What? There’ve Been 10 JB Arts Festivals Already?

Unbeknownst to many, and especially unbeknownst to me, there is a JB Arts Fest, and they’ve had it for ten years.

This is a bit surprising given all the horror stories we read in our papers about JB and crime – where it’s always “Singaporean Shot While Shopping”, or something like that. Although after speaking with several Johoreans, one suspects the context might have been “Singaporean Shot While Shopping Because He Insisted On Pushing A Trolley Full Of Cheap Groceries Through The Single Basket 10 Items Only Checkout Lane”.

Yes, JB-siders dislike us. If you’re still clueless as to why, think about the nasty things you say about foreigners in Singapore. That’s right. We make everything expensive in JB, we’re loud, crass and rude about it and we don’t care if the locals need to move up north to Yong Peng or Machap to be able to afford a house.

Over the weekend, Hossan and I ventured across the Straits to prepare for his performance at the Arts Festival, and we were stumped by the graciousness and hospitality of our hosts. And for the first time in a long time, we witnessed a bunch of people putting together a festival for the love of the arts, and not money – JB doesn’t yet have an Esplanade, or Drama Centre or Victoria Theatre, but the organisers managed to cobble together what was an impressive line up of events, from comedy to classical music to art and literature workshops.

We did one performance at a restaurant called Eight Lido – al fresco, by the Straits, and another one on a gaudy multi-coloured LED lit boat. Both were sold out to audiences who laughed at every joke, and dare we say, even harder than Singaporean audiences did at our recent shows. To be sharing the stage with an extremely talented troupe called M.A.C.C. (Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians, not to be confused with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) was also a treat. These fellas were frikkin’ funny lah, can?

I am honoured to have been a small part of the JB Arts Fest (writing Hossan’s script), and am very grateful for the fantastic hospitality of the organisers – especially Allan Fernandez, owner of Eight Lido. Thank you for having us over.

The JB Arts Festival 2013 runs till 5 October. Check out their programme booklet.

 

Eric Khoo’s Recipe – A Film About Dementia

Recipe Poster

I was invited to watch an Eric Khoo telemovie last Tuesday called Recipe. It stars Zoe Tay, Li Yin Zhu, Moses Lim and Jayley Woo, and deals with the topic of dementia.

Why is this important? Dementia affects our aging population, and our aging population is growing. In 2005, there were about 22,000 recorded cases of dementia among the 65 and older in Singapore and this looks set to double even before 2020.

What this means for people with dementia, caregivers and the healthcare network cannot be underestimated. And yet, there are many of us who don’t know enough about dementia to even begin to know how to deal with it.

For example, dementia is not normal aging. In whichever form it takes – either Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia (which is caused by strokes), it is an illness that needs medical attention, and it is a condition that needs care and monitoring.

I wish I had known even this basic information years ago, because this subject matter is something I feel very strongly about – my family is dealing with it. Nonetheless, I am glad I’ve learned from the wealth of information available in our healthcare system. Being the immediate family member in charge of managing my father’s illness also presents an educational opportunity – telling my friends, and my father’s friends what’s going on with him is something I seldom tire of.

But I am glad that there are attempts made, like this telemovie, to put the issue up for education and discussion.

This film tells the story of the journey of Madam Ching, who’s been running her hawker stall for several decades selling scissor cut curry rice.

Trouble starts when the snaking queues for her famous fare begin to shrink after her culinary skills take a dive and become erratic. Her daughter Qiu Yun steps into the picture when an accident occurs at the stall. And at follow up medical appointments, it is discovered that Molly has the beginnings of dementia.

The other players in Madam Ching’s journey are her family, friends, workmates and customers, and they all share in her pain, fear and at times outright terror at the unknown.

It is a sensitive portrait of people dealing with and trying to make sense of the sometimes unpredictable family life that dementia brings.

It is something that is close to my heart, and you know I would never encourage anyone to watch Channel 8, but here it is, I’m telling you now – when they screen this on the telly on 29 September, 9pm, WATCH IT. Or record it to watch later.

For more information on dementia and on Recipe the telemovie, please click through: http://hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/HPB055017

 

With HRH The Queen of Caldecott Hill. Zoe Tay's performance in this tele movie is her best ever, IMHO.
With HRH The Queen of Caldecott Hill. Zoe Tay’s performance in this tele movie is her best ever, IMHO.

 

Vale, Mr Ong Boon Wah Alias “Chin Peng”

The infamous leader of the Malayan Communist Party and one-time most wanted public enemy of the British Far East died aged 90 in Bangkok, denied a request to die in his home town in Perak.

Appointed leader of the MCP at age 22, he first fought in a guerrilla resistance against the Japanese Occupation forces in WW2, and later against the British and against the independent federation of Malaysia.

His exploits are stuff of legend – successfully evading the might of the British armed forces for 12 years, slipping in and out of the jungle without so much as a scratch – attending truce talks looking as if he had just taken a taxi to a boardroom meeting, and when the talks failed, slinking back into the northern Malaysian forests and just bloody disappearing.

The British colonial forces fought an outright decades-long war against Chin Peng and his insurgents in then Malaya, but preferred to call it an “Emergency” – denying Chin Peng and his comrades the honour of being conventional civil war combatants.

The legacy of the Emergency can still be seen today. You know our NRICs? Those were borne of the need to keep track of residents – anyone who was without an IC was a Communist suspect. My mother once disallowed me from going camping in Malaysia with my friends because she was afraid I would “kenah kidnap by Communists then you know”.

For all the ideological differences between Mr Ong’s comrades and the ones that built Singapore and Malaysia – I and many others consider Mr Ong Boon Wah, alias Chin Peng, a true patriot of the independent nations of Singapore and Malaysia. He fought tooth and nail for what he believed to be true and just – and held out for as long as his mind and body could muster – values we must admire.

My deepest condolences to the Ong family in Singapore and Malaysia.

Are We Outsourcing Our Social Responsibility?

A couple of weeks back I was invited to speak on a panel discussing a Clean & Green Singapore. I said agreed because I had always wanted to meet Sivasothi, one of Singapore’s leading environmentalists. We’ve known of each other since the term “blog” was invented, but for reasons uninvestigated, we had never actually met.

The discussion panel took its predicted path down governmental measures lane and civic mindedness alley and it was only when Siva spoke about what he did to the students he taught at NUS that I really began listening (sorry NEA, rest of panel – it was one of those days I was triple-booked).

Siva, who later shared my regret that we weren’t as entertaining and fiery as we should have been, has this fabulous requirement of his students. They are required to put their chairs back in place after a lecture has concluded. And – this will blow your socks off if you weren’t wearing slippers like the sloppy Singaporean you are – he makes his students find out the name of the cleaner who cleans the areas in and around the lecture theatres!

Then I started thinking about what had been spoken earlier in the discussion: that Singapore is not a clean city – it is a cleaned city. We don’t see, and neglect to care about the dusk to dawn army of cleaning workers who pick up our garbage in the streets and parks at night.

I’ve mentioned how we delegate our personal responsibilities to so many people that we’ve forgotten we have these responsibilities. Not only do we not know who takes away our trash, we don’t even take out our own trash.

Earlier in the week, I left for work at the same time the guy from the cleaning company was mopping the floor at our lift lobby. I said good morning and he jumped out of his skin. I decided not to startle him further, and will ask for his name next time we meet.

At a meeting a fortnight ago, a bunch of young entrepreneurs was telling us about the disparity between the cleaning company’s contract fee and the actual salary of the person actually doing the job. Yes, there are cleaners who are getting paid $800 a month or less.

It’s a lot more complicated than just saying ‘yes, we need to pay the cleaners more’,  and the tyranny of modern economic conveniences will mean that business owners will still want to engage a cleaning company than to employ a cleaner directly.

It follows that something needs to be done about the people who are directly employing the cleaners. And apparently, something that will pay them more than a mandatory minimum wage, like the progressive wage model I wrote about earlier will come into being next year. Here’s hoping it works out well.

But as I was saying on that panel that evening, if you want a more caring, compassionate society, you have to start thinking of the consequences of every action. There are things within your means you can do to help low wage workers like cleaners.

You want to care about the cleaners who are paid little? Make their job easier. Pick up after yourselves, return your tray, push your chair back after you get up.

I sit on the management council of the condo we live in, and I went on a little power trip at a meeting last week. The security guard company we hire had requested for a fee increase. I voted ok as long as we know that the two guards, who look after our premises and make sure no idiots anyhowly park in our car park, have a commensurate pay increase as well. We even voted on a little thing – making sure there’s enough mosquito repellent in the guard house so they don’t kenah dengue.

I’ve just found out that what we were doing was this thing called “best-sourcing”, which is gahmen-speak for outsourcing in a conscious, conscientious and socially responsible way. And like many things about this fine country, there’s even a monetary incentive to do so.

But as we become increasingly out-sourcery, we must not let ourselves or our corporations outsource our social responsibilities.

I think it’s time I called another council meeting.