Dia Frampton Was In Hard Rock Cafe Singapore

Dia in Singapore!

And we were there, thanks to our Google+ buddy Kevin‘s friendly alert.  Kevin all the way in US heard about the concert.  We in Singapore didn’t.  Recently, Cynthia and I have started watching The Voice.  We love how this singing competition invites semi-pros to participate.  Since we have missed the first two seasons, together with our buddy TK, three of us put our heads together day-and-night analyzing Dia Frampton’s music album in depth, trying to see if the S$25 ticket price (and S$10 booking fee!) was worth it.  We love her music.  I love her sultry voice.  It was three yes’es.

Hard Rock Cafe Singapore – the one in town – is a rather small venue.  But it has a great atmosphere.  There is a small stage and behind the stage, three large Gothic multicolored glass panels immortalizing Elvis the King in the middle, a dude on a piano singing Great Ball of Fire on the right, and on the left, a legendary guitarist whose name I am unable to  pinpoint.  He could well be the Boss.

In front of the stage is a rather large dancing area.  Much larger than the one in Hong Kong.  But here lies the challenge of seeing the artist if you are standing a few rows from the front.  We reached the venue at 6.45 pm and there was a queue forming.  Hardcore fans were determined to get to the front row.  TK, Cynthia, and I were the pragmatic one.  We needed a good meal and some good beer.  I have reserved a table on the second floor in advance.  Time for some quality fajitas and beer and a great time guaranteed every time we visit a Hard Rock Cafe, wherever in this world.

At nine-ish, Dia Frampton entered the stage, with her guitarist Daniel from UK.  She is – I would say – petite and in a beautiful pastel colored bareback dress with her hair tied up.  A perfect outfit for the Singapore weather.  I had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be an acoustic set with she occasionally played the guitar and the piano.  Daniel was her temporary guitarist and the entire performance seemed a bit like them jamming on stage.  At times, it wasn’t entirely clear who should pluck the ending notes, a song was restarted because the starting notes weren’t that entirely right, or some of the rhythms seemed a bit strange.  However, none of these matters because it was so easy to lose in the moment when all I saw was two artists creating music on stage.  Dia has made the effort to change the arrangement and delivery of her songs making them fresh to listen to.

It was Dia’s first visit to Singapore and she has cracked some good jokes on stage.  Like how she came to know more about Singapore in the last minute through reading Wikipedia during her 24 hours plane ride.  How visiting Singapore is not exactly helping on her new year resolution of trying to shop less.  She and Daniel had American food for lunch and she has promised to try out Singapore’s chicken rice before she left.  Because it is famous according to Wikipedia.  Dia and Daniel took turn to tease each other on stage.  Like how Dia is unable to understand Daniel’s British accent most of the time.  And Daniel was surprised that Dia cries a lot, even when watching Wreck-It Ralph.  There is a girly side to Dia that I found charming.  She talked a little about The Voice too.  I am pretty sure I would have been a fan had I watched the first season.

I was expecting her to perform some cover songs.  True enough, she did a few (which I presume that some of these numbers were taken from The Voice).  Cynthia loves Dia’s rendition of Losing My Religion.  Dia sang Inventing Shadows, which signifies an important milestone in her competition.  That was a solid delivery.  I love the last song of the set most – Heartless – when she performed by the piano.  So full of emotion and commitment.  Watching Dia on stage was like watching The Voice.  TK said that she sang much better live than in her studio recording.  I felt that her falsetto was a bit weak.  But when she attacked those big notes with commitment, it was glorious.

We had a great time.  It was a fun evening.  And thanks to Kelvin for the alert!

Assumption Of Mary: A Personal View

Yesterday, Cynthia and I have celebrated the feast of The Assumption at the Cathedral.  Quite honestly, the Cathedral is likely the most uncomfortable place in Singapore to attend a Mass.  It is warm inside, even in the evening.  The noise from the main streets surrounding the Cathedral can be distracting.  So are the fans inside blowing at full blast.  Part of the ceiling is falling apart.  Paint work is coming out.  In short, our Cathedral is in dire need of a major renovation, if not a rebuild.

But, if you are looking for an authentic experience, the Cathedral is the place to be.  Part of the Mass is celebrated in Latin.  The choir members dressed in robes, their singing may well rival the angels from Heaven.  The priest, though old, is filled with spiritual energy.  I sat my back straight throughout the sermon, absorbing each and every word the priest said.  He often strikes me as someone who is so absolutely ready to embrace Heaven, in a mental and a spiritual sense.  If you meet him on the street, he may look like a frail old man.  But he has an amazing aura that touches people’s heart.

One story passed down by generations goes something like this.  After Jesus has died and resurrected, his mother, Mary, has lived to the age of 65.  Whether Mother Mary has died or has gone into a deep sleep – a debate we still have till today – she was buried inside the tomb of Jesus.  Thomas, the disciple who was always late for everything arrived at the tomb one day late.  When Thomas opened the tomb, lo and behold, Mother Mary’s body was no longer inside.  It was then said that her body was taken to Heaven leaving nothing behind on Earth.

Now, that is just a story.  A story shared by the Priest with repeated reminders that this story is not Gospel.  It is not until November 1, 1950 when Pope Pius XII solemnly declared the following:

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

As a dogma, we Catholics must believe that Mother Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven.  But why is it so important to the Catholics where Mother Mary’s body and soul has disappeared to?  To answer that, we have to go back to Garden of Eden.

In the beginning, God created Adam.  Adam took a piece of his rib bone and created a woman.  He named her Eve.  Both Adam and Eve were having a great time in Garden of Eden, the paradise until the snake tempted Eve (and later on Adam) to eat the forbidden fruit that opened their eyes.  God was angry.  Adam and Eve were forever banished from the paradise.  For dust you are and to dust you shall return, so said God.  Just like that, they have lost their immortality.  From Adam and Eve onward, we bore the Original Sin.  Each of us die to our Original Sin.  Generations by generations, until …

… Jesus Christ came and has freed us from sin by his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.  His resurrection has showed us that death can be conquered and those who follow Him will get to Heaven.  All is well, but here is one question.  If Jesus was born as a man, wouldn’t he too inherit the Original Sin from Mother Mary?

To tackle this question, we have to first look at where Jesus came from.  Catholics believe in the Trinity aspect of Divinity.  There are three aspects of Divinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To me, God the Father is not bounded by time or place, exists everywhere and throughout the scale of time.  When God the Father sent his Son to us more than two thousand years ago, that aspect of Divinity was bounded by time and place.  God made man – Jesus, his Son – lived with us and taught us love during His stay in flesh and blood before returning to Heaven.  God was physically among us.

Now, since Jesus was born as a Divinity, at and from the time of His conception, Mother Mary must have been kept free of Original Sin.  Because Jesus is without Sin (hence, the dogma of Immaculate Conception).  Since Mother Mary was free of Original Sin, she must have triumphed over physical death.

But that is not enough.  By Mother Mary’s actions as recorded in the Bible, we believe that she must have ascended to Heaven.  Therefore, she must have triumphed over spiritual death too.  What is spiritual death?  It is things we do that forever deny us from entering Heaven.  In another word, Mortal Sins.

Why does it matter to us that Mother Mary has assumed into Heaven, body and soul, and that she has triumphed over both physical and spiritual death?

It does.  Mother Mary is our role model and if we keep our body and soul pure and follow the teachings of Jesus, we too may enter into Heaven when the time comes.

Below was the first reading during the Feast of the Assumption (Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10).

Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it.  Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth.

Then a second sign appeared in the sky: there was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet.  Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that it could eat the child as soon as it was born.

The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after for twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.

PS. I am not trained in theology.  This blog entry is based on my personal view and understanding.

Doctor And Nurses’ Tips On Eating In Singapore Food Courts, Radio DJs And Audiences’ Take On Love and Medals

It was food poisoning, my doctor said to me.  I was not surprised, judging at the symptoms I have since last night.  Where did you eat, he asked.  It was a food court at Sim Lim Square where I had mutton soup, I answered.  The food court is merely a block away from where the clinic is.  My doctor suddenly seemed enlightened and said, “Ah, yes.  I had a few bad experience eating there.”

According to my doctor, he gauges the hygiene factor of a local food court by the cleanliness of the toilet as well as the availability of hand soap.  If the hand soap is constantly run out, there is little hope that the hawkers would have their hands washed properly after [peeing and pooing] (he used a Chinese dialect that I am not familiar with, but I got the essence of what he was trying to say).  Next time when I visit a food court in Singapore, the first thing I shall do is to inspect the toilet.  If a doctor does it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

There was no one in the waiting room, so we took time to chat.  I do not have friends who is a doctor and I am not sure what ticks them.  OK, I have a distant relative who works in the emergency room.  We talked about shattered bones of the motorists and his unpredictable yet predictably long working hours.  That time, I wanted to veer the conversation away from the bones and onto, say, how do surgeons have the time to find love?  But he went on and on about bones and more bones, blood and more blood.  It is true.  Singapore is a terrible place for motorists.  I am still at awe at the courage or what not that some cyclists exhibit when they insist on wanting to share the same space with the local drivers.  It only takes one tiny mistake of a driver to potentially paralyze a cyclist.  I don’t even feel safe walking inside a car park.  I often remind Cynthia, “Never, never trust the Singaporean drivers.”

Ironically, I am one.

At the reception counter, while waiting for my medicine to be concocted, I chatted with the two ladies behind the counter.  I am not sure if they are receptionists or they are nurses.  After that bloody toe operation – bloody as in literally bloody and not in a swearing sense – I am convinced that they are capable to take on the role of a nurse too.  On the same topic of food poisoning, one said, “These days, we have increasingly more Chinese nationals working in a food court.  They are not as hygienic.  Stay away from their food.”  Another one added, “For me, I only eat boiled food like fish soup from these stores.  At least the food is cooked right in front of my eyes.”

I hate to stereotype.  But I think they both spoke wisdom because numbers do rule our world.  The challenge to me is, unlike some of my friends, I cannot tell a local man from a Chinese national.  Maybe a PRC girl to a local girl.  But that is a different story.

Before I left the consultation room, my doctor and I talked about the recent surge in flu cases.  He commented that people here do not cover our mouths when we cough.  I commented that in Japan, the sick ones wear masks when they are sick.  Do you know what he said?  He advise people to wear a mask in the office if someone near them is sick.  If we do not have the decency to refrain from spreading the virus, at least do our part to lower the chance of getting infected by others.

This doctor speaks wisdom.

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I am a big fan of the Backseat DJs Maddy Barber and Cheryl Miles.  Their chemistry works out to be better than my initial expectation.  Yesterday’s topic was on Team Singapore (athlete) and our reliance on foreigners to win medals.  One guy from Team Malaysia (the football captain I think) commented that we would not have won the first leg of the World Cup qualifying match against Malaysia if we do not have foreigners.  The debates went on.  Cheryl and Maddy were patriotically defending our foreign talent policy.  One caller dialed in and said, “Medals should only won by born and bred Singaporeans.  No foreigners should be in our national teams.”

Upon hearing that, I felt a brief moment of exclusion.  13 years I have been a Singapore Citizen.  But no matter how many years I clock, I can never be a born and bred Singaporean.  In this hot topic of foreigners versus the locals, I often find myself stuck in the middle.  Not too long ago, I was a foreigner.  Within the Singapore community, we have Citizens and Permanent Residents (Is PR considered as foreigners?)  And within the citizen category, we have born and bred Singaporeans and the immigrants.  My wife from Indonesia has been a PR here for 10 years.  My sister is a relatively new PR from Hong Kong who now has a baby (I often tease her that she is a PRC).  My niece is born in Singapore.  Her father – my buddy – is also a born and bred Singapore.  My mother-in-law who is visiting Singapore is on a 5 years long time social visit pass.  My mother too has the same pass.  The line is blurred.  Regardless where we are in this foreign-ness spectrum, we have contributed to the society just as hard, riding through SARS and a few recessions, the current inflation and yet another round of election together with the born and bred locals and the semi-foreign residents.

Hack.  We eat the same food.  And I may need to pop by my bathroom one more time before I am done writing this entry.

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A few days ago, there was love in the air.  One caller dialed into Maddy and Cheryl’s radio show and shared with them and the audience her dilemma in love.  6 years she has worked and now she is 26.  6 years she has dated this guy and it is only recently when she discovered that he has been married all along.  This sounds so wrong  How did she not know, how did this guy’s wife not know, and how could he love two at the same time – all these years?  Personally I feel that it is cruel for a guy to rob a girl 6 years of her prime dating life with a lie.  Personally I also feel that Maddy and Cheryl are too cheerful as Aunties Agony.  I, on the other hand, can be a good candidate for Brother Agony.  Because I have a soothing voice, because I am a patient man with a pair of good listening ears, and because I am morally flexible.

One caller quickly dialed in and shared her friend’s story in air.  It was on her friend’s wedding date when the groom did not turn up.  Instead, the groom’s wife called and told her friend that the groom has already been married.  This blows in so many different dimensions.  I could not even fathom on what the groom was thinking, or trying to do.  Imagine the disappointment and humiliation the bride had to bear.  Fortunately, this sad, sad story has a good ending.  Her friend is now happily married with kids.  Her advice to the first caller was: move on and there are better things in life await.

That is not the end of the story.  A third caller dialed in and shared his story on air.  One day, his friend called and asked to meet up and have a cup of coffee, 2 in the morning and in Geylang (note to overseas readers: Geylang is a residential area, and inside, there is a tiny red light district).  I am glad that I do not have friends who call me 2 in the morning for a cup of coffee in Geylang.  My wife would not be happy about it.  So, the third caller did meet up his friend.  They chatted from two to four in the morning and across the street, at the entrance of a love motel, he has spotted his girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) emerged from the motel with his best friend!  Woah.  That sucks even to think about it.  Again, the sad, sad story also has a good ending.  He is now happily married to a different girl and they have kids.  Same advice he gave to the first caller.

*     *     *     *     *

Looking back, fair or not fair, I think it is good to have experienced what it is like to be a dumpee.  Because we dumpees get to relate to some movies that dumpers just don’t get it.

Google+ > Twitter + Facebook

My Google+ invite came in a good timing.  I am seldom an early adopter when it comes to technology.  I have yet to install a webcam for my computer.  When I first signed up for Google+, I was curious, in a healthily skeptical way.  The timing was good because as CNN has recently reported, some of us just need a reboot.  Facebook has served its purpose.  I have had a fun time interacting with friends whom I know, ‘friends’ whom I do not know online.  There has been a lot of time investment in building my social network.  Despite the good time I had, there is some discomfort in using Facebook.

Top of my concern is privacy issue and the lack of control over who should see the stuffs I write and the stuffs others write about me in Facebook in a micro level.  I could set up groups and fiddle with the access control.  But in real life, that is hardly practical.  For instance, I could say, none of my acquaintances are allowed to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one acquaintance who has this one great photograph that I wish I could have been tagged?  Or I could say, all my good friends are able to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one picture that I really do not wish to be tagged in spite of the good intent?  Sure I could remove the tag.  But most of the time, it is too late.  Do I want my  friends to be aware of my recent activity in participating in some of the political debates over other Facebook pages or the walls of my friends?  Some interactions are meant to be segregated.  I could tweak the security setup in Facebook to handle the situations as mentioned and more.  However, balancing being too open and too close in Facebook is never easy.

Then comes Google+.  It took me a while to set it up and get used to the way how G+ works.  Once I got through the initial hurdle, the first thing I notice is that friends in my circles are really my friends (hence the reboot).  Friends who I know of and am interested in reading what they share online.  I have complete control over how each of my message is shared – publicly, to a set of circles, or even down to the individuals.  Do I want to disallow resharing of what I write in G+?  Do I want to disable comments?  The decision is all mine to made, at the point of sharing, based on the circumstance.

The second thing I notice is that G+ promotes a more causal networking.  Let’s say I find an interesting topic and I participate in the discussion.  And I happen to like some of the comments one person has made.  I find him interesting and wish to hear more about what he shares on a regular basis.  In Facebook, I would need to add him as a friend.  But is he really a ‘friend’?  If I was him, would I want to confirm such a request?  In G+, I can add people into my circles.  They will be aware of my action.  But it is up to them if they wish to add me into theirs and potentially see some of their more private sharing.  In most cases, it does not have to be so.  I could be interested reading more about how Jenson Button feels before and after the race.  And what sports he does when he is not racing.  But I don’t think Button would have the time to read what I share online.

Just an example.

That brings up to the second part of this entry: Twitter.  I read that some start to complain having an extra social network to follow the same set of people and hear the same thing.  Yet another place to broadcast or promote their online presence.  To me, it is never an issue.  I use Twitter to follow news and gossips.  I use Facebook to keep track of what some of my friends do.  Once Google+ is open for business for the celebrities and company profiles, I suspect I would drop Twitter.  Because it is so much easier to zoom into the topics of my interest in G+ via circles.  The quality of sharing in G+ seems higher too because there is no limit in characters and we are free to edit the messages and comments after they are published.  As for Facebook, it may take longer for me to transit out of it because most of my friends are still clinging onto what may not seem broke to them.  I still occasionally drop by Facebook.  But the majority of my activity is on G+, for now.

It is still early to say if Google+ will be a success.  I certainly welcome a break from Facebook and have the opportunity to approach social networking in a fresh new way.  If you want a Google+ invite, you may drop me an email.

Circle me at http://gplus.to/wilfridwong

I Am Ready To Vote

These two weeks have been tiring, from Nomination Day to the eve of Election Day.  I have not attended a single rally.  But I have spent much time watching the recorded videos on YouTube, reading publications from both the mainstream and the alternative sources.  I feel as though my politico-meter has shot up from zero to red hot in merely days.  Almost every day, I would wake up at least once in the middle of my sleep thinking about how I shall cast my vote, with vivid dreams still pulsating refused to fade.

Voting can be emotional.  It is because deep inside, there is this love for our country and our people.  During this election period, rifts can be seen from the discussions revolving around citizens and the foreigners, the born-and-bred Singaporeans and the new citizens, and among those who vote for status quo and those who vote for change.  Rifts that I hope will be mended after tomorrow.  As an immigrant who has been a Singaporean since 1998, where do I stand?  I love this country and the people, hence the decision to settle down and contribute.  To assume that I would vote for the ruling party blindly – as all new citizens would do – may not be a valid claim as raised by the alternative voices.  Why?  I was brought up in Hong Kong where districts are drawn with defined boundary, whereby votes were cast onto an individual.  Here in Singapore, the boundary of the constituencies is redrawn by the government in every election.  Many constituencies are represented in groups and instead of picking who are best to represent us, we have to pick the team as one package.  From where I come from, freedom of speech is valued.  Here, there are guidelines to follow.  Including what the political parties can and cannot do on Cool-off Day (today).  When I compare what I read from the mainstream media, versus what I read from the alternative sources, I have started to doubt what I have been reading all these years.  To sum them up, as a voter who has not decided on which party to vote for, I am not blinded by the picture I have originally fallen in love with.  It is clear that the barrier for alternative parties to enter into Singapore political scene is unfairly high.  To that extend, my kudos to the alternative parties that stand up and challenge the status quo.  You have my deepest respect.

Singapore as a whole is not doing badly, objectively speaking.  We have come back up from a technical recession fairly quickly.  We have good growth this year, despite the global financial challenge.  Most importantly, our country is strong and our diplomatic relationship with the rest of the world seems good.  Better than those days when we have to constantly worry about the water issue, and to deal with criticisms from our neighboring countries.  Singapore is indeed more vibrant in the past five years; and the landscape has improved.  Our country draws envy from the foreigners; some eventually wish to settle down and contribute.  Foreigners like I once was.  I do not have a lot of complain about the government but a few.  I feel that the growth of our population has outpaced the expansion of our infrastructure.  That is bad planning.  I do not have much confident on our national security, despite the heavy budget we have put aside for defense.  Cost of living has outpaced the wage increment, which increasingly makes me worry about my retirement.  And I still feel that we should have kept GST low.  The members of parliament should be more visible on the ground rather than once in five years (in my case, I have not seen any MP in my life before, except during the media events).  There should also be more, much more credible alternative voices in our parliament rather than one that is dominated by one single party – a system that I doubt would be sustainable in a long run.

When I watched some of the speeches made by the alternative parties, I am surprised by the talents we have.  Some moved me to tears.  These are just words, you may say.  I beg to differ.  To be able to speak with such sincerity and conviction requires the individual to have true passion and the experience of being on the ground engaging ordinary people.  Without such, the speech would feel like a scripted speech, watching the person making that speech would feel like watching a parrot talks.  And you can tell who have been walking the ground, who have not.  Some of these speeches touch my heart.  If we have a system whereby voters can pick-and-mix candidates from different parties, I would want to see some of these talents from the alternative parties to be voted into the parliament.  As of now, we can only pray for some miracles to see some of these faces in our parliament.

Come this May 8, we may wake up to a government with no representatives from the alternative parties.  I highly doubt if there would be a political tsunami, like some may have speculated.  There may be more alternative voices getting voted into the parliament.  But anything less than a critical mass would merely be a status quo.  We would be politically dormant for five years and the awakening process would kick in again, for two weeks.  Unfortunate for me, I am not from a constituency that makes headline.  The contest is less than lukewarm.  I do not think how I vote would matter to the final picture.  The previous ruling party for my constituency will continue to rule.  Hence, it is easy for me to say that I am ready to vote wisely, and bravely.  But I am not going to say just that.  I am ready to vote with my clear conscience.