Friday, February 26, 2010

Save the Tiger

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

That the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

~ William Blake (1757 - 1827) ~

I am not sure Blake saw a real tiger in his lifetime. Even those who work tirelessly to save them from extinction today hardly get a glimpse of them, save for the occasional tracks they spot in Tiger Reserves. Perhaps back in the 1700s, tigers roamed more freely and had closer brushes with humans.

Just 100 years ago, there were close to 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, that number hovers around 3,200. And if nothing is done to protect them, it's highly possible tigers will become extinct before the next Lunar Year of the Tiger, 2022.

What Michael Baltzer, Leader of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Tiger Network Initiative told me shocked me. After all, the tiger is the biggest of all cats and top of the food chain. What could possibly threaten them to extinction?

"Their habitat has shrunk to 7% of what it used to be," explains Michael. "In that way, it has brought man and animal really close, causing a lot of tension. It has led to many tigers being killed."

But more so, Michael confirms what I've long suspected. It's always man's greed, isn't it? That diminishes our precious wildlife. It happened with sharks, and it's happening with many other animals poached for their body parts.

"The irony is that because the tiger is associated with power and strength, that has led to its downfall," Michael says. "They are hunted for their body parts for folklore medicinal reasons. People, especially the Chinese, believe that if they eat tiger parts they will be strong -- even though TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) associations have issued countless messages denying that. It's an uphill task educating them and changing mindsets."

The Tiger Man: Michael Baltzer, head of WWF's global tiger conservation efforts, shares the causest close to his heart.

Michael has worked tirelessly for many years saving the tiger across various continents. In 1999 - 2004, he joined WWF and was based in Vietnam, working to protect the tigers there, as well as in Cambodia and Laos. In 2004, he was seconded from Vietnam to Vienna to be Director of WWF's programme in Eastern Europe. But even before joining WWF, he was already involved in tiger conservation efforts in Africa & Southeast Asia.

The Tiger Network Initiative has been around since WWF was founded, but efforts have been stepped up these past 2 years. This year being the Lunar Year of the Tiger, a global initiative has recently been launched. Named the Tx2 Campaign, the initiative hopes to double the number of tigers by the next Year of the Tiger 2022.

And we can all get involved in several ways: By not buying tiger parts. We all know that "once the buying stops, the killing will too". It applies to sharks & sharksfin too.

We can also support the work of the World Wildlife Fund by joining them as a member, and perhaps if we are parents, involving our children as well. Nothing beats starting them from young!

Michael Baltzer is giving a talk about tiger conservation this Sunday, and if you are free in the afternoon, I strongly encourage you to go down, meet him, hear him, and ask him questions. He will convince you (with his passion) that you and I need to be involved.

The Realities for the Wild Tiger Today
Sun, 28 Feb
3pm - 4pm
National Geographic Store
VivoCity, #01-19
Admission FREE!

Read Us? Love Us? Vote Us!

This blog is in the running for the
Best Radio Personality Blog Award
Singapore Radio Awards 2010!

Yes, The Living Room blog is a nominee (938LIVE's only blog nominee) for this prestigious category to be introduced at the Awards for the very first time!

Pam and I have thoroughly enjoyed many caffeine fixes, sacrificing sleep to bring more of The Living Room to you! Beyond what you hear on air, there's so much more that you don't hear and see. It was never about self-indulgence or glorification. It was never about us; it was always about YOU.

This was primarily the reason that gave birth to this blog in late 2008. To turn back the clock to our earliest blog entries, click here.

Apart from straight-on reportage, we try to be as creatively comprehensive in showcasing our guests and our show to you. Hope you've enjoyed the blog entries and will continue to be a lifelong follower of this blog.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Man at the Helm of Singapore Sports

Correct me if I'm wrong. But I do remember a time when there were NO JOGGERS on the roads. When I was a kid, I think I'd be very curious if I saw someone running "for no reason", except to catch an SBS bus.

But these days, GOSH. I can't walk down any street in Singapore (not even Orchard Road or Clark Quay!), at any time of day, without bumping into someone jogging... or cycling.

The sports culture here has blossomed, and it seems there are more people who are keeping fit than there are couch potatoes.... like me! (no wonder I host The Living Room!)

On the record, this is the 3rd year I'm making a New Year's resolution to start running again, and Feb is already almost gone. And where am I? Still here blogging... on the couch! :(

But we are not here to talk about me. We're here to talk about my guest in The Living Room yesterday. Yes, he came in yesterday, but I didn't want to blog about him after the Barista Competition entry lest he gets lost in the coffee grind! *LOL* So he gets a whole blog entry to himself! *grin*

He is Oon Jin Teik. Man at the helm of Singapore sports. Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Sports Council.

I actually bumped into Jin Teik when a mutual friend of ours, Jeremy Lim, brought the coaches of Barcelona FC down to Singapore for a week-long soccer clinic. Jin Teik's 2 younger sons were attending it, and my 2 boys as well. We were introduced informally at the gravel carpark of the football field at Dempsey!

But it was only when I went through Jin Teik's bio that I realised what a "celebrity" he is! He'll probably smack the back of my head for saying that, but this ex-ACS boy is a national swimmer who was voted Sportsboy of the Year in 1980, and even represented Singapore in the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles!

And who would have guessed that this avid sportsman was also 2nd violinist with the Singapore Philharmonic Orchestra?! :0 He seemed a little bashful when I brought it up, but it just shows what a well-rounded individual he is. Who would've guessed, seriously? It's like Troy in High School Musical! *LOL*

I totally enjoyed chatting with Oon Jin Teik, CEO of the Singapore Sports Council!

There were many things Jin Teik said that hit home because he's just very down-to-earth. One thing that struck me was his philosophy in life. It's something my late Grandpa used to tell me too as a little girl growing up: Don't do things to others that you don't want others to do to you.

I love that. So true. And he also mentioned being open to learn. From everyone. And for a man who helms a large government agency, it's a very humblething to say. He reminded me about the importance of openness & humility in my interactions with people -- no matter what rank I hold in society.

This is why I've dedicated an entire blog entry to Oon Jin Teik. I'm glad I bumped into him at that gravel carpark at Dempsey as we were both dropping our kids off at soccer training! *LOL* You never know when a beautiful conversation can result from a chance meeting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making the Perfect Cuppa!

Wake up and smell the coffee!!!

I just have to have my cuppa in the mornings... and afternoons... I average about 3 cups a day. While I do love the traditional kopi at the hawker centre (yes, complete with condense milk!), I quite enjoy the whole romance of the espresso bar as well.

And today I was thrilled to be able to chat with a couple of baristas (my kind of people) about pulling the perfect shot of espresso. This is ahead of the Singapore National Barista Competition 2010, which runs from this Thursday through Saturday, and will see 33 baristas pit their skills against each other for the chance to represent Singapore in the annual World Barista Competition.

And one of my guests has won this title twice (2007 & 2008), representing Singapore in the World Barista Competition in Atlanta, USA. In fact, he did our nation proud by placing 21st internationally!

His name is John Ting, and he's currently Head Barista at Oriole Cafe & Bar. It was clear to me that this young man is driven by passion. The way he talks about coffee..... not only does he know so much, he makes me want to go out and grab my cuppa... like now! *LOL*

We also had 2 participants of this year's competition joining us: Mohd Aslam bin Kamsan and Lynette Huang. Aslam is a Product Development Specialist Beverage (F&B) with Spinelli Coffee Company, and been 7 years in the industry, while Lynette is a barista at Wild Honey.

Lynette started her journey back in 2000 with Starbucks Coffee, then took a 2 year hiatus to pursue a diploma in design. But hey, she's back with a vengeance! "... to your first love," I tease her.

Passion & Coffee: [clockwise from left] Aslam, Pam, John, Victor, Lynette.

It was also a pleasure for me to meet Victor Mah, President of the Singapore Coffee Association. In fact, I got a text from my good friend Su that my coffee connoisseur guest is her neighbour and she didn't even know he was President of SCA! That's how humble he is. *grin*

And he's such a colourful & knowledgeable character. I totally enjoyed chatting with him, and I learnt so much from him too -- about the history of the barista profession, as well as the SCA which in fact was established back in the 1950s, as an association for coffee traders here. Oh, how it has grown!

Well, as expected, I went out and bought myself a cuppa coffee after! *LOL* It's sad that I can't drink coffee before I go on-air, as it makes my throat a tad raspy. So you will know if I've drunk coffee in the mornings...... if I sound like a toad! *LOL*

Coffee wakes me up, and as my ex-boss from publishing used to say, "You should buy Starbucks stocks!" I used to head into work with a Tall Mocha every morning. Gosh. Some things never change..... I think I take after my mum! *gasp*

Singapore National Barista Competition
25 - 27 Feb
Suntec City Convention Centre
(Rooms 303 & 304)
Admission is FREE.

Catch the finals on Sat 27 Sat, 11am. There's free flow of coffee!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vote for Us because we do more than TALK...

For some strange reason, people think we merely talk for a living. Trust me when I say that Pamela and I do a WHOLE LOT MORE than chat. It sure sounds easy getting paid to ask questions, but the art of interviewing and preparing for such purposeful conversations in a limited time is in itself a skill that's been honed over the years on the job.

(left: Our recent guest Dolly Yeo who's a parent coach)

Another misconception is that we only work two hours between 10am and noon. That's a fallacy! We work almost regular office hours. A lot more time is spent producing the show, than actually hosting it. I shan't go into detail but trust me, that keeps us very busy. On top of that, we have other programmes that we produce outside of the talkshow and that warrants a lot of time and energy as well. Before I forget, we also do the editing of our programmes, the archiving, the scheduling and the order-taking for recordings of interviews that have been broadcast. We also sometimes head out to conduct interviews, attend media events and shows to review them.

(above: a rare chance at playing tour guide around MediaCorp's radio units)

Coming back to The Living Room, you wouldn't believe how much feedback I've received from interviewees, who after the interview, tell me they're amazed and appreciative how we've prepared for the interview so thoroughly. I've had best-selling authors pat me on the back and remark how surprised they were that we read their book before conducting the interview. But isn't that a basic requirement for any journalist or reporter to do their homework in order to ask 'intelligent', insightful and cutting questions? I remain shaken and a tad disgusted at such slipshod work by media professionals! By the way, I'm in the midst of writing a book that lists some transgressions of the media with lots of anecdotes from my decade as a media practitioner and how interviewers and interviewees can do better the next time they sit down for a 'chat'. Interested publishers, please email me or leave your comment in the Comment Box below. ;o)

By the way, if you like what you're hearing in The Living Room, show us you love us by voting for Pam and myself as your favourite Radio Personalities on 938LIVE! The Singapore Radio Awards 2010 happens in March (yes, just next month) and voting is now open till this Sun, 21st Feb.

To vote for Pam, SMS:
MP (space) 1 (space) your Name & NRIC, and send to 72346.
To vote for Stan, SMS:
MP (space) 3 (space) your Name & NRIC, and send to 72346.
Each SMS costs 30 cents.

Thanks for voting for us! It'll surely be a sign of your affirmation for the good work that's been put in in brewing conversations fresh for you every weekday on 938LIVE!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Waacking's in Vogue

Overnight, my vocabulary grew by 6 words, and 'waacking' is one of them! No, it's not the same activity that parents expend much energy yet find little delight doing when children misbehave. Waacking is...get this..."an electrifying art form of complex arm and hand movements that project sensuality and strength from the legs". Thanks wiki! I'm like 'What?!' Nothing like visuals to give me an idea of what waacking's really is. So a live demonstration of waacking was necessary and our guest Aus Ninja obliged. Pam and I are happy to share the video footage with you.

Aus who's born in Texas and bred in Kentucky, is in town for a 12-week residency with local dance institution, Studio Wu. He'll also be one of the judges for the CODE:EDGE 3 Asia Dance Finals later this month.

He's choreographer and performer with The Imperial House of Waacking founded by his father Tyrone. As a dance style, it was birthed in the 1970s. Yes, the disco era, so that makes it about as old as I am!

Pretty high energy and adrenalin. Just watching the moves gets you hot and breathless. But it was a different kind of 'hot' when Trinity Lim let herself loose with some girls' hip hop moves. The Malaysian lass who's an instructor with Studio Wu (just like our other guest Andy Lee who doubles up as Business Manager) is also choreographer of her all-girl group Dancologists. It's easier reading the name than saying it aloud, but I managed. Give it a try! Dan-co-lo-gist-s. She was one half of the winning team for the group category at last year's competition. This year, her group is the only representation from Malaysia.

(above: Striking a dance pose in The Living Room. Is it just me or do I look like I'm airing my pits?)

The finals of CODE:EDGE 3 Asia happen on
27th February at the Downtown East D'Marquee.

(Purple is Aus' favourite colour, so this blog entry's colour is in tribute to him!)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Antactica... Here We Come!

I started getting excited about the Elysium Epic expedition since I first heard about it from Emory Kristof -- the National Geographic photographer who discovered the Titanic.

Explorer & deep-sea diver Emory Kristof: Stan & I call him our "Santa Claus"!

And when we chatted with renowned underwater photographers Michael Aw & Mikael Jigmo some months later about their photography exhibition and discovered they were involved in this landmark expedition to Antarctica, it was pure anticipation for me till the day I got them on our coach! *LOL*

The brainchild of Michael Aw, this expedition will see a dream team of 57 experts -- comprising the world's best wildlife & underwater photographers, film makers, marine scientists -- create a visual library of the impact of climate change on this remote region.

In fact, this expedition is in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Sir Shackleton's expedition in 1914. So the team is all set to retrace his treacherous footsteps through the harsh terrain.

Sailing route of the Elysium Epic expedition.

We had Michael Aw on the line with us from Australia, as well as the expedition's Chief Medical Officer Dr Saw Huat Seng (a cardiothoracic surgeon), contributing photographer Mikael Jigmo, and production assistant, Chris Chan.

Chris, being the rose among the thorns, only took up diving in April 2008 and currently works in a property development company in KL. It's her very first expedition and a dream come true. In fact, she responded to an ad in a scuba diving magazine!

This made me think ANYONE can do this! I wish I had applied earlier too... Oh, such a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Perhaps Michael will allow me to tag along and broadcast 'live' from Antarctica? *wrings hands in anticipation*

Part of the Singapore contingent to Antarctica: [L to R] Mikael, Dr Saw, Chris and we had Michael Aw on the line too!

Well, we may just be having conversations with them from Antarctica via satellite in The Living Room soon. I can't wait! In the meantime, you can follow their journey 'live' from their website:

Monday, February 01, 2010

Around The World in...

...A Clipper Race. Pretty much ten solid months of bobbing around in the expansive oceans, giving up the privilege of daily showers
and being drenched with sea spray and plenty of sunshine.
Such is the life of a sailor on board a 68-foot ocean racing yacht on the Clipper Race.


Hull & Humber (pictured above) is one ten vessels almost mid-way through the 35,000-mile course thattakes them across the high seas, deep oceans, one Gulf, one lake and one canal. The sailors, ordinary men and women, set sail from The Humber on the Northeast Coast of England on 13 September 2009 and are expected to complete the seven-leg race right where it all began on 17 July this year.

The race is an adventure of a lifetime and for many, it would cost a lifetime's salary to pay for the opportunity to be a crew member. For a full circumnavigation, each member forks out US$52,100 (equivalent to S$73,291). Even if you had the money in hand, you won't necessarily make the team. Communications Manager of The Clipper Race, Heather Ewing, says the qualification phase is by and large 'self-selecting'. All shortlisted candidates will be put through an intensive training programme that tests their seamanship, skills needed to live and work afloat, and how to race safely and competitively. There is an emphasis on teamwork, and rightly so, given that every member has to work and live in close quarters with about 17 other crew members for up to 5 weeks at a stretch, which happens to be the Atlantic Ocean - the fifth leg of the race.

My guest Jeremy Reed (crew member on Hull & Humber) who's a management consultant from Essex, England said he was not looking forward to the bitterly cold, dark and dreary leg. Jeremy was first introduced to big boat sailing when his wife bought him a 7-day trip on a yacht for his 50th birthday. Four years later now, I suspect Mrs Reed must be regretting her actions that have taken her husband away from her.

I learnt from 19-year-old Luke Dampier (who sails on the Canadian yacht, Cape Breton Island) that his boat had an ice-making machine. He threw in a smirk while making the proclamation. Apparently each boat is stocked and equipped differently, though each team is given the same amount of money for the course of the race for all costs incurred.

For Susan Leslie, the adventure is the perfect break she needs. She's decided to hang up her power suit as a legal eagle in Scotland to contemplate her next course of action while being a member of the crew aboard Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. Just like sailing a yacht, who knows where the wind will blow her to? But for now, law's over for her and a new horizon awaits.

If like Jeremy, Luke and Susan, you think you've got the wits about you to will yourself onto the mighty seas, the search is now on for crew members for the 2011/12 Clipper Race. Don't miss the boat!

Click here to sail on through to the information page of the next race which introduce a brand new eighth leg that takes in New Zealand and the east coast of Australia.