The Dark Shadow Shrine

If u think u need extra coaching in General Paper/English/Literature at the 'O'/'A'/International Baccalaureate level, the gates of my shrine are always open.....Drop me a note at or wadsapp me at 91384570 for more Singapore only hor.... :-)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Being rich is not about how much u have....

An inspiring video....Kleenex-worthy...
Click HERE

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Violence justified?

-violence causes more violence (e.g. media violence)
- rebuttal to the above: violence actually leads to less violence as it is a means of discipline (think corporal punishment by parents, school and the court) and can be used to regulate and deter violent behaviour
-counter-rebuttal to the above: but too much violence becomes a kind of abuse and infringement of rights

Sample Qn:
Is violence ever justified? (Cam. 2012)

article 1a

article 1b

article 2a

article 2b

Friday, March 28, 2014

Only 8.3% women on listed firm boards in Singapore

-useful stats in Singapore context
-old boys' network as a contributing reason for female under-representation or lack of gender diversity in corporate world here

Sample Qn:
In your society, how far is equality for all a reality? (Cam. 2012)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Student Protest in Taipei

After witnessing the Bangkok Shutdown earlier this year (see HERE), I have the honour of witnessing another protest in Taipei last week. I rushed down to the spot upon watching it on the news on TV. True enough, the atmosphere was electrifying, as a stream of buses from all over the country unloaded students to join the protest.....Quite a few were spotted carrying the sunflower, a symbol of their protest, as they want the govt to 'turn to face (and listen to ) them' just as the sunflower turns to face the sun-- a symbol of democratic power, power of the people. Even the university professors joined in to give 'outdoor lectures' to motivate the students and explain the govt's 'conspiracy'. And mind you, they were all very insightful and inspiring lectures. But the cake goes to the student leaders, who mobilise themselves to organise this protest and roster duties  and food arrangements and collection of rubbish. Never seen students so fired up and organised before!!!!

Some background:
The students were protesting against the KMT govt for ratifying a trade service pact signed with China that will allow China to compete favourably in the Taiwanese domestic market. The reaction to this was fast and furious as students throughout the nation mobilised themselves to stage a protest sit-in outside the Parliament House. But things got more 'exciting' as some students climbed over the gates and stormed the Parliament House!!!! (something unprecedented in Taiwan history!) Celebrities like MayDay have come out to support the student protestors. The protest is still ongoing with the govt showing no signs of giving in.
On the outset, this looks like an economic issue, but what lurks behind it is political. The Taiwanese see this opening of doors to Chinese competition in their homeland as a conspiracy or prelude to the reunification of Taiwan with China, or to put it more blatantly, China 'swallowing' up Taiwan. It does not help that the ruling Kuomintang govt led by MaYingJiu has always had a history of being deferential/inclined towards the Chinese authorities. (The Kuomintang were from China after all) This is the 'real' reason why the students are 'standing up' (a song by MayDay) as they want their voice heard, and oppose to the MaYingJiu govt for unilaterally ratifying the trade pact without consulting the people.

Issues related to GP:
-the nature of democracy and freedom -- does it tolerate and condone violence and lawlessness?
-media bias (most of the traditional media are pro-govt and have labelled the protestors as rioters, or even terrorists!)
-the issue of national identity (in this case, the Taiwanese seeing themselves as 'separate' from China)
-the use of media to organise protest...most of the students and resources needed to sustain the protest were mobilized through FaceBook
-celebrity influence and their contributions to society
-pros and cons of globalization -- local economy can be threatened by fierce competition

Some pics:

students staging a sit-in outside parliament house, as the riot police form a barrier

one of the ubiquitous signages that proclaim their protest against the service trade pact with China 

like the one in Bangkok, the student protestors were 'relaxing' away with their handphones, game gadgets, food, the riot police keep a watchful eye on them

the façade of the parliament house that was stormed by the students. Some students have broken into the building and occupying the inside. There was a continuous stream of students climbing up the porch with ladder, with their backpacks carrying food and clothes as they prepare to spend the next few days in the building in a bid to pressure the govt to give in...

Here's an article from the Straits Times that reported on the incident when it first broke out last Tue. You want to know that the latest development is that the protest turned violent with the students protestors clashing with the police, resulting in some injured and arrested.....

Truth sacrificed in traditional media....

Note the reasons why even traditional media fails public expectations sometimes...

Sample Qn:
1. Does the mass media misguide the public?
2. Can the media ever be relied upon to convey the truth?

Evmntal impact on Economy

Note the impact of environment on the economy.

Sample Qns:
1.     The key criterion for good government is how well the economy is managed. Is this a fair assessment? (Cam. 2012)
2.     Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot co-exist. Do you agree? (Cam. 2011)

pEel using compare/contrast method

For those who have gone thru the recent PEEL lesson, here is an example of how the compare/contrast method (using an analogy) can be used to EXPLAIN a point....where to convinced someone that [A] is right, you use a parallel scenario [B] to persuade him first. Once he is convinced of the validity of [B], he will naturally buy into the logic of [A].

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Random Quotations

Two random quotes here that you may find useful:

1) 'Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world' -- Former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
Not exactly a colourful quote, even though it contains an imagery, albeit a rather cliché one; but the source is the colourful one here.

2) 'Women hold up half the sky' -- Mao Zedong
Both the quote and the source are colourful.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

China closes dozens of popular WeChat accounts

To the oft-quoted point that online citizen journalism means the lid on the truth has been removed (as the new media's 'content-creator' feature means everyone armed with a handphone camera and internet access can upload what one knows and sees), a possible rebuttal is that we should not underestimate the power of authoritarian govt in controlling info online through censorship.

Yes, the govt cannot censor everything online as there are countless information sites out there (though the Egyptian govt did, at the height of the Arab Spring, whereby to prevent the people from using social media to organise protests, the govt unplug the entire nation from the internet, resulting in a worldwide unprecedented internet blackout!), but what they could do is target those influential sites with high viewership. Singapore recently jumped onto the same bandwagon last year with the introduction of the MDA online news licensing scheme where those sites with more than 50.000 unique hits per month must apply for a licence with MDA, and along with it, certain conditions apply (see HERE).

And while the govt may censor undesirable content such as pornography and rumours to protect the public from being misguided, recognize that they can also -- and often -- censor politically controversial truths (e.g. Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen massacre, Sanlu Milk Powder scandal, etc.) using the excuse/ under the pretext of protecting public interest.

Sample Qn:
1. Does the mass media misguide the public?
2. 'Censorship has no place in today's society.' Do you agree?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Traditional Media unrelaible?

Just to show how traditional media can falter when it comes to delivering the truth as well....(see underlined portion in article) The 'shifting narrative' in traditional media is often a result of tight deadlines, sources that turned out to be unreliable, highly competitive media industry....See similar links HERE on Kunming killing and killing of Osama.

Sample Qns:
1. Can we ever rely on the media to convey the truth?
2. Does the mass media misguide the public?

Diplomatic Immunity

Diplomats representing their countries (e.g. ambassadors) in host countries enjoy diplomatic immunity, which protects them from having to face charges in court for any alleged wrongdoing they might have committed.
Other than the example below that caused a big storm that threatened bilateral ties btw US and India last year, you may also want to think of the Romanian diplomat (Inoescu? go google!) in Singapore who was involved in a drink driving incident which killed one (or two?) lives and then fled back to Romania under diplomatic immunity.

Sample Qn:
To what extent is it possible to make the punishment fit the crime? (Cam. 2013)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Media's role in the delivery of Justice

Not exactly a useful example in itself, but I thought it throws up a good point for the qn below. Sometimes, the media interferes with justice as people exploit the media by using pressure from the media to influence or prejudice court proceedings. By reporting intensively and with a biased angle, the media can influence the decision of the jury, or pressure the judge to deliver a verdict that he might otherwise not have intended to in the first place. This can sometimes cause an innocent party to be implicated and sentenced wrongly.
But turn this the other way and you can argue that the media can actually help to pressure the court to deliver a fair verdict that is in line with justice, particularly so if the judges are corrupt or biased. A case in point is the rape case that took India by storm last year. It was apparently the constant coverage by the national and international media that pressured the Indian courts to mete out a heavy sentence (death penalty) on the rapists. Prior to that, many men are able to get away with rape in India as the women there have little rights, and rape is often blamed on the women rather than the men in a society where sexist norms are prevalent.
So there u go, you've got a rebuttal here!

Sample Qn:
To what extent is it possible to make the punishment fit the crime? (Cam. 2013)

BANG-ing Quote!

Excellent quote for Banging! or to show how the media loves to exaggerate!

Sample Qn:
Does the mass media misguide the public?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Honour-killing due to Tradition

-Shi'ite vs Sunnis

Back to the tradition compre we did, here's an instance of honour-killing...see an earlier post on this HERE.

How tradition curtails individual freedom...belonging to different religious groups (albeit of the same religion) can be grounds for honour-killing...see difference between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims HERE.

Sample Qn:
How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition?
(note that the 'your society' in this Qn does not allow u to mention honour-killing, unless 'your society' is Afghanistan or one of the more extreme Islamic countries. But by using the compare/contrast method of Explanation in the PEEL approach, you can mention this exmple for purpose of contrast to make a point about Singapore. and of course, no need to tell me their actual names!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Charity is a business -- literally!

Note how charity can have a financial incentive, i.e. it can be a business for making profits as there is a 'market' for charity. People are willing to 'pay' to get the chance to do charity.
Not mentioned here, but u want to know also that for the ultra rich, doing charity (in the form of donations) is a way to evade taxes!
If doing qns on tourism, remember to think of eco-tourism, medical tourism, and in this article, voluntourism.....this will widen the scope of your points and examples....see HERE.

Sample Qns:
1. Tourism has caused more harm than good. Do you agree?
2. Is there still a place for charity in today's world? (Cam. 2006)

article 1a

article 1b

Ultraman Censored!

-censorship can hamper creativity; 'clip our wings'
-censorship is sometimes motivated by religion and tradition, or the desire to protect the 'purity' of one's culture from globalization

Sample Qns:
1. How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition?
2. To what extent should the government intervene in what we watch?
3. Assess the impact of foreign films or foreign TV programmes on the culture of your society. (Cam. 2009)
4. Assess the impact of technology on children.

article 1

article 2a

article 2b

Cyber Menace

-'punishment' for the wrongdoer becomes excessive online when netizens (in the name of online vigilantism seeking to redress injustice) resort to cyberbuylling tactics such as 'online CSI' where they divulge personal info on the wrongdoer and issue threats, causing distress to the wrongdoer and their loved ones, to the extent they might even lose their jobs....Realise that it is technology (i.e. the internet) that allows these online vigilantes to commit this in the name of 'justice'.

-as a rebuttal, think of the recent Harassment Bill in Singapore that seeks to rein in such excessive behaviour....

Sample Qn:
How far is it possible for the punishment to fit the crime?

article 1a
article 1b

Mass Media misleads?

- media misguides as netizens spread rumours
- but netizens can spread truth too, esp when authoritative govt try to censor the truth
- govt can censor truth (hence misguide), but it can also censor untruth by controlling the spread of rumours (i.e. does not misguide)
-examples for the above: recent attacks at Kunming by alleged terrorist militants from Xinjiang; and the Malaysian airline crash
- social media may have advantage of speed over traditional media, but reliability of news may be compromised
-but note even traditional media can falter on reliability in the short run, resulting in 'shifting narrative' (see link HERE for the Kunming and Osama examples)....tight deadlines or unreliable sources (see the Vietnam Admiral example in article 2a below) are the usual culprits....
-the interesting idea that an 'information vacuum' created by the govt/organization's (in this case, MAS) silence/reticence will only fuel rumours online

Sample Qns:
Does the mass media misguide the public?

article 1

Article 2a

article 2b

a BANG! that echoes.....

Note how the closing BANG! echoes/makes reference to the opening BANG! (using song lyrics) .....It's a speech here, but the fundamentals are the same for writing.


Friday, March 07, 2014

Ukraine Crisis

Sample Qns:
1. How far do physical features, such as size and location, determine a country’s progress? (Cam. 2008)
2. 'Fear is good'. Comment. (NYJC Prelim 2011)
3. The decisive use of force is the only practical means to resolve territorial conflicts. Discuss. (Cam.1995)
4. Discuss the claim that in the modern world people should care more about international than national issues. (Cam. 2013)

5. Is there any justification in spending vast sums of money on defence?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Useful Stats on Singapore for BANGing!!!

-Most expensive country to live in in the world
-second safest country in the world
-at No. 2 spot for our criminal justice system
- and the Pisa one for education...go goggle
-NUS ranking rises to 21, 3rd Asian university in top 50

Competition in ranking may result in stress and cheating, but it can also serve as a benchmark to enable one to know where one stands compared to others. This will provide incentive for one do better. Eg, competing to be the safest country will obviously benefit the society, so it's not just for the glory alone.
Competing NOT to be at the top of most expensive country will also likewise benefit the people, as a top ranking will serve as a warning bell for the government to do something about it in order to avert the bad reputation as well as the repercussions that come with being at the top of such a negative ranking.

Sample Qns:
1. Is competition always unhealthy?
2. To what extent is it possible to 'make the punishment fit the crime'? (Cam. 2013)

The inescapable fate of being a Small Country

The recent Ukraine episode holds valuable lessons for Singapore...
-sampan and ship metaphor of Singapore in article 3; good for Banging!!!
-closing BANG! in article 3 using imagery, which also echoes the imagery mentioned earlier near the beginning of article
- the govt's constant exhortation that we cannot rest on our laurels but must always be on our guard, be aware of our existential threats, siege short, it is the constant fear of failure that is the driving force behind Singapore's survival and success....Once the fear dissipates and complacency sets in, it will spell the doom of our nation -- at least, that's the govt's version of the story which they are trying to drum into us.....
- rebuttal to arguments on using diplomacy, having powerful allies and international law for security....
- UN can be ineffectual at times due to veto powers by members of Security Council (Russia is one such member which can use its veto powers to paralyse UN)
- Having powerful allies like US or China is no guarantee of security for Singapore....even the then-powerful Britain abandoned us in WWII when they had their own problems back home.
-justification for our huge defence budget (allocated to the tune of S$12.6 billion this year! Defence forms the biggest chunk of our annual national budget)
-Article 3 highlighted an important point about how internal stability is crucial and can affect the assessment of other countries which have thoughts of invading us. In short, the national security of a country is not only about its relations with other countries, but also influenced by the relations of the people within itself.

Sample Qns:
1. How far do physical features, such as size and location, determine a country’s progress? (Cam. 2008)
2. 'Fear is good'. Comment. (NYJC Prelim 2011)
3. The decisive use of force is the only practical means to resolve territorial conflicts. Discuss. (Cam.1995)
4. Discuss the claim that in the modern world people should care more about international than national issues. (Cam. 2013)

article 1

article 2: Lessons from Ukraine crisis --
Country size, risk of becoming pawn highlight
Singapore's vulnerability

article 3

Weird but interesting traditions

For those who have read the tradition essay, here's an interesting example to showcase those points...
This tradition is somewhat similar to the tomatoes-throwing festival in Spain.

- tradition provides opportunity for family and friends to come together to celebrate
- the tradition contributes to the cultural identity of the group, causing them to be unique and different from other groups
- this uniqueness can be a selling point for tourism, as tourists want to see something different from their homeland
- serves as reminder of the past, as this festival is to commemorate a rebellion against tyranny in history (provided those celebrating the festival actually know about this history and are not just mimicking the form without any cognizance of the meaning behind it)

- while the rationale is noble, the way of celebrating appears controversial....seems like a wastage of food...other controversial traditional practices include bull fighting in Spain (the bull is killed at the end of each performance, cock-fighting in Thailand, and an interesting one in Spain where they jump over babies to rid them of bad luck, see HERE)

Sample Qn:
How important is it for people of your society to retain a sense of tradition? (Cam. 2010)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What is Beauty?

An inspiring speech on beauty that I came across.....Click HERE

Terrorism in Kunming -- roots in Xinjiang separatist movement

- shifting narrative in reports, esp those concerning statistics on body count.... This can contribute to media reports being unreliable, at least in the first few days, before the facts are verified and clarified....(Compare with the killing of Osama...see Article 2a and 2b at THIS link.

-how prejudice and discrimination is a root cause of terrorism (see last article below)

-how violence/terrorism is often used as a to achieve political aims (as opposed to say dialogue, etc).....the similar separatist movement here (Xinjiang trying to extricate itself from China) echoes those of Tibet from China, IRA's bid to gain Northern Ireland's independence from Britain, Tamil Tigers to do likewise for Sri Lanka from India.......

-a tenacious clinging to one's traditional/racial/cultural identity (when it is at odds with/different from those of the country/majority) will impede integration or social/national cohesion...see HERE.
In contrast, a strong national identity (i.e. u identity with your nation first, ur first loyalty is towards ur nation) can help to heal rifts created by different cultural groups within a society.

Sample Qns:
1. Should a love of one's country still be encouraged? (Cam. 2009)
2. Is nationalism/national identity/patriotism still relevant today?
3. Is violence ever justifiable? (Cam. 2012)
4. Can terrorism ever be eradicated? (RJC Prelim 200?)
5. Can prejudice ever be eliminated? (Cam. 2011)
6. Can the media ever be relied upon to convey the truth? (Cam. 2003)
7. How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition? (Cam. 2010)

Breakthrough in stem-cell harvest?

- reason for ethical controversy behind stem-cell research
- how this controversy can now be overcome
-the idea that the problem created by science can be solved by science also (famous Chinese saying: untying the bell requires the same person who tied it there in the first place)

See a similar link here that purports to overcome the same ethical controversy using a different method: click HERE.

Sample Qns:
1. Does science and technology always improve the quality of people's lives?
2. 'Extensive research in genetic engineering is a huge waste of money.' Do you agree?

Another 'Anton Casey'?

Yet another case reminiscent of Amy Cheong, Alvin Tan, Anton Casey, Stephanie (whatshername?).....blah blah who shoots off his 'fingers' online without thinking....

Note Islam's position on homosexuality....while it prohibits (and discriminates?) against same-sex relationships, it also frowns upon vilifying and insulting them, advocating engagement instead of ostracising them like the plague.

Genrder triumph in conservative Saudi Arabia

I find this interesting as it's in a conservative society. If you've recently done the tradition compre, note also a comment in the compre about how the grip of tradition remains in the social sphere, but is slowing letting up in the economic and political sphere. What's mentioned in the article below appears to support this. I suppose this is because what's happening in the social sphere is zealously guarded as it is about their traditional cultural identity. More flexibility is given in the economic sphere because they need the country to progress economically if they want to compete and succeed in the world stage.
Political-wise, with the King's support, Saudi Arabia will soon allow women to participate in municipal elections, whatever that is, in 2015. See  HERE

Dry Spell: S'pore has 'margin' of water safety

-Singapore's four 'national taps'
-limitation of technology: sometimes, tech is so effective that people are lulled into a sense of complacency and end up wasting energy/water instead, e.g. buying an energy-saving air-conditioner may lull one into turning on the air-conditioner at full blast the whole night, thinking that it 'doesn't use up much energy anyway', as well as placating our guilt complex towards the environment.

Sample Qns:
1. To what extent can we rely on technology to solve our environmental problems?
2. Does science and technology always improve the quality of people's lives?
3. Discuss the claim that in the modern world, people should care more about international than national issues. (Cam. 2013)
4. Is there any point in trying to predict future trends? (Cam. 2013)


Sunday, March 02, 2014

How Tradition can be said to interfere with social integration....

For those whom we discussed the tradition essays, there was one point on how tradition actually fosters a sense of rootedness to our country, thereby strengthening our national identity. In a nutshell, our traditions make us feel more Singaporean.
Be attuned to the interesting rebuttal that in multi-racial Singapore, a tenacious clinging to our traditional identity (i.e. our racial/cultural identity) can actually have the reverse effect in making us feel less Singaporean. A zealous adherence to our traditional identity in this sense will accentuate the differences among the different races, causing the nation to fragment instead....
For details, click HERE to read up, esp the first two articles on this link.