Wow, today I felt more engaged than I have been in a long time. How long has it been since I’ve had uninterrupted intellectual conversation with people on the same wavelength for more than ten minutes? Too long. Thanks InteresThink.

Moving beyond the essential networking and catching up with a coupla old acquaintances, I just felt an aura of optimism, often associated with the utopian fever that hits when the alleged intelligentia comes together and doesn’t have to bother about anything other than the ideas and opinions we share. Or maybe it could be all those big windows in 5 of 8 cardinal directions causing glare on an unusually cloudless day. And then there was the ambience. Did I mention the ambience? It was like, the golden years at Anderson. Where early in the morning I’d be dragged off by Timothy and Gobs leaving everyone else in glass quietly and fervently mugging for O’ Levels, while we went over to the canteen and just talked geeky guy stuff. I tell you, the relationships may have soured since then, but those moments I still remember, albeit with the hazy white aura of not unlike a cataract.

But let me just tell you, in the course of ten minutes, I talked to 3 different people, two of them total strangers up till now, having discussions about embedded systems [thanks NTT] and about a FYP looking at a software poetry generator. And the event hadn’t even started yet. Cool huh?

I won’t actually blog about what was discussed…yet, cos each talk deserves a post of its own and besides all the minutes are on Kahania and with my wireless down, I don’t want to bother until I get to school on Tuesday. What I can tell you is…who spoke and what to expect as topics of discussion.

Mr Harish [w00t!] kicked off the event with an opening speech about how Singaporeans rarely get the opportunity to throw around random ideas if only due to the fact that there is usually only enough time to choose between the two polar camps of day-to-day discussion: politics and nothing else. He highlighted the need for multidisciplinary fusion of ideas, not unlike TED.

The first speaker, Dr Larry, a ethnomusicologist from NIE, came up to discuss the importance of music in the Malay-Islamic world, and why there was so much controversy [which I didn’t really know about till now] about fatwas against the sinful activity of music in Islam. Though I admit the subject matter was not of very much interest to me, the prof’s area of expertise is, and I hope to have a discussion with him in the coming months. Remind me to talk to the Profs at Wee Kim Wee and SIS too!

Then there was the true Singaporean hippy, Mr Grant Pereira, a self-procalimed eco-terrorist, who SHOULD also get a day-job as a stand-up comic, cos he was GOOD! Omg, this wasn’t just sarcasm, this was corporate banter and it was a riot. he’s such an activist he was kicked out of GreenPeace for being too militant. Hahaha isn’t that just the coolest? Anyway, he talked about the local environment and government’s seemingly myopic stand on local green movements. Fabulous quote: “Reduce, reuse recycle? Bullshit. Read, remember, regurgitate is more like it in Singapore.”

Mr Alex Hao, a local gay activist, gave a racy and suggestive talk loaded with ripe clauses that tickled and excited the fertile [read:perverted] minds, about the social issues that truly “trap” the transgendered and the people in the sex industry. Is it really an Asian ethic? Are European or American sex stars not vindicated in some way? I don’t know. Anyone?

Then came Mdm Choo Hin, who gave a wonderful informative awareness talk about cancer survivors and what they really need from society. Hereditary terminal illnesses are a touchy topic for me, and I’ve been repeatedly told I have some asocial views about the matter, so we’ll get to that when we discuss that.

There was a BRILLIANT story-teller today, and his name was Kan Lume, a local filmmaker. If his movies are every bit as good as the tale [autobiographical] he spun for us, wow I can’t wait to watch. Unfortunately, this was MOSTLY a story, and there is nothing to discuss. He did however highlight a few lessons he has learned from his struggles. namely:

What is the point of living if you already know the end-result?
To this question, another question. I quote, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” – Steve Jobs to John Sculley. For us [assuming you’re behind me in this], the decision is easy.

If your kids ask you for advice when you’re older, about career and life path, and you tell them nothing new: work hard, save much, plan for retirement and enjoy the final years, then what have you really done in your life?
Live life with conviction; don’t be a slave to money.

How can we compete an international level when we only work at it part-time?
This was in response to the dearth of launches and successes of the local media industry, especially film.

The message is important. The target is apathy. The best films are the ones that polarise the audience into those who support you and those who are outraged by it. The power of personal belief and conviction cannot be denied. It is imperative, a moral duty to affect society positively. [Agreed!]

Film is a powerful media: if embracing technology advances Science, then embrace of arts advances culture.

He finally quoted from William Blake: I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.
As will be mine. here’s a related quote I saw at the library: The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. I don’t know who said this, but he’s stolen the words from my mouth. We gotta leave something behind. THAT is true immortality, not the elixir of life.

And finally a prolific political commentator Mr Leong came down to discuss the latest CPF rate changes reflected in the recent Budget. I’m sorry and very ashamed that I had totally no idea what he was talking about. My bad. I’m sure it wa very relevant [in the financial sense, esp since I’m now a S’porean] but I really have to read up more on the CPF system. I don’t know how it works to begin with….

And that was Singapore’s version of TED. Not bad for the sophomore year huh? Can’t wait to go for the next one. Thanks organisers, speakers and attendees [minus one], esp Kelvin!


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