Tuesday, December 27, 2005

(Violence, Disclaimer) | Aesthetic

Whereas countless blogs and other productions by my counterparts and, in a way, by myself, have the disclaimer as a footnote of sorts, I am making it the subject of this entry, puncturing it so that it would diffuse from the periphery.

Periphery? What periphery when the disclaimer has been the one amulet worn by so many to ward off danger. It is a necessary ornament, one of the necessities within a myriad of necessities in a most perilous fancy dress party.

All responsible bloggers have a disclaimer somewhere, a disavowal. The disclaimer is, by turns, an act of violent self-mutilation and could, by turns, be redirected as an expressionistic aesthetic.

I attempt to occupy the blind spots in the interstices of the grotesque necessity and disruptively but disarmingly beautiful.

The space is claustrophobic; the thorns of the pierce deep and/but they amalgamate with the self to form a painful new flesh.

One grasps the compass in disarray. One turns everywhere, desperately wondering where away is.

Disclaimer: This entry was written when the insomniac* writer was in a stupor. All characters, events and direct or indirect references, allusions, intertexualities are purely fictitious and written in good humor. Any resemblance to real life characters and events are purely coincidental.

*Disclaimer1: The writer's insomnia, though not clinically proven, is, beyond reasonable doubt, a form of unwanted consciousness.

Oh, the laceration! The pain!

The oh!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

An Implosion, into (0,0)

On account of the fact Molly took a record-breaking time to pen this entry, Molly seeks the kind reader's pardon and self-restraint if he happens to be dissatisfied with the quality of this entry. In the long process of writing this entry, Molly encountered new "news" articles and blog entries that seem to uncannily reflect different segments/fragments of this entry (or rather the way it was conceived). This has been uncanny partly because it finally dawned upon Molly that this entry is necessarily or inevitably, even if also lamentably, fragmented. Fragments that could have been wholes in themselves if not for residual threads that cling together. Yet, it is also thanks to such unforeseen articles that the production tranformed the conception enough to give rise to a product that is significantly different and hopefully better.

This entry is a Christmas present to the reader who reads it early enough. However, this also makes it essential for the author to confess that she is unable to transcend, even if she had been able to somewhat transgress, the limits of her time and space. The belated reader who shares a similar predicament would perhaps empathize with this.


Those who are interested in the modes of address might find it imperative to scrutinize the introduction (whether this refers to the section so named or the section that inaugurates a piece of work). With no intention to be offensive, I am of the opinion that it is crucial, in fact, to scrutinize introductions for the modes of attempted enunciation. Yet, perhaps the mode of redress is the matter that is of real interest. Without presumptuously attempting to offer resolutions to any conflicts of interests, I will try my best not to make anything obligatory for the reader though even this determines the act of reading to be an unavoidable pre-condition.

To keep things short, and perhaps as an analogy, this piece is
almost about post-traumatic stress. What hinders this article from having such a theme is that the article cannot be about post-traumatic stress because the trauma continues. Perhaps this article has affinities with what Helene Cixous calls stigmata, though I could only talk about a scar that precedes the wounding and a continuous wounding that almost leaves a scar but fails to because of the wounding has yet to end. Perhaps this is akin to one asking how it is possible to reminisce without a clear temporal break. A question of the impossible; a question of the definite.

Collective Nostalgia, Mandatory and Inevitable

As things do work backwards at times, let us revisit the previous entry which, it seems, concerns the impossibility of personal nostalgia, an attempt at sentimentality thwarted by the calculated (and perhaps calculative) moves of an invisible Mathematician, the powerful Mathematician who arrogantly
coordinates the ever-shifting axes of our existence. A solitary coordinate is epistemologically impossible. A coordinate can only exist relative to imaginary bearings. Or it could even be the imaginary anchor to which other coordinates relate. Hence, we have the notion of mandatory collectivity—mandatory not exactly in the sense that it is enforceable but rather in the sense that it is inevitable or has been rendered so. Inevitability, one might say, is the ultimate Power because it transcends power insofar as power primarily exists as a set of relations. With inevitability, such relations become obsolete.

The impossibility of personal nostalgia is, thus, only a symptom of a larger schema of inevitabilities or necessities, of Power. Think of the things that are
made necessary in your life. Housing? Think of the necessities in the life that has been made yours. Conscription? Think of the draft: the previous entry was labeled a draft (in lieu something yet to be fully determined); yet the draft could also be a mandatory conscription (a pre-determined or even over-determining necessity). In this retrospective light, the previous entry was drafted in two ways.

Think also of the ways
you have become a necessity-commodity. What is your irreversible existence necessary for (rather than what is necessary for your existence)?

The other face of impossibility is inevitability and the Power that underlies it. The impossibility of personal nostalgia is congruent to the inevitability of collectivized nostalgia. The operation of collective nostalgia includes the explicit and spectacular, such as in the events surrounding every August 9, to the more subtle or insidious. We could, for instance, look back (as mentioned earlier, sometimes things do work backwards) to a time of (supposedly) better economic times. We could be looking back to a generation that is forcibly constructed as rugged than we now are. We could even be looking back to a time when there were more opposition politicians standing for elections even as we assume the stance of looking forward to the next General Elections. Insofar as nostalgia is desire, it is doomed to be a form of misrecognition. Perhaps this is why nostalgia could tell us paradoxically that we are now better off than we used to be and that we used to be better off than we now are: when we look into the mirror of the past, it seems complete; when we believe ourselves to be the image we see, we think we are complete too.

Collective Nostalgia, Personal Hysteria

I have no intention to valorize the personal or to denigrate the collective. Instead, the question is one the impossibility or the inevitability of each comes into being.

Mass hysteria, which the collective might seem to potentially manifest, is not allowed coexist with collective nostalgia. Any impulse toward such a direction is vigorously tamed. The National Kidney Foundation (
ex-management) had not been all that faultless and has incurred the wrath of many, but people will and should continue to donate. Or so it has been said. Note the ever-critical conjunction that joins one clause to another so that the original clause is tamed—a face placed in conjuction with a double dose of Botox. An expressionless expression. Elsewhere, one sees the clinical "treatment" of issue. A hysteria that is almost institutionally incited, institutionally comprehended, structured and completed; in other words, there is no hysteria except for the simulacrum of hysteria that could well, in fact, be therapy. Implosion? Channel NewsAsia quotes a psychiatrist, notably not a cultural theorist, Dr. Wang:
"I think, eventually, people will be able to move on. People will forget and in the longer run, the only permanency I see is that it's a lesson learnt and I hope it's a good lesson learnt, and people will have faith and confidence restored." ("Charity sector seen to emerge stronger from lessons learnt from NKF saga”)
In order to make collective nostalgia de rigueur, the personal charge must be repressed. This repression, together with the containment of mass hysteria, forms the roots of personal hysteria. Yet, even personal hysteria has to be directed inwards rather than expressed outwards. It needs to be contained via a super Superego. A peaceful protest including the three letters, NKF (placed in this particular order) needs to be quelled because it is considered abusive. Making racist remarks is considered seditious. Suicide is forbidden. Depression must be combated, if you remember the countless advertisements kindly advising the depressed to seek help. Of course, one fails to forget (even memory can be deployed to serve the Superego function) that "Where's the money?" is defamatory.

Do you think you could see the inexpressible hysteria, the unspoken and unspeakable angst?

The person can falter, but not the institution or the institutionalized. The death penalty must remain mysterious: a mysterious alleged sacking/not sacking of the hangman casts a mysterious mist over the hanging of Nguyen. Who hanged Nguyen? (Or did Darshan Singh have an alibi?) Who is going to hang the rest of the future hanged? The NKF's fall from grace can be attributed to one person or a few people, but it is institutions that come to the rescue. Or so the story unfolds in the media(ted) saga.

Yet the same time, there is a compulsion to deny that the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy; we are transparent. The NKF saga is a tell-all; it is no longer only a scandal but it is a scandal that is
used to narrate a parable of honesty and transparency on the part of more important institutions. The narrative is not one that is read to a mass audience, but one that a mass audience is taught to narrate to itself, to circulate amongst its members.

Masks, Reading

The coordinate narrates the stories that were never its own—the stories that are formulated by the invisible Mathematician. The Mathematician's invisibility seems to be the epitome of disinterest, but his invisibility is a mask. Perhaps you, too, are a mask. Perhaps you are an avatar—an avatar amidst millions of other different avatars, each being an avatar of the Mathematician himself nevertheless.

The Mathematician has a formula even for generating the random. You could be indefinable or undefined, yet it is he who labels you as such. You could be complex, but he is able to round you up nevertheless.

The distinction between the personal and the collective matters no more. Each person testifies to the constructed collective.

Perhaps you persist, wondering as you narrate the pre-formulated tales, if you have the space for a subplot about your position as the Mathematician's avatar. Yet, you could only turn your libidinal subplot inwards, ending up with masturbatory outlet right in front of the gaze of the voyeuristic Mathematician.

Sometimes you think you have forgotten the authentic. But the real history of amnesia would apologetically reveal that there is unfortunately no true forgetting. Instead, there are only distorted remembrances. This is also the future of amnesia. There is no forgotten authentic to which one could turn or return. You face once one invisible Mathematician after another. The only recourse is perhaps to the back of the multitude of falsehoods.

If you have a frustration, it fails to be located. Perhaps this is because it is situated outside the dimensions of the Mathematician's graph. The Mathematician's violence is not reflected in his graph until perhaps someone vandalizes it although it is itself a continuous process of vandalism. The wounding continues.


The story of the Merlion narrates a collective root. The Merlion is throned as the signifier of a past that is relevant today when it is in fact one of the signifiers of the present construction of the past. As the Merlion spews water out of its mouth, the Mathematician has one narrate his version of the past. It is a reproducible site of memory.

Yet, as the Merlion regurgitates water continuously, it is gagged by its regurgitation. It is unable to tell the traumatic tale of its creation.

The shared violence that continues to be inflicted is about as authentic as it gets for the falsely collectivized. Impossibility: if only one could see the face of the Merlion as it turns away, perhaps one would catch an instance when the Mer
elion spews tears, for once voluntarily.

Read Xenoboy regarding the mandatory.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Graph Paper Nostalgia [Draft]

“ . . . [B]ut then he came back, oh, how my knees trembled, he asked me to forgive him and gave me a locket with a picture of the Kremlin on it, his most treasured possession.”

The Joke, Milan Kundera.

I had a dream last night—a brief but surprisingly tranquil dream that I have not had for a long time already. The dream brought me back to school in which I studied when I was fifteen. I just knew instinctively it was that particular classroom. I was in a classroom playfully changing my seats. I suspect I knew even in the dream that I wasn’t supposed to be changing seats. Coordinates should never fall out of place. Perhaps that explains the pleasure of the dream. Perhaps the pleasure I felt after the dream was also the pleasure of simplicity—how something as simple as changing one’s seat in a classroom could be fun.

I woke up with a lingering sense of serenity. It lingers, but all that was left was, within a few seconds, the residue of something that has never existed. It was inevitable. The simplicity and peacefulness of one’s childhood is always a retrospective affect. When I woke up, I felt like I was fifteen again. Yet, I suspect I could hardly have felt that way when I was that age since I could not have look at the same time in retrospect.

I was denied my nostalgia once I realized that I could never have felt that way.

What I can remember if my life is fighting. The arena gets larger as the years past. As a fifteen-year-old, I was fighting against a school that I found oppressive. Girls' skirt length, boys' hair length. A bodily control. Later, I found myself having to fight an education system—not merely a school. Yet later, I find myself fighting in a larger arena. There is, it seems, no way I could retrieve memories of peace, of simplicity, of serenity. They don’t exist. I have always been a coordinate in a sheet of graph paper. I shift, but I remain a coordinate. The further I shift, the larger the graph paper gets.

Of course, I could dream of getting back to point (0,0). The center. That’s where the graph would seem to be the smallest. Even then, it would only be a dream.

When I awoke from the dream, perhaps I was brought back to the center for a brief moment. The feeling—whatever it was—soon gave way to sadness. Perhaps it was because I realized that I could not get back to point zero. More likely, it was because I realized also that point zero is not where I wish to go either. Otherwise, I could at least be nostalgic for it.

Yet, the further I get from point zero, the more insignificant I become. The difficulty of defining the battle, of defining my fight, becomes overwhelming. If I were to be conquered, it would not be because of my weakness but because of my speechlessness. To just vaguely articulate the reasons for the battle, it seems as though I have to have PhDs in Law, in politics, in philosophy, in history, in sociology, in culture, in theory…

Even then, it will not be enough. I have to harness everything together. Even then, who in the world would comprehend?

Even if I could say, I could not be understood.

I cannot tear the graph paper apart. It is no longer a two-dimensional graph I am on, but a multi-dimensional one. I’m an unfathomable coordinate. I cannot be nostalgic without falling prey to brilliant tactics in psychological warfare.

I try explaining myself by means of a hyperbole. Even then…

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lucky's Funeral [Scene 1]

Lucky’s Funeral: An Unperformable Work
By Molly Meek (Amateur)

Foreword by Molly Meek:
A play that begs to be performed when read and begs to be read when performed. It lives an unfortunate existence.



VLADIMIR: Yes of course it was there. Do you not remember? We nearly hanged ourselves from it. But you wouldn't. Do you not remember?
ESTRAGON: You dreamt it.
VLADIMIR: Is it possible you've forgotten already?
ESTRAGON: That's the way I am. Either I forget immediately or I never forget.

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot: Act II.

Scene 1

A grand chair right in the middle of the stage, with two long ropes tied to two of its legs. The ropes should be long enough to extend to the furthest ends of the stage. There are two compact discs on the chair.

Enters Lucky from the left, with a huge cookie in his mouth. Lucky carries a microphone. One of the ropes is tied to one of his legs.

Lucky moves the microphone to his mouth, trying to speak but realizes that he can’t.

Enters Hee from the right, with a huge cookie in his mouth and carrying a biscuit tin. The other rope is tied to one of his legs.

Lucky and Hee embrace each other. They try to talk, but the cookie prevents them from doing so. They face the audience and pout with the cookies still in their mouths. Each then proceeds to pick up a compact disc from the chair.

Lucky and Hee face each other. Lucky slides the compact disc he is holding into Hee’s pocket.
Hee, in turn, slides the compact disc he is holding into Lucky’s pockets.
Lucky removes the cookie in Hee’s mouth as Hee opens his biscuit tin. Lucky puts the cookie into the tin.
Hee removes the cookie in Lucky’s mouth. Hee puts the cookie into the tin.

(Somewhat mechanically.) Ah…

Hee opens the biscuit tin and Lucky puts his microphone into the tin. Hee then puts the tin under the chair.
Couldn’t talk with those cookies in our mouths.

Well, stop complaining. We couldn’t live without those cookies to sustain us. That’s the way it goes unless you want to be fired.

So be it! I have forgotten your name. Should I apologize?

It’s ok. (As a matter of factly.) I’m sympathetic to patients with selective amnesia. And you aren’t doing the selecting. … I am Hee.

He? Sounds familiar.

(In mock delight.) Perhaps your condition is getting better, Lucky!

I’m Lucky?

So they say! And so you said! And so you are!

Really? I don’t … feel… I don’t feel it in my bones at all. Not even in my boner! (Blank pause.) Who named me?

I’m totally ignorant about your family history, dear. But that’s the name in your passport. You can’t go wrong with passports. Aren’t we supposed to be discussing how we are going to stage a play?

Are we allowed to stage a play?

It depends on what sort of play.

A word play. Plays these days usually dispense with words.

I’m asking you about the story.

Are you sure we can’t go wrong?

You haven’t told me the story!

I’m talking about passports. Sure we can’t go wrong with them? Say, how do I know if I’m the passport’s?

It knows, don’t worry.

How about chairs? They sound pretty authoritative.

Chairs will also know if you are theirs, I assume.

No, I’m talking about the play! The production with a streamlined budget!


What are they for?

(Warily.) They? Passports or chairs?

I can’t remember. (Pauses to ponder.) Passports then!

To keep you grounded.

Logical. Why not chairs?

Chairs keep you grounded too.

No, why can’t we make a play about chairs?

There’s no knowing what you mean. …There isn’t enough budget.

(Disappointed.) Not even for one chair?

We can’t afford it. Or rather, we can’t afford to risk spoiling it.

I could be the chair and you could sit on my laps.

No, they might detect homosexual undertones. Furthermore, chairs and homosexual undertones are not complementary.

Is the audience so sensitive?

I never said anything about the audience.

(Curtly.) Sorry. I must be having a relapse.

Hee looks away, silent.

How about overtones instead?

Hee looks away, silent.

Let’s stage something about a failed attempt to stage a play about chairs.

(Interested, but hesitant.) Is it about the failure or about the attempt? We shouldn’t confuse the audience.

(Agitated.) Now you are talking about the audience! Have you forgotten that we have no audience? Yesterday, we decided to make a play to entertain ourselves! We had been doing nothing ever since Ozzo disappeared.

Still, we need to be professional and take into consideration the economic pros and cons. Anything that compromises efficiency and profitability is not viable. Be practical, won’t you?

I feel like caning you with a carrot.

Whatever. Just don’t expose any buttocks. (Pause.) (Excitedly.) You remember Ozzo?

No, not quite. I remember his disappearance. An absence engraved somewhere in my mind.

That’s sad. What could we possibly do?

You are a little too obsessed with doing things.

Is there any other track that we can take?

Perhaps. But there can only be so many tracks. How many identical roads are not taken?

Let’s come back tomorrow then. There might be more things to see.

(Resignedly.) Whatever.

Hee opens his biscuit tin, takes out a cookie and puts it into Lucky’s mouth.
Lucky takes out the other cookie and puts it into Hee’s mouth.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Entry of Laughter and Forgetting

I promise that this will be the last blog entry focusing on the Melvyn Tan “controversy” (as some call it) unless there are really compelling reasons for me to talk about it. In the latest Channel NewsAsia article, “Pianist Melvyn Tan defers public appearance after National Service furore”, he proves to be of enduring interest.

First, before I make any analysis, allow me to express a sympathetic note (which I hope does not get misconstrued as emotional or even sappy). Just how much must a person go through for not going through NS? The news article reports: “He said he came back to Singapore knowing full well he could face a jail term.” Is there any point to continue demonizing him as an irresponsible NS defaulter? Whatever unfairness one feels there is, Melvyn Tan was not the perpetrator. No doubt, he might have consulted lawyers before deciding to come back, but no lawyer could promise him that he would only get away with a fine.

On the other hand, could one not consider the anguish of someone like Melvyn Tan? A sort of anguish perhaps as inexpressible as the indignation some men who have gone through NS feel.

Allow me to emphasize once and for all that I am, in this blog and elsewhere, by no means encouraging Singaporean men to evade National Service. Neither am I falling into the other side of the polemic that shouts the importance of NS. I believe there is room for every thinking human being to put herself/himself in the shoes of others although this does not indicate support for their actions.

At the center of the so-called controversy lie human individuals. (I hope to use the term “individuals” in as unloaded a way as possible.) The recent death penalty debate has its individuals: Nguyen, his mother, his brother. So does the Melvyn Tan controversy: Melvyn Tan, his parents. Not to forget the face of each man who feels that there is unfairness. How often has the individual been reified into a faceless issue?

What happens when individuals are dissolved into a painting coated with a layer of green paint?

Look at the picture in the CNA article that I have cited:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Perhaps Melvyn Tan seems to be controversial precisely because has an undissolved face—the solitary face defying a general facelessness. For a different discussion about Face, read XenoBoy’s article.

The many who have learned to accept the dissolution of their faces (perhaps in place of a larger-than-life Face) see the return of the repressed in Melvyn Tan—a return that has become quite physical indeed.

Is the CNA article about Melvyn Tan? Or about the mass of dissolved faces confronting the uncanny appearance of Melvyn Tan? Why the picture?

Perhaps Melvyn Tan, too, has to deal with the return of the repressed. He is a face devoid of a voice:

“He said he hoped one day he would still to be able to perform in Singapore, and be able to tell through music what he has found difficult to put into words.”

An unspoken anguish?

Melvyn Tan, in fact, is also faceless.

The face of controversy that he carries has been (super)imposed on him. We can no longer see him as Melvyn Tan. We can no longer see him as Melvyn Tan the pianist. We can only know him as Melvyn-Tan-the-pianist-who-defaulted-NS-and-paid-a-$3000-fine. The hyphens are unbreakable chemical bonds.

Can the subaltern speak? No.
Can the face of subalternity be seen? No.

Could we uncover something? Hopefully.

Are you a Melvyn Tan?

Important advice-cum-disclaimer: this blog entry is perhaps best forgotten by your mind and remembered by your conscience.

*For more work on memory/remembrance/forgetting, read the more recent works by XenoBoy.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Melvyn Tan or Us?

I left a comment regarding the Melvyn Tan affair at Kway Teow Man’s blog. Here’s an amended version:

I am of the opinion is that the whole Melvyn Tan media spectacle has quite fascinating effects. Killing many Tweeties killed with one stone—if any at all. (In comparison, Molly fails miserably in this bird-hunting business.) The fact that a controlled media is allows some form of discussion insteading of covering up minimizing the issue's profile/exposure probably suggests that the issue has its functions.

The wonderful effects of the spectacle (purely Molly’s speculations and do not necessary bear any resemblance to truth):

1) Take some attention away from death penalty. And other issues like casino bidding, seditious bloggers, etc.

2) Since people complain, we have the chance to implement harsher penalties than ever. Harsher punishments are a way to maintain the status quo and preserve social order.

3) A good way to test waters—test the success of years of national education. See how people react to the issue.

4) If people support the punishment (or think the punishment is too light), they acknowledge that NS is necessary and defaulters have to be punished. (Otherwise, they will be saying that the punishment is unfair to Melvyn Tan.) In the process, they are voicing out an implicit willingness to go through NS.

5) If they don't support the punishment:

(a) Perhaps they think it's too light. "So, ok lor. We make it harsher next time. See who kena more jialat." Next time even fewer people will dare to go against the system.

(b) Perhaps they think it's too heavy: why must people be forced to a corner because of one sacred state policy? Aha! This is the only possible flaw. But has anyone said so yet? Predictably, no. Play on the people's simple-mindedness and capitalize on their very sense of inequality to make it seem as though a particular policy is well-supported—and it is!

6) Those people who talk about democracy and human rights (stupid Dr. Chee! always making trouble!) cannot say much. If they talk about human rights and democracy issues (involved in punishing Melvyn Tan), they will alienate themselves from people who feel that Tan already has too light a punishment.

The Great Ones: 7
The Peasants: 0

Winner: The Great Ones! Hurray!