Son of Punggol and Darryl David as AMK GRC contenders

From ‘Potential candidates seen on the ground’, 26 July 15, article by Wong Siew Ying and Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times

…Over at Cheng San Community Club, two potential PAP candidates mingled with residents from Ang Mo Kio GRC at a Hari Raya celebration. They were Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design deputy director Darryl David and colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon.

…Dr Koh lost in the 2013 Punggol East by-election to the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Ms Lee Li Lian. The experience has given him a “psychological prep” and has minimised the “shell-shocked factor”, he said, adding that the ability to understand issues that are of concern to residents is also an advantage.

Dr Koh seems to be taking a different tack from his rags to riches sob story when he was running for Punggol East SMC 2 years ago, where he called himself a ‘Son of Punggol’ and told everyone how he had only $12 in his bank account at one stage of his life. This time round, he’s selling his medical profession as a ‘touchpoint’ for different strata of society, under the umbrella of the PM’s GRC. Pity he didn’t have another go at Punggol though, where he can strike out on his own, as he once proclaimed (I’m my own man!). His sense of toilet humour would have provided us all with some…campaign entertainment.

The colorectal surgeon was once caught on video single-handedly unclogging drains of dead leaves during a flash flood, which would have been great PR if he hadn’t mentioned the word ‘ponding’. Getting shit out of holes with bare hands is all in a day’s work for him really. Come on, how many MPs do you actually see sticking their fingers into longkangs?

Truth is, our Prime Minister seems to fancy this guy, and by swaddling the Son of Punggol in a 6-member GRC, he’s much less likely to get the crap kicked out of him, not to mention ‘shell-shocked’. Defeat is impossible in the AMK stronghold. You don’t just send in any Opposition A-team into this GRC. You send goddamn Spartans. For those who followed his 2013 campaign trail, we probably already know all there is to know about his kampung days, and giggled enough at the endless shit puns that he had to suffer with. Now, tell us all a good fart joke Dr Koh!

Darryl David, first making a name of himself as the host of the long defunct Pyramid Game, is an interesting choice. As a former celebrity, his life and career in the entertainment scene is likely to come under the spotlight. If he gets on board with the PAP ticket, he’ll probably be the only candidate to have ever acted on a Mediacorp sitcom (Happy Belly). He also joins the list of mixed-race, articulate, good-looking politicians, including former NMP Eunice Olsen (who once worked on Wheel of Fortune) and ex-Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer. This guy looks set to go on a charm offensive, which is what the PAP thinks the ground needs. Be afraid. Be Belly Afraid.

You’ve got served

Incidentally, Dr Koh is the medical director for Capstone Colorectal Surgery. According to the website intro, a capstone is defined as the topmost stone of a structure such as a PYRAMID. Coincidence?

EBRC not transparent about boundary changes

From ‘More detailed explanation needed to fend off gerrymandering claims’, 25 July 15, article by Siau Ming En, CNA.

Noting that the boundary changes announced on Friday (Jul 24) were not drastic, political analysts nevertheless felt the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee should explain in greater detail the rationale behind its decisions to fend off perennial accusations of gerrymandering from the Opposition.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said the generic reasons given for the redrawing of boundaries, which include taking into consideration population shifts and housing developments, still leave many questioning how they were done.

“Because sometimes voters are unable to explain or even observers are unable to explain why the boundaries were redrawn the way that they are, that fact lends itself to possible criticisms of gerrymandering,” he said.

The committee said it “reviewed all the existing electoral divisions, taking into account their current configurations, population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary delineation exercise”. It also followed guidelines by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to reduce the average size of the GRC to fewer than five members, and have at least 12 single-seat wards.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong said: “Insofar as the committee does not provide clear and detailed reasons for its changes, it will trigger speculation and conspiracy theories — which may or may not be justifiable or grounded in truth — about the reasons behind its decisions, and that is not healthy and not conducive to a resilient political culture in Singapore.”

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the changes were significant but “not exactly earth-shaking”, adding that he had expected some three-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

Gerrymandering is the carving up of electorial boundaries to benefit one political party, and is the kind of word you shouldn’t toss about willy-nilly in case you get ‘Roy Ngernged’.

In a 2009 dialogue session, the EBRC explained that they’re made up of senior civil servants such as the chief statistician and the heads of the HDB and SLA, and considers ‘population growth and movement’ when recommending changes. When quizzed whether such a committee was in fact non-partisan without being pressured by the PM himself, a member from AGC clarified that civil servants owe their allegiance not to the PAP, but the President, a ‘politically neutral institution’. Yes, we trust these people are ‘politically blind’ even if our current President was once a PAP-man himself, and all civil servants just got a SG50 $500 handout. And oh yes, even if the Chairman of the EBRC so happens to be Tan Kee Yong, Secretary to, erm, the Prime Minister.

Prior to independence, our Government set up the first ‘Electoral Boundaries Delineation Committee’. Despite being chaired by the Perm Sec of the PMO, all registered political parties were ‘invited to give their views by way of memoranda’. Today, nobody is consulted on whatever’s going on in those boardrooms, and then boom!, your Changi Village is now officially part of goddamn Siglap, though both places, for all practical purposes, are worlds apart. Which makes you wonder if the EBDC are using an actual Singapore map, or the one that Frodo uses to get to Mordor.

The population shift reasoning is shaky for certain enclaves such as Joo Chiat, which is made up almost entirely of private residences, and has a schizoid history of getting in and out of GRCs (from 1959 to 1988, then 2001-2015 according to NMP Yee Jenn Jong). The fact that PAP incumbent MP Charles Chong won over Joo Chiat with a slim 51% margin had nothing to do with it being swallowed up, I suppose. Similarly, back in 1997, PAP garnered 54.8% of votes in Cheng San GRC, and it was dissolved completely before the very next election cycle. In that same year, Braddell Heights SMC, which the PAP escaped by the skin of their teeth when SPP’s Sin Kek Tong contested in 1991 (48% votes), was engulfed by Marine Parade GRC. Chiam See Tong remarked that residents woke up one morning and realised that they were in Marine Parade, without the beaches.

To give the illusion of ‘fairness’, some sacrificial lambs from the PAP have been offered to the EBRC altar.  Lui Tuck Yew and Dr Yaacob see their beloved Moulmein-Kallang dissolved to their disappointment. One consolation is the rise of Jalan Besar GRC from the dead, which Yaacob is already staking a claim on. Only the EBRC knows why one is dropped while another is resurrected. I wonder if those guys take the MRT or are fans of social media. Opposition wards were left untouched for obvious reasons. Even the ghost of LKY can’t deal with the repercussions if the PAP were to stick their fingers into the WP Aljunied pudding.

Despite our PM’s call for smaller GRCs, the two SUPER GRCs AMK and Pasir-Ris-Punggol still remain as 6 member teams, each helmed by the PM himself and Deputy PM Teo respectively. Some of the ‘conspiracy’ theories about jumbo GRCs is that it makes it difficult for Opposition to summon the numbers to contest, that there is ‘safety in numbers’, especially if key ministers need to be ‘protected’. Another ‘benefit’ of XXL GRCs is that it allows nobodies to ride on ‘coattails’ of anchor ministers. After the last election these GRCs served as a training ground for newbies and 4 years on, we get to see the likes of Tin Peiling, formerly a latch-on to Marine Parade GRC and poster-child for everything wrong with PAP, grow up and take on Macpherson SMC. Today no one ever mentions racial diversity among MPs as a reason for humongous GRCs, which incidentally, was the original intention of setting up GRCs in the first place. Maybe the refrain ‘One People, One Nation’ is finally setting in. Or is it ‘The more the merrier’. For the ruling party that is.

If you look at our PM’s GRC, there’s still a majority of Chinese with 1 Malay and one Inderjit Singh (who decided to retire from politics altogether). Why the ERBC didn’t splinter one SMC out of each supergroup to make it a maximum of 5 across the board for all GRCs is shrouded in secrecy. They probably wouldn’t throw out Dr Intan Moktar out into the wild. Not after what happened with her and the Yang Yin saga. Pasir Ris Punggol GRC has a similar racial and gender profile, and if there’s someone who should break out and claim an SMC, my recommendation would be the guy who has a workout named after LKY, Teo Ser Luck.

Or maybe all this is an elaborate ploy to get Singaporeans passionate in politics, for what is politics without lies and deceit, rumour-mongering and hot-headed drama?

ESM Goh on Singapore becoming a Garbage City

From ‘S’pore may end up as a ‘garbage city”, 29 Jan 2015, article in Today

The Republic may end up as a “garbage city”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong today (Jan 29) following reports of how a part of the Gardens by the Bay was covered with rubbish following a music festival.

His remarks come a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a picture on his Facebook page, which showed rubbish strewn on the ground following the 2015 Laneway Festival at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. About 13,000 people attended the Saturday event..

…In a Facebook post, Mr Goh wrote: “Our reputation as one of the world’s cleanest cities is going down the rubbish chute. It looks like a case of ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’.” He noted that Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places.

“The Japanese take their snack wrappers, empty bottles and ponchos home to dispose. That is why Tokyo is a fine city without ‘fine’ signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.”

Mr Goh added: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are. “

While our PM Lee was calm in his criticism of the ‘Landway Landfill’, using the more nuanced ‘cleaned city’ to describe our dependence on an army of labourers and shameless sense of entitlement (some Laneway goers interviewed in a ST article assumed that cleaning services were included in the festival ticket), our former PM has no qualms about trash-talking and putting our disgusting habits in the spotlight. Interestingly, he has summoned the analogy of ‘monkey see monkey do’ to describe the contagious mimicry of littering. And what do monkeys eat?

Here’s a clue, courtesy of Mrs Goh Chok Tong herself in reference to a certain NKF chairman’s salary, in full uncensored glory.

For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, $600,000 is peanuts as it has a few hundred millions in reserves.’

As they say, if you pay peanuts, you get..well – you know.

But back to Garbage by the Bay. The Laneway fallout isn’t new. We have been called ‘Garbage City‘ since 1983. Anyone who has stayed back after the NDP festivities to witness the mess left behind would hang their head in shame at the average 15 TONNES of rubbish per show. We can forgive Laneway hipsters, whose fashion accessories actually aspire towards ‘litter-chic’. We may even put the blame what one would expect to be a large non-Singaporean crowd among the audience. But to desecrate a parade ground after the nation’s birthday and singing along with Kit Chan to ‘Home Truly’ is just unforgivable. It makes a MONKEY out of National Day. It’s like blowing out Singapore’s birthday candles on a giant stadium sized cake, and then pooping all over it before we leave.

Even the phrase ‘cleaned city’ is recycled. Vivian Balakrishnan used it in 2012. Liak Teng Lit says that being called a ‘clean city‘ is a JOKE. But nobody’s laughing. It’s easy to rubbish our selling point to the world as a spick and span little red dot. Changing the mindset of the typical litterbug, however, takes more than a cute frog mascot, a public campaign with Ah Boys to Men singing in it, some ugly bright yellow CWO outfit to show the world you’re an incorrigible, lazy excuse of a human being, or slapping a outrageous fine on someone caught tossing cigarette butts out of his HDB window. A picture of the Laneway aftermath ought to speak a thousand words, yet no one seems to be listening.

So fine. We’re a bunch of spoilt ungracious louts with poor ‘character’. But what’s also annoying, though, is the tiresome comparisons to ‘spotless’ Japan every time some venue transforms into a junkyard after celebrations. ESM Goh says ‘Tokyo has NO rubbish’, which, from personal experience in my travels there, is a cliche and an exaggeration, though it still is generally cleaner than the little red rat-infested dump that we’re living in now. You don’t need a major event to show our true colours. I’ve seen people dumping an old TOILET BOWL in my void deck. Old folks still spit without repercussion. Drains are clogged after void deck events. Trays are not cleared. Don’t get me started on our toilets.

Sadly, the Japanese’s culture of shared responsibility and concept of ‘homeland’ has yet to sink in, and we’re struggling to work through the hypocrisy of celebrating recycling and Earth Hour on one hand, but on the other brushing parking coupon tabs to the ground when no one is looking. Our children are taught phonics before they are trained to throw their crap into dustbins.

We’re still haunted by the proverbial fishball stick. Unless something is done to address the psyche of the littering Singaporean who expects to be picked up after, we’ll get poked by the same issue again and again, relying on some reporting app launched by the MSO to complain about things lying around when it’s faster for us to pick it up and throw it away. While we look to the Land of the Rising Sun for inspiration in vain, this sunny island in the sea is fast becoming the ‘Land of the Rising SLUM’.

Ice bucket challenge is cultic and eradicates free will

From ‘Ice bucket dare a scary social trend’, 30 Aug 2014, Mailbag, ST Life!

(Oh Jen Jen): The ice bucket challenge smacks of peer pressure, herd mentality and narcissism. I am from Singapore and a recent newspaper article mentioned how people here also donated to the ALS Association in the United States (Donations Pour In, Bucket By Bucket, SundayLife!, Aug 24).

We do not even have a local version of the association and I cannot find any statistics on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients in Singapore. Yes, the end is good, but I question the act itself. The stunt may lead other organisations to do the same thing. What if 10, 20 or 50 charities launch campaigns simultaneously? Do the ones which need the most assistance get ignored because they are not considered fun or cool enough?

It is a dangerous precedent for fund-raising efforts and as long as celebrities propagate the trend and their fans follow blindly, it is going to backfire. While performing stunts to raise money is not a new concept, the ice bucket challenge takes it to a different level because of the way it encourages exhibitionism and instigates blind compliance.

The act itself may seem harmless, but the response is cultic in magnitude. It is a frightening indicator of the combined powers of social media, fame and egotism, resulting in the eradication of logical thought and free will.

Teo Ser Luck getting wet and wild

It’s a Dunk-Your-MP session

MP Teo Ser Luck was bullied by his residents into taking the ‘ice bucket challenge’, so it wouldn’t be fair to say that it breeds a ‘cultic narcissism’ in some instances. More like ice bucket sadism. Some netizens have even dared PM Lee to do it for the nation. I wonder if this letter would still be published if that actually happened.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.23.54 AM

Pouring ice over someone’s head is the kind of prank you find during university orientation camps, drunkard parties or in a Three Stooges episode, and when I initially read the title of this letter I thought the writer was expressing concern about the health hazards of being doused in ice, like hypothermia for example. Or how an over-creative delivery could lead to head injuries, just like how ‘selfies’ led to people plummeting to their deaths in their misguided enthusiasm. Yes, a ice bucket dunk can be potentially dangerous, but it turns out that the writer’s fears were more apocalyptic than I thought.

This is Steven Lim after pouring ice over himself in the shower. Yes, this looks very scary indeed. For concerned fans, yes the man is still alive.

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I’m not sure how many among the ice bucket ‘cult’ actually know what ALS is, or who Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking are. Or even wondered what a bucket of ice has anything to do with a rare disease. If you read scientific papers on ALS, you’d encounter explanations like these which will give you a ‘brainfreeze’ of a different sort altogether:

Studies done by Carpenter have shown the late onset of ALS with abnormal neuro filament accumulation in the G93 SOD1 mutant mouse model (Carpenter, 1968). Findings have suggested the cause to be due to the deregulation of Pin 1 in its involvement with the neurofilament phosphorylations, where it catalyzed the extensive phosphorylation of the neurofilaments in the perikarya by kinases by converting neurofilaments to a more stable trans form, causing the fully unraveled neurofilaments in the cell body being unable to be transported down the axonal length and accumulate in the perikarya, forming inclusions that are responsible for the disruption of the transport system and ultimately result in neuronal death (Kesavapany et al., 2007)

AGH. GIMME THAT ICE RIGHT NOOOW!

If I started a trend of pouring a bucket of my own diarrhoea over my head in support of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I doubt anyone would follow. Not even my own mother. Imagine if you had to hold a BBQ party and you realise that the store’s ice cubes were all swiped clean by companies holding a ‘IBC’ parade faster than the sale of N95 masks during the haze. Damn you social media!

Scoot: Cool as ice

I wouldn’t consider doing an IBC myself, not so much that I think it looks ridiculous or that I risk transforming into an automaton without a mind of my own, but because the ice cubes could be put to better use. Like in an glass of Kickapoo or as a prop for kinky sex. Patrick Stewart would agree with me.

Some celebrities think it’s a bloody waste of water, while I believe those who subscribe to it may have forgotten about the drought we experienced some months back, or that there may be people out there running a 42 degree fever and need a bathtub of ice stat but can’t because of an out of stock situation. The typical retort from a IBC believer to me would be ‘So what have YOU done for ALS?’, to which I’d say I’ve donated blood at least 10 times, saving the lives of people, ALS or no ALS. And then I’ll ask back ‘What do you know about neurofilament phosphorylations?’ just to savour a blank look. The only reason to dunk my head in ice is if my hair caught fire.

There are many other associations or causes in need of some insane ‘viral marketing’ to boost awareness without causing bodily harm, like dyslexia or breast cancer for example. If you wanted to educate mothers on the benefits of breast-feeding you could organise a flash mob. If the plight of the poor in Singapore needs to be highlighted to the masses, you don’t go to Speakers’ Corner anymore. You live on the streets for a week living off the generosity of strangers and Instagram it. There was a time charities had to resort to putting monks on a tightrope just to raise money for a hospital, or endanger the lives of celebrities by having them lie on a bed of broken glass, and someone else freakin’ JUMP on them. Thank God we didn’t have social media then. How ironic it would have been if your kidneys got ruptured in a stunt gone wrong for a foundation that supports end stage renal disease.

The reason why the IBC spread like wildfire is that people are not urging you to trek barefoot in the hot sun for 5km for a good cause. It’s accessible, it’s fun (supposedly) and anyone can do it without training for an Iron Man triathlon. Yes, we are generally suckers for trends with a high ‘hip quotient’, but the IBC isn’t the only fad guilty of encouraging ‘exhibitionism’ and ‘blind compliance’. I hesitate to use the term ‘compliance’ which implies ‘reluctance’, like doing it because your Mommy told you so. In simpler terms, it’s just ‘copying’.

We have pointless memes like planking, online protests like blacking out your profile pic to make a political statement, and then there’s the phenomenon known as Cook a Pot of Curry day. Need I mention selfies, hipster cafes, marathon running, zumba or even bubble tea? In this age of social media you don’t need ministers or celebrities to kickstart a viral campaign anymore, just a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook would do the trick. I’d say we have benefitted more from ‘blindly copying’ each other and succumbing to ‘peer pressure’ than having our free will ‘eradicated’ just because of one viral stunt. We’ve been doing it for millennia, from the moment one proto-human tribe observed another making fire and followed suit. And look where copying each other has brought us today. We shouldn’t overlook the benefits of ‘following the crowd’ just because occasionally we latch onto something, for lack of a better word, stupid, and then complain about it online through a Xiaomi phone.

The IBC is probably funny the first time round, but after a while it becomes the stunt equivalent of Pharell’s ‘Happy’ song. Overdone, overplayed, and overstaying its welcome no matter how you remix it. How many times do you want to see people get wet anyway? The craze will die a natural death eventually like Gangnam style has, but the human tendency to mimic and one-up each other won’t. To quote a famous hip hop artiste in the 90’s:

All right stop, Collaborate and listen
Ice is back with my brand new invention

Woman peeing in Pinnacle@Duxton lift

From ‘Caught in the act of urinating in Pinnacle@Duxton lift’, 18 June 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

The first photo shows the back of a woman in neat attire squatting down in a lift; the second shows the same woman, her hair tied up in a ponytail, in the same spot, but this time with a puddle near her feet in the lift. The photos were featured in posters put up this week by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council in the void deck of Block 1E at Pinnacle@Duxton, following complaints about urine in one of the lifts back in May.

The youthful-looking woman, whose face is not seen, was caught in the act by surveillance cameras in the lift at 8.22pm on May 23.

“The Town Council has received feedback regarding the stench of urine in the Fireman Lift in Blk 1E… This has caused much inconvenience to residents,” read the message in the poster. The posters and photos are part of what MP Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) describes as the town council’s “very effective” method of addressing such incidents, and have been employed several times at the Pinnacle@Duxton estate as well as elsewhere in the constituency.

…”We would never show people’s faces in the photos used, so only the person committing the act would know it is him or her,” she said. “We’re not trying to shame anybody, we put the posters up only in the affected blocks. Our job is not to make trouble, we just want to stop the urination problem.”

No one has stepped forward so far regarding the latest incident, and little is known about the woman pictured. “Urination in public places still happens from time to time in different areas around Tanjong Pagar, but thankfully it’s not that prevalent,” said Dr Neo.

This iconic housing project was indeed once the PINNACLE of international design, the first in the world with 2 skybridges linking the 7 blocks, creating what could be the LONGEST continuous skygardens in the world. A winner of the 2010 President’s Design Award, the Pinnacle’s skydecks have been described as ‘social dynamos’ encouraging communal activities, initiating an ‘innovative typology of public communal spaces that are metaphorically reclaimed from the air.’ A bit TOO communal perhaps. This, like how we deal with most social nuisances, calls for a CAMPAIGN, before someone brands the building The ‘Pee-nacle’ (Wait, that has already happened). The mascot could be a singing, dancing giant incontinence pad, one who goes around smothering people before they even unzip their trousers.

Peeing in lifts is a scourge that won’t go away soon, with exploding bladders, loose sphincters, alcohol and lack of public toilets often used as mitigation pleas when culprits do get caught. Most of these, to no one’s surprise, are men. In 1988, the ST ran a survey which revealed that of 112 pissers caught, ONLY ONE was a woman, and they were mostly adults within the age range of 36 to 54. These days, people seem to get away with urinating in lifts without having the media shout their name, age and occupations like they used to. An anonymous offender smearing a public amenity gets away with nothing more than embarrassment, while a blogger who smears the name of someone very illustrious gets hunted down and sued his pants off for defamation. Even getting caught EATING a damn sweet on the train is a worse situation than this.

You must be truly desperate if you’re a woman and need to resort to 1)pulling down/aside your underwear 2) squatting 3) answering the call of nature 4) risk soaking your damn feet while at it. No one seems to ever get remanded in IMH for such behaviour, especially one that has been fetishised by the authorities since Singaporeans began living in HDBs, with some MPs in the 80’s even suggesting a JAIL TERM for offenders. Peeing in a lift is an entirely different breed of public disgrace compared to say dumping litter or throwing cigarette butts out of cars. A grown adult urinating in a closed, moving compartment, especially one in which you have to eventually use yourself, seems to me more of a bizarre psychological disorder rather than a case of uncontrollable nerves, mischief, or even ‘vandalism’. It’s like vomiting on the side of your plate, and then continuing to eat the rest of your food like nothing happened.

The Pinnacle may boast one of the most panoramic, expensive residential skygardens in the world, but all the lifestyle frills and pledges of ‘sustainability’ aside, one thing that the building appears to be sorely lacking is a basic lift URINE DETECTOR, a gadget that stops the lift dead when someone takes a leak on the floor, sounds an alarm, and traps you inside until the cops come and whisk you and your vile bladder to court. A brilliant invention because it forces you to be confined with your own putrid stench for at least a good half an hour, and more importantly, catches you red-handed, with or without CCTV. Have we gone all soft on lift pissers lately? Will the Pinnacle management take more serious measures only when MP Lily Neo steps on a golden puddle during her walkbouts like what happened to former Speaker Tan Soo Khoon in 1991?

Urine detectors can’t do anything to prevent one from DEFECATING in the lift, though. Yes, it happens, I shit you not.

UDDs will give residents a piss of mind

Pop up kindness cafe sending wrong message

From ‘Kindness cafe sends wrong message’, 13 June 2014, ST Forum

(Jeffrey Law Lee Beng): WE SHOULD not create the notion that one can only enjoy discounts or freebies by being friendly, kind and polite (“Say please and thanks for discount”; Tuesday).

I am supportive of the various initiatives of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) in encouraging Singaporeans to make a positive commitment to gracious living through simple acts of kindness. Events such as the I Love My Mum campaign, Heroes Run and photo contest organised by the SKM are commendable as they have impacted and reminded us of the importance of being filial, courteous and kind.

However, the movement’s pop-up cafe where customers are given a discount on a cup of coffee or a free loaf of bread by saying “please” and “thank you” is not the appropriate way to further inspire graciousness and friendliness, which should come from the heart.

(Lim Lih Mei): Being polite is basic manners for all. Striving hard to perform better in their studies is what all students should do. Do we really need money to incentivise such attitude and mindset? We may be nurturing a population that will perform certain acts only when the carrot is cash.

Will that be with a smile or no smile, sir?

Will that be with a smile or no smile, sir?

Here’s what you should do if you want to get a FREE coffee at the Kindness Cafe. Tip your hat, smile, bow and say ‘Good afternoon, how are you doing today, my good sir. Can I trouble you with one coffee, pretty please with sugar on top. Thank you very much!God bless you!’

There’s much more to kindness than saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ of course. You can put on the most nerve-cringing display of politeness at the counter just for a $2 cuppa but come back later and complain that it tastes like bloody ‘longkang’ water after that. There is also nothing in the Kindness Cafe rulebook that says you can’t recite the $2 line with a grumpy, monotonous tone, or shout it out with your finger pointing all over the place not even looking the poor fella in the eye. You may also try to test the gimmick by seeing how the staff would react if you just say ‘Oi!Give me THAT one’. If you have $5 or more to spare, that is. What about people with speech impairments then, do they have a sign language version for discounted coffee? If I were a staff of the Kindness Cafe I’d feel pretty unimpressed throughout, knowing that people are being nice to me only because they’re following a template on the board next to them, and not that they’re actually out to make my day. In fact I’d feel pretty good if I can charge the rare $5 customer for being a total asshole whose parents never taught to say ‘please’ like a decent human being.

The last time someone ran a promo for discounted drinks was not based on how polite you are, but how physically well-endowed you are. The bigger your cup size, the less you had to pay for drinks at Overeasy bar back in 2010. Totally unrelated of course, except that it’s not just the customers alone who got to see how ‘HAPPY things can get’.  By linking ‘happy’ material discounts to politeness, the SKM is saying ‘happiness’ is about getting things cheap, when we’ve always been told that the reward of a good deed is to have done it, that, well, courtesy is FOR FREE. Courtesy has taken on a ‘GSS mentality’, and before you know it, someone will be patrolling MRT trains dishing out free transport vouchers to people who give up their seats to those who need it. So that’s where all the money for former courtesy mascot Singa’s salary goes to.

The Kindness cafe is not going to train people into becoming angels to those poor souls in the service industry. At best, it’s just a harmless reminder that baristas are humans with feelings too and it would be ‘nice’ to give compliments once in a while. I, for one, wouldn’t line up for a Kindness coffee. Not that I’m the kind who points at menus and grunts, but because I’d have to wait for people to memorise and recite their $2 lines before getting served. Anyway, it’s also time for a new courtesy song. Something like this perhaps?

Courtesy is for kopi
Courtesy is for you and me
It makes for happy sipping and harmony
Happiness you can buy
With discounted kopi-o-siew dai
Make courtesy our way of life
(Adapted from the Courtesy is for Free song, original lyrics here)

Ci Yuan CC not easy to pronounce

From ‘New CC’s name not easy to pronounce’, 29 Oct 2013, ST Forum

(Edwin Feng): I READ with interest that the new Ci Yuan Community Club used to be called Kebun Ubi Community Centre in the 1970s (“New CC in Hougang first to have a hawker centre”; Oct 20). Ci Yuan is not an easy name for Singaporeans who are unfamiliar with hanyu pinyin to pronounce.

It is ironic that a community centre meant for bonding Singaporeans of different races would change its original Malay name to a “pinyinised” one that even some Chinese Singaporeans have difficulty pronouncing. Besides, why is it named Ci Yuan when it does not seem to have any link to either its old name (Kebun Ubi) or its present location?

Unlike Kebun Ubi (Malay for tapioca garden or farm), the new name does not seem to reflect the rich history of the place, where tapioca and other staple crops were once cultivated by our forefathers, who lived in the villages there.

The opening of the new community club in a few years’ time will be a good opportunity for the centre’s old name to be reinstated. Perhaps a gallery could be set up to educate younger constituents on the history of the place.

Romanised Mandarin, or ‘pinyinisation’, was once the scourge of language and history lovers everywhere. In 1987, there were calls to abolish Hanyu Pinyin names of places like Simei and Guifei.  Thankfully, Simei remains in use today, but isn’t pronounced the way it’s intended to be. Most of us, including the Chinese-speaking, pronounce Simei as ‘xi (ee-sound) mei’, rather than the correct, sharper ‘si (as in ‘4’) mei’, an example of a HYPY name that has evolved into something all Singaporeans can agree upon even though technically it’s wrong. ‘Hougang’ is a mixed bag, some say ‘Ow-Gang’ with the silent ‘h’, while others pronounce it as (correctly), ‘Hoe’-Gang. Till this day we remain wishy-washy over Yishun (the town) and Nee Soon (the army camp).

HYPY, the devil spawn of the Speak Mandarin Campaign, threatened to screw with our food culture in the early eighties. Imagine if chye tau kuey was renamed ‘Luo bo Gao’, or ‘Char Quay Teow’ as ‘Chao Guo Tiao’. Doesn’t sound as appetising in HYPY does it. In school, compulsory HYPY names wrecked havoc on our kids’ sense of identity, some confused over the two versions, while those without dialect names, like Eurasian kids, were ‘pinyinised’ with silly soundalike translations. If I were to introduce my full name to a Westerner I’d prefer my dialect name than my HYPY one, which comes with a troublesome ‘Qu’ couplet. Not everyone has an effortless HYPY name like Lee Wei Ming. Some of us have HYPY names that look and sound as complicated as a blockbuster drug with an X, Z and Y in it. Take Zhuo Xue Yan, for example. Anyone unfamilar with HYPY would be wondering if you’re an actual person or some ancient Mexican pyramid.

I doubt non-Chinese have any problems pronouncing Fengshan, Bishan, Yishun or Yuhua though, just like non-Malays can easily enunciate Geylang, Eunos of Pasir Panjang. An example of a HYPY experiment gone wrong was the renaming of Tekka Centre to ZHUJIAO Centre in the eighties, which was then reverted back to Tekka in 2000 as it better reflected the history of the place, and a better tourist draw. Other town-naming fails include the suggestion to change Tiong Bahru to ‘Hong Shan‘ and ‘Bukit Panjang’ to ‘Zhenghua’. Like Zhujiao, ‘Ci Yuan’ is tricky to pronounce considering that in standard English the C takes on an ‘S’ sound in words like ‘cider’ or ‘cistern’, even though it makes references to tapioca and sweet potato planting, according to the CC chairman Koh Hock Seng (Residents to be consulted on new CC’s name, 2 Nov 2013, ST Forum). Hopefully we’ll all get used to the tongue-twisting confusion of HYPY, and before you know it saying ‘Ci Yuan’ will be as easy as ‘Gong Xi Gong Xi’.

 

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