Play nice

One of the unexpected perks of where I live now, is that there's a playground and basketball court right beside my block, and every evening there are boys playing soccer or basketball there. Even though I live on a really high floor, I can hear the ring of kids' voices every evening --- I can hear them now as I type this --- and it makes the neighbourhood feel lively and lived-in more than a dozen "grassroots activities".

To my knowledge, there are no rules about having to book the playground or the basketball court for games. Every evening, kids and teenagers just show up with their mates, and they knock a ball around for a couple of hours. There are no referees, supervisors or security guards, but there is some form of organisation. The boys have figured it out themselves --- they play in teams and it's not a wild free-for-all. One weekend there were more than 30 young men at the basketball court, playing in some kind of tournament of their own. I have yet to see or hear of any fights, though sometimes the younger kids will squabble lightly among themselves.

Build it and they will come?

* * *

Last week I passed a beautiful wide plain in the middle of a residential area. It was the kind of wide plain you can imagine dogs bounding across, which I hear is what you'll see there on weekends. There are no paths, no benches, no "landscaped areas", no signs because there's nothing to point to. Just plenty of space for all to run.

Is the place havoc on the weekends, then? From what I understand, no. People walking their dogs make sure the animals don't bother people out for a walk or a jog. There's even a regular coterie of hobbyists who show up with their remote-control planes and conduct themselves over in one section of the field, without endangering any passing cars or passersby.

Space. If you've got it, use it (nicely).

* * *

Given all the recent hand-wringing about race (ethnicity) and social integration in Singapore, it's also nice to see that the main group of soccer-playing boys (primary school-aged) in my neighbourhood is an ethnically diverse group. Nobody appears to be forcing them to play together; they just are.

On the other hand, the basketball players are pretty much all Chinese (by which I mean their apparent ethnicity, not country of origin). They're also older --- at least 16 years old, if not up to 20 or so.

The older you get, the more you stick to your own kind? I hope not. Plus I wonder: where have all the girls gone?

* * *

Of course, I'm not advocating that someone march up to the basketball players with a Golden Baton of Racial Harmony and force them to "integrate" their games. They're not doing anything socially disruptive, and if hanging out in a monocultural group were ever considered disruptive behaviour in Singapore, there'd be many larger groups (and some of them less tractable) that would need policing too.

Mostly, I think, it's such a novelty to find such dedication to play --- particularly from young people of school-going age --- that it'd be great if they just carried on. They're not going jogging because it's good for their health. They're not taking up a sport because they might win gold medals for their school or want to "learn to work as a team and to be resilient". They're just at play, 'cause it's fun and they like it.

Play on.



Do you believe

Twice recently, friends who don't know me super-well have been surprised to hear me profess to being an atheist. On the first occasion, a friend --- a lapsed Catholic whose grandfather had been an avowed atheist and promulgator of atheism, no less --- said something along the lines of, "Wow, really? That seems so ... bleak."

Is it? Unrelated to that, I stumbled upon "ProAction Cafe Singapore- thinking collaboratively", which described an event whereat, among other questions, this one was discussed: "Are atheists basically religious at heart?" I can't speak for others --- actually, I don't know for a fact if I know any other atheists --- but I think if one were to seriously describe oneself as an atheist, it's probably not out of a flippant attitude to religion or religiosity, and hopefully out of a genuine consideration of ideas about religion and faith.

The second time I happened to mention being atheist was last night, at Zouk waiting for John Digiweed to show up. You could say that a dance club with pounding music too loud for you to talk is an odd place to have a conversation about religion --- or you could say that given the moments of communion one might find through that music, with it, that it's perfectly apropos.

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Some assembly required

Speaking of pay copy, today I completed a project report for a corporate client --- executive summary, appendices and all. I think this is the first formal report I've written since I left the civil service almost four years ago.

In terms of style and tone, it couldn't be more different from the personal essay I've been working on since last week. The latter is growing very much organically and I'm learning what the argument is as it goes along, whereas with today's formal report, all I had to do was slap on the standard headings (executive summary, introduction, some chapter titles and conclusion) and everything fell into place. Just add page numbers, numbered paragraphs, list formatting and stir. Having a rigid structure to fall back on was almost therapeutic.

This is why I used to enjoy mathematics in junior college, I suppose, which was rare for an Arts stream student. No reading or essay-writing or struggling find the words required --- just apply the formula (assuming I'd understood it in the first place) and go.

I'll be writing another report next week. Perhaps I'll be tired of the format by then.



Bits and pieces, here and there

A week ago, I was getting very, very drunk on beer and soju. I blame it on the Korean friends (old and brand-new) who were in town. As I wrote in my "Food & Drink" chapter for the Lonely Planet Korea guidebook update, "Koreans drink enough soju that the brand Jinro Soju (the green bottles are everywhere) is the top-selling brand of spirits worldwide."

A day (er, night) ago, I was at HOME Club, people-watching and catching up with old friends. It's good for that, plus right around 1 a.m. on Friday nights, they like spinning The Killers.

A month ago, I was madly writing about Korea.

This past week, I've been wrestling with the essay that is taking shape oh-so-slowly. It's a spot of pro bono work, so I'd better load up on some pay copy after this.

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A little fogged up

Kite flying at Marina Barrage

As I told sarah earlier today, I spent this afternoon trying to write something, a very nebulous idea that is taking its time to unfurl out of my sluggish brain. The idea is going somewhere, but very much at its own pace. It will not be forced, only coaxed, and I am a little afraid that at the end of it, it will be a very bad piece of writing despite all this hard work.

Oh well, you never know till you try.

In other news, for a weekday there were a surprising number of people flying their kites at the Marina Barrage this evening, and quite a few of them were teenagers. As the haze settled over the city, it was all so very surreal.

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On peering at the Dead Sea Scrolls

On Sunday I took my parents to see the exhibition The Dead Sea Scrolls & the Ancient World, which as I remarked on Facebook, would more accurately have been titled Cool Old Copies of Biblical Scripture and Other Ancient Texts. Because while there were many old copies of Biblical scripture, including many olde Bibles themselves, of the Dead Sea Scrolls there were truly only four fingertip-sized fragments, and not much to go on by way of historical and cultural context.

As I anticipated, the exhibition was filled with church-going folks, a number of whom were talking about next week's worship session or pointing at extracts from the Biblical book of Isaiah with sagacious expressions. What I didn't anticipate was that after one of the American exhibition curators delivered a short lecture on the place of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the context of the history of Judaism and Christianity, a young man next to me muttered, "Interesting --- the guy is not a believer."

So only believers in the Christian faith (who tend to use that term "believer" in the first place) would be interested in an exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other cool antique Bibles? Admittedly the curator did refer to Jesus as something of a mythological figure, depending on what you believe (I'm not quoting him verbatim here). But for someone to think that without some kind of religious connection, academics or curators or ordinary visitors like me would have no cause for seeing or studying these very old and precious bits of writing --- argh. I can't even begin to articulate why overhearing that kind of parochialism bugs me. It just makes me arghy and --- argh.

Writing, ideas, ideology, even one you don't agree with --- the evolution thereof matters, particularly what scant evidence has survived to this day. Religions and ideologies have an impact beyond that on their adherents. People don't pack the National Museum to see Greek Masterpieces from the Louvre because they believe in Zeus or Aphrodite. You don't have to be Christian or Jewish to be curious enough to shell out $20 to see remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And likewise I'd like to think that more and more, people are willing to see examples of other faiths than their own, because faith is this thing that takes so many forms, and --- argh.

And the fact that the curator speaks about the Scrolls with such enthusiasm and respect, the fact that people with no faith (i.e. me) show up to wait their turn and squint down at these iddy-biddy bits of animal-skin parchment --- does that not suggest that there is a place for faith but also for those without faith, that there are many levels on which words of faith can be appreciated and valued?

I get why the exhibition was advertised as The Dead Sea Scrolls. I get why the church groups show up. I just wish more people would get --- argh.



Fire bad, tree pretty

One last look

My brain is so tired, the first time I typed that, it came out as: Tree bad, fire pretty. I'm not sure Buffy would have approved.


Korea done. Writing good. Sleep better. Brain dead. Oh, said that already.

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