austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

This land is your land

Ah! Spotted at Times (a bookstore) today, the National Symbols Kit, produced by the Ministry of Information and The Arts. Contents: Foreward; The National Flag; The National Anthem; The National Coat of Arms; The Pledge; The Lion Head Symbol; The National Flower; Our Shared Values; and The National Anthem Score (Piano with Choir). Fella could have a pretty good weekend in Geylang with all that stuff.

We'll start with the pack itself. Provided for scale is the Daw paperback The Probability Man, by Brian N. Ball, about a far-future earth that uses bubbles of parallel universes to provide live-action roleplaying games for the masses. The title character has powergamed himself into a safe spot in every universe. The cover depicts a devil, a butterfly-winged woman, a glowing planet and a robot, and accurately depicts the contents.

Unpacked there are three distinct items: the flag (in a zip-lock type bag not zipped, but taped closed), a booklet called The National Symbols Kit (which contains descriptions of most of the items -- they do not include an actual flower, for example), and a Video CD and jacket with the Anthem. Provided for scale is Brian N. Ball's sequel Planet Probability, in which the Probability Man of the earlier book must help an extradimensional alien escape his own live-action roleplaying in this universe and ... to be honest I kind of lose what's going on, but the characters seem to know.

The National Symbols Kit goes into some detail of various symbols, including their origins, proper uses, and where to inquire for further information. Flag use is prohibited for commercial purposes, in advertisements, as print patterns, or as ``adornments'', and superimposing text on the flag is prohibited except -- with approval -- for educational purposes. Most restrictions on it are lifted ``on National Day and other occasions of national rejoicing.'' I have it open to the Lion Head symbol, which is designed to be used with fewer restrictions than the flag and the Coat of Arms are.

I didn't know there was a pledge, but I haven't been to the ``school assemblies, Singapore Armed Forces Day, National Day Parade, and National Day Observance Ceremonies'' at which it is recited. Individuals reciting it ``shall clench their right fists to the left side of their chests as a gesture symbolizing loyalty to the nation.'' The pledge, English version (Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin versions are included in the book):

We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.

The National Flower, for the record, is the Vanda Miss Joaquim, an orchid hybrid indigenous to the area, and was selected ``from among 40 other contenders, including some 30 orchids ... particularly because of its hardy and resilient qualities and its ability to bloom throughout the year.'' Symbols that represent tenaciousness are always easy sells here.

The Nation Anthem Video CD puts lie to my speculation they only have one recording of the National Anthem; it provides seven:

  1. Choir with Orchestral accompaniment -- version 1 (1' 27'')
  2. Choir with Orchestral accompaniment -- version 2 (1' 32'')
  3. Soloist and Choir with Orchestral accompaniment (1' 28'')
  4. Choir with Piano accompaniment (1' 21'')
  5. Piano Solo (1' 14'')
  6. Instrumental -- Orchestral (1' 31'')
  7. Instrumental -- Orchestral (abridge) (0' 36'')

It comes along with a little fact sheet which loses me completely by writing that in 1957 ``[ the City Council ] needed a theme song for it's official functions.'' Gr. That typo drives me crazy. I've had engineering students angry at me three years later because I marked down their mathematics assignments when they couldn't tell it's from its.

Provided for scale in the picture is David Bischoff's Star Spring, in which a crazed not-quite-immortal multijillionaire uses a faster-than-light spaceship to send a clay-animated donkey-unicorn teamed up with a virtual reality simulation of Carl Jung to find the Holy Grail in an attempt to take over the collective unconsciousness of the human race. It makes much more sense than that, though I suspect the philosophy is as comic in its way as the physics is.

And finally the Flag, which is just a little too large to fit on my dining room table. The red ``symbolizes universal brotherhood and the quality of man; white signifies pervading and everlasting purity and value; the crescent moon represents a young nation on the ascendant; and the five stars stand for Singapore's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice, and quality.'' The recommended standard sizes are A: 1370 by 915 mm; B: 1830 by 1220 mm; C: 2740 by 1830 mm. I believe this would be the A size.

Provided for scale is James Blish's Vor, in which an extraterrestrial robot lands in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula, and after several days announces its intention to destroy Earth. This programming was set before its arrival and Michigan residents are not particularly at fault.

Singapore's Shared Values, according to the booklet, were developed in 1988 by then-First Deputy Minister Goh Chok Tong, and are (in English):

  • Nation before community and society above self.
  • Family as the basic unit of society.
  • Community support and respect for the individual.
  • Consensus, not conflict.
  • Racial and religious harmony.

I quirk my eyes at that somewhat, partly from the listing (I get nervous when society tells me it's more important than individuals, though I agree society needs respect) and partly from the way it reads like a Powerpoint slide, as many government projects do.

So it's an interesting kit, and I finally know how to buy a Singapore flag: visit a bookstore in August. I don't know why I didn't think of that before.

Trivia: The Singapore Flag, National Anthem, and Coat of Arms were unveiled on 3 December 1959. Source: The National Symbols Kit, Singapore Ministry of Information and The Arts.

Currently Reading: The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity, Amir D. Aczel. While the book's a fine history/biography of Georg Cantor and Kurt Gödel's studies of set theory, infinity, and indeterminacy, the bits about ancient philosophy and the Kabbalah are only weakly connected to that. Part of my frustration, surely, is that I've had several years of real and functional analysis, which (indirectly) teach one that everything everybody thought about infinity before about 1870 was stupid, so for example I don't understand the distinctions of ``potential infinity'' and ``actual infinity'', which the author assumes the reader finds somewhat familiar.


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