Watched: The LKY Musical

The greatest challenge for any biographic musical/movie is that the central character, contrary to the usual disclaimer, actually bears resemblance to someone who is dead or alive; and the depiction of the character necessitates a certain level of imitation skills by the actor/actress. Perhaps inundated by this task, the producers of the LKY musical decided instead to sell itself as the love story behind Lee Kuan Yew and Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.

The roles of Lee Kuan Yew and Mdm Kwa Geok Choo were undertaken by seasoned thespian, Adrian Pang and Sharon Au. This is one feat that Adrian Pang pulled off quite amazingly. Pang’s performance as Lee Kuan Yew drew awe from the audience, especially the moments when Pang delivered the few classic ‘speeches’ of LKY. In comparison, Sharon Au’s performance as Kwa Geok Choo was convincing but her lacklustre singing was definitely the biggest disappointment of the whole production.

I was actually most curious about how the relationship between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong would be staged in this musical, especially considering the controversy over governmental intervention in the production. Seeing Lim Chin Siong’s character in the musical so well developed (some might say, even more than LKY himself) left me pleasantly surprised.

History’s ‘forgotten’ man was portrayed fairly and shown as a passionate yet composed leader who cared for the Chinese community. However, as much as the scriptwriter tried to bring out the nuanced relationship between LKY and Lim Chin Siong, the multiple jumps from events to events only made the interactions between the two men overly simplistic.

In the end though, I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe it is unfair to compare the LKY musical with ‘Oppenheimmer’, which is a layered account of the man who invented the nuclear bomb, but the huge contrast in the script quality just show that musical may not be the best art form to capture history. After all the fanfare, what we have left are just scrapes of histories that left the audience deeply unsatisfied. However, if I may just be a bit biased towards local production, LKY musical is, at the end of the day, a good effort with well-designed sets. It showed to an extent, our potential of creating an ‘Evita’ one day. Maybe one day.

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Four Recommendations the EBRC should have made

So the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee unleashed their recommendations last Friday and we can’t help but feel that it was a missed opportunity. Here are five recommendations we felt the EBRC should have introduced instead.

Renaming all GRCs and SMCs to Zones 1 through 29

Everyone’s has continued to make a fuss about how the GRCs are named and split.

“Why my house in Bedok North but located in Marine Parade GRC!”

Weird because with the number of street names not properly represented as GRCs or SMCs, this was bound to happen.

Tectonic shift causes Joo Chiat to shift to Marine Parade GRC

Hello, Joo Chiat IS located along Marine Parade Road. No need for plate tectonics to work.

All this could have been avoided though had the EBRC rename all GRCs and SMCs to Zones 1 through 29. Surely something so simple, yet brilliant, could have been implemented in the Report no?

Include Women as Minority representative in GRC

Before you get started on a feminist rant, would you not agree that it would be very cool if there were a better male – female ratio in Parliament? Since the idea is for guaranteed race representation in Parliament, why not change the rules to allow females to take up the mantle as the ‘minority’ representative in a GRC team? More women in parliament = better debates!

Women-Emotional.-Men-Withdraw.

Add an additional requirement to the Voting Slip

This should be added to the ballot slip.

“Tick if applicable. Is TRS, ASS or TRE your main/only source of news?”

All ballots with this tick will now be considered void.

Do we even need to explain why?

Finally. Release your report later la

Everyone made a big fuss about how they needed more time to prepare and yet could announce their intention to send X number of candidates to Y number of GRCs/SMCs within a single day. Surely this was because they were unprepared and taken aback about the impending polling day.

Things We’ve Seen: Ex Machina

So how did Alex Garland’s directorial debut go?

The first thing that hits you, is how gorgeous Ex Machina looks. The film is really gorgeous despite it’s low budget. Dom Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander pull in great performances. Garland’s film is arranged in a series of sessions, or interviews.

The film begins with advanced coder, Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), winning at random, a week’s stay with his CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at a secluded research facility in the mountains.

When he gets there, he finds himself with the offer to administer the Turing Test on Nathan’s latest project, an artificial intelligence called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb is required, by the end of the week, is to decide through a series of interviews, if Ava is human enough.

As far as science fiction tropes go – this is the modern Prometheus. From Mary Shelly’s monster in Frankenstein to artificial intelligence, the same question is asked; what happens if man starts to play god. 

“Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?”

Ava

Oscar Isaac delivers as a mad scientist with a narcissistic god complex. He is chilling and hateful but becomes strangely charming when juxtaposed with Caleb, who seemingly becomes yet another of Nathan’s subjects.

When the credits started to roll, we inevitably compared Ex Machina to Charlie Booker’s Black Mirror TV series. Conceptually, Black Mirror pushes the boundaries further, using science fiction to ask several questions about technology in daily life. Garland doesn’t offer new material or break new ground; but maybe that was never Garland’s intention.

Ex Machina is currently showing at The Projector.

Freedom of Speech and the People who fight for it

Recently, it’s like everyone’s got their hands in the air, protesting for the right to free expression in Singapore. From Political Parties to NGOs to friends on my Facebook wall, I see an endless outcry for more space to speak freely in Singapore.

They warn me, “If you don’t fight for it now, you don’t know what it means  until you become a victim of oppression one day 

What probably hasn’t helped, is conflating every recent issue into this giant furball called The Right to the Freedom of Speech, and stuff it down everyone else’s throats without much explanation or distinction. A tad bit ironic no?

Cherian George, in his recent SAA lecture at the Projector, opened by clarifying that the Freedom of Speech is a limited right. This is outlined by the UNHCR.

Article 29 would limit its scope so that freedom of expression would not include the right to libel or slander people, or to preach racial discrimination or to advocate violence.

This seems is something that most others conveniently forget:

You Either Have Free Speech or North Korea”

Roy Ngerng

“It is important for the international community to work to foster freedom of expression and in so doing empower the masses rather than ust the rich and powerful.”

Chee Soon Juan

“They amounted to a violation of his fundamental rights to freedom of expression.”

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

It seems as though, the (limited) right to the Freedom of Speech has become this united banner for various issues that are arguably not an issue with the Freedom of Speech in the first place.

Speech

Roy was sued for defamation (which he admitted to) and not because he spent over two years talking about the CPF.

Amos Yee was unfortunately charged for spreading obscene images and making “wounding remarks against Christianity”. This was later escalated because he choose not to comply with the terms of his bail/probation.

Yet others have quickly taken it upon themselves to defend Amos and Roy under the banner of the Freedom of Speech in Singapore but conveniently ignored other parts.

  • Are they really concerned about Roy’s arguments on the CPF?
  • Are they really concerned that the State currently has no seeming means to help other teenagers like Amos? Surely he must not be the only one?

For whom is the right to free speech applicable? 

The same group of Freedom Fighters of Speech were again up in arms when IKEA decided to advertise a magic show by “pro-family” pastor, Lawrence Khong and demanded for IKEA to remove said advertisements. Not condoning the church but is this not recognizing the church’s right to express their beliefs?

Is the right to free speech therefore applicable only to those who have been invited to join the banner?

Or is this select group only for a budding liberal / democrat / progressive individual? Is this a special club for those who have advanced quicker than traditional parts of society?

The freedom to speak freely also means the likelihood of eventually offending someone else unlike you. The projection of the idea of progress on a linear trajectory is equally unhelpful. It can’t be seen as a point where the rest of society has to eventually reach. Perhaps the problem isn’t the freedom of speech – but actually giving a damn to the actual reasons and circumstances behind it all. Maybe then, we can properly recognize and manage cope with difference; and society will be richer for it.

Calculating the cost of Roy’s European Adventure

So the circus resumes and Roy gets yet another chance of playing to the gallery.

His cost offered to Lee Hsien Loong for his time in court? $5,000 in damages.

The same as he claims a cleaner earns in Norway a month.

Interestingly, a conservative estimate of his month-long travels to the old continent costs more.

Hi2

Just about $2,660 more than the amount he offered to pay Lee Hsien Loong.

Cost

We’re not sure about these things but for claiming that a Prime Minister took money from CPF for himself, we would say $5,000 is low balling it. Especially considering how damaging Malaysian’s 1MDB is hurting them.

Photo from Epigram Books

Reading The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

So I finally manged to get a copy of Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye today and finishing it made me miss reading comics.

Sure, it was a really poignant tale of Singapore’s short history since the Japanese occupation. And sure, it pointed out the alternative history and possibilities like a Marvel “What-If” comic book. Yes, you can debate about the politics and ‘Secret History’ examined in the book – as Liew offers that much material.

To me though, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye felt like Sonny Liew’s tribute to comics. It was possibly a love (and possibly hate) letter to comics as a medium.

Reading The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye first reminded me of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Sonny Liew demonstrates an obviously depth of knowledge of the medium by splicing his story and art style with various methods seen in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and even Mad Magazine. Despite this, Liew’s distinct art style was never lost throughout and his references never felt merely a copy. Several times, I found myself lingering over the panels just to let Liew’s art sink in.

Perhaps it wasn’t surprising as Liew’s strength was always his unique art style. This has seen him fulfil artist duties with stints on DC’s Doom Patrol and other titles by Indie publishers.

With The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye however, Liew has wonderfully demonstrated his ability to helm both writing and drawing duties, to tell stories visually. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a beautifully woven visual story narrated by an aspiring artist, Charlie Chan and interspersed deftly by Liew with faux interviews, news paper clippings and other ‘artefacts’ to tell the story of Charlie Chan and Singapore’s parallel lives.

They say that art is most powerful when it is personal – and I can’t help but feel that The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye parallels Sonny Liew’s personal story. I had the fortune of meeting him at a dingy comic shop in Katong once when he was promoting Malinky Robot: Stinky Fish Blues and I never imagined that he would come this far years on.

I’m glad there was someone who made the journey Liew did and really I hope he has more stories to tell.

Buy.