Schizophrenic NSman slapped with 14 extras before suicide jump

From ‘Coroner rules out foul play in NSF’s death’, 12 April 2014, article in CNA

A Coroner’s report has ruled out foul play in the death of a 22-year-old man who was serving national service last year. Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Pte Ganesh Pillay – who has schizophrenia – was found dead at the foot of his condominium in Sengkang last July.

His father has raised concerns over how the army deals with soldiers with mental conditions. The Coroner’s Court heard that Pte Ganesh’s supervisor did not know the full extent – and effects – of schizophrenia.

…Pte Ganesh was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18. But his father said his son’s condition had stabilised with medication. He said: “When the army told him that he cannot be exempted, but he will be downgraded to PES E, I was rest assured that the army will take care of him. I trusted the army.

“In fact, I trusted that much to the very last day. I still have that trust, until the time he died, then I start to figure out what went wrong.” On the day Pte Ganesh died, he was unwell and had returned home from camp.

His supervisor — Captain Jessie Goh — had earlier issued Pte Ganesh with 14 extra duties as punishment for, among other things, unsatisfactory work and improper bearing. Mr Reganathan said Captain Goh seemed oblivious to his son’s condition.

In a similar suicide case in 1979, Cpl Tan Cheng Eyong leapt to his death 2 days after consultation with a camp psychiatrist. He had obsessive-compulsive neurosis and ‘reactive depression’, a disorder reportedly triggered by his O Level exams.  A 1987 report on the incidence of mental illness among NSmen revealed that between 400 and 500 required psychiatric help each year, of which 10 to 15% suffered from schizophrenia, 30-35% with ‘stress related conditions’ and the rest from ‘depression, anxiety, HOMOSEXUALITY and various other NEUROSES’.   What was less reported in the 80′s was the phenomenon known as ‘possession-trance’, (40 cases referred to Woodbridge from 1979 to 1981) where the authors of a study published in 1986 discussed the effect of a stressful life event like NS on this ‘hysterical dissociation’. I would expect the rates of mental illness to be higher today, though it’s unlikely that there are any official statistics on this matter. Most boys escape NS unscathed of course, but some, like Ganesh, may have flown way over the cuckoo’s nest.

Ex military psychiatrist and colonel Ang Yong Guan identified schizophrenia as the MOST COMMON psychotic illness among NSmen, with only a minority of those diagnosed able to qualify to work in non-combat positions provided their disease was under control. 19 year old Julius Chan, today a peer specialist dealing with mental patients, wanted to pursue priesthood and avoid NS. He ‘prayed a lot, asking God to take away this time’ for him, went too far, suffered a schizoid breakdown and was eventually exempted from conscription. The most well known case of an NSman going berserk is Dave Teo, who went AWOL with a SAR21 rifle and ammo after his girlfriend broke up with him and eventually jailed for 9 years. He was suffering from behavioral problems including suicidal thoughts and depression, and also ‘began to HEAR VOICES of people who were not there’, aural hallucinations being one of the signs of schizophrenia. Thankfully, no one was massacred in Orchard Road where Dave was caught.

Then there are the other neurological diseases. Jonathan Lim Chong Ping, who drowned in the Singapore River over Christmas in 2013, had sought treatment for ‘adjustment disorder’ while serving NS.  Harmoko Julianus, 22, was suffering a relapse of bipolar disorder when he made a bomb hoax at the British embassy and only exempted from NS after the incident. Maybe the best management of mental disorders in young men is not helplines or risperidone, but a PES F status, whereby you’re medically unfit for any kind of service altogether.

Andy Ho of ST believes that NS, which takes the schizophrenic away from his family, stigmatises and punishes him for symptoms of his illness, should be exempted altogether (Exempt these young men from NS, 13 April 2014, Sunday Times). In any case, is clerical work so important that we need to desperately fill these vocations with boys with mental illness if we have to? What’s the value of fulfilling NS obligations for the sake of it if they don’t do anything productive or in Ganesh’s case, make things worse?

It is not clear when exactly an 18 year old Ganesh became schizophrenic, but only a study examining the onset of schizophrenia among Singaporean men will provide some insight as to whether the regimental rigours of NS has anything to do with aggravating the disease, adjusting for other factors such as family history. Any researcher, however, would be MAD to even propose such a hypothesis for a complex disorder, one that happens to manifest around the same time as NS enlistment. Also, we don’t have a base of non-enlisted men to compare to since NS is mandatory. A 1968 study by Steinberg and Durrell, however, showed a striking increase in admissions for schizophrenia among men joining the US Army, especially within the first month. Those include men who WILLINGLY signed up for war.

What’s unacceptable here is that for such a prevalent mental disorder among NSmen, someone of the rank of Captain would have totally no clue about what schizophrenia means. It doesn’t help that society also often downplays the term ‘schizophrenic’ as reference to anything that’s ‘unpredictable’ or mixes it up with ‘multiple/split personality’. Singapore’s Urbanism has been described as ‘schizophrenic’, and artist David Chan calls his exhibition about humans with animal heads ‘Hybrid Society: Schizophrenia‘.  It has also been misused to describe spouses, friends or bosses who are ‘extremely temperamental’. To an uninformed layperson like Jessie Goh, a ‘schizo’ attack may not be any more severe than someone throwing a really bad tantrum.

One of the extras dished out to Ganesh was for ‘failure to sign a logbook’. To lash out 14 extras on a human being, schizophrenic or not, is also a sign of mental disturbance, that of a sadistic psychopath. And there are probably more of these in the military than people hearing voices and thinking of killing themselves. The commando head dunker, the dog abuser, or the encik who insults your mother. Maybe all these nuts should get their heads checked as well.

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Alcohol ‘sin tax’ increasing by 25 percent

From ‘Alcohol suffers stiffest hike among ‘sin taxes’, 22 Feb 2014, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

BARFLIES absorbed the sobering news yesterday that they will have to dig deeper to pay for drinks, with an increase on alcohol tax by 25 per cent. In the first such hike in a decade, the tax on wine and spirits goes up to $88 per litre of alcohol content, and for beer, to $60 per litre of alcohol content, with immediate effect.

It is the heftiest of the hikes on the so-called sin taxes, with cigarette levies also up by 10 per cent and betting duty rates up to 30 per cent from 25 per cent. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday that the move is “in line with our social objective of avoiding excessive consumption or indulgence in these areas”.

…Lawyer Ranjan Indiran, 32, who spends $300 on drinks on weekends, argues that a person with an alcohol problem will not stop drinking just because alcohol is more expensive. “He will channel more money towards his drinking habit and he and his family will just be worse off,” he said.

The hikes on alcohol will net the Government $120 million more a year. Cigarette and tobacco levies will add $70 million and betting, $255 million.

In Feb 2006, PM Lee decided ‘reluctantly’ against increased taxes on tobacco because it didn’t make Singaporeans smoke less, but smuggle more. Unlike previous years, 2006 was an exception as hikes were frozen for booze and cigarettes, and offering a reprieve to drinkers and smokers didn’t seem ‘in line with the social objective’. 3 months later, the General Election was held. Another objective took precedence over public health then.

Though betting tax from lotteries also went up to 30%, no mention was made of the biggest generators of ‘sin’ money, the IRs. For elder hardcore addicts who qualify for the Pioneer Package, the payouts may come in useful. For rich expats who can afford a Jewel of Pangaea or those hobnobbing at F1 parties, this hike is a mere drop in their ocean of excess. The increase comes across as an opportunistic one following the fallout of the Little India Riot which made a convenient villainy out of alcohol. If a gambling addict is willing to pay $100 to enter a casino multiple times, an increase in at least 40 cents for a bottle of Tiger at the kopitiam is not going to make anyone quit the habit overnight. You may, however, think twice if you are a social drinker, and maybe that alone would be enough to make the difference between going home sober, or ending up in jail for drunk driving.

If you’re dead serious about public health and want to help those who really need to quit, you would have heeded the advice of SANA in the 1970s, when they advocated DOUBLING of the same sin taxes. You would curb the sprawl of ‘nightlife’ spots and impose some form of Preservation of Public Order Bill everywhere and not just Little India to clamp down on liquor/tobacco sales and rowdy behaviour. You would have stricter punishments for anyone caught with contraband, which incidentally spiked to 46,300 cases just in the first half of 2013 alone. You also wouldn’t try to sell off confiscated vodka at 75 cents per bottle as the Singapore Customs did in 2004. In 2003,  Dr Warren Lee, MP for Sembawang, suggested that there be a COE for cigarettes, an idea that itself sounds like it was conceived, well, ‘under the influence’.

The message sent from the sin tax increase may be borne out of good intentions, but I doubt it’ll serve its ‘official’ purpose. It just means poorer, not less, smokers and drinkers, but more revenue and ‘more good years’ for everyone else.

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.

National Stadium should be named after Lee Kuan Yew

From various letters, 16 Nov 2013, ST Forum

(Kong Peng Sun):…Had it not been for one of our founding fathers, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we would not have our nation and stadium today. He has sacrificed a lot for this country, leading it to be so successful economically and able to stand tall even among the developed and advanced countries. There is no bigger way to honour Mr Lee than to name our stadium after him.

(David Tan Kok Kheng):…When the original National Stadium was officially opened in 1973 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, it was seen not only as a move towards a more sporting nation but also a step forward in nation building.  If there is one single personality who comes to mind when we think about the building of this nation, be it economically, socially, in education or even sports, it is Mr Lee.

(Lim Teck Meng):…The Grandstand (West) could be the Choo Seng Quee Grandstand, after our most successful mastermind who created our super team and started our unique Kallang Roar.

The Main Gallery Stand (East) could be named after our most famous footballing son, Fandi Ahmad. Till today, there is no footballer like him who has given fans lots of memories with his fantastic performances.

The Northern Stand could be dubbed the Majid Ariff Stand, after “Mr Twinkle Toes” who is our only footballer to have made it to the Asian All-Stars team.

The Southern Stand could be the Dollah-Kim Song Stand, after Dollah Kassim and Quah Kim Song for the moment that epitomised the Kallang Roar days: In extra time of the 1977 Malaysia Cup Final, Dollah crossed to Quah to score, allowing Singapore to beat Penang and bring back the Malaysia Cup after a long hiatus.

Our ex-premier has been named after many prestigious awards, the World City Prize included, but has yet to even have a street, or MRT station named after him. Some have called for a capital in Singapore to be named ‘Leekuanyew City‘, among other viable proposals such as a hospital and even our beloved Changi airport. A public amenity like a spanking new stadium shouldn’t have any issues with branding if you decide to name it after an important person instead of sticking to sentimental, marketable monikers like the ‘Grand Old Dame’ or ‘Kallang Stadium’. One may argue, however, if honouring a powerhouse politician over sporting legend is taking the piss on local sports. You also risk having critics of nonagenarian ministers mocking the stadium as the ‘Grand Old FART’ instead.

Naming parts of the new stadium after famous footballers sounds like a decent idea if we can’t decide on anyone ‘big’ enough to fit the bill, except that the National Stadium, or Singapore, is not all about football and we might not be fair to sportsmen who actually made it to the Olympics, like Tan Howe Liang for instance. ‘Dollah-Kim Song’ also sounds more like a Korean rapper than a striking partnership. LKY aside, EW Barker has also been suggested for his contributions to sporting complexes in housing estates. But if you’re deadset on choosing a leader who spearheaded sports on an administrative level, you’re forgetting one particular person – someone who came up with the idea of having a National Stadium in the first place.

According to the SSC Sports Museum history of the National Stadium, the construction of the original National Stadium would not have been possible if not for money raised from the national lottery. Between 1968 and 1976, more than $20 million was raised. The operator was Singapore Pools, the lottery games were Toto and Singapore Sweep, and the minister who came up with the brilliant idea (inspired by the Bulgarians) of building a stadium using Singaporeans’ gambling money was none other than Othman Wok.

In 1965, Encik Wok, then Social Affairs Minister, argued for a stadium of ‘Olympic’ standards in Kallang to help put Singapore at the forefront of international sport. As the chairman of the Singapore National Olympic Council, he launched the Singapore Sports Awards in 1967 to recognise sporting excellence. Tasked with the ‘toughest job in sports’, Wok himself was a sportsman in his own right, a hockey player and rugby captain back in RI. I can’t imagine LKY indulging in any team events other than fist-shaking debating. Or even kicking a chapteh about for that matter.

In 1971, Wok introduced the National Stadium Corporation Bill in Parliament, which laid the groundwork not just for the physical stadium infrastructure but the future of Singapore sports. Fans of F1 should note that he was also an avid supporter of the Singapore Grand Prix back in 1967. Punters should be reminded that without Wok and his vision for a National Stadium, we’d have no TOTO too. The man has even met Football God PELE in person, which alone should be sufficient reason to give Wok the edge over LKY, Barker or football personalities from Fandi to supersub Steven Tan if you want to name the stadium after someone who’s done more for sport than merely give a speech on its opening day.

The Othman Wok Stadium has a nice ring to it and if I had the chance I’d vote him in. Let’s save LKY for bigger things. I hear Changi Airport’s Terminal 5 would be ready by 2020.

Wok this way

Singapore not a cruise ship, but a sampan 2.0

From ‘Singapore remains a sampan, but an upgraded one’, 31 Oct 2013, article by Sumiko Tan, ST

SINGAPORE will be in trouble if it thinks it has arrived and can afford to relax, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated yesterday. The country is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenceless as it used to be, it must continue to be on its toes and work hard to improve.

Speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his official visit to France, he said “my eyes popped out” when he read a commentary in The Straits Times likening Singapore today to a cruise ship.

Commentator Koh Buck Song had argued in Monday’s Opinion pages that Singapore politicians’ oft-used metaphor of the country as a sampan, easily tossed about by the waves of global competition, was no longer valid. He said it risked promoting small-mindedness and cramping national self-confidence and ambition.

Instead, Mr Koh said, Singapore was more like a well-oiled cruise ship that caters to every need. As it offers the smoothest of journeys, passengers can relax because they feel secure, he added.

Mr Lee, however, warned: “Once you think you are in a cruise ship and you are on a holiday and everything must go swimmingly well and will be attended to for you, I think you are in trouble.

“We are small, we are not as poor as we used to be, we are not defenceless, we are able to fend for ourselves and to make a living for ourselves, and we are better off than before, and I think that we need to keep on working hard, to continue improving.” As to what might be a more appropriate metaphor, he said with a laugh: “I think we have upgraded our sampan. It’s sampan 2.0.”

This is my sampan, this is my land, this is my future, this is my life

It’s not just politicians using the sampan analogy to refer to our vulnerability when things get rough and we are forced to ‘weather the storm‘. A ‘prominent economist’ described Singapore as one which would sink if a ‘few monkeys’ jumped on board. A writer for a city guide to Singapore titled Cultureshock! refers to us as a ‘canoe’, not a steamship afloat on the ocean. Perhaps we may consider an alternative form of naval transport between the two extremes, that Singapore is more like a catamaran instead, a vessel owned by only rich people that doesn’t keel over in choppy waves, but will be ripped to shreds in a tsunami, or by Jaws.

In 1972, PM Lee’s father gave a stern warning to bank union workers not to ROCK THE BOAT if they wanted to share in Singapore’s prosperity, echoing S Rajaratnam who a year earlier used the same expression on minorities promoting ‘chauvinism’.  In his later years, LKY believed Singapore had grown enough room and speed to qualify as a PLANE that cannot afford to go on ‘auto-pilot’, and here his son is undermining that image by referring to our country as sampan 2.0, without specifying what exactly has been upgraded or what bugs have been eliminated. Judging from the spate of flash floods of late, we know the leaks in the boat are still there, and the captains haven’t changed one bit since the sampan came into existence. What has changed, though not necessarily for the better, is that our sampan has gotten prettier, pricier but WAY HEAVIER over the years. If it doesn’t capsize due to turbulence, it could very well just sink under its own weight. If the sampan had a name it would be called The Greedy Sardine.

In Koh Buck Song’s piece (Sink the Old Sampan, 30 Oct 2013), he explains the ‘small cruise ship’ comparison in terms of on board recreational facilities (Zouk, casinos), efficient services, cosmopolitan population, an endless variety of activities to cater to every need and bizarrely, for ‘lifelong learning’, which makes sense if you’re the type who spends half a day in the ship library rather than go out there and play bingo with aunties. I for one would rather be stuck in a tub with a ladle for a paddle than go on a cruise. Luxury liners also happen to be heavy polluters, hosts to cheesy cabaret shows where entertainers drag you into a ridiculous conga line, and you can’t stroll the boardwalk in peace without bumping into sweaty fat passengers wearing skimpy trunks that leave little to the imagination carrying a sloppy club sandwich in one hand and a dripping Cornetto in the other.

Maybe PM’s eyes wouldn’t ‘pop out’ so much if Koh Buck Song had compared us to one particular cruise ship known for something other than 24 hour dining or casinos; The Love Boat.

Protruding stones a danger to MacRitchie visitors

From ‘Dangerous obstacles along MacRitchie Trail’, 14 Sept 2013, ST Forum

(Larry Quah Chai Koon):ON JULY 12, I was exercising at the MacRitchie nature trail when my foot struck a protruding stone. I lost my balance and flew forward, crashing onto my left shoulder. I fractured my left collarbone, cracked two ribs and suffered multiple lacerations on my body.

The incident happened at a downhill segment of the trail, leading to the TreeTop Walk and parallel to the Singapore Island Country Club service road. This stretch is not only undulating but also full of short tree stumps, protruding roots and stones.

I have heard of other accidents along this trail that left visitors injured. Feedback has been given to the National Parks Board but it seems that no action has been taken to clear the obstacles.

I understand that the nature trail has to be left untouched as much as possible, but maintenance should be undertaken to remove protruding stones, branches and roots that may pose a danger to visitors.

auaecs.jpg

This isn’t the first time that a jogger/hiker at MacRItchie reservoir has complained about Mother Nature being a terrorising bitch and requesting that the authorities do something about it.  In 1975, a ‘Michael Lee’ took issue with the forest paths which were overly ‘undulating’ and its small pools of water being an ‘ideal place’ for mosquito breeding. Jogging in the forest seems like the perfect escapist activity for exercise enthusiasts who want something rugged and is the closest thing to an ‘extreme’ sport in a country where you can’t ski or go spelunking in caves. When a jogger falls down in the forest, unlike the tree of the beloved Zen koan, he makes the loudest noise. Even if nothing happens to him physically, he could get lost in MacRitchie. For up to 18 HOURS. Even I could have completed a full marathon by then.

I’m not sure how one goes about removing ‘protruding stones’. They could be the tip of an embedded boulder and would need a drill or chainsaw to skim off. Overdo the rock removal and you may get uneven pitting, which may not only trip people up but breed mosquitoes too. Pulling out roots may not be a good idea either. You may avoid tripping over them and suffer multiple lacerations, but in place of that you could also get crushed to death if the destabilised tree collapses on you. But why are you worried about stumbling over rocks when there are other malicious perils that lurk in the wild? How about slipping on MUD while downslope? Or worse, a smooth, wayward TWIG? Don’t get me started on fallen leaves. Those things are the worst, you could have centipedes clinging to your socks if you dash through them.

Curiously enough, ‘Larry Quah Chai Khoon’ has written to the ST about wildlife previously. In 2005, he complained about a dog killing a cat, a year later on people feeding monkeys , and in 2007 ticked off a bunch of noisy kids in a roti prata restaurant (which drew the wrath of blogger ‘Blabberbutt‘). In April this year he expressed concern about mercury in energy saving bulbs (How to dispose of energy saving bulbs?25 April 2013, My Point, ST Forum). If these complainants are in fact the same person, then he seems like someone who genuinely appreciates environmental conservation from a comfortable distance, but disapproves of killer tree stumps and jagged stones when he starts getting up close and personal with the gritty reality of nature. Wild boars are nothing compared to these clandestine death traps, which pose a tricky hurdle even to NParks rangers on Brompton bikes.

Part of the thrill of forest running is ‘overcoming’ such natural ‘obstacles’ after all, otherwise you’re better off strolling in Bishan Park or catching butterflies in a wide open field. Adventure comes with a price, and If stones alone bother you, then imagine what God’s creatures could do to make your Sunday jog as stressful as outrunning bulls at the Pamplona festival , like being attacked by a stray PYTHON, a swarm of hornets or a swooping VULTURE.

A response by a member of the Nature Society in 1983 neatly summed up the sensible attitude that one should adopt when engaging in any form of forest activity, that the ‘wild’ should be treated with ‘respect, COMMON SENSE and caution’. And oh yes – to keep your damn eyes open for wily stones too. I suppose that would fall under the category of ‘common sense’, no?

Postscript: In a Sunday Times article (Leave nature trail alone, 22 Sept 2013) 65 year old MacRitchie enthusiast Larry Quah was interviewed following the brickbats in response to his complaint. And this is a shot of where a protruding stone got the better of him.

Rock on, Larry

Rock on, Larry

He has also been reservoir running since he was 16 and clarified that he was referring to only a specific danger area of the trail. He also admitted to the press that he was distracted while brisk-walking because he was CHATTING WITH A FRIEND. So now we know, it wasn’t ENTIRELY the ROCK’s fault after all!

The article ended with the following quote from the man himself:

I still love the challenge of the trail, the undulating terrain and the fresh air on my morning walks

 Steady as a rock, this Larry.

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.

LKY on death and mediocrity

From ‘Singapore’s Lee says he wants a quick death’, 7 Aug 2013, AFP article in insing

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who will turn 90 next month, said in a new book published Tuesday that he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.

“Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit,” he wrote in the book “One Man’s View of the World”.

…”There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach,” he wrote.

…Singapore’s low birth rate has forced the government to open the country to foreigners, who now comprise a third of the population. The influx, however, has sparked protests from citizens and prompted the government to tighten immigration flows in recent years.

Lee pointed to the example of Japan, which he said is on a “stroll into mediocrity” as the ranks of its elderly swell due to young couples not producing enough babies.

Well, I suppose everybody desires a quick and painless death, including founding fathers, though for LKY he may choose to succumb to it only if he’s willing to let go of his baby, our Singapore. In 1988, he famously declared at the National Day Rally that:

Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.

A quote that has often been misinterpreted as LKY RISING from the grave. Like a zombie. Our ex MM has been the victim of a couple of hoax deaths himself, none of which imply a ‘quick and painless’ one as he so desires, though some opponents would wish him the exact opposite.

Today, he appears to want to spend as little time on a ‘sick bed’ as far as possible. To LKY, death is, in other words, Retirement and playing Scrabble, while most of us look forward to the end of work as a reason to rejoice, to LIVE. In 2008 after suffering from an atrial flutter, he said that he would not live beyond 94 as his father did, and attributed longevity to his parents’ genes in addition to an abstemious lifestyle of repetitive exercise and spartan eating, a routine some would deem to be worse than death itself.

Despite his intolerance for mediocrity like one’s revulsion of the plague, there’s every possibility that LKY’s inevitable demise will be as ‘mediocre’ as the rest of humanity. In 1976, he set out his criteria on Government job candidates:

…I don’t defend rudeness. I don’t defend arrogance. I don’t defend mediocrity. I don’t defend the desire to do the minimum and get by.

In 2007, he even used mediocrity to justify why First World Nordic countries like FInland and Denmark paid their ministers less than those in Singapore.

…He (Low Thia Khiang) has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Their systems and governments never produced the kind of transformation that we have, and their system and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government.

So much for this medicore ‘Swiss standard of living’ then. Naturally you would have Scandinavians retorting to LKY’s remark with the ‘Nokia’ argument.

He kept up the defence of his stance of only having the best in 2008, when he said:

If they (Government) do not find talented people with the drive, energy, integrity and passion, then the future is in doubt. The system cannot cope with inadequate, mediocre men. You need top men, able men.

Alas, you can’t have a functioning society without mediocre people taking up mediocre work to serve the cream of the crop. To us it’s a ‘normal’, even ‘average’, day job, be it operating cranes or running a hawker stall. To LKY, mediocrity is a euphemism for physical and intellectual laziness. From the way he describes Japan’s ‘elderly swell’ like a fetid tumour, it appears he has little faith in the ‘silver economy’ as well.

Mediocrity may also be defined as being nothing ‘out of the ordinary’, so if Japan is ‘strolling towards mediocrity’, then Singapore, if she continues with the same system of government, policies, education, housing and arcane laws,  is steadily ‘brisk-walking’ towards it.  A template city with a makeshift citizen core that has lost its soul, a mediocre shell of what it aspires to be, that even she herself would commit seppuku just to get it over and done with.

It’s unlikely that ‘One Man’s View’ will be the elder statesman’s swansong and he may be waiting out for that ultimate autobiography of autobiographies to deliver his final chapter on himself, on Singapore. If he’s right about the 94 year deadline, then that last book, a potential record-breaking blockbuster (especially if unfinished), will be 4 years in the making. Fifty Shades of Lee, perhaps?

Sham marriages is big business in Singapore

From ‘More convicted over sham marriages’, 28 July 2013, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Immigration authorities are cracking down on those involved in sham marriages, with 139 people convicted in court in the first half of this year. This is a sharp jump from the 89 people dealt with in court for the whole of last year, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Sunday Times.

The increase follows stepped-up enforcement by the ICA against marriages of convenience, where a Singaporean marries a foreigner to enable the latter to enter or remain in Singapore. Middlemen who arrange such unions were also among those convicted.

…The Sunday Times understands that women entering into such marriages are usually from China and Vietnam, and they marry Singaporeans to extend their stays here. They often come as tourists, but want to find work here. Some find their “husbands” on their own, while others go through middlemen, who include Singaporeans and foreigners.

The women pay the middlemen, who in turn pay the bogus Singaporean bridegrooms. The men – mostly manual workers or jobless – are often paid between $2,000 and $5,000 for their part in the scam. On top of that sum, some men also receive a few hundred dollars more for each visa extension obtained after the marriage is registered. The couples in these marriages usually live apart and no sex is involved.

…Under the new law, those found guilty face up to 10 years’ jail or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

…Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan noted that sham marriages have been going on for years and syndicates are often involved as it’s “big business”...He has a Vietnamese client in her 20s who felt she needed more time than her tourist visa allowed to find a good Singaporean man to marry. To extend her stay, she agreed to go through a sham marriage and paid a Singaporean less than $1,000.

“The irony is that she had a fake marriage in order to find a real one,” he said.

Lawyer Hri Kumar Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, welcomed the crackdown on sham marriages, but warned of a downside. He said: “Because the ICA now has to impose rigorous criteria and checks to ensure that marriages are not sham, it affects genuine marriages as well.

“Some in genuine marriages are finding it difficult to secure long-term stays for their spouses. This creates uncertainty for the couple and makes it difficult for them to plan a family.”

In 2011, 1 out of 5 marriages was between a Singaporean and a foreign spouse. No one can know for sure how many of these were ‘genuine’ marriages, nor is it easy to define a ‘marriage of convenience’. For example, would you call arranged marriages or shotgun weddings ‘marriages of convenience’? Yet both are perfectly legal even if there’s no love involved. If such a union leads to sex and babies, is it still a sham marriage if the purpose of having babies is to grant one a Long Term Visit Pass? Last year, China nationals bore Singaporean men twice the number of babies (2034) compared to 2000 (1122)(Fewer kids with both parents from Singapore, 21 July 2013, Sunday Times). We assume these are ‘genuine’ cases because people only have babies with those they love, no?

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 11.55.26 AM

I’m thinking the ICA data is an underestimate, and you can probably get away with a sham marriage without ever sharing the same bed with someone as long as you play ball with your partner in crime.  Conversely, a ‘genuine’ marriage is one that should involve some degree of sacrifice and consummation, preferably leading to babies which our government will welcome happily with open arms. And yes, you’re supposed to love each other till death do you part as well. In other words, a fairy tale wedding.

Men who seek foreign brides for ‘love’ have given reasons such as loneliness, family pressure, or blame Singaporean women for being too pampered or materialistic while foreign brides have less expectations and are better at cooking or foot massages.  The guy gets a girl who doesn’t nag him to death, the girl gets someone to look after her and a chance to escape from a miserable home country to become Singaporean eventually. It’s a win-win situation. It becomes a crime if you’re entering the marriage just for money. Oh, wait. Hmm.

Sham marriages, or ‘marriages of convenience’ as euphemistically termed, have been recorded as early as the late 50′s. In 1975, a shoemaker and a Dutch national were caught in a MOC, the former not even knowing what his wife’s name was at the time. They married in 1956 and never saw each other again after they registered their union. In 1969, a Hong Kong woman was charged for corruption after marrying a local widower so that she may apply for permanent residency. In the same year,a local labourer filed for divorce, exposing his MOC to an Indonesian woman in the process because his wife refused to have sex with him until she got her IC. Taiwanese entertainer Chen Chin Pei was declared an illegal immigrant after being accused of contracting a MOC with a local man for a PR status in 1987. More recently, Chinese immigrant Lin Yanmei was probed by the CPIB for MOC with a cleaner. She was also hanging out in hotels with another man whom she called her ‘godfather’.

Not all MOCs are initiated by foreigners who want an extended stay in exchange for marriage. In 1975, a local clerk married a teacher whom she did not love because she wanted to ‘get away from home’. Some Singaporeans marry just to land a HDB flat. Supermodels or Playboy bunnies marry old tycoons who are only capable of consummation with urinary catheters. I could marry a woman whose father is a powerful politician to get ahead in my career, a roundabout, perfectly legal way of getting paid for marrying someone I do not love nor want to have children with. Yet a low-wage male worker desperate for money, in the hope of some female company on the side even if he knows it’s all fake, stands to face jail-time for agreeing to an indecent proposal while his wife fools around as some rich bloke’s mistress so that she can afford to keep the scam alive.

Or you can choose to believe Hollywood that some good may come out of bogus marriages after all. In the case of movies like Green card and The Proposal, that ‘good’ is called love. But sappy endings aside, in the case of Sandra Bullock’s character in the Proposal, a high-flying immigrant professional marries a local out of convenience to attain permanent residency. I doubt the same crackdown would apply to ‘foreign talents’ in a similar position here, though it’s likely that if you’re a foreign-born billionaire we’re more than happy to make you a Singaporean without you having to bear the inconvenience (or is it convenience?) of marrying anyone anyway.

 

Tiger Airways ditching leaping tiger logo

From ‘Tiger Airways rebranded to claw market share’, 4 July 2013, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

BUDGET carrier Tiger Airways has ditched its leaping tiger and changed its name to Tigerair – all part of a major rebranding to boost market size and shareholder value.

The changes are not just cosmetic, said group chief executive officer Koay Peng Yen, as he unveiled the new look at Changi Airport yesterday.

“Customers who fly with us understand that we are not providing five-star service or fine dining. We are your hawker centre, but even as a hawker centre, you have to do things well,” he said.

If Tigerair is a ‘hawker centre’, then it shouldn’t matter what you do to your logo as long as you fly at dirt cheap prices does it? I’m also supposed get my food (i.e board a flight) FASTER at a hawker centre compared to  fine dining. Koay’s toothless analogy for budget services is similar to that of a Tiger Australia spokesperson who remarked that ‘You can’t expect a champagne experience on a beer budget’. For some companies, you’re likely to get the tap water experience for the price of beer.

Marketing experts claim that unlike household brands like Apple or Nike, dropping the pouncing tiger icon will not make a difference to customers who recognise airlines by name and quality of service rather than mascot artwork.  Others felt that the previous logo was a little ‘brash’ and ‘in-your-face’, like the cover of a box of ‘penis pills‘. Rival carrier AirAsia mocked the Tiger concept in 2010, releasing a full page ad that read ‘If Tigers were meant to Fly, they would be born with wings’. But who says you can’t have a land animal as a plane mascot? Here’s a sample of international carriers with animal logos OTHER than birds or Pegasuses.

Cheetah or Leopard, I’m not sure

Oryx. If your child can name this animal under ‘O’ instead of ‘Ox’, he’s a genius.

Dolphin Air is based in Dubai. DUBAI

But of course..

Not many bother to scrutinise our very own SIA’s logo to realise that it’s in fact a yellow bird, an icon that has been PATENTED since 1977 as part of the company trademark known as the SIA and BIRD DEVICE. In 1981, SIA took legal action against a US airline for using a design that uncannily resembles ours, the infringing party claiming that they’ve never heard of SIA nor seen its logo. Today, with our Singapore Girl in her sarong kebaya being the face the airline, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a yellow bird, Merlion or a seahorse on the plane’s tail fin( I always thought it was a stylised letter ‘Z’ though). Till this day, no one has identified what kind of bird it’s supposed to be, though it’s obviously a far cry from our ‘national bird’, the Crane.

‘Tiger’ as a brand name is rumoured to be the brainwave of RyanAir founder Tony Ryan’s seven-year old grandson. Other sources say it came from the old Malayan Airlines flying tiger logo, which doesn’t look out of place on a 70′s futurist prog-rock band’s album cover . If Tiger had stuck to this mutant flying beast with  WINGS and all (which also looks like the work of a 7 year old),  AirAsia would have had nothing to pick on.

With a name like Tiger, you’re asking for puns galore with or without the big cat on your logo. 10 years ago, Mr Brown imagined beer girls in minis on deck asking ‘Ai Lim Tiger, Mai?’. A year later, a ‘Catfight’ broke out between Tiger Airways and a UK company of the same name. The carrier ‘ROARS’ into new destinations and threatens to MAUL its competitors with cheaper rates. If you make it to senior management in the company, you’ve earned your ‘stripes’ (also the name of its VIP club). On it’s 8th anniversary in 2012, Tiger held a DEN party at Changi Airport T2. Even its inflight magazine is called ‘Tiger Tales’. I wonder if you get a tummy ache on board after eating their food they’d give you Tiger Balm. No, those puns aren’t going away with the rebranding. They’ll always CLAW their way back somehow.

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