Friday, May 29, 2009

Lou Lou, Skip to my Lou...

This tune was playing in my head while chatting with my guest this morning. I'd heard it played over and over again during my childhood. Oddly enough, today's subject matter for discussion in The Living Room was also an object and activity that's synonymous with that period of my life - skipping ropes and rope skipping. It may well be yours too!

I remember picking up my older brother's skipping rope and having a go at it. Never thought myself to be proficient at skipping ropes. There seemed to be a problem with the way I was flinging the ropes or just not skipping early enough. But after my chat with Founder of Rope Sports Singapore, Hansen Bay, I clung on to a glimmer of hope that the problem lied with the length of the rope and not me. "The rope should be up to your armpits when you're holding both ends of the rope and standing on it", he says. I'm led to conclude that the rope I was using was way too long and unsuitable for skipping given how short I was then.

So I picked up courage and decided to give it a shot to prove that the fault was really with the rope and not the person. Like a kid presented with a present, I hastily opened the pack of new SkipFit skipping ropes that Hansen had left behind for me, and promptly got myself into position for to prove I my childhood attempts at rope-skipping were jinxed.

How did I do? As you can see in the photos above, I could very well have made news headlines by being the first person to ever strangle himself while skipping rope. I'll stick with tennis thank you very much. Conclusion: Rope skipping isn't for everyone.

If you think you can better my pathetic attempt and if you take an interest to rope sports, check out the pros skip from Rope Sports Singapore every Sunday, 4.30pm - 6.30pm at the Bougainvillea Garden at East Coast Park. And tell them 'The Living Room' sent you!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blowin' the House Down!

Stan thinks I'm a bit off  today. 

When our female jazz trumpeter guest, Michi Fujii, said she chose to play the trumpet because "she liked the sound of it", I remarked, "Oh, because it sounds like an elephant?"


It's not the smartest thing to say on air. But hey, at least it got everyone laughing! *sheepish grin* 

You know, when we think of famous jazz trumpet players, often Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis come to mind. But an Asian jazz trumpeter, and a female one at that, is pretty darn rare

Well, this Berklee College of Music alumnae has won several awards in her career and was even invited by the Cuban government to perform in Cuba!

The good news is that she's currently in town and performing at Jazz@SouthBridge from tonight till Saturday 30 May. Showtimes at 9.45pm. 

So if you're in the mood for a swingin' good time, don't miss Michi Fujii and SouthBridge's very talented & animated resident pianist, Aya Sekine. These girls will have you tappin' your feet and bouncin' on your seat - I guarantee! *wink*

Jazzin' It Up! Female trumpeter Michi Fujii & pianist Aya Sekine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cabby Conversations

The next time you're after an opinion, perspective or even advice, look no further than the taxi. Thank your lucky stars your metre charge doesn't include the suggestions, wise words and news commentary he freely renders. Many cabbies would fool you into believing they're philosophers and counsellors waiting to let you in on their thoughts as soon as you encroach on his (or her) personal space called the 'cabin'. It doesn't matter if they're Smart, Prime, Premier or Comfort, they all have their wits about them.

You've probably encountered cabbies of colourful character who give you more than a ride. While some won't utter a single word beyond "Hello. Where are you going?", others will readily host you to a hearty conversation, albeit a lopsided one at that.

Charlene Rajendran has vividly captured her many cabby encounters in a brand new book, "Taxi Tales on a Crooked Bridge", out now in the bookstores (retailing at $17). The NIE theatre lecturer who was on air with us today recounted some of the hundreds of trips she'd taken by taxi. Her records of the way cabbies can form deep-set emotions and challenge you to an intellectual discourse are bewildering.

They've got an opinion on almost any topic you care (or do not care) to raise. On longer rides, I wonder if it's just a meaningful discourse and means of passing time or therapy for the cabby, therapy for me, or both.The next time you hail a cab, get ready for verbal expression, mental stimulation and rich conversations.

And if I were you, I'd get the cabby to turn the dial to 938LIVE because it's going to be mutually beneficial to you and the bloke. Traffic reports on our station are the most frequent and you really could do without being stuck in a crawl and an agitated cabby who's spewing unpleasantries.

Better still, arm yourself with Charlene's chronicles and find yourself chuckling in the congestion!

Author Charlene Rajendran shares our couch & her conversations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Baaaa....... Be a Follower!!!

We baa-ed on national radio. 

We still cringe when we hear the Sheep trailer on air.

So if you read our blog regularly, please sign up as a Follower. 
Make our embarrassment worth it.

Sign up as a Follower of the Living Room Blog 

[See the list of 'Followers' on the top left? 
Just click on the 'Follow' button there!]

Night Safari Turns 15 Today!!!

It's the Night Safari's 15th Birthday TODAY!!!

And if you share the same birthday as the park,
you gain FREE admission today!

But hey, don't fret if you don't, because here in The Living Room, you stand to win a Family Package (worth $96) to the Night Safari.

The Package admits 2 adults + 2 children, and includes both park admission and tram ride.

We have 2 Family Packages to give away!

Choon Lee (HP: 9XXXX072) & Ruth (HP: 9XXXX331)
for correctly answering our question!

Question: What is the date the Night Safari opened?
Answer: 26th May 1994

Friday, May 22, 2009

A True Cambodian Heroine

I had nervous diarrhoea the whole morning because I knew Somaly Mam was going to be on our show. Seriously, I had to pop a whole bottle of po chai pills!

Like Stan, I have interviewed many VIPs in my career: from political leaders, heads of MNCs to celebrities. But there is something about this simple remarkable woman that made me feel terribly, terribly humbled and awed.

After seeing her being swallowed up by crowds at the SCWO (Singapore Council of Women's Organisations) event the night before, I felt almost "unworthy" to hold her captive - so exclusively - for an hour. I've never felt this way before.

This is a woman of great courage. A woman so single-minded in her mission to rescue girls sold into sex slavery (some as young as 5 years old) that she is willing to risk even her own life.

And her life has been threatened many times, her home was burned down, her daughter kidnapped and raped. Yet, her NGO - AFESIP Cambodia - has to date rescued over 5,000 girls in Cambodia, rehabilitated them and reintegrated them to society.

But she's compelled to do this work because she herself was raped as 12, forced to marry at 15, and thereafter sold into a brothel where she served 20-30 men a day, against her will. Despite having no education, she was named one of TIME magazine's most influential people in 2009.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out her work here:

At the SCWO talk last night, which was part of the Primetime Outreach: Women Leaders series, the host asked Somaly, "You've been to the United Nations, to international conferences and met many world leaders. Who is the one leader you'd most want to meet but have not?"

Somaly laughed. "When I go to these meetings, I don't know these famous people. I am not educated, I don't read magazines or newspapers," she admits with a bashful chuckle. "They pull me to meet the First Lady, I say what is the First Lady?"

But the people who touch her, she knows by name. Like a Singaporean volunteer by the name of June, which she calls "June girl" because she has given of her time and love to the girls at the shelter. For Somaly, no rank or title matters more than Love.

If you'd like to find out more about her life, I'd highly recommend you grab a copy of her autobiography The Road of Lost Innocence. It's available in all major bookstores and all proceeds go to the girls in her Foundation. If it's out of stock, I say place an order for it! It's a powerful book, a must-read for all.

You can also find out more about her courageous work by visiting the Somaly Mam Foundation website. But don't just be inspired, take action! Somaly extends a personal invitation for you to visit the girls.

My Hero Somaly Mam in The Living Room: This autographed copy of her book will remain one of my most prized possessions!

During the news break, I ask Somaly, "What sort of support do you most need right now?"

Somaly's beautiful face breaks into an almost cheeky half-smile. "Just come and see. And you will know for yourself."

Flute Festival 2009 Complimentary Tickets to be Won!!!

Our guest today, Flutist Goh Eng Tiong, Artistic Director of the Flute Festival 2009, has generously offered complimentary tickets to two upcoming concerts!

Congratulations to our listeners Michael (HP:9XXXX45) and Xin Ee (HP: 9XXXX59) for leaving us a Comment on our blog!

You've won for yourself a pair of tickets each (worth $50) to catch the show! We'll be in touch with you soon.

Flute Festival 2009
11th - 14th June 2009
Young Musicians' Society Auditorium
Emai l :
Hotline: (+65) 83834268

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Race to A Studio!

What would I do with US$50,000? What would YOU do if you won that amount of prize money? I bet most of us would save some, invest a portion, pay off some loans, spend some part to 'improve' our current living condition (as if we aren't living fairly comfortably already) and channel a portion to a charitable cause. That's pretty much a no-brainer non-gutsy answer! Safe and noble but bland.

It'd take someone who's raced some 50,000 kilometres across four continents over 24 days to take a risk and invest that handsome sum to farther his passion and get him one step closer to fulfilling his dream. Meet Collin Low, one half of the winning team with gym buddy, Adrian Yap, who beat out 9 other teams from Asia to the finishing line in the second season of The Amazing Race Asia.

Passion: Pilates
Outcome: A Pilates Studio (Pilates Bodyworks Holland Branch Studio)
Dream: A Pilates retreat by the beach in Bali.

His share of the prize winning (equivalent to S$141,000) combined with an additional out-of-pocket S$50,000 got him started on a brand new pilates studio in Buona Vista, a stone's throw away from the chic Holland Village enclave. Co-owned by founder of Pilates Bodyworks and Collin's instructor and mentor, Alvin Giam, the mid-sized studio opened last month with NMP Eunice Olsen as guest-of-honour.

The prize-money from the reality tv series came at an opportune time and Collin is once again off the blocks and beginning another adventure of a lifetime. An adventure to share the benefits of pilates to many others just as the practice has aided him in his own health and wellbeing.

Pam and I had a go at some of the exercises on the interesting contraptions, some of which looked like equipment you'd use for torture. They had interesting names though; one's called a Reformer, another's called a Cadillac and there's a chair called Wunda. Of the two of us, Collin picked Pam as having more promise in going farther with pilates. He quipped that women are generally more flexible than men, though he set the record straight that pilates was originally intended to train military men for war.

Trial sessions are conducted at Collin's studio on Saturdays. For enquiries, please call (+65) 67758922 or send them an email.

Pilates Bodyworks
(Holland Branch Studio)

36, Holland Drive,
#02-01, Buona Vista Community Club
(right above Hans)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Somaly Mam: Fri 22 May, 10.10am / 10.10pm

Once sold into sex slavery, Cambodian activist Somaly Mam now rescues girls from the same horrific fate.

I just got news from my boss Rose today that Cambodian activist Somaly Mam is coming to Singapore and will be speaking at the SCWO (Singapore Council of Women Organisations) event on Thursday.

This is a story I've been pursuing for years. When I was Deputy Editor of Vanilla magazine, we were scheduled to fly up to Phnom Penh to do a cover story on her, together with our best photographer and stylist. But it never materialised because Somaly was on the run. Her daughter was kidnapped. Her life is constantly being threatened.

Why? What's she doing that upsets so many people? I read her autobiography The Path of Lost Innocence - which traces her life from being sold into sex slavery to how she lives & breathes to rescue girls off the streets today - and was deeply moved.

I'm thrilled that Somaly is in Singapore this week and that I'm finally going to meet her. You will get to "meet" Somaly too, this Friday at 10.10am, with a repeat broadcast at 10.10pm. Don't miss it!

In the meantime, click here to find out more about her, or swing by the SCWO event this Thursday, or Friday when UNIFEM Singapore (United Nations Development Fund for Women) hosts her @ Insead, 7pm. It will be awesome, trust me! 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mplifiers & Darth Vader

Mplifiers: Bernadette Yeo, Rachel Lim, Mrs Yap Swee Lan, Belinda Foo.

It's always heartwarming to hear young people share about what they've done, especially if it's for a good cause. And we were delighted to have Rachel Lim and Bernadette Yeo from Methodist Girls School (MGS) grace our couch to talk about their CD album Mplify, which aims to raise $90,000 over 2 years for Rainbow Centre, in support of the President's Challenge '09. 

Joining them were Vice-Principal Mrs Yap Swee Lan and the co-producer of the album: ex-MGS girl, now-parent volunteer, and a well-known composer, keyboardist, arranger and producer in the local music scene, Belinda FooI totally enjoyed the ease and banter that flowed, and I could definitely detect the pride and passion of these ladies when they talked about this labour of love. 

The highlight for me was hearing 15-year-old Rachel sing The Water Is Wide (track #7). She looks every bit a teenage school girl, in her MGS uniform, but oh... her voice!

I am not an MGS girl, but having been in an all-girls mission school for 10 years, I can understand the fierce pride these ladies have for their alma mater and how their actions flow from a sense of mission. 

Support them! Head down to Lulu Australia, #03-18 Holland Road Shopping Centre to grab a copy. It's $20, and all proceeds go to Rainbow Centre. Or purchase it from MGS @ 11 Blackmore Drive. Call first at 6469-4800.
We also had another special guest grace our couch: He's  renowned breathing master, Dominique Lonchant. For over 30 years, Dominique has coached stage actors, musicians, corporate staff, as well as celebrities like Robert Redford, Jim Carey, Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley. He's an easy-go-lucky Frenchmen, now based in KL, but jet-sets around the world to teach people proper breathing techniques. 

Breathing Guru Dominique Lonchant brings us back to basics.

He's currently in town to meet with medical doctors to share his expertise. Apparently, proper breathing helps to reverse diseases and bring back overall health and wellness to bodily functions like the cardiovascular and brain systems, autonomous nervous system etc. 

Medical doctors, it seems, are now quite fascinated with him - especially after Dr Paul Johnson, an Oxford medical doctor, whose research is in acute & chronic cardio-respiratory conditions, wired Dominique up to his monitoring system and found that the man breathes an average of TWO breaths a minute in his sleep! 

Let me tell you, when this guy breathes deeply, it's loud, long-drawn, and seems to come from the very depths of his being. All this dumbstruck DJ could do was to utter stupidly on air, "You sound like Darth Vader..."
To find out more about Dominique's work, click here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Voices for Animals

We're lucky because we have a voice. If we're bullied, we can speak up for ourselves. And there are avenues where we will be heard and action taken to stop the abuse. 

But for animals that are abused or exploited, they don't have a voice. Their plight is cloaked in a deafening silence. And so we who do must speak up for them. That's exactly what some passionate Singaporeans are doing at the upcoming Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium 2009, organised by ACRES and the NUS Animal Welfare Society.  

Voices for Animals: Rajespal (NUS AWS), Amy (ACRES) & Selina (SPCA). 

We had in The Living Room today, Rajespal Singh (NUS Animal Welfare Society), Amy Corrigan (ACRES) and Selina Sebastian (SPCA) to share with us what their groups are doing to further animal welfare here, and how they are joining forces with other groups to give animals a voice at the Symposium. 

As for the whale sharks that will be brought into the Sentosa IR, what are your views? Leave us a Comment - we would like to hear from you. Animal welfare groups are taking a stand against it because they say whale sharks are meant for the wild. They fare badly in captivity. 

Well, there's an online petition going around, and as a scuba diver for years, I've personally signed it. But read up first before you take action. I always believe you must first be informed, then respond from that space. You can click here to find out more: SPCA and ACRES

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It Only Takes A Spark

We kicked off our heels and sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor in a seminar room at the Singapore Management University (SMU). Our notes and papers were strewn on the table before us and we recorded the interview on an old MD player.

I had met her for only a matter of minutes but Amanda Ellis and I clicked instantly. What's awesome is that this down-to-earth, amiable woman is the Lead Gender Specialist for the World Bank's Gender Action Plan, and has been a high-profile speaker at the United Nations and international economic forums. To me, it felt like chatting with an old, familiar friend.

Amanda was in Singapore recently to present at a 3-day conference, Economic Opportunities for Women in Asia-Pacific, organised by SMU, The World Bank Group Gender Action Plan, and New York University Stern School of Business.

After our scheduled interview on how the World Bank's Gender Action Plan was helping women in Asia, we sat back and chatted over sips of water. It was then that Amanda brought up the topic of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who wrote Creating A World Without Poverty and Banker to the Poor.

She was so animated that her energy rubbed off on me. The concept she was sharing with me - about how lending just US$20 to women was able to transform whole communities and alter the social fabric of the rural poor - fascinated me. On the spur of the moment, I suggested we record an interview on that topic to be aired.

All Muhammad Yunus did was to lend women US$20. These women banded together to start businesses, acting as guarantors for each other to reduce risks for banks when applying for loans. When their businesses grew, their children went to school. With education, family size in these poor communities gradually and naturally became smaller. Quality of life improved. Women, who previously had no status, were empowered.

When Amanda recently revisited some rural villages in Africa, she was amazed at how they have been transformed by micro-lending, by a simple social business paradigm shift.

That interview sprung from a casual conversation that excited us both. I had no cue sheet prepared. She had no answers prepared. We simply surrendered to the flow. At the end of 13 mins, when I switched off the MD, we looked at each other and burst out laughing! What an unplanned interview! But oh, what an interview! I realised then that sometimes, the best interviews are impromptu ones.

We Pulled it Off! World Bank's Gender Specialist Amanda Ellis and me.

I truly enjoyed my afternoon with Amanda Ellis, and I hope to keep in touch with this inspiring, intelligent and compassionate woman. She had so many amazing stories to share, and I know she will have so many more because it's clear to me that her passion dictates she continue to be out there in the field, rollin' up her sleeves, and helping to better the lives of women in developing countries around the world.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gimme a High...Puh-lease!

Today was one of those days where we had three separate interviews (we prefer to call them 'conversations') compacted into two hours in The Living Room. It can be quite 'schizo' (short for 'schizophrenic') for us as talkshow hosts because in a mere matter of minutes, you could be talking about the activities of a laughing club, the next moment you're speaking with a financial adviser, and after him, a guy who has a penchant for scaling skyscrapers! And that's what happened on our show today!

If there's one adjective that strings all three conversations together, it'd have to be 'high'.

The First High (Five)
Maggie Fung, Bastian Dohling and Yasmine Khater (photo above) were the first to come through our doors. Their passport to our show was that they were very infectious people. 'Infectious' may not be the most appropriate term to use given the present times of the H1N1 outbreak. But that word is spot on in describing their mission and purpose - planting smiles on the faces of people! A report last year revealed that Singaporeans rated their level of happiness at 6.6 on a scale of 1 to 10. I suppose with the presence of a new laughing club that call themselves 'Break Free', that index might slide farther to the right.

Last Wednesday, the activists (made up of a core group of 7 members) caught unsuspecting passersbys off guard, welcoming all and sundry to serve up a High Five. The invitation to get people involved in the celebratory gesture was reportedly well-received and Operation Hi 5 was a hit! The group's also donned red noses while pointing people in the right direction. So that's some welcome help and free entertainment from the members. I'd be careful to trust some German guy with a spongy red nose to point me the right way at Woodlands Bus Interchange, but at least, we know it brought on the smiles of Singaporeans!

Break Free's next operation will unfold this Sunday, 10th May from 10am at Bedok Bus Interchange. This outing will be in celebration of Mother's Day. That's as much information as the group was willing to disclose. You'll have to head down to see what exactly will transpire!

(above: Both sets of guests giving each other a High Five outside The Living Room
as the group from Break Free made their way out, to make way for the next group coming in from IPAC.)

The Second High (Time)
If you're a parent and you haven't talked some cents into them, my guest would have you know that it's high time you do. When inculcating in our children a sense of sound money management habits, Brent Allcock who's Senior Vice President from IPAC says you've got to start them young. Financial literacy shouldn't be put off till 'they're older'. Helping them learn basic concepts of value, savings, contributions to society and charges can be by way of playing games like Monopoly.

IPAC recently launched an e-booklet titled 'Children & Money - Getting Off To A Great Start'. If you'd like to request for a complimentary copy, please make your request known by sending them an email.

The Third High (Rise)
My third guest is a legend! I wouldn't have been able to have a word with him if he weren't grounded...literally! You see, Alain Robert is in his element when he's toying with death by climbing skyscrapers, not when he's got both feet firmly planted on the ground in our living room. Despite his many vertical expeditions with and without the blessings of city councils and building managements, he revealed he does recognise the dangers. His book “The true story of Alain Robert, the real-life Spiderman” is out in leading bookstores and offers a good read into the mettle of a man who's earned himself the nickname, 'Spiderman'. Couldn't have been more apt. As quickly as he swung by, he climbed off our couch, out the window and woosh! He was gone.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Consulting The Cabbage

Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It also contains significant amounts of glutamine, which is an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. I usually stir fry sliced cabbage with shitake mushrooms and season it with oyster sauce, a bit of sugar and a sprinkling of salt over medium heat.

Now what else could the cabbage be possibly good for if not for consumption? Hold that thought because we've found ourselves some answers!

A team of researchers led by Professor Adrian Cheok, Director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore, has discovered that the humble red cabbage has the ability to indicate pollution levels and even signal the rate of deforestation.

Incredible you say? Research on what's been called Babbage Cabbage has been ongoing for two years and it's been discovered that the colour changing properties of the red cabbage has been most useful. The colour changes when there's a change in pH levels (a measure of acidity and alkalinity) of the solution that the vegetable absorbs. Adrian says the cabbage can turn purple or green and tones in between. Does that include blue I wonder? I'd really love to see a blue cabbage - and please don't suffocate it!

When asked how he chose the cabbage out of all the vegetables he could have picked for the research, he said he was reminded of a science experiment he did back in school that involved the cabbage when he was a kid in Adelaide, Australia.

Babbage Cabbage has a promising future, given the world's growing interest in environmental issues. And living vegetables don't lie when presenting ecological information crucial for environmentalists and policy makers.

Click here to read up on other revolutionary and mind-boggling projects undertaken by Adrian and his team at the Mixed Reality Lab.

So the next time you want to know just how polluted the environment is, consult the cabbage!