Adoration

In the wood for love.

爱慕带酸甜苦涩。

甜于期盼,苦于被判;

酸于梦焚,涩于自恨。

爱木比较简单。

Location of shoot : Toa Payoh Central Block 192.

Camera : Samsung Galaxy S3.

Processing : Snapseed (Black & White mode) + LINE Camera.

Not Getting Better with Age

Destiny is a blur.

What am I good at?

I don’t know.

I guess I’m good at being a “I don’t know.”

Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase

Total Defence celebrates its 30th anniversary with a experiential exhibition at National Museum Singapore where the stories of unlikely social vigilantes take center stage. Titled “Because You played a Part”, the exhibition draws on personal accounts as well as hot topics to lead visitors on a trail of discovery spanning all 3 levels of the museum.

National Museum was temporarily transformed into a defence base with a military rover (not in photo), marine cruiser and fire-fighting vehicles stationed at the entrance.

Having as much interest in militaristic stuff as Anton Casey has in our “poor people” transport system, I wasn’t expecting much from the Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase exhibition but I was pleasantly surprised.

The defenders (our people) and the defended (our home).

Although the story threading through the entire exhibition was quite hard to follow, I found the narrative idea and highly interactive exhibits to be refreshing and earn top marks for balls and creativity in distilling Total Defence ideologies into palatable bits.

And one of the best things, apart from really friendly and cheery helpers at all stations of the exhibition, was the feat of fusing something as dry as Total Defence with artistic endeavours. While some aspects of the presentation can be improved further provided that budget and museum restrictions permit, the exhibition delivers its promise as a truly experiential showcase that breathed life into the 5 tenets of Total Defence :

1. Military Defence

2. Civil Defence

3. Economic Defence

4. Social Defence

5. Psychological Defence

The journey starts with how you feel and the thoughts of 5 Singaporeans about what Total Defence means to them across the various demographics of Singaporeans (employee, entrepreneur, student, retiree, and homemaker). You can choose which character to follow and uncover more stories (the related characters are colour coded) on all 3 levels of the museum or explore every exhibit at each designated exhibition space.
I chose to follow the path of the entrepreneur (Abdul Hadi) because who doesn’t want to be boss right? LOL!

Immersive staging at the introduction zone lets you walk into the concerns and stories of different Singaporeans on Total Defence.

The lifestyle sets have scenes fashioned to correspond with the characters and it was really fun to just sit at the different chairs and watch talking heads relay thoughts.

Tried as I may to pretend I’ve not seen the retro phone and thus acknowledge my age, I can’t help but shimmy in the “awwww” of nostalgia.

After the lifestyle zone, my trail led to a cool minimalist exhibition chamber that featured a varied collection of information presentation methods. From simple touchscreen modules to reveal positive and negative media messages…

… to a hall of mirrors to reflect upon your community role through expanding social situations, to social media reactions and advocacies. I like it that the exhibition incorporated some of the hot social media topics such as “Chope Food for the Needy” and how the exhibits embraced the conversations of real Singaporeans… with the inclusion of Singlish! My blog got “Lah” so you know how much I love Singlish :)

Big questions that need reflection.

My Total Defence journey brought me to the basement of the museum. I couldn’t find the next personality in my blue trail (Pat Law) but was delighted with this camou version of the Churning of the Sea of Milk from the Mahabharata epic by Cambodian artist, Svay Sareth.

Part of the Singapore Biennale 2013 “If the World Changed” exhibition, this quirky interpretation of the mural found at Angkor Wat into a stuffed toy served as the artist’s mock at the “illusion of cooperation within exploitative hierarchies”. I understand the artist’s angst but I’m more taken with the lovable appeal of this physical moniker to the sculpture found at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

From basement one, I was brought to level 2 of the National Museum on my Total Defence journey where I’d learn by now that we have the power for social change especially in the era of social media. This zone of the exhibition featured classic information panels but instead of using pre-fabricated exhibition frame systems, the panel structures were customized with relevant media features such as a playback of Dick Lee’s culturally-harvested musical tracks.

National security is a collaboration amongst citizens as well as with government agencies. This message of teamwork was creatively transferred to players of this simple game where one party fingered the Braille impressions on one side and described them to a partner on the other. The partner then deciphers the letters to reveal the Braille word. Brilliant!

2-in-1 photo wall where photographic works are projected on…

… and converts into a simple frame for visitors to be Singaporean of the Day. It’s achieved easily by covering the projector with a card.

When kids saw this Lego replica of the 2004 Nicoll Highway collapse, they rushed over and started banging the vehicles and plucking at the ‘debris’ pieces. Alarmed, the parents immediately chided the kids to not break the display (which was already broken).
Then came the clever part of bringing the message across… The student helper assured the parents that it’s ok for the children to dismantle the exhibit because this shows how fragile our society can be. One wrong move and everything can come apart. Then the kids were encouraged to rebuild the bridge instead. Which they did.

At a space outside the permanent gallery that traces the history of Singapore’s food, this partially immersive set was staged to share the story of Ya Kun, one of the pioneer coffee stallholders who is now a household brand in Singapore with countless outlets all over the island.
When Ya Kun started his coffee stall, he only had 2 tables, hence the display, and he slept on top of the tables so that he can wake up at 5am every morning to start his business. A fine example of the early 刻苦耐劳 spirit that has been replaced by the call to work smart instead of hard nowadays.

This Reflection Wall allows visitors to leave messages after they toured the exhibits to family and friends or feedback on the showcase. It’s a low cost solution to engage visitors but I like how the old-school pencils invokes a sense of nostalgia. Well, at least for me coz my primary school days were spent sharpening pencils instead of clicking those mechanical ones.

Riding on hopes for peace in Singapore on Red Scorpion, a fire-fighting bike that is the first response vehicle to all fires in Singapore.

Producing contents, messages and exhibits for events and exhibitions (mostly involving governmental or related agencies) for close to 5 years, I must say that the Total Defence showcase was a daring departure from most stat boards’ preference to cram as much information as possible into every inch of communication real estate.

While this approach has certain pitfalls as most messages are inferred rather than blatant, I enjoyed the ample mental breathing space as a result of knowledge de-cluttering and the focus of a single idea for each tactile interactive. And the exhibits’ design while not jaw-dropping, blended tastefully with the museum environment.

My only grouse was that some of the characters along a story path was hard to track down (I never found the character Pat Law in the Entrepreneur path that I followed) and the Total Defence exhibits had to compete with other exhibitions going on at the museum. I was waylaid many times to check out installations of Biennale 2013 and other themed galleries that joining the dots of the Total Defence narrative became sporadic.

Nonetheless, with some patience and determination to complete the story trail, I got the gist of how entrepreneurship contributes to Economic Defence while discovering other Total Defence concepts along the way.

Then again, I think that’s kinda cool because I learnt more as I was motivated to make sense of the modular personality-based accounts. Not that I’m an expert just because I’m in the events and exhibitions industry, but I feel that the Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase was gutsy in its creative direction and something of a breakthrough to artify national policies.

And it’s free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents to visit!

“Because You Played a Part” Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase is on from 15 – 23 Feb 2014 at National Museum Singapore.

SAFRA Dance-a-thon 2014

SAFRA Singapore rocked *SCAPE with its inaugural Dance-a-thon where participants get to shake their bon bons for a good cause. With a slew of grooves ranging from Zumba Fitness to Hip Hop to Jazz and more, the 8-hour dance mania is cure for two-left-feeters and all in the spirit of charity… to raise funds for Society for the Physically Disabled.

Enticed by the opportunity to burn off Chinese New Year calories and do good, I signed up for the Dance-a-thon. Never mind that my eyes-to-limbs coordination is as present as Aston Casey’s ability to be humble.

From 10am – 6pm on 15 Feb 2014, The Ground Theatre at *SCAPE throbbed with hot beats and nimble footwork. Dance-a-thon is a lead up to the annual SAFRA Dance Fiesta where dance enthusiasts pit their moves against each other in a celebration of showmanship, creativity and stamina.

RFID anklets were issued to monitor the dance duration of each participant in a bid to clock a total of 4,000 dance hours.

Fitness and dance instructors from various gyms and studios led the adrenaline sets to raise heart rates and improve cardiovascular health. And memory to string the steps and movements together.

The event reminded me of the very popular afternoon tea dances during the late 1980s where teenagers can club without alcohol. I felt like a daddy figure to all the youngsters on the dancefloor!

So you think you can dance? Or couldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Dance-a-thon was all about having a good time and burning fat the fun way!

My right knee made itself felt after about 2 hours into the dance segments and decided to make room for more dancers as they streamed in throughout the 8-hour session.

Any participant who has clocked at least 1 hour of dancing received one of these commemorative medals. It’s a nice keepsake to complement the pounds sweated out!
To keep in step with SAFRA’s latest happenings and exciting events such as the Dance-a-thon (which will happen again next year), visit safra.sg to find out the latest activities and promotions for NSmen and your family!

 

Art Stage Singapore 2014

I’ve always held on to my primitive definition of art as something beautiful; an intentional creation for the purpose of delighting and entertaining the senses. But I’m not so sure after visiting Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Having about as much art education as Homer Simpson can do math, I’m never the arty-farty sort. I can neither call out artists by name (except those very famous dead ang moh ones like Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Manet, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Shakespeare… you get the drift) nor identify their works. If I’m found at an art event, it’s usually for the free champagne.

No free booze at Art Stage 2014 but I did get a complimentary ticket (which costs S$30) from a friend who knew I’d have fun photographing the installations and works of art.

Entrance to Art Stage 2014 held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre from 17 – 19 Jan 14.

I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy the exhibition initially as I know nothing about art and don’t want to look stupid by not knowing why that name on a label is such a big deal, but I actually had fun.

The 4th edition of the annual art event attracted more than 40,500 visitors, 600 artists and 130 galleries from 28 countries.

In terms of photo opportunities, I didn’t find that many as taking photos of paintings felt like rip-offs while snapping pics of installations and sculptures required thick skin to saunter into the space of a participating art gallery, take the photos and walk off without making eye contact with the dealers in case they think I have a fat wallet.

Art above as it is below.

Art Stage is Asia’s global art gathering where artists and collectors are brought together.

My aging Samsung Galaxy S3 also ran out of juice quickly so I missed capturing some of the impressive pieces later into my visit. So here’s a glimpse of Art Stage 2014 and some of the pieces that had me amused or allowed me to create photographic ‘art’ out of art…

This huge goldfish sculpture with bulging eyes by Yan Ma-Lin greeted visitors entering the exhibition hall. To me, the goldfish looks like a wide-eyed idealist who has swam out of its painted pond (the painting behind) from this angle.

This scene with a huge seashell in front of a photo of a crowd gave me an epiphany about people who came out of their shells to join the world.

Nightmares can be beautiful… Artist Damien Hirst painted with insects in this visually extravagant piece that is one of my favourites.

Close up of the ingenious bugs mandala featuring jewel beetles, scorpions, atlas moths, leaf insects, Goliath beetles, and many specimens from the forests of South America as well as Asia. It’s a masterpiece from the masterpieces of nature!

Boomz! Deepavali just got kinky?

Bat you love to get some S&M action.

My, what a big mouth you have.

Yue Minjun’s Contemporary Terracotta Warrior No. 10’s laugh is infectious. I can’t help but smile looking at him.

Freedom is letting it all hang out.

她真的看得很开。。。Absolutely hilarious comment by one of my Facebook friends!

Two eras of China.

Consumerism is the new communism?

This oil on canvas by Akiko Kinugawa is Untitled but I think a fitting name would be Sourpuss. LOL.

A slice of eroticart… an interesting piece composed by many layers of print on plastic sheets laid in sequence to achieve a fantasy effect of the nude torso. The effect doesn’t quite show in photo and best seen in person.

Looks like a simple installation but getting each piece of acrylic sheet to be at the same precise height must be backbreaking work.

Hello, Kitty… We decided to create art of our own.

Sometimes in life, we just have to bend over and take it from behind.

人与人的杂乱关系。

Show your true colours.

Life imitating art.

Toshio’s sister found! Toshio is the ghost child from Jap horror movie, The Grudge.

This lonely and cold painting sure could use some fire to keep warm.

Is this art?

Many of the art pieces had been eye-opening in their creative techniques and executions. While the definition of art is subjective, some of the pieces were rather trashy to my commoner eye. Yet, their unartistry provoked a response as much as the stunning works made the heart gasp.

Transcending beauty, my Art Stage foray reminded me that art and the appreciation of it should go beyond the realm of sensory pleasure and embrace the provocative emotional dialogue brought on by art that makes one uneasy.

If I have to explain what is art to someone now, I would say it is the language of the soul.

The Rise of Black Rice

Rice has the effect of garlic to vampires for any gym bunny trying to carve a 6-pack or those on a low-carb high protein diet to lose weight. I know, because I’m one of those carb adverse even though I love rice and the floury taste of banmian (板面).

So instead of giving up rice altogether, I’ve found an alternative to make the calories count with every mouthful by carbing on not white rice, but a mixture of grains and herbs to increase the nutritional value of my bowl.

Here’s an herbal rice blend I’ve experimented with that’s packed with more fibre, vitamins, minerals and higher protein content than regular white rice. And the added Chinese herbs have health promoting efficacies as well!

Ingredients for herbal rice : (left to right) Green Lentils (绿扁豆), Wolfberries (枸杞子), Brown Rice (糙米), Red Cargo Rice (红糙米), Black Rice (黑紫米), Dioscorea Opposita (淮山), and Angelica Sinensis (当归). Angelica Sinensis is not pictured here.

The ingredients sound exotic but they can all be found at local supermarkets in Singapore such as NTUC, Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong with the exception of Black Rice which I bought from Mustafa Centre. If you can’t find the herbs at the supermarts, Chinese medicinal halls are bound to have them. The non-white rice varieties cost more than regular white grains with black rice being the most expensive (depending on brand, a 1kg pack of black rice costs around S$8 while white rice of the same weight costs between S$4 to S$6).

How to Cook : Simply wash all the grains and herbs and cook them together in a rice cooker. Cooking duration is approximately 30 minutes.

In terms of quantity, brown rice should form the bulk with red rice at half the amount used for brown and black rice at a quarter that used for brown. That is, if you used 40g of brown, then use 20g of red and 10g of black (use the same amount of lentils as black rice). But this is not cast in stone and you can vary the rice and lentils ratios according to preference.

For the herbs, use about a handful of wolfberries, 4 to 5 medium slices of dioscorea and 3 – 4 slices of angelica. Angelica has a very strong flavor so refrain from using too much or the resulting rice may taste bitter. Cut the dioscorea and angelica slices into tiny pieces to mix in better with the grains.

Once all the ingredients are in the rice cooker, add water. The water level should go slightly above the knuckles when you place your palm on the layer of rice and herbs. The more water you put, the softer the rice when cooked but too much and you will end up with a sticky rice mud.

Delicious and Healthy

The combination of nutty flavours from unpolished rice (brown and red) with the beany musk of lentils and aromatic fragrances of Chinese herbs gives the herbal rice a complex taste with a hint of bittersweetness.

You can Google each of the ingredients to read up on their health benefits but I would like to specially highlight the value of consuming black rice as more clinical research are uncovering the powerful antioxidant activity of this dark grain. Due to its scarcity, black rice was reserved and eaten only by emperors in ancient China, hence it is also known as the “Forbidden Rice”.

My first encounter with black rice was during a trip to the Yaeyama Islands, a group of islets off Okinawa, Japan. Residents on the Okinawan islands consume black rice and small bittergourd on a daily basis and the area has the highest number of centurions in the world. Many other factors definitely contribute to longevity but the Okinawans’ unique diet of black rice may be one of the key contributing ingredients.

Already, some health sites are calling black rice the new super food as it contains more vitamin E than brown rice and has higher anthocyanin content than blueberries, bestowing it with super antioxidant prowess that could potentially guard against a myriad of cardiovascular diseases, cancers and age-related conditions.

So the next time you have a carb crave, go black and don’t go back!

Orchard Road Christmas Decor 2013

Some of this year’s happy lights along Orchard Road shot entirely with my aging Samsung Galaxy S3…

Plaza Singapura’s outdoor decoration looked anorexic this year.

One of the oldest shopping icon in Singapore, Plaza Singapura used to have such elaborate dress up that turned its main entrance into a playground. Now it’s just a small tree behind its acrylic version of the United Colours of Benetton. Money no enough?

Orchard Central usually have some statement pieces in its Christmas décor and this year, it puts the green into the yuletide season with decorations made by recycling the bottom of plastic bottles. Quite a neat idea.

Saw a narcissistic tree outside Orchard Central. The saying about narcissists is that they seldom have a good ending. Point proven with this photo? LOL.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. Here’s the partridge. But where’s my true love? :(

Louis Vuitton’s Christmas window display took a light-hearted ride on the wild side with geese pulling a sleigh of LV gift-things. But I suddenly have the craving to eat Lou (卤) 鸭.

It’s an unusual sight… Malays singing Christian hymns and Christmas carols. Singapore is so progressive!

ION Orchard erects a giant Christmas tree (yet again) to herald the festivities. Combined with huge screens flashing advertisements and a massive LED skin wrapped around its outer visage, the décor gave the illusion that there is a lot going on when there’s really not much. It has what I call the ‘Chinese Ghost Story effect’… a pretty maiden by night and a grave during the day.

Bring on the bling and celebratION!

The HIGHlight (no pun intended) is staring high up at the tower of lights inside ION Orchard’s gigantic tree. It makes the eyes dizzy.

When seen in focus, the inside looks like a Star Wars set.

Another spin shot of the lights created by simply turning the mobile phone while shooting. The lights change colours so each ‘vortex’ photo can look different.

Wheelock Place had Christmas decals in the shape of gingerbread men, snowflakes and poinsettias on its glass doors. We decided to turn gingerbread dude into a lass. Hahaha…

A peep into Wheelock Place’s Christmas decorations.

It’s an astrological Christmas with a constellation of lights.

Turning the Christmas cones into planets.

Forum Galleria had a novel idea to bring in the safari for Christmas with birds and beasts of the topics and savannah.

The concept was unusual but the zoo theme felt salah.

Let it snow, let it snow! Tanglin Mall always draw the crowd with its faux snow.

Better have fun and enjoy it as this could very well be the last year that Tanglin Mall brings ‘winter’ to Singapore.

Didn’t get to cover all the mall decors as I started shooting the lights this year pretty late.

But with this shots, I wish you and your love ones a Christmas filled with affection, happiness and good health! :)

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