Singapore Mercantile Exchange (SMX) is here...and then?

Singapore Mercantile Exchange - Where the world trades

Learn more about the Singapore Mercantile Exchange or in short, SMX here. Quoted: "The Singapore Mercantile Exchange (SMX) is the first pan-Asian multi-product commodity and currency derivatives exchange. Situated in Singapore, SMX offers a comprehensive platform for trading a diversified basket of commodities including futures and options contracts on precious metals, base metals, agriculture commodities, energy, currencies and commodity indices."

A lot of words, huh? Still needs to learn more on how the trades are held.

The Singapore Mercantile Exchange (SMX) kicked off trading on Tuesday with a somewhat muted response from investors.

Observers said this could partly be due to a lack of awareness and that some are taking the wait-and-see approach.

However, the first pan-Asian commodity and currency derivatives exchange said it is still pleased with the first day of trade and expects volumes to grow with strong demand in months ahead.

It plans to roll out two new currency pairs on top of the four products that started trading on Tuesday.

Gold, the first product among others to be traded, proved the most popular. The exchange said it expects its gold contract to be a popular hedging tool among Asian traders.

And demand for such products is only set to grow.

Thomas McMahon, CEO, Singapore Mercantile Exchange, said: "How we get market participation - it's already here, the industry demand for hedging, risk mitigation or even commodities as an asset class, it already exists.

"It just doesn't exist on an Asian exchange, it's fragmented in its nature out here. It has legacy, which is good inherently. There's good trading volumes from Asia and they've only grown over the last 5 years dramatically."

Last year, the region saw 6.2 billion commodities contracts traded, versus 6.3 billion in both the US and Europe.

SMX said the demand is strong enough to grow its own volume, rather than compete for trade from other exchanges.

Analysts are optimistic about the options that SMX has to offer.

Avtar Sandu, manager, Asian Commodities, Phillip Futures, said: "Firstly, it's going to be an Asian contract, so you can have benchmarking during Asian time rather than you wait for London to open or New York to open before you can seal the deal.

"So if you have a benchmarking in Asia itself, at 5 o'clock, you can have a benchmark to price in your goods."

Observers added that this will offer more liquidity to investors in the Asian time zone.

The SMX said it hopes to sign 68 clearing, trading and broking members by the end of the year.

From Channel NewsAsia, "SMX goes live with 4 contracts; more to follow".

Gala Nights - Sandcastle, Haunted Changi and Cubik

Sandcastle Gala Charity Premiere

'En' (Joshua Tan) and his daddy?

Standing next to Mr Boo

In a really tight spot

Friends and fans make sure they take home a little something from the event

Colin Low and myself (Jeremy Sing) pose against the 'gala premiere' must-have, the logo wallpaper

Haunted Changi Premiere

Everyone is smiling except the director Tony Kern (second from= right) who looks like he just saw a ghost. Audi from SINdie was part of the spooky team.

'That's a tough question.' Tony ponders...


Cubik Premiere

The cast looking suave

Hunks and babes of the cast

Supercar, Superbike, (not-quite-yet) Superstars

Posing with director Stefan Fanthome (SINdie L-R: Alvin Choo and Jeremy Sing)

That's about as close as you can get to it, dude

Conversations on National Day Videos (Part 2)

Before August ends, take a trip down with us through memory lane as we briefly discuss four National Day song videos from the years past. It's a continuing struggle for local filmmakers to find non-generic themes, images and stories that bind, represent and move us, so it's with this in mind that we turn to each of these official videos, looking out for what catches our eye, what works for us and what doesn't.

Continued from Part 1!

Colin: 2009 marked what seems to be a new turn in the NDP theme songs, involving the commission of local singer-songwriters to perform their own self-written pieces. The first of these was pop rock band Electrico's "What Do You See". While I like this new approach to the NDP songs in the sense that they feel less committee-decreed, I find this inaugural attempt to be a mere rehash of tired expressions of possibilities ("future is an open book", "sail the seven seas", "climb the highest mountain").

Its music video is a different matter. While it is "individualistic" as you have noted, Jeremy, in the sense that it follows the MV trope of following the singer around, I love that it captures a Singapore that is so night-drenched. Has there been an NDP video before this one that spent most of its time in the dark? This makes for some unintentionally funny lyrics ("Look around at our faces, they shine brightly in the sun"), and there is a predictable lead-in to sunrise. But it also unearths some beautiful images, like the reflection of the bay waters shimmering on the underside of the Esplanade Drive bridge.

Raymond: I think Colin has pointed out most of the things I love about the video. I like that we get to see Singapore in the night, and the result is actually quite a sight to behold. I like the concept of showing Singapore during different times of the day, from the night to the day; I think it might have some metaphorical meaning to it - our dreams finally getting to see the light of day and eventually coming to pass.

I think this video will appeal to the Gen X and Gen Y people, just because of its celebration of the individual rather than the usual focus on families that was common to previous NDP videos. Some of the shots in these videos are just of young couples of a bunch of young friends having fun, chilling out together at Marina Barrage - which is also a popular hangout spot among the youths.

Jeremy: This song is inherently difficult to fit into the NDP scheme of things. You can't really sway or sing to it as a finale at NDP. But on its own, it appeals to my testosterone and actually inspires me. I like the fact that the video does not try too hard and the images are not too agenda-driven. It basically features the singer most of the time just singing to the camera with the occasional cutaways. While keeping most things naturalistic, there are a couple of surreal moments as well to give the video a bit of needed detraction. Two such moments include the crowd walking in slow motion up the Marina Barrage and him catching the mike as it is tossed in the air.

However... something is not quite right when you examine the spirit of the visuals and the lyrics. Colin, you have rightly pointed out that some of the lyrics are indeed lame and unintentionally funny. In fact, without the swaggering tune, the lyrics sound occasionally 'hao lian' (show-offy). And several phrases don't carry much meaning, which sound weird when they are supposed to be sung with a BIG attitude.

Finally, with one concrete show piece every year, one wonders if the screenwriters are being lazy and have resorted to a formula.

Colin: Would you say this of "Song for Singapore", this year's National Day theme song written and performed by Corrinne May? The story told by the video's montage is fairly simple, following a girl who grows up to fulfill her childhood ambition to become a music teacher. But I quite like the way that its motifs are developed, such as how her music teacher inspires her to the same calling (but from him in a classroom with blackboard, to her in a full-scale auditorium), and how her supportive father continues to fetch her home (from school on a bicycle, and then from work in a car).

The chief draw here is our interest in its human story, of a private dream harboured and fulfilled (with the tangential fact that she's teaching a National Day song at the end). So I object to to the more crude pairings of some overly public images with their lyrics, notably: NSFs carrying blank targetboards ("sometimes the best things are taken for granted") and various skyscrapers in the CBD ("with every generation, there's more to be grateful for"). To be fair, one of the most effective images in this video for me is about economic progress, but it manages to be succinct and original. Namely, the quick dissolve from our present-day city skyline (a standard icon) to our less-developed skyline of the past (sneaky reversal!). Because it's so fast, and leads us into the flashback story, it feels less preachy about the very aspects of Singapore that I presume most Singaporeans feel only impersonally about when we are being nationalistic.

Raymond: A point I wish to bring up is that I am doubtful how many children actually aspire to be a music teacher. A teacher yes, but I'm rather convinced most children who are interested in music would want to be a professional musician, not a music teacher. I may be nitpicking here, but the video really does give the impression that education is revered in Singapore; on the flip side, it may be perpetuating the stereotype that 'those who can't do, teach'. I find it a rather odd choice of a dream.

Also, I think sometimes less is more and that is certainly the case with 'Home' (still one of the best NDP songs and videos ever). The thing is that the story for the video of 'Song for Singapore' is so generic and even bland, and the link between the public/social context of the video and the tale of personal achievement of the female protaganist in question is tenuous and contrived.

Jeremy: Indeed, a friend of mine reacted to the string of past National Day videos that we posted and said how much he misses some of the older videos that keep the messages simple like appreciating home (like in “Home”) or loving your brothers and sisters. The agenda of showcasing that we are Number One in this and that’s seem to be more and more salient in the recent ones. The laughable and “epic-like” 2007 video “Will You?” is like Singaporeans in some “Great Leap Forward” campaign. The 2009 one with Electrico again, tells us to open our eyes up to the changing Singapore skyline. This 2010 version appears warm and personal at first glance but it doesn’t take long for one to realize that the “agenda” creeps back again and the CGI imposition of the Singapore flag on various landmarks is rather in-your-face, don’t you think? In fact, I would even go a step forward to say the Corrine May’s coming-of-age story feels too generically treated. It could be any singer’s story, which really doesn’t add any value to the video.

Naraharisetti Pavan Kumar, a New Singaporean with a curious reason on why he became a citizen

Reference to the article, "Avid shopper with eye for bargains" published in The Sunday Times today at page 14 (it's by the way about 'New Singaporeans', the focus on the article is about one Mr. Naraharisetti Pavan Kumar.

What tickles me the most is how he answered when he's asked why he became a Singapore citizen in 2006--quoted from that article:

"My family does not live in the city of my birth any more, and I've not been back there since I left for university at 17."

A practical reason, huh? The logic dictates that if his family still does live in the city of his birth, Mr. Kumar might have retained his Indian citizen.

But if he's really that tied to this city of his birth, should he not have made some visits there after he left for university?

Seriously, who else finds his reasoning, uhm, unconvincing?!

I love my armpit....wanton noodles.

I was fortunate to be the last customer for the armpit wanton noodles yesterday.

Though the owner refused to serve me the large portion ($3.50 a plate) and I had to settled for the $2.50 plate, the lady boss nevertheless gave me all the available wantons.

And it was a very large bowl of wanton soup with at least nine of them sitting in the bowl!

The $2.50 was well spent and I felt bad because it was really worth $3.50 or more.

Perhaps I was the last customer for the day and the usual no-nonsense, no smile, always gloomy lady boss was a little relaxed and cordial and she actually came and sat at the same table.

I never expected her to say anything and thought she just needed to rest her feet.

She started the conversation and I went Wow!

I not only got extra helpings of wantons, I also got some insights into how their famous arm pit wanton noodle came about.

It was a story about their dogged determination to eke out a living and the ability to adapt and innovate in the face of adversity.

As I was enjoying my once a week "die die" must have food, I asked Mrs lee curiously why I do not recalled eating this when I was growing up.

I remembered they were famous for their soy sauce chicken but I had never tasted their wanton noodles until they moved into the temporary market at Kim Pong Road about 3 years ago.

Was there a best kept secret dish that escaped me all these while?

Mrs Lee confirmed that they never had this dish until the bird flu epidemic hit Singapore and their business almost went belly up as people were staying away from chickens and there was also an acute shortage of FRESH chickens due to the mass culling.

That was probably the darkest time of their business as they were struggling for about a year with very dismal business.

Instead of caving in to the situation and remaining helpless about it, Mr Lee a.k.a Dennis, started experimenting and he came up with this winning dish.

A few of us accidentally discovered this gem when Mr Lee introduced it at the Kim Pong Road temporary market.

But as soon as the media caught wind of this new mouth watering dish in Tiong Bahru, we always have to queue up for it now!

The Lees never looked back ever since and this outsell the soy sauce chicken now.

And Mrs Lee was so proud of her husband and his culinary skill that she told me that even she has not mastered the way Mr Lee cooks the noodles.

Hers always comes out a little soft while Mr Lee's is springy.

And even if you "tah pao" some home and let it sit in the container for a few hours, the noodles won't turn soggy.

And if you do make a trip to this stall in Tiong Bahru, try to eat this without the chilli sauce for once.

You will be able to savour the unforgettable taste. (It was Mr Lee who asked me to go without chilli back in the Kim Pong days and I never eat this dish with chilli ever again!)

As I wrote this, I cannot help but went back for another go to satisfy my cravings....and I also ordered the soy sauce chicken....for old time sake.

What, no second chance, huh, Second Chance?!

I'm intrigued. It's reported that a boss of Second Chance, Mr. Mohamed Salleh had banned himself & 6 of the top personnels from the 2 local casinos.

What is he to the 6 top personnels? A father? A family? Can he really do that? Seriously?! What the others do after their working hours have nothing to do with the company!! Who on earth does he think himself to put himself to that kind of 'Power'???

A Singapore company has banned its management from the country's two new casinos following reports a local businessman lost a fortune at the gaming tables, its founder said Friday.

Mohamed Salleh, chief executive officer of retail and property firm Second Chance, said he had applied for casino exclusion orders for himself and six of his top personnel using a system designed to keep gambling addicts out.

"A few days ago I read about this Henry Quek... that lost 26 million (19.2 million US) dollars at this casino, so I was thinking, why not I include all my top executives and my finance people?" he told AFP.

Media reports said Quek, a local seafood industry magnate, had squadered the amount over a three-day gambling spree at the Resorts World Sentosa casino.

Mohamed said his decision was also prompted by a case in which one of his managers stole gold items from the firm to pay off gambling debts before the local casinos opened the doors.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," said Mohamed.

Financial group DBS said Thursday that Singapore's two casino resorts are expected to contribute two billion Singapore dollars (1.5 billion US) to the country's economy this year.

After church and civic groups raised concern over the social impact of legalising casinos, Singapore is allowing individuals or their families to apply for exclusion orders on "problem gamblers" barring them from even entering the casinos.

From Yahoo! Singapore Finance, "Singapore company bars top management from local casinos".

MoMA and the Asia Art Archive Join Forces to Explore Contemporary Chinese Art

HONG KONG— This autumn, the Asia Art Archive (AAA) in Hong Kong and New York's Museum of Modern Art will join forces to offer two large-scale surveys of the ephemera of Chinese Contemporary art: "Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990" and "Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents." Through recordings, collected texts, and translations of important theoretical tracts, these projects bring together an arsenal of materials that illuminate the rapid growth and development of Chinese Contemporary art over the past 30 years.
The AAA has taken the 1980s as their focus in "Materials of the Future," exploring in depth a decade of immense significance in China's recent history. In order to do this, the Archive set up a four-year research program focused specifically on the aggregation, organization and preservation of relevant materials. These primary and documentary source materials have been compiled into over a hundred volumes. In addition, the AAA conducted 75 video interviews and scanned rare documents and books in the collections of a number of leading Chinese artists and curators (including Fei Dawei, Zhang Xiaogang, Zheng Shengtian, Lv Peng, Mao Xuhui and Wu Shanzhuan), and produced a documentary film.
The Archive now has in its possession over 70,000 digital files, the world's most comprehensive and systematic compilation of materials relating to Chinese contemporary art from the 1980s. Beginning this September, the AAA's holdings will be open to the public, free of charge. People will be able to visit the Archive office in Hong Kong for consultations, and to browse the Chinese-English language Web site that was launched in an effort to make the materials globally accessible.

MoMA's contemporaneous publication of "Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents," will offer access to artistic records from 1976 through 2006. The material has been gathered from Chinese avant-garde collectives and includes their manifestos, prefaces to seminal exhibitions, writings of influential artists, important essays of art criticism, and other key primary source documentation, along with English translations, allowing readers to systematically follow the development of the Chinese avant-garde over the past 30 years.
Wu Hung, University of Chicago professor, director of the Center for the Art of East Asia, and consulting curator at the Smart Museum of Art, is the editor of the volume, which is being published by the MoMA together with Duke University Press. Starting September 7th, a series of media conferences on the two projects will take place across China, with important artists, critics, curators, and other art-world figures in attendance. These will take place at the Hong Kong Art Center (Sept. 7), the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing (Sept. 9), a venue yet to be announced in Shanghai (Sept. 10), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Oct. 15).

Source: Artinfo

Conversations on National Day Videos (Part 1)

Before August ends, take a trip down with us through memory lane as we briefly discuss four of the most recent National Day song videos. It's a continuing struggle for local filmmakers to find non-generic themes, images and stories that bind, represent and move us, so it's with this in mind that we turn to each of these videos, looking out for what catches our eye, what works for us and what doesn't.

Jeremy: Everyone remembers how Gani (the singer in shades) swaggered through the streets with hordes of office men behind him as an entourage. I felt it made the effort to be different... though sometimes to unintended hilarity.

Colin: Well, it does try for a larger cross-section of places (and "representative people") than this sort of video tends to go for: schools, kindergartens, the National Stadium, some non-discreet ethnic gathering, shipyards, HDB blocks, office buildings. But it might have been less unintentionally funny if it weren't clear that these were just grinning extras trailing behind the lead singers in each locale. Perhaps if they'd all been singing, there'd be a greater sense of "community".

Raymond: Like what Colin said, I agree that it does go for a larger cross section of places and it is a very inclusive video, showcasing people from all different walks of life. I thought it did a very good job in portraying the family feeling of Singapore, that we're all one despite our different backgrounds. But I wish that for a song exhorting the individual to make a difference, there can be a more individualistic spin towards it. I mean, I know it is a National Day video, and ultimately it is supposed to unite different groups. But I wish there could have been a balance in the video, maybe showing different individuals at work or something, then cutting to the groups walking together.

Jeremy: Didn't they? There was an old couple, the three girls in tudungs, the Chinese wayang girl — all such a relief from the “workforce armies”...

Raymond: But they weren't really doing anything in the video, just sitting around. How to make a difference like that you tell me? At least in the group shots we see their career types and we know their backgrounds so we know what they are doing to “make a difference”.

Colin: Jeremy, your “workforce armies” is such an apt term, pointing out exactly what rings false for me in this video. The sight of huge swathes of similarly dressed people striding after a leader recalls protest marches, which are such a foreign concept to Singaporeans that it's weird even when it's repurposed for nationalistic aims.

Jeremy: Even so, I must say it is quite a daring video, given that the chances of it being slammed were great. Overall, I have a love-hate relationship with it, more love actually because it is incredibly cheesy. So cheesy, it's entertaining! And I will always remember the shot in which the workers are rushing down the stairs of a building, looking like they are performing a fire drill, haha!

Raymond: Well, unlike "Will You", I have to say the cheesiness of 2008's "Shine for Singapore" does not work for it... like the stars falling while Hady Mirza was singing. Just lame and tacky! While I think it is refreshing to try to incorporate a pseudo love story into the video, I don't see how it is congruent to the rest of the video, and I don't see how it complements the lyrics in any way... unless it is trying to say that falling in love and making babies is a way to shine for Singapore. Okay yeah, I forgot that's our national duty. Patriotism demands of us to bear lots of children =)

Colin: See, my issue with "Shine for Singapore" lies solely in the lazily edited-in cuts of Hady singing, because the video was obviously conceived as a narrative montage. And an innovative one, considering it actually tries for a more plaintive mood than we're used to in NDP videos.

Jeremy: Yeah, the studio shot look of Hady standing amidst the floating stars look shoddily put together. I remember the '07, '08 periods were times when a lot of prominent filmmakers began to have opportunities to shoot national videos like these so I am not surprised with the storyline. It is certainly a nice change and it has a more personal feel as well. The only 'but' is that it is forgettable.

Raymond: Maybe if they just totally didn't include shots of Hady Mirza and included in more “mini narratives”, it could have been a really good ND video.

Jeremy: Perhaps they ran out of budget. Yeah, mini narratives to complete the 'human' aspects of the Singapore-scape instead of the usual concrete will be good. One more thing I don’t like - the very sanitised look of Singapore. It looks totally choreographed - pastel white walls, light-coloured clothing, plenty of close-ups so not a lot of the scenery outside is revealed. Anyway, I am very glad they tried the 'individualistic' style again in 2009 and it worked nicely for me.

Stay tuned for Part 2, as we roll over into the most recent National Day videos!

OMG the show belongs to nobody but J.M.T. (Jill Marie Thomas)!

I must admit, though, that it's a cruel choice of Jill Marie Thomas (or J.M.T. like in her YouTube clip, "Nobody (Wondergirls) - J.M.T.") to challenge the fellow challenger of the night, Dan Thompson (who started the show for tonight by challenging--and beating--the contender from the previous week, Jumping Jewels.)

She should have challenged others (and for sure, she would have easily won, too).

Dan Thompson's performance was sparkling. It was a treat to see him performing the two songs: "You Raise Me Up" as he challenged Jumping Jewels and "Me and Mrs. Jones" as he's being challenged by J.M.T.

A pity that he's ousted.


But J.M.T.'s rendition of Wondergirls' Nobody is just cool. Simply a wonder girl! (You truly deserve to win!) She did manage to make it her own original song effortlessly. No fancy dance. Nada. Just her & her guitar.

Just like in her YouTube clip below.

Yes, as per the screenshot above, she'll be performing on 26/09/10 8 PM at the 15 Minutes Cafe (La Salle College of Arts).

No thanks to ladyironchef, the famous blog "ieatishootipost" to be renamed as ieatIPAYishootipost???

The recent shameful furore on a certain food blogger by the pseudonym of ladyironchef has led me to know another more popular & definitely more credible food blogger. His blog address is "". The curious me soon pay a visit to this website--all along wondering whether he will soon change his website to "". Heh.

By the way, the author of "" is one Dr. Leslie Tay. Now that's what I'd say as a PROFESSIONAL! Even credits him as an expert in food and drink.

So I guess there's no need for him to change his blog to "", huh? Hur hur.

Post Script:
I just realised I did take a photo of Dr. Leslie Tay in the Big Eat Out! on 22/11/08. Even blogged about the event. The pic of him is shown under item no.4.

The Short Films of K.Rajagopal (I)

The 7th edition of the recent Singapore Short Cuts featured a retrospective of local filmmaker K. Rajagopal. 4 of his films - I Can't Sleep Tonight (1995), The Glare (1996), Absence (1997) and Brother (1997) - will be reviewed in this article, while The New World and Timeless - which were made after he broke out of his 10-year hiatus - will be reviewed in a separate article.

Set in the heart of Little India, I Can't Sleep Tonight tells of three individuals - all on the run for various reasons - and how their paths cross one night when the police close in. These displaced individuals, may be strangers to each other but they share one thing: they are all sleepless at night because they live in fear of being caught, and they are constantly yearning for home. When these three individuals eventually meet at a common area while on the run from the police, they silently show their solidarity and find solace in each other. For one night, they are each others' home and when the day breaks they all go their separate ways.

The film is almost devoid of any dialogue, choosing to employ a haunting voiceover that is assisted with stark, bleak images of the three different individuals. Even though some of the shots aren't very polished, with the occasional shaky shot and poor lighting, these are minor faults and understandable since K. Rajagopal was working within tight constraints. He freely admitted during the post screening discussion that back then he lacked technical knowledge and was learning from the process of filming itself. Thankfully, I do think the shaky camerawork and poor lighting do lend themselves to the docu-drama feel of the film and make the film feel more authentic.

The Glare tells the story of a woman who, faced with the harsh reality of an abusive drunkard husband, frequently escapes into her own fantastical world inspired by the television programmes she watches on television everyday. Squatting outside an electronics store everyday to watch programmes screened on the televisions on display, the irritated store owner eventually gives the woman a television set for free. The elated woman is shown celebrating in a wonderfully quirky and whimsical scene. One day, her drunkard husband finds out about the television set and destroys it, and the woman, now devoid of her fantasy outlet and unable to escape to her own little world, eventually goes out of her mind.

The woman is shut down, barely talking to anyone. She appears listless and submissive to her abusive husband. She works hard to support her child, as well as her good-for-nothing husband. She faces racial discrimination. Nothing seems to be going well for her.

There is one element in the film that redeems this landscape of despair. It is the dreams and hope of a woman. A woman - despite having no reason to be optimistic about life, and should have otherwise morphed into a cruel, bitter person - who shows extraordinary hope despite the oppressing circumstances she faces. These are wonderfully shown in kooky, hilarious (day)dream sequences where the woman transposes herself into the situation of characters in the television programmes she watches.

On the other hand, the film also, in a rather self reflexive way, warns of the dangers of obsession with the media and television. From the get go we see the stark image of the woman, already out of her mind, in a trance like state. This bleak shot is once again played out at the end. Despite the few moments of respite of hope we get in an otherwise dark film, K. Rajagopal cleverly makes it clear from the start that Hollywood type endings are not going to happen in this film. We sympathize with the woman because we know despite her strength and her hope, hers is ultimately a story of tragedy. Rajagopal deftly hits a home run in sending out a brutally honest message to us: we can (and should)have dreams, but we still need to live our lives in the real world and not have our heads in the clouds all the time.

In Absence, a young man comes to terms with issues in his past as he and his mother cope with the loss of their patriarch. He chooses to express himself with art, while his mother finds solace in religion. Both of them have skeletons in their closet, however, and ultimately this secret will both unite and tear them apart.

Compared to the previous 2 films, Absence shows much more polish in its technical aspects and features some absolutely stunning cinematography. The rain sequence featuring a man bathing struck me as particularly memorable.

Ultimately, the film explores the clash between freedom and obligation, and between modernity and tradition with a deft and sensitive treatment. The film basically oscillates between shots of the mother and the son for the first half of the film, tracking the contrast in the ways they cope with the death of the young man's father. In this day and age, the characters may seem to be too caricatured and perhaps the metaphor of art as freedom a little too cliched, but back in 1997 when this was filmed I believed it captured the zeitgeist of its time and the pain of families torn apart by differences in mindsets.

Brother tells of an unlikely friendship forged by two individuals: Ganga, an illegal immigrant, and Richard, a seemingly middle class working man. Put together by unlikely circumstances, their friendship grows deeper and they spend more time together. However, just as the film reaches its climax, tragedy ensues for this precarious friendship as Richard is forced to choose between the two very different worlds that each of them inhabits.

K. Rajagopal deftly injects much humour and masculine intimacy into the friendship between Richard and Ganga, tapping into the cultural habits of Indian males, and the product is a surprisingly tender, moving piece. The sudden climactic end works well in highlighting the tragic nature of the friendship, where circumstances are too strong to overcome and ultimately work to pry two people apart. Despite the sad ending, the film manages to steer clear of overwrought melodrama. K. Rajagopal shows much self assurance with this film, choosing to take a slow, steady pace with the film, capturing the little joys of a burgeoning friendship in a gentle and affecting manner. I felt that some of the shots were they happened to accidentally bump into each other at various locations were too contrived, but ultimately they do not take too much from the authenticity of the film, because the characters are believable and also commands our sympathy.

These four films, which are markedly different from K. Rajagopal's two newer ones (which will be reviewed later), are deeply inspired by situations and events he has witnessed in real life. While the films may not be sophisticated in its form, they have an authenticity that is undeniable and a poignancy that is raw and affecting. The first two films had some technical shoddiness that made some shots disorienting to watch (K. Rajagopal was charmingly self-deprecating and admitted he was still learning the ropes back then), but I thought Absence and Brother were much more technically competent. His earlier films may not be as polished as his later works, or even the student works of this day, but I find these films a breath of fresh air from the barrage of short films I watch these days because of its unpretentious qualities and minimalism. In these earlier films, K. Rajagopal keeps to his narrative and tells his stories with conviction, capturing the rawness and emotion the actors bring to his smart scripts. Even back then, during his initial foray in film making, he does not get sucked into the trappings of arthouse cinema, of which many amateur filmmakers are guilty off. His films have a plainness and minimalism that preserves their rawness and sensitivity, and does not include the redundant 'artsy' shots that punctuate so many amateur filmmaker's works. His is local narrative cinema at its best.

Behind the scenes of the 'Ultimate National Day Video Project'

On 14th August, SINdie literally drove round the island in search for answers to the ultimate National Day video from numerous filmmakers and creative voices...

At Wawa pictures, we ambushed Han Yew Kwang and Leonard Lai.

Feels like Chinese New Year when you are visiting so many different houses in a day. Jie Kai gives the most serious answer of the lot.

Caught in the shopping mall were Looi Wan Ping and Daniel Hui.

Caught in the rain were us! Stuck in the car, we took the opportunity to enjoy our McDonald's lunch while listening to the soothing rain drops.

'I should be paid for this product endorsement!'

We were all waiting to be star struck at the beautiful house of the man who made 'The Blue Mansion'

Glen's answers was as loud as his floral preeeenz.

Kelvin Sng looks like he is going to market in the middle of Orchard with his signature 'relaxed' attire!

The usually wacky Wesley Leon gets serious in front of the camera.

Fixing our shop sign

Shu Ming makes a statement at Hong Lim Park.

More photos on SINdie's FB group

Art Consulting Services

Book of Taboo No.2 - Maleonn

ART LEXING will be able to source the right artists to fit your needs.
  • Private Collectors: Locating artists/artwork for private collectors. Collectors have the opportunity to meet the desired artist/s at their studios in Beijing or Shanghai. If the client cannot visit Beijing/Shanghai, ART LEXING will source the artwork, negotiate the price, ship the artwork and provide the Certificate of Authenticity.
  • Gallery/Museum Exhibitions: If galleries or museums are interested in showcasing Chinese contemporary art, ART LEXING can source artist/s for group or solo shows for a variety of price ranges or themes.
  • Sourcing Art for corporate clients & events: Companies can request artwork or art performance for commercial venues, such as, offices, restaurants, events etc. Art pieces and performances will be selected to match the design of the space and the client’s price requirements. At events, Lexing Zhang can be on-site to provide the client’s guests with information on the art piece/s or performance/s.

Mission Statement

My Circus No.12 - Maleonn
To bring the best of Chinese art to the world.

To bridge the different cultures and people via Art.
ART LEXÏNG serves as a Chinese contemporary art platform that will bridge the art to the people and the people to the art.

A 20-year-old girl put in a coffin for 3 hours (Singapore's real-life version of the horror movie, The Coffin?)

Reading about how a 20-year-old girl was put in a golden coffin for 3 hours in a cemetary in--yes, you read it right!--Singapore just led me to think of this horror movie, The Coffin. (The show is by the way about a Thai ritual of lying in a coffin, which is supposed to ensure long life and rid people of their bad luck. But things turn out worse. Well, it's a horror film after all. The YouTube clip is here. Karen Mok is good at acting jumpy. Heh.)

Seriously though, I am not entirely sure whether parents are allowed to that to their child. See, the case here is that the girl was believed to be under a spell. Tragic. In the cold concrete jungles of Singapore, the dark arts are still thriving, huh?

Sin Chew Daily reported that a girl, believed to be under a spell, was dressed in a red costume and put in a golden coffin for three hours in a cemetery in Singapore.

The parents spent $30,000 for the entire "funeral" to get rid of the "spell", it said.

The 20-year-old student underwent the ceremony after her character changed few months earlier and she could not even recognise her own parents.

Her family believed that she was under a spell.

From Asiaone, "Girl put in coffin for 3 hours in S'pore cemetery".

Ebiet G. Ade - Berita Kepada Kawan (A Letter to a Friend)

Attempted to translate a wonderful lyric of Ebiet G. Ade's song, "Berita Kepada Kawan". Check out the fantastic classic here.

This trip is truly heartbreaking
Pity that you're not right beside me, Dear Friend
There are a lot of tales to be witnessed
In this dry, dying stony Land

My body is shaken by the road
My heart by the sight of the dying grass
The journey is seemingly like a witness
To the cry of a little shepherd boy

Dear Friend, try to listen to the answer
As I ask on his cries, "Why?"
Both his parents have long departed
Victims to the cruel disaster of the Land

When I reach to the sea, I'll tell them all
To the cliff, to the waves, and to the Sun
But all stay still, but all stay silent
Just me alone looking up to the sky

Perhaps there the answer I shall find
Of why the disaster hit my Land
Perhaps God starts to be sick of us
Who are always untrue; yet proud of our sins
Or Nature--reluctant to befriend us anymore?
Well, let's just ask those dying grass

The original text in Bahasa Indonesia:

Perjalanan ini terasa sangat menyedihkan
Sayang, engkau tak duduk di sampingku, kawan
Banyak cerita yang mestinya kau saksikan
di tanah kering berbatuan

ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho

Tubuhku terguncang di hempas batu jalanan
Hati tergetar menampak kering rerumputan
Perjalanan ini pun seperti jadi saksi
gembala kecil menangis sedih ho ho ho ho

Kawan coba dengar apa jawabnya
ketika ia kutanya "Mengapa?"
Bapak ibunya telah lama mati
ditelan bencana tanah ini

Sesampainya di laut kukabarkan semuanya
kepada karang, kepada ombak, kepada matahari
tetapi semua diam, tetapi semua bisu
Tinggal aku sendiri terpaku menatap langit

Barangkali di sana ada jawabnya
mengapa di tanahku terjadi bencana
Mungkin Tuhan mulai bosan melihat tingkah kita
yang selalu salah dan bangga dengan dosa-dosa
atau alam mulai enggan bersahabat dengan kita
Coba kita bertanya pada rumput yang bergoyang

ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho
ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho

Kawan coba dengar apa jawabnya
ketika ia ku tanya "Mengapa?"
Bapak ibunya telah lama mati
ditelan bencana tanah ini

Sesampainya di laut kukabarkan semuanya
kepada karang, kepada ombak, kepada matahari
tetapi semua diam, tetapi semua bisu
Tinggal aku sendiri terpaku menatap langit

Barangkali di sana ada jawabnya
mengapa di tanahku terjadi bencana
Mungkin Tuhan mulai bosan melihat tingkah kita
yang selalu salah dan bangga dengan dosa-dosa
atau alam mulai enggan bersahabat dengan kita
Coba kita bertanya pada rumput yang bergoyang

ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho
ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho

PS. 'ho ho ho' are definitely NOT a laughter.

Why the condemned ladyironchef blog is suspended (4 top speculations)

ladyironchef: I find joy in making people hungry angry

The above picture is taken from the webcache of the now-suspended blog of ladyironchef. There have been speculations on why the suspension of the account of this blogger, ladyironchef (who is by the way a he, but you can't tell with that silly moniker which wss likely inspired by what, another silly movie, "The Lady Iron Chef"?!).

Here are the four top speculations.

First is that the blogger is just simply disgusting. Even to the host of his blog who therefore might have suspended the blogger's account. He was reported--much to the shame of the community of food bloggers--to demands free meal in exchange of a lousy review. (The name of the bullied eatery is Private Affairs--the irony doesn't escape me on how this affair was not altogether settled in private! Hur hur.)

Second, the blogger ladyironchef is just a miserable, penniless lad. He couldn't afford to pay the hosting fee of his website & thus, the account was suspended. This probable reason does make sense. He was after all not having money to even do an independent, sponsorless review on the eatery.

Third, the angry netizens had been flaming the ladyironchef's blog and the torrent of abuse was simply just too much for the website.

Fourth, a criminal investigation may (well, we never know) be ongoing & as part of the investigation the blog needs to be suspended. I'm not surprised if that's the case. His act was truly abusive & I'm genuinely surprised that the chef of Private Affairs did not chop chop him.

Anyway, we'll not know what the true reason is. Not at the moment, for sure.

A young food blogger who demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant in the Joo Chiat area has sparked a huge furore online.

The group of four had walked into Private Affairs, a small but exclusive eatery in Joo Chiat, for its Sunday champagne brunch promotion that costs S$68++ per person.

The blogger in question, Brad Lau, who runs a food blog called ladyironchef, had informed the management on Friday that he would be coming down to review the Sunday Brunch promotion.

On the day itself, he and his partner came down at about 130pm, followed by his two other companions, each of whom came down half an hour apart.

According to Private Affairs’ operations director Ross Valentine, the four of them had brunch until 430pm, even when the restaurant’s official brunch hours was from 1130 am to 330pm. Brad and his partner also enjoyed two glasses of champagne each.

When presented with the final bill of $435, the blogger initially refused to pay and repeatedly told the restaurant’s chef, “I never pay for food in any restaurant.”

The restaurant eventually offered to waive off the cost of the meal for him and his partner as well as the cost of the champagne out of goodwill, thus lowering the bill to $159.

Still upset but finally relenting to pay, the blogger then threw his credit card onto the bar counter in front of the cashier before storming out.

Valentine told Yahoo! Singapore, ”This blogger looked very aggressive and was quite arrogant. The fact that he also walked in with his friends at staggered timings created quite a bit of problems for my chef de cuisine, who has to prepare and present his food at just the right times.”

“We decided to waive off the meal and champagne cost for him and his partner out of goodwill. But when we asked him when the review of the meal would be coming out, he said he was not obliged to write anything if the food wasn’t good enough,” he added.

Yahoo! Singapore emailed Brad Lau for his reaction but he has yet to a reply.

The incident, however, has enraged the local food blogging community.

Glenn Lee, who runs popular food blog since late last year, posted an open letter criticising the blogger’s behaviour for “tarnishing the good name of the community.”

Lee, 22, told Yahoo! Singapore, “We are food bloggers and I’m pretty sure the intentions of all of us in the community is to share the love that we have for food and writing.”

“But what this certain blogger has done is highly detrimental to the integrity of the community as a whole and I felt the need to stand up for what I strongly believe in,” he said.

Kaelyn Ong, 22, who posted an entry entitled ”STOP asking for free food” on her food blog, My Food Sirens II, also expressed her disgust.

“I’m surprised. It’s beyond my understanding how someone can actually request for a free meal on the house just because he’s a food blogger,” she told Yahoo! Singapore.

“Anyone can be a food blogger these days, all it takes is a camera and a blog… does that mean restaurants have to sponsor everyone for their meals?” she added.

She also apologised to restaurants on behalf of the food blogging community and said ”not all of us are such bad eggs”.

Cheryl Chia, who has a food and baking blog, cocoabutterscotch, was also appalled.

“I find it shameful. Demanding for free food on account of your supposed “status” as a person who blogs about food is not acceptable,” the 26-year-old said.

Renowned food expert KF Seetoh, who runs the popular, said the blogger in question lost his integrity by refusing to pay.

“The best position is to be invisible, pay for your own food. When you pay for your own food, you don’t take any prisoners when you write,” he said.

But what if the restaurant offers to give bloggers a free meal?

“Then I won’t write about your restaurant. Even if they offer me 50% off the total bill, and if I write about it, they will take my review with a 50% pinch of salt. Some of them, after eating, they call the chef out and ask him to change this and that on the menu. Some would then say, let me do a consultancy role for you. You do what I say and I write nice things.

“My stand is, be neutral. I pay, I say and then I rate,” he concluded.

**Since this post was first published at close to 130pm, Brad Lau’s blog, ladyironchef, has been suspended. Attempts to contact the blogger have still proven unsuccessful.

From Fit to Post, "Food blogger who demands free meal sparks outrage online".

I will give way to this anytime!

I was on my way home at about 2:15pm today when I was stopped by this funeral procession at the junction of Chay Yan Street and Guan Chuan Street.

Since I cannot go anywhere but to wait, I thought I might as well record this event with my phone camera.

For an event that is supposedly sombre in nature, this one is quite a colourful one.

And my youngest daughter who will wake up to the the sound of thunder miraculously slept through this procession of gongs.

What do you see...... What DO YOU SEE?

Before August ends, take a trip down with us through memory lane and look at a special set of videos. These videos have been around since 1985 and are influential in the way they have shaped our perception of ourselves, the places, the people and the systems around us. In some years, they have been a source of pride, in others, a source of embarrassment. In most years, they glamorised Singapore, in other more enlightened years, they humanised Singapore.

They are our national day music videos that invade our screens every July till National Day. No piece of media has more reach than these videos. Not even our Singapore films.

Over the years, these videos have had their fair share of makeovers and extreme makeovers. Yet, as the videos get fancier, the viewers gets lesser. Gone are the days when when we used to anticipate the first broadcast of that year's national day music video. TV Mobile and the office lift TVs brought a mini revival of viewership but that's spoon-feeding us.

Have they lost their lustre? Can they get any more different in the future? SINdie's Ultimate National Day Video Project seeks to find the answers from the people who will have a hand in shaping national icons - our filmmakers. As the dust on NDP 2010 settles, follow us on our journey to search for the answers to what makes a good National Day music video.

Our journey here starts in 1985...

1985 - Stand Up for Singapore

Not the original version here. They had a thing for uniforms in the past.

1986 - Count on me Singapore

This is also not the original version. And do watch a young Zoe Tay squeak through parts of the song here.

1987 and 1988 - We are Singapore

This is a slightly newer version of the song probably made in the 90s. The version with Robert Fernando is not on YouTube. See Ong Teng Cheong still in action as the then President.

1990 - One People, One Nation, One Singapore

Repeated images of families interacting with each other in a stark studio setting - must have been in vogue at that time.

Notice a long absence of the National Day song for a good 8 years!

1998 - Home

A younger Kit Chan, hair as red as the Singapore flag, anchors our nation's favourite song for a long time to come. The start of using sentimental nostalgia in the form of neo-Super 8mm images as well.

1999 - Together

Humour makes its first appearance in the music video. Remember the Malay bride and her astronaut groom? This was 1999. Somehow watching it brings attention to the fact that we had some really bold ideas back then. It just got forgotten.

2000 - Shine on Me

Err... where did this song come from? So totally off the radar! And the HDB repetition is a little nauseating.

2001 - Where I belong

The more I search, the more I am convinced we had some really good music videos in the past. Don't know why the recent ones have become so impersonal and unimaginative. This one has nice personal touches like featuring real people in little moments of mock candour that still appears genuine. The dreamy feel is also a welcome change from many previous, almost like an 'ode' to 'Home'.

2002 - We Will Get There

Concrete makes a come-back. And the 'durian' starts to dominate.

2003 - One United People

Cowboys are the 'Others' in this one. Was 2003 when line dancing caught on?

2004 - Home (Kids Choir version)

'This is Hommmmmmmme, shhurrrrrrrly....' Choir kids in funeral outfits bring new life to an oldie.

2005 - Reach Out for the Skies

Singapore embraces S-Club 7 nationwide amidst 'Idol' Fever. 2005's kids have grown up.

2006- My Island Home

The 'island' factor is hardly apparent, looks more like 'My Concrete Jungle Home'. The government have started to worry about declining marriages rates hence the wedding gown worn by Kaira Gong. She even gets a costume change into another shimmery number a la wedding dinner.

2007 - Will You

Even the musical theatre heavyweights cannot save the stoogey marching and 'fire-drill-style' walking down flights of stairs of the Red Guards (oops Red and White I meant).

2007 - There's no place I'd rather be

Kit Chan gets sick of her office job and takes a ride on her convertible checking soccer boys and other people getting married. By the way, more than half of Singaporeans have not been to London, NY, Tokyo and er..... River Kwai.

2008-Shine For Singapore

Dunno why but this video has a Anti-drugs campaign look to it.

2009 - What Do you See?

Love the song, the individualism, the groove, the little party around the band. It took Singapore 25 years to dare to try a little rock but better late than never. But can we stop featuring one new concrete structure (Marina Barrage in this one) every year?

2010 - Sing a Song for Singapore

Strange, the video is both dreamy and yet political at the same time. Look at the impossibly straight rows of school children at flag-raising and the relentless 'in your face' flag-plastering everywhere.

Stay tuned for a later post where we take a more 'critical' look at the videos of the last 4 years.

Liar Game: The Final Stage (Why must it only featured in Golden Village?!)

Liar Game: The Final Stage

Yes. Groan. Why must this movie, "Liar Game: The Final Stage" featured in only Golden Village??? Even only 4 of the GV cinemas, namely at GV VivoCity, GV Plaza, GV Marina, and GV Tampines.

I swear that I will never watch any movie at Golden Village (here's why if you're so busybody about it). Then again, I want to watch this movie!!

Oh well, another option is to wait for its DVD release.

Golden Village - Liar Game: The Final Stage

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