Lemonnator

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You don’t get to call her fat.

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2015 at 10:34 am

Regardless of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” and other campaigns promoting a healthy body image, “fat” is still a popular insult. Calling someone fat isn’t the same as calling someone short or ugly. Calling someone fat isn’t the same as saying “you throw like a girl” to another boy on the baseball pitch. Calling someone fat doesn’t just have implications on that person’s physical appearance, but it has subtle and mean implications about that person’s character. “Fat” suggests gluttony, laziness and general lack of attractiveness. And that is why “fat” is still an effective and hurtful insult today.

I’m actually not, by anyone’s reasonable standards, fat. I have a healthy BMI. I’m right smack in the middle of the normal weight range for girls my height. Plus, I don’t actually look fat. I run at least 5km weekly. Plus I do pilates. Plus I like salad and oatmeal and other “clean eats”. Yet, today, when a male friend insinuated that I was fat, I just couldn’t get over it . I took it personally. And then I blamed myself for taking it personally. And I wondered why I was getting so emotional about it – why was I overreacting to an assertion that a) wasn’t true and b) was probably made in jest? Because it wasn’t about my weight. And it wasn’t about my appearance. It was PERSONAL. It was about ME.

I realised that, a year ago, this exact friend had told me about how he thought fat people were lazy and useless and unreliable. Specifically he said: “I mean, come on, name one fat person who has, like, good grades and is, like, hardworking. The fat people I know have, like, bad grades and are, like, irresponsible.” 

So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be offended when, a year later, this same guy insinuates that I’m fat.

Then again, there are some outstanding fat people out there. Like Jay Leno – the Tonight Show guy. Josh from Drake and Josh – before his gastric bypass surgery. Sam Smith – love that guy. And I guess Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a little on the chubby side. But no one knows these people for being fat. We know these people because they’re talented, famous and cool. So why is “fat” still a legitimate insult? It shouldn’t be.

Let’s examine the gender dynamics when my friend insinuated that I was fat. Girls tell each other when they put on weight. Girls talk about their weight and their bodies when they are sharing common insecurities. Girls sometimes call each other “fatty” because it’s a nickname. But when a guy implies to a girl that she is fat, IT’S A DIFFERENT BALL GAME ALTOGETHER. 

When a guy hints to a girl that she is fat, it subtly implies that she is unattractive – more specifically, it implies that she is unattractive to the opposite sex. And even if it is just a casual remark, it is offensive and hurtful.

But why am I still so riled up about it? Two words: eating disorders. I’ve had close friends who let insecurities about their body take over their entire lives. One of them used to do knee-lifts at every step when she walked around school, to make sure she was burning calories. I’ve seen my friends get reduced to mere skeletons – their eyes became more prominent and seemed larger in proportion to their face; their cheekbones stuck out; the joints of their shoulders and knees jutted out at weird angles. It was painful to watch and I hope I never have to see it again because  it is one of the worst things you could ever see – to see a friend be consumed alive by her own personal insecurities. 

And your insecurities about your body have nothing to do with how you actually look. People can feel inferior and ashamed about their bodies whether they are fat, skinny, or kind of average. People who make this warped and illogical association between “fat” and “worthless” are the reason for our insecurities about being fat. People who equate being fat with being inferior are making life hell for a lot of girls and guys out there. Subconsciously, we might all be guilty of perpetuating this idea.

Some people say we shouldn’t discriminate against fat people because “fat people can’t help being fat”. Well, that’s not the point.  It’s like how some people say we shouldn’t discriminate against gay people because they didn’t choose to be gay. Not the point. Point is, even if individuals make a conscious choice to be fat/gay/black, it’s still wrong to discriminate against those demographics, and it’s still wrong to make it seem like these groups of people are somehow worth less than others.

Why? Because they aren’t worth less than others.In fact, we’re all, like, equal. Sorry, I thought we talked about this in the 1700s when the US wrote their declaration of independence. We also talked about this after apartheid was dismantled in South Africa. Oh and we settled this when slavery was banned. We settled it again when women fought for universal suffrage. And we settle this every day when we push for marriage equality. Every day there are more reasons not to insult people with one-dimensional assertions like “fat”, “gay”, “black”, “blue”, “silver”, “gold”.

We’ve had  campaigns against slut shaming, and I reckon that would teach us that it’s wrong to judge people’s lifestyle choices. We don’t get to judge the harmless choices of other people. We don’t get to judge the circumstances surrounding those choices. The fact is that we all have different realities, and so we all make different choices about our lives. And it is impossible to objectively judge a lifestyle as right or wrong. So what if someone is ‘slutty’ or sexually promiscuous? So what if people are gay? So what if people are fat?

These traits are not anything to be ashamed of. They no longer count as insults in our enlightened era. But they still hurt. What we must do is to make sure these insults wither in terms of their value and impact. Even when they are used in friendly banter or casual conversation, when we use traits like “fat” to tease people or to make a judgement on them, we perpetuate the negative connotation that is associated with such traits. We make it shameful. We make people feel ashamed. And in a world that is struggling to come to terms with its diversity, such insults just aren’t funny anymore.

Is the government unfairly targeting Singlish?

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

I was really, really honoured to give this TED talk at Hwa Chong International School. It’s about Singlish in Singapore and the need to preserve local dialects. Some say it was a little anti-government since it attacks linguistic policies but, hey, enjoy.

It’s funny…because it’s true.

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2014 at 5:22 am

Focus on the Family would find broader acceptance if they were comedians and not an organisation for educating youth about sexuality. But is there no truth at all to the gender stereotypes used by FotF? Was there no value at all to what they had said?

Don’t get me wrong: I fully understand that society is evolving with regard to gender roles and behavior, and I fully support that because I personally don’t fit into the conventional girl stereotype. And what Agatha Tan said about FotF perpetuating rape culture is absolutely right. Their brand of sex ed teaches guys that what a woman says might not actually be what a woman means, and so when she says ‘no’ to sex,  she might actually mean yes and you can have a night of non-consensual fun. And that’s just wrong. And like, illegal.

But let’s not ignore that there are some visceral differences between men and women when it comes to communication.  FotF said “when a girl says ‘it’s nothing’, it actually means ‘something is bothering me’.” As an adolescent female with the relevant reproductive organs, I can testify that there is a modicum of truth to that statement.

What’s so wrong with pointing out the art of subtlety when communicating with the opposite gender? What’s so wrong with giving guys a hint that sometimes they should read between the lines of what a girl says?

And there might be just a few other hard truths:

“While guys don’t want a girl to pretend to be clueless,” the FotF booklet says, “they also don’t want a girlfriend that questions their opinions and argues with their decisions all the time.”

Well, that’s not exactly false, is it? Both genders have egos and, whether you’re male or female, you probably don’t want anyone to constantly doubt your judgement.

The booklet also apparently said something like “Guys need respect and are insecure”.

Can you really argue with the notion that it’s just not nice when a girl walks all over a guy? Is it not true that girls deserve sensitivity from guys, and this sensitivity must be mutual?

I get Agatha Tan’s point that we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush. I get Emma Watson’s point that gender is a spectrum of feminine and masculine traits, and these traits don’t belong in a dichotomy – they transcend both genders. But there is nothing wrong with teaching people to read in between the lines, to understand implicit meanings, and not to take words at face value.

So don’t take FotF’s presentation at face value either. Take it with a pinch of salt or maybe even some humor. Laugh along, because there is another stereotype that we girls have to break: that we are so high-maintenance we can’t take a joke.

In fact, FotF’s message isn’t about gender – it’s about language. It’s about the difference between overt language and innuendo. And that’s not a lesson about communication with a girl or with a guy. That’s a lesson about communication with everyone. It’s something to keep in mind when your boss tells you you’ll be promoted “if you perform well”. Or when you ask your girlfriend where she wants to go for dinner and she says “anywhere”. Don’t take that as an invitation to bring her to KFC.

It’s funny….because it’s true.

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:

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and this

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and this

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this too

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this

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AND THIS

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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.

Censorship impairs informed decision-making

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm

We live in an age where there is growing dissent about issues such as gay rights and where netizens actively question long-standing government policies like CPF. In this age, it is especially vital that the public library remains a free place where Singaporeans – young and old – can find out more about shifting trends and different ideologies. It is only with full access to various kinds of literature that people can make informed decisions about the controversies that surround us. It is only then that citizens can actively participate in a healthy public discourse. It is this discourse that in turn allows us to properly decide what values to impart to our children or which party we should vote for in the next election.

For this reason, the National Library Board should not filter the knowledge that is made readily available to Singaporeans – even if it is merely taking a few children’s books off the shelves. For the same reason, the MDA should not ask artists to censor their artwork. It is through literature, theatre, painting, dance and music that talented Singaporeans have learnt to express their political voice, their patriotism, and contribute to the cultural vibrance of our city. This is something that the Singapore government has long striven to promote. The slightest degree of censorship may dampen the spirit of expression that is growing stronger among Singaporeans today. I should add that I think it reflects a lack of synergy within the government, when one ministry (MOE) tries to strengthen arts education in primary and secondary schools, while another agency (MDA) wants established Singaporean artists to start censoring their work.

Bias does not only come from providing information of a particular ideology. Bias also comes from withholding information of a particular ideology. I get that concerned parents wish to protect their children from non-pro-family books and art (though, personally, I think the titles that were withdrawn were extremely ‘pro-family’. Those books helps kids realise the diversity of families that we have in the real world – gay parents, single parents, divorced parents. I guess society still does not consider two loving parents/penguins of the same sex as an actual ‘family’).  But despite having similar conservative concerns, my parents brought me to the National Library when I was a very young child and set me loose amongst the shelves. They allowed me to devour the books with reckless abandon. In addition, I was free to use the internet. The television remote control was left unguarded in the living room. When I was 12, my parents brought me to see a Singaporean adaptation of the political satire “Animal Farm”. That controversial play was held at the National Library, and it was perhaps the most intellectually enriching moment of my life.

The art scene and political scene in Singapore continues to grow stronger, louder and more vibrant. Censorship guidelines from MDA and pulling books off shelves in the public library will do very little to stop this diversity of ideas and ideologies. What we should do, is embrace it.

Every school is a good school

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

He would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal (British Socialists) policy.  -Maggie Thatcher

The new funding cuts for top independent schools for Singapore do not make intuitive sense to me. When PM Lee proclaimed so boldly in his 2013 National Day Rally that “every school is a good school”, I took it to mean there would be greater support for schools that were “less good”. I didn’t think it meant the Ministry would start cutting the grants given to “better” schools. After all, if we want to make every school equally good, surely it means lifting bad ones up to the level of the good ones and not the other way around.

Having said that, I do think fund-raising in the independent schools needs to be regulated – I just don’t think the Ministry did a very good job of justifying their latest policy.

I used to be quite afraid of criticizing my Secondary school on my blog because my school clamps down pretty hard on students who “tarnish the school name”. That’s probably why there was a very premature end to our Confessions page on facebook. Now that I’ve graduated, I suppose the chances of me  being made to serve detention is considerably lower than before.

I did come from an “elite” independent school. It was a school where majority of the students were from well-off families. It was a school with long-standing traditions and values…and an impressive academic track record. But it was also a school that, towards the end of my Secondary School life, began to bother me with its constant fund-raising. I felt the fund-raising carnivals and school events detracted from the true mission of the school – to teach, to learn, and to mold our own brand of leaders.

Every now and then, we students would receive a fund-raising card and were encouraged to raise as much money as possible for a plush performing arts centre, or an indoor track, or some other new campus that was so stunning we simply had to have it for our “children and grandchildren and all the generations that would come after”. Not only was I already busy with homework and tests and major exams, but I felt like such preaching was putting undue stress onto students who didn’t come from well-off families. Of course, most of my friends had no problem filling up their donation cards, but somehow, it upset me when teachers and members of the school administration  hailed these students with such grandeur and importance. Oh, and how we applauded when the total amount of donations was announced to the entire school.

It is saddening indeed that money, fund-raising events and campus upgrades have grown so important to so many schools. Singaporeans – or at least those I’ve met – want an education system that is less stressful and less competitive. We want a system that is fair to teachers and students, and appreciates broad definitions of success. Also, I think a lot of us want a system where schools stop competing for awards, funding and better results. And I simply don’t think pretty campuses are going to help build such a system. Perhaps the race for better facilities might even perpetuate it.

So if the Ministry wants to justify telling top schools to moderate their fund-raising, they could say excessive fund-raising often detracts from the main purpose of schools. To justify cuts on funding, they could say that they are trying to change the mindset that money is that essential to building a good school. They could say that, in tandem with this new policy, the Ministry is allocating more funds to schools that are supposedly poorer.  These are intuitive, reasonable justifications that I and a bunch of other Singaporeans would like to hear. From what I’ve read, I don’t think these reasons were fully expounded on, but thankfully, due to our great education system, I was able to figure out these justifications for myself. Yippee.

Free speech

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2014 at 5:02 am

Two days ago I was asked whether, in light of all the social media boo-boos, the government should enact laws on social media decorum. My answer was a firm no, because I think Singaporeans can draw the line for themselves between decent and indecent behavior online. Of course, there are the reckless few who spew inflammatory comments; but what gave me hope was that other level-headed Singaporeans would call them out on such behavior and keep them in line. I sincerely thought that the Singapore cyberspace could be self-regulated, and that we didn’t need the government to come in and legislate how we should express ourselves.

Ironically, the next day, one of my letters to TODAY was picked up by The Online Citizen and I woke up to many harsh comments. The letter expressed that we should forgive Anton Casey and that we should keep in mind Mandela’s view of forgiveness – we will never move forward as a country unless we forgive and reconcile. Unfortunately, the headline was terribly misleading and everyone thought I was actually comparing Anton Casey to Nelson Mandela. And suddenly I was being attacked for something far from what I had intended to say.

There were strangers who read the letter properly and came in to defend me against the criticism. But they were dragged down by the haters as well. I felt sorry, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s social media. That’s TOC. I had known that.

And then there were those who truly disagreed with me. They didn’t believe Anton Casey was worth forgiving, and they said I was probably a PAP lackey who published the letter to echo the PAP’s sentiments. They couldn’t be more wrong, because I’m the most pro-Opposition person I know. Some insinuated I was racist and said I was only preaching forgiveness for the “ang moh”.

Trust me, if Anton Casey had been from China or India or Mars, I would have published the same letter.

I felt very detached from all the hate that people were aiming at me. Though I have to admit I was disturbed when people started searching for me on facebook. In the haze of all the terrible comments, there were netizens who realised – from my facebook profile or this blog – that I was sixteen and perhaps undeserving of the harshness. They began to tell other netizens that perhaps they should ease up on the negativity. But it’s okay. If you disagree with my viewpoint, you should express it whether or not I’m sixteen or sixty.

At the end of yesterday, I asked myself the same question on whether the government should enact laws about behavior on social media. I had just been through a pretty thorough flaming on more than one website for a well-intentioned letter. Did I feel misunderstood? Yes. Did I feel frustrated and hurt? Yes. Did I feel that the government should force rules on the netizens to prevent people from getting hurt through the keyboard?…No.

I don’t think the government can legislate manners. I think politeness and respect isn’t a behavior, but an attitude. And it is incredibly hard to change attitudes by passing a law. Besides, no one should decide what people can say and can’t say. The parameters of what is sensitive and insensitive, what is decent and inappropriate, and what is right and wrong are constantly changing.

I’m not saying we should all just sit back and watch when cyberbullying/inflammatory comments happen online. Of course we should take action. Of course we must take action. But a pre-emptive law stating what we netizens can and cannot express? Nah, I don’t think we need it and I don’t think we want it.

One of the more disturbing comments I received yesterday was something along the lines of “forgive anton casey? so I can rape risa tan and ask for forgiveness lor”. I don’t have a guidebook as to how to handle the “keyboard war”. But despite the horrible cyber attacks, I plan to move on with my life. Just like how I believe Singapore should move on from the attacks by Anton Casey. People didn’t seem to understand why I think forgiving is in our best interests. Forgiving lets you spend your energy on something other than blaming and hating and disliking. So, Anton Casey, I forgive you. I forgive you, not because I think what  you did was not-so-bad. I forgive you, not because I think you were sincere in your apology. I forgive you because I want to give you a second chance to prove that you were sincere. But ultimately, I forgive you because it is not worth being angry over you. I forgive you because want to move on from what you did. I’m pretty sure all Singaporeans do.

Love has died: The only Lloyd Webber musical I loathe

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2013 at 10:26 am

It was bad. 

It was SO bad.

I didn’t even watch it. I read the synopsis and it was SO bad.  

“Love Never Dies”, the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “The Phantom of the Opera” is as horrible as Carlotta’s singing. Let us take this self-proclaimed “politics” blog away from the usual boring current affairs that no one cares about and talk about this tragedy of a musical. 

The reason I am so emotionally traumatised by that damn Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Never_Dies_(musical)) is that it reads exactly like FANFICTION. Fanfiction unnaturally prolongs stories – GOOD, legendary stories – beyond their original ending. In this case, the extension was that Christine Daae HAD SEX WITH THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the night before their wedding, got KNOCKED UP by her Angel of Music and then conveniently didn’t tell Raoul that oops, he isn’t your biological son; he’s actually the Phantom’s.

It ruins EVERYTHING that I, and about a million other people, loved about the original musical. Let’s not undermine the story and the great ending of the Phantom of the Opera: The Phantom desperately, desperately loved Christine and loved her so much that he – err – abducted her and killed many people. But more importantly, in the end, he chooses to let Christine spend the rest of her life with Raoul, the dashing Viscount who was Christine’s playmate when they were three. So, the Phantom – in spite of a lifetime of abuse and torture and loneliness and desperation to be loved – actually chooses to let his only love and his musical protege (let’s not forget Christine was rather indebted to the Phantom for her singing voice and fame) leave to find her own happy ending with the Viscount. Kind of a “tragic hero”. And it was this tragic story of the Phantom that made the musical a real romance musical about selfless love (obsessive love, but, you know, selfless).

AND IN THIS SEQUEL ‘Love Never Dies”: all of this is undermined because:

1) The Phantom becomes this selfish person who lures Christine to Coney Island, living off the money Meg Giry makes from being a prostitute

2) Meg, Christine’s best friend, kills….wait for it…..Christine. Because she’s jealous of how much the Phantom likes her. I personally feel this is unnecessary drama (artificially prolonging the original story which should have been left right where it ended)

3) The Phantom is no longer a sad and alone character doomed to live a life of misery. Because ta-da! He’s got a son now whoo!

And the list goes on. Like how the dashing Viscount who risked his life for Christine now becomes an alcoholic. He is married to a wife who thinks about reuniting with the captor she wanted to be free from (go figure). I watched three seconds of the ending of this sequel on YouTube and the Phantom has just seemed to have lost his mystique – that dark, dangerous, Angel of Music thing of disappearing into a cloud of smoke. He seems normal, human, mellowed out – very un-musical genius, very un-Phantom. 

It’s all about leaving it at its proper ending: Christine gets her happily ever after and the Phantom, who gave Christine her talent, doesn’t. The Phantom of the Opera gives you loads of things to contemplate, such as, Stockholm Syndrome, selflessness and, perhaps, compassion to the world’s “freaks”. It was a moving story, a sad and emotional musical that is being butchered by a sequel that doesn’t give its audience anything to learn (except that sequels are bad).

I love Andrew Lloyd Webber, I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY DO. When I was very young, I used to watch the Donny Osmond version of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” over and over and over; I like “Evita”; and even though the 2004 “Phantom of the Opera” film wasn’t as great as the stage musical, I watched that over and over as well. Andrew Lloyd Webber  is amazing. And I forgive him for this musical, because when he was putting this sequel together, he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Being poorly messes with your mind, even if you are a musical genius. 

Love Never Dies, but it certainly does get KILLED, with horrible sequels like this one. 

 

 

An awful time to be proposing war. (Abridged)

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

Despite always being fond and supportive of Obama, I’m unenthusiastic about US intervention in Syria

We’ve all asked the same difficult questions with every war: What qualifies America to be the policing authority of the world when:
a) they seem to be holding a double standard with weapons of mass destruction (since they use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which supposedly result in asymmetrical – unfair – warfare),
b) they, too, are flawed when it comes to politics and rights and liberties (since Gitmo is still in existence and different sects of society are not treated equally),
c) they’re of a vastly different cultural identity and cannot make a judgment on the politics of religion in any country – Middle Eastern or not,
d) despite going in with good intentions, foreign regime changes executed by them or any other country seems to be unsustainable with one dictator being ousted and another rising to power.

And we’re all still questioning the legitimacy of the Iraq war – a war that was intended for the degrading of weapons of mass destruction which includes chemical and biological weaponry.

Not that I live or have lived there but I think it is safe to say that Americans just generally don’t want to get involved in another war – whether there are “boots on the ground” or not.

Since it’s 9/11, the thought of mass killings, of Al-Qaeda and of utter chaos is on everybody’s mind. This morning, I woke up to a video from the 9/11 attack of the 200 suicide jumpers falling to their deaths – people who knew they wouldn’t survive anyway if they stayed within the burning World Trade Center. So I watched how, over a decade ago, 200 people streamed from the top floors of a skyscraper and I wondered how an atrocity of a similar gravity was happening every day in Syria.

My first thought was that such an atrocity should be opposed with the same viciousness, that Obama’s idea of an intervention was completely justified. My next thought was about futility, and how fighting fire with fire not only fails to end this sort of atrocity but serves to perpetuate it. Time and time again, we rationalise that “this war will end the use of chemical weapons”, “this war will enforce the rules we’ve already broken”, “this war will deter future violation of whatever treaty we signed in whatever country in whatever era”, “this war will end all wars” and still – STILL – we find ourselves asking, once more, if we should just have one last war.

What comes to mind is what the Mychal Judge’s last words were, before being killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the fire department, rushed to the scene to perform last rites for the dead and to pray for and with the wounded. Then he was struck in the head and killed. He was repeatedly praying aloud, “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”

Perhaps it is true that I’m working off a very narrow base of knowledge. Perhaps it is true that some wars achieved some measure of success. And yes, it is true that appeasement never got us anywhere in terms of ethics or in terms of preserving peace. Chaos is the only order we are used to.

Armed with my youth as an excuse for my idealism, I feel the world is chasing its own tail, standing on its own cape. History taught me loads but so did Geography – the Earth spins on an axis and it revolves around the sun and 365 days from now we will find ourselves standing in a vast universe on the same spot, and we will ask ourselves why.

We need to find another way to move forward, because this war will not be the last. Please, end this.

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