Monday, November 22, 2010

Teach critical thinking in Singapore schools

I have long felt there is a huge need in Singapore for more critical thinking. In all fairness, there is a need for this everywhere. But I can’t count how many times I have read of local people falling for the ‘magic stone’ scam, having sex with witch doctors to rid themselves of demons, and various other scams. Peddlers of slimming pills and weight loss spas of dubious – make that zero – value are making money hand over fist. Even bogus schools open, overcharge students, and disappear with alarming frequency.

The Sunday Times (known as the Straits Times the other six days of the week) had a beauty of an article about the alkaline and ionized water business. Buried in the middle of the article are comments by a local doctor noting that medical benefits of these types of water have never been recorded in any “reputable or scientific medical journal.” But one chap claims that his gout is not as severe after drinking two litres of alkaline water a day for five months. The guy didn’t say how much (or little) water he used to drink. My guess is the benefit is due to drinking large quantities of water (plain or otherwise) and/or psychology (believing is seeing).

A housewife has been drinking the stuff for five years and has not noticed any health benefits, but continues drinking it because she has become used to the taste and texture! What a compelling testimonial. But hey, maybe she is a Nobel Prize winning chemist – the article didn’t say she wasn’t!

An unidentified consumer claims alkaline water is “easier to swallow.” What kind of water did she drink before – ice?

After reading comments like these, I think alkaline water just might cause brain damage!

The piece concludes with one doctor who refers to a study showing positive health benefits. This doc, it so happens, sells alkaline water at his clinic. The reader can put two and two together.

Man in the street testimonials are OK for movies and restaurants, but for matters of science and medicine we should stick to impartial and knowledgeable authorities.

If anyone knows the identity of that ice swallowing genius, please refer her to me. I have a fabulous magic stone I’d like to sell her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrity doings

The news is full of celebrity activity today. There’s the possible sale of the Beatles’ music on iTunes. Sounds good in theory, but I’d rather have the Sgt. Pepper cover to look at while listening. And some money-grubbing scum suckers have released a posthumous Michael Jackson album, which promises to be a good way to make millions selling substandard work.

Speaking of substandard work, James Blunt is in the news. He’s the guy who had a hit featuring these memorable lyrics: “You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true.” Snore. Cole Porter must be spinning in his grave. Fortunately, it isn’t music putting him in the news, but his claim that he prevented World War III. My, aren’t we important? That bizarre statement ranks with Al Gore’s alleged claim that he invented the internet.

Finally, Christina Aguilera got her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining the ranks of the greatest actors in history. What has she acted in, you wonder? Me too! It says she is in a movie opening in a few days—her very first movie! This must be a guaranteed blockbuster, for her to be so honoured before the public ever sees her on the big screen.

Oh, yeah, there was also news of this British guy who said some bad things in a book he wrote and will be spending some time in prison, but you don’t expect me to comment on that, do you? I haven’t read the book, and I don’t think I’ll find it in the shops, so what can I possibly say. I won’t be seeing Christina’s movie, or buying “Michael’s” new album, or any of James Blunt’s albums, either. But I would vote for Al Gore (again). Or Cole Porter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pompeii exhibit at National Museum

We had a family outing at the museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. On display were a number of casts made of the original victims of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. It made me glad I am nowhere near Mt Merapi, currently spewing its guts out in Indonesia. I hope those villagers can run fast. There were also statues, jewelry, household items, and remnants of frescoes and mosaics from the ill-fated Roman town.

In order to appreciate these exhibits, you had to catch glimpses from behind walls of people taking photos. With flash not permitted in the gallery, how good could these photos be? Why not just buy a book if you feel you must see pictures of these items again? To me, taking photos detracts from the enjoyment of the experience.

Aside from Pompeii, there were four galleries with exhibits devoted to aspects of Singapore life. One featured clothing, and few people were in there. Perhaps this reflects the level of attention most heartlanders pay to their clothes. The gallery on local TV was deserted, and judging from the poor quality of contemporary local offerings I can only imagine how uninspiring past programming must have been. The third gallery was dedicated to photography; it too was empty, no doubt because all the photography buffs were crowding around all the other exhibits in the museum. The fourth gallery was by far the most crowded—what could the attraction be? It was all about—you guessed it—food! People were taking pictures of old coconut scrapers, noodle bowls, tea canisters, and other “museum pieces” that are still found in many Singaporean homes!

Museums are usually considered repositories of history, but they are also exhibits of contemporary life.