Monday, May 31, 2010

Sure, politicians say smart things

In the newsletter published by my constituency's grassroots group that is distributed to residents, the foreword written by the mayor (who is also a constituency MP and junior minister) stuck to the issue's theme of fathering, since it's Father's Day coming up next month. He wrote of his own method of bonding with his child, that he "make(s) it a point to send (his) son to school every morning", ie he drives his son to school. Well, bully for him. This constituency is in HDB heartland, ie 90% of the residents live in public housing. Of this demographic, not every household owns a car. According to 2008 figures, 430,000 Singaporeans (out of a population of 4.8 million) own cars. Most kids who live in an HDB estate take a bus to school, or walk to the neighbourhood school.

Another MP preaching to the choir.

There must be a term for it: not trusting politicians.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Advance booking

I thought I was so damn forward looking, buying a ticket for a concert in November. November! Six months away. I've never been that organised so far in advance, not even for things like vacations, where one has to book plane tickets and hotel rooms way ahead.

The ticket was for the Berliner Philharmoniker. Yes. *A* ticket. Just one. Could not afford two. L will have to stay home with the dogs that November night.

They went on sale over the weekend, and already, all the cheap seats were gone. Although cheap seat is a misnomer in this case. At $250 for the seats behind the stage, they weren't really that cheap. I had to buy a mid-range seat, and that was on the third level balcony, the level from which I couldn't hear Prospero. And that was $140. The distance this time round cost me $240. But I'm pretty sure that I'll hear something this time round.

Comparatively, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a couple of weeks is a mere $53, and a Chopin recital the following week cost me just $28. Even if the former was under the auspices of the Singapore Arts Festival and the latter a CIMB sponsored annual piano festival, ticket pricing boggles me.

But then again, this is THE Berliner Philharmoniker.

Still, it isn't the Berlin Phil with Herbert von Karajan leading, but with Sir Simon Rattle. And that only kind of twists the knife for me. The last time I saw Simon Rattle, he wasn't a Sir, he was conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), which was the orchestra in residence at the University of Warwick Arts Centre. As a student, I spent some evenings working as a steward at the Arts Centre, not so much for the money (a few paltry pounds per evening) but for the free concerts and plays I got to watch as part of the job. That's why it's hard for me to imagine Rattle taking on von Karajan's god-like mantle, not when my lasting impression of him was reducing the old dears in the CBSO chorus to giggly fits. And not to mention that I saw him for free, and even got a few pounds at the end of the night in the bargain!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010


We might as well have camped out at Hong Lim Park over the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Pink Dot. It was a bigger turnout than last year, and it was really good to see that it wasn't just the usual LGBT crowd but a diverse gathering that included family groups, mums, dads and toddlers in strollers, and a wheelchair-bound little old lady dressed in pink. And quite a few dogs.

Our tshirts (L wore his from last year that says "Straight but not narrow", mine was "Jesus had two fathers") again got thumbs-up, compliments and several photo requests. And someone tied a pink balloon to Rupert, who was so very proud of it. And that made it easier for our friends to find us.

Some camera crew interviewed L and me. I don't even know where they were from. Bloody dumb questions like: did we have gay friends, and was it a problem when we found out they were gay. L's answer: "I was born straight. That should be a problem then, shouldn't it?"

And then the interviewer turned to me: "What sort of message are you sending out through your Tshirt?"
"That families are not necessarily papa bear, mama bear and baby bear. And that they're still happy, functional families."
I bet back at the farm, we're going to be edited out.

On Sunday, we were back again, this time for the annual candlelight Aids memorial. We were to have brought the dogs, Queeni is quite the veteran of several memorials but not the ones held in the last 2 to 3 years because they were in an indoors location where you couldn't take a dog. But since we're back to an outdoors location, well, her attendance was requested by a couple of the volunteers. Also, they haven't met Rupert, and I was quite keen to show him off. But since there were long drawn thunderstorms from the afternoon into the evening, we decided that the dogs should stay home.

Action for Aids president Roy Chan said in his opening address that we've come quite a long way since we started the annual memorial almost 20 years ago. Back in the 80s and 90s, he lost many friends to Aids. Just as I did. He then pointed out that since we're now into the third generation of anti-retroviral drugs, there really shouldn't be anyone dying from Aids in this day and age. Provided that there is access to medication, of course.

And then guest of honour MP Denise Phua promptly took us all back 20 years by saying in her address that she didn't know very much about Aids until she was invited to grace this event, and then proceeded to deliver a speech she termed as Aids 101, on what she learnt, and that -- glory be -- you couldn't get Aids from social contact, and hugging and kissing a person with Aids (PWA). And then went on to preach to the choir stalls.

I'll concede that at least this MP has the candour to admit that she didn't know anything, and went on to deliver a speech that reflected her ignorance. She was after all addressing a gathering of PWAs, friends and families of Aids patients who died, who are struggling still, and volunteers who work with PWAs everyday. If they weren't insulted, I was. L was livid, he was snorting "And this is our government!", much to the consternation of Ms Phua's group of grassroots leaders, who were seated on my left. Not once did Ms Phua say what she took away from what she learnt, and what she is going to do about it as an MP. No, it was all: keep up the good work, you volunteers. And not a peep on what the government is doing to help PWAs access affordable medication.

It has been 10 years since Paddy died, and the fight still goes on.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giving voice

The first time I heard Susan Boyle, I didn't know who she was. A colleague sent me the link to the YouTube video of her appearance at Britain's Got Talent. This frumpy woman walked onstage to a dismissive sneer from Simon Cowell. And then she sang. And a thousand jaws had to picked off the floor, including Cowell's and mine. Not surprisingly, a group of us at the office followed the show on the Net (we don't get it on TV here), rooting for her at the final. She didn't win. But again, not surprisingly, we knew there'd be a CD out soon.

When I first heard Wild Horse on YouTube, I knew I would have to get the CD, just on the strength of that. And so I did. I knew she outsang Mick Jagger on that cover. What I didn't expect when I got the CD was that she'd also outsing Madonna and the Monkees on other covers.

The funny thing is that this CD, an album of ballads and covers, isn't the sort of music I usually listen to. There's no thumping backbeat, no snazzy bass hook. But damn good music is damn good music, and should be listened to.