looking for baudrillard, boorstin, or eco?

dare to hope for what is good
instead of what is merely good enough.
Dead in sin | Saved by grace | Living in hope | Walking by faith | Surviving on a prayer

+ sola scriptura + sola gratia + solus Christus + sola fide + sola Deo gloria +

lundi, décembre 26, 2011

 Book Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

There's no real reason to review this book for public consumption now, esp since the movie's already been released (featuring Cameron Diaz as the beleaguered mother.) However, the moral dilemma posed is indeed compelling, and it's not surprising that this became one of Picoult's best-known books.

The family's situation is heart-tugging enough without the ensuing drama. Sara and Brian (the dad) have a sick eldest daughter, Kate, and another child, Jesse. With Kate's condition deteriorating, Sara decides to have another child, Anna, in order to harvest her stem cells to help Kate. Kate, of course, continues to deteriorate further, and the medical contributions from Anna grow more invasive. At 13, Anna walks into a lawyer's office and proceeds to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.

The plot revolves around Sara (the mom) and Anna (the daughter), although there are B and C plots involving the dad, son and the lawyer. The story unwinds fairly quickly, and through it all, Picoult manages to make everyone a sympathetic character, to the point where I honestly didn't know who to side with. Every coin has two sides, and every personal story has multiple facets. The ending's either a cop-out or a tearjerker, depending on how cynical you are. Not really a must-read, but more a social capital read.

Libellés : ,

[Book Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult]
Sngs Alumni @ 26.12.11 { 0 comments }

jeudi, décembre 22, 2011

 Facebook timeline and the curation of our selves

With the rollout of Facebook Timeline, we are going to curate our selves more than ever. I'm quite sure that the managing of our public selves - the tweets, the thoughts, the photographs, EVERYTHING - will hit new obsessive heights - not that it hasn't already hovered somewhere around the "self-stalker" territory already. You know the type - someone obsessively checking his/her status to see if they've been "liked" or "commented" on, or tagged in some photo or post or link or note somewhere.

The choice of what to portray as our "public" selves may prove to be a boon to people who value the integrity of keeping the public-private selves as closely related to each other as possible. However, it could also mean the annihilation of the breathing space we need in order to explore different facets of our personality as we grow into our own skins. For who doesn't need some privacy to try a new hobby that radically departs from one's own personality?

I'm someone who knows this more than most, since I seem to keep trying things which people find "out of character" or "not really your personality". Case in point: I went for tap dancing classes for about 6 months in 2004; it was something that I wanted to try, so I found a school in Anchor Point, paid for a couple of terms of lessons, borrowed some shoes, and danced.

Sometime later (just around the time that I had worked off my curiosity for the subject), Matt/Sam told me that they had been walking around AP after dinner and had peeked in on the dance class, only to be super surprised at seeing me in class. "Not really your personality leh," Matt had commented to me. I'm honestly not sure that I would have tried the class as earnestly had he made that comment to me just as I was starting out. I might not even had continued considering it had I been discouraged from the activity beforehand - after all, it's "not my style/personality."

The other thing which continues to astound people is that I like mucking around with household DIY (like grouting toilets and re-upholstering chairs), and I also like fooling around with sewing stuff. I can't imagine experimenting with all this if people impose their impressions of me - I'm no shrinking violet, but the peer (sheer?) pressure would be fairly strong.

With Facebook Timeline, we're going to obsessively curate our "public selves" that other people base their impressions of us on. People will read our FB Timeline, and impose/reinforce that idea of who we are back onto ourselves. The question for us then is - are we ready for the responsibility of defining who we are? And in any case, who are we to censor ourselves? Remember how Jim Carrey's John in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind pleaded for the "scientists" not to delete his memories of Kate Winslet's Clementine. "Not this one, let me keep this one," he begged. We are the sum total of all our parts, experiences, joys, tears and laughter - what will become of our "selves" once we start to purge "unnotable events" from our public Timeline?

Libellés : ,

[Facebook timeline and the curation of our selves]
Sngs Alumni @ 22.12.11 { 0 comments }

mercredi, décembre 21, 2011

 Book Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Yes, I'm on a reading kick at the moment, and yes, I am a fairly fast reader of fiction books - particularly fast if they're fluff. Case in point: I finished all four Twilight books in about 12 hrs. More accurately: I suffered through the poor writing and editing and melodramatic storylines for 12 painful hours.

Ahem. Yes - book reviews. This one's on Picoult's latest novel (released Mar 2011), which is my first Picoult book. I've heard she takes on controversial topics, populates her novels with characters who inevitably wind up in court, and then adds a twist (we call that deux ex machina, dahling) which wraps everything up in a neat bow before the end of the novel.

Sing You Home is about embryo ownership - who owns fertilized eggs held in cold storage after a couple divorces? Protagonists Zoe and Max find out after they divorce, following many painful (and expensive) years of fertility treatments to treat both their fertility issues. After that, Zoe meets and marries Vanessa, and tries to get her eggs out of storage for Vanessa to carry to term. Max, who has since then has become a full-blown born-again right-wing Christian, has religious/moral questions regarding having his child "raised by two dykes." When the fertility clinic requires Max to give permission to release the eggs to Zoe, he opts to fight for them, so that he can give them to his brother and sister-in-law, who are also facing fertility issues.

Enter two hard-talking, media-hungry lawyers, and you have a book. Not a great book, but a readable book, with a court battle, and a life lesson on how sometimes, things just don't work out the way you thought you would. Picoult's presentation of the moral dilemma that all parties find themselves in makes the characters fairly sympathetic, and if you could have predicted how this would have turned out, then you're a better person than I was (I thought the embryos would be left to die, or someone would have accidentally forgot to flip a switch to the refrigerator.) 3 hrs tops, if you're a fast reader.

Libellés : ,

[Book Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult]
Sngs Alumni @ 21.12.11 { 0 comments }

mardi, décembre 20, 2011

 Book Review: Bittersweet Surrender by Diann Hunt

Female business owner (Carly) has weight and body image insecurity, best friend Scott is a guy who helps her out. Sounds formulaic, but Hunt makes it work. Big, life issues like illness, desertion, adultery, teen angst, alcoholism, gambling addiction, with a side of snarky females-on-the-prowl make for a fairly fun two hour read on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

What's excellent about Hunt's writing is that she somehow makes it all sound believable, if a little packed with hot-topic issues - throw in an LGBT and this might be the perfect hot-issue book. Carly is fairly likable as a slightly overweight cancer survivor, and Scott's lightbulb-over-the-head moment (you'll know what I mean when you read the book) has to be one of the better written male perspectives I've seen in a while.

Switching between Carly and Scott's POV was a little bit disconcerting at first (as I had assumed we'd be "staying" with Carly most of the time), but it did well to provide a more rounded look at all the plot points raised. Unfortunately, due to the myriad issues raised, many other plot points were glossed over. I felt Hunt could have done more to explore the difficulties of raising money for a business, for example, or discussed Magnolia's history a little more. (I think Magnolia's life would make an excellent follow-up book.)

The most problematic issue was the lack of mentioning God (beyond the general italicised prayers, which - let's be honest here - show a woman who uses God when it suits her or when she needs him, rather than one who relies on Him for strength.

Fun read, but where's God?

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Libellés : ,

[Book Review: Bittersweet Surrender by Diann Hunt]
Sngs Alumni @ 20.12.11 { 0 comments }

lundi, décembre 19, 2011

 Book Review: First Date by Krista McGee

Yep, 2nd teen romance book in as many days - this one's based on the story of such a time as this Esther. Thanks to Jenny B Jones, I was predisposed positively towards the book... only to be let down by the lazy fall into cliches by McGee.

Although the story's based on the book of Esther, I didn't expect it to be so formulaic: reluctant girl (Addy) gets conscripted into an amazing reality TV opportunity - win a date to prom with the President's son ("stylishly" spelt 'Jonathon'). Of course she dislikes him at first, and of course he falls for her once he meets her, and of course she surmounts mean girls and a nasty TV producer to get the guy in the end.

The good bits:
- Addy does work out her faith in a real fashion, and McGee's portrayal of her as a Christian girl just going about her regular QTs and prayers very well.
- Kara, Addy's reality TV roommate, is an unexpected breath of fresh air in the tired plot.

The bad bits:
- Can we veer away from the myth of the perfect guy? Jonathon is ridiculously nice and non-existent in real life.
- Addy's sudden preaching/sharing to the nasty TV producer, and his "candid" review of Christianity read terribly awkward in Chapter 51, almost like McGee decided "okay, this is where I'll put the preachin' and teachin' in my novel."
- The assassination plot - terribly contrived; I understand the need to parallel the biblical story, but this could have been done better and added more flesh to interactions with the first family.
- The sudden ending. I really, really dislike books/shows which end at the crescendo. Learn how to anti-climax!

Overall: Could have been so much better without writing to cliches.

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Libellés : ,

[Book Review: First Date by Krista McGee]
Sngs Alumni @ 19.12.11 { 0 comments }

dimanche, décembre 18, 2011

 Book Review: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones

While I'd love to primly announce that I'm reviewing this for my youth, in all honesty I can't - I grew up on hokey Sweet Dreams novels, and after trudging through more than a hundred of those paperback teen romance novels, I can smell a good story a mile away. Jenny B Jones' There You'll Find Me is not only well-titled, it's tightly written as well.

Story in brief: Finley Sinclair, bereft after the loss of her brother, visits Ireland as she follows in his footsteps using his diary to guide her. Meet cute on the plane with a guy, who happens to stay at her host family's B&B. She works out her life issues (and there are many), helps an old lady leave life well, and - of course - finds love.

It's a Christian book, so I expected a lot of teachin' and preachin' to be going on through bad prose. But Jones surprises me there (the same way that Fireproof surprised me with its professional production) - Finley's struggles are universal (insecurity over looks, boys, weight etc) and her prayers are reminiscent of prayers which I've prayed myself as I grew up feeling around my faith in God.

My issues with the book are fairly serious ones though:
(1) Jones concocts an absolutely ridiculous scenario of rich heiress and movie star which does nothing for the plot - Jones shouldn't have done this; it adds nothing to the story, and instead removes the reality of the situation even further away from the average girl-at-home. Not everyone's a poor little rich heiress a la Paris Hilton, and no 18 year old hunky male movie star would be left unattended like that.
(2) Absolutely irrational behaviour from boy - the sensitive sweet 18 year old boy does not exist, and should have been written out completely, or portrayed more realistically. But I suppose nobody wants to read about 18 year old jerks. I'm on the fence whether such portrayals of guys are more damaging than aspirational, but since more girls than guys are likely to read this YA novel, I'm leaning towards the "bad for girls to dream about this completely fictional guy".

Jones is an excellent writer - I'll be looking out for more balanced and mature works from her as she grows as an author.

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Libellés : ,

[Book Review: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones]
Sngs Alumni @ 18.12.11 { 0 comments }

samedi, décembre 17, 2011

 Crisis Communications CorpComms lessons for SMRT from me

Before I head into this, I'm prefacing it with: thank you SMRT, for 24 years of generally smooth MRT rides. I'm sorry you're having a quarter-life crisis right now, but rest assured that your customer-base has no one else to turn to for MRT rides, thanks to your monopoly.

And we get right into it:

Corporate Crisis Communications Lessons for SMRT from me:

(1) Get your CEO on social media NOW
Then make sure you get someone who knows how to use it to man it for her. Ms SPH's the only one with authority enough to speak for the company, so any utterance from her should carry the weight of the company, and should trump all other rumours etc. This way, people have a focal point for news, and the papers will have something to quote. YES there will be people who will flame, but be a classy girl, ignore the haters for now - you've got a fire to put out!

(2) Don't think you can keep office hours during a crisis!
http://twitpic.com/7uc0za --> office hours FAIL and http://www.smrt.com.sg/ --> HAPPY WEBSITE FAIL. Get that happy photograph off the front page. When CNN was responding to news updates on 9/11, they wiped their ENTIRE SITE clean of any other news and HTML coded the index page to ensure that they had timely news up online for anyone in the world to view. While train shutdowns aren't on the same scale, for SMRT it was the equivalent, and CorpComms should respond accordingly!

(3) Set up trust systems that allow your staff to respond PROMPTLY, even if they don't have full info
Many, many people would have been happier had SMRT acknowledged the problem earlier, which could have been managed with a twitter feed along the lines of "we are investigating, we'll have more info soon" - and if SMRT had kept that twitter feed updated every 5 mins with updates, it would have been the PR coup of the year.

This is a huge issue for Singaporean firms; we don't trust our people enough (and to be honest, many times there's a reason why). But in order to build a robust, dynamic organisation, you have to start somewhere, and a trusted company spokesperson HAS to be let off the leash to respond promptly; we've seen how brittle SMRT's communication systems is.

(4) Say sorry, mean it, show it.
Ms. SPH's apology was heartfelt, and calls for her to resign are ridiculous; I'd much rather she fix the issues since she should know them! SMRT does need to apologise for the crazy breakdown in a huge way; I'd say accede to the calls to give one free day of public transport via MRT and buses before the year's out would be a very, very nice gesture of goodwill.

Libellés : ,

[Crisis Communications CorpComms lessons for SMRT from me]
Sngs Alumni @ 17.12.11 { 0 comments }

 Book Review: Why Men Hate Going To Church by David Murrow (completely revised and updated)

I picked this book out of a list that was available for free download at booksneeze.com, which gives free books in exchange for reviews (like this one, which I've also cross posted on Amazon). It seemed to address the problem of disappearing men from the church, so I thought, why not give it (and booksneeze) a go. Plus I wanted to see if booksneeze was really legit, esp if I wasn't in the USA, but could read/review from the kindle ebook version that they were giving out.

First things first - the book's really about all the reasons why men hate going to church. The central thesis: poor preaching has led to a lopsided view of God (more lamb than lion), and have thus drawn more women than men. Women develop women-friendly programmes, and men are left out in the cold (or more likely, left out to be ushers.)

Murrow is fairly comprehensive when it comes to listing down the things that church does to alienate men - and I have to agree with a good many of his thinly-veiled complaints, like when in meetings (oh the bane of the baptists!) where we have to be meek and conciliatory towards everyone, ensuring that everyone is "happy".

Most damning is his painfully honest assessment of the ministries that we have in church - children, visitation, choir, vacation bible school - they're skewed towards women's skills, rather than the man's abilities. Murrow here skirts a very, very, VERY fine line between adroit observation of gender difference, and sexist attitudes when he prescribes - almost demands - that churches sit up and take notice that unless we start re-engineering and re-thinking some of our programmes (rather that stick with "what all the other churches are doing), we're going to lose men altogether - and be left with feminized, emasculated men.

It was an interesting read - a little long-winded (could have been made much, much sharper with better editing; Murrow tends to ramble on with many stories), I was most disturbed that a lot of Murrow's prescriptions to "fix" the church tended to be predicated on a marketing fix, rather than one grounded in the Word. To give Murrow credit, I think he tried to ground in on observations of Jesus' behaviour: for example, he said that men are driven to challenges, which Jesus did give in the imperative "Follow me" when calling his disciples. Linking this to men's need for risk-taking was good, but not all men are risk-takers, and to draw a link between the imperative command and men's need to rise to challenge/competition seemed rather shaky. I don't think that these two inductions lead to a biblical truth being presented.

This is not to say that it's a bad book - read the book if you want fresh ideas on how to make your church more appealing to guys (and girls). Just remember as you read the book that these are methods, not biblical truths - and the problem with methods is that it can never be "everything to everyone". Not every guy is a jock in the making, and not all guys are macho-men who work with power tools. In this information age, other methods of engagement need to be thought up for guys working in financial services and technology - aren't these the freaks and geeks who get picked on by the jocks in the first place?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Libellés : , ,

[Book Review: Why Men Hate Going To Church by David Murrow (completely revised and updated)]
Sngs Alumni @ 17.12.11 { 0 comments }

vendredi, décembre 16, 2011

 HDD: the weak link

Hard disks are always the weakest link in anyone's data systems. Most of my portable unpowered ones are working fine; it always seems that the powered ones die fastest.

Grr. Here I am taking it all apart. 1.5TB+0.5TB HDD gone.

Libellés :

[HDD: the weak link]
Sngs Alumni @ 16.12.11 { 0 comments }

mercredi, décembre 14, 2011

 remember the name

10% luck
20% skill
15% concentrated power of will
5% pleasure
50% pain
100% reason - remember the name

- fort minor, remember the name

ironic that i forgot how much i love this; gotta put FM/LP back on the workout playlist.

Libellés :

[remember the name]
Sngs Alumni @ 14.12.11 { 0 comments }

lundi, décembre 12, 2011

 I lost a dream today

I lost a dream today, I can’t find it anywhere!
It was here in my pocket; I just put it there!
I clambered down on my knees; maybe it fell under my chair
But oh, oh, I lost a dream today, it’s not there!

I lost a dream today, and I should honestly be frantic;
I thought it would always be there - but you know dreams,
those fickle things. Gossamer dust, you turn around
and they disappear in a puff.

This dream I held in my hand,
it was so small, so tiny -
but I swear it was there, it existed,

I left it in my pocket as I took a call
But after that, I couldn’t find it anymore.
I just lost it.

Sunday 21 September 2003 3:06pm

Libellés :

[I lost a dream today]
Sngs Alumni @ 12.12.11 { 0 comments }

 the angry dinosaur

Not quite the dino that started it all, but nearly...

Here's another one which was more apt since it's pink:

Libellés :

[the angry dinosaur]
Sngs Alumni @ 12.12.11 { 0 comments }

samedi, décembre 10, 2011

 George Gray

Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology.  1916.   

I have studied many times  
The marble which was chiseled for me—  
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.  
In truth it pictures not my destination  
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;  
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;  
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.  
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.  
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny  
Wherever they drive the boat.  
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,  
But life without meaning is the torture  
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Libellés :

[George Gray]
Sngs Alumni @ 10.12.11 { 0 comments }

mardi, décembre 06, 2011

 Going Gong Cha @ United Sq?

Say hello to our Christmas tree.
Yep it's outside Gong Cha United Square.
Ming, SE and I help to set it up. Not as easy as it looks!

[Going Gong Cha @ United Sq?]
Sngs Alumni @ 6.12.11 { 0 comments }

 Lightly burnt rice = fairly nice

some jap bbq at chijmes
angeline's gonna kill me for
not remembering their name.

[Lightly burnt rice = fairly nice]
Sngs Alumni @ 6.12.11 { 0 comments }

 Space furniture launch party

[Space furniture launch party]
Sngs Alumni @ 6.12.11 { 0 comments }

 Saying goodbye

After 5 years, I think I can safely say I've given up on completing it.

[Saying goodbye]
Sngs Alumni @ 6.12.11 { 0 comments }

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