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.... :-)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

To Last Year's Graduating Batch.... those who u who get to c this,....unless u have been living in a cave (that has no Wi-Fi access!), you should know by now that the 'A' level results will be released this coming Monday.
Here's a gentle reminder to text/email me ( ur GP grade regardless of the outcome.
Wishing you ALL THE BEST for Monday's results.....GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jakarta holds firm on executions as ties turn sour

1) Is violence ever justified? (Cam. 2012)
2) To what extent should the international community interfere with the affairs of another country?

Hollande vows stiffer penalties for hate speech

Hollande vows stiffer penalties for hate speech

1) How far does society benefit from increased freedom?
2) To what extent does the government have the right to restrict people's freedom of expression on the internet?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Online cartoons with graft-busting Xi are a hit

Not all cartoons are insulting like those of the recent Charlie Hebdo incident. In the link below, we see how cartoons can appeal to the masses and help bring important messages across in public campaigns. Note also the use of the internet.

Online cartoons with graft-busting Xi are a hit

Qn: 'For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives'. How true is this of your society? (Cam. 2014)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Miracle on Waterloo Street

An interesting read on how religious harmony is achieved in Singapore...Click to view: Miracle on Waterloo Street
-the various religious conflicts mentioned at the start of the article, including the interesting oblique reference to Malaysia, whose dominant strand of Islam is the Sunnis, as opposed to the Shi'ites.
-Singapore's small land area can be a potential fuse for outbreaks of religious conflicts
-note the structure of the concluding section towards the end....Can u do a breakdown of the signal-stand-summary-closure? Are you also able to see the very explicit connectives used throughout the writing?

Qn: Religion has caused more harm than good. Do you agree?

Freedom and Privacy

For those whom we had recently discussed the qns spelt out below, check out these related links

1) Australia to embark on major security review
-note how the govt is tightening immigration and welfare laws in the name of national security after the terrorist incident at the Sydney café recently
-recall the inverse relationship btw security and privacy/freedom. As Obama once said, you cannot have 100% security and still insist on 100% privacy.

2) Website duo in trouble over inflammatory posts

3) China's working women face rising gender bias
-Mao Zadeong's famous quote in celebration of women's place in society --  'women hold up half the sky'
-China's context for those who hail from there
-influence of tradition, law, media
-interesting concept of 'sticky floor' syndrome vis-a-vis the 'glass ceiling' effect
-a useful point that women themselves are to blame for their own predicament as they 'don't try hard enough'

4) Obama defends free speech at UN
This is the post I was telling some of u with regard to the freedom qn below where US chose not to ban the controversial film "The Innocence of the Muslims". The idea here is that censorship is futile and may actually perpetuate and entrench deep-seated prejudices arising from misunderstanding and incomplete info. Open debates may actually be the antidote.

Might be interesting to consider the liberal gun laws in the US where people are free to arm themselves. (relate to the gun law controversy over the school shootings in the US)

1)How far does society benefit from more freedom?
2)To what extent should the government intervene in the private affairs of its citizens?

Disabled, but not Unabled

For those whom we discussed the qn on the disadvantaged, check out this informative link on the disadvantaged in Singapore: click HERE for article entitled, 'The disabled can contribute to society: PM Lee'.

Qn: Many developed countries are paying increasing attention to the needs of the disadvantaged. How far is this true in Singapore? (Cam. 2008)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wary Poland goes on military spending spree

A good example of how international peace and stability is not a given, and hence the need to invest in arms. Compare this example of Russia with ISIS as examples of disruptions to world peace...where Japan uses the ISIS threat (recent beheading of Jap hostages) to justify its military spending and build-up and amendment to its post-war Constitution to allow it to send troops overseas.

For those who have done the editing worksheets recently, you may recall the error about "the youth's future is under their own thumbs'. Compare this with para 2 of the article below: 'under Moscow's thumb'.  The expression 'under XXX's thumb' usually has a sinister ring to it and conveys the idea of the reluctance on the part of the subject under the influence of the thumb.
Think for instance 'I have him under my thumb'.....that means I have total control over him and any time I feel like it, I can simply crush him to death. Those familiar with the Chinese classic, Xi You Ji (Journey to the West)....there is n expression where Sun Wukong cannot escape from the Buddha's five-finger mountain. I believe it has the same idea.

Examine the extent to which expenditure on arms and the armed forces is justifiable in the modern world. (Cam. 2014)

Learning that goes beyond workforce needs

'Education should only be concerned with what is useful in life. Discuss.' (Cam. 2013)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Robots replace Humans

A common idea on how machines are replacing man...

-labour cost drop in long run as fewer workers needed
-workers retrenched but demand for skilled workers to operate machines increases
-skilled worked paid higher wages, but fewer needed
-not all tasks can be automated or performed by machines, esp those in the service industry where the 'human touch' is required

Implication for Singapore:
- helps address manpower shortage
- in these days of tightening curbs on foreign workers, local companies are asked to increase productivity by restructuring and using technology to mitigate the labour crunch or manpower needs
- our low birth rate and increasingly greying population mean that machines are here to stay...think the Japanese's use of robots to take care of their aged

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Littering -- Singapore

1) an instance of how brooding on something seemingly trivial can extrapolate or expand into something serious and of greater gravity.....This is something you have to try to do for all articles you read, what I call GO FOR THE BIG PICTURE! Even the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in Texas can create a tornado in Tianjin on the other side of the world.....

2) closing BANG using a thought-provoking qn...ok maybe not so thought-provoking here lah....(conclusion-writing)

3) reasons why locals litter....

4) quotation by Aristotle

5) example on Singaporeans littering....useful for showing our ungracious and self-centred well as our xenophobic tendencies

6) opening BANG using a general comment before tapering to a specific (related) issue that the writer wants to focus on.... (intro-writing)

Awaken the spoilt Singaporean Brat

-use example of local film "To Singapore, With Love"
-connect with an earlier post on how our ignorance of our past cause us to be complacent about the future, an idea well-articulated by the writer.....Not knowing about our turbulent past, and growing up in a largely stable and affluent society, many young people may be misguided into thinking that the future will always be like this, unaware of the vulnerabilities of the nation which are rendered hidden beneath the veneer of stability....

1. Do film offer anything more than an escape from reality? (Cam. 2014)
2. Are the youth of today complacent about their future?

Paying the price of closing S'pore's gates

- the method of using an interesting anecdote (in the form of a quotation) to open with a BANG!, but keep the BANG short in your writing.....use it to lead logically to your topic or thesis/stand, which is what the writer is doing here....

-another instance of how the writer makes a connection to Singapore based on what happened in another country

-restructuring and raising productivity via technology to mitigate the manpower shortage due to immigration curbs

-anti-immigration sentiments (esp online) and the political implications

-pros of curbing immigration
=ease pressure on country's resources
=protect natural envnmt (this is a relatively new argument that surfaced recently, courtesy of and see an earlier post in this blog from end last year)
=protect jobs for locals
=protect local culture
=existing infrastructure cannot keep pace

-cons of curbing immigration
=disastrous for economy (lack of manpower)
=quality of life affected (e.g. service becomes slow due to insufficient waiters)
=we need immigrants to mitigate and compensate for the low birth rates and rising greying population

1. How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own?(Cam. 2014)
2. To what extent does the immigration of people have a positive effect? (Cam. 2008)

Terrorism in Singapore

Some useful examples of Singapore with regard to terrorism for those 'your society' qns....Note the concrete examples mentioned in the second half of the article...

1) Can terrorism ever be eradicated?
2) How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own? (Cam. 2014)

HCIBS ALERT: 'Youth' vs 'Youths'

This is what I've been trying to explain in class...below are an extract from the dictionary and a page from the Cambridge examination report....

YOUTH (noun):
1) state of being young
e.g. Drink from that magical fountain, and you will have eternal youth.

2) a young person, usually male and used in a derogatory sense (i.e. negative connotation)
e.g. Two youths were caught fighting in the back alley over a staring incident.

3) the group of young people of a country as a whole; includes both males and females; usually need the determiner 'the' in front
e.g. The president encourages the youth of the nation to strive for progress.

So be careful when you want to use the word 'youth(s)'.....chances are, you are actually referring to 'young people'. So when in doubt, esp in your academic writing, just use 'young people' as it is neutral.
Avoid the term 'youngsters' as well, as it is a slang, and I believe it usually carries a similar negative connotation.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

MUST-READ -- Integration, Singapore Style

"Integration, Singapore style: A mix of laws and social norms"
-- by Prof Chan Heng Chee

An excellent article about how Singapore go about achieving integration and social inclusiveness of the various ethnic groups that are part of our social DNA.

Note :
1) how this article is once again triggered by the Charlie Hebdo incident, tesrament to the idea that major events occurring elsewhere in the world can have a bearing on Singapore....

2)Make sure you know the five weapons of integration outlined by writer...they will come in useful for your essay when writing about Singapore

3)Pertaining to the Sedition Act, note the point about the limitation of legislation.

4)Chan Heng Chee is a famous female figure in Singapore, makes for a good example for gender qn. She used to be Singapore's ambassador to the US, and is instrumental in the good relations between the two countries....

5)Under column two of page 1, para 2, note how David Brooks was introduced. When u want to mention someone in ur essay, always give a brief context, in this case, the designation of the person.  Don't out down the person's name and expect everyone (i.e. the examiner) to know who the person is. The person may be very famous in your home town, but could be a nobody on the international stage. So unless you're mentioning Obama or President Xi, don't take it for granted that people know who you are talking about....give a brief designation. Incidentally, David Brooks is quite a well-known writer and critic, but designation is still needed.

The next 50 years of Singapore's security

This is an edited excerpt from a speech by Ho Kwon Ping, who makes some very incisive and insightful comments about Singapore.
-the arguments about caning, esp the one concerning 'proportionality'...think also: is caning in line with S'pore's aim to become a gracious society? Does such an ungracious and barbaric punishment help us to achieve this aim, or is an ironic testament to our ungracious society?
- horrors of horrors! 7-year-olds can be caned! I didn't know that!!! GASP!
-the point about pushing the boundaries of OB markers in a constructive sense, esp with regard to racial issues....Note the idea that the entrenchment of OB markers (preventing people from discussing volatile and sensitive topics) can actually worsen the tensions, as disallowing people to discuss it means long-held prejudices, esp misguided ones, will never have a chance to be corrected in open debates and will continue to fester.....

1.     Is violence ever justified? (Cam. 2012)
2.     How far, in your society, should unpopular views be open to discussion? (Cam. 2013)

Protection from Harassment Act

Note the example of this local and the internet factor.....
The SMRT website here appears to be the same as the one that put Jover Chew's (the Sim Lim saga guy; see earlier post late last year)  personal info online in a bid at online vigilantism.

See how the internet can be culpable of cyberbullying, harassment, defaming and spreading rumours about others, esp celebrities.....and how innocent parties like the celebrities' family members are often targeted for maximum damage....

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Singapore block unlicensed gambling websites

A useful Singapore example relating to the internet and the govt's paternalistic role.

Relate to 2014 'A' level compre where there is a point raised about 'inappropriate' material online.

Note the law : The Remote Gambling Act

Online gambling makes it easy to access gambling as one can circumvent the age limit and the $100 levy imposed on locals, not to mention those on the blacklist.....The ease of accessing it in the comfort of one's room also makes it more difficult to resist or curb the temptation, making it hard to kick the habit.

In ARTICLE 2, note the reasons why young people are hooked on gambling, including the role of the media in glamourising gambling, and how gambling is packaged as 'leisure activities' through changing social norms......

1) How far should the government dictate the personal affairs of its citizens in your society? (NJC Prelim 2014)
2) How far is it acceptable for technology to be used only for financial benefit? (Cam. 2012)
3)Discuss the claim that social media has been the ruination of the younger generation. (HCI Prelim 2014)



Integration not just about fitting in

This is the kind of article you should look out for and READ! It looks at major events in the world and then trace the lens back to Singapore to explore what kind of impact it has on our society....very useful for those 'your society' kind of questions as well as for AQs/

- the double standards in free speech in European countries, esp the eg on Holocaust
- Singapore's law like Sedition Act and the Religious Harmony Act
- the need for integration or inclusiveness, the lack of which can trigger terrorist episodes like that of the Charlie Hebdo case
-the interesting idea that integration is 2 way
- useful stats: of the 5.2 million population in Singapore, 1.33 million are foreigners, 750,000 of which are blue-collar workers.
-is it fair to demand that foreigners forsake their own culture (identity) and adopt the culture of the host country?

1. How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own? (Cam. 2014)
2. 'If you want to stay in this country, integrate!’ To what extent should migrants conform to the culture of their adopted country? (ACJC Prelim 2014)
3. To what extent should there be limits to freedom of speech?

MOM bars marine firm from hiring foreigners

A useful example for the ACJC Prelim 2013 compre on Complaints that some of us did some time back.

Qn: How far should firms be allowed to limit their workers' rights when profits are at stake? (Cam. 2014)

To show or not to show? Judge it yourself.....

When it comes to social media, it is usually high on the visual, a notable exception being twitter. And we all know that pictures speak a thousand words. Would the impact of the video released by the ISIS on the live burning of the Jordanian pilot have been so great if the report was rendered in words? Would we have been able to feel the horror and fear of the burning if we did not see with our own eyes the video footage, but merely read about it in words?
Given this, should there be some form of censorship exercised? We would have played into the hands of the terrorists if we had shown the full video, esp the gory parts, because that's what the terrorists want -- for us to feel afraid. The media has long since been used as a platform for terrorist groups to spread and inspire terror in viewers, in the hope that this will cause viewers to apply pressure on their govts to give in to the terrorists' demands.....It is exactly because of this that major media stations chose NOT to air the controversial video of the burning hostage released and 'slickly' produced by the ISIS.
But there is another school of thought. Can we say that instead of fear, showing the video causes anger and shows us the true face of the ISIS, that it is doing something not condoned by Islam or humanity, and thus warn misguided youth about joining it? This, at least, is the argument put forth by Fox News when it chose to show the video of the Jordan hostage being burnt alive; this, despite other major media stations choosing not to screen the entire video footage. By the way, you want to know that Fox News is a good example of a media company that has a history of doing controversial things and resorting to sensationalism to boost ratings, unlike more respectable cousins like the CNN.

You can watch the video at this link if you want, and judge your own reactions to it. But be forewarned --- the video is indeed quite gory, and not for the faint-hearted. Watch it before it's taken HERE  fast forward to 18.00

Vocab: note last sentence of ARTICLE 3 which contains the expression 'architect of its own destruction'. A similar one to this is 'victim of its own creation'.

Qn: The media is largely to blame for the worldwide increase in violence. Do you agree?




Social media celebs helping charities

Chanced upon this new coinage 'influencers'. An example of how he internet can be put to good use -- by young people. Relate to 2014 'A' level compre passage on the internet, as well as 2013 'A' level compre on celebrities fame.

Obama hits on new tack for online audience

This article brings to mind a few features of the internet:
- it depends on the willingness of the viewer
-it preaches only to the converts
-unlike traditional media where the info comes to you, yu have to go to the info where social media is concerned
-it is a 'confirmation bias machine'; i.e. people go online not to seek new views or change their views, but to reinforce or confirm the view they already have
-it's not really that easy to change people's view online, contrary to what most people think (people either don't care about what u have to say, or they already have deeply held views of the other camp, so they won't even bother to visit your site that propounds a contrary view, and even if they by accident landed on your site, they will just exit without reading what's there, or they won't believe what they've read there.....

Do take note that the social media or the internet is not that powerful as most people have made it out to be, due to the above points.....

All the above points actually gravitate towards the same idea, that when it comes to social media, willingness on the part of the viewer is paramount.
What Obama is doing here is something interesting, reaching out to those online who are NOT even interested in politics in the first place. This is because he knows that those online who are interested in politics have already formed their opinions and it is difficult to convert them if they already in the other camp. So he's left with only those who are not even interested in politics in the first place, hoping to get them on his side. But the question is, if they are not even interested in politics, why would they listen to him? This will all boil down to the charms of the politician, I suppose.....

1. To what extent are the youth of your society interested in politics?
2. To what extent does social media have an impact on the politics of your country?

Celebrate Failure!

Some interesting anecdotes/examples that can be used for the opening/closing BANGs of ur intro and conclusion for qns concerning failure, the limitations of the education system in defining success, etc.
Go for the more famous ones like Einstein, Edison, Disney, Churchill and Newton.

 Qn: Is there any value in celebrating failure? (YJC Prelim 2014)

First Female editor for The Economist; and the Singapore situation

Yet another example to add on to your list of Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Janet Yellen, Marissa Mayer, etc...

Qn: Consider the view that some careers are  better suited to one gender than the other. (Cam. 2014)


What about the situation in Singapore? I hear you ask (or so I imagine!)
-Grace Fu as an example of 'women up there' in Singapore. She's the only cabinet minster here, hoding the portfolio The PM's Office
-only 8.3% of listed companies here were helmed by women in 2013, and we are behind Malaysia and Indonesia in this
-family-friendly workplace as a solution to draw more female talents to the top
-the potential problem of imposing a gender quota as a solution to under-representation of women at the top....The 'checkbox exercise' can be a real problem as women will just be picked to satisfy the quota instead of they being in their position due to their true capabilities. Or it could be a case where it becomes a cosmetic exercise -- they are promoted to top positions to give the impression of gender diversity, but real power still lies in the hands of the men

Most Singaporeans unaware of Coldstore

NOT Cold Storage (the supermarket) ok?!!!!!!
Useful point about the ignorance of the youth today towards the country's turbulent and rough history, resulting possibly in complacency.

1) Why should we be concerned with current affairs when most of them will soon be forgotten? (Cam 2013)

2)Are the youth of today complacent about the future?

Kids' Spa

An interesting phenomenon that can serve as an example of how pampered a lifestyle the children are blessed with nowadays...

Qn: Are the youth of today too complacent about the future?

Charlie Hebdo

Here's an explanation why Islam forbids any visual depiction of the Prophet. The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, had previously published not just cartoons depicting the Prophet visually, but often in a derogatory manner, including the controversial ones in 2006 of the Prophet's head attached to a dog, and the one with his turban in the form of a bomb.
For their controversial work that sparked off the Charlie Hebdo episode earlier this year, see Article 2 below....





Here are some of the cartoons that were generated in retaliation to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo earlier this year.....Read Article 4 below for the details.

  The pen is mightier than the sword. Can written language really be so powerful? (Cam 2007)
[NOTE: you CANNOT use Charlie Hebdo or the cartoon examples here for this qn, as the pen here refers to written language, not drawn cartoons! Close reading of the qn is required!!!)


Cartoonists raise nibs in salute to Charlie Hebdo, press freedom

=Note that the coverage of the Charlie Hebdo episode appears to be largely one-sided, with sympathy more towards the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists than the Muslim killers. While what the Muslim killers did cannot be condone, many appeared to have forgotten that it's the cartoonist who responsible for the provocation first.  This is mentioned briefly towards the end of this article.
If such a scenario were to happen in Singapore,...actually it won't happen, as the govt here would not allow the publication of such cartoons that poke fun at other religions in the first place....
Incidentally, if u think about it, the cartoonists were doing something bad under the name of freedom of speech. Is this not like what the terrorists are doing in the name of Islam? When people do terrible things, they like to invoke some lofty ideals to justify and excuse their actions. In doing these bad things, they want to come across as some crusaders or heroes -- protectors of free speech, protector or Islam!!!!

=Even the Pope himself was widely quoted as saying that if someone insults his mother, he can jolly well expect a punch from him! Useful quote in the light of this issue on how there has to be limits to freedom of speech, It should not be use as a rallying call or licence to commit acts that are detriment to others.

=Another issue brought up in this article is how cartoons as a form of satire, can be a powerful weapon against influential people who misuse their power. Note cartoons can be a form of the Arts.

=Another interesting parallel: mentioned in the article below is that comment that the Muslim killers who carried out the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists  'can't defeat ideas through these means, and they won't succeed.' Now isn't this an uncanny resemblance to the view that we can kill terrorists with weapons, but the same weapons cannot 'kill' terrorism. Terrorism is an idea or ideology, much like freedom of speech or people's idea about Islam (albeit a misguided one). Weapons are powerless against ideas. As long as the idea continues to live (and take root) in people's mind, it will germinate and surface one fine day....

=Mentioned elsewhere is also the observation about the profile of the Muslim killers. They do not hold permanent jobs and are those that drift about.....Where people, esp youth, cannot find employment, it is easy for them to blame the nation and have little sense of belonging. It is people who fit this kind of profile that are often lured into terrorist acts, be it the lone wolf type or those that join terrorist network. So one of the ways to curb terrorism is perhaps for govts to grow the economy, create jobs....which will keep the dreams of these disenfranchised youth alive, so that they will find meaning and purpose in life without having to look for it in anti-social, destructive ideologies.

=If the youths happened to be from a minority group, then the failure at building an inclusive society
will also gear them towards other directions where they may feel accepted and get a sense of fulfilment, even if it involves violence.

1) 'For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.' How true is this of your society? (Cam 2014)
2) How far, in your society, should unpopular views be open to discussion? (Cam 2013)
3) Do you agree with the view that comics and cartoons are strictly for children? (HCI Prelim 2014)


Crime rises in Singapore -- Walking CCTV

Useful Singapore examples and stats for those 'your society' response....Singapore has long enjoyed a reputation as a safe city, but as the saying goes, low crime does not mean no crime. Note how the spike in crime is due to the internet and how the profile of criminals is increasingly of the young.

Relate to characteristic features of the internet that facilitate crime.

Recall also Emily Spreight's argument in 2014 'A' level compre about her faith in the youth -- will control instead of be controlled by material online.....the stats here in this article shows otherwise....

note the colourful and sexy metaphor 'Venus flytrap'....see its pic HERE

As if the ubiquitous CCTV is not enough, now we have 'walking CCTV' strapped to policemen!!! Talk about invasion of privacy!