Pandas Jia Jia, four, female and Kai Kai, five, male, before leaving Szechuan for Singapore.
Jia Jia (buffing her nails): I hear it’s going to be panda-monium when we get to Singapore tomorrow.
Kai Kai (gleeful): Who cares? We’re flying SIA! Singapore Girl…Here I come..! You think I can persuade them to give us an upgrade from cargo to First Class?
Jia Jia (still buffing her nails): You can try. I hope the SIA girls can understand your Mandarin. I don’t think our China women are wearing the kebayas – yet.
Kai Kai: Never mind that. You know SIA is dressing us as plush toys in kebayas? It’s okay for you girls to look like air stewardesses…but…. I’m a full-blooded male! (gives Panda growl..)
Jia Jia (looking at her hand mirror): Hmmmm….I just know I would look good like in a kebaya. I’m sure people will pay $20 for me. You, you only deserve to get your face stamped. Fifty cents only! My face is worth $2! By the way, I hope the stamps are in colour, not black and white…Don’t want to look washed-out…
Kai Kai : Frankly, I don’t think these Singaporeans can tell us apart. But you know how efficient they are. They might give us name tags, and put down age, sex, race and nationality…Remember to pack my electric shaver. Don’t trust them to groom me…
Jia Jia (throws shaver into suitcase): We’ll just have to grin and bear it. At least they treat foreign talent well. They spent like $8million just to build our new home. And we’re going to be the first ones in, even before TOP.
Kai Kai (flexing his muscles): You think it’s going to be a shoebox apartment? I hope not. I need more than 50sqm of space to live well.
Jia Jia (throws her dinner gown into suitcase): I think it’s going to be bigger. These Singaporeans have been panda-ring to us all this while. I just hope they serve some really good bamboo shoots. You think they’ll bring us to Crystal Jade or Tung Lok to eat?
Kai Kai: Stop thinking food! You already sound like one of them! But we better know where the Chinese embassy is, in case we get abused and need to go there and hide. You have the telephone number?
Jia Jai (packing iPhone) : You’re silly. Their Prime Minister already said we’ll be well-treated. He even took a look around our new place…and said he was satisfied….
Kai Kai: Well you never know…These Singaporeans, especially those on the Internet, don’t like foreigners. I won’t put it past them to mistake us for wild boars and shoot us.
Jia Jia (pushes spear into suitcase): Look at it this way. We’re only going to be there for 10 years, then our work permit runs out. It’s not like we’re going to take up space on the MRT. In fact, I think we’re bringing in money for them. Remember last time An An and Xin Xing went there in 1990? More than 400,000 visitors in just 100 days!
Kai Kai: Yeah. They made enough money to pay the snake head and the agent and even sent money home. I heard they built a new house in Szechuan.
Jia Jia: Well, they spent only 100 days in that hot place. It will be like 10 years jail for us…You think we can survive?
Kai Kai: Maybe we should apply for PR, and later become citizens. Then our children can get into a good school and we can get more housing and health benefits.
Jia Jia (snaps suitcase shut): I am NOT letting my son do National Service!
Kai Kai: Okay. Okay. We just make money – and then go home.
Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
Pandas Jia Jia, four, female and Kai Kai, five, male, before leaving Szechuan for Singapore.
I really really don’t like reading repeated stuff. But I had to endure this in ST:
Headline: Surprise for Pearls Centre tenants.
Deck: Most unaware of acquisition of complex for new Thomson line
Intro: News of the Government’s impending acquisition of Pearls Centre yesterday took tenants and residents by surprise. Neither shopowners, residents nor the building management saw the move coming, with most of them saying they have no choice but to accept it.
And frankly I doubt that the journalists spoke to MOST of the complex’s people. But I got through the article anyway because the Chinatown complex is a landmark. And didn’t get much satisfaction. So it’s strata-titled so I guess no one owns the whole building. But landlords, shopowners, tenants and residents seem to be used interchangeably. Story says that the 243 TENANTS have two years to move out. So the people who OWN the shops can stay? And are all the residents on the 11 floors of the complex tenants? How many shop units and residential units. How many owner-occupied and how many tenanted?
Is there a major landlord? Or plenty of small landlords who rent it out? If so, what sort of rents do they command? That would give an indication of the worth of the shops. And what about the residents? Very good location. So how much rent do they pay? Or what was the last sale price?
Eh, how to find pearls of wisdom when don’t even have nuggets of basic information leh? How to analyze or comment on the issue like dat?
The most interesting bit of information was actually towards the end of the story – that the un-named building management had actually started the process going for an enbloc sale. So it must have SOME idea of the value of the place and what it can fetch. Seems to me a lot of people are going to be unhappy about losing not just the shop but the potential windfall they can reap if the sale goes through. In fact, BT had someone referring to this in its story – whether the enbloc potential will be factored into the Govt’s compensation.
The ST story ends with AT LEAST one tenant being happy that there is a “closure” and how it’s a “good thing” that the Government has given an end date. So it ends uncontroversially….Really!
AFTERNOTE: I just read Today’s version. It was better-angled. Referred to the enbloc process in intro. Also, it gave breakdown of commercial and residential units. Tone? Less rah rah.
Sometimes I think the men in this country forget that there are women here too. I am referring to ST Page 1 story on SAF to tap expertise of civilian doctors. If I was a mother with a son doing national service, I would be dead worried. Because nothing is said in the story about the “current” situation regarding medical treatment for our boys in green. In fact, I don’t even know how many guys there are in NS. Apparently, 40,000 NSFs, according to Today. But how many doctors or medical officers (what’s the difference)? What’s the ratio? All I have is six to eight doctors sign on each year. And the number is 20 per cent more today than 10 years ago. This has always been my beef with journalists. What in heaven’s name is 20 per cent more?? From 10 doctors to 12? From 100 doctors to 120?
Also, what is the current standard of medical care in the SAF? How many guys see doctors? For what ailments? And what if they need specialist help? What about number of doctors stationed at training exercises? For this, I have to read Today to find more, just a bit more. But at least more. So it seems there’s gonna be a Pilot Physician Partnership thing and the NS doctors are going to be rotated to the hospitals before they become full-time SAF doctors.
Of course, the papers went to town with the announcement of the new medical training facilities. TNP even had a very nice graphic. Well and good. But hey, can get answers to critical questions first before going rah-rah at yet another innovation by the G, which I don’t even know people need….?
I have to say that I thought ST’s Page 1 story today on cleaning up Boat Quay a little strange. So auxillary police are going to be patrolling the area soon to discourage touting. You mean, they haven’t been? Or are we making a distinction between auxillary and “real” cops? With Boat Quay always in the news for bad news, you would have thought the men in blue were walking around every night. I mean, there are even cameras there to keep out undesirable activity. Maybe they HAVE been patrolling, but not to discourage touting? You mean, the nice restaurant owner can’t go up to the tout and say stop doing this – because they risk being punched or knifed?
Another thing, what is touting? So those women/men at the front of restaurants aren’t supposed to say “Come try us?” Okay, I know touting turned aggressive is terrible for those who just want a quiet walk. But hey, they add some colour. I think tourists quite like the idea of touts – or have they been complaining. What is aggressive touting – when they start manhandling you, I suppose? I draw the line there.
More important, is Boat Quay unsafe? I mean, the phrase is “clean up”. So whats the crime rate like? Those cameras aren’t working to deter criminals and make for a safer environment? Waste of money then?
The story, in journalistic parlance, is a bit thin.
Then there is this thing I have about revenue/business figures. So often we see phrases like business/sales/revenue/profit is down 60 per cent in the last one/two/three years. If I were a tenant, I would pluck any figure out of the air to get my landlord to get rents down. Especially if I am not using my name or the name of the restaurant (as is the case in this article). Down 60 per cent from $1m three years ago? Or $100,000? Maybe the three years ago was an anomaly. In any case, you think any businessman is going to open his books for verification? I think a much better way is to see if the restaurant is full – or empty. And ask what it was like in the past. Easier for the reader to relate to such matters that they can “see”, rather than a 60 per cent of goodness knows what base figure from three years ago.
So, here’s to a sanitised, safer and quieter Boat Quay, with plenty of men-in-blue walking around. Not sure that I’ll enjoy it. But then again, I’m weird.
The thing about being employed is, well, you have to work….So here I am (physically) at Tembusu College in U-town on a Saturday, in a nice studio apartment, hammering at the keyboard, facing some trees. Not Tembusus though. And I forgot that on Saturdays, the residential college’s dining hall doesn’t open and had to contend myself with an expensive breakfast at the nearby 24-hour Starbucks. A breakfast that costs more than $6 is expensive in my books…
Yep, Starbucks is at U-town, so is Fish&Co, Subway, an Italian restaurant, a Korean one and Old Hong Kong. Cheap and good by working adult standards though I am not sure how many undergrads can afford a coffee at Stabucks everyday.
I am waiting for the start of Family Day or actually, waiting to see how a group of aspiring journalists will go about covering the event. This is assignment No, 2 and I am already thinking to myself: What did I let myself in for?
Assignment No. 1 took place on Thursday, a forum with four experts on that gigantic topic known as Climate Change. Truth to tell, I have never been too interested in this issue in my past life. Carbon credits, sustainable development (so glad I was to hear one expert describe it as mere rhetoric!), and all that diplomatic-speak about frameworks and conventions…sheesh. Just keep Singapore clean lah.
But, man, I had to be an instant expert on this. The great thing about journalism though is that, whatever the topic, the principles of reporting and writing are the same. But after being so long in newsrooms among trained people who share them, it was a bit of a shock to find out that I had to start from scratch with the un-trained.
I was glad to have good students; ready and willing to take advice and who would ask me questions. One told me that I had rocked all the assumptions about journalism she learnt in school when I suggested a different way of writing an article. ”But is that a news story?” she asked. “Or is it feature?” Frankly, I never bothered about such distinctions in my former professional life. Every article is about story-telling, after all.
Another who was all wound up to interview the Forum’s chairman, Prof Tommy Koh, rang me before the forum started with what he said was a “tragic update” (very journalistic I thought). The Prof wasn’t turning up, he said. Never mind, I said, his article (to commemorate the 20 years since Prof Koh chaired the first Earth summit) was still good to go.
Another wanted some basic tips on how to ask questions – Go up to the mike, introduce yourself and ask the question, I said. What question do you want to ask anyway? Turns out he had some general idea but hadn’t framed anything yet. (I find this a common problem – nobody knows how to ask questions anymore, and if they do ask one, it’s a general question like How do FEEL or What do you THINK?) Anyway, we formulated a proper question for him. I caught him rehearsing his one question in the college lounge before the forum started. I was pretty chuffed to see that he was the first one at the mike at question-time. Wow. Thick skin, I thought.
Most of them didn’t have thick skins – a basic pre-requisite for a journalist. Or maybe they didn’t prepare themselves well enough for the trauma of speaking to someone they don’t know. There we were in the multi-purpose hall with the speakers already present. There was still time to ”get” them before they went on stage, I said. Go, go, there’s the woman you want to get. How? How to do this, was the reply. Guess it is not in everybody’s DNA to just go up to someone, introduce themselves and make small talk.
So I got up instead, hoping that the rest will follow. They didn’t.
Nor was it easy for the less thick-skinned to do a door-stop methinks. Go get a copy of that fellow’s slides at the end of the forum, I said. In the end, I got up myself because the expert was about to exit the building. The good news is, they followed and had their own interview with a couple of the speakers. I gathered that another student cornered an expert outside the hall on his way to the car. Way to go!!
They might be shy and not fast enough on their feet (not by my standards at least), but they sure are bright. They pointed out contradictions in the speakers’ speeches, and wondered whether some ideas made sense. I heard plenty of opinion, which is very good. If the College aims to raise the level of intellectual discussion, well, looks like it has collected enough mental matter to make it happen.
But hey, this is reporting, I said. You have an opinion, you write a column. You don’t like what he said, I don’t care. Is it worth reporting? Yes? No? What’s the most critical thing here? What? Will anyone WANT to read something like that? Then there was a general lament over my two-hour deadline for submission of reports. By the time we were done, it was already close to 10.30pm. And there I was thinking that undergraduates do not go to sleep especially if they live on campus….I mean, that’s how I lived my own undergraduate life.
Ex-colleagues who were interested to know about how the first assignment went have chided me for being too kind, soft and mellow. “Favouritism! You would have torn us a new one!” one of them told me.
But, hey, I am having a blast!
PS. My apologies to those expecting some kinda critique of current affairs. Sometimes I get into a self-indulgent binge.
I wonder if DPM Tharman was surprised that his speech made page 1 of ST today. And if he did, did he think the reader would get beyond the first par.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday that more must be done to level opportunities for young children in Singapore.
Or what this minister thought:
Education MInister Heng Swee Keat yesterday reminded aspiring teachers to uphold their roles as models of good behaviour.
And this minister too…
Labour chief Lim Swee Say yesterday warned that economic restructuring will get more painful for both companies and workers – given that Singapore does not have the luxury of an unlimited pool of manpower.
I have written a couple of posts in the past about journalists being paralysed by the PM. It seems other ministers have the same effect too.
Well, I read each article beyond the first par, persevering to the end. That’s because I am an information junkie and old habits die hard. I am interested in journalism. And I am a masochist.
In any case, I read each to the end wondering whether there was anything new at all. I mean, if DPM says more must be done, then I suppose there will be news on WHAT was going to be done. No, nothing. Instead, exhortations that the culture of communities and schools must be “geared” to do so. Oh, and he is referring to pre-primary and primary school children. I guess this is what I am supposed to read into this mass of words: That we can expect some changes here? But what? He didn’t say. And the media didn’t find out.
It looks like his speech was reported fairly fully, with two sets of anecdotes. One phrase was used – about giving even those who left school a “ladder” to success. Nice word I thought.
But his speech, or the report of his speech, was hardly engaging. I know that messages need to be reiterated but there are plenty of ways to make the messages less of a yawn. I mean OF COURSE, more must be done to level opportunities for young children…
So what’s the story? Really got no news? If so, how about…
NO society has all its children starting out from the same line, but it can intervene early, while they are in pre-primary and primary school, to pick up and push on those who are falling behind their peers. Grumblings about how early education benefits the better-off families has reached the G, with DPM Tharman calling for “early intervention” “upstream, not downstream”, to level opportunities for every child. He said the culture of schools and communities should be geared to do so, but left out mention of whether the G would take the lead.
And what about that lecture to aspiring teachers? Frankly, I have read this before. Ministers have said this at functions that involve educators. So it’s like a repeat lecture for remedial students…But I guess it has to be said given that there seems to be no let-up of scandals involving teachers. Rather than focus on the lecture, can’t we turn the spotlight on these aspiring teachers? What do they say about going into a profession that is so tarred? Don’t they get ribbed? Are there some things they would be careful about doing/not doing once they get posted to schools?
As for that ”warning” to companies and workers that there will be a tough journey ahead because we don’t have enough workers. Okay. So? Now how? Read on and Lim Swee Say says some sectors will hurt more than others in the restructuring exercise, he named the hotel sector. Wouldn’t it be better to get him to elaborate on this point so that the message can get more specific? And hotel workers can start “bracing themselves” instead of just “raising their eyebrows” at what he said?
It’s funny that you have reports of three ministers talking TO people (through the media), but later in ST’s insight pages, you have a report on three ministers talking WITH people (without the media). Nicely written report too. Time for the media to take a hard look at the role it plays in the public ENGAGEMENT exercise, no?
I am pleased to announce the extension of Cemetery to include some new plots recommended by grave-diggers who have emailed me. Tombstones will be erected for the following
a. ICONIC – Okay, tell me which building in Singapore is NOT iconic? Then again maybe so many building are iconic that we need to coin a new phrase – super iconic? Word to be reserved for religious use, where it originated.
b. AUTHENTIC – Especially in the area of cuisine. Wonder how food reviewers attest to the authenticity of a country’s cuisine. Like, what’s authentic local fare? Just the right dash of vinegar in chicken rice chilli sauce? Good food might be a good enough substitute.
c. EXTRAVAGANZA - Any performance with plenty of lights and loud sounds. And looks like it cost a bomb to put up. Hence, extravagant in more ways than one. Maybe so. But can reserve it for the really big, and really splendid instead of any old show?
d. BAG – as in bagged an award or three. So over used that you think award winners are stuffing them into bags. Can please stuff it?
Keep them coming. BTW, I believe “slew” looks like its been slain. Haven’t seen the word for some time although I still see plenty of “raised eyebrows”.
I declare today’s ST page 1 story on the Heineken bid for APB unreadable. For crying out loud, you need the patience of a saint, go over the whole thing five times, and STILL can’t make sense of who is fighting over which piece of what stuff. The article chokes you with numbers. You would have thought a graphic on all the parties and how they relate to each other would have clarified matters easily. So thankfully, there was BT, which had a graphic. Odd, since a business paper could roughly expect that its readers would understand the battle lines, but a general paper must expect that most of its readers would not….
Anyway, there I was trying to make sense of why this is such a big deal. A corporate battle is always interesting I suppose, especially among big name playersand with big money. I mean, won’t I get to drink Tiger beer still? Then I turn to the Insight pages in ST about the worry pver yet another Singapore icon disappearing into foreign hands. Hmm. Sentimental value versus business considerations? How protective should we be about our treasured icons? If we are too protective, we can’t blame other countries from doing the same to our Singapore businessmen who want a piece of something iconic from them. Some of our own already facesuch problems.
What we should be protective about is stuff that is of strategic value to Singapore - do we want PSA in foreign hands?
As Eu Yan Sang’s Richard Eu said, its the heritage, not the owner that counts. Raffles hotel is still around never mind its ownership change. While we can’t say Tiger Beer is Singapore-owned, we can say it’s a Singaporean brand (generalise a bit lah)
Kudos to the Singaporeans who make money from this battle. May Tiger Beer live forever.
AFTERNOTE: I found a graphic in the ST Money pages. Too late. Should have been with the P1 story.
Dead men don’t talk, but according to the LTA, they can plug leaks. Or that’s what ST had the LTA saying in its headline on what the two men who died were up when the MRT roof scaffolding fell on them the day before. It’s so hilarious, can die!
I wondered too about the P1 story on New canal to help ease Orchard floods. I would have thought the correct word was flooding. If it’s a question of fitting the longer word in, then do away TO HELP. So you get New canal to ease Orchard flooding. By the way, I was intrigued to read about “high-profile” floods….A person is high-profile, even an event. But a flood???? It’s like its issued a press statement announcing their arrival and plenty of drum banging preceded its coming….
I don’t know about you but I did a double-take (raised eyebrows included) when I read ST’s front page headline: Land for Changi to double size. Immediately I thought more reclamation works would be done for the eastern part of Singapore and my next thought, wow, McDonald’s up size my meal has really caught on!
I suppose when someone says Changi, you know immediately that it’s about the airport? I’m not sure. There are so many foreigners here as well and Changi is a place. Wouldn’t it better to say its the airport since we only have one? And is it natural to read “double” as verb? Seems to me it should just read Airport land to expand. Anyway, minor point.
I couldn’t understand the point about increased number of flights outpacing percentage increase in passenger traffic. So it’s14.5 per cent more flights last year against, say, a corresponding 10 per cent rise in passenger numbers…? I’m a bit dumb but what does this signify? That planes not carrying enough passengers? Sigh. Too hard for me to work the maths….