Posts Tagged ‘Tan Pin Pin’

That TV clip which went viral

In News Reports, Society on November 13, 2014 at 8:01 am

So many people have been talking about the Channel 8 show 118 that I had to go and find out for myself what the fuss was about. It’s actually over a 90 second rant by a young man about the cost or standard of living. His parents were chiding him for some underhand methods he had doing business – and he just let it go. In Mandarin. This is my very loose translation.

“You think I’m the only one anxious to make money? Go ask other young people, who’s not anxious? By the time I finish serving the nation and graduate from university, I’ll be 23, 24 years old. In a blink of an eye, I’ll be 30. In these few years, I need to get married; buy a house, start a family with kids; how is that possible without money? A flat now costs at least $300,000 to $400,000. Let’s talk about basic daily expenses…For someone working in the CBD, who takes two or three train trips, sometimes when you’re in a hurry; you take a cab, just transportation fees itself will cost $6-$7. Even the cheapest lunch cost up to $5-$6, a cup of coffee cost $6-$7 at a cafe! Never mind that, the government wants us to get married and set up a family early, but I’ve to get girlfriend first right? If I don’t bring her out for meals, movies, overseas trips once in a while and buy her branded items occasionally, nobody would want me even if I look as good as a celebrity. Some people have to go to university, take loans and even give the family an allowance. A wedding banquet cost $1000 and above for a table. A wedding photo shoot is $3000 to $4000. All this costs money, money, money! Our generation don’t ask for a luxurious lifestyle. Just to maintain our basic expenses, we have to go out and earn more money. I’m sure you don’t want your son to end up asking you for money to throw a wedding banquet or to buy a flat when he is starting a family. Yes, I agree my methods may be extreme and I’m in the wrong. But the fault is not in me, it is caused by the society.”

Apparently, the video clip resounded so much with people that it went viral. It touched a chord – or is it a raw nerve? So many people weighed in, applauding MediaCorp for the script. They said it represented reality – that everything was getting too expensive. I was thinking to myself that it was very odd for MCS to be so politically incorrect. I mean, where’s the balance? I mean, you can use your CPF money with bits contributed by employer for housing – and don’t forget all the grants you can get for staying with parents or near them. I mean, do you have to have coffee at Starbucks? You can still get coffee at less than $1. You don’t have to throw a $1,000 per table wedding banquet do you? Why not ditch that expensive girlfriend? And how dare you blame society for everything!

At least, I can hear these answers from authoritative sources and old fogies which will balance out his rant. Much like Tan Pin Pin’s movie To Singapore With Love, right? No balance. I doubt that her movie will make communists out of the people or make them resort to subversive action. But, hey, this MCS clip is really, really subversive. And it’s free-to-air!

So I was interested to see what MCS has to say about the clip going viral. TODAY obliged today.

The show’s scriptwriter Ang Eng Tee (of The Little Nyonya fame) said he had written the monologue to represent the views of a certain type of young person.

“The character is focused on branded goods and flashy cars. He represents that sort of young person’s values,” Ang said. “He feels life is stressful because a cup of coffee from a popular chain costs S$6 and he needs to buy his girlfriends branded gifts.” The 54-year-old writer said when he was writing the character of Shun Shui, he spoke to many young people, including friends of his 23-year-old daughter, to get their views. “I know a lot of young people feel a lot of stress and can relate,” he said. “(But) the clip that was uploaded to Facebook probably provoked a bigger reaction because it was an isolated 90-second bit of dialogue.”

Oh dear! So this is said to be representative of a sort of young person’s values. I hope it’s a small minority. (I hope it’s not like the beautiful young people featured in Sunday Times Lifestyle pages who don’t mind splurging several thousand dollars on a designer handbag not even a year into their foray into the workplace because it is a “statement’’ about their identity. In fact, I have no clue what that article was trying to prove – that there are such young people? Sorry, I digress)

Now, the scriptwriter said that if the clip was viewed in context, the character’s parents were chiding him about his credit card debt, “but this young person didn’t care’’. “I think he represents some of the people in Singapore. I don’t think there are a lot of them.’’ He said that there were other characters in the show who are “more grounded’’, like a 30-something who would rather drink $1 coffee at the kopitiam.

So revealing. The under-30s who play free and loose with money and an above-30 who is more frugal. Maybe, the younger character will age and be landed with house and family, forcing him to drink coffee at the kopitiam.

What is interesting is how so many people saw the clip and cheered it. It’s like taking someone’s quote out of context. What has happened to living within your means? And is it so important to maintain a certain lifestyle that you would break the bank, have three months worth of credit card arrears or do something underhanded?

I know this is just a drama series, but it is worrying to me that to some, it sounds true to life – when in fact, the truth is, most spending is within our control.


Whose story is history?

In News Reports, Politics, Society, Writing on October 12, 2014 at 9:55 am

I like reading about the past. In fact, over the past two years, I have eschewed fiction. I read plenty of non-fiction, in particular, history. Whether the books are about adventurers who trek through the wilds, on ice or up the Nile and the Amazon, early pioneers in the United States or Australia or about dynastic families such as the Tudors, Hapsburgs or the Ottoman empire, I devour all. I often wished I did my degree in history rather than in political science. After all, political science is just a multi-varied framework that describes what really is political history.

It is important to know the past because it is a signpost of the future. I read about the different empire builders in history and wonder if ISIS is a repeat: that’s how empires begin, with an idea and then wholesale slaughter of those not in agreement, before coming to something more akin to stability. So it is now in Stage 2?

I read about the Crimean War because of what is now happening between the Soviet Union and Ukraine and was enlightened on four things:

  1. That the Lady of the Lamp Florence Nightingale served during this war and more people DIED under her care than in other hospitals. Because her hospital was built on a leaking sewer system which seeped into the water.
  2. That the Charge of the Light Brigade immortalised by actor Errol Flynn and poet Alfred Tennyson was a suicidal assault by unthinking calvary who obeyed orders of silly, squabbling commanders.
  3. That the phrase the Fourth Estate was coined during this time during a Parliamentary session in England to refer to pressure from the popular press to launch a war against the Russians (I have always thought it was of American origin!)
  4. Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was in the war and based some of his characters in War and Peace on real-life officers.

I guess those are the “facts’’ I have gleaned. As for impressions: The English wanted war, the French were dithering over it, the Turks were overwhelmed and Tsar Nicholas I was mad.

History books give the facts but how the facts are presented is another thing altogether. I read Eri Hotta’s Japan 1941 – Countdown to Infamy, on how the Japanese cabinet decided to go to war and I am left with the impression that every minister was either out for himself or very, very stupid. I read the Balfour Declaration and was sorry about how the Arabs appeared to have been conned by the crafty British to carve out Israel during the period of the Great Game played among colonial powers for control over other people’s territory.

Sometimes I read more than one book on the same period or people – and think I am actually reading about a different period and different people. So I read JOP Bland and Edmund Backhouse contemporary record of China under the Empress Dowager and Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager CiXi and wonder why she is so much more emphatic/sympathetic to the woman than the Englishmen.

I read Raffles and the Great Opportunity by Victoria Glendinning and want to put flowers under the statue of the great man (so brilliant but misunderstood). But I also read Raffles and the British Invasion of Java (crazy, cruel megalomaniac) – and I wish he stayed in Java.

Now we are being fed reams of newsprint on the Battle for Merger. I will go buy the book because I am interested in history and this has to do with my country. But, dare I say that I am also aware that it will be one-sided reading, from our former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew? Because I was not born during those times, I do not quite know what the communists did nor their views on why they do some of the terrible things they are said to have done. I wish I could hear from the older generation who lived through those times.

Also because then, I will have a better idea of why the G is so adamant that Tan Pin Pin’s film To Singapore, With Love, cannot be screened in public. (Actually I won’t have a better idea because I haven’t seen it). Some very tough words have been used by both Communications and Information Minister Yacob Ibrahim and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to defend the G stance. The G says that the film is full of drums – distortions, rumours, untruths, misinformation and smears. It was self-serving because the interviewees (communists who fled the country) chose to white wash their past and did not talk about their “wrongs’’.  (I hear background noises…like, did the Holocaust really happen?)

It’s so terribly odd. We decided not to screen a one-sided film, but are okay about reading a one-sided book – which is more or less on the same topic (?) or at least of the times. It seems to me it would be good to let both loose on the population, as Han Fook Kwang suggested in Sunday Times today. It is when there are two opposing ideas that people get excited and engaged; a monologue will have the opposite effect. Letting the film be broadcast might generate more interest in Battle for Merger, he says, and make it come alive.

I think it’s a good idea too. PM Lee says that a film is not like a book, and therefore cannot be easily countered. Frankly, I have great faith in the ability of the G to counter “anything’’. It seems lazy to resort to a ban when it might be better to engage the film. In fact, given what he has said, maybe Ms Tan should consider putting the exiles’ transcripts in a book! And they could be packaged together with Battle for Merger for sale! Okay, bad joke.

In any case, here’s what PM Lee said: “Why should we allow through a movie to present an account of themselves (that is) not objectively presented documentary history, but a self-serving personal account, conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts than others which will sully the honour and reputation of the security people and the brave men and women who fought the Communists all those many years in order to create today’s Singapore?”

I think the better justification is the later half of the statement on the need to preserve the honour and reputation of those who fought. I would dearly love to hear from them, for a firmer grasp on that period which most of us weren’t born early enough to experience.

But I was taken aback when PM Lee also said the communists were still vying for “a place on the winners’ podium’’. Goodness!  In 2014? I doubt most people understand the first thing about communism, unless they mistake it for consumerism!

I don’t think I will be sticking my neck out if I say that communism will never return nor take root here. Nor do I think Ms Tan’s film will be a threat to national security. Let everyone have their say. People will have different views, sure, but I really doubt that they will be so rattled as to shake the foundations of our country. The past belongs to everyone. Let the present people be the judge.

Danger: bad film

In News Reports, Politics, Society on September 11, 2014 at 12:57 am

Sheesh! So Tan Pin Pin does NOT have plans to upload her banned film, To Singapore, With love, on YouTube. At least for the moment. And there I was hoping to get a free screening! She’s going to re-submit it for rating although how this would get past MDA’s strictures without making further cuts to the tales of the nine exiles, she didn’t say.

 May she succeed like Ken Kwek did, getting an R21 rating for his Sex.Violence.Family Values film which was initially banned from public screening in 2012. ST had an intriguing bit of info, indicating that a “purely private’’ screening is allowed. Now, this is odd given that the film was deemed “Not classified for all ratings’’. So what is a purely private screening? At the home of Tan Pin Pin?

Unlike Mr Kwek’s film which was deemed racially explosive because some parts could offend Indians, Ms Tan’s film was whacked with the “undermining national security’’ label. That’s heavy.

According to MDA, she let the interviewees get away with untruths about their past, like forged passport info and absconding from National Service. It is not true that they had to leave and not true that they can’t return to Singapore, it said. I guess this means that they probably haven’t been put on the “ban’’ list of the immigration authorities to be turned them away if they showed up at the airport. Nor are they on some “wanted’’ list.

ST helpfully included some background on ex-Communist Party of Malaya members such as Eu Chooi Yip and P V Sarma, who returned from China in 1991. I wonder what the two had to do when they got home. Because it seems that the nine would just need to agree to be interviewed by the authorities on their past – probably a renunciation of communism. But there was also this line “Criminal offence will have to be accounted for in accordance with the law’’. Goodness! Isn’t this an indication that the NS abscondees and passport forger would charged for crimes? You wonder then why they wouldn’t want to return home…

In any case, ST said that about 40 members of the filmmaking and arts community have criticised the ban, calling on the G to release the film so that viewers can make up their minds. You know, whatever these exiles did, it was a very long time ago. I doubt that there are many people here who would want to pursue the communist ideal in modern Singapore. But many people are interested in the past, having only heard about some of the names that Ms Tan interviewed, like Tan Wah Piow, now 62.    

But the key point is whether the G believes that such paternalism is needed to safeguard national security – or whether it is merely insisting on its own narrative of history. As an IPS academic said in TODAY, a determined audience would get hold of the film somehow. Better to un-ban it and have the G release its own version of events. After all, if the film makes its rounds on the Internet, wouldn’t the G have to counter it? If it is such a detriment to national security, it would have to do something about its exposure.

Actually, my other question is whether Ms Tan considered taking into account the G’s view of what the exiles might have said in her film. That would have made for a more complete film-cum-documentary. Or, the G can always make its own…