, because there's something monetary to be gained at the end of the day? Or is that more crass & undeserving instead?

Here's a brief list of languages I'm interested in learning, & why - but I doubt I'll ever get to any one, because learning a foreign language at this age simply isn't easy if you aren't prepared to work hard at it.

These are already way beyond my league. Imagine the languages & the classics I haven't discovered yet.

Clarification: OK I forgot to explain why I include Chinese in the list, when I've gone through Chinese lessons for 10 years, & attended the Chinese school par excellence in Singapore. The simple reason is that I was never very good at it, & 4+ years of hardly using it at all means I barely call myself a Chinese speaker. It's something I will have to work at very hard, maybe just as hard as the other foreign languages, should I set my mind to it.

Death by a thousand cuts

24 July 2003 9:23 PM SGT (link)

That's what's in today's ST Forum: a total of 9 letters on various transport issues, most having to do with the NEL & the recent "rationalisations" in bus routes. Everyone seems to have some kind of problem with every aspect of this. However, the way these letter writers put their concerns across is somewhat unhelpful to themselves, because they couch it in terms of "I've been taking this service/doing this thing all this while, & now they're taking it away from me because of the NEL!" when one should be explaining how residents of some districts are getting the raw deal here by being far from any NEL station (or with the station being closed) & having their bus services diverted away from them. Complain not what your public transport operator isn't doing for you, but... what your public transport operator isn't doing for a lot of you.

By the way, today's the first time I took the NEL, from Outram Park to Hougang & from Hougang to Dhoby Ghaut. I'm very impressed: the waiting time was not long, & the feared jammed trains & horror movie-style doors opening & closing rapidly didn't happen to me. The trains accelerate more on leaving each station than on the SMRT network, but correspondingly patiently nudge their way to match the glass doors on pulling in to the next station. Consider all this is powered by computers, & one should be even more impressed.

A few quibbles, though: as I passed Woodleigh station, which is closed for now, I noticed that the lights there were on; I presume this is the case for Buangkok also, & probably has been going on since the NEL opened for business. This might be due to safety considerations, as a friend suggested, but I wonder if there wasn't a better reason for lighting up these empty stations for years as we wait for them to become viable - ah, that popular beautiful word in Singapore's public transport system. & second: Dhoby Ghaut's a nightmare to navigate now that there are escalators & lifts & corridors leading everywhere. But I think I can figure it out if I have to. Third: I think we get the point about the gap, yah?

Globetrotting rubber duckies

24 July 2003 10:45 AM SGT (link)

Wanted dead or alive: Rubber ducky (MSNBC): Seen any at the beach lately?

Kaleidoscope

23 July 2003 9:16 PM SGT (link)

Sequel to Buangkok brouhaha: Buangkok residents have spoken up with the results of a poll refuting the reasons SBS Transit gave for keeping their NEL station closed - ST 23 July, People willing to walk to Buangkok MRT, says survey. SBS Transit is obviously on the retreat, but it still has one valid point: the residents were polled on whether they would use the Buangkok station, but not how often, so SBS Transit's findings, which seem suspiciously defective now, may still hold. Also, Buangkok's train brigade hits back, today's Today.

The so-called gay backlash (ST 23 July) looks to involve only a hundred or so Christians of various denominations. Is this the fabled conservative silent majority? Or just another demonstration that Singaporeans are really politically apathetic? & disappointingly these people did not state exactly what they're opposed to: government employment, or the "creeping" gay rights that will soon bring gay marriages & gay parades?

I also find it strange that councils & groups for other religions, like Islam, should have something to say about the announcement that gays would be considered for government employment; perhaps they are choosing to keep silent now & reserve their say for greater policy changes involving gay rights in future. Until more actually speak up & state their views, it's hard to tell how many Singaporeans actually believe the "rampant, militant and organised" homosexual bloc is a threat to Singapore.

The National Day celebratory placards that have started to appear in my neighbourhood, hung from lampposts & in other areas, irk me somewhat, because the face of my district's MP is a prominent part of the placards & signs, making them look a lot like election campaign placards. Leave the faces of the CMIO kids, but no MP's face: National Day is a national occasion, & any politics that gets mixed into the thing is not relevant & is inevitably unfair. There was also a time I saw at some past year's National Day Parade the PAP contingent, & nary any opposition party's - are we really the one-party state that ignorant foreigners condemn us to be?

Sophie's World, Berkeley, Tertullian

23 July 2003 12:08 AM SGT (link)

I had a Sophie's World experience with the book - two actually. I bought it from MPH Stamford (it's been shut down since), but when I got home with it I found that something like 20 pages were missing. When I returned to MPH to get a replacement they told me that the copy I bought was the last of its kind (meaning the cover), & I could either wait a few weeks for the next shipment or get a copy with this cover. There isn't any practical difference between the two covers: they're done by the same author & translator & all, but I just didn't like it, not because it's pink but because of the girl hugging the globe: I thought it was dumb. (The book with the same ISBN but a new cover is better.) This is all very trivial, I know, but it's something I remember to this day.

The second experience: as I was rereading this book a bus ticket fell out from the section on Hume (haven't found any particular significance in that, yet). It's dated "20JA[N]", & it's probably from 2001, the time I bought the book. Did I leave it unfinished at Hume? I can't remember. It's kind of like the postcards addressed to Hilde that Sophie finds everywhere.

OK, enough crap, about the book itself. I found it quite enjoyable, & now I remember what made me so annoyed with it nearing the end: the use of "romantic irony" (page 326, in the chapter "Romanticism"), or having the writer remind the reader that this, whether a novel or a play, is his creation of a fictional universe. Sophie's World is actually a book-in-a-book-in-a-book, & those of us who get easily annoyed with such stylistic tricks will have plenty to be peeved about (assuming one even finishes the book).

The philosophy, however, was challenging & invigorating. Gaardner takes us on a grand tour of Western philosophy, beginning with the pre-Socratics, concerned primarily with "what makes up the world?"; the towering personalities of antiquity, Socrates, Plato & Aristotle; mediaeval philosophy & its interaction with Christianity; later "modern philosophy", with a particular emphasis on Bishop George Berkeley because Gaardner wants to liken Major Albert Knag, the writer of the philosophy binder for his daughter, to the God that Berkeley imagines as bringing into existence our empiricial reality. It peters off towards the end as the discussion on philosophy winds down with existentialism (& hardly a mention of Schopenhauer, logical positivism, Russell & Popper, regrettably) & the worlds-within-worlds collide with each other.

Berkeley

It's worth going into, Berkeley, because I think his philosophy is so radical & unlike what anyone would think, but also very brave & creative for being so. He was responding to Locke's theories of empiricism: Locke pointed out that all we know, we know from collecting information through our senses, & before this happens we are like blank slates, or the famed tabula rasa. But how to know what the world is like for everyone? He says we should divide the qualities of thing into primary, like size & weight, which everyone can agree on, & secondary, like colour & smell, which is subjective. Locke said that our reason can allow us to gain knowledge of things as they really are through their primary qualities.

But Berkeley said, hell no! if you were to be consistent in your empiricism you have to admit that what we call primary qualities are in fact related to us through our senses as well. We never perceive "material" or "matter" as such, we only form concepts of them through the empirical data we gather through our senses. All anyone can have of the idea of a tree, for instance, is what we perceive with our senses & assemble as a concept in our minds. As Berkeley says, esse est percipi, to be is to be perceived. But if there is no one to perceive a famed tree when it falls in the forest - no one to hear the tree fall, & so on - did it really fall? If reality consists of ideas formed in minds, & if the reality I see is not controlled by my own mind, it must be a separate mind that conceives, perceives & maintains these ideas, including the one of the forlorn tree in the forest. This is the mind of God: it is the only explanation in which we can be logically consistent in our empiricism, & also admit of a continuous, impersonal reality as we know it. Again: Everything we know, we know through ideas from our senses, & we should not postulate any separate, independently-existing reality. Instead our reality can only exist in a very essential sense with an omniscient (but not omnipotent) God - the abstraction of a mind that makes everything real for every one of us.

Berkeley's extreme empiricism is fantastical, to say the least! I believe it alienates most, if not all, people who don't think of their God in this fashion. & to be sure there are responses to Berkeley's philosophy, most notably from Kant, but those are other things one can explore. So if you're really interested in how you can salvage something of a God that we're more familiar with, there are other philosophers down the road you can read.

Tertullian

On page 350 in my book, in a discussion of Kierkegaard's philosophy with respect to proving the existence of God, or some theological sub-point, Gaardner says that the idea that Christianity should be embraced not through rationality, logical arguments, but through faith, as the only way to also have religious passion, was also mentioned in the Middle Ages with the maxim credo quia absurdum: I believe because it is irrational.

This maxim seems to be a misquote from Tertullian, Christian ecclesiastical scholar (160?-220?) (The Tertullian Project), who actually wrote in his De Carne Christi (On the flesh of Christ):

Crucifixus est dei filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est.
Et mortuus est dei filius; credibile prorsus est, quia ineptum est.
Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile.

The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed--because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible--because it is silly. 
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain--because it is impossible. (Evans translation).

- De Carne Christi, Other Points of Interest

There's also a "personal interpretation" of the quote. Honestly I can't make much sense of this, & not only because I'm not a Christian; it seems one has to be pretty involved with the scholarly issues. But I think we can be reasonably sure that Tertullian wasn't advocating Christianity because it was against reason. I need to read more about this...

Homage to Blogalonia

22 July 2003 12:59 PM SGT (link)

Homage to Blogalonia (Salon): How George Orwell's newspaper columns in wartime are the precursors to today's blogs.

Courage Fund uses

21 July 2003 10:44 PM SGT (link)

Courage Fund totals S$28m, extended to children of all SARS death victims (Channel NewsAsia): just linking to it for "closure". It seems that "[s]o far only two donors, who felt the Courage Fund was killing off other charities, have asked and gotten their donations back." Getting refunds? I thought they wanted to redirect them to other charities? Obviously the vast majority of people don't agree that other charities are starved for money (not true), or are only interested in the cause of helping those who went down with SARS (maybe), or couldn't be bothered to take any action (most probably).

Stars falling from the sky

21 July 2003 9:54 PM SGT (link)

Last mentioned here. I've finished watching "Sora kara furu ichioku no hoshi" (空から降る一億の星) - "A 100 million stars falling from the sky", subtitled as "The smile has left your eyes." A very long title, & I've already left out the easier Chinese translation!

Whenever I finish a Jap drama I'm always left with a sense of emptiness - whether it's a comedy or a tragedy or a drama that can't be classified nicely - which I never get when watching Singaporean, Taiwanese or Korean dramas. There are many reasons why that's so; I suspect one of them's that Jap dramas are tightly-woven, very intense tales, while the rest are more easy-going & demand less of the viewer's concentration & devotion. Of course, that's no reason for not watching good Jap dramas, because the best can literally change your life, & pretty good ones like "Sora kara furu ichioku no hoshi" immerse you into a world of experiences, like the best novels or storytellers do.

Unfortunately I can't go into much detail about the show because it's the kind where finding out too much before you watch the show totally ruins it for you. As I said last time, there are many similarities to "Nemureru Mori", "Sleeping Forest", including not knowing the entire story until near the end, but "Sora kara furu ichioku no hoshi"'s story is simpler, & it's not a whodunit like "Sleeping Forest". You'll also appreciate the Kitagawa Eriko touch, exploring various types & aspects of love, even if the story's much more unorthodox than what you'll be used to, & I think some viewers will actually be disgusted. It already seemed like that at the beginning, but as the story unravels layer by layer, I see what the story's getting at, & I'm no less wowed by the skill of its telling. In its dialogue, plot & direction, it's no slouch to the earlier Kitagawa Eriko classics - in a nutshell, it's worth your time.

I'm still puzzled by the title though, & "the smile has left your eyes." A minor spoiler: it's tragic, & at the end of it you might wonder what the point was. I guess that's something that has to remain enigmatic, probably even to the writer herself. If anyone has watched this show & has some theories, or a better understanding of the poetry & all, please share them with me.

Modules

21 July 2003 9:31 PM SGT (link)

Today's the first day of the 5-day "take-a-look" stage of module registration for my first semester in NUS. The problem with figuring out exactly when to do what & how isn't too little information, it's too much, coming from various sources. What's a USP Science student to do? I found some things in the Science Handbook 2003/04, for the university requirements; the USP website, for USP modules; the sample study plan for my major in Maths. I know we're supposed to get all the information from the handbook itself, but I found that out the long way.

Why do we need 5 days to look at the modules anyway? It's so long everyone's starting to believe that they're missing out something important, so I can feel the pressure to choose the right modules (when all I can do now is look at them, & the USP ones are not in the CORS (Centralised On-line Registration System) yet, for some reason), arrange my tutorial sessions (when that's some rounds later), & even take into account exam dates in November, when I haven't even entered the bloody place yet! & I really hope the CORS doesn't go belly-up on us rookies.

Personally I would just sooner get back to the simpler way of life in secondary school & JC where we just needed to choose the subjects we were taking - itself agonising enough - & not bother too much about how many chips to put on how many deals (yes, they're actually points & modules, but basically it's the same, isn't it?). No, of course I want to be spoilt for choice for my Humanities USP modules, Science USP modules; less for Maths though, as the study plan shows - but I'm not here to learn the intricacies of CORS - no one is. Let's get on with it, people, let's go to the really important stuff - that's my attitude now.

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