[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[This is my exact location at F1]
I received this photo in the mailbox today and I felt that I should share it here.

This is my exact position for the whole duration of the F1 race - last Thursday to Sunday.

I was a communications observer for the Start Line team. It is very different from the rest of the other flag points because our stretch is a straight road about 300 meters and the team comprising our sector marshal, deputy sector marshal, track marshals, flag marshals, recovery personnel, fire marshals and communications observers were split out.

My sub-team (that you see below) had five flag marshals and two communications observers and we had a whole lot of fun.

Immediately behind us is the pit lane. No guesses for how close the cars are to us. You can judge by looking at the photo. If you turn around, you can see the guys at the garages doing their stuff.

During the race, every single driver that goes into the pit lane will pass this spot. That should give a sense of the excitement and pressure at my position.

Monday, September 29, 2008

[F1 update]
Now that the F1 race is over, I can break my silence.

Not that I was gagged or anything. The real reason is that I have been too tired to blog about it.

I seldom post my own photos here but this is where I spent the last four days at F1 - the pit lane and the Start Line. The view here is awesome. I hear people pay about $7500 to get such a view.

For me, it is my job to be here. And I love it because I get to see the action upclose and the cars zoom past me just half a meter away.

These photos were taken on Friday night during our final shakedown when the action was not at the peak. More updates after I catch up with my work and assignments.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

[Myanmar Again]
UN Secretary General called a special meeting on Myanmar on Saturday. It was attended by a group of so-called 'Friends'.

I recalled how a year ago, following the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters and the shooting of monks in cold blood, ASEAN Foreign Ministers issued a strongly-worded statement here at the UN. We were appalled and revulsed. Despite the severe criticism by ASEAN, however, Myanmar remained engaged in ASEAN, making clear that it wanted to stay in the family. Myanmar also accepted the good offices of the UN Secretary General. Special Envoy Gambari made a number of visits, some more successful than others.

But all of us knew that the process of national reconciliation would be drawn out. We expected up's and down's. Gambari's mission would not be easy. I said that it was to be expected that at different times he would be criticized by different quarters. Mediating a family dispute is always a risky undertaking.

Then came Cyclone Nargis, a disaster of biblical proportions. Until ASEAN intervened, there was this absurd standoff between the military government and the international community. With the tripartite mechanism in place, problems were overcome and a second wave of death from hunger and disease was avoided. PM Thein Sein intervened personally to ensure that bottlenecks were cleared.

The relief and recovery effort gave us hope that similar progress could be made on the political front. All the 'friends of the Secretary General' pledged their support of the UN good offices and Gambari's mission. We also recognised the important contribution of the Sec Gen himself. In May, he had a good meeing with Senior General Than Shwe and expressed a wish to go back. But preparations have to be carefully made before the Sec Gen visits Myanmar again and there must be some assurance of progress. Expectations will be high. I said that ASEAN Leaders will express their views when they meet him at the coming Summit in Bangkok in December. We noted the recent release of political prisoners and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others as well.

I also emphasized the importance of economic development, a point which Thant Myint-U, the grandson of former UNSG U Thant, made to me a couple of months ago. Economic development can soften some of the divisions in the country and open new ways forward. In this, Myanmar's neighbours - ASEAN, China and India - take a different position from the western countries.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[From Singapore Biennale to Singapore Grand Prix]
Two duties out of six have been completed for Singapore Biennale 2008. And no more duties for this month.

But, I'll be moving on the Singapore Grand Prix (also known as Formula One if you didn't know what it meant). It's been great fun - training for many weeks and meeting new friends. I guess that is the fun part of volunteering.

Every group has a sector marshal that is from CAMS (a motorsport federation) in Australia. Well, my sector marshal attests that F1 is safer than horseriding. Can you believe that? From Thursday onwards, I will be stationed at my sector - the Start Line of the F1 race. From the mini shakedown (some sort of familiarisation programme), the view from my side will be exciting. The cars will all lineup right in front before they get flagged off.

Pretty cool eh? A flag marshal from my sector quips that we have front row seats. I think the most important thing is for us to do out duties well and execute the necessary actions.

Gear up for the F1 race. Cool stuff.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

[Grab your SB merchandise]
You gotta grab your exclusive Singapore Biennale merchandise before they run out (literally, like Kee Hong always says).

I tried to do a few photos to reflect certain elements of the Biennale sites in relation to the theme of Wonder.

Shots at South Beach Development:

The exclusive tote bag is available at South Beach Development and City Hall at just $6.

Then I took this shot at City Hall:

It is the Biennale exhibition short guide with the marble steps of City Hall. Get it free with every admission ticket purchased. Additional copies are available at $6 each.

There are also other stuff available such as coffee table books by Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck. His works are architectural in nature and complement Shigeru Ban's Containart Pavilion. In the book are sketches of his past works such as Location (5), a restaurant that seems to be on a train.

Book on Op de Beeck's new work Location (6): $28

Coffee table book on Op de Beeck's style of artwork with photos and sketches of past works: $128

Seeing snow in Singapore at the Containart Pavilion while not freezing: Priceless

You wonder why. Hans Op de Beeck's work Location (6), an optical snowscape illusion can be viewed at Containart Pavilion (located behind One Marina Boulevard). Admission is, thankfully, free.

Friday, September 19, 2008

[Invasion of beings from another world]
Aliens have invaded Singapore and City Hall is under siege. They made their appearance at level 4 of City Hall building.

These aliens are kindof religious. Multi-religious if I may add. But they are, unfortunately, not real. They are part of Filipino artist Leeroy New's work for Singapore Biennale 2008. He is the youngest artist to be exhibiting this time.

I was involved in observing the curatorial process of this work and I am pretty impressed with the works. His other alien sculptures are more subtle - sculptures that are not so religious. Like super big versions of ultraman in a different form. Maybe it reflects the kid in him.

One thing that I cannot comprehend is Ong Sor Fern's take on beauty in art. I will only consider beauty if I am paying for the artwork. Leeroy New's work titled "Tetratoma II: War of the Worlds" impresses me. The site was specially selected to create the impression that aliens have invaded the building. Clearly, this site-specific installation juxtaposes the aliens with the dish atop the New Supreme Court. It sends a hilarious message about the Supreme Court building's architecture when you blend the aliens into the picture - how can Singapore's highest court be invaded by aliens? And maybe it is something that the Supreme Court is not protected from. But do aliens exist?

[Cognitive dissonance]
Movie Gala Premieres are over-rated. I was invited to watch and review the movie Painted Skin last night. But it was not as exciting as I expected it to be.

Though there was a red carpet. Shouting fans included but they were outside the cocktail reception area.

Maybe just one privilege: I get to stand right in front of the actors. Super close up until the Channel NewsAsia cameraman came over and blocked my view.

Qi Yuwu's attire last night was spiffy. And I didn't know Donnie Yen looked so old in person! He looks pretty young in the show.

Well, I guess that the only reason why this Gala Premiere is not exciting is because the actors are not famous enough. But anyway I am glad that Golden Village invited me to catch the show.

Painted Skin opens on 26 September. Go catch it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

[Visiting Residents at Hougang Ave 8 Harmony RC]
Because of Ramadan, we started at 8pm instead of 7.30pm. As Blk 463 did not have too many units, I was able to complete all the units by 9.10pm. I then went to the void deck of Blk 461 for a dialogue session with residents in the neighbourhood.

With the lifts now stopping on every floor, a major need has been met. There were not many new requests. Some corner units experience water seeping in when there is heavy rain. A resident asked if we could upgrade the playgrounds. Another suggested a covered drop off point. The replacement of sun shades was another issue. The lack of carparking for season pass holders at night was raised by a number of individuals.

HDB will soon be introducing an Electronic Parking System or EPS. When by mistake I said ERP instead of EPS, some residents must have skipped a heartbeat. The EPS will control the number of non-season pass cars coming in at night. I hope it will be an improvement.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

[Mid Autumn at Bedok Reservoir]
The rain threatened to spoil everything. Happily it dried up after 8pm and we had a wondeful celebration of Mid Autumn at the Bedok Reservoir. Ours must be the first floating ge tai in Singapore. Xiao Hei (小黑)was the star of the evening. An Indian from Malaysia, he sang Hokkien songs with great zest. He was the original singer of 881's jit lang jit pua (一人一半).

The full moon ducked in and out of the clouds. By 11pm it was at its full Mid Autumn glory. The weather was perfect, the earlier rain giving way to a clear, cool evening. There was a large crowd enjoying the performance. From time to time, a bat skimmed the water surface before the floating stage. Reservoir Village shows great promise.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

Sunday, September 14, 2008

[Feastday at Nativity]
Redemptorist Fr Paul gave a good sermon at Mass reminding us that the kingdom of God is on earth too. He said he was charged up by the nasi bryani before that. The food and fun fair this year was much bigger. Fr Siew must have brought over some of his contacts from St Anne's. He has now started a free daily soup kitchen for breakfast and lunch. He also has a plan to improve some of the church facilities. I asked him to let me know how we in the constituency can help.

As always, the food was excellent. I had one and a half plates of char kuay teow and some curry chicken. Didn't have space for other tempting items on offer. Walking around, I was persuaded to buy nonya bak chang for later consumption. A fresh orange juice was also welcome. My cousin Nancy gave me a jug of cookies she had baked.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

[Coffee Talk at Delifrance]
The coffee talk at Hougang Mall's Delifrance on Saturday afternoon organised by my YP covered a range of issues. Happily it was an exchange and not just a Q & A. Freedom of speech was a subject which elicited a range of responses. One young man from the entertainment industry, a rapper, lamented the lack of support for some types of music, like indie rock. He did not ask for government financing. I recalled my years in MICA and the need to persist. Good things take time.

A third of those who came were FB friends which was nice. They were surprised and glad to hear that I did not use assistants to reply for me on FB. I added that it has been fun so far and that the moment it ceases to be fun, I should stop doing it.

At the end of the session, a birthday cake was wheeled in. It was my second birthday cake; I had just celebrated my birthday with my family over lunch at Changi Point's Ubin Restaurant. Before the Happy Birthday song was sung, one young man asked the others to wait until he could take out his violin from its case. It was the first time in my life that I had a violin accompaniment to my birthday song. Thanks Zhari. Zaobao carried a picture of it.

I then chatted with a few young supporters about the feeling of alienation by some Singaporeans. They told me that, despite various efforts by government, there is a feeling that they are not loved. I think Catherine Lim once described it as an 'affective divide'. I replied that this is a subject about which I would like to discuss with them more deeply on another occasion.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

Sunday, September 07, 2008

[Mid-Autumn at Baywater Condo]
It was my first visit to Baywater Condo at Bedok Reservoir. I had watched the land being tendered out, developed, occupied, now finally settled in. Over 300 households, many young families with young children.

The condo is well-designed with lots of facilities and beautiful landscaping. I visited three units including a penthouse with a million-dollar view of the reservoir and the city skyline. I then dropped by Mr Zambari's family who invited me to 'buka puasa' with him. The wife prepared a delicious roti jala. The last unit was owned by a Malayalee family who thoughtfully welcomed me with a small wooden elephant topped by a ceremonial umbrella.

I joined in the buffet, laughed at the pomelo peeling competition, watched an excellent magic show, then gave a short speech calling on the residents to volunteer for the Neighbourhood Committtee my CCC is establishing for the condo.

After that, I 'led' a mid-Autumn lantern procession around the condo feeling like a kid again.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

Friday, September 05, 2008

[Getting ready for the big show]
It is almost less than a week before the opening of Singapore Biennale 2008 and I am excited. Really.

Firstly, the Containart Pavilion is pretty awesome. Remember that empty piece of land that used to be the Central Promontory Site? Now, you can see Shigeru Ban's work in its full glory - the cardboard pillars at the facade are up when I visited yesterday.

And the whole thing looks very nice from the top - as usual but even more so now.

But do not judge the inside from the outside because the inside is way better. I like Ilya and Emilia Kabakov's work, The Manas. It is a made-believe city that is materialised using wood.

If you take a peek from the outside, this is what you see.

Along the actual structure are individual elements of the city that are displayed one by one.

Hans Op de Beeck's Location (6), a snowscape sculpture was under construction when I visited. They were still adding the snow to the piece.

I did not expect it to be such a low-level installation - you have to sit down in order to fully appreciate the view.

Filipino artists, the Aquilizan's, have been spending their time on this work title Flight. Each bamboo stick which is four metres tall, has a slipper pinned at the top. Walking through the entire work is surreal as it overlooks Marina Bay.

Couple that experience with a sunset view. Romantic.

The Containart Pavilion by Japanese artist Shigeru Ban, is part one of the locations for Singapore Biennale@Marina Bay. Admission to this site is free.