Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ’100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50′s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

Postscript: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

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No water splashing allowed at Songkran festival

From ‘Singapore’s 1st Songkran water festival goes dry’, 25 March 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

There will be no water pistol fights, celebrity dunk stations, or really, any kind of water fun at Singapore’s first Songkran water festival on April 12 and 13. The organisers of Celebrate Songkran 2014 at the Padang have taken heed of the national campaign to conserve water and nixed the water-based activities.

Instead, they will host a Water Conservation and Water Heritage Exhibition in conjunction with national water agency PUB. The organisers said this was appropriate in view of the recent dry spell and current moves to cut back on water usage.

Though lighting designer Sanischaya Mankhongphithakkul, 25, agrees with the rationale, it still feels a little odd. “What’s a water festival without water?”

The whole point of traditional Songkran is to get soaking wet, as dousing is symbolic of washing away bad luck. It’s also the Thai New Year, usually accompanied by Buddhist activities such as prayer sessions, as what took place back in 1999 during Singapore’s first open-air Songkran near Paya Lebar MRT. In 1988, Songkran was held at the now defunct Big Splash, where other than getting wet and wild, participants would be expected to burn joss sticks and bathe statues of Four Face Buddhas. Otherwise, Golden Mile Complex is the place to be if you want to mingle with Thai workers ringing in their New Year with water fights. It’s a religious festival, not an excuse to get fashionably drunk and watch Far East Movement.

No wonder Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Ms Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn, had reportedly (according to the ST article) threatened to sue festival organisers for ‘undermining the values’ of the Thai festival, not so much that we’re cutting out the real star of the show for conservation reasons, but because we’re twisting the agenda to suit our needs and flying in entertainers, turning it into yet another outdoor pop music festival that’s really a B-grade cousin of the F1 megaconcerts, headlined by a band who’s not even Thai to begin with. How would you feel if Westerners adopted our version of Chinese New Year, but just went around eating dim sum, making fortune cookies or ‘lo hei-ing’ over meatballs and spaghetti instead of yusheng?

The ‘CelebrateSongkran’ website continues to run misleading images of drenched people with Supersoakers, oblivious that the banning of water activities has, in a manner of speaking, rained on everyone’s parade. Conservative Christians who refuse to fold paper ingots at their grandmother’s funeral should not attend by the way because of its religious (i.e ‘paganistic’) origins.  Yes you can’t have water fun because your God forbids it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.05.19 PM

Dampnation!

Songkran in Singapore used to be an intimate, simple, even holy affair, celebrated only within a niche community, now commercialised and rebranded as a pseudo rave party like how the Indian ‘festival of colours’ Holi has turned into a rainbow powder orgy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Water Wally prancing around on stage either, blind to the irony that by completely overturning the theme toward water conservation just to avoid cancelling the damn thing, you forget that you’re also splurging on electricity and raking up carbon miles flying in celebrities. I mean, we could just run another ‘Keep it to 5′ campaign rather than bullshit our way through someone else’s New Year celebration, and with the $60 price tag for 2 nights of partying, you’re more likely to see rich teens and expats there than the folks who appreciate the true meaning of Songkran, the homesick Thai workers. The only sprinkling of any sort you’ll see there will be drunkards taking a piss by a bush, or the buckets of sweat produced by the people cleaning up after your mess when the night’s over.

It also sets an awkward precedent for future events which have the slightest implications on the natural environment. Should we stop people from burning incense during Qing Ming because of the haze? Stop circulating new $2 notes or printing ang pows in the event of worsening global deforestation? Scrape F1 during an oil crisis? Ban St Patricks Day or Oktoberfest when there’s an epidemic of hops infestation? Put a stop to Hungry Ghost Festival offerings during a famine? If you want to enjoy REAL Songkran without some event organiser messing it up and turning it into a poor man’s foam party (without the foam of course), yet don’t want to be seen wasting water, you can do it at a pool or beach where you can splash all you want. More importantly, it’s FREE, and you don’t have to listen to bloody annoying Far East Movement while at it.

 

Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

Leonard ‘Santa Claus’ Francis defrauding the US Navy

From ‘SEX, ports and government contracts’, 6 Oct 2013, article by Walter Sim, Sunday Times

Singapore-based businessman Leonard Glenn Francis has been reported to own a sprawling 70,000 sq ft Nassim Road bungalow, which has become famous for its extravagant Christmas light-ups.

But his next home could be a jail in the United States, where the 58-year-old Malaysian father of five was charged last month with defrauding the US Navy in a case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts.

Part of the plot allegedly involved bribing a US Navy commander (Michael Misiewicz) and a special agent (John Beliveau) with luxury travel and women in exchange for classified information that allowed Francis to profit from his business dealings with the US Navy.

Leonard Francis has reportedly been living in Singapore for more than 30 years despite still being a Malaysian citizen. Last Christmas, the self-proclaimed ‘Santa Claus’ and Catholic adorned his Nassim bungalow with reindeers, a gigantic Xmas tree, even a nativity scene complete with manger. Who would have thought that this lavish spectacle (possibly costing at least $100,000) may have been made possible by ‘gifts’ of a totally different nature, among which include Lady Gaga concert tickets and what he called his ‘Elite Thai Seal team’, or prostitutes. When asked about the expenses, he replied ‘ You can’t put a value on happiness’. Not so for pleasure, it seems.

Francis started draping his residence in the Xmas spirit back in 2007, when he was at Cluny Road and already renown then as among Singapore’s ‘most ardent Christmas decorators’. An assistant was given a budget of $25K then to make Francis’ house shine as bright as Orchard Road, drawing complaints from those who saw the gesture as unnecessarily extravagant and felt that the money splurged on giant snowmen and Baby Jesuses should have gone into more charitable causes. The lighting even caused a minor traffic jam when cars slowed down just to gaze in awe at the audacious splendour of it all (Ironically, Francis himself has also complained to the Traffic Police about rows of parked heavy vehicles along Nassim Road). If he hadn’t been caught, this year’s light-up could have been bigger, better and brighter, maybe even with actual falling snow or a ship dressed up like Noah’s Ark sponsored by the US Navy, with Kai Kai and Jia Jia in it.

Francis’ arrest is a sigh of relief for Nassim neighbours who couldn’t sleep because of his annoying flashing extravaganza. In the video below taken of the house from a vehicle, someone quipped that he ‘basically baokaliao the sidewalk’ and questioned if decorating the place like it’s your grandfather’s road was even legal. Even if it were illegal, I doubt the authorities would go all Scrooge over it, especially on rich folks’ property.

In late 2012, just as Francis was getting ready to receive Father Christmas, his military contractor company Glenn Defence Marine Asia was charged for dumping hazardous waste in Subic Bay, Philippines, which dwarves the environmental burden of over-the-top Xmas lighting.  Of course that didn’t stop Singapore’s Mr Xmas himself from turning Nassim Road into a Winter Wonderland in a bid to out-Christmas Orchard Road, while at the same time sending ‘Not Safe For Xmas’ pics of Thai hookers to his partners in crime.  If found guilty of duping the US Navy and overcharging ‘pearl ports’, Francis may spend the next few Christmases decking prison bars with snow made out of wet toilet paper balls instead. No sheep in the manger for this conman in a slammer.

188 words of inspiration stolen from Night Festival

From ‘Stolen art pieces paint ugly picture of society’, 10 Sept 2013, ST Forum

(Aw Yang Kang Ming): I WAS disappointed to find out that people would actually steal pieces of an artwork at the Singapore Night Festival (“More words of art go missing”; Sept 2). The installation by artist Karen Mitchell featured 365 wooden panels that were supposed to represent the shared aspirations of everyone.

Why would anyone want to remove an artistic installation that was supposed to inspire people?

Removing the panels is akin to downloading licensed content from the Internet without permission from the author; it is theft and a clear sign of disrespect to the creator. It also showcases the dissolute side of people; what would foreigners think of our society?

Perhaps the 188 panels went missing because they were not affixed onto any permanent structure.

Did any one of these say ‘FREE’?

When artist Karen Mitchell made her woodwork installation to be of the interactive sort, she didn’t expect viewers to ‘assimilate’ her work so well that they decided to take them home. Clearly, some people still don’t grasp the concept of street art. When they see others playing with these wooden slabs like how one browses wares at a flea market, but don’t see anyone around collecting money, they assume that it’s a free-for-all jamboree like those cheese samples promoters dish out at NTUC supermarkets.

Respect for the artist is one thing, but taking something that clearly doesn’t belong to you from public space is the fundamental no-no which we were taught as babies. I don’t see any practical use of Karen’s panels anyway, unless they were swiped by parents too cheapskate to buy spelling cue cards for their kids. I would, however, pay her if she could craft a sign for me that says ‘SILENCE’ or maybe ‘TOILET’. If anyone did surrender pieces of her work to her eventually, they deserve a gift panel with the word ‘CHAMPION’ on it.

The term that describes such ugly behaviour in the local context is ‘itchy fingers’, and Karen isn’t the first artist to suffer from a meddlesome public. A dragon sculpture displayed at a square near Chinatown Complex vanished completely in 2000 (So who stole the dragon? 15 May 2000, ST). In the 2001 Nokia Singapore Art exhibition, Tay Bee Aye’s 179 small fabric cushions shaped as lips gracing the pillars of Suntec City were nicked. Wikipedia explained away the theft by mentioning that her work was ‘too well received’. You could say the same thing if my sculpture of a famous politician built entirely out of gold tooth fillings got amputated overnight, that it was ‘overwhelmingly popular’ with the public. Sure, these petty looters ‘appreciate’ your handiwork. Like how a starving mongrel ‘receives’ a gourmet butcher meat display perhaps.

Even artistic attempts to spruce up our streets by government agencies are not immune from grubby hands. In 2009, STB introduced flower ‘totems’ to brighten up Orchard Road, but decided to move them to Sentosa instead because people were stealing flowers.  I wonder if in this instance such anti-social behaviour would have been considered vandalism instead, though you’re more likely to be charged for defacing public property than taking a piece of it with you. Spray-paint over the Cenotaph and you’ll go to jail, but I doubt you’ll be punished the same way if you chisel off a bit of staircase as a souvenir. For a country so paranoid about CCTV surveillance that we have them set up to catch people taking a piss in lifts, we still don’t seem deterred from messing around with someone’s livelihood in broad daylight.

Perhaps Karen, and anyone aspiring to be a street artist in Singapore, could learn from this experience and come up with immovable themes instead of designs that easily come apart encouraging people to ‘interact’ with them like a pack of wolves descending on fallen prey. Otherwise, rig each detachable piece from your work with an electric charge so that people will be conditioned to keep their hands to themselves once and for all.

As the Bee Gees famously sung,

‘It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away’

In Karen’s case, her WORDS, not the audience’s HEARTS, were the ones swept away.

Ilo Ilo child actor physically assaulted on set

From ‘Why was child actor caned’, 8 June 2013, Mailbag, ST

(Teo Eng Swee): I refer to the article, As Real As It Gets (SundayLife!, June 2), on the award- winning film Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen.

It is stated that the child actor was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene. I was taken aback to read that the child was physically assaulted in the name of achieving realism in the film. Even though his mother appeared to have consented to the caning, this seems to be wrong. Animals are humanely treated during filming. It seems to me that children should be treated to a much higher standard.

I hope that the relevant authorities, such as the Media Development Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Manpower, will set high standards that safeguard children who are working in the entertainment industry

Koh Jia Ler, 12, had no issue with being whipped on set. In fact, in the interview he said it was a ‘small thing to him’ and admitted that Mommy used to trounce him when he was younger. Which means some parents are still using the old fashioned method of discipline as recently as 2000. I believe a TWELVE year old actor should be mature and professional enough to deal with a little pain for the price of stardom. After all, this could be the very last time he may experience the once familiar hot sting of tough love. These days, men either have to PAY, or go on a graffiti rampage, to get some spanking dished out.

Only time will tell if being flogged for everyone in Cannes to see would leave psychological scars on a growing boy. Protective parents and human rights activists could be up in arms over Ilo Ilo for being too ‘gritty’ for its own good, but forget that they live in a country where even adults are systematically caned as a form of punishment. Foreign audiences familiar with our barbaric penalties would view the scene as a commentary of Singapore’s medieval caning ‘culture’, though modern parents, Singaporean or otherwise, generally shun the rod and spoil the child instead. Better they turn out to be brats who sleep with their iPads than hooked on Prozac and listen to goth. If a stern voice, fierce scowl and ‘reasoning’ works for your kid, then congrats. But if the little bastard turns out to be a problem child from hell, then perhaps a ‘light touch’ which celebrity parenting gurus rave about may be as useful as placing a crucifix on Godzilla.

But this isn’t the first time the dreaded Cane is featured in a local movie. Jack Neo unleashed his fury with one in ‘I Not Stupid Too’.

In the original I Not Stupid, Jack slapped the boy actor playing his son (Shawn Lee) till he BLED FROM THE NOSE. It was almost comical in its brutality. Damn it Jack, either you’re paying your child actors too well or you’ve hired budding masochists for your films. Today, Shawn Lee seems like a normal young adult in a relationship according to his Facebook page despite being viciously attacked by Neo before puberty. Didn’t think he needed ‘safeguarding’ by the likes of MDA, an agency known for doing more damage ‘protecting’ the public than doing nothing at all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 12.39.22 PM

Tough love Jack Neo style

You don’t hear anybody complaining about I Not Stupid’s violence against children, nor children inflicting violence on themselves (Shawn’s character considered SUICIDE by jumping) because its attempt at sociopolitical satire overshadowed all explicit depictions of child abuse. In fact, Neo’s film was lauded by the British, for whom caning or smacking children is ILLEGAL. Most locals tend not to gasp and cover their eyes at such scenes, not because we routinely mete out corporal punishment ourselves, but we can understand why some parents resort to smacking Singaporean kids about. For those at the end of their tether but struggling to hold back, you could even say they’re envious of it. But why harp on tortured child actors when women are getting slapped left-right-centre in Taiwanese soap operas?

Let’s hope it’s not just a case of forbidden fruit and Western parents’ secret desire to throttle their unruly kids that earned Ilo Ilo its 15-minute standing ovation triumph at Cannes, that the movie won its prize not because people are drawn to Singaporean kids being ass-whipped as they are to North Korean kids playing hopscotch. If MDA censors Ilo Ilo because of scenes depicting child cruelty, perhaps another Hong Lim protest is in order. We could call it #FreeMyIloIlo, but that would sound too much like a protest about pasta.

Doh’mestic violence

F1 extension delights almost everyone

From ‘News of F1 extension delights all but bay area businesses’, 23 Sept 2012, article by May Chen, ST online

Almost every one, from fans to hotels to Formula One drivers, welcomed the extension of the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday with open arms – every one except several retailers in the Marina Bay area.

Their main beef: The disruption to business when the area goes into lockdown for the three-day extravaganza.

“The race brings a buzz to town, but not everybody is impressed. A lot of people try to stay away and it affects our business, and a lot of other people’s businesses,” said Indochine chief executive Michael Ma yesterday, a refrain echoed by Allan Chia, who operates a pushcart in Suntec City selling mobile phone accessories. “People avoid Suntec City altogether because of the road closures,” said the 35-year-old.

Well, not just the bay side retailers. While the hotels and banks may be popping the champagne with all the money flowing in, the latter flying in VIPs to hobnob with drivers and the rich and famous at the Paddock Club, there have been opposing voices to the F1 Night Race right from the get-go. So it may be rather presumptuous to announce how everyone will embrace another 5 years of night racing, when some groups were already up in arms over the inaugural one in 2008. It’s also worth noting that we didn’t get off to an auspicious start either, with Fernando Alonso winning the first Night race because a Renault teammate deliberately crashed his car to give him an advantage (I don’t know enough about racing to see how that helps). Nobody ever mentions ‘Crashgate’ anymore since, though we had a multi-religious prayer this year to make sure such ‘accidents’ don’t happen. It’s also taboo to even discuss the Ferrari accident near race period, and it’s somewhat ironic that we label supercar drivers here a menace to our roads on one hand, yet embrace the F1 with gusto on the other.

F1 claims to be making conscious ‘green’ efforts to improve on their fuel efficiency and emissions, like planting trees in Mexico or using biofuels, though such actions may register nary a blip on the carbon ECG, especially if they neutralise each other when you need to starve viable forest land to make way for fuel crops. Our Government continues to enthuse over how this event is putting our tiny country on the map, high on the ‘buzz’ that the addictive cocktail of fast cars and posh celebrity delivers, but conveniently forgetting in their delirium that we once made a PLEDGE to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 16% by 2020. Oops.

In 2007, some forum writers spurned the energy-guzzling and glamour posing that comes with each F1, that hosting this event sends conflicting messages to the rest of the world about our stand on energy conservation and combating climate change. One moment we’re talking about supertrees and the next thing you know we’re pounding our streets with oil-guzzling supercars. According to a senior ST correspondent, a single race produces up to 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide, this excluding that spewed from freighting cars and equipment into and out of the country. But it’s not so much the noise, the exhaust or the heat that brands every night race an eco-nightmare; It’s the damned lighting.

According to one website dedicated to the F1 Night Race, the lighting statistics are as follows:

Total Power   3,180,000 watt
Track Projectors  1, 485, 2,000 watt each
Power Generators  12 pairs (with back-up)
Aluminium Truss 6,282m
Steel Pylons   240
Power Cables  108, 423m

At 3000 LUX levels, the lighting is FOUR TIMES the lights at sports stadiums. The gorgeous illuminated skyline that we’re so proud of, the one that helicopter cameras glide across every year like a director lingering over naked thighs in a porno film, is the result of a dozen generators belching 3 megawatts of electricity, the same amount that could light up a few Malaysia Cup final matches at the National Stadium, or serve a few underprivileged households. Will Singapore compromise when we face an oil crisis within the next 5 years, or perhaps consider switching to a less wasteful DAY race instead? But you can’t argue about electricity expenditure without sounding like a spoilsport who doesn’t appreciate the exhilaration of night racing. Singapore NEEDS the F1, so they say. But you don’t need bright lights and dozens of expensive parties and concerts to make an icon out of Marina Bay. Sometimes, all you need is an amateur porn star and a camera.

No it’s not about our national identity, the Marina glitter, the F1 fans or the small pushcart businesses in Suntec City. It’s about the after-race Dom Perignons, the $26,600 per table at Amber Lounge,  the $6850 Paddock Club pass.  Few people who could spend thousands on a ticket are really interested in the technicalities of the sport, rather using it as a backdrop for business or high-society pleasure. Money is all there is to it, and while we rush headlong into this glitzy fantasy, our heads reverberating with the erotic growl of the engine and our hearts pumping with adrenaline, our most influential supporters of the race continue to sleepwalk through our energy conservation efforts, dump flyers at us telling us how to save electricity (but not the trees obviously) while raising tariffs, yet preparing for the next race bash by hugging for dear life onto whatever surplus oil barrels we have.

$17 million NDP having too many rehearsals

From ‘Reduce expenditure for National Day Parade’, 14 Sept 2012, ST Forum

(Matthew Yeo): I AM surprised by the amount of public funding for the National Day Parade (“National Day Parade costs rise to $17.2m”; Tuesday). Why was there a need for so many rehearsals? A glitch is all right, especially when we now believe it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.

I am also curious to know why the cost of fireworks and ammunition was not mentioned. Were they really necessary during rehearsals? Each year, there are too many man-hours lost in the rehearsals, which blunt the excitement of the actual Parade itself.

The most expensive NDP ever held ($20 million) was in 2010 at the Padang, not that I remembered anything about it that distinguished this from the rest (It went mostly into laying the stage for the show, including 17 support towers for 3 LED screens). Though expenses dipped last year, it’s worth recalling that some of that 17 million went into making fun packs, and the FUN PACK song, which ended up being scrapped, and wasted, for copyright reasons. Today’s standards, of course, are a far cry from the 1 million budget we allocated to NDP in the eighties, a time when they could produce more memorable National Songs on $2.50 cassette tapes than the multi-million polished laser-guided extravangzas of today ever can. In the past, some Singaporeans thought that props like a $143,000 ‘PSA Dragon’ were a total waste of money, which does make sense considering how you only show off these dazzling displays a couple of times and then chuck them aside forever.

The reason for the expensive rehearsals and previews is that the NDP is not just for the general Singaporean audience alone, where you can ‘glitch’ up and not worry about being flamed online later. The NDP has to be blooper-free because it’s not just us or the government and President watching, but perhaps the rest of the world. As a once-a-year event with a long history of prestige and pride, this singular celebration of a nation, the holy mother of all parades and performances, has to run like clockwork because on this one very special day, the NDP simply has to be the Greatest Propaganda Show on Earth and there is no excuse in not delivering anything less. As a means to show off our military might to make our neighbours tremble with apprehension and showcase our ability to afford pyrotechnics, itself a prime indicator of our economic health, running it like a school play is to risk mockery by the entire nation. Not everyone is as forgiving as the complainant if some soldier misfires, if the parade commander botches his commands, or if someone in the VIP seat starts playing with their phone during the National Anthem. In 2006, someone complained to the press about a SPELLING error on the NDP TICKET (separate, not seperate). Last year, some disapproved of cross-dressing in one of the skits and called for the parade to be slapped with a NC-16 warning. Such vehemence towards cock-ups just goes to show how high our expectations are for this annual blast of pomp and patriotism, like deprived peasants devouring the bloody spectacle of a gladiator match in a Colosseum. You want to see savage beasts dismembering each other, not whimpering pussy cats dodging balls of wool.

But perhaps we’re only looking at costs at face value, for there are environmental reasons to curb the festivities as well. In 2008, someone suggested cancelling the flypast during NDP because it consumed jet fuel and caused noise pollution during rehearsals.  If you’re a nature lover you may bemoan the plight of airborne creatures exposed to the chemical fizz from fireworks or wild shots from 21 gun salutes. Yet, within the same year, the same eco-warrior may have added more destructive carbon into the atmosphere by traveling, turning on the air-conditioner daily or simply watching TV. So yes, although bigger and brighter doesn’t always mean better, the NDP isn’t something to be stinged on either. It’s like replacing your grandmother’s favourite shark’s fin soup with fish maw broth during her birthday bash.

No Tau Huay allowed at Diner en Blanc

From ‘Bloggers upset over Diner En Blanc rule’, 24 Aug 2012, article by Celine Asril, insing.com

Local food is discouraged at exclusive dinner event titled ‘Dîner en Blanc – Singapore’, and this is not sitting well among some bloggers in Singapore even before they could sit down for a meal. The hush-hush food party is a mass picnic pop-up event taking place at an undisclosed location in the city, set to take place on 30 August.

It apparently started on Tuesday, 21 August, when food blogger Daniel Ang – of Daniel’s Food Diary – posted an entry about Dîner en Blanc. In his post, he provided details about the event. He also jokingly included a list of white-coloured local dishes that diners may take along. Then, four days later, he tweeted, at 2.52pm: “Dear fellow bloggers, this is the post I was told to removed by Dîner en Blanc. I hope I have your support [link provided].” This is the first time he has been asked to remove his blog post, he claims.

When asked why, Ang said, “The French organisers conveyed to the PR company that they were not happy with my post. The argument is that chicken rice and tau huay [bean curd] are not in line with their image.”

Prawns aren’t white

Daniel’s suggestion of local fare such as soon kuey and pohpiah was clearly tongue-in-cheek, though the reaction to Diner En Blanc being a stickler for some fancy-ball theme rules has been overwhelming, verging on a possible boycott and a counter-event being proposed by some powerful bloggers to show who’s boss when it comes to local cuisine. Typical of passionate Singaporeans when something so close to their hearts (and stomachs) is being dissed as ‘peasant food’ by stuck-up foreigners: Organise a copycat local gastronomical event just to irritate the hell out of them. The sheer animosity that Singaporeans feel when our beloved tau huay gets snubbed just goes to show how dearly we identify with the stuff we eat everyday, with the nationalistic fervour and vengeance as if someone defecated on our national flag. What are we, hawker Nazis now?

In response to the furore organiser Clemen Chiang quipped: “The diners have to ask themselves if they are comfortable eating you tiao (fried dough sticks) and drinking champagne. If you feel comfortable putting you tiao on your table, carry on.”(Is Tau Hway too low-class for posh picnic?, 25 Aug 2012, ST). Come off it, NOBODY eats you tiao with champagne. You should pair it with hot almond milk paste or Horlicks, both foods in line with the White theme. Chiang also mentioned that this is really an extravagant pot-luck of sorts, that ‘da-paoing’ is not encouraged, similar to another European invention called the Slow Food movement, something which will probably never take off among ravenous buffet-loving Singaporeans who take less time to finish their food than browse menus.

Some good does come out of such culinary revolt though; thanks to some complaints of curry smells last year, we got ourselves an annual CURRY festival. There’s nothing wrong, or illegal, with having silly pretentious dining restrictions for some party; that’s the whole point of having a THEME, or men owning dinner jackets and bow-ties. For example, foldable tables must be 28″ by 32″ and white. Plastic cutlery and paper plates are forbidden (even if they’re white). Only wine and champagne are allowed, while beer and hard liquour are banned (I suppose Guinness stout wouldn’t make the cut too). But silliest of all is how you’d have to CARRY your own table (not to mention the expensive chinaware) there, dressed like you came out of a Jane Austen novel, or the hospital. In this HEAT. Anyway, if you’re not happy with the rules, if you think it’s snob-porn,  if you don’t want to risk being labelled a ‘cheapskate’, if you don’t want to end up looking like you participated in a Wet T-shirt contest instead of a classy Frenchie picnic, you just don’t attend, plain and simple. You could sign up for the nearest hobo convention for all I care.

Actually, we had Diner en Blancs all along

If I held an ALL-MEAT only party and force my attendees to come dressed only in leather or fur, I would piss off plenty of vegetarians. If I organised a Bollywood party and people come in blackface, someone may make a police report. People who could afford it hold all kinds of weird fetishistic parties in secret all the time, like the Secret Cooks’ Nyamatori feast where people eat off naked bodies. Whether it’s a self-indulgent, ‘atas’ black-tie event with ridiculous standards of etiquette, a swinger’s orgy or a tea party where everyone dresses as a character from Alice In Wonderland, what these people do for fun is really none of my business. In the case of DeB, however, the use of symbolic ‘white’ as a theme also suggests a kind of holy ‘purity’, while some may associate it with Western colonialist opulence and race segregation, as what ‘exclusive’ clubs like Singapore Swimming Club used to do in the fifties, banning locals from the premises even if they dressed to the nines and could discuss cricket like a pro with the nearest cigar-munching Englishman.

Chai Tau Kway (white version) may not make the DeB list of suggested foods, but perhaps they would reconsider if Chan Chun Sing were invited VIP and decided to bring it with him to the party in a bid to win bloggers over. I mean, he could even attend the event straight from Parliament without changing. As local Gangnam style goofs ‘Dee Kosh’ and Co would sing: Give me Tau Huay.

We’re not ready for a world without LKY

From ‘Singapore heaves huge sigh of relief at Lee Kuan Yew’s NDP appearance’, 10 Aug 2012, article by Melissa Aw, Yahoo News.

…In the past week, rumours swirled online and offline that the former Singapore Prime Minister’s health was fading quickly. Day by day, the speculation grew stronger and wilder.

…Although a quick check by Yahoo! at Lee’s Oxley Road house on Wednesday showed nothing out of the ordinary, rumours continued to grow online and offline. Soon, the health of Lee became a topic of national debate and the “will he or won’t he appear at NDP?” question grew into a audible chorus ahead of National Day.

Even members of the media were not immune to the frenzy.  The Straits Times’ political journalist Tessa Wong addressed the rumours on Twitter, dismissing claims of a cover-up and that Lee was alive and well.  Channel NewsAsia editor and presenter Glenda Chong also stepped up to clear the rumours on her Facebook wall on Wednesday.

Without mentioning names, she wrote, “So a lot of people have been asking me a question! He’s alive and please watch NDP tomorrow… Trust me he’s alive, otherwise I will be extremely busy!”

The reporter above was kind enough not to pose the REAL question on everyone’s minds this past week leading up to NDP. Did LKY DIE before the parade? Then there are the conspiracy theorists and their ‘body double’ explanations for his miraculous appearance. The truth turned out to be stranger than the fiction one sees in typical Dictator stereotypes or madcap movies like Weekend at Bernie’s; the old man’s still alive, though to say that such rife hearsay kept everyone tense on the edge of their seats and emitting a huge gaseous sigh of relief is probably pushing it. The nail-biting twisty climax to what appears to be a bad M Night Shyamalan political thriller is an apt image of LKY looking dapper in red, giving a victorious double thumbs up. It could have been two middle fingers instead.

Leader in Red

Don’t these internet gossips know that if they’re trying to start a fire online they’re equally likely to get burnt? Yaacob Ibrahim just added one more reason to this list of ‘Reasons to Regulate the Internet’ in his push for a Code of Conduct. But what’s interesting about the Yahoo article is not so much its content, but the title of its weblink in full:

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/spore-not-ready-for-a-world-without-lee-kuan-yew-.html

Which raises the question: What will become of us when LKY is dead and gone? Will we be like sheeps without a shepherd? A rock band without a drummer? A brothel without a mama-san? Sewer rats without the Pied Piper?

It’s not surprising that LKY has ‘used up’ one of his 9 lives before. In 2010, ex-Singaporean and now American lawyer Gopalan Nair admitted in his Singapore Dissident blog to publishing a hoax that LKY had ‘suffered from a massive heart attack’:

Even though I made up everything I said about Dear Leader about his heart attack, and none of it is true, I can assure you that the scenario that I painted assuming that he dies is completely correct.

So what scenario was Nostradamus here talking about? According to his original tall tale, ‘such a happening can destroy the business confidence and cause total destruction in the small island city state.’ There were also ‘peaceful protesters and demonstrators… holding placards reading “Democracy” and “Down With the Dictator” and chanting slogans.’ As far as I’m aware there were no ‘Hurry up and Die already’ campaigns going on in the build-up to NDP aside from the scatterbrained hullabaloo and white noise in social media. If the sources were in fact reliable, I would think most of us would have been stunned at first, but gradually come to accept and carry on with our lives. We wouldn’t be thinking of packing our bags and, like Gopalan, seek asylum in a country where you can get gunned down by madmen while watching Batman in a movie theatre or praying to your gods in a temple. In fact, Gopalan is still drilling in our heads even in the midst of this gonzo media circus that we’ll be hapless without LKY, that the stock market would plunge, and the Sing dollar would be worthless. WORTHLESS, I tell you. Woe is me!

If LKY did have a major coronary, the media would have jumped on it like a rabid coyote, as how they have done in the past reporting on the state of the elder statesman’s health from minor infections to bladder evacuations. We really didn’t need to know. Telling me that LKY was ‘ill’ before the parade is nothing new, so someone decided to up the ante and say ‘Hey, why not have him DEAD for a change?’

2011-Peripheral neuropathy (as revealed by daughter Lee Wei Ling)

2008 -Abnormal heart rhythm (article above)

2003- Prostate Surgery 

1998 – Infection arising from minor surgical procedure (SM in hospital, 23 Nov 1998, ST)

1997 – Acute respiratory tract infection (SM Lee in hospital due to infection, 7 Sept 1997, ST)

1997 – Elective evacuation of the bladder (SM Lee to undergo elective evacuation of the bladder, 11 Jan 1997, ST)

1996 – Balloon angioplasty (SM’s balloon angioplasty op a success: PMO, 16 March 1996, ST)

It’s easy to spin insensitive yarns about someone’s father and grandfather when you’re based overseas and still persist in egging LKY’s lawyers to sue you for slander, but more importantly, bad taste. Gopalan had it easy compared to Twitter users like ‘izreloaded’, who got name-dropped in the Yahoo article above as one of the perpetrators of a highly contagious rumour. But it’s one thing to plant a lie in the national psyche for your own sick indulgence, another to condemn the country into anarchy and chaos because of the demise of one man, especially if you’re not doing anything to help avert the impending end of Singapore as we know it, a ringside commentator pulling one awful joke after another. This Gopalan prophet of the coming apocalypse may have no love lost for LKY, but where’s the faith in the the rest of us? If the old man is as formidably crafty as he’s reputed to be, he would have set a series of events in motion as part of an elaborate grand scheme of command and control, to ensure that Singapore runs like clockwork centuries after his death, like how we splice a dead Nat King Cole with his daughter Natalie in an ‘Unforgettable’ duet and still make it number one on the charts.

Still, nothing bugs a nation like an dead or dying dictator/autocrat. Fidel Castro was reportedly dead (false) earlier this year, the dates of rumour-mongering occurring near two special dates for the Cuban leader, similar to how sparks flew near our very own 9th of August. Barely taking over the reins from his late father, Kim Jong Un was ‘assassinated’ by gunmen in what would have been the month of his dad’s 70th birthday. Equally ‘killed by Internet’ were Hosni Murbarak, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Suharto. This bespeaks a frivolous trend of ‘Dead Evil Leader pranking’, which plays psychological parlour tricks on our basic emotions. Rumour feeds the need to be heard, the sudden loss of a figure of stifling authority feeds our need to be free, while the stock market blips attest to our fear. What we need the most now, though, is the belief that we can carry on. With or without LKY.

And we can only hope that when the time comes, it doesn’t end up like this.

We are all doomed

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