Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

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:


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 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.

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:



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:

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?

Another DiaS’pura review

April 16, 2009

Boo Junfeng, one of the panelists from DiaS’pura 2:

The screening of my films happened after lunch. I was quite pleased with the crowd that came. I have always made my shorts with the Singaporean audience in mind. To be able to show them one after another to a room full of overseas Singaporeans who (probably) miss home, did bring that notion of connecting with Singaporeans to another level for me. I was quite happy to be able to bring with me the different locales that were featured in the films.

There was a general sense of displacement from the people I managed to speak with at the event. Perhaps it is inherent in times like these that people question who they are and what they want to do with their lives. As Mr Brown put it during the discussion: a recession is good for the soul. People on the fast track in their careers suddenly see a less-defined way ahead and start questioning what they’ve been doing. It is very heartening to know that there are those who have turned their attention to other things that are important in life. Perhaps it is a good time for arts and culture to thrive.

My first club DJ gig w/ Xponent: MAMBO JAMBO

April 16, 2009

Few hobby DJs ever make the transition from DJing in their bedrooms to Djing gigs in real clubs.  The pinnacle of a typical bedroom DJ’s short-lived career is a “Woweez this mix roks!” user comment on his 10-minute YouTube mix, or a fratboy’s drunk congratulations on his “awesome” mix during a Bosses-N-Secretaries-themed frathouse party.  However, within the cesspool of bedroom DJs clamoring to be recognized for their misguided self-belief masquerading as “talent”, there are a few DJs blessed with real talent: the God-given ability to listen – really LISTEN – to music, and a natural attunement to the musical zeitgeist of the future.  These are the DJs – Aldrin, Tiesto, PVD, Oakenfold, to name a few – who successfully transition from bedroom to club, from part-time hobby to paid services, from Zoukout to Ibiza.

Unfortunately, I am not one of them – so I approached my first club Djing gig with the proverbial blue balls.  Club SG was organizing DiaS’pura 2, and had promised a “Mambo afterparty” at an Olde City club/lounge.  Due to my history with Club SG/DiaS’pura, I volunteered my services, expecting a small, private party crowd in the upstairs room of a dingy Philly lounge, where my elaborate set would be met with the same enthusiasm as any random person playing the Mambo Jambo CD on repeat.

A few days before the event, the curveball came – the venue was changed to Level Lounge, which, in spite of its name, was a three-storeyed CLUB in Center City.  Worse, I would be spinning on the first floor of the club, and all partygoers  would first pass by our floor on their way to parties on other floors.  That meant that the first strains of music that these paying customers would hear upon entry would be from my as-yet incomplete setlist.  I had been prepping with the little free time afforded to me by work (Thanks to Andrea for being understanding as I was spending all my waking hours mixing), and that was inadequate for a full three hour set.  The prospect of something going terribly wrong and then having to face a jeering audience, or worse, no audience, weighed heavily on my mind.

Disclaimer: I use the word DJ very loosely to describe my mixing.  I’m not a turntablist and I don’t use vinyl, so my version of “spinning” essentially refers to a few mouseclicks to drag and drop an mp3 into Torq, and using an all-in-one midipad Xponent to mix the tunes.  I’ve DJed for two of my own house parties before, but that’s as much experience as I’ve had DJing.

Here’s a list of the gear that I lugged from NY to Philadelphia for this gig:

M-Audio Xponent
15′ Macbook Pro Unibody 2.4 GHz w/ 2 MB RAM
Stanton Uberstand
Software: Torq 1.5

All stuffed into an overpriced Xponent gig bag, which does NOT protect your Xponent from bumps/shocks at all.  The padding in the bag is way too thin, and the Xponent fits a little too snugly in the bag for my liking.  Might have to invest in a hard casing eventually.

I left the musical about an hour early to set up, which seemed like a reasonable amount of time to set up my equipment to do a soundcheck.  Without an inkling of what the protocol for a DJ at a club was, I sauntered up to the velvet rope and dropped the line:

“Hi, I’m the DJ for tonight’s party.”

And that was when I realized, dammit the success of this party is gonna fall squarely on my shoulders.  THE DJ.  For THE party.  My heartbeat went from nervous to frantic, reaching the same beats per minute (“BPM”) as the muffled thump of the bass coming from another party on the floor above mine.  The club owner dumped me in the DJ booth, which was next to a kitchen sink and had a couple of naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling as lighting.  He also left me with the most rudimentary of instructions – a few cursory introductions of the mixer and volume control, etc.  He had that “Do I look like I give a f*ck” look on his face, not unlike that of an air stewardess demonstrating how to put on a life jacket in the event of a plane crash.  Apt analogy, as the gig started to look like it would be stalled on the runway.

First, the inputs.  When I whipped out the Xponent and placed it on the deck, the owner gave me a an incredulous look

“You’re using that?”

Granted, the Xponent looks like a cheap plastic toy, but underneath the machine’s LED-studded plastic hood is an elegant and powerful engine.  However, the Xponent only has RCA outputs, which appeared to be incompatible with the club’s XLR-input speakers.  When I asked the owner how I would connect my Xponent to the speakers, he shot me the inevitable questi0n:

“Is this your first time Djing in a club?”

At that point, I decided to ditch all pretense of knowing what I was doing and asked him to help me set things up.  This is not like my job, where I can usually get away with pretending to be more knowledgeable about a subject than I actually am.  I mean, there’s no way I’d ever look cool pressing buttons on the Xponent, so I might as well fully embrace the part of the curious geek tinkering with a new toy.  Thankfully, one of the club’s resident DJs was around, so he helped me get around the RCA problem by routing all the sound through one channel in the mixer.  I turned up the volume, pumped up the bass, switched on the monitors, and was ready to partaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Except that the place was completely empty. And remained so, even half an hour into my set.  That was the next big problem.  I got a couple of pitiful looks from partygoers who were stopping by on the first floor to use the adjacent bathroom. The musical had run a little late, and there seemed to be a reluctance to leave the exuberance of the Sing City set behind for a crummy little Philly club.  So there I was, lone bespectacled Asian nerd, playing with a cute light-up machine and an Apple Macbook Pro paid for by the rents, spinning for a non-existent crowd of friends who all RSVPed “Maybe” on the Facebook event invite.  And we wonder why so many violent gunmen turn out to be Asian immigrants.

WTF WTF WTF looped through my mind.  The stream of people entering the club, glancing at a completely empty dancefloor and heading straight up the stairs was a big downer.  Each time I saw an Asian group of kids entering through the main doors, I thought to myself: Singaporeans!  Finally!  But I was always disappointed – they all headed upstairs.  I considered just stopping the set as a self-imposed mercy rule.  When a couple of Singaporeans finally arrived, they unpatriotically plonked themselves on the couch with winter jackets still on, seemingly engrossed in discussions about where to go next.  Urgh – quitters.

Then I went through an introspective phase in the middle of playing Robbie Williams’ “Rock DJ”.  I was mixing for a inter-state gig (sorta) in Philadelphia, all my gear was functioning properly, I was hooked up to a massive speaker system that I would never be able replicate in my own home, I had a chance to practice a full-length Mambo Jambo set – all the conditions were in place for me to have a good time.  With that cognitively dissonant boost of optimism, I focused on completing a full 3-hour set, regardless of the turnout.  After all, one or two people were starting to bob their heads to the music – who knows where it would go from there.

And then people started arriving.  It started with a couple of familiar faces from Penn, then small groups of out-of-towners.  The night reached a turning point when a guy in a suit started waving the call me/shaka hand sign in time with the lyrics of the song, “Call Me” by Spagna.  A Mambo regular!  Mambo is NOTHING without the moves!  In fact, Mambo as a concept is really cumbersome to explain to non-Singaporeans, so having people who actually knew the actions to the main songs would be KEY to showing non-Singaporeans how to appreciate the finer points of a Mambo party!

[As an aside, I have used the following words before to try to explain what Mambo is to a non-Singaporean: retro, pop, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, mish-mash, Zouk, Wednesday night, synchronized dance moves, hand actions in time with the lyrics, standing in a circle and dancing, no grinding, anthemic, conformist culture, influence of the military, lame, clubbing initiation, ah bengs, loads and loads of fun]

Of course, I still got the house/hiphop requests from some people, to which I could only reply, “sorry, the organizers want me to play this type of music.”  Turning down a request for a Flo Rida song was HUGELY gratifying.  Anyway, by that point, a crowd was starting to build – people started doing the Singaporean thing of standing in circles of 4-5 people, facing inwards and shaking the dust off the old Mambo moves that had been closeted ever since they went west (life is peaceful there).  It was also strangely satisfying when someone ran up to the booth and begged me to play “Summer Rain”, as it reminded me of the whole masochistic thing when a dog holds a stick in its mouth, begging for its owner to “please throw it!” (in this case, begging for a song to be played so that everyone can do the same dance moves together).

By the time I got through to around 125 BPM, the floor was packed.  That was also the point (1+ am) when people realized that this was it, this was the party, there wasn’t going to be any hiphop/trance/house – might as well let go of their inhibitions and follow the herd.  I was a little further from the dance floor than I would have liked, but what I saw looked like it was Sunday in a charismatic church.   A cyclone of sweaty bodies collectively raising their hands together in a trance-like state, going “square rooooo-ooooms”.  Amen!

I was done with half of my set when I realized that I had only 20 minutes before the club closed.  The second half of my set was the more experimental section (or so I like to believe – I consider Enrique Iglesias pretty “experimental”).  Another point to note is that yes, I had a pre-planned set – but it had in/out points where I could jump to other sections as need be, depending on time constraints or on the mood of the crowd (I even went as far as a printed and formatted excel table, with cue points explained for every song in my set).  After the Grease megamix, I skipped a half-hour of my set and jumped right back into the Mambo favorites, much to the delight of the floor.  “I Heard A Rumor” was met with some dude’s shrill screams of OMG OMG OMG.   Even with this clusterfucking measure, I was still unable to complete the second half of the set and was foreced to stop right after playing the perennial Kylie fav “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”.  At 2 am (it’s Philly after all – how do you stay awake after one of those cheesesteak dinners?), a burly bouncer stepped onto the dance floor, signaled to me to kill the music, then barked at the crowd that the party was over – a move which elicited a chorus of boos.  As the lights came on, people wiped their glistening foreheads, caught their breath, and lamented their sore throats/temporary deafness, all with the cheery afterglow that only Mambo + alcohol can bring.

As I had pessimistically predicted for my first DJing gig, there were indeed jeers that night.  Thankfully, they weren’t directed at me.

More Sing, City 2 videos

April 2, 2009

There seems to be a bunch of Sing, City 2 rehearsal videos on this channel.

Also some pictures and more videos of Sing, City 2 here.