BBC’s adaptation of Leigh Denton’s 1978 bestselling alternate history novel, SS-GB makes its debut exclusively on BBC First. Written by BAFTA-award winners Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, theOn March 27, 2017 / By Jochebel Khong
BBC’s adaptation of Leigh Denton’s 1978 bestselling alternate history novel, SS-GB makes its debut exclusively on BBC First. Written by BAFTA-award winners Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the screenwriters of SPECTRE, Skyfall and Casino Royale, and directed by multi-award winning director Philipp Kaldelbach.
And today, we speak to Neal and Robert to find out more about SS-GB and their thoughts behind it.
You’ve recently crossed over into the realm of TV adaptations with your screenplay of SS-GB – what made you decide to get involved in television?
Neal: We’ve over the years had a number of projects come to us for TV, and simply put the thing that attracted us is that we are both Len Deighton fans. I hadn’t read the book but Rob had, and he assured me it’s very good. So it was something that – for us starting it, it’s good to have a book and have that support and the structure, even though we had to alter a certain amount. So you can see the beginning, middle and end, and keep those five episodes (or however many episodes it will be around the world), and we can view it as just a five-hour movie. So it’s an extension of what we’re used to doing.
Neal: And one of the reasons why we felt this in particular would be a really good thing for us to do as our first television, was that because the book that Len wrote is very focused on a kind of domestic scale, so that you’re seeing what life would be like in a Nazi occupation, and we felt that that was very appropriate – you know, that it would be beamed into people’s living rooms every week, and families sit together watching television and you can easily imagine that it could be going on outside right now, outside your front door. So we thought rather than cinema, it was suited to television. Which made it appropriate. And also, I think that two hours in a cinema wouldn’t do the story justice.
Would you say there are any parallels to draw between the plotline of SS-GB and our current political climate?
Rob: Well I certainly think the uncertainty in the world is very much placed in SS-GB, and how the individual has to decide how he or she is going to act when the world’s in a strange place. Also it just shows you how it’s easy for the right wing to come up in the world, and I think people need to be reminded that they need to fight that kind of thing.
Neal: And interestingly enough, when we started work on this, it was unthinkable that we would have Brexit and that you’d have Donald Trump in the White House. We’d be absurd to say it would’ve happened. So within the space that we’d been working on it, those things are now true, so reality has changed. And a lot of assumptions that we’ve all grown up with are under question now – about the general progress of society.
Neal: I suppose what is partly true is that we were thinking about the idea of how there would be people wanting Brexit when we were writing the show. But we just didn’t really think it would happen. But we did think this show would be relevant to that – I mean the idea of deliberately choosing disharmony with people, and seeing the consequences of what could happen through these countries at war with each other.
Rob: So it was sort of context for us when we were writing, but we never thought anything like this would happen.
What’s been your favorite part about writing a screenplay that imagines a dystopian society, and what’s been the most difficult?
Robert: I suppose the challenge was to make it credible. And I think in the book – what happened in Paris and the way the Nazi’s took over France was useful as a template, plus Len Deighton had attained a document that showed the plans for how the Germans would actually administrate Britain, once they’d taken it over. Even though those plans were drawn up before the plans as to how they would take it over. So I think that the challenge was just making it credible – within the budget of what you can do on television.
Robert: And a major challenge was that they really shot in London, and you could probably fake it somewhere else more easily – surprisingly. But I suppose the most fun was that we came up with this idea of the spitfire landing on the Mall. To actually see the Spitfire on the Mall outside Buckingham Paris was quite good fun. That’s one of the fun things about writing outrageous things, and then someone has to actually think about how you do it.
Any thoughts on what you might be working on next?
Neal: We’ve got about four things that are at different stages of maturity. They’re just what you call irons in the fire. We’ve got a number of films – we still love films – but television has certainly become more attractive, particularly as the fact that film actors now are moving into television means that film and television are becoming really similar.
Robert: Also, the quality of the filming has improved a lot as well. I mean, we think SS-GB looks really great. Especially when you see it on the big screen. So it feels like a movie, I think.
Robert: There’s a lot of good television out there. But there’s nothing that we should talk about, because the thing is, if you get talking about one and then it doesn’t happen for awhile – we’ve learnt that there’s no point talking about something until you know it’s actually shooting.
The series is available on-demand here
Singapore has always been known as a food haven. However, there are times where it is a challenge due to the wide variety of food choices available forOn March 25, 2017 / By Jochebel Khong
Singapore has always been known as a food haven. However, there are times where it is a challenge due to the wide variety of food choices available for Singaporeans. With Quandoo, a global restaurant booking platform that offers the easiest way possible to find restaurants and make reservations, dining can be hassle-free and enjoyable.
We speak to the newly-appointed Managing Director of Quandoo Singapore, Matt Greatorex to find out what makes Quandoo one of Singapore’s top restaurant booking apps, and to unveil their winning formula moving forward.
The food tech industry has been increasingly competitive over the year, tell us more about Quandoo’s winning formula moving ahead.
Quandoo’s formula moving forward is to continually understand our merchants and consumers better by developing new tech solutions and marketing activities that can engage heightened interaction between restaurants and diners. Another key factor is having excellent customer service and relationship development on both a Business-2-Business and Business-2-Consumer level.
In your opinion, what are the necessary steps to take to bring Quandoo to the next level?
It is important to help the masses understand that we are more than just a reservation platform. In the past, we have been focused on developing a platform that is both intuitive and easy to use. A greater focus for us this year is increasing brand awareness by developing expansion plans, partnerships and marketing initiatives.
With the Food & Beverages (F&B) industry in Singapore facing some challenges, what can Quandoo do to remain competitive in the industry?
Strategic partnership and offline marketing activation are avenues that we are exploring to engage our consumers, adding a touch of value-added service. In addition to understanding Singapore’s market, we strive to offer our diners an experience beyond dining itself. We are in a situation where our product offerings may overlap with our competitors, so it is even more important to place our emphasis on service, marketing, and on continually improving our product.
Being someone that reveres the challenging of taking on start-up enterprises, what is it about Quandoo that attracted you to join this fast-growing global company?
“Fast-growing global company” – this was one of the key reasons for me in joining Quandoo. This, along with an already very successful Singapore team, was a fantastic opportunity for me to work with the team to develop the product and service even further. This local, regional and global expansion, and the incredible vision of the founders, attracted me to join Quandoo.
Quandoo is a multinational company with a presence in 16 countries. Since its establishment, it has seated over 53 million guests. Whether you are in Europe or Asia Pacific, be sure that Quandoo will find you a spot in the restaurant you love.
How would you spend valentine’s day with your other half? A year may seem short compared to other newly-weds, or even those recently engaged, but would they spendOn February 14, 2017 / By Jochebel Khong
How would you spend valentine’s day with your other half? A year may seem short compared to other newly-weds, or even those recently engaged, but would they spend this day differently?
Today, we speak to three couples, hoping to shed some light on how they spend this very special day.
One Year Together
Cherlyn and Kenneth have been dating for approximately one year and things have never been sweeter for them.
“Our first Valentine’s Day, we picked a memorable celebration over a fancy one. L’entecote Steak & Fries @ Duxton Hill, may not be the best place for steak but sure is filled with memories. This place reminds us how and why we fell in love, and the days we dated secretly. Afterall, Valentine’s Day is meant to be an intimate moment with each other.”
Kenneth loves surprising his date with those ‘hipster’ flowers wrapped with brown paper. He prefers arranging and wrapping his own flowers than buying it straight from a florist because a small hand bouquet looks pretty pathetic.
“Plus”, he said. “Your date might appreciate a specially handcrafted bouquet more.”
“This year we are planning to return to the same place to celebrate Valentine’s Day and to reminisce how the year together has been.”
The couple said the way to keep the romance in a relationship is to take each other out for surprise dates, not just on special occasions like Valentine’s Day.
“To us, Valentine’s Day is definitely not a day to compare who had a more glamorous bouquet and dinner,” the couple added.
On the other hand, Wei Chen and Li Shan just got engaged on Christmas Day and this beautiful couple will be wedded in the coming year.
The couple shared that they usually don’t make a huge deal out of Valentine’s Day, but it is always a good excuse to appreciate each other.
“He wanted to send me flowers the previous Valentine’s Day so he went to find out my office address. But he got the wrong address so it ended up at another department. The office staff had to look for my name in the entire office directory to redirect the flowers to my office so my surprise was memorable in a funny way,” she said.
“We won’t be planning for anything romantic this year. It used to be a bit of a pressure on the guy to celebrate it but this time we want to do it differently – going shopping for the upcoming weddings we need to attend.”
The couple shared that the things they do on a day-to-day basis for each other matters more – Valentine’s day is just another Tuesday anyway. They always make it a point to shower each other with random gifts and encouragements to keep things between them sweet.
As for Shan and Philip, this couple tied the knot just this past November after dating for a couple of years, and are still very affectionate till this day.
The very first Valentine’s Day they spent together was in Johor Bahru. It was a mini getaway and a full day of activities filled with lots of eating and shopping.
“He goes to great lengths to plan an entire day for me – even my outfits. All these is done while maintaining the surprise factor. The day ended with a nice dinner at Ion Sky Bar”, she gushes.
“Philip has been super excited about preparing a Valentine’s day surprise for me this year. I think he’s cooking an elaborate meal. He even took half day leave and said he’s going to send me lots of Instagram stories to unveil the surprise slowly.”
To the newly-wedded couple, every day together feels like Valentine’s Day. From random hugs to quick encouragements, life has never been better for them.
As we leave the lovebirds to their happily-ever-afters, their stories remind us that whether a celebration is simple or extravagant, what matters most is doing it your way together with the one you love most.
If you’ve had the pleasure of volunteering, you might be familiar with the taxing and dreadful process of filling up multiple forms, paying fees, and attending induction sessions,On January 29, 2017 / By Jamie Lee
If you’ve had the pleasure of volunteering, you might be familiar with the taxing and dreadful process of filling up multiple forms, paying fees, and attending induction sessions, as well as being restricted by time commitments — all of which are seen as unnecessary barriers for people who genuinely want to help.
Well, last year’s Giving Week introduced the Nookmag team to Cause Corps, a website that connects volunteers to various causes in the simplest way possible — by micro-volunteering!
Born out of the belief that making meaningful changes in the world should be accessible to everyone, Cause Corps allows people who are passionate about helping to do so during events that are mostly under two hours and for free.
Volunteer events in Singapore range from writing postcards to terminally ill children in hospitals throughout the world (it takes only a few minutes, making it easy for busy people who would like to do good) to knitting baby blankets for Journey Nepal, an NGO based in the earthquake-hit country.
Cause Corps also conduct micro-volunteering sessions in London, Auckland, and Hong Kong.
Check out what’s next on the volunteering schedule here.
We speak to Sherry Soon, the chapter lead of Cause Corps’ Singapore branch.
What does it mean to “give”?
Giving, to us, is giving a part of yourself — without ego, without expectations. It’s not about giving money, or items — these are possessions, and can be bought and sold tenfold. To give your time and skills, with intention and humanity, that is truly priceless.
Your projects rely on the power of numbers. Tell us the best and most challenging part about this.
Relying on Meetup.com RSVP’s is difficult, because there’s no way to know who will really come. When you’re waiting for 12 people, and three show up, it can be disheartening. At the same time, though, the fact that three people did come creates a more intimate event; you really get to know your volunteers, rather than spreading yourself between a dozen people.
Share with us what you’ve learnt about human beings in the course of working with Cause Corps. What would surprise us most?
Two things: firstly, we find that women — from everywhere around the world, and especially those aged 28-35 — account for almost 80% of our active volunteers! Secondly, people love making baby beanies! Our most popular event around the world is by far our Journey Nepal event. Even those who have never picked up a ball of yarn in their life find looming so therapeutic, and can’t wait to do it again. We had friends sponsor looms and yarns and also a lady who brought 90 per-knitted baby beanie hats done in her free time!
Share with us one cause you are passionate about right now.
We avoid limiting ourselves to a single cause, and the local partners our global teams work with are very much dictated by local volunteers’ passion. One thing we’re particularly excited about at the moment, though, is getting businesses to micro-volunteer. Corporates appear to be extremely time poor, so our short-in- time events that can be done a stones throw away from their desk are perfect. Check out Cause Corps
If you’re a 90’s kid, chances are you’d probably have heard Divian Nair’s voice on the radio. Just early this year, he made waves on social media withOn December 26, 2016 / By Nookmag
If you’re a 90’s kid, chances are you’d probably have heard Divian Nair’s voice on the radio. Just early this year, he made waves on social media with his impactful video titled “I Will Not Die For Singapore” which triggered a conversation among Singaporeans; and last month, he played host to The Best of You’s Finale Exhibition, a social movement that seeks to reinforce the spirit of appreciation within our communities by offering a platform for people to reflect upon their experiences, challenge stereotypes and break down barriers between communities.
We caught up with the bubbly media personality to chat about his involvement with The Best of You, his current initiative We Are Majulah, and the future for him.
Tell us more about your recent involvement with The Best of You social movement.
The Best of You social movement by Julie’s has always been an amazing platform for people to both share their stories and learn through the hardships and successes of others. My involvement was no different, save for the fact that I had the privilege of hosting its on-site exhibition. Being very much in line with the work I do with my company, Storyteller Productions and We Are Majulah, I felt a strong sense of purpose as I interacted with the team that put the movement together, the movement’s founder as well as the amazing people featured this year. I also learned valuable lessons about the importance of principles and commitment from my personal exchanges with some of the people involved.
You shared a touching story on your brother with The Best of You. What’s your fondest memory growing up with your brother?
I think it would be impossible to pinpoint one memory that would stand out as the fondest but the moments I treasured the most were our family trips to the zoo, Orchard Road during festive periods and definitely the airport – just to watch planes take off after dinner!
Growing up in an interracial family, how has this influenced you in your personal life and your work?
Growing up in an interracial family left me racially blind to a certain degree. I didn’t see my father as an Indian man, or my mother as a Chinese woman. They were just my parents. I also never identified myself as much by race as I did with my environment and culture. This proved to be very useful for the relationships I formed as I grew up because I didn’t identify people I met by race and took them for the people that they were. I have an inner circle of friends who represent all the major races of Singapore and it never occurred to me it was anything valuable.
What was difficult however, was seeing the stark contrast presented by people who were conditioned to identify themselves and others by race first. In a country where the balance of races are not equivocal, the mentality represented by some proportion of the majority race does not reflect a perspective of equality. This is inevitable and can cause some amount of stress through misunderstandings which still frequently occur. I myself have been subject to racist behavior on a personal and professional basis many times.
What are the challenges you’ve faced with your interracial background? How has this played a role in you founding We Are Majulah?
The primary challenge of growing up in an interracial family is feeling like you never really belong anywhere. To many Chinese people I’ve met, I have always been more Indian and vice versa to Indian people. In a country where the proportion of races are not as equal as my genetic make up, I’ve also realized, that even though I am exactly half and half, I’ve only ever been labelled as the “Indian Guy”. This naturally put me on a quest to find something bigger than race that I could belong to and identify myself with. Singapore, as a country, as a culture, became that for me. And so, We Are Majulah was born. “Majulah” (To move onward, to survive together) became a fundamental concept I felt could be shared as a non-contradictory belief on a micro and macro scale.
Your video titled “I Will Not Die for Singapore” garnered half a million views on Facebook alone. Are we expecting more “surprises” in the near future from the team?
I don’t know if the first video was ever intended to be a surprise! But we are definitely striving forward with what little resource we have to continue our efforts. We are currently developing an initiative to help combat the rising number of suicide linked cases from young adults between the ages of 10 and 19. We are also looking at putting out another video sometime next year. Apart from that, it’s really the daily grind of brick laying that we are focusing on.
In your opinion, does Singapore have our own identity?
In my opinion and experience through visiting over 20 countries while running We Are Majulah for almost a year, I’d have to say it’s there and it’s growing. Identity is hard enough to find as an individual. It usually grows the most during a period of struggle. It is also something that is extremely complex and delicate, plus it doesn’t always grow the right way. I know that the work my team and I are doing is a small fraction of contribution, necessary for a concrete identity to solidify but we feel that it’s better to do something constructive than sit around and complain all the time.
You’ve received your fair share of criticism on We Are Majulah being a propaganda tool; what is your response to detractors? With We Are Majulah, can you prove a point to your critics?
To the critics I say, lets discuss. Discussion is key for constructive growth as a people. What happens when one sides slams the other with no avenue for recourse because they think they are “right”? You get Brexit and Trump. The point is not to win an argument. The point is to not show that your side is smarter and everyone else is stupid because they don’t share your view. The point is understand each other so we can grow with compassion.
When we launched the video, the objective was to incite discussion. Everything from the title of the video, it’s level of ambiguity, the tone, the colors – it was designed to make people “feel” and thereby find it in themselves to say something about. We just sat back and watched it all happen. We saw how the media took different sides on how to portray the story. Critics and supporters alike weighed in. We also saw the phenomenon of the “silent majority” unfold. As we sieved through every comment and share, we found something interesting. While the impression formed through the headlines of some media articles and comments on the Facebook and YouTube video gave the impression that it was largely criticized, we found that most of the positive comments were written as personal posts through the video share.
We are Majulah still stands as apolitical and nonpartisan, like we said from the start. While we have collaborated with government-linked agencies for messaging that is in line with what we are trying to push out, we are not backed financially by any government or private party. To date, we have produced almost 50 episodes for the Good Word Project (a video series collecting advice from everyday Singaporeans), garnered almost 13,000 followers on our Facebook page, participated in events, had an event of our own and built a small community of writers – all in less than a year.
What are your thoughts on race and racial harmony in Singapore?
I think race and racial harmony is a work in progress. I heard Senior Minister of state Dr Janil Puthucheary once say that it is, and always will be a work in progress. I cannot agree more. If we consider that in our grandparents’ generation, not stabbing each other was not being racist, then in our parent’s generation, working together was not being racist – we can see how much we have progressed in a short amount of time. It is arrogant of us to think racial harmony is something we have already achieved and don’t have to pay too much attention to. We must continue to work at it.
What are your hopes and aspirations for 2017?
All I am hoping for in 2017 is that the escalating conflict overseas doesn’t reach our shores. And if it does, I hope that we will standby by each other and move on together, no matter what.
The Best of You is a social initiative by Julie’s Biscuits running in both Singapore and Malaysia that aims to create a positive change to the community we are living in. Since its inception in 2014, the movement has collected and shared thousands of inspiring stories from the public, artists as well as social organizations. Visit The Best of You’s official website to be part of this meaningful cause.
We are Majulah is a social enterprise that aims to provide community based solutions to improve civic consciousness for a better tomorrow. They are focused on the fundamental concept of “Majulah” (to move onward, to survive) as a belief that can be owned and shared by the individual and the community alike, to build a society that is inclusive, tolerant and compassionate.
Giving Week 2016 may be over, but the spirit and effort of “giving back” continue to live on with some companies, whose core values revolve around being kind,On December 20, 2016 / By Jamie Lee
Giving Week 2016 may be over, but the spirit and effort of “giving back” continue to live on with some companies, whose core values revolve around being kind, inclusive, and thoughtful. We speak to three companies that played their part in Giving Week — Flour Power, a bakery that employs people with special needs, Halal Food Hunt, an online guide for Muslims to find halal food, and [email protected], an inclusive children’s amusement centre — about what it means to give, and how they give every day.
Nookmag: Introduce yourself and why you decided to be a social enterprise.
Lena Ng, Flour Head at Flour Power: I was in corporate marketing for more than 12 years, and took a sabbatical in 2011 to stay in the villages in Cambodia and Thailand, where I volunteered to teach English. When I got back, I decided to help Singaporeans as well, so I spent two years looking for the gaps in the social fabric, and realised that kids with special needs didn’t have many options after they graduated.
You equip people with special needs with baking and customer service skills. What is the best, as well as most challenging, part about this?
The best part must be seeing our boys achieving small milestones. Everyone looks for big results and miss out the small things but we believe that the small victories should be celebrated! The most challenging thing must surely be balancing our social mission with running a business.
What does it mean to “give”?
I have been blessed with so much, that I can be a blessing to others. A lot of people, including myself, think you must be wealthy to be able to give. But I’ve come to the realisation that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone has much to give, be it time or money, and someone out there will be blessed by it.
Share with us one stereotype you’d like to break about social enterprises or people with special needs.
There is a perception that social enterprises have products that are inferior to commercial businesses. Actually, in so many ways we are comparable — if not better — than other businesses; because whilst we compete in the same spheres of business, we also achieve a social objective at the same time!
HALAL FOOD HUNT
Nookmag: Introduce yourself and why you decided to join Giving Week.
Nur Safiah Alias, Marketing & Communications Manager: ’Halal’ means ‘permissible’ in Arabic, and Halalfoodhunt.com is a portal which lists verified halal-certified and Muslim-owned F&B businesses. We thought Giving Week was a good opportunity to give back, and encourage our merchants that no business is too small to do their part. To incentivise our merchants to participate in Giving Week, we offered complimentary video and editorial coverage of their restaurant and Giving Dish. Here’s a list of Giving Dishes.
Why did you choose Project Goodwill Aid and Literacy Initiative for Equity to send your proceeds to?
These are young beneficiaries and causes; being a new company ourselves, we empathised because we know what it feels like to not have money or resources. Our merchants resonated with their cause too.
What is the connection between Islam and doing good deeds?
As Muslims, we do our best to follow the laws laid down by Allah and the practices by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Eating halal is one of them, and doing good to the community at large is another. In the Quran, there is this phrase:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many… enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98
Nookmag: What does it mean to “give”?
Giving is something simple and can be done at all levels of income, or any type of situations. To give is to be human, to make ourselves useful and valuable, and to be a part of the community that we are in. To give is to care for everyone around us.
Nookmag: Introduce yourself and why inclusiveness is important at [email protected]
Faith Chng, Founder of [email protected]: I had a vision to create a play environment where all children can come together, including those who are special needs, and providing an environment that can love and accept them for who they are. Every child is unique in their own ways, and we hope to build a fun and creative environment, and inspire parents to discover, guide and empower themselves and their children.
Nookmag: In dealing with kids with special needs, what would you say is the best as well as most challenging part?
The best part is the relationships formed between the special needs children and myself. Getting to know their family at a personal level allows me to learn about the uniqueness of each individual child, and how to communicate with them. The challenging part is to have patience and perseverance — to keep trying our best even when we do not see immediate results in the children.
Nookmag: What does it mean to “give”?
Personally, I believe in this quote: freely we have received, freely we give. The essence of giving is important, and it must come from the heart. Every charity project must have a purpose, and must be able to bring values that benefit both the donor as well as the recipient.
Where investigative journalism in the 21st century is concerned, no piece has rocked the very foundation of publishing and caused a worldwide stir quite like the Panama PapersOn November 1, 2016 / By Arman Shah
Where investigative journalism in the 21st century is concerned, no piece has rocked the very foundation of publishing and caused a worldwide stir quite like the Panama Papers Exposé. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Frederik Obermaier and his colleague, the dubious business dealings of law firm Mossack Fonseca has been brought to light.
Before his participation at the Singapore Writers Festival, the investigative journalist from Germany offers Arman Shah insights into the unveiling of questionable offshore accounts that involve some of the world’s most dangerous criminals and political leaders.
When did you first develop an interest in writing?
In high school, but I didn’t even dare work for the school magazine because I didn’t think I could write. I was studying political sciences at university, but when I met students who were studying journalism, I was thrilled by what they were learning. So, I took up journalism alongside political sciences and never regretted it.
What motivated you to pursue investigative journalism as a professional career?
I was always fascinated by investigative journalists like Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They investigated scandals for months and years and strengthened democracy through uncovering wrongdoings.
I myself stumbled upon investigative journalism by accident. In 2012, after my two-year traineeship at German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Hans Leyendecker – the most renowned investigative journalist in Germany – asked me to help with his assignment.
He was investigating the mysterious deaths of German motorcycle club members and asked me if I wanted to join his investigative unit. It was a small team of only four people back then, and it felt like my senior colleagues had thrown me into cold water by giving me such a big assignment from day one; it was thrilling.
How did you get involved with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)? What has it taught you about collaborative journalism?
In 2013, my colleague Bastian Obermayer and I had a great opportunity to be part of an international team of journalists who were investigating what is now known as the Offshore-Leaks. After that project, ICIJ invited us to be part of the consortium. I was 29 at the time and being asked to join was such a big honour.
Bastian and I believe in the power of collaborative investigative journalism. In the past, investigative journalists were lone wolves who didn’t share anything, but projects like the Panama Papers have radically shown what we can accomplish if we work together.
Let’s discuss the Panama Papers. How did you get involved with the Mossack Fonseca exposé that shook the publishing world?
Mossack Fonseca is one of the largest providers of anonymous shell companies. Some of the world’s biggest scumbags have used the law firm’s anonymous offshore companies to disguise their business dealings.
Bastian and I did try to expose Mossack Fonseca before, but the case was like an impenetrable wall; a black hole. Every time our research led us closer to progress, it usually spelled the end of the investigation. When I heard that an anonymous source who we now call John Doe was offering data about the company, I was thrilled.
Can you explain the nature of your communications with the whistleblower, John Doe?
I hope you understand that we need to keep some things secret to protect our source. The only thing I can say about the communication is that it was encrypted.
What was going through your mind when you saw such sensitive information and its dangerous involvement of so many powerful political leaders?
The more names of notorious individuals we found, the more scared I was. They were members of drug cartels, the mafia, Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, the best friend of Vladimir Putin, guys close to Gaddafi – in order words, questionable people you normally do not want to mess with.
Fortunately, there has been no threat to my life. However, our colleagues in Russia were branded US agents and had to leave their country for some time. In Hong Kong, the Executive Chief Editor of Ming Pao newspaper was dismissed hours after the Panama Papers were made public.
The website of our Tunisian partner – the online magazine Inkyfada – was attacked by hackers after it reported the offshore connections of a former adviser to the president. In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa tweeted the names of the journalists involved in the investigation. The message was clear: he wanted to put them under pressure.
How do you feel about the treatment the other journalists received?
All these happenings are not acceptable. Society needs free press, and if the rich and powerful try to attack that, we should all raise our voices. If you fight one of us, you fight all of us – you fight free society.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of publishing the Panama Papers exposé?
It was good to see that the Panama Papers have caused an international debate about tax-havens and anonymous companies and their threat to society and democracy.
You’ll be attending this year’s Singapore Writers Festival. What teachings do you hope to impart to those who are inspired by your work and aspire to be like you?
For me, it is a great honour to be part of the Singapore Writers Festival. I hope I can share some of my experiences working on the Panama Papers exposé and give insights into this thrilling investigation.
May, a frequent traveller who constantly seeks to experience life outside her comfort zone, was travelling in Manali, India, when she chanced upon a jewellery shop. Crystals andOn October 21, 2016 / By Jamie Lee
May, a frequent traveller who constantly seeks to experience life outside her comfort zone, was travelling in Manali, India, when she chanced upon a jewellery shop. Crystals and stones became her best friends (and the shopkeeper too!), and her newfound fascination egged her towards setting up her own brand — Tesselate. Co.
Combining business and travel, Tesselate. Co’s handmade and handpicked accessories feature stones with healing properties, and uses the finest materials of 925 Sterling Silver and Brass. However, her love for jewellery was not the only thing May stumbled upon during her travels. She also got to know Fior Di Loto, a non-profit organisation in India that improves the lives of over 500 village girls.
As a strong believer in giving back to society, the opportunity to combine her passion with doing good was definitely the universe’s way of telling her to pursue what her heart truly desired. As of 2016, Tesellate. Co have sponsored the education of two girls for a period of five years!
We talk to May about Tessellate. Co’s partnership with Fior Di Loto, and her Howlite Collection.
Hi May! Tell us how you became acquainted with Fior Di Loto and their work.
I was in India, and heard a lot of good things about Fior Di Loto from the locals, so I visited the school to take a look for myself. I met the girls there, who are all really polite and warm, and saw how the organisation operated. I trust that Fior Di Loto will do their best for these village girls, and I feel comfortable working with them!
How was the atmosphere and culture in Fior Di Loto?
The students show a lot of love for one another, as well as respect for the teachers and volunteers. They learn a lot of things in school that build their knowledge and confidence. For instance, they start with meditation in the morning before having various subject classes (English, Math, Science, Arts) and sometimes get to learn third languages from the volunteers that come from other countries.
The donation goes to a lot of different things, such as the girls’ education fees (the girls receive free education, materials and are provided with lunch and transport) as well as food rations for the less privileged families. Fior Di Loto also improves the villages by building wells for the community as well as houses for the poor, and offers medical treatment for the sick.
Tell us more about Durga, the girl you’ve sponsored.
Compared to her peers, Durga is quite the introvert. She is one of the best students in class, and is very hardworking. She loves to draw, and has many books which are filled with her illustrations! She even sent me some of her drawings; feel really touched and proud to receive them.
Why is education important?
Education develops one’s character and mentality. In India, education is one of the key factors in helping people break out of their poverty cycle. I’ve heard that some of the girls graduate from Fior Di Loto and move on to become teachers, nurses and even doctors. All these would not be possible if they were not provided with education.
Although there are free public schools available in India, it is difficult for these village girls to get transport into town. A lot of them miss the chance to go to schools for this very reason. This is where Fior Di Loto comes in, to provide education and transport for the girls. I am so happy and proud of Durga, as she is doing very well in school and is likely to better her job prospects in the future.
You’ve chosen the Howlite gemstone, as the star of your latest collection. What do you love about it?
I wanted to create a minimalist collection, and I found Howlite to be perfect due to its simplicity and elegance. Howlite is also known to be a stone with calming properties, and it helps wearers to relax and be at peace with themselves.
Tell us more about the fair trade artisans aspect of your business.
Most of the artisans I work with actually work from home, and run their own business instead of working in big factories that might underpay them. In our discussions, they have the final say on whether they want to take up the job or not, and they quote the fees for their work. This allows them to have better working conditions and receive fair wages. I find this to be a sound business model as it is more sustainable in the long run.
Be sure to check out updates on Tessellate’s full range of collections at their online store.
Contemplative and soft-spoken, Nathan Yong comes across as very un-boastful when he talks about his accomplishments and contributions to the local design community. Yet, the furniture designer isOn August 24, 2016 / By Arman Shah
Contemplative and soft-spoken, Nathan Yong comes across as very un-boastful when he talks about his accomplishments and contributions to the local design community. Yet, the furniture designer is a considerable trailblazer when it comes to putting Singapore on the world map, thanks primarily to one of his earliest creations, the “Breakstool”. Now that 10 years have passed since he had launched that masterpiece, Nathan sits with Arman Shah to discuss the evolution of his original design in conjunction with Singapore’s 51st birthday.
How did you get started in furniture design?
I studied industrial design at Temasek Polytechnic, and when I graduated in 1991, I already had my mind set on becoming a furniture designer. When you’re young, however, nobody cares when you share your designs with the big bosses of well-known furniture companies.
I knew that I had to start my own company, but I needed to have an understanding of the business side of it. So, I applied for jobs specialising in different areas of the retail trade. I worked as a salesman, merchandiser and also a buyer who travelled to many Southeast Asian countries to check out trade shows and see how things were being made in factories.
When I eventually opened my first shop called “Air Division” in 1999, I already knew what was required of me to run my own business. I was designing my own furniture and retailing them in Singapore for 10 years before I left in 2009.
How did “Breakstool” help catapult you into the international design scene 10 years ago?
Breakstool was developed in 2006 and I was selling it locally through “Air Division” for about six months. I eventually told myself that I needed to sell my work beyond Singapore shores and got around to doing a trade show that year.
That was when I got to meet the people from Ligne Roset who picked up three of my original designs, including the “Breakstool”. It was a pretty big deal for me when I sold my design rights and had them bring my work outside of Singapore for the very first time. Designing for such a top-notch furniture company that’s based in France had always been my dream since I was a student at age 17.
What first inspired you to design “Breakstool”?
I remember waking up at 4am one morning and having this idea of doing a series of plywood chairs. It was a very fun and simple idea that’s based on comfort, functionality and aesthetics. Singapore didn’t have three-dimensional moulding technology back then, so I wanted to come up with an affordable and low-tech solution that puts a smile on your face. Design is universal, and I think Ligne Roset saw my thought process in the “Breakstool” when they bought the design rights from me.
What challenges did you face when producing the “Breakstool”?
The process was quite simple actually. Once you’ve curved the piece of plywood into the desired shape, you jot down the proportions in your technical drawing and relay the information to the technicians at the factory.
Of course, it is only to be expected that you go back and forth with the people at the manufacturing site; you want the piece to look a certain way but the technicians say it cannot be executed as such. I guess the main challenge was coming up with the right proportion so that the stool doesn’t look too chunky yet not too fragile that it breaks.
To celebrate 10 years of the “Breakstool”, you are launching an updated version of the original called the “Breakchair”. How has the design evolved after the last decade?
It’s basically the same stool that now comes with a backrest. Its evolution from a stool to a chair is still based on the same old concept of simplicity and pragmatism. This time, however, figuring out a way to incorporate the backrest into the original design was the main challenge.
From the first instance, I knew that the backrest had to be moulded for the purpose of structural stability. There’s also a slot in the original design that’s actually a crack from when the plywood was bent into shape. I intend to use this slot to hold the frame and secure the backrest.
What made this chair design the perfect one to commemorate National Day?
Well, the theme for National Day this year is “Going Forward”. So, to celebrate a decade of the “Breakstool”, I thought it would be interesting to explore its evolution, and turning it into a chair seemed quite befitting.
Singapore is 51 this year. How has the local design scene evolved from when you first started out?
When I started out in 1999, people didn’t understand what design can bring in terms of generating businesses, contributing to culture or just benefitting mankind generally. My peers and I were really just pushing for the development of different kinds of design in our own ways back then. We didn’t have an environment where we can just approach a shop to exhibit our designs. People will just tell us to go away.
I think people have a far more vested interest in local designers now. There are so many companies that want to work with designers to create content, so that’s a much healthier environment. At the same time, I’m worried that these privileges make the younger designers less hungry. Maybe they’re just concerned about what they want to do and get a little egoistic because of all these great opportunities. So, there’s always a flip side to things.
What are your hopes and wishes for Singapore as she turns yet another year older?
I really wish that the people of Singapore will be far more appreciative of the things around them. I don’t want to sound corny, but it can even be the trees and the river. People have to slow down and appreciate our environment more. As we become a richer country, I also hope that people become more cultured and treasure things that are well made. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t have to be branded. I hope design plays a part in educating people and making them more away of the finer things in life.
Exclusively available at Gallery & Co.and GRAFUNKT for a limited time only, the Breakstool in Oak and Walnut is priced at SGD480, while the Breakchair retails at SGD650. A showcase featuring both designs will be on display at Gallery & Co. from 3 August to 3 September 2016.
Hssss. Wipe. Tap-tap. She glanced up from frothing the milk for the order in front of her. “I’ll be with you in a moment,” she says, and smiledOn August 23, 2016 / By The Rainbow-Monger
Hssss. Wipe. Tap-tap. She glanced up from frothing the milk for the order in front of her.
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” she says, and smiled briefly as she tilted the latte cup slightly to her right. As she focused on creating an image for the latest latte order, I watched – fascinated at her intense concentration, as if she willed the pattern to appear magically on its own. It was a pretty white pattern with nicely rounded edges on a rich, golden brown tapestry.
“Where would you like to sit?” she asked.
I lost my train of thought then, and resigned myself to asking for a quiet corner where we could have a chat. Her name is Betty. She is a barista at a quaint little café along Sin Ming Road, named Nook and Cranny. Well suited to its name, the café is relatively hidden from the street, although it is anything but quiet.
“Could you tell me about yourself, Betty?” I systematically spewed out the first generic question that came to mind, and realised I would have simply answered “yes”, and perhaps offered nothing else to the conversation if anyone had asked me that particular question. “So why did you decide to become a barista?” I hastily added.
Betty pondered over my question a little before answering… “while I was studying in Melbourne; that was when my interest in coffee culture started. At the time, I liked to stop by various cafés after class, and have a cup of coffee before making my way home. I found that I liked latte, which happened to be my first cup of coffee. I couldn’t help but be immersed in coffee culture, because that’s just what it’s like in Melbourne; it’s all about coffee. Although I started liking coffee then, I hadn’t thought of becoming a barista. My plan was to graduate as a graphic designer, and then maybe learn how to be a barista part-time.”
Although her interest in coffee had sparked then, Betty graduated with a bachelor in graphic design as planned, and eventually found a job working at a design firm in Singapore.
“I felt like my plan turned the other way,” she explained. “Turns out, being a graphic designer at the firm was an office job that didn’t really suit me well. As I’m a Malaysian, it wasn’t easy finding a job immediately after I left either. Honestly, there was a point in time when depression sank in; the first job I found was a job in food & beverage (F&B). Although I thought I could apply for a job as a barista, I had no work experience.”
Watching her downcast eyes, I wondered silently if I’d have given in to my hesitations and moved back to my home country if I had been a foreigner. As she continued her story, her eyes started to light up while she spoke of her first F&B experience.
“I had a chance given to me by Jimmy Monkey Café & Bar,” she continued after a short pause. “There, I could watch people, and learn a little bit, and then I realised that there was no chance at all for me to be a barista the way I was then. I decided to go to a coffee academy, Bettr Barista, to at least learn the basics of how to steam milk, watch a shot, and estimate what I needed to make a good cup of coffee. I took exams and courses, and completed the foundation and intermediate courses within a span of a month.”
Clasping her hands together and resting them on the table, Betty went on to talk about how she gained confidence as her knowledge increased. She talked about how her passion for coffee shone through while working part-time at Jimmy Monkey, and also how, when the peak hour crowd had slowed, she was finally allowed to try making cups of coffee on her own with some guidance. Although she moved on from there, Betty found that she didn’t enjoy her stint at her second café very much as their focus wasn’t mainly towards brewing a good cup of coffee.
“I want to improve myself every day,” she looked at me intently, “I really want to upgrade myself and find an opportunity to improve. That was when I found Nook & Cranny.”
She had hunted for jobs everywhere, without any sign of a response from the various companies she had applied to. “What about the coffee chains we have around the island, or McCafé? Surely a coffee establishment with roots in Melbourne would be suitable?” I interrupted naively.
Frowning slightly, Betty hesitated before explaining her thoughts. “Those places, I’ll go for coffee when I’m free during my off days, but I guess it’s more that it’s a franchise thing, and I really just want to focus on smaller places and slowly improve from there.” Admitting that her café days in Melbourne gave her a day just for herself and her thoughts on the past, present and future, Betty seemed at peace then, with the direction her life has taken.
As we spoke about her recent accomplishments, Betty revealed that she had entered a design competition in the recent Singapore Coffee Festival. Although she wasn’t the winner of the competition, she had managed to be shortlisted for a secondary competition wherein attendees of the Coffee Festival would vote to see which design they preferred most out of seven; the winning design would then be printed on merchandise to be sold by Detpak, the host of this secondary competition.
Pointing out that her design was the middle one, Betty expressed that she hadn’t expected to be shortlisted as “there was alot of people, and there were just so many designers who are better”.
“What would you like to learn next about coffee?” I couldn’t help asking as I was truly curious. She seemed such a passionate soul when it came to coffee, I wondered what skills she had yet to devour with her hunger for the art.
“Roasting,” she said. She wanted to know how beans were roasted, and how each country’s beans tasted. “Some can get really spicy!” she exclaimed, and I was fascinated; I had expected sour, or bitter, but never spicy.
As questions ricocheted in my mind, I picked a final question for Betty that afternoon (and sneaked in another for good measure). “When we talk about artisan coffee, there’s always the latte art. What’s your favourite pattern? Any defaults when you can’t decide what to create?”
“A tulip,” Betty said immediately. “It’s the fastest to do, and my default pattern. But if you ask, my favourite would have to be the ‘Slow Setta'”.
“I’m sorry, but the slow-wha??” I did a double take, and she laughed as she described it to me.
“You know, like a rosetta, but the slower version of it,” she explained that it was interesting because she liked how the hollow leaves showed themselves as she cut through the pattern. “At first, before I knew what it was, I thought, did this person make his own design? But I looked it up online and there really was such a design, and there’s a name for it. It’s the ‘Slow Setta’,” she remembered fondly.
As I thanked her for her time and we continued to talk about mundane things in the world of F&B, I discovered a newfound respect for this barista of Nook & Cranny. Many people have dreams, but moving off the beaten path to chase new dreams like Betty has done is never easy.
While we strive to find the next diamond in the rough, head on down, order yourself a cup of Joe, and have a chat with Betty herself.
Nook & Cranny
9 Sin Ming Road
#01-03 Thomson V One
If you’ve been following the MET Gala, you’ve actually seen what recycled plastic bottles look like as fabric — albeit on social media. This year, Emma Watson woreOn June 23, 2016 / By Jamie Lee
If you’ve been following the MET Gala, you’ve actually seen what recycled plastic bottles look like as fabric — albeit on social media. This year, Emma Watson wore a black-and-white off shoulder dress made out of recycled plastic bottles, and finally, the internet broke for a good cause. Designed by Calvin Klein and Eco Age, Emma Watson’s dress brought environmental concerns to the forefront of fashion, art, and social media, and showed the public that recycling is both possible and stylish.
Why is this important? Disposable products are being churned out by the billions, and we use them every day, including that styrofoam box the nasi padang aunty packed your food in. The problem with disposable products is that they are not biodegradable; this means, it can never truly disappear off the face of the earth. (Unless we burn it, which causes pollution! And bad news — even biodegradable products take years to go away.)
One solution is to recycle plastic into comfortable and wearable fabric; it cleans up the environment, and saves the energy and oil needed to make a new batch of polyester. Yup, listen up designers-to-be and future fashion mavens, you can run a business and still be green. It’s available in Singapore too!
We talk to Monique Maissan, the founder and CEO of Waste 2 Wear, a pro-environment company which recycles plastic bottles into wearable fabric, about the possibilities of fabric made out of recycled bottles and the issues surrounding recycling.
Hi Monique, tell us a bit about Waste 2 Wear.
I formed Waste 2 Wear in 2009, when I first came across the invention that could turn plastic bottles into yarn. However, these were thick and dark yarns which can only be used for toy stuffings, carpets, and thick fleeces. I wanted to bring this technology into the mainstream textile industry, so we launched an intensive research and development process. After years of trial and errors and investments, we can now produce beautiful combinations of viscoses, cottons, wools and even silks!
How wonderful and heartening to hear! What is the process like?
After gathering plastic bottles from our clients, and countries like China and India — that’s where our production facilities are — these bottles are stripped of caps and labels, thoroughly cleaned, and processed into flakes. These flakes are then transformed into small pellets of pure recycled plastic, which will be extruded into yarn. The end product is 100% recycled polyester yarn, which can be made into any colour you need it to be.
Waste 2 Wear supply these yarns and ready-made products worldwide, to about 17 different countries (and growing!). To Singapore, we have supplied companies including SAVEUR, for their chef’s aprons, and the CHIJ schools, for bags and some school garments. We are hoping to supply a large uniform company soon, and are working with hotels and other brands for uniforms, curtains, bathrobes and pillows.
What did you think of Emma Watson’s MET Gala dress?
It’s absolutely a great way to educate as these celebrities have a lot of influence. They can use their stardom to change mindsets. I wished that more celebrities would lead by example, because so many more people can be doing this — if only they were aware of the possibilities and impact!
But you don’t have to be a celebrity. As an employer or designer, even dressing your own employees and consumers in garments made from a mix of recycled polyester and cotton, instead of just normal polyester or cotton, can create a real and large awareness. These people will then look at other ways to save energy and other waste!
Some naysayers say recycling the plastic bottles are in fact more, if not equally, damaging to the environment. What is your opinion on this?
That is totally untrue. These plastics will not end up in our landfills and rivers! We have scientific evidence that it not only helps to clean up the environment and existing waste, but also actively reduces the amount of energy used in the process by 60% to 70%, and reduces carbon emission by more than 65% on average, as compared to making virgin polyester.
Is there a wrong way to recycle?
A lot of companies see the growing popularity of green products, but do not want to invest in them, so they green-wash, which is to publicise only the “good” areas of their process. If you look closely, they might be using carbon-unfriendly ways to making garments out of trash, such as transporting them with trucks and boats to a processing plant far away, and therefore increasing carbon footprint. They might be using a sexy story for publicity, but they are not really doing this to save the environment.
Also, please understand that it takes consumers and shoppers actively buying something recycled, to be part of the solution. This creates a pull — the business will grow, prices will go down, and the planet will improve. So get more people to do this, such as choosing curtains, pillows and upholstery made from recycled fabric.
Lastly, what can the Singapore government do to make recycling easier for citizens?
The government in Singapore is, unfortunately, not really educating enough. Singapore actually burns 80% of its waste instead of recycling it! Burning creates energy but also pollution, and is less valuable than if you up-cycle it into a product of higher value. It would be great if the government can lead by example, by looking into the uniforms of local uniformed groups. This is something we are now working on with the Malaysian government, and we hope to have a deal this year to be able to dress their whole police force!
What do you think about buying products made from recycled materials? Tell us here : Nookmag
Education is empowering. Education should be holistic. From knowing the importance of essentials like clean water and nutrition, to equipping oneself with problem-solving skills as well as aOn May 13, 2016 / By Jamie Lee
Education is empowering. Education should be holistic. From knowing the importance of essentials like clean water and nutrition, to equipping oneself with problem-solving skills as well as a sense of confidence and self-worth, many can benefit from knowledge.
Global Village for Hope (GVH), a social initiative which focuses its philanthropical efforts on underprivileged communities in Myanmar, covers these areas and more. It started with GVH’s founder Linus Lin who, after coming across a story of Mother Teresa in a school textbook, felt inspired, but also “pondered on my purpose in life”.
Its not surprising that Linus felt this way. He realised at a young age that he was easily moved by stories of people overcoming adversity, and later on, decided he wanted to play a part in changing lives for the better — no doubt a strength instilled in him after watching his father work tirelessly for a better life.
The educator and entrepreneur realised that to see a positive change in a community or nation of people, these people needed to be educated. GVH has, since its launch in 2014, provided villagers with provisions like rice and raincoats, helped an orphanage be self-sustaining by converting a piece of land into a mushroom farm, as well as started the GVH Bursary Award to fund one year’s cost of tuition fees and school uniforms of 10 children — among many others.
The way GVH works is simple. Your donations don’t go to people, but to fund projects that will empower the community to lead better lives. Think about it: a few dollars may tide them over for a day, but a well-equipped village that helps to raise the standard of living will do much more in the long run.
We speak to him to find out more.
Tell us how GVH started.
In 2013, I funded the salaries (SGD100/month) of two English teachers at an orphanage in Myanmar, as I believe speaking and writing English is key for the children to have a better life. Joseph was one of the teachers, and in 2014, he agreed to join me in this non-profit venture. This way, Joseph can represent me and accomplish the work I would have done if I were personally around.
Joseph will look for villages in need of help, and we will discuss potential solutions. For example, when he found a village that was lacking water, we considered how much a water well would cost and I reached out to my friends for ideas and support. After gathering enough funds, I brought the money to Myanmar, and worked on building the water well with the local villagers. This is basically how we function. I feel blessed to have met Joseph.
What would you say are the top three problems preventing the locals from attaining a better standard of living?
A lack of education, basic food and clean water, and hygiene and medical care. Although public school education is free, families are required to buy school uniforms, textbooks and stationery before they are allowed to attend the classes. Most families can only afford to buy one set of uniform for the entire year — even when it’s wet after the rain. Furthermore, the passing rate in Myanmar remains below 50%, especially because parents cannot afford to hire tutors. Children in rural areas don’t have sufficient lighting and cannot study after nightfall. This is why education is GVH’s top priority, and we will be installing solar-powered lights and electricity where we can.
Lack of food is also an area of concern, as it leads to health issues due to weaker bodies. People in rural Myanmar worry about falling sick because it means they have to get treatment from a local hospital; this costs more than their monthly wage! They treat non-serious illnesses with remedies from local medicine shops, and their meals usually consist of white rice and vegetables. Most only eat meat about once every one or two weeks. And from my experience, most health issues are caused by poor water conditions and poor toilet hygiene.
Share with us one happy moment, where you truly felt like you’ve achieved something not only great, but sustainable too.
In November 2014, I travelled 21 hours from Yangon to a village called Zui Tui, which lacked clean water. On my first visit, I bought 20 sacks of rice for the small village of about 10 households, so that the men can stop working and concentrate on building the water pipelines. A month later, I went back to give them warm clothing and blankets for the cold season. We also built a road access, leading from their village to the town of Mindat. A year later, I returned to build a solar power system. I think the moment I felt truly happy was when the villages and children gathered on my last night there and prayed for me. I don’t think I felt a sense of achievement. It is more a sense of peace and happiness. I know that the road, the water pipe, the electricity and the warmth will continue to serve them well for decades even.
Name one obstacle you’ve faced. How have you overcome this?
When we first visited the homes and villages in Myanmar, the leaders tend to be a little cautious of our intentions. As such, we will always start off by giving a gift, such as two sacks of rice for a small orphanage. I found out there have been people who said they were doing humanitarian work and even took photos of the situation, but eventually disappeared without offering help. It is no wonder the villagers are skeptical — there are those who use the photos they took to raise funds for personal gain! Now, we have a positive track record and can easily prove our intentions with the photos we have collected over years.
What can people do to help?
I think as educated people in the urban society, we should contribute our mind as well as money. It is important to understand the need of the community first, instead of assuming what they need. For example, it is pointless to give toys when the children need school uniforms, or to buy the children shoes when they only wear sandals, because of the rain and the mud.
Think about the root of each issue: water cleaning pills don’t help, when they do not have enough water to drink in the first place. Similarly, English books and educational materials do not matter, when they do not understand them or have money to attend tuition lessons.
Also, be careful when donating your money — know how it will be used. If someone is keen on making a trip to help the communities directly, supplies and food might be more helpful than money, as the latter can encourage corruption.
You spend your life helping others. How has this experience helped you become a better person?
I have learnt that true happiness doesn’t come from taking, neither is it from giving nor having. It comes from receiving. All this work has allowed me to receive an enormous amount of positive energy which has brought about much inner peace. No amount of material gains, physical possessions, or numerical wealth can bring about the happiness I have received from my work and constant reflection. I do not know if this is considered “being a better person”, but I do hope my work can help inspire youths to do more good to others.
Nothing delineates DC skater Nyjah Huston’s year better than accolades and more accolades. The six times X Games gold medalist recently won his second consecutive ESPY award forOn August 20, 2014 / By Gracie
Nothing delineates DC skater Nyjah Huston’s year better than accolades and more accolades. The six times X Games gold medalist recently won his second consecutive ESPY award for Best Male Action Sports Athlete in July. This win solidifies Huston as a top Action Sports competitor and comes in the middle of his skateboarding season. In one of Huston’s most successful years yet, he has already been crowned champion of three Street League events, X Games Austin and the Tampa Pro.
An icing on the cake is the recent release of the new Nyjah Vulc collection. Nyjah worked closely with DC Shoes on this signature pro model to create a durable shoe that stands up to the demands of street skating, while offering comfort and style for everyday wear.
The Nyjah Vulc Skate Shoe offers the best of DC’s footwear technology in a design that translates to street wear. The all new vulcanized signature model with Impact S Technology ensures great board feel and sole flex, while also supplying lightweight comfort and protection. Abrasion-resistant outsoles and DC’s trademarked “pill pattern” tread allows for better board grip to complete the package for a shoe that meets all of Nyjah’s specifications. While a foam-padded tongue and collar provides all-day comfort, these unique proven to last low-profile designed shoes offer skate-inspired style beyond just the street session.
To give you a taste of this riveting street skater, we are giving away two pairs of red Nyjah Vulc shoes! Simply fill in your details and answer the question below to participate. Two lucky winners with the correct answer will be randomly selected. Contest ends 31 August 2014.
Nookmag (NM): Congrats on your flawless winning streak this year. I’m sure many skaters are eyeing on that number one spot. Are you feeling the heat?
Nyjah Huston (NH): Yeah, I would say I feel a little bit of pressure. Just because I feel like a lot of people expect me to win. I don’t really think it makes that much of a difference, I just want to go out and have a good time.
NM: What kind of emotions do you go through each time you pick up a gold medal? Do you still feel the same kind of excitement as when you first won?
NH: Yeah it’s honestly a good feeling every single time because especially at street league, it always comes down to the last one and the last part of the contest, and it’s always a really close competition. So it’s always a really exciting feeling.
NM: How were you involved in designing the new Nyjah Vulc collection?
NH: I was pretty involved with the design of the Nyjah Vulc, it was based around the design of the first shoe, but a little more low profile and a little more of a chilling shoe, going along with a skate shoe. It’s a balance between both. I sat down with the guys over at DC and they came up with some ideas and then we got it done.
NM: It’s funny how the suspense of the video for the Nyjah Vulc collection leads up to you trying to select which pair to wear. Have you decided which is your favourite pair of Nyjah Vulc so far?
NH: Yeah my favourite colour of the Nyjah Vulc is the red one; red is my favourite colour. And I’m actually wearing them right now.
NM: Let’s talk about “Fade to Black”. How do you think the video presents and sums you up as a skater?
NH: I think “Fade to Black” represents my hard work going out and skating all the time. I think putting out video parts nowadays is still just as important as me winning contests and I think that’s always how skateboarding should be, so I’m really stoked on my video part and I’m hoping to put out another one pretty soon here.
NM: Your fearlessness in confronting skate obstacles in your videos is admirable. As a living breathing being, what kind of fears or phobias do you have?
NH: I don’t like the water, I’m scare of the water and I’m scared of heights.
NM: What skating tips can you share with amateurs trying to improve their game?
NH: Just go out and practice all the time, you know that’s all there is to it. When kids come up to me and ask how do they do tricks and what not, I just tell them ‘dude you’ve got to practice it over and over and over and then you’ll get the hang of it. And just make sure you’re having fun while you’re doing that.’
The Nyjah Vulc collection comprises six colourways and will be available from September 2014, retailing from SGD129 to SGD149 at DC stores.