Thio Li-Ann is coming to (down)town!

July 12, 2009

Thio Li-Ann’s appointment as a visiting professor in NYU for the upcoming fall semester has been met with dissent by some NYU law students.  An excerpt from an open letter by an NYU law student (unlikely to see the light of day in Singaporean mainstream media):

You are quite correct, however, that in the face of bullying, one must have courage. It also helps to have supportive gay friends. One of the nice things about gay folks is that we tend not to belong to either the “liberal camp” or “communitarian camp” which you described in your speech. We’re just into camp. Likewise, the gays at NYU don’t by any means have a problem with you, your right to your views, or academic freedom. We just don’t think that state power to imprison or discriminate against sexual, racial, or other minorities is a particularly “academic” question. Again, that’s American English for you.

Another generally appreciated feature of the gays is our sense of taste, which has been highlighted in television shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” You are a bit mistaken if you think that the gays at NYU want to censor you. It’s just that, like mixing polka dots with plaid or having George Wallace teach a course on civil rights in the American South, we tend to think NYU’s hiring you to teach a class called “Human Rights in Asia” demonstrates a lack of taste.

Get this – Thio is teaching a class entitled “Human Rights Law in Asia”.  I’m not sure if NYU meant it as a gag, until they finally made an official statement in response a few days ago.  The memo can be read here:

Whatever their areas of expertise or views, Global Professors’ appointments are decided on their record of distinguished scholarship and teaching and their ability to contribute to intellectual exchange within our community. So, while many in our community sharply disagree with, or are offended by, Professor Thio’s 2007 remarks to the Singaporean Parliament, it is important to bear in mind that she was appointed as a visiting professor based on her published scholarship, not on views she expressed as a legislator.

To be clear, the Law School categorically rejects the point of view expressed in Professor Thio’s speech, as evidenced by our early and longstanding commitment to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet we believe academic freedom requires that this disagreement express itself through vigorous, civil debate, rather than an attempt to suppress those views. We fully expect that Professor Thio will embrace the values of academic freedom as well, and be open to the kind of respectful conversation that marks a great institution of higher learning.

What could the reception to Thio Li-Ann be?  Something along the lines of the recent NYU occupation riot?

Maybe she can avoid tough questions about gay rights by giving the same answer as President Ahmedinejad’s when he spoke at Columbia University – “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

Some background about what Thio has said in Parliament about Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore, which, according to Wikipedia, is “the main remaining piece of legislation which criminalises sex between mutually consenting adult men”.  The transcript can be found here.

I like the part about 3:10 into the video where she says:

We cannot say a law is “regressive” unless we first identify our ultimate goal. If we seek to ape the sexual libertine ethos of the wild wild West, then repealing section 377A is progressive.

I highly recommend that she use this Will Smith classic as her theme music at the start of every lecture, a la Rocky Balboa and professional wrestlers:

Nike sportswear ad

July 7, 2009

Optimus Prime Top 10 on Letterman

July 7, 2009

Funny ANA ad featuring Merlion

July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson, SARS and Swine Flu

July 2, 2009

I feel like I have to blog about Michael Jackson, since his death and ensuing tributes have become the biggest media whore over the past week, overshadowing more newsworthy stories like Iran, North Korea and the H1N1 flu.  While listening to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”, I discovered that the opening drum beat and melody in the song was borrowed (“sampled”) and used for one of the more unfortunate by-products of the SARS scare from 2003, next to the “Singapore is OK” campaign: the SAR-vivor rap by Phua Chu Kang.  Listen to the opening beat and melody in the video below, and compare to “Rock With You” below.  Coincidence?

And MJ’s “Rock With You”:

I wonder which Michael Jackson song is going to be sampled for the Swine Flu?

“Shut Up And Sit Down” – the AWARE saga, remixed

May 13, 2009

Shut Up And Sit Down – The Aware Saga, remixed – Download here

I’ve been fiddling a little on Garageband over the past couple of days and thought that the recent AWARE EGM saga would make a good mix, given the great quips from all the parties involved at the EGM and the ready availability of videos of the event on YouTube.  I threw on the Black Eyed Peas’ “Shut Up” instrumental and mixed in some of the attitude and conflict from that fateful afternoon. I believe some of the audio comes from videos posted by The Online Citizen.  Thio Su Mien, Josie Lau and both new/old exco members feature prominently in the song.  Enjoy.

Note: this mp3 is not representative of actual events at the EGM, and the quotes featured do not follow in chronological order (i.e. this is just a quick and dirty way of compressing all the AWARE drama into 4 quick minutes)

Another Scandinavian nudist story

May 11, 2009

When it rains, it pours – another scandal related to Scandinavians going commando in the tropical climate of S.E. Asia.  First it was the Swede with his meatballs in Holland Village, now the Danish and their pastries in Johor.  From The New Paper:

PICTURES of men and women running naked through lush island greenery have sparked a furore in both Malaysia and Denmark.

They are screenshots from Robinson Ekspeditionen, the Danish version of popular reality programme Survivor.

The show involves a group of contestants who have to complete various mental and physical challenges to make it into the next round. It was broadcast on TV3 in Denmark.

News website ScandAsia.com reported that during the episode in question, which was shot on a Malaysian island, one of the challenges was for the contestants to race in the nude.

Merantau – the next Ong Bak

May 11, 2009

The trailer for a new Indonesian silat movie, Merantau – sure to achieve a cult following in the US and Europe.  It’s worth watching all the way to the end, for a pretty chase sequence amongst rooftops.

Thio Su Mien reminds me of my secondary school teacher

May 5, 2009

“Show some respect to your elders, ok?”

“Shut up and sit down!”

Of all the AWARE tshirts that came out post-EGM, I think the one below is the most appealing one.  It would be a pretty funny statement for a guy to wear this shirt, whether in Singapore or anywhere else around the world:

From printeet.com

From printeet.com

Holland Village nudist couple – Why?

May 4, 2009

In the AWARE media frenzy over the past two weeks, the court trial of the naked Holland Village couple received much less attention than it would have on a normal Singaporean newsday.  It used to front page news, even inspiring an IKEA ad campaign.  I’ve pulled some interesting tidbits together from various sources to try and answer the question on everyone’s minds – why?

From the ST news article:

Court papers state that Eng Kai Er, 24, and Jan Philip, 21, did what they did ‘to seek thrill’.

Considering that all those who witnessed their stroll through Holland Village on a busy Saturday evening saw every bit of them there was to see, the pair used umbrellas to keep their faces hidden from press photographers waiting at the Subordinate Courts on Thursday.

Philip was in a full suit with tie, and Eng, in a black skirt suit and cap, sunglasses and a face mask.

A bizarre sartorial choice – check out the duck umbrella and the Michael Jackson muffler scarf mask:

Photo from The New Paper

Photo from ST

Quite a contrast from their stroll down Holland V.:

Photo from ST

The sequence of events, detailed in court proceedings, that led to their deliberate wardrobe malfunction was even more bizarre (emphasis in bold my own).

In court, it was revealed how the pair had met at the Karolinska Institutet, one of Europe’s largest medical universities, where Eng, an A*Star scholar, was a student.

The temperature was about 22 to 23 degrees Celsius, considered hot in Sweden.

Philip, who was topless, asked Eng if it was okay to walk around topless in Singapore, and she said it was.

Philip then asked her if public nudity was acceptable in Singapore. Public nudity is not illegal in Sweden.

Eng did not take his question seriously and they both joked that it would be funny to walk around naked in Singapore.

In the pair’s mitigation plea, Philip said that before he came to Singapore, he had checked the Internet to see if it was an offence to walk nude in here.

He said that he read the Penal Code but did not see anything inside that said nudity was illegal.

Two things worth noting: first, the description of the “hot” weather in Sweden, which ostensibly explains what he was doing topless there as well.  Can you imagine the conversation with his lawyer before they decided on that language in his plea?  Hypothetical:

Lawyer:
OK, look Jan, right now popular opinion in Singapore is that you’re some druggie-hipster-socialist-pedophilic-exhibitionistic foreigner.  We have to turn popular opinion in your favor, try to relate you to the everyman in Singapore.  Hmm what about the hot weather during Swedish summers?  That’s something all Singaporeans can relate to – Singaporeans complain about the hot weather all the time, which will help them relate to your unrelenting desire to disrobe in public, not unlike those uncles hiking up their singlets to expose their bellies in kopitiams.  Slip it into their minds – you were naked because it was warm.

Obvious FAIL – 22-23 degrees Celsius is considered a cold day in Singapore’s tropical weather.

And then the classic turn-the-tables counter-attack: blame the authorities for not explicitly including details about laws against public nudity in the Penal Code online.

Again, backfired – you mean this guy actually READ the whole Penal Code, looking for some mention of nudity???  I don’t even know where to find the Penal Code online, much less find out what it has to say about airing one’s Swedish meatballs in public.  Doesn’t it make him out to be even weirder than he already appears?  Looking for the word “nudity” in the Penal Code presupposes an intention to walk around naked!

And of course, The New Paper defers to the esteemed experts in their article entitled “Thrill or mental disorder?”

However, Mr Koh pointed out indecent exposure is not necessarily exhibitionism.

Dr Lionel Lim, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre agreed.

He said that in certain cases, like that of the nude couple at Holland Village, it may not be exhibitionism, but merely a case of seeking attention.

‘Some people expose themselves because of a dare, or to gain attention. If they do not gain sexual satisfaction from exposing themselves, that is not exhibitionism,’ said Dr Lim.

Wow – thanks for the medical definition.  I always thought that Penn was full of ill people who needed medical attention, especially  those fratboys who streaked on Locust Walk.  Thanks to the clarification, I now understand – they just wanted attention.

Even funnier – the recounting of the events that fateful night itself:

On 24 Jan, he and Eng were at a pub in Holland Village. Philip had one beer while Eng had two. Then he suggested walking through Holland Village nude.

According to previous media reports, they took off their clothes at a nearby staircase at about 11pm, then walked down Lorong Mambong, clothes in hand, smiling and waving at patrons in the area’s eateries.

Seemingly oblivious to the stares they were attracting, the couple made a U-turn and walked the same path back to the staircase.

Midway through their walk, they even stopped for a brief chat with patrons of the Wala Wala bar. They did not attempt to hide their faces as the cheering and applauding crowd took their pictures.

The incident lasted about 15 minutes, before they returned to the staircase and got dressed.

C’mon, at least they were considerate enough to hide in a staircase while changing, so that that people wouldn’t catch accidental glimpses of them naked.  Oh wait, scratch that.

So at the end of the day – no real answer as to “why”.  One comment I read had the most logical explanation, even referencing her background in academia as part of the explanation – she was studying the aerodynamics of the ang moh body in the Holland V. wind tunnel.

Interesting to note that the AFP chose to use this picture below for their brief report, “Couple fined for strolling naked in Singapore”:

Photo from AFP

Not entirely sure what a Gurkha on guard duty has to do with a naked couple (maybe shoot nudists on sight), but what new developments have there been around this incident that haven’t raised even more questions?