Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A review of "Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia" in Cordite Magazine

It's a short review. The weird thing is, there are only three poets mentioned in the whole thing, and I'm the only Singaporean.

Click here:

UPDATE: How blind of me. There are four poets, and Heng Siok Tian's the other Singaporean. D'oh!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No to censorship - Regulate instead

I should've posted this weeks ago, but better late than never. Arts Engage has created a position paper on behalf of the arts community, urging the nominally independent Censorship Review Committee to get their act together and actually advocate freeing up culture her instead of just being the MDA's rubber stamp.

I'm slightly involved in the report: they interviewed me and have included the cases of Lee Low Tar, the ContraDiction literary readings and 251 as case studies.

The main point they're putting across is that instead of censorship, a system of arts regulation would be preferable - something that provides classifications but ultimately leaves the issue of choice to the individual audience member.

Sign the petition against censorship in Singapore at

From the website:

What is censorship of the arts? It is the control of content, prevention of production and prohibition of presentation, of artistic expressions.

In censorship, ideas and material considered objectionable or problematic by the censor, are suppressed, and often justified as an attempt to protect minors and adults from content that would apparently harm them. But is that really the case?

The value of the arts is not only in their entertainment, but also in the ways in which the arts provides us with food for thought, broadens our perspectives and gives us new insight to the world around us.

Isn't it your right to decide what would or would not be objectionable to you?

The position of the arts community paper on Censorship and Regulation is for regulation - an independent, unexceptional and impartial process of providing information about content that allows art to be produced as intended, and for you to choose what you would experience and enjoy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chua Siew Nai (1923-2010)

She was my grandma. Even when the first of these photos was taken, she couldn't walk, talk or go to the toilet or eat by herself. Hadn't been able to for years. And even before that, we'd hardly been able to communicate because of language differences.

She passed away on Monday morning, just after midnight. The funeral ended last Saturday. Don't worry, I'm not actually torn up about it. And there's hardly anything for me to miss.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pac-Man vs. Mario

Technically, I'm in mourning. But that doesn't mean I've stopped surfing Boingboing.

Yay for the Russians!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fuck. The Singapore Police Force is using entrapment against gay sex again.

From the Electric New Paper, via Roy Tan on Facebook.

Man gropes cop in cemetery
By Elysa Chen
June 11, 2010 Print Ready Email Article

On May 4, the police conducted an anti-vice operation at the old cemetery along Jalan Kubor, an area known for vice.

The police declined to to give details of the vice activities.

A plainclothes policeman was standing alone in a poorly lit spot when he was approached by Jagadiswaran Krisnan, 32, a coffee house supervisor, at about 10.40pm.

Jagadiswaran struck up a conversation with the undercover cop.

Two other police officers were stationed a short distance away, ready to provide help.

While talking to the officer, Jagadiswaran, a Malaysian, moved closer to him. He told the officer that he was there "to have fun".

Then, he suddenly raised his hand and stroked the officer's chest and private parts.

That was when the undercover cop identified himself and, with the help of his colleagues, arrested the man.

Jagadiswaran was charged with behaving in an indecent manner in a public place. He was fined $1,000 on Tuesday.


YS: Indecent manner? I'll give you an indecent manner. Fucking pigs. How do we complain?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Who's gonna win Singapore Literature Prize 2010?

I'm reading Wena Poon's "The Proper Care of Foxes" now.

It's the best book of short stories I've seen come out of Singapore in a long time - possibly since Alfian Sa'at's "Corridor".

I'm trying to figure out whether it should/will beat Cyril Wong's "Let Me Tell You Something About That Night", which is incredibly excellent, but also extremely difficult. It really alienates some people, including Mohan, and of course, who knows if Cyril's even submitted it.

I think Edwin Thumboo's "Still Travelling" will be shortlisted, but it won't win.

Johann S. Lee's "Quiet Time" ought to get shortlisted, if anyone's bothered to submit it.

Am probably leaving out loads of other books. Any guesses?

UPDATE: How could I forget Koh Jee Leong's kickass book of poetry "Equal to the Earth" (in which I'm actually mentioned)?

Wow, nothing by Firstfruits in this lineup.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

ROJAK 15! I'm co-hosting.

Where: Emily hill, 11 Upper WIlkie Road, Singapore 228120
When: 12.06.2010 Sat 08.00pm till 12.06.2010

It has been a long while since the last one. We have been busy the whole of last year and also spent some time moving to our new space. But now we are back with ROJAK 15!

It's happening on 12th June, Saturday, 8pm till late at a lovely shed on Emily Hill. Thank you to the good people at Emily Hill and sixdegrees for their cosy space for the night. You can see the shed in the poster, taken by Jeremy San! Thanks Jeremy :)

For directions and a better view of the space, you can download the poster here.

Kelvin Ang and Ng Yi-Sheng will join us once again as the hosts for the night.

Our presenters for the evening, in no particular order:
1. MINDWASABI, Design Strategy
2. Rage Goh, Poetry
3. Nataliette, Illustration
4. Natalie Lee, Graphic Design
5. Liao Jiekai, Film
6. Jeff Chouw, Photography
7. Brian Chia, Graphic Design
8. Dan Prichard, Film
9. Kenneth Chong, Architecture and Arts
10. Chan Mei Hsien, Fine Arts
(For the actual links, go to the original invite here.)

Bring drinks and beer to share for the beloved ROJAK dinghy!
It's all in the spirit of ROJAK sharing :)

See you there!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I wrote a poem about football.

It was printed in today's Today newspaper. The graphic is really super-cheesy (they printed our poems in curly fonts on scrolls for crying out loud, way to alienate the non-poetry reading crowd). But there's some decent stuff.

Commissioned by Mayo Martin, but I take credit for suggesting Pooja Nansi and Leong Liew Geok. Click here.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

I was at the NUS History Seminar yesterday, and they didn't mention Operation Spectrum Once.

I don't think Vincent Cheng was there, either. But I left during the Q&A, so who knows?

Anyway, there was some pretty interesting stuff from Assoc Profs Yong Mun Cheong, Loh Kah Seng and Huang Jianli (all Chinese dudes) about the scripting of national history. Cool bits included:

* the suggestion that we shift our view of Singapore's place in history from a colonisation-decolonisation-post-colonialism perspective to a view of the cycle of Indo-Chinese maritime centres: Srivijaya-Melayu-Temasek-Melaka-Johor/Riau-Singapore.

* the revelation of how the PAP uses the language of crisis for everything: describing kampungs as hotbeds of physical and moral disease and unemployed educated populations are armies. Essentially, they cry wolf.

* the fact that we have a 25-year limit on how long documents can be kept secret from historians and the public, but does the government respect this? Nooooooooo.

* the story of how Indonesia tried to script its national history in the Sukarno era by assembling 40 historians in a room and giving them a four-year deadline, which wasn't followed very well. The resulting books were burned in a bonfire as soon as the Suharto regime took over.

Full house, ya know? Controversy is good for attendance.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

NUS History Seminar: Why has Mr Vincent Cheng been barred from speaking? (correspondence continues

I got a reply to my original complaint to the National Library Board. The important point is that it assures Vincent Cheng will be allowed to attend the seminar as part of the audience. Here's our correspondence:

Dear Yi-Sheng,

Thank you for your email to all the members of the NLB Board. We would like to take this opportunity to explain the context and background to the seminar that you had raised concerns.

The National Library is the venue sponsor for the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Singapore History seminar organised by the NUS History Society. NLB had supported this seminar due to its focus on the personalities, events and agenda that shaped the history of Singapore. This was in line with NLB's focus for its heritage programmes and exhibitions which explored the role of key movers in Singapore's growth from a fishing village into a modern nation.

NUS History Society (NUSHS) had indicated that Junior College and Upper Secondary students were the target audience and that academics would form the line-up of speakers. The initial line-up provided by the NUSHS for NLB's support were academics from the local tertiary institutions researching on these areas. The academic exploration that the seminar would pursue was also in line with NLB's programming objectives to seek insights into Singapore's history through research and study. The late inclusion of Mr Vincent Cheng, by the society was not consistent with the direction of the initial proposed line-up, of academics, by NUSHS.

As part of our partnership and sponsorship conditions with all our programme partners, the content and details of the programme such as the panel of speakers need to be in line with the intent of the event and jointly agreed upon. For this particular seminar, the programme details did not follow the intent of the seminar based on our initial discussions with NUSHS. The final line-up of speakers provided by NUSHS include Assoc Prof Yong Mun Cheong, Head of the History Department of NUS, Assoc Prof (Adjunct) Loh Kah Seng of NTU, Assoc Prof Huang Jianli with the History Department of NUS and Assoc Prof (Adjunct) Kwa Chong Guan with the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at NTU and the History Department of NUS. Based on this line-up, the National Library is still working with the NUSHS to hold this public seminar this Friday. Mr Vincent Cheng, like any member of the public, is welcome to attend.

Amy Gay
Director, Communications


Dear Ms Gay,

Thank you for your reply. I'm glad that Vincent Cheng is welcome to attend as a member of the public, as I'd heard rumours that he would not even be allowed to be present in that capacity.

It remains my sincerest wish that Mr Cheng be allowed to speak as an official guest. However, on reading your reasons for Mr Cheng being excluded, namely that:

1. his inclusion was submitted late,

2. he did not thematically "fit in" with the panel of academics,

I believe it should be permissible for Mr Cheng to be excluded from a future event organised at the National Library, provided that the plans are submitted early and that his panel includes guests with similar backgrounds - e.g. charity workers, former detainees, or other people significant to Singapore's history.

Given the support for Mr Cheng, I fully expect such an event to be scheduled in the near future on your premises.

Yours sincerely,

Ng Yi-Sheng


Hi Yi-Sheng,
Thanks for your understanding and reply.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Texts May 2010

A lot of graphic texts this month and not much non-fiction. (Effects of my New York Amazon grab.)

+Cathy Park Hong’s “Dance Dance Revolution”
+Dorothy Porter’s “The Monkey’s Mask”

Christine Suchen Lim’s “Rice Bowl”
=Isa Kamari’s “Nadra”
+“The Best of Singapore Erotica”
+HG Wells's "The First Men in the Moon"
+Ayu Utami’s “Saman”

+Haresh Sharma’s “Trilogy”
=Robert David MacDonald’s “The Ice House”

+Naldo Rei’s “"Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor"

=R Sikoryak's “Masterpiece Comics”
+James Gurney’s “Dinotopia” and “The World Beneath”
Lucy Knisley’s =“French Milk” and +“Radiator Days”
= Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's “Aya of Yop City”
+Larry Gonick's “The Cartoon History of the Modern World Vol 2”
=Michael Kupperman's “Tales Designed to Thrizzle! Volume One”

+Robert Bly's “Iron John: A Book About Men”

+Ayan Mukerji's “Wake Up Sid!”
+Christopher Nolan's “The Dark Knight”
+Dong-hun Choi's “Woochi”
=Shawn Levy's “Date Night”
most of =Billie Woodruff's “Honey”

+SITI Company’s “Bobrauschenbergamerica”
+“Next to Normal” (on Broadway)
=Pentas Project’s “The Lost and the Ecliptic”
+Rimini Protokoll's "Cargo"
+The Mango Dollies' "Live and Unplucked"
+faifai's "Y O'Clock"
+The Necessary Stage's "Those Who Can't, Teach"
+Elevator Repair Service's "Gatz"
Haris Pasovic's "Football, Football"
+Emmanuele Phuon and Amrita Performing Arts's "Khmeropedies II"
Peter Brook and Theatre des Bouffes du Nord's "11 and 12"
+Pichet Klunchun Dance Company's "Nijinsky Siam"
+Toy Factory's "Maha Moggallana"
+Tim Crouch's "I, Malvolio"
+T.H.E. Dance Company's "O Sounds"
+Buds Theatre Company's "Colder Than Here"
+Jeremiah Choy's "Emily of Emerald Hill" (rehearsal)

=Khalil Chishtee's "Dreaming of Dreaming"
+Danny Yung's "Tian Tian Xiang Shang"
+Compagnie Carabosse's "Invitation to Dream: A Fire Garden Installation"
=Ming Wong's "Life Of Imitation"
+The National Art Gallery, Singapore and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea's "Realism in Asian Art"
+The Esplanade's "Making History: How Southeast Asian Art reconquers the past to conjure the future"
+Era Dance Theatre Unlimited, Yayasan Warisan Johor and Langkan Budaya Taratak's "Zapin d'Muara"