Dear reader,

Join Jom and our comrades at the Singapore Independent Media Fair 2024 on July 20th at Cineleisure. There’ll be many academics and artists speaking, including Ariffin Sha, founder of Wakeup SG, Cherian George, a professor, Grace Baey, a filmmaker, Haresh Tilani and Terence Chia of the Yah Lah BUT podcast, and Rishi Budhrani, a comedian. Get your tickets now and join us in a couple of weeks.

In Singapore This Week, we look at Protect Singapore and Pink Dot; male fertility and parenthood; the dangers of screen time; the passing of Syed Husin Ali, a scholar and man of the left; Charmaine Toh at the Tate; the sluggishness of SGX; and more.

Our essay of the week, Postcard from Houston, is by Jonathan Chan, a writer and editor of poems and essays. I love how he blends family history—his grandparents migrated there in their retirement—with the evolutions of two of the world’s fossil fuel capitals.

“The Houston area remains host to the highest concentration of oil refineries and petrochemical plants in the world. Second to it is Singapore…At Rice University’s James Baker Institute, senior minister Lee [Kuan Yew] spoke of the fallout from the Asian Financial Crisis and looming recession. My grandparents attended his talk, enticed by the opportunity to see him in person, though my Mah Mah does not recall much of what he said.

Singapore has long sought cosmopolitan kinship through the notion of the ‘global city’. Its veneer of wealth and multiculturalism has invited comparisons to New York, Zurich, London, and Hong Kong, as has its high cost of living. The comparison with Houston seems to evade popular perception.”

Jonathan’s piece is also a subtle meditation on time, its passage through the lives of his family and our two cities. The other temporal dimension of the piece today is that occasionally current affairs sync up with Jom essays that’ve been fermenting in our storehouse. When we scheduled Jonathan’s piece several months ago, we didn’t know that it’d be out just weeks after a major oil spill in Singapore waters. The immediacy of daily life sometimes provokes fresh interrogation of an evergreen issue. Must the “Houston of Asia”, as journalist Tilak Doshi called us in 1989, forever remain so? 

It’s Jonathan’s fifth piece for us, and it’s matched by the work of Marie Toh, whose distinctive illustrations front all our postcards, and also our first print issue. I’m glad that they’ve yet again shared their artistry with us. Almost two years since we launched, it’s cool that there are Jomrades we can call regular contributors.

More broadly, we’re grateful that all of you have joined us on this journey, and every now and then we have a new stakeholder to introduce. In the coming weeks, Jom will be publishing our first sponsored newsletter. As you know, we want to build our base off subscription revenue, for two main reasons: it makes for a more sustainable, stable business; and it means we’ll never be beholden to big organisations, including corporations and the government.

But that doesn’t mean we’re averse to advertising. We’ve always been open to the possibility of working with organisations in industries that align with our values—in everything from written pieces to our Jom Cakap events. If done deliberately and tastefully, and with transparency about the commercial relationship, it can be a win-win-win: for readers, for the client, and for the media business. We have no intention to ever be obtrusive, to plaster our website full of ads chosen by algorithms that mine all of us. But if there’s a client we like, with a product we believe you will like, then why not? The extra cash will allow us to publish even more content for you.

So do expect an extra newsletter soon, about a topic we find fascinating, written in our usual style. Engage with it, click on the links if so inclined. As with everything we send your way, please tell me what you think. We want to do advertising well, and I’m sure with your help, we will.

Jom berjaya,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

p.s. see you in two weeks at Cineleisure!

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