Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social Innovators, Unite!

Businesses that not only have "profit" as their bottom line, but also "social contribution". If we had more businesses with these, we'd all live in a much better world!

Business people with a heart ~ that's what we need. And that's what Elim Chew is. Although she runs a hugely-successful business - fashion chain, 77th Street - she has always had a passion for the youth & the arts. And she's somehow managed to marry the two bottom lines.

And there are more & more like Elim rising up in Singapore...

MP Penny Low & Elim Chew sharing about social innovation.

In fact, what started as a small local gathering of like-minded social entrepreneurs four years ago has since enjoyed a quantum leap! In 2006, the Social Innovation Park (SIP) launched the Social Innovators Forum with just 5 speakers (3 local, 2 foreign). Last year, the forum saw 50 speakers & 300 delegates from 22 countries...

This "humble gathering" is now renamed the Global Social Innovators Forum, and this year will see over 60 distinguished speakers from around the world.

It's hard not to be infected by the passion & enthusiasm of Penny Low, President & Founder of SIP, and Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. You can tell she's driven to make this ideal a reality - and she's bent on getting as many on the bandwagon with her as she can. After our interview, we chatted outside the studio for another half an hour!

If you'd like to find out how your business can gain from embracing social innovation, how you can be part of the "Green to Gold" movement (yes, social enterprises can make billions!), why not make time to head down to the forum? Here are the details:

Global Social Innovators Forum 2009
1 - 3 Oct
8am - 5pm

To find out more, click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Listen! The Children Are Speaking!

(above & seated: Shaniah Faith Kew, Gloria Ang & Prasanth Selvam)
(above & standing: Is that Stanley wearing his school tie???!!! Read on for illumination)

The winners of the 23rd YMCA Plain English Speaking Awards displayed their eloquence by showcasing their winning speeches 'live' in The Living Room.

Beauty queens can surely take away public speaking tips from these students who were champions at the recent YMCA PESA competition, talking their way to victory!

Eight-year-old Shaniah from Marymount Convent is probably the only one to have heard the untold and unadulterated version of Cinderella. This spunky articulate girl told the story with so much conviction that Pamela and I believe this to be the one true version!
So out with the pumpkins, carriage and mice!
Gloria's heart-felt analysis of friendship and the fragility of it tugged at the heart-strings; no surprise if her speech left you and fellow listeners guilt-ridden given the way we treat the bonds we've formed with others, sometimes so loosely. The CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' student knew how to craft a speech that speaks to the heart, rather than just the head.
As for Prasanth, his candid unprententious manner in delivery bowled us over. His speech on whether government campaigns are necessary was book-ended by the SAR-vivor rap and a musical except from 'Man in The Mirror' by the late Michael Jackson. Prasanth is a 2nd-year Singapore Polytechnic student studying Aeronautical Engineering.

Stan shares his brush(es) with the Plain English Speaking Awards...

With the Dunearn Secondary School crest on the oversized navy blue blazer I wore, I stood anxiously under the breath of eager judges seated in front of me. The auditorium of the Ministry of Environment (as it was known then, now Ministry of Environment & Water Resources) was the stage for where I'd be in verbal combat with compatriots from other pre-university institutions.

Who would have thought that 17 years later, I'd be seated on the judging panel and off the stage at the 23rd YMCA PESA! The pressure was gone, but the memories were just starting to return. PESA refers to the Plain English Speaking Awards - an oratorical contest.

My prepared speech was about Singapore being a 'fine' country. It was a brazen attempt at presenting Singapore as a city state whose governing authorities slapped monetary penalties at almost everything from spitting, to littering and not flushing. All appeared fine (no pun intended) as I delivered what I'd tried to commit to memory. I found assurance in the form of cue cards, which I periodically referred to. However in my deliberate effort to gesture (I was told it'd add value to my delivery) while speaking, I carelessly knocked the cards off my left hand. They flew out of my grasp like a pigeon a cat had taken by surprise. Aplomb gave in to aghast. The sequence of the anecdotes and points I was to deliver was thrown into disarray. I stooped to gather my cards, which though had fallen onto the carpet, laid in the order in which they had been while in my hand. Neat. But it was going to be one jolt that would mar the remainder of my speech. Not too neat!

Fast forward to today. I sit with a distinguished and colourful panel of co-judges comprising a toastmaster, an Englishman (now Singapore PR) with the Ministry of Education, a corporate trainer in presentation skills, a magazine editor and an online video producer-presenter. Each from a distinct background, each having undergone diverse experiences in training and life, yet on the same side with one objective - empowered to select a winner from the winners. We shared a passion for the English language - that in itself was cause for communal celebration no less.

Last Thursday evening, I attended the YMCA PESA awards ceremony - something I missed 17 years ago when a contestant. It truly has come full circle.

Life can be full of curious pleasantries. May it happen for you too!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Spicy Saturday

A spread of bowls filled with an array of spices teased the senses of a privileged group of 938LIVE listeners on the second floor at Spice Queen Restaurant. This is where celebrity chef Devagi Sanmugam reigns supreme complete with sticks of spices in hand that look like her sceptre. This is where she holds court and makes all who come into her presence cower with newfound respect. She afterall wears the title of 'Spice Queen'.

Spices bring out the taste, add flavour and infuse into life some zing and a sting. Our palates are introduced to (to borrow the words of Peabo Bryson & Regina Bell) 'a whole new world'. The workshop began with morning tea of spiced samosas, murukku-like Indian crackers, some cakes and masala tea. Twas delightful, delicious, delovely!

Having had their fill of a spice-ridden spread, our listeners sauntered into the adjoining room question-ridden and restless to hear about spices - their properties, how to introduce them to your cooking, how to store them and how to tell apart fresh, unadulterated and genuine spices like curry power and saffron from lower grades and counterfeits. With their copy of notes Devagi had prepared, they furiously copied down more points as the Spice Queen took them on a whirlwind tour of her kingdom of spices.

Just over two and half hour later, everyone left and lived happily ever after, sure to return to sign up for other courses offered by Epicurean World or simply tuck into the sumptuous spicy spread at Spice Queen Restaurant.

All hail the Spice Queen.

Spice Queen Restaurant is located at 24/26 Race Course Road.

Friday, September 25, 2009

High-Speed Hunk, Hafiz Koh!

VROOM! It's F1 weekend here, and what better way to launch it in The Living Room than to have a Singaporean race car driver in the hot seat?

Meet Hafiz Koh, Singapore's very own. I must admit that my first impression of him was that he looked like a gym rat, a body builder.

Don't fault me ~ I didn't know race car drivers had to be this fit. But Hafiz tells us that they do - most of them can outdo any triathlete in competition because of the level of fitness demanded of them in F1 racing.

Singapore's high-speed hunk, Hafiz Koh grew up racing - it's in his blood.

Did you know they lose 3kg to 5kg after every race? Lots of water is lost from their bodies in those intense 45 mins due to the high G-Force, he explains. "At high speeds, water actually flies out of your tear ducts!"

We learnt a lot about F1 racing from this guy ~ a first-hand insight into what it feels like squeezing into one of these mean machines. The training involved. The diet. The sacrifices one has to make...

But Hafiz has racing in his blood. Both his mum & dad were racers back in the 80s. As a kid, he would wake up at 5am to train on the race-track before heading off to school!

I was curious about his parents, especially his ethnic heritage. With a name like "Hafiz Koh", wouldn't you be? Well, Hafiz reveals that his dad is Chinese. His mum, Indian-Pakistani with a bit of Arab blood!

Catch Hafiz on Ch5 as he commentates the F1 races!

Well, other than dabbling in hosting & acting, Hafiz also plays the saxophone. He picked it up because his mum always wanted one of her kids to play music for her after dinner.

"My sisters played the piano, but they both dropped out," he shares. "So when I was in NS, I asked my friend to teach me three of her favourite songs, and surprised her on her birthday!" Aww...

Who knows? We might just see Hafiz Koh playing the sax at the next President's Star Challenge? *wink*

Oh, and he's making a guest appearance on Polo Boys, a new drama series on Ch5 debuting in October. Off-air, he shared with us that he was shocked when he arrived on the set and was told to change into a small pair of swimming trunks. Was that a bemused or nervous chuckle we detected? *LOL*

Have a Vroom Vroom weekend!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Social Mobiles Are In Town!

It looks just like my phone ~ the size, the colour, the weight. But this red hot baby allows easy & affordable access to Facebook, Twitter, IM, email etc.

Being the tech dino that I am, I'm averse to owning a high-end, "complicated" touch-screen. I just want a simple phone with a simple keypad. But I'm very active on Facebook, just signed up on Twitter, and I MSN a lot too. But so far I don't do that on my phone because my phone doesn't quite allow it.

But with Social Mobiles, these two are brought together. And the best part? It's affordable!

Sorry for all this free advertising, and all this gushing, but such technology (and affordability) is a big deal.

And I got to find out more about Social Mobile technology today by chatting with the Founder & CEO of INQ Mobile, Frank Meehan.

He's been voted one of "15 Most Influential People in the Mobile Industry", together with Steve Jobs (Apple), the CEO of Motorola and the founder of Facebook!

In fact, the very first product from his company - the INQ1 - won 'Handset of the Year' at the 2009 World Mobile Congress in February! It was up against industry giants, and this rookie walked away with the prize.

That's how big this technology is! Affordable Internet access for the masses... that's what it's all about. And the phones come in a kaleidoscope of colours as well! *grin*

If you'd like to find out more about Social Mobiles, click here. Or here.

Full of Grace

In the past four weeks of September, Stan & I had the pleasure of "picking the brains" of psychologist Dr Grace Lee. We talked about Happiness, Gratitude, Love & Relationships, Self-Esteem ~ topics not new in themselves, but Grace brought a whole new level of insight & perspective to them, I felt.

Psychologist Dr Grace Lee: "Looking forward to working with you again!"

Prior to relocating to Singapore and setting up her own company Glee Thinkworks, Grace was a lecturer at the University of Hawaii. Come Spring 2010, she'll be lecturing on Positive Psychology at the National University of Singapore.

More than sharing research findings & practical tips, Grace touched us with her stories and the simple yet succinct way she explained the complex human condition.

I almost felt like her words hung like a speech bubble over our heads, and we had to pause each time to savour them & let them sink in.

There is a wisdom & grace about Grace, and I personally can't wait to have her back for more insightful & inspiring conversations!

P.S. Grace, I'll contact you when I'm heading to Hawaii for a holiday! Finally, a friend who's a native of Hawaii... *grin*

Spice Appreciation Workshop: Join Us!

The Living Room partners Spice Queen Restaurant
to present
Spice Appreciation Workshop

Celebrity Chef & 'Spice Queen' Devagi Sanmugan shares her knowledge of spices with us this Saturday, and it's going to be a hands-on experience. Not only will we get to see fresh spices in their natural form, we'll also get to touch them & smell them!

Sign up now by calling 6359-7314.
For more information, you can visit the 938LIVE website or Devagi's.

For those who have already signed up, we'll see you there!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Laura Fygi Puts Us to Shame!

I love Laura Fygi's voice. Sultry. Soulful. And even though I don't understand French, just listening to her belt out Autumn Leaves leaves me breathless. But more than listening to her, I love watching her.

As Loretta Chen, Artistic Director of Zebra Crossing puts it, Laura is a Storyteller - with her voice, her eyes, everything. See it to believe it:

It's no wonder then that Loretta picked Laura Fygi to play the title role of Victor/Victoria on a hunch. And I've known Loretta to be such - a woman of intuition, who is seldom wrong. When she contacted Laura, she had not breathed a word to anyone at Zebra Crossing...

Laura Fygi had proclaimed once that she would NEVER venture into musicals. But thanks to Loretta, who acted on her intuition, Laura said 'Yes'. And as they say, the rest is history. Victor/Victoria marks Laura Fygi's first-ever theatrical debut!

Well, we had these two awesome women as guests today, and I absolutely enjoyed the casual banter & chemistry that went on between them. It's an ease based on friendship, which was probably established when Loretta spent a month in Holland (a small countryside town outside Amsterdam), rehearsing with Laura.

Victor/Victoria brings Laura Fygi to town! Telling us more was Zebra Crossing's Artistic Director, Loretta Chen.

How can we have Laura Fygi in the house and not have her sing for us 'live'? *grin* So we invited her to sing us a song, and she decided on an old familiar song in Mandarin. Wow!

Midway, she invited Stan & I to join in. And that's when we were completely embarrassed, put to SHAME, on national radio. You must first know that Stan & I failed our Chinese exams, and we are so bad at Mandarin, it's not funny.

Imagine: A Dutch woman belting out a song in perfect Mandarin. And here we are, two Chinese-Singaporeans, stumped. It was a completely embarrassing moment for us! *sheepish* Check out our public shame:

Zebra Crossing presents
9 to 29 Nov
Esplanade Theatre

Tickets available through SISTIC.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Man of Steel

So we've had it wrong all this while! Well it's time to set things right. Pam & I are ecstatic to be the first ones to break the news that we've unveiled the true identity of 'The Man of Steel' - Pintor Sirait!

And this super man has no cloak and other embarrassing pieces of wardrobe to display, just sheets and pieces of steel that he's contoured and transformed into stunning looking beauties, the shape of Formula 1 race cars. It's a static steely display that the Indonesian artist has set up at ION Orchard. This is Pintor's first solo exhibition of the cars in Singapore and I have every confidence it will be a pole position finish when the exhibition wraps up later this month.

An exhibition is an exhibition is an exhibition. In The Living Room where we've featured countless exhibitions and the artists behind the work, not much gets me high and talking about it days on end. Not until Pintor's race cars zoomed into the radar. I marvel at how a tangle of steel sheets can be galvanised and transformed into a spectacle of steel. And to complete his pieces, he takes out his Colt .38, M16 and AK 47, takes aim and shoots away at them. Not in rage, but as finishing touches. Don't jump the gun (no pun intended) and mistake him for a brazen artist bent on violence; he is but a philosophical sculptor whose quest to understand life and man is melded into his creations. Now THIS is 'amalgamation'!

(Below: Even his exhibition brochure had a bullet hole through it!)

The inspiration to shoot...
"When I travelled around the United States, like many foreign visitors I was initially shocked by the omnipresence of guns, especially the rifles on gun racks in the pick-up trucks...I try to understand this casual acceptance of violence, or potential violencve, by shooting the art objects with various weapons."

Every car sculpture has a story to tell or a question to raise.

'Democracy' (see photo above) has been an ideal for many nations but has become a tainted word in recent years with people going to war and lives being lost in skirmishes and battles. This first is powerfully portrayed by the scuplture ridden with 1,500 bullet holes.

Pintor's Race Cars Come to ION Orchard
18th - 27th Sept 2009
10am - 10pm
ION Orchard, Level 1

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Food Obsession!

I obsess about food. I will travel for food - even across oceans. Food inspires me to write, to go into passionate soliloquies, to upload copious amounts of photos on Facebook! My best friend says that when I talk about food, my eyes light up. So when I first heard about a contemporary art exhibition that focuses on food obsession, I sat up.

I'm pleasantly surprised though that the talented artist behind Food Obsession: A Visual Study of Food Behaviour is not a die-hard foodie herself! She admits that she's the sort who could eat char siew pau for 3 months. *gasps*

For talented young artist Nataliette, what she turned to for inspiration was food idioms.

Here's a collage of what you'd see at her exhibition. Can you see images that depict "In hot soup" or "Fishing for ideas in a teacup"? Clever, isn't it?

Nataliette first sketched these by hand, scanned them into the computer, then coloured & shaded them digitally. These canvas pieces are currently displayed - in her first solo exhibition - at HOUSE @ Dempsey.

I hope this is just the appetiser to bigger things to come. For sure, this 24-year-old artist's works have whet my appetite. Here's a sneak peak of more of her creations...

When Stan asked her why the subjects are all women, after all men have food obsessions too, Nataliette laughed & said there's no particular reason. She just loves drawing the female form. Possibly because she's also a woman. And then she added cheekily, "I love to draw boobs!"

Well, if you'd like to find out more about Nataliette and her works, you can visit her website. Just click here.

Nataliette is just one of 60+ young talents who are under the Singapore Contemporary Young Artists (SCYA) network. It was SCYA who first went out to establish a partnership with HOUSE on this project.

Well, Nataliette's works are currently on sale at HOUSE. Prices range from $50 - $550. I'm definitely gonna see if I can cart some of her artworks home! *grin*

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I was a Hostage of the Abu Sayyaf..."

On Easter Sunday in 2000, 10 tourists, 11 hotel employees & WWF rangers were abducted from the resort island of Sipadan by the extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, and taken hostage to Jolo Island in the Philippines 400km away.

Among them was German school teacher Werner Wallert, his wife Renate & their son Marc who were then on a dive vacation in Sipadan. Little did they (or the other hostages) know that they had become pawns in a tussle between the Philippine government and a small band of Muslim extremist rebels who were fighting for an independent state.

For some background to the Abu Sayyaf's Sipadan kidnapping,
Click here to view the Youtube video.

The sick lady in the video (filmed by journalists who were allowed to visit the hostages) is Renate. While she wasn't comfortable going on-air to share her experience, we did get to chat during the news break. What Renate said really shook me...

She had a dream. In that dream, her son Marc was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf. In her dream, his head rolled on the ground in front of her. In her dream, it was her that the Abu Sayyaf had wanted to behead, but her then-26 year old son sacrificed himself in her place.

Was the dream a premonition? Renate was so consumed by the possibility that she wanted to die. She wanted to kill herself.

"Why did you want to kill yourself?" I asked her, off-air.

"Because if I died, then the dream is not true," Renate explained. "In my dream, I lived, while my son died. And I would rather it be me who died. He was only 26!"

Such were the intense, maddening circumstances they were under! It was heart-stopping for me to hear the couple's story. Well, if you'd like to read about their first-hand experience, Werner has written a book that's currently out in the bookstores. It's called Hostage Terror: Abducted by Abu Sayyaf (Marshall Cavendish).

They Lived to Tell: German Werner & his wife Renate were abducted from Sipandan in 2000 and held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.

The writings were taken from his journal, which he was allowed to keep while being held hostage. The photographs included in the book were also taken by Werner himself. This is a rare, first-person insight into the Jolo crisis, so do grab a copy if you're curious.

It's 9 years on. Werner & Renata have since put this terrifying experience behind them. He's now retired and produces documentary films for students. They still travel to Asia, and the couple recently went diving in Indonesia. Talk about triumph of the human spirit!

To catch the repeat broadcast of this interview, tune in to 938LIVE tonight, 10.40pm - midnight.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Time For Thanks!

It's Stan's birthday today!!!

"Happy birthday, buddy!"

Stan was on leave so I helmed the morning show. In the evening, my 938LIVE colleagues & I trooped down for his party at Cream Bistro (Pacific Plaza) for a fun-filled celebration - complete with balloons, colourful masks, birthday cake & games!

With 938LIVE colleagues Christine, Mageline, Gerry & Stan's bro, Hossan (who's also a radio DJ, with Lush 99.5FM).

Hossan was the emcee, and he was jokingly lamenting at dinner that he had to "work for his dinner". "Who ask you be his brother?" I remark nonchalantly, tucking into my fried calamari. "I never! I never!" Hossan exclaims, eyes wide. "I never ask for it what!"

Sometimes I can't believe they're brothers. But then again, sometimes I can! *LOL*

If there's one person who exudes an attitude of gratitude, it's Stan. He threw this party not just because the date 09.09.09 looks nice on the invite, but because he wanted to pause, take stock, and give thanks to the many people who have touched his life.

Such is Stan! He's a patient mentor, a giving friend, and a super fun on-air partner. I've been truly blessed. Happy birthday, buddy!!!

"May all your wishes come true!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hi-5 on 938LIVE!

It was delightful having the next generation of Hi-5 on our couch today: Lauren, Stevie, Tim, Fely & Casey. They exude such positive energy that it got Stan & me all perky this Tue morning!

We got Hi-5 to do sing for us 'live' in The Living Room, so check this out...

These guys are currently in town for the Hi-5 Surprise! Live Tour 2009, which is on now till 13 Sep. You can find out more here. Or get your tix at SISTIC.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Beatboxer Extraordinaire: Jake Moulton

Jake Moulton is a professional beatboxer and a member of a cappella band The Housejacks. The former member of world-renowned pop/jazz a cappella group m-Pact demonstrates his skills in this exclusive footage just for llisteners of The Living Room.

Jake will be hosting AKA A Cappella VI in January 2010.