Fun pack items a waste of money

From ‘Fun packs should be useful to all’, 9 March 2015, Voices, Today

(Goh Kian Huat): This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is set to be a big affair as Singapore celebrates its golden jubilee. About 1.2 million households are set to receive a free fun pack, so they can join in the celebrations even if they are not at the event itself (“Mega-NDP across Marina Bay area to draw 150,000”; March 6)

To ensure the fun packs are useful to households, some of the items should be different from the ones given out to those attending the parade. For example, things such as face paint, handheld fans, clappers, banners and plastic raincoats are useful only to those who are at the parade. Organisers should consider substituting these items with more useful ones for households, or souvenirs for keeping.

Also, organisers should ensure fun pack items can be recycled or reused as far as possible out of consideration for the environment. For example, the bag for the fun packs can be designed in such a way that students can reuse it as a school bag.

In addition, to avoid duplication of resources, households that manage to secure tickets to attend the parade should not be given a second fun pack. Organisers should find a way of identifying them.

The total cost of the celebrations is expected to be around S$40 million, twice that of previous NDPs. Let us ensure that the resources are put to good use.

Full of fun

Full of fun

This is a nice way of saying that the fun pack and its contents are pretty useless. Even if those at the parade took these out to play, they’re mostly junked once the fireworks have fizzled. 1.2 million households, 10 million dollars. The Fun Pack Song even has the self-prophesying lyric: Attack the Fun Pack,  and the attacks have been relentless. When the government sends a bag of freebies to our doorstep, we either complain that it’s ugly or an utter waste of money, and that we’d rather receive a SG50 hongbao with $10 cold hard cash inside. Such ingrates. Such Singaporeans.

If there’s one thing the SG50 committee hasn’t learned about the Singaporean psyche, it’s that they did not make us QUEUE for the damn thing. Sending the funpack straight to our homes makes it far less desirable than when we’re putting in time and effort to join long, overnight queues to grab ‘limited edition’ goodie bags, like how we drag ourselves out of bed at 4am in the morning to camp outside McDonalds for free Egg McMuffins. Likewise, if you had pitched the funpack such that there are only ‘1 million available’ and forced Singaporeans to fight tooth and nail over it, you would have more people posting their catch on Facebook and showing them off like trophies rather than grumbling about the practicality of banners and clappers. Even if it looks so god-awful that your kid would rather wear your dusty army fullpack to school than be seen slinging a funpack over his shoulder.

But look closer at the spread above and you’ll find oodles of charm and usefulness in every item. The chapteh, for instance, can be used to spice up your bedroom tickle parties in place of a kinky peacock feather if you’re not the sporty type. Face paint can be used as zombie makeup this Halloween, or for your next cosplay event. The ‘commemorative’ publications like the jubilee book can add some zesty patriotic colour to the top of your coffee table. Singapore flag erasers come in super handy when you’re down by the lake in Chinese Garden pencil-sketching pagodas and cranes. And who doesn’t love NEWWATER? This wonderful elixir is the e-pee-tome of our self-sufficiency.

Still, the SG50 folks could have done better with the selection, and should have consulted Singaporeans like how they made us vote for the Jubilee Baby package, bearing in mind that not everyone will be up on their feet dancing on National Day. Some will be doing shift work making sure convenience stores and hospitals are still manned by humans. Others will be worrying about getting food on the table for their next meal. And there are the buggers flying off somewhere for holidays who can’t be bothered about this SG50 overkill.

Here’s my wishlist for a future DREAMpack. I just hope we don’t have to wait until SG100 for this.

1. N95 mask
2. Pre-paid Ezy-link card
3. Hello Kitty Merlion edition
4. A mini rotan
5. Special edition Chope tissue pack
6. An LKY doll with knuckledusters
7. A toy replica of the boat that they used on the set of ‘The Awakening’
8. A toy replica of an ERP gantry
9. A lego diorama of the Istana, with lego Tony Tan.
10. A map of Singapore. 100 years ago.

Future Music festival banned because of drugs

From ‘Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for permit denied’, 7 March 2015, article in CNA

Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for a permit has not been approved, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (Mar 6).  “The Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore to hold the Future Music Festival Asia 2015 in Singapore,” said MHA in a statement. It said the appeal was received on Mar 3, and the outcome was conveyed to organisers Livescape Singapore on Mar 6.

Livescape Singapore, which has sold about 15,000 of the 20,000 tickets available for the two-day festival, previously submitted applications for a public entertainment licence to the police in January and last month, but was rejected both times. Police cited “serious concerns” over potential drug abuse at the event.

…The festival, which had a three-year run in Kuala Lumpur, has been marred by drug problems. Concert organisers had to put a stop to the event on its third day last year, after six Malaysians died of drug overdose and another 16 people were hospitalised for drug-related reasons.

Several Singaporeans were also hospitalised after a suspected drug overdose. Two were later charged for drug offences in Kuala Lumpur.

In Parliament on Friday, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli said that the Government is “keeping an eye” on music events, over concerns of potential drug abuse at such festivals.

In 1970, Woodstock: THE MOVIE was banned in Singapore. No official reasons were given then, but for a nation that also banned Puff the Magic Dragon, it became clear that the censors deemed Woodstock as not only a vile gathering of unsavoury, promiscuous, slovenly hippie characters who strut around nude, but also as a rock bacchanalia promoting and glamourising drug use.

Then ‘electronic music’ in the form of techno/trance arrived on the scene, and the Ecstasy-fuelled ‘rave party’ was born. Not only was such head-bobbing monotonous music conducive to getting high or stoned, it also served as a mantric, vulgar call to arms for secret society hooligans, as depicted in Royston Tan’s ’15’.

We mananged to keep Zoukout in check though, thanks to an army of security officers, though that didn’t stop people from falling into the sea and drowning, or getting molested. In fact, the risk of getting drunk or groped, whether it’s a rave or a state-sponsored New Year countdown, is higher than you slipping into a psychedelic death trance after popping some fun pills.

Zoukout isn’t all that innocent as we might think. Some folks have called for a total ban on that as well, for promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, spreading STDs and encouraging people to have random sex on the beach. The Zouk management insisted that this was the work of a few black sheep, and we shouldn’t allow such ugly incidents to taint the image of Singapore as THE nightlife destination in all of South East Asia.

Not that drug abuse isn’t already happening anyway. If you can’t drop some ketamine or mephedrone at beach festivals, you can always do it in the clubs, or ‘house parties’, where you don’t have nosy bouncers or undercover cops poking into your business all the time. This isn’t the first time we’ve deemed music a threat to public order and civilization as we know it. We’ve pressed the mute button for Thaipusam festivals, for example.

If it’s not due to knee-jerk ‘serious concerns’ over drug use, we also have zero tolerance towards artistes promoting the ‘gay lifestyle’. In 2005, an Action for Aids charity concert Affect05 was banned because it featured a gay couple as lead singers. Some Christians were aghast that openly gay Adam Lambert was performing in Singapore. Taiwanese veteran Ah Mei was banned from performing ‘Rainbow’ at Gardens by the Bay. It appears that succumbing to toxic hallucinations from Avicii-induced euphoria is just as bad as having the idea drilled into your head that ‘gay is OK’.

Maybe we should ban the Laneway festival as well, for turning our clean and green Singapore into a hideous ‘garbage city‘. Not to mention K-pop boyband concerts, for inducing cult-like behaviour. How about F1 concerts? In 2013, mega superstar Rihanna was allegedly high on weed while lip-synching on stage. Think of the harm this would do to her teenage fans! It’s been a while since we’ve seen the ‘Stomp!’ troupe performing in Singapore. Maybe we secretly banned them because they encouraged people to pick up random trash cans and sticks off the street and raise a ruckus, fooling the police into thinking that a riot is happening. And finally Sentosa New Year countdown parties too, because we don’t want women to get gang-raped in full public view.

What we’ll have left is ‘good clean,  wholesome, drug-free fun’, like Air Supply or Kenny Rogers in concert, where you’ll be exposed to love ballads about the sun and the rain and not think about getting high on marijuana at all.

UPDATE 9 March 2015: FMFAsia is officially cancelled. You could say it won’t be coming our way anymore in the near..future.

Parents sending kids for brain-training

From ‘Parents jump on brain-training wagon in bid to boost concentration and memory in children’, 9 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng, ST

Forget maths tuition, swimming lessons or piano classes. Parents are now sending their children for brain training, hoping to improve their concentration and memory skills.

…Some opt for these classes – which can cost more than $100 per session – as they think tuition may not be as effective. Aiming to train motor and processing skills, for instance, the centres use methods such as listening exercises and puzzles, as well as physical activities like catching balls.

…Ms Cheryl Chia, founder of BrainFit Studio, said getting distracted is a common problem. To combat this, children learn to focus and follow instructions. BrainFit has three branches here, two of which were set up in the last five years. Each branch takes in 200 pupils every year.

To cater to the growing interest, it started programmes in the last two years for pre-schoolers and toddlers as young as six months old. These programmes had about 50 and 20 children respectively last year.

At Happy Train, children go through “right-brain training” to speed up information processing skills. The centre has seen more than 400 children sign up, twice as many as seven years ago. Children younger than two years old make up half of its pupils today, compared with 30 to 40 per cent in 2008.

Another centre, People Impact, uses brain training techniques among its methods to boost intellect and social skills. It had over 100 children last year, a 45 per cent jump from the year before.

‘Brain training’ is preparatory class for what would eventually become tuition, and we already have enrichment classes for toddlers. Before you know it, with advancements in brain-fitness ‘neuroscience’, we’ll be training brains of foetuses while they’re still in their amniotic sacs. Maybe pregnant mummies will have to gyrate their bodies in a certain way to the nourishing sounds of Mozart so that their unborn child will exercise the necessary ‘mental muscles’ to prepare them when they’re discharged out of a womb into a chaotic world. You could call this Pre-brain training, priming your child’s rudimentary nervous system with tools based on the latest ‘neuroscientific principles’ when there’s nothing bigger than a budding hypothalamus in that gooey pre-head of his, so that he can develop an ‘intellect’ before he can even climb and descend a playground slide.

Anyone familiar with dystopic sci-fi should be able to see the creepiness of all this. An analogy would be an elite group of human beings with superior intellect and powers plugging newborns into a vat filled with neurochemicals and hormones, their eyes glued to a series of flashing cue cards and images from the history of mankind, subject to constant physical aquatic exercise, so that by the age of 3 years they emerge from their cell ready to devour Shakespeare, form theories of the universe, play tennis blindfolded and attend  a cocktail party without experiencing any social awkwardness at all.

Brainfit Studio is unabashed in giving its programmes titles like Baby Da Vinci, Baby Newton and Baby Einstein, with the notable absence of Baby Michael Jordan, Baby Britney Spears or Baby Lee Kuan Yew. It’s practically giving you a choice to pick the kind of genius and fine physical specimen you want your kid to grow into. Happy Train claims to imbue the powers of PERFECT PITCH and ALPHA-WAVE RELAXATION into their students, which are exactly the kind of properties you would want a docile singing robot to have. Heguru Education wants to take you out of the ‘Friendzone’ and into the INCREDIBLE GENIUS ZONE. And this is how People Impact describes one of their ‘creative sequencing’ courses:

The learning objective for this module is to enhance each student’s ability to recognise, encode, and generate sequences of significant symbols, objects and events, in ways which enhance memory whilst also reducing their cognitive workload. Students will learn to identify and make use of the differences between arbitrary and ‘naturally’ ordered sequences, whilst developing the means to construct time- and energy-efficient hierarchically organised sequence embedding when set-sizes become too large to handle ‘in-the-head’ when relying upon short-term memory alone.

Which sounds like something a theoretical physicist needs to decipher gravitational waves, not kids who’re barely old enough to tell the time. Playing with wooden blocks is not good enough, these guys want you to break codes that would stump Alan Turing. With all this emphasis on ‘right-brain training’, your kid may grow up with a skull that looks exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Einstein never needed a gym instructor for the mind nor an intellect on steroids. Kids these days.

As a parent you could, of course, forget about the prenatal ratrace and only start preparing your kid by buying past years’ PSLE assessment books when they’re Primary 5. You could bring them to the beach instead of a ‘learning lab’, build sandcastles, play catch, hide and seek, climb a tree, challenge to tic-tac-toe in the sand, catch a crab or skip stones.  Or, if you want your kid to grow up into Megamind, you could splurge on a brain-training session so that someone else can play damn ball with him, and not waste time with all this dirt and adventure bullshit.

There’s already a tried and tested, but more importantly, FREE, method available to any parent who wants to see their offspring develop into a human being full of potential with his own personality, not a polished automaton with a bootcamp brain with chill alpha-waves. It’s called PLAY.

Shisha ban affecting the ‘character’ of Arab Street

From ‘Shisha smoking on decline over past 2 years’, article by Amir Hussain, 10 Nov 2014, ST

…Last year, the authorities revoked the outdoor smoking licences of 12 out of 23 shisha cafes in the area for allowing shisha smoking outside designated areas. Under the law, food establishments are allowed to have smoking areas of up to one-fifth of their outdoor refreshment areas. There are now 16 licensed shisha retailers, with the majority in Kampong Glam. This is a far cry from the 49 in 2012.

A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha, which will kick in later this month, will allow existing retailers to sell the tobacco product until July 31, 2016. Noting the gradual decline in shisha providers over the past two years, seven businesses, ranging from carpet shops to an outdoor gear retailer in the Arab Street area, told The Straits Times they were not surprised by the ban announced in Parliament last week.

…But the first shisha retailer in Singapore, Cafe Le Caire’s owner Ameen Talib, said: “The fact is that shisha brought a certain character to the area, led it to be known as an Arabic Quarter and added a certain vibrancy.”

Dr Talib, 52, first received a tobacco retail licence from the Health Sciences Authority in September 2001, two months after opening his restaurant in the then sleepy Arab Street. The former accountancy professor, a third-generation Arab Singaporean, said he wanted to rejuvenate the former Arab Quarter of colonial-era Singapore.

“When you walk around, you need to smell the aroma of kebab, the aroma of shisha. Visually, you need to see people sitting on the road relaxed, smoking shisha. You get the feeling you are in the Middle East. And you need to hear Arabic music as you walk down the road,” he said.

In 2004, 3 years after Dr Talib first introduced Singaporeans to shisha, or ‘sheeshah’, he called Arab Street the ‘only bohemian village in town’, where one can have ‘nice, CLEAN fun’ without alcohol. A shisha contraption, of course, other than having a pipe that you stick in your mouth and trade saliva with others, is far from ‘clean’, despite the use of a bubbling water vessel that gives the illusion of ‘purification’. Before MOH resorted to a total ban, HPB had to rely on public education i.e scare tactics to warn users that shisha wasn’t just another form of social smoking. Unlike a standard cigarette, you risk contracting not just lung cancer, but Tuberculosis and HERPES. It’s like putting an ornamented pubic toilet brush in your mouth and sucking on it for hours. Yes, don’t let that cute Ninja Girl blowing a dildo-shaped watermelon shisha fool you. That thing is a biohazard.

The same shisha-pushing professor also called for a blanket ban of alcohol throughout the area back in 2012, in order to preserve the ‘core and heritage’ of Kampong Glam, the same shisha-centric ‘character’ that he pioneered back in 2001. There was no shisha before Talib opened the floodgates, but it doesn’t mean that Arab Street, with its carpets, textile, spice shops, tomb-makers, didn’t have any less of its Islamic ‘charm’ then, even if it didn’t immediately transport visitors to the bustling smoky, dusty bazaars of Baghdad sans camels and belly-dancing slave girls. In fact, some shop owners in the area even agreed that shisha was a relatively new trend, and was NEVER connected to Kampong Glam’s identity and history. Maybe the Sultan and his royal family imported them secretly from the Middle East back in the 19th century, but it was never a feature of the ‘kampung’ vibe on the streets.

So what’s Talib’s cafe going to do now that it doesn’t sell alcohol and recently had its shisha licence revoked for flouting outdoor smoking regulations? How about some nice, clean, live screenings of football over authentic Samovar tea then? The total ban may be a little extreme, given that cigarettes are spared because they have become ‘entrenched’ according to MOH spokesmen (and also taxable), but to say that banning shisha will make the ‘Arab Quarter’ lose its ‘character’, ‘vibrancy’ or ‘heritage’ is a pitiless excuse for the real reason; Fear of business going up in smoke. Ban prostitution and you’ll have pimps complaining that, like losing shisha, it’ll deprive Geylang of its ‘character’ and ‘colour’ as well.

Hello Kitty runners selling finisher medals online

From ‘Claws come out after first Hello Kitty Run in Singapore’, 1 Nov 2014, article in CNA

Hello Kitty celebrated her 40th birthday with much fanfare on Saturday (Nov 1), as 17,000 participants showed up for the first Hello Kitty Run held at Sentosa….However heavy rain marred part of the run, and some participants said there was a mess at the medal collection area. A Facebook page created for the event was flooded with complaints. Some took issue with the lack of a wet weather plan, noting that many families with young children were soaked, while organisers themselves were equipped with ponchos.

Others pointed to “chaos” and “confusion” in the medal collection area. One participant told Channel NewsAsia that the original designated medal collection point was “massively” jammed. The organisers then announced a new medal collection in a more spacious area, and said they would only give out medals to participants who queued up and showed them their race bibs. Some said the announcement that there may not be medals for all caused a rush on the medals.

A few people alleged that the shortage of medals was due to runners who may have taken more than one. A check on online trading site Carousell found people selling their medals.

Participant Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia that the lack of organisation at the finish line led to people “taking advantage of the situation”. “I saw quite a few people taking extra medals, and some even took whole boxes of the food and drinks,” he said. “The medals were just in open boxes and even the organisers there were very confused about whether to give them out or not.”

Meow-rathon

The Hello Kitty event, with its $75 registration fee, is one of the most expensive stretch of 5km you’ll ever run in your life, and to complete it without the coveted finisher medal would be as disappointing as queuing up for hours at McDonalds only to realise the Singing Bone Kitty has run out of stock. The object of desire here is probably the wimpiest trophy ever in the history of races, and you can even get it for less than half the registration fee online without even dashing, queuing or breaking a single drop of sweat for it. A 42.95km finisher T shirt on your back is nothing compared to wearing one that says THE POWER OF SWEET.

The medal’s selling price may skyrocket since I believe they’re people out there who’re willing to pay more than twice the registration fee to get their hands on this limited edition birthday collectible. Not only did they run for the medal, they had to go through hell queuing for the goodie bag prior to the race as well. Never underestimate the endurance and tenacity of Singaporean Kitty fans. You could put a box of rare Hello Kitty merchandise on a volcano and they would risk life or limb racing to the summit, even if it means burning off both feet in streams of flaming molten lava, not to mention run a ’40km marathon’. They ain’t pussies, you know.

Contrast this with a ‘fun run’ involving another cartoon feline, Garfield, at $58 for a standard 3km stroll, which is ironic because Garfield is a grumpy, lazy, fat recluse who only occasionally dashes to the refrigerator for lasagna. Here’s a list of other physical activities that Hello Kitty partakes in which may qualify as actual exercise, and maybe future fun events too:

1) Tour de Kitty

2) Hello Kitty Yoga-thon

3)Hello Kitty Ballet-thon

4) Hello Kitty Ice-Skate-athon.

I can imagine the chaos if the inaugural Hello Kitty theme cafe ever opens in Singapore. Kiasu fans pitching lines of tents before opening day, breaking doors and windows while jostling their way in, crashing Instagram with their Kitty cafe posts, or stealing Hello Kitty teaspoons and napkins to sell online. Hello Kitty Riot.

Still, it’s somewhat refreshing that instead of launching another series of birthday plush toys at McDonalds, the Kitty empire decided to make Singaporeans put on their jogging shoes and get some exercise without eating Happy Meals. Maybe organisers should all learn from this unhappy episode and bring the SAF Volunteer Corps in as crowd control and help out with a fairer system of medal distribution for future races, to spare our Police the effort of intervening when people start fighting over medals as if they were rations during a famine.

Ice bucket challenge is cultic and eradicates free will

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

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

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

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

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

Teo Ser Luck getting wet and wild

It’s a Dunk-Your-MP session

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

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.23.54 AM

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

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

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

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

AGH. GIMME THAT ICE RIGHT NOOOW!

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

Scoot: Cool as ice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACS chartering 5 MRT trains for rugby match

From ‘SMRT acknowledged prior approval should have been sought: LTA’, 27 Aug 2014, article in Today online.

Transport operator SMRT has explained to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) why it let Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter five of its trains to transport students and staff to a rugby match yesterday (Aug 26) at the National Stadium. SMRT has also “acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought”, said an LTA spokesperson in a statement today.

“The operator is required to obtain LTA’s approval to run trains for non-public transport purposes because as regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services,” the spokesperson added.

ACS(I) had chartered the trains to transport 3,000 of its students and staff to the Schools National C Division rugby final match, which was the first school final to be held at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. Yesterday, the LTA said it was looking into the appropriate action to take against SMRT after the public transport operator failed to seek the necessary approval from the authorities before letting the school charter its trains.

They've got a ticket to ride

They’ve got a ticket to ride

When asked about why they supported this private entourage, SMRT said that they believed in ‘supporting local education’ and ‘national initiatives’ without compromising core service delivery (Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains…25 Aug, ST). This was a rugby championship match between rival schools, not a mass deployment of martyrs to the battlefront. It’s MRT playing host to a private event, where instead of your favourite restaurant or theatre being closed off for some company party, it’s 5 entire trains. I doubt LTA would have said NO anyway even if SMRT had asked for permission. The alternative would be 80 buses clogging up the roads and this is one premier school which is more than able to afford hiring a Zeppelin or cruise liner if they wanted to. Better to inconvenience some lowly train commuters than aggravate those car-drivers, eh?

Still, when you see ACS’s motto being flashed on the LED scroller in the image above, you can’t help wondering if SMRT the public transport provider is sidelining as a party organiser here. If a school like ACS could hire MRT trains to bring their students to a sports competition, what’s stopping a multimillion, Government-endorsed company from doing the same to bring their employers to a Dinner and Dance, or from office to Changi Airport for an overseas AGM? If I’m very influential, could I hire one train just to ferry people to my gala wedding in style, complete with buskers and champagne? After all, it’s cheap, eco-friendly and SMRT has given us the assurance that normal passenger service would be minimally affected. Imagine if traditional rivals like RI or Hwa Chong followed suit with their own mass events. Hwa Chong even wanted an MRT station named after them for God’s sake. In fact, managing director Lee Ling Wee went on to ENCOURAGE more schools located near the CCL to charter trains during off-peak hours because it seems that they could afford it. You know, just to dispel the notion of MRT chartering being the sole right of elite institutions. Maybe SMRT should have an online booking system too, and exclusive themed trains like ‘Summer Wedding’ or ‘Ruggers’ Fiesta’ which you can choose to upgrade to.

I think if the event had been a charity fundraiser or a Big Day out for pioneers or the handicapped, few would complain. But this was for a select group with no noble intentions outside of flying some school flags or chanting slogans for a sport that only gets screened live in dingy Irish bars. I for one would rather watch a Bonsai pruning competition than the Rugby World Cup final. ACS’s private joyride had no philanthropic, ‘educational’ value or ‘national’ objective worthy of inspiration or pride. So why does rugby warrant this special privilege? Vivian Balakrishnan could have skimmed his YOG budget had he thought of chartering for volunteers and participants back in 2011. If you accept the argument that this is ‘cost effective’ then anybody can justify using the MRT as their grandfather’s train to move thousands of people for other frivolous reasons. Does SMRT have any qualification criteria at all?

As for that LED marquee screen that otherwise no one ever gives a shit about, now there’s an idea for a wedding proposal, guys.

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