City Sharks - The Old Ah Long Pte Ltd

Here is the brief synopsis : Nicholas, Sheikh Haikel and Hans Issac all grew up in an orphanage to be........ good-for-nothings (maybe except Hans, who owned a swanky sports car). Nicholas himself has changed jobs endless times and had no luck in earning enough money to repay a bunch of Ah Longs (loansharks). Pressed further by the imminent closure of the orphanage (due to lack of funds), he resorts to a novel plan to collect debts in Malaysia to get money. Engaging the help of his orhpan buddies Sheikh and Hans, they throw themselves into this dare-devil act, braving the Malaysians who are apparently portrayed as violent, seedy and crude. After several twists and turns, the money does make its way safely to Singapore. How this happens? I must say the screenwriter deserves a fair amount of credit for its cleverness! In a 4 cornered battle of knives and guns at the end, wits won the game and made the cheesy happy ending quite comfortable to bear.
This was a movie made in the hey days of Mediacorp Channel 5 and the growing pains period of Singapore film. At that time, Under One Roof had become a nationwife TV staple and on the other end, films like Medium Rare and The Road Less Travelled were bleeding losses at the box office. While I stepped in the cinema thinking that the film would make me feel we ahve come a long way, the film was actually timeless in some ways and still very entertaining. Admittedly, many of the jokes are rather off-beat in today's context and state of film development. But this is why the film is quite a study for social and temporal comparisons.


Koh Chieng Mun : She is dearly missed on Singapore screens these days. So it was a pleasant surprise to see her in full glory. She plays the dedicated wife of the orphanage owner and almost like a de facto mother to the orphans. She is a little smarter and more crisply-spoken than Dolly of Under One Roof. In her nurturing ways, she takes control of the men in the house, nagging on her husband and slapping the boys for their lies at the end. For those of us who have kept up with her news, it is hugely ironic that her husband develops cancer in the film and she has to take care of him. Having lived through the ordeal of cancer treatment and moved on in a new career direction, I somehow wish to see her back on screen again, bringing a different life experience to new roles.
Sheikh Haikel : When he won Asia Bagus, I was in sec 4. I was happy then that the local music industry had a promising figure. Then he went on to play one of the recruits in Army Daze, being almost like a poster boy for what was Singapore's inaugural film. A few bad Channel 5 sitcoms later, I was not sure where he went. Once in a while, his malleable Afro hair do would rear its head on our screens but never to allow me to take a closer look. So this was a chance. Watching him in City Sharks was really like revisiting a historical episode in Singapore entertainment - the caricaturised acting, the American accent and the sitcom influence.
Nicholas Lee : If film producers stop using him in slapstick or Amercian style comedies, I think he could get a new leash of life in film. He has a very versatile face that unfrtunately has been exploited to exhaustion by Under One Roof. He carried the leading role well in City Sharks displaying both comic energy as well as dramatic range. Perhaps he was paired up against the more theatrical Sheikh Haikel and Lim Kay Tong. His characterisation was certainly something that would not look glaringly out of place in today's local cinema. We'll just have to wait for Adrian Pang to be on MC.

Lim Kay Tong : It's so hard to find senior actors these days that he is appearing in almost every indepedent film. Undoubtedly, he has a face for the big screen, those intense eyes, the textured skin and the restrained smile. But often, his presence seems to lend more weight to the production value than the actual drama. (No wonder Citibank keeps using him for commercials!). And in the case of City Sharks, his attempt at comedy are a little awkward and theatrical. To be fair, the costume designer must share a big portion of the blame for assaulting my eyes with his flashback mop-headed, bell-bottomed look. Quite a nightmare really.

Eileen Wee : She was THE supporting supporting actress of those times - always sidelined yet full of presence when the spotlight finally lands on her.

Are you gay? : Nicholas asks Hans if he was gay for his choice of interiors for his sports car. Hans' denial is aggresive and homophobic. After Brokeback Mountain, this ain't cool anymore.

HDB estabs : HDBs establishing shots get better and better after 12 Storeys (by Eric Khoo). We no longer have to explain to foreigners that we don't live in ghettos.

The Hair Salon Ah Kua : So drag-queen until cannot drag any further!!! (a great highlight in the 2nd half of the show)

Michelle Saram : She is funny! Was this before she did the Hong Kong movie or after???

Thorny cross-straits ties : These days, filmmakers are a little more careful in dealing with our northern neighbours. In City Sharks, Malaysian hotels are full of shit, the roads are full of bandits, the bars full of uncles, the hairdressers full of drag queens and the coffeeshops full of busybodies. Today, we have to be a little more careful for the following reasons : Singapore may run out of ideas for stories, there are more Malaysians living in Singapore, Malaysian films (set in Malaysia) are making bigger waves than Singapore films at film festivals and come on, Jack Neo has moved on to shoot a film in Malaysia. Incidentally, it revisits loan sharks and shows us that even they have moved on very far.

City Sharks can be enjoyed exclusively at Sinema Old School till end of June 2008.

The Boys’ Brigade Connection

I've just finished dinner at the Tiong Bahru Market when I bumped into a familiar face while walking toward the escalator.

This person was wearing a Boys’ Brigade officer’s uniform.

“Wah, you are an officer now?” I asked Timothy. “Not too long ago, you were just a Private.”

“Yes Sir, I just finished my Basic Officer Training Course.” Timothy replied.

“Please lah, don’t call me Sir, just call me Alvin”, I said.

“Cannot lah, must call you Sir.” Tim replied............
(The rest of the conversations are too mundane to be blogged)

In case you are thinking that I’m going off tangent, hold your horses 1st.

There is actually a connection between the Boys’ Brigade in Singapore and the Tiong Bahru Estate!

The connection lies in the founder of the 1st Singapore BB Company, Mr James Milner Fraser.



And since I spent my A LOT (And I mean a LOT!) of my time in the BB from 11 years old till I took my ‘O’ levels, I am especially elated to stumbled onto this piece of information.

From official records, Mr James Milner Fraser was already working for the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1927 as a Town Planning Assistant.

So the Pre-War Section of the Tiong Bahru Estate may have traces of his work already!

And I’m pretty sure he played a huge role in the post war series of Tiong Bahru as he was promoted to Manager of the Trust in 1946 and supervised many major developments, including more than 10,000 houses, shops and flats, as well as writing a number of papers and reports on town planning and housing issues.

Prior to coming to Singapore as a young architect in 1927, Mr James Milner Fraser was already very much into the BB movement; having grew up in the 23rd Aberdeen Company and later became a BB officer in the 23rd London Company.

The Singapore BB Story was in fact made possible by 2 men who have a deep love and respect for the movement and a chance sighting of a BB buttonhole along the streets of Singapore.

BB Ex-Sergeant Quek Eng Moh, a Swatow Old Boy was just walking along some streets in Singapore when he saw the BB buttonhole on Mr James M Fraser.

Fortunately it was not just a “Hi-Bye” kinda encounter between these 2 people.


They went on to start Singapore’s 1st BB Company on 12th January 1930 at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.



The block of flats next to this church is exactly the same as the Post War Tiong Bahru flats. So now you know who was responsible for that design


I’m proud to have been a part of this life changing movement.


Here’s more information about Mr James Milner Fraser, Singapore’s BB Founder:


James Milner Fraser was born on 5 January 1905 and was articled to James Cobban of Aberdeen in June 1920.


When Cobban ceased practice in September 1923, Fraser transferred to the office of George Watt, where he completed his apprenticeship in June 1925.


Throughout this period he studied at Aberdeen School of Architecture, Alexander Gordon being among his tutors.


He then moved to London where he joined the LCC Housing Department as an architectural assistant and studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic and at the Northern Polytechnic, Holloway Road.


In 1926 he made a study tour of Rome, Florence and Paris, and in the same year took a position as assistant architect in West Ham Borough Council.


The following year he emigrated to Singapore where he joined the Singapore Improvement Trust, working in the Municipal Offices under his former tutor and fellow émigré Alexander Gordon.


He passed the final exam in Singapore in August 1928 and was admitted ARIBA in late 1929, proposed by Gordon, Percy Hubert Keys and another.


By the mid-1940s he had been promoted to the position of Manager to the Trust, and in the ensuing years supervised major developments including more than 10,000 houses, shops and flats, as well as writing a number of papers and reports on town planning and housing issues.


He was admitted FRIBA in 1955, by which time he had been awarded a CBE.


He subsequently returned to Scotland, probably to retire, and he died at Cults, Aberdeenshire in November 1978, survived by his wife Alice.


Me in the Junior Section of the 25th Singapore BB Company a very long time ago

Me in the era where it was NORMAL for the spectacles frame to cover half your face

We had a lot of fun performing even though we played worse than the neighbourhood funeral band

No Whitley Road Detention Center for Durai, please...

"Yes! Off to jail the peanut guy goes!" A colleague of mine punched the air in apparent joy reading the online CNA news. A little background here: he has a wife who worked for NKF in the past & he clearly had been unhappy about how the organization was run.

"But dammit, it's only for 3 months." He sighed.

It's been past the official working hours & we were cooling down while rushing up for some paper work & multi-tasking by browsing the news.

"His ego would surely be bruised, though." I commented.

"So what? 3 months in jail are nothing. Time will fly very fast. Just like it does here."

"That's because we have so many works lah. And time flies very fast is just an illusion because we hardly have enough time to complete the work. Thus, now the 'charity' time." Bitter, but realistically resigned. By the way, 'charity' time is what I coined for those late unpaid overtime hours dedicated to the company.

"What talking you? Given choice I would rather work long hours & free of charge, than to spend time in jail."

"I don't know. I can always use those 3 months for catching up my readings." A wistful sigh made it clear that I was not making a joke.

"So set up your own charity organization. Repeat the same crime like Durai did. Be famous like him. Be hated. And be rewarded with the jail term in the end."

"Nah. That reward took too long. The whole legal process, the audit, the investigation etc...what, since year 2005, correct?"

"Then try punching some guy in the bus when he talked too loud. Maybe you'll get to send to jail without much time spent for investigation."

"Heh. No thanks."

"So there. Anyway. I hope this Durai *censored* will appeal against the 3-month jail AND end up with longer punishment."

My colleague's maniacal laughters signaled me to better finish the work fast & go home.

As I shut down the computer, I overheard him saying that at the very least, let it really be a jail where Durai is going to. Not a detention center. And not the Whitley Road Detention Center, to be precise.

Another "Fugly" Singaporean? | Soon to be "A History of Violence"...in the bus

Remember the incident of a foreign worker was punched in the bus because he’s accused of staring last year? Well, it happens again. This time the victim was Mr. Liu, a China man and he was bashed for 'talking too loudly' on bus.

Both incidents uncannily involved other passengers who did not care to interfere.

He said the bus had about 20 people in it.

Soon after he sat down, he claimed that a man sitting some rows behind him told him aggressively to keep his voice down.

'I was still talking to my mother. So I lowered my voice. She kept asking me what was happening. I didn't want to worry her, so I told her it was all right,' he said.

After he finished the conversation with his mother, he turned to look at the man.

'He was still scolding me, gesturing with his hands and feet. He made his hand into the shape of a gun and pointed at me. Then he kicked his legs about, in a threatening manner,' said Mr Liu.

He claimed the man then rushed over and started beating him up.

'He just came at me, held my neck and rained blows down the right side of my face,' he said.

No one on the bus stepped forward to help, he claimed.

Shame on you, could-not-care-less fellow passengers! But hey, I'm not to try making a much simplified generalization that ALL Singaporeans are pathologically apathic. In fact, if you continue reading the article about the incident, you'll notice some encouraging responses:

When the bus stopped at a bus-stop along Victoria Street, the man was still hitting him.

'My attacker was holding my neck, and banging my head against the bus seats,' said Mr Liu.

He shouted for help and for someone to call the police.

'A woman in the crowd at the bus-stop shouted back that she had called 999,' said Mr Liu.

That was when Mr Liu's assailant tried to get away.

'He ran towards the opened door at the back of the bus. But I didn't want him to get away. So I ran after him and grabbed his arm,' said Mr Liu.

Three young men boarded the bus to help Mr Liu.

'After I told them what happened, one of them said to the man who beat me, 'The sign in the bus says no smoking, no eating, no littering, but where does it say no talking on the phone?' said Mr Liu.

Another man also boarded the bus to help Mr Liu apprehend his attacker until the police arrived.

We don't need a government-driven campaign to be people who care enough about what happens right next to our surrounding, do we? Don't tell me those 20 people in the bus were asleep while the commotion occured. And what about the driver? Surely he was aware. Yet, he did not do anything, either.

I am quite surprised the victim did not file a police report against them. Okay, he couldn't have the information about the passengers. What a pity. But the driver's info, he should be able to track it.

File the report or at the very least feedback to SBS, put him into some embarrasing situation (How could you NOT care with what happened in your bus?!) and perhaps, next time if a similar ugly case were to repeat itself, the bus driver--any bus driver--would have learnt the lesson & lent a helping hand.

PS. The title of this post, therefore, actually refers to the bus driver (I assume the bus driver must be a Singaporean. Never heard about a foreigner driving a bus yet). On the other hand, the assailant may even be a foreigner himself. The article did not specifically mention about it.

PPS. Yeah, the incident does remind me to the show "A History of Violence". Just like in the movie, a seemingly normal person may actually be very capable in causing harm to others. Unlinke in the movie, though, the bad guy in the bus is just plain a bad guy.

The Colossus and the Underling

BY MADS BAJARIAS | The history of Philippine-US relations is fraught with mixed signals, unresolved tension and good intentions gone awry. It is a love-hate relationship conducted over the bones of the half-a-million dead in the Philippine-US war. While some Pinoys have adopted a conciliatory "let's start afresh" attitude ("and let bygones by bygones"), some take a defiant approach.

Mark Justiniani is one artist who shines a critical light upon the forces at work behind the facade of our "Western-style democracy." For all the glitz that a US-styled existence lends to those who can afford it in the Philippines, Justiniani's "Stride" is a reminder about the tragic element in the Philippine-US bond.

As much as Justiniani tries an injection of defiance and fun into "Stride," a cloud of tragedy hangs over the work and brings to mind Cassius’s speech to Brutus in Julius Caesar.

Cassius:
Why, man, he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Here Cassius aims to draw Brutus into the secret plot to kill Caesar. Cassius paints Caesar as a colossus and inflates the reach of Caesar’s power to magnify his threat to the republic. Cassius riles Brutus by suggesting how Caesar’s imperial tendencies are undermining the status of the nobility, to which Brutus belongs. If the tyrant is not stopped, says Cassius, “we petty men” will find “ourselves dishonorable graves.”

We all know how this tragedy ends.

Like Cassius, the anti-imperialist fighter and icon Kwame Nkrumah had urged the Third World to shake off their shackles. In Nkrumah’s case, the tyrant was neocolonialism, a term he coined to describe the situation where a state is outwardly independent, but in reality, has its economic and political life controlled by another, more powerful country.

“A State in the grip of neocolonialism is not master of its own destiny," he wrote. "It is this factor which makes neocolonialism such a serious threat to world peace.” That was in 1965.

Not unlike Cassius and Brutus, Nkrumah had his weaknesses (he had Ghana's constitution changed to make himself president-for-life) and before he could persuade other leaders to heed the dangers of neocolonialism on the developing world, the CIA backed a coup that removed him from power and sent him into exile.

Alas, the CIA had studied Shakespeare's tragedies, too.

In Justiniani's "Stride," the underling strikes a defiant pose under the shadow of a colossal Uncle Sam. Yes, the odds are stacked against him, but history (and Shakespeare) teaches that every tyrant eventually gets his comeuppance. And yet, history (and Shakespeare again) also issues a stern warning: revolutions devour their own children.

"Stride" is part of Justiniani's 12th one-man show, at the Substation Gallery, Home for the Arts in Singapore. The exhibit is organized by Art Sentral Asia.

nooka spotting: britain's got talent!



andrew muir, a scottish plumber with a sexy accent is a current contestant on the UK's version of 'american idol' called 'britain's got talent', also hosted by simon cowell. last night, he sang 'last request' by paolo nutini wearing yellow shoes and a matching yellow nooka! sad to say, but the judges, especially cowell, spent more time badmouthing his shoes and watch than complimenting his singing! perhaps i should consider a libel/slander suit against him in the UK?

From the UK Press: You could have been mistaken for thinking that Paulo Nutini had dropped by, instead of the next act, as the Macca-lookalike singing plumber, Andrew Muir, delivered a great strong version of Last Request. Andrew was swamped by a smog of dry ice during his performance - but luckily he had on bright yellow show and a dayglo watch so that the judges could still see where he was on the stage! Then there was, well, a LOT of cheering!

"There were two problems for me - one you didn't tap dance and secondly, those shoes!" said Piers.

Ant choked: "Don't take style tips from Piers Morgan!"

But hopefully Piers is better at clairvoyancy. "I felt a bit of a Paul Potts moment. You were that good tonight.

Amanda said, "Great talent, great voice."

And Simon said, "I didn't think it was a great choice of song. The shoes and the watch are horrible but I think you've got a very good voice. I really like you."

this is all via my friend dan in brighton who was kind enough to send me the blow by blow via skype along with screen shots as britain's iTV doesn't allow viewers outside of the UK to watch the shows online. if you are in the uk, feel free to check it out here....as they say, all press is good press. UPDATE 5/30: internet video available worldwide here! thanks again dan!

thank you dan dumitriu for the heads-up. i also just found out that andrew bought the nooka on his own from street fusion!

the week of color, this time from boston


this time from a boston blog post of may 19th. original post here.

thanks to douglas of MOTLEY in boston for the heads-up.

What a timing: The news on "Linda gives up Everest climb" released on the Anniversary of the First Ascent of Mount Everest.

Yes, read the article about how Ms. Linda Tan gave up the quest to the peak of Mount Everest on the very same anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain. Back on 29 May 1953, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Tibetan Tenzing Norgay had conquered the summit. Bad timing. Oh, man. That's truly a bad timing.

Though she failed, she should be proud that she almost made it. The news stated that she spent three nights in what is known as the "death zone" - the altitude of 8,000 meters and beyond above sea level - where any exposed body part is susceptible to frostbite, and where oxygen levels are very low.

Another 848 meters...and she would have reached the top of Mount Everest.

Wind by Aaron Wilson


How can you bring to life something that cannot be seen on film/screen? And yet milk every aspect and feeling it evokes. Like Anthony Chen’s `Haze’ `Wind’ a short film by Aaron Wilson, invigorates a seemingly mundane concept like wind with a refreshing perspective of space and life. `Wind’ interjects between the banal lives of 2 characters. One is an Australian retired soldier who lives in a standalone house in the Australian countryside. The other is Singaporean senior lady who lives alone in a HDB flat.
Opening the film is a sensory establishment of the environment with thematic references to the wind. In the countryside, where feather-like clouds drift across the balmy blue skies, the wind is ever present and connects itself with life there in many ways. The drying clothes billow, the paper-windmills twirl and the leaves ruffle. Intercut to the HDB scenes – the air seems still as the drying clothes hang in lines as straight as how the HDB units are partitioned. The only sources of wind are man-made, like the swirl of the blades on the electric fan in a private home. But in deliberate irony, it is the old man who seems to be having a harder time dealing with loneliness than the senior lady. For a start, human interaction is quite a distance away. And his expressions belie a strong emotional hang-up about something. Living in Singapore is on the other hand a busy experience. Amidst all things man-made, there is a real bustle of human activity and energy. Hence, the metaphorical reference to the wind.

Most of the time, the quick cuts style editing did undermine the contemplative intentions of certain scenes. It also seems to work against the thematic nature. At times, the film lost its filmic nature and seemed more to serve a point than to tell a story of two people. But redemptively, it held a shot of each towards the end for more prolonged time to give the audience a moment to ponder and take in the character - on one end, the old man and the last bits of his meal, on the other end, the old lady and the silence after the dancing number. And under the common tinkling of the wind chimes on both sides, together with the characters, I settled into a brief moment of reflection. Then in a brief and surprising touch, we get a glimpse of the old man's military past in Changi from the shots of his old photos, followed by a note of tribute to Elizabeth Choy, a war heroine. Not quite self-explanatory but certainly a attempt to penetrate the characters more deeply and leave an after thought on the audience.

cinnamon beaches

here is another installment of nooka color stories [let me translate into european for you: les nooka colour stories]. this one is from intern lesley griffith! she made the beach from brown sugar and sinnamon, you can almost taste the luxury! lesley is a recent graduate from carnegie mellon university in beautiful yet dull pittsburg PA. her portfolio website is here. nooka zub featured in this stunning photograph available here.

i should also add, the sky is from a super8 vacation film rear projected on the still life set. the chaise lounge was hand made for the shoot as well!

Air raid shelters

A five storey block in Guan Chuan Street is where the air raid shelter was located during the World War II.



When the Japanese bombarded Singapore in 1942, residents in this area dashed to the shelters for cover.

(Watch the following YouTube video for more information
)




The shelter could accommodate between 200 and 300 people.

During the war, bombs were dropped and hit the roof but the shelter was not damaged beyond repair. In fact, repair works were carried out to the shelter soon after it was hit by bombs.

Today, these air raid shelters have been decommissioned. The only shred of usefulness the Tanjong Pagar Town Council could think of was to use them to store their spare rubbish bins.

What a tragedy!

Whoever is sitting at the Tanjong Pagar Town Council or the Bukit Merah Branch Office, here’s a question for you think of during your spare time.

Why not open these air raid shelters to the public? Or turn these air raid shelters into a Tiong Bahru museum to showcase the history of this wonderful housing estate?

Why should this piece of history be allowed to fade into oblivion?

Maybe it is just plain laziness that no one bothers to explore the options. Sigh.

FUN FACTS :

Did you know that these air vents could only be found along Block 78 Guan Chuan Street within the entire Tiong Bahru Estate?


These air vents are only visible from air well of the top most homes located along Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street

These air vents originates from the air shelters below. And since these air-raid shelters are only located under block 78 Guan Chuan Street, no other blocks has such a feature.

Below is a simple illustration to show the difference.


Units with windows that opens to the airwell

Units without windows as they are blocked by the ventilation shaft

A Heart Humbled by God, and Other Expressions of Faith

BY MADS BAJARIAS | I find that it takes a fair amount of self-reflection and maturity before an artist attempts a self-portrait. When 23-year-old artist Mark Andy Garcia sent me a picture of his “Self-Portrait with A Two-Edged Sword” to view, I was struck by what I believed to be a strong biblical undercurrent in the image of the “two-edged sword” being held by a seated figure with a bleeding heart.

I haven’t read the Bible in the long time but I vaguely recall that the image of a two-edged sword was meant to convey how the Word of God was sharper than the deadliest weapon. Many past masters have used the Bible as an inspiration for their art, and the young Garcia follows in this long and illustrious tradition.

I had the good fortune to ask Garcia a few questions about “Self-Portrait with A Two-Edged Sword.”

Tell us about the medium you used and the dimensions of this piece.

MAG: Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, painted in 2008.

Where and when was this painting first shown?

MAG: It's being shown at West Gallery in Quezon City until June 11.

Does this work refer to a Bible passage about the word of God being sharper than a two-edged sword? If not, what does the two-edged sword mean?

MAG: Yes, it’s something like that. The image of the Word of God being sharper than any double-edged sword is from Hebrews 4:12. But there is also a personal context to it: in the portrait, the double-edged sword in my hand refers to my being both a Christian and an artist who seeks to find the truth.

Do you consider yourself on a spiritual mission? What mission is this?

MAG: I belong to the Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church. It is the mission of each member of the New Testament Church to spread the Word about the Savior and salvation through Jesus Christ. As an artist I take it as my personal ministry to create paintings with evangelical themes. I feel that it is my responsibility. It’s like being a preacher. A preacher tries his best to spread the Word of God to many different audiences. Sometimes, he is listened to, sometimes he is ignored or even refuted and scorned. It can’t be helped. That is like how I feel—I cannot control how people will react to me or my mission, but I am certain of my role and I perform my duty the best I can.

There is what looks like a bloody gash on the figure's left breast, can you tell us about that?

MAG: That is meant to represent my heart humbled in the presence of God. To be honest, it was only after I had finished the painting that I added the blood on the heart. My art is my journal where I record my thoughts and feelings. I am the first to feel blessed whenever I finish a painting which was inspired by the Bible or by the lessons from my pastor’s preaching. Even before I show the painting to anyone, I feel blessed, and it is as if my heart melts ("parang nalulusaw") when it is touched by the Word of God.

Can you tell us where the idea behind this self-portrait came from?

MAG: It was inspired by Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye will be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in all Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.” I guess I combined the idea of Hebrews 4:12 about the Word of God being sharper than any two-edged sword and Acts 1:8, and I related these messages to my personal life as a Christian and artist and I suddenly realized that the process of thinking about all these ideas was beginning to produce something special. The result of this was the self-portrait.

What do you think is the appeal of this painting to those who have seen it?

MAG: I think the strong contrast between the image of the sword and the meek appearance of the seated figure is the reason that this painting has received the attention of many.

What age were you when you made this self-portrait? Some artists create a series of self-portraits as they grow older to mark the passage of time and the changes in them. What does this self-portrait say about this stage of your life?

MAG: I painted it this year. I am 23 years old. I agree that it would be interesting to do self-portraits as one grows older. I wonder how I would look like in the next one? (Smiles).

The distant houses to the right of the seated figure look like non-Philippine-styled houses, can you tell us why you placed them there on the canvas?

MAG: In Acts 1:8, three places are mentioned: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. These places represent the journey of a Christian. Jerusalem represents the places where a Christian starts spreading the Word of God. It means the place where you, your friends and family live. When a Christian’s mission is done in Jerusalem, he moves to the next town, represented by Judea. After Judea, the Christian moves farther and to more distant places represented by Samaria. Anywhere he goes, no matter how far, God will always be with him. As written in Matthew, “I’m always with you even unto the end of the world.”

Can you tell us when you started painting?

MAG: I started painting in 2003 when I was still a student. That was also the time I started joining art competitions. After I finished college in 2005, I worked as a graphic designer, then after seven months I worked abroad for a year. When I came back last year I made a decision to become a full-time artist. This was what I wanted to do—to paint.

Which painters would you say influenced your current style?

MAG: If you're asking which painters I admire, I'd say the Impressionists and Expressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch and Paul Cezanne. Who else? I can’t think of other names now. I like art which is based on personal experiences. I like artists who are true to themselves.

Where can people go to see your works?

MAG: My show is still ongoing at West Gallery, West Avenue in Quezon City, until June 11.

Thank you very much, Andy.

Salamat din sa 'yo.

Basic Instinct star Sharon Stone blames China's earthquake on "karma"?

What a thing to say. Referring to this Telegraph.co.uk article:

Asked if she had heard about the situation in China, Stone replied: "Of course. You know, it was very interesting because at first I am not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans, because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else, and so I have been very concerned about how to think and what to do about that because I don't like that.

"Then I have been concerned about, oh, how shall we deal with the Olympics? Because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine.

"And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened and I thought, 'Is that karma, when you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?'"

If Sharon Stone thinks her remarks will do good for her coming movies--"Streets of Blood," "Five Dollars a Day" and "The Year of Getting to Know Us."--she is dead wrong. Many are very much incensed that they will very likely boycott films featuring her.

Perhaps this is a case of a bad publicity that is really, really bad.

Cai Guo-Qiang at the goog


i went to see Cai Guo-Qiang at the guggenheim museum this past saturday – and what a mob scene it was. i ran into our swedish intern with his brother and sister in-law who were visiting the city for the week, and for me that was probably the highlight of the show. maybe i'm just biased against big shows at the goog as it's hard for me to imagine the work having any relevance outside their space, especially the cars suspended from the atrium – maybe they need to hire different writer/curators who can write believable/compelling stories to frame the pieces [paraphrased from memory: "stuffed wolves hitting a plexi wall: the plexi represents the berlin wall and the wolves represent man's tendency to repeat mistakes" was my favorite piece of garbage i read at this show], or maybe charging $18 to see a single exhibition [the permanent collection was closed] sets ones expectations too high?

i did LOVE the videos of his live fireworks performance/ethereal art projects. the rainbow in the east river and black rainbows were wonderful as it opens up the mind to think of the sky as a valid though ephemeral canvas for art. the black rainbows in particular are evocative of chinese and japanese sumi-e painting, but you can find these videos online for less money and bother:)

Zen and the Art of Having Your Hair Cut

"Please wait for a while. I almost finish." The old man said as I entered that little barbershop, chosen with no particular reason except that I felt annoyed that my hair growing too long and that I just happened to pass the place.

So I sat and watched as the barber deftly shaved his customer's sideburns in one quick movement with his straight razor.

"Okay, that will be $10. Thank you."

"Okay, you next."

"Okay, so how you like your hair cut?"

(A brief instruction of cutting very short here and there was given.)

"Not a busy day today, huh?" I made a wonderfully stupid remark highlighting the most obvious thing of the barbershop having no other customers except me.

"Monday always like this." He answered while his fingers did not stop playing with a comb & clipper blades.

"Just finish work?"

"Yeah." Not in the mood of being asked more about work (after work hours, I didn't even want to think about it. No, thank you), I attempted to steer back the conversation.

"Mondays are always this quiet? So that's why only 1 barber ya?" another stupid remark.

The old barber was polite enough to ignore my point.

Some silent moment as I was too embarrassed to talk. I chose to divert my attention to the radio program. It's Warna 94.2FM & there was a talk about a family matter. Basically about managing expectation between the newly married. For example: the husband should not expect that his wife can cook like his mother. And some clichés about how a marriage is like a ship sailing across the ocean. Expect a few storms occasionally. Be prepared. Address the problems together; don't expect them to resolve by themselves.

It was a grim, but a solemn talk.

"You married?" the old man suddenly cut short my concentration.

"..." (still trying to hear the radio talk.)

"Trust me, young man. Not easy to share your life with someone else."

Was he making a general remark about that? Or was he discerning & able to notice my anti-social tendency?

"..." (I nodded expressing "Go on. I'm willing to hear more. However, don't expect any argument from me. At least, not till you finish cutting my hair.)

"Somemore, very expensive. High cost of living." he replaced a razor blade with a new one, getting ready to shave me.

"Imagine. This little place cost me $3,850 per month. Not including electricity." he sounded upset & tired.

"But I am happy. Make a honest living. And in the end of the day, can go home and see my family."

(My mind wondered about those 167 foreign workers who were locked out by the landlord till very late at night)

"Yes. Tough living, but glad my family support me." he added. At this point, he had finished shaving me. Using his scissor, he then continued with a little trimming.

"I don't have to work, you see. Yet if no work, what I do at home?"

(If I don't have to work & for some reason, I'm constrained at home, I'll use that time for reading, reading and more reading. When was the last time I did a book review, by the way? Currently, very slow progress with Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

"Okay, that will be $10. Thank you." the old man smiled.

I left the place with still a lingering question. Why didn't the barber prefer staying at home spending the time with his family?

The more, the better. Isn't it?

Nah. Perhaps not. Perhaps, it's the quality time that matters & not how long it is. The whole day seeing your family & bickering with them is, without doubt, pointless compared to merely seeing your loved ones in the end of the day & spend loving time together. No matter how short it is.

PS. The title is inspired by "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig.

The boycott list is not even updated?!

I can't say about the rest of the companies listed at his/her boycott list. What I know for sure is that SembCorp Logistics is no longer a Singapore company ever since it's acquired by Australian transport giant, Toll Holdings in May 2006.

Try to do your homework better next time, boycotter! Trust me, many bloggers are petty enough, merciless and unforgiving--and they may use this 'little' mistake to further ridicule your post. Well, I know I am. Heh.

PS. But seriously, what's the big idea with '(link)', '(link)' after the company's name without even URLs given?!

Flickr: Life at Hougang

Came across about the flickr photo collection, themed "Life at Hougang" at yahoo.com.sg starting page. Beautiful collection from talented photographers. I still have much to learn. =)

Chandalika

19th May being Vesak Day in Singapore got me into the mood of painting a reclining Buddha. I have just completed the 29in. x 21.5in. piece in water colour. It is a coincidence that I was engrossed in painting Buddha when I was supposed to write about the staging of ‘Chandalika’ !
Back to my journey….
A typical show put up by the family members was always great fun. There were regular rehearsals for a month or two, every weekend. For me, that meant playing with my cousins, watching the adults rehearse and enjoy typical Bengali cuisine. The first dance drama I can recollect was ‘ Chandalika’. Written by Tagore, it is the story of a young girl being humiliated by everyone around her, simply because she was born in a family of the '
untouchable'. It made a big impact on my mind. I remember bombarding my mother with questions. I have watched this dance drama many times and have also played the role of ‘prakriti’, the untouchable girl, and still fail to understand how people have hatred for their fellow beings.
The dance form was mainly a mixture of
Manipuri and Kathakali with a bit of Javanese style. Javanese and Manipuri dance styles add to the elegance while the drama[abhinaya] and power or strength is expressed through Kathakali. It is a combination of movements, expressions and drama as well as rhythm.
The singers, accompanists and musicians were also family members and friends. They practiced together with the dancers. The stage was an improvised one with stage managers who pulled the curtains. My mother’s cousin who was our permanent electrician added a few powerful lights.
Dress and make-up was never an issue. Ranga mashi and my mother would do it for everyone including them. Female dancers wore bright coloured sarees, batik sashes,and hair done up in with buns, hanging locks and curls [ Ajanta style ] while men wore dhotis and short tops [photua] or kurta depending on the role. Ornaments were made with flowers and flower buds stitched on leaves.
After the rehearsal or performance, I would fall asleep on our way back when the car had to wait at the railway crossing for the train to pass and wake up next morning to get ready and go to school. I always looked forward to the next week-end at Jadavpur.

Uhm, I beg your pardon. Is it "Blogger's Treat" or "Blogger's Threat"?

I have no idea actually what "Blogger's Treat" is about.

What I am more curious is how allegations were made between the parties. It started by the series host, Sabrina in her 22/05 post "No Episode 4 of Blogger's Treat? Ask Podfire!". Michael Cheng from Podfire not-so-soon rebutted on 25/05 in his article, "Podfire: An exercise is dealing with unreasonable people", which very quickly countered in the same day by the producer of Blogger's Treat, Aaron Koh in "Podfire: Setting the records straight".

Altogether they made tedious readings. No, I won't dare to attempt to summarize why they're quarelling. Readers will have to judge themselves (if they bother to do so, that is) who is right and who is wrong.

Regardless of the outcome, I have a feeling that this is actually a win-win situation. For Podfire's Michael Cheng, more will get to know about Podfire. A similar situation will surely happen to Sabrina & Aaron Koh.

Even a bad publicity--well, as long as none is arrested by the police like the recent racist blogger--is still a publicity. People will be torn to support either party & if that's the goal of this whole hoo-ha, they have achieved it.

Congratz!! So any of you has a minute to explain what "Blogger's Treat" is about?

Vermont Is For Lovers Too

BY JAY BAUTISTA | Their first show together was six years ago in a small gallery in Katipunan which I believe has already closed shop. They were still Fine Arts students then, and not even a couple. After numerous solo shows and group shows, they are back together. In life and in art. In sickness and in health.

It was raining on the opening night of Strange Familiarities, Familiar Strangers, the two-person show of newly married Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz-Garcia on May 20, 2008. It was cool inside the Alliance Francaise Total Gallery along Nicanor Garcia Avenue. Very much how the artworks were created, in Vermont three months ago.

Vermont Studio Center Residency Program is the largest residency program for visual artists and writers in the United States. Founded by artists in 1984, it hosts 50 fellows who are housed in a 30-building campus along the Gihon Reiver in Johnson, Vermont. For 12 weeks, the artists focus on their art without the disturbances of daily life: phone calls, meetings and visits from friends and relatives. What you see in the exhibition is a product of such a stress-free environment.

A mixed bunch of art collectors, cultural attaches and a significant smattering of Who’s Who in Philippine art gathered to witness what seemed like a wedding reception. I glanced at the couple who, once in a while gazed at each other, as they were separately entertaining their guests who packed the venue despite the bad weather that night.

What I like about this pair is that they keep on reinventing themselves, discovering their individual styles. Marina and Rodel represent a generation of artists who have chosen to be more personal than social. No grim-and-determined activism or calls for social upheaval on their canvases. They are about stories which are biographical with a deep and lyrical narrative.

Viewing the semi-circular hanging of the paintings, one wonders how Marina as daughter behaved in her growing-up years in Hagonoy, Bulacan. I imagine her looking at her mother and her aunt
twinswhile she played with her doll house (an object she has immortalized in many a painting). Her Doll House show two years ago at the Art Informal (AI) in Greenhills was one of the best shows of that year.

When Recollections opened the following year at the same venue, AI owners, Tina Fernandez and Joel Alonday, could not have been prouder to see how her art has matured with each finished canvas or paper.

The subject of twin sisters (her mom and aunt) recurs in her post-Vermont show. How she paints a layer over a neatly painted picture is signature Marina. The red work strikes the viewer even more
this is the first time she has used red prominently. She also does so well in putting other elements like girly gestures and accessories on canvas.

The "Piano I" and "Piano II" immortalize the biggest fixture in the couple's perfect temporary abode away from home. The draperies here were drawn along the dark background, carefully describing what homesickness is.

"Bestida I, II, III" are another highlight of these randomly depicted images of Marina’s childhood. The colors of these three art works compliment each other so much that I hope they will stay together. As a child, Marina, I imagine, wore the dresses even how tattered they became. And when Marina splatters another coat of paint on them to give them a sudden jolt and another layer of mystery, do you hate her or love her for it?

Marina’s works takes you on a journey into her consciousness, then she suddenly pulls you back outside her head.

With these smaller works, Marina proves that she is versatile on both canvas and paper. One need not see bright colors or large images, as there is always something new even in an old Marina artwork. She is best in capturing moments like "Dentist’s Chair," or the unattended corners of their studio in Vermont. Meanwhile, "Ducks Remind Me of Home" and "Walking Through the Trees" are melancholic remembrances of Vermont. Why do I get the feeling that they long for Vermont now that they are home?

On the other hand, Rodel experiments this time, and viewers were floored when he came out with these Greek-like busts of people they met while in Vermont.
He has memorialized those people who made his time in Vermont meaningful and worthwhile. This is how Rodel paints when he is happy and in love. Collectors can debate about his works; of how relevant (or not) they are in the evolution of Philippine contemporary arts, but Rodel doesn’t care as long as he enjoys making his art.

The appeal of Rodel and Marina's works is how they brought back an appreciation to painting. Rodel and Marina makes you think long and hard at each art work. One is forced to carefully consider the mystery and sublimity that went into the process of creation.

To look at a Marina and Rodel painting is to have a different attitude towards Philippine art. They offer a perspective based on a continuous search for signs and expressions of our times; their art is not academic or mired in postmodern kitsch. Art must enrich your life, and if the artworks of Rodel and Marina force you to reflect, then you feel alive and liberated.

To Marina and Rodel, may your marriage be boringly happy and painterly-wise.

Trees and branches at 23/05/08 7:17 PM


I realize indeed
the importance of timing
as I point & shoot.

PS. The yellowish colour at the right is not a special effect. It's from the nearby lamp post. Just thought it will make an interesting photo should it be taken exactly from the below of the tree with the branches spreading all over the picture.

Irreversible & Permanent Change




Another of Tiong Bahru's icon has been destroyed.

The signature red gourd burner (Hong Hu Lu) has been torn apart to make way for a new 20 room hotel.

This is the aftermath.


My feeling is quite mixed at the moment.

I'm happy that hotel operators are beginning to take notice of this sleepy enclave and thinks that tourists might be interested in this area.

But at the same time, I feel sad that a Tiong Bahru icon has to be sacrificed to make way for that development.

I just hope the 5 storey hotel will not look like the Cape Inn Hotel along Seng Poh Road.

If it is like those boutique hotels like 1929 or Majestic Hotel, then I don't really mind.

But if it is some Cape Inn kinda hotel, then I think they've got the wrong place to plant that hotel.

Whatever the case, time will tell what kinda hotel Tiong Bahru Estate will be inheriting.

Will you, you, you and you marry me? | Women: Tak Boleh Tahan!!

Women should accept polygamy, Malaysian lawmaker said. Ibraham Ali, who is also an independent parliamentarian, argued that there would be fewer marital problems and a lower divorce rate if Muslim women were taught to accept polygamy.

Oh, really? No, seriously 'Oh, really?'

I am not against the idea of polygamy as part of a religion. I just frown at the lawmaker's intention of teaching Muslim women to accept polygamy for the purpose of achieving fewer marital problems and a lower divorce rate. Man, if that does work, you should propose in the next parliamentary meeting to legalize polygamy for all regardless of their religions.

What irks me is that his statement reminds me to the recent one from Ms. Munirah Bahari, a vice president of National Islamic Students Association of Malaysia about how school uniform is too sexy and that it encourages rape and pre-marital sex.

Her thinking has since been scoffed as "baseless" by teachers and students and as "perversion" by other organizations. (And on this 26/05 International Herarld Tribune article, the education minister too stated that Malaysian school uniforms for girls not sexy.)

Yes, notice the common thread between the two statements from the lawmaker & the vice president?

Seems that when something is wrong, men are not to be blamed nor even considered as part of the problems. Never. Let's just blame the women! As simple as the Ultimate Answer to "Life, the Universe, and Everything" is 42, huh?

To repeat, I am NOT against polygamy as part of the religion. I am just against over-simplistic ideas from supposedly very intelligent people (a lawmaker & a vice president) who shared their thought without any facts or some studies/research.

Anyway--and I'm definitely digressing from the topic--I feel the urge to catch the movie, "Ayat-Ayat Cinta" ("Verses of Love") soon. The synopsis as found in Cathay website sounds promising:
One of Indonesia’s most phenomenal films, Ayat Ayat Cinta is a religious love story based on a best-selling novel of the same title by renowned author Habiburrahman El Shirazy.

Beautifully showcasing a very positive viewpoint of Islam, the film has been received with thundering applause, countless tears and standing ovations nationwide, promising to be the most talked about film in the history of the Indonesian motion picture industry.

This tale centres on Fahri, an intelligent Indonesian who earns a scholarship to complete his graduate degree at the esteemed Al Azhar university in Cario. Innocent, pure and brave, the usually shy Fahri finds himself surrounded by four beautiful, distinctly different women who develop feelings for him.

Fahri considers Maria, a shy Coptic-Christian neighbour, as one of best friends but he devotes his love only to Aisha, a German Turkish student in Cairo who haunts Fahri with her beautiful eyes. After a brief courtship, the two are married, resulting in three broken hearts. Nurul, a daughter of a cleric, accepts her fate. Noura, an abused Egyptian neighbour turns against Fahri and accuses him of rape while Maria sinks into depression and illness. As Fahri faces daunting decisions, the controversial topic of polygamy is explored but all the while, the audience is compelled to marvel at his undying loyalty to the true ideas of Islam as he ultimately makes the choice of a lifetime.

If I'm lucky, the show will have nothing to do with the main character, Fahri falling in love because of some sexy uniform.

where are the beautiful people? they are all robots!


you may remember seeing super model agyness deyn wearing nooka zubs in an editorial in the fab british mag i-D last month...actually, it's in my blog here. well, it seems as if some evil scientist has turned her into an android, or more properly a replicant [depending on which scifi lingo one wants to use]. luckily i'm on quite a few robot/android/replicant mailing lists and was invited to their coming out ball last night in chelsea.

all of her male and female robot/android/replicant friends were there. i asked one of the agyness' why she wasn't wearing her nooka and she told me that the human one uses a different set of stylists than the robot/android/replicants – obviously!

mannequins actually by nyc's roostein mannequins, though the event reminded me a bit of black lizard, a cult film of the 60s from japan where a female jewel thief [played by a drag queen] kidnaps beautiful teenagers to turn into a living sculptures in her island hideout.

"The HelloKitty Challenge!" -- and how things can go wrong.

Very amused reading a blogger, Daphne Maia starting a contest, "The HelloKitty Challenge" and how another blogger, Uray taking up the challenge. Mischief in the making, some may say disapprovingly. Well, it is.

I have no idea how much influence Daphne might have in the blogosphere, but ripples of effect have surely been created. The landlady would experience some feeling of hope when all of sudden, she received many calls inquiring about the room. The delight soon decayed to despair as nobody turned up to view the room on the appointed date.

But, that's exactly what the contest is all about, you'd say.

True. And it achieves its goal, I must admit. However, things can go wrong not only for the landlady, but also for the contest starter, Daphne.

Think about it. Someone (who harbours any ill-feeling to her or whose sense of justice eclipses his/her sense of humour) might sabo her by sms-ing the blog post URL to the landlady.

That will cause awkwardness. And not just that, more things can go wrong, but I'd rather not blog about it. A clue: the landlady also has the blogger's contact no, doesn't she?

Copycat Lor Mee

As I was googling the website for Tiong Bahru Lor Mee, I realised that quite a number of people are actually clueless that NONE of the existing Tiong Bahru Lor Mee stalls within the new market were from the original market.

And they were making comparisons about which is better stall so on and so forth.

I’ve tried all these copycat Lor Mee not just once but many times.

My verdict, they are still the copycats....nothing like the real stuff.

Before the old Tiong Bahru market moved to the new premise, there were only two Lor Mee Stalls.

One with a very long queue and the other without having to wait.


This is the one with the long queue.
The gentleman is now operating a very succussful stall at Bukit Purmei

This is the one with no queue, She has since retired

When they relocated to the temporary market at Kim Pong Road, the one with the long queue still has the long queue even though the stallholders looked different.

The way the meal was presented was still the same but the taste differs greatly.

So why is it that a queue still exists?

Perhaps it was out of habit that people were accustomed to and the yellow bowls was something familiar and they associate it with the original Lor Mee stall.

Moreover, there were no other stall that screams TIONG BAHRU LOR MEE and since this one does it and it has the signature yellow bowls, this must be the one!

Hence the queue exists.

I have tried it a few times and have since gave up trying! Since the Ben Tin Lo Mee was the other original Lor Mee Stall from the old market, I decided to try it one day.

The taste was very familiar.

It was not that great as the ORIGNAL yellow bowl ones but it was good enough for me.

Though the noodles were great, this stall owner lacks marketing skills and she was eventually out-sold by the copycat clans.

The latest Lor Mee newbie was the Sharkies and that hurts her bottom line even more.

Within a few months at the new market, that Ben Tin Lo Mee auntie retired.

If only she had hung up a sign that says...THE ORIGNAL TIONG MARKET LOR MEE. She has the rights to that title as she was really an original.

I miss her Lor Mee very much.

Though I am residing in Tiong Bahru, I’ve never tried the copycat Lor Mee nowadays and I find it rather amusing that people actually drive all the way here to join the queue to eat some copycat Lor Mee.

While the herd drives to Tiong Bahru, I drive to Bukit Purmei to savour the authentic Tiong Bahru Lor Mee.

The queue there is long too but it is worth queuing up for and I willingly submit to the wait.

This authentic Tiong Bahru Lor Mee stall is operating out of Block 109 Bukit Purmei Ave.

This was the same guy in the 1st picture above.




More background story from Makansutra : Good Lor!

Remembering Chek Jawa and land politics


Remember how the 377a battle was fought? I signed the petition, excited by the thought that Singapore might just start to re-gravitate itself in cultural change. We were still steps behind in terms of freedom of speech because it had to take a HUGE concerted effort like this for it to be heard in Parliment. Interestingly, I really thought like in the past, it would bear the volume of a whimper among the white-shirted men. Instead, it was given due attention and for once, people intellectualised about it.

What a group of big-hearted folks did in Chek Jawa was like the effort in the 377a petition. In fighting Goliath, they took a long-suffering journey to gather enough evidence to prove that reclaiming land over Chek Jawa would be a regretful move. In this instance, they earned a full success in making the government change their minds about destroying the ecosystem in Chek Jawa. At the start, it enchanted me with the exotic images of flagellating sea creatures and anemones. Coupled with the unmistakable and geographically appropriate gamelan overtue, it was almost too pretty for its own good. But little did I know, it had a lot of muscle to flex as the plot thickened. After all, the interviewed except for the Raffles Bio museum manager, looked like a group of peace-loving, non-confrontational nature enthusiasts. Maybe only the Berkeley graduate had some bite in what she expressed. The rest were meek, or so I thought.

The conflict was unveiled without too much lingering on the character establishment. In enough pacing, we were soon led to know of the government's intention to reclaim land over Chek Jawa. And following that, the beginnings of a mammoth act of heroism emerged.
Joseph Lai is a botanist and a young father. He is the one who leads the team in a massive sampling exercise. Basically, what the team of volunteers had to do is to collect samples of living organisms at strategically marked out points on the Chek Jawa site. In each team, they had to mark out a square and start digging for signs of life. Even if you found an endangered speciemen outside the square, you could not harvest it. The rules were so strict that even when the allocated spot was a pile of rocks, that pile of rocks had to be lifted up and the mud below worked upon.
The volunteers were mostly amateurs. I remember Ria Tan, who did the Chek Jawa website. There was also the graduate from Berkeley who was one of the more fervent and persuasive members. There was a gently-persuasive storyteller. There was an old photographer whose scorpion fish sting stole some moments of the film later on. And last but not least, plenty of students, some `aunties', some `uncles', some `Ah Soh's, practically a good cross section of society. Joseph Lai himself exudes a lot of quiet charisma and subtle conviction in his beliefs. He seems the perfect man for the job for his balance of the motivational and technical aspects of leading this challenging operation. Interestingly, filmed against the motifs of sea water and boats, in the darkness of the night against the political resistance behind the entire project, one could be easily reminded of the story of Noah's Ark and its related themes.

The team set out to prepare the instruments of exploration upon arrival at Pulau Ubin. They had little sleep because they had to beat the dawn and avoid the high tide. Not all were properly attired it seemed from the shots. While it was punishing work, it was understandably exciting as well because of the curiosity towards the experiment and the camaraderie of the team. There could be certainly no other reasons why a sizeable number of people were willing to utilize a day of annual leave for muddy labour.
It was for certain, a lot of good spirit reminiscent of school science laboratory lessons. But placed under the perimeters of the documentary and the case it presented, it unsettled me because for a decision to be made in a boardroom, it was such a pain-staking act trying to tilt the balance against people who are just doing their jobs in air-conditioned environments. I really felt `Remember Chek Jawa' planted its plot points of the story shrewdly, making the issue come alive naturally without drawing too much deliberate attention to it. Nothing in the initial splashes of interviews suggested the quiet aggression of this movement. But like how nature has designed living things to be, we all have our self-defense mechanism. The sea anemones would have their traps and don't think fishes can't bite. In an almost allegorical fashion, the data-collecting team soon proved to be a force that bore a valuable lesson for Singaporeans.
Eventually, the government overturned its decision. But it would review the case again in 2012. Things are a little hard to predict at this point but surely greater awareness of the issue would help it in some way. There is a lot of information (I think many thanks to Ria Tan) on this on the internet. So check out these links:
Official site of the film : http://www.chekjawa.net/
Blog site : http://rememberchekjawa.wordpress.com/
NUS site on Chek Jawa : http://www.chekjawa.nus.edu.sg/ (includes a virtual tour) Love the postcards!!!
Sinema Interview with Eric Lim : http://www.sinema.sg/ You can catch it at Sinema right now. Click on the Sinema Old School link in the Sinema website

Lastly, I fondly remember this famous story of a little boy and starfishes on the beach by Loren Eiseley about the power of making an effort. Read the story here.......

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