Happy National Day, Singapore!

Singapore-city-skyline-Marina-Bay-Sands-Downtown-from-Marina-Barrage-BernoWe, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

Majulah Singapura!

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Happy 90th Birthday, Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Happy 90th Birthday, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

May you continue to enjoy good health and every happiness. Thank you for your dedicated service and enduring contributions to Singapore and all who have the fortune to live in this country.

Related: An unwavering dedication to Singapore (Speech by Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education at “The Big Ideas of Mr Lee Kuan Yew” conference, 16 Sep 2013)

Singapore – 30th Happiness Country in the World (United Nations World Happiness Report 2013)

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Singapore ranks thirty in the 2013 World Happiness Report issued by the United Nations, a ranking of nations’ well-being that includes measures such as GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices.

The report edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs is an effort to provide a scientific basis to incorporate well-being as part of the consideration for countries’ sustainable development policy .

My Ten Favourite Photos from i Light Marina Bay 2012

Over the past few weeks I indulged in several days of photography safari at the 2012 i Light Marina Bay – an outdoor light art festival held at Marina Bay Singapore. During this period, I experimented with different photography techniques, camera settings and not to mention a few tricks on the latest version of Picasa (3.9.7.585 Mac) which came with new photo effects too. Here is a selection of my favourite pictures (in no particular preference order) from this experience.

1. Ghost from the Gate – A translucent lady’s image on the right appeared like a floating ghost emerging from Li Hui’s The Gate

2. The Palm – I love how a passing breeze moved the electro-luminous wires to create this unintended palm leaves leaf-liked effect captured on my camera.

3. The Laser Lights Beams from the Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum – The additional laser beams from the Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum added to the festival’s illuminations.

4. Key Frames – Photography is often an exercise of patience and a sense of timing. This fast-moving installation took me several shots to capture all the lighted figures on the first three rows as I had to anticipate the precise moment when I can get a clear shot. This other similar picture has the entire figures captured.

5. Crystallised– This colours captured in this picture offered a glimpse of the depth of a colour in an otherwise multi-colour installation.

6. Parmendies-I-Solar-System – This image was created by merging several carefully curated photos to form a solar system-liked image in order to capture  different iterations of this changing installation. It is just like how our solar system – the Milky Way is also not stationary but ever-expanding and changing.

7. Woman walking in the white rain – This image reinterpreted Takahiro Matsuo’s White Rain depicting a woman walking in the rain while looking into a dark wet cold forest.

8. The 8 Lamp – By merging two images from Uno Lai’s The Light Dam, I tried to use the two different tones of the installation to form the number 8. After all, we Chinese people like the number 8.

9. Mind the Gap – This installation is made of umbrella shelters used by Thai monks. In urban Singapore, Art has brought direct and indirect economic benefits to the country such as a growing art market and the development of an environment attractive to global capital (Art Stage 2012). In a different perspective, Art, here represented by the monk’s umbrella shelters also plays a therapeutic role to lift the viewer’s spirit up to a world of possibilities or at the bare minimum provides a mental shelter, a moment of respite from a hard crushing concrete urban environment, an opportunity to regain one’s humanity.

10. Bibigloo – Will the fate of the igloo, the Eskimo’s traditional home, also depict the same fate of our own homes as the world warms up with the increased consumption of carbon based fuel?

Bonus – LV Island Maison, Singapore

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Armchair Critique of Channel NewsAsia’s Living Cities Documentary Episode 1: Singapore

I just caught 20mins of the first episode of Living Cities “documentary” (shown on Channel NewsAsia) about my home – Singapore. It was so bad that it spurred me to write this post.

This show was a brain numbing and shallow boring brochureware. Maybe useful to numb the audience before going for the investment sales pitch. My introduction may sounded harsh. Maybe, but it is necessary to be critical in order to start a conversation to uncover Singapore’s distinctive contribution to the living cities discussion.. Not rehashing the familiar formula of Dubai/ Doha but Singapore – an Asian global business city.

Comment 1: Lack of diversity amongst its panel commentators/ experts

Throughout the show, almost all commentators/ experts are Caucasians (I could only bear to watch the first 20mins before I turned off my TV) constantly heaping praises on Singapore. The Singapore I know certainly does not suffer a dearth of locals/ Asians experts living in this country that are capable to comment on the development of this Asian city. Having commentators mainly from a particular ethnic group meant that the content would only engage and connect audience of similar heritage. Furthermore, by having a wide range of commentators from different parts of the world which are able to make critical assessments, it adds to the credibility to the overall theme of the show that Singapore is a truly open global city that welcomes people and business from all over the world.

Comment 2: Lack of focus on the city’s Asian character

Singapore is a special place in the world because it is a developed city-state with an Asian identity. This quality enables it to be an effective bridge between the West and the rest of the developing Asia. It is silly to play down our inherent character. Singapore is relevent to the world because we are an easy Asian proxy for the other parts of the world. Therefore we should focus on how Asian characteristics can be adopted to address modern city living.

To respond to the show’s theme of”Living Cities”, it should have gone deeper into the challenges of urban living  and how Singapore overcame them. Instead, the show went on into a litany of clichés – young professionals in a CBD, yuppie life, fast moving cars, shopping malls,  gentrified heritage buildings that turned into cafe + galleries, frequent showing of foreign workforce and labelling it as progress. What is Singapore’s unique contribution in the living cities discussion?
Does the existence of such clichés actually resembles a living city? No. Our modern world is now searching for a new model of development. A new model of a living city where economic opportunities are plentiful through its connection with to the world. In the same breathe, its domestic residents must also feel a sense of connection, a belonging to the environment in which they live in. A model city is where its residents feel responsible and desire to make the society a better place, occasionally with the authorities’ involvement.

If the presenter wants to present Singapore as a model of a living city, there is a need to look and highlight such Singaporean examples. When that’s achieved, would the show give the city and its viewers a real insight into the living cities discussions.