Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lesser Mortals?

(The lesser mortal on the right with one of her good friend. )

At least now I know that PAP MP view me as one of the lesser mortals .....

makes life a lot easier living in Singapore knowing that

1. I am lesser than ....

  1. anyone who has a scholership,

  2. goes to Cambridge or Oxford,

  3. do PPE (Philosophy, Political Science and Economic)and

  4. get a Admin Service job or be a backbench MP
2. I am mortal and so I can die.... so I need not work so hard like Perm Sec la, MP la who has to wear fire protection when the go walk about,

Thank you MP Charles Chong for enlightening this lesser mortal. I will remember to bow to the God when I met one.

Ill-timed article cooks up a storm Tuesday •
January 20, 2009
Ansley Ng

HIS five-week family trip to Paris to learn cooking at the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school appeared as a self-penned travelogue in The Straits Times on Jan 6. Soon, Mr Tan Yong Soon’s article was re-appearing in blogs and Internet forums as netizens reacted to the expensive holiday taken by the permanent secretary at the Environment and Water Resources Ministry.

Yesterday, the Government made it clear the story was “insensitive and ill-judged”, given the current economic climate. Taking a question from Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is the Minister in charge of the Civil Service, said that although Mr Tan’s vacation was a private decision, he was “disappointed” with what was published.

Referring to the article, Mr Siew had asked if the Civil Service had guidelines for senior civil servants to conduct themselves “appropriately and sensitively”, especially in a time of a recession.

The article told of how Mr Tan, his wife and son had signed up last June for a cooking course, which costs €7,750 ($15,200) per person for a basic programme.

“It struck a discordant note during the current economic circumstances, when it was especially important to show solidarity and empathy to Singaporeans who are facing uncertainty and hardship,” Mr Teo replied.

The head of the Civil Service, Mr Peter Ho, has asked Mr Tan to “take note of the feedback and learn from this episode” and has put the matter “on record”, said Mr Teo.

When contacted, Mr Ho said: “It is part of the duty of civil servants to be sensitive to challenges faced by Singaporeans, especially in difficult times like these. The leadership of the Civil Service – the Permanent Secretaries – must exemplify this sensitivity. This is vital for Government to be able to formulate and implement policies effectively.”

Among the comments in his story, Mr Tan had written, “Taking five weeks’ leave from work is not as difficult as one thinks. ... if you are a good leader who has built up a good team, it is possible to go away for five weeks or even longer.”

Calling the episode a “setback” for the Service, Mr Ho added: “My colleagues and I feel very bad about this episode, because it stands in contrast to the values and ethos of the Service, and if left unaddressed, can undermine the confidence and trust essential for us to do a good job. “Our first duty is to serve Singapore and Singaporeans, and we should always conduct ourselves with decorum and humility. Everything takes its marking from this,” he said, listing the values of the Singapore Public Service: Integrity, service and excellence.

Mr Tan could not be reached for comment.

MP Arthur Fong agreed that Mr Tan could have been more sensitive about the timing of the story. “It was harsh on him, but the timing wasn’t good,” said Mr Fong. “Perhaps people wouldn’t even blink if this story came out in good times.”

Agreeing that the rebuke in Parliament was “harsh”, MP Charles Chong noted that Mr Tan didn’t “brag” about how expensive the trip was in the article. “Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a little bit boastful,” he said. “Would people have taken offence if his wife (a senior investment counsellor at a bank) had paid for everything?”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Triumph over rhetorical flourishes

Monday, January 26, 2009
Obama's inauguration speech was convincing precisely because he didn't aim to impress.

Janadas Devan

Jan 25, 2009Obama's inauguration speech was convincing precisely because he didn't aim to impressBy Janadas Devan The expectations were too high. Days before Mr Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, the usually sober MsMichiko Kakutani of The New York Times spoke of him as the most literate statesman America has had since Abraham Lincoln. The Financial Times printed a hagiography by Mr Sam Leith, the Literary Editor of the Daily Telegraph, that assured us that Mr Obama was 'the inheritor of the oratorical and political traditions of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ'.

Professor James Wood, a Harvard University literary critic, produced a detailed analysis of one of Mr Obama's speeches in The New Yorker, treating it as though it were a poem by Shakespeare or John Donne. And Ms Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian's chief arts writer, wrote a much-circulated article that argued that Mr Obama was the first Ciceronian politician since - well Cicero himself it looked like, so rhetorically superior he seemed to every other statesman over the past 2,000 years.

Look, he uses the tricolon, they cooed.

The tricolon is a series of threes. Julius Ceasar's veni, vidi, vici ('I came, I saw, I conquered') and Lincoln's 'government of the people, by the people, for the people' are examples. So is 'rice, kangkong, blachan'. The ability to produce a tricolon does not by itself guarantee the possibility of a great thought.

Oh he uses synthetons, they swooned.

Synthetons are twos - like 'Shakespeare and Donne' or 'men and women'. The ability to deploy synthetons...

Oh look, he used a lovely anaphora, said one. Did you notice that delicious epistrophe, asked another.

An anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a series of sentences: 'Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!' (Shakespeare). An epistrophe is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a series of sentences: 'There ain't any answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.' (Gertrude Stein).

The ability to deploy anaphoras or epistrophes does not by itself... - my repetition here of certain words I had used earlier are examples of both anaphoras and epistrophes, and proves what the sentence asserts: My ability to use these rhetorical figures does not by itself mean that I am the rhetorical, let alone intellectual or spiritual, equivalent of Lincoln, King or Christ.

The expectations were too high; Mr Obama was bound to fall short; he did - or so it seemed to his legion of literary admirers. The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, CNN and whatnot had to admit there were no equivalents of Franklin Roosevelt's 'nothing to fear', John Kennedy's 'ask not' or Lincoln's 'Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection', in Mr Obama's inauguration speech.

As Ms Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal observed: 'It was not an especially moving or rousing speech...There was not a sentence or thought that hit you in the chest and entered your head not to leave.'

All the same, it was a superbly crafted speech, even poetic in parts. There were allusions aplenty: To Winston Churchill - 'every so often the (presidential) oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms'; to 1 Corinthians 13 - 'We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things'; to Shakespeare's Richard III - 'America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember...'; even to his predecessor, Mr George W. Bush - 'For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror...we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you'.

The 2008 Nobel laureate in economics, Professor Paul Krugman, noticed an extensive lifting of something John Maynard Keynes had said during the Great Depression: 'The resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life...But today we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.'

Mr Obama, in what must have been a conscious echo of Keynes, proclaimed: 'Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed.'

Few, apart from professors of economics or literary critics, would have noticed these allusions to Keynes or Shakespeare or the Bible. MrObama - or his speechwriters, whom he reportedly edits closely - nevertheless worked them in. It shows a degree of literary consciousness, an assiduity of craftsmanship, that is quite rare among contemporary American politicians.

Were there splendid tricolons in the speech. Yes - beginning with the first sentence: 'I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.'

Were there anaphoras? Yes - plenty, for the English language, at least since the King James Bible, knows of no more effective device to convey a sense of uplift.

Thus, we got: 'For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans...For us, they toiled in sweatshops...For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sanh.'

(That last sentence, incidentally, also packed in a couple of synthetons.)

But these rhetorical figures were not the reason why the speech was convincing. Rhetoric as such cannot produce thought. The thought comes first; the appropriate form follows.

Ms Noonan was right: There was not a sentence in the speech 'that hit you in the chest and entered your head not to leave'. But it is precisely for that reason that I felt the speech was among Mr Obama's most successful. Unlike many of his previous blockbusters, it didn't aim to impress by reaching for an ersatz 'ask not' or 'nothing to fear'.

'Everything that can be said, can be said clearly,' the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said once. That happens to be an example of an anadiplosis - the repetition of a word in one phrase ('can' here) in the first word of the subsequent phrase. But Wittgenstein need not have known that (and probably didn't) in order to know that 'everything that can be said, can be said clearly'.

If Mr Obama becomes a good president, it won't be because he is a good rhetorician. Rather, it would be because he (and his team) thought things through clearly.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Eye Candy or Milk Can?

I am a mother of six and am proud that I managed to breastfeed all of them while holding down a full time job. When I first breastfed in public, I got eyes of disapproval as most man cannot handle the fact that their sex toy and fantasy is actually a milk producing machine for a beautiful child.

Ask yourself this question.

Why do so many women who are not mothers spend so much time,effort and money putting silicon gel in their breast in the hope that they will have engorged breast?

Trust me. As a mother who has breastfed six children, my breasts have been there and done that.

The simple solution is just to breast feed and you will have breasts that will beat Pam Anderson's chest down.

Instead of using silicon gel which will be hard and unnatural, try filling it up with breast milk.

I assure you, milk-filled breast is 100% organic, natural and more sexy than those cold, hard silicon ones. Best of all No Melamine

So I say, continue to fight for our right to breast feed in public and educate unenlightened men and woman that a woman's breast main function is not eye candy or a sex toys for man but a milk producing machine.

After all, cow's milk is for the cow.


Even Big Bird accept breastfeeding