Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

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:

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Woody Allen vs. American Apparel

April 17, 2009

American Apparel’s (“AA”) tactics in their defense against Woody Allen’s $10mm lawsuit reeks of desperation.  A synopsis: AA, sometime last year, unveiled a billboard on Allen Street in Manhattan that had an image of Woody Allen dressed as a rabbi from the movie “Annie Hall” with the AA logo emblazoned across the image.  Picture from NYT:

Obviously erected without the permission of the reticent Allen, the billboard advertisement was in stark contrast to AA’s usual ads which featured young female models in suggestive soft-pornish poses.  Allen went ahead and filed a $10mm lawsuit for damages.  AA’s lawyer’s response:

‘Woody Allen expects $10 million for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week,’ Slotnick said. ‘I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image.'”

Slotnick also revealed that AA is going to make Woody Allen’s personal history with regards to his wife/ex-adopted daughter the focal point of their defense.

Doesn’t that sound like the most salt-on-the-wound, below-the-belt, playground defense ever?  An analogy: Boy A kicks Boy B in the nuts.  When reprimanded, Boy A goes: everyone knows that B’s  got small balls anyway, so why would it hurt?  B, please show the world your small balls to prove that I’m right!

In response, Woody Allen’s lawyers accused AA of a “scorched earth” approach in its defense.  Let’s hope some common sense prevails here.  Go Woody!

UPDATE (5/18/09) – They’ve reached a $5mm settlement!  La-di-da.

By making an allusion to the film Annie Hall, from which the image of Allen was taken, he intended to comment about tabloid scandal-mongering. The specific scene of the film shows Allen in the role of Alvy Singer at a dinner hosted by Annie Hall’s non-Jewish family. The character feels so out of place at the table that he imagines himself as an Hasidic Jew.

Charney said his idea was to use that personification of discomfort as a metaphor for what he and his company were going through at the time during the sexual harassment lawsuits.

“The billboards were designed to inspire dialogue. They were certainly never intended to sell clothes,” he said.

Celebrity CEOs

January 24, 2009

The recent hoopla about Steve Job’s health and the ensuing hysteria among Apple shareholders (later proven to be unfounded, given Apple’s latest quarter results) has demonstrated the downside of having a headline-grabbing CEO at the forefront of a public company.  Investors, journalists and web pundits rigorously analyzed every single word in his interviews, press releases and memos, right down to the intonation of delivery (sparking a great catfight between CNBC’s Jim Goldman and Gizmodo, which can be seen as the perennial battle of old media vs. new media), and announced their findings through Apple’s stock price.  The SEC even deemed it necessary to step in and see if Apple had been misleading investors about Steve Jobs’ health.

You’d think this Steve Jobs episode might have scared some corporate bigwigs into downsizing their ambitions of becoming “celebrity CEOs”, but still they press on.  The latest to step up to the plate is Domino’s CEO, and it’s great viral material:

In a shocking ad aired during a commercial break on ‘American Idol,’ Domino’s CEO David Brandon tosses a cease-and-desist letter from the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust into the pizza oven. The ad has since gone viral, and there’s even a place on the Domino’s website where you can torch your own letter.

A great way to respond to your rivals’ lawyers, except that the lawyers in question are probably NOT watching American Idol, but are locked up in some conference room in Midtown, crafting another iteration of a more threatening cease-and-desist letter.  At least it’s more engaging than watching a talking head go on an ego trip:

Singapore has its own Steve Jobs too in Sim Wong Hoo, whose Creative Technologies fell off the rails ever since they signed Paris Hilton a few years back to endorse their MP3 players.  Much like the discussion about who’s gonna be the next celebrity CEO of America, Singaporeans are all wondering who’s gonna take over Sim Wong Hoo’s place as corporate Singapore’s “it” CEO?  One candidate might be CEO of Apex-Pal, Douglas Foo, who owns the Sakae Sushi chain in Asia.  I remember going to a talk organized by Contact Singapore in NY where he was speaking.  He eagerly showed us a corporate video, which had a line that said something about [paraphrasing here, don’t send me a cease-and-desist] “all this success [of Sakae Sushi] would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of our CEO” or something like that.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to him to see his facial expression when that part of the video was playing, but I guess he was just enjoying his own MacWorld moment – he was in town to finalize details of Sakae’s first restaurant in NY in the iconic Chrysler Building.  Which recently closed.  NEXT!

Here’s a review of the East Village Sakae outlet in NY by a Japanese show:

I’ve got a craving for some noodle soup!

January 8, 2009

Great article from NYT about laksa and its origins.  The pictures of the food made me steam.  It’s quite extensively researched – it even states the main difference between Singapore and Malaysian laksa:

Helen Thong, the restaurant’s co-owner and Mr. Thong’s wife, describes the Singaporean and Malaysian versions of curry laksa as completely different – “like New York and New Jersey,” she said.

In my mind, this analogy is useful when comparing pretty much anything Singaporean and Malaysian.  Haha.

Also saw this other mouthwatering video about Anthony Bourdain eating bak chor mee in Singapore.  I like the anthropological slant to his food review, tracing the DNA of Singaporean cuisine back to the chapalang language and culture of the region.

East Village types

May 11, 2008

I live on St. Marks Place, where a lot of hipsters hang out. These guys walk around with the weirdest haircuts and jeans that could never be featured in the Levi’s viral video because they’re too tight to jump into. I always wondered what these people do in their spare time, then I saw this on Craigslist:

Seeking 18-22 year old edgy East Village types for Woody Allen movie (NYC)


Reply to: gigs-670035785@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-05-06, 11:51AM EDT

Shooting a scene on Wed May 14th outside an alternative, indie rock concert. Must be available all day into the evening. Looking for SKINNY men and women 18-22 who have edgy east village wardrobe.

Please send photo and resume or snapshot and size details..You must include your sizes.

HK vs. NY

May 6, 2008

I just returned from a short trip to Hong Kong with the girlfriend, and I had a rather in-depth discussion about the investment banking analyst’s lifestyle in Hong Kong with a couple of friends who work in bulge brackets there. I think it’s interesting to compare and contrast the NY analyst lifestyle with that of the HK analyst. Here are some quick points off the top of my head that might surprise the NY analyst:

  • The professional circle (banking/consulting/expat) is very small, so everyone knows about everything, e.g. if two people hook up at Prive on Saturday, everyone will know about it by Monday
  • Karaoke is the default social activity
  • Very little “culture” in the commercial sense – no MoMA, no Met, no indie concerts
  • Crazier hours, but more $
  • Less supervision from senior bankers in their work since there is less public information available to check the analysts’ numbers
  • All correspondence is in Mandarin. Not limited to emails, since a lot of senior Chinese managers do not have Blackberries and thus rely on SMSes
  • Bankers are kings in HK. They get first dibs on everything, from tables at Prive to tables in dimsum restaurants