Esme the guide dog not allowed in Forever 21

From ‘Store says sorry over guide dog incident’, 30 Nov 2012, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A FACEBOOK post from a blind woman with a guide dog who recounted her treatment by staff at a Forever 21 clothing outlet went viral yesterday, prompting the American retailer to apologise. Ms Cassandra Chiu, 33, who contracted Stargardt disease when she was eight and lost her vision over time, was at the fashion chain’s Orchard Exchange outlet yesterday afternoon with her six-year-old daughter Kady, a maid and her labrador Esme.

Ms Chiu, a psychotherapist, is the second Singaporean trained to use a guide dog to help her move around.

…After picking up a pair of white pants, she headed to a changing room to try them on. But she was stopped by a female staff member, who told her that no dogs were allowed in the store, Ms Chiu told The Straits Times. She started explaining that Esme was her guide dog, and not her pet, but the staff member walked away before she could finish speaking. “I ended up talking to thin air,” Ms Chiu said.

…Finally, another staff member intervened to say that guide dogs are allowed in the store. Ms Chiu told her to “ask the staff to stop harassing me” and left the store with her purchase of pants.

…The Singapore management of Forever 21 apologised on the post, and said they would like to meet her to apologise in person. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” Ms Chiu said. “The problem is that we need to have a more inclusive society. If they want to do something, they should put a guide dog decal in their store so there won’t be questions about whether guide dogs are allowed inside.”

The president of the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind, Dr Francis Seow-Choen, said people should be more open to guide dogs and be aware of what they are. “They’re not pets. People can be reassured that the guide dogs we bring in have been certified and trained.” Meanwhile, Forever 21 has released a statement saying it has issued an apology to Ms Chiu on its own Facebook page and that of Esme The Guide Dog.

Forever 21 not seeing eye to eye with Seeing eye dog

Esme the dog has her (?) own Facebook page, and it’s more entertaining than BABIES who status update about lactation time. One post recounts how Esme shocked someone while inside the toilet, something I’m not quite used to myself, though I’d rather have a dog staring at me pee than a little girl accompanied by her father. What’s surprising is that Cassandra is only the SECOND blind Singaporean with a guide dog. There could be many reasons why our government has taken so long to implement dogs to help the blind, but some of the most obvious ones are hardly ever mentioned in the article above.

In 1988, it was reported that guide dogs for the blind were barred by various government agencies, of note the Ministry of Health (hospitals and clinics), SBS (buses) with SUPPORT from the predecessor of MICA and, tellingly, the Muslim Religious Council. One can only conclude that the authorities (and certain cultures) deemed a blind man’s helper as a scary, filthy animal, even though a mutt could do more for 1 blind person in its short years of life than a rich, miserly man ever would. The first ever guide dog owner Kua Cheng Hock had to send his pal Stacey back to Australia because of public disapproval. Dogs would have been an economical alternative to enhancing our amenities with disabled-friendly infrastructure, yet we baulk at the thought for the sake of the beliefs or irrational fears of certain individuals. They have been trained not to lick, bite, bark or shit about unnecessarily, which is more than you say of some human beings. I’m not sure if they’ve been trained not to SALIVATE though.

It wasn’t until 2005, when we only had ONE guide dog (Kendra) in the entire country, that SMRT Transit decided to allow them on public transport provided that they were accompanied by station masters and dressed in a harness, just in case there were people who were ‘afraid of dogs’ or ‘culturally sensitive’. Restaurants, with blessings from NEA, followed suit in the same year. Esme in fact posted pics of herself and owner in IKEA, on a bus, in a church, in NTUC, Food Junction and surprisingly, in a cab. This dog has been to more places than the most pampered Pomeranian puppy in Singapore.

Wimp

Wimp

So what do Muslims do when they’re blind and walking canes are not an option? Get a miniature horse, of course. But probably not feasible in Singapore as the poor creatures are likely to be harrassed by kids (and some adults) wanting to ride them like My Little Ponies. Britain passed a groundbreaking fatwa in 2008 allowing a blind teen to walk into a MOSQUE with his guide dog. We’re unlikely to become THAT inclusive, though such acceptance of a taboo animal on holy ground so that one can pray is something to mull over.

Esme’s owner did well to let Forever 21 off with a Facebook post. In other countries, the blind would lodge complaints for discrimination if Muslim cabbies ever refuse to take them. Our PM Lee himself is a fan of ‘inclusiveness’ as well, and unless something is done to address our attitudes and foster compassion towards the blind and their four-legged companions regardless of our religious inclinations, his speeches and tweets would be, well — wait for it — all bark and no bite.

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Curious mynahs scaring off cowardly hawk

From ‘Hawk no match for pesky mynahs’, 14 Oct 2012, article by Jessica Lim, Sunday Times

Orchard Road’s hawk patrols have failed. It turns out that the bird of prey is no match for the pesky, noisy mynahs plaguing the shopping strip….The birds moved from that roosting spot to the area near Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and The Heeren, and an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 descend at dusk, especially between 6.45pm and 7pm.

People have complained about noise and droppings that strike pedestrians, cars and walkways. So far this year, the authorities have received 13 reports about the bird nuisance.

…Jurong Bird Park was happy to help, and provided a hawk and handler for three test runs from September last year. Alas, the big bird was found to be intimidated by the large flock of mynahs, said park general manager Raja Segran. He thinks there are other reasons why the idea could not take off, though some might suspect these are just a hawk’s excuses:

The mynahs’ new surroundings meant the hawk needed a long time to adjust;

The thick-canopied trees made it difficult for the bird handler to keep contact with the hawk;

Vehicles could knock down the hawk.

“The movement of the crowd and noise from vehicles along that stretch made the hawk very distracted,” he said. “The flow of traffic on Orchard Road made it too risky to fly our birds there.”

In the trials, which included releasing the hawk onto a tree, it was found that at first the hawk frightened the mynahs off. “But after a while, the mynahs were seen coming back to the tree where the hawk was, as if very curious to see what bird it was,” he said.

No surprise that neither NEA nor AVA was mentioned in this article, with the writer using the annoyingly vague ‘the authorities’, since none of these agencies actually want to take charge of mynahs. Pigeons (AVA) and crows (NEA) yes, but nobody wants their hands full with these rascally birds. In 2008, the NEA did shoot down some crows, but seemingly left most of the mynahs alone since these birds are not ‘in their purview’. Maybe the selective extermination of a bigger ‘competitor’ bird boosted up mynah numbers and made them more fearless since.  So what do Orchard Road tenants do then if the authorities have gone cuckoo over pest control? Take matters into their own hands, of course. By hiring a Jurong Bird Park veteran who trains hawks more for entertainment than stalking and eating smaller nuisance birds. You wouldn’t hire Sylvester the Cat to catch Tweety Bird would you?

You can’t blame the hawk or its handler really. Not only is the force of 5000 mynahs too much to bear, but having led a good life in captivity as a pet, mascot or performer for the Bird park, you would have no incentive to hunt down an unruly flock of squawking, pooping mynahs.  You would rather put on a ‘King of the Skies’ show and awe little children with your gliding prowess and extend your lethal talons ready to strike like you’re plucking a python out of a bush, even if you’ve done nothing with them other than clutching for dear life to some falconer dressed like Mulan.

Glam hawker

Falconry is apparently a noble, majestic sport of sorts that has existed since the Mongols, where raptors are trained to specifically hunt game or impress royal guests at a party. Today falconry is also employed as a natural pest control system, but no one even in medieval times could prepare a hawk for a thousand-strong army of swooping birds, creatures who have no qualms about stealing food from the Apex predators themselves or even go banzai on them on the streets. According to the article, there has been modest success of using hawks to chase off seagulls at a shopping mall in Exeter. Either our mynahs are a formidable guerilla force to be reckoned with, or hawks and their handlers can’t deal with the concrete jungle that is Orchard Road, a jungle where a black bird is king.

If poison, sonic devices, big birds or scarecrows don’t do the job, perhaps ‘the authorities’ should install giant fans in the vicinity of the birds’ roosting areas, which are known to sever bird heads every now and then. Alternatively, you could just take the underpass instead, just to avoid a uniquely Orchard Road weather forecast of Cloudy with a Chance of Droppings.

It’s a bird..

The silencing of the Boars

From ‘Crossbows to cull wild boar’, 11 June 2012, article by Feng Zeng Kun, ST

KILLING wild boar with bows and arrows may sound primitive, but the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering the method to curb the animal population. The Straits Times has learnt that the agency met animal welfare groups last month to discuss using powerful crossbows against the animals.

It told the groups that the silence of the bows would avoid alerting the animals, which travel in groups. In trained hands, a single bolt could also kill a boar instantly.

…The Straits Times understands that most of the groups did not favour the method and considered it inhumane. The agency said it would enlist the help of trained archers to do the job, should it decide to go with this culling method.

…Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says NParks could sterilise the animals instead. ‘Culling doesn’t work because the animals breed every year. You would have to cull them every year’ …’Put up fences. Wild boar are big and powerful, but they can’t jump,’ he said.

Pork-eye

Boar hunts have been documented in Singapore as early as the late 1870s, where white men with a pack of dogs chased these beasts around the Bukit Timah area with a shotgun, occasionally finding a boa constrictor getting to the prize first. Locals stalked boars with guns even up till the late fifties, and anyone who happened to be plucking leaves in the forest may find himself at the wrong end of a buck shot after being mistaken for a pig. In 1957, a wild boar hunter was charged for murder for firing at and killing a certain Abdul Kareem. Today, you’re unlikely to get hit by bullets, but you may fall into a pit intended to snare these animals, or have your foot maimed in an illegal trap. Seems like the $1000 penalty for killing them isn’t severe enough to stop some Singaporeans from living out their Man vs Wild fantasies.

Only Theseus can slaughter this monster

But how much of a nuisance are these pigs? In the 60′s, boars were known to charge at and almost gore amorous couples at Macritchie Reservoir.  On Malaysia’s highways, a charging boar may cause fatal accidents, a freak scenario which is unlikely to happen here, though you can have other breeds of swine ramming themselves into innocent people on our roads. We don’t have crops for them to ravage, nor do they steal our grocery bags or scratch and bite like the monkeys do. They don’t shit all over our cars or air-con compressors, nor spread airborne diseases. For all intents and purposes, man and boar have been left pretty much to themselves.  More animals and humans have been injured by wannabe boar hunters than the tusked beasts. If there’s any wildlife that bugs the hell out of us it’s the damned birds, and before we hire Green Arrows, Legolases, Hawkeyes and Katnisses to do the dirty work for us, perhaps we should control our pesky mynahs, crows and pigeons first. Hell, maybe we don’t even need to pay hunters to trap boars at all; our road barriers can do a pretty decent job as it is.

It’s not funny if it’s your kid in it

One of the arguments cited for culling is that wild boars ‘trample and destroy the forest undergrowth’ (They destroy forests, 16 June 2012, ST Forum), especially since they have no known ‘natural predators’. Well, there’s another animal higher up in the food chain which no other being eats and destroys forests and old cemeteries for development at a faster rate than a bunch of seed-gobbling, soil-digging pigs. Us.

Even if the authorities eventually attempt to equilibrate whatever’s left of our ecosystem through controlled murder, I’m not sure about crossbows as a weapon of choice. Our ‘archers’ (most likely members of some sporting club because the army no longer plays Cowboys and Indians) may need just one shot to kill a pig in the quickest, most painless, squeal-less way possible, but you probably need an experienced poacher to tell the difference between a pig and a foraging human from a distance. A poorly judged snapped twig may make all the difference between an impaled hog, or a pierced stray dog. You need someone with the seasoned, pricked ears to tell the difference between a frightened porcine grunt and something more human.  If these sharpshooters don’t bring home the game, at least their very presence, or even the very thought of arrows flying all over the place,  would deter people from having sex in jungles.

Why not blowpipes loaded with tranquiliser darts, where at least there’s room for mistaken identity, after which you can proceed to make a proper meal out of the animal and feed the needy, or Wong Ah Yoke?

SOON

Postscript: A few weeks after this post, a boar reported charged at a CISCO officer (who hurt his hand in the ensuing escape) and a child (who wasn’t harmed) in Bishan Park, and Khaw Boon Wan, a self-declared staunch Buddhist, publicly supported the decision to ‘manage’ the wild boar population because ‘protecting our babies’ is more important. Maybe we should leave it to the real boar-killing professionals below.

Snakes in a Drain

Zeng Guoyuan’s bird abusing the police

From ‘Zeng Guoyuan not contesting Hougang by-election’, 16 May 2012, article in Today online

Retired acupuncturist Zeng Guoyuan, who collected the political donation certificate, is not contesting the Hougang by-election. According to Mr Zeng, he was disqualified because he was fined in 2008 for a public offence. It involved the use of vulgarities when police officers entered a shophouse he was in.

Mr Zeng said it was his parrot’s “friendly, understanding, caring, kind” words that earned him a S$2,500 fine. Officials from the Election Department later clarified that Mr Zeng did not file his nomination papers. Mr Zeng tried, and failed, to contest as an independent candidate in the last General Election in May last year.

That’s PROFESSOR Zeng to you. It’s a pity that the Election Department doesn’t allow nutjobs to contest, not even solely only for sheer entertainment. I would attend the Prof’s rallies for sure, just to have a feel of what a new-age cult gathering feels like. He does fit the politician bill in some aspects though, a mastery of blame-shifting, an unwavering determination despite embarrassing himself, and the ability to wiggle his way out of wrongdoing in the calm, collected manner of a sermon like he was preaching to lesser beings.

According to his Vegetable Shampoo blog, he has an affiliation with the Medicina Alternativa Institute of Sri Lanka, which is linked to the Open International University for Complementary Medicines (U.S.S R). U.S.S.R! That alone explains everything. He addresses himself as Sen. Prof. Dr SIR Zeng Guoyuan MD, DSc, PhD in a newspaper ad featuring his 99 year old Grandfather. Yet in this 1987 article where he was fined for putting up ads claiming treatment for pain and piles, he was reported to possess only a Higher School Certificate.

He also bears an faint resemblance to Shoko Asahara from Aum Shinryoko sect, so maybe it’s not his past brushes with the law that’s preventing him from running for MP. Rather how the government is afraid that he would enslave Hougang residents through Soviet-trained brainwashing sorcery and make everyone worship a foul-mouthed parrot as a deity. He’s to politics and pseudoscience as Steven Lim is to entertainment.

In 1991, he did in fact run as a Opposition candidate for WP in Bukit Timah (Zeng Guoyuan pays up for his limo, 7 Dec 1991, ST), before getting himself charged for molesting a customer in his clinic (Former WP candidate faces molest charges, 14 April 1996). While in prison he complained of mistreatment after developing rashes on his rectum (I was mistreated in police lock-up, says acupuncturist, 29 Aug 1996, ST). In his defence, he claimed he was a ‘knight’ of St John (Accused cries in court, saying again he was set up, 4 Sept 1996, ST). Zeng eventually got jail and 4 strokes of the cane (Acupuncturist guilty, gets jail and four strokes, 14 Sept 1996, ST), though that didn’t stop him from coming out to sell more snake oil and make the ‘independent candidate’ position the turf of wacky millionaires again.

In 2009, he opened a centre in Toa Payoh, putting up Mas Selamat banners as ‘sunshades’ (and was fined) and FCUK posters (friendly, caring, understanding and kind?), where he beat African drums, sang, danced, and boxed when he’s not selling bogus shampoos. In the last GE, he turned up on Nomination Day declaring himself a ‘Muslim convert’ and that his name was ‘Mohammed Ali’, and then proceeed to rip his form to pieces. I admire the journalists for stifling their laughter.

A pantheistic guru like Zeng would probably be more successful polling in Inner Mongolia than here, where few would have the tolerance for a bizarre leader who could say ‘fuck’ is a ‘good’ word with a straight face, and then praises Allah. In fact, it’s how he defended the expletive so matter-of-factedly that makes it funny. For a by-election harangued by rumours of dissension and racism, Zeng and his vulgar parrot is a welcome dose of zany comic relief. He could talk about housing woes one moment and then time travel and reincarnation the next. Still, anyone with a parrot on his shoulder and an unpredictable streak is way more interesting to watch than a candidate  with nothing but white on his collar whose slogan you could see coming light years away.

Here’s a picture of the Professor and his feathered friend.

Authorities bird-brained over crows, pigeons and mynahs

From ‘Who’s in charge of bird nuisance?’, 27 Dec 2011, article by Ng Puay Leng, Today online

Birds continue to be a source of problem in areas of dense population in Singapore but as Channel NewsAsia finds out, it’s been a challenge pinning down the relevant authorities in charge of the problem. Crows come under the purview of the National Environment Agency (NEA) while the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) handles complaints of nuisance with pigeons.

But it gets a little complicated when it comes to mynahs. When Channel NewsAsia visited a coffee shop at Bishan Street 11, mynahs were seen picking at leftovers.  Stall holders said the number of mynahs in their coffee shop has more than doubled in the past two years.

And when they approached the NEA and AVA, both agencies said they are not in charge of handling the birds.

Before the NEA or AVA started pushing bird problems to one another, we had the Primary Production Department (PPD), which was responsible for exterminating all nuisance birds (crows, pigeons, mynahs).  In 1979, one crow culling job was contracted to the SAF, with tragi-comic results as two bystanders were shot in the face and leg respectively by stray pellets. In the 1980s, the PPD used water jets to hose down mynahs, which didn’t kill them so much as scatter them and stop them from tweeting. Even  members of the SINGAPORE GUN CLUB were roped in (and still are today) to shoot crows in nests or flying over rooftops when they’re not training for events like ‘Olympic trap’ and ‘skeet’, simply because the authorities wanted sharpshooters for the dirty work but couldn’t trust the SAF based on past experience.  In 2003, a crow-culling scandal ruffled the feathers of the NEA when a former national shooter from the club cheated the authority by collecting multiple rewards ($5 per dead bird) using the same carcass (which goes to show how well our shooters were paid at the time). Futile, mercenary, cruel, dangerous and wasteful methods of pest control aside, at least we knew who to call in the past, whether it’s a complaint of bird droppings, relentless squawking or swooping Angry Bird-like attacks on innocent pedestrians.

In 2000, the PPD morphed into the stat board we know today as AVA, which means the crow problem was relinquished and pushed to the NEA for some reason. Are crows greater ‘noise pollutants’ than pigeons or mynahs hence qualifying them under NEA’s purview, and are pigeons more likely to spread diseases like avian flu through droppings hence remained under AVA? Not really. In 2008, the H5N1 virus was detected in a dead crow in Hong Kong. Which means one can’t explain this split without reasoning that crows are badder, uglier, less likely to have animal lovers up in arms, hence classified as less of a living thing than a scourge and pollutant like a fungi invasion or an oil spill i.e the division of responsibility was for sentimental reasons. You see kids throwing breadcrumbs at pigeons, not crows.  Pigeons fly out of magician hats and are featured in Disney movies like Enchanted, not crows. In a recent Japanese study however, crows were proven to rather intelligent creatures with a long term memory of up to a year, which means you can’t use ‘bird-brained’ in the imbecilic context like we used to. Nobody knows how mynahs, which look like shaven little crows, should be treated. More than a 1000 of them roost along Orchard Road, and you can’t do a clean job without removing trees altogether or sealing off a busy shopping zone for a shooting spree.

According to the Wild Animals and Birds Act in 1974, all wild birds were protected by law with the exception of the ‘house crow’, which is like a fatwa against a renown noisy scavenger bird, a free for all for anyone with a catapult or air pistol at the time. Today, the Wild Animals and Birds Act is helmed by the AVA, and the list of feathered pests which you’re legally exempt from penalty for capturing,  killing or trapping for food has expanded to the following:

  •  House crow (Corvus splendens)
  • Feral pigeon (Columba livia)
  • Purple-backed starling (Sturnus sturninus)
  • Philippine glossy starling (Aplonis panayensis)
  • Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  • White-vented myna (Acridotheres javanicus)

Given an order to kill all 4 birds in sequence, I’d have to go with crow, mynah, starling then pigeon according to cuteness factor, though the last bird is likely the most edible.  According to the law, I would not be committing an offense if I go around hacking these birds with a chopper. The Act doesn’t, however, say anything about the authority’s role in pest control of these ‘scheduled’ birds, which means, in the absence of any natural predators or if Gun club members decide not to become bird bounty hunters, one possible last resort to bring down the numbers is for more Singaporeans to take up trapping during the non-avian flu season and start appreciating roast feral pigeon or braised crow than buying hormone-laced broiler chicken from the supermarkets. Or, we could just clean up after we’re done at hawker centres, stop wasting food, and cease making stray cats obese by spoiling them with Whiskers.

Pig on the Kaaba as flame bait

From ‘Blogger probed for offensive Facebook post’, 23 Nov 2011, article in Asiaone.com

Police are investigating a blogger for allegedly publishing a photo that is offensive to Muslims on his Facebook (FB) page. Donaldson Tan, editor of Singapore-based current affairs commentary website New Asia Rebublic, is accused of putting up a picture of a pig superimposed on the Kaaba, a cuboid building in Mecca that is sacred in Islam.

Pigs are considered unclean animals in Islam. The post was accompanied by the text: “This is a flame bait. YOU ARE WARNED”.

Events provoking the Muslim community have been snowballing of late, from halal sticker pranks to links to terrorism. Astonishingly, at least 4 Facebook users have been since been accused of being racist curmudgeons online and threatening to destabilise social order, whether it’s blatantly maligning the very religion itself with some profane Zionist muckraking or simply complaining about prayers being played at McDonalds. Judging from the furious reactions by uppity netizens, people like Donaldson and Christian Eliab Ratnam should, if let off the hook,  stick to dismal status updates like what they’re having for lunch, though refraining from posting pictures of bratwurst sausages would probably be a good idea.

It’s highly unlikely that Singaporeans would riot over a Facebook post (since even protesting is controlled), but the reason most of us avoid expressing the slightest opinion about another’s religious practices (in this case, even forwarding what someone else created) is because of the FEAR of retaliation.We’ve been through centuries of nation-building learning to tiptoe gingerly around racial embers just because certain groups don’t like what they see or hear, but it remains to be seen if launching an angry online blitzkrieg aginst offenders rather than simply ignoring them (and hence not drawing attention to the offending article) is the appropriate reaction to preserve ethnic relations. It’s more likely to breed resentment, especially in those convicted, than enlightenment, which is required on both parties and not just the bugger who posted a racist joke on Facebook.

Putting a pig’s head on a Kaaba is just one of many incidences of pig imagery offending Muslims. God knows what ancient swines have done to displease the Prophet so, but apparently the people of Turkey don’t seem to have an issue with pork. Here’s a brief history of porcine pranks and also a guide to Facebookers as to how NOT to portray  the poor animal before a Muslim.

Calling someone a P*G: In 1989, an Egyptian top police official called Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini a p*g (Egyptian minister insults Khomeini, 19 March 1989, ST). I wonder if anyone has any objections calling the late OSAMA BIN LADEN one.

Depicting the Prophet as a P*G: In 1998, an Israeli woman was sentenced to two years’ jail for putting up posters in Hebron depicting the Prophet as a p*g (Israeli p*g-poster woman gets two years jail, 9 Jan 1998, ST)

Being nourished on P*G milk:  Taiwanese host Jackie Wu joked that Muslims were forbidden to eat pork because the Prophet was reared on p*g’s milk (2005)

Being buried with p*g entrails: A state senator’s suggestion to deter terrorist attacks by burying the bodies of terrorists with p*g entrails angered US Muslims (P*g remark furore, 30 June 2003, Today)

Putting a p*g’s head next to a halal logo: Benjamin Koh, one of the first locals charged for sedition and jailed, placed a p*g’s head next to the halal logo on his blog, along with other vulgar tirades against the religion (Jail terms, fine – and a warning, 8 Oct 2005, Today)

Selling a p*g as a toy at McDonaldsTechically this was a precaution taken by Macs against offending Islam, which drew flak for not being sensitive to Chinese born in the year of the P*g. But such overkill is exactly what you would expect a corporate giant to do in ‘fear’ of losing valuable customers who may be offended by Doraemon in a p*g costume.

P*g on stamps, advertisements: Like the Macs fiasco, similar offshoots of being too ‘culturally sensitive’. In 2007, the Indonesian authorities voluntarily withdrew Zodiac stamps depicting the Year of the P*g. These creatures were also banned from TV ads in China in the same year.

I thought the faithful were just not allowed to consume the ‘flesh of swine’, but it seems like you can’t even use it as an pictorial example for ‘P’ in a children’s animal alphabet book without offending someone.

Glenn Ong: Put mad dogs to sleep

From ‘Did Glenn Ong really say that?’, 19 Sept 2011, article by Gerald Goh, Teh Jen Lee, TNP

SHE couldn’t quite believe her ears when she was listening to the radio last Thursday. DJ Glenn Ong had related an encounter he had with a “crazy” woman who caused chaos in a restaurant a segment of The Morning Show on Class 95 FM.

The listener, a 33-year-old corporate trainer who wanted to known only as Sabrina, said Ong went on to say that the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) should be responsible in making sure “these people” are not out in public.

When TNP contacted Ong yesterday, and asked if he had used the sentence about “putting mad dogs to sleep” on air, he said: “Roughly.” But he clarified that he was reading an SMS response from a listener.

It’s hard to judge if Glenn Ong was discriminating against mentally ill patients from the report above, or whether it was a case of him using the overused and trivialised  ‘crazy’ the way most people would say it everyday, like ‘the weather is crazy’, ‘don’t be crazy’ or ‘ you’re crazy not to accept the promotion’ i.e on ‘normal’ people. If you think about it, we hardly ever call individuals with overt psychotic ailments i.e autistim or schizophrenia ‘crazy’, not to mention bring it up on national radio unless this woman’s behaviour was typical of a demanding, aggressive customer which angered the DJ to the point that he would resort to cursing euthanasia upon her. If you look at the spectrum of synonyms for a mad person, you’ll realise they become more euphemistic as the words get longer. Mad, crazy, psycho, lunatic, deranged, mentally ill, schizophrenic, neurotransmitter-imbalanced. Like Glenn, most of us pause to find the right word to describe someone who needs medical attention, but do not hesitate to call our boss, wife or teacher ‘mad’.

It’s likely that Glenn was using ‘crazy’ in the figurative sense, and mistiming the association with IMH and mad dogs to give the listener the impression that he thinks all mental patients who are ‘let loose’ in public should be put down, when it’s likely that the target of his rant isn’t a mental patient at all, but a difficult diner who displayed all the traits of a rabid, wild animal in heat. Nonetheless, any call to forcibly put to sleep any human, sane or insane,  on the air  (even if as a joke) would be taken as inciting discriminatory violence by sensitive listeners rather than a quick-tempered outburst by a radio personality whose impulsiveness is reflected in his serial marriages.

Not the first time of course, that this veteran ‘shock-jock’ got into trouble over the air. In 2007, Class 95 FM was fined $5k when Glenn and long time partner Flying Dutchman discussed if  men and women should make noise during sex on air. Early last year, the same duo remarked that the ‘top 10 most trustworthy’ Singaporeans‘ according to Reader’s Digest ‘could not be trusted’ at all. Glenn has always struck me as a no holds barred, unapologetic ‘wise guy’ known for his cynical barbs and observations, part of a Morning Show charm that appeals not just to his fans but specifically to certain females in the same profession. There must be something marketable about his scruffy attitude which makes Mediacorp stick with him all these years. Or maybe Class 95 FM is just ‘crazy’ not to let him go.

Postscript: Glenn later feigned amnesia about quoting the ‘mad dog’ SMS, with Vice President Sandra Chan clarifying that Glenn intended to say that IMH should ‘lock up these people for public safety’, based on an isolated incident with a ‘mentally unstable’ person in China. To elaborate (What DJ meant to say was.., 24 Sept 2011, TNP):

“He did not mean to link these individuals to ‘crazy dogs’. What he meant to say was that if a dog had attacked someone, measures would be taken, so in the same vein, mentally unstable people should be monitored to protect other members of the public from danger.

“He apologises unreservedly if his comments were deemed insensitive and might have caused undue distress to his listeners.”

It’s not clear what Glenn experienced at the restaurant, but if the ‘crazy’ woman had indeed gone ‘postal’ and tossed cutlery at random diners, he might have a point, but the change of tune from ‘putting down’ the mentally ill to ‘monitoring and locking them up if necessary’ is opening up another can of vitriol for critics to ‘go mental’ on him. A simple, personal apology would have sufficed, though the damage is done and we won’t see the likes of Glenn taking part in the President’s Star Charity anytime soon.

Bear mascot a public nuisance

From ‘Bear sighting publicity stunt now a public nuisance case’, 14 Oct 2010, article by Ng Jing Yng in Today online.

…The blurry video clip of a purported “bear” rummaging through a dustbin at a bus stop had been making the rounds on the Internet.

In a statement yesterday, through public relations agency Fleishman-Hillard, Philips Electronics Singapore clarified that the bear was a mascot for a guerilla marketing campaign for a shaver undertaken by social media agency, The Secret Little Agency.

…The police, as well as tens of men and women from Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore who scoured the area for hours yesterday, were not amused.

Late last night, a police spokesman said: “In response to media queries on the sighting of a ‘bear’ in Ulu Pandan, Police confirm that we’re investigating an offence of Public Nuisance under Section 268 of the Penal Code.”

…”This is irresponsible and it is a waste of resources … publicity by all means, but this has gone way too far,” said Acres founder and executive director Louis Ng, whose group also conducted an hour long search on Tuesday.

…(Lee Xiu Hua): It is hilarious that this bear mascot got on the news … but imagine the stress and work they have caused the police and zoo over this silly mistaken identity.

The Bear Witch Project

A classic case of ‘viral marketing’ gone wrong, a bear ‘mascot’ loses its purpose once it mimics too closely the features of an actual bear, which then makes it a ‘bear costume’. If you don’t want to put pants and a fruitbasket hat on your bear, at least have it in all-white for God’s sake, so that the implausibility of a polar bear happily rummaging for a snack at a bus stop on a humid night in Singapore would slowly register in people’s heads. Add some ambiguity in a  stylishly composed clip and you have zookeepers pushing the panic button and reaching for their tranquiliser guns. Halloween junkies, be warned in case you’re thinking of hitting the streets in a Godzilla outfit. You’ll probably incur the wrath not just of the police and ACREs, but probably the entire nation’s artillery units as well. OK, bear, hairy, needs shave. We get it, Phillips. Now stop being a cheapskate and make advertisements proper. Other than selling shavers, guerilla marketing overkill has been used to promote Good English as well. Funny how donning a bear costume has become an outrage worthy of a ‘public’ nuisance charge (considering that only a few parties were inconvenienced. Did any member of the public actually call the zoo or SPCA going ‘Yikes!Bear!’? Did the mascot break into people’s homes to steal honey?No?), but sticking ugly notes on public property is not.

Waiter, there’s a cockroach in my pasta

From ‘Roach found in cafe at swimming club. And this is the 2nd time’ 18 Feb 2010, posted in Stomp website.

 (Yong, stomper): There was a cockroach in my child’s spaghetti served at the cafe in Chinese Swimming Club.

The poor kid almost finished up the entire serving and she didn’t realise the pest in her meal earlier because it was embedded at the bottom of the plate!

Fortunately, she didn’t mistake the cockroach’s antenna as spaghetti.

 A simple but thoughtless complaint in the Stomp website ignited a fiery saga of legal entanglement between Yong and the disciplinary panel of the club, resulting in Yong and family being unceremoniously barred from membership. The real fault, perhaps, lies in the moderators of the notorious voyeuristic site, who fail to realise that such unsubstantiated accusations of distinguished clubs should be looked into, at or least if they’re lazy, remove the name of the organisation completely from their posts, like how they mosaic faces of groping couples or teenagers smoking, while having a good tickle among themselves viewing the uncensored versions, like custom officers jacking off to confiscated porn.

If Yong had stopped to think about it before posting pictures indiscriminately, an internal settlement would have sufficed. Alas, the victim still felt that he deserved further compensation for triggering an obsessive fear of insects in pasta in the child. It’s also strange how he continued to patronise the same cafe despite encountering a dead fly in bee hoon in an earlier visit, like he would risk biting into crunchy thoraxes or antennas just so as not to eat at places outside the club.  A perfect example of how a poorly conceived complaint, with the seeming cheapskate intentions of getting free lunches in addition to attention and sympathy, even if the cafe was roach infested,  can get one sacked, or on the other hand, someone else sacked. Stomp remains a prolific viral guilty pleasure, igniting the same emotions and fury in its fans as a voyeur porn site does. It says as much about the victims caught on camera as those who go all out to capture them in full undiscerning glory, editors included. Shameful.

 

Dog in taxi

From’ Uncaged animals in taxis a safety and hygiene concern’ 14 May 2010 Speakup, New Paper

RECENTLY, I saw a dog in the front seat of a Comfort taxi along Woodlands Avenue 1 at around 8.45pm.

I am curious. Are taxis allowed to take animals as passengers? Or should I say uncaged animals?

The dog was uncaged and moving freely in the seat. This is dangerous as the safety of the driver, his passengers and fellow motorists is compromised. Hence, the incident has made me think twice about whether I would want to take a cab in the future.

I am also concerned about other passengers who would flag that cab later. The commuters of this cab might experience unhygienic conditions that can be detrimental to one’s health, say an asthma patient.

I think we all know the real reason why the complainant Ms Nurul will ‘think twice’ about taxis. Probably feels the same about park benches. Or grass patches. Or anywhere an ‘unhygienic’, ‘asthma-inducing’ dog may decide to sit. By the same reasoning, a fidgety child with hand foot mouth disease on the way to hospital is also a safety and health hazard to public commuters as well. Enough with the excuses already. This is nothing more than religious taboo, plain and simple.

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