Archie comic banned by MDA for depicting gay marriage

From ‘Archie comic breached content guidelines:MDA’, 16 July 2014, article in Today

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that it has banned one volume of the Archie. The Married Life series because of its depiction of same-sex marriage between two characters in the comic.

In a statement, the MDA said it had received a complaint about the comic – Book Three in a series of five – in March. After an assessment, it found that the content breached MDA guidelines. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets,” an MDA spokesperson said.

…Separately, the National Library Board (NLB), which carries copies of the comic, said it acquired the comic before the MDA found its content to be in breach of guidelines.

“We will be reviewing the book in the light of MDA’s decision,” said the NLB, in response to TODAY’s queries.

“It should be noted that Archie. The Married Life was acquired for our adult collection. NLB takes a broader approach for the adult’s collection than it does for its children’s collection,” added the NLB.

Bad Bromance

Archie used to be goofball entertainment for me in my teens, but he has all grown up since. In 2009, the series courted controversy by having the main character marry BOTH Betty and Veronica in consecutive issues, prompting conservatives to accuse everyone’s favourite freckled redhead of being a ‘ bigamist’. Not sure if polygamy is in breach of MDA’s guidelines because it’s an ‘alternative lifestyle’ that sure as hell isn’t in line with ‘community norms’. It’s not just narrow-minded Singaporeans making a fuss about a comic about gay marriage. In the US, the Christian group One Million Moms protested the sale of the comic, to little success. Why didn’t MDA completely ban the movie ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’ instead of giving it a lax M18 rating then? Didn’t you spare a thought for OUR own 1 million mommies and their precious norms?

The gay character in question is military stud Kevin Keller, and in the banned comic he marries Dr Clay Walker, a black man. Keller first came out in a Veronica #202 (2010), when he told Jughead that he was not interested in Veronica because he was gay. Archie never dealt with such ‘sensitive’ topics in the past. He was flirting with either the brunette or the blonde, messing around with Jughead, or watching the resident jock Reggie getting beat up by Moose. Things became edgier when he gave his first ‘interracial kiss’ to Valerie from the all-girl band Josie and the Pussycats (whom he also married). You damn philanderer you.

You’d need to go back almost half a century to find another ban that’s more ridiculous than this. In 1969, our Ministry of Culture banned five MARVEL comics, including Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Daredevil, X-men and Avengers, for themes on ‘horror, violence, suspense and fantasy’.  In 1987, Elf Quest was banned for featuring a ‘ritualistic orgy’, along with No 64 Swamp Thing and the FIRST ISSUE of Green Arrow (which shot up in price from $6 to $50 following censorship).

But first lemme take an Elfie

With such ‘adult’ themes in the new-look Archie, I doubt young impressionable minds are reading it anymore. Most teens these days probably know Christian Grey (of Fifty Shades fame) or Glee’s Blaine Anderson but have never heard of Archie Andrews. Well thanks to the ban, now they do. And then they go and experiment with BDSM and choke each other for kicks. That’s better than falling in love with another boy, RIGHT.

Not a sweet ending for Archie or Keller then. News has already leaked of adult Archie taking a bullet to save Keller’s life in the final issue of the Married Life series. To those still holding on to the banned comics as loans: SELL THEM AS FAST AS YOU CAN before NLB raids your home like the Spanish Inquisition, seizes the books and pulps it all to hell. I’m sure you can make back at least 10 times the fine for ‘losing’ it.

UPDATE: On 30 July 2014, MDA clarified that an X-men comic also featuring gay marriage was, in contrast to Archie, allowed for sale with restrictions. Astonishing X-men Issue 51 supposedly offered a ‘balanced treatment of the issue’ because there were characters who disapproved of the union. By seeking such ‘balance’, MDA is already admitting ‘Gay bad, straight good’, and too much gay for their liking equals ‘ban’.

‘Balance’ of course, in most stories about ‘out’ characters’ mainly serves as dramatic narrative so that our gay couple can overcome opposing voices and daunting odds to be together, which is what happened to the gay couple in the end anyway. Moral of the story: Don’t care what others say, get married anyway.

If MDA had followed the Archie series, they would have realised that not everything went smoothly for gay Kevin Keller either, having to endure homophobic slurs like ‘twinkle-toes’. This sure looks like a ‘balanced’ portrayal of being gay to me, but apparently not balanced enough to allow for sale THAT ONE ISSUE where the marriage occurs with not one person charging into the chapel , fist raised, crying foul at the sheer audacity of it all. Obviously, MDA had no idea what Keller had to go through to finally put a ring on it.

Now all you needed in And Three Makes Tango was for one straight, furious penguin to try to destroy the gay family by stomping all over the unhatched egg and the book might have been ‘balanced’ enough to remain on children’s shelves, even if it involved first degree penguin murder.

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World Cup Public Holiday hoax reported to Police

From ‘President Tony Tan did not declare July 14 a public holiday: Istana’, 14 July 2014, article in Today

The authorities have clarified that the President’s Office did not issue any letter declaring today (July 14) a public holiday. According to a statement issued by the President’s Office, a “letter circulating on mobile and online platforms in the name of President Tony Tan Keng Yam” had declared July 14 a public holiday.

The President’s Office reiterated that it had issued no such letter, adding that public holidays are announced by the Ministry of Manpower. According to the hoax letter, the holiday was meant to allow all Singaporeans to have a chance to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina, and had the approval of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Government offices would be closed today, the letter claimed.

A police report has been lodged and  investigations are ongoing, police said.

Last year, MP Irene Ng was impersonated by someone posting a fake haze article on The Real Singapore website using a bogus email account. A police report was lodged but I’m not sure if the culprit was ever caught. In the President’s case, not only do you have a potential impersonation charge, but another on ‘false transmission of information’.

The letter is unlikely to cause a premature rapture followed by mass absenteeism in offices since we would typically trust the mainstream media to feed us such vital info. Also if this were genuine, the President wouldn’t have announced the good news only during the FINALS. I doubt the prankster had any malicious intentions, and no one would be dumb enough to take the letter seriously. After all, this ‘Tony Tan’ isn’t declaring war on a neighbouring country, or freaking us out by saying there is a giant asteroid on a collision-course with the planet like what more illustrious presidents do in cosmic disaster movies, so the Police shouldn’t worry about widespread panic or looting on the streets.

There was never a time when a World Cup holiday, or even half-day, was granted in Singapore, not least because we were never in the tournament and therefore have no reason to celebrate as a nation. But that didn’t stop people from urging the government to declare public holidays for other less spectacular occasions, to no avail of course.

1. Former President S R Nathan’s Inauguration Day

2. Hindu and Sikh New Year’s Day (April 13)

3. Lao Zi’s Birthday (Taoist Day)

4. Raffles/Founder’s Day, Lim Bo Seng’s Day, Multi-Racial Day

5. An additional day off for our 25th National Day. We can try asking for this again next year for our 50th.

6. Confucius’ birthday

And here are some facts you never knew about our public holidays.

1. Thaipusam used to be a public holiday.

2. We used to have BANK holidays. THREE in 1960 alone. These were subsequently abolished in 1966.

3. Vesak Day used to be called WESAK Day.

4. Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s birthday, Nov 12,  used to be a public holiday.

5. Before 1968 we had 16 PHs. Today we have 10.

If there’s one thing this hoax taught us though, it’s that there’s actually one LESS thing that our president can do. Now, MOM, how about bringing back a bank holiday or two, then?

Wikipedia ‘vandal’ calling the PAP a fascist regime

From ‘Vicious edits to PAP’s Wikipedia page’, 13 June 2013, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

A People’s Action Party MP called on his organisation to consider legal action yesterday after “vicious” edits were made to its Wikipedia page. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng spoke out after a user of the website changed the name of the party to “Party Against People” and added lines such as “down with the fascists” and “vote for Opposition” into the text.

According to the page’s publicly available editing history, the user who first made the changes appeared to have done so on Wednesday afternoon under the name “AlikVesilev”.

The user claimed that “proof of (the PAP’s) suppression of freedom of speech” was demonstrated by the sacking of blogger Roy Ngerng by Tan Tock Seng Hospital this week, a move later backed by the Ministry of Health.

Human rights group Maruah thought that Roy’s dismissal and the subsequent endorsement by MOH was handled poorly, symptomatic of the high-handed, remorseless manner in which the PAP and its underlings deal with dissenters. ‘AlikVesilev’ also praised socialism and went ‘URA!’ in his rant, which I’m guessing refers to a Soviet battle cry for ‘Hooray’ (Most definitely not the ‘Urban Redevelopment Authority’).

If nothing happens to this wiki ‘vandal’ after his ‘vicious’ attack, Roy would be hitting himself on the head for not having exploited the CPF Wikipedia page instead to get his message across, now that he’s facing an insurmountable defamation suit and currently jobless. But this isn’t the first time that the PAP’s hardcore style of punishment and intolerance for ‘free speech’ have been compared to ‘fascism’.

1963: The Barisan Socialis invoked ‘fascist repression’ when the PAP revoked citizenship for political detainees, accusing the party of ‘abusing power’ to unjustly punish anyone opposed to the regime. A familiar routine that anyone that has been cast away in political exile, or fired from a job because he impugned the integrity and character of our great leader, can relate to.

1964: V David from the Socialist Front, KL, referred to the PAP governance as a ‘reign of terror’ and ‘a fascist dictatorship’.

1971: A bunch of Malaysian and Singaporean students staged a demonstration against ‘fascist Lee Kuan Yew’ in London’s Hyde Park, burning an effigy of the PM. The ST referred to them as ‘radicals’.

1976: The United People’s Front leader Harbans Singh blamed the inequality between the rich and the poor on the ‘parasitic’ fascist regime that is the PAP. He was later hauled up to court for making scurrilous remarks about LKY being a ‘scoundrel’ and ‘gangster’ from the way the blunt tool that is the ISA was being implemented.

1977: Detainee Ho Kwon Ping was accused of portraying the PAP as an ‘elitist, racialist, fascist, oppressive and dictatorial’ government in an article for the Far Eastern Economic Review, which he allegedly used as a platform to channel his ‘pro-Red’ sentiments. He later became the founder of Banyan Tree and now a successful millionaire. Some jailtime may be good for you after all.

2006: John Burton of the Financial Times wrote about the uncanny similarity between the PAP’s lightning logo and that of the British Union of Facists (BUF). According to the writer, LKY admitted a ‘design influence’ from the fascist symbol. Apart from the logo, the other stark difference between the BUF’s Blackshirts and our current PAP mould would be the colour of their uniforms.

Fascist logo, or insignia of the Flash?

2013: DJ X’Ho calls us a ‘hushed’ fascist state, that we may well be the ‘unproclaimed fascist capital of the world’ but wouldn’t admit it.

High-handed brutality aside, most of us don’t have sexual fantasies about our glorious leaders, nor do we worship them as war heroes, man-gods or sing songs of total party devotion and then weep in ecstasy like how they do in a megachurch or a pure fascist state. According to a list of ‘defining characteristics‘ by a certain Dr Lawrence Britt, there are examples of ‘fascist’ elements in almost every modern government you can think of, not just Singapore, among which include:

1. Disdain for Recognition of Human Rights: Anti-gay laws, the ISD’s detention without trial.

2. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: ‘Self-radicalised’ individuals, ‘CPF bloggers’, disgraced Opposition leaders.

3. Supremacy of the Military: Last year’s defence spending was $12 BILLION.

4. Rampant Sexism: Our cabinet ministers are all male. Not many female boardroom members in corporations.

5. Controlled Mass Media: ST, hello? Crackdown on ‘seditious’ Facebook posts, defamatory blogs. Censorship of political films, movies about gay sex, threesomes or zany plots about the assassination of Malaysian Prime Ministers.

6. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Death penalties, caning, and ‘enhanced’ powers of the Police in Little India.

One may think of fascist governance as a continuous spectrum, just like how we all lie in the emotional range from ‘super nice’ to ‘psychopath’.  The PAP, as our PM once admitted himself, is in fact a ‘Paranoid’ government, one that ‘worries’ all the time. In other words, one that is constantly in FEAR of things not going their way. I would put that nearer to the psychopath end of the spectrum.

 

Python found in Toa Payoh swimming pool

From ‘ Python found in pool at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Tuesday morning’, 29 April 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang, ST

A reticulated python was found in a pool at Toa Payoh swimming complex on Tuesday morning. Fortunately, the pool was closed for its scheduled half-day weekly maintenance.

Sport Singapore said a pool operator discovered the snake at about 6am inside its competition pool, which is not opened to the public as it is used by national swimmers and lifeguards for training. There are protocols in place for situations like this, it added.

The snake was removed by about 7.10am by representatives from animal welfare group, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). An Acres spokesman told The Straits Times that the non-venomous snake will be microchipped and released back into the wild.

The ST managed to squeeze in a story about a swimming snake

The ST managed to squeeze in a story about a swimming snake

Well, there’s the solution to the wild boar problem, ACRES. Unleash a 3 metre monster into ‘the wild’. Wherever that is. Big snakes have slid into human territory for the longest time, and along with their porcine prey, we’d expect to see more creatures make forays into our living spaces with rapid urbanisation, all at the expense of what’s left of this ‘wild’.

Here’s 10 things you didn’t know about pythons in Singapore, other than the fact that they’re non-venomous, usually harmless, or fancy a cool dip in a pool once in a while.

1. Watch out when you withdraw money from an ATM machine. You may get more than just cold hard cash, but a cold-blooded reptile slithering up your arm. This encounter, in 1990, was also in Toa Payoh.

2. Snakes weren’t so tenderly microchipped and escorted back into the wild in the past. They were bashed to death by hockey sticks, shot in the head with rifles, or DECAPITATED by policemen with an axe.

3. In the 50’s, enterprising snake-nabbers would sell pythons for $50. In 1878, an eye witness reported a scene of a dog placed in the same cage as a python for pure entertainment. In RAFFLES INSTITUTION.

4. BIG PYTHON was once used as a SAF mobilisation code. Well, it sure beats LONG MILLIPEDE.

5. Snakes have been found in the oddest places. Some pythons may even land up in your TOILET BOWL, while you’re taking a sssssshit. So don’t ever flush dead fish or hamsters down the sewers. Your dead pet, their food. You can find one curled up all warm and comfy in your car BONNET if you’re lucky. Other pythons prefer to take the BUS.

6. People in Chinatown used to worship a female python named SOON TECK, who laid up to 60 eggs on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year in 1985.

7. The most frequent headline used in snake articles by the ST is ‘SNAKES ALIVE’.  Other puns include ‘Snakes are hisss business’, and most recently ‘Surprise sssswimmer in Toa Payoh Pool’ (30 Apr 14). The worst headline in my opinion belongs to Today paper, with the ssssucky ‘SSSSS, ANY SNAKES HERE?‘(26 Jan 2001).

8. The only reported incident I uncovered of a python actually attacking someone was in 1965, when a 20 ft snake in Bukit Timah reserve tried to swallow a 10 year old girl. She turned out fine. I couldn’t find any other news about locals getting killed or eaten alive.

9. If you find a snake in your room and you hire a pest-control team to remove it, you’re expected to pay somewhere in the range of $300-600. In the early 80’s you could count on ‘Ah Chee’ from Chinatown, self-professed ‘Sei Chai’ or ‘Snake Boy’, who catches and serves freshly killed python meat to customers. No surprise that it ‘tastes like chicken’.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 5.03.00 PM

10. The reticulated python is the WORLD’S LONGEST SNAKE (Even longer than the Giant Anaconda!). A 6-metre monster, twice the length of the Toa Payoh swimmer, was caught in Lorong Marzuki in 1986, an area fondly known as ‘Pythons Place’.

ACRES encourages people to leave our serpentine visitors to the professionals, but they should make it easier for us to remember the 24 hour wildlife rescue hotline (9783 7782). Like 1800-HISS-HISS for example. No one can remember beyond a three digit number when they’re panicking, which explains why the first thought that comes to mind whenever we see a python is calling the police or fire department. By the time you try to log on the Internet to find ACRES’ contact, the beast would probably have taken your pet dog, cat and chinchilla for dinner, before slithering away into the nearest canal, never to be seen again.

 

 

 

Singaporean man setting himself on fire in JB

From ‘Singaporean man sets himself on fire in JB’, 13 April 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru. The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol. The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher. He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

In 1969, Ah Hock Keith Morrisson committed suicide ‘Vietnamese style’ by setting himself on fire with a tin of kerosene. His dramatic death happened within a few months of leaving the Singapore Infantry Regimen, during which he exhibited abnormal behaviour such as crying or staring in a daze. The ST described the fiery act as turning himself into a HUMAN TORCH, which is also a Marvel character and part of the Fantastic 4 assemble created in 1961.  A few years later, a Buddhist nun set herself alight ‘Saigon-style’ in a temple, using the same flammable liquid. It is not known if these were in fact inspired by a series of self-immolation protests by Vietnamese monks in the 60’s, or the result of a deadly obsession with a comic book hero whose entire body comes alight at will.

This man is on fire

This man is on fire

A quarrel over suspected infidelity combusted into suicide when 28 year old Madam Kalachelvi set herself on fire after hearing rumours of her husband’s cheating. The distraught husband followed suit. Suicide by self-torching continued into the 90’s, with a case of a 13 year old SCHOOLBOY performing the act after getting a scolding (Schoolboy, 13, set fire to himself after scolding in school, 28 Nov 1992, ST). In 2010, a man, reportedly suffering from mental illness, walked into a Shell petrol kiosk toilet and came out in flames. The most recent incident occurred at the Ceylon Sports Club, Balestier last August, with kerosene again found at the death scene. There’s no record of locals burning themselves to death for political causes as far as I know, though you could get in trouble for setting effigies of our Transport Minister aflame.

Singaporeans are renown petrol guzzlers in JB, some even stocking up petrol in cans in car boots to bring home. One Stomper caught Singaporean drivers attempting to bring these back across the Causeway disguised as engine oil containers (You can import up to 20 Litres without a licence). Other drivers are seen jacking up or shaking their cars  just to load more petrol, to get more bang for their Singaporean buck. With a reputation for such strange, kiasu behaviour, a lone man on foot asking to handcarry 4L of petrol wouldn’t seem too surprising, and the only reason I could think of as to why he had to do it in JB is that you can’t just walk into any shop to buy kerosene as if  it were cooking oil here.

A couple of years ago we were wracked by a spate of copycat suicides by drowning in reservoirs (which may actually be as painful and agonising as burning to death, both falling under the Top 10 Worst Ways to Die). One can only hope that this single act of self-immolation doesn’t, well, spread like wildfire.

Postscript: Stephen Lew Soon Khiang, 42, died of his self-inflicted injuries within a day, with doctors saying that he had just a 1% chance of survival.

A Singaporean man was being treated for 95 per cent burns yesterday after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru.

The 42-year-old had walked to the petrol station at Century Garden at around 9.30am but staff refused to sell him fuel as they are not allowed to serve people who are not driving a vehicle.

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that the man then threatened the petrol station’s owner, saying that he would set himself on fire if he was not allowed to buy petrol.

The owner relented and sold him 4 litres before the man stepped out of the kiosk, poured it over himself, then sparked himself with a lighter.

He lost his footing and fell into a drain before passers-by doused him with a fire extinguisher.

He was taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, where he was unconscious as of last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the incident and added that Singapore’s Consulate-General in Johor Baru is rendering necessary assistance to the man.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/singaporean-man-sets-himself-fire-jb-20140413#sthash.a38528Iw.dpuf

Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers

From ‘Singapore concerned over naming of Indonesian navy ship after executed commandos’, 6 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussain, ST

Singapore has registered its concerns over Indonesia’s naming of a navy ship after two Indonesian marines who took part in the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said on Wednesday night that Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, to register these concerns “and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Indonesia’s Kompas daily had reported this week that the last of the Indonesian Navy’s three new British-made frigates would be named the KRI Usman Harun, after marines Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

“The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing which killed three people and injured 33 others,” the MFA spokeman said in response to media queries. “Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines,” he added.

The duo were members of Indonesia’s special Operations Corps Command, which is today the Marine Corps, and had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore during Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia.

In today’s context, Osman and Harun would have been labelled ‘terrorists’, and not a single mention of ‘terrorism’ or ‘terror’ was made in the entire ST article. In contrast, the original report on the bomb blast back in 1965 read ‘TERROR BOMB KILLS 2 GIRLS at BANK’. Dr Toh Chin Chye was also quoted as describing the tragedy as a ‘senseless act of cruelty’ and that people must play a more positive and determined part to ‘weed out terrorists’ in our midst.

In 2012, a blogger by the name of Thimbuktu captured the plaque on the facade of the still standing, and now National Monument, which tells us that the building was a ‘scene of a bomb attack by Indonesian TERRORISTS on 10 March 1965 during Konfrontasi’. I’m not sure if the inflammatory word has been edited since, or if anyone in the Middle East names warships after Saddam or Usama.

Among the innocents killed in the blast were 36 yr old Suzie Khoo, private secretary, 23 yr old Juliet Goh, filing clerk, and driver Mohammed Yasin bin Kesit, 45. I don’t remember the MacDonald House attack being mentioned in any of our history textbooks, nor any of the 37 bombs that hit us during the Sukarno led Konfrontasi. It wasn’t just public buildings being targetted. In Dec 1963, two men were killed in Sennett Estate, while another deadly bomb went off on April 1964 at a BLOCK OF HDB FLATS off Changi Road. The thought of such a disaster happening in the heartland is unimaginable, while people like Caleb Rozario are having fantasies about the MBS being pulverised by missiles from heaven.

LKY was in fact ‘persuaded’ by ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy to sprinkle flowers over the graves of the executed, a symbolic move that supposedly moved the Indonesia diplomat to tears. Lee wrote:

On the night of the banquet given by President Suharto, a bat flew into room which symbolised good luck for them. The relationship between Singapore and Indonesia had been restored.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.58.48 PM

No, no one decided to lead the life of a Caped Crusader since that night, but the ‘flowers and bat’ effect didn’t last long. Ties were strained again in the late 1990s, with BJ Habibie calling us a ‘racist country’ and inadvertently giving us global branding by calling us, derogatorily, a ‘little red dot’, a moniker which has since stuck and used to death by STB. We blame them for the haze and they retort by saying we behave like little children.  In response to our ministers’ lament about the lack of respect from the ship naming, Golkar MP Hajriyanto Thohari had this to say: ‘Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick’ (Jakarta’s move reflects disrespect, 8 Feb 2014, ST). The use of ‘chicken’ is telling, but it also says a lot about the cock-and-bull story people come up with glorify murderers as heroes.

If our government hadn’t expressed their disappointment in the naming, I wouldn’t have figured that ‘Usman Harun’ referred to a couple of militant killers, nor would I have cared about what Indonesians name their vessels after. But whether or not we decide to urge the Indonesians to drop the unfortunate name, the bringing up of decades-old wounds is essential to remind ourselves of how vulnerable we can be in the face of unfriendly forces, and not to take our security for granted.

And yes, the MBS is too obvious a target for bombing. Try keeping an eye out on void decks for a change.

Sheng Siong CEO’s mother kidnapped for ransom

From ‘Woman, 79, who was kidnapped, is mother of Sheng Siong CEO’, 9 Jan 2013, article by Walter Sim, ST

A 79-year-old woman who was kidnapped on Wednesday is the mother of Sheng Siong supermarket chief executive Lim Hock Chee. Mr Lim made it to the Forbes Singapore’s 50 Richest list last year and was listed at number 35 with a net worth of $515 million.

The elderly woman was said to have been kidnapped while she was walking near a bus-stop at Block 631, Hougang Avenue 8 on Wednesday. The police arrested two men in connection with the case on Thursday, after her son lodged a report. The woman was not hurt when she was snatched by the two suspects, and was later released at Seletar West Camp after a $2 million ransom was paid.

…The younger of the two suspects is an odd-job labourer, while the older man is a credit card promoter. Both suspects are Singaporeans and are not related. The police said that there have been only three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 10 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and later jailed for life. The $2 million is the highest amount paid in ransom in a kidnapping case here.

Kidnapping carries the death penalty or life imprisonment, a deceptively serious felony that can be potentially non-violent and even played for laughs in the movies if you’re the bungling kind, like the goofball villains in ‘Baby’s Day Out’. If you ever steal someone’s baby for ransom in Singapore, you may be charged and hanged, even if the kid got the better of you in the end.

Our Police nabbed the culprits within 12 hours, which suggests that the duo’s escape plan wasn’t well thought out. Liam Neeson from the Taken series would have nothing to worry about if he ever brought his loved ones here for vacation. For a penalty so severe, you would expect some sophistication and guile in the way kidnappers conduct their business, like a chartered getaway helicopter or elaborate decoy set ups. No such luck. They probably used Home Alone as a guide to how to abduct people.

Here’s a quick rundown of rich people targetted in our history of kidnapping and how much ransom they’re worth at the time. This Sheng Siong incident probably breaks the record for highest ransom ever demanded, and also the most dollar notes to ever to occupy a suitcase.

2014: Lim Hock Chee, Sheng Siong CEO (mother kidnapped): $2 million paid from initial $20 million.

2002: Tay Teng Joo, director of SUTL companies: $4 million negotiated down to $1.22 million. He was ambushed a day before his wedding. After he was released and the perpetrators caught, he went ahead with the wedding anyway.

1970: Millionaire, bank director, owner of fridge making company Tan Han Seng: $800,000.

1964: Shaw Vee Ming, Shaw managing director and son of the late Run Run Shaw: $500,000. Brother Harold escaped from an kidnap attempt in 1971.

1964: Millionaire Dato Ng Quee Lam: $420,000

1960: CK Tang: $150,000

1973: Tjioe Kow Hwie, Indonesian businessman: $50,000. The gang of 5 responsible for the abduction were sentenced to hang, the first few to be executed for the crime.

1964: Ng Choon Huat, son of a cloth merchant: $44,000. Ransom was ‘drastically’ slashed to $400.

It’s likely that the Sheng Siong kidnappers will get life imprisonment rather than death considering the victim emerged unharmed from the ordeal. The way in which the Police swung into action to rein in crooks who had the audacity to threaten the Sheng Siong empire is probably assuring for the 27 billionaires (and counting) attentively following this case and suddenly texting their children to check if they’re OK and not lured away by some evil PRCs.

Still, a Little India riot and a high profile kidnapping both within a month of each other in tiny Singapore. Exciting times.

Aegyo Sal makes your eyes younger and friendlier

From ‘Look young with eyebags’, 8 Sept 2013, article by Lea Wee, Lifestyle, Sunday Times

Many people would do all they can to get rid of their eyebags. But some young Singaporeans are resorting to aesthetic procedures to make their undereye area more prominent because they think it makes them appear more youthful and friendly.

The trend, called “aegyo sal” (say a-gio-sal) in Korean, translates loosely as “cute skin”. It started in South Korea a few years ago and recently caught on here.

To make the areas under their lower eyelids “pop out”, people usually undergo a filler injection – a 30-minute procedure which costs about $1,000. The effect can also be created through make-up and tightening the lower eyelid muscle via surgery.

…A full-time blogger who goes by the screen name Yutaki James paid $1,000 for a filler injection to his lower eyelids last month. The 25-year-old, who blogs on current lifestyle trends, declines to give his real name. He saw advertisements on the procedure when he visited South Korea last year.

“When I knew it was available here, I decided to get it done because I wanted to keep up with trends. I also wanted to make my eyes look bigger.” During the procedure, he also had fillers to make his laugh lines and dark circles under his eyes less obvious.

He says he felt no pain but there was some swelling under his eyes on the first two days. This gradually disappeared after the first week. “I am happy with the effect. My friends say I look younger and more awake.”

Aegyo Sal surgery is basically a boob job done on the eyes. Pump some dermal filler to create a perky bulge just beneath the eye and it makes your blinkers ‘smile’ like a sexy beast. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that having swollen panda dark circles is considered attractive, so don’t think you can save money on Botox and SK-II just yet. You can work overnight and end up looking like you were punched in the face but you’re still not going to impress K-pop fanatics who would be able to tell the difference between a sad sack and an adorable bulge. When I look at my own peri-orbital musculature I see the Death Valley, not the ‘cute’ optic love handles that would make me look like I came from Neverland.

For more than 40 years, we have desired double eyelids to give that wide-eyed ‘European’ look, which together with eyebag removal in the 60’s, were among the first cosmetic procedures to be performed around the eyes. Makeup tricks aside, our obsession with bigger eyes and Japanese doll features have rejuvenated the contact lens business. For those with are born with naturally narrow peepers, Aegyo Sal seems to be the solution to all of life’s problems. You can face the world brimming with confidence knowing that there are people out there who are sexually attracted to eyes with puffy vulvae beneath them, so much so that some may even try to engage in oculolinctus with you.

Self-transformation and augmentation seems to be the bread and butter of full-time beauty bloggers, including the likes of Yutaki James, who’s a living Asian Ken doll and ambassador for these ‘Korean love bands’. This dude is a walking, pouting showcase of the $1000 face-craft of Prive clinic, one of the pioneers of this AS wave, advertised in their website as a ‘no-downtime’ procedure that would make you look ‘cuter’ and ‘sweeter’. I never knew I had ‘lash lines’ until I saw this. If AS surgery claims to make you look ‘friendlier’ after 30 mins, you could inject hyaluronic acid into Oscar the Grouch’s face and turn him into Sesame Street’s Sweetheart overnight. Imagine the wonders AS could do for Grumpy Cat.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.27.53 AM

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then aegyo sal are the fancy curtains. According to the ST article above, the AS effect is just temporary, but you can imagine how people who have benefited from it would be compelled to fork out $1K every 6 months to maintain that sweet sac of succulence that makes as much difference to one’s eyes as a cleavage to a chest. AS wearing off would be like watching a bosom slowly deflating to its hideous, pre-op ‘flatness’, except that you can’t use modern undergarment technology to cover it up. If you can’t afford biannual injections or tightening your orbicularis oculi muscles for a permanent AS, it may be better to settle for invisible tape. Don’t by any means try to buff up your eyelids by lifting buckets of water with them, (though a man with eyelids stronger than my biceps would have an Instagram far more interesting than that of a Chinese bloke who gives himself a Japanese name)

It’s also strange how people are queasy about seeing the dentist, donating blood or even taking a fingerprick test, but have totally no qualms about getting a needle pierced just millimetres away from their eyeballs for the sake of beauty, or rather, when it comes to AS, LOVE. Such a pity that our ‘love handles’ aren’t deemed as pretty as these love ‘bands’ in our undereye areas, because most men my age have plenty of ‘love’ to give when it comes to the former.

Queen of Instagram promoting shallow, glitzy lifestyle

From ‘Glitzy lifestyle vs sheer inspiration’, 31 Aug 2013, various letters in Life!Mailbag

(Henry Lee): I refer to the article Queen Of Instagram (SundayLife!, Aug 25), highlighting the fashionista lifestyle of Singapore socialite Jamie Chua. It seems like an attempt to promote a narcissistic personality at best.

(Heng Lih Hooi): …Is Ms Jamie Chua aware that a small fraction of the money she spends on a Birkin bag can help a lot of less-blessed people in this world?

(Khoo Kiat Chin):…Queen Of Instagram seems to be shallow, promoting nothing other than a glitzy lifestyle that ordinary Singaporeans cannot afford. The promotion of such “materialistic mindsets” will only serve to further divide the haves and have-nots.

In a 2010 interview, Jaime Chua, then known as Jaime Cuaca, said she was ‘happy with the way she looked’ when asked about what facial feature she would like to change. She also defined beauty as ‘being herself without worrying about what others think.’ A teen model, ex SIA-stewardess, and regular user of intravenous Vitamin C, a very well-heeled Chua was then managing director of Manolo Blahnik, a Spanish luxury brand famous for $1000 stilettos.

This was her 3 years ago, a look that wouldn’t look out of place in Cold Storage, a Food Republic or HnM, much like Cantopop sweetheart Vivian Chow in my opinion. I’ll leave it to fans to judge whether or not she has done anything to her face since.

Chua was later embroiled in a divorce suit with Indonesian tycoon husband Nurdian Cuaca, where she sought almost half a million dollars in monthly maintenance. Today, she lives in a Merryn Road bungalow and reportedly has the largest collection of Birkin bags (each worth up to $65K) IN THE WORLD, beating the likes of Victoria Beckam. That’s enough dead cattle in there to feed a small African nation.

An ostentatious lifestyle isn’t all about pouting, preening and posing, attending high-society events or getting spa treatments and vitamin injections. This is a rare glimpse of Jaime doing some cleaning around the house. Who says tai tais don’t do housework? She’s also known to COOK. Over a stove!

The ‘Queen of Instagram‘ article is unbridled glamour porn, a ‘glitzkrieg’ of high-end name-dropping from ‘Chateau Lafite Rothschild’ wines to hair clips from ‘Alexandre de Paris’. Branded HAIRCLIPS. I wonder what toothpaste she uses. Maybe one that’s named after its creator like Vidal Sassoon shampoos.

Reality check, folks. Jaime’s not the only one living the high life out there, they’re privileged people living in $300 million bungalows and driving $5 million cars but just less social media-savvy or good-looking.  Deal with it, or view such lifestyles with bemusement rather than petty jealousy disguised as self-righteous contempt. If a billionaire shows off his Ferrari collection online we hardly blink, whereas if a tai-tai prances around with a fancy handbag, we bang the elitist drum and demand that she spends her money building nursing homes and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s instead. There are parents who treat their own daughters like princesses, yet when they meet an adult living like one, they complain that it’s the greatest injustice to humanity and suddenly realise there are poor, starving people in the world.

It’s unfortunate that the likes of Paris Hilton have given the job description of ‘socialite’ a bad name, a title that today brings to mind sexed-up, spoilt, loud, vainpot princesses who dress up, mingle, party, hook up with (and drop at a hat) rich bastards and don’t have to toil a single day of their lives other than polishing their jewel-encrusted leather babies; women who live their fairy-tale Cinderella dreams as Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s (incidentally Jaime’s favourite film). The male equivalent would be Richie Rich, or Scrooge McDuck.

The pejorative, anglicsied ‘tai-tai’, has been used since the 20’s, and generally referred to ‘married women’. ‘Socialite’ is just slightly less ancient in its origin, emerging in the 60’s, an era where rich women spent more time in salons gossiping than indulging in spas and occasionally promoted worthy causes, rather than building walk-in wardrobes that could house 3 generations of ordinary Singaporeans. Role model socialites were more entrepreneurs than ‘Instapreneurs’. Today, we pay more attention to how they groom their silky terriers than their contributions to society, if any at all.

Like Jaime Chua, socialite Christina Lee was involved in a high-profile divorce in the early 1960’s, with cinema magnate ex-husband Dato Loke Wan Tho settling with a $800K cheque for her maintenance. Three years later, she married American film producer Jeffrey Stone, and in the late 60’s had planned to launch SARONG island, Singapore’s first tourist isle and precursor to the Sentosa that we know today.  It’s also ironic that socialite and SPG, or ‘sarong party girl’, are used interchangeably these days, though you’re unlikely to put either on your business card (She divorced again in 1972 and went on to marry perfume maker Dadi Balsara. One of the products the pair created was called ‘Singapore Girl’).

Jaime’s Instagram timeline is a treasure trove of hedonistic excess, mostly boring fluff to the average dude but a fashion bible to the girl who desires only the finest things that money can buy. It’s the real-life ‘Princess Diaries’, a Cinderella catalogue for grown-ups and teens alike. This quote which Singapore’s most popular socialite posted sums up her attitude toward all her ‘stuff': ‘The best things in life are free, the second best are very expensive’. Spoken like a queen indeed.

Vertical kampung to be built in Woodlands

From ‘Woodlands to get vertical kampung’, 4 Aug 2013, article by Salma Khalik, Sunday Times

Residents in Woodlands will be the first in Singapore to experience the community feel of an integrated building with public facilities such as housing, health care and hawker centres all under one roof.

Planned, built and run by multiple government agencies – a first – this vertical “urban kampung”, as National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan calls it, will bring together the young and old to live, eat and play together.

At the bottom of the building will be a massive “town square” or community plaza, and at the top, 100 studio apartments for elderly singles or couples.

In between will be a medical centre with about 35 consultation rooms and options for day surgery, senior activity and childcare facilities, shops and watering holes, as well as roof-top decks that residents can turn into community gardens.

In land scarce Singapore, architects have long dreamed of building the city upwards and this idea of vertical ‘strata zoning’ isn’t new at all. Urban planners have fantasised of residents working and playing within the same ‘self-sufficient’ complex, a soaring monolith that combines community services like schools and medical centres interspersed with commercial zones and open spaces for interaction and line-dancing. Ideally, you wouldn’t need to step out of the building or take public transport at all. The kampung kids of the future may not even know what the ground smells like if this thing takes off.

Proponents of skyline living have christened vertical city models with names such as ‘Babel’ and ‘Arcosanti’. Jakarta may even be ahead of us in terms of embracing the vertical city concept, with their Peruri 88 project, which looks like badly stacked real-life Tetris. In a world where overcrowded megacities are building modern microcosms of themselves, Khaw Boon Wan’s description of future living as ‘vertical kampungs’ is like calling Spotify an ‘online jukebox’. My impression of such a ‘kampung’ is something similar to the Ewok village on the Forest Moon of Endor. How apt that it’s to be located in WOODLANDS, of all places.

Not the artist’s impression

Like the Woodlands project, concentrating the community was the main concept driver behind one ‘progressive’ housing/shopping design in the late 1960’s. This $16 million, 30-storey landmark building was to be the highest in Asia at the time. Even its name embodied the spirit of the design, though today it’s viewed more as an endearing ‘grand dame’ kind of relic known more for its traditional eateries and grimy massage parlours than the archetype of vertical housing. It’s name? People’s Park Complex.

Jump ahead 40 years and we started thinking again of the ‘future of public housing’. Completed in 2009, this award-winning structure has interlinked sky gardens, bridges that allowed residents to ‘sky-walk’ , flexible interiors and remains the tallest public housing project in Singapore at 48 stories high. I’m talking about the iconic Pinnacle@Duxton, of course, basically the yuppie cousin of what Khaw Boon Wan has in mind for Woodlands.

I’m not sure about living in the same complex as a hawker centre or a hospital, where one may be exposed to deep-fry odours one moment and the smell of death the next. Or knowing that it’s not just your karaoke-blaring neighbour from upstairs annoying you but a band performing in one of these ‘watering holes’. I’m already having trouble dealing with void deck weddings and funerals as it is. I don’t want an iMax theatre round the corner shaking my walls before I sleep. I want to have an address that the average taxi driver recognises and I can pronounce, unlike Compassvale Ancilla. I want a HOME, not a 40-storey sardine can, which is likely the case if the designers commissioned for this project honed their skills playing Tiny Tower on their handphones.

Meanwhile, one can only hope that a ‘vertical kampung’ would fetch ‘kampung prices’. At the rate that property prices are climbing, one might as well apply for a space colony on board a mothership than live in someone’s SimTower fantasy come true.

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