Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Inner Psych Geek (Boring Post Alert)

In response to my last post on the Olympics ages ago, social psychology class online discussions have churned out more interesting snippets:

In an often-cited study about counterfactuals, Medvec, Madey, and Gilovich (1995) found that bronze medalists appeared happier than silver medalists in television coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Medvec et al. argued that bronze medalists compared themselves to 4th place finishers, whereas silver medalists compared themselves to gold medalists. These counterfactuals were the most salient because they were either qualitatively different (gold vs. silver) or categorically different (medal vs. no medal) from what actually occurred. Drawing on archival data and experimental studies, we show that Olympic athletes (among others) are more likely to make counterfactual comparisons based on their prior expectations, consistent with decision affect theory. Silver medalists are more likely to be disappointed because their personal expectations are higher than those of bronze medalists. We provide a testbetween expectancy-based versus category-based processing and discuss circumstances that trigger each type of processing.

And I recently had this to say about marketing and schemas (mental associations - for example, when I think of the word 'firefighter', I think of words like alarm, red, ladder, hose etc, words within the schema of 'firefighter'):

When it comes to modern marketing, the underlying principle is simple: Sell the value, not the product. And in doing so, utilising schemas is one of the most potent ways to get about it.

As the article posted by Isaac says, why bother getting something new when you can already use what's there? It's kinda like debating with somebody and using what he says against himself. When you tap into the recesses of the human mind through advertising, you are capitalising on strong beliefs and principles of the consumer, and when you can grasp it, you have the consumer at your beck and call.

This is evident when one observes, for example, the types of logos that strong, established brands use. Nike did a fantastic job, using the universally recognisable tick sign, which has a myriad of positive schemas attached to it. When you can't fare as well as that, create the values around it, like Coca-Cola does, and make the associations easy. Did you know that before Coca-Cola, Santa Claus in a red and white suit never existed? The image of Santa Claus chugging down a glass bottle of Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic images in history, and that's why they're still trashing Pepsi in the cola wars in terms of marketability til date. Capture the most basic desires, as Starbucks does with its image of lifestyle, and package it back the people for a price so that when people think of a lazy afternoon of coffee and a good book, Starbucks is right off the top of your head.

In a marketing module I once took, the professor mentioned that some company (it's a pity I really can't remember - it was really interesting) even tried to patent the word 'Okay' under their brand. One can see the level of intrusive pervasiveness when one realises the kinds of intent marketers are up to when it comes to capturing schemas and associations that we might hold dear.

The ethics of advertising is always heavily contested because of it is so hard to pin down what companies are really doing with their marketing campaigns. It's not any easier when people are increasingly conditioned to desire material things in an evergrowing market democracy world. And it is no wonder when people get more disillusioned when the basic values of their lives have a price attached to them in the form of consumer goods.

Audio Candy:
AFI - This Celluloid Dream

Monday, 18 August 2008


Singapore notched silver for table tennis. The obvious sentiment aside, a more cynical side of me thinks that being in that semi-final winning position, especially for a competitor like Singapore, sucks somewhat in the sense that you're definitely aware of the ominous challenge of China ahead in the final but it's a taboo to think of 2nd place, and you have to lose in the grandest way to say that you've won a silver medal.

It's no biggie, just a thought.

Perhaps knowing that school's reopening has inspired some random poignance, so I was just comparing between what's worse: failing to do something you've always ordered or preached about to people to do, or being a disappointment.

Also, is it better for someone to be angry because of you or sad because of you? I'm vouching for the former, because I think people generally desire the backlash after committing an error. It is escapistic and convenient of sorts, as it serves an instant, indirect part in self redemption.

The thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble is sex.

Audio Candy:
Death On Wednesday - Simple Life

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Infinity Divinity

I'm done with Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies and have moved on to The Infinite by A. W. Moore, and am making good progress. I've always been fascinated with mathematical philosophy because there is something deeply magical and spiritual within this realm of thought that has been modernly stereotyped to be boring, mechanical, technical and anything but artful.

Maybe (the upcoming parallel is a huge generalisation) as we move along into a world marked by individual needs above community spirit and a generic shift from 'macro' level things to 'micro' level things, we may not even have exhausted mathematics and science on a more philosophical scale - dismissing it as religious gibberish and leaving it aside as an unglamourous pursuit for aimless philosophers and cranky priests by the economic, materialistic masses - and are now more interested in finding out how to measure things more accurately and extending 'the next decimal place'. There is something fundamentally very calculative about this obsession with precision, but until the next Aristotle, Albert Einstein or Immanuel Kant, the world will continue fussing over instantly gratifying specifics instead of the inconvenient truth.

It is interesting to see how the first theological thoughts and references came from great thinkers, such as Anaximander, Plotinus, Pythagoras and Aristotle, just to name a few, from a largely Greek era when the concept of infinitude was initially broached, and how relevant its divinity still carries over to this day from age-old paradoxes and sheer awe at something we cannot grasp simply because we are finite beings.

Faith is but our only bridge.

Audio Candy:
Samantha Jade - Step Up

Perspective Is A Luxury When Your Head Is Constantly Buzzing With A Swarm Of Demons

Another textbook 5-1 victory today in the league and a solid performance from our team. But on a personal level, yet another quiet game. I've gotta get a grip.

It just takes some time
Little girl you're in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything'll be just fine
Everything, everything'll be alright

How does one solve a problem that direly needs external perspective but is inherently personal?

I could be right where you are and still feel you locked up and trapped far away by the immaculateness of the inescapable situation you've deemed it to be. I know it's really easier said when one is out and past the darkness of murky waters, but helplessness is a mere state of mind. It is hard to reach out when one can't see the hands desperately offered, outstretched.

Even if, sad as it sounds, they're not there, a little belief goes a long way.

Our loneliness is borne from a biased egocentricity, and I'm not spared as long as I'm aching to see the despair beyond my lenses.

Audio Candy:
The Spill Canvas - All Over You

Thursday, 14 August 2008


It is not because I am wholly satisfied with everything contained in these essays that I have adopted this policy of not attempting to improve them: it is, conversely, because, once the process of emendation had been initiated, it would have been hard to bring it to an end... Any attempt by [a] writer, years later, to convert [one of his essays]... into an expression of his present way of looking at the topic will produce only a mutilated object, representing neither his former nor his present view: he must either leave it as it stands, or write a completely new essay on the subject (pages ix-x).

- Michael Dummett, in the preface to his anthology Truth and Other Enigmas (London: Duckworth, 1978), writes about his decision to reprint his essays without any changes, other than trivial corrections of misprints and the like.

Audio Candy:
Martina McBride - Valentine

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


It's been like 7 months since the last time I did a 2.4km run. Maybe the weather was good, or maybe waking up early to have a run and then have a hearty breakfast (the ideal I had in mind for the longest time) is a wholesome way to start the day. In any case, even though I kinda puked out the disgusting bread I ate before the run, I clocked 9 min 9 seconds, one of the best average runs I've ever had and one of the best I can ever hope for in my current state of fitness.

I mean, well, it's 10 seconds short of subbing 9 afterall, something I've only managed to do once, so yeh.

Reckon I still have it in me then, and I guess the $400's more or less in the bag come this thursday unless the remote possibility of me messing up standing broad jump happens.

To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
- Jack Handey

Audio Candy:
Michael Bublè - Beyond The Sea

Monday, 11 August 2008

Political Malaise

When the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they'd glamourised an age-old Greek concept of democracy and fuelled it with the noble rhetoric of personal rights, individual liberty and the glorious pursuit of happiness.

The interesting irony is that Americans, the very first modern children of democracy, are an increasingly unhappy lot. The uncertainty that the democratic process in The United States can solve problems leads to a niggling strain on the psyches of its citizens, especially when the voting process, seen as a patriotic act, leads to a burdening sense of hyper-moralization. People are torn between candidates and parties they can't clearly trust everytime voting comes along, and time after time people are disappointed with the outcomes of their choices, leading to a decrease in efficacy and self-determination. Over time, contingent reinforcement kicks in and some form of learned helplessness comes into play.

That's a small jab in the ribs for democracy. Recently, an article titled "Why They Hate Singapore" was published in the papers, as our political practices are once again under the limelight from international scrutiny. provides some interesting insights.

Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.
- John Maynard Keynes

Audio Candy:
Kaddisfly - Campfire

In Jest

After some degree of instigating, I will sporadically dedicate this blog to stupid conversations, of which Isaac frequently seems to star in. Hahar gh3y.

Isaac: Should I tear the backing off my phone?
Me: Well, you have complete sovereignty over your phone.
Isaac: You are my technocrat, so you should advise me on what to do.
Me: I'd advise you to do what you believe in.
Isaac: I believe that I should follow your advice.

Siyu: You suck lor.
Isaac: Why I suck! Walau I'm helping out for free, then I come only 5 minutes late then get scolded... RAWR.
Siyu: You suck for not scolding her back.

Richard: Wouldn't Angie get pissed if you did something she likes, like playing golf, without her?
Me: Well it's not like I'd get pissed if Angie played soccer and didn't ask me along.

Okay for the record I know it's a highly fallacious counterargument but it did serve it's intended purpose at that point hahar.

Modesty: the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.

Audio Candy:
Within Temptation - Stand My Ground

Sunday, 10 August 2008

A Divinely Short-Handed Flame

Took this off Kee's blog.

In all the languages in the world, there is the same proverb: "what the eyes don't see, the heart doesn't grieve over." Well, I say that there isn't an ounce of truth in it. The further off they are, the closer to the heart are all those feelings that we try to repress and forget. If we're in exile, we want to store away every tiny memory of our roots. If we're far from the person we love, everyone we pass in the street reminds us of him/her. The gospels and all the sacred texts of all religions were written in exile, in search of God's understanding, of the faith that moves whole peoples, of the pilgrimage of souls wandering the face of the Earth. Our ancestors did not know, as we do not know, what divinity expects from our lives - and it is out of that doubt that books are written and pictures are painted, because we don't want to forget who we are - nor can we.

Contrary to popular sentiment, I can't wait for school to begin. While reading books on your own accord is one thing, it is quite another to attend lessons in the pursuit of guided knowledge. And maybe it's easier for a social science student to say something like this.

There're still golf sessions, suppers, soccer games, artyfarty trips to various museums, books to read, movies to watch, an upcoming IPPT and ultimately the Standard Chartered marathon nearer to the end of the year. So many things so little time, especially for the inertia-afflicted.

After 528 games, I've conquered 400 games, lost 127 and drawn 1. Now, this is quite a blistering Scrabulous run I must say. :]

I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not sure.

Audio Candy:
Jamie Scott - Made

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Beyond Keynesian

The love of money as a possession - as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life - will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

- John Maynard Keynes

Audio Candy:
I Am Ghost - This Is Home

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Dark Knight

I think The Dark Knight is by far the best superhero movie, categorically speaking, I've ever watched on many levels. The story of Batman has always connotatively employed the psychological vagueness of good and evil, especially with the symbiotic relationships between its resident hero and villains, within the dark context of Gotham City which is modelled after Manhattan on a dark, wintry night. There were so many political, social and philosophical issues addressed and yet the plot still remained largely uncompromised (even though liberties were taken with the original comic series, albeit thankfully done in a tasteful manner), making the 2 hours and 40 minutes it ran captivating throughout. Add to that fantastic acting on almost every character's part, especially Heath Ledger, and you get a show as awesome as The Dark Knight.

If anything, the concepts that really hit were dispensed with such delightful twistedness from the Joker. People all too easily succumb to plans, whether they are moral or not, and that is often manipulated by state heads with the ability to exercise lawful coercion. There were so many instances in the movie that highlighted the feebleness and insecurity of human nature once the secure walls of civility and social red taping get eroded.
This is a somewhat far-fetched, politically-slanted review of the movie, but the follow-ups written in commenting on the review are real gems and are worth a read.

The Joker: [speaking to Two-Face] Do I really look like a man with a plan, Harvey? I don't have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. You know what I am, Harvey? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do if I caught one. I just do things. I'm a wrench in the gears. I hate plans. Yours, theirs, everyone's. Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I am not a schemer. I show schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So when I say that what happened to you and your girlfriend wasn't personal, you know I'm telling the truth. [hands Two-Face a gun]

It's a schemer who put you where you are. You were a schemer. You had plans. Look where it got you. I just did what I do best - I took your plan and turned it on itself. Look what I have done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people get killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plans are horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics. But when I say one little old mayor will die, everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I am an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey? It's fair.

The Joker: You just couldn't let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren't you? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won't kill you, because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

: You'll be in a padded cell forever.

The Joker: Maybe we can share one. Then we'll be doubling up the rate this city's inhabitants are losing their minds.

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Audio Candy:
Bailango! Feat. Vero Verdier - Asi Se Baila El Tango

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Being non-committally involved in FTB proved to be quite an experience. Once you're not in OBS as a freshie in a blur-kok FTB group it actually doesn't look all that crappy anymore.

Isaac pointed out that 'The Good Earth' is a retarded thing to call anything in OBS because the irony is that this place would really have been the good Earth in the sense that it would've been untarnished nature near the beach if OBS hadn't been set up in its place.

We pushed the limits of trying to avoid work and also ended up generating the stupidest of conversations.

There was once we were having dinner and Rachel Seah came over to tell us to help her shift out tables. We were nowhere near willing to do the saikang and after a bit the discussion veered towards shifting a permanent table to the girl's toilet. Someone else suggested we could charge people 20 cents for using the toilet. Then I said that if anyone objects we can say that it's a free market world anyway. Then I think it was Isaac who quipped that we would end up having to clean the toilet because we have privatised it and it is within our best interests to maintain it.

The next day, Alvin, Isaac and I were getting bored being station masters for a really uninteresting game so when we found a praying mantis they naturally went into 大惊小怪 mode while I ended up being at one with one of my gazillion little pets around the world.

This is Isaac pretending to be a praying mantis himself in the background.
This really freaked Angie out LOL.

But the bug is like how at one with me.

So anyway we eventually put it in a bottle, and after a while of really retarded analogising (is there such a word?) of the circumstance of the praying mantis with that of state minions under a dictatorship, I decided to let it go.

That's when I said, "hmm, actually why did I only think of letting the praying mantis go now? I could have let it go 5 minutes ago. Or I could let it go 5 minutes later. What really triggers my intent to let it go only now?"

To which Isaac replied, "it is because you have used up your utility of keeping the praying mantis in the bottle." So I said, "y'know what, actually I could just end up continuing to keep the praying mantis in the bottle even though my utility is diminished just to prove that utility is crap."

Then Alvin stepped in with the clincher: "well, in that case you are now deriving new utility from attempting to prove that utility is crap."

The praying mantis that gave us more utility than we could've imagined.

Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.
- Jack Handey

Audio Candy:
David Cook - Always Be My Baby

Saturday, 2 August 2008


It's not always easy
And sometimes life can be deceiving
But I'll tell you one thing
It's always better when we're together

And in that instant, somewhere past the vast waters and the distant myriad of lights, brick walls came brilliantly tumbling down and weeds and vines that have only served to stifle vanished into an array of sparkling dust, and I'd never felt more at home than I could ever be.

While perhaps there can never really be such a thing as a true promise, it is more than enough to believe, trust and try.

Audio Candy:
Stars - The Night Starts Here