Breadtalk LKY bun in poor taste

From ‘Breadtalk apologises for Lee Kuan Yew commemorative bun’, 25 Mar 2015, article in CNA

Bakery chain BreadTalk has apologised for a “commemorative bun” it put on sale to mark the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Proceeds of the sale of the buns were to be donated to the Community Chest, BreadTalk indicated. However, the move was criticised on social media as being in poor taste. Some on Facebook said it was a “disgusting” attempt to cash in on the passing of a founding father of the nation.

…The buns had gone on sale with a sign: “Thank you for your unwavering strength and dedication in transforming Singapore. Filled with gula melaka-flavoured grated coconut and mixed with attap seed, this kampong-inspired creation is a tribute to a visionary leader who gave his life to build a nation from a kampong to a successful Singapore today. Let us join hands and hearts to honour him, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”

D'ough!

D’ough!

This is just wrong. ‘Li Bu Kai Ni’ (can’t bear to leave you) should be made of a spicy red-hot tom yum filling, more representative of LKY’s fiery passion for Singapore, instead of some flaky coconut. While people in crutches are out there braving the heat queuing for hours to bid farewell to the icon, the people at Breadtalk were thinking of how to use this sombre event to promote their brand, for charitable causes or otherwise. They should just sell black charcoal red bean buns throughout this entire week of mourning instead.

It isn’t the first time that Breadtalk mixed pastry with puns; In 2010, they were accused of being racist for selling Naan the Nays. During the presidential election campaign in 2011, they dedicated the TAN-TART to all 3 candidates. When Steve Jobs died, they created the APPLE OF MY I.  I don’t recall Apple fans running riot over their stores demanding they withdraw this monstrosity. Not sure if they did any ‘Black and White’ creation when Michael Jackson passed away.

Occasionally they run out of ideas, naming one of their ring buns the ‘Circle Line’ to promote the new MRT line.  The commemorative ring pastries were launched in early October 2011. 2 months in, and the actual Circle Line broke down in one of the worst PR disasters in the history of Singapore’s public transportation.

The Circle Jinx

As if naming LKY after food isn’t bad enough, PAP MP Teo Ser Luck invented a crossfit workout named LKY91 dedicated to his hero, 91 being the age of LKY’s demise. No doubt the late LKY was an exercise addict, but surely he deserves better than be honoured by air goddamn squats and ‘double unders’. Not to mention in the late stages of his life he was suffering from peripheral neuropathy. LKY91 reads more like a torture manual rather than an exercise routine. Maybe you should rename it the #fml91 workout. Because that’s what you’ll say to yourself over and over 91 times for subjecting yourself to this physical abuse.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.30.39 PM

This clip is the perfect response to all this personality cult nonsense, one that says ‘I ain’t got the time for your dumbass bullshit’.

LKY portrait made up of his name written 18000 times

From ‘Artist wrote Lee Kuan Yew’s name 18,000 times to create this portrait’, 21 March 2015, Asiaone.

Artist Ong Yi Teck has created a mind-blowing sketch of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew by writing Mr Lee’s name approximately 18,000 times. A photo of Mr Ong holding his drawing was posted on Instagram on Saturday.Using only drawing pens with no correction fluid or tape, Mr Ong said he took over “15 hours or so of torturous handwriting session”.

According to him, this is the first time he is attempting to sketch on an A2-sized paper and also the first time he has drawn for nearly 10 hours in one day.

ongyiteck1e

As the former prime minister remains in critical condition at time of writing, Singaporeans from all walks of life continue to throng SGH with gifts and tributes, and there’s no ode more outstanding than one transforming LKY into a painstaking piece of art. Writing ‘Lee Kuan Yew’ 18000 times sounds like a punishment a patriotic history teacher would dish out on a student for getting the date of our Independence wrong. Trust an artist like Ong to turn what to most people is torture into an impressive tribute.

Like Ong, digital artist Kevin Sim created a composite image of LKY using images of bundles of wire late last year. Not sure what the significance of wire is. Maybe something to do with how ‘connected’ Singapore has become.

Kim Dong Yoo did another of LKY made up completely of images of Queen Elizabeth (2010), probably a reference to Lee’s relationship with our colonial masters when he was first starting to reboot the nation.

Though we’re unlikely to see Chairman Mao levels of mass hysteria when the legend meets his maker, I’m certain Singaporeans will never have the same love-hate relationship for another leader as we do now for LKY, a man some have referred to as ‘Emperor‘, the ‘Old Man’ or more affectionately ‘Ah Gong’. We don’t seem to have the same reverence for Sir Stamford Raffles. As the founder of Singapore, he probably deserves more respect than being depicted as a pompous pansy in this sketch. In time to come, our children will think that LKY was the one who founded the nation, not some prim Englishman who’s also named after a large, stinky flower.

For centuries, supreme leaders have been canonised like saints or immortalised through statues, monuments or literary works. They were named after roads, buildings and schools or in the instance of modern rulers like Che Guevara, turned into pop culture icons. Lee Kuan Yew has the distinction of having the World City Prize named after him, among other awards and accolades. There have been calls to even name a ‘capital city‘ in his honour. The man also, for better or worse, has been the subject of other creative tributes, as a cartoon, a bobblehead doll, and works of art verging on ‘dictator-chic’. Soon, we may have a hipster cafe with an LKY theme called ‘Merdeka Coffee’. Amazingly, it didn’t take long for people to admire LKY enough to paint him. In 1968, our ‘Premier Lee’ was the subject in two of Barbara Gough’s ‘Pictures for the Home’ collection. His Lee-gacy, from the irreverent to the god-like, will live on for generations to come.

Here then, is a rundown of artistic tributes to the icon himself:

1) As a Pez dispenser named ‘Papa’

BT_20150213_HYCOVER13AD_1513193

2) Street Art (sKLo)

3) Madame Tussauds wax figure with late wife

4) LKY: K-pop star (a painting you can purchase here for 1750 USD)

5) LKY backpack

 6) In a collection of political cartoons (Morgan Chua)

7) As a meme

8) This. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

9) This is the absolute cutest of the lot. And oh, the LKY as Yoda pic is cool as well (Chan Shiuan). For more images of LKY as Judge Dredd, Emperor Palpatine or Magneto, go to her website here.

 10) And this, well, is just bizarre (Jimmy Ong, LKY as mother and daughter, 2010)

UPDATE: LKY passed away on Monday morning 23 March 15. He was 91. RIP. 

NUS: Saying ‘ow’ increases tolerance to pain

From ‘To raise your pain threshold, say ‘ow”, 20 March 2015, article in CNA

When they set out to study whether expressing pain vocally would help a person tolerate pain better, they did not anticipate that the study would create such an impression.

Findings from the study, conducted by National University of Singapore researchers with 56 local participants, was published in the Journal of Pain in February, and drew widespread media attention, with reports in The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom and United States-based The Huffington Post.

Speaking at an interview yesterday, National University of Singapore Associate Professor Annett Schirmer, from the Department of Psychology, said: “This is not my area of study and we’re newbies. So I was very surprised about the feedback. I’m very happy that even while we’re not very experienced on this, we were able to make it meaningful for people.”

The study is the first of its kind, presenting evidence that saying “ow” improves pain tolerance.

When our ancestors were out foraging alone and twisted their ankles after stumbling over some rock in the jungle, vocalisation would have been helpful to alert tribe members to rush to their assistance. In other words, making some kind of noise during acute injury is a survival mechanism. Those who chose to cry out, be it ‘ow’, ‘ouch’ or ‘AYAYAY’, lived to fight for another day. Those who decided to grit their teeth and bear it, were eliminated from the gene pool.

To most of us crying out in pain seems like a perfectly natural reaction, a vocal equivalent of our innate mechanical reflex like how we shrink back after touching an open flame. In evolutionary terms, shouting to ‘increase the pain threshold’ seems counter-intuitive. Your hand shouldn’t be in ice water for longer than necessary, and going ‘ow, ow, ow’ to make the ordeal more tolerable is actually doing more harm to it than good. In the old days before anesthesia or chloroform, doctors required patients to bite on a piece of rag while amputating their abscessed thigh off. They should have just let them scream the house down, if what this study concludes is true.

It’s not the first time that someone has tested the effect of vocalisation on how well you can endure frostbite. Magicians Penn and Teller had volunteers curse and swear in the same setup, and found that unleashing obscenities extended the time spent with your hand in ice water by almost a minute, compared to not cussing like a filthy pirate.

The Mythbusters team did the same test, but limited the possible non-obscenity eructations to Apple Pie, Fish and Mutton. Unfortunately, the video below didn’t reveal if saying ‘fudge’ or ‘fish’ was just as effective as ‘fuck’.

In 2011, the Journal of Pain published the article titled: Swearing as a response to pain – Effect of daily swearing frequency, which suggests that cursing can be a safer alternative to painkillers. Imagine, no need for Yoko Yoko if you’ve got a bruised knee, just a litany of analgesic swear-words could do the trick. If your primary school teacher catches you F-bombing in class, you could explain that you accidentally stapled your thumb, and was merely ‘relieving the tension’ and increasing your ‘pain threshold’, as scientists have advised.

Here’s something for the NUS investigators to consider for their next study perhaps: Compare the universal ‘ow’ or ‘ouch’ to how some Singaporeans instinctively react when stubbing their toe against the bed (KNNBCCB!). I, for one, would gladly sign up in such a clinical trial. Ah, science.

Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

Singapore swimmers dropping the name ‘Red Lions’

From ‘MINDEF welcomes SSA’s decision to drop Red Lions name’, 18 March 2015, article in CNA

The Ministry of Defence said it welcomes the Singapore Swimming Association’s decision to not use the name ‘Red Lions’. This comes just days after Manpower Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council President Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Singapore’s aquatic athletes will be collectively known as “The Red Lions”, in a bid to provide a common identity for the sport.

The Red Lions tag was meant to unite the five disciplines – diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo and open water swimming. However, the name is already used for the Singapore Armed Forces’ parachute team.

In response to media queries, Chief Commando Officer COL Simon Lim said: “We welcome Singapore Swimming Association’s move to drop the use of ‘Red Lions’. The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”

SAF came up with the ‘Red Lions’ in 1995, and when the SSA decided to adopt the tag for our swimming team, commandos cried foul. Granted, it’s awkward to name a swim team after a land mammal, likewise an elite group of flying commandos, but this ruckus over a name supposedly synonymous with the NDP parachuters smacks of poor, well, sportsmanship. These are our own countrymen fighting tooth and nail for national glory for goodness sake.

MINDEF itself has been accused of stealing other people’s ideas, namely a mobile medical station. ‘Lions’, in fact, has been used to identify sport teams way before the commandos decided to add a national colour to it and claim ownership. Here’s a rundown:

1) The Singapore Lions, polo (1920’s). I suppose the one with horses.

2) Our national soccer team (1970’s till now), with the developmental ‘Young Lions’ under their wing.

3) The Dunearn Lions, rugby (1970’s)

4) The ‘Police Lions‘, a squash team (1980)

5) Amazingly, a tennis squad called the Brylcreem Lions (1970s). I’m sure they gel very well as a team.

6) TaeKwanDo Lions(1980s), which in my opinion, is the most befitting of the king of the jungle, a sport which involves you striking and mauling your opponent. Sometimes you also roar.

Of course these days we have teams adopting the ‘Singapore Lions’ tag without our football team making a hissy fit about it, like this cheerleading squad for example. I could form a competitive chess team and call ourselves Singapore Lions without anyone accusing me of identity theft. Like the sky-jumpers, our footballers also deserve to be called ‘a group who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through HIGH RISKS to capture people’s imagination’. But that doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusivity to the name, especially one that pays tribute to a national symbol. 

If there’s any good out of this, it gives the SSA a chance to choose a far superior name, something closer to the aquatic nature of the sport. The ST reported that other choices included the Red Singas, Red Merlions or, strangely enough, Aquamen, the latter possibly getting you in trouble with DC comics. Or AWARE since there are women in the team.  How about the Red Tomans perhaps, unless MINDEF decides to shoot the SSA down again for choosing the same colour.

Fun pack items a waste of money

From ‘Fun packs should be useful to all’, 9 March 2015, Voices, Today

(Goh Kian Huat): This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is set to be a big affair as Singapore celebrates its golden jubilee. About 1.2 million households are set to receive a free fun pack, so they can join in the celebrations even if they are not at the event itself (“Mega-NDP across Marina Bay area to draw 150,000”; March 6)

To ensure the fun packs are useful to households, some of the items should be different from the ones given out to those attending the parade. For example, things such as face paint, handheld fans, clappers, banners and plastic raincoats are useful only to those who are at the parade. Organisers should consider substituting these items with more useful ones for households, or souvenirs for keeping.

Also, organisers should ensure fun pack items can be recycled or reused as far as possible out of consideration for the environment. For example, the bag for the fun packs can be designed in such a way that students can reuse it as a school bag.

In addition, to avoid duplication of resources, households that manage to secure tickets to attend the parade should not be given a second fun pack. Organisers should find a way of identifying them.

The total cost of the celebrations is expected to be around S$40 million, twice that of previous NDPs. Let us ensure that the resources are put to good use.

Full of fun

Full of fun

This is a nice way of saying that the fun pack and its contents are pretty useless. Even if those at the parade took these out to play, they’re mostly junked once the fireworks have fizzled. 1.2 million households, 10 million dollars. The Fun Pack Song even has the self-prophesying lyric: Attack the Fun Pack,  and the attacks have been relentless. When the government sends a bag of freebies to our doorstep, we either complain that it’s ugly or an utter waste of money, and that we’d rather receive a SG50 hongbao with $10 cold hard cash inside. Such ingrates. Such Singaporeans.

If there’s one thing the SG50 committee hasn’t learned about the Singaporean psyche, it’s that they did not make us QUEUE for the damn thing. Sending the funpack straight to our homes makes it far less desirable than when we’re putting in time and effort to join long, overnight queues to grab ‘limited edition’ goodie bags, like how we drag ourselves out of bed at 4am in the morning to camp outside McDonalds for free Egg McMuffins. Likewise, if you had pitched the funpack such that there are only ‘1 million available’ and forced Singaporeans to fight tooth and nail over it, you would have more people posting their catch on Facebook and showing them off like trophies rather than grumbling about the practicality of banners and clappers. Even if it looks so god-awful that your kid would rather wear your dusty army fullpack to school than be seen slinging a funpack over his shoulder.

But look closer at the spread above and you’ll find oodles of charm and usefulness in every item. The chapteh, for instance, can be used to spice up your bedroom tickle parties in place of a kinky peacock feather if you’re not the sporty type. Face paint can be used as zombie makeup this Halloween, or for your next cosplay event. The ‘commemorative’ publications like the jubilee book can add some zesty patriotic colour to the top of your coffee table. Singapore flag erasers come in super handy when you’re down by the lake in Chinese Garden pencil-sketching pagodas and cranes. And who doesn’t love NEWWATER? This wonderful elixir is the e-pee-tome of our self-sufficiency.

Still, the SG50 folks could have done better with the selection, and should have consulted Singaporeans like how they made us vote for the Jubilee Baby package, bearing in mind that not everyone will be up on their feet dancing on National Day. Some will be doing shift work making sure convenience stores and hospitals are still manned by humans. Others will be worrying about getting food on the table for their next meal. And there are the buggers flying off somewhere for holidays who can’t be bothered about this SG50 overkill.

Here’s my wishlist for a future DREAMpack. I just hope we don’t have to wait until SG100 for this.

1. N95 mask
2. Pre-paid Ezy-link card
3. Hello Kitty Merlion edition
4. A mini rotan
5. Special edition Chope tissue pack
6. An LKY doll with knuckledusters
7. A toy replica of the boat that they used on the set of ‘The Awakening’
8. A toy replica of an ERP gantry
9. A lego diorama of the Istana, with lego Tony Tan.
10. A map of Singapore. 100 years ago.

SG50 song As One written by a non-Singaporean

From ‘Lawrence Wong clarifies issue of song supposedly rejected by SG50′, 7 March 2015, article in asiaone

Ministers Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin have praised an original song written for the SG50 celebrations and uploaded onto YouTube. Titled ‘As One‘, the song was uploaded by Sophie’s World Productions in January. B oth Ministers praised the song in separate Facebook posts. Mr Wong said the song was “was very well-done and inspiring”, while Mr Tan said that it was ” a very nice song”.

The Ministers also said they had received feedback that the song had been rejected as an official SG50 song because it was not written by a Singaporean. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said that he was initially puzzled by this and asked ministry staff to check on what happened. In his post, Mr Wong clarified that the song was submitted to MediaCorp, which held its own song competition with its own rules. “But competition aside, there’s really no limitation on who can contribute songs or other materials for SG50,” he said.

If asked to name one all-time classic National Day song, most Singaporeans are likely to say ‘Stand Up for Singapore’, ‘Count On Me Singapore, ‘Home’ or  ‘We Are Singapore’. Of the 4, 3 were actually written by Canadian Hugh Harrison. And those are the ones with ‘Singapore’ in their titles. The most forgettable one in the history of NDP songs, in my opinion, was performed by Singapore Idol himself Hady Mirza, called ‘Shine for Singapore’. Hady Who? Some, like ‘One Singapore‘ are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

‘As One’ definitely belongs in the top 3 for the Gift of Song competition. It surpasses most of the recent NDP efforts, including ‘In a Heartbeat’ and ‘Love at first Light’, if you even recall what those are. But let’s look at the official finalists of the competition:

1) We Are Stars

This is a slow, soppy ballad with the self-congratulatory chorus:

We are stars
We are golden
We are comets in our skies.

This is probably the first time I’ve heard someone use ‘comet’ in any patriotic song. Like comets, a great song comes our way once every few hundred years. It also has the lyric ‘We are diamonds in the sky’. So which is it, are we gold or are we diamonds in the sky? Hady’s effort, if there’s any consolation, sounds like Hey Jude compared to this far-from-stellar snooze-fest. If this were a ‘gift’, it’d be the equivalent of an ugly Christmas sweater. Knit with love, but received with a painful grimace. Next.

2) These Are the Days

The chorus: These are the days, to breathe and feel.

Is there ANY day that we DON’T breathe and feel? This has an annoying, repetitive weepy riff and a whiny crescendo. Am I the only one who finds this entry, awash with pandering strings, grating and trying too hard to sound like a national anthem? Despite the arrangement, it doesn’t make me feel things, and I lost all interest when Farisha sang ‘Spread my wings and fly’. Better Midler’s Wing Beneath My Wings was clearly an inspiration. Incidentally, for this SG50 contest, 9 submissions were from prison inmates.  Maybe they didn’t make the cut because of one too many ‘spread my wings and fly’.

3) Being Here

One word: Coldplay. The lyrics are safe, it’s upbeat, no cringe-worthy metaphors and the writers, Ciao Turtle, have the greatest band name in the history of local bands. This wins my vote, though it’s still far from the cheesy infectiousness of Harrison’s greatest hits. I’d like to see them do normal pop songs, though. Or consider forming a supergroup called Ciao Turtle and Ah Boys to Men.

Despite the common theme among all these songs being how happy and proud we all are to stay in this country, it’s obvious that no matter how catchy they are, they fail miserably as propaganda tools, given that the number of Singaporeans moving abroad has been increasing over the years, 212,000 to be precise. This excluding of course, those banished from the country for ‘political crimes’. Indeed, quite a number of us are ‘stars’. In the sense that they’re so very far away.

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