The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NLB archive Xiaxue blogspot

Now, to most people my title is in code. So, I should explain what it means.

"NLB" stands for the National Library Board of Singapore. "Archive" is self-explanatory. "Xiaxue" is Singapore's answer to Paris Hilton - without the hotel fortune. "Blogspot" is her blog address.

I found myself somewhat stunned to read the newspapers today. Stunned for two reasons. Firstly, that NLB had the foresight to decide to archive 100 of Singapore's blogs, to preserve them as a record of Singapore, for future generations, against their eventual deletion. Secondly, however, that they chose Xiaxue's blog, to be among the select few. The big question that reverberated in me was: why?

My first and only impression of her blog was that it was the vapid musings of a vapid girl. Not being one to make snap judgements, I went to her blog, today, to check what it was that the Singaporean state thought worth preserving of her inestimable thoughts.

I read it again - and found the vapid musings of a vapid girl. No change there then. For those who have never stumbled on this great opus of a blog it concerns the kind of things that Paris Hilton is concerned with - except cruder, crasser, with a lot of swearing and a lot of photographs of the eponymous Xiaxue in fairly skimpy attire.

The entire blog, as far as I can discern, consists of tales of her boyfriends, shopping, with price tags, exclamation marks, glossy pictures of herself and glamorous friends, swearing, more exclamation marks, details of the dull minutiae of a party girl's life, more swearing, a bit of shopping, some plastic surgery, some more swearing, a bout of shopping, even more exclamation marks, a boyfriend mentioned, a party, some more get the picture, by now. It is very dull and repetitive stuff.

I did notice one thing though, which may explain why it was thought important enough to include in a national archive, for posterity. There isn't a single idea, thought, or hint of cognitive activity on the entire site. I suppose they thought it captured the essence of the times.

The National Library Board is the nation's repository of knowledge, history and culture. It rather concerns me that when so few blogs can be preserved (after all 100 is rather a small number when Singapore alone must be producing six figures of the things), that one of those chosen should be a blog with absolutely no meaningful content at all. It is a blog about a girl's social life. It is a blog about how a trivial, ordinary girl, with little ability (like Paris Hilton) can become famous. It is a blog, however, which does one thing they might have thought worth preserving. It is a blog which captures the essential emptiness of modern life, for many young people, in Singapore. What they do with their lives and their time is quite positively meaningless. This blog embodies that to the fullest.

Perhaps, one day, the world will be a place filled with people who are wiser, deeper and more intelligent, than those of today. Perhaps they will be living lives of Significance. What will they make, then, of the ancient records of an apparently empty girl living a shallow life? Will they wonder why it was considered important to ensure that her words survived for posterity? Will they judge then, the Singaporeans before them, as shallow - for who but a shallow person would think that a shallow person's thoughts had sufficient merit to make into a national record?

I don't believe the future will think kindly of the choice of Xiaxue for such a limited database of the nature of the Singaporean blogosphere in the early 21st century. I don't think it says very good things about the priorities of the society that decided on such a preservation.

Surely, out of what must be hundreds of thousands - or at least tens of thousands - of Singapore based blogs, there must be one of more merit than Xiaxue's empty effort?

I do note that my own blog is not among the 100 chosen (as far as I am aware). I find that particularly telling, in its own way. It says that a blog that attempts to discuss ideas, that attempts to think about issues and reflect on them, is of less consequence than a young girl's vapid musings on nothing much at all.

My blog is not alone. There are many blogs based in Singapore that, to the unbiased eye, appear to be of more merit than Xiaxue's. One of those more worthy blogs has been excluded from the archive to make way for hers. In other words, something worthy has been lost in order to preserve the worthless.

In the NLB's choices may be found the nature of the society that makes those choices. I will leave it to you to decide what that says about the nature of the society in question.

It could, of course, all come down to fame. Yes, it is true that Xiaxue says nothing of consequence. She never has and never will. If her blog is anything to go by, she will never conceive of an idea in her life. It seems, however, that none of that is important, for one thing is true: Xiaxue, like Paris Hilton, is famous. That single fact seems to make up for any lack of substance. Famous people are often thought to have merit, simply because they are famous. This, then, seems to be a case of that. She's of course we must preserve her every twittering.

Wonderful stuff. I wonder if my shopping lists should be in the national archive? Perhaps if I started to talk about shopping, social life and swearing, I too, would achieve National Importance. That is now the recipe for immortality, in Singapore.

Be trivial. It pays.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:09 PM 


Blogger Anonymous said...

I checked out Xiaxue's blog. Vapid is right.

On a more interesting note: I saw on the Hoagie's Gifted website that there is a conference on giftedness coming up in July in Singapore.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for confirming my impression of Xiaxue. I still can't believe that her "writing" is going to enter a permanent national archive. Money will be spent on preserving her thoughts forever...

Anyway, I will check out the tip re. giftedness. Thank you for pointing it out to me. I just hope it is not the usual overpriced conference (such things are usually four figures for a ticket, in Singapore...I don't know why.)

Kind regards

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I do note that my own blog is not among the 100 chosen (as far as I am aware). I find that particularly telling, in its own way. It says that a blog that attempts to discuss ideas, that attempts to think about issues and reflect on them, is of less consequence than a young girl's vapid musings on nothing much at all."

Excellent prose. Captured what I wanted to say. Personally, I feel they have a vested interest to portray blogosphere as just a domain for kids.

After all they cannot have it competing with the cultural authority of the MSM.

Just consider in 100 years when most Singaporeans will say,

"What! They actually believe what newspapers say?"

We all don't of course, but it makes a good case to try to rewrite history.


11:05 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The Blogosphere is, perhaps, the most important development in recent history, for the concept of freedom of speech. In the Blogosphere, everyone has a voice. There is no discrimination. All can speak out. That is the most amazing gift to mankind. It is up to people to use it to the fullest and ensure that the diversity of voices that is in the world, gets heard.

Newspapers are highly restrictive over who gets to be on their platforms. Then there are editors to control what those people say. It is not a free platform. It is a controlled one. This applies to newspapers everywhere. The Blogosphere however, allows the true voice of the people to be heard.

That Xiaxue should be seen to typify it is, is tragic. She is of the frivolous - but some of the Blogosphere is profound. It is those of a more serious bent who should be preserved - for many of them are speaking with voices that we have not been able to hear before.

That is the importance of the Blogosphere.

(I should post on it...this might get lost: so don't be surprised if this is copied into a post later).


12:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the kind words regarding my prose.

Kind regards

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Marc said...

One does not need the validation of the NLB to prove the value of one's thoughts or writings. The fact that XX's blog was even chosen is proof enough of the shallowness of NLB's selection criteria.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You have a point, Marc. An enterprise that would choose to elevate Xiaxue's output, undermines its own validity.

Kind regards

1:21 PM  
Anonymous salaryman said...

XX being archived??!!

I have vistied her site just to see how vocal she can get before. I know that it is her personal blog but some of the things written do not represent Singapore culture or history.

Some of the blog posts have come across as rude (to be put in milder term). The sad thing is that there are a lot of people sucked into supporting her way of life. Being vocal need not have to be rude.

Well, evidentally, someone on the NLB committee that oversees this project likes her creative use of the English language.

Sometimes, it makes you wonder why we need to pay top dollars for civil servants that made this type of decisions.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Guppy Mcdraw said...


Don’t wish to come across as a toffee nose snob, but, the Europeans had the Renaissance, the Americans the great civil rights awakening. The Indians Ayodhya. The only thing we as Singaporeans really had in the way of any sort of national awakening was the advent of the blogosphere. You are certainly right in saying blogging is probably the most important development in the world, but in relative terms, I would go much further to say, this is perhaps the most important defining chapter in collective consciousness of Singapore. The criteria which typically make up the elements of national consciousness has to include a shared language, culture, and shared values which are predominantly represented within each specific group and I for one cannot think of anything that encapsulates all this so well as the internet.

And what do we have to show for it all you ask? Xiahue. Stellar job National Library Board! We may disagree on many things, but one thing will certainly remain true for years to come, we may well be witnessing the zenith of blogosphere this very moment. From this point onwards, it has to be downhill all the way. The greatest travesty of the national archiving initiative was that it failed so miserably to capture the elements which are considered significant to really convey, “who I am and who I want to be and how I want to live my life.” Instead all the NLB managed to do with it’s poor listing is to enshrine those who babbled “look at me, I have a new set of silicone implants.”

Thank you for writing this. For a while, I thought to myself, I must be manky to harbor such illicit thoughts, but coming here and reading this just made me realize, “OMG, there are actually people who think like me!” There may be hope after all. There may be hope after all.


1:54 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Indeed, Salaryman. I take it that, by "vocal" you are referring to her tendency to be very harsh and make abundant use of the coarser words in the English language.

The sad thing is that people haven't thought about what archiving means. It means that in centuries to come Xiaxue's views and way of expressing herself, will come to be seen as typical of the people of her time. She will be an example of an early 21st century Singaporean. Is she a good example? Does she make the Singaporeans of today look good?

2:59 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Sarah for your comment.

I am happy that you find, in me, a common voice. Yes...on the internet it is possible to find others who share your viewpoints. In everyday life, it may be harder to do so.

You are right in your estimate of how important the blogosphere is for Singapore. It is the first time that Singaporeans have been able to find a voice for themselves. The significance of this cannot be overestimated.

As a period in history, it will become more important, in time, to understand the period in which we live - because it will come to be seen as a defining period, a period of great change in which all was different thereafter. The NLB archive, so far, fails to capture the essential qualities of this time and has succumbed to registering its superficialities. In doing so, they do a disservice to the future of Singapore. One that day future will want to understand this time. Without archives that truly reflect that time, future Singaporeans will be unable to see things as they truly were.

That would be a pity.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous soothy said...

This messing with history thing may be new to many of you, but I have seen it all before in another age. In the early days when the net was only a baby. When there was not even such a thing as cgi, just dots and lines.

I remember it was many years ago when I first started working just after university. I played a game and in this game. I mined minerals for this empire that gave me a 5 digit number that was my name. When I think back, I must have been just a slave, but that is because I did not know whence I came from or what destiny held for me.

One day in this game, an armada of space ships appeared our the horizon. They flew strange banners and their battle formation were alien to us. They peered at us menacingly through plated armor, their plasma guns were well worn.

Our leaders feared them, so they tried to bribe them to go away, but it proved unsuccessful. They took tribute, but still they refused to move.

For three 3 months this great armada of space ships held it's position and blockaded our planet. Eventually our people mixed with theirs and soon we came to know our history through their books.

When I finally realized who I was, I no longer mined minerals in this game. Instead I gathered by lot and staked my rights.

One day, these strange space ships and strange people from distant lands will return again.

A very long time from today, many, many years from now when all our bones have turned to dust, they will return and tell our children their history.

The circle will never be broken

6:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wow, Soothy...I love the comment. It wins all prizes for being off the wall...yet having a message too.

I will leave to the readers to decide what that message is.


9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr C,

You've been hemping again I see. Or have they been serving up magic mushrooms in cold storage lately LOL.

I do love those space boys, one must admit they do they take their game so seriously. it's hilarious!

One thing is for sure it wouldn't sound so far out by the end of the 21st C, Xiahue will even come across as plain. LOL

Great Stuff, Great Site!


10:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The only hemp I have ever seen is the stuff people make into clothes in some countries.

Thank you Sarah for your kind words on my site: it is one man's thoughts on the parts of the world that draw his interest.

As for the 21st promises much change, yes. It cannot be envisaged, really, what that change will be like just yet. I just hope to see it happen.

(Not that, alone, but I hope it is better than some people fear...).

Best wishes

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Jeannie Yu said...

Great Piece! NLB. I think we can more or less brush them aside as irrelevant to the whole issue of our history. They have obviously made a mess out of it. As I see it the intelligent bloggers are not given a hearing or mention only because there remains certain quarters within blogosphere and the MSM that insist of protraying at as feral, infantile and irrelevant domain. That I am afraid is very far from the real picture.

It is our great hope for our children. It should be nourished, nurtured and if possible even feted. I am happy to see there are some people who take this view.

Thank you for writing this brilliant article. As for those not mentioned by MLB is matters little, we carry them in our hearts and minds.

You're really just a click away. Did those aggregators really believe, we will only read what they want us to read?

What happened to the right to choose? Oh yes, I have a mouse and I am using it!

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may disagree with this, but I think that the NLB didn't do anything wrong with archiving Xiaxue's blog.

Let's assume that the NLB archived all the blogs that had featured good writing, solid critical thinking, more substance, less fluffy photographs. A visitor to the NLB archive website 100 years later would not get an accurate understanding of the blogosphere of 2007/8; they would think that all bloggers were serious thinkers and good prose writers.

If the NLB did anything wrong, it was in their omission of other blogs, not because they chose Xiaxue's.

Don't be worried. History has a way of tossing out bad writing. Everyone remembers Shakespeare, but no one remembers the hack writers of the Elizabethan age.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Jeannie for your kind comments re. my article.

I, too, feel that the importance of the Blogosphere is under-rated by some. It is the first technology to give a voice to all. That is an incredible development.

I hope that the intelligent bloggers will continue to blog, even if the "establishment" in Singapore ignores them. They provide much needed sustenance to the people here. To be able to read the thoughts of those actually thinking about issues of importance, is very liberating.

I trust you are not alone in using your mouse to access what you wish.

Thank you.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Anonymous-in-support-of-Xiaxue,

Perhaps I have been misunderstood in some way. My objection to archiving Xiaxue was two fold. Firstly, she doesn't merit preservation precisely nothing significant would be lost, were it all lost. Secondly, by preserving her blog, at the expense of another of more merit, we will have lost something more worthy. That is a foolish decision.

The issue here is that when a resource is limited - ie. preservation space - how is it to be apportioned? Is the best to be preserved, or shall we capture one of the worst at the expense of one of the best, simply because she is temporarily famous?

Archiving Xiaxue prevents the archiving of something more worthwhile: there lies the loss.

I agree, however, that if only the best was preserved, that a future reader would get an inflated impression of the abilities and insightfulness of early 21st century writers, based in Singapore. However, by archiving her, they get the opposite impression: a deflated impression of the merits of early 21st century blog writers.

The answer seems to be to archive a much larger sample of blogs, to give room to include all types. All of the best should be preserved. All of them. Then some of the lesser kind could be added, to show the range of possibilities that existed at this time. Then the picture would be more accurate, in that it showed representative samples of all types of writers at this time.

That would be a better solution. However, given that resources are limited, and only 100 are to be preserved, presently, those 100 should be the best. You don't throw Shakespeare out, just because a hack writer of the Elizabethan age would otherwise be forgotten. You throw the hack writer out to begin with, if your preservation resources are limited.

The reason that Shakespeare's work survives is that, after his death (several years after his death), his colleagues gathered together the best copies of his work they could find and published the compendium as the First Folio. That book is what allows us to read and see in performance, the works of Shakespeare.

Had an Elizabethan NLB equivalent archived some hack instead of the First Folio, we might never know Shakespeare's works, today.

The point is: the work must first survive, if it is to be remembered. The archive performs that function. They chose to ensure the survival of a very frothy, empty blog - at the expense of something better. There lies the crime. The crime is in the omission of better works, for a lesser one.

The archive should be expanded. At the very least it should include all that is worthy, emanating from Singapore. Then they may include such samples of lesser material that they choose. Alternatively, they could archive everything coming out of Singapore. Then nothing would be lost - and the future may decide what is worthy of attention.

Thank you for your thought-provoking comment.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous matthews said...

NLB will never ever address these concerns directly. It takes guts and sincerity to say, we miscalculated and this is what we will do to make it right. They will lie very low and hope it will go away. It will not of course, bc there are certain quarters in the net who have memories like elephants. I don't wish to mention who they are, but we all know them. Meanwhile, I believe the damage has already been done. Most of the smart people have begun to leave the Singapore Blogosphere for good. It started yesterday and today I have only managed to get 50% of the hits.

The decision to archive the likes of Xiaxue and one article per month super wonder experts may not after all be so wrong after all.

They may after all be all there is left of a once vibrant online community.

This is so sad.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Matthews, it is sad to hear that the intellectuals among the Singaporean Blogosphere are turning their backs on it. Why? Because that is precisely what certain people would like. They would like nothing more than the froth to remain.

However, there are others who will miss the thinking of those who trouble themselves to do so. Such people should continue to write and to contribute to the evolving consciousness of the people, on the net. Without them, not much thinking will be done, in this particular little nation.

I do hope that it is a temporary situation - and that people return to expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideals. That, after all, is what the Blogosphere allows people to do.

As for your observation re. less activity, I too notice that aggregators seem to have less to aggregate. That can't be right.

However, there is quite a bit on my own site that they have overlooked!

Best wishes to you

5:23 PM  
Anonymous miss piggy said...

Most of the really smart ones have gone - it's always that way, the one with the brightest feathers take flight, the rest follow.....I will be taking my leave now.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Miss Piggy,

It is sad indeed to hear that you are ceasing to write.

I hope that you get back to the keyboard in time - along with all the other "bright feathers".

Best wishes

12:44 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

It depends on what you think merits preservation.

As a prime example of what is immensely popular at this point of time and what many Singaporean girls aspire to be, Xiaxue is an excellent choice.

If blogs like hers formed the bulk of the archive, that would be another matter.

Do we preserve the Singapore as it is, or the Singapore blogosphere as we want it to be? As one of the iconic representations of the Singapore blogosphere (or indeed or Singapore), Xiaxue is an excellent choice indeed.

Anyhow who needs the NLB archive when we have the Internet Archive Wayback Machine?

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Catholic Writer said...

I believe Xiaxue is actually quite an intelligent person. After all, there's something about her style that draws some 10,000 people to read her blog every DAY. Heck, my own blog gets that number of visitors a MONTH.

Xiaxue is doing something right, and she knows it. Not only does she know it, she's making money from it. She only appears to be vapid, but behind that mask (which the public soaks up) lies a shrewd and intelligent lady.

God bless,
Catholic Writer

5:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Agagooga and Catholic Writer,

I find it an interesting coincidence that the only two comments in support of Xiaxue, should arrive on the same day, long after the post, but very shortly after each other. No-one else has spoken in her defence.

It says something of our society that so many Singaporean girls want to be like Xiaxue (if indeed this is so). I am not going to comment overly much on the issue, other than to say I think society would benefit by having more elevated role models than her.

Catholic Writer, I would say that Xiaxue has more readers than you because she wears less clothes in her pictures than you do. Your writing is also likely to be more sophisticated than hers. The more sophisticated the writing, the smaller the audience is likely to be for it. The converse applies - to Xiaxue's benefit.

I do note that Xiaxue has returned to Singapore the same day as your supportive comments. On her blog, she complains about her "dead, dead, dead blog" and notes that she has but 12 readers, whom she goes on to offend by calling them "stalkers". Perhaps, at her peak, she may have had 10,000 daily readers - but from her own postings, her audience looks to be rather smaller, now.

Now, I don't know Xiaxue personally, so I can't judge the matter, but if she is in fact, "quite intelligent and shrewd", but chooses to write in a vapid manner, then I am even more worried. You see, if she chooses a vacuous style, when she is in fact, not vacuous, then she is being insincere. I don't think insincerity and inauthenticity are superior to vacuity - I would say they are a whole lot inferior, in fact.

So, we have a choice: either she is vapid, or she is insincere (but shrewd etc. etc.).

Yes, the Wayback Machine is a great idea - and I am glad it exists.

Thank you for your posts.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I should like to make it clear that everyone should be allowed to have a voice on the internet. That includes the Xiaxue's of the world. Furthermore, everyone should be free to read whatever they choose.

However, this issue is a question of what a culture considers valuable enough to conserve for posterity. Xiaxue does not represent the best of Singapore - she represents something which was popular at one time. Popular, however, doesn't mean worthy.

Nothing worthy should be lost, to make way for the merely temporarily popular. To include Xiaxue in a limited archive, is to exclude something else - out of many things which the future is likely to consider more valuable.

The question is: will anyone 200 years from today want to read about Xiaxue's boyfriends, shopping or liking for expletives? Not a chance. However, they might like to read other writers of more substance who have left a serious record of careful thought. It would be a pity if such things were lost to make way for her.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

In relation to the Wayback Machine - they only seem to list 2005 and earlier. I don't think their storage of the internet is anyway near complete. My own website, for instance, is not listed. Not even one word. So, relying on the Wayback Machine to archive the Singaporean Blogosphere is seriously unwise. It won't be done, by the looks of it.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Catholic Writer said...

Hi Valentine Cawley,

I found your post through a link at "The Singapore Daily" ( which highlighted the article today. I suppose the other person, agagooga, picked it up from there as well, which is why you got these two responses today... which is not very long after the post came out. About a week?

I checked out xiaxue's blog after reading your latest comments and noted that she had 18,000 readers today. I think she's still at her peak. You are probably right in saying that the reason her blog gets so many hits is because of the lack of clothes on her photos. Still, she knows what sells. And she does do a lot of selling on her blog. Check out the number of sponsors she has. I believe she is one of the few Singaporean bloggers who can earn a substantial income from her blog. But that's no reason for us to be envious.

That brings me to the reason why I think her blog is being archived. Singapore is famous for its business sense, and money talks here. I don't know how NLB chose blogs for its archives, but if business sense had anything to do with it, xiaxue's blog speaks volumes by itself. To archive it purely for her business sense and salesmanship alone is good enough reason, I would think, never mind the content.

If xiaxue's salesmanship and self-promotion is frowned upon for being insincere, then we must do the same for women's make-up and men's business suits, for are these not insincere as well, since they too promote what is not authentic? We will have to frown on reality TV as well, because it's obvious that they are not 'reality', as unscripted as they are purported to be.

In xiaxue's case, I believe that it is all a game. xiaxue and her readers both know that what she writes is not entirely true, including the 12 readers she has (don't believe what she writes, because she really has 18,000 readers!). But she writes what her readers enjoy, and her readers enjoy what she writes. This many readers translates to dollars because sponsors want their ads to be seen by many.

While I do not read her blog because, like you, I find its content vapid, I do admire her business sense, and for knowing how to use her strengths to capitalize on opportunities. In that aspect, I have plenty to learn from her.

God bless,
Catholic Writer

3:47 AM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

I think Xiaxue's comparative advantage does not like in her aesthetic appeal, but in her spunkiness.

I think one can be both vacuous and intelligent at different times - when I gush about 2girls1cup I am using a different part of my self as when I expose postcolonialism, but both are incontrovertibly parts of me.

Why should popularity not be one criterion for worthiness? After all, popular material does say a lot about the society that endorses it (here is where cultural theory and studies come in).

In the 60s, would you endorse putting, say, Beatles LPs inside a time capsule? I'm very sure the older generation were going, at the time: "You call THIS music?!?!", and people were dismissing their temporary popularity. I might add that in a time capsule, more so than a web archive, what you add in crowds out something else.

Other examples: Homer was mere fireside entertainment, Die Zauberflote was a silly Masonic Opera (and Opera was also popular entertainment). I'm sure even The Caterbury Tales had their detractors in their time.

Btw, the Internet Archive has stuff back till 1996. And at least it archives >100 sites.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Catholic Writer,

There are many ways to spend one's time and mental energies but I, for one, would not spend any of it with someone whose output was either vapid or inauthentic - the first because there is no content, the second because I don't want imbibe lies (for all inauthenticity is a lie).

I understand that some people might find her entertaining...those are the people who can identify with the characteristics she puts across. They see themselves in her - or the self they would like to be. She has, in this sense, identified a market segment and, perhaps, instinctively, knows how to appeal to them.

Yes, Singapore does value business - but it is not a good characteristic to apply to a written medium. Just because she has a sense of business, it does not mean she has anything worth hearing - or preserving. That, perhaps, is where their criteria have become a little contaminated.

Archiving is a serious business if you are only going to preserve a small number of things. You have to get it right otherwise really good material will be lost to posterity. The future won't thank the NLB for that.

I would like to see a much bigger archiving effort that encompassed all that was worthy in the Singaporean Blogosphere and internet in general. That would be the right thing to do.

Best wishes

12:38 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Agagooga,

You point out that, at first, that which is found to have lasting merit, is not understood or welcomed. This is often true, of works of genius. It takes time for people to come to understand them and see them for what they are.

However, Xiaxue's work does not compare to any of the examples you give. You have chosen examples that are among the highest artistic products of their time, to justify Xiaxue's archiving. That is rather off the mark. Xiaxue's work is trite, vacuous and empty of all worth. Perhaps as has been suggested this is but a pose. Whether or not it is a pose, the result is the same: it communicates nothing of lasting value. All your examples did have lasting value - and they had rather more value in their own times, too.

You have not been fair to the artistic media of their times, either. Homer, for instance, was "fireside entertainment" because his was the time of the oral tradition and storytelling: that was one of their primary art forms.

The only value that Xiaxue's blog might have, as you have noted, is as an indicator of what was popular with a segment of the population. No doubt the future will think of now, as an unsophisticated time, as a result. Oh well...

You are right in thinking that it takes time for certain works to be appreciated. I think you are mistaken however in drawing a comparison to Xiaxue's output. The works you have compared to, added something new to the world, in a sophisticated way. Xiaxue does not do that.

I hope that the archiving extends to more worthy works, so that a fuller understanding of this time is achieved, rather than being dominated by the Xiaxues. There is much more going on here, than the substanceless output of one young girl.

I find it interesting that you propose that people can be both vacuous and intelligent. I am not sure I have ever come across such people. In my experience, people are generally consistent. By this I mean, they tend to demonstrate themselves at all times. The intelligent people I know, are always making intelligent comments. They don't come out with foolishness, just for the sake of variety. Perhaps you are different, however.

A writer's voice usually speaks closely of the writer's nature. Xiaxue's voice speaks of emptiness. It is difficult to feign such emptiness in the long-term, unless one has an essential emptiness about one. The other thing is: why would one do so? Life is too, too short, to spend it pretending to be empty, if one is not. It really would be a waste of one's writing efforts to do so, long-term, other than as a short-term spoof.

It is a much more likely proposition that she is as she seems: a girl of little depth, and great volume. Occam's Razor would suggest this to be much more likely than that she was a masked intellect, feigning vacuity.

I think we like to believe that people who succeed did so because of some great intelligence. This allows us to accept their success. However, some people succeed from luck, or guile, or simply being what people want at the time. Perhaps the third possibility is most likely in Xiaxue's case.

Anyway, none of this is really important. What is important is that all that is significant of the Blogosphere, now, is not lost to posterity. The archive needs to be much, much, bigger. That would solve the problem and make this debate unnecessary.

If Xiaxue were but one in 100,000 blogs saved, it wouldn't matter. But she is one in one hundred - and that is a very big issue - because it means that someone worthier has been excluded to make way for her.

By the way, that Internet Archive is very much smaller than the internet and seems to stop at 2005.
My own blog is not on it. No doubt that means that most people's are not on it, either. It is not to be relied on.

Thank you for your stimulating comment.

Personally, I am rather glad someone archived Homer - and Canterbury Tales (Chaucer). That was a sensible decision. Is archiving Xiaxue similarly one?

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree this is definitely a tragedy on a scale that we cannot even begin to imagine in this generation!

You know what really makes me angry, that WE EVEN NEED TO HAVE A DISCUSSION ON THIS SUBJECT!





5:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, NM, for your comment.

I don't think the NLB's choice to restrict it to 100 blogs is a technological issue, I think it is more of a socio-political one.

The technology is actually very simple. As far as I can see, it involves little more than off the shelf software and hardware and somewhere safe to store them, indefinitely. It is a matter of will, not of technology. If you really, really wanted to archive all of Singapore's Blogosphere, you could do it, very quickly. All it would require is a little investment and the will to do so.

Apparently, the will is not there.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous MAKK said...

I've checked her blog a couple of times. Once when I heard about her kvetching on "foreign workers" at New Year's Eve celebrations. Granted, I went to Orchard Road once at that time of year and got thoroughly soaked with all that fake snow(which appears to be some kind of detergent compressed under high pressure so that it froths), so I can understand that possibly, it could lead to a girl being molested while she's blinded by the soap. Conversely, she(and a lot of girls I've known over the years) chose to wear skimpy clothing and walk amongst a bunch of guys who likely have no females from their home towns around. Now, I'm not blaming her clothing, but instead of saying "All these f#$%ing Banglas need to learn some manners!", she could have phrased it in a more polite fashion. "My fellow Singaporeans, perhaps we need to alert the authorities to such activities, so that other young women might have their modesty preserved." Well, that last part doesn't really apply to her, but you get the idea.

I think I used to be a child prodigy, or at least, I was told such. Apparently, as my muscle mass increased, my brain mass decreased. I'm barely above average now. :(

8:47 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You are right Makk, Xiaxue can be unnecessarily crude. There are smoother ways to express oneself than resorting to expletives and blunt expressions. However, that is her style.

I am sure you are brighter than you think you are. The disparity which a child prodigy shows from other children is very great. Sometimes, when they become adult and the others have more functionality, the disparity may seem not so great. This is because you are comparing to people of greater ability than the children of the past - but, having said that, most child prodigies are very capable adults - so their advantage remains (even if it is harder to see, perhaps because the former prodigy is not working in a challenging enough area to show what they really can do). The secret is to find something worthwhile to do that is a challenge and allows you to show what you really can do. Then the former advantage that you showed as a child would become visible again.

I wish you luck.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, an interesting topic.

Let me first say that I am a big fan of XX. I check out her blog almost daily. But I am not stupid, I know shallow when I see shallow.

Do note, I am not defending her. I do feel a sense of unfairness about her blog being preserved. But at the same time, I feel that she does deserve to be up there with the other 99 blogs.

Why? She has something to say - frivolous or otherwise. Her blog is a fairly accurate portrait of materialistic and superficial Singapore youths. The truth is the truth. I don't think we should hide it. Majority of Singaporean youths are similar to her, and I feel that it is only right for her blog to be put up there.

And don't worry about future generations thinking that Singaporeans of this age only have 'vapid musings' to share. Why do you think the NLB puts one shallow blog together with 99 not-so-shallow ones?

If you are still dissatisfied with my explanation, take comfort in the fact that she uses pretty good English (Hokkien vulgarities aside).

7:19 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

Take comfort in the fact there are still readers out there with good taste and some sensibility (like me!). I hope I don't sound like a snob. Lol.

I prefer your blog to Xiaxue's any time. (Or maybe I shouldn't have mentioned your blog with hers in the same sentence. I hope you don't find it insulting!) I came to your blog through a link on Mr Wang's blog - and I'm so interested in what you have to say that I am now sifting through your archives when I really should be studying for my exams... Which I will do soon.

I've added a link to your blog on mine. Keep writing!

10:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your kind comment Miao. Good luck with your exams.

You don't sound like a snob - you sound like someone who prefers thinking to descriptions of shopping and boyfriends.

Best wishes

10:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape