Monday, January 24, 2011

Singapore Humanism Meetup Book Club #003 - The End of Faith by Sam Harris

Did you know that there is a Singapore Humanism Meetup Book Club in the Singapore Humanist Meetup circle? It started out in 2010 when Ryan started the first Singapore Humanism Meetup Book Club on 14-September-2010 reading "Good Without God" by Grey Epstein.

A Singapore Humanism Meetup Book Club event is an informal gathering of SHM members who are interested to discussing about a book suggested by the Singapore Humanism Meetup book club coordinators. Book genre can range from Humanist Literature, Philosophy, Science, Logical Thinking, humanist related fiction and many more. Each session is about 1.5 to 2 hours, and participants are usually limited to not more then 15 people to ease discussion.

The most recent one was held on 22-Jan-2011 and saw 8 participant from all walks of life, background and age group gathered together in a member's home to discuss and debate about the book: The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Although initially scheduled for a 2 hour session, members talked long beyond 3 hours! There was not a single moment of boredom though out as the topic discussed where highly entertaining, highly amusing, and addictively engaging. But more importantly, it helps them think about the questions that most humanist encounter in their life, and to exchange and learn new perspective of how other humanist see the world.

Just a recap of what was discussed
  • Pacifism, whether it works in resolving conflicts in this world
  • Whether religious moderate is as harmful as how Sam Harris describe them to be
  • Whether collatoral damage was a necessary evil
  • Whether humanist has a responsibility to share their view point with other people
  • Explaination on why the world's fetility rate is falling (which would be an interested topic in the Darwin book club coming up!)

To date, the SHM Book Club has successfully conducted 3 reading meetup:
  1. 14-Sep-2010 - Good Without God by Grey Epstein
  2. 30-Oct-2010 - The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang
  3. 22-Jan-2011 - The End of Faith by Sam Harris
In conjunction with Darwin's Day falling on February 12, Singapore Humanism Meetup book club meetup #004 will be held on 26-Feb-2011 (Saturday) from 3pm - 5pm reading The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, or Darwin: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

The Origin of Species is also available as an ebook on Gutenberg. Stanza and other iPhone and Android eBook apps would have it for free.

Do login to Singapore Humanist Meetup Group to RSVP before all spots are taken up!
Note: prior reading before each session is required.

The coordinator would like to thank Doug, Gim Sheng, Tawnya, Daniel, Fong Lai, Gesan and Nel for making the previous book club a totally unforgettable session!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MDL - Sculptures

10-Nov-2010 (Wednesday). Take a look at this photo of only one of the open halls inside the museum. Now imagine that each and every door found in that photo leads into a hallway full of sculptures! Now that's a lot of sculptures! I won't even attempt to show you 10% of what was displayed here.Let me just share with you some of my favorites.
Take for instance these three lovely piece of art. I actually love the 1st the most as it's so beautifully made. The 2nd if also lovely in its own sense, but actually it is the 3rd that is the most famous, the Venus de Milo. We walked all over looking for it, but well, the thing about famous piece of art ism they are so well known that there are no element of surprise left as you already know what its going to look like. But the 1st piece is totally new to me, and I can't stop looking at it!
Of course I also love anything biblical in nature, and that includes angels and demons. I have no idea what is written on these two plaque. I tried googling them but came up empty. I know know they are somehow biblical in nature. I just like how stone white marbles matches with angels, making them so strong, yet so cold.... 
Lastly, four more piece that I wanted to share. From top to bottom, the 1st, a statue of a lady so elegant sunbathing by the window with the backdrop of the window and lights shinning in upon her. Lovely.
2nd, The Three Graces. I took these cause it somehow reminded me of a scene in one of the Charlie's Angel movie. Plus, it looks a symbol of sisterhood.
3rd, anything with cloak figures are good by me. This is how I'd imagine a funeral of a great Magus would be like. It smells of Rainstlin all over :)

And lastly, the 4th where the light just hits the wall in such a great angle to produce this shot. I just love shadow and lights. This photo reminds me of scenes from Prince of Egype or even the Ten Commandments. Majestic and ancient.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MDL - Musée du Louvre, Paris

10-Nov-2010 (Wednesday), off to the Musée du Louvre we go, the site of one of the scene from The Da Vinci Code. Interestingly I've never read a single Dan Brown's book before. But I've read the book Holy Blood Holy Grail which the book was based on. Still, a glass pyramid was an attractive thing to see. Plus I've heard that it was one, if not the best museum in the world. I'm a sucker for museum. And I've picked Wednesday cause Musée du Louvre stays open till 10pm on a Wednesday. Now that's one awesome tip for you to get your 9.50Euro (SGD18) work more for you!

Just like the NHM, I'm going to break down the MDL into different section, mainly the following
So this is the first part, the building itself. Imagine this photo, and multiple it by 3, as the Musée du Louvre is shaped like a "U", and each side stood a magnificent building like this. And in the middle of it, the famous glass pyramid. To enter, you actually have to enter the pyramid and take an escalator down. Once inside, the basement is like a spider web spreading off into different wings and section.

There are 3 levels up, and a basement, and you multiple that by that 3 building as per above, and that's a lot of ground to cover in one day! Plus, besides the entrance to each wing, once you're inside each building, there are not many escalator around, so you'll be climbing lots of stairs! Paris is a wonderful place to lose weight! Here are some beautiful photo taken from the inside of the museum. Lovely old stone staircase, statues gracing almost every window, stone tile flooring leading into wide indoor open spaces.....If I ever live in a palace, I want one just like this one!
We were at the museum from opening hour 9am, till 7pm or 8pm! And although it rained when we arrived, the sun came out later on that day and we saw Paris for the first time with blue skies! It was a gorgeous day outside, and although it was a shame that I was spending it in door, the wonderful wide window provided a view for me that took my breath away. And as we stayed till late evening, we managed to get some wonderful sunset photos of the view from the museums too. One of the museum staff was extremely nice when he saw me taking photos of the sunset in one of the window, and told me to go further up the hall way as there was a little balcony like structure there where I could step up and see the sunset. Merci Beaucoup Monsieur! Don't those photo just look lovely! I started to fell in love with Paris from that very day :)

Louvre Museum Official Website
The Da Vinci Code

Notre Dame

9-Nov-2010 (Tuesday), we packed our bags, checked out and walked to St Pancras Station to catch our Eurostar to Paris. I didn't know what to expect. Paris being the so called city of love, I was headed there, and I speak minimum French! Would I like it there? Would I finally understand why some people love Paris so much? Or would I understand why some people say French people are such snobs?

2 hours later, we arrived at Gare du Nord train station. As the train pulls in, graffiti could be seen almost everywhere. It was partly raining, and the sky was gloomy. As we made our way out of the train station and into the subway, the smell of urine was strong along the subway station. Gum stain was all over the dirty floor. I begin to have doubt about the place I was going to be spending a week in.

Checked into our apartment 1 hour later (more about places to stay in later blog), and we were off to explore the city! It was almost 2pm already so we headed towards Notre Dame, me hoping to catch a glimpse of  it before sunset at 5pm.

This is what Notre Dame looked like on a good day. But when we were there the first time, it was all gloomy. And for such a majestic church, it was smaller than what I was expecting. But the exterior art did not disappoint me one bit. The detail of the walls, the art, the statues, were beautiful. We stood outside for almost an hour before I realize that we could actually enter the church for free!
More beauty awaits us inside. It was dark inside except for dim lights. And the sound of pipe organs and choir practice echos through the long hall way of saints after saints. Jesus on the cross was almost everywhere. And confession boxes of a few foreign languages were available, with people sitting outside waiting their turn.
I was in love with the rose shaped stained glass there. I was in love with any kind of stained glass period. I could have sat there the whole day. It was so gorgeous and peaceful there.
The reason I love Notre Dame so much, was simply because of one beautiful story written by Victor Hugo called The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This was the place Quasimodo grew up in as the bell-ringer. The place where Esmeralda the gypsy girl found sanctuary. It was a tragic love story for Quasimodo, but it was a beautiful love story of warm and compassion all the same.

As I think back, I awed at the details that has gone into the Disney version of the same show. Here I'm sharing two clips of the show featuring Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was as beautiful if not more than I imagine it to be. Little did I know that I would be visiting it again on my last day in Paris as well. The alpha and the omega of my trip :)

Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Welcome 2011

I've always preferred sleeping early on new year eve, and waking up really really early on new year's day when the whole world is totally quiet, and it's a brand new year, and it feels like you have the whole world to yourself! New Year Eve party really screws up my start to a brand new year. So 2010, I can't be bothered with the count down and was asleep by 11pm :)

Woke at 6am on 1st Jan 2011, and dragged my grumpy hubby out of bed with me, and off we go! 30 mins walk to Bedok Jetty and East Coast Park to watch the first day break of the brand new year!
7:07am, the sun rises, and although I took many a photos that morning with my faithful Frodo, I guess one photo says it better than a dozen similar ones. So here to share with all you awesome people, a brand new awesome year ahead! Happy New Year 2011!