Friday, December 31, 2004

Death in 2004

I picked up a copy of Streats this morning, and it immediately struck me that it was much thicker and heavier than usual. It took me a while before it hit me. Streats is dead.

* * *

Speaking of death...

I've been dreaming of this internet service for ages. Let's call it Messenger of Death for now, since I can't think of a better name. Here are the basics of how it works:

You sign up (and pay) for the service, and enter a bunch of email messages to be sent to selected family and friends at specified times only after you die.

When you actually die, your lawyer (or someone you trust) will inform Messenger of Death that you're dead, along with the documentary proof (death certificate etc), which would trigger off your instructions.

For example, you can specify that you want an email sent to your ol' pal Bob exactly one year after your death date:

Heya Bob, it's been a long time! I mean, it's been waaay toooo loooong!
How's life these days for ya? frankly, life sucks big time for me down here.
Waitaminute... i'm dead. ok then - death sucks big time. I mean it's hot down here. Hot like hell man. Darn me - it IS HELL! and it's damned lonely. I mean I'm damned I know, but it IS lonely. I miss you man. I wish you were here with me. Join me soon okay?

And maybe another year later:

Damn Bob, when are u coming down man? Or don't tell me you've gone to heaven?? nah no way not after the things we did together - no way you'll be up there. you'd betta join me soon okay? or i'll start to haunt u in your sleep and give you wet dreams - not the usual kind - but nightmares so scary you'll wet your bed!
heh just kiddin man. but i'm just DYING for u to join me man!

This way your folks are guaranteed to remember you, and just way you want them to.

I think I'll make a lot of money with this service. Anyone wanna sign up?

* * *

Now to a more serious vein.

In principle, dying doesn't occur in weekends.

That was a quote from Grace Chow, who chronicled her thoughts in a blog as she looked forward to her impending death, which finally came and took her away early this month.

That was one of the most unique blogs I've seen. I suspect that it won't be updated anymore.

* * *

Some time in September this year, one of my favourite blogs died. Thankfully it wasn't because the blogger died - she just got tired after blogging for 5 years, so she killed it. Blogicide.

But miracles do happen.

Her blog was resurrected after a few weeks, complete with a new and glorified body.

Okay that was just a minor miracle. Maybe not even a miracle, since I was fully expecting her to blog again. Or at least write again.

* * *

I've been contemplating what would happen if I killed this blog.

Probably some mourning from some of you?

But really, a dead blog deserves little mourning.

* * *

Well, it's New Year's Eve.


Of course I don't mean it. Go say that to those who lost someone in the tsunami.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Blogging Reasons and Lessons

Everyone has their own reasons for blogging, although some may think that they don't - it's just that they're not very introspective. I suppose most people have the typical reasons for blogging, ranging from a personal diary replacement to a popularity-garnering scheme, a personal knowledge management tool to a public information service, and so on.

Since I'm quite a "different" kind of guy ("weirdo", as some say), I had other things in mind when I started this blog. Most basic of them is that I wanted to learn certain things about blogging, particularly "public" blogging.

Here are some of the reasons for this blog, as well as some fo the things I've learnt from this blog:

1. I wanted to prove to myself (and perhaps others) that a blog on something as mundane as life in an average institution in a "boring" country could actually be interesting, if the blogger is observant and writes well. I even came up with an extremely unattractive and unsophisticated title to add to the challenge, as you can see (ok I admit that Bill Clinton's autobiography title, My Life, is worse).

I think I've proven the point.

2. I wanted to find out how easy or difficult it is for a good blog to break into the blogging scene and become famous, and how meritocratic (not the Singapore hypocritic meritocracy) the blogosphere is.

I started off ambitious, hoping to break into the international blogging scene, but I soon figured that it was a lot easier to connect with a local reader. This was reinforced as my earliest loyal readers (commenters) were local. I'm thinking of people like Eddy (Bubblemunche), Gerome (Zenith), and Melissa.

It would take a lot more time and talent to reach international fame, and I suspect that I lack enough of the latter, and, who knows, death might keep me from having the former.

I don't consider this blog as famous, not even locally, I think found the answer I was looking for: it's really not that difficult to have a moderately sizable audience (I'm talking about over 100 unique visitors every day), provided that the blog is good.

But even if you have an interesting blog, you probably would need some help to get an audience, especially if you want to attain fame in a short time.

This blog owes a great deal to adri (popaghandi) who was probably the first to blogroll me. It helps that she's one of the top Singapore bloggers (you have to follow her blog for a while before you start to realise her magnetism, but by then it's too late to stop - La belle Dame sans merci Hath thee in thrall!).

I'm also indebted to well-known bloggers like re-minisce, mr miyagi, indian stallion, beautifuk, la idler who have either mentioned me or put me on their blogrolls. I even got hit by a link from mr brown, which almost tripled my daily hits for a couple of days. And I'm still secretly hoping to get hit by a xiaxue tsunami. By the way, I find xiaxue delightfully ravishing in her edited beauty. (They say that flattery can go a long way.)

There are many more of you I want to mention (ningx, claris, germaine, FF, fat fingers, dollie, etc. etc. etc.), but I realise I'd better stop or I'll never be done with this post (anyway many of you are on my blogroll).

3. I wanted to rant about some of the stupendously stupid things that go on in NP. Like how the homepage still sucks (they just put up a new one with frames) and they should hire someone who actually knows what's going on on the web. Or like how the NP Lifestyle Library is so freakin' hot in the afternoons. Nothing to do with hot babes - they use lousy airconditioning. Or how, when it pours, everyone gets wet on the top level of 56 - the newly-designed-and-constructed-multimilliondollar block 56. I really have lots more to rant about (being observant makes you notice all the warts), but I have a feeling that it wouldn't make a whit of difference, except that I may get into a lot of trouble (I know one guy from NP who got into trouble because of his blog).

4. I wanted a platform to pursue some of my extra-curricular academic interests. I'm interested in sociology and anthropology, and this blog has helped me to learn a lot about the sociological aspects of blogging. This blog is also my attempt at doing anthropological "fieldwork" - it's one thing to observe a community from a distance, it's quite another to learn by being a part of it.

Another of my interests is in the area of hermeneutics (basically the study of textual interpretation). This is why a few portions of my writings were deliberately vague (you probably didn't notice); I wanted to see how they were being interpreted. And your comments were crucial in my learning.

I still have a few other reasons, mostly minor ones, so I think I'll stop here. All that linking to your blogs has worn me out.

How's that for an excuse? =)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Strangers, Exhibitionism, and Blogging

I was at NP's Lifestyle Library (as usual). I grabbed a copy of New Scientist (as usual), and found myself a seat. Directly behind a girl (as usual).

For once it's not an Ah Lian. It sometimes gets a little tiring studying the habits of the homo ahlianus species after a while, especially since they just refuse to mate while you're observing.

Anyway, it didn't take me long to notice that the girl had half her rear end sticking out of her Levis glaring at me. I tried my best not to glare back. As I valiantly tried to concentrate on my magazine, I had this nagging suspicion that she knew that her rear was exposed.

My suspicions were confirmed when 2 of her male classmates appeared. She immediately became self-conscious, subtly shifting her position so that her bun slid back into the Levis. Unfortunately the whole thing couldn't fit inside (let's just say that the Levis didn't have enough material), so she tried to pull down the back of her jacket to cover the remnant. Since her jacket didn't have enough material either, she casually pulled her Crumpler bag behind her, which finally did the trick.

Hmmm... she didn't mind exhibiting herself to strangers (there was another guy nearby as well, so it wasn't just me), and yet she wouldn't do it when people she knew were around.

Which reminds me of this blog of mine. It's a form of exhibitionism on my part, but most people who know me don't know about this blog of mine.

At least they don't know that it's mine.

Well, at least that's what I'd like to think...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Festive Felicitations and Seasons Salutations

I was planning on a long and rambling post about my thoughts on blogging around on 1st January next year as promised in a previous post, but I shall break that promise.

I've already started on my new year post, but it became so long and unwieldy that I figured I could break it up into smaller posts that would eventually lead on to it. You'd probably appreciate that better anyway, since it would be more readable. What's more, it gives you a time to think about the stuff I'll be writing (at least that's what I hope for).

* * *

I usually turn off my phone at night during the festive seasons. The SMSes normally start flooding in after midnight, vibrating me out of my slumber.

I totally forgot about my policy this Christmas. Thankfully I was still awake when someone sent me the first "Merry Xmas" SMS just after midnight on December 25th. I silenced my phone immediately. The girl who sent me the greetings has known me for around 7 years, yet she doesn't know me. Maybe I'll explain to her another time.

You see, those who know me better probably remember going through a strange conversation with me, similar to the following:

Friend: Happy new year!

Me: For what?

Friend: Huh? I just wished you happy new year...

Me: Someone already wished me "happy millenium" in the year 2000, so I think this coming new year has already been covered thank you.

Friend: Oh...

Me: Anyway, must we always feel happy?

I won't go on, since the rest is similar to my small talk post.

I always wondered what's the big deal about a new year. Just because the earth makes one round around the sun, and that gives us reason to celebrate?

Or birthdays for that matter. Just because I popped out of my mother on a certain day, and that's reason to celebrate whenever I travel one round around the sun with the earth?

Something to think about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

One More Thing...

I forgot. Since I won't be blogging for the rest of the year (hopefully),

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year!

* * *

I always wondered why Christmas is so special. Just about every other festival or holiday is a happy one; why is Christmas a merry one?

Ho ho ho. I need to stop blogging.





I just realised that I've overblogged. 4, no 5 posts within this week, and it's only wednesday.

I shall see if I can stop blogging for the rest of the year. And spend the time thinking about blogging instead.

Maybe I should even give up blogging altogether.

Let me think about it.

Linking Lians, Libraries, and Linguistics

This will be a long and ponderous post. Read it if you can't sleep.

I was at NP's Lifestyle Library, where people go there to lounge around, chit chat with friends, observe the opposite (or sometimes, same) sex, or flip through glossy magazines. I, on the other hand, was there reading serious stuff, like Wired Magazine. Trying to read, that is, amidst all the distraction.

Then it struck me. Just about every other girl around me was an Ah Lian.

You know something is not right when a library is infested with Ah Lians. Maybe they don't have a better place to hang out in Ngee Ann, since we don't have discos or pubs or KTV lounges.

Anyway, if you have been scrutinising my blogroll, you would have noticed that I've actually linked to an Ah Lian's blog. A real Ah Lian - she even declares it publicly: "I am actually a simple Chao Ah Lian".

Are you surprised? Have you begun to question my tastes?

Just to ease the tension a little, no, she doesn't suit my tastes. At least not in that way.

* * *

Some of you may know that I hang out at the Mac Users Group (Singapore) forum, partly because I'm a Macuser, and partly because a number of the people who hang out there are pretty cool.

One day, someone in the forum posted this:

Hi, I'm not here to attack anyone, but I think sporadic instances of really terribly english in these forums are multiplying alarmingly.

These sorts of posts crop up every now and then in local forums. You can probably predict the usual comments that followed. Like the following from someone (from NP, I believe):
Written English was based on rules and guides. Breaking them doesn't show your "local flavour." it simply shows the ignorance of the language.

Hmmm. Later on, the same person adds:
desecrating the language like that simply shows our inability and ineptness to learn a language which is being taught as the first language throughout all schools.

Desecrating. I like that.

He also observes:
If Singlish is so distinctly Singaporean, why are our ministers not addressing us, as citizens of Singapore, in that uniquely singaporean way?

Maybe it's because our ministers are not linguistically enlightened? At least that's part of the reason, I would think.

So a know-it-all smartass had this to say:
What's Standard English anyway? Linguists will tell you that language is alive and constantly in flux because it's used by living people. And Singlish is but a dialect of English, and it's really no issue as long as another non-Singlish English speaker can understand it.
I love the English language, and I use "Standard English" where appropriate, but mugs forum got the ".sg", so if happy happy i use singlish, cannot meh?

Oh by the way, I'm that smartass =)

Then someone called macphaedrus added a really great post:
The spoken and written English today already incorporates plenty of foreign words, mostly culled from colonies of the British Empire (defunct). Thug, amok, sepoy and paddy are just a few coming from India and S-E Asia. If Singapore were still a colony, it is very likely that singlish words we use will find their way into English spoken in London.

Just like the English incorporating words from local languages and make them its own, local dialect words are still finding their way into the language. The difference now is that Singapore is not the 'parent' country of English, and thus confers no legitimacy, and this variant is at best parochial and have no chance of wider adoption.

Linguists will look at Singlish like they look at Pidgin, American ghetto speak and Carribean slave English as another example of a new language in the process of being created. The thing with any languages is that they may have their origins from a well established language, but will quickly develop its own gramma.

A true Singaporean will never confuse 'lah' and 'meh'. One is an emphatic end to a sentence, the other is a spoken question mark. And 'alamak' never comes at the end of the sentence. This is the gramma of Singlish that every Singlish speaker knows, and has to be taught to new speaker of Singlish.

I like that last paragraph - I never thought of that before. It's a pity he can't spell "grammar" right. But who cares?

* * *

I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't as "linguistically enlightened" a year or so ago. I would have thrown myself into the other side of the fray, anathemising those lesser life forms who do not possess a "proper command of English".

Maybe I could share some of the blame with my English teachers. They taught us the "rules of English", reinforced them, and drew bright, red circles where we broke them. Those of us who could master those rules were rewarded with praise and respect, while the rest were sneered at with contempt. And being insecure little souls, we eagerly clung on to anything that afforded us some status. And no doubt, being "good in English" was status.

(Incidentally, those teachers never told me that the best English writers break the "rules" habitually. Bad teachers.)

But I've since grown up a little, and my self-worth is no more linked to my command of a language. It helped that I've also gained a bit more knowledge since those days, particularly in the area of linguistics (pity they don't teach that at Ngee Ann).

Singlish, even though it sounds like broken English, really has its own grammatical rules, which are as complex as any other language, including "Standard English". We don't realise its complexity because we grew up with it and it comes to us so effortlessly and naturally, like the how Her Majesty speaks the Queen's English. But ask Her Majesty to speak perfect Singlish, and you will realise that you will probably have more success getting an Ah Lian to speak Queen's English.

So dun pray pray - Singlish is neither broken nor inferior.

* * *

Let me press on.

Anthropology is a field of knowledge with links to linguistics, and it's also one of the (many) subjects I'm interested in.

In the earliest days of anthropology, fieldwork was almost exclusively carried out by researchers from England and the US. They went to faraway and exotic lands to observe how the tribal people lived. And quite naturally, the western culture was used as the benchmark to measure a society's stage in development.

Tribes were often observed to be primitive, backward, uncultured, uncivilised, savage, simply because they did not meet these early observers' standard of civilisation. They were uncivilised because they didn't use shiny cutlery, or because they ate grubs and insects, or because their women didn't wear bras (or corsets at that time). Come to think of it, a lot of western women don't wear bras or corsets either.

Eventually some anthropologists becamse enlightened, and realised that these backward tribes were actually developed in their own way, having elaborate practices, rituals, and customs, even though we may find some of those practices distateful. My point is, those cultures and societies were neither superior nor inferior to the typical western one - just different.

* * *

I don't think we have to go to the Amazon jungles to study and appreciate another culture (although helps - lame joke). We can do it right here.

The Ah Lian subculture, in my opinion, deserves anthropological study; and Singlish deserves linguistic study.

Thanks to the internet and blogs, we can do much of it in the comfort of our own homes, without risking the wrath of a jealous Ah Beng.

So now you know why I have an Ah Lian on my blogroll =)

P.S. Someone remind me not to use annoyingly aggravating alliterations for my future post titles.

Asia Blog Awards 2004

Heh heh... I'm actually getting a coupla votes for Best Singapore Blog award for the Asia Blog Awards 2004.

To be honest, I nominated myself to be included in the list. It was meant to be a joke, but I guess the organiser didn't see it that way =)

Interestingly, 5 out of the 10 in "contestants" for the Best Singapore Blog award is in my blogroll. I'll be voting for them. Except that I can only vote 1 a day.

And no, you don't have to vote for me. I don't care.

I hope this reverse psychology thing works.

Just kidding.

* * *

But really, I think that there are better blogs out there that unfortunately wasn't nominated. In fact, I nominated another blog, but it wasn't included. Ah well, whatever the result, I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

No More or Amore

I decided to drop by the NP atrium just now, as they are having some kind of bazaar organised by the School of Business and Accountancy (BA) for both today and tomorrow.

It's a pretty small affair, with less than 10 stalls. But since the stall holders are all from BA, you can expect a lot of girls.

I decided to take a look.

The first shop I went by was an M1 shop. Nah, I don't need a new phoneline thank you.

Tupperware? It's okay, I already have a schoolbag thank you. Yes I know my schoolbag is not water and airtight, but it's really okay.

The Eco-Adventures tour people ignored me. So I don't look adventurous? Fine.

Singapore Mint? Pay money to buy money? I don't think so...

Andersen's of Denmark Ice Cream? I'll think about it...

I continued to the next stall. Amore fitness. A cute girl smiles at me. I must have blushed. And I couldn't think of an excuse to enquire about Amore fitness services...

I wanted to hang around the area for some reason, but there really wasn't much interesting there. Nothing much interesting to buy (but lots to see of course). Maybe I could get some ice-cream.

I went back to the ice-cream stall. $3.90 for an ice-cream. That's more than the Japanese food that bankrupted me. Well, let's not be so hard on myself; a bit of pampering every now and then wouldn't hurt, would it? Plus those girls at the counter are just longing for me to go to them, right?

The multi-pronged temptation was too great to resist, and I found myself drawn to the ice-cream counter.

"What would you like?" said one of the girls cheerily.

"I'll have Belgium chocolate please, single scoop." Double scoop would set me back by 5 bucks.

"Would you like a double-scoop? It's only 5 dollars..."

"No thank you..."

"It's very cheap compared to the single-scoop you know?"

"I know, but I don't wanna get fat," then pointing to the Amore fitness stall, "otherwise I'll have to spend money there too."

She laughed at my lame attempt at humour.

"What toppings would you like?"

"Is it free?"

I suddenly felt really cheap. Luckily I wasn't plannng on dating her.

"Yes it is. We have walnut, whipped cream,..." she named the rest.

"Okay I'll have the walnut."

When the ice-cream came, it had almonds on it. Evidently she didn't know much about nuts.

But the ice-cream was really great.

I even forgot about the girl who smiled at me.

I should buy more ice-cream tomorrow.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Photo: Kiss Miss Love Hotel

In a quiet corner of Ngee Ann are 3 buildings that do not conform to the usual campus architecture.

Before you can get to those buildings, you first have to cross a long overhead bridge that spans across the width of PIE (Pan Island Expressway):

Bridge to Staff Apartments, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

The bridge is actually quite haunting and thus romantic when it's dark.

Here's another shot of 2 of the buildings.

Staff Apartments, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

This place is where many of the expatriate lecturers and international exchange students stay. The things that happen in here, particularly at night, are unmentionable in this family-friendly blog. Suffice it to say, "wild" would be too mild, and they make the NUS hostels look like nunneries. The official definition of nunneries, that is.

Friday, December 10, 2004


I often have lunch alone, and yesterday was no different. It's much easier for girls to pick you up that way. =)

As I stepped into canteen 1, I decided to patronise the Muslim food stall, which was at the other end of the canteen. I walked by the Chinese food stall on the way, the Yong Tau Foo stall, the Western food stall, and as I was going by the Japanese food stall, I noticed from the corner of my eye that the girl at the stall was young and pretty.

I'm not particularly a fan of Japanese food, but for some inexplicable reason, I was abruptly hit by a powerful urge to give Japanese food a try, so I made a sharp turn into the Japanese food stall.

As I stood before the counter, I realised 3 things:

1. Japanese food is expensive.
2. Japanese food names are hard to pronounce.
3. My peripheral vision is failing.

You see, upon closer inspection, the girl at the stall was young and pretty, only if compared to the rest of the middle-aged stallholders at the other stalls.

I decided to order the first item on the banner ad at the top of the stall. Or do they call it the stall signage? Whatever.

"Yes?" asked the not-so-young-and-pretty-anymore girl at the counter.

"Can I have that... ermm... that first one with the teriyaki chicken and rice thing?" I replied, pointing to the banner ad, which she couldn't see anyway.

"Oh the [insert the name of my order]. Three fifty."

As I took out my wallet, a haunting, ominous feeling started to come over me, as I vaguely remembered that I didn't have much money left.

When I opened the wallet, I found a forlorn 2 dollar note lying in there, very lonely. Bad.

I opened the coin compartment in my wallet, desperately hoping for a minor miracle.

10 cents.

"Uhhhhmmm... I just realised that I only have 2 dollars with me..." I muttered rather sheepishly. "Wait, let me see if I can borrow from a friend..."

I turned around and scanned the whole canteen for any sign of any familiar face. The more I scanned, the more desolate I felt.

I gave up.

"Ermm... I tell you what - I'll pay you as soon as I finish lunch and get the money okay? I promise! I swear!" I tried to look as sincere as I could. I mean, I was sincere.

I guess she didn't have too much choice, since the food was already almost ready, so she agreed, but not before giving me the you're-such-a-stupid-guy smile.

And frankly, the food wasn't even great.

No more Japanese food for me in the foreseeable future.

Monday, December 06, 2004

School Starts

Today's the first day of the term, prematurely cutting short the school vacation.

It's always an adjustment when the term starts, particularly if you had been in school during the vacations, when it's quiet, peaceful and relaxing, no crowds to jostle with...

Stepping into school today, I'm machinegunned by visual stimuli from all directions - girls, girls, and more girls (guys are not visual stimuli). And too many of them garbed in precarious microskirts.

Anyway, with some free time in my hands, I went down to the Lifestyle Library. It was packed with semi-reclining bodies strewn all over the seats and the carpet floor, half of them flipping through glossy magazines, the other half chatting or gazing absently into empty space.

I picked up an issue of New Scientist, and somehow managed to find a cushioned seat facing the window about 6 feet away. About 3 guys and a girl were sitting on the carpet right in front of me, leaning on the wall under the window.

New Scientist is more engaging.

Before long, the girl stands up. She's average-looking, so I don't really observe her. Then a girlfriend of hers appears. I catch a glimpse of her face. Our eyes meet for that split second. Not bad. Ok - quite pretty, to be honest. She stands almost right in front of me, about 2 feet away, to chat with her friend. And she's wearing a microskirt. A distracting microskirt. I try to concentrate on the fascinating article on interrogation in New Scientist, where this top interrogator from Israeli intelligence is interviewed about... I think she's conscious of me. I can feel it. She seems to be inching closer to me... Anyway, the top interrogator is interviewed by New Scientist about some of the interrogation techniques... She is inching closer. She's only about 1 foot away now... come on baby... half a foot... Then her conversation ends, and her friend leaves. Dang.

She glances behind her to look for a seat. There's a space beside me, quite tight, and someone left a Calvin and Hobbes comic book on it. Dang! She's probably going elsewhere to find a seat...

She glances round again, then turns and picks up the Calvin and Hobbes, and seats herself right beside me. I control my breathing. My heart races out of control. Concentrate on the article! She's only inches beside me. I smell her perfume. She opens her book on body language. Body language. I know something about body language. I need an opening line...

Did you know that the ability to read body language is an important skill for interrogators?

Nah too intellectual. Think of something else.

Guess what? I've been observing your body language since you came.

Nah too freaky.



Think! Think of something quick!


It's times like these when I need my mental faculties the most and they desert me.


A guy sits down at her other side, and starts talking to her. They must be friends.

Then his hand appears on her back. He caresses her.



I soon finish the fascinating article, and leave the library. Really great article.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Photo: Study Area

My blog has managed to stay virgin as far as graphics and pictures are concerned. (Okay, except for those on the toolbar.) But sometimes, the temptation to succumb is just too great.

Here's my first photo post.

And since this blog is titled the way it is, it makes sense for me to post a shot taken at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Teaching Hub, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

In Ngee Ann, we have many study areas. This particular one is a new one, built specially for the study of mosquito breeding habits.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Idolatry and Perceptions

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

When St John the Evangelist wrote those words in his epistle in the first century, he was probably thinking of the idols that people worshipped in temples, not the ones that people worship in Indoor Stadiums or in front of TV sets.

Quite strangely, I haven't the slightest urge to join in the idolatry. I don't care if Taufik or Sly wins. (In fact, judging from the screams from my neighbours' TV sets as I type this, the results must be out already.) Maybe it's because I haven't watched a single episode of Singapore Idol. But I've been reading about it in the papers, in blogs and online forums, and I've been hearing serious discussions about it among friends and others. Being immersed in such an environment of idolatry, and yet not quite in it, has put me in quite a unique position...

Looking at how fans gush at their idols, it makes me a little nervous. Frankly it makes no sense. These idols were just ordinary fellas not too many months ago. Then, if you saw them on the bus or along Orchard Road, you'd look right by them. If you heard them sing at a karaoke lounge, you may be quite impressed by their talent, but that's about it. But today, when they step into a room, you scream. When you see them along Orchard, you get excited and nervous. If they smile at you directly, you melt. Or faint. What happened? Did something change in your perception of them?

Perhaps the idols have undergone some changes too along the way?

As an idol, your confidence grows as you become more famous with more worshippers. You learn to smile and wink at people. It becomes less embarrassing to have perfect strangers coming up to you and asking you for your autograph, or even giving you a hug and a few kisses. You stop blushing when people scream as you step into a room. People think you're someone great, and they're right. Or so you think.

The beauty of all this is that it's really all make-believe. Whatever adoration we pour at the feet of our idols is based on ephemeral and feeble foundations. And yet countless fans have spent much time and effort in their idolatry.

Which is really not that much different from the idols in temples that St John was warning against.