Thursday, April 26, 2012

Site of serial killing revisited

Just 3 days ago, there was a huge commotion when someone threatened to kill himself with a chopper in a market just across the road from this site.  That incident reminded me of something more sinister that happened here a long time ago.

In the 3 pics below are the usual Government housing residential flats known as HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats one sees everywhere in Singapore.  Housing is a huge success here and there are, except for very unusual and extremely rare cases, absolutely no homeless people in Singapore.  There is a lovely garden, a bench to sit on and even a gazebo.

The tranquility of the surroundings belies the violence that occurred in one of the flats here 31 years ago.  It happened in the top flat in the first picture - but you will have to picture it mentally because it's concealed by the leaves of a nearby tree.  I tried to take a pic from the other end but the sun was against me.    It was the scene of Singapore's only case of serial killing in which 3 persons lost their lives and the story reads like an Indiana Jones adventure story, complete with blood drinking and human sacrifices to the goddess Kali.

The serial murderer, Adrian Lim, is probably the most hated person in Singapore.  The memory of his brutal crimes remained even long after his trial and conviction.  As late as 1998, the New Paper conducted a poll on the most terrible crime in that year.  30% of the people polled refused to talk about crimes in 1998 and insisted the Adrian Lim murders were the most terrible even though they took place almost two decades before.

Adrian Lim had been an abject failure all his life.  He went to the Anglo-Chinese School until Secondary 1 when he dropped out at about the age of 13.  He did various odd jobs until his fortunes turned for the better when he became a medium.  In superstitious Singapore, Adrian Lim's business as a medium thrived and at one point, it was reported that he raked in about S$7,000 a month from just one client.

Adrian (let's not use his surname which is probably the surname of 20% of Singaporeans) preyed on feeble-minded women and women with psychiatric problems and made them virtually his slaves.  Two of his women, Tan Mui Choo and Hoe Kah Hong lived with him.  However, Hoe was married and when she moved in to live with Adrian, her husband, Loh, went to the flat to look for her.  For some superstitious reasons, he believed the story that his wife was receiving spiritual treatment from Adrian and he even stayed for the night in the flat and early the next morning, he agreed to participate in the healing ritual.  Loh and his wife Hoe, under Adrian's instructions, locked their hands together and immersed their bare feet in pails of water.  Adrian then administered electrodes on Loh with a high voltage which killed him while Hoe was only knocked unconscious.  When she recovered, she lied to the police that her husband had been electrocuted while turning on a faulty electric fan.  No further investigations were conducted and Adrian was off the hook.

In the meanwhile, Adrian was being investigated for the rape of one of his clients during a healing ritual.  He felt the need to sacrifice two children to the goddess Kali in order to receive divine protection.  He instructed Tan and Hoe to bring children to him which they did.

The first was 9-year-old Agnes Ng who was last seen at a religious class in the Roman Catholic Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh.  She was lured into the flat by Hoe, sexually assaulted by Adrian and smothered with a pillow before her blood was drawn and drunk by the trio.  More blood was splashed on the portrait of the goddess Kali.  Her head was then held in a pail of water until she drowned and to make sure that she was dead, Adrian electrocuted her.  Her body was then stuffed into a bag and left in the lift lobby of an adjacent block of flats.

The second victim was a ten-year-old Malay boy called Ghazali bin Marzuki.  Hoe saw him playing in a playground in Clementi and told him she needed his help and he went with her in a cab to Adrian's flat.  But Ghazali was a more hardy child and the sedatives did not work that well on him.  Seeing that he was going to give some trouble, Adrian attempted to tie him up but he was roused from his sedative-induced sleep and he put up a struggle.  Adrian and the two women rained blows on him and knocked him out.  They then drew his blood to perform rituals, after which, as they did to Agnes, they proceeded to hold Ghazali's head in a pail of water to drown him.  Again, the boy proved resilient.  He struggled, threw up and at one stage, he even defecated which made it necessary for them to clean up the flat.  But that was not all.  Ghazali's nose bled profusely and there were pools of blood in the flat.  Adrian gave instructions to Tan to clean up the flat while he and Hoe dragged the body down the stairs and left it under a tree.  There was a trail of blood that led all the way to Adrian's flat.  Adrian and Hoe cleaned up as much as they could but they were not totally successful.  It was this blood trail that led the police to the flat and to the subsequent arrest and conviction of all three of them.

I don't want to think how the parents of these children must have felt when they read the account of what happened.  If this had happened in Norway, Adrian and his accomplices would have long been released from prison.  But thank God Singapore is not one bit like Norway.  All three of them were tried, convicted and sentenced to death.  After the conclusion of the legal process and the dismissal of their appeals, they were hanged on 25 November 1988.

Thank God for the death penalty.  Perhaps that is also the reason why that was the only serial killing in Singapore.  He who kills shall swing by the neck while the entire nation cheers.  Serial murderers who feel stifled in Singapore are more than welcome to go to Norway where they can be sure of being received with tolerance and understanding.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why society defends paedophiles

Screen capture from Stomp: Click here (Copyright: Straits Times)
It's funny how many Singaporeans I have met who seem to defend the paedophiles and put the blame on an underage girl who must have been exploited and groomed to be a prostitute.  The truth is although I blame the paedophiles absolutely, I became a little uncertain when I saw the girl's photos.  She does not look underage at all.  She could easily pass off as a woman in her early 20s.  I also saw the website advertisement for prostitutes.  They specified that their prostitutes were 18 and above.  I began to dither and I felt I should be slow to blame the men.  Now, if a man wants a prostitute and he goes to the website, how on earth is he to know that the girl is above 18 apart from seeing what the ad says?  He can't be faulted for believing the ad, can he?  It was then that I began to feel some sympathy for these men.  Perhaps they aren't paedophiles after all.  They thought the girl was 20 or whatever the age was and although I can go on my moral high horse and say they shouldn't pay for sex in the first place, that's being judgmental.  The fact is they DIDN'T know the girl was underage and it's no different from a man going to a 30 year old prostitute.  I may not like it but that's neither here nor there.  There's no intention on the part of the men to have sex with an underage girl and they committed no crime.

That was what I thought until I had the good fortune of talking to a friend (I'm not sure if he would like his name to be mentioned, so I'll err on the side of caution and exclude his name for the time being).  He was a police officer in the US and he has considerable experience in tracking down and arresting paedophiles.  He told me something that changed my perspective altogether.  Whatever trickle of sympathy I had for the men has now evaporated.  They should be dealt with according to the full extent of the law if Singapore wants to avoid being seen as a country that is ambivalent about the problem of paedophile crimes.

You see, most of us inexperienced lay people know nothing about the world of prostitution.  We think it's highly probable that these men were mistaken about the age of the girl.  But that's not the situation in real life.  In the world of prostitutes and pimps, an underage girl fetches a better price.  The newspapers have disclosed that these men paid in the region of S$500.00 for sex with the underage girl.  When I first read that, I thought that must have been the going rate for a prostitute but I was wrong!  My friend tells me that the average prostitute charges in the region of S$50.00 in Singapore.  What these men paid was 10 times the fee that one normally pays for a prostitute.

I know nothing about the world of prostitutes but I'm familiar with bicycles.  Supposing I want to buy an entry level Trek mountainbike (with low end parts) and I'm asked to pay S$6,000.00.  I'd hit the roof.  That's because for that amount of money, I should be getting a high-end bike.  I shouldn't pay more than S$600.00.

Clients of prostitutes are no different.  They know how much to pay for an average adult prostitute.  There's no way these men could have got the underage prostitute for S$50.00, just as I can't possibly expect to buy a Merlin bike for S$600.00.

If these men had paid for the services of the underage prostitute, there is no way they can feign ignorance of her age.  They had paid ten times the usual fee a prostitute charges and the extra they had paid for is nothing less than the tender age of the victim which is obviously looked upon as a premium by these filthy perverted paedophiles.  Anyone who can do this must be a dangerous social predator who should be locked up for decades.

I hope that people who know nothing about prostitutes and what they charge for their services would stop excusing these vile paedophiles and begin to clamour for their just deserts.

Edit: 2:00pm 25 April 2012: Just as this blog post was still hot off the press, one of my friends informed me that she searched a few social escort sites and discovered that the fees for 20-year-olds were no different from those for the "mature" women (above 30).  They all commanded the same fee (if not more) as what the 17-year-old was charging.  Although I must admit that I find the men in this affair despicable and vile, I have to admit that perhaps some of them really thought the girl was above 18 and if that is so, they should be viewed perhaps with less frowning.  We should bear in mind of course that if it hadn't been commercial sex, it wouldn't even have been a crime because in Singapore, the age of consent is 16.  I think I'm out of my depths in the world of prostitution so I shan't make any more comments about prostitutes and their clients and I'll just focus my attention on food, biking and religion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Howdy!" spake Abrahm for he was sore afraid.

It's very easy to tell that a text is not genuine just from the language.  I was on google+ this morning when I read the post of someone in my circle and this was what he wrote.

I had not heard of Doctrine and Covenants before and so I clicked on the link and I was taken to the website which is of course the official website of the Mormon Church or the Church of the Latter-day Saints.  The link took me directly to Section 24 of a book called "Doctrine and Covenants" which is one of their sacred texts.  This was what I saw:

That was of course the introduction and immediately after that, was the sacred text itself:

Just the first four verses and I smelt a rat.  I went on.

Obviously, something is amiss.  My gut feeling tells me instantly that this text is a forgery.  Or to use less provocative language, it is not genuine.  My eyes then skipped some of the verses and I read the end of it, convinced that something was seriously wrong with the text.

I have said many times before that I do not, as a rule, criticise other people's religion.  I think it's more appropriate for me to criticise my own religion, which I have done many times in this blog and my other blog on religion.  I have shown why the Bible contains very serious errors and possibly even outright lies by the evangelists.

If I am to say something about the sacred text of the Mormons, I have to be more careful.  I may go on the anachronism of the language but I should draw no conclusion.  Perhaps it's good to bring this to the attention of a Mormon.  If there is anyone who can offer a defence of the text, it's got to be a Mormon.  After all, Mormons all over the world seem very eager to chat with strangers about their religion and surely a polite question about the use of language in their sacred text should be warmly received.  Besides, I'm a milk drinker and I don't like the taste of coffee and alcohol and I should be the darling of any Mormon Elder.

So I wrote this in response to his google+ posting:

Sorry for the break. Screen-capture can only be done in segments.

I haven't yet got a response to this.  I don't think I was insensitive or rude.  I have only read a few verses and it's already like opening a can of worms.

Language is a good tell-tale sign that a document is a forgery.  I can't speak for Mormon sacred texts but I know that scholars have shown that some New Testament texts are clearly forgeries.  They were written by Hellenistic Christians long after St Paul's time and they set out to convince their readers that the epistles were in fact written by St Paul.  What they did not realise is that it's very hard to fake another person's language even if he lived only about possibly 50 to 70 years before the forgery, as can be seen in some New Testament books.  Joseph Smith wrote in a language 200 years before his time and it's not surprising that he blundered.  No, I'm not insulting a Mormon prophet.  I'm saying he already did a very good job.

[Edited: 7:38pm, 24 April 2012:  A friend of mine brought to my attention the fact that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith and so my complaint that the language was contrived to give a semblance of antiquity should not be seen as directed at God since Smith alone was to blame.  I then realised how ignorant I was about Mormonism.  Frankly, apart from their practice of baptising the dead, the famous holy underwear, their earlier (and subsequently banned) practice of polygamy and the super friendliness of their missionaries who always wore a white short-sleeved shirt and a broad smile, I knew absolutely nothing about their religion.  I just did a search in wikipedia and it seems the Doctrine and Covenants is a separate revelation from the Book of Mormons.  Interestingly, wikipedia says:

The revelations were not God's words verbatim, but "couched in language suitable to Joseph's time."  In 1833 Smith edited and expanded many of the previous revelations, publishing them as the Book of Commandments which later became part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
But my point is it's not couched in language suitable to Joseph's time.  It's in a language that purports to be 200 years BEFORE Joseph's time but Joseph got it wrong and that is precisely what I'm talking about.    Notice Joseph even had time in 1833 to edit his revelations but he continued to couch them in pseudo-Jacobean language.  Why did he do that?]

Monday, April 23, 2012

One man's meat...

I was just looking through my old photos and I thought I'd add a silly and corny caption to this pic.  But is the caption really all that silly?  I used to wonder how some clergymen could be so overly sentimental in their sermons without laughing at themselves.  There was one sermon I heard years ago that I thought was really stupid.  A few days later, I met a friend who had attended the same service.  He told me he had brought his sister who was suffering from depression to church and she was so touched by the sermon I had thought was stupid  that she no longer contemplated suicide.

We are all different individuals and what may seem stupid to someone may prove encouraging to another.  It's so natural for religious people to give a religious interpretation to everything they see (which accounts for stories of people seeing the image of Jesus or Mary or any of the saints on a wide variety of objects, some of which are downright ludicrous) and it's perfectly possible that someone may look at this photo and the caption and conclude that this is in line with what Jesus tells us in St Luke that even the stones would cry out and praise his name and because of this, he feels comforted and ministered.

It matters not that this caption is corny.  It matters not that the whole idea is stupid.  It matters not that there probably isn't a heaven.  If just one depressed individual should look at this and be encouraged to go on with life without thinking of suicide, wow! - it'd make my day and the logic of atheism can go hang.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

For the sake of publicity

Of all the students in uni (I have to remind myself not to write "varsity" which is dated and for old people only), music students must be the most unusual.  They evoke a strange set of mixed feelings in me - awe and sympathy.  What they have in them is something none of us mere mortals can ever dream of.  It's funny how they can create so much magic by just running their fingers down the keys of the clarinet or oboe or sawing the strings of their instrument with the bow.  Those of us who play musical instruments know just how incredibly difficult it is to achieve that kind of virtuosity.    And yet, there's no money in what they do!

The idea of the impoverished artist has been so romanticized that we sometimes forget how bleak and unromantic it is to be truly impoverished.  Many orchestras in Europe have done so badly that they have to shut down and where does that leave the musicians?

Female musicians may very well fare much better.  They can always fall back on their feminine charms and a lovely seaside album cover of a female violinist standing knee-deep in the sea dressed in some skimpy dress soaked in seawater is sure to attract the attention of men who aren't really interested in Paganini's Capriccios.  Vanessa Mae may be an inspiration to other female musicians to flaunt their bodies and remind their male admirers who can't tell a crotchet from a quaver that you don't have to be fat and dumpy to be a brilliant musician but what about male musicians?

I was quite amused when I first saw this flyer advertising a recital by a young student violinist in Taiwan.

You may not be able to see clearly at the bottom left of the photo what pieces he was to play around this time last year but no, Lady Gaga's hit songs weren't in his repertoire.  The programme for the evening was not Hotbod gyrating to the beat of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" from that famous 1997 movie "The Full Monty" (sorry, am I dated again?) but he would be playing Stravisnsky's Italian Suite and two violin sonatas by Eugene Ysaÿe and Grieg wrapped, I'm sure, in several  layers of impenetrable fabric right up to his neck.

In Singapore, the T'ang Quartet are no strangers to posing for the camera in their birthday suits.  The picture below is from their ad in the 2007 Singapore Arts Festival.

I seem to recall an older photograph in which all four of them posed naked in different parts of a bathroom with their instruments strategically shielding their nether regions.  I remember that photograph only because it occurred to me at the time that they wouldn't have dared to pose that way if they played the clarinet, the oboe or the flute!

Do other artists resort to using suggestive photos of themselves?  Can you imagine Salman Rushdie standing starkers holding a copy of Midnight's Children in front of him?  I can't but of course I'm being silly.  Rushdie's selling point is his art of story telling, not his body.

But shouldn't it be the same for all artists?  The selling point for any artist has got to be his art and not how he looks with or without clothes.  That may be the ideal but as we all know, we don't live in an ideal world and very few in Asia or even elsewhere in the world really listen to good music.  Women have always worn revealing clothes to get some attention and why should a young male artist not make full use of his nicely sculptured torso?  It's not his fault that the world is teeming with uncouth plebeians who would rather go to a Linkin Park concert than spend the evening listening to Stravinsky.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Einstein and God

I'm sure everyone has read on his email or has seen a youtube video of how an atheist Professor was tripped up by a little boy and that boy was Einstein.  If you haven't, this is the best version of that story, mainly because it's in video form with excellent cinematographic effects.  It's even more convincing because it's in German with English subtitles:

When I first saw the video,  I knew something was wrong because in the first place, the boy's arguments are the same trite flawed arguments I've heard from evangelical Christians.  I could not believe that Einstein would be that stupid as to advance such obviously erroneous arguments.  It would be a sad day for physics and his theory of relativity if he did.

But of course, this is a famous urban legend and if you are interested in its origin and falsehood, you may want to read this link (possibly the most comprehensive available):

Urban legend - Einstein

There is also another link to a different website that explains this urban legend quite well too:

Another link on Einstein and God

It's absolutely indisputable what Einstein's view of God was.  He called religion a "childish superstition" and if you want a reliable source for this, you may click on this link:

Guardian newspaper - Einstein and God

In other words, the story about Einstein and the professor contained in the video and email postings is a lie manufactured by someone who's desirous of making our faith look good.

As everyone knows, I'm a devout Christian but if there's one thing that really embarrasses me, it's our shoddy attempt to defend God from a charge of non-existence.  He's accused of not existing simply because there is ZILCH evidence for his existence, and I do mean zero, naught, nil.  But cooking up a false story in a stylishly produced movie complete with wonderful effects just to glorify the faith by dragging in someone as illustrious as Einstein is morally wrong.   Why do we Christians spin such a dishonest yarn about Einstein and the professor?

93% of scientists in the US are atheists.  That's a fact that you can easily google if you don't believe me.  Just google "93% scientists are atheists" and you will have the sources.  It's probably much worse in Europe which has seen a huge decline in belief.  We also know that we are habitually trounced by atheists in debates and arguments.  The only way we can win some ground is to go into sophistry in a convoluted philosophical argument and question everything right down to the reliability of our senses, truth, etc but any atheist can see the weakness of such an argument.  If accepted, such a ludicrous argument will negate the need for a debate in the first place which of course suits us fine because the only way to stop getting thrashed in a debate is not to debate and what better escape route there is for us than to remove all the goal posts and declare that everything is unreliable and we can't have a debate in the first place?

Given the lack of respectable justification for us to have faith, it is therefore not surprising when we see instances of Christians telling lies for God.  I have been guilty of that myself.  I think I wrote an account of it a couple of years ago in this blog.  The fruit of that lie was I made it easier for three persons to accept the Christian faith.

[EDIT: Yes, I did write a confession of having told lies for God two years ago, or on 21 May 2010, to be precise.  Here's the link:   My confession ]

But as I grow older, I know that lying for God is the last thing we should do.  Honesty means everything to me and our Lord makes it plain in St John's Gospel that those who tell lies have Satan for their father.

Before I end this post, I should stress that the many Christians who share this video and other similar but equally false stories of Einstein and his professor are probably not dishonest.  Most Christians believe their faith to be 100% correct and flawless.  They find it perplexing why an intelligent brain like Einstein's would reject the gospel.  They are told from a very young age that clever people are usually proud and pride stands in the way between them and the Gospel of salvation.  And they believe that to this day.

The real liars are probably the makers of the film.  I find it hard to believe that anyone would make a film without first finding out more about the subject matter of the film.  If they knew the story to be a lie and they went on to produce the film, they would be guilty of dishonesty.

Knowing now that the video is a lie, would we continue to disseminate it, perpetuating a lie and upholding that very embarrassing tradition of telling lies for God?  Bear in mind that telling lies for God is not the straight and narrow path that our Lord urges us to take.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Dalai Lama in Hawaii

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama jokes with members of the voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a crew following the Earth Blessing and Consecration of the Hōkūle‘a and its upcoming World Wide Voyage at Kualoa Regional Park on Oahu, Hawaii, on April 16, 2012. Photo/Eyes of the Island Photography"

I thought I should post this piece of news from the Dalai Lama himself on my blog.  The above is entirely copied from the Dalai Lama.  I wish to assure my readers that I'm not a fanatical Christian who will not post anything about other faiths and religions. 

What's in a name?

What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.

So wrote the Bard but is that true?  Would you buy this?

If you click on the photograph and choose to view the full pic, you will see the fine print at the bottom: "Purify pores and leave skin dull-looking".

Everyone knows what a rose smells like but nobody knows how this product is going to work on our skin.  And if, true to its promise, it leaves the skin dull-looking, not even its name which cleverly conjures up in the mind an image of Yeatsian serenity is likely to tempt anyone to buy it.

Language does matter.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The person an orchestra can do without!!

The most dispensable person in the orchestra is the one you can replace with a dummy!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

BJ - it puts back whatever weight you might have lost

I thought that since I had had a heavy prata breakfast, a light fruit lunch would be good.  After all, a friend of mine recently posted "before" and "after" pics of himself and he lost a lot of weight after he went on a fruit diet.  But his was a genuine fruit diet and not a fruit diet after a heavy prata breakfast.  But still, you can't go wrong on a fruit diet or so I thought and I promptly got myself two mangoes.  If there is one fruit I don't mind binging on, it's the mango.

As we all know, life is more complex than this.  I felt hungry after my lunch of mangoes.  My friend who went on a total fruit diet must have felt much worse.  But I'm not him.  I'm a practical kind of guy and I'm not one of those martyrs who are into self-immolation or who can, at the drop of a hat, go on hunger strikes just for a cause.  No cause can possibly justify self-harm.

And of course BJ's strawberry cheesecake beckoned.  I yielded.

This evening, I had learnt my lesson.  A fruit diet is for fruit bats and monkeys.  I had a huge chicken bryani dinner and I felt good about it.

I wander through each chartered street

If you happen to walk past this stationary car (see photo on the left) and look over it, you'll probably just see the back alley of a shabby row of shops in a nondescript part of town.  You wouldn't stop to take a closer look.  You most certainly wouldn't bother to take a pic.  If you had seen me pausing to take a pic, you'd probably think I was a little out of my mind.  You would walk on hurriedly, eager to be in a better and cleaner part of town.

Ah!  But you see, the Hercule Poirot in me immediately spotted what the untrained eye is unable to pick up.  Let me blow the photo up for you:

Face deliberately blotted off

Earlier, this man was asleep on the pavement.  Is he another one of the very few homeless people in Singapore.  I had thought for a long time that Singapore was the only country in the world that had no homeless people. That view of mine was slowly shattered.  Read the following posts and trace how the scales slowly fell from my eyes:

1.  First post
2.  Second post
3.  Third post

And now this.  But let's not be too hasty and jump to a conclusion without more facts.  This man may not be truly homeless but it's hard to imagine why anybody would want to lie down on this filthy pavement if he weren't homeless.  It's still amazing that Singapore is the only country in the world where you have to search really hard to find even one homeless person and when you've found him, you aren't even sure if he really is homeless.  In all the other countries in the West, homeless people are a common sight.  Singapore may be near perfection but obviously, there's still some work for the social workers to do.

Investigative blogging - social issues

Just as responsible newspapers have their investigative journalism, I too have devoted some of my blog space to investigative blogging.  My blog has lately given some attention to matters of great social interest such as homeless and destitute people and I have become alert to people around me who might be in serious want.

I'll be posting pics and accounts of such social issues and it's my ardent wish that disseminating such information far and wide will result in some change for the better.  These posts will all be tagged "Social issues" on this blog.

Journey with me into a different world, a world most of you have only read about in novels.

Don't pay for your drinks!

Lee Kuan Yew, in his wisdom, abolished Chinese schools in Singapore a long time ago and turned Nanyang University which was then a Chinese university into the NTU of today where English is the primary medium of instruction.  He quite rightly reasoned that English, the world's common language, would be of greater benefit to the people of Singapore than that silly Northern Chinese dialect which is not even the language of Singaporeans.  People of Chinese descent form the majority of Singaporeans but all these Chinese people had ancestors who came from South China where Mandarin was considered a foreign tongue until that unfortunate day when the Commies took over China and forced this Northern dialect on every China citizen.

Although Singapore has 4 official languages, English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, English is the ONLY real official language.  Road signs are in English and official letters from the Government are all in English.  English is the language of the courts and this can sometimes be amusing.  It's not uncommon for the courts to scramble for a Hokkien interpreter because a witness can only speak Hokkien even though counsel for both sides and the judge all understand Hokkien perfectly.  It can be hilarious when the interpreter makes a mistake in the translation and the judge has to ask him to translate again, this time, more carefully because everyone in the courtroom knows what the witness is saying in Hokkien.  But the courts can only record evidence in English.  Given the primacy of English in Singapore, one would naturally assume that Singaporeans should speak and write it like native users of the language.  But the reality is quite different.

My pet peeve, as readers of my blog are no doubt aware, is the national newspaper, the Straits Times.  On many occasions, instead of being the champion of good English, its journalists have flagrantly flouted every imaginable grammar rule.  Sometimes, they use the strangest unidiomatic expressions and they stray as far as they can from standard English.  Lately, news readers who can't even manage a decent pronunciation appear on the air and online.

It is not surprising then that after my prata breakfast in Little India this morning, I found this sign in a supermarket that is sure to confuse anyone.  But since I have talked about my prata breakfast, it would be wrong of me not to post at least a pic of the most delicious prata in the whole of Singapore.  I have travelled far and wide and this prata is the tastiest I have ever eaten but alas, it's sold in a rather inelegant eatery and the food is not attractively presented and so, this pic of the prata soaked in curry won't do justice to its real taste which is heavenly.  But I don't care about externals.  As they say, the proof of the prata is in the eating.

The sign in the supermarket was placed where the alcoholic beverages were and it read "FIRST PAYMENT AFTER DRINKING".   My first thought was this was an instalment scheme to lure customers to drink first and pay later.  You must understand that this supermarket is not exactly in the more elegant part of town and there may very well be customers who are attracted by such an offer.

There was another sign in Malay:

"Pembayaran pertama selepas minum".  It means precisely the same thing as the English sign.  You need only make the first payment (not even the full payment) after you have drunk the alcohol.

There was another sign in Tamil which I couldn't read.  Finally, there was this notice which again was very badly written but at least the meaning is now clear.

All this confusion could have been avoided if the supermarket had merely posted a sign that said "PAY BEFORE DRINKING" and in Malay, "BAYAR SEBELUM MINUM".

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Different Kettle of Fish

Not all fish are the same.  This chart tells you what fish to eat and what to avoid.

This chart is taken from the Washington Post and I think it will benefit all my readers.  But if Washington Post is unhappy with the posting of this most valuable data, I'll remove it immediately.  It's really their property but it's too good not to spread round.

The Problem of Evil

I'm always curious to see how religious people rationalise or explain away the problem of evil or suffering.  Plantinga's "free will defence" does not help and it's easy to show what a whole lot of rubbish that is especially when it's used to defend the Christian God who is supposed to be all-compassionate but we'll leave this for another post.  I just listened to a talk by Ravi Zacharias and I want to deal with his arguments.  He begins by taking issue with the way non-believers bring up this problem of evil as a means of tripping up the Christian.

What did Ravi do?  Did he offer a solution to the problem of evil and explain how an omnipotent and all-compassionate God could sit by as untold sufferings occur every minute of the day?  I've seen how apologists and philosophers try to wrangle God's way out of this mess but nothing has worked.   Naturally, I was curious to see if Ravi could do what no Christian thinker has been able to do satisfactorily in the past 2000 years.

Ravi did not address the problem at all.  Instead, he tries to say that an atheist is not in the position to talk about evil because for there to be evil, there must be a moral law.  If there is a moral law, there must be a moral law giver.  Ergo, God.

For centuries, mankind has sought to look for some evidence for God's existence and since God is spirit and any material evidence of him is elusive (in other words, there is zilch evidence for God's existence notwithstanding the fact that he supposedly intervenes in human affairs in a big way), some have attempted instead to discover the God equation, some equation to determine the existence of God.  Unwin's equation, for example, "shows" that there is a 67% chance for God to exist.  Not bad for an entity for which there is zero evidence.

Of course these desperate attempts to defend God can at best be looked on as no more than a joke.  I don't know of a single rational, sane person who accepts the equation as proof that God probably exists.

As Ravi continues to talk, his voice gets increasingly triumphant but the victory in his tone cannot make up for the emptiness of his argument.  Like all the arguments of apologists, his is flawed and filled with presumptions.  It's reminiscent of the above God equation or any other equations in which some complex figures and symbols are placed in a mathematical formula and the conclusion that follows this abstruse equation is that of course God exists.

Let's examine Ravi's argument.  Is there evil?  Of course there is evil.  The Holocaust was evil just as the Rape of Nanking by Japan (which incidentally remains defiantly unrepentant to this day) an act of extreme evil.  If God did cause two she-bears to tear up 42 boys for merely teasing Prophet Elisha for being bald, that massacre of children too is an act of evil.   It matters not who it is who is standing in the dock.  The act is evil and the perpetrator is evil, let's make no mistake about that.

Is there then a moral law?  That's what Ravi would ask and I've seen him in countless videos shutting his eyes and trying hard to look intelligent as he asks this question, believing that this question, his trump card, will vanquish his opponents.

You can call it a sense of morality, an idea of right and wrong or if Ravi likes it all that much, it's all right, we'll call it a moral law.  I can almost see Ravi leap in triumph.  "If there is a moral law, there must be a moral law giver", is what he will say solemnly.

Now, there is something I have observed about apologists.  When they say something stupid, they usually do it with a stern, authoritative voice.  "If there is a moral law, there MUST BE a moral law giver".  And don't you dare question that.  No, they don't expect a humble "Amen, Lord have mercy" from you godless atheists but they hope that you will at least be bound by some rules of courtesy and you won't question the statement.

When an apologist does that, the right approach is to fight back and be equally belligerent.  Do not accept his statements as if they are fact even if they raise their voices and sound pugnacious.  Growl back, "Why must there be?  Your Holy Book says so?"

That's precisely it.  Why on earth must there be a law giver just because there is a law?  Here is where Ravi Zacharias displays a child's level of thinking.  Only children insist that everything must have a maker.  If a child sees a watch on the table, he'll usually ask, "Who made it?"  His father will probably reply, "The watchmaker".  If he sees a tree, he will ask the same question, "Who made the tree?".  If his father responds with the question "Why do you assume that a tree must have a maker?" the child will no doubt reply, "Since a watch has a maker, so must the tree."  His father may explain that the watch is a manufactured object and naturally such an object is made or manufactured by someone else.  A tree is not a manufactured object so to draw a parallel between a tree and a watch is incorrect.  Now, Ravi and the child obviously cannot grapple with this concept.  They both will go away thinking still that since the watch has a maker, so must a tree.  You may find this amusing but let me assure you that very many people think in that way.

A law does not necessitate a law maker.  It's illogical to suggest that it does.  In science, a law is a statement of fact deduced from observation.  Newton's laws are examples.  

Ravi may be employing another trick that apologists are famous for - confusing the opponent.  Ravi is injecting ambiguity into the word "law" so that you think of the law of the land which, as we all know, is man-made and naturally has to have a maker.  Ravi wants us to think of a king giving his law (like Hammurabi and his famous Code of Laws) or a Parliament enacting a law.  It's easy to jump from that to God.  But that's not the same kind of law as Newton's law or a moral law, although the same word is used.  One is clearly man-made and has a maker while the other is entirely different and to impute a maker to it is like a child insisting that since a watch has a maker so must a tree.

So, the answer to Ravi is "No, a moral law need not have a giver.  The law of the land needs a maker (eg Parliament) but that's a different kind of law from a moral law even though the same word is used".

Why then is there morality?  Here again is one big problem the apologist has.  He questions everything in the hope of finding one question that yields no answer and he jumps on it and declares that God is the answer.  Our ancestors used to employ the same trick with the lightning at a time when nobody knew how it came about.  It had to be from God.  Today, we've moved on from the lightning to other aspects of the universe where there are still no answers and we plant God there.  I recall reading somewhere the proposition that dark matter was evidence for God!

Every communal animal will exhibit some sense of moral code.  To survive, communal animals can't be too selfish.  If it's too selfish, other animals may shun it totally and in times of famine, it will probably have a smaller chance of survival.  At the same time, an animal can't afford to be too altruistic and go about its way giving its food to others or it too will not stand much chance of survival in this harsh world that it lives in.  A balance is usually struck with the selfish animal showing altruism when it has plenty.  Instances of altruism in the chimpanzee, our closest cousin, have been documented.  We can have all this without having to assume that there is some cosmic law giver dishing out a consistent moral law.

Here is yet another huge flaw in Ravi's argument.  He assumes that the moral law is consistent and unchanging.  He makes fun of the assertion that our morality comes from our humanity.  He says that in some tribes, you love someone by eating him up.  He draws the conclusion that humanity is incapable of coming up with a consistent immutable law of morality.   That leaves only the cosmic law giver of course.

Again, Ravi's argument is totally misconceived.   Morality or moral law is never immutable and consistent.  It changes from time to time and from culture to culture.  It's the same everywhere, even in religion.  In other words, even God's morality changes with time and culture.  I'll give examples from my own religion, Christianity.

We read in the Bible the story of a man who was caught one Sabbath evening collecting firewood.  The people brought him to God for his punishment.  God the law-giver had earlier given the law that everyone had to rest on the Sabbath day.  This chap had transgressed the law and so what ought to be done?

The Bible tells us that God told the people to take him out of town and stone him to death.  As God put it in his admirable, no-nonsense, cocksure way, "Surely he must be put to death".  God has made his law very clear.  No flouting it and if you do, you die a cruel and excruciating death - by stoning.

We read in the Gospels how the Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of transgressing the Sabbath laws.  What was Jesus' reply?  Did he say, "Oh blimey!  I should have known better.  Now take me out of town and stone me to death"?  Or did he try to defend himself that he had not offended Sabbath day laws?  This is the explanation given by most scholars who take great pains to show that Jesus NEVER broke any Old Testament law.  [Explanatory note to non-Christians: we need to show that Jesus never broke any biblical law because he's got to be sinless and that's the only way he can effectively be the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world.]  But let's forget what scholars say.  After all, it's obvious they have their own agenda.  Let's see what Jesus himself said.  Jesus gave examples of how King David in the Old Testament broke some religious laws and implied that since David did it, so could he.  But I don't want to get into a debate on this point with Christians because this part isn't important.  What's important and indisputable is the fact that Christ himself after giving his example of King David concluded that:

"The Sabbath was made for men and not men for the Sabbath."

Made for men?  Why didn't you say so when that poor man was caught picking up wood on a Sabbath evening?  Why did you (or your Father who is also you because the two of you are one with the Holy Spirit) not say precisely this statement and spare his life?

The answer is clear.  Even God's moral law changes from time to time.  I can give many more examples from slavery (which by the way remained the same throughout Scriptures but the Church in very recent times ordered the change and God presumably agreed), sexism, infanticide, genocide, etc but this blog entry is already way too long so I'll talk about the rest another day.

Before I end, I should add something about myself.  I keep getting emails and messages about me being an atheist and I want to put an end to this misconception.  I am a devout Christian who (if I may say as humbly as possible) is far more pious than most parishioners.  I take a deep interest in my faith and read up extensively about it while most parishioners are only interested in the lust of the world (if I may borrow this colourful expression from the good book).  I have also served the church in various capacities since my earliest days whereas you'd be lucky if a tenth of parishioners attend church once a month and we're not even talking about actually serving the church regularly.  Although I am a devout Christian, I also believe in the importance of truth and honesty.  I'll be happy if there is evidence for God's existence or if there is a cogent logical argument for God and I don't mean the philosophical sophistry that some apologists and philosophers employ.  I would be overjoyed to see a good chunky solid piece of evidence but as matters stand, there isn't even the tiniest sliver of evidence for God's existence.  But what I take strong objection to is the lies that some of my fellow Christians come up with to defend God.  Many don't tell lies but they rely on seriously flawed arguments and I sometimes wonder if they are aware of these flaws and if they are, they are guilty of dishonesty.  If they aren't aware of the obvious flaws, they're just stupid but not dishonest.  

I want to play fair.  If we have no logical argument for God and zero evidence for his existence, we have to own up.  We can't cook up evidence or give misleading arguments.  The Bible tells us that "God is truth".  To tell lies for God must surely be the height of blasphemy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All in one day

Before the sun rises, let me take you on a journey round Singapore.  Our first stop is Marina Bay Sands where idiots gamble away their money.  Gamblers either hate money and can't think of a better way to get rid of it or they really can't come to grips with the law of probability.

Here's a pic taken before dawn.
Broad is the road that leads to ... the casino.

Next stop is where there's a large satellite dish on the rooftop:

What follows next is a hearty breakfast.
This is one of the commonest breakfast items in Singapore.  Yew char kway or yew tiao may still be common in China and it used to be the main breakfast food here a long time ago, but no longer.

Next stop is where lots of people are going to within the next few weeks for the medical check-up preceding the compulsory military enlistment called National Service.

That's as far as the photos go.  Cameras and phone cameras are not allowed within the facilities.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why the popularity?

I got up at 6 when the alarm in my phone sounded and although I had roused myself from sleep, I didn't really get ready as I should have.  Instead, I was engrossed in my own reading until time was running out.  I got dressed, rushed to the car and sped off.  The roads were deserted and it took me only ten minutes to get to church.  I expected to be able to park my car by the road just next to the church but the entire stretch of the road was lined with cars even in parts where it was illegal to park.  I had to park right on the hilltop where there were still a few places left.  Carrying my instrument in one arm and my jacket in another, I rushed down the hill.  I could hear the loud singing of a multitude of people.  They were singing a familiar Easter hymn for it was Easter (this happened just two days ago) and I was to join the rest in my group at 7am for a quick rehearsal.  As I was going down the hill, a strange sight greeted me.

The rooftop of one part of the church was filled with people.  It then dawned on me that these must be parishioners who had gone for the 6am sunrise service.  If there were already so many people at the 6am service, what was I doing playing at the other two morning services?  Would there be anybody attending since most of them would have gone for the 6am service?  As it turned out for both the subsequent services, the church was filled to the brim and even the courtyards outside the church were packed with worshippers.

Why are churches in Asia and Africa attracting so many people when elsewhere in the world, churches have been turned into concert halls and tourist sites?  Last November, I attended services in Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral and on other occasions, I have been to churches in various parts of Europe and if there's one word to describe church attendance in most of Europe, it's dismal.  In Salisbury Cathedral, there were only a handful of worshippers and they were all very old and I was possibly the only one there who didn't need a walking stick.  I was seated next to an old grandmother whose grandson was singing in the choir and she told me that once her generation had passed on, there'd be nobody left to attend church.  There were more choristers than parishioners in that cathedral.

I know for a fact that people in China are dying to embrace the Christian faith.  I say this with confidence because a missionary in China I know confirmed this.  But China is a strange country and is not representative of the rest of Asia.  As I understand it, people in China associate Christianity with the West, particularly the US and anything American is good enough for them.  Christian converts run into the millions but it's highly questionable if they are "true" believers - so says this missionary I corresponded with.  He has this niggling suspicion that if all Americans turned Mormon overnight, the people in China would do the same.

China has been through almost a century of Communism and the Chinese are now mainly atheistic.  Adopting Christianity is no different to them from putting on Western clothes.  Christianity is high fashion and the trendsetter is the US.  The rest of Asia (and I would surmise, Africa too) is quite different.  People in Asia are generally superstitious and they have their own religions and Christianity would be looked upon with some suspicion or at best, a competing religion.

But for some reason that is not entirely clear to me, Christianity appears to fare better than other competing religions.  Christmas is celebrated by everyone and in Singapore, non-Christians celebrate it in a big way too, complete with the Christmas turkey, Christmas tree, presents, the singing of hymns but I think (I'm not sure of this) the average heathen Singaporean would stay away from the prayers.  They tuck into their Christmas turkey without saying grace.

The partiality to Christianity among non-Christians in Singapore can also be seen in the adoption of the names of our saints and other names from the Bible.  I have spoken to a few devout Buddhists and they have no qualms about naming their children after Christian saints but they would stay away from names from the Buddhist sutras.  I do not know of anyone who names his kid "Siddhartha" or "Ananda" although presumably, these names would have a greater meaning to devout Buddhists and Buddhism is the majority religion in Singapore.

It is for this reason that churches are able to propagate the faith without the slightest hitch.  The whole nation is highly receptive or if I may borrow the words of our Lord, the harvest is white.

Is this a good thing?  The sort of Christians we get in such an environment are those who aren't really bothered about the details of the faith.  They aren't interested in the intellectual aspects of Christianity.  There is a parallel with China Christians here.  Whereas China believers may very well have taken on the faith as a trendy fashion, many Asian Christians have merely traded one superstition for another.  Apart from a total lack of interest in the faith, they are also not prepared to read critical works of the Bible or books on textual criticism.  Being deeply superstitious, they are fearful that any form of criticism of their new-found faith will offend the forces within their religion with terrifying consequences.

Christianity as the favoured religion in many countries today seems like a totally different religion from the Christianity of the early persecuted church.  In the early days of Christianity, non-believers stayed away from anything Christian also because it was a despised religion.  Only those with deep convictions remained in the faith.

Ask any believer what makes him or her think that the Bible is the word of God, or worse, for the fundamentalists, that it is the inerrant word of God.  I have not found a single person who can give a satisfactory answer.  But you have to exercise caution.  Merely asking such a question is offensive to some people, particularly if they know you are a Christian too.  There is an unwritten code that fellow Christians are obliged to conceal the weaknesses and all the glaring errors of our faith, a code which I reject as dishonest and un-Christian.

That all religions are fraught with errors and untruths is a statement of fact.  Anybody who is honest enough and knowledgeable enough is sure to admit to serious irreconcilable problems within his own faith.  99% of believers are in the dark about these problems.  But surely there must be at least 1% of believers in all the different religions who are aware of the problems with faith?  These are not minor problems.  They have the potential to challenge the truth of religious claims and expose the falsehood in religion.

How does this 1% react?  Many of them are religious scholars and that's not surprising since we are dealing with the intellectual part of the faith and not the mumbo-jumbo feel-good emotional aspects.  Some, like Bart Ehrman, have left the faith.  But he didn't immediately leave the church.  He stayed on for 10 years as a pastor before leaving it.  He's now a renowned Bible scholar.  He writes books to tell the lay person what he styles as things that all scholars already know but have kept the laity in the dark.

Some just go on with their lives and religion without any fuss.  There are many people who can live with the fact that their holy books contain not just errors but deliberate lies as well.  I can't speak for other holy books but I know for a fact that it is certainly the case with the Bible.  It contains errors and deliberate lies.  The lies usually take the shape of cooked up stories by the Bible writers (principally the Evangelists) and they do that because they felt it was needful to convince their readers that Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

I should add that I do not make a claim unadvisedly and I'm able to defend every word I've said about the Bible with clear evidence.  That I can incontrovertibly prove these things about the Bible is not an issue.  The real question is this - what should our reaction be to all this?  Do we leave our childhood religion and declare ourselves atheists?  I must confess I did exactly that in my younger days.  Or do we look at religion in the context of its history and culture and see what good to humanity Christianity can do?  Even the most hardened sceptic must admit that there is a lot of good that the church has done.  No other organisation on this planet can hold a candle to the great charitable works of the church, the orphanages, hospitals, hospices, old folks' homes and countless other homes and charitable institutions it runs.  It's a huge sacrifice to the church and a thankless service too but the church continues to do it not for earthly rewards or recognition but as an expression of Christ's love for the world.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Second Easter Service

Now that I'm in the midst of the second sermon, I have time to say a few things about the evolution of faith. This verse from Heb 6 that Melvin is talking about has been variously interpreted over the centuries, just as the very nature of God has undergone tremendous changes, from the firm unity of the sheema to the trinity. Even our great Christian thinker Origen became posthumously a heretic for writing that Jesus was the first creation of the Father. Come on, those who are familiar with the Pauline Corpus would no doubt say; didn't St Paul write that Jesus was the firstborn of all creation? How can the firstborn of all creation not be a creation? That would do violence to the verse. But you see. After Origen's time, the church developed further the concept of the Trinity and Jesus became co-eternal with the Father. So St Paul's verse must be reinterpreted. Now, we don't bat an eyelid when we hear that the firstborn of all creation is not a creation. Poor Origen. He didn't have the benefit of our indoctrination.

I'm now getting arthritis of the fingers from typing on my phone. It's time to listen to the rest of the sermon a second time. Cheerio!

Sent from my iPhone

My record shows that the above was sent at 12:14pm when I was still in church.  Blogger, like most blog hosting sites, allows for email entries to be made which is of course quite cool.  I thought I should just add something that I noted in both services.  Melvin, in his prayer at both services, asked us all to think of someone who is on the verge of leaving the faith.  I felt a little uneasy because naturally, I thought that there were those who would be thinking of me.  I wish to make it absolutely clear that I'm not the one anyone should pray for.  I have no intention of leaving my childhood faith.  If anything, I'm probably one of the most pious parishioners in the entire church.

As the famous hymn goes, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love" applies to ALL of us including me.  We who take a deep interest in the faith of course will have the tendency to stray from the faith and why?  True biblical scholarship shows up the flaws in the faith.  But that's not synonymous with LEAVING the faith.  I may know the faith is full of logical flaws.  I may know the existence of God and other supernatural entities cannot be supported by even the smallest shred of evidence.  I may know how unreliable the Bible is and I can debate with the best apologist and cut him down to size.  But leaving the faith is not on the cards.

A person whose faith is untouched by doubts is a person who takes no interest in his religion.  He does not read up about his faith and frankly, he doesn't care two straws about these things.  He's more interested in other things (it's usually money) and if he reads a book, it'd probably be something on investments.  He looks upon his faith as a supporting pillar for his wealth-making and that's all Christianity means to him.  Is such a person more faithful than someone who takes a deep interest in his faith and discovers it can't stand logically?

So, folks, when you are about to say your prayers, please save your breath.  I'm very grateful to you but I'm firmly secure in the Father's hand, as the saying goes.  Neither blah blah blah nor blah blah blah can separate me from the love of God through Christ Jesus, as the verse goes but I've forgotten the exact words and I'm too lazy to look up the good book.

First Easter Service

Melvin is dealing with that vexed verse in Hebrews that I intend to dwell on when I have the time. This has a lot to do with the choice between Hebrews and the Shepherd of Hermas and as we know, the former succeeded. More of this later. I'm in the middle of the sermon now. I'm playing at both services so I'll get to hear this same sermon again later this morning.
Sent from my iPhone

Happy Easter

The Lord is risen!

And so am I from a slumber that regretfully could not be prolonged.  We are to meet at 7am for a quick rehearsal.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

So, it's true after all.

This is upsetting news.  The guy I spoke about previously is indeed homeless.  I was near the Esplanade on a different day and a different time and I took this pic.

It's such an obscene picture with the opulence of the Marina Bay Sands in the background and a homeless man sleeping on a bench.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A BJ fan discovers new flavours

I used to be pretty certain that I had eaten every flavour that Ben & Jerry's have come up with but for some months, I stopped buying BJ ice-cream in the hope that my cholesterol could be lowered.  I was in the supermarket this morning when I discovered two flavours I hadn't tried before.  I immediately bought them (there are more important things in life than one's cholesterol reading) and I had both of them one after the other:

"Everything but the..." really has a little of everything.  The chocolate is scrumptious and I could taste a bit of caramel fudge, chunks of chocolates, peanut butter, etc.  It's pretty good but I thought the gooey marshmallows and the fish-shaped chocolate chunks in Phish Food were a trifle more exciting.  The chocolate flavour tends to predominate over all the other flavours and that makes it hard to isolate the different flavours.   All in all, it's very good and has a little of everything.

Clusterfluff is really good.  It's like Peanut Butter Cup but I detected traces of Cake Batter and I thought there was a hint of Strawberry Cheescake and of course, it's no surprise that there's a lot of Chubby Hubby in it too.  This is good stuff.  It's more peanut butter with the delicious batter of Cake Batter.

A few years ago, when Cake Batter took the ice-cream world by storm, I remember eating dozens of tubs of it because it was so delicious and novel.  I don't think "Everything but the..." is that revolutionary but it's really quite good still.

It's awfully hard to write a review of BJ ice-cream because all the flavours are truly good.  I catch myself saying - this flavour reminds me of that other flavour of BJ which is good but then this is good too!  What help is that to the reader???

There's really only one piece of advice that I should give my readers - if you haven't eaten most of BJ flavours, you don't know what ice-cream is like.  Keep eating one flavour after another and really, it's not such a tough job to do!

Homeless in Singapore?

I find this sight very unsettling.  I felt I just had to take a pic so I can talk about it and find out more about the real situation in Singapore.

As I understand it, there are no homeless people in Singapore.  That's what makes Singapore such a wonderful country - everyone is taken care of.  The West can make a din about human rights but if they can't even give a home to their homeless, it's all empty talk; true human rights must include a home for every human being.

There is no problem of homelessness in Singapore.  Vagrancy is an offence and in any event, homeless people are sure to be housed in some home by the Social Services Department.

Why then are there people who seem homeless?  Granted it's not a common sight unlike in other cities where you know for a fact homelessness is a real problem and homeless people are not such a rarity that anyone would bother to take a pic of but if there are even a few homeless people, this problem should be addressed.  Singapore should maintain its squeaky clean slate of being possibly the only country in the world that has no homeless people.

Crime in low-crime Singapore

This pic was taken at 9:07 this morning.  I'll leave it to your imagination what could possibly have happened.  There were shards and fragments of green-tinted glass strewn all over the road just below the smashed windscreen.

This is a reminder to all of us not to leave our belongings in the car.  It's so easy for the thief to smash the windscreen to steal whatever is left in the car.

Singapore at dawn

The city that sleeps at decent hours.

You can see how quiet the roads are:

God died today

Good Friday has always been a solemn and sad day for me.  I'm not exactly a religious person and those who know me well will know that I've since my early teens always been courting atheism on the one hand and my own religion on the other.  There were distinct periods in my life when I became an atheist.  My religion usually succeeds in the end but as far as my head goes, atheism is of course much more appealing.  It's logical, rational and (dare I say it?) true.  In my mind, I have always created a separate category of truth which I call "supernatural truth" that is quite different from real truth.  This has helped me to keep my faith.

But Good Friday has always meant a lot to me, particularly in my younger days.  Singaporeans can be quite rude and I've been greeted "Happy Good Friday" but on each occasion, there was never any intention to be facetious on the part of the person greeting.  A person's intention is all that matters to me and so I always took the greeting well.  Malaysians treat religion more seriously and they won't talk about a religion they are not familiar with.  One reason why Singaporeans greet others on this day has a lot to do with the fact that it's a public holiday in Singapore and they naturally expect public holidays to be days of wild celebration.

But I was not that tolerant with a hotel which sent out its flyers advertising its spread of "Good Friday buffet".  "Come celebrate" it says.  I called up the Food and Beverage Manager to give him a piece of my mind.  That was before the advent of digital cameras or I would most certainly have taken a pic and posted it here.

For a long time, Good Friday was a day of fasting for me.  I would attend the Service of the Seven Words which stretched from 12 noon (the hour when the sky turned black) to 3pm (the moment when our Lord died).  Those who are not Christians may not know this but there are essentially seven separate services in this marathon church service, complete with seven different sermons!  I used to think rather irreverently (although I have never really said it) that I wasn't sure which was worse - to be on the cross or in the church on Good Friday.

As in any church on Good Friday, the altar in my old parish church was stripped bare and the cross was draped with an old piece of rough cloth (unlike the expensive-looking satin used in my current church, very much to my annoyance).  The sombre mood was further increased in my old parish church by the attendance of an old Indian lady who always appeared on her own, dressed in a sari of solemn colour and she would always sit not far from us.  She would weep quietly throughout the service and from time to time, she would mutter something inaudible.  Once, she happened to sit next to me and this time, curious as to what it was she would be saying, I made a special effort to listen to her.

The moment she uttered a single syllable, I was fully ready and my eager ears picked up the words.  "GOD DIED TODAY" was what she said.  For a moment, I almost wanted to tell her, "It happened 2000 years ago, for crying out loud!"  But then I reflected, if God truly did die even if it was 2000 years ago, wouldn't that deserve much more than the mere weeping of bitter tears?

Of course the story doesn't just end with the death of God.  Christ rose again on Easter morning in triumph.  As I write this, I realise I am doing precisely what ancient scribes used to do.  We, Christians, always try to ensure that every talk of Good Friday does not end in despair.  St Mark's Gospel originally ended in despair but scholars tell us that scribes added the subsequent verses to keep up the buoyant and positive spirits of early Christians.  But the scribes went too far and added ridiculous verses about how Christians could drink poison and handle venomous snakes unharmed.  To this day, there are cults that attempt to "live up to their faith in the word of God" and die because they take seriously the embellishments of these ancient scribes.

As I talk of our Lord's death and his subsequent victory over the tomb, my head keeps reminding me that it didn't happen the way it was recorded in the Holy Gospels.  Quite apart from transmission problems and scribal corruptions, there is enough evidence to show us that the Gospels, to put it mildly, got it wrong and they contradict one another like crazy so at the very least, however pious one hopes to be, the 4 Gospels can't all be right.  If they get it wrong in such an important, pivotal part of the faith such as the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, how reliable can they be in telling us other aspects of the faith?

In matters of faith, it's always useful to listen to one's heart and ignore one's head.  My heart somehow repeats, in line with my head, the final word of our Lord before he died, the Seventh Word:


As we observe the Passion and Death of our Lord and consider the finished work on the cross, let us remember the unfinished work that's left on earth - the poor, the sick and the oppressed.   

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Waterfalls of yesterday

There were some pretty waterfalls in Singapore but you had to search hard for them.  But they now belong to the past.  Like many things in Singapore, they were demolished to create space for new buildings.

Here's another one that was torn down to make way for development:

Can you guess where these waterfalls used to be?  I believe they were so obscure that most Singaporeans aren't able to give the right answer today.  What's more; I may very well be the ONLY person who has these photos!!!  There may be fame or profit in "camwhoring" after all!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Look, I baked this!

I did everything, right down to putting it in the oven and taking it out.  The pie is longish and I cut it to show the fillings.

A matter of angle

It's really just a matter of the angle a photograph is taken.  Look at this pic:

It looks just like a kampong in Malaysia or Indonesia.  But just scroll down to two days ago and you will see a pic taken from the same location but from a different angle and you will see it's not that kampong-like.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Milk and Honey and All Things Nice

I have been asked many times on Facebook what milk I would recommend.  There used to be a time when Vishnu, a local milk producer, produced the best milk in the country.  But lately, Vishnu milk seems to lack milk fat and it tastes bland.  This milk (see pic below) is now the most reliable; it's always consistently good.  I pick the low-fat variety for health reasons and if you think low fat milk isn't your cup of tea, you are wrong.  It tastes better than Sainsbury's and Tesco's semi-skimmed milk (same percentage of fat) and I'm willing to swear that it's a lot better than the milk I've drunk fresh from Jersey cows.  This is the real thing and it's widely available.  Avoid their UHT version which isn't very good.