Rag to Riches Documentary Launched

Website: http://bit.ly/ragtoriches
Facebook: http://facebook.com/nusragtoriches

What is Rag & Flag?

Rag & Flag was started in 1959 in National University of Singapore (NUS) as a way raise funds for a charitable cause. Selling flags refers to the tin cans NUS students used to solicit donations from the public. ‘Rag’ refers to the parade of dance performances and floats, built out of recycled materials, to drum up publicity and support, and to thank the public for their donations. At present, this tradition has evolved into an annual staple on the NUS calendar during Freshmen Orientation Week, with hundreds of students and tens of thousands of dollars consistently being involved in a colourful day long affair.


Intrigued by how Rag & Flag elicits reactions that range from extreme passion to simple indifference and even utter distaste, a group of NUS students set out to discover the origins of this NUS tradition. But dwelling deeper into the present-day microcosm of Rag & Flag, the controversy behind this annual event becomes apparent. From vicious inter-hall and inter-faculty rivalry to escalating costs afflicting all parties, interviews with key participants paint a stark picture of a tradition gone astray and evolving out of proportions.

Digging through dusty archives and interviewing participants who ranged from the ordinary Ragger to key leaders, and even an alumni member who oversaw the event’s birth, this documentary is a journey to rediscover the genesis and original purpose of Rag & Flag; uncover its present-day allure, controversies and dilemmas; and to examine its future.

A typical day in the life of an intern in NYC

Work starts at 10am for my company, so usually I wake up at 9am, grab some breakfast, and take the subway to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) near downtown Brooklyn. As it is just past the peak hours, the train is not that crowded, but the frequency is not as good. Inside the train, there are all kinds of people, Caucasians, Asians, Mexicans, African Americans, Jews etc. It is quite an interesting multicultural sight that is different from Singapore.

Once at the office, a coffee a day keeps the sleep away. There’s free coffee provided at the green desk office in the morning, which has become my daily fix with coffeemate. My boss usually comes in slightly later, hence he assigns us work before by email or through the staff blog.

Around 1pm or 1.30pm, I will go for lunch. The not so cool thing about DUMBO neighborhood is that the food is kind of “atas” (up class) and most of the food is slightly expensive. There are a couple of nice deli/supermarkets that has salads, sushi (yes, Japanese sushi), sandwiches, burritos, paninis, rolls and heroes. (Rolls are like burgers while heroes are 6-inch sandwiches). One of the cheapest places to eat is Front St Pizza, which sells all kinds of Italian-American stuff from pastas, calzones, pinwheels and burgers. There are also a couple of shops which sell Spanish-American food, which is rice, beans and chicken or beef stew, and Cuban sandwiches. Usually I have lunch with one other intern, sometimes we walk around the Brooklyn Bridge Park for a breather, or just around the shops in the neighbourhood. I’ve also recently realised that Chinatown is just one subway stop from my workplace, hence it is a nice escape for bubble tea and Chinese food shops which sell $5 lunch as opposed to $8. And where else can you find Breadtalk-style pork floss bread and egg tarts and Malaysian beef jerky (which is Bak Kwa)?

After lunch, I am back to work in the office. The last two weeks were less busy. I was setting up WordPress for my boss website and integrating it with the current design, which wasn’t too difficult. I learnt how to do http 301 redirects too. I also sent numerous days fixing an email bug in the staff blog, reading up on facebook and twitter for journalists. There were also two meetings which we met up with the rest of the team and catch up with one another, discussing about tracking news events around the world. Also, the last few days I was working on Pachube through its API using PHP and JavaScript. I learnt a bit of Ajax forms, using JQuery, pretty cool and fun.
At about 6 or 7pm, I will usually summarize to my boss what I’ve done for the day, before heading out. Sometimes, on good days, my boss will bring us for a beer at the bar downstairs as it is happy hour before 7pm. We will have a drink and chill or talk about some work.

Around NYC

Independence Day weekend just passed, and we went to Hoboken in New Jersey to catch a glimpse of the July 4th fireworks along the Hudson River. It was a good view, and possibly less crowded than watching it from Manhattan. New Jersey is a neater and quieter side of the region, less urbanised and more open spaces. Liberty State Park has a nice view of the harbor and the downtown Manhattan skyline. I also visited the Intrepid, which is an aircraft carrier, an air, space and science museum. It also includes a peep into the Concorde, and a submarine which once carried nuclear missiles during the Cold War. I also watched Mary Poppins, the Disney musical, with some other interns here, and it was really beautiful.

Recently, I started volunteering at HillsongNYC church, helping out in lyrics/slides projection during two of the Sunday services. Although the hours to volunteer are long (7 hours on a Sunday), it is an honour to serve in church, like a dream come true, and to be one of the few Asians around! The church services are held in a rented club space at Irving Plaza, and there are lines forming every week for the 4 services on Sundays.

I also volunteered for the NYC Relief Bus on Saturday morning. It is a bus which goes to a less well-off neighbourhood in New York City, such as Bronx and Harlem, to serve food, distribute clothes to the needy, and just to be there for the people, especially the not so rich ones and homeless people along the streets. Every Saturday morning for 4 hours, these volunteers will serve soup and bread, and there will be lines to receive extra clothing and a week’s supply of bread for individuals. It is really a blessing to be able to volunteer in such an effort to reach out to the poorer people in a congested city like New York.

Working in Brooklyn

16 June to 30 June 2011


The company is launching a new news website, and we are in the midst of preparing and the programmer is working on it. I was helping my boss to tidy up the press kit in Photoshop and PowerPoint and to convert it to a small size PDF suitable for online sharing.
I was finishing up my boss personal website, touching a bit of Jquery to add pagination and tabs onto the long webpages, as well as designing a new page for his book in Photoshop. He wanted a ‘theatre marquee’ kind of look, so I used Illustrator to draw out the shapes in perspective and exported to Photoshop later. I also had to play around with Jplayer to embed an audio player onto the webpages. It took me one extra day to integrate all these elements together into the book page which has many sections. Here is a screenshot of the finished webpage:

We met one of my boss’ partners and got introduced into this “internet-of-things” API called Pachube. It allows one to log data from various sources and output them into a data feed. I spent some time using PHP to play with the API to input and output data, it was pretty interesting. We intend to use this system to get data from all over the world for our website.
I also suggested to setup an internal staff blog for all the interns to share stuff, somewhat like a mini-news-group.
As part of the research regarding our website, I read up on twitter and facebook strategies, as well as finding news websites from Singapore and Malaysia, since I know them better, while other interns are collecting such websites from the rest of the world.
One of the days, our boss brought us on the field trip to watch PageOne, a documentary about the New York Times, behind the scenes of a newspaper and the possible future due to the expansion of the internet. It was a very interesting film which opened our eyes into the world behind journalism.

Around NYC

Summer is the time for parades in New York. I went to Coney Island with another intern, Hans, to see the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade. One week later, I went to see the NYC Pride parade celebrating gay rights in Manhattan. Both parades were filled with many crazy people dressed in all kinds of costumes (or none). The Mermaid Parade had more interesting costumes especially with the ladies dressing like mermaids, while the Pride parade was part-march part-parade, as they celebrated the just-approved legalization of gay marriage in New York State. There were also many interesting vehicles and well-decorated floats, with music blasting from most of them, and dancing along the streets. It was indeed eye-opening.

Over the weeks, I also visited the many little parks within NYC, such as High Line Park, Washington Square, Union Square, Madison Square, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Prospect Park and of course, Central Park. It is nice to see pockets of greenery where people like to read, lie on the grass and sunbathe. Americans definitely love the sun more than we do since summer is only once a year. However, summer also makes the trees all green like Singapore. I also took the ferry along the East River, which offered nice views of the Manhattan skyline.

I also went to catch the Owl City concert with a friend. It was awesome. There were 2 guest bands and he didn’t come till like 9pm, while it start at 7pm. It wasn’t very well promoted, hence it wasn’t full house. The lighting design was really really good, they had 3 circular truss, with small moving LED automated lights. They form like owl eyes, also look like heart shape. The circular shape of the truss created very cool effects on the backlighting, and it was used very effectively along with the colours and smoke. I love the lights! There was also a cool part which he did a duet with a rapper guy, and the rapper was actually a video projection on stage, synced with the audio and as if they were looking at each other. Amazing stuff.

I also went to a number of churches so far, Upper Manhattan Church of Christ, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Times Square Church, and of course, HillsongNYC.