MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

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In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Primary school science questions having ‘model’ answers

From ‘Only one right answer to science questions?’23 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng and Pearl Lee, ST

EXPLAIN how the hard, bony body of a seahorse could be an advantage. The right answer, according to one Primary 6 science teacher, is: “It protects the seahorse from injury and reduces the chances of predators successfully feeding on it.”

But the child who wrote “It acts as an armour that protects the seahorse from predators” was told that her answer was wrong. This was one of several examples thrown up by parents, who have complained recently that primary school science teachers are too rigid in marking open-ended questions, and are emphasising rote learning over the understanding of concepts.

This, despite schools having shifted to an inquiry-based learning approach in science since 2008. With the approach, pupils are encouraged to ask questions, analyse data and come to their own conclusions.

Several parents wrote to The Straits Times Forum page earlier this month, calling for schools to be more flexible. Most said their children were unduly penalised for answers that had the same meaning as the correct ones, but did not contain the right “key words”.

The children had been told by teachers to stick to key phrases and words found in textbooks, in order to get full marks in assignments or tests.

Here’s another Primary 3 head-scratcher for you:

What is the difference between a bird and a lion?

If you said the ‘bird has feathers but the lion does not’, you’re wrong. You’re also wrong if you said ‘The bird can fly but the lion can’t’, ‘birds evolved from flying dinosaurs but not lions’, or even ‘birds poop on cars but lions poop on the ground’ (assuming the question involves you staring at a picture of a bird and a lion). The correct answer, according to a parent complaining to the ST Forum earlier this month (‘Good science=Poor English’, Feb 5 2015) is ‘The bird has feathers but the lion does NOT HAVE FEATHERS’, which basically means the same damn thing as your original answer, except annoyingly repetitive. (Well if you want to be even more specific: a bird has feathers but a lion has fur, not feathers).

Clearly, the student knows what he’s talking about, that a lion does not have feathers, but the science teacher here doesn’t give a hoot about your ‘understanding’ if it does not fit into the template answer scheme, even if the same statement in a composition about bird and lions would make your English teacher squirm in her seat, and accuse you of trying to make up the 500 word quota with redundancies. The parent summed it up perfectly in his letter: “Is there rigidity in the teaching of science? It would certainly appear so (that there is rigidity in the teaching of science)”. Take that, Rigidity!

Not convinced that teachers can be anal about science answers? Here’s another puzzler on animals.

You could be thinking of the following possible answers:

1) Both the bull and the lion give birth to their young
2) Both the bull and lion poop and pee
3) Both the bull and lion can kill you
4) Both the bull and lion are mammals

ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE WRONG. (The answers are ‘4 legs’, ‘have hair’, or ‘similar body shape’ i.e something you can actually see from the illustration). The thing that you should be staring hard at isn’t the actual drawing, but the phrase ‘STUDY the animals BELOW’. Gotcha.

Let’s up the ante with a dreaded multiple choice question about the properties of a light bulb.

Now read the last option carefully before you make your choice. If you chose ‘all of the above’, you are interpreting D as ‘the bulb lights up only when electricity passes through it’. If you chose ‘A, B and C’ you read it as ‘light energy is the only energy that is given off when electricity passes through it’. The correct answer happens to be the latter. Answer D, in the spirit of the other animal questions, happens to be the grammatical equivalent of the rabbit/duck gestalt optical illusion. Given the ambiguity of this shitty question, no student should be penalised for seeing a rabbit when the answer scheme says duck.

Do you know how a shadow is formed? Here’s one student’s answer to a puzzle that has tickled the intellect of many an ancient Greek philosopher.

 The complete answer is ‘Because the sun is behind her and she is blocking the path of the light’. You know what this obsession with ‘complete’ answers will do to our kids? They’ll never be able to complete their paper on time because they’d want to add details like ‘because light travels in straight lines and Betty is an opaque human being and she will generate a penumbra and umbra depending on the angle and intensity of the sunlight’. Just to play safe. Except that some teachers will still mark you wrong for ‘trying to be clever’ when penumbrae and umbrae are not taught until you’re in secondary school. If you mention anything about photons or the particle-wave duality you may be suspended from school altogether.

But back to the seahorse question. If I were grading the student I’ll not only let it go, I would also give her BONUS marks for using her imagination and drawing a figurative analogy between ‘hard skin’ and ‘armour’. By our school standards, this paper published in the rather obscure ‘Acta Biomaterialia’ journal is pure BULL. Its title? Highly deformable bones: Unusual deformation mechanisms of seahorse armor (Porter et al).

All this nitpicking over ‘key words’ will not only kill our children’s love for science, but also restricts how individuals grasp concepts, punishing those who, well, ‘think outside the box’. A student who sees beyond 4 legs and digs deeper into the taxonomic characteristics of mammals vs birds is given zero marks vs another who memorises ‘key words’ because his tuition teacher said so. Flowery language, like ‘armour’, is not ‘scientific’ and has no place in a science paper, they say. Well try describing DNA to laymen without ‘unscientific’ analogies like zippers and enzyme/cell receptor interactions without using ‘lock and key’.

Final question: What’s the difference between a robot and a typical Singaporean Science student?

Answer: The robot needs electricity to recharge but the student does not need electricity to recharge.

Condo ads featuring only one ethnic group

From ‘Property ads must reflect Singapore’s diversity’, 21 Feb 2015, ST Forum

(N. Varaprasad): ADVERTISEMENTS for residential property – private as well as executive condominiums – tend to show only one ethnic group swimming, cycling in the park, working out, admiring the sunset from the balcony, going to school, and having ladies’ tea sessions or cocktails.

These advertisements portray an aspirational way of life and should be representative of Singapore’s multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan society.

Government advertisements take care to be representative of the various ethnic groups in Singapore. The private sector could do the same. There is no need for more rules and guidelines if private developers can do this in a creative manner.

The writer is mistaken. There are actually 2 ethnic groups which feature prominently in condo ads. Firstly, those with the ‘Pan-Asian‘ look, or what we used to call ‘Eurasians’ and the less politically correct ‘mixed-race’. In the City Gate TVC, we see a confident, successful man of the world strutting through his ‘mandrobe’, looking less like a property ad than a Hugo Boss commerical. Meanwhile his sultry companion is out there frolicking among the condo amenities, her hair wind-blown, dressed like a Greek Goddess getting her dainty feet wet by an infinity pool. What the ad doesn’t show is these two beautiful creatures having soft focus slo-mo sex against the backdrop of the city’s spectacular night lights, and having pancakes the morning after. In goddamn bathrobes.

Like a Hugo Boss

Like a Hugo Boss

Then there are the ethnic Chinese. In the Lake Life EC ad, we see what’s clearly a 3 Gen family enjoying a family dinner after an activity-packed day of pet-walking and urban farming. What’s inaccurate about this happy family scenario is not so much the sheer amount of leisure time these folks have on their hands, but that the kid isn’t playing with his gadget or doing his tuition homework, and that they have wooden salt and pepper shakers on the dining table. Preposterous.

Every dinner is Thanksgiving at Lake Life

Every dinner is Thanksgiving at Lake Life

My problem with these cookie-cutter condo ads is not how they tend to be selective of the race of their actors, but how cliche-ridden they are. The residents portrayed are generally healthy and good-looking, the only thing fat about them being the size of their wallets. No one ever looks like they’re exhausted or relieved after a hard day’s work and just want to laze in front of the TV tucking into cup noodles. Nor do we see anyone whistling while working on household chores, like ironing and folding clothes. Or maybe that kinda stuff is done by the invisible maid.

If you’re not lying in hammocks plucking grapes, brandishing expensive watches, choosing shoes to pair with a gown or gazing into the sunset you’re engaged in the following:

1) Yoga by the water, dressed in all white (Skywoods). You can, of course, yoga in a HDB playground, as long as you’ve attained the necessary mastery to ignore the noise from the void deck wedding or funeral nearby.

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2) Reenacting the film ‘Sideways’, with your champagne glass-chinking and carrot sticks (Skywoods). Of course why would you have a celebration in the air-con comfort of your own home when you can dress to the nines in the blistering HEAT? And why is there always a shot of SALAD in luxury condo ads? Could that explain why they’re all so trim and beautiful? Not once have I seen condo ad actors tucking into a bucket of fried chicken wings, or sipping 3 in 1 coffee.

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3) Emerging from the pool like a water nymph (D’nest). Because 80’s softcore is making a comeback. And then you can have sex and pancakes. Perhaps the intention of this gimmick is to make the view of the pool more enticing than the same old green shit you’re forced to see everyday from your apartment.

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4) Wearing jackets outdoors (The Interlace). Because the security guard downstairs will chase you away thinking you’re a trespassing vagabond if you ever dare come out of your house in singlet and shorts. And God forbid if you own a pair of Crocs. The management will charge at your feet with a flamethrower.

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5) Your mind and body are in a constant state of ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘tranquility’. And you don’t just do ‘dinner’. You do ‘Diner En Blancs‘ (The Cristallo). I mean, even the name of your condo sounds like a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant.

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6) Lying on the grass looking stylishly contemplative with the bohemian sarong you bought from a vintage shop in Haji Lane(Cristallo). Show those migrant workers at Chinese Garden on a Sunday how it’s done.

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Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ‘emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.

Fifty Shades of Grey impeding true intimacy

From ‘The realities behind the Fifty Shades’, 14 Feb 2015, Voices, Today

(Elvira Tan, marriage specialist, Focus on the Family): The film, Fifty Shades Of Grey, based on an erotica novel by the same title, has been released here, just before Valentine’s Day.

…A study published in Journal of Women’s Health last year concluded that there are strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives, including violence victimisation, and consumption of Fifty Shades. Female readers were more likely than non-readers to have had a partner who abused them verbally and to report fasting, binge drinking, using diet aids and having five or more intercourse partners.

Despite this, the novel and the film’s trailer have been popular. This is understandable, since humans have a longing for intimacy. However, sexual intimacy is not the same as relational intimacy. A person’s felt need for gratification may not meet his/her real need for connection and lasting love. Relational intimacy transcends sexual experiences and is best sought out in wholesome ways for it to be truly fulfilling. Ironically, focusing on the body rather than the person lessens both emotional connection and sexual appetite.

The authors of the book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, explain that erotica/pornography “teach you to be sexually aroused by looking away from your partner, not toward him”. “You may be engaging your body with him, but your imagination is with some fictional character. That’s not intimacy.

…The untold story behind Fifty Shades is that engaging in erotica and pornography drives a wedge in marital relationships, often impeding the true intimacy many couples long for, as recounted in many of the marital counselling cases we have seen.

As a Christian organisation, you would expect FoF to have some reservations about Fifty Shades being shown uncut in its full explicit glory. But short of calling for a ban like our libraries have banned the book, they have cited academic research that explains why BDSM, among other forms of gratuitous porn, is bad for marriage and your overall mental health. Another publication titled ‘“Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey’ has researchers reading the book to pick out signs of ‘intimate partner violence’.  A more recent paper concluded that the 50 Shades phenomenon drives women to watch porn. No one to date has examined if sales of cable ties and red rope have risen since the launch of the books.

The study cited by FoF even admitted that they could not draw a conclusion on CAUSALITY between 50 Shades and messed-up behaviour or a newfound lust for anal sex. Especially so since it’s only women (specifically women from Ohio State University) who were surveyed and not MEN who’re the ones more likely to imitate and initiate the protagonist’s sex acts. Furthermore, the reference quoted by Elvira (Pulling back the shades) was written by a couple of evangelical Christians themselves, one with a link to FoF. If there’s anyone pulling 50 shades of wool over our eyes it’s FoF for sneakily plugging a book with an obvious Christian agenda in the Today paper.

This is the same group accused of promoting, ironically, ‘rape culture’ in schools. The organisation’s understanding of ‘true intimacy’ seems rather fairy-tale simplistic, more befitting of a Hallmark anniversary card than the real world, and from the previous pamphlet debacle they can’t seem to grasp basic BGR, not to mention BDSM.  50 Shades has become a convenient scapegoat, lumped together with the entire genre of erotica and porn, when they’re clearly another factors that lead to marriage breakdowns or domestic brutality, like access to dating apps, gambling, or the proverbial whipping boy ALCOHOL. Any mature adult would associate the 50 shades themes with kinky sex and role-play (one level of depravity below the use of sex toys) rather than its flaky extensions to partner violence. The difference is that Anastasia’s participation in Grey’s fun time seems mostly VOLUNTARY. This is made clear in the film. Grey doesn’t put her naked in a cage and throw away the key. It’s an erotic ‘romance’, not a horror film.

Curiously, the Bible itself is filled with commands for you to give up your free will and submit to an all-powerful, possessive being, one who doesn’t need a helicopter or glider to rule the skies, but watches your every move, tells you how to behave in front of Him, and asks you to sacrifice your own flesh and blood as a test of your devotion.

Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 6:5-8 – Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

This isn’t even the first movie here to explore BDSM; In the 2000s Secretary, a bolder film for the adult set, was released quietly. The lesser known ‘Quills’ was an ode to the originator of BDSM Marquis de Sade himself. Guys from my generation would be familiar with the hints of BDSM from the sleazy, coming-of-age classic, Basic Instinct. Even our local movie Sex Violence and Family Values featured a story about parents engaging in kinky sex. We seem more tolerant of bedroom rough-and-tumble than a movie about gay marriage or even one featuring a threesome. The Passion of Christ probably had more brutal, bloody flogging than all these movies combined (not a hint of blood or even a bite mark in 50 shades), and that wasn’t even rated R21.

So BDSM has been around way before 50 Shades took it to ‘Twilight’ levels of mainstream popularity (the series about a ‘dominant’ vampire actually inspired EL James). Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ is still played on the airwaves (‘chains and whips excite me’). Some men who’ve never heard of 50 Shades pay dominatrices to flog them until they regress into a crying infantile mess. If you don’t have someone to punish you, you could suffocate yourself for kicks in a gay spa.  Yet, the pro-family fetishists will have none of it. A performance by Japanese girl-group Ebisu Muscats involving rope was banned because of its lewd suggestions of bondage. Now MDA, to everyone’s pleasant (or unpleasant) surprise, has given 50 Shades the green light to invade our pop culture consciousness unshackled, and here we have someone saying this is bad for marriage, while thousands of Singaporean couples are out there lining up at cinemas over V-day weekend hoping to spice up their dismal sex lives after watching it.

Most people, unless they have genuine fetish disorders, don’t take BDSM even remotely seriously  these days, with discussions on handcuffs, velvet rope, tight leather and ice cubes eliciting giggles and groans rather than uncomfortable squirming. We use ‘sadist’ and ‘masochist’ loosely, describing perfectly normal human beings like horrible bosses and ultramarathoners respectively, to the point that BDSM is no longer as ‘disturbing’ as it once was.  If Fifty Shades were harmful to ‘intimacy’, then the typical Nicholas Sparks’ book/film creates unrealistic, rose-tinted expectations of a romantic partner, which can do as much, if not worse, damage to emotions and intimacy than some gentle ass smacking.

I haven’t read 50 Shades myself, but having seen the movie, I doubt anyone would come out of the theatre rushing to the nearest sex shop to buy designer blindfolds and cable ties, or even less likely, go home and beat the living ‘double crap’ out of their spouses for pleasure, following the Dominant/Submissive contract right down to the letter like a BDSM Kama Sutra.

Parents sending kids for brain-training

From ‘Parents jump on brain-training wagon in bid to boost concentration and memory in children’, 9 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng, ST

Forget maths tuition, swimming lessons or piano classes. Parents are now sending their children for brain training, hoping to improve their concentration and memory skills.

…Some opt for these classes – which can cost more than $100 per session – as they think tuition may not be as effective. Aiming to train motor and processing skills, for instance, the centres use methods such as listening exercises and puzzles, as well as physical activities like catching balls.

…Ms Cheryl Chia, founder of BrainFit Studio, said getting distracted is a common problem. To combat this, children learn to focus and follow instructions. BrainFit has three branches here, two of which were set up in the last five years. Each branch takes in 200 pupils every year.

To cater to the growing interest, it started programmes in the last two years for pre-schoolers and toddlers as young as six months old. These programmes had about 50 and 20 children respectively last year.

At Happy Train, children go through “right-brain training” to speed up information processing skills. The centre has seen more than 400 children sign up, twice as many as seven years ago. Children younger than two years old make up half of its pupils today, compared with 30 to 40 per cent in 2008.

Another centre, People Impact, uses brain training techniques among its methods to boost intellect and social skills. It had over 100 children last year, a 45 per cent jump from the year before.

‘Brain training’ is preparatory class for what would eventually become tuition, and we already have enrichment classes for toddlers. Before you know it, with advancements in brain-fitness ‘neuroscience’, we’ll be training brains of foetuses while they’re still in their amniotic sacs. Maybe pregnant mummies will have to gyrate their bodies in a certain way to the nourishing sounds of Mozart so that their unborn child will exercise the necessary ‘mental muscles’ to prepare them when they’re discharged out of a womb into a chaotic world. You could call this Pre-brain training, priming your child’s rudimentary nervous system with tools based on the latest ‘neuroscientific principles’ when there’s nothing bigger than a budding hypothalamus in that gooey pre-head of his, so that he can develop an ‘intellect’ before he can even climb and descend a playground slide.

Anyone familiar with dystopic sci-fi should be able to see the creepiness of all this. An analogy would be an elite group of human beings with superior intellect and powers plugging newborns into a vat filled with neurochemicals and hormones, their eyes glued to a series of flashing cue cards and images from the history of mankind, subject to constant physical aquatic exercise, so that by the age of 3 years they emerge from their cell ready to devour Shakespeare, form theories of the universe, play tennis blindfolded and attend  a cocktail party without experiencing any social awkwardness at all.

Brainfit Studio is unabashed in giving its programmes titles like Baby Da Vinci, Baby Newton and Baby Einstein, with the notable absence of Baby Michael Jordan, Baby Britney Spears or Baby Lee Kuan Yew. It’s practically giving you a choice to pick the kind of genius and fine physical specimen you want your kid to grow into. Happy Train claims to imbue the powers of PERFECT PITCH and ALPHA-WAVE RELAXATION into their students, which are exactly the kind of properties you would want a docile singing robot to have. Heguru Education wants to take you out of the ‘Friendzone’ and into the INCREDIBLE GENIUS ZONE. And this is how People Impact describes one of their ‘creative sequencing’ courses:

The learning objective for this module is to enhance each student’s ability to recognise, encode, and generate sequences of significant symbols, objects and events, in ways which enhance memory whilst also reducing their cognitive workload. Students will learn to identify and make use of the differences between arbitrary and ‘naturally’ ordered sequences, whilst developing the means to construct time- and energy-efficient hierarchically organised sequence embedding when set-sizes become too large to handle ‘in-the-head’ when relying upon short-term memory alone.

Which sounds like something a theoretical physicist needs to decipher gravitational waves, not kids who’re barely old enough to tell the time. Playing with wooden blocks is not good enough, these guys want you to break codes that would stump Alan Turing. With all this emphasis on ‘right-brain training’, your kid may grow up with a skull that looks exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Einstein never needed a gym instructor for the mind nor an intellect on steroids. Kids these days.

As a parent you could, of course, forget about the prenatal ratrace and only start preparing your kid by buying past years’ PSLE assessment books when they’re Primary 5. You could bring them to the beach instead of a ‘learning lab’, build sandcastles, play catch, hide and seek, climb a tree, challenge to tic-tac-toe in the sand, catch a crab or skip stones.  Or, if you want your kid to grow up into Megamind, you could splurge on a brain-training session so that someone else can play damn ball with him, and not waste time with all this dirt and adventure bullshit.

There’s already a tried and tested, but more importantly, FREE, method available to any parent who wants to see their offspring develop into a human being full of potential with his own personality, not a polished automaton with a bootcamp brain with chill alpha-waves. It’s called PLAY.

Restaurants charging up to 80 cents for tap water

From ‘More F&B outlets now charge for glasses of water’, 8 Feb 2015, article by Cheryl Faith Wee, Sunday Times

More restaurants are putting a price on tap water, to the frustration of diners. Around one in 10 dining establishments now charge for a glass of water, at least twice the number from just two years ago, said Restaurant Association of Singapore executive director Lim Rui Shan. The typical price is between 30 cents and 80 cents. And the reason is rising costs.

Industry sources say an average restaurant can end up spending from $5,000 to $10,000 every year serving free water. There is also the loss in drink sales, which can make up at least 20 per cent of a restaurant’s total earnings, and the manpower cost involved in what is already a tight labour market, as service crew have to constantly refill glasses.

…About two to three years ago, Chinese restaurant chain Crystal Jade also started charging 30 cents for boiled water and this practice is currently in place at 21 of its 25 outlets here. Another food and beverage brand, Skinny Pizza, stopped serving plain water for free in April last year.

It now charges 50 cents for a glass of water flavoured with herbs and fruits such as mint and strawberries. A spokesman for the brand said: “Unfortunately, business costs have spiralled over the years and we have to do all we can to find a balance.”

…Establishments which still offer tap water for free said that there are customers who take advantage. Some come in a group, order one dish and keep asking for water refills. Said Ms Debby Lim, 27, senior marketing executive of Peranakan Place, which runs two bars and a cafe: “What the customer sees is just a glass of water; what we see is time and effort taken to wash, pour, serve and refill.

One clue which tells you whether a restaurant serves free tap water or not, if you’re afraid to ask, is if it has more than 1 brand of bottled water on its menu. It’s not clear if these places are charging for boiled water (50 cents at Ya Kun) or water literally taken from the kitchen tap (which logically should be cheaper than boiled). The water direct from our pipes is supposedly top grade and more drinkable than some of the tonic oxygenated slush they sell these days. So drinkable in fact, that some establishments would charge you $26.40 for two pitchers of it. But that doesn’t mean customers are willing to bring an empty glass to the toilet to help themselves.

I think most people tend not to opt for the bottled alternative, but the unhealthier and cheapest drinks on the menu, usually a basic coffee (not handcrafted or artisan), or worse a can of Coke.  If you’re the sort you needs to rinse your palate after each course, you’re better off bringing your own tumbler of home-brewed H20. Now, if the restaurant not only has a no-free-water policy, but one whereby you can’t even bring water from outside, then you’re morally obligated to make a scene about it, Joanne Peh style.

Thankfully, there are still eateries that uphold the philosophy of free tap for all and we should all applaud them for making sure we don’t perish from dehydration. Some places I’ve visited provide each table with one communal flask without you having to ask for it (Swensens, for example), which means less effort on your staff to ‘wash, pour, serve and refill’. We don’t ask where the water comes from, or demand that someone puts a lemon slice in it. If you see free water (especially the ICED variety) on your table before you even flip to the drinks menu, you feel good enough about it to want to order dessert as well. Otherwise, I would rather go to the Toastbox next door for kopi after dinner rather than buy your signature tiramisu cake (which I’ll need to wash down with a $2.50 Evian).

In 2009, blogger Veron Ang put up a list of restaurants that charged for water, some of which turned out to be ‘libelous’ accusations, which shows how serious the issue of free water is. In Hungry Go Where’s updated list, True Blue Peranakan charges you A DOLLAR if you order water on its own without accompanying drinks.

Restaurant owners were quick to come up with excuses, like:

  • People who complain are not educated about business..nothing is free.
  • Our patrons are ‘serious’ diners who come to taste food, not water…nobody outside Singapore asks for free water…which turns out to be false.
  • Even the kopitiam charges 30 cents for ice water i.e Everyone else is doing it.

Well of course if I’m having a posh dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant I would think twice about asking for tap water, but here you’re talking about places (according to the Sparklette blog circa 2009) like Ajisen Ramen, Crystal Jade, Gelare and even Boon Tong Kee chicken rice. There was a time when asking for ‘tap water’ made you sound like a hobo in a soup kitchen, and we had to say stuff like ‘normal’ or ‘regular/plain’ water, especially after the server asks you the dreaded question ‘Sparkling or still’?, which is a hint that ‘No, we don’t serve tap water to cheapskates like you’. (The correct answer to the question is ‘Sorry I asked for water for drinking, not the liquid from church that you vanquish demons with’)

Personally I wouldn’t boycott a restaurant just because of a strict water policy if the food can make up for it. Others, like this parchedpatron blogger, insist on shaming the culprits. People have their own business reasons (which the lay diner can NEVER understand) for charging you for trivialities, be it water, wet towels, peanuts, an ice bucket, or non-existent service.  I’m curious though, about places that charge you almost a buck for a glass. Maybe they run their tap water through a silver nanocrystal filter, or it’s some ‘handcrafted’ elixir infused with homegrown mint, acai and Chinese wolfberries.

If you’re ever charged 80 cents for a glass, do the rest of us water fans a favour; ask that it be filled to the brim, with not a particle visible by magnifying glass floating in it, and it must be slightly tepid at a temperature of exactly 32.7 degrees Celsius. If you’re lucky they may just give you Chinese tea for free as a peace offering.

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