Out of my tap flows mountain water

Many mornings ago, I realise that there is a mountain spring flowing out of my tap.

When I turned on the tap, like I did this morning, the water was extremely cold and refreshing.

I imagine that it had sat in the tanks above our flat for a whole night, chilled by the fall in temperature. Cooled by the morning dew. And the sun had not yet touched it. I haven’t been to the Swiss Alps or the mountain springs. But I can imagine that that is how a spring should have felt. Cold and refreshing to the touch. Uplifting. Even though it flows out of a man-made device and even though the water is artificially brought to us, it still has the touch of Nature.

We live in a country called Singapore. It’s a small island when you compare it to the countries that surround us – Malaysia and Indonesia being the closest. We have been continually reminded by our government that we do not have any natural resources. No oil, huge swathes of land to grow plantations or anything else. We only have our people. This has been burnt into our national language for over 40 years.

I think the national language (I don’t know what else to call it) obfuscates what is really there in front of us. It covers up a lot of things. And alienates us from the nature of things. We do have the mountain spring in our taps.

It is true, isn’t it. Where does the water in our reservoirs come from? From the rain that falls from clouds too heavy to stay up. From clouds that wandered into our little island as they visit countries all over world. Water from the mountain springs that evaporated. From the Swiss Alps. Drops from the Himalayas. From Lake Baikal.

Every time I turn on the tap, I just have to feel the coldness of the water and I am reminded of the springs, glacier floes and mountain ranges. And I am grateful for it.


Draft: East Coast

We stand in our metal towers
argue over best practices and promotions
in pursuit of happiness
But our elders and children need just the
one-dollar ice-cream sandwich from the uncle on a motorbike
to smile.

A kite flies over the East Coast sea
its string cut loose
A family three separated
father and daughter tumble in the waves
the mother hangs back cautiously
content with her iPhone games
all she needs to get, she says, is a banana
to complete the current free play.

A kite stretches its string over the waves
further and further it goes
it doesn’t know when to stop

Another father steps into the waves with his three daughters
The eldest, already into the world, walks bravely in and guides the younger along
The youngest shrieks for daddy
when she feels the cold and icky seabed beneath
So the daddy heads back to shore and pick up a pair of shoes
Returns to clad the youngest’s feet with a layer of love

Subtext: Missing Numbers

Censorship has been carried out only rarely and only on sensitive and offensive content in recent years. Over the past three years, nine films or 0.4% of the 2,351 films classified in the period were disallowed while for arts events, only one out of 2,724 arts events were disallowed.

Speech by Mr Lui Tuck Yew,  Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts

Statistics are all well and good. Unfortunately numbers are always presented in favour of the hegemony.

The above presser states that in terms of censorship, only nine films were disallowed, out of the 2,351 submitted for classification. That makes up a measly 0.4 per cent. But what is not highlighted here is the number of films that could have been potentially submitted, created or otherwise, for a classification review. How many of us have lived thinking along the lines of “Oh I don’t think this will pass muster with the boss. Well, you better not submit it then.

Our inner critic suppresses before anything can spring up. How to create anything like that?

Two Sides Of The Same Coin?

It is a pity that so many governments are heavily indebted. As such, supporting innovation may first and foremost be a matter of relieving public finances by—brace yourselves, baby-boomers—raising the retirement age. Somehow, the Western world has, with good intentions, locked itself into the expectation that it is perfectly acceptable—yes, normal—to enjoy the last 15-20 years of life on an extended holiday with full benefits. As a result, too much economic activity has been diverted to consumption, too little to investment; too much to the present, too little to the future.

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On Conversations With Stakeholders

In my line of work, I sometimes have to explain why I use Facebook and Twitter for my media platform.

A, an editor of a print publication, asked me: “What’s the use of Facebook or Twitter?”

I hemmed and hawed. Finally I said:

“We don’t really know how such social media platforms will turn out in the future so we’re just staking our presence there.”

B, the managing director of a firm, said over lunch that he is interested in entering the Facebook platform but not Twitter.

If I recall correctly, he dismissed Twitter as something of a fad.

Such dismissals are quite common in Singapore, which largely stems from a couple of reasons.

  1. Newsmakers’ clients are largely conservative and not tech-savy. Based on anecdotal evidence, this sample ranges from 40+ to 50+ years of age, which puts them in the silvering generation. Ipso facto, the majority of the spending power also lies with this group. They are the ones who buy Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Jaguars. And they are probably Mandarin-speaking, consume traditional media and have traditional family values. 
  2. Online media is not as advanced in Singapore as it is in the US. We have the daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, here, which is consumed massively in terms of circulation. Print media is still deeply entrenched in the mindsets of the population.
  3. Online ad units are regressive. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is that even as technology advances with HTML5, Javascript, Flash, Flex and what-nots (I’m just throwing out names here), online ad units are still so backward and intrusive. They seemingly love to pop out of nowhere and fill up my screen. No wonder people use adblockers to kill off all the ads.

All these reasons, I realised, can be subsumed under one giant set: Compared to print, there is no money to be made on the Internet.


What’s the ROI from Twitter? A very difficult question to answer, yet you’ll find the solution if you can also measure: “Whats the ROI of a conversation in real life”. Since many brands have an objective (return profit to shareholders or owners) ensuring this is a high priority task will be difficult for many corporations.

Jeremiah Owyang, “Why Brands Are Unsuccessful In Twitter“, Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

There are no answers right now. But having conversations with your stakeholders cannot be that bad. It’s called networking.

“Why the humanities matter”

Here’s an excerpt of an interview first published in The Straits Times dated May 20 with practice Associate Professor Ian Macduff, 61. He teaches negotiation, conflict resolution, and ethics and social responsibility at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

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Singaporean youths are not that bad

A letter of hope to the Singapore press:

From Saturday, Jan 2, 2010 The Straits Times:

Don’t tar all youths with the same brush

I REFER to Thursday’s letter by Mr Seto Hann Hoi, ‘The young lack moral compass’.

I feel he has painted far too bleak a picture of youths in Singapore. While I firmly believe that the issue of youth-related crimes deserves critical attention, I find the categorical dismissal of all youths as lacking in a moral compass discomforting.

I have been involved in youth development work since 2005. Over the years, I have encountered youths from different family and educational backgrounds active in volunteering their time for worthy causes, involving helping their fellow workers, the underprivileged in society, needy children or the elderly.

I have seen youths spending months of their time after work or studies, on weekdays and weekends, rehearsing for a musical, just so people can understand the hardships our forefathers faced in the early days of nation building.

I have seen them spending many precious weekends taking underprivileged children out on learning journeys as their parents were unable to do so due to lack of time or resources.

I have seen them taking time out to recycle computers for redistribution to low-income families, and going even to the extent of arranging their own transport to take the computers to the families.

I have seen many other examples of youths making sacrifices for others. I am certain my peers in various youth organisations would concur with my experiences and observations.

In every society, as certain as death and taxes, there will be shining examples and not-so-shining ones. To close a mine just because a flawed diamond is unearthed is daft, especially since every diamond, flawed or otherwise, can become a priceless piece in the hands of the right craftsman.

Thus to lose hope in the young people of Singapore categorically is unnecessary and almost certainly overstating the case.

In the course of my own lifetime of 36 years, I have heard youths called many things – apathetic, ungrateful, soft and now, lacking a moral compass.

We can continue to invent new adjectives for youths in Singapore. Or we can reach out to them in a more significant manner by showcasing the positive real-life examples we see around us.

I choose the latter, as all of us were once youths, if not now.

Steve Tan

Mighty fine of Mr Tan to rebut and stand up for the youths in Singapore, when most of whom I see only hang about and loiter in Cineleisure. Granted, I never have a bright view of youths in the first place. But who am I to censure when the relevant censors don’t.

EDIT (or should it be a WISHB?): Further clarifications are in my second comment to Laremy, here.