Bishan’s brick-red HDB facade painted over with ugly colours

From ‘Some see red over colourful facade for Bishan’, 17 Sept 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

A FRESH coat of paint usually brings cheer, but a splash of colour on Bishan’s beloved red-brick flats has upset some people instead. Some terracotta housing blocks, like those in Bishan Streets 22 and 24, will be doused in a medley of colours, with combinations such as grey, silver and golden yellow, as part of ongoing repairs by the area’s town council.

But the mishmash of colours has upset some residents, architects and heritage experts. Architectural and urban historian Lai Chee Kien said the paint job will change the feature of an estate known for its red-brick facade. “Red-brick panels and bands were probably chosen by the estate’s original architects to present a common, unifying aesthetic identity. Today’s town councils must look at this from a larger scale and keep the entire town in mind when making these changes,” he added.

…At Blocks 201 to 219 in Street 23, residents were presented earlier this year with three colour palettes starkly different from the original. They included a pink and purple combination.

Resident Charlene Koh, 27, a designer, was upset. “The rows of red-brick blocks evoke a sense of warmth… They are iconic and distinct. I don’t want to look out my window and see a horrible colour on the next block.”

HDB’s palette used to be restricted to neutral tones of grey, white or brown, but in the eighties some designers decided to boldly go where no bureaucrat has gone before, add a PRIMARY colour to the mix. Red, however, was considered too ‘loud’, and you don’t want a colour that’s universally associated with rage splashed all over your flat. Nor do you want to drop random stripey rainbow colours and end up looking like a rastacap, or some kid’s toy xylophone.

I personally don’t really care what colour scheme my block has unless it’s a genuine eyesore, like yellow polka dots. Some stark combinations like Rochor’s foursome of bright red, blue, yellow and green have become recognisable icons (though rated as one of the ‘worst buildings in Singapore’ by CNN), while others betray a dismal lack of imagination, or if they have no idea what colour to douse your house in, they add an orchid mural, or a giant Cupid. Overdo the cuteness and you’ll have people mistaking your block for a multi-storey kindergarten, especially if it has rainbows splashed all over it.

There’s even an FAQ on the Bishan Town Council page to address ‘awful colours’. The response is typical.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.20.59 PM

What ‘experts’, exactly HDB? Are they the brains behind the Teletubbies? Maybe they’re psychologists who specialise in colour-mood matching who’ve done extensive research to determine what are the best colour combinations to lull HDB dwellers into a state of passive obedience. Granted, you can’t get two people to agree on a preferred colour scheme, might as well choose a combination scientifically proven to stop people from leaping to their deaths.

Here’s a quick list of things that HDB’s ugly colour combinations have been compared to:

1) Chocolate cake (brown brick with shades of darker yellow, Jurong, 1985)

2) Old people’s phlegm (green/yellow, unknown, 2008)

3) Menstrual/hospital sanitary pads (pink, green, unknown, 2014)

4) Pigeon coop, Lego, Tupperware

5) Puke

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.27.41 PM

6. Disneyland (suggested pink, purple, blue palette for Tiong Bahru, 2008)

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Mandai should be left alone for future generations

From ‘Use Punggol as a lesson in development’ and ‘Mandai should remain untouched for our next generation’, 15 Sept 2014, Voices, Today

(Sum Siew Kee): I was recently at the Punggol Waterway Park and it is an impressive development. No one was there, however, and I could guess why. It was the early afternoon on a weekend. The sun was blazing and the trees were small and few. The bare grass and concrete around the park did not help.

I looked at the woods in the vicinity and wished that I could be in the shade. Then I remembered that Punggol had been a forest/mangrove, razed for residential development. We are spending money to recreate the waterways and replant the trees. And if the trees do not provide sufficient shade, the park will be used only in the early mornings and late afternoons.

The redevelopment at Mandai should take this lesson into account. Instead of something “spectacular” made primarily for tourists, we should have attractions targeted at residents, which need not be big nor fancy. (“Mandai area set for major redevelopment”; Sept 5). Residents cannot visit the zoo or bird park every week, but can take regular walks in a nearby forest, if only to escape the city briefly. This may not bring in the tourist dollar, but it brings positive externalities and makes Singapore a more attractive place to live in.

…We must decide when to spend and when not to spend. Big-budget activities look good on a civil servant’s curriculum vitae, but may not necessarily be the best use of Singapore’s scarce natural resources.

(Ben Lee):…Having visited Mandai’s forested area, I am overwhelmed by the natural settings that house some of our most vulnerable fauna and flora. Many of our native animals survive in scarce spaces within our nature reserves, where human intrusion such as army training, jogging, cycling, school visits, et cetera, is pervasive.

These precious species include the banded leaf monkey, Sunda pangolin, lesser mousedeer, Asian palm civet and flying lemur, or colugo. Ground dwellers form the bulk of the wildlife. In my assessment, the status quo is more ideal for our next generation to appreciate our natural forest, which is dwindling due to developments for housing and recreation.

…My concern, as a wildlife conservationist and advocate, is over the plan to relocate the Jurong Bird Park. There would be more roadkill from heavier traffic and animals encroaching on human settlements due to lack of food and space, as well as an increase in the opportunities afforded to potential animal poachers.

Mr Singapore Zoo himself Bernard Harrison was against the relocation of Jurong Bird Park, citing cost issues (he estimates $200 million), wondering if there’s a dearth of creativity among Singaporeans and would ‘hate to see Supertrees’ in Mandai. The author of ‘Naked Ape, Naked Boss’ was also a former CEO of WRS who left in 2002 because he couldn’t stand the ‘civil service manual’, and didn’t see eye to eye with chairman Kwa Soon Bee. You don’t need to pack Mandai with another tourist attraction to realise that wild animals are already intruding into human territory, from pythons in swimming pools and toilet bowls, groceries-swiping monkeys to crocodiles in reservoirs. Like most people I know, I haven’t visited the Bird Park since primary school excursion days, and it’s unlikely that I’ll revisit even after the big Shift. Somehow conservationists have become afraid to tell it like it is, in fear of being labelled tree-hugging Luddites who collect useless knowledge like the difference between a mousedeer and a LESSER mousedeer, which is ‘Leave Mandai alone, dammit!’.

8 years ago, there were already cries of protest when STB got hooked on this ‘eco-tourism’ craze, proposing a ‘mixed use’ attraction and ‘back to nature’ accommodation. They promised that they would be ‘sensitive’ to the environment. Today, they tell us the same thing, even though the decision has already been made. Since when have we conducted and completed an ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ that was NEGATIVE and we trashed all our mock-ups and blueprints going ‘Oh well, too bad, let’s just build another casino on Sentosa then’? How about doing an EIA on a more regular basis AFTER you’ve poked your itchy fingers into virgin land? That is the only way to determine if you had been ‘sensitive’, or just bloody clumsy. Tell us how many trees would need to be uprooted, how many animals displaced, instead of throwing a EIA report in our faces saying ‘See I told you so!’.

In spite of what the Government has done for the Park Connector Network, the Green Corridor, an upcoming marine park and Punggol, ‘development’ still sounds like a dirty word these days, and it’s only natural to be wary of our government’s intentions to revamp Mandai in a bid to pursue the tourist dollar, after what we’ve done to Tampines Bike Park, and proposing to do to Bidadari or Bukit Brown, in a frenzy of ‘progress’. Even Pulau Ubin’s fate looks to be on tender hooks now. As for Punggol, PM Lee once called the Waterways our very own ‘Venice’. Charming and novel the first time round, the artificiality of it gradually dawns on you, that the eco-park theme still pales in comparison to the raw, twig-crunching-beneath-your-feet joy of forest treading. Unlike the actual city, the only thing sinking, however, appears to be its popularity among people who’re NOT ‘Punggolites’.

No matter how creative you are with eco-projects, you can’t stop Singaporeans from eventually getting tired of them. A retreat from the city means a day spa in Batam or ECP for the average Singaporean, not wandering through the forest feeding mosquitoes. We’d rather be stuck on our sofas in our air-con rooms watching Animal Planet Youtube on our iPads. Ah, BUT NOT THE TOURISTS, they say. Seriously, if tourists want an ‘eco’ experience they’d go to Indonesia or Costa Rica. STB should focus on preserving our hawker culture, not tussle with environmentalists whenever they want to chop down some trees to make way for a spa in a log hut facing a mangrove swamp.

Yet, we tend to be knee-jerkingly protective, and rightfully skeptical, over radical makeovers of untouched land when we have so little of it left, but the truth is that Mandai has been altered in bits and pieces over time, and because we eventually adapt to these ‘developments’, we fail to realise that today’s Mandai only vaguely resembles the old Mandai of the past. From what used to be lush tin mining territory, we’ve snuck in a Zoo, widened its roads, built extensions of a reservoir, highway and golf course, warehousing, army camp, orchid garden, a state-of-the-art crematorium, and finally a Night/River Safari to its current incarnation. Before you know it there’ll be a freakin MRT line there. It’s like replacing parts of a vintage car with new shiny ones. You’ll only realise the stark difference once someone adds the finishing touches and by then it would have been already too late, your protests drowned out by the assurance that this spanking new vehicle will be ‘bigger and better’, and that many ‘consultations’ with concerned parties have been held. More like ‘consolations’ really, because they’re going to DO IT ANYWAY.

This incursion into Mandai isn’t a brutal rape of Mother Nature; it’s a slow creep to the death, like a painless, but invasive, tumour, and before you know it, 30 years from now, you’ll have condos facing our new Mandai Reserves called ‘Mandai 8′, ‘Le Fauna’, ‘Sky Safari’,  hipster cafes dedicated to the late, great orang utan Ah Meng, a jungle-themed mall and cinema. Rare creatures like mousedeer and pangolins would have died out before anyone this generation has seen one outside of the Zoo’s enclosures. Nature enthusiasts who’ll complain about the first condo in Mandai would have long forgotten that the same voices went unheard back when we talked of building a damn army camp there, when we were probably also told that the government would be ‘sensitive’ to the whispers of the wild.

If our obsession with progress, little-by-little, goes unchecked, it would not be nature’s whispers but the haunting bellow of ghosts that we’ll be hearing. Bernard Harrison has proposed building an ‘UN-ZOO’ instead of lumping the Bird Park together with the current attractions. He would probably agree with me that a better alternative would be to leave the Mandai wilderness UNTOUCHED.

F1 Grand Prix is not a $25 chicken rice race

From ‘Singapore GP not a $25-chicken-rice race: organisers’, 14 Sept 2014, article in CNA

The Singapore Grand Prix is meant to be a great experience and not a ‘$25-Chicken-Rice’ race, said the organisers of Formula One’s (F1) only night race, in response to a report that showed the city-state may not be the most affordable place to catch an F1 race.

Race organisers say Singaporeans consistently make up about 60 per cent of the over 80,000 race-goers each year. This applies to every price category – from the cheapest walkabout tickets to the Pit Grandstand.

“Over and above a sporting occasion, it is a huge social occasion now. Singaporeans like a good party,” said Mr Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore GP. “I think this loyalty has grown among Singaporeans – they’ve become quite proud of the Singapore Grand Prix and they like it when the world is watching Singapore and the skyline.

“We don’t want to be a ‘$25-chicken-rice Grand Prix’. We want to be a great experience.”

But there is a price to be paid for the chance to experience F1’s only night race. Travel website TripAdvisor ranked the Singapore Grand Prix as the seventh most expensive, out of the 19 races worldwide. It said the price of catching the Sunday final race here is S$622.67. This includes the cost of the cheapest tickets at S$207.33, a meal and a night’s stay at a hotel near the track.

Roche’s analogy of a ‘$25 chicken rice dish’ is likely a snub at the famous house special at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which now incidentally costs $27. Curiously enough, the ‘legendary’ chicken rice was created by a German chef back in 1971, who was inspired by the hawker version to create a premium dish, made from COBB 500 chickens, medium grain jasmine rice and homemade ginger and chilli sauces. I wonder what former executive chef Peter Gehrmann would think of the comparison, with Roche suggesting that $25 for a plate is overpriced, overrated when it seems like only top-grade ingredients went into its concoction. Chicken rice will never be ‘sexy’ or ‘glamorous’ like an F1 race no matter how you mark it up. And honestly, thank God it’s not.

While Chatterbox used to be a ‘coffee house’ in those days, today it’s a casual diner and its ‘award-winning’ chicken rice still wins the hearts of some locals who appreciate the generous servings of meat, describe the sauces as ‘sublime’ and the meal as an ‘annual pilgrimage’ (WHAT awards exactly, I wonder). Perhaps the Night Race is more of a $25 XO Chai Tau Quay instead? 20 years ago, Chatterbox charged their chicken rice at $16 per plate (Is $16 too high a price for chicken rice, 17 Aug 1995, ST), which is still cheaper than what you can get for a BURGER at F1 ($17) today.  In 2009, food stalls in the F1 zone were charging chicken rice and HOKKIEN MEE at $8, which was expected since the whole event was designed to milk the most out of rich people, though if I had to choose between a sub-par, measly $8 chicken rice and the Chatterbox dish, I’d rather splurge on the latter. According to Trip Advisor, we also sell the most expensive pint of beer in the history of F1 ($13.58), no thanks to our recent increase in sin taxes. Nobody seems to be overly concerned about a riot breaking out on the grandstands.

But look at the discrepancy between our minimum ticket price vs Malaysia just across the Causeway ($207.33 vs $39.12). The CNA article also didn’t mention that, according to the BBC, Singapore has the MOST EXPENSIVE 3-day ticket OF ALL (1,109 pounds) (2013). The second most expensive ticket in the world was from Brazil, at a distant 745 pounds per ticket. This year, for $42276.50 you could book a GREEN ROOM (Oops, you can’t now, it’s sold out!). What the F1 organisers are avoiding to explain really is WHY so expensive compared to the rest of the region (i.e Malaysia), even for a night race. It’s not that we have the most ardent racing fans so much as we have the greatest concentration of goddamn billionaires  (26) here.

Not to mention the other intangible costs of a night race on our environment, namely the excessive use of lighting. No, the F1 isn’t a $25 chicken rice dish. Ecologically speaking, it’s a $25 triple-decker Big Mac, sinful beyond redemption, greasy, artery-clogging, too much of which will eventually kill you. In the government’s eyes, it’s a billion-dollar baby.

NUS assistant professor faking academic credentials

From ‘NUS probing work of ex-medicine faculty member’, 14 Sept 2014, article by Linette Lai, Sunday  Times

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has opened an investigation after reports that former faculty member Anoop Shankar had faked his academic credentials. “In view of the media reports on Anoop Shankar, NUS has initiated an internal investigation into his research publications when he was at NUS,” a university spokesman said yesterday.

According to his resume, the former assistant professor at NUS graduated from India’s top medical school when he was 21 and had a doctorate in epidemiology. However, a review of his work by West Virginia University in the United States found that Mr Shankar had only a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina and did not graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

In addition, some publications listed on his resume were either authored by someone else, or did not exist.

Mr Shankar was at NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine from 2005 to 2008, where he was part of the department of community, occupational and family medicine. There, he wrote several papers on topics such as diabetes, and was also part of a research programme looking into eye diseases in Singapore.

Dr. Anoop Shankar, if that is in fact his real name, was part of a team of researchers involved in the epidemiology of eye diseases in Singapore, according to the 2004 Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine annual research report. Ironically, it is NUS senior management who were too BLIND to realise they have been supporting a fraudster’s work with research funding all this time. Some of his outlandish claims can be easily refuted with random background checks or maybe a few calls (courtesy of NBC news):

1. He was never a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

2. He supposedly wrote a paper in 1976 (the year after he was born), not 1996 as claimed in his resume. It turned out that none of the papers listed were actually written by him.

3. He wasn’t among the top 3 graduates of the All India Institute of Medicine in Delhi.

4. The university where he claimed he got his doctorate in epidemiology from doesn’t even have a department of epidemiology.

5. He had photos online pointing to him being a graduate of Kottayam Medical College, not the ‘Harvard’ of India.

It all seems like a sloppy yet preposterous act of forgery to me, and ever since he charmed his NUS employers into hiring him despite the phantom qualifications, not a squeak of suspicion emerged from 4 years in the university. Some of his latest work with VWU were not even directly related to his ‘specialty’ in NUS. In 2013, he suggested a link between a chemical in popcorn and heart disease. This guy is either incredibly charismatic or has a knack for spinning scientific yarn, the academia equivalent of conman Frank Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in the film Catch Me if you Can.

But it’s not the first time that we let a liar boasting illustrious credentials weasel his way into a senior position in the NUMBER ONE university in Asia, and then only wait for someone else to ferret him out. In 2011, former NUS don Dr Alirio Melendez was hauled up by the University of London for research fraud, when his paper published in the Nature Immunology journal was retracted due to ‘inconsistencies’. NUS soon launched their own battery of investigations, uncovering more than 20 cases of alleged fabrications and plagiarism. He was found guilty earlier this year.  Prior to the fiasco he had been working with a team on a new potential drug which may treat septic shock. I thought this discovery would have been sufficiently ‘shocking’ for NUS to tighten their employee screening and audit processes, yet no one in NUS bothered to snoop on Anoop. How many more ‘world experts’ like these have slipped through the cracks? How many bogus articles are floating out there in scientific publication universe? Quite a few apparently. Some folks have even done it as a PRANK.

Fake professors writing fake articles don’t just waste research funds which could have been put to better use. Imagine if Shankar had fabricated his way into establishing a causal link between popcorn and blindness, and a ‘respected’ medical journal is taken in by this doyen of epidemiology’s gobbledegook and made it the health scare of the century, we’d all be stuck with soggy nachos at the movies, while hailing the man as the hero who saved humanity from poison pop corn.

To Singapore, With Love banned by MDA

From ‘Local film To Singapore, With Love, not allowed to be distributed, shown here’, 10 Sept 2014, Today

To Singapore, With Love, a film about political exiles directed by local director Tan Pin Pin, has been barred from distribution or exhibition in Singapore. The Media Development Authority (MDA) has classified the film as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) where films are not allowed for exhibition or distribution.

“MDA has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals,” the MDA said in a statement released today (Sept 10).

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post that he agrees with and supports the MDA’s assessment.

“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they left Singapore and claimed that they were unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore,” he said. “It is not surprising that ex-CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) members and sympathisers wish now to give their own accounts of historical episodes that they were involved in. But individuals who have chosen to leave and remain outside Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to purvey distorted and untruthful accounts to mislead the public, absolve themselves or deny their past actions.”

At first glance, the title of Tan’s film reads like that of a National Day song, and cleverly chosen too. The last time a NAR rating was slapped on a local film was Sex. Violence. FamilyValues for racist themes, which was eventually toned down to a R21 with cuts. It’s unlikely that Tan Pin Pin’s nuclear warhead of a film that threatens our very NATIONAL SECURITY would get emasculated likewise. Another local firebrand known for featuring political ‘agitators’ is Martyn See, whose film on Chee Soon Juan ‘Singapore Rebel’ was unbanned in 2009 after 4 years on the blacklist.  His other documentary, Zahari’s 12 years, was banned in 2007 for ‘distorting’ Said Zahari’s detention and arrest for ‘communist united front activities’ by the ISD in 1963. Today, you can find both See’s films on Youtube. The country has yet to explode to kingdom come since these were uploaded.

Tan herself was questioned by THE POLICE during the crackdown on See’s Singapore Rebel in 2005, after she, along with 9 other filmmakers, wrote a letter to the forum asking the government where the ‘OB markers’ lay when it comes to political films. Not as renown as household names like Jack Neo, Royston Tan or Anthony Chen, Tan is also the creative force behind ‘Singapore Gaga’ and ‘Invisible City’, both critically acclaimed as quirky odes and mirrors to the ‘real’ Singapore. Unfortunately in the case of a touchy subject like political detainees and ‘commies’, shit just got too real for the PAP to handle. Yaacob even tried to paint them as disloyals who ‘chose to leave’ Singapore. It was either surrender to an absurd charge and suffer endless heckling or flee. To these detainees, there was never a ‘choice’ in the matter.

This communist paranoia belies the decision to give ‘To Singapore, with Love’ the chop, which makes me wonder if MDA and gang are still stuck in the 60’s hunting down the henchmen of the Red Skull. For a film making the rounds on the international circuit, our ban strikes the foreign audience as a shameful symptom of a country in outright denial.

Here’s a quick bio of some of those exiles featured in Tan’s film (which you may eventually watch for yourself when it comes online). If you watch some other interview snippets off Youtube, these folks hardly look like the sort to tear the very foundations of our society asunder, more like people whom you’d want to give up your seat to on the MRT. Besides we already have ISIS flag flyers and Syria freedom fighter wannabes to worry about. They’re the ones who’re more likely to pick up rocket launcher shooting as a hobby.

1) Ang Swee Chai: She’s the prominent surgeon and wife of fellow dissident and outspoken human rights lawyer Francis Khoo, who both spent more than 35 years in exile. The ISD allegedly escorted her away while she was in the middle of an operation. She’s also the co-founder and Patron of British Charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Now living in London, she recounts more than 72 hours of relentless interrogation during the ordeal, just so to dig out the whereabouts of her then missing husband. They were married for barely 2 weeks.

Incidentally, husband Francis Khoo (died in 2011) was one talented chap. He draws satirical LKY cartoons, recites poetry and sings in this video below. No wonder Ang chose to stay by his side in asylum although she doesn’t have a Marxist bone in her body.  A double loss for Singapore indeed.

2) Chan Sun Wing and Wong Soon Fong: These two were Barisan Socialis assemblymen, or ‘comrades’, which the ‘secret police’ were chasing back in 1963 for alleged involvement in the ‘Satu’ general strike. In an interview not related to Tan’s film, Wong Soon Fong spoke about his fight against British colonialism, the merger with Malaysia, spending time in the mountains like a true badass commie guerilla and missing his relatives back home. He was in Thailand at the time, along with ’20 OTHERS’. Come on, Yaacob, he’s just a harmless uncle who can pass off as someone who sells chwee kueh for a living. Let him come home for God’s sake.

3) Tan Wah Piow: Arrested as a student leader for ‘rioting‘, Tan sought political asylum in Britian and lives in London till this day. SBC even produced a 2 part TV series called ‘The Conspiracy‘ which exposes Wah Piow’s Marxist plot to SUBVERT Singapore, a ‘mastermind’ of a network of communist conspirators. It read like the Al-Qaeda of the time, but today the government is more hung up on him escaping NS than extracting confessions of plotting to overthrow the PAP.

4) Ho Juan Thai: Like Wah Piow, this former WP candidate fled to Britain after being charged for ‘playing up issues of Chinese language, education and culture’ to incite VIOLENT, CHAUVINISTIC reactions from the Chinese speaking population at election rallies. He’s also accused of forging his passport to gain entry into Britain.

In a digital information age where we’re encouraged to think critically and be open to viewpoints other than those of the ruling party, it’s embarrassing that the MDA, which has recently tried, but failed miserably, to ‘co-regulate’ with arts groups on self-classification of performances, has resorted to its staple blunt, arcane method of pushing the panic button with an iron fist whenever a film featuring Singaporeans who got into trouble with the regime is produced. Ironically the MDA blames the producers for ‘whitewashing’ some of the lawbreaking, but doesn’t address the oppressive crimes against humanity by the ISD. Surely these detainees were never as dangerous as Ebola, and neither is Tan’s film as remotely insidious as the propagandist bile that is the Young PAP’s Servant Leadership video.

With all this hype over next year’s SG50, maybe it’s the perfect opportunity for the government to exercise some graciousness and compassion by reconciling and engaging our political exiles and bringing them home, absolve them of alleged crimes, let them spend some time with their loved ones rather than whitewashing them off our history books as cowardly fugitives instead of the ‘pioneers’ that they deserve to be.

The Singapore Story is incomplete if those who dared to fight for their fellow countrymen, at the risk of cruel scrutiny and being shunned from the authorities with the same contempt as drug traffickers, scammers or murderers, never had a say in it. In the spirit of all things Singaporean and Family, the homecoming of political exiles, a gesture of the PAP moving beyond the old world paranoia of the past and putting family togetherness before petty politics, would be the one true thing worth celebrating on our 50th birthday.

Half of teens watching porn is ‘expectedly horrendous’

From ‘Half of teens here exposed to pornography: Survey’, 6 Sept 2014, article by Janice Tai, ST

ONE in two teenagers here has watched or read sexually explicit materials, a poll has found, with some as young as seven when they were first exposed to it. And one in three admitted viewing pornography in the past year, whether intentional or accidental. The first large-scale survey here to examine children’s exposure to pornography, which polled 836 students aged 13 to 15, was conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness, the main agency that gives online safety talks in schools here.

Experts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes. Dr Munidasa Winslow, an addictions specialist in private practice, called the figures “expectedly horrendous”.

…In the Touch survey, 5 per cent of the teens who had seen porn encountered it first in lower primary levels – at age nine or younger. They were not asked how often they accessed this subsequently. Pornography was defined in the study as images or content, such as anime and erotic novels, that depicted naked people or people having sex.

Touch Cyber Wellness is part of the non-profit charity hydra that is the Touch Community Services group, which other than ‘touching’ the lives of the needy, also occasionally engages in surveys to justify why society is in a state of wretchedness and needs their guidance. Last year, they published a divorce survey which came to the staggering conclusion that the richer you are, the more likely that you’re cheat on your spouse, predictably after 5 years of marriage. If you knew who’s helming the Touch group, it becomes obvious that this survey was designed from a high moral ground with the intention of demonising porn as a disturbing ‘addiction’ and precursor for molest and rape. That man is pastor Lawrence Khong.

But the truth is this statistic is hardly even SURPRISING to begin with, not to mention ‘horrendous’. Some years ago, it was reported that SEXTING was already on the rise among not just teens, but mature adults as well. In 2009, one in 10 teens were found to engage in unprotected sex, with someone pulling the same accusation of porn being a bad example of ‘sex education’. Before we had smartphones, teens (half of over 200 polled to be exact) were already indulging in cybersex, sado-masochism and bestiality from the newfound toy that was the INTERNET (Teens at risk from porn sites, chatroom overtures, 20 Oct 2000, ST). It’s easy to blame technology but people have been watching porn even before phone chatlines, video cassette tapes or even paper was invented, as anyone who has visited the pottery section of a sex museum would know.

The problem with this survey is that they have hastily linked ‘exposure to porn’ to ‘addiction’, and to get a addiction specialist involved in a study that doesn’t clinically diagnose these teens as ‘porn-addicted’ is surely exaggerating the actual situation, which is kids STUMBLING into porn, or surfing out of curiosity. No mention is made if they had locked themselves at home watching it all day, masturbated in public, went around stealing bras and panties to sniff, or had their grades affected because of too much masturbation or panty-sniffing. Yet, Touch already made the flimsy association between porn exposure and ‘sex crimes’, without any data to suggest that these crimes have been rising at all, or examining the flipside that most kids who watch porn, even on a DAILY BASIS, don’t go around looking for office ladies to rub their crotch against on the MRT, like those playing violent video games going around stabbing random people on the streets. Maybe someone should conduct a survey of how many teens are being exposed to Christian evangelism in schools, and then make some wild hypothesis that being exposed to Christianity leads to militant religiosity or makes you a poorer kid because all your pocket money goes into funding some pastor’s wife’s singing career. At least the second parameter can be objectively measured.

They didn’t even define ‘pornography’ the way most adults understand it. By their definition, 50 Shades of Grey is porn (erotic novel), and so is a nude Renaissance painting (NAKED PEOPLE). As one judge famously said about porn, ‘I know it when I see it’. I’m not sure if the Touch folks, being chaste and holy and all, actually ‘know’ what their subjects were actually seeing in the first place. Innocent children are always an easy target if your mission in life is to ban porn forever. What about working adults? Don’t THEY need to be protected from porn too, hopefully we may see a drop in public office sex scandals, online vice rings and underage sex, no?

I believe there are more important, objective issues to worry about than porn, like juvenile smoking and drinking leading to rowdiness, truancy and damaged livers, or tuition and enrichment classes leading to stress, depression and eventually suicide. Just that it doesn’t seem to be in Touch, or Khong’s, moral interests to embark on such research instead.  For a survey about teens getting hard from porn, its premise and conclusion is all rather limp in my opinion.

Arts group at Night Festival wants you to kill stray cats

From ‘Kill stray cats’ flyer taken out of context’, 1 Sept 2014, article in CNA

Flyers reportedly urging people to “kill stray cats”, which earned the ire of animal welfare groups and online readers over the weekend, were revealed to be taken out of context, TODAY reports. It was part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts by art collective Vertical Submarine, which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) for the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.

The art collective issued a statement on its Facebook page clarifying the flyer — of which an image of a sample circulated on social media on Sunday — was taken out of context and was part of a series of flyers highlighting other similarly evil actions as part of the piece Eville.

“The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted,” said the group’s statement.

…The flyer on stray cats explains how “charitable elderly lonely widows” spend a total of S$6.6m on cat food and supplies, which could be spent on themselves. These were signed by a so-called Red Herring Conservation Society. The term “red herring” is an idiom referring to something that distracts or misleads people from important issues.

In the statement, Vertical Submarine added: “As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.”

If the flyer had read ‘KILL ALL HUMANS’, it probably wouldn’t get as much attention, though that is just about the most evil thing anyone can do. ‘Satirical didactics’ is an excuse for something that wasn’t very ingenious or witty to begin with, and ended up slightly more serious than satirical, like a New Nation article about PM Lee unfriending his Indonesian counterpart on Facebook. No cats were harmed in the exhibition, of course. Though many butterflies had to die for someone else’s gruesome piece of taxidermal ‘art’ some years back.

Not sure why the Singapore Kindness Movement got involved in macabre performance art of all things, or maybe they just ran out of things to do after the departure of Singa the Lion (who also happens to be a member of the cat family). Cat abuse doesn’t need highlighting, really. We’ve read enough high-profile, grisly stories of how cats are mutilated, disembowelled or thrown 10 storeys off HDB blocks.  To hide an anti-abuse message that we’re used to experiencing on a sickeningly visceral level behind an obtuse ‘context’ isn’t helping matters at all. In fact, it even seems patronising. By resorting to headscratching ‘schlock’ tactics, the arts collective responsible did exactly what a ‘vertical submarine’ would do. Sink to a new low.

Here’s the reason why the joke isn’t funny anymore. In 1952, the government declared all out WAR on stray dogs and cats during the rabies frenzy, issuing ‘shoot to kill’ orders and screening ‘propaganda’ films to alert the public against this vermin scourge. In 2007, it was reported that the AVA kills 13,000 stray cats every year, replying to animal lovers that culling was a ‘necessary sin’. Some residents even complained to their Town Council that they were ‘afraid of cats’ and wanted them put away. If Eville intended to raise ‘awareness’ about unnecessary animal deaths, they should target the government agencies who are the real culprits behind this secret kitty genocide, rather than bring up ‘elderly lonely widows’ (or ‘crazy cat ladies’, which is also a case of lazy stereotyping).

So yes, we already know there are people killing strays out there. What’s really scary is that some are doing it as part of the job and they call the slaughter by a different name. Now let us all enjoy this clip of Maru jumping into random boxes.

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