Monthly Archives: May 2012

off i go, flying to Laos. back on the 16th of june. maybe i’ll find some wifi and time to blog something while i’m over there.

bye bye everyone! i am so sorry for the lack of posting recently but that is due to a dearth of material. you can provide me material if u want. 

off i go, flyin…


playing pickup ball

it’s that time of the year again… the NBA playoffs!

this year as we reach the round of 8 the usual notables are carrying the load for their teams.

but we must observe that there has been much talk about old players rewinding the clock to really step it up. players like KG and Duncan.

but what is so surprising about this? age is overrated to some extent. all this veteran moxie is undiluted by age. talent is talent no matter what. 36 year old power forwards carrying their teams towards the finish line. it’s hardcore man.

last night i went down to my neighbourhood court for the first time in… more than a year. it is strange. i am ghost on the court on which i used to frequent something like 5 times a week. all the people have changed. the people i used to play with are in the army. the people i used to watch are now older and slower. but there’s still something magical about playing pickup basketball. playing with people you have never played with before. there’s a sense of anticipation as you stare down the guy who has the ball in his hands.

he’s at the top of the 3 point line, and you give him a backyard worth of space. it’s the first time you are marking him and he decides to just shoot the 3. you put a hand up (for show) – it’s pickup at the neighbourhood court and you can’t get all in-your-face from the start, you know what i’m saying? it’s just not nice. maybe the second or third set, when there are bragging rights and respect to earn… maybe.

so the next possession its the same thing and he starts dribbling slowly. you can hear people running around behind you but then it’s pickup ball. the beauty of it is in individual expression and testing yourself. you have no idea what this guy can do – and its all the more fun because of that. he picks up his dribble and pulls a crossover. you stay with it. recover, hesitate, drive right – you lost him. okay, so now we know he’s fast.

the next time it happens again you shuffle your feet and you move to cut off his path to the basket. he runs into your chest and has to stop. spins, but you’re there. looks for the shot but your hand has been up there all the time. passes out to his teammate. score’s now tied at 1-1 for the two of you.

then it’s your turn as you have the ball in your hands. now you have maybe a rough measure of what this guy can do. you fake the shot but he doesn’t fall for it. same sequence – jab step, drive left, pull up, but he’s there to contest the shot. you let it fly because there’s a license on neighbourhood courts that you can from time to time toss up ill advised shots. but after a few you better prove that you can make them. basketball is a language of its own. it’s 5 personal battles going on and forming this messy chaotic tapestry that resolves itself into made baskets and mutual respect. there’s a joy in pulling off a difficult move and grinning as the ball falls into the hoop and two defenders are left in your wake. everyone on the court nods imperceptibly and you move on to the next possession. then suddenly this crazy long dude starts hopping around and grabbing every rebound in sight.

there’s the next challenge – boxing him out and keeping him off the glass then scoring on him inside. can you do it? no idea, but that’s the whole point.


nat king cole sang a song about it

recently i’ve been reading some thought catalog stuff.

it’s pretty interesting, and the writing’s pretty good, and it deals with issues which are common to humanity. things everyone is interested in. i must say i share a similar interest. so i read the articles and i guess, hey yeah this stuff probably does affect some people, in the sense that they experience this recognition of ‘oh dear this happens to me/has happened to me/might happen to me’.

but something that not-quite-irks me is the… attitude (for the lack of a better word) that a lot of the thought catalog writers have. no knock on them, of course, just my personal opinion. it all sounds very jaded, very supersaturated by mainstream culture and the artificiality of emotion in the modern world. but i’m not dissing thought catalog (in fact i think it is rather impressive and i appreciate what it stands for). i’m just commenting that the fact that people enjoy reading such material says something about our world today.

is love… quantified? reduced? i feel like there’s a reduction of love to something that everyone can understand. we try to put a number on relationships, classify dating in stages, and set specific time periods for our heart. yes i know these are guidelines (i have them myself) and they serve as a good reminder, but beyond that there seems to be a rather scientific approach to love. and the rest of all the emotional spectrum, by extension. its like human emotion has been bottled up and distilled. distilled in the sense that they have been isolated, not concentrated. we examine things like love and hope as phenomena, and we examine our experiences.

somehow there’s been a loss of the sense of wonder and adventure in just enjoying it all? i am not sure. there is an overanalysis of all this. reflection is good but there comes a point where we go beyond reflection into… i don’t know.

why? why? do people now see love as a sort of solution to all of life’s problems? because it is not. maybe that’s why relationships nowadays aren’t steady, why solid relationships are so few. i’m talking about relationships in general, not specifically BGR. love has become so commodified that it is represented as diamonds and perfumes and paper hearts. love isn’t a cure-all, it’s a process. oops here i am guilty of trying to put a label to it. maybe that’s the word… we’re trying to ‘label’ love.

but the problem here is that (okay it isn’t a problem per se) love is BEYOND a label. in any relationship love is both the problem and the solution (sort of). there is no fixed thing that can provide you with love… just add water! kind of things. see this whole cultural phenomena thing fascinates me greatly. has our culture of instant gratification ingrained in us an attitude where we automatically assume that saying ‘i love you’ guarantees a steady relationship? when in the end it becomes nearly a dangerous landmark on the emotional landscape, where people don’t dare to say it in fear that it might jeopardize a relationship. ‘i love you’ – three words that should be the biggest and simplest expression but have become three words that people tread ever so carefully around. how sad!

the thing is that love has become so conditional today. everything comes with appendices and clauses and agreements and lines for you to sign on, even if you don’t see them. that’s what i think of the world at large anyway. it’s become so legalized and formalized and there’s no longer any joy to it. an utterly deplorable state of affairs. it’s like everything has been thrown into muted pastel watercolours… gone are the sharp vivid 1000000dpi mega high definition colours of reality like they used to be.

and our understanding of love has shifted. in any relationship where love is assumed and socially constructed and accepted to exist, there is an underlying understanding that if A loves B, A should act in a certain manner towards B. but this ‘loving manner’ is impossible to keep up under normal circumstances. herein lies the problem, is it not? that’s why i think so many relationships break down or simply don’t reach their fullest potential (for both parties). but it is love that allows you to move beyond human exasperation and frustration and consciously want to continue to love the other party, even if you feel aggrieved and stuff. that’s why love is both the problem and solution.

but now i think we have moved away from really understanding what love is. what is love? i don’t see many people asking that question. it’s like we think we all know what love is. but do we? its more of something taken for granted, something that will solve itself. but the thing is that because we think it to be conditional, we think that whatever love we express will be reciprocated, and then beat ourselves up when it is not. people term this the cycle of relationships and say it is part of life. while i acknowledge that yes there is some value in going through the ups and downs in life, life should be happy and joyous! and we should not be sad.

maybe that’s why people find it hard to accept God’s love. i can’t believe it myself sometimes. that’s the miracle of it all, i guess. it is really quite mind boggling.

love is a one-way thing. there are no conditions to it. that famous passage of 1 Corinthians in which Paul describes love? it says it all, what love is.

love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. love never fails.

the sheer scope and epicness of this just stuns me repeatedly, and even more so as i read what i have already typed earlier on. is this why people struggle to accept the very nature of God’s love? because it seems so impossible in today’s world?

nat king cole sang a song about love. a song which i like to listen to: it is very nice! you can listen to it here.

the lyrics go

L is for the way you look at me

O is for the only one i see

V is very very extraordinary

E is even more than anyone that you adore


but what is the focus? with a cursory examination of the lyrics using my vaunted literary analytical skills (about the only skill you get from studying lit, ha-ha. not exactly extremely practical) reveals that the persona’s attitude towards love is very self-centric. a love song is meant to be sung to someone… but instead we see that the persona is thinking of his own love instead of giving it. there’s a selfish undercurrent to the whole thing. okay you can agree to disagree here but my point is that love is not perceived as the gift which it is: freely given with no expectation that it will be well received. love is expectation-free – something we don’t deal very well with today, especially when we’re the ones who are giving it out.

ohwell i have reached my targeted end of the post (i talked about all i wanted to talk about) but i realise i don’t really have a conclusion in the sense that i have no final takeaway point of sorts. nevertheless… we will endeavour to make some sort of point about it. without sounding cheesy. alright its going to sound cheesy but IT SHOULDN’T BE CHEESY, if you follow my semi-argument.

love is beautiful and we should let it be that way! not coddle it and bottle it. sounds like a kinda lame conclusion. but love shouldn’t be causing pain (though it does. i mean not permanent, i’m-never-gonna-fall-in-love-again emotional scarring kind of pain) but instead be the primary vehicle through which we experience God and each other!


and now some random titbits, so you, dear reader, have more inane insights into my life.

1) the celtics lost. boohoo!

2) bosh is injured ):

3) many many many things to do in hall. much. much much.

4) linky is back D:

5) i had 2 readers from the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

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what a letter did to me

a few days ago i opened a letter from NSPC – the National Service Personnel Centre. contained within the envelope was a letter that would crystallize for me the reality of national service.

‘… you have been appointed xxx etc’.

while as a singaporean male i have been distinctly aware of my obligation to the nation, i have never really been conscious of the reality of this fact.

on the day that i opened the letter, this awareness of obligation changed into something resembling more duty than obligation.

now my initial response was to say ‘oh man, i’ve got to do all this work’. a most typically singaporean male response: in the army, you just want to get away from the saigang and evade everything.

but further thought has made me realize that NS is for real. i mean that it is Concrete Reality. as an educated student proficient (or so i hope) in history and having been schooled in the institutions which place importance upon military defence, i acknowledged the need for National Service. don’t get me wrong, a part of me does begrudge two years of my life being… spent, as many would call it. but on hindsight it is an investment. but my purpose here is not to glorify NS. i have benefited from serving my time in the army, it has made me and moulded me into a better person. i don’t know what i would be without the army, but as i am now, i know that my 22 months in green were not wasted.

my point is that NS suddenly became extremely real to me. appointed to a position of command, i realized the larger implications of my role. they say in OCS that you must be father, mother, brother to the 27 men in your platoon. your commissioning means that the President has vested his authority unto you to command men and send them into combat, with the knowledge that you are responsible for their life and death. this is life and death we are talking about. and now here i am, suddenly made aware that it’s no longer a game of numbers, warfighting and tactics, a test of my skills and mapwork, as it was during training. suddenly 500 men have become 500 families and lives and people out there, real people. it is ironic that only after having ORDed that i feel the weight of command responsibility fall upon me. life moves on but lessons take time.

defense is a real thing. academically i can prove it. political science has realist policies. history contains all sorts of examples that military defense and presence is of paramount importance. but suddenly it has really hit home. if i screw up, i screw up not just my own pride, but i screw up the lives of all those people out there. i better not screw up.

so what’s it going to be? i’m 21 going on 22, and here i sit in my room in my family’s HDB flat and i am contemplating my place and purpose in the machinery of that fine institution known as the Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore’s future literally rests on people like me. boys all around the country unsure of whether they too, have entered manhood, waiting for some sort of test to confirm thier movement away from boyhood and entry into true manliness. does army make you a man? not really. it’s a testing ground of sorts, a proving ground, but it isn’t a final exam. there isn’t one, i think.

but i digress. singapore’s protection and continued success and prosperity is buoyed by our economic toughness and viability. they say that our political and economic position makes us an inviting target, but we are never going to get hit. that’s logical thinking, i agree. but may i remind you that the very hallmark of human action is its irrationality. is evil explainable? are the actions of those whom we deem madmen and dictators logical? are concentration camps and purgings and such atrocities a product of a rational mind?

sometimes in my free time i consider the possibility of singapore going to war. i imagine what it would be like. and i conclude that i don’t want to go and fight. because i’ve read enough and learnt enough that war in any form is utterly terrible. you don’t even have to read up the raw numbers to know that. read enough war poetry and you can feel the anguish and hurt and meaninglessness that struggles to find expression in a poetic form. i’ve always marveled at how lit and history go hand in hand. lit is like turning a timeline on its side and examining it through a prism of wordcraft.

but just because i don’t want to fight doesn’t mean i won’t fight. if the proverbial button is pressed, i will answer the call. you say i’m an idealistic patriot? i will go and fight because i will defend my loved ones, and i will defend what they have built. i will defend what people have spent their lives building up – things that benefit all of us, things that define modern singapore. i will defend high COE prices, faulty MRT systems, expensive food, HDB blocks, pressurizing education systems.

a lot of the people i’ve talked to say that they will go and fight too, but they will not be fighting for the country, but for their loved ones. they say fighting for the government, for society, fight for what? i agree. but once again let us remember that what makes us singaporean is our shared experiences and common identity, forged as they might be within the artifice of nation-building. are we all not fighting for the same thing? a nation shouldn’t be defined by its infrastructure and its physical makeup and its ethnic composition. it may be characterized by all those, but a nation is defined by the heart and the beliefs of the people. sounds like a stretch to say that all of us share the same beliefs… but i’m willing to bet if you break it down, the person standing next to you on the MRT or the taxi driver ferrying you around possesses a set of core beliefs which you can identify with, things which are uniquely singaporean. why else do we take offense when other people say that ‘i thought singapore was a little town in china’?

so in light of all this, i struggle to understand why people throw vitriol at national service and the SAF. and i think the best i can come up with is that this privilege of being able to complain is born of others having already given of themselves and done their duty by their nation. the privilege of complaining is only afforded by those who do not need to pause and give thought to the necessity of military defense. i highly doubt anyone who deferred his national service and ran off to another country (notice i use the disparaging ‘ran off’) has truly given serious thought, serious balanced thought to the issue of national service. if they are so caught up in their ideas of human rationality, how can they rationally suggest that a nation can ever be free of threat?

next time when my son grows up and it is time for him to don the shirt with SINGAPORE stitched onto his chest (i wonder what the uniform will be like then), i hope he will go in with an understanding and acceptance of why he has to serve, and who he is doing it for. that’s only going to happen if we (we as in generic singaporean society) continue as we are right now – with a large portion of our national budget going to defense because we acknowledge that it is undeniably important and can never be compromised upon. there isn’t going to be a future if we don’t believe in the present.


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