Aug 1, 2013

Gilbert Koh's Miscellaneous Poetry Updates

Just for my own records. Before I forget where, when or how my poems pop up.

Little Things: A Poetry Anthology

Ethos Books is coming up with a new anthology of Singapore/international poems that "situate poems from Singapore as part of a global literary scene". The editors are Associate Professor Loh Chin Ee and Associate Professor Angelia Poon from the National Institute of Education, and Esther Vincent, a teacher. One very old poem of mine, entitled Durian, will be included. The anthology will be out very soon - this month actually.

Loh Chin Ee is actually an old classmate of mine from the NUS Law Faculty, but I haven't seen or spoken to her for, uhhh, about 13 years at least. After graduating with a law degree, Chin Ee chose to pursue her passion for teaching and literature, which is why our paths never crossed in the legal profession.

Understanding Literature 2, by Andrew Leng

This is a new textbook for upper secondary students in Singapore. It will be published by Pearson Education, with a proposed print run of 10,000 copies over 10 years. It's scheduled for publication in June next year. They want to include one of my poems in this textbook. The poem is My Father Takes My Son for a Walk.

School of the Arts (SOTA)

Got some emails from 3rd year students at SOTA and I learned that their homework was to create some sort of model or sculpture based on my poem Construction. Interesting.

NIE Supplementary Textbook

In another National Institute of Education book project, Dennis Yeo selected one of my poems (Early Influences) for reproduction in a book to be used to teach the English language. The book will contain poetry, prose and drama. It aims to expose Lower Secondary students to Asian literature.

Project LAVA (Literary Arts - Visual Arts)

Another LAVA project. It's organised by the National Arts Council in conjunction with the National Parks Board. Alvin George Khoo will be creating a sculpture from wood, interpreting three poems (one from me, one from Ghani Hamid, and one from Colin Tan). The poem from me is My Father Takes My Son for a Walk. The sculpture will be installed at the East Coast Park sometime this year.

Feb 13, 2013

MRT Breakdowns and a Quick Thought on National Productivity

I was more than an hour late for work today, because the MRT train broke down. I boarded the train at Bishan, it was supposed to take me to Raffles Place, but instead it stopped at Toa Payoh and an announcement was made and all the passengers had to get off. This was right during the morning rush hour too.

Apparently, there had been a fire at the Newton MRT station, so they stopped the train services along the red line. Fire seems to be a new reason for train breakdown - I don't quite recall that they specifically had fires before, but they do regularly come up with new sorts of reasons for trains to break down. So the experience is not that new. It's certainly not the first time I've experienced an MRT breakdown in the past three years or so.

Catching a taxi at Toa Payoh right then was impossible. There were hundreds of stranded train passengers milling out from underground, getting to the main road, and all of them were trying to queue and call for a cab at the same time.

I gave up and tried to catch a bus. It took me a while, because I am not familiar with the bus services in Toa Payoh (I hardly ever stop there, except when the train breaks down). Finally, I figured out what bus number I wanted to take, but when it came, I couldn't get on it, because it was too crowded.

In the end, I took another bus (SBS No. 105) to Scotts Road. That was not where I wanted to go, but I needed to get out of that crowded area at Toa Payoh. I had to stand all the way on the very crowded 105, but hey, at least I was on a bus that could actually move and it wasn't on fire.

Upon reaching Scotts Road, I tried to queue for a cab at the Far East Plaza taxi stand. But the first five or six of the cabs I couldn't board, as they were changing shifts and not headed to the area where I wanted to go. Finally I managed to get a cab.

I chatted with the driver and I mentioned that the train had broken down. Coincidentally he had just come from the Newton MRT area. He told me that he had seen some police cars and fire engines there, and there were lots of people getting out of the train station and trying to get a bus or cab.

The driver said that at the Newton MRT area, he had wanted to stop to pick up a passenger, but he didn't dare to. The reason was that there were lots of policemen and he was afraid he would get a summons for picking up a passenger at the Newton taxi stop. He explained to me the difference between a "taxi stop" and a "taxi stand". Even if there are 50 passengers queueing at a taxi stop, only three taxis can be there at any given time. If yours is the 4th or 5th taxi, you have to drive on. You can't stop even if it's for a few seconds.

When I finally reached work, I found that several of my colleagues were also late for work, thanks to the train breakdown. One of them had been stuck at Dhoby Ghaut MRT. He had actually managed to get onto the train, but it wouldn't move and for a long time, there were no announcements as to whether it would move or not. So he just stood there waiting and waiting and waiting, and wondering whether he should continue to wait.

Then I remembered this article which I had read on on Channel News Asia:
S'pore's productivity well below most developed countries: DPM Tharman 
SINGAPORE: Singapore's productivity is well below that of the most developed countries, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. 
In a Facebook post on Sunday, he noted that restaurants here are experiencing difficulties finding employees. Mr Tharman said some restaurants have raised pay to attract part-timers during the peak Lunar New Year season. 
But most still have difficulty finding people, because the overall labour market is close to full employment. Mr Tharman said these are real problems for businesses, but the solution is not to ease up on foreign worker policies. 
He said the solution has to be more fundamental.
"Fundamental", phui. "Basic" would be a better word.

Dude, don't get too complex. If 100,000 people in Singapore were one hour late for work this morning because the trains broke down, that's 100,000 man-hours lost.

How do you expect Singaporeans to raise their productivity, when your public transport infrastructure can't even get them to work on time?

Feb 6, 2013

Shocking Statistics About the Poor in Singapore

Holy cow. Singapore is doing much worse than I thought. An excerpt from the TODAY newspaper:
Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave figures to show that incomes at the bottom continue to rise but said the Government will do more to help low-income Singaporeans. 
He was responding to Nominated MP Tan Su Shan's question on social mobility. 
The real median gross monthly income for employed residents increased 1.3 per cent a year from 2002 to 2012, after rising 2.7 per cent a year from 1996 to 2002, Mr Chan said. 
For the lowest 20th percentile of employed residents, their real gross monthly income rose 0.1 per cent each year from 2002 to 2012 and 2.2 per cent a year from 1996 to 2002.
0.1 per cent? That's effectively zero. Especially if you are in the bottom 20 percentile.

Imagine if your real gross monthly income was $1,000 in 2002. Ten years later, your real gross monthly income would have risen to about $1,010 in 2012.

 So after one full decade of "national progress" under the PAP government, your quality of living has increased by the value of 2 packs of toilet paper at NTUC Fairprice.

 I wonder if Chan Chun Sing managed to keep a straight face, when he said in Parliament that "incomes at the bottom continue to rise".