One Year of Matt—and Motherhood

The first post I wrote about motherhood included a hate list.

As Matt turns one, I’m going to do something uncharacteristic – I’m going to list some of the things I appreciate about being a mom. Continue reading


Choosing Life, Choosing Love—An Evening with Toshi Kazama

“Want to learn more about a country? Visit its prisons,” advises Toshi Kazama, a Japanese photographer based in New York City. In Singapore last weekend for a private photo presentation, Toshi photographs death row inmates (mostly young men, sometimes women), though he also photographs their family members, victims and their families, execution chambers, prison landscapes and crime scenes. For Toshi, more than any other prized tourist attraction, a state’s prison – and the state of its prison system – is a “pure reflection” of a country and its society.

A former commercial photographer, 54 year-old Toshi arrived in the United States when he was 15 years old. While watching a Hollywood action flick at the cinema, Toshi recounted how, as such movies go, the “bad guy” was killed at the end – and the audience cheered wildly. Rather than join in, Toshi was disturbed by how someone’s violent death could be celebrated, even “in the name of justice”. At the time, Toshi thought: “Oh well, what do I know? I’m only 15.” That question, though, never resolved itself; the unease gnawed at him through the years till he decided to make that phone call, some 16 years ago.

“Hello, my name is Toshi Kazama, I’m from New York City and I would like to come down to your prison to photograph the 16 year-old inmate on death row.” (I’m paraphrasing)

As Toshi recalls, the prison warden went, “Toshi who?”, instructed him never to call back, and ended the call with a dedicated “F**K you”. Continue reading

Being Gay in Singapore—A Friend Shares Some Thoughts

When I view videos or images of past Pink Dot events, it all looks so fun, so lively, so well-attended (for a Speaker’s Corner event!). I tend to forget its motive: to counter fear, ignorance, and prejudice towards the LGBT (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community here in Singapore.

When I think of my close gay friends, I see generally happy, well-adjusted individuals, some in long-term relationships. Their outspokenness and apparent ease with sharing their gay relationships with our peers – not to mention achievement of middle-class success – means I’ve never looked at them and thought: marginalized. Continue reading

Sticker Lady—What Would You Do If She Were Your Daughter?

From Kirsten Han@funnylittleworld

What would you do if Sticker Lady were your daughter? (Or son?) Would you

  • High-five her for her genius and boast, “She gets it from me!”;
  • Thump her on the head for being so blur – “Never see surveillance camera, ah?”;
  • Be flippin’ FURIOUS she got herself into trouble and appeared in the papers for “this kind of thing”;
  • Tell her she should have known better and needs to “face the music”.

Or maybe, maybe you’re scared out of your wits the police appeared at your door and took your child away that you don’t care about the morality/artistic value/intent of what she did or didn’t do – you just want to make sure it NEVER.HAPPENS.AGAIN.

Much has been written about Sticker Lady since her arrest on Sunday, 3 June 2012. It has stirred debate over vandalism versus (street) art, and the “fairness” of punishing all “vandals” equally.

When I read the New Paper’s report on 6 June 2012 though, I remember thinking: Wonder how Samantha’s father felt when the police showed up at their doorstep, and took his daughter away. After all, he was clueless about what she’d been up to. In the article, her father described her as “quite traumatised and distressed” since the arrest.

I started to wonder what I would do, as a parent, if Sticker Lady were my daughter (or son). Amidst all this discussion about the line between art and vandalism, what happens to a person’s spirit, a family’s unity, when what may have been tongue-in-cheek works of creative expression (some also say political subversion), leads to serious consequences – a potential jail sentence of up to three years, a $2,000 fine (and caning, if the person were male).

So I asked other parents: What would you do if Sticker Lady were your daughter? Continue reading

That We May Dream Again—Faith, Justice and the ISA

(Photo by Shawn Byron Danker)

On 2 June 2012, Matt and I were at Hong Lim Park for That We May Dream Again, an event to remember the events of 1987. (Yes, that’s Daddy in the background on stage – and yes, he’s the shorter one.)

Like Rachel Zeng, I was very moved by the exhibits. I reached out and felt the clothing one of the detainees wore, read the notes they received, the cards they drew and the poems they wrote while in detention. Matt, who was strapped to me in the baby carrier, was curious in his usual baby way – I yearned to explain to him how important, how precious, how poignant each of those pieces were.

Later on, we bumped into Vincent Cheng, one of the detainees, and he said they had many more mementos. A part of me marveled at how they had kept all this “memorabilia” while another wondered how it felt for them to revisit the trauma so intimately and yet so publicly. Continue reading