Understanding differences

Whenever we say A and B are different, there is always a basis of common ground that underlies this difference.

For instance, when we say cat is different from dog, we are very likely making a differentiation based on the common ground of ‘animal’. As in cats and dogs are animals, but different animals.

Similarly, if we go into details like the cat’s claws are retractable while the dog’s claws are not, such a differentiation is made based on the common ground of ‘claws’.

But when we say an apple is different from Friday, we probably struggle to understand the difference. The struggle to understand happens because the common ground on which the difference is based on is not clarified. And because we can’t find the ground under which the differences stand on, we struggle to understand.

Understanding occurs only when the common ground is clarified.

Without understanding, without clarification of the common ground, differentiation does not take place. Instead there is only discrimination that’s based on ignorance.

Do you differentiate, or are you discriminating?

The love virus that will save us all

Inspired by that wish of world peace often proclaimed by beauties during beauty pageants, Chintokkong set about creating a secret laboratory in 2012 with a group of beautiful friends.

After several years of hard work, the team succeeded in mutating HIV into a virus that can deactivate the ego’s defensive mechanism.

Dubbed the ‘love virus’ by social media, infected individuals lose the separate sense of self and acquire the infinite ability to love everyone and everything.

“It is like awakening or enlightenment,” Professor Benjamin Khoon told us. “It allows a person to continue loving even in starvation or exhaustion.”

Professor Benjamin Khoon, whose name in Hokkien means “no need to eat, no need to sleep” has been working non-stop on the project. He shared that the current strain of ‘love virus’ can only be transmitted physically through smiles but he hoped to make it contagious in the virtual world of internet through text, image and music too.

  • We asked if he’s already been infected. The Professor did not reply, giving us only an enigmatic smile.
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The world’s smallest kingdom

The world’s smallest kingdom is Tavolara Island. Off the northeast coast of Sardinia, Italy, it is a limestone massif 5 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide.

Tonino Bertoleoni is the king there. He also runs the only restaurant on the island.

In the 1800s, Queen Victoria commissioned a British naval vessel to stop by the island so that officers could photograph Tavolara’s “royal family”. The photo was then displayed in Buckingham Palace with the caption “World’s Smallest Kingdom”.

Tavolara has 11 part-time residents and 100 nimble mountain goats. The teeth of the mountain goats are gilded gold – dyed so by the seaweed and lichen they ate. The water around the island is popular for scuba diving.

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What is Country X? (world’s only fully-functioning city-state)

  • It’s referred by The Economist as the “world’s only fully-functioning city-state”.
  • About 5 million people live and work within 700 square kilometres, making it the 2nd most densely-populated country in the world.
  • The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom ranks the country as the second freest economy in the world, and according to Business Insider, it is the 3rd richest country.
  • It ranks 11th globally on the Human Development Index (UN), notably on key measures of education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing.
  • In 2015, Lonely Planet and The New York Times listed the country as their top and 6th best world destination to visit respectively.
  • It is ranked 4th most influential city in the world by Forbes.
  • It is the largest investor in China since 2013.
  • It is also known as Pulau Ujong, as far back as the 3rd century, literally ‘island at the end’.
What is Country X?

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Loo-crative big business: Real shit for real farmers!

The recent farming boom in Singapore has led entrepreneurs to seek new business opportunities in organic fertiliser.

Chintokkong, with a group of equally weak-stomach individuals, recently set up a company producing canned manure. The company is called ‘Chin Eh Sai’ – which means really can (or real shit depending on how you interpret the words).

The factory, located at Maxwell Road within a famous hawker centre, consists only of toilet cubicles. Instead of paying 10-cent, passers-by are paid to use these cubicles.

“Quality is of the utmost concern to us,” a spokesman of the company said, “we only invite and pay beautiful girls and handsome guys for their poo.”

After their success in selling real shit to real farmers in Kranji, the company will soon be venturing into organic perfume business and organic chrysanthemum tea business.

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An Instagram masterpiece that fooled thousands and became an art-world sensation

In April 2014, Amalia Ulman started an Instagram project titled: Excellences and Perfections. For about 5 months, she uploaded a series of images.

The images presented a narrative of a girl moving to the big city, breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, doing drugs, having plastic surgery, then self-destructing, apologising, recovering and finding a new boyfriend.

By 19 September 2014, Ulman had amassed 88,906 followers.

Finally, she posted a black-and-white image of a rose, which she captioned “The End” and revealed the whole thing to be a performance, a work of art, rather than a record of real life.

Now, a year and a half on, several of the 175 photographs that Ulman created for Excellences & Perfections will be shown in two major exhibitions in London: Electronic Superhighway at Whitechapel Gallery and Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern.

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19 Singlish words added to the Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is a historical dictionary that explains the development of words and their meanings. This allows the reader to get a sense of the time period a particular word has been in use.

Work began on the dictionary in 1857, and by 1989 it came to 21,728 pages in 20 volumes containing about 59,000,000 words. As of April 2014, the online version of the dictionary was receiving over two million hits per month.

19 Singlish words were added to the dictionary in the recent March 2016 update. They include words like ang moh (‘a light-skinned person, esp. of Western origin or descent’), shiok (‘cool, great; delicious’), lepak (‘to loiter aimlessly or idly; to loaf, relax, hang out’) and teh tarik (‘sweet tea with milk’).

It is rumoured that chintokkong (‘really superb or powerful’) is one of the Singlish words under consideration for future update.

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Presidential election in Singapore: fusion of democracy with reality TV

The nine members appointed to the Constitutional Commission which reviews Singapore’s Elected Presidency system have submitted a joint proposal on the conduct of the election process to Prime Minister Lee.

The Commission, after a 3-month consultation with members of public, identified one key problem with direct election: Unable to know the true character and capability of candidates, voters are simply voting illusions portrayed by candidates.

“Come on lah, how can commoners like us know how these politicians really are like?” Mai Pian Wah, a resident of Bukit Batok, told us. “All those rallies, social media videos, news reports are like drama performance or novel story lor. Very nice to watch or read, but all just a show lah!”

In the proposal submitted by the Constitutional Commission, it is recommended that the next President of Singapore be elected indirectly:

  • Singaporeans will each nominate a wise and perceptive friend/relative they trust. From this group of nominated wise people a random sample count of 50 would be chosen to represent all Singaporeans.
  • The 50 chosen representatives, together with the Presidential candidates, would then be engaged in a reality TV show like that of ‘Survivor’ on Pulau Tekong. At the end of two weeks, they are to elect the President of their choice.

Polls for the Presidential Election are due to be called by August 2017; Parliament will debate the Commission’s proposal in September 2016. Mediacorp’s discussion with SAF on the possible conduct of such a reality show will end by January 2017.

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A study in Porpentine (mutated mimicry of Skulljhabit)

It was initially a personal project to imitate Skulljhabit, just so I can appreciate Twine and hypertext games better. I was interested especially in game structure, hyperlinking rhythm and choice of words.

So why Skulljhabit? I don’t know. It simply fascinates me – gives me that aching sense of freedom that accompanies loneliness. Like being alone in a hotel room late at night, sitting by the window, watching the foreign city of cars and pedestrians going by below.

I guess at some level, I yearn to be an unnoticed alien. Unknown and unrecognizable to anyone. Thus the liberation to create myself anew. By forgetting the past. Erasing the past. Rewriting the past. Just to attain that elusive peace and quietness.

It’s escapism. And perhaps that’s why I really enjoy Skulljhabit. Digging pointlessly for skulls (even after knowing that coins would be paid regardless of the work I did). Growing my possessions of books and clock and calendar and, of course, fine shovel covered in dirt-luck runes, all inside my little hut.

It’s adventure too. Hyper-leaping across the magical terrain of rocks and ravines and caves and tunnels. There are secrets to find. Sanctuaries to discover. And deaths to seek. Only to wake once again into the same dream of Skulljhabit.

Funny thing is: I never did complete playing Skulljhabit. The furthest I got was censoring books in the library. There’s no judgement required. No justification needed. It’s bleak beautiful brainless work. As compared to the headache I had while trying to write “A Study in Porpentine”.

Structurally I can copy to some extent. But language-wise, it’s an impossibility. Porpentine’s vivid, vigorous and evocative use of words – the musicality, the rhythm, the tone – I struggle to keep up. Sometimes I can replace her sentences word by word by word. Sometimes I have to create my own from scratch. But overall, it was a painfully great learning experience.

Still I can’t say this is my game, even if I’ve typed everything out on my own. In fact I hesitated for quite some time before releasing it in philome.la. I really would love this game to be mine. Because I think it’s good. Still, I don’t know. Maybe I worry too much.

Hopefully one day, without imitating anyone, I can finally write a hypertext story that is totally my own, and it would be so good that someone would also want to imitate it. Haha. For much as I want to be an unnoticed alien, I also want my work to be famous!

Ah, the irony of life.

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Play this game: [A Study in Porpentine]
Play Porpentine’s game: [Skulljhabit]

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Note: Part of this game is also inspired by Yu Qiuyu’s Chinese essay on the recluses of China’s Wei-Jin dynasty (余秋雨 – 遥远的绝响) and the wordless philosophy of zen.

Titbits you might not know about Donald Trump

  • Trump first campaigned for the U.S. presidency in 2000, and withdrew before any votes were cast.
  • In March 2000, the plot of The Simpsons episode “Bart to the Future” included Lisa succeeding Trump as President of the United States of America.
  • When asked in 2015 which recent president was best, Trump picked Democrat Bill Clinton.
  • Trump wrote in 2008 that Hillary Clinton would be a “great president or vice-president.”
  • On June 15, 2009, Vince McMahon announced on WWE Monday Night Raw that he had “sold” the show to Trump. The following week, McMahon “bought back” WWE Raw for twice the price.
  • Trump owned part or all of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants from 1996 until 2015.
  • Trump’s hotel and casino businesses have been declared bankrupt four times between 1991 and 2009; he was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws — they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.
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