Burning All Bridges With Heart of Glass

Malaysian pop musician cum filmmaker Namewee has done it again. He first burst onto the music scene with his controversial YouTube MV Negara Kuku and now he has launched an even more controversial MV (likely to hurt the feelings of 1.4 billion people as some would say) that pokes fun at China’s modern Red Guards – “little pinky” (小粉红)。These youngsters (mostly) are the Chinese nationalistic equivalent of radical Western woke mobs. Heart of Glass 玻璃心 is often used to describe their hypersensitive, intolerant behaviour, cancelling anyone who dares say one negative thing about China.

The response was swift. His Chinese social media accounts were all shut down and his works have been banned in China. Still, his video has nearly 5.5 million views at this time of writing. With Heart of Glass, Namewee is effectively burning all bridges with China – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at this point in time. Cultural Revolution 2.0 (a more sedate version of Mao’s original) has been launched and folks in the entertainment industry (or for that matter any industry) should stand clear and wait for the dust to settle.


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Poem Read By Exiled Chinese Writer Ma Jian

This is an excerpt from a statement by imprisoned Chinese Nobel Laurette Liu Xiaobo. It was made on 23 December 2009. Liu addressed the following part to his wife Liu Xia.

Liu Xiaobo.jpg

(亲爱的,我坚信你对我的爱将一如既往。这么多年来,在我的无自由的生活中,我们的爱饱含着外在环境所强加的苦涩,但回味起来依然无穷。)我在有形的监狱中服刑,你在无形的心狱中等待,你的爱,就是超越高墙、穿透铁窗的阳光,扶摸我的每寸皮肤,温暖我的每个细胞,让我始终保有内心的平和、坦荡与明亮,让狱中的每分钟都充满意义。而我对你的爱,充满了负疚和歉意,有时沉重得让我脚步蹒跚。我是荒野中的顽石,任由狂风暴雨的抽打,冷得让人不敢触碰。但我的爱是坚硬的、锋利的,可以穿透任何阻碍。即使我被碾成粉
末,我也会用灰烬拥抱你。

The translation is below. The part in brackets has been omitted in the video. Read by exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian.

(My dear, I firmly believe that your love for me will remain as always. For so many years deprived of my freedom, our love is full of the bitterness imposed by the external environment, but it is still memorable.) I am serving my sentence in a visible prison, and you are waiting in an invisible prison for the mind. Your love is the sunlight that transcends the high walls and penetrates the bars. It touches every inch of my skin and warms every cell in my body and thus I maintain inner peace, magnanimity and brightness, making every minute in prison meaningful. And my love for you is full of guilt and regret, and sometimes it weighs on me so much that it makes me stagger. I am a stubborn rock in the wilderness. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacle. Even if I get crushed in the end, I will embrace you with my ashes.

The last line is especially powerful. “Even if I get crushed in the end, I will embrace you with my ashes.” Liu Xiaobo died in prison on 13 July 2017.


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You Know I Know

As someone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, I was familiar with “Talentime” and singing competitions which were very sedate affairs which would probably bore today’s teenager to death.

Today’s singing competitions are a totally different ball game. The judges shoot their comments in the competitors’ faces and to win applause, one often has to flaunt some vocal acrobatics like reaching ultrasonic frequencies.

Taiwanese singer Lin Hui Ping entered the musical scene during my army days in the early 1980s. Her 倩影 and 往昔 gripped me and I became an instant fan, playing her cassette tape over and over again. But what’s so special about her voice? It’s nasal and not particularly powerful. Her secret weapon is her unique ability to inject emotion into her songs. She remained popular even after she gradually faded from the music scene from 1996. 你知道我知道 was recorded in 1998 and is probably one of her last recorded songs.

I’m not sure if someone like Lin Hui Ping would still be able to make it if she emerged today. Thankfully in those days, it was not fashionable to pander to mainland audiences. But at a time when Anita Mui had fans screaming over her outrageous costumes and gothic makeup and Su Rui was blasting listeners with her lungs of iron, Lin Hui Ping stood on stage dressed like a Japanese GND, softly belting out touching ballads. She had her style, she had her audience. 倩影 and 往昔 remain two of my favourite songs by her.


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Don’t Cry, My Beloved, Zheng Zhi Hua’s Suicide Note

Lyrics from a suicide note

Honestly, this is one of the songs which inspired me to write my second novel, Like a Dewdrop and till this day, it’s still a tearjerker for me. The singer tells his lover not to cry for him. He is going to depart – at his most glorious moment. And isn’t that the best time to go so that one remains a beautiful legend – forever?

Legendary beauties died young. Bruce Lee and Elvis Presley died when they were still worshiped and that’s why they are still worshiped. They would not be so “lucky” if they had lived till they were old and decrepit. Is it really so tragic for some superstars that they died young? Maybe not.

WIDE ANGLE: FILM, FIGHTING, AND PHILOSOPHY: THE ARTS OF BRUCE LEE -  Newspaper - DAWN.COM

别哭我最爱的人

今夜我如昙花绽放

在最美的一刹那凋落

你的泪也挽不回的枯萎

别哭我最爱的人

可知我将不会再醒

在最美的夜空中眨眼

我的眸是最闪亮的星光

是否记得我骄傲的说这世界我曾经来过

不要告诉我永恒是什么

我在最灿烂的瞬间毁灭

是否记得我骄傲的说这世界我曾经来过

不要告诉我成熟是什么

我在刚开始的瞬间结束

If we could extend that concept of impermanence and life/death to human relationships, aren’t the most beautiful, romantic and memorable encounters those that are fleeting and somehow open-ended in our imagination? Ended before we could begin. 我在刚开始的瞬间结束.We will never know how things will end up if given the chance to proceed. Perhaps just as well for we can dream on and imagine a perfect outcome untainted by reality.

I didn’t know the circumstances under which Taiwanese musician Zheng Zhi Hua wrote Don’t Cry, My Beloved until recently. He was actually writing a suicide note! Whatever the case, living to a “ripe old age” should not be a mandatory objective for every single person. For those who had their moment of glory and there’s no “second wind”, departing at the most glorious moment could be better and more meaningful than gradually decaying and forgotten.

Unenlightened beings often lament that things don’t last, but when things last, suffering also lasts. The more we dwell on the self and the more we grasp and hoard, the more miserable of lives will be and the sadder and more fearful we feel when we are finally forced to leave this world.

While Zheng Zhi Hua sings Don’t Cry, My Beloved closest to his heart, there are other versions of the song that are also quite well sung. Let’s enjoy and contemplated on the Buddhist concepts inadvertently manifested in what’s supposed to be a suicide note. Fear not impermanence. The most beautiful flower; the flower that everyone remembers as the most beautiful, falls off at its most glorious moment. We pay a heavy price for longevity. Life is Like a Dewdrop.


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Not When I’m Lonely

Zheng Yuan (Jacky) was born on November 2, 1982 in Yangjiang, Guangdong Province. He is a Chinese pop male singer, musician, singer-songwriter, songwriter. He graduated from Xinghai Conservatory of Music and is currently lecturer at the Beijing Academy of Opera.

This is my favourite song by Zheng Yuan 不要在我寂寞的时候说爱我, sung with so much feeling and conviction. People are most vulnerable when they are lonely or hurt.


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When The Pursuit Of Pleasure Is Sinful

The Dalai Lama once said that every living being ought to have the right to eliminate suffering. Most people do it by pursuing pleasures and various forms of gratification. The counterintuitive Buddhist way to end suffering is to temper our innate desires. Other religions may see the pursuit of pleasures as sinful.

An certain outspoken, authoritarian-justifying professor with rightist inclinations (vis-a-vis social order and deference to authority) shared the following quote which is deeply flawed and often hijack to promote certain religious causes:

May be an image of 2 people and text that says ""What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.. .Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance...Ir 1984 people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us." Neil Postman"

What do other professors make of it? Check this out:

Like many pragmatists in Singapore, the professors are supporters of authoritarian regimes that produce politically predictable societies with glowing economic results. As far as I know, they are not conservative Christians or Jews. It’s thus very odd that the above quote from Neil Postman should be shared.

Or perhaps not. Always threatened by the potential for instability and sometimes challenged for their condemnation of protests against authority, they are eager to latch on to voices that might even vaguely appear to support their views on the necessity of censorship and how “freedom” can get out of hand. Let’s do an intellectual dissection of Neil Postman’s quote.

Neil Postman was an ultra conservative Jewish educator who challenged the deluge of entertainment programmes in mass media to attract ears and eyeballs. He was against what he believed to be the excessive use of technology in every aspect of American life. For instance, he was of the opinion that individuals have no need for “personal” computers.

The above quote shared by our academics is taken from the introduction of Postman’s bestselling book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Published in 1985, the book is still strongly recommended by conservative American Christian evangelists who wish to see entertainment programmes on TV (like Baywatch) cut down to a bare minimum as they too believe that it is threatening their faith. I won’t share their videos here, but there are quite a few churches, pastors and priests out there sharing Postman’s warning about the harm caused by sinful pleasures.

baywatch
When The Pursuit Of Pleasure Is Sinful

Like Postman, Huxley eschewed technology. That’s about as far as Postman can be compared with Huxley. Huxley’s book Brave New World is about a world “reduced” to a single state in the 26th century. In that purely science and technology driven world, everything must run like clockwork; nothing is wasted and optimisation and perfection cannot be compromised.

In Huxley’s world, children are created outside the womb and cloned in order to increase the population. Citizens are classified based on their genes. The embryos, which exist within tubes and incubators, are provided with differing amounts of chemicals and hormones in order to condition them into predetermined classes. These classes, in order from highest to lowest, are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. The Alphas are bred to be leaders, and the Epsilons are bred to be menial labourers.

Test Tube Babies
When The Pursuit Of Pleasure Is Sinful

All embryos must be optimally and predictably conceived this way and any child born naturally is called a “savage”. To make up for the lack of pleasure, the future government dispenses a pleasure pill. An overdose of it killed the female protagonist.

Huxley’s book was banned by many countries that had a sizable conservative Christian community. Even in countries where the book was not banned, schools and libraries all over the world refused to stock it. Now comes the interesting part. Why did Postman say that Huxley feared that there is no reason to ban a book? That’s because Huxley was making a sarcastic remark against the folks who banned his book.

Of course, Postman had somehow convinced some people and managed to interpret Huxley in a way that supported his stand. Actually, Huxley and Orwell had more similarities than differences. They both wrote about enslavement and argued for freedom.

On 21 October 1949, Huxley wrote to George Orwell, author of 1984, congratulating him on “how fine and how profoundly important the book is.” In his letter to Orwell, he predicted:

“Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narcohypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”

Huxley lamented that the free world is not that much better than a communist dystopia. People are enslaved by technology and not some totalitarian government. Scientific pragmatism forces people to conform and the only pleasure comes from narcotic stimulation.

drug
When The Pursuit Of Pleasure Is Sinful

Postman went on to further twist Huxley’s beliefs and dupe the folks who have not read Brave New World. How were people controlled by inflicting pleasure? No, in Huxley’s world, people were enslaved by their own perceived modern wisdom, pragmatism and rationality. Did Huxley fear that pleasure would ruin us? Of course not. He was the intellectual version of the Beatles and he obviously did not support any of the cold, calculative practices of the brave new world he wrote about. As a Hindu, he embraced the concept of letting things be. Huxley’s last request on his death bed (dying of throat cancer), was a shot of LSD! Talk about sinful pleasures. I haven’t read Postman’s book, but he has definitely misrepresented Huxley. But it’s amazing how he managed to change Huxley’s image as a mistakenly unChristian writer to one who is on their side.

Whatever the case, our professors need to read more.


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The Sound Of Falling Snow

The are many different versions of this song. Taiwanese social media star Ariel Tsai’s version has a slightly different beat from the original version. This refreshing arrangement gives a lively touch to this otherwise melancholic song.

Now check out the original version with images from the story for which the song has been written. Singer Lu Hu sings with deep passion, lamenting an ill-fated relationship. Reference to snow adds a layer to the coldness of life in the palace. Compared to Ariel Tsai’s version, Lu Hu’s style certainly suits the drama and the setting of the story better.

Finally, the video with the most views – JJ Lin’s version of The Sound Of Falling Snow. His R&B style is not really my cup of tea (the song doesn’t sound Chinese anymore), but obviously, it works in China.

And finally, we have veteran Taiwanese singer Fei Yu Qing on stage with the two main actors from the TV series. I’m not a big fan of Fei Yu Qing, but in his 60s now, his voice is superb. Not only that, he doesn’t look much older than the actors who are young enough to be his children!

Even more pleasantly surprising is Nie Yuan’s singing is not bad. The change in key was subtle and the final harmony (even though they had different vocal ranges) was brilliantly coordinated. Oh, what did Wu Jin Yan do to her nose? So unnatural and it’s affecting her voice.


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Like A Dewdrop 江明學

Born in 1961, 江明學 was a singer/songwriter. His greatest hit was a cover version of famous female singer Sarah Chen’s (陈淑桦)秋意上心头。Apart from Sarah Chen, he had also successfully done very popular cover versions of other female singers like Tracy Huang and Teresa Teng. His winning formula was his raw, unfeigned voice.

From the peak of his career in the 1990s, everything went downhill for the aging star thenceforth. In 2004, he tried to make a comeback by compiling his former hits from defunct recording studios and relaunching them himself in CD. The arrival of readily downloadable mp3 caused him massive losses.

Deep in debt, 江明學 ended up as a street performer and restaurant helper. In fact, he was the first professional singer in Taiwan to have applied for a busking permit. 江明學 finally lost the will to live and hanged himself in his apartment. After his landlady failed to get a response from him after repeated reminders to pay his rent, she broke in with the police and fire department and found his decomposing body on 18 June 2019.

I’m not a fan of 陈淑桦. However, 秋意上心头 is one of few songs of hers that I like apart from 梦醒时分. I prefer 江明學’s version of 秋意上心头. There is no use shedding tears or turning around to hold back something that is destined to go. 江明學 could have been a legend if he had departed when he was still charming millions.

The most beautiful romances are the tragic ones begging for a second chance in the next life. The most memorable legends are those that suddenly depart when they are most adored. As a star, Jiang had unfortunately failed to leave the stage or depart from this world at his most glorious moment.


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The Long Wait 漫長的等待 1983

漫長的等待 by Tracy Huang

Out of the blue today (or perhaps it had something to do with the recent copyright tussle), I was reminded of this song 漫長的等待 by Tracy Huang. For my younger readers, it’s a oldie that dates back to the year 1983 when I was a 19-year-old army boy.

You may find it strange how macho young men could identify with such a “feminine” song like 漫長的等待. The answer is simple. The song springs from the heart of a woman in love. It’s something that we would be overjoyed to discover if we could somehow take a peek into the heart of the seemingly indifferent person we fancy. Sadly, for most of us who were 19 and without any “market value”, the indifference was real. We were often the ones doing all the fruitless waiting.


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Bad Blood, The Theranos Scam & Scandal

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says "Winner of the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2018 Bad Blood Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup NLB The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos 61 lohn Z] ;arreyrou"

Allow me to share an good read which is both engaging and intriguing – like a detective novel. Theranos was touted as a DIY bucket sized blood testing mini-lab that could perform 4 common blood tests with as little blood as that from a lancet prick. School dropout Elizabeth Holmes was about to make a dent in the universe.

Impressive speech on TED, except that she is a fraudster and the technology never really existed. But Ms Holmes’ domineering, confident and dictatorial style even managed to win her the trust and respect of a 4-star general.

The device would have been tested on troops in Afghanistan if not for the gutsy, uncompromising microbiologist LTC Shoemaker who stood his ground against his military superior.

Combined with Ms Holmes’ charisma and iron-fisted rule with her boyfriend Sunny, the rapid turnover of staff achieved through the speedy dismissal of critical employees, the equally rapid promotion of sycophants and servile, pandering foreign workers and the litany of lawsuits thrown at whistle blowers, the scam took America nearly 15 years to expose! What’s even more interesting is that the device was endorsed by former vice president (current POTUS) Joe Biden.

Who took them to task and called their bluff? No, it’s not the FDA which actually approved a herpes testing component that wasn’t even a unique or original concept. Neither was it part of the original design. It was not the government as VP Joe Biden had nothing but praises for Theranos. The true heroes were the tenacious journalists and courageous whistle blowers who insisted on getting the truth out in spite of being stalked and threatened.

Erika Cheung, a key whistle blower who was threatened by lawyers and stalkers

But what really saved the American public and potential investors from this scam, is the culture of calling out fakes no matter how inconvenient and disruptive to the self. In another society, whistle blowers might have kept quiet, kept their jobs and journalists might not want to take the trouble or the risk to investigate and report. Fans and lovers of routine and predictability may label this spirit as “唯恐天下不乱“。

The following image was captured from a page in the book. Doesn’t this scenario look disturbingly familiar?

Image may contain: text


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