Saturday, February 03, 2007

Spent the morning at the local U at a forum organized by the SD Club. I don't know much about the club -- other than that NBS once hung out with them -- but they sure know how to pick their guest speakers.

The forum was about freedom of speech in S'pore and the speakers brought in their expertise from politics, the press and blogging. The Opposition guy who opened the session was a bit hesitant. He didn't look like he'd prepared any material, preferring to speak off-the-cuff from his own experiences at the last elections. According to him, it's ok to be an Opposition politician; difficult, but not impossible, as long as you keep your nose really clean and not do or say anything stupid that might get you sued after the elections.

The press speakers included my old school chum, Cherry G., of whom I will always accuse of scarring me for life in one of the games I mentioned in my previous post, but I do have a great respect for him nonetheless because of his critical eye on local politics, and his gumption for telling it like he sees it.

He said that whatever danger we perceive in becoming an activist for a cause we feel strongly about is only an excuse for apathy if it prevents us from doing something about it. But we do have to choose our battles wisely, in terms of our timing and the manner in which we fight them. He, himself, has had several times run afoul of the authorities for his scathing commentaries in ST. Yet, he is still a respected ex-journo and academic, and hasn't had the pants sued off him yet. The difference, he says, is that his bosses didn't panic easily, whereas Mr B was unfortunate to have a boss who overreacted when the government exercised its right to rebuttal.

Blogging is still the freest avenue for discourse, according to the speakers on the Internet issue. Most blogs have insignificant circulations anyway (mine is only a daily average of 11, as a case in point) and are hardly worth anyone's attention. Blogs, as I mentioned before, are policed by the blogging community already, so there's no need for the 'outside world' to interfere with whatever we say in our blogs.

Though we've heard of bloggers getting sued or jailed, in the last speaker's experience as a practicing DPP, because the process that an investigation file goes through before it can even be taken up in court is a long and complicated one, that their cases were actually brought before the judge was more of a case of their extreme bad luck rather than the fact that anyone was really out to get them.

The impression then, from today's forum, is that there is more freedom of speech here than we think. Only, the greater the reach, and the more impactful the speech is, we do have to exercise more and more care in what we say and how we say it. And, as the last speaker pointed out, as long as we stay away from the legally protected issues of race, religion and purposely trying to slime our incumbent politicians, we can write anything we want on our blogs and not worry about "disappearing" in the middle of the night.

Still, that's politics and police business. I'd rather be more careful about what my employer thinks about my blog. It's easier to get fired than jailed.
It's been a bad week for my ego and my public image. One whole week being in-between contact lenses, with my old pair damaged and unwearable, and my new pair being shipped in from who knows where. One week of having to wear my goggly spectacles in public, and recalling the names the kids in school used to call me since I was six and needed corrective lenses.

Back then, optical technology was still primitive and for my prescription the thickness of my lenses was in the region of bulletproof. I remember struggling against the specky, non-physical stereotype all through school, and taking it out on my hapless opponents on the soccer field with displays of reckless aggression. Overcompensating, as usual.

It didn't matter if the ball was a regulation size 5, or a cheap plastic ball. At one point we played soccer with a bottle-cap for a ball, our 'field' being a narrow, almost 45-degree concrete slope flanked by a drain on one side and the school wall on the other -- not because we were too poor to buy a proper ball (actually we were) but because it was more dangerous this way.

With my reputation for always being the most mud-caked, grass-streaked, blood-encrusted player left standing, I remember ending my days in school being called the "Mad Professor". That was a step up.

Today, my specs are of the high-index kind. Though my prescription has increased significantly since my schooldays, my glasses are much thinner than they were back then. But they give me a headache when I wear them for too long. So I'm really happy my new CLs have arrived at last, and I can see properly again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I never gave them much of a chance, but I rooted for them amongst all the other teams anyway. They were always focused on their tasks, always thought their way around their problems, and very seldom did they display any negativity when the odds were against them. They carried with them a childlike wonder at the new and strange experiences their journey had in store for them, and above all, they never did lose their sense of humour, nor their penchant for play.

Congrats to JJ and Zabs on their victory in ARA1! They proved that their personal values of friendship and partnership can overcome the competitive pressure they faced in their climb to the top, and still get there before everyone else did.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

They've gone and done it this time! They called June's name so often they wore it out. I won't pretend to know what exactly goes on in the logistics game, but Corporate must have done something spectacularly vexing for June to throw up her arms in despair and tender her notice on the spot.

Whoever can't hold on to June really doesn't know what he's got till she's gone. Few are as willing to work as hard for the little she gets, but even she has her breaking point. Good luck to them trying to replace her. Meantime, it's back to the want ads for a new job and, hopefully, a better working environment.

So there'll be another austerity drive in this household while we are now a single-income family. Since I've already been economizing on meals this year, I guess it won't be difficult to economize on other aspects of our lifestyle, at least until we return to the DINKy demographic again.

It's a better option, anyway, than having my wife worked to death on a cause she derives neither happiness nor meaning from. It's brave of her to put her foot down and declare "enough is enough!" and it's a decision I fully understand and respect. Now, THAT's stickin' it to the man!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Windows Vista is being launched as we speak, and I'm already downloading. Er, wait, I'm not downloading Vista. Let's get other people testing out the new system for a few months under real-world situations first, and if by then they haven't killed their systems yet (or vice versa), then maybe it's time to start thinking about my upgrading options. I may be crazy but I'm not stupid.

Rather, I'm downloading the new "Sam & Max -- Culture Shock (Episode 1, Season 1)" PC game that Neubronner reviewed in today's Digital Life.

This game isn't available in the stores. It's a novel method to distribute game programs by Telltale Games. "Season 1" is a series "episodes" individually downloadable in 6 separate installments. Each episode comes in at a low price and acts as a cheap sampler for the game. Like it, then buy the next episode; don't like it, you haven't lost too much money trying it out.

Having played the first Sam & Max adventure game by LucasArts way back in 1993, and laughed myself silly at the ridiculousness the deadpan dog and suicidal-homicidal rabbit got themselves into, when this latest offering came up last Christmas it was already on my shopping list.

Of course, the question of WHEN I'll have time to play PC games this year will have to be left open-ended. Frankly, I really don't know, but I'm buying my game first. I. Don't. Care. I want. Now.
I'm running my NY conneX staff ragged with my demands for work to be delivered on a regular basis, and I wonder if they only just see it as 'work' or 'obligation', or if they can see past their quotas and understand that there is also a little magic in the stories they are writing?

That magic has to do with making themselves disappear, while simultaneously being the channel that gives their interviewee a voice, and a chance to speak their story to the world. I think that's the driving force behind why journos do what they do, the good ones, anyway.

Seen from this angle, the journo's job is a very human, very compassionate one. It's an aspect of the profession that I hope my staff will pick up on the job.

ST's interviewed a TV journo who seems to have got it right, and whose passion for the job has kept her going for 25 years already:

The television image cuts to the presenter holding the microphone. She is not glamorously dolled-up as some television personalities are wont to be.

Instead, she is wearing a bright orange polo T-shirt and a pair of nondescript cream-coloured pants, her long hair tucked beneath a baseball cap.

There is not much expression on her face, no exaggerated furrowing of the brows or watery eyes.

But the look of concentration as she listens to the woman's story tells you in a subtle yet unmistakable way that she shares - and understands - the pain and loss.

The images change again, showing the presenter going from one flood victim's house to the next, braving the midday sun in search of more heartwrenching tales.

It is all in a day's work for Channel 8 stalwart Chun Guek Lay.

Recounting her assignment in Johor Baru two weeks ago, she reveals she was seriously thinking of wearing a pair of shorts - just in case the floods hit again.

'My job requires me to look good, yes, but I'm a journalist first and foremost,' she says matter of factly.

Excerpt from Mak, Mun San. "Anchor Woman." The Straits Times. Jan 29, 2007.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm disturbed by the number of possible ways a guy can get in trouble because of the content he puts up on his blog or website. S'pore bloggers get jailed; Malaysian bloggers get sued, while their PM berates them for spreading lies and sedition; A US teacher gets fired for 'inappropriate content' on his MySpace page, even though he claims a hacker put up the material and he took it down immediately when he noticed it.

It's too easy for a random reader to take offense at a blog, or even a single post, and put in motion a course of action that is totally out of proportion to the situation. It's probably due to the clash between people who don't understand the 'net, and people who use it with ease -- so much so that they forget that the occasional, casual surfer tends to take information posted on the 'net way too seriously. It's probably the same people who are likely to fall for a Nigerian scam email that are also likely to confuse a 'net persona with the real person behind the website.

Taking action in the 'real world' for some offense taken from web content often goes beyond the pale. The web has its own rules about proper 'netiquette, and as such, deals with conduct breaches in its own way. The 'net, after all, is nothing more than a medium of communication, so if someone doesn't like something that's been posted, there is a direct line back to the author through which one can express one's displeasure. That's why bloggers have a 'comment' function at the end of their posts, and some display their email addresses too -- they want to know what people think about the ideas they share.

Commenting opens a door for dialogue and debate, not just between the author and the offended party but potentially amongst a community of interested parties as well who can just as easily voice their views, adding their collective wisdom to the discussion.

It is the community then that will ultimately decide how objectionable the material is, and not just the singular, subjective view of the offended party. And if the content is collectively deemed too objectionable, it can be removed quite easily, unlike, say, material in the print media which once distributed is virtually impossible to retrieve and destroy. In this way, the controversy that arose on the web gets settled on the web without having to spill over into real life.

Still, there's no point for bloggers to ask for trouble and needlessly incur the wrath of the 'real' world. People are more receptive of new (or different) ideas if they are presented politely, mindful of the sensitivities and taboos of 'real' society. We never know who might stumble on our blogs, so while we should feel free to share our thoughts, let's play it smart and try not to piss anybody off from the get go. After all, we blog because we want to communicate, don't we?