Posts Tagged ‘The Art of Charlie Chan’

Quiet activist looking at his bank statement and smiling

In Uncategorized on 11/12/2017 at 11:10 am

The whacking persecution prosecution of Jovolan Wham (Jolovan Wham: Money talks, BS Walks do-gooders),has the ang moh tua kees, cybernuts, progressives and social activists sullen and despondent despite Christmas being the time to be jolly.

So I tot I’d cheer them up with the story of a quiet activist and progressive who by annoying the PAPpies is laughing all the way to the bank. Better still he double annoys the PAPpies because they know that he’s making money by annoying them

Edmund Wee is a very quiet warrior. Via some of the books he publishes, he walks the walk, not talk the talk, of a progressive S’pore unlike Lim Tean (Remind Lim Tean, it’s December).

Readers of this blog will know that Edmund Wee’s firm had to refund a National Arts Council (NAC) grant Charlie and Edmund, a graphic novel about the Schoolings pls. Note the the ST headline (a month or so ago) “Very few arts projects for which official funding is withdrawn: Baey Yam Keng”.

What readers are unlikely to know is that he’s making serious money from Charlie Chan: the book has sold 24,000+ copies here and 9,000 copies in the US/UK. And is being translated into other languages including Real Chinese (not simplified Chinese).

He shows that there is money to be made from propagating progressive tots here.

What regular readers may not know is that Edmund also published Jeremy Tiang’s “State of Emergency” after the NAC withdrew a grant from the Singaporean author because the content of his book changed from his original proposal, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

In a written response to Parliament earlier this year, she said that in Tiang’s case, “the project did not meet the funding requirements mutually agreed upon as the content in the book deviated from the original proposal”. ST

Jeremy Tiang’s “State of Emergency,” which follows a family caught up in the Communist insurgency in Malaysia after World War II, and Singapore’s often brutal crackdown on suspected leftists during the Cold War.


Tiang, an established writer and translator, was initially given an Arts Council grant but had his funding withdrawn after submitting a draft, ostensibly because he had deviated from his original proposal.

Sadly this book’s sales are so-so: the best outcome for locally published books. The usual fate of books (example M Ravi’s Kampong Boy, not by Epigram) is to remain largely unsold.

But Edmund has another winner. Edmund is also behind “The Phantom of Oxley Castle” which sold 800 odd copies (Print run of 2,000) before its launch because of a TOC story that got the anti-PAP mob rushing to buy the book online. And then feeling cheated when TOC had to retract the claim that PM was going to sue the publisher. Read the twists in the plot at

One cybernut even threatened to make a police report against Edmund Wee, saying he cheated said nut and his friends. As though, the police would take the word of TOC, no friend of the police.

But lest Edmund Wee be tot to be anti-PAP, as distinct from having progressive views, he’s also published a kids’ book based on an adult book praising Philip Yeo. Philip Yeo attended the kids’ book launch which also doubled as a charity do.

He’s also published a kids’ book on

How did a boy who was kicked out of school (twice!) and ran away from home end up being the President of Singapore?
Find out in The Runaway Who Became President, taken from our Prominent Singaporeans series

There was once in the US, a black civil rights activist who went into publishing. He became very rich and was accused of selling out. He said something to the effect that his magazines (which targeted a black audience) entertained while educating and mobilising his audience.

While Edmund is not that rich (yet) he’s entertaining, educating and, hopefully, mobilising S’poreans especially the young.

“Bullshit is the glue that binds us as a nation” 

In Political governance on 24/07/2017 at 5:01 am

“Bullshit is the glue that binds us as a nation” was said by George Carlin. He was an American stand-up black comedy comedian, actor, author, and social critic.

When Sonny Liew became the first S’porean to win an Eisner Award (In fact he won three*: the Eisner Awards are the comic industry’s Oscars.), I realised that “Bullshit is the glue that binds us as a nation” applies here too because of the hostility to alternative narratives to the “The S’pore Story: The PAP Version”.

“The S’pore Story: The PAP Version”

goes something like this: Newly independent from its bigger neighbor Malaysia, small and vulnerable in the middle of the Cold War, beset by Communist infiltrators and surrounded by domino nations, Singapore finally found stability and a road to prosperity when its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, defeated dangerous left-wing opponents, regrettably by having many tossed in jail.

“The S’pore Story: The PAP Version”

has been hammered home in textbooks, the mass media and television shows. To oppose it meant risking detention without trial, costly libel suits or extreme marginalization in a country where the state controls most purse strings and levers of power.

The above extracts are from

After the above book was published, Singapore’s National Arts Council (NAC) withdrew a publishing grant, and an official wrote in a letter to the constructive, nation-building ST that the book “potentially undermines the authority and legitimacy of the Government and its public institutions.”

(The author talks about his present relationship with the NAC:

Then there’s “State of Emergency”, another novel. The author sent the first draft of book to NAC and his subsidy was stopped.

Siew Li leaves her husband and children in Tiong Bahru to fight for freedom in the jungles of Malaya. Decades later, a Malaysian journalist returns to her homeland to uncover the truth of a massacre committed during the Emergency. And in Singapore, Siew Li’s niece Stella finds herself accused of being a Marxist conspirator.

Jeremy Tiang’s debut novel dives into the tumultuous days of leftist movements and political detentions in Singapore and Malaysia. It follows an extended family from the 1940s to the present day as they navigate the choppy political currents of the region. What happens when the things that divide us also bind us together?

“A well-written novel, and it has a wide historical perspective.”—Philip Holden, author of Heaven Has Eyes and NUS Professor of English

“A superbly structured piece of work. The sweep of the dramatic narrative is impressive, with just the right dose of intrigue and mystery.”—Haresh Sharma, Resident Playwright, The Necessary Stage

(Btw, both books are published by Epigram Books, owned by Edmund Wee. He wants to make S’pore Literature Great.)

Then there’s Mr. Thum Ping Tjin, better known as PJ Thum, a Research Associate at the Centre for Global History and co-ordinator of Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford. He’s got local academics foaming with rage over his analysis of Operation Coldstore. He used declassified British archives to challenge the PAP narrative that S’pore faced a credible Communist threat. Really there’s nothing really very new about his analysis. Some Western historians had been disagreeing with the PAP’s narrative even before the British declassified their records, basing their analysis on information available from US and Australian archives.

(Here’s his analysis of the 1964 “racial riots”: It’s not the official narrative.)

Btw, he has his own alternative history podcast on S’pore. Again this often goes against the PAP narrative but in the main it follows what Western historians have talked about. S’poreans are generally not aware of what Western historians write about S’pore because their books and articles are about the region, and the S’pore material is just a “little red dot”.

I’m no fan of his because I think in his analysis of S’pore in the 50s and 60s, he leaves out the bigger picture of Western fears and concerns, not unreasonable, about the danger of Communism to their regional and global interests. For example, in any analysis of S’pore in the late 50s and early 60s, account must be taken of  the PKI,  the Indonesian Communist Party. By 1965, the PKI was the strongest communist party outside the USSR and China. It had influence over Sukarno.


*Nominated in six categories for graphic novel “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye”, Liew won three:

Best Writer/Artist,

Best US Edition of International Material – Asia, and

Best Publication Design and categories




Akan datang “Schooling the picture book”

In Uncategorized on 01/09/2016 at 5:47 am

Here I wrote that I hoped that the publisher and author of The Art of Charlie Chan would do two graphic novels on Schooling. One would be constructive-nation building (which would have MoE ordering the book by the container-load), the other subversive.

Well my sources in the publishing industry tell me that a reputable publisher (I deliberately nit names the pub;isher) has received a picture book manuscript about the Schooling story.

So hopefully there’ll be something classy to commemorate the Schoolings’ achievement, not something cheap and cheerful to cash in on his fame.

Eurasians woz did it

His parents really believed that he could win an Olympic gold medal.

They borrowed money from the bank to fund his expenses.

Now race horse owners have been known to borrow to buy horses and train them, hoping that they’ll make money. But I’ve never come across an owner who’ll borrow the finance juz the one horse. They are not that reckless.

All this leads me to wonder what if the parents were not Eurasians (OK, OK I know May’s a true blue Chinese lady) but were Chinese, Indian or Malay: would Joseph have been funded? I suspect not.

Being a multi-racial and multi-cultutal society has its advantages.


Coming back to a subversive version of the Schooling story, maybe a better way of doing one is for a story in which Ang Peng Siong wins a silver or bronze Olympic medal and for him to then train Schooling to win a gold. The twist would be that all this happens in a S’pore where Lim Chin Seong won the 1963 GE and his is the ruling party since then (as in the Art of Charlie Chan).

Amos on Schooling

Joseph Schooling info:

Left Singapore and his secondary school Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) at 14 to go to America
Lives in: America
Speaking accent: American
Secondary School: Bolles School in Florida (America)
University: University of Texas (America)
Trains swimming: In America
Swimming Coach: Eddie Reese (American)
Swimming Inspiration: Micheal Phelps (American)

Singapore shouldn’t be proud of Joseph Schooling for winning the Olympic Gold, America should

Hey Amos, in the US one Olympic gold medal is “peanuts”: nothing to get excited about.

Amos cracks great jokes.


Charlie and Edmund, a graphic novel about the Schoolings pls

In Uncategorized on 22/08/2016 at 5:27 am

Given that Schooling is a national hero and the struggles, efforts and successes of Colin, May and Joseph will be co-opted into the official narrative, a constructive, nation-building graphic novel is in order? Better still a subversive version? Best both versions?

Who better for either version or both than the writer (Sonny Liew, M’sian born VJC boy) and publisher (Edmund Wee, a RI boy, is the owner of Epigram Books, the book’s publisher)  of  the Art of Charlie Chan.which weaves together fictional and historical elements, with nods to events and personalities in the nation’s history, such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, in 1987. 

ST called the book “a vivid and satirical retelling of Singapore’s journey to nationhood through the eyes of its eponymous comic artist.”


The National Arts Council (NAC) has withdrawn a publishing grant for the graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye on the eve of its Singapore launch because of “sensitive content”.

The council declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the decision to revoke the S$8,000 grant.

The experimental graphic novel by artist-illustrator Sonny Liew follows the story of comic-book artist Charlie Chan during the formative years of Singapore’s modern history. It weaves together fictional and historical elements, with nods to events and personalities in the nation’s history, such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, in 1987.

In a statement, NAC’s senior director of the literary arts sector Khor Kok Wah said: “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions. The Council will continue to support and work with Epigram, a leading publisher of Singapore literary works, on other projects.”

Application guidelines for the grant state that NAC reserves the right to withdraw funding for reasons such as “illegal or negligent acts that occur during any point of the funded project, which will adversely affect the reputation of the National Arts Council, any government bodies, public institutions, national leaders or (the applicant’s) organisation”.


Lim Chin Siong in the book is often portrayed as a hero and gets to become PM in a parallel S’pore in another universe and his S’pore is a kinder, more compassionate version of Harry’s, even if he implemented the policies LKY implemented in this wotld..

The withdrawal of a MDA grant helped sales a lot (it sold about 9,000 copies here: a best seller almost twice over by local standards) and the book also won  this year’s Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction. The win marks the first time that the prize has been awarded to a graphic novel.

The prize is organised by the National Book Development Council, with support from the National Arts Council.


In April 2015, Epigram Books announced the launch of the inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize. With a prize of $20,000, it is the richest award of its kind in Singapore.

So in 2016, Ownself win ownself’s prize.

The book has also gotten critical acclaim from international publications such as Slate and Economist and was is available overseas. Economist take on book:

A subvervise version of the Schoolings’ saga can win the fiction prize while the constructive, nation-building version can win the non-fiction prize.

But Sonny should beware that one-party states do not like those who criticise the official version of the facts. “China Through the Ages”, a magazine offering a mild critique of the official Communist version of history, has been taken over by the right people, the team running it having been locked out

Sonny should be particularly careful because as a new citizen (Got do NS or not? Or like junior minister Puthu?), his citizenship can be suks suka revoked.

As for Edmund, he’s an RI boy, a member of the elite.

Epigram was originally a design shop and does, among other stuff, presentation or gift boxes. Epigram designed a very beautiful “box” made of teak and bronze. Edmund said this was done for the PAP when it honoured some people with a special copy of the PAP’s 50th anniversary book. Even the PAP appreciates classy, beautiful stuff.