Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winding Down 2009

Are you like me, never quite sure how to feel on the final day of the year, which also doubles up as the eve of the first day of a new year? Should I end the year with a sigh or with my fist punching the air?

It's always a bitter sweet affair for me, but I tend to swing towards the sweet. Reminiscing the past year in The Living Room brings mostly smiles (a few snarls sour the taste just slightly) but overall, it's been a wonderful year yet again.

(above: The well-utilised and completely filled-up Living Room diary to record confirmed interviews.)

When I think about all the fabulous conversations we've had on the show, it's heartwarming. When we recall the many guests we've spoken with, it's delightful. When we hear feedback from listeners of the far reaching impact of the interviews, there's a sense of fulfillment. Pam and I have a vision for The Living Room, beyond being just a radio programme to fill the silences on the airwaves, we fully recognise and appreciate the value a powerfully positive and relevant programme can bring to listeners. This understanding has enabled us to pick and choose our topics and guests carefully.

Our final guest today and of 2009 was Korean-American TV talkshow host, news anchor and journalist, May Lee. With two decades of experience in the news business, she's chalked up experience with top media networks like CNN, CNBC, NHK and Oprah Winfrey's women's channel Oxygen.

This fiesty news junkie has come a long way from her student days when she earned the title of being a 'very good listener' because she just wouldn't utter a word in school. Look where her mouth (and mind) have taken her today!

Off air, she had me know that when she was young, her mother wasn't exactly over the moon when her sweet daughter had a low timbre to her voice. Mama Lee tried to have her speak in higher tones, but it didn't work. All's not lost, May's commanding alto voice has gotten due attention on TV!

Since helming her own TV talkshow, The May Lee Show, which was screened on Star World and Hallmark channels, she most recently released her first book titled 'May Lee - Live and In Person' published by John Wiley & Sons. The book is pretty much an autobiography that charts her journey and career from even before her first internship in San Francisco.

If you want to know May at an even more intimate level, we suggest you you pay a visit to her blog.

Pam & I look forward to bidding you a warm welcome into The Living Room in 2010!

Lots more sizzling conversations, witty and insightful blog posts and tweet alerts to listen out for and to read.

From Pam and I, may your year be filled with roses, rainbows and....raspberry jam? Ok, raspberry's not the best word to go with our year-end greeting, but least it's a sweet end to a sensational year!

Talk to you in 2010!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Golden Future for Singapore Gymnastics?

At 15, she was picked to be Captain of China's Gymnastics team, a role she played for three years, from 1994 to 1996. When the formidable Chinese team headed to the 1996 Atlantic Olympic Games, she captained that team.

To the Chinese people, this slip of a girl will also be remembered for winning Gold in the 1994 Asian Games. What few people know is that 2 days prior to the Games, she tore 2 tendons and was in excruciating pain. But she bandaged her leg, gritted her teeth, and stepped out into the competition arena, with her head held high.

Her mother cried when she watched her daughter on national TV back in China. But this spunky girl not only survived the gruelling competition unscathed, she went on to win the Gold Medal as All-Round Individual Champion.

Qiao Ya is somewhat a national hero back in China, but did you know that this inspiring young woman has made Singapore her home since 1998? Well, in The Living Room today, my guest-host Joel Chua & I had the pleasure of chatting with this dynamo, who is currently Head of Coaching (High Performance) at Raffles Gymnastics Academy, producing many local champions in her wake.

Since her arrival, Qiao Ya has coached over 800 children, aged 3 to 18, in competitive & recreational gymnastics here. She's now building up an international team of coaches at Raffles Gymnastics to empower our Singapore youth to live their dreams.

"As a coach, how similar are you to the coaches you trained under back in China?" asked Joel, who had watched some rather disturbing TV documentaries on the extreme conditions & training regimes the young Chinese athletes have to endure.

"I want to make gymnastics fun and positive for the kids, not like what I went through. I still have nightmares about stretching!" Qiao Ya chuckles good-naturedly. "But while I update my teaching methods from the West, I still believe that Asian attitudes and values like discipline have an important place in training. And both East and West can go well together!"

Talking Gymnastics: [L to R] Leslie, Pam, Charmaine, Qiao Ya, Joel.

Also joining us on the couch today is Founder & CEO of Raffles Gymnastics Academy & Gymnastic Kidz, Leslie Yeo, who is a father of three. His lovely daughters - aged 9, 12 and 14 - are all gymnasts. In fact, it was their keen interest in the sport that spurred him to set up training schools here in Singapore.

His 12-year-old Charmaine Yeo joined in the chat as well. Don't be fooled by her slight frame or quiet demeanor! This chilipadi, who recently completed her PSLE at Nanyang Primary School, won the 'Sports Girl of the Year' award, and is now progressing to Raffles Girls School. At the recent 2009 National Inter-school Gymnastics Championships, she walked away with the Individual All-Round Gold Medal!

Well, if you're keen to find out more about gymnastics, there are trial classes at Raffles Gymnastics next month. It's open to the public, and admission is free*.

Gymnastics Trial Sessions
Fri 15 Jan, 2010
7pm & 8pm
Raffles Gymnastics Academy
The Salvation Army Sports Centre @ Upper Bukit Timah

*Registration required.
Find out more from their website.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Life Under the Khmer Rouge...

I travelled to Phnom Penh in 2006 for work. I was then a freelance travel journalist on assignment for SilkAir's inflight magazine, SilkWinds. I did lots of research prior to leaving for Cambodia ~ from surfing online to talking to people, to reading books by local authors.

One book completely captured me. It was written by a Cambodian woman, now based in the US, who survived the horrifying Khmer Rouge regime... albeit losing both her parents & 2 siblings.

Her name is Loung Ung, and the book was titled First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (HarperCollins).

When the Khmer Rouge solders rolled into the broad boulevards of Phnom Penh, she was just 5-years-old, growing up in a safe middle-class family, where her father was a high-ranking civil servant. But the years that ensued saw her being torn from her family, being forced to train as a child soldier, suffering from extreme starvation, and almost being raped. Her story was a compelling & heart-wrenching one indeed!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I found that Loung Ung was coming to Singapore for the Singapore Writers Festival 2007! I scrambled to secure an interview with her ~ and that I did. The story I wrote for Vanilla magazine on amazing personal journeys was nominated for 'Story of the Month' at the Journalism Awards.

Loung and I kept in touch, mainly via Facebook. She now resides in Ohio, USA, but each time she has plans to visit Cambodia or Asia, we'd try to meet up. But we never managed to schedule a time we both could.

Earlier this month, Loung informs me that the Singapore American School is bringing her in to give a series of talks. It was just for 3 short days, and she wasn't making this trip known to the media. This time, I made sure I logged an interview with her for The Living Room! *grin*

Her schedule was packed for the 3 days she was in town, so I decided to pick her up from the airport. The plan was to conduct the interview in her room, so that she had time to take a long bath & rest after 30hrs of flying, where she barely slept!

Loung & I managed to catch a nice lunch together. She wanted to try something she could not find in the US or Cambodia, and I suggested Peranakan food! She had never heard of nonya food, so we end up at the House of Peranakan Cuisine at Pan Pacific Orchard.

She had two bowls of rice! And during lunch, I found out that other than writing a new book, travelling around lecturing at colleges, and being a spokesperson against landmines, she has recently started an F&B business with her husband in Ohio!

And that conversation flowed naturally as I made an MD recording that afternoon at her hotel room. What was initially meant to be a two-segment interview extended to three!

Lunching with author of "First They Killed My Father", Loung Ung.

Catch the repeat broadcast of that interview:
Tonight, 10.40pm - midnight, 938LIVE
Or 2.15am, Channel NewsAsia

Chefs for a Cause!

If you caught our interview about the 10 local chefs who cooked up a 3-course meal at Swisshotel Merchant Court for some 600 kids who are beneficiaries of MILK (Mainly I Love Kids), and would like to make a contribution, here are more details.

Organised by Project Happy Feet, Chefs for a Cause aims to raise $30,000 for underprivileged kids under MILK (80%), and also future projects of PHF (20%).

100% of the proceeds go to the beneficiaries.

Chefs Jimmy, Robin & Project Happy Feet's Deborah tell us more...

We had Deborah Chew, Director & Co-founder of Project Happy Feet come in today to tell us more, together with two featured chefs: Jimmy Chok, Executive Chef of The Bistro Academy, and Robin Ho, Chef du Cuisine of Marmalade Group of Restaurants.

For this busy, busy time of the year, I really take my hat off to them for doing this from the heart. You can support by sponsoring a child for lunch (it's still not too late) or buying a cookbook which features compiled recipes from all 10 chefs. Details at this website.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alicia Pan, Unplugged!

She arrived clad in a loose top, denim shorts & heels. Her long hair pulled back in a ponytail, sunshades perched on her head. The first thing that struck me was her flawless tan ~ a smooth golden brown that made Stan & I speculate after if she went for one of those Japanese tanning bars!

It's hard to miss someone like Alicia Pan if she were simply walking down the street, minding her own business. Perhaps it's this X-Factor that saw her being selected as 1 of 3 up & coming Asian artists (with Nikki Gil & Vince Chong) to be featured in the Asian version of "Breaking Free", the theme song for Disney's hugely-popular High School Musical.

And if you're ready to pigeon-hole her as one of those typical entertainers with a pretty face, Alicia sprang a couple of surprises on us. While we were chatting off-air, she revealed that she'd once been an accountant. Alicia Pan - an accountant?! My mind can't quite wrap around that.

But yes, she apparently comes from a family of finance folk: Mum is in Taxation & Dad's a banker. So she had to at least try it out... But sorry, folks. No accounting for Miss Pan!

And unlike many entertainers we've interviewed who stumble into our studio muttering they're still half-asleep at 11 in the morning, this spunky gal reveals she's an early bird. She's up bright & early to work out, which includes a morning swim or Yoga. No excuses from this pro about her voice being still "asleep" either. She was ready to roll!

Alicia Pan & guitarist Adrian filling The Living Room with some acoustic music on Christmas Adam!

Well, even though I'd heard her sing on the track of "Breaking Free" (Asian version), I thought that didn't do her justice. Her forte is a more laid-back soul, R&B type genre, and she did that to brilliance for us, unplugged. Here's a taste:


I love this original song, "Never Live Till You Love"! It made Stan & I groove on our swivel chairs. So if you see the camera shaking, you know why lah... *GRIN*

In the 2nd segment, Alicia shared with us what Christmas means to her. And of course, we had to get her to share her favourite Christmas song. So here she is again, singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"...

Catch Alicia Pan at Timbre @ Old School every Friday. Her set begins at 9.15pm. And don't forget to tell her you heard her 'live' & unplugged in The Living Room!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Follow us on Twitter!!!

In addition to reading our after thoughts here, would you like to know WHO we're having on our couch before the interviews are aired?



Spread the word to all your friends & fans of The Living Room.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Amir's Tribute to Yasmin

It's been 5 months since we lost the talented Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad, but her legacy lives on: Through her controversial films on inter-racial love, her much talked-about commercials (MCYS just won advertising awards for "Funeral"), and through the stories of her compatriots & friends.

One such compatriot is writer, publisher and fellow Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad. His films & documentaries have been screened at international film festivals, including Sundance and Berlin. And two of his controversial films - The Last Communist & Village People Radio Show - continue to be banned in Malaysia.

Upon Yasmin's passing, Amir was commissioned by a Canadian magazine Cinema Scope to write a story on her. But what he wanted to say was impossible to condense into 1,500 words. And so the idea of writing a book on her films was birthed.

He watched anew Yasmin's six feature films, and the result was a book that takes the reader through each movie - almost scene by scene - with a running commentary. He's also injected his little "tangents" here and there, throughout the book, from personal observations of Malaysian culture and his insights from being Yasmin's friend.

The picture on the cover is one such insight. "Why a donut?" I ask him.

"It's Yasmin's favourite," he reveals with a chuckle. "If she had an event or gathering, and there was a J.Co there, she would go down and order boxes up! The J.Co green tea donut was her favourite."

Well, Amir's book, simply entitled Yasmin Ahmad's Films, will be launched tomorrow. Sat 19 Dec, at Books Actually @ 86 Club Street. He will also be present for book-signing and a Q&A session. Pop by at 4pm if you're free!

Writer & fellow Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad pays tribute to the late Yasmin Ahmad with a book on her feature films.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creating Waves in More Ways Than One

Having researched and met Prof Roy Chan, I wonder why we have not interviewed him earlier. Much earlier. He is such an awesome human being, and a Singaporean we can all be proud of.

On the surface, we know him as Director of the National Skin Centre, and former Head of the National Sexually-Transmitted Illness (STIs) Control Programme here. But he is also the (medical) face of AIDS in Singapore.

In 1988, he founded the NGO, Action for AIDS, compelled after working with patients in his years at Middle Road Hospital. Till today, Roy serves as its President. It's been 21 years. AfA becomes an "adult" this year, we all note with a round of chuckles.

And Roy has worked tirelessly for 2 decades to bring awareness & understanding of the illness and support to those living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

We learnt more about the HIV/AIDS situation in Singapore, and just how far we have come since AIDS exploded into our consciousness in the early 1980s.

With anonymous testing, more & more people are coming forward to be tested. And Singapore has one of the lowest per capital rates in the world, comparable to the UK and Australia ~ thanks to the work of AfA for creating public awareness here.

I chatted with two friends who have volunteered with Action for AIDS for years, and they gush about how dedicated Roy is. Perhaps his commitment & discipline comes from years of training in a totally different field? Yes, we're talking about swimming.

Roy Chan comes from Singapore's most famous swimming family ~ the legendary Chan family.

In awe of a Singapore gem: Prof Roy Chan.

His father is the late Dr Chan Ah Kow, who raised national champions, despite not being a competitive swimmer himself. He was the first Singaporean to be awarded Coach of the Year thrice, and consecutively.

Of course, we know Singapore's Golden Girl, Pat Chan, who dominated the pool for a decade. And her brothers, Mark Chan and Alex. But who is oldest? Here's the sibling sequence: (1) Alex, (2) Pat, (3) Roy, (4) Mark. Now all excelling in their various fields outside of swimming.

We had a lively chat about their upbringing, and it was a lovely insight into the childhood of the legendary Chan children. "Nothing remotely normal about it," Roy recounts with a bemused smile.

What the encounter left me was a sense of this man's quiet humility. There were no airs about him. He shook my hand firmly, answered our questions thoughtfully, and always looked us in the eye, and with a smile.

It was only later that I found out from Benedict Thambiah, who volunteers with AfA, that Roy was in the SEA Games, Asian Games, and even the Olympics!

This man should be awarded a Public Service Medal. I don't think I stand alone in saying I feel proud that Prof Roy Chan is a son of Singapore.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Man Behind Superman

He's been reading comics since he was four and hasn't stopped reading them since. His father bought him his first comic - the 180th issue of Batman from 1966. Fast forward to 2009 and my guest hasn't grown out of it.

In fact, he's grown INTO it!

Mark Waid is one of comic world's most prolific writers and editors who has written some of the best-selling graphic novels of all time. It was a blast speaking to the man who breathes life into The Flash and Superman! He's best known for his eight-year run as writer of these DC Comics titles and Kingdom Come. He' s also worked on Marvel Comics' Captain America.

He was in town for the Singapore Writers Festival and has returned to the US where he's editor-in-chief of BOOM! Comics where he writes Irredeemable, Incorruptible and other self-created works.

Check out his works and free web comics at !

Friday, December 11, 2009

Passion People: Su-Ming & Feng Zhu!

Oh I love her CD You Live Once. Especially track #5, "Make It Go Away". I've played it on repeat mode countless times, just because the emotions are so raw & real. The songs on her album speak straight to my heart, and I adore her sultry voice.

Well, I'm talking about Tan Su-Ming (or Su as she prefers to be called). She was my guest in The Living Room today, this "skinny girl with a fat voice". If you listen to her, you'll not be able to tell that singing is but her hobby. She sounds like a recording artist.

But Su is no recording artist. In fact, far from it! She's a medical doctor. And a full-time practising GP at that, running her own clinic in the East.

A doctor with a powerful gift. I was terribly excited to share her music with 938LIVE listeners today because I felt I was revealing a precious hidden gem.

In the middle of our chat, I made Su sing 'live' & a capella for us. She chose a song from her upcoming concert, It's Not About Love. And she sang with no accompaniment, just her voice.

The next thing I knew, my big boss Rose appeared through the door of the studio. She had come all the way downstairs to personally compliment Su on her beautiful voice, to shake her hand & pass her her name-card! She even asked Su for her album to play on our station. 'Nuff said?

But how does she juggle being a doctor, mother (her daughter is 7!), and singer? Now that she's living her dream, does she believe working mums who claim they can't find time to pursue their dreams? What are her tips for them?

"When you have a dream or goal that is beautiful or uplifting or edifying or lofty, I believe that the powers that be (whatever your religious persuasions happen to be) will conspire to help you realise it. Stay open, because help or inspiration can come in many forms or guises. They may come in the form of sponsors, or experts in their field who are more than willing to share their expertise, or they may just be your cheerleaders or people who lend support in the form of babysitting to free up time for you. Start somewhere, no matter what your considerations happen to be, no matter how humble or small. Baby steps. Don't be too shy. Sometimes you gotta be a bit thick-skinned. Don't be discouraged if not everyone is a fan of what you do." ~ Su

All I can say is that you have to catch this gem of a woman in concert. Seats are limited, so do get your tickets NOW. Here are the details:

10 Jan 2010
Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets via SISTIC

You can also grab a copy of her CD, You Live Once, at the Esplanade store. To find out more about Su & her music, click HERE.

Unveiling a precious hidden gem: Singing Doctor Tan Su-Ming.

After Su left, I had another passionate & talented person on The Living Room couch. I have to admit I was very surprised that he was so young! Considering the things he has achieved...

His name is Feng Zhu, and he's an entertainment designer or concept artist. Born & raised in Los Angeles, this American-born Chinese has worked directly with the biggest directors in Hollywood including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron & Michael Bay.

His clients in LA have included Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers, Bay Films... and his recent projects? Well, he was hired as a concept designer for blockbuster movies Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars Episode III.

Feng Zhu was a concept designer for Hollywood blockbuster movies like Transformers, TMNT & Star Wars Episode III.

If you've watched these movies, you'll get a sense that lots of conceptualisation is involved in the creation of characters & environments. Let's face it, the Transformers characters or Star Wars landscapes (even to the detail of a chair!) don't exist in real life. It's a job that demands creativity & imagination. And this chap has it all.

Meet Feng Zhu [picture above]. He's so young! And I couldn't help but notice the tattoo on his right arm, strategically hidden behind me in this photo. Anyway, prior to the interview, I checked out his portfolio online. Boy, was I impressed! You can view his portfolio HERE.

Well, the cool thing is that despite being invited to set up design schools in various countries, Feng Zhu chose Singapore to be his Asian base. His newly-established school called FZD School of Design opened its doors in July this year, and accepted its first batch of 30 students.

"I'm deliberately keeping it small," he reveals, adding that he's very hand-on in the teaching. "I want to keep the teacher-student ratio to 1:10 or 15."

Well, Feng Zhu is grabbing a couple of friends from LA to come by this weekend to share their portfolios in a masters showcase at the Asian Civilisations Museum. These guys have worked on projects like Transformers, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar. You can rub shoulders with them, shoot them questions, and catch them doing a 'live' demo. Here's more:

Entertainment Design Masters Showcase
12 - 13 Dec
12.30pm - 5pm
Asian Civilisations Museum
For tickets, call 6334-9258

* * * * *
Tonight, 10pm - midnight, 938LIVE
2am - 3am, Channel NewsAsia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

50 Years in 380 Pages

How anyone can condense 18,250 days (or 50 years) of a nation's history, distill it and juice only the essence of half a century is beyond me! But that's what a team of 9 researchers, 15 writers, 9 editors and several others have accomplished.

As a former Geography student, I'd never been as much a fan of history books although history touches me on a certain level. But when I picked up Chronicle of Singapore, I found difficulty putting it down, despite its weighed like a brick - at approximately 3 kilogrammes! . The chunky harcover title wasn't a history book per se, it was what my guest called a 'time machine'! How apt.

Who better suited to be Editor-in-Chief of the book than the former Editor-in-Chief of the then Straits Times Press, Peter Lim. Having spent 33 years as a newspaper journalist and editor, Peter is a news junkie who not only has decades of experience reporting the critical events of his day, but the 'who' and 'what' that made them worthy of reportage. And so he had the arduous task of determining the 45 news stories (on average) that would most best represent each year from 1959 to 2009! They were not all significant political stories that made headlines on the front page of The Straits Times in decades past, but they included violent crime, salacious scandals, sporting achievements and even soft news that showcased the lighter more laughable side of life here.

The editorial team must have anticipated any worries readers may have of the book being too wordy, incorporating more than 1,300 photos and other visuals to complete the flavour. Not that the book is anywhere near being a dry read, but readers will also enjoy a DVD packaged with the book. It contains more than an hour's worth of rare film and news footage sourced from the library of MediaCorp and the National Archives of Singapore.

I personally felt Chronicle of Singapore was like a giant treasure chest of trivia that kids would relish and prove to others just how much they know of Singapore's past even if they didn't live through the recorded years.

For me, I hadn't realised that colour TV first came to Singapore in the year I was born (which year? how about getting the book?). That same year, a three-minute limit was introduced for phone calls at public telephone booths. And the newspaper that year cried 'fowl' with this story:

26 February - A freak chick made heads turn along Undus Road, off Ganges Avenue. It stood and walked upright like a penguin. Those who saw it described it as a "one-in-a-million" bird. Manager Low Boon Leng found it wandering along the road, two days earlier. He felt sorry for it and took it back to his office, where he fed it grain. The rare chick had since become a mini celebrity with both children and adults in the neighbourhood.

For more interesting articles (the serious, scandalous and straight-out quirky), you've got to get this book from the bookstores published by Editions Didier Millet, retailing at $59.90 (incl. GST). To preview the book online, click here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I LOVE MAGIC! And I must say I'm proud that we have a handful of world-class magicians from our little sunny island.

Today, we had father & daughter team Lawrence & Priscilla Khong come in to share about their upcoming concert called Christmas Magic, which will benefit some 500 children & senior citizens from 6 charities, including Club Rainbow, Boys Home, Jamiyah Home for Aged etc. There's something to be said about using one's gifts for good.

Lawrence was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1998 for being a passionate contributer to the community, and was twice-nominated as a finalist in the SIP-Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2007 & 2008. Besides that, did you know this 50-something sportsman represents Singapore in polo in the SEA Games?!

Lawrence & Priscilla share their magic with the less fortunate.

Also, there will be 9 magicians featured in Christmas Magic this Saturday, all from what they call the Magic Circle. When I pressed them about what this King Arthur/Merlin-sounding fraternity was all about, they shared that these are graduates of an initiative called Project Smile. These amateur magicians have to complete a community project before graduating from the programme. Hence.

And Priscilla let loose too that there will be a special guest at the upcoming charity concert. And we're not talking about NZ magician Paul Romhany, who will be performing at the event... but Priscilla's 6-year-old son, Isaac, who makes his debut as a magician on stage! Are we talking 3rd generation magician here?

Christmas Magic poofs on stage this Sat 12 Dec, 1.30pm @ TOUCH Community Theatre. To find out more, click HERE.

And since the father-daughter team were in our studio, Stan & I just had to get them to perform some close-up magic for us:

And we thought we'd get just one trick, but the Khongs decided to surprise us with another. So here comes trick #2...

As I said, I LOVE MAGIC! And I'm proud of Singaporean magicians who have made their mark overseas & done us proud.

Earlier this year, we had mega illusionists JC Sum & 'Magic Babe' Ning come on our show as well, prior to Ning headlining an international magic convention in the UK.

The duo recently put Singapore on the world magic map by completing an astounding 15 illusions in 5 mins ~ a new Guiness World Record (it's currently being submitted).

Well, we had these cool illusionists do some close-up magic for us as well. So if you missed JC & Ning's classic levitation of a dollar note trick, here it is again:

Awesome, isn't it? *GRIN* I still can't believe they did this right in front of my eyes, seriously.

If you'd like to catch this magic duo in action, they will be performing at The Boiler Room, St James Power Station, in Jan 2010. The limited run is called Sexy Magic / Urban Illusions.

You can find out more & get your tickets by simply clicking HERE!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Salvation Army: Much more than thrift shops & Christmas Kettling...

Did you know that the Christmas carol Silver Bells was inspired by the Salvation Army's Christmas Kettling? That's right, it's that familiar sound each Yuletide season when we hear those folks ringing that bell around a kettle and collecting alms for the needy.

But how much do we know about the history of Christmas Kettling or of the Salvation Army for that matter? Well, we found out from our guests today that the Salvation Army started back in 1865 when a London minister, William Booth, decided to reach out to the homeless & destitute in the streets of London. To read more about its compelling history, click here.

The Salvation Army came to Singapore 74 years ago. And they run several homes & projects here. Other than the thrift shops that we're all probably quite familiar with, do we know what else they're doing for the community here?

Well, what better way to find out than to hear from a fellow MediaCorp DJ, who did some legwork recently? Here is the host of Class 95's Love Songs, Yasminne Cheng, to give us a bit of background:

We learnt more too from our guests in The Living Room today: Colonel Keith Burridge, Territorial Commander responsible for Singapore, Malaysia & Myanmar, as well as Gregory Lee, Director for Public Relations with the Salvation Army in Singapore.

Colonel Keith & Gregory tell us more about The Salvation Army.

So if you hear them silver bells ringing at the shopping mall this Christmas, and they lead you to these Christmas Kettling teams... please make a donation! You are making a difference to many less fortunate here & in the region. Find out more here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Mr Crocodile's Not Going Anywhere!

Not if a prominent fashion label
can help it!

French fashion brand Lacoste became the first international brand to pledge its commitment to the Save Your Logo campaign in February this year. How the 14-month old campaign works is that if a company or a brand's logo is represented by an animal or a plant, the company can pledge its commitment to the conservation of that creature or species of flora. Lacoste has done just that, stepping up to the task of supporting projects selected by the Global Environment Facility to 'safeguard or protect the endangered crocodile, alligator, caiman or gavial species, whose loss would jeopardize the biological balance of their natural habitats'. These action plans are now in effect in Nepal, China and South America's Amazon region. Such a neat idea! If you're going to wear a crocodile close to your heart, it's a logical connection to literally put your money where your heart is!

Of interest to fashionistas would be a freshly-knitted collaboration between Lacoste and Brazilian designers-cum-siblings. Fernando and elder brother Humberto Campana (left) own Estudio Campana in Sao Paolo. The brothers had the honourable task of designing Lacoste's new collection. Humberto who was on our show was candid about how the union was mooted. After designing the Alligator Chair (picture below) some years back, he'd said in jest how Lacoste should buy the armchair and put it in their office. Eight years later, Lacoste took note of that comment and got serious with the proposal. A matchmade in heaven and Snap! A deal was born!

If you're still clawing for more croc-talk, guess what just hatched? More than 2000 baby crocodiles (what it really is: Lacoste's logo that you find on its regular polo tops) painstakingly hand stitched together by a disadvantaged community of women at risk of prostitution. The Campanas+Lacoste collection ranges from $289 for a special edition piece to $12,800 for a super limited edition shirt.

(below: The men's super limited edition shirt that can leave you with limited cash and further down, the close-up of the crocodiles intricately woven together.)

And this blog entry wouldn't be complete without a photo of our warm and cordial designer guest, Humberto Campana, from Brazil, who was off to catch his flight home right after our chat.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Confessions of A Troubled Student

Would you dare to bare your soul, unveil your vulnerability and put your life under the microscope for public scrutiny and examination? What if others pass judgment? Would it not invite unwelcomed feedback, unpleasant comments and untoward behaviour? Confessions are hard to make, priest, parent or public. But she did it.

Twenty-year-old Jasmine Yow admits she never did set out to write a book. Her journalling through her deepest darkest days as a teenager in college was the bedrock for a 128-page book. Titled Behind That Shiny Resume - Jottings of a Troubled College Student, it's published by Armour Publishing.

The Malaysian from Alor Star was a star student on an ASEAN scholarship in a local junior college. She'd excelled at everything she put her heart and mind to do and her pursuit of excellence continued during her college days. But she battled clinical depression along the way, losing motivation to be that top performer she'd been known to be.

The pressure to excel (something she owns up to placing upon her own shoulders) bore down heavily and she wondered if she'd still be loved for who she was, as much as for what results she was capable of producing. Her struggles within and without were for no one to hear, save her jotter book.
Her book's now open and available, primarily for students who've lost or are losing their bearings in life because of the tremendous pressure of academic performance and who feel no one understands the turmoil within. Jasmine does.

But education consultant, Clarine Chun says it's "a must-read for every parent, teacher and student".

Title: Behind That Shiny Resume - Jottings of a Troubled Student
Publisher: Armour Publishing
Available at MPH, Times The Bookshop, Harris, Kinokuniya, Crest & SKS ($9)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Glutton for Adventure!

I've watched him on Discovery Travel & Living's The Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment and it was an exciting day indeed for me to finally get to meet celebrity chef & culinary adventurer, Bob Blumer today!

He's in town to cook for a charity benefit by UNIFEM Singapore tomorrow night, the SNOW Gala Dinner. SNOW = Say No to the Oppression of Women. And when Saleemah Ismail, President of UNIFEM Singapore, told me he's coming, I couldn't resist inviting this charming Canadian (now residing in LA) to The Living Room.

And Bob is such a down-to-earth, easy-going sort of guy. He came clad in a t-shirt and jeans, and of course his characteristic smile... cheeky grin... twinkle in the eye.... and wink. Yes, he sometimes gives you a wink when he speaks! *giggle*

What surprised Stan & I though was that Bob admitted he has no professional training as a chef whatsoever, never attended any prestigious culinary school, never helmed a kitchen in some fancy restaurant... In fact, his background was in the music industry!

But his passion for cooking prompted him to publish a cookbook entitled The Surreal Gourmet, and it was picked up and turned into a TV series by Discovery Travel & Living, and it has so far enjoyed 5 good seasons!

Bob has a passion for cooking, quirky presentations & just good ole' fashioned adventure!

Well, he came along with this little friend [pictured, left]. I can't quite remember what Bob called him... Frosty in a Snow Globe? Anyway, it will be the special dessert at the SNOW charity benefit at the Conrad Centennial on 2 Dec. All the guests will get one of these little guys!

When I first saw this snowman in Bob's hands, I asked him if it was edible. "Yes, he is!" Bob replies with a grin, his eyes twinkling. "But you can't eat it!"

He's made with white chocolate on the outside. Under the coating, his body is chocolate mousse cake. His head, chocolate ganache. Mmm. But don't you think he is too cute to eat? I seriously can't imagine myself chomping into him. I'd probably carry him home & display him in my freezer.

It was such a blast spending a whole hour with Bob Blumer today. Don't we all wish we had his mobile toaster to zip around in? That's my dream vehicle... and kitchen.... Oh, my wish for Christmas!!! So how about it, Bob? *grin*

Bob Blumer brightens our morning in TLR... despite having jet lag!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wizard with Words

If there is one local writer whom I admire most for his wizardry with words, it will have to be poet Felix Cheong. Not only is he meticulous in his economy and choice of words, he has a incredible sensitivity to raw human emotions that you don't often find in... well, men.

And so when I learnt that he was launching his 4th book of poetry titled Sudden in Youth: New and Selected Poems at the Singapore Writers Festival earlier this month, I went down to support. But time was short and he was surrounded by fans, so I just had to invite Felix to The Living Room to chat more about his work.

As a writer and former Deputy Editor myself, I appreciate the written word. I'm one of those who can never speed read. And oh, if I'm into a good book...... Just a word, line or para that speaks to me will have me closing the book for the rest of the day, just to let the words sink in and marinate the soul.

And one of my greatest inspirations as a writer would be this man:

Felix Cheong, My favourite local poet & friend.

I attended a writing workshop Felix conducted some years back, and he was the one who taught me the fundamentals of good feature writing.

Well, he was our guest in The Living Room today and I had him autograph my copy of Sudden in Youth.We also invited him to read a poem to us on-air: Father and Son II. My favourite lines from that poem are: How sand-like, your childhood / when it slipped through my fingers.

My other faves in his book include his love poems Walk With Me and I Watch the Stars Go Out. His amazingly accurate take on how women function in the dating game is captured in the poem The Only Mathematical Way to Woo A Woman. I recognised so much truth in it that I laughed out loud when I first read it!

Another noteworthy poem is the one called Chronicle of a Tattoo of a Typewriter. Felix has a tattoo on his arm - an old-fashioned typewriter! And in this poem, he writes about embracing this Divine calling (at least that's how I interpret it!). He starts off by writing Father, I have branded myself as / yours, on a Sunday. And he ends as such: I am / as you have meant me to be. Nice.

I recommend this book if you're eager to taste poetry. It's available at Kinokuniya, Select Books, Books Actually, and online at Grab a copy!

Travel Trends: Boutique Hotels

Charming boutique hotels are fast replacing large hotel chains as choice accommodation for discerning travellers.

If you're the sort who feels that where you stay on a vacation is integral to the whole magical experience, then you'll appreciate the allure of boutique hotels. It's a fast-growing trend with discerning travellers, who deliberately seek out these quaint, romantic, sexy hideaways as an alternative to large sterile hotel chains.

Where you lay your head at the end of the day can make the difference between a good holiday and an exceptionally unique one!

But searching for & booking the best boutique hotels is often a case of hit & miss online. There are just so many to choose from! And who do we trust in terms of reviews?

Well, thanks to the world's leading boutique accommodation experts, Mr & Mrs Smith, you can now find detailed reviews from people of taste, and enjoy a shortlisted collection of the world's best boutique hotels.

In fact, these boutique hotels are reviewed by a team of hand-picked opinion-formers whom they call Smith Tastemakers. These are men & women in various fields who are deemed to possess "travel in their blood & taste in their soul". Think Nadya Hutagalung or Dita Von Tess, both Smith Tastemakers!

Stanley & I shamelessly volunteered our services as well! *grin*

Well, we had a wonderful chat today with the Co-founder & Managing Director of Mr & Mrs Smith Asia Pacific, Simon Westcott (he's ex-Global Publisher of Lonely Planet) about the latest trends in boutique vacationing. What should we look out for when choosing a boutique hotel? What are his top 3 picks of the most charming boutique hotels in the world?

Simon Westcott reveals the latest trends in boutique vacationing.

I am now all psyched up now for my next vacation! And you can bet this girl will be checking out Mr & Mrs Smith's website for the hottest & sexiest boutique hotel recommendations! *grin* Helloooooo world!!!