Busy Last Few Months

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A couple of loyal readers asked how I’ve been doing, so here’s a quick update.

Split into three parts: my blogging, professional, and personal life.

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1. BLOGGING LIFE

a) I have continued to update the prolific Mr. Yoong’s blog excerpts throughout this year — check them out here!

b) I’ve been meaning to review Tey Tsun Hang’s book, Legal Consensus, for some time now. Hopefully I can get to it by the end of the year (I am doing a bit of traveling next month to visit my family in Maine, and have “some other stuff to get to” after that).

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Verdict: Totes Amazeballs.

Tey’s publication is a coolly concise book on “Singapore’s schizophrenic jurisprudence.”

Here’s a paragraph from the second chapter to whet your intellectual appetite:

The danger arises when ‘government-articulated collective interests in the name of culture and community becomes synonymous with state interests’. When this happens, any criticism of the government, even those that are constructive, becomes criticism subversive of the state and hence the community’s interest. The system becomes open to abuse by governments seeking to strengthen their political power and legitimise their actions via legal formalities within a ‘thin’ conception of the rule of law.
Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang (Page 5)

I’ll update my social media accounts more regularly once I resume some activity for jessINK-related matters (see below). This year I’ve been enjoying doing more things offline versus online.

2. PROFESSIONAL LIFE

a) As I wrote over a year ago, jessINK’s new direction has been on my mind for the past few weeks and months.

In the past year, I’ve shifted my interests away from indie publishing in order to explore some of my other skills and interests. I have some ideas for what I’d like jessINK 2.0 to be about. It’ll still (and always will) involve SOME degree of writing — my first love forever ♥ — just in a new direction.

It’s because I’m exponentially happier writing when the process is not narrowly dictated by commercial niche genres.

I really appreciate the readers who’ve appreciated my work over the years, so that keeps me motivated to offer good value to my new audience(s) in future, whether it’s in publishing or another field.

playmates_finalist

Award-winning book.

b) Playmates, the first book in my psych thriller series, was a finalist in the 9th Indie Excellence Awards last year. That made me smile coz it’s a pretty big contest with tons of entries.

c) Matt Posner, my co-author on Teen Guide, sent me this complimentary mug featuring the book cover. It’s been 5 years since we starting collaborating on it. OMG where did the time go!

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#HappyFace

That’s not a particularly glam or “PR-worthy” photo of myself (I’m in a night dress, which is what I sometimes wear while working from home)…but, having an acne history, I’m quite pleased that breakouts have become more manageable these days. A lot of it is related to stress management and emotional health.

3. PERSONAL LIFE

a) I relocated to Florida earlier this year in January, after living in Maine for several years.

This was a good move on my part, albeit it took many months of “analysis paralysis” before I finally decided that something had to change in terms of geographic location. Maine is a pretty state, but it can be “desolate” (an adjective used by one of my American friends) depending on which part you are in.

The first few weeks in my new space were devoted to house-cleaning, baking, cooking, and figuring out what was wrong with the washing machine.

b) I passed the basic rider course earlier in the year, so my driver’s license says “Motorcycle Also.”

That was just something I used to think about getting during my teenage days, so I’m glad I got that done even though I’m a LONNNGG way off from being a skillful rider.

At the very least, I got a solid foundation from Highlands Professional Motorcycle Training based on a biker friend’s recommendation. Great coaches who were very positive, focused, and looked out for the well-being of the students.

c) The natural terrain is something else I’ve been getting to know a little better. Alligators and turtles in the small canals are common in certain areas.

Relationship-wise, the guy in the shadow pointing pic above makes me smile and I make him laugh — and that’s important. I will leave it up to you to guess whether or not he rides a bike.

On a slight tangent, I like using the following two brands of sun screen: Badger and Babyganics. I use them a lot if I’m spending some time outdoors.

My skin is very sensitive and I prefer organic skincare products. Right now I use a basic soap cleanser, beauty balm, and sun screen. I prefer to keep things simple on that front and not overload my face with chemicals.

d) Since I haven’t lived or worked in Singapore for Quite A While, I can only gauge what it’d feel like to live there now based on friends’ postings on Facebook, along with updates from sites like The Online Citizen.

Quality of life can be a subjective thing, since it is partly dependent on a person’s preferences and comfort zone(s) when it comes to feeling like a certain location feels like home.

A lot of my friends or former classmates occasionally gripe about SG, but continue to stay because of:

  • Their family network, and
  • The convenience of transport and amenities.

My immediate family members felt differently, so I grew up within a different way of thinking so to speak.

Here’s the core sentiment I remember the most while growing up in Singapore: that it never felt like home.

This was due to a combination of factors, such as:

  • The feeling of claustrophobia from the ever increasing population density,
  • Feeling trapped by education/career/housing options, and
  • Feeling that freedom of speech did not exist without severe repercussions.

The constant gleam of the latest and greatest shopping malls and eateries didn’t make me feel any different deep inside.

No doubt variety is good when it comes to food, but one can simply cook up a storm at home if malls are struggling to attract customers due to high rentals, etc.

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Reflections on Writing and The Past Year

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* Note: Slightly Rambling Blog Post *

Hello Readers,

I’ve not written a personal blog post in quite some time, but thought I’d write one to share some thoughts I’ve had with writing/publishing/blogging and my other interests.

2014 was the first year I spent more time reading and writing non-fiction. This happened as I continued noticing a gradual (and sometimes, not-so-gradual) decline in eBook sales.

My heart has never been in commercial fiction, and it probably never will be. For that reason, I am unlikely to continue eBooks publishing as a business (because as a business, it’s commercial forces one has to consistently observe and adapt to). I have some other personal reasons for no longer having the drive for writing fiction as I used to several years ago when I first ventured into digital publishing.

Towards the end of last year, I had a very strong need to switch directions entirely in terms of profession. I’ve listed some of the things I’ve been / am involved with on my about.me page. It’s a refreshing change and I’m grateful for the new work experiences. I like doing things that have some level of originality/innovation/analysis, and I felt indie publishing was not the right place for me anymore.

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‘Reflection’ photo by Arthur Davison, used under a CC License.

I should add that I almost gave up my interest in socio-political blogging for the sake of a close friendship/relationship (let’s just say that my views were “very divergent” from the other person’s). Regardless of the topic, my personal belief is that people who respect each other would be able to sort out their differences. At the end of the day, I concur with activist Brooke Axtell, who said during the 2015 Grammys:

“Authentic love does not devalue another human being.”
(– activist Brooke Axtell)

To me, a friendship/relationship isn’t worth it if either person feels no guilt/shame/remorse in belittling or disparaging the other person, because they disagree with the other’s views and sentiments. (Perhaps this is partly due to the “Venus Scorpio” in me that highly values self-respect and mutual respect.)

I guess quitting self-publishing (or “turning my professional attention elsewhere” for the time-being) gave me an additional sense of closure to that whole chapter in my life. It just felt like everything had reached a dead-end and that it was time for me to try something new, on both the personal and professional level.

That being said, I’ll always like writing, so you’ll see some of my copyediting material online this year along with socio-political blogging book reviews when I can get down to it (once my current schedule has settled in a little bit more). Writing socio-political blog posts helped me access an “analytical” side of my mind I hadn’t really accessed before, which is why I’m keen to continue those independent/unsponsored blog posts.

I’m thankful for the readers/customers I’ve had and heard from over the years, particularly the readers of my earlier erotic material. I guess that’s a part of my life I’m leaving behind too, in a way (since my early erotic fiction was largely due to my own sexual neuroses!).

I appreciate others’ appreciation of my writing — somehow it feels like that will be something which will inspire me with future projects I get up to. It gives me a sense of comfort/satisfaction to know that my efforts were not completely wasted on meaningless things, since I like to focus on one thing at a time and give my all to it if I’m passionate about something.

I guess my main website (jessINK) may “morph” over the next few years, to reflect my personal interests and projects I’m involved with along the way. I initially branded myself as an “author/artist/non-conformist,” a label I’ve since updated to “writer/blogger/analyst” (the practical Virgo in me loves anything of an “analytical” nature…).

Side Note: It is also this practical Virgo in me that keeps me from enjoying the label/lifestyle of “starving artist” (a label my artistic Pisces moon doesn’t quite mind)…I guess I have a rough idea re: career path (I do best with something that combines creative and analytical skills).

Have you had a similar experience where you just felt you needed to drop (almost) everything and try/do something new? Send me a note via email! (I’m keeping the comments ‘off’ on this post in the spirit of intimacy/privacy.)

Stay happy and healthy in the meantime.

— Jess.

Thoughts On Being A Socio-Political Blogger

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* Featured on The Real SG and TR Emeritus.

INTRODUCTION:
Thoughts On Being A Socio-Political Blogger

1. Background

My name is Jess and I’m 27. I was born in Singapore and spent the first two decades of my life there. I am a U.S. citizen as of 2012.

As a teenager in Singapore, I was politically indifferent and apathetic. I had a keen interest in history, but not even a passing interest in politics.

This was due to a pervasive climate of fear, caused by the PAP government’s history of undermining the independence of the press and judiciary, and silencing dissent.

I grew up with the impression that it was literally dangerous to have — let alone express in public — any critical political views.

This limitation on the freedom of expression led to a feeling of disempowerment, where I had little hope for any changes in a positive direction for the society I was part of.

2. Freedom of Expression

Expression

Milana Knezevic, a journalist working at Index on Censorship, explains the value of freedom of expression:

Why is access to freedom of expression important? Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It also underpins most other rights and allows them to flourish. The right to speak your mind freely on important issues in society, access information and hold the powers that be to account, plays a vital role in the healthy development process of any society.

Index on Censorship adds:

Free speech creates the space for the exchange of ideas in the arts, literature, religion, academia, politics and science, and is essential for other rights such as freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly. Without this, individuals can’t make informed decisions and fully participate in society.

Freedom of expression can be abused when people take it to the extreme, to voice their opinion recklessly and irresponsibly. But this alone does not justify the opposite extreme where freedom of expression is suppressed.

It is “freedom of expression” that made me more informed about socio-political issues in a broader context.

3. Government Accountability

All government propaganda works the same way — by spreading information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, that promotes a particular political cause or point of view.

The biggest danger with biased reporting is the distortion of facts.

A Nation article published in 2014 provides an example of distortion via media misrepresentation — through a critical analysis of how mainstream press coverage has become less objective and less balanced over time.

Dr. Michael S. Rozeff adds that “a government shouldn’t cover up crimes and shouldn’t conceal [wrongful] exercises of power.”

Accountability ensures actions taken by a country’s public officials are subject to review, so that government initiatives meet their objectives and respond to the needs of the community.

4. Alternative vs. Mainstream Media

People are increasingly placing more trust in alternative media than in the scripted mainstream media.

Singaporeans are also beginning to turn more and more to the Internet for news and information, after decades of the PAP government having a dominant voice in Singapore’s mainstream media.

As former ISD director, Mr. Yoong Siew Wah, aptly summarizes:

“What the mainstream media, especially The Straits Times, dishes out to the public is what the government wants the public to read.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 2 May 2010)

5. Role of the Internet

The following paragraphs by Michael T. Snyder illustrate the role of the Internet:

“The Internet gives us an opportunity to impact the world that is unlike anything previous generations have ever had. Those in power have begun to recognize how powerful the Internet is, and so they have begun to crack down on it.

It is also important to keep in mind that the Internet allows us to watch them as well. The Internet is an incredible tool for exposing evil and corruption, and over the past decade we have seen many instances when average people on the Internet have broken major news stories that the mainstream media would not dare touch initially.

In the final analysis, the ability to wake people up and to literally change the world outweighs the risks of being watched. Don’t be afraid to stand up for the truth. It is better to do what is right and to be persecuted for it than to stand aside and do nothing.”
(10 Reasons Why)

6. Responsible Activism

Activism is defined as the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Tony Cartalucci writes that “the true power of the people comes [from] getting organized and getting active. . .not just [making demands of] the communities and nations we want to live in, but to cultivate the skills and institutions required to build them ourselves.”

@StopImperialism, an independent media outlet, is “anti-war, anti-imperialism, anti-oligarchy [and] pro-peace, pro-progress, pro-economic development.”

Informed Activism is not the same thing as Terrorism (the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims), or Anarchism (a belief that government and laws are completely unnecessary).

7. Conclusion

I started developing a keen interest in Singapore’s political history in 2014.

I continue having a big interest because it is my birth country, and because it is an ideal case study to observe socio-political forces. That these forces are contained in a concentrated manner in a geographically small country makes it easier to study, and to recognize “patterns” on a global scale.

That was how my own political interest and awareness began — with small steps.

With political apathy, the situation is vastly different, because it encourages a person to just “switch off,” not bother, and leave it to a few people to enact the changes, both locally and globally.

It’s in everyone’s interest to be educated politically and socially. After all, we’re already global citizens.

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More Information:

About Freedom of Expression (by Index on Censorship)
Becoming a Global Citizen (by Global Citizens Initiative)
Distorting Russia (by The Nation, on distortion via media misrepresentation)
“Global Citizen” Graphic (by Shushant)