Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whose Singapore? YOUR Singapore!

So the jury is out. Who does Singapore really belong to?
Is it MY Singapore, YOUR Singapore,
or are we alright to share this place?

[Leave us your opinions & thoughts in the Comment box!]

It's come full circle according to Assistant Chief Executive of Marketing at the Singapore Tourism Board, Ken Low. The new destination brand, Your Singapore, which was unveiled earlier this month has since attracted a fair share of fans as it has critics. The latter generally say the new slogan doesn't convey anything about Singapore. Some basically find fault that we're lacking an adjective to describe who we are and what we have to offer. Yet that argument can barely stand up to the notion that a country and all that is it and has, cannot be embodied and described in just one word. Even a sentence wouldn't suffice. A country's got to be visited, felt, trodden under foot, smelled, tasted and touched. Speaking of touch, it's a multi-sensorial experience that's got to touch the heart.

(above from l-r: Veteran hotelier Mohd K Rafin - Senior Vice President of Park Hotel Group, WIT Producer Yeoh Siew Hoon and STB's Asst Chief Executive of Marketing Ken Low)

"Uniquely Singapore" may have been laid to rest, but Producer of Web-In-Travel Yeoh Siew Hoon says the preceding brand was the 'inspiration', while the newly-minted tag was for 'conversion'. Therein lies the bridge, often the missing link in many tourism branding campaigns - converting the inspired and making it easy for them to want to visit your shores. First feed them all the information they want, then make it a breeze for them to plan their itinerary from a smorgasboard of things to do and places to visit here. Once that's done, entice them to make their flight and accommodation bookings, and before they know it, Singapore's theirs to savour! The portal is all about empowering would-be visitors with the ability and platform to customise their own holiday.
Now who wouldn't like that?

You may have read my earlier blog review of Universal Studios Singapore. One thing I'd omitted from mention was how my heart swelled with pride as I toured the attraction. Alas, Singapore finally has her very own world-class theme park! We're getting there. The makeover of Orchard Road has been radical and bold. Gardens By The Bay at Marina is also taking shape and soon the shifting sands of time will usher in the opening of Singapore's second IR. It'll be sooner than later before we're spoilt for choice.

I retract that statement. In fact, I believe we are already spoilt for choice with the variety of places to go and things to do here. Last week, I packed three passengers into my car and zipped them off on a free-and-easy drive around Singapore. Would you have imagined the photos below to have been taken right here? Yes, everything from the scenery to the food and canopy of trees can be found in our own backyard despite being an island just 682.7 square metres.

It's OUR SINGAPORE! It's (Y)OUR SINGAPORE! Now go forth and explore!
Oh and one more thing, just beware of falling branches if you're
out in the open.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pixar Magic Comes to Singapore!

If you love Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Up, Cars, Incredibles, WALL*E, Ratatouille, then you are in for treat! The magic of Pixar comes to Singapore in a spectacular exhibition celebrating 20 years of animation!

Join us on Monday, 29 March @ 10.30am - noon, in The Living Room, as we chat with 4 animators, designers & technical experts ahead of the exhibition launch on 2 April @ Science Centre Singapore.

A conversation NOT to be missed!!!

For more info, click here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

EARTH HOUR 2010!!!

60 Minutes. This Saturday, 27 March, 8.30pm - 9.30pm.

What will YOU be doing???

I'm asking this question because it's a choice, it's totally within your power to use those 60 minutes as you wish. And sometimes, little actions can mean so much.

Well, Earth Hour 2010 is back for the second year running, and this year, it's grown. More individuals & businesses have jumped on the bandwagon, and the level of awareness and consciousness has risen too. But really, knowing is one thing. Are we taking action?

I had a very honest chat with Amy Ho (Managing Director, WWF Singapore), Nadya Hutagalung (Earth Hour Ambassador), and Allan Lim (CEO, Alpha Biofuels) today in The Living Room. We discussed the Green movement in Singapore, the apathy of Singaporeans, the slow take-up of Green businesses here, and what Earth Hour really stands for.

Straight "Green" talk with Allan, Nadya & Amy in The Living Room.

"It's really much more than saving electricity for an hour," says Amy Ho, MD of WWF Singapore. "It's symbolic. A reminder. And it really should be something we do everyday."

Nadya echoed that. In fact, she reiterated it a couple of times throughout our conversation. Battling climate change in simple, everyday ways is a cause close to the heart of this ex-MTV VJ, and mother of 3. Because she couldn't find enough information to live out her eco-sustainable lifestyle, she founded GreenKampong.com.

"It's entry level for those who want to live a more eco-sustainable lifestyle," Nadya explains. Here's Nadya sharing why she started GreenKampong.com, and what it's all about.

Allan, who is part of a 3-man team that helms Alpha Biofuels, shared about doing Green business in Singapore. He tells us that while there is support from the government, it's still a slow uptake because for Singaporean businessmen, it's always about dollars & cents, the bottomline, and sometimes sustainable products don't have that competitive edge in terms of cost.

"But in the long run, sustainable businesses make sense, they save you money," he explains, almost exasperated that people fail to understand this. The ladies nod in agreement (which you can't "see" on-air!).

Allan's business recycles waste oil into Biodiesel, which is sustainable & renewable. In fact, his passion won him the Spirit of Enterprise Award in 2005. He's a down-to-earth, practical, but passionate business man, and his perspective was very much-welcomed.

Ambassadors for Earth Hour 2010... they've made me one too!

So the question remains. On Sat 27 March, 8.30pm - 9.30pm, what will YOU be doing??? Will you participate in Earth Hour and switch off all your lights for 60 minutes? Or will you just let these precious minutes pass you by for yet another year without making a stand?

Imagine what you can teach your children if they asked you, "Mum/Dad, why are we switching off all the lights and using candles?" Imagine what you can share with your neighbours, your colleagues & friends about climate change, if you decide to do this.

And you CAN pledge your support online. Just click here and make that pledge. Do it with your children, why not? *grin* Earth Hour 2010 is powerful simply because it's doable, it's a choice we can all make.

I know I'm sounding like a politician or evangelist, but I do feel passionately about what WWF Singapore is initiating & spearheading. So please, come join me!

Earth Hour 2010 Concert & Carnival
Sat 27 March
6.15pm onwards
(Concert begins at 7pm)

For more info, click here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going Colonial with Cocktail Concoctions

A little bit of cucumber in my life,
a little bit of of ginger on the sides,
stir in some chilli for more delight,
it'll surely take you to an all-time high!
(to tune of Mambo #5)


I always thought I had a deep seated talent for songwriting, but not to digress, let me keep with my day job just talking and blogging. But the limerick is in essence how The Living Room's Colonial Cocktail workshop turned out last Saturday, 20th March.
Our event partner: One Rochester.

Three delightful cocktails concocted in just over two hours, some with calm overtones, some sharper, but all with zesty flavours that had tongues wagging. Not big on anything alcoholic, I'd never expected chillies and ginger to be used in creating cocktails, but they won me over with the way they seductively courted my tastebuds. Under rain-emptied clouds, our participants started arriving as early as 3.20pm. Like the cocktails to be made, our crowd was itself a colourful mix - married couples, dating sweethearts, buddies from forever (kindergarten?!), friends from wherever (clubs?!), ex-colleagues and a mother-&-son.

Alongside the cocktails that were to be the talk of the town that day, the crew at One Rochester did a fine job ensuring the session ran with such fluidity (no pun intended). Kudos to mixologists Ivan Fernandez and Jill Bellah (left) for the show-and-tell. Their larger than life personsas and their chirpy disposition ensured no one in class was ever lost or distracted from the instructions they were dispensing. Adding a dash of comic relief to the event and playing cheerleader role was One Rochester Group's Operations and Marketing Manager Juwanda Hassim (below) who also ensured the seamless flow from one cocktail to the other.

The two-plus hour workshop turned out to be a good alternative to heading to the gym on a Saturday afternoon. With all the slicing, dicing, stirring, pounding and shaking, our listeners would have surely broken out in sweat if not for the air-conditioning in the black-&-white 2-storey bungalow. Those who wore flat heels probably took the session better, having had to stand throughout the workshop. But everyone was game to be on their feet and concocting their first ever cocktail for themselves. Now this is what I call 'reaping what you sow'. I caught sight of some participants adding more than the recommended shot of gin or vodka into their mix, but the staff never batted an eyelid. As long as everyone was happy, learnt something and enjoyed their handiwork.

The workshop came to a close with a flaring performance (not for the faint-hearted or butter-fingered) by Neil. On a side note, I can't help but wonder if One Rochester makes it a point to hire only good lookers. But hey, beauty's a bonus if your staff know their stuff!

After some delectable nibbles laid out at the courtyard, the happy campers made their way home.

I was asked by some of the participants what our next event will be. Well let me just say that....

It'll be in May and it'll be crystal clear when we get closer to the date. All I can leak at this point is that it's going to be a hot and fiery affair!

Watch this space and stay tuned to The Living Room on 938LIVE!

Meantime, CHEERS from us to YOU!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Icing on The Cake @ Singapore Radio Awards 2010

if you're among the million people (guess-timate)
who voted for Pam and/or myself!

Up until yesterday, we were in the running for the Singapore Radio Awards 2010's "Most Popular Radio Personality on 938LIVE" award. This blog, yes, the one you're reading right now, was also up against stiff competition in the new 'Best Personality Blog' category.

The Living Roomers clinched one of the two categories we were nominated for! Thanks to our listeners, studio guests and friends in public relations agencies and corporate communications departments across the island who cast generous votes for us.

We're only as good as how impressed and appreciative you are with our 'work' (if we can even call it that). The award is a stamp of affirmation that we're doing something that's not only right, but doing something well and deserving of recognition. We're honoured and humbled.

Pam had suggested I blog about the win after clinching the Most Popular Radio Personality Award for 938LIVE. I was initially unsure. Would I be misconstrued as being self-indulgent? Self-effacement would be more appropriate, no? But after some thought, it'd firstly be polite and proper to thank listeners for their support. Pam also had these two questions for me:
1. How do you feel?
2. What do you see this award representing after almost a decade in the business?

So let me tackle the questions like a studio guest would on our couch...

1. It took me by surprise! And Pam and Melanie Oliveiro (of F-Cube fame) can vouch for that. I was happily snapping photos with my Canon 80IS right up to the moment I thought I heard my name being called. The screen projection below was the last shot I snapped before I slapped myself and leapt out of my seat to receive the trophy from Irene Ang.

In fact, I was so unprepared to give a thank you speech, I vaguely remember thanking listeners for their votes. Threw in mention of my parents after Irene had teased that radio ran in the family,(my brother had clinched the award for LUSH 99.5FM minutes earlier!), acknowledged a most supportive boss and saying something along the lines of the award being really received on behalf of all the fabulous presenters we had on 938LIVE!

2. The award's like the icing on a cake. The intrinsic value of the conversations Pam and I brew from The Living Room and what we distill from the hearts and minds of our guests is rewarding in itself. Every weekday, we take pride in knowing that our programme is like balm for the soul and knowledge for the mind. Beyond information and entertainment, we know The Living Room interviews are powerfully stirring, arousing, stimulating - words that all mean 'evocative'. That listeners don't just say to themselves, "Oh I see" but "Looks like I must do something about this then".

There's something else to be said about awards. Notice that the word 'war' appears smack in the middle of the word 'Award'? But instead of pitting one over the other, I say the award is really the pride and ownership of every presenter on 938LIVE, especially my dear Pamela, Bharati Jagdish & Keith De Souza (the morning's FRESH team), Melanie Oliveiro & Eugene Loh (your lunchtime companions on F-Cube), Daniel Martin, Janice Teo & Joel Chua (Body & Soul) and Michelle Martin & Will Xavier (your evening drive home on EXPRESS). The amount of dedication each one exudes and the long hours put in often goes unseen, but these go into making magic on 938LIVE every single day! Everyone's a winner! A round of applause for all please.

(Above: With winners from 938LIVE's sister stations - Gold 90FM (Brian Richmond), Class 95 (Jean Danker), LUSH 99.5FM (Hossan Leong) and Sin Yee (Symphony 92.4FM).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Singapore Radio Awards 2010 Tonight!!!

It's Tonight, 8pm!!!

All the DJs from MediaCorp's 13 radio stations will come together to celebrate, together with international & local acts.

You can catch the event 'live' via webcast by clicking here.

Our Living Room blog is nominated for Best Personality Blog.

Whether we win or not tonight,
THANK YOU for your support!!!

This blog has always been about YOU, not us.
YOU are the reason why we do this.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whizzing & Whirling The Universe

REVIEW: Universal Studios Singapore

If you think New York on the east coast is a long way to Hollywood in the west, then you haven't been to Madagascar and back. Now that's Far Far Away, so far you think you might have hallucinations you're in Ancient Egypt, thrown back in time and in The Lost World. But mere metres away, you're back to the thrills of modern Sci-Fi City. Welcome to Universal Studios Singapore and its seven zones!

Ahead of the public opening this Thursday, 18th March, I was a happy camper with an invitation to suss out the thrills at Singapore's hippest attraction. With a buffet of 24 rides and attractions (a few remained closed at our time of visit), I was like a dog let out of a cage ready to run loose. Who's got time to look at the park map we were given?! My companions - Gold 90FM's Maggie, Hossan and Audrey. C'mon guys!

If you've been anywhere near or on Sentosa in recent months, you would have seen the blue and red roller coaster tracks that loop through towering white pylons. Battlestar Galactica ought to be the hottest ride in the theme park! Heard so much about it being the world's tallest duelling roller coasters and all. The publicity material tells me to choose a side - Human or Cylon. Trash that! No loyalties for me, I'll ride both. Thank you very much! First up, the Human Viper Mark II. Mustering enough courage, I walked up to the red bucket seat assigned and strapped myself in. Trying to look confident like I was a roller coaster junkie, I asked the ride attendant which was the scariest bit of the ride. I'm one who prefers to expect the expected. She said, "The sharp drop at the top of the ramp". I looked up. Gulp. My pulse was beginning to race. She was right. Who was to know if my heart was racing faster than the 90km/h the ride promised to be? After the first swoop, I was crying out for more heart-stopping action. My cry went unanswered. The rest of the ascents and depressions were mild, so too the cornerings. I wasn't done yet and consoled myself that I still hadn't gone on the 'fiercer' ride of the two - the red tracked Cylon Raider. So if you, like me, would like your first ride at the park to be 14-storeys in the sky, head directly to Sci-Fi City (make a right once you come through the entrance at Hollywood and round the corner at New York and you're there).

If you're planning to move through the park anti-clockwise, then Ancient Egypt awaits. You've got to take the Revenge of the Mummy ride! It's full of surprises and if I tell you what to expect, it wouldn't be a surprise any more would it?! So just take it. But you've got to keep your bags and any loose article on you (children and spouses excluded) in a locker. There's no charge for locker rental if your belongings are there for under 30 minutes.

Remember Wonderland at Kallang in the 70s and the one and only roller coaster it boasted back in the day? Well if you want to relive that particular ride (which is pretty tame compared to the Battlestar Galactica), then find it in Enchanted Airways in Far Far Away. If you or whoever you go with needs some time warming up to roller coaster rides, this has to be it.

Along the way, the maps came out again and we were losing our bearings after a restroom stop. But before our fingers started tracing the route we'd taken, a staff member walked over and asked if she could be of assistance. Kudos for her being so clued in and attentive to our needs. After asking if a certain attraction was open, she radioed a colleague to ask and promptly saved us a walk half way round the park. Speaking of attentive staff, they were also quick to spot some monkey business in one corner of the park when I decided to turn my world upside down with some slick moves I'd picked up from pole fitness class some months back!

We caught a breather at the beautiful Pantages Hollywood Theatre (where AI Finalist Adam Lambert recently performed), sitting down for live entertainment with the cast of Monster Rock. This is where Universal's monsters transform themselves into Rock 'n Roll stars. Don't let the pyrotechnics scare you.

We still wanted to fit in lunch before our time at the park expired, so it was a fast forward to where the excitement all began this morning - Battlestar Galatica. My brother who's more gung-ho of the two of us was yelping like a happy puppy when we got front row seats for Cylon Raider, the suspended coaster. I wasn't exactly doing a handstand or leaping for joy. There was this other guy who was sharing the first row with us, and we learnt that this was going to be his fourth ride while his wife waited for him way down there. He said he enjoyed an earlier ride where the energy and noise from those who rode with him was exhilirating. He made a mistake by sitting between my brother and I. I on his left and Hossan to his right, we gave him a surround sound experience he would never forget. We screamed at the top of our lungs at every corkscrew, dip and rise. This had to be the ride of my life and probably his last after my brother and I gave him a 'deaf' threat with all our screaming.

We had a dim sum lunch at Hollywood China Bistro before heading for the exit, flanked on both sides by boisterous staff who applauded and waved farewell to one and sundry. It was surreal - like we were being treated like emirs for braving our fears.

I almost never made it out of USS alive after a chance meeting with Beetlejuice...

...but am thankful he let me go to see another day and ride another roller coaster.

Hours of operation:
Weekdays: 9am – 6pm
For this soft opening period, operating hours on Sat, Sun and Public Holidays are 9am - 6pm.
Ticketing Details: Click here!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cocktail in the Afternoon?

You must already have heard! The Living Room is partnering One Rochester this month for an exclusive Colonial Cocktail Workshop this Saturday, and Stan & I are mighty excited to be meeting you guys again to learn something new!

I was thrilled to host in The Living Room today the two mixologists who will be teaching us how to mix those 3 cocktails. They were Ivan Fernandez and Jill Bellah, and they were such a blast to chat with!

I especially enjoyed chatting with Group Operations & Marketing Manager of One Rochester Group, Juwanda Hassim. This guy is such a colourful chap (he's in theatre too!) that I swear I have to profile him separately some other time! *LOL*

Can't wait to see them again this Saturday! [L to R] Juwanda, Jill & Ivan from One Rochester.

It will be a hands-on experience so we'll be making our own cocktails, cutting fruits etc. And if you're keen to start immediately on making your own cocktails, well the good news is that there's a cocktail shaker included in the goodie bag! *woohoo* Plus, a $15 Martini voucher and a mini bottle of Bombay Sapphire worth $30!

OK, that's for the benefit of the typical Singaporean, where goodie bags matter! *LOL* But if you're not the typical Singaporean, then you'll be thrilled just to learn something new!

Come join us lah! Here are the details again. Spaces are limited, so don't wait. Get shakin'!

Colonial Cocktail Workshop
Sat 20 March
4pm to 7pm
(Registration at 3.30pm)
One Rochester
$30/pax or $50/pair

To register, call 6359-7314.

For more info, click here.
Or visit One Rochoster's website here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Happy International Women's Day!!!

It's 8 March today, and the world celebrates International Women's Day -- a day set aside by the United Nations in 1913 to acknowledge "ordinary women in their centuries-old struggle to participate in society on an equal footing with men".

But more so, I wanted to find out about the women's movement in Singapore, and the significance of IWD to us. Who better to tell us more than the Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE), who have been in the forefront of advocacy work for women since 1985. In fact, this year they celebrate their 25th anniversary!

Corinna Lim, the newly-appointed Executive Director, and Dana Lam, President of AWARE tells us about the women's movement in Singapore.

Well, AWARE announced last week that they've appointed Corinna Lim as its new Executive Director. I was keen to meet her and hear from her, and I felt thankful that she and President Dana Lam were willing to make time to come & share with us, considering how busy they must be around this period.

And they were a blast! I didn't think it would be so easy to chat with them. We chatted about AWARE's new structure, as well as their plans for 2010. Also, I learnt more about our fight for women's rights in Singapore, which started in 1952, with the pioneering Singapore Council of Women, which activist Shirin Fozdar was a part of. Awesome stuff!

But taking a more global perspective, my conversation after this took us to Nepal, where Australian couple Adam & Rebecca Ordish started a foundation to empower girls & women there through scholarships, educational programmes & training opportunities.

Bec & Adam Ordish founded the Mitrataa Foundation to empower girls & women in Nepal.

They started the foundation about 10 years ago, after they spent 5 months living in Nepal as volunteer English teachers. Today, their Dream Catchers Scholarships sponsor hundreds of girls through school; their Dream Centres are havens for them to explore their passions & talents, like drama, dance & art; and the Daisy Chains initiative empowers women to start micro businesses.

The profits they make are not returned to Bec & Adam, but to the next batch of women, whom they also mentor. I was fascinated by this "pay it forward" concept. It leads to women empowering women to be financially independent, a community of business owners flourishes. The point, Bec & Adam tell me, is to work themselves out of a job in Nepal. Now shouldn't that be the aim of all NGOs?

It's awesome work they are doing there in Nepal. If you'd like to find out more or to support them, click here.

Oh yes, and I asked them what "Mitrataa" [pron. MEE-tre-tah] means. "Friendship," Adam explains. "When we were choosing a name, we thought that would be the most simple and accurate word, to establish lasting friendships with the wonderful people in Nepal."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up

I love Kumar!!! He is absolutely brilliant! And his wicked, irreverent humour always leaves me in stitches. I love that he makes fun of people, of late-comers, of himself. And he's not afraid to say it as it is. There are not many straight-up Singaporeans like him around -- and you know it.

I was down at the Esplanade Theatre this afternoon to catch him in action at Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up and he was in top form. He totally shone. And of course, he looked gorgeous in drag. He even had his name in bright lights, which was something he always dreamed of, but I guess never expected would one day happen...

Even though Kumar made us laugh with his Merlion and Indian self-deprecating jokes, underlying it all - I felt - was painful honesty, openness, and just a need to be accepted and loved for who he is. The "wedding" video he made of himself, with his family & closest friends commenting on him, brought tears to my eyes.

The other highlight was when he sang the song from The Little Mermaid. He was lip synching of course, and it cracked everyone up! But that song carried in it such rich meaning, if you really listen to the words. It's about a girl, who is different, who just wants to be part of our world. It's a song of longing. I teared!

Growing up for Kumar was never easy. He always felt different. People always made fun of him, calling him names, especially in NS. He was abused as a child. And I guess he just struggled not only to be accepted, but also to accept himself.

In our interview with the man, he was unusually sombre and reflective. He shared with us that he was raped at 10, which surprised me because I've never heard him share that in previous interviews. He told us that he hid that fact for many years because he felt ashamed. But now that he's in his 40s, he's embraced it and is able to talk about it more openly.

A sombre & reflective Kumar in The Living Room.

"If I were to ask your closest friends what Kumar is really like, what would they say?" I asked him.

"That he's always looking for love," Kumar responds with a wry smile.

"And are you looking for love?" Stanley interjects.

"I'm currently in a relationship," Kumar reveals. "But it's never enough, is it? Love is never enough."

Away from the limelight, Kumar admits to be a quiet person. He enjoys the company of close friends, where he can be 100% himself.

Looking at how far he has become, I realise that it's only when we accept ourselves for who we are, when we stop fighting to be who the world expects us to be, when we can come to love ourselves and say, "hey, it's OK to be me", that freedom comes.

And I think that's where Kumar is. The moment he embraced himself, put on a dress, and behaved as he naturally would, without care of what others may think or what others, he became KUMAR. And he soared!!!

I never thought I'd say this, but Kumar inspires me. Not only after that soulful chat in The Living Room, but more so, after watching Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up.

From him, I'm challenged to be honest and open about who I am. Come on, there will always be people who will criticise, condemn or reject us. You can't please everyone. And approval is seriously over-rated. A wise friend once said to me, "It's better to have one person accept you totally, than 100 who approve of you."

I left the Esplanade Theatre feeling uplifted by Kumar's courage, touched by his talent, and of course, with a silly grin on my face.