Stuff you must read today (Wed, 23 Sep 2015)

  • The pursuit of beauty | The New Yorker
    “Pure mathematics, as opposed to applied mathematics, is done with no practical purposes in mind. It is as close to art and philosophy as it is to engineering… The pursuit of beauty in pure mathematics is a tenet. Last year, neuroscientists in Great Britain discovered that the same part of the brain that is activated by art and music was activated in the brains of mathematicians when they looked at math they regarded as beautiful”.
  • The unconscious allure of grand national narratives | The Straits Times
    “There will always be a need for a coherent account of the past in order to function as national communities. But we need to remind ourselves that we can also recognise the limitations of reflexive habits that play such a powerful role in guiding our views”.
  • Mumbai battles between medieval and modern times | Hindustan Times
    Human society will always experience competing tensions between progress and regression, while its people will always spout strange rhetoric to delude themselves – or others – so as to reinforce flawed beliefs.
  • This free online encyclopedia has achieved what Wikipedia can only dream of | Quartz
    How an online repository achieved the “impossible trinity” of authority, expanse and currency when it comes to providing data and information for research and scholarship.
  • What the British are really laughing about | The Leveller
    “…David Cameron’s nasty little scandal speaks to a suspicion many people already have: that in British society, you don’t get to become Prime Minister because you’re talented or because you work hard. You don’t even get there just because you’re rich. You get there by traumatizing the homeless and skull-fucking a dead pig, and that ritual gives you power because you have demonstrated utter, pathetic submission to your fellow oligarchs”.


Nani has begun dreaming again.Since she began recounting her life, she’s been having dreams of her youth.She dreams…

Posted by Laremy Lee on Saturday, 11 July 2015

Nani has begun dreaming again.

Since she began recounting her life, she’s been having dreams of her youth.

She dreams about 1930s Sindh, in what was still India, and not yet Pakistan.

In them, she recalls the freedom of childhood and being a child: how she and her friends ran races, played games like dog and bone, how they roamed the streets of Hyderabad – courageously, in all their urchin-like temerity.

She remembers fearlessness: her father never scolded her so she was very brave; her mother would back down whenever Nani stood up to her – which was often.

There were neither borders nor obligations; no boundaries to be afraid of crossing.

Most of all, she remembers the freedom.

Were you happy, Nani, we ask.

“Khush,” she says, spreading her gnarled fingers in an expanse of expression. Happy.

“Ma free has; ma sochandas ma free aayah.”

“I was free,” she said. “I would think then, ‘I am free.'”

At a Milestone: Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre
Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre

At a Milestone: Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre
By Laremy Lee

The tenants of Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre are a mix of old hats and new blood. Some of its old occupants have long outgrown it while others have shuttered their shops, but it remains a monument to a bygone era.

Built in 1981, Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre (USSC) was the definitive heartland mall of its time, catering to residents in the Hougang area.

Specifically – because any discussion of the sprawling lands of Hougang requires precision – USSC served residents in the vicinity of Ow Kang Ngor Kor Chiok, or Hougang Fifth Milestone, in the Teochew Chinese vernacular.

Old-timers born before Singapore’s independence used Ngor Kor Chiok as a reference point for the area out of necessity and simplicity. In the past, road markers, or milestones, were placed along Upper Serangoon Road to measure distances travelled. Descriptions vary, but what can be gathered from recounts is that the Fifth Milestone was placed somewhere between Boundary Road and Lim Tua Tow Road, back when Upper Serangoon Road still had some of its hustle left.

Over time, however, the bustle of food stalls, goldsmith shops and the wet market – among others – slowly disappeared as gentrification and re-urbanisation modified the makeup of this little town. USSC is one of the buildings left behind from that bygone period. One look at the Shopping Centre and you’d know it to be the sort of mall that has seen better days (and many sordid nights, too).