Making Light of Things

October 2009 Archives


I’ve been doing a really poor job at chronicling the growth of the two kids. So much as changed so quickly that it’s really hard to keep up.

All I know is that every morning when we haul the 1 comatose and 1 wide-alert body down to the grandparents’ car it never fails to elicit a sigh from me. Nothing tells you that time is fleeting with the same profundity as watching babies turn into children, and children getting all grown up.

Anne is now 4.5 going on 14. She has an amazing grasp of the spoken language and has a more extensive vocabulary than I did when I was 9. She rattles on and on about girly things, like which hairclips she should put on, how she wished she had longer hair because there was this beautiful girl who had waist-length hair and how she wants to be a cartoon on tv so everyone in the world could watch her. She clearly has no lack for showmanship, that’s for sure.


Caleb smilingCaleb is the sunniest 1.5 year old you’ll ever find. He certainly knows how to work his dimple, and the gurgling laughter often reminds Faith and I of Sir J.M. Barrie’s quote about laughter being the beginning of fairies. Caleb isn’t speaking extensively yet, though he understands most of what we tell him. I suppose with Anne talking so much he reckons his contributions there aren’t necessary.

It’s only been a few years on paper, but Faith and I feel ourselves growing older. It is the best thing in the world to come home to each other, then when we see the two children going hysterical with joy at seeing us in the evenings it truly brings meaning to the phrase “my cup overflows”.

Returns on Investment

I’ve always been enamoured by professions imbued with a “higher calling”. Nurses, doctors, activists, and the last time I checked, journalists. After all, isn’t a major point in the whole “journalists vs bloggers” debate? The claim that journalists are held to a higher standard in terms of reporting, and more importantly, ethics?

To be fair, the title “journalist” has expanded a lot in recent times. In this age of self-publishing anyone with a novel idea and internet access is able to address an audience. One could argue that the folks at celebrity gossip website TMZ are journalists to some degree. Or the tabloids for that matter. After all, they do bring news to an audience that craves for the genre.

My argument here is not whether Ris Low is news. My own rudimentary understanding of the word’s definition is that “news” is the opposite of “old’s”. Anything that is current is news. Any instant thought on an old subject is a new thought, any content created is fresh content, any pointer leading to old content is a new pointer. As such, it is all news, and it is all relevant if you find the appropriate audience.

My argument is that the Straits Times has failed to live up to journalism’s higher calling. I will constrain this discourse only to Ris Low - there’s no knowing how long we could go on if we were to address the allegations of biased and incomplete reporting.

The role of the press has traditionally been the middleman between authorities and their people. She walks the line between being the government’s mouthpiece and the people’s defender. Above all, the role of the press is to elevate the level of discourse.

The whole Ris Low saga is a scathing revelation of ST’s priorities. In her latest online posting ST’s Online Editor Joanne Lee defends the stance that Ris Low is still news. She is defending ST’s extensive coverage of Ris Low even after Ris has stepped down as Miss Singapore-World. She is defending articles about Ris having to retake her exams (implicit allegation that Ris was caught cheating on her exams would be the news angle here) and Ris not allowed to shop alone.

Is it news? The two articles are the top read stories on the Straits Times Online, so yes. Does it sell papers, attract readers and eyeballs? Yes. If journalism were solely a business of dollars and cents, there probably would be no question. But we hold journalism to a higher standard than just the making of money. The question with producing this sort of news, I would pose to the journalists at the Straits Times, is this: At what cost?

Ris is a 19 year old for crying out loud. You’re really going to do this? Is it worth the short-term bump in online views, the pittance of ad revenue? Is there any empathy left in you? When you first picked up your pen, you did it with empathy. It wasn’t business, you were young then and money wasn’t the motivation. You wrote because you wanted to show the world a reflection of themselves from a myriad of perspectives. The stories of personal triumph, the informative investigative pieces you had spent so much time putting together, the call for action to help those who are suffering?

Do you not see, in your dogged pursuit of Ris Low, that you have caused suffering?

As Asians we are probably used to the Spockian justification, “logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” (or the one, yes yes). But the public does not need updates on Ris Low. We do need a press who will have the courage to accept the long-term view that the shareholders are best served when the people are well-served. The short-term gratification of getting the public’s fleeting attention at the expense of what the Straits Times could and should be is a bloody waste.

The Brilliance of Glee

I spent the last month pretty much totally smitten on Glee, a weekly sitcom about a teacher gathering a bunch of misfits in high school to form a singing group. The premise isn’t new - it’s Mr. Holland’s Opus, a huge dose of Scrubs humour and beautiful, beautiful pop music set to Broadway. It’s basically Broadway on tv.

What is brilliant about the idea is how the show has served as an aggregator of pop culture for me. I’ve bought the show episodes off iTunes. Then there are the extended versions of the song which were cut short for the show, but available for sale. I bought those as well. Then intrigued, I searched for the original performance of the song, and sometimes bought those as well. I’ve never been so compelled to spend so much on media, but the storytelling and music make it well worth the money.

For example, Glee’s performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” had me buy Journey’s original rendition (oh so beautiful).

So yes, Glee in itself is campy, but it’s opened a window in the previously closed room of things I like, and I’m loving the new stuff. My wife and I are now momentarily-crazed fans of Kristin Chenoweth.

Going ahead, I have some ideas for Glee. :) They should release the instrumental tracks with backup vocals so fans all over can belt it out and put up their renditions on youtube. Do this a month or two before American Idol - you can imagine how many participants will be plugging Glee on the largest singing show on earth.

We could possibly see a renaissance of some sort.

I speak in my own echo chamber of course, I can’t fathom people not loving Broadway.

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