Thursday, June 30, 2005

Demystifying the birds and the bees

Heard some complaints from those who have to conduct sex education lectures in schools . It's not an easy task but the furore escapes the author. The main point is no amount of preaching or tut-tutting is gonna stop curious teens from experimenting, not educating them is leavng them without protection . Besides, if the appropriate education is not available, there's plenty of miseducation available via their peers and the internet.

Kids these days aren't as naive (good grief, that sounded just like a parent) they aren't likely to mistake condoms for balloons unlike a rather hapless classmate who brought them to school as her contribution to the class party, the party went on without her and the balloons, poor girl spent the day with the principal. The "banned/shock" lit bookclubs featuring Anais Nin, V.C. Andrews and Roald Dahl have been surpassed by recommendations of online porn sites, hey, even a websearch for "white house" throws up porn sites - republicans probably blame that on Clinton! Schools previously thought of sex education as lectures conducted by Christian life counsellors which mainly featured abortion videos which were shockingly graphic and lecturers from the ministry of health who talked about nothing but VD. Their only success was a schoolmate who decided to become a nun (and that was a girl who was previously boy-crazy) Peer miseducation consists mostly of misleading urban legends (think gere and gerbil) and dares to read or watch porn - the only fun part is where you get caught gawking at some questionable material by a bemused classmate whilst your mates are collapsing with laughter outside the shop window!

The authorities should review sex educaiton and not let them become biology classes. Some sense of humour may help - hell, that's hte reason why some of us actually remember some physics formulas!
Not merely health informaiton but some street smarts should be taught, girls should be taught that when guys say that giving themselves to their boyfriends is proof of love, they are expressing as much bs as bulls produce per annum and boys taught that scoring sometimes leads to some horrendous results which may scar them for life

It's an awkward time of life for the kids and their parents - few are as cool as a old friend's mom who told her point blank that sex isn't as exciting as the fiction which portray it. Parents tend to get tensed thhinking that their kids are sexually active and kids go "ew" at the thought that their parents are sexually active. The irony is one day the parents worry about their kids not having enough sex 'cos the grandkids aren't appearing!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Rebutting the critics3

Whatever the conservative media may say, anti-Bush does NOT equal anti-American or terrorist sympathiser , if anything, the author has to confess to being a longtime admirer of liberal American ideology . Amongst the victims of 9/11 are the liberals and liberal American ideology, in the aftermath of the disaster ; liberal and anti-rightwing views have been condemned as anti-American and shouted down in the conservative media. The rising wave of the conservative rightwing and the blatant disregard of civil liberties have only evoked echoes of an era where the hunt for communist elements turned into a witchhunt for all "un-American" elements
As exaggerated as it may seem, history provides clues to the present situation. All was not well in the postwar era, whatever the ideals of the atlantic charter. The defeat of Nazi Germany did not mean its ideology was defeated , instead it festered and became material for the white supremacist movement and a general sense of xenophobia. It is no secret that the McCarthy and HUAC witchhunt targeted not merely communist elements but also the burgeoning civil rights movement and liberals in general. The combination of rightwing social sentiments and conservative government elements produced a truly frightening time for liberal America. That nightmare is threateningthe USA again with the erroneous equation; anti-republican = anti-American=terrorist sympathiser. Even worse, as human rights organisations have noted, governments across the world are taking the cue from the USA and respect for human rights is at a all time low. Even as the pro-Bush camp crows about the success of the war on terror, the victory is a pyrrhic victory if civil liberties and liberalism are sacrificed- how do you export democracy without liberal principles - it's hardware without the software!

Rebutting the critics 2

Rightwing chauvinist?
Being Chinese, the author is naturally proud of China's gradual awakening but ultimately, no one should have absolute power 'cos (as trite as it sounds) absolute power corrupts absolutely -it's human nature. Never thought about labels but most friends have seen the author as a liberal rather than a conservative.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Rebutting the critics 1

Accusations have come from various quarters and they may be summarised into 3 main themes; anti-Japanese , rightwing Chinese chauvinist and anti-American. These accusations will be rebutted in 3 seperate posts (rather than emails)
To be frank, the author has nothing against the Japanese people and likes Japanese anime, pop and food like most younger Asians. It is the Japanese government's persistence in ignoring historical facts and disrespecting its Asian neighbours that's disturbing. Some schoolmates will probably remember the relative disaster of the Japanese language exchange programme ; everything was fine till history class when WWII was the topic and the Japanese students were convinced that everyone was learning the wrong history and only they knew the historical truth- it was traumatising both for the Japanese and local students. Even more disturbing is that tinkering with history means this inaccurate view of history is propagated amongst the young and they will continue with the inaccuracies even as the last survivors of the war die and history becomes a mere record. The biggest question for the moment is if Japan is not even ready to come clean about its past 60 years after the end of WWII , is it really ready for greater responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN security council - is there a guarantee that if it screws up, it won't whitewash history again?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

what were they thinking

Some advertisers are kinda weird these days, saw an advertisement a few months ago, it was for a classical operatic group and one of the promotional lines was " with the moves of the Bee Gees"- ahem, go figure, the less said the better!

Discontinuous Past3

Tongue in cheek poems previously published in anthologies, some of which "pay tribute" to those poets who were the bane of the past, good for a laugh(particularly the poem which started it all - the monster)

A Reply to Mr. T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
Since the sun has risen against the sky
Like an omelette greasified
Upon a plate.

Let us go through this mad time
And see whose more degenerate
Mine or thine.

Moon shadow creeps across the globe
Sonata murmurs
Quiet, sonorous, dark, sombre
Sonata screams
Towers crumble,
Anguish, fear, hate, anger
Seven centuries, crescent & cross clash.
Terror of curved scimitar
Now terror of atoms, particles and flying crosses.

MADness *1 once thought our saviour
Shield*2 us now from our madness
Once you feared the world would end
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
Now we fear the world will end
With a billion whimpers and precisely that bang.
Smithereens of a disordered world.
Products of disordered minds.

The men come and go
Talking of JLO*3

Dear Prufrock, do eat that peach
Our generation prefers apple pie
Forbidden fruit psychedelic coloured.
Freedom; freeing the beast within
Pounding heart, screaming ears
World flies by, whirling colours.

'Bring me back to life*4'
Anthem of zombie youth
Race enslaved by glaring screens.
Virtual preferred to the reality it imitates
Bits of language, bytes of data.
Communication, discommunication.

Genes now fashionable keyword
Tinkering with primeval soup
GM food, GM research, GM humans
All very well
Till you see dear Frank
One morning in your shaving mirror.

The men come and go
Talking of IPO*5

Retire Mdm Sosostris or
Upgrade her software
Else no competition for
Your internet consultant
Friendly life guide for $29.95
Talk is cheap
Unless an analyst
Paid by the millions
Believed by minions
Spouting fallacy
Noisier than WasteLand pub.
‘Time, people, to buy those stocks,
Or risk missing the up curve.'

Double entry or double books.
Accountability not what it seems
Lucio would blush
For his false generation

Whirling, twirling
Cacophony of billions
Accelerating atomic disintegration
Strife, towards ultimate silence
Life in death? Who knows
Silent Lazarus
Best selling author of the silent book.
No psychedelic scream,
No requiem,
No boring poem.
Serene Buddha
Nirvana in nothingness
Your Waste Land
Our Brave New World

Notes to Poem
*1 MAD = mutual assured destruction
*2 Shield = missile shield and form of the Lord's Prayer
*3 JLO = Jennifer Lopez
*4 Lyric of Evanescence song : Bring me to Life
*5 IPO = Initial public offering.

'greasified' is a non word

A poet's dream

A poet dreams, to heaven gone, entering hall of poets
Enthroned within were the great,
Breathing poetry, even after life .
There was Petrarch counting his lines,
Just beside Shakespeare and his dark beauty,
Paradiso could never be, but for Dante and his m'lady
Never could heaven be so lovely without glorious
Ever so carnal, ever so saintly, UnDone in afterlife.

Flitting muses came, bringing brew-laden jars.
One approached, offering grecian cup of heavenly
Bacchean crowds gather, intoxicating liquid flows,
Greedily quaffing, Romantic lot, eyes glazed with
heavenly visions.

Voice snaps the spell:' 'ere's your coffee',muse turns
grouchy crone.
Mists of heaven clear to smokey cafe; Eliotean
reality, poet sighs.
Hope prevails; modernist hell could turn heavenly
life; one can always dream...on!



And the wind whispers softly
This wintersong of love
Winter's wail, almost warm
To the frozen heart

I've seen eternity
In the passing of a day
Time metaphysical, incomprehensible
In this winterscape

Spring is the cruellest season
Reawakening of the senses
Mere pain for the winter creature
Benumbed senses reviving to the pain of hope
The agony that's proof of life

Footsteps in early snow
All that remains of this lovesong
Buried with you in eternal snow
Life goes on as the seasons change
Let this wintersong
Fly with you on the wings of the wind.


Writing Poetry

Chewed wood, scratch of lead
Inspiration lights, bright eyes
Frenzied dancing phalanges
Feverish jiggles springing parallels

The artist pauses
Ego at a precarious precipice
What seemed inspired
Now seems forced
Tepid, tired, tedious
Feeble attempt at rhyming

The self-deflating ego
Elastic moods
That curious creature named poet.


The Monster
Deafening blast heralded arrival of beast
Tensed flanks, blank eyes
Daily offerings neither flinch nor cring
Resignation, irritation, the only expression
Gaping maw swallows all
Whole, unbroken
Giant python slithers on
Creaking, lumbering to its next feeding
Cramm'd inside sardine tin
Fretting baby, cooing mother
Stench of victims past
Murmurs, rumors, concussed yelping femur
Screeching, the beast halts
Lurching monster, swearing beings
Gorging new offerings
Shoving, pushing, old victims emerging
The monster speaks
Burning rubber, choking exhaust
"Alighting passengers, please use the back exit"
Rushing, running, city bus morning

Discontinuous Past2


Crisis & Opportunities
Looking at auction results of recent years, an
outsider might be hard put to believe the Chinese art
market has been and still is in crisis. Yet that is
precisely the case.
The trends of recent years have been disturbing,to say
the least. 2 major traits have emerged: 1stly, moderns
& contemporaries have been increasingly preferred over
classical pieces. 2ndly, where classical artworks are
concerned, the masters and perennial favourites have
reigned so exclusively, almost misleadingly, to the
extent that any unwitting observer would think that
that was the scope of classical Chinese art.
Of course, some may assert that these are trends in
almost any art market. However, these trends are
symptoms of the ailing state of the Chinese art
market. It has been an open secret that even major
auction houses, with their expertise and experience,
have been hesitant in accepting assignments of
classical art. A major reason? The difficulty in
authenticating such pieces of art. Naturally, the
problem of fakes has always plagued the art market,
yet to cause partial paralysis seems a tad too
extreme. More disturbing are the implications: despite
all the experts hired,the risks involved in the
authentication process evidently could not be kept to
an acceptable level. Rather than be proven wrong and
face embarrassment (not to mention costly and damaging
lawsuits), many are choosing to play the safe card:
limit transactions to the more easily identifiable
(and therefore more easily authenticated) pieces. And
these are usually the modern & contemporary
(normally, the more recent the piece, the easier it is
to authenticate), which are relatively more well
documented and in which scholarship is more easily
available. As for classical art, pieces promoted are
usually those of reasonable pedigree (of ownership and
collectors) and fame. In this case, ironically, the
ownership and collectors' history is seen as a
guarantee, of sorts, of authenticity; bloodline via

One might argue that this makes good business sense,
but is it? Ultimately, the long term health of the art
market will determine long term profitability, such
tactics are merely a short term solution, which if
prolonged may do more harm than good, much like
antibiotics abuse. The crucial thing to do is to
examine the root of the problem: art scholarship and
the education of the public domain.
Here is where Chinese art has a slightly more unique
problem. The Cultural Revolution and, to some extent,
the political upheavals of the last century have
proven to be catastrophic for Chinese art. Not merely
were art pieces lost, looted, destroyed, scholarship
has also been greatly affected or disrupted. 2 of the
more obvious consequences have been :
(1) The (pragmatic) concentration of scholarship on
the masters and therefore the resulting indirect
neglect of more minor works and artists.
(2) The (ironic) situation where significant research
and scholarship in Chinese art actually exists outside
of China, particularly in the USA, Europe and Japan.
Not to mention the huge and often under-reported &
under-analysed collections of Chinese art held outside
of China, which are often closed to scholarship and
public viewing.
Both these factors have not merely perpetuated the
slant in the art market, but also made it more
exclusive than ever. Art markets have always been
exclusive, this quality generally maintains the price
levels, however, it also threatens long term survival
prospects. As present generations age and pass on, if
measures are not taken to better educate the wider
public in Chinese art, then the danger of these
cultural and artistic treasures being "lost" in the
passing of time looms.
The solution(s)? There are no quick fixes and
fortunately all is not lost yet. A CCTV report
(4/9/2002) cites crackdowns by the Chinese government
on fakes and other initiatives to protect the art
industry. Such efforts are encouraging, yet they need
to be long term in nature and of course, their effects
will be seen in the long run. Even more effort is
required, not merely on the part of the public sector,
(especially museums, scholars and institutions of
learning and research) but also the private sector;
particularly the auction houses, art dealers and
private collectors.
Educating the public in the historical, cultural and
artistic heritage that belies Chinese art is of vital
importance, if the Chinese art market is to thrive.
Though initial focus will naturally be on the ancient
masters and famed works of art, yet, no art scene has
ever been totally about the masters, the thousands of
minor artists and works that populate the scene across
dynasties and periods are as much a part of the
complete picture as the masters. They form the
background, if you please, against which the masters
stand prominent. Without this background, the picture
is not merely incomplete, but also lacking in vitality
and life.
The distance between academic scholarship and
commercial concerns should also be narrowed and the
impetus for this should originate from the auction
houses and dealers. They may not seem obligated to
educate the public in art, yet they will be
beneficiaries of wider public interest in art
generated by such education. Furthermore, if they
increase funding of research and scholarship in such
fields, the resulting expertise and knowledge will
surely be commercially relevant and rewarding in the
long run. In terms of the private sector, these
players do and, conceivably, will continue to affect
and direct trends in art collection and the art
market. As such, it makes business sense for them to
start (more) vigorously "diversifying" the range of
art pieces offered, rather than concentrating on the
narrow range which is currently profitable. [Matters
have reached a ludicrous stage when you see an old
master going for less than a contemporary. Maybe one
could argue that it's a matter of tastes, but really,
it's a matter of sense. Besides, exactly who is
"directing" or influencing that "taste"?]
Efforts at harmonising/linking knowledge bases
created by various institutions and researchers across
the world
will also aid the cause. Such harmonisation will
imaginably reduce duplication
of effort, whilst promoting joint efforts, in research
of common
areas of interest. Such bases will also act as
archives for future
researchers and any initiatives to educate the public
in Chinese art.
As for private collectors, matters are more
complicated. Understandably, for various reasons, many
are reluctant to make their collections available to
scholars and public viewing. Not only are there
privacy and security concerns, recent international
legislation concerning artistic property and
ownership, especially with regards to disputed
ownership and war loot, has heightened this
reluctance. Aside from these concerns, increased
interaction between the public & (especially) scholars
and these art pieces can only improve the state of
research and knowledge in this field. Ultimately, this
will increase the value of most collections, naturally
benefitting the collectors themselves. Of course, it
would be hard to emulate the generosity of certain
well known collectors, like Mr C.C. Wang, who have
donated significant pieces from personal collections
to museums or loaned pieces for public viewing [see:
the CC Wang Gallery at the Met and the 1999
exhibition; The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of
Chinese Painting from the C. C. Wang Family
Collection].Yet the true art lover would find it more
difficult to see the decline of what he or she
Now is the time for action. As a Chinese saying goes;
in every crisis lies opportunities.

Discontinuous Past 1

Decided to publish some old writing from the past 5 years; properly saying goodbye to the past, 1&2 are articles, whilst 3 is a selection of poetry

Of Warranties and Salespeople
A recent skirmish with salespeople and warranties have triggered unhappy memories . It all starts off very innocuously; you walk into , say , an electrical appliance store . Smiling salespeople greet you, heap you with recommendations, promotional pamphlets and credit/ hire purchase schemes. You finally make the purchase after endless reassurances regarding the quality of the item you’ve purchased. You’re happy, they’re happy and you return home with your purchase. If the product works well, all is well. If not, your nightmare has begun.

As anyone who’s ever called a customer service hotline will know, there are certain facts about such hotlines:
1 It’s a misnomer, it should really read crabby service hotline. Apparently, the recruitment criteria for such jobs is the surliest of attitudes and knowledge of the most irritating byline :’Sorry m’am, I don’t know the technicalities of the subject, could we call you back ?’ Even more critical is the survival tactic of passing the call to the next most dormant department, the most adept could have you speaking to almost all the departments in the company before the end of day. Equally misleading is the concept of after-sales service, what after-sales service?! After sales is like the after life, some believe it exists, few have any experience of it.

2 The customer service phoneline is located in some desert in some unknown region of this earth where people rarely turn up for work and answering the phone is an even greater rarity

3 The designers of phone systems were paid to discourage customers from calling. Imagine, after calling an impossibly long phone number and finally connecting , you are then directed by a voice to press ‘one if you are inquiring about xxx, two if you’re inquiring about kkk........... nine if you want to speak to our operator or zero if you want the instructions repeated.’ Let’s face it, you’ve probably forgotten numbers 1 to 8, which only aggravates the situation. After surviving 3 rounds of that, you are finally in the queue to speak to the operator , behind a thousand other people and incidentally you’re charged by the service provider for each minute of waiting for service. All that plus ignoring the sapid music playing in the background. Elevator muzak is the most common , followed by classical music and pop music. Whoever said music is soothing never heard the constant replaying of what may best be termed phone muzak. Friends swear that ‘Greensleeves’ is the most traumatic composition they could hear after their skirmish with a helpline, a personal favourite is Joan Jett and the Blackheart’s "I hate myself for loving you’ though the lyrics should be altered to "I hate myself for buying you"

Assuming you get through all of that, you still have to face the barrage of questions by the customer service operators regarding your purchased items mostly regarding technical specifications they aren’t even clear about and endless serial numbers. Worst of all they refer you to some obscure condition in paragraph 2, subsection3, line6 which invalidates your claim and ask you "Don’t you read the warranty conditions?" Has anyone read warranties lately? They, like all terms and conditions, are getting increasingly legalistic and lengthy, theoretically they could rival the tax code some day. That is of course an exaggeration but user-friendliness is obviously not a consideration.

If after all of that you still persist on a refund, you are usually curtly referred to some salesperson you’re required to meet/ contact. And that is the most character-building exercise you could ever endure, after all, you’re merely made to feel ashamed and cheap for demanding your money back. The transformation is amazing, the smiling salespeople are transformed to the most indifferent and unfriendly people on earth. One really wonders if " Jekyll and Hyde" was actually a satirical reference to the profession. Hmm, a study on the schizophrenic effects of the sales profession should be commissioned considering the widespread victims.

Doesn’t this just make you wonder just what is wrong with industry these days? Ok, one doesn’t expect the manufacturers to make products that last forever unlike the days of our parents , who are forever reminiscing about the good old days where products really lasted. After all, if everything lasted for ages, no one would buy anything for ages and that would seriously hurt business and the economy in general. But a reasonable working life can be expected, right? However, if warranty lifespans are any indicators , the reasonable assumption of the lifespan of most products is that of 2 or 3 years. Forget arguments of fashion trends and technological obsolescence as the many millions of non-millionaires in the world would tell you, the thousands of dollars spent for products should be worth every dollar and should last for longer than a miserable 2 or 3 years.
If products last longer than the warranty period, at least extend warranty periods to half the lifespan. Industry people would probably laugh at this as everyone knows the longer the warranty period, the greater the chances of warranty claims which translates to higher costs for the company and may affect revenue recognition policies . Obviously, no industry honcho is ever going to hear of such customer complaints or take them seriously despite the fact that it’s the collective expenditure of the unknown millions like that keep them high on the Forbes list and cushy in their wealthy lives. In the meantime, the author merely prays that the expensive purchases will last longer than the warranties and be spared the hassles of after sales service.