Go with a smile!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

5 years

I don't know if I'm being superstitious or not.

Interesting things have happened to me every 5 years.

When I was 5, I started my music education.

When I was 10, I got admitted into the gifted program. It's important for me because before that my life was a little bit of a blur, and I was a little mediocre compared to afterwards. This was an environment where I thrived a bit more.

When I was 15, it was one of the most incredible years of my life. That was also the year that I ended my formal music education, and started to collect pop albums instead. It was also the year when I decided I was going to be an engineer, that I was going to excel at music, mathematics and creative writing. I've stopped the creative writing for now, so there are the other two.

When I was 20, I won a scholarship. This meant I would study in Snowy Hill and end up working for the Factory.

When I was 25, I graduated from Snowy Hill and started work at the Factory. The first few years of my work were pretty crappy.

When I was 30, I got my first real assignment, after I was sick and tired of chow kenging through my work and my life. I'd say this assignment marks the time when I got tired of jerking around with my bosses and my bosses got tired of jerking around with me. I'd like to think that by the time I left the Factory, it was on good terms.

When I was 35, I was already in "Mexico". That was the year of my long job search and it was eventually successful.

This year I turn 40, and I hope there's a pattern, and there's going to be progress in life.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Real Time Update


sieteocho's sister
11/8, 7:24pm

holy shit

it's not looking good

sieteocho
11/8, 7:25pm

I know.

Can you imagine if Hillary needs Nevada to win?

sieteocho
11/8, 7:31pm

The last few precincts will usually go to Hillary since larger precincts are in urban areas.

sister
11/8, 7:37pm

oh god

this looks terrible

i think i should stop watching

sister
11/8, 8:53pm

oh my freaking god

i have to say that i couldn't believe when i chatted with folks how many people actually knew people who voted for trump

ohio is lost

florida and NC are losing ...

sieteocho
11/8, 8:55pm

Didn't I tell you that my housemate is voting for Trump?

sister
11/8, 8:55pm

yeah but the people i'm talking about are our generation

or younger

sieteocho
11/8, 8:56pm

Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn.


sister
11/8, 8:56pm

and i mean well-educated seemingly-thoughtful


sieteocho
11/8, 8:56pm

Hillary needs all three. It's down to them now.

sister
11/8, 8:56pm

michigan and wisconsin are losing

sieteocho
11/8, 8:57pm

There's usually a late surge for Hillary, so we'll know by midnight.

sister
11/8, 8:57pm

can you imagine if california loses?!

we chewed one of our co-residents out for dating someone who voted trump

we thought she should have broken up with him for doing that

haha

how about virginia? does that count?

sieteocho
11/8, 9:01pm

That's already factored in.

So no count.


sister
11/8, 9:01pm

we don't even know if she'll win VA

it's really close

sieteocho
11/8, 9:02pm

She's already won VA

She'll win CA

She'll win the West Coast.

Main thing now is Penn, Michigan, Wisconsin.

States that were supposed to be "safe" but they're full of Trump kind of ppl.

sister
11/8, 9:08pm

she has already won CA

and oregon

shit. the forecast is already >95% trump

why the hell is michigan voting red?


sieteocho
11/8, 9:10pm

My bosses were talking in the hallway for quite a while today.

sister
11/8, 9:11pm

are they going to relocate?

sieteocho
11/8, 9:11pm

Because the rural areas of Michigan are deeply unhappy ppl.

White ppl who have lost their jobs. Trump kind of ppl.

sister
11/8, 9:11pm

north carolina is gone

why the hell is new hampshire voting red?


sieteocho
11/8, 9:12pm

Wait, what?

sister
11/8, 9:12pm

yeah new hampshire is currently pink

iowa which was baby blue for a bit has now turned pink

sieteocho
11/8, 9:15pm

To be honest, I just thought it would be close.

sister
11/8, 9:16pm

yeah i really didn't imagine he would actually win

sieteocho
11/8, 9:16pm

I didn't think Trump would win this but I refused to say it out loud.

sister
11/8, 9:16pm

i guess i just wasn't allowing myself to thinkt hat

sieteocho
11/8, 9:16pm

The FBI director....

sister
11/8, 9:16pm

i couldn't fathom the possibility that people would be so DUMB

DUMB

oh my god

and we were laughing at brexit

ARGH!!!!!!

URRRGGGGHHHH!!!

oh my god people are so DUMB@@#$@#$#@!

erm btw washington is currently pink

but i think the area around seattle hasn't been counted yet

she's going to lose wisconsin. only one precint hasn't been counted and it looks like it's in the boonies.

ok i'm going to stop watching

sieteocho
11/8, 9:22pm

Long way to go.

sister
11/8, 9:22pm

stupid americans

freaking stupid

why am i even working for them

ARGH!!!!!!

sieteocho
11/8, 9:23pm

You're working for the blue America. It's the red America that's stupid.

sister
11/8, 9:23pm

i'm working for ALL AMERICANS

dammit

that's what happens when you swear by the hippocratic oath

sieteocho
11/8, 9:24pm

You're working mainly for Americans living within 10, 20 miles of (REDACTED).

sister
11/8, 9:24pm

that's why i prefer taking care of kids

cos i don't have to know what they are going to grow up to be like

sister
11/8, 10:16pm

ah shit. PA just turned pink.

sister
11/8, 10:33pm

ok she won nevada and new hamsphire

but losing michigan

i wonder if PA will be recounted

oh she hasn't won new hampshire yet ... not that it's very big

sister
11/8, 10:39pm

argh PA is losing

ok i'm going to jump now

sieteocho
11/8, 11:25pm

You're good.

The US could be in a war and you'd stillhave a job.

The sky could fall and you'd still have a job.

sister
11/8, 11:26pm

PA is losing

sieteocho
11/8, 11:26pm

That's because you're a doctor.

So don't worry too much.

sister
11/8, 11:26pm

PA is lost

sieteocho
11/8, 11:27pm

Hillary made a huge mistake in not campaigning in the midwest during the last 2 weeks.

sister
11/8, 11:27pm

How the hell are people so dumb?

yeah i was just thinking that

sieteocho
11/8, 11:27pm

How the hell is Hillary so dumb?

sister
11/8, 11:27pm

obama actually put a tonne of effort into the midwest i remember

he went to michigan, ohio, ... he campaigned a lot there

america just totally acted out my subconscious thoughts

which is of course that clinton was never a very likeable person

but people are too irrational to realize that voting against her would be far worse than voting for or just not voting

sieteocho
11/8, 11:29pm

Let's see what Trump can do in 4 years.

My biggest worry is that now that Obama has set the country onto a certain course, Trump might even get a second term.

sister
11/8, 11:30pm

can't believe this

sister
11/8, 11:55pm

😨

😱

👀

🇸🇬

sieteocho
11/8, 11:59pm

You want to go home?

sister
11/8, 11:59pm

😵

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Avoidant Dismissive

One of the strangest memories I've had was watching into my mother's room. She was crying. I knew why she was crying, but I didn't really talk to her about it. I looked inside, just caught a glimpse, and then walked off.

This was when I was back in Singapore for a break during a winter vacation when I was studying at Snowy Hill. I had been away from Singapore for 18 months, and that was a record at that time. In fact, right now, I've been away from almost twice as long, almost 3 years. But somehow I feel like I've lived longer during those 18 months than these three years.

Those 18 months encompassed the entirety of the whole codfish episode. Somehow that was the last time I had been emotionally involved with a woman, and it was a very very long time ago, more than 15 years. That's half a generation. Now, I'm older. I have peers whose kids are turning into teenagers.

The codfish episode did not end well. Today I'll look back upon it and realize that it was an impossibility to be involved with a person like her, that even if I were flawed in some way, she was even worse, and she had to be resigned to a life of being alone. She was a very attractive woman. Took care of herself very well. Maybe a 9 or a 10 in her youth. Right now, maybe 8. I spent a lot of time wondering how on earth I managed to hold her attention for that long. And I spent too long holding on – not really holding on, but wasting time in the wilderness not moving on to the next big thing. But that was the flip side of things – hers was a classic case of narcissistic personality disorder. And it's really unfortunate that some of the most attractive women are going to be like that: these are the people who are extra motivated to take care of themselves, take care of their own appearances. But they're definitely not the best people to have as girlfriends.

So whatever happened has been talked about elsewhere. Where does my mother come into all this? Well, I've also had a difficult relationship with my mother. In a way I'm lucky and in a way not so lucky: I was the favoured child. My mother liked me more than my sister. But in a way it wasn't great, because she wasn't the greatest person to be around.

I'm not that sure that she really cared about anybody else. It was just so difficult to be around her. She had her own insecurities, and, like the older generation of Singaporeans, she grew up in an environment that wasn't really free. It was a parochial place that clamped down on non-conformity. She had one physical defect that I will not describe here, but it must have affected her. She was in between things. She was a second generation Singaporean, and my grandparents from her side were from China. They didn't learn English. Of the five children, she was the middle child, and maybe she felt left out.

And I may have talked about her ongoing problems with her mother in law over here. So here you go: it was tough for me growing up. She's probably the reason why I would rate my childhood as maybe 7 out of 10 instead of 10 out of 10.

I don't always like to talk about her. You can always complain about the disadvantages in life. And you can always overcome them. You can't completely blame your parents if they didn't teach you everything: if you are smart enough and determined enough, you'll learn those things anyway. You can always fight for better things and make your way around.

The one thing that your parents can help you with, that nobody can, is teaching you how to love, how to be comfortable with another human being. That's the one thing that is very difficult to pick up on if they didn't manage to instill it in you. It's also possible that you'll find it outside of your family, but less likely. It's not true that all the adults in my life were like my mother, but she has a special talent for sucking the life out of the place once she steps into a room.

That is not to say that I didn't have any of the blame for that. It's entirely possible that it's not just that she's got a heart of stone, but I've got one too. And for those of you who have read far enough into the blog, you probably have already guessed as much. It's entirely possible that the two of us just bring out the worst in each other.

Here's what my mother was really crying about. At the beginning of my going to college, we had an argument, and then she blew up at something and threatened to disowned me. I was pretty rocked by that and then I responded by writing a very tearful letter to her. But that was probably the last ever time I would say something like that, and possibly after writing that letter, something in me snapped and – well, she's always going to be my mother but at most she's going to be an acquaintance. We had plenty of opportunities to forge a great relationship but it never happened. And maybe she had very high hopes for some kind of a reconciliation but it would never materialize. This was 2.5 years later, when I would learn the meaning of being in a relationship, and subsequently learn the meaning of heartbreak. My mother always told me that if I were to find a girlfriend, I'd have to tell her about it. I didn't. I talked about codfish to a few other relatives, but not my mother, and she found out indirectly. That was what she was crying about.

So as I watched her – rather, walked past her room on my way to mine – I might have been a little more sorry for her. But I didn't really feel much. I was too wrapped up in my own emotions, because this was when I was barely getting over her.

The other reason was that I was angry at my mother. When that relationship was over, I had to hang on to something in order to cope. I realized that I had nothing. When things were going badly in a relationship, I knew that I had to hang on to something, and I realized that I didn't have anything. I knew that if I wanted to give my heart to somebody else, I would have the confidence to do it, until that person gave hers back to me. But I had to have something in the store in order for that to happen, and I did not have it. And it wasn't very often that I got really really angry with my mother but that was the one time that I was really mad at her.

The fact that it was winter somehow really resonated with me. It was supposed to be winter in Snowy Hill. It wasn't winter in Singapore, of course. But it was monsoon season and raining every day. There was something really awkward about this. I had been out on a date with codfish just before the start of the 18 months. And the real drama took place over those 18 months: 12 months of drama, and then 6 months of dealing with the aftermath and pain. And after those 6 months, and after breaking up, and all those wonderful things we said over the internet, and all the horrible things we said over the internet, get this – we were going out for dinner, face to face, for only the second time. I swear, you couldn't really make this up if you tried.

So there was this theme of frozenness. It was fall in Snowy Hill when we started exchanging greetings and we were getting more and more involved with each other. Then it turned into winter when our late night chats (morning for her, I presume) were at the most passionate and heated. And it was summer when everything fell apart, when we decided that too many mean things were spoken to each other. At the same time, I didn't have a very great social life at Snowy Hill. I was learning everything I could lay my hands on, which was nice, but there's that word again – being frozen in my interactions with people. It's a funny thing about the architecture of Snowy Hill – it's a place with plenty of snow and plenty of bridges. There was something that occurred to me as I was going through my first winter, with all the icy wind in my face, and the quietness of small town America. That place is basically the polar opposite of Singapore. As wintry as Singapore is tropical, as land locked as Singapore is coastal, as remote as Singapore is well connected, as White as Singapore is Asian. But the chilliness of the environment was quite meditative, and also it inadvertently brought into relief that my heart was as frozen as my surroundings, even as I was holding forth on an imaginary relationship that was going on in cyberspace.

Attachment theory states that there are different forms of emotional insecurity. My sister brought this to my attention one day, and we agreed that while she was of the anxious-preoccupied type, and mine was the dismissive-avoidant type. It's borne out that my sis had gone through anywhere up to 10 ultimately unsuccessful attempts at romantic relationships, and I have gone through a grand total of 0, unless you count in codfish, but she doesn't count anyway. But yes, I'm the dismissive avoidant type. The cold, chilly, heartless exterior, until I lose control of my emotions and end up murdering everybody in the room.

It's not that my mother's a completely rotten person: she's not. She can be conscientious. She put a lot of effort into parenting. She pushed me hard to succeed. But I don't think she really loved me, and she certainly wasn't generous with her emotions. And she was such a quarrelsome troublemaker with my grandmother. One thing, though, she's taught me to be patient with flawed people. She's a person that you'd look at and either see half a glass full or half a glass empty.

And people look at me and tell me that I resemble her rather than my father. Fair enough. But whatever I do I just try to always always make sure that the father half of me has the upper hand over the mother half of me. And failing that, at least to make sure that the parts of myself that I really don't like about my mother are properly reined in and safely tucked away.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three stages of technological advancement

I have a theory about why our human race is doomed.

Basically there are 3 stages of human advancement, in ascending order: The first stage, we're too dumb to harness technology. The second stage, we're smart enough to harness technology, but not smart enough to deal with the harmful side effects. The third stage, we're smart enough to reap the benefits without the side effects.

At any point in time, no matter what kind of technology we have, there are those three stages, so this pattern is a pretty resilient and a naturally occuring one. Stages 1 and 3 are harmless. The most dangerous stage is stage 2, and unfortunately most of the time we're stuck at stage 2. Climate change is the most obvious example, we have progressed by pumping CO2 everywhere and we're screwing ourselves in the process. But it takes so much effort to pass through stage 2 to get to stage 3, and we've been sneering at the tree huggers for so many years, for way too long. It took us long enough to get over freons and solve the ozone layer problem. One day, we'll screw ourselves over when the technology is artificial intelligence.

We'll keep on doing stupid shit to screw ourselves over: turn the "fertile crescent" into desert. Drain the Aral sea completely. Screw up Easter Island. Swear in President Donald Trump.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

The NUS Orientation scandal

I had typed up a response to the NUS Orientation scandal a few weeks ago but didn't really get out. The story is a few weeks old and probably over already, but it's still interesting, so I'll put it up now.

Was I really surprised about the crazy things that took place during the NUS orientation? No, not really.

First, gang initiation ceremonies have always been something a little dodgy. I'm sure that anthropologists will probably say what I'm about to say in more formal academese, but when you're being inducted into a tribe, there's always some ceremony involved. This is made into ritual because otherwise people will think that it's no big deal. When you become a school prefect, there is investiture. When you become a big public officer, there is an inauguration and swearing in ceremony. When you are joining a gang, you cut your finger, mix the blood, and drink it. Maybe you are also required to commit a crime or murder in order to prove yourself worthy. There's that word again, commit: to act, but also to dedicate yourself to a cause. When you are joining Christianity, you get baptised. When you're joining the administrative service of Qing China, you get your dick lobbed off.

All this hazing fucking shit, we knew about it as schoolkids. Maybe we got this from the British public schools. Somebody would get “flagpoled”. What it means is that somebody would grab a guy by his four limbs, spread out, the legs, and press his butt up against something resembling a flagpole, maybe the edge of a door. All in good clean fun, of course. Sometimes people would rag others. I remember being in a scouts camp, and somebody would line us all up. Tell us to do crazy things like roll over each other. Ask you to strip down to your underwear and spread mud all over you. Crack an egg in your undies (we were gently reminded afterwards to please change our undies and have a good shower).

Apparently in the army, there would be one or two incidents of ragging, especially amongst officer cadets. There was one rumour that somebody got his birthday celebrated by getting jerked off. (precautions were taken: the fist was wrapped in a plastic bag.)

Many of these activities violate good taste, but we saw that they were some kind of bonding, or at least they were something fun to laugh about afterwards. I suppose that's why they happen. They don't happen in mixed company. It's always about the boys. Maybe one or two of the boys are gay. Maybe that's why they're called “gay”, because they get to have so much fun all the time. I still remember there was an effeminate guy who got his pants pulled down, and they sprayed deep heat on his balls.

These encounters can get a little edgy. Sometimes they are. These are social situations where sometimes the mask that you wear every day starts to slip a bit. You end up doing or saying things you normally wouldn't do or say, and to be sure, sometimes people use this as a great opportunity to settle a few scores.

It reminds me of something that the Americans do, whereby there is a “roast”. People would just take turns and stand up in front of an audience and crack jokes and poke fun of a guy, or sometimes, it's a guy doing it to everybody else. One of the most famous examples is Barack Obama at the White House Correspondent's dinner, and he gets to poke fun at everybody else. And sometimes, he does use it to settle a few scores. Long before Donald Trump made a credible bid for the US presidency, he used that moment to poke fun at Trump when Trump was right in front of him, in the audience.

Which brings me to the point whereby the fucking idiot does not know where to draw the line. You get a few guys from NUS, and they've always been chao muggers, followers of rules. And suddenly they're in environments like the NUS students orientation. NUS students are supposed to be the best and brightest of Singapore. Actually, they are the second best and brightest: many other guys end up in Oxford / Cambridge / Ivy League / Stanford / MIT / Caltech / Berkeley. But usually it's like JC orientation, and I didn't really like JC orientation. Going from station to station, playing silly games, and the game master creating some dumb cheesy narrative revolving around some kind of a theme.

But ragging is also done in British public schools. They are places where you get taught quickly that there is a social hierarchy to be adhered to, and you simply respected that. That there were some people higher up in the social order that you. It was also a way to mark out who belonged, and who didn't.

Where the guys organizing these things do not realize is that sometimes there are lines that should not be crossed. These games are not desirable. They are fun once in a while, but I don't like their dark undertones of being the maintenance of a social order. And sometimes, instead of their being a social lubricant, they turn into some other form of a lubricant. Sometimes you have sex starved perverts, barely out of the national service, and the laws on dorm life are so strict, and there's so much sexual frustration. Then some of these games take a darker turn. They get a little – rapey. Maybe their mothers didn't tell them that women do not like having sex with people who are not their boyfriends. (for that matter a lot of women don't even like having sex with their own husbands.)

A lot of this is what I'd put down to people not really having one or two important conversations that they'd normally be having. I'm not sure that I think very highly of the NUS Arts and Social Sciences. But not that I would know, because I didn't attend NUS. And a lot of this has to do with the particular history of NUS.

As you know NUS was formed because they shut down Nantah, which was considered to be LKY's Bete Noire. He was pretty paranoid about it being some kind of breeding ground for political elements, quite possibly communits, but mainly an alternate center of power, outside of the PAP. So there were a lot of controls against it being a place where people could get politicised. I wouldn't study political science in NUS, because the message is very tightly controlled. I went to Snowy Hill instead and took quite a few history and political science electives, and I was happy that I was introduced to a lot of different views about political ideas. They taught you what the main philosophies were, and how they contrasted with each other. In NUS, though, I believe, they'll usually teach you one set of ideas, and they'll teach it to you to a high level of detail, and you'll be drilled on how well you know that in order to sit for your exams. It wasn't an intellectual climate that I completely respected.

I remember that in Snowy Hill, we sometimes had a few speakers, and they were sometimes politically controversial. There was one incident which raised a great big diplomatic stink between nations. There was another time when they brought in a speaker from the Palestine Organization and all the Jews / Zionists were lining up to take potshots and ask questions of her. There was another time when there was a prince from the Middle East, and people were arguing very vehemently about whether it was worth it to bring him in, and give him some legitimacy, since he was associated with a discredited regime. I suppose in a way this was a reflection of western culture, where people argued with you straight to your face. It's not in all respects superior, and sometimes the way that we Asians do it has a lot to recommend it. Everybody gets into a dark smoky room, everybody hammers things out without people having to lose face in public. Things are a lot more simple that way. When you're talking about things on a soap box in public, then it's pretty crazy. But at the same time, I can understand why the Western intellectual tradition has always been more well developed, and why it's the Western universities who are stronger at philosophy and the arts. That's because people, through the process of always having to argue with each other, have to constantly raise their game and come up with more sophisticated ideas, if not more sophistry. So I bet that motherfucker Jim Sleeper who has always been a very vocal opponent of Yale NUS on the basis of Singapore being a not sufficiently liberal place, must be pretty bemused on this recent turn of events. First, you have Yale having that kerfuffle about “safe spaces”. I hope he's ashamed about that, even as I am. And now, you have NUS having a sex scandal. It seems as though it's Singapore who has something to teach Yale about being open minded, rather than the other way around. Anyway, the problem is that many political seminars are all about conveying information, or otherwise conducting political discourse that is very strictly circumscribed within out of bound markers. That's a real problem, because a lot of the time, a lot of questions that need to be asked, to be raised, are not talked about. This is symptomatic of a larger cultural issue in Singapore, and this has a profound impact on how it is run: Singaporeans do not like to discuss things with each other. We learn certain things that we like to think of as “facts”, and after that, we aren't excessively curious about issues that may be larger and more complex. Once we learn something, we don't really question it that much. Once a structure is set up in place, there's not much scope for reviewing it.

Therefore a lot of strange incongruent things happen in Singapore and we don't ask why. We don't ask why hawker food is so cheap while housing and cars are so expensive.

So what I think happened is that NUS orientation has always had a pretty “fratty” culture. But it just got worse and worse over the years because people were pushing the boundaries, and there wasn't any reasoned debate about the way things were going. It didn't help that they were run largely by sex starved males one or two years out of the armed forces. They live in student hostels where you cannot have members of different sex in the same room without opening the doors.

I don't really think that there's anything that malicious about this NUS issue. I've been in the US where even worse things have happened – people can get raped and the rapist gets away, or in some extreme cases, found guilty and given disproportionately light sentences. It's not fair to say that Singapore is truly bad in this respect. But it is very concerting that this happens in student orientations, something that is almost sanctioned by the authorities. This is different from what usually happens in the States, where somebody gets raped / molested / sexually harrassed and the universities don't take enough action. This is an extra-curricular activity that is supposed to be directly managed by the university.

So it was a little surprising to see that a few students were pretty outraged that the university had done the sensible thing of ordering a cessation to all orientation activities. It's like they didn't understand the gravity of the situation. This wasn't about freedom of speech, this wasn't about conservatism, this wasn't about censorship. In those cases, you're only watching something. This is about something that potentially violates somebody's modesty.

And so I'd characterise some of this as violation of modesty. And it's a shame, it's become pretty clear that all this has happened because people don't use their brains, they don't have their faculties of critical thinking. And they've never had freedom, so they never had to really think what that freedom meant to them.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Joseph Schooling and the Singapore Gahment set ups for sporting excellence.

So this thing about Joseph Schooling: what did the government do right, and what did it do wrong? The simple answer to this is, neither. It didn't do anything for Joseph Schooling. This has produced a great controversy where there has been some concerted effort to push Singapore sportsmen to excel, and that has been shown up in Joseph Schooling's feat.

It's a little difficult to put into words why Joseph Schooling's gold medal matters so much, but there was a time when we were discussing our hometowns. A colleague of mine dissed his own hometown and said that it's one of the most boring places in the world. I said, “I know how you feel, I'm from Singapore. We've given you nothing.” And somebody snidely made a comment that I was being insecure. But it's true, the individual achievements of Singaporeans are nothing to shout about. Until now. Until now, we're the country who's not won any medals since Tan Howe Liang's silver medal. We've had to import China's second team for our world champions team (to be fair, if we get a silver medal for table tennis, that's a gold medal for “best of the rest”).

I'm not that well-versed in swimming and I don't really know what's involved. From what I can see, it's a lot of sports science. A lot of expertise acquired through many years of experience. The physical conditioning, the diet, the number of strokes taken. I don't really know how easy or difficult it is to replicate the system in Singapore. Singapore is not there yet. They'll be able to produce the Joscelin Yeos who can pawn everybody else in Southeast Asia, and that's going to be an increasingly difficult task since our neighbours have nowhere to go but get stronger.

Joseph Schooling said something rather telling: he wants to be able to say that it's possible for people from smaller countries to win big medals. In this statement, he's acknowledging that it's difficult for Singapore to have the system that the US has.

Here's the reason why.

In the US, you have the economies of scale. You can safely build world class sports training facilities. You can attempt to excel in 100 different sports, and you know that your hinterland is so large and wide that somehow, somewhere, you'll get somebody from some obscure province, and he'll end up being some hero. It's funny but I think the manhattan project – to build the first atom bomb – was basically a collaboration between midwestern boys from small towns and the top scientists escaping from Europe. A lot of the people who ended up turning America into the academic superpower of the world (at least in higher education). The streets may not be paved with gold in the USA, but they can just pull freakishly talented people out of their own asses.

So with these raw materials, you can build a big machine to process raw talent into Olympic champions. One half of this is the individual talent, the Joseph Schooling. The other half is the talent machines, the Bolling Schools, the UT Austins.

What can Singapore do, going forward? Here are a few things I know that could go wrong. First, you could possibly pick on the wrong horse. You could staff it with political appointees instead of people who are the best in the business. You could end up with a game that people are no longer interested in. Maybe like squash?

You need to manage what happens when people devote their entire careers to the running of this show. If you don't want to set up a school for sports science in NTU or something, at least give people scholarships to go study sports science. And get them to work in overseas schools to get the best expertise.

I have a controversial suggestion. If you open a school for swimming, make it available to the rest of the world. Don't worry too much that it will disproportionately benefit other countries, because what you want are the economies of scale. Get swimmers from all over Southeast Asia, and train them up. Make them compete against each other, and they'll only bring up the standards. And hopefully, they're going to return the favour by opening their doors to us on other things. Maybe Indonesia has a badminton school of excellence that keeps on pumping out top class shuttlers, we can get our foot into the door with them too.

The things that Singapore is traditionally strong in are obviously what we want to start with. Swimming, sailing, water polo.

The other thing is, inevitably, how are we going to excel in football? Team sports are different from individual sports, in that you are working with the average ability of the team. You will find it harder to exempt promising players from NS. However, I think that people can train with the Young Lions as a part of NS, and hopefully that would help.

Building a football center of excellence is not easy. I used to believe that it's hard to get Chinese people to play football. Maybe things will be a little different. But you'll still need a Joseph Schooling situation, where people can make a real life out of it. At least now Joseph Schooling will be a star, and he'll have sponsorship deals, and plenty of money from celebrity endorsements.

But the important thing is: what are you going to do with the people who try and fail? How are they going to find their way back to Singapore society, especially one as competitive as this? If you read the football pages, they are full of people who had fallen on hard times once they gave up playing. Anybody seen Noh Alam Shah these days? He may not have been as famous as Fandi Ahmad, but Fandi Ahmad didn't have 2 Southeast Asian Championship medals (although he had 5 or 6 Malaysia Cups). I know he was a hothead, and he's had to work as a hawker's assistant during a time when he was banned from football. So here's the thing, who wants to be that type of hero? OK, some patron has given him a lifeline, I see. But what about those who aspire, but fail to be like Noh Alam Shah?

You are not building a monument. You are building a community, and the champion athletes are the apex of the pyramid. You cannot have a mountain peak without the mountain underneath it. And here's the bad news, the really really bad news: the mountain is difficult. But it is doable, and if you think about the mountain, one day you can do it.

And that means all these things: small leagues. Big leagues. Big crowds at football stadiums. Training. Fitness. Conditioning. Scouting. Strategies. Dossiers. Sponsorship deals. Commissioners. Franchising. Business. Hospitality. All the shit. From the ground up. Not some big fuck cocksucker who can just wave World Cup 2010 like what.

It will be hard for football, because we are not blessed to be in a part of a world where our neighbours are great football powers. If the Thais, the Malaysians and the Indonesians pull their weight, then we will all have a chance to lift each other up into the big time. Otherwise, it is nothing more than pak chwee cheng. All the pundeks north of the border who kick us out of the M League are just shooting themselves in the foot. We have always been better when we play against each other.

Then the Indonesians and the Malaysians – why have they been able to excel at badminton? What kind of a set-up do they have? What do they have to teach us? Why is there a Singaporean, that Benjamin Tan in the upper echelons of Thailand's FA and what the fuck is he doing there instead of Singapore? Do we have real men to do real men jobs in our sporting setups or do we have por lampar cocksucker yes men? I'm not saying either way but those are issues you got to think about.

And one more thing, if the Singapore govt doesn't really know how best to “help” Joseph Schooling, if they can't do anything within their system to help him, just throw money at him so that he can carry on. Just keep a good thing going. That's the best and the least worst solution.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Unfinished business

There is a certain breed of shock winners for major football competitions: they are the ones who have had victories “owed” to them. The AC Milan team who inexplicably lost the champion's league final to Liverpool, and two years later won it back against them. The Chelsea team who outplayed Barcelona in the semi-final in 2009, but lost when two penalties they deserved were not awarded. (The same one that had Didier Drogba screaming into the camera, “It's a fucking disgrace!”) Then you had them being the shock winner in 2012 against a Bayern Munich team that was in every way superior to them, with Didier Drogba himself scoring the last minute goal in 90 minutes that took it to extra time.

Maybe even the Nottingham Forest team were owed something for the way that Brian Clough's tenure at Leeds infamously lasted only 44 days.

There was Spain, who were forever the bridesmaid, who formed the backbone of the Real Madrid side who won 3 European Cups near the turn of the century. There's a reason why people consider the Euros of 2000 one of the greatest ones ever, because there were 5 very good sides in France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Italy. (Funnily enough, all 5 of these teams would in the 2002 World Cup either perform quite poorly or get knocked out by South Korea.)

There was Germany, who reached at least the semi-finals in the tournaments of 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, before finally winning World Cup 2014.

There was the Bayern Munich side which infamously lost the final of 1999 against Man U, but came back to win in 2001. Then they lost the finals of 2010 and 2012, only to come back in 2013.

There was the Denmark team who had a pretty decent side in the 1980s, reaching the semi-finals in Euro 1984 and the second round in World Cup 1986. They won the thing in 1992.

So raise a glass for the Portuguese side, who supposedly had their “golden generation” in 2004 when they lost a final – at home – to Greece. They had semi-final or better finishes or better in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2012, and this was the year when they had a team that was not expected to be as good as their glorious past. In 2004, they had Maniche, Ricardo Carvalho, C Ronaldo, Deco, Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Nuno Gomes in their side. But that golden generation stuffed it against Greece. Irony of ironies, they got the former Greece coach, Fernando Santos in and he coached them to the Euro 2016 championship. And there will always be another chance for France, who look to have a good batch of players.

Of course, there are many other countries who never manage to succeed at the Euros, no matter what. England's best ever finish was at home, in 1996. Maybe they were lucky against the Germans in 1966 because they scored a goal that wasn't a goal, and this time they were unlucky that Gascoigne arrived at the goalmouth a fraction of a second too late to convert a chance that would have sent them through to the final. But even then they'd have to face the Czech Republic and as Portugal and France will tell you, just because you're playing at home in the final, it doesn't mean you're going to win. Fact is, England have never had a great record at the Euros. They missed their chance with the great 1996 team which had a bunch of guys who were not only great at football, but were all strong characters. They missed their chance during the Sven Goran Eriksson years, when Paul Scholes, England's best player of his time, quit. Eventually, he said that he was sick and tired of a few of the players' attitudes. Some of them would newly come into the team, and then instead of playing for the team, they would play in a way that was flashy and spectacular, and then compromise the performance of the team. As much as England was reviled in the Sven Goran Eriksson years, his record of successive quarter finals appearances are something that we'd be dying to have today. You can talk about England having a “golden generation” that had Lampard, Gerrard, Rio, Terry and Ashley Cole in it. But sometimes you wonder what could have been. Dean Ashton had his career ended by injury. Same for Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen and Ledley King. Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher quit before their time was up. A new generation has emerged, and they may bear the scars of getting knocked out by Iceland for now, but eventually we'll see what becomes of it. It's also worthwhile to note that the team which contributed the largest number of people to the England team was Tottenham, the same one which melted down at the end of the season and contrived to snatch a 3rd place when it was almost easier to keep second place.

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