Archive for August, 2014|Monthly archive page

If we bury your ass up, we have a place to park my bike.

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm


What’s wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. -Patch Adams

What’s uncanny is, Robin Williams played so many roles requiring him to say poignant yet hilarious things about death.

Okay, let’s look at the logic. You create man. Man suffers enormous amounts of pain. Man dies. Maybe you should have had just a few more brainstorming sessions prior to creation. You rested on the seventh day. Maybe you should’ve spent that day on compassion. -Patch Adams

It’s difficult to believe Robin Williams is dead–no, I think it’s more unbelievable that he committed suicide. Because it’s difficult to reconcile his comedic, boisterous personality with that of someone depressed. Or maybe not. Maybe he’s already shown us how funny people can be sad people and sad people can be funny people and that depression is actually an abundant source of wry, self-deprecating humour. At the start of “Patch Adams”, Williams’ character checks himself into a mental health hospital – for the first part of that movie he’s depressed and depressive and depressing, but so funny.

Robin Williams is a different character to us all. My dad remembers him as the alien from the planet Ork, or as GOOOOOOOOD MORRRRRRNING VIETNAAAAAAM. My sister remembers him as the guy in What Dreams May Come and Mrs Doubtfire. To me, he was mostly Patch Adams, and maybe a bit of Mr Keating in the Dead Poets’ Society. Or maybe the eccentric scientist who invented Flubber and forgot to attend his own wedding. The first Robin Williams movie I watched was “Jack”, which was essentially about a schoolkid trapped in the hairy, wrinkled, stumpy middle-aged body of Robin Williams because he had a disease that made him age super fast.

Robin Williams stepped into the bodies of characters who were spunky, rebellious non-conformists. Characters too brilliant to be bothered by conventions, norms, rules and institutions. Rather, they saw individual gumption to be more important.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. -Keating, Dead Poets’ Society

My childhood wasn’t exactly spent on the playground, which is why till this day I can’t fully comprehend the idea behind monkey bars. It sounds pretty gross but I grew up on a steady diet of TV and movies. That means my dad was bringing home Robin Williams DVDs all the time. Most of my childhood was spent watching those films and rewatching them so many times that I could repeat Robin Williams’ lines at the dinner table to annoy the hell out of everybody. Any non-conforming traits that my personality bears and which continue to piss people off is because of the heavy influence of Robin Williams’ films.

And I am pretty sure I am not the only kid whose identity was shaped by the spunk of Robin Williams’ characters. Therefore we must all be thankful that he truly made those characters real.

World is trouble. Man needs a little madness, or else he dare not cut the rope and be free. -Patch Adams





Red, the blood of angry men.

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2014 at 4:54 am

I woke up on the morning of August 9, not actually remembering the date. Out of all the different coloured running vests in my closet, I threw on a red one and jogged out to the Botanic Gardens. When I got there, I saw this:


and this


and this


this too






As I surreptitiously snapped such photos, trying not to seem like a creep, I thought to myself: in the age of Singaporean cynicism, when it is trendy to be anti-government and when we are all waiting for some government screw-up, why do we bother being patriotic? Why bother making a conscious effort to wear red on national day. At every turn around the park, as I saw more and more Singaporeans decked out in red, I laughed on the inside, unimpressed. Then I looked down at my own running shirt – it was red too. Somehow, unconsciously yet outwardly, I was celebrating National Day too.

As I jogged home, I wondered if it was possible to love your country and hate your government at the same time. Especially in Singapore where most of us – no matter how loudmouthed and cynical – do admit that our achievements as a nation are intertwined with the achievements of the PAP. Somehow, when we watch that black-and-white video clip of Lee Kuan Yew weeping after we had been kicked out of Malaysia, we understand that the ruling party has been an intrinsic part of our history and our progress. But right now it is trendy to criticize, to be a little more outspoken against the government, to play with  the idea of voting more Opposition into Parliament. It is now possible to be pro-Singapore without being pro-PAP. I think I like that.

Having recently graduated from a local secondary school, National Day reminded me of the half-day celebrations typical of almost every school in Singapore. The various Uniform Groups would march past, frighteningly in sync. Singapore flags would be  distributed to all students, and at the end of the celebrations, the field would be dotted with a few flags that had fallen out of some hands. Some lightheaded students would faint on the field – too much sun and too much standing. National Day messages would be read out, so we could all recall “how far we have come” in just 49 short years. The solemn trumpet tunes and marching music, the National Day songs, the crisp uniforms and the flags – the grandeur of it all made you feel proud. Happy.

This year, for the first time in my life, I observed a National Day celebration outside of the local school system. It is debatable as to whether an international school should celebrate national day when half of its students aren’t even Singaporean, but I reckon no one was too unhappy about the half day. The strangest thing was that I found this National Day celebration multiple times more meaningful than the ones I had before in the local school circuit. For one thing there was no marching (since there were no uniformed groups anyway), but instead of flags, they distributed those blowable plastic bubbles (you know the transparent gluey stuff inside a tiny tube which comes with a yellow straw which you can use to blow the biggest damn bubble of your life). To me, that was uniquely Singaporean, and it was worth giving out to everyone because it appealed to everybody even if they weren’t Singaporean.

The flag was brought in, not to a lone trumpet tune, but to Dick Lee’s “Home”. We watched a documentary about the perils of Singapore’s independence (including that famous black-and-white clip of Lee Kuan Yew shedding a few tears), an interpretive dance about Sang Nila Utama and Raffles (it’s nice that we recognised Lee Kuan Yew is not  the only founding father of Singapore), played a few  “local” games, and yes, we too listened to Heng Swee Keat’s national day message about the Pioneer Generation. Turns out, you don’t actually need crisp uniforms and marching and formal parades and paper flags to have a meaningful commemoration of National Day. I guess National Day doesn’t have to be grand; it just has to be genuine. Human.

Last  year, around August 9, a forum letter from me was published in the Straits Times, proposing that it is time to allow the Workers Party a marching contingent in the National Day Parade. NTUC gets to march in the parade. PUB gets to march in the parade. The PA gets to march in the parade. The PAP gets to march in the parade. And so do many other organisations/companies who have stake in Singapore’s future and stability and continue to contribute to our society. Does the Workers Party – which has won a few seats in Parliament – count as one of these organisations? Or should we wait for more significant contributions on their part before we actually give them a few banners and a marching contingent in the NDP? Hmm. Ideas.

Anyway: Happy Birthday, Singapore.

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