On Complex Anachronies and Defied Anticipations in The Swimmer

I argue that the narrator’s most valuable contribution is his selectivity of events and descriptive vocabularies in the two contrasting halves of the story. Such selectivity captures the nostalgic psychology of the drunk focaliser and keeps defying my expectations in the second half of the narrative. It also forces me to construct a different chronological order of events and modify my understanding of the narrative.

God’s Own Country (2017): An Earnest, Affecting Depiction of Humanity

The 2017 British independent film God’s Own Country is about the Yorkshire countryside, two homosexual men, plenty of sheep and a sense of nostalgia. Filled with the ambition of timelessness, the story, or a dreamy fairytale, does not happen in a specified time. Characters speak with a strong regional accent, and I struggle to catch every word. But that turns out to be a minor concern: the film does not demand its audience to catch every word; instead, it invites them for a visually intimate experience with two blessed young men falling in love, alongside an earnest, affecting depiction of humanity.

Cultural Exchange and Cultural Surrendering

When I was asked why I wanted to go to The Netherlands for a semester, I quickly considered cultural exchange as an important reason. I fantisiced making new friends from different countries and learning their perspectives. I was excited about the idea of visiting Paris, the cultural centre of Europe, and reading philosophical texts from the continental tradition. My plans have been well executed so far, although I would rather re-consider whether cultural exchange is an accurate term decribing my semester abroad, or in general my experience of studying abroad away from my Chinese home.

Our Lives Are Still Our Own: A Nietzschean Reading of Cloud Atlas

I explore how the narrative structure of Cloud Atlas helps to demonstrate Friedrich Nietzsche’s arguments about the death of God and eternal recurrence. Moreover, I consider how the film, inspired by the Buddhist concept of karma, challenges Nietzsche’s individualistic solution to nihilism and how Nietzsche may respond to the challenge.

The Importance of Cultural Context and The Cultural Significance of Texts

In this essay, I consider how New Criticism and Russian Formalism challenge Schleiermacher’s pioneering insight on the importance of context. I argue that neither of the two schools is persuasive enough for me to overlook Schleiermacher’s emphasis on the cultural context of literature.

The Myth of Infinity: Does Platonism Pave the Stairs to God?

This is the final paper written for my first independent research. As usual, I only post the introduction and the conclusion here. Please feel free to contact me via email (refer to the Home page) if you would like to read some of my arguments in detail or offer any critic.  Introduction This paper explores…

The Tree of Life (2011): Where are You? How Can I Endure This Frail Existence?


Every great story is a stroy of pain, and The Tree of Life is no exception. It is a story of unbearable and chronic discomfort: the pain of life, growth and death, or to put them together, the pain of mortal existence. It is difficult to reivew this movie in one short blog post, but I think it is worth a try, for the movie deals with the most fundamental pain of human existence, or should I say the worst kind of pain among all.

The New Cosmic Story by John Haught (2017): A Revival of Cosmic Optimism?

I find Haught’s book a worthy addition to the literature dealing with religious awakening and its conflict with modern sciences and meaning in a cosmic perspective. The ambitious, exciting book would have been clearer if Haught can explain in details why he makes certain associations, and why those associations are indeed true besides their psychological and religious appeal.

China’s Reluctance to Develop its Soft Power

Soft power, often associated with a country’s social and cultural charisma, allows a state to attract other states and obtain its preferred outcomes through non-coercive means (Nye 2012, 151). While many developed economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan have invested substantially in developing soft power, China, the emerging economic and military superpower in today’s world, largely fails to develop its soft power that matches its economic and military expansion.

Ghost (Poem)

Mrs Chen never believed in ghosts even though she worked as a fortune teller She never cared about the things she told others and nothing bizarre had ever occurred in her life The sun rose from the east of her tiny village every morning while she fed the pigs and cleaned the yard before making…

Mothers of Tiananmen (Poem)

You will not recognise their eyes
They are street cleaners, retired professors
But you will sink into their gaze
transparent, earnest and quiet
It doesn’t matter where they came from
It only matters where they are standing now

What Does a Poet Do (Poem)

When stars abandon the tearful night
and solitude substitutes the quiet sea breeze
A poet guards the diluted memory
and sentiment conquered by reason

13 Reasons Why (2017): Forgive the Wrong that I’ve Done

There has been enough consensus that teenagers are moody, hypersensitive kids who often overlook the ancient wisdom that actions have consequences. 13 Reasons Why seems to be a TV series precisely dedicated to that observation. No teenage drama would seem complete without a secret crush, a girl of the talk and dramatic miscommunications. 13 Reasons Why is no exception, and perhaps it even adds a few adventurous elements.

Mobilising Philosophical Insight (Rationale)

Everyone is capable of doing philosophy; human minds are just mysteriously capable of transcending limits of repetitive daily lives and asking foundational questions related to existence, purpose, morality and knowledge. I hope to mobilise philosophical insight among people regardless of their education or social backgrounds. I hope that my stories can engaged them and guide them in future decision-makings. Above all, philosophy should be accessible to every curious mind, not just philosophers.

Abyss (Short Story)

My parents seldom mentioned my brother to me during my early childhood as if his death had faded into the periphery of life, except it never had, since my existence was a perpetual affirmation of his short visit to the world.

Westworld Season 1 (2016): Lies That Tell a Deeper Truth

“Artists use lies to tell the truth while politicians use lies to cover the truth up”. Widely regarded as one of the most anticipated TV series of 2016, Westworld is inspired by the 1973 movie of the same name which narrates a story in the distant future when human beings are able to stimulate human minds (or consciousness?) for entertainment, or the pleasure of torture and killing. Boosted by stunning visual effects, an ambitious storyline and strong performances, HBO’s Westworld greets the world with critical acclaim, scholarly debates and record-breaking ratings.

Manchester by the Sea (2017): Wounds that Can Never be Healed

Set in a pain-striking town near Boston, Manchester by the Sea narrates a simpler lifestyle, an affecting story and the complexity of forgiveness. I am often puzzled by people feeling better after watching a sad movie or listening to a sad song, and Manchester by the Sea does nothing but affirms that proposition. I assign the movie a 9/10 as it is one of the best movies I have watched in a year, for its authenticity despite its minimalistic direction, acting and storytelling, and for it captures the emotional subtlety that other contemporary work often struggles to balance.

The Importance of Confidence: Revisit the Kripkenstein Paradox and the Failure of Lewis’s Naturalist Response

Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox states that “no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule” (201). Kripke regards the rule-following paradox as the central problem of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and a new form of philosophical scepticism (7). He draws parallels between language use and rule-following as well as between the meaning of language and a course of action.

Recommended Reading List for GP and SAT

These lists of books and movies aim to improve Pre-University students’ cultural literacy about the Western civilisation, or in particular, the English-speaking world. The lists also help them acquire broader, more insightful perspectives for critical writing classes. Compiled based on personal engagement and scholarly assessments, the reading/watching lists contains essential selections that are meaningful for the preparations of standardised tests and undergraduate education.

The Socratic Method and Philosophical Inquiries

In ancient Greece, Socrates and sophists often have similar objectives in a conversation. Sophists, however, seem to dismiss the Socratic method. The methodological distinction between philosophy and sophistry is taken very seriously by Plato.

Short Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

6/10 This 2016 reboot of the supernatural comedy franchise Ghostbusters has been much expected and almost bound to be a hit. Overall, the new installment does a decent job and, although not equally acclaimed, proves itself to be a worthy successor of the 1980s classic. Considering female empowerment as the social trend in the past few decades,…

On GP Essay Conclusions

After discussing the strategies of writing an introduction and a body paragraph, I shall also talk about how to write a conclusion for a GCE-A’Level General Paper essay. Candidates tend to overlook the significance of a conclusion because it is the last paragraph in an essay, and most of them are running out of time….

Amy (2015): Love Is A Losing Game

8.7/10 Amy Winehouse, perhaps best known for her problematic lifestyle instead of her music, died in her late twenties due to alcohol poisoning. Her last album, Back to Black, was the best-selling British album in the last decade. It was sold over twenty million copies worldwide and won five Grammy Awards including Record of the…

Pagoda Tree (Poem)

I wonder whether there will be days, when I wake up without tears and helplessness, when I look into my winkled body without hatred, when I can stand, speak, and sing. Children swing under my shadow, as if there is no growth, no rebellion, no solitude. Lovers share their boxes of chocolates, as if there…

Writing, Life, and My Writing Life

When I first came to study in Singapore six years ago, English was my nightmare. For me, writing English essays was similar to a direct translation exercise from Chinese to English. As a result of that misconception, I constructed awkward sentences with improper structures and funny expressions that hardly make sense. The awareness that words…

Stay (Short Fiction)

The last man on Earth was hiding in his basement. The ringtone of his phone pierced through the silence. His phone, with the screen showing JEAN BROWN, trembled with his hands. With much excitement, the man knew that his teenage daughter was alive. “If you want to survive, you will do exactly what I am…

Short Review: Central Intelligence (2016)

5/10 Central Intelligence offers a comical and politically correct story that is perhaps best used to pass a boring afternoon. Its humorous, down-to-earth lines generally amuse the audience, and the funny chemistry between Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson proves that their first cooperation is a success and somehow combines the charm of the two. The…

Me Before You (2016)

3/10 In a dark cinema theatre where the air-condition almost froze my blood vessel, an unrealistically good-looking man kissed his girlfriend on the screen, or should I say, their lips overlapped for ten seconds. I was sitting in between a large group of Secondary girls who took off their shoes and kept kicking their seats…

Breaking Bad (2008-2013): Making Choices and Living with Consequences

“Expertly written, virtuosic with its direction, and flawlessly performed, Breaking Bad is everything you could want in a drama. Critics will spend the next decade dissecting and arguing about what made it great, but the reasons are endless and already well documented.” – Nick Harley Season 1: 7.5/10 Season 2: 8.0/10 Season 3: 9.0/10 Season 4-5(Part I):…

Interstellar (2014): Don’t Go Gentle into that Good Night

8/10 When you look into the dark, mysterious night sky, what are the thoughts and feelings that come to you? Fear, wonder, relief, solitude, or nostalgia? Christopher Nolan offers his unique answer in his well-received scientific fantasy Interstellar (2014) of which Nolan is the director, screenplay writer and producer. Contrary to many scientific fantasy directors,…

Sensitivity and Deductive Closure

This is the term paper that I wrote for my class PH2243 Epistemology. Only the introduction, the conclusion, and the list of works cited are posted here. If you wish to read the full paper (around 1500 words), please kindly request via email. Criticisms are always welcome. Thank you. Essay Question: Consider any analysis of…

The Geometrical Meaning of the Tangent of an Eclipse

Original Question: Let , where , be a point on the ellipse . Show that the tangent line to the ellipse passing through is  . Suggested Solution: This is not a difficult question to tackle considering the fact that is on the circle. Some basic set-ups:    and  . Performing implicit differentiation and some further…

Room(2015): Another Chance to Know the World

8.5/10 In an era when movies overly feature celebrities, sometimes messy visual effects and exaggerated hormone-stimulation scenes, I should cherish movies like Room, where life-affirming inspiration and joyful tears stem from a simple, compelling story and authentic performances. It was my first time sitting in a cinema hall enjoying a movie alone, thanks to the timing….

A Tribute to Alan Rickman

  I was really shocked and extremely sad to hear about the death of Alan Rickman. I feel deeply sorry for his family, and may Mr. Rickman rest in peace. As a matter of fact, I know very little about Mr.Rickman, except for his portrayal of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series and his…

GP: Paragraph Development (2)

In this post, I shall discuss some examples regarding paragraph development. Example 1 Additionally, some may challenge the importance of celebrating such hero. They believe that such heroes are formed from mere acts. Given the circumstances, background and a little luck, they feel that anyone could have done the same thing. On many occasions, sceptics…

Short Review: The Danish Girl

  6/10 Sadly, the psychological transition of main characters is unclear and unconvincing. The trailer basically contains all the interesting parts of the movie, and the story on the whole feels dull and unilluminating. The screenplay is too mediocre to engage the audience. The weak storyline is perhaps saved by the exquisitely vivid performances of Eddie…

Why do I major in Pure Mathematics

Why Mathematics? This is the question that I received constantly in the past semester, and indeed many people found my decision of studying Pure Mathematics puzzling. If I said that I had found beauty and eternity in Mathematics, I would be weird although that was exactly what I believed. In the end, I often chose…

Plato’s Apology: The Failure of the Socratic Method in Public Discourse

This is the first major paper I submitted in university. It is a rhetorical analysis focusing on Socrates’s final trial. I have pasted the introduction and the conclusion here. Many thanks to Dr. Mark Brantner from NUS, USP writing centre assistants, as well as all my friends for their help and encouragement. A complete list…

GP: Paragraph Development (1)

The quality of body paragraphs is essential for a GP essay. How well one can logically construct and develop arguments directly impacts one’s content score. In most Junior Colleges of Singapore, students are taught to follow the TEEL structure (Topic Sentence, Elaboration/Explanation, Example, Link). I will follow this basic structure and discuss the expectations as…

From Dream to Reality

    This is the essay written for the annual Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) Science Essay Competition in 2013. The essay explores the life and work of Leonardo Da Vinci. The essay was also published on the ACJC Science Journal. The innumerable admirers of the world’s most mysterious smile will probably be upset upon hearing…

GP – How to write a good introduction for Paper 1?

Introduction is a crucial component for a GP essay, and many candidates do not know how to write effective introductions or simply write highly mechanical introductions that fail to engage their readers. A good introduction should contain at least three parts. First, an interesting and relevant hook, or starter. Second, an overview of the essay…

An unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates). Do you agree?

This is probably the last essay that I will write before my GP Exam next Monday. I would like to share it not because I believe that it is very well-written (in fact, there may be many mistakes), but because I really like this quote of Socrates, and feel the passion to write my thoughts…

US College Applications

I shall start by making it clear that I am not an expert in US college application at all, and I am in fact just a normal high school kid who feels the whole process as miserable as you do. A few weeks before, I emailed one of my friends who share the same ‘American…