Pokemon Go Trainers in Singapore, and Mutual Levelling-Up

When people express surprise that I play Pokemon Go, I explain that the game itself causes no detriment, either to myself or others. Like anything else, one has to decide the value of a certain thing and therefore the amount of time and energy one should spend on such an activity.

Because my day and evening jobs require me to sit in one place with my nose in thick books, Pokemon Go has been a great way to get fresh air, rest a tired brain, and get an opportunity to chat with complete strangers.

One of the main topics of conversation has been the known locations of nests or spawn sites for certain Pokemon. Niantic keeps the game fresh is by changing these often, allegedly once every month (or less than a week in recent times!, the latest being the migration on 6 October 2016).

In September, Pearl’s Hill City Park was an Abra nest. While looking for enough Abra for an Alakazam evolution, I met two friendly office workers who’d just finished meetings nearby and doing some farming as well.
Pokemon Go training tour of Singapore: farming the Pearl's Hill City Park Abra nest

Tiong Bahru Park was a Vulpix nest then. Met a few schoolkids who were hanging out at the playground after school. We had fun pointlessly wresting the Gym from each other.
Pokemon Go training tour of Singapore: farming the Vulpix nest at Tiong Bahru Park

The Singapore Pokemon Trainer community has been exceedingly friendly and eager to help, opening and generously sharing the latest information. A week ago, the Charmander farmers at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East spoke of another spawn location: Changi Village. And the haul was indeed excellent.

Charmander farming at Ang Mo Kio Park. Pokemon Go Trainer tour of Singapore
Charmander nest at Changi Village. Pokemon Go Trainer tour of Singapore
Charmander nest at Changi Village. Pokemon Go Trainer tour of Singapore

Then the Squirtles took over Ang Mo Kio – Bishan Park East:
Pokemon Trainer tour of Singapore: Squirtle at Ang Mo Kio - Bishan Park East
Pokemon Trainer tour of Singapore: Squirtle at Ang Mo Kio - Bishan Park East

and the Omanytes, Bedok Reservoir Park:
Pokemon Trainer tour of Singapore: Omanyte at Bedok Reservoir

and the Cubones, MacRitchie Reservoir Park:
Pokemon Trainer tour of Singapore: Cubone at MacRitchie Reservoir Park


Of course, some sightings of rare/evolved Pokemon in the wild were happenstance. Heading back to the office from lunch one day, I spotted what looked like a posse of trainers looking intently at their screens. Opening the app, I saw that there was indeed an Arcanine hanging about:
Arcanine at Alexandra. Pokemon Go Trainer tour of Singapore

How nice it would be if such co-operation in service of a common goal were to extend to other more important areas of life, I said to someone yesterday.

But even though Christians  ought all to be working toward the same goal, of encouraging each other to keep trusting in the One who is imminently trustworthy and true, the local scene hasn’t quite managed to shake off the lure of Singaporean kiasu-ism. Even though salvation isn’t a competition, another person was commenting, some churches are afraid to lose to others; they want to be known as the best church in the region. So they keep the best teachers and best resources for themselves, while appearing to be generous by throwing the scraps to others. Yet, surely God has given the universal church different gifts for mutual uplifting.

Still, we need not fear. God is more sovereign than the Niantic developers. He know those who are his, and he will keep them till the End.


Stress Baking: Fruit Tart

I am a stress baker – I bake mostly when there is too much going on and I need time to think; when it feels like I’m just barely plugging in the cracks in the pie.

making a fruit tart in Singapore

Here’s what’s on the plate at the mo, on top of a full-time “secular” job 5 days a week:

Romans – weekly Bible study
Romans – monthly youth training
Luke – weekly children’s ministry
Philippians – monthly Indonesian ministry
Revelation – weekly intern/apprentices’ training
Psalm 119 – S
Revelation – D and G (from another church)
Ephesians – a bunch of medical students
Hebrews – S and D (who lead groups in a university)
Genesis – M (who leads student groups in secondary schools)
John – J (who leads student groups in primary schools)

Graham Beynon’s “Last Things First” – book club

making a fruit tart in Singapore
As always, there is that tension between:

(i) the awareness of what a formidable responsibility it is to be saying “thus says the Lord” and so wanting to be absolutely sure that what I’m teaching is what God is saying in his word, the Bible; and

(ii) acknowledging the I am a sinful human with a mind that has yet to be completely renewed, and so can never attain perfect knowledge of what God is saying (though, we can expect to get quite close – after all, the purpose of the Bible is that it is to be heard/read, understood, and responded rightly to); and
making a fruit tart in Singapore

(iii) relying on the fact that God knows who are his, that all believers are already (in one sense) united with his Son, and that it is the Spirit who, in changing our minds and hearts as the word is taught, conforms us to the likeness of God’s son and helps us to persevere.

SDG. I’m going to bed.

Sourdough Bread in Singapore

A few nights ago, sitting around someone’s dinner table, grazing on the last morsels of food, the host was describing his colleague’s weight-loss diet in bland detail: steamed unseasoned chicken breast, steamed broccoli, steamed salmon…for months on end, for each meal.

“Hmph,” said the Beefy One, shaking his head and grunting his disapproval. “Don’t have carbs, how to sleep?”

I too have been a carb fiend since my rugby/tennis/fencing/basketball days when we used to take much pleasure in constant carbo-loading. That pleasure has not ceased, though the Pizza Hut buffet has.

Whilst living off the bargain bins of London, I grew very fond of Poilâne bread, which was sold off, slightly old, very cheaply at Waitrose, St. Katharine Dock. The teeth-testing crust, the depth of flavour, made it a sure winner.

Bakers in Singapore seem to think their customers all gumless babies – what passes as bread is commended for its “pillowy softness” and light milky texture, and is disconcertingly sweet.

Knowing I’d have to make-my-own sourdough in Singapore, I’d experimented quite successfully during the summer holidays. Sadly, the mother yeast I’d acquired from E5 Bakery in Hackney had to be abandoned, since it wouldn’t really have survived the overland trip from London to Singapore. (It would also have been difficult to explain to Dutch, Danish, Swede, Latvian, Russian, Mongolian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean customs that I had my mother in a tub and the white powder was for feeding her/it.)

Hearing of Woodlands Sourdough‘s bread subscription service!, therefore, seemed a godsend. And at S$5-S$7 (£2.50 – £3.50) a loaf/boule, quite reasonably priced.

Woodlands Sourdough - loaf
Woodlands Sourdough - loafComing home from work to a loaf or boule of this each week made the next day’s breakfast something to look forward to. Left in its brown paper bag overnight, the heady yeasty wholesome smell of the bread would have filled the kitchen, beckoning the office-bound with its siren call.

Woodlands Sourdough - boule Woodlands Sourdough - bouleThe morning after the first delivery, it took quite a bit of self-control not to nom on a slice half-dressed with my shirt tail hanging out.

Reports wax lyrical about sourdough’s suitability for coeliacs, even though it isn’t technically gluten-free. Something to do with the long slow fermentation process. But I wouldn’t know anything about that. As far as I am concerned, it makes killer Smörgåsbord-ish open-faced toast.

Below: variations on a theme of avocado – plain, with bakwa bits, with Chilean blueberries and Korean strawberries, with Italian prosciutto, with British bacon and mozarella pearls.

avocado toast, with Woodlands Sourdough. bread subscription! avocado toast, with Woodlands Sourdough. bread subscription!

avocado toast, with Woodlands Sourdough. bread subscription! Woodlands Sourdough x avocado x prosciutto

Woodlands Sourdough x mozarella pearls x avocado x bacon

I’ve been thinking, while happily chowing down on a sourdough slice, of Jesus’ declaration in the Gospel of John: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

If this bread just fills me up, buttercup, how much more soul-satisfying it is to trust him who created the universe and who died so that we can rest, knowing that our sins will not be counted to us on the Last Day.

With that Bread, we can truly sleep soundly at night.

Epiphany, Twelfth Night, Singapore. And the Purpose of Romans.

Galette des rois, PAUL Bakery, Epiphany, Singapore

galette des rois from PAUL Bakery, Singapore (facebook)

On the twelfth night after Christmas, BL and I were discussing the big idea of Romans.

Quoting Christopher Ash’s Teaching Romans, BL thought the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans was (i) to motivate them to be his mission partners; and (ii) to motivate them to live in harmony with one another.

Puzzled, I thought that on a plain reading and without reference to commentaries, Paul’s intent seemed to be to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians. It wasn’t an evangelistic rally he had planned for Rome.

Why preach the gospel to those whose faith was already well-known throughout the world? To strengthen their faith. And faith is strengthened by being more sure of what one believes in. Paul wasn’t advocating any blind leap in the dark…”by no means!”…

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

fève in the galette des rois, Epiphany, Singapore
…instead, Paul demonstrates how glorious the gospel is: how necessary it is for both Jews and Gentiles; how this is the great revelation of the mystery that has been kept for generations; how the Jews and the law were part of God’s plan for the gospel all along; how the current sin of Christians far from obviates the legitimacy of the good news, etc.

And Christians, so gripped by the magnificence of the gospel, would exhibit the “obedience of faith” (both the obedient response that is faith, and the obedience that comes from faith).

It is terribly important, imho, to put the focus on where Paul puts his passionate emphases – not another attempt to drum up prayer and financial support for his gospel campaign nor a pep talk about church unity. Instead, he blows their minds with the sheer crazy glory of the gospel. That is what will keep them in times of difficulty; that is what will make them live rightly.

Can’t wait to get stuck into Romans at small groups this year.

Carols for the Ungodly

Advent in Asia.

Time for imported Norwegian and American pine trees to fill tropical spaces with heavy heady fragrance.

Time to imported mince pies from Australia and Great Britain, to be nibbled in the bright sunlight.
Big Sister (Australia) and Walkers (British) mince pies, Mandura English Breakfast

Time for those beautiful John Rutter carols to remind you that God gives sunlight and gifts to the godly and the ungodly.

A choral treat that slips down the throat like brandy butter eggnog, but could Stuart Townend please write us a good meaty theologically-correct Christmas dinner? The occasion of Jesus’ birth has so much more significance than the humble birth of a great teacher in a manger, or the lovely tenderness of a mother caring for her child.

It was a cosmic birth of the Creator of the entire universe becoming one of his own creatures; it was the coming that the entire world had been waiting for generations upon generations; it was a

For now though, Rutter’s carols for candlelight, angels, shepherd’s pipes, donkeys, stars, nativity…

Candlelight Carol

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep


Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day


Angels’ Carol

Have you heard the sound of the angel voices ringing out so sweetly, ringing out so clear?
Have you seen the star shining out so brightly as a sign from God that Christ the Lord is here?
Have you heard the news that they bring from heaven to the humble shepherds who have waited long?

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels sing their joyful song.

He is come in peace in the winter’s stillness, like a gentle snowfall in the gentle night.
He is come in joy, like the sun at morning, filling all the world with radiance and with light.
He is come in love as the child of Mary. In a simple stable we have seen his birth.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels singing ‘Peace on earth’.

He will bring new light to a world in darkness, like a bright star shining in the skies above.
He will bring new hope to the waiting nations, when he comes to reign in purity and love.
Let the earth rejoice at the Saviour’s coming. Let the heavens answer with a joyful morn:

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels singing, ‘Christ is born’.

Shepherd’s Pipe Carol

Going through the hills on a night all starry
On the way to Bethlehem
Far away I heard a shepherd piping
On the way to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
Dance and sing for joy that Christ the Newborn King is come to bring us peace on Earth and he’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem

Tell me shepherd boy piping tunes so merrily
On the way to Bethlehem
Who will hear your tunes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem

None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem;
But a King will hear me play sweet lullabies
When I get to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky came down from on high
Hovered over the manger where the babe was laying
Cradled in the arms of his mother Mary
Sleeping now at Bethlehem

Where is this new King shepherd boy piping merrily
Is he there at Bethlehem
I will find him soon by the star shining brightly
In the sky over Bethlehem

May I come with you shepherd boy piping merrily
Come with you to Bethlehem
Pay my homage too at the new King’s cradle
Is it far to Bethlehem

Donkey Carol

Donkey riding over the bumpy road
Carry Mary holding her heavy load
Follow Joseph, leading you on your way
Until you find a stable, somewhere to rest and stay
Donkey riding over the bumpy road
Carry Mary
holding her heavy
holding her heavy
holding her heavy load

Donkey watching over The Jesus Child,
See The Baby, all with his mother mild!
Hear the Angels singing their song on high!
‘Noel! Noel! Noel! their caroling fills the sky!
Donkey watching over The Jesus Child,
See The Baby,
all with His mother
all with His mother
all with His mother mild

Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
With the oxen worship the Lord of all
Hush, He lies asleep on His bed of hay
While Mary sings so sweetly
‘Lulla, Lulla-lalay.’
Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
With the oxen
Worship The Lord
Worship The Lord
Worship The Lord of all

Donkey skip for joy as you go your way!
Alleluia, Jesus Is Born today!
Hark, The Bells Ring out with their message clear!
Rejoice and sing that
Christ our Savior Divine is here!
Donkey skip for joy as you go your way,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ is Born today!

Jesus Child

Have you heard the story that they’re telling ’bout Bethlehem,
Have you heard the story of the Jesus child?
How he came from heaven and was born in a manger bed?
Mary was his virgin mother pure and mild,

Sing alleluia, brothers, sing alleluia sisters worship the Jesus child and praise his mother mild,
Glory to God on high’ the angel hosts above are singing:
Listen to the story of the Jesus child.

Have you heard the story of the poor humble shepherd men,
Sitting on the hillside with their flocks at night?
Suddenly the angel tells them: hurry to Bethlehem,
Go and find the Jesus child, the world’s new light,


Jesus child, lying at Bethlehem, sleeping safe at Mary’s knee,
Save my soul and bring me to paradise,
Let me join the angels singing glory to thee


Have you heard the story of the kings from the orient,
Following the star that’s shining over his head?
Offering their precious gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense,
Kneeling with the ox and ass before his bed?


Brothers, let us celebrate the birth of the Jesus child,
Sisters, come and welcome him, the newborn King;
Praise the Lord who sent him down from heaven at Christmas time,
Young and old and rich and poor, his praises sing.


Christmas Lullaby

Clear in the darkness a light shines in bethlehem
angels are singing their sound fills the air
Wise men have journeyed to greet their Messiah
But only a mother and baby lie there

Ave Maria, Ave Maria
Hear the soft lullaby
the angel host sing
Ave Maria, Ave Maria
Maiden and Mother
of Jesus our King

Where are his courtiers and who are his people,
why does he bear neither sceptre nor crown
Shepherds his courtiers the poor for his people
With peace as his sceptre and love for his crown


What though your treasures are not gold or incense
lay them before him with hearts full of love
Praise to the Christ child and praise to his mother
who bore us a saviour by grace from above

Lo, how a Rose e’er Blooming

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

When children would reach for their stockings
And open the presents they found
The lights on the tree would shine bright in their eyes
Reflecting the love all around

He leaned with his head on the window
Watching evergreen bend in the snow
Remembering Christmas the way it had been
So many seasons ago

This year there’s no one to open the gifts
No reason for trimming the tree
And just as a tear made it’s way to the floor
He heard voices outside start to sing

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Carolers sang as he opened the door
Faces of friends in the crowd
And all of the shadows of lonely reminders
Driven away by the sound

Now the heart that for years had been silent
Was suddenly filled with the new King
As he clung to their hands like a child in the night
He found himself this revelling

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Nativity Carol

Born in a stable so bare,
Born so long ago;
Born neath light of star
He who loved us so.

Far away, silent He lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Cradled by mother so fair,
Tender her lullaby;
Over her son so dear
Angel hosts fill the sky.


Wise men from distant far land,
Shepherds from starry hills
Worship this babe so rare,
Hearts with His warmth He fills.


Love in that stable was born
Into our hearts to flow;
Innocent dreaming babe,
Make me Thy love to know.


I Wonder As I Wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

11 Christmas Carols by John Rutter and Clare College Choir Cambridge

The Squatty Potty Unicorn

We had an advert for the Squatty Potty on our fridge door in London. It was all a bit of a joke, but now they’ve enlisted a fuzzy unicorn and Princess Bride character to aid their cause.

Those who like their entertainment (and advertisements) a little puerile will help this break the internet:

Of course, someone will now crow that the Asian squats have been vindicated. But where’s the fun in that?

Farewell and Goodnight, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons For Respecting LKY

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

I’m not an easy respecter of persons. No crushes on seniors; have never been a fan of any pop group or personality; constantly set the nit-pick on prominent theologians. But in the last few months, death has claimed two of the few people I’ve respected: Teo Soon Hoe (who was known only to a few within his industry) and today, Lee Kuan Yew (known by a nation, and more globally).

flags flying at half-mast at The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast at The Parliament House in Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast at The Treasury in Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan YewFlags are flying at half-mast everywhere in Singapore. And there is a certain sad stillness and muffledness to the day. Perhaps I have never observed this before but the piped-in music in shopping centres and supermarkets seems muted as Singapore starts its 7-day period of national mourning.

Walking past Parliament House, I saw condolence messages being written and put up on boards, and bouquets of flowers being laid in front of the compound:

flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence bouquets in front of Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan YewHere are at least 7 reasons for respecting LKY and 7 reasons why his family* should be proud of having a father/grandfather like him. The mix is potent – intelligence and power without integrity gives you a very cunning dictator; integrity and incorruptibility is nice but useless for a politician without intelligence:

He was clear-thinking, straight-talking, and astute in international affairs:

“UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher said Lee had a way of “penetrating the fog of propaganda and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our time and the way to tackle them”, while US diplomat Henry Kissinger said no world leader had taught him more than Lee Kuan Yew.” (BBC News, Lee Kuan Yew: Life in pictures, 22 March 2015)

from Lee Kuan Yew Collection

“Lady Thatcher once said that there was no Prime Minister she admired more than Mr Lee for ‘the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and his vision of the way ahead’. His place in history is assured, as a leader and as one of the modern world’s foremost statesmen.” (UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement following the death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew)

“He was not at all a charmer. He was not a flatterer. He had developed his point of view. He would present it with great intelligence and eloquence – not in order to get you to do something specific, but to understand the nature of the world in which you were living…Because afterall, Singapore as a country did not represent a major force. It was the intelligence of the leaders and the ability of its population to do standards of performance that exceeded those of its neighbours. Otherwise, it would have been drowned.” (Henry Kissinger, Business Times, 23 March 2015)

He was clear-thinking, straight-talking, and astute in domestic affairs:

““To understand Singapore,” he said, “you’ve got to start off with an improbable story: It should not exist.”

It is a nation with almost no natural resources, without a common culture — a fractured mix of Chinese, Malays and Indians, relying on wits to stay afloat and prosper.

“We have survived so far, 42 years,” he said. “Will we survive for another 42? It depends upon world conditions. It doesn’t depend on us alone.”

This sense of vulnerability is Mr. Lee’s answer to all his critics, to those who say Singapore is too tightly controlled, that it leashes the press, suppresses free speech, curtails democracy, tramples on dissidents and stunts entrepreneurship and creativity in its citizens.

“The answer lies in our genesis,” he said. “To survive, we have to do these things. And although what you see today — the superstructure of a modern city — the base is a very narrow one and could easily disintegrate.”” (The New York Times, Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils, 2 September 2007)

“Younger people worry him, with their demands for more political openness and a free exchange of ideas, secure in their well-being in modern Singapore. “They have come to believe that this is a natural state of affairs, and they can take liberties with it,” he said. “They think you can put it on auto-pilot. I know that is never so.”

The kind of open political combat they demand would inevitably open the door to race-based politics, he said, and “our society will be ripped apart.”” (The New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

He did not take bribes:

“The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing, with in Singapore and not get themselves further dragged into calumny… You do not buy and sell this Government.” (as far as we know and at least in this case – see a newspaper article on the Rusk affair)

He had strong feelings for the right people (you don’t need someone wearing his heart on his sleeve):

“People think about him as an austere, logical and cerebral sort of person. I think he has strong feelings about quite a number of things, and also in his personal relationships with my mother, with the kids, he may not show it, but he feels it.” (Lee Hsien Loong, Today, 2012)

by Kwa Kim Li

“He brushed aside the words of a prominent Singaporean writer and social critic, Catherine Lim, who described him as having “an authoritarian, no-nonsense manner that has little use for sentiment.”

“She’s a novelist!” he cried. “Therefore, she simplifies a person’s character,” making what he called a “graphic caricature of me.” “But is anybody that simple or simplistic?”” (The New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

See also A Love Story (The Sunday Times, Lee Wei Ling, 20 Jun 2010).

And Lee Kuan Yew: The Last Farewell to My Wife (The Star/Asia News Network, 10 October 2010)

And also ‘Without her, I would be a different man’: Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s love affair (Channel News Asia)

And again, The Love of His Life (Today – Special Edition, 23 March 2015)

With the sort of power he had, it was amazing that he was not corrupt and did not line his own pockets:

according to this page, this is what his Oxley Rise living room looks like.

“GROWING up, my family used to bathe using large dragon-motif ham dan gong, or salted egg jars in Cantonese. We would fill them up with water and ladle it out to wash ourselves at our home on Oxley Road.

My parents did this for almost six decades since my father moved into the house in 1945, and my mother, in 1950. It was only after my mother had her first stroke in 2003 that a shower was installed in their tiny bathroom. I think it was in part because they were so set in their ways. But it was also because my father neither cared for material things, nor coveted them.

He lived in a simple spartan way; his preoccupations and priorities lay elsewhere. Some people collect watches, shoes, pens, rare books, antiques or art, but not my father. When people gave him all sorts of gifts, he kept almost none of them. … How would I like my father to be remembered? Well, he never worried about winning any popularity contest. He would speak his mind. He fought for what he believed was best for the country and the people of Singapore. He always had the best interests of the country at heart. And at home, it was always the interests of his children and our mother.” (Lee Hsien Yang, The Straits Times -Special Edition, 23 March 2015)

and this is consistent with him being pragmatic, not for his own power, but for Singapore’s future:

“Singapore’s secret, Mr. Lee said, is that it is “ideology free.” It possesses an unsentimental pragmatism that infuses the workings of the country as if it were in itself an ideology, he said. When considering an approach to an issue, he says, the question is: “Does it work? Let’s try it, and if it does work, fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.” The yardstick, he said, is: “Is this necessary for survival and progress? If it is, let’s do it.”” (The New York Times, Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils, 2 September 2007)

““I’m not saying that everything I did was right,” he said, “but everything I did was for an honorable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”” (New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

“There are those who believe that development was bought at the price of personal freedom and often cite Lee’s penchant for suing media organisations who disagreed with him.

But Mr Lee stood by his record until the end. “I did some sharp and hard things to get things right. Maybe some people disapproved of it… but a lot was at stake and I wanted the place to succeed, that’s all,” he said in a 2011 collection of interviews.

“At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.”” (BBC News, Obituary: Lee Kuan Yew, 22 March 2015)

He was not always thinking about his legacy, which troubles loads of other people, petty actors as they may be on life’s stage:

“Interviewer: How would you want him to be remembered?

PM: He never troubled himself with that question either. But I don’t know what to say. He is a father, he is a father of the nation, and he made this place.” (Lee Hsien Loong, Today, 2012)

Straits Times Special Edition on the Death of Lee Kuan Yew, and ang ku kueh(apparently, ang ku kueh (red tortoise shell cakes) at funerals represent the virtuous life of the ancestors)

Singapore newspapers have put their special features online:

Today Newspaper

The Straits Times: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Various obituaries and eulogies and opinion pages from all around the world, from friends and critics:

Henry A. Kissinger: The world will miss Lee Kuan Yew (Henry A. Kissinger, The Washington Post, 23 March 2015)

Lee Kuan Yew, Asian statesman – obituary (The Telegraph, 23 March 2015)

How Kuan Yew turned tragedy into a blessing (Zainuddin Maidin, 23 March 2015)

Can-Do Lee Kuan Yew (Roger Cohen for The New York Times, 23 March 2015)

And of course, there are several Facebook groups:

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew (official website)

Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Founding Father Singapore

PS: Also, he was a cheeky kid. See Top Performer with a Playful Streak from a defunct Raffles Institution magazine, ONE.

*Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang, Li Xiuqi, Li Yipeng, Li Hongyi, Li Haoyi, Li Shengwu, Li Huanwu, Li Shaowu etc.)

Bar Jokes

Drat. It’s almost 5a.m. but I’m still on a post-talk high and have too much adrenaline coursing around to sleep.

So here are some really bad jokes:

An electron and a positron walk into a bar.
Positron: “You’re round.”
Electron: “Are you sure?”
Positron: “I’m positive.”

A neutron walks into a bar.
He asks the bartender, “How much for a beer?”
The bartender says, “For you, no charge.”

Helium walks into a bar.
The bartender says,”Sorry, we don’t serve noble gases in here.”
Helium doesn’t react.

Gold and silver walk into a bar.
The bartender yells,”Eh you, get out!”
Gold leaves.

Two chemists walk into a bar.
The first one says,”Bartender, I’ll have a H2O.”
The second one says,”I’ll have an H2O too”, and he died.

The bartender says,”Sorry, we don’t serve faster-than-light particles here.”
Tachyon walks into a bar.

Neutrino walks into a bar.
The bartender says,”Sorry, we don’t serve any neutrinos in this bar.”
Neutrino says, “Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through.”

A small furry mammal walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “Sorry, our maximum occupancy is only 6.00 x 1023. We can’t have a mole here.”

Entangled photon walks into a bar.
The barman says,”I haven’t seen you round here before.”
Entangled photon says,”I’m non-local.”

Electron walks into a bar and says,”Pint of your piss-poor beer, mate.”
Barman says,”No need to be so negative.”

Two bacteria walk into a bar.
The bartender says,”Sorry, we don’t serve bacteria in this bar.
The two bacteria say,”Hey, but we work here; we’re staph.”

A parasite walks into a bar.
The bartender says,”Get out! No parasite welcome in this bar.”
The parasite says,”Well, you’re not a very good host.”

Pavlov walks into a bar.
The phone rings.
Pavlov gasps,“Oh no, I forgot to feed the dog.”

A horse walks into a bar.
The bartender asks,”A drink, sir?”
The horse replies,”I think not,” and promptly ceases to exist.
(I would have explained that this had something to do with corgito ergo sum, but that would be putting Descartes before the horse.)

3 logicians walk into a bar.
The bartender asks if all 3 of them would like a beer.
The first logician says,”I don’t know.”
The second says,”I don’t know.”
The third says,”Yes!”

A statistician walks into your average bar.
The bartender says,”Sorry, we don’t serve statisticians in this bar.”
The statistician says,”Well, you’re just mean.”

An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar.
The first one orders a beer.
The second one orders half a beer.
The third one orders a fourth of a beer.
The bartender stops them, pours two beers.

sin(x) walks into a bar.
The barman says,”Sorry, we don’t cater for functions.”

Robert Durst, Wearing Your Wireless Mike to the Loo, and Investigation by Media

In an event symptomatic of the power of the new mass media, information-gathering as part of HBO’s series on The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst appears to have dug up enough new evidence to suggest that Durst murdered his wife and a good friend, Susan Berman.

James McCormack via The New York Times

He was arrested last Saturday in New Orleans and charged with first-degree murder.

The two main pieces of evidence were:

  • a letter from Durst to Bergman in 1999, found by Berman’s stepson Sareb Kaufman, bearing what seemed to be the same handwriting and spelling errors as the anonymous letter sent to the police notifying them of a cadaver in Berman’s house in 2000; and
  • a recording of him whispering to himself when he went to the bathroom (loo) whilst still miked:”What a disaster. … I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Entertainment impinging on reality, and reality as entertainment. Yet, more real than hyper-reality?

PS: at events, we’ve often had to stop speakers wandering off to the restroom with their wireless mikes still on, broadcasting their toilet work to the gathered audience. Criminal-with-something-to-hide or no, it’s embarrassing either way.

Mom! Slavoj Žižek’s Demanding the Impossible!

Ah, Slavoj Žižek, the delightful pop critical theorist, the “Elvis of Cultural Theory”. In our world of short attention-spans, he still manages to rock it like…err…Madonna?… Causing constant controversy either in misreading other philosophers or in being deliberately offensive (oh, being critical) or in just plain plagiarism, the sweaty-haired pepper-bearded one manages keeps us entertained.

If you were keen on giving him the benefit of the doubt, you’d say his philosophy was complex; if you were critical in the way he proposes, then you’d say he was fluffing.

Regardless, it’s always fun to find gems in his many talks/rambles that incorporate all manner of pop movie and contemporary-event references. 🙂

Slavoj Žižek's Demanding the Impossible, Baguette, comte

Today in Demanding the Impossible:

    • …just as in more confused times, like today, we don’t just need experts. We also need people who will think more radically to arrive at the real root of problems…I believe this may be the main task for today: to prevent the narrow production of experts…Let’s look at [an] example from ecology. When the oil spill in the Gulf Mexico unfortunately happened in the summer of 2010, people quickly needed experts to deal with the animals and other sea creatures. No, that’s not what we need. Indeed, what should be raised here is a much more fundamental question about such problems, problems for all of us which potentially shatter our commons:”What are the risks if we have to keep the oil drill?” “What kind of industry can replace it?”
    • …look at the proletarian position on the internet. It’s clear who will control the internet. What is really worrying, with so-called cloud computing, is a massive reprivatization of global spaces…I think the key is to prevent these clouds from being privately owned. This is not a technological problem; indeed, it is a purely ideological economic decision.
    • …now something new is emerging that I cannot but call “private public space.” When you chat erotically on the internet, even showing our photos or whatever, you feel like you are in contact with the global world, but you are still isolated in a private space. It’s a kind of global solipsism.
    • …when intellectual property is appropriated by private property we have a new enclosure of the commons.
    • Another thing that worries me is the reason why China weathered this financial crisis much more easily than elsewhere. The great danger is that all of a sudden, because of its virtual nature, crisis erupts. What is needed more and more are big radical decisions. In the democracy we have now, it’s difficult. You have to go through all the mechanisms. But I read a book on China…when the fiasco happened in 2008, the banks generally put a limit on borrowing because people were not paying back loans, and it was this that eventually pushed the economy further down. but in China, the communist political power bureau gave an order:”No, you should give people even more credit.” And it worked perfectly. It is somehow very sad to discover that authoritarian power is much more efficient in these conditions. [Comment: well, then it should show that your theories don’t work as you want them to work…or wait, what theories…]
    • …I wonder if this so-called “capitalism with Asian values,” a Chinese-Singaporean authoritarian capitalism, is not a new form of capitalism, which is economically even more dynamic. It’s productive and it functions even better. But it doesn’t generate a long-term demand for democracy. Now, however, the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken. [Comment: well, if the evidence doesn’t fit the hypothesis…]
    • Somehow all these civil society movements should think not just about organising a big demonstration once a year in Trafalgar Square or wherever, but about engaging in a more active cooperation.
    • Revolutions sometimes do happen maybe in times of chaos. But they usually happen when there’s neither a war nor chaos. Revolutions happen under two conditions: in times of poverty, and when justice breaks down. Yet the two are not necessarily connected. Usually in order to realise that your situation is unjust, you must a least experience a certain ideological freedom. Because the first step toward freedom is to becomes aware of your situation – the situation of injustice and unfairness.
    • I think it’s too easy to say that state power is corrupted, so let’s withdraw into this role of ethical critic of power, etc. But here I’m almost a conservative Hegelian. How many things have to function in order for something to be done? Laws, manners, rules: these are what make us feel truly free. I don’t think that people are aware of this fact. That was the hypocrisy of many leftists there: their target was the whole structure of the state apparatus of power. But we still need to count on all the state apparatus functioning…I think that the left should drop this model of immediate transparent democracy.
      The Stump Jump GSM Wine
    • I think today that the discourse of victimization is almost the predominant discourse when it says that everyone can be a victim of smoking or sexual harassment. today we have an extremely narcissistic notion of personality.
    • …what I don’t like is that you often find an aspect of satisfaction in saying: “Oh, poor Russia. But we know….” I always find it suspicious that, when you sympathise with freedom fighters in other countries, the conclusion is usually like this: “Look at those poor guys, but with us everything is okay.”…I just don’t like this liberal superiority.
    • Walter Benjamin already said: “Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution.”
    • As Hegel already know, “absolute democracy” could only actualize itself in the guise of its “oppositional determination,” as terror…So when Naomi Klein writes,”Decentralizing power doesn’t mean abandoning strong national and international standards – and stable, equitable funding – for healthy care, education, affordable housing and environmental protection. But it does mean that the mantra of the left needs to change from “increase funding” to “empower the grassroots”,” one should ask the naive question: How? How are these strong standards and funding – in short, the main ingredients of the welfare state – to be maintained? What would “multitude in power” (not only as resistance) be? How would it function?
    • In his unique book of dialogues, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques, Rousseau deployed the wonderful idea of distinguishing between two types of egotism – amour-de-soi (that love of the self which is natural) and amour-propre, the perverted preferring of oneself over others in which a person focuses not on achieving a goal, but on destroying the obstacle to it…a feeling which demands preferences, whose enjoyment is purely negative and which does not strive to find satisfaction in our own well-being, but only in the misfortune of others.
    • …in France where, you remember, there were car-burning rebels in Paris about three years ago. This I think is a model of today’s form of revolt: a bad one…It was a kind of pure protest without a program. It was, quoting Roman Jakobson in linguistics, the notion of “phatic communication.” The goal is not to pass information but just to signal,”Hi, I’m here.” The point is just to tell you this. There was no positive message of wanting more justice or dignity. It was a big explosion of violence…It is a dangerous situation when young people just have this abstract discontent. [Comment: like all sorts of ego graffiti.]

Interesting critiques, but what would the Lord of the Universe have to say to this?