Forever 21 playing vulgar, misogynistic rap songs

From ‘Forever 21 apologises to Gurmit Singh’s daughter over offensive music’, 16 Oct 2014, article by Yeo Sam Jo, ST

Fashion retailer Forever21 has apologised to actor Gurmit Singh’s daughter, Gabrielle, after an open letter she wrote criticising the music played at one of its outlets went viral online. According to an update on the 17-year-old’s Tumblr blog on Wednesday night, Forever21 apologised for the music, which she had described as “horribly misogynistic” and “damaging” to the women and young girls who frequent the American brand’s stores.

She wrote: “F21 has responded and apologised for the music, which is pretty great! However, misogyny as a common occurrence in our everyday lives is still a big issue, which is why I’m leaving this post on my blog.” Her father, local celebrity Gurmit Singh, also took down one of his Facebook posts of the incident at about 10pm on Wednesday night, explaining that they had managed to get in touch with the store’s manager.

In her original post about a week ago, Gabrielle recounted how while she was shopping with her mother and baby sister at the Forever21 outlet in 313@Somerset on Orchard Road, the store was “blaring” songs with lyrics that were derogatory to women, such as “half you b***hes like p***y too”.

Speaking of bitches, Forever 21 was once criticised for refusing entry to guide dog Esme and her owner Cassandra Chiu, whom Joe Augustine refers to as an ‘asshole’. I doubt anyone would use the same insult on Gabrielle for her hissy fit against an explicit rap song played in a fashion boutique. This ‘open letter’ appears to ride on another pro-feminist leaning tirade by a Hwa Chong student against an offensive sex education booklet, accusing the perpetrator for promoting ‘rape culture’. In Gabrielle’s original blog post, she rants about F21 promoting a belief that ‘men only love women if they suck their penises’. It looks like AWARE are spoilt for choices for future board members.

Naturally, I searched for the song that pissed off Gabrielle and made her queasy when she was trying on clothes. Titled ‘P.W.A’ by rap collective 5th Ward Boyz, the ‘gangsta’ track goes right into the subject matter, its first verse and chorus being ‘Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussy’. In summary, it’s about some drunk horny gangstas high on weed going around hunting for ladies who receive fellatio from after doping them with weed and alcohol (hence P.W.A). There’s a lyric that goes ‘stick yo fingers in yo cat, taste yo uterus’, which makes these fellas from the hood not just date rapists, but practitioners of bestiality with 10 inch tongues. Nasty stuff, and it was indeed tasteless of F21 to play this dope shit, though by calling them out, Gabrielle has unwittingly introduced us all to the 5th Ward Boyz and their penchant for benz, ‘hoochies’ and their unforgivable abuse of not just women, but pronouns (I’s a playa, I’s a never had to trick’).

Department stores have been bombarding customers with raunchy rap and hip hop playlists for almost a decade with what I suspect to be similar themes of fast cars, fast cash, booze, boobs, ass and dicks, all part of the marketing department’s ploy to subliminally induce guys to buy oversized cargo pants and basketball jerseys, because ‘that’s how yo roll with the chicks dawg’. But it’s not just rap painting women as fast and loose sex objects. Even some of the ‘radio-friendly’ pop stuff on the airwaves hint at getting high, drunk and making the ladies obey your every command if you threaten to hit them or douse them with narcotics and intoxicants.

Here’s a sample, for aspiring feminists to write ‘open letters’ about.

1. Blurred Lines. ‘But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature’

2. Young Wild and Free. ‘So what we get drunk, So what we smoke weed’

3. Stupid Hoe. ‘You can suck my diznik if you take this jizzes’

4. The too obvious ‘S&M’. ‘But chains and whips excite me’

 5. Timber. ”Im slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will, timber’

Gabrielle’s dad himself is an occasional rap playa. As Phua Chu Kang he rapped about SARS and graciousness on the train, a fine example of how rap can be used for the greater good beyond money and buttocks, even if he had to resort to some violence to get the message across( ‘Excuse Me While I Give you a KICK!’)

Apology to humanity accepted, F21. Maybe it’s time to switch your HQ’s playlist to the entire soundtrack to the female-empowering Frozen instead.

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Zouk an institution that needs saving

From ‘Zouk may shut by year end’ 18 June 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The founder of Zouk, Mr Lincoln Cheng, says he is tired of getting short lease extensions for the popular dance club’s Jiak Kim Street site. If he does not get a three-year extension he is now requesting, he will close the 23-year-old iconic nightspot for good by the end of this year.

…When the club first opened in 1991, the land around it was largely vacant. But today, the club – which is situated within three recently conserved riverside warehouses – is dwarfed by neighbouring condominiums and hotels. It was no surprise, therefore, when questions about the fate of Zouk started making the rounds in 2012.

…When told of the news, celebrity presenter and Zouk regular Najip Ali said he was shocked. “When Zouk opened, it was ahead of its time. In the 1990s, Zouk put a stamp on the kind of nightlife that didn’t exist.” It was where he learnt about music and deejays. “Zouk has been and is still an institution,” he said.

Development plans aside, it was MP Indranee Rajah (“If Zouk was not there, then it is unlikely the youth would congregate there.”) who indirectly blamed the rise in drunken rowdiness in the Robertson Quay area on the dance ‘institution’. Since complaints by residents, the Government has been mooting the idea of a ‘no-alcohol’ zone so that babies from nearby condos can sleep at night. If Zouk were an ‘institution’, then its graduates are Masters in Inebriation. No riot has broken out on Jiak Kim Street so far, though there may soon be a protest or two. Like the SaveZouk campaign for example. I wonder what colour these guys will be wearing. Maybe neon rainbow.

I’ve been to the club myself a few times, and back in those days it was a hedonistic eye-opener seeing people gyrating on raised platforms, revellers decked out in the wildest accessories, meeting gays, transgenders and Najip Ali, sweating and grinding to guest DJs spinning revolutionary dance tracks that no other disco at the time were keen to play. In the 90’s, Zouk WAS Clubbing, a place that has become synonymous with a street with the unlikeliest of names in ‘Jiak Kim’. You didn’t need to give taxi drivers directions or addresses. You just had to say ‘Zouk’, and he’d give you that knowing wink and a nod, sometimes breaking out into small talk about how ‘happening’ you are. Then again, it’s also the same place that revived Rick Astley’s popularity, thanks to Mambo Jumbo Nights, a phenomenon that has even been exported out for the 2012 Singapore Day in New York.

For 23 years, Singaporean merrymakers have stayed faithful to the icon of glam, the ‘queen’ of clubs, despite intrusions by global players like Ministry of Sound and Supperclub, which all bowed out of the scene entirely while Zouk continued to attract 24 hour party people, even till now, except to the wrath of condo owners, who obviously didn’t have a clue about what Zouk was about when they decided to move in right next to it. In the spirit of MP Indranee’s argument: If the condos were not there, there would be no one to complain about noise, piss and vomit. And we probably would have let the kids drink themselves to death or fall off the bridge and drown or something.

Here are some facts every Singaporean should know about our homegrown premier club:

1. Zouk means ‘village party’ in French Caribbean, and was refurnished out of 3 abandoned riverside godowns. The logo was inspired by Arabic script and is a mixture of the ‘sun, all-seeing eye and the sea’. Zouk’s address is 17 Jiak Kim Street, though no one knows what happened to the other 16 numbers.

2. Founder Lincoln Cheng is an architect by training. In 1995 he was charged for bringing in 376 diazepam tablets and having possession of 125 Upjohn tablets, 4 Playboy magazines and some porno tapes, all part of a high profile drug bust which forced the club to close temporarily.

3. Tan Jiak Kim was a fifth generation Baba merchant who formed the Straits Steamship Company in 1890 with a few other rich businessmen, in addition to sterling work among the Chinese community and setting up a medical college. He would have qualified for the Pioneer package. Most of us would have never heard of him if not for Zouk. Thankfully, there’s also a nearby bridge named after the man, a bridge that the very same drunk kids are puking and dumping trash on.

4. In 1993, a brewery bar named ORANG UTAN opened in the Zouk complex. No it wasn’t a place where you could pet Ah Meng for free over beer and grub like what you do in a cat cafe. Though that just MIGHT work elsewhere.

5. A ‘Healthy Lifestyle Party‘ without cigarettes and booze was held for 1000 SAF personnel in 1992. As fun as your Grandaunt’s birthday bash, I reckon. The words ‘healthy’ and ‘party’ belong together like ‘innocent’ and ‘sex’. I hope there was at least Hokkien techno.

6. ‘Zoukette’ is what you call a fashionable female club regular. It was also the name of one of the more popular IRC channels in Singapore. Yes, Zouk has outlived even IRC, ICQ and Windows Messenger.

7. The PAP celebrated its 50th anniversary there in 2004, an event that most true-blue Zoukers and Zoukettes would rather forget. Amongst those boogieing the night away then was PM Lee himself, Lim Swee Say, and a certain Indranee Rajah, the same MP who thinks Zouk turns our kids into raving alcoholics. Look, here’s proof!

Party people in the house, y'all.

Party people in the house, y’all.

Wait, that means 2014 is the 60th year of PAP’s reign. How about a farewell All-White Zouk party again this year, for the club to go out with an unforgettable BANG?. After all, who WOULDN’T want to see our ministers dancing?Not sure if invitations will be extended to Ms Indranee though.

8. Zouk is likely to have played host to a more diverse range of international stars than any other stadium or concert hall in Singapore. From 80’s synth-pop band Erasure to techno/trance maestros, Kylie Minogue to K-pop girl groups, even a crooning Tony Leung.

9. In 2007, Zouk was where you could watch girls in skimpy attire wrestle one another in spaghetti sauce. 3 years later, the club organised an event called ‘Baby Loves Disco’, where hip parents could bring their babies for an afternoon party, some as young as 2 MONTHS. It looked like the beginning of a slow demise, less an ‘institution’ than a free-for-all venue for any event under the sun.

10. In 2008, it was reported that Zouk hired 70 security officers and had 100 surveillance cameras installed. What would become of these bouncers once Zouk is gone? Maybe protecting our ministers when they queue for chicken wings, perhaps?

So those were the days, my friend, we’d thought they’d never end. Thanks for the memories, Zouk. The puke on the sidewalk, the awesome live DJ gigs, the vodka-Ribena, the silly dancing, for being the only place in town where you could impress the girl of your dreams with cheesy 80’s moves. Unlike high-end exclusive clubs like Ku De Ta, Zouk welcomed mopey teens, the fuddy-duddies, the geeks and the wannabes with open arms. You did well to put us on the map of ‘cool’ and convince the world that Singapore was not THAT boring after all, but like all good parties, this 23-year-long one must come to an end. Good night, and Zouk Out.

Cannabis awareness website banned by MDA

From ‘CNB objects to cannabis promotion website; MDA orders its removal by Wednesday’, 18 Feb 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan,  ST

The owners of a website with information on what they claim to be “productive uses of cannabis in Singaporean society” have been told to remove the contents entirely after an assessment by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, CNB confirmed that it had reviewed the Singapore Cannabis Awareness website and found it to be objectionable.

The Media Development Authority has ordered the owners to remove the website by Wednesday as it “contains material that promotes or tends to promote the use of a prohibited substance”. By Tuesday afternoon, the website appeared offline, but the Singapore Cannabis Awareness Facebook page was still live.

CNB said in its statement that the website “undermines Singapore’s efforts in drug preventive education and erodes our society’s resilience against drug abuse”. “Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure environment because of our firm stance against drugs and crime, and central to this is our ‘zero-tolerance’ approach against the drug menace,” it added.

The website also makes claims about the purported benefits of “medical cannabis”, said CNB, despite a lack of “properly conducted and validated clinical trials to show that the purported benefits of this drug outweigh its risks”. CNB advised those who claim to have evidence of its medical properties to submit such evidence to the health authorities, rather than promoting the use of a prohibited substance to the public.

You don’t need a Singaporean website to tell you how awesome marijuana is. Just ask US Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, who both used to smoke pot, or you can drop by Denver Colorado for a spliff, where recreational use of cannabis has been legalised. The ‘zero tolerance’ approach is invariably a stuffy, close-minded one, and CNB was quick to divert any enquiries on medical marijuana to ‘the health authorities’ whilst inadvertently acknowledging that there might be some pharmaceutical potential in pot after all. To the Ganja Regulatory Association of Scientists Singapore (GRASS), perhaps?

Of course, no matter how miraculous a shot of cannabis has been proven to improve the quality of life of a terminal cancer patient, it would probably take ages before drug companies get past the legislative hurdles and red tape in order to sell a cannabis in a capsule locally. We could harvest it like a ‘prescription herb’ for far cheaper but the pharma industries would not have medicinal weed eating into their market share of blockbusters. But then again, there’s always MORPHINE,  itself a derivative of OPIUM, the stuff old Chinese men used to smoke all day keeping busy instead of visiting prostitutes or getting into gang fights. It is probably a matter of time before Cannabis becomes the next Morphine, but with ‘zero tolerance’ as a guiding principle, we’d have deprived scores of patients in dire need of an alternative, affordable drug when that happens, one that you could practically grow in your own backyard. You wouldn’t arrest an end stage lung cancer patient for smoking to death with tobacco but will charge him for drug abuse if he stashes ganja to ease the pain. What a crackpot irony.

The Cannabis FB page makes an argument against blockbuster drugs with safety complications including cardiovascular deaths like painkiller Vioxx, since withdrawn from the market because it was killing people instead of treating them. Supporters of pot also draw comparisons with another potent drug, one allegedly deadlier and far more accessible. A drug that has been cited as a ‘contributory factor‘ for the Little India Riot: ALCOHOL. Imagine if the would-be rioters weren’t drowning themselves in liquor but chilling out on ganja instead.

Nowhere in the page does it promote the use of cannabis as a ‘fun’ drug. There’s also a lack of ‘properly conducted and validated clinical trials’ to show that the benefits of ‘recreational’ caffeine outweighs the risk, but nobody would ban me if I start a ‘Caffeine Appreciation’ or ‘Weight Loss Fat Burners for Life!’ webpage. But these aren’t ‘addictive’ you say? Go ask an anorexic about her slimming pills, or the disgruntled office worker without his morning cuppa. How about the less sensational abuse of prescription drugs for ADHD like Ritalin to improve academic performance in students? Many ‘legal’ drugs today are used in a seemingly ‘illegal’ manner, yet CNB only seems to care about the illicit stuff that screws with your mind. Ritalin, incidentally, is related to methamphetamine, or ‘speed’. Try promoting that to save tuition fees or score for PSLE and see if MDA or CNB gives a hoot. By the way, it does mess up your mind with inappropriate use too.

The Cannabis site creators should be thankful, though, that they aren’t yet charged under the ‘Undesirable Publications Act’, like how you may be caught for selling ‘drug-themed’ T-shirts with pictures of cannabis leaves on them. Since we’re regressing into ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’(banned in 1963 for promoting marijuana) territory, why not ban Mary Poppins  for secret ‘drug references’ too?

SIA steward arrested for smuggling heroin

From ‘SIA steward arrested in Sydney for alleged drug offence’, 24 March 2013, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member was arrested last Sunday at Sydney International Airport after he allegedly tried to bring in 1.6kg of heroin.

Nicholas Tan Ngat Liang, 50, was a leading steward who was believed to be on duty during the flight from Singapore to Sydney. In response to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from the Australian Federal Police confirmed that a 50-year-old Singaporean was arrested on Sunday and has been charged with “importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin”. “The man was arrested for attempting to import 1.6kg of heroin into Australia,” the spokesperson said.

In Australia, the offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or an A$825,000 fine (S$1.1 million). Tan’s case was first mentioned in a New South Wales court on Monday.

It’s not reported how Tan carried his stash, all 1.6kg of it, but he is only one of several  Singaporeans who have tried their luck with drug trafficking Down Under.

In 2008, a Singaporean drug mule was caught by Australian authorities with 91 packets of heroin in his stomach (net weight 286 g of heroin), and was forced to defecate the goods over 2 days in a hospital. In 2009, two of our countrymen were raided whilst in a taxi carrying $4.5 million worth of the stuff. Last year, one was caught by Melbourne police smuggling 5kg of the same substance in a heap of Chinese books, while another 2 Singaporeans were charged for stowing 4.5kg of it in a vehicle and a service apartment (Sydney). The most sensational Aussie drug bust to date involving a Singaporean was that of Tan Wee Quay, who was part of a North Korean ‘Pong Su’ ploy to ship in 150kg of heroin in 2003.  According to reports, he was born in the ‘Golden Triangle’ and once blasted his way (with the help from some friends in the heroin business) out of a Danish prison in 2001. He was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment and remains there till this day, being ‘held in high regard’ for his skills as an interpreter. Tan would have been gone in a whiff if he was caught in his home country.

At the rate of our own citizens being hauled up by Aussie police, the perception of government-fearing, law-abiding Singaporeans making perfect drug mules doesn’t hold anymore, even if you’re part of our prestigious airline crew. In the 1980’s, SIA crew members were detained for suspected smuggling of GOLD, once in Seoul, and another incident in Kathmandu. But bad behaviour wasn’t restricted to sneaking in illicit drugs or precious metals. In 2008, A PILOT captain was snared for having child pornography on his laptop (again in Australia, Adelaide to be precise). A chief and leading steward were arrested in Denmark for using a passenger’s credit card to go on a shopping spree in 1982. In 1995, steward Zaini Jeloni was charged for the rape and murder of his female colleague (and alleged lover), Chang Yu, in Los Angeles. There’s even a hint of the paranormal about Chang Yu’s murder and some spooky association with the SQ006 crash in 2000, Taipei (the deceased was of Taiwanese descent).

Maybe it’s the long hours spent airborne and psychological stress of jetlag, or the wrangling over salary and leave entitlements that have plagued the airline of late that drives some SIA personnel to desperation and wilful wrongdoing.  If I were a jetsetting cabin crew myself, I would imagine my experience with immigration checkpoints giving me an edge in couriering contraband too. But why Australia, with its hefty penalty of life imprisonment and its experience in apprehending Singaporeans? The last count of Singaporeans in Australia stands around 50,000. Nobody knows how many of those residing are dope fiends or crime lords, but if you’ve got connections, and you’re an extreme risk-taker at your wits’ end, Australia was probably still a better bet than, say, the chance of execution by firing squad in Vietnam.

Incidentally, Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged in Changi Prison in 2005 (the first to be executed in more than a decade) for carrying 400g of heroin into the country. Tan Ngat Liang had 4 times that amount with him in Sydney.

NUS Professor spurring creativity through LSD

From ‘NUS Prof removes blog posts on using psychedelic drugs’, 16 June 2012, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Chinese language and linguistics professor who suggested the use of psychedelic drugs to spur creativity among youths, has since removed his blog post. He also removed most of his blog entries related to the topic of psychedelic drug use.

Associate Professor Shi Yuzhi in a blog post on Thursday night explained that many people were still not ready to participate in the discussion. He wrote: “To prevent others from misreading or misconstruing (my intentions), I have decided to remove the posts temporarily”. In this same entry, he stressed that he was merely sharing late Apple founder Steve Job’s experiences with psychedelic drugs. “It does not represent my views, I was interested in this issue and wanted to spur public discourse on this,” he added.

Assoc Prof Shi’s actions came after the NUS on Wednesday said that it was investigating the matter. The university has also since publicly distanced itself from Assoc Prof Shi’s comments and was said to be in touch with him. In a blog post on Tuesday, the academic who hails from China made reference to Mr Jobs and his use of LSD, asking if such drugs could be helpful in creating creative thinkers in China. The post has attracted a slew of responses from netizens, some of whom criticised his suggestion while others agreed that his comments were valid.

Lecturer in the Sky with Diamonds indeed. Although Steve Jobs was cited as crediting LSD use during his hipster days for ‘thinking differently’, a more relevant anecdote on how major discoveries may have needed an LSD boost is that of Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, who envisioned the double helix during one of his acid trips. Other academic advocates of mind-altering substances include physicist Richard Feynman, Sigmund Freud and Mr Cosmos himself, Carl Sagan. The hazy hey-days also brought us a generation of creative individuals such as artists, philosophers, writers, poets and musicians, who, if not smoking pot or dropping acid, were on some sort of drug nonetheless, be it nicotine, alcohol or even caffeine (the proverbial philosophers’ coffeeshop). If we criminalised anything with a pharmacological action on the central nervous system, we’d probably hit a mass writer’s block and a nationwide dearth of imagination. In fact, we’re probably halfway there already. Except that we’re hooked on another sort of drug: Foreign talent.

With all these visionaries having dabbled in ‘turning on and tuning in’, I would think it’s perfectly fine, even logical,  to explore the relationship between bursts in scientific advancements and LSD as a tool for inspiration.  It is a valid question to ask even if it’s totally untestable, like whether people can turn into literal zombies, or if human beings were seeded from aliens in another galaxy. Prof Shi isn’t suggesting that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, though that’s what the NUS administrators seem to think of his question, fearing that endorsing drugs means more hostel orgies and students jumping nude off rooftops in their intoxication. This quasi-religious censuring is like punishing a priest for telling his flock that MAYBE God is just a figment of our imagination, a dangerous idea that no church is willing to entertain: A student’s ‘little helper’.

It’s also unlikely that ANYONE who takes controlled doses of LSD would get instant epiphanies; you’re not going to turn a wandering vagabond into a Nobel Prize winner overnight with psychedelic drugs. Some scientists get breakthroughs from other non-drug (or so it seems) means, such as Kekule’s account of a vision when he was half awake of a snake biting its own tail (the benzene ring). Other ideas that came out of dreams include complex number theories and even the melody of the Beatles’ classic ‘Yesterday’. The link between dreams and hallucinations is a blurry one, and you could say taking LSD is like having an accelerated ‘waking dream’. Every successful maverick has a favourite story to tell on how they stumbled upon their world-changing ideas, almost none involving pen and paper or through a textbook. You could be sleeping, sitting on the toilet, taking a stroll, idling on a couch, or in the case of Steve Jobs, getting high on LSD, before getting your ‘Eureka!’ moment. The inspiration for this blog came when I was eating with friends at Mushroom Pot in Stadium Walk in 2010, and no they weren’t Magic Mushrooms.

Then there’s the problem of establishing cause and effect. Were these scientists already creative to begin with, or did drugs boost their creativity? The fact that they ‘experimented’ with illegal substances does itself point to a certain devil-may-care, risk-taking attitude which is needed for any trailblazing work. Or perhaps the fact that they smoked this stuff at ‘parties’ with like-minded individuals in a relaxed (putting it mildly) environment led to a free-flowing ‘cross-fertilisation’ of ideas, which would have occurred anyway if they had been dining, drinking coffee, or playing squash. In the corporate world such get-togethers in order to ‘brainstorm’ ideas are called ‘retreats’, though in most cases they’re as productive as a damp drizzle.

Prof Shi’s suggestion of  ‘getting help’ from banned substances also undermines the ‘traditional’ process of innovation (i.e hard work and intelligent discourse), rocking the very foundation of the robust, scientific ‘method’ that NUS worships, not lying on the grass in a purple haze and having an image of a rainbow-coloured AppStore swirling around your head in a higher state of consciousness. If the prof had instead discovered a herb that ‘increases blood flow to the frontal lobe’ and suggests that consuming it could modify cognition, i.e a potential blockbuster drug in the making, NUS would have blasted the news with the enthusiasm of an Ecstasy user at a rave party.

Perhaps this uproar over LSD is because taking drugs to generate ideas or boost intelligence doesn’t just have implications on academia, but raises all kinds of moral and ethical ambiguities as well, a scenario captured nicely in the 2011 film Limitless, where Bradley Cooper stumbles upon a drug that turns him into a best-selling author, sexy beast and millionaire. It would have been more convincing if the guy was actually UGLY. It’s too easy and it’s unfair for anyone to be smart and successful without even trying. And that alone goes against everything a meritocracy stands for, though we have people who are effortlessly successful because their parents were. But that’s another story. NUS wouldn’t even allow the argument to go that far before forcing the prof to remove his post.

If you want to start your kids young with ‘creative thinking’ to get ahead of the curve, it’s unethical to dose them with LSD (though those with ADHD  are using ‘focussing’ drugs like Ritalin). You just need to fork out money to enroll them in GEP tuition classes, whereby they’d be too busy with homework to take mindbending drugs or even dream their little dreams, coming out into the real world where the only ‘retreats’ from reality to ‘think’ about problems are in the form of company chalets, powerpoint slides and torturous minutes taking.

FHM magazine depicting Jesus with a shotgun

From ‘FHM pulled off shelves over articles’, 3 Feb 2012, article by Jennai Durai, ST

ALL unsold copies of this month’s issue of FHM Singapore magazine will be pulled off stands islandwide, after two articles in it sparked the ire of Christians here for being insensitive.

…The magazine, published by Media-Corp Publishing, carried an article headlined ‘Which Of These Celebs Might Secretly Be Jesus?’ and another headlined ‘Jesus 2.0: What Can We Expect?’. In the former, a number of well-known personalities, including American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and teenage pop singer Justin Bieber, are assessed for ‘evidence’ that they may or may not be Jesus Christ.

The second article had a photograph of a man dressed as Jesus, holding a gun and strapped with ammunition. Stating the Christian belief that Jesus will return one day, the article listed ‘updates’ that people might expect to see in him, such as the ability to shape shift. It includes a review of a controversial book called The Second Coming by John Niven, which imagines Jesus coming back to earth as a musician in New York.

…The articles rankled IT professional S.W. Ong, 48, who wrote to The Straits Times about it. ‘In this country, race and religion are sensitive things. I understand that FHM is a light-hearted magazine, but they should exercise some editorial responsibility and not make fun of any religion,’ he said. He said that one of the things that offended him was a careless phrase in the second article that said that Jesus ‘only made it to 33 years of age before things went downhill’. In the Bible, Jesus is said to have died on the cross at the age of 33 before rising from the dead.

‘To say his life ‘went downhill’ is wrong and very insensitive to Christians. It’s written without understanding the religion or how Christians understand the purpose of Jesus’ life on earth,’ said Mr Ong. ‘Most of the time, Christians don’t want to appear very dogmatic, but no magazine should be making fun of a religion. It can be seen as blasphemous.’

…When told about the articles, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) condemned them as ‘highly objectionable and deplorable, as they make fun of the Lord Jesus Christ who is worshipped by Christians’. The council noted that the articles appeared during the season of Lent, during which Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

‘We request the authorities to look into the matter and ensure that the objectionable material is removed, and that the gross disrespect against any religion and its religious figures who are held sacred by a religious community, such as in this instance, is not repeated,’ said the council in a statement.

(Found the scanned article from a certain ‘Princess Yuki Empire in heaven’ blog. Judge for yourself, fellow sinners)

Jesus: First Blood

According to the Guardian’s review of ‘The Second Coming’, Jesus is depicted not just as an aspiring musician, but ‘smokes dope’ as well. Not sure if John Niven’s book is banned here, but this isn’t the first time any attempt to demystify the Lord Jesus Christ into a fallible militant or singing humanoid has been clamped down by churches for blasphemy. Naturally, this hasty recall would draw curiosity to what Jesus 2.0 is about (as evident from searches landing as blog hits), or how Justin Bieber is in any way related to the Son of God (Both are famous, worshipped and have the ability to make people cry hysterically). ‘Shape-shifting’, traditionally practiced by the ultimate master of disguise and deception, the Devil himself, could be seen as a demonic power that may offend Christians, though that would technically make Jesus a rather cool X-men character. The man can already walk on water, for God’s sake. Not even Magneto could do that.

In 1974, churches were riled by the screening of ‘rock opera’ Jesus Christ Superstar to the point of petitioning to the PM to ban the film. To minimise the possibility of viewers taking the film at face value and believing that Jesus is actually David Bowie in disguise, pamphlets citing ‘religious guidance’ were distributed at cinemas. Before the screening of each film, the following announcement was flashed:

This is not an authentic portrayal of Jesus Christ, Son of God. For a true and accurate account, please read the Bible – The Protestant Churches of Singapore.

In the clip below, Jesus screeches in falsetto demanding God to provide an answer to why ‘he has to die’.

In a musical film of similar religious bent called ‘Godspell’, a Superman costume-wearing Jesus is ‘crucified’ on a fence to a gospel rock soundtrack, again a ‘gross misinterpretation’ of what really happened in the Bible.

Jesus being too ‘human’ for the churches’ liking was portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, while in the 1999 film Dogma, God was played by rock icon Alanis Morrissette. Needless to say, both films were banned here. There appears to be little tolerance, or sense of humour, for Jesus the Man to  manifest himself as anything but, in particular a singing, dancing, smoking, funky dude who fancies a little fun  and rock music on the side other than the gruelling, divine work of saving us from all our sins.To boost Christ’s ‘hip quotient’, he’s referred to in some circles as the catchy ‘JC’, urban shorthand like ‘JLo’ or ‘MJ’. In the film Jesus camp, there’s even a scene of kids dancing to ‘JC in Da House’, I kid you not. Yet if one were to put Jesus in a hoodie, ‘blinged ‘out  with gold crosses and hint at the slightest bit of ‘swag’ whatsoever, you would get the church elders up in arms. You can rap about Jesus, but you can’t suggest that he ‘busts a rhyme or two’ as well.

As for turning Jesus into Rambo, how often do you hear sermons preaching about Christians being ‘soldiers’ for Christ? In ‘The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy’,  Paul tells Timothy ‘Suffer hardship with me,  as a good soldier for Christ Jesus’. A 2002 sermon by the Gospel Light Church in Singapore was titled ‘Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War!‘. I would think Jesus donning a helmet instead of a crown of thorns and leading his faithful Christian soldiers into ‘battle’ would be a more accurate metaphor of biblical mission than him rocking out and pouting defiantly with an electric guitar while his adorers wait eagerly offstage to body -surf their musical Messiah to Heaven. Maybe the folks at FHM should have fitted Rambo Jesus with a wooden sword and a shield instead.

Banning a FHM magazine, which isn’t the sort of material good Christians should be browsing anyway judging from its sultry covers, wouldn’t staunch the wave of gross blasphemy that one encounters everywhere else. On Youtube you’ll see Jesus sashaying to ‘I Will Survive’, in a Street Fighter challenge vs God, fighting Santa Claus in South Park, or matching wits with the Terminator in Nazareth. In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it is even suggested that Jesus HAD SEX with Mary Magdalene. In the upcoming Lady Gaga concert, you may even hear some blasphemous lyrics about the Man’s race. In the bid to spread the Word and make an ancient religion appealing to modern minds, today’s Christ has been unwittingly morphed into a fashionable target in pop culture, parodied to death like Ronald McDonald or Kim Jong Il, yet despite the abundance of comic trivialisations, the Church remains a force to reckon with, not only having the authority to pull magazines from shelves but stop their own believers from wearing samfoos to service.

I’ve read the article above myself and don’t see any intended malice in it, with the ‘going downhill’ statement referring to Jesus’s fate on the cross, not the state of Christianity. If anything it was a rather tame satire on Jesus as icon and superhero, a harmless commentary on the godlike divinity of celebrities (including Simon Cowell and Tom Cruise) without undermining His existence, teachings or the veracity of the Bible in general. It’s not a Christian version of the ‘Satanic Verses’ that’s for sure, but I think Dan Brown beats this hands down in terms of  outright heresy. A case of the Church ‘jumping the gun’, perhaps. Maybe it’s not Jesus that needs an upgrade, but the Church that needs to , and  I quote DPM Tharman, ‘catch up’ with the times instead.

SCDF and CNB chiefs seriously misconducting themselves

From ‘SCDF and CNG chiefs under CPIB probe’, 24 Jan 2012, article by Satish Cheney, insing.com

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Commissioner Peter Lim and Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) director, Ng Boon Gay are among eight officers being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, reported Lianhe Wanbao.

The report said Lim had been suspended for nearly a month while Ng has been questioned by CPIB officers. Six other SCDF officials including two high ranking ones are allegedly being investigated as well.

The Chinese daily reported that sources said the case is “linked to money and women.

In a statement to the media, the Home Affairs ministry said both Lim and Ng are helping the CPIB with investigations into alleged “serious personal misconduct.”…Both Lim, 51, and Ng, 45, are Public Service Commission (PSC) scholars.

What is corruption without money and/or women, or rather SEX? An expected topple in the global corruption ranking aside (we’re currently fifth cleanest in the world), giving in to temptation while on public service duty is almost exclusively a male trait. Just last year a couple of SLA directors bought themselves fancy cars after embezzling millions. Barely a few weeks ago, a senior technical officer from NEA was jailed for accepting contractor bribes. But one organisation seems to fall prey rather readily to the pleasures of the flesh, in particular drug-addict flesh.

In 2008, a round of sex with a drug offender after her urine test landed CNB officer Phua Jun Yang with a sexual favours charge, breaching the Official Secrets Act while claiming his supervisee as his ‘girlfriend’. Similar cases of leniency in exchange for sex occurred in 1994 (CNB man helped drug user in exchange for sex, 9 May 1994, ST), and 2004 (Sexual favours from girls land CNB man in jail, 4 Sept 2004, ST).  Sex is also a bribe offered to ICA officers by China women caught for overstaying, but that’s another story altogether.

It turns out that a female IT exec from an American multinational company and some business with tenders were involved, and both men have admitted to having had ‘close working’ and ‘improper’ relations with the same woman. At some point you’d have to call a spade a spade and use uncomfortable terms like ‘sex, tryst, affair, mistress’. Sleaze avoidance is futile, no matter how high ranking the culprits are. The Chinese media managed to get a trashy lead on who this mystery woman might be; a 40-ish divorcee with kids who goes round flirting with men, wears low-cut tight clothing, and goes by the Hokkien nickname of ‘水查某 ‘, or ‘swee cha bor’, a come-hither compliment more befitting of KTV hostesses than IT execs. She later became a ‘36 year old’ beauty, now with a husband and believed to have had actual SEX with both men. Before you know it she could be young enough to pass off as their daughters.

I also managed to dig up an unfortunate photo of Ng Boon Gay with a huge paycheck at the recent CNB 40th anniversary held late last year.

The above event, part of a community outreach by CNB to family members affected by incarcerated drug offenders, was also the source of the following soundbite, probably the last you’ll ever hear of Ng in the capacity of a CNB director:

This donation drive shows that while CNB officers are entrusted with the task of enforcing Singapore’s zero tolerance against drug abuse, we empathise and understand the need to extend a helping hand to the families affected by their incarceration so that they can continue with their lives.

We also happen to have zero tolerance against corruption. Check out Peter Lim also holding a big cheque, and being presented with an award by Vivian Balakrishnan in this SCDF newsletter. Our current Minister of Environment once sang the praises of accused ex-MP Choo Wei Khiang as well. But wait, everyone’s so obsessed with the sex bits that perhaps there might not be any money being pocketed after all. People stumbling onto this blog have searched for smut like ‘ng boon gay sex video’ and ‘who is IT exec mystery woman’. In fact, you could start a blog with the tags scdf, cnb, ng boon gay, IT exec, sex and you could have 50 hits in a day at least.

Of course, the majority of CNB officers are honest-to-goodness workers and should be commended for preventing Singapore from turning into a Grand Theft Auto Vice City. They don’t have it easy, being exposed in their line of work to the dual temptations of drugs and sex, the latter a commodity that drug users are desperate enough to trade for under-reporting, if not free drugs. Under-reporting, incidentally, was what happened when the ‘Subutex effect’ was used to explain away miscalculations of drug arrests since 2008, presumably due to a ‘change of IT systems’. The error was uncovered when Ng Boon Gay was in charge last year. In fact, even for this case, both men were arrested at least 2 weeks before the news broke during CNY, which led to a Today writer lamenting about high salaries and how this was hushed from the public.

Whatever the outcome of this, it appears that our country with its whitewashed, hard-nosed rules and regulations is no longer as ‘clean’ as it was once thought to be, both literally and figuratively. It does, however, mean that the CPIB is doing a respectable job, and if it’s in fact capable of ferreting out white-collar felons whatever rank they are, then enforcement should be a better deterrent to temptation than an obscene paycheck.

Postscript(June 2012): Turns out that it was both SEX and MONEY involved. Peter Lim was the first to get charged to 10 counts of corruption, involved with 3 rather high-ranking women (directors, senior managers) , engaging in a range of ‘sexually gratifying’ activities, including a fling in a Paris hotel with Lee, as ‘freebies’ in exchange for tenders. It probably explains the many versions of the original ‘IT exec’. All except one party are married, and as much as one finds such tabloid filth entertaining, and disapprove of how the secret currency of sex has undermined the highest level of professionalism (and salaries) in both public service and the private sector, some thought should be spared for the families devastated by this incident.

The media seems to be preparing everyone for disappointment with its gratuitous portrayal of the 3 women. Here’s a sampling and their inspirations.

70’s seductresses

Dragonball

K-pop

Just a week later, Ng Boon Gay was hauled up to be charged for accepting sex for favours. The ‘It’ Girl of the moment turns out to be  a certain Cecilia Sue Siew Nang, whose description seems to fit the ‘swee zhabor’ angle of the Chinese media almost half a year ago. Her name was also tossed about in random forums in late Jan 2012, garnering more search hits than ‘book reunion dinner for CNY’. Which means the gossip-mongers were RIGHT (the name at least), though 9 out of 10 times wild rumours are grossly wrong. Ng plead NOT guilty while his wife continues to support him, the latter getting the least attention from the media, but ultimately the worst off of the three.

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