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Month: February, 2012

On The Artist winning the Oscars

Who would have thought that in this era where technology commands the production movies, a silent B&W film could contend for the best film of the year, let alone win it. This isn’t just another Oscars, but a watershed to all film makers and film lovers alike. Living in a time where millions of emails are sent per day, The Artist is a hand written letter to remind the world on the power of passion and what true art and is.

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Perfect Albums?

I love music and like everything else that I love, I adore pondering on why do I love it and how do I love it. But it’s not always that I confess this love, or less ostentatiously, review new album releases on my blog. It’s mainly because I find it difficult to write on something I have little knowledge on. But I do make it a point to compile my list of favourite albums as each year ends. Those list are decided mostly through intuition. Other than enjoying album X more than album Y, I must admit I haven’t gave a good and long thought on why is X necessarily better than Y.

I lazed in bed today and thought of it with some success. Consequentially, it goaded me to think, “Is there a perfect 10/10 album?”. Given the weight of the word Perfect, to my surprise, there are a few. I think.

Here are the criteria used in deciding these “perfect albums”. The albums will be revealed later laconically.

I must love it

This may be truism for everyone else but not for me. There are albums which I dislike but genuinely feel it’s good. I know it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t read that wrong. There are albums which I vomit at the sound of but still think of them as brilliant albums. My first impression on Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion was such. On first listen, I knew it’s an album that will find its way into the top 10s list on the year end issue of every music magazine but I just didn’t like it. It took me awhile before I started to find some tracks agreeable. Deerhunter – Microcastle and Arcade Fire – Funeral has the same effect on me. I suspect it has something to do with recognizing the sophistication of the album but simply not liking how it sounds, which brings me to my next point.

There must be depth

Depth, like most words used to describe music, is ambiguous and subjective. To me, it primarily has something to do with the instruments. They must be layered or at least appear layered – the only instrument I can play is recorder and I play it badly, so feel free to cheat me. A crisp voice accompanied by a soothing ukulele can never be a 10, I don’t care if it sounds better than the moaning of an angel as Chuck Norris fucks her. Bon Iver’s debut album or King of Convenience – Declaration of Dependance exemplifies this, both are brilliant albums that I can’t associate Perfection with for the same silly reason. Albeit knowing it’s an erroneous yardstick to use, I find it indispensable.

The lyrics must be decent

I am not particular on lyrics. It doesn’t have to be literary like a prose by Shakespeare, it needs to be decent. As long as it isn’t repetitive, or about your angst towards the world, or on your desire to grope that redhead in your school, or just downright stupid, it should be good enough for me. But of course, to have lyrics like Wild Beasts – Two Dancers is a bonus.

There must be synergy

More precisely, there must be synergy between the tracks. 10 outstanding tracks doesn’t make a perfect album, 10 tracks packaged outstandingly does. I especially enjoy albums with tracks that flow from one to the other without discernible interruption – Owen Pallet – Heartland comes to mind. But that isn’t all, to uphold this synergy, the tracks can’t be too alike, each track must sound unique. An album will great individual tracks but ultimately falls short as an package would be Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; it could use some diversity. This however, is completely subjective.

It must be enduring of time

No matter how earth-shattering an album is on first listen, it can’t be a 10. A perfect album is one that starts of as 9, or lower on rare instances, and progresses through time – a period no less than 6 months – into a 10. During this time, new insights must be made about the album and it must either maintain its novelty or even better, better itself. A 10 is an album that’s persistently brilliant in retrospect, withstanding the onslaught of time.

The criteria are stated, here are the albums.

Albums that I consider 10.

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
Owen Pallet – Heartland
Owen Pallet – He Poos Clouds
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Potential 10s that require more listening.

Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Destroyers – Kaputt
These New Puritians – Hidden
Mum – Go Smear the Poison Ivy
Arcade Fire – Suburbs

That is all.

Paradox of Hedonism

The Paradox of Hedonism. The idea that pleasured cannot be acquired directly but indirectly and more arrogant claims.

I used to think the same as them, but the more I look around me, the more I think the philosophers could just be wearing the wrong shoes while thinking of what happiness is. Their brilliant minds held them hostages from understanding how it feels to be ordinary.

My muse came from observing happy people, which is everyone except for the man in the mirror, and reading Henry Sidgwick, my favourite philosopher before Hume was introduced to me. Sidgwick says that Happiness cannot be directly pursued and to be happy, it’s it necessary to occupy oneself with another object instead of one’s happiness. This idea, coined as Paradox of hedonism, is advocated by many other philosophers after his time and most eloquently expressed by John Stuart Mill: “But I now thought that this end [one’s happiness] was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”.

Reading their texts literally, there is great sense in what these philosophers said. Happiness is a quale, a quality which can only be experienced personally; it is not tangible like a tree. Essentially, happiness by itself is empty and only by occupying ourselves with real objects or activities we can be happy. If that is all the philosophers are saying, it will be both truistic and true. But it isn’t all, there are more behind their words. Clearly a pedant on the concept of happiness, John Stuart Mill further claims that the moment someone questions on whether he is happy, he stops being so. His idea is agreed on by many other philosophers and intellects.

In short, it is accepted by most philosophers that one cannot be truly happy as long as they consciously want to. Is that true and does it apply to the masses? To answer the question, we must first have a shared understanding of what happiness is: Happiness is a quale. It is satisfaction of your own life on top of fleeting pleasure. If what I defined as Happiness is agreed on then what the philosophers claim is absurd and just doesn’t apply to ordinary people. Evidently, there are people who consciously and continually want to be happy and are happy.

For example, Sally consciously knows that by marrying harry will make her happier. She marries harry and after the marriage she reflects on whether she is happy and decides that she is. To nag out of necessity, only under the circumstances of happiness being an empty thing because man are creatures in need of an occupation, the philosophers aren’t wrong to say happiness itself cannot be pursued. Not because by knowing we are happy we are in truth, not.

The problem is that despite knowing that happiness is a quale, philosophers being addicts of finding objectivism in concepts, tried to impress a clear line on what is it. In search of a distinct quality about happiness, they realized the more they ponder upon the concept, the less they are. But the phenomenon isn’t a propensity, instead caused by the complicated framework of their mind. The same doesn’t apply to those simpler, the majority.

The only way to argue against so is that the philosophers may be warning that by constantly pursuing happiness, we may find ourselves trapped on a hedonic treadmill and gradually be led on to think that happiness is a duty. When it is, every moment not thoroughly enjoyed may be confused as unhappiness, which is an apparent first world problem as observed by Pascal Bruckner. But the philosophers aren’t warning us, our obsession on happiness is only a recent phenomenon, Sidgwick died more than a century ago. They claim what they did literally and those claims must remain to be impractical and in doubt.

Defining concepts is fun, especially so when you try to objectivize it. But somethings are better left alone and subjective. Happiness is one of them and knowing that I can no longer rain on the parade of others’ happiness makes me unhappy.

Why I gave up on online arguments on politics.

A conversation between Billy and Willy. Billy is a fresh diploma graduate while Willy is an engineer facing competition from foreigners.

Willy: So Billy, what do you plan to do in life from now?

Billy: I don’t know. I just got my nursing diploma so I expect myself to work in a hospital or something.

Willy: Do you know that our health care industry is infested with pinoys?

Billy: Yeah, kind of.

Willy: And do you know that pinoys are cunning and immoral people?

Billy: Huh? How is that related? And I don’t think it’s nice to judge all of them just because a couple or rotten apples.

Willy: Don’t be gullible and grow up, they are evil like PRCs, all of them. We Singaporeans are the finest breed of all and noble blood flows through our veins. It’s all the PAPs fault for importing all these foreigners into our once peaceful country …

Billy: Woah woah, hold on a minute. I am not too familiar with this politics thing-y and will rather not discuss about it.

Willy: Are you saying you are politically apathetic? What a disgrace. Do you even know of ONE political party apart from the PAP? I bet you don’t, you shameful thing. It’s fence sitters like you that causes the outrageous property prices and COE somemore. We need to pressurize the PAP and show them our might when numbered so they will think twice before implementing policies. They even want to send our old folks to JB!

Billy: Willy, I think you need to relax …

Willy: Your country will soon be overwhelmed by foreigners and yet you don’t care? You must be one of those happy go lucky fellas that wastes your life drinking booze during weekends and running on transient hedonistic treadmills and not giving much thought for the future. The younger generation really is pathetic, my generation is the best!

Billy: I don’t actually drink beer and I think you got it all wrong. Besides, I do follow the GE while it’s happening and I am not very sure if the oppositions are ready to do the job.

Willy: Well, it doesn’t matter if they are. What matters is that the incumbent sucks and we want change. You must be thoroughly blinded and misled by the incumbent to think what you are thinking. Don’t be stupid and start to have a better and more objective view of Singapore. Do you even know what the word objective means? Everything that the media claims is covered with falsehood. Do you know that the SPH is ranked 154th under Press Freedom Index? Do not believe what you read on any local newspaper. You must visit websites such as TemasekReview or TheOnlineCitizen to receive a more objective view on Singapore. They are the true and objective voice of the people. Objective objective objective! You are blinded blinded blinded!

Billy: Alright. Right. Hmmm, Errr I guess that some of the opposition candidates do look competent for the job. But is the PAP really that bad? Didn’t our GDP still increase last year while our neighbours’ suffered.

Willy: What? The PAP isn’t bad? Are you joking? Everything they do or say is bad and evil! So what if the GDP increase? My boss still refuses to give me a promotion or salary increment and I still cannot get a girlfriend! Let me tell you, the incumbent is running our country like a corporation just so they can pay themselves even higher salary! Do you know that our PM is being paid 8times more than the Obama? How despicable! But I bet you didn’t know because you only read local newspapers. Do you even know who Ho Ching is? Wife of our PM la! It’s because of her that our country lost 500billion and it’s all our CPF money!

Billy: Actually I do know but … never mind. So are the oppositions really you know, cut out for the job?

Willy: Well, you never know unless you try voting them in do you? Lee Kwan Yew worked in a law firm before becoming our first PM.

Billy: Wait didn’t you dislike the PAP?

Willy: Let me finish can? The younger generation is just so rude! I am not trying to say he is good la, but then hor, aiya you know la. Anyway, ever heard of Chen Show Mao, candidate for WP? He’s a Rhodes Scholar! I am sure he’s more qualified for the job unlike our incompetent cabinet ministers.

Billy: Isn’t Raymond Lim, our Ex Minister of Transport, a Rhodes Scholar as well?

Willy: But he’s different! He’s with the PAP and therefore every thing he does is evil and not for the people!

Billy: Oh … Wow. Isn’t your argument a bit biased.

Willy: What!? Don’t be ignorant and blinded! What bias are you taking about? Just because I am more informed that you you think I am biased? Teenagers like you who know absolutely nothing about the deep and profound and severe subject of politics really should just keep your mouths shut.

Billy: I said I didn’t want to talk about this in the first pla…

Willy: But it’s fence sitters like you that makes Singapore a horrible place to live in! COE is already 70k and you don’t car…

Billy(interrupts): PAP is evil and doesn’t have our interests at heart.

Willy: Well done Billy!

Billy: Any opposition party is better off as our government.

Willy: Great! You are finally realizing the truth.

Billy: I hate the PAP and I love bigbrother WP.

Willy: You are a bright young man with a bright future ahead of you.

The end.

 

Biological determinism

is the root of all evil and folly.