Air steward sueing SIA after luggage fell on his neck

From ‘Air steward sues SIA’, claiming cabin bag fell and injured him’, 9 April 2014, article by Selina Lum, ST

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000. But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India. That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve. Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

To my surprise, someone has been successful in a suit against SIA for deadly falling luggage before. In March 2004, the High Court awarded $600,000 in compensation to Dr Euan Murugasu after he was attacked by a falling suitcase, leaving him with headaches, double vision and costing him his job as an ENT surgeon. In 2007, traveller Mark David Ryan, vice president of DBS bank, claimed SPINAL CORD INJURY after getting hit on the head by a bag containing a DSLR camera, an accident which he believed was the cabin crew’s fault. It appears that issuing helmets could save the airlines more money than safety belts. Nobody’s going to sue NParks for negligence if a tree branch falls on their face.

Killer baggage aside, even the food that SIA serves could hurt you. A British passenger in 2000 once tried to sue the airlines for serving PINEAPPLE juice with shards of glass inside, each as big as ‘five carat diamonds‘. Turns out that Stephen Golding falsified a radiographer’s report, and SIA proceed to counter-sue him for fraud. In 1993, a NZ woman took legal action against SIA after she had hot COFFEE spilled on her (New Zealand woman takes SIA to court over coffee spill, 1 Nov 1993, ST). A year before that, a similar incident happened at a US McDonalds’ outlet, where an elderly lady was awarded 2.9 million after sustaining third degree burns from the piping hot beverage.

But what about cabin crew themselves seeking claims from their own employer over inflight injuries? In another heavy-luggage related 2011 incident, stewardess Li Na wasn’t satisfied with a $250,000 payout after she suffered a back injury, seeking further compensation from SIA when it was in fact a passenger who knocked into her while she was lifting luggage in the first place.  In 2007, steward S Manikam blamed SIA for failing to order the crew to cease breakfast service during turbulence, resulting in him falling against an armrest, eventually developing REFLEX SYMPATHETHIC DYSTROPHY. SIA countered that he should have known better. Sometimes even part of your uniform can physically maim you, as what happened to an ex-stewardess who in 2002 sued SIA for sandals that gave her ‘foot problems’ (Ex stewardess sues SIA over ‘problem sandals’, 23 Jan 2002, ST). Not only are those an eyesore to some travellers, but serve as ancient Chinese foot binders cum torture devices as well.

You’re liable to head-to-toe injury risk if you work on a SIA plane, and given the hazards on board, turbulence and passengers included, this hardly comes as a surprise. Falling luggage, however, presents a complex whoddunit. Is it SIA’s fault if passengers carry dumbells in their bags, overload the overhead compartments, or do not position their stuff properly? Should cabin crew be trained to detect when a bag compartment is beyond its tipping point and be drilled in Baggage Dodging? If you could pay half a million to a passenger when a bag falls on him out of no reason at all, shouldn’t your own staff be entitled the same?

Here’s a tip for any claim nonetheless, whether you’re hit by a trolley bag, scalded by coffee or tea or have your feet run over by a meal servicecart: Don’t just settle for ‘neck injury’ or ‘nerve damage’. Do your research. The longer and more convoluted-sounding your illness is, the scarier the prognosis, the better your chances of winning a suit.

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000.

But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India.

That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve.

Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/courts-crime/story/air-steward-sues-sia-claiming-cabin-bag-fell-and-injured-him-20140#sthash.U9wl1n29.dpuf

About these ads

Singapore always has a surprise waiting for you

From ‘Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed’, 9 April 2014, article by Carolyn Khew, Raul Dancel, ST

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands. At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.

…Netizen Evonne Sim criticised the video for its “low-cost production” adding that it felt “so 80s”.

Filipino travel writer Stella Arnaldo said: “I couldn’t get past the ‘Honey! Look!‘. Bad acting turned me off already. The major advertising firms have regional headquarters in Singapore, and STB comes up with this?”

Cheesy, awkward acting has always been the bane of tourism videos, and so are takeaway catchphrases whether it’s ‘Get LOST!‘, or ‘SHIOK’. The problem with STB’s latest Pinoy pitch is that its catchphrase (Honey, Look!) has nothing to do with Singapore, and what we’ll remember it by is not the Supertree Grove or expensive dining in a cable car, but the image of a pregnancy test kit in a box at the twisty shock ending.

Having a baby is a reason to celebrate no doubt, except that this could your last anniversary trip not just to Singapore, but ANYWHERE in the world once Baby is out. I can only imagine mixed emotions in the hubby, though what I saw from his expression was surely nothing but pure ecstasy.

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So what we have here is not so much sloppy production or bad dialogue, but a case of excessive ‘storytelling’ and not enough scenes to showcase Singapore, or rather, the REAL Singapore. The Merlion was brutally snubbed in this video and not a single face of a smiling Singaporean was featured. The only food you see here is some atas salmon dish, not satay, durian or chicken rice. And the couple didn’t even look like they were enjoying it, more engrossed with surprising each other than relishing the sights of Singapore from above.

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Singapore: Baked Salmon Paradise

Here’s a uniquely Singaporean tagline for the ad since it sorely needs one. CANNOT MAKE IT LA.

 

 

Netizen Evonne Sim criticised the video for its “low-cost production” adding that it felt “so 80s”.

Filipino travel writer Stella Arnaldo said: “I couldn’t get past the ‘Honey! Look!’. Bad acting turned me off already. The major advertising firms have regional headquarters in Singapore, and STB comes up with this?”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

The advertisement was uploaded to STB’s Facebook page for the Philippines last month. It was also shared on its YouTube channel and featured on TV there. Mr Chong said it was withdrawn because “it was not resonating well with audiences”. – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

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Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

‘Little Chinatown’ Geylang is a potential powder keg

From ‘Step up safety in Geylang, say MPs, grassroots leaders’, 30 March 2014, article by Amelia Tan, Sunday Times

Geylang Members of Parliament and grassroots leaders want more done to keep the area safe, and say the measures should go beyond ramping up police patrols. Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong wants fewer alcohol licences issued, stricter operating hours for businesses near residential estates, and a stop to foreign worker dormitories sprouting near Housing Board flats.

…Geylang has come under fresh focus after Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said last Tuesday that he was more worried about the area than Little India, where a riot involving foreign workers took place last December. Testifying at the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot, he said crime rates in Geylang were disproportionately high and hostility towards the police rife.

Mr Tong told The Sunday Times that the red-light district, with its many bars and lounges, peddlers selling contraband cigarettes and drugs, as well as shops and vendors which stay open late into the night make Geylang more of a potential trouble spot than Little India and increase the risk of violent crime.

…He also highlighted the predicament of those living in Blocks 38 and 39 Upper Boon Keng Road, off Lorong 3 Geylang. The HDB flats are beside a row of terraced houses which have been converted into dormitories for workers from South Asian countries.

Many of the workers drink alcohol at the void decks of the blocks late into the night and some urinate at the playgrounds. Mr Tong said the problems have not been solved despite his asking police to increase their patrols. He said: “I think the solution is to stop the houses from being used as dorms. They are just too near the HDB flats.”

Grassroots leader Lee Hong Ping, 45, who labelled Geylang “Little Chinatown”, said crowds of foreign workers from China can cause traffic jams when too many of them gather on the pavements and spill onto the roads. Residents have also complained about not feeling safe at night.

The Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee described Geylang as a hotspot for ‘lawlessness’ and a congregation area for ‘unsavoury characters’. The Police also cited statistics that the level of public order offences and crime were almost twice as high as that in Little India in 2012, thus the ‘powder keg’ analogy. Another ST report carried the headline ‘People in Geylang speak of an ‘undercurrent of fear’ (March 30, 2014) based on the refusal of some residents to talk to the press. The authorities should be wary, however, not to focus too much on buffing up security at these ‘enclaves’ while neglecting other public areas when random people get slain. Since the Little India incident, we’ve all but forgotten about what went on in the very beating heart of the city, gang fights at Orchard Cineleisure for instance.

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There’s no question that the Lorongs are where resentment of authority is rampant. In 2007, a crowd of 200 gathered around 4 undercover police officers on an illegal gambling raid operation and threw rubbish and beer bottles at them, forcing one officer to draw his weapon on one of the men in the crowd. It had all the makings of a full blown riot, though today we’re unlikely to see the level of violence of the secret society clashes in the 1920s, where the police don’t just get glasses and rocks tossed at them, but BOMBS as well. There’s no evidence that alcohol had anything to do with these events, though some shopkeepers admit that vice is a crowd-puller and good for business.

Geylang may be called ‘Little Chinatown’ today, but according to some sociologists in 2009, Geylang was already the NEW Chinatown when PRCs started flocking to the area to set up shop, while its older sibling with its annual gaudy CNY decorations has morphed into a tourist town, today complete with giant LCD advertising screens and a ‘food street’ that’s clearly designed to draw tourists on a hawker mecca. We’ve already lost our vintage Bugis Street, we don’t want the same fate to fall on ‘Little Chinatown’ now, do we?

The police may think that Geylang, with all its vice and sleaze, is a time bomb waiting to explode. Residents worry about their wives or daughters when they go out at night. But to anyone with a sense of history or adventure, the ‘unsavoury’ nature of Geylang is part of its gritty, trashy charm, a seedy side of Singapore that remains largely unsanitised and brimming with a thrilling sense of ghetto sprawl and chaos, like the Chinese Harlem except that the only protection you need is not a personal weapon, but personal contraception. It has even been called a mini ‘United Nations’ of street-walkers. This is a place you won’t see on our tourist brochures, but any Singaporean will try to tempt a foreigner to have a taste of it. With a nudge and a wink of course.

 

 

Clubhouse for maids a space to call their own

From ‘Clubhouse for maids a good move, but charity leader’s remarks irksome’, 17 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Mannat Johal):…I am heartened to read about the clubhouse, which will provide facilities such as a computer lab and library, as well as various courses, for only S$4 a year. This will greatly benefit domestic helpers and make their experience working in Singapore a lot better. They will have something to look forward to each week, knowing that they can enhance their skills and spend time fruitfully at the clubhouse.

What irked me, though, was the statement by the President of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). He said: “We want (the workers) to go to a place where they can be among themselves, where they will not be disturbing the owners of the building or residents of the area.”

This gives the impression that domestic helpers generally cause owners and residents annoyance by simply patronising places such as tourist attractions. No such problems are said to exist when Singaporeans and tourists patronise these areas. Are domestic helpers that different? Should they not be allowed to enjoy these areas as we do? Are they that much of a nuisance compared with tourists, who are possibly more unfamiliar with Singaporean culture and etiquette?

Also, why does FAST want domestic helpers to be among themselves? Singapore is a multiracial society where harmony between people of different races, religions and backgrounds is a significant feature.

In 2001, Sri Lankan maid Sanda Perumal, along with her employer Angie Monksfield were given the boot out of Singapore Cricket Club because having maids in the premises was against internal club policy. As recently as 2011, some condos were still banning maids from using swimming pools.  Having a clubhouse just for maids would seem like an apologetic gesture for years of discrimination bordering on colonialism, a place where FDWs may benefit from the enrichment activities that such centres can offer rather than doing wild stuff like turning a stretch of Orchard Road into a street party . The other unspoken purpose here is to keep foreign workers out of sight, out of trouble, though you can’t stop them from murdering their rich employers. It’s like how people are uncomfortable with having workers’ dorms just down the road, treating the living quarters of others like a concentration or leprosy camp. The next question then: What about having a club for workers from Little India? One which holds a masterclass on anger management perhaps? A place where they can bond over some Darjeeling tea instead of Tiger beer?

Ethnic enclaves form all over the world as part of natural urban progression, and some even serve as tourist attractions, classic examples being Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. What FAST is concerned with here is gatherings of FDWs disrupting business, but one can think of some iconic commercial spaces that may have benefited instead from foreign workers milling about, never mind the occasional drunken brawl, sleaze or spontaneous mass dancing.

1) Lucky Plaza

Though initially viewed as an ‘image’ problem, Lucky Plaza remains till this day Orchard Road’s premier maid hangout, and some businesses have learned to adapt to capitalise on the loyal throngs, from fast food chains like Jollibee to IDD sellers and remittance. It’s also the first place I would think of if I have a sudden craving for Pinoy fare like sisig and pata.

2) Golden Mile Complex

Earning its title as ‘Little Thailand’, Golden Mile is renown as a foodie destination if you’re looking for authentic, homely cuisine. Some Thais refer to the Beach Road complex as their ‘second home’. Locals looking for some alternative entertainment to Bangkok barhopping can boogie all night long at places like ‘Pure Thai Disco’.

3) Peninsula Plaza

A lesser known enclave, this place is our very own ‘Little Myanmar’. Not all’s rosy in terms of local business though, with some lamenting that Peninsula has turned from a ‘classy mall’ into a ‘Myanmar market’. It has also become a collection centre for Cyclone Nargis donations and a place to congregate and discuss politics. In my youth, it was a place to get rare records and band merchandise. Yes, those were the days when it was cool to wear a cap with your favourite band’s logo on it. Backwards.

4) City Plaza and Joo Chiat

The newest enclave on the block, City Plaza is turning out to be ‘Little Indonesia’, and would have been a ghost town if not for maids flocking there on weekends. For obvious reasons, it attracts Bangladeshi workers too. Joo Chiat, with its string of bars and restaurants, is close to becoming ‘Little Vietnam’. Now you know where to go if you’re in the mood for pho or Ayam Penyet. Or some intimate Vietnamese hospitality, if you know what I mean.

So, with or without these club facilities, our FDWs already have a place to mingle (sometimes with other foreign nationalities) and be seen, even if it means moonlighting on the fly or simply fooling around. The fact that places like Lucky Plaza and Golden Mile have hardly changed at all means that the authorities are silently aware of their social (and economic) significance.  It is, however, unrealistic to expect migrant workers to integrate with Singaporeans on weekends, when they already spend almost their entire working lives dealing with us. In some situations, in fact, we’d rather they leave us the hell alone.

Let’s not forget the many other ‘enclaves’ and invisible boundaries that we draw around us every single day. Christians have their mega-churches, Muslims their mosques. Billionaires have their fancy clubs, golf courses, Iggy’s and Nassim Road. Women have Ladies’ Night and entire shopping mall levels dedicated to them. Hipsters have arty-farty cafes, expats Robertson Quay, and even seniors have ‘retirement villages’. What’s the big deal about a clubhouse for maids?

We’re a motley nation, not an orientation camp where everybody sits around the campfire singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, and by all means let FDWs have places to ‘call their own’ as long as they abide by our laws and don’t have mass orgies in public. A artificial enclosure like a clubhouse may be a place for maids to be ‘among themselves’, but without the flavours of home and the calming familiarity that Lucky Plaza brings, it’s unlikely to be a place to ‘belong’.

Long Live the Queen banner smacks of colonial hangover

From ‘Long live the Queen archway raises some eyebrows’, 29 Sept 2013, article by Melody Zaccheus, Sunday Times

An archway in Queenstown proclaiming “Long live the Queen” has left some scratching their heads, even as residents gathered last night for a concert to mark the estate’s 60th anniversary.

The arch was put up as part of the celebrations at the estate, which was named after Queen Elizabeth II. Nine of 15 Singaporeans The Sunday Times spoke to described the arch as odd, calling it a “colonial hangover”.

“It’s not appropriate as we are an independent country and no longer under British rule,” said polytechnic course manager Tia Boon Sim, 57, who lived in Queenstown for the first 16 years of her life.

…My Community founder Kwek Li Yong, 24, said the arch – featuring a photo of the Queen and decorated with the Union Jack – is a re-creation of a larger one that was erected in 1953 in North Bridge Road to celebrate the Queen’s coronation. “History teaches us to look back at events. So, we are tracing the estate’s roots back to when the British started it, as Singapore’s first satellite town,” he said.

Named by the British on Sept 27, 1953, Queenstown began as a project by the Singapore Improvement Trust to tackle overcrowding in Chinatown. The trust was later replaced by the Housing Board in 1959. It was in Queenstown that HDB built its first blocks.

God Save this Archway

God Save this Archway

According to the book ‘The Politics of Landscapes in Singapore: Constructions of ‘nation’‘, the ‘Street Naming Advisory Commitee’ was advised in the late sixties to avoid ‘British snob names’ in a bid to sever post-Independence Singapore’s colonial ‘apron strings’.  Areas in Queenstown such as Commonwealth, Queensway and Margaret Drive were advised to change to Malay names. However the Board resisted because Queenstown was ‘well-known throughout the world’ and should be preserved. In the same chapter, it was revealed that Bugis and Tanjong Pagar MRT stations were originally to be named ‘Victoria’ and ‘Maxwell’, after the monarch and a colonial family respectively. Till today, we still have a ‘King Albert Park’, where unlike Queenstown heartland folks, people actually do live like royalty.

Having a ‘colonial hangover’ implies that our past under British royalty was as merry and free-spirited as a drunken orgy, but in today’s context has been extended not just to kowtowing to the Queen and her ilk, but our white overlords in general. I think a more accurate description would be a ‘colonial hang-up’, like the feeling of not wanting to let go of an ex-boyfriend who treated you terribly but you still love to bits. The archway regalia and cheesy title is a bit over-the-top, but this is similar to the way we feted the royal couple when they visited Singapore’s first satellite town last year, short of taking them around in a horse-driven golden carriage and having people dressed as grovelling butlers in tailcoats serving them TWG tea.

The kings and queens today are not those who live in grand palaces and sit on thrones, but those in the realm of K-pop or mavens of technology, and this homage to Queen Elizabeth II by Queenstown residents would strike us as Old World sentimentality that is incompatible with our current aspirations as citizens of a digital age. Celebrating a town’s anniversary like a Royal Jubilee is harmless in my opinion, but it raises the question of whether we, despite being an independent country, have fully shrugged off our colonial past, or have we descendents been somehow possessed by the lingering spirit of the time, that when we see a Caucasian speaking in a posh accent, we are subconsciously compelled by this ghost to either curtsey and shudder with fear, or have the sudden urge to instigate a mutiny on the bounty.

As late as 2007, locals have complained about snooty discriminatory treatment under the euphemism of ‘nursing a colonial hangover’. Bellhops at the Raffles Hotel reportedly allowed a Caucasian family to jump a taxi queue after shouting ‘this one for the ang mohs!’. Sumiko Tan asked if she was guilty of suffering from the same syndrome, complaining of ang mohs ‘lording over Singaporeans’ after a traffic scuffle. To some, a colonial hangover simply means ‘Westernisation’, like having weird English names even if you’re ethnic Chinese. A more specific syndrome related to this submissiveness is the ‘Pinkerton Syndrome’, which refers to Singaporean women preferring white men over locals. A case of ‘bigger’ meaning ‘better’, perhaps. These days, ‘Pinkerton’ and ‘colonial hangover’ seem to be used interchangeably and loosely, only because no one wants to utter words like ‘racism’ or ‘slavery’. (Interestingly, the name of Prince William’s private secretary is Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton)

However, we have our white colonial masters to thank for our architecture and tourist icons , from the grand Fullerton Hotel to Empress Place and Fort Canning, though these were built with the hands, blood, sweat and tears of our very own forefathers. We indulge in a spot of afternoon tea in tiffin rooms, the ‘quintessential colonial pastime’, though the key ingredient behind ‘high tea’ has its origins in another ex-colony, India. One man’s ‘nostalgia’ is another’s ‘colonial hangover’, depending on your gut reaction to the image below, courtesy of Raffles Hotel, the pinnacle of colonial luxury that would make any Old-World plantation owner feel right at home. Without the whips of course.

A fling with Singapore sling

An article in the Hindu Times even referred to our country as a city-state ‘basking in its colonial hangover’. If that’s the case, then we don’t need a cure for it, do we? We have the Singapore Flyer mimic of the one in London, why not build the next casino like Big Ben then? Who knows, Singapore may even be more ‘British’ than London itself in 20 years. We even retained some of the crappy laws which our ex rulers have ditched a long time ago. Some people have tasted scones before even knowing the existence of ang ku kuehs.

You could even accuse me of nursing a ‘colonial hangover’ just because I love Fish and Chips, listen to music from British bands, support Manchester United instead of Home United, or watch Monty Python skits. In its milder form, I would be referred to as a ‘banana’ or ‘jiak kantang’. Yet, I haven’t heard of anyone being accused of ‘Occupation hangover’ if they study Japanese as a third language or are members of Sushi Tei. In 2001, a Today reader complained about our ‘fixation with our British-colonial past’ and imperialism’s ‘dark power’ over the minds of the people, just because Bridget Jones Diary seemed to be more popular than Jurassic Park. Bollocks, really.

NHB using Google Translator for Bras Basah

From article in omy.sg, 15 Sept 2013 and Singapore heritage Society Facebook post

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The direct translation of ‘Bras Basah’ (as in the road) into the Chinese ‘bras’ 胸罩 (as in the undergarment) has made international headlines, no thanks to the gaffe by the folks responsible for the Chinese version of  the NHB website (I have no idea how to access the Chinese version to see if it has been amended). Wrong translation with unintended comical and embarrassing results has happened before, on the STB website and even when applied to the names of prominent ministers.

So I decided to give Google Translate a shot at ‘Bras Basah’, and found that someone must have corrected the algorithm because the end result turned out to be accurate, though the official name in Chinese (pronounced ‘Wulashibasha’) makes absolutely no sense at all.

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But isn’t Bras Basah a MALAY word, you say? So I tried converting it to Chinese from Malay instead. The result I got was 湿黄铜, which means WET BRASS. It should be, literally, 湿米 (shi mi, or wet rice, as I’ll explain later), but that sounds too close to SIMEI. The name warrants further research because it seems ‘bras’ isn’t a Malay word either.

According to Infopedia, the road was listed as ‘Brass Bassa’ in 1835, and hypothesised to be an anglicised form of the Malay ‘Beras Basah’, or ‘wet rice’. Our British rulers probably didn’t like naming roads after soggy food, so decided to ‘jazz’ it up to sound more like a trumpet festival. There were also speculations that ‘basah’ is a bastardisation of ‘bazaar’ and that Bras Basah meant ‘rice market’ (‘Basah’ also sounds like the local Chinese term for ‘wet market’ 巴剎, which itself is derived from the Malay ‘Pasar’). Then there are jokes that the underwear reference came from it being used as an area to hang wet bras to dry. Some visitors, like blogger ‘Jacqkie’ from Malaysia, thinks Bras Basar ‘sounds funny’. Singaporeans, too, found the pun ROTFL-worthy, and came up with lame classics like ‘Where does Dolly Parton buy her bra in Singapore?’ (Answer: Bras Basah)

In fact, it was historically a site of rice trading, where cargo-loads were dried at the banks of Stamford Canal, occasionally made wet by the north-east monsoon, as related by an unknown writer in 1948. In the same article, ‘Tampenis Road’ was cited. I wonder how this would have turned out on Google Translate (it doesn’t translate. Unfortunately). Couldn’t stop sniggering at the puns (not sure if intended or not) in this 1939 piece on how ‘Tampines’ came about. But I digress.

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Our reluctance to restore Bras Basah to its original Malay is partly the reason for the website cock-up, though most of us have refrained from mocking its name by now because that’s just childish. Bras Basah remains generally accepted for historical and sentimental reasons, just like the distorted ‘Tampines’, though the latter is a change that residents of the town are most grateful for.

WHY someone in history decided to drop the last ‘S’ of ‘brass’ and restore the Malay ‘basah’ to its current incarnation remains a juicy mystery. As for WHEN, it could have happened sometime just before 1900, when someone commented on revised spelling on the ‘newly enamelled’ street signs, and that Bras Basah ‘sends the thoughts back to the padi fields in the valley of Fort Canning’. It could have been a lexical compromise of ‘brass’ and the colloquial ‘beras’ (Bras Basah is catchier than Beras Basah), or a colonial prankster working in road administration who wanted to leave a lasting legacy for all the wrong reasons, who had the foresight to recognise that one day mankind will be lazy enough to use technology instead of humans to translate ‘Bras Basah’ into other languages, with hilarious, and tragic, results.

Singapore Flyer no longer attractive to locals

From ‘Experts,  tour guides not surprised by Singapore Flyer receivership news’, 28 May 2013, article by Debbie Lee and Jessica Lim, ST

Analysts and tour agents were not altogether surprised when news broke on Tuesday evening that company that owns the Singapore Flyer had enter receivership just five years after it was launched.

…Analysts noted that the Singapore Flyer was not attractive to locals and did not encourage repeat visitors while tour agents also told The Straits Times that the ticket prices were too expensive and some had stopped taking tourists there.

Mr M. Loganathan, a tour guide, said that he prefers to take tourists to view Singapore’s scenery from buildings like the OUB building instead. “It’s cheaper so we earn more. At these places, tourists can stay as long as they want and take as many pictures as they want,” he said, adding that he suggests alternate locations to the Flyer to tourists the guides.

The Singapore Flyer project was formally announced and endorsed on June 27, 2003 by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the developer, Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, and STB.

While the attraction crossed the one-million mark in ticket sales in August 2008, it suffered several breakdowns including two major ones. On Dec 4 in 2008, the wheel was stuck for nearly five hours due to bad weather and some 70 people were stranded. A few weeks later on Dec 23, wheel stopped moving for more than six hours. Some 173 passengers on board were trapped and 11 passengers eventually had to be evacuated via a sling-like device from a few of the capsules, and those stranded were given food and drink. Following this breakdown, additional back-up systems costing about $3 million were installed.

The ‘analysts’ are right. I only ever took the Singapore Flyer once and that was the end of it. It explains the fancy add-ons to get people interested after their maiden voyage. A basic ride currently costs a whopping $33 for a half-hour rotation and entry into a ‘Journey of Dreams’ showcase. For twice that price ($69), you may experience a Moet and Chandon champagne flight, which includes bubbly in an ‘elegant tulip flute’ and strawberries and chocolate. For $99 you and your partner may enjoy – literally – HIGH tea. The problem with Flyer feasting is that you can’t enjoy afternoon delight or a romantic date at your own pace once the wheel hits the downturn. For the same amount I could have a more relaxing time at a buffet spread, with the luxury of a restroom so that I can drink and piss out as much tea as I want. And who needs a butler in that enclosed space anyway, unless he also doubles up as a serenading violinist or carries an emergency jetpack to shuttle passengers to safety in the event of disaster.

What the above article avoided reporting on past Flyer breakdowns was that the cause of wheel failure in Dec 2008 was a small ELECTRICAL FIRE, and that two passengers were subsequently HOSPITALISED. One Indonesian tourist who swore that he would never take the ride spoke of trapped riders URINATING into plastic bags while hanging in the air. Imagine if you’re stuck in a Moet Chandon package capsule and you had no other receptacle to relieve yourself than a tulip flute, and mere strawberries to stave your hunger. Just the thought of that remotely happening is enough for me to save that $33 for Kai Kai and Jia Jia instead. I’d rather see pandas do nothing for 15 minutes than twice that duration in a rotating deathtrap worrying about which side to jump from once the capsule catches fire. I sure as hell don’t want to land smack on the Esplanade.

But that’s not all. 2010 saw the Flyer being hit by LIGHTNING. A year later, a baby in a stroller rolled off the disembarkation platform 3 stories off the ground (but thankfully onto a safety net). But if you’re really unlucky, you may get half an hour of witnessing ridiculous couples fondle each other. At least you can disembark the MRT if such behaviour gives you nausea. On the Singapore Flyer there is NO escape. It gives ‘altitude sickness’ a whole new meaning. All the above, for $33 a pop and waiting in a queue for longer than the entire ride itself. In fact, even an illegal ticket at half price would be a hard sell in my opinion.

Despite the initial fanfare and optimism over the then TALLEST Observation Wheel in the World (30 m taller than the London Eye, but now overtaken by New York’s 190m High Roller ferris wheel), there were some voices in 2003 who called out the Flyer as a blatant copycat of the London icon, with the ST Forum using a telling subject header for one such letter: Singapore Flyer won’t Fly. 10 years on and the Flyer looks set to have its wings clipped as the naysayers predicted, its unpopularity coupled with problems within management.  I can imagine in 50 years if nobody could bear to tear down a $200 million dollar project, we could send some gardeners up there to seed the abandoned capsules and turn the entire structure in the world’s biggest vertical hanging tropical garden. Only THEN should the Management consider skyborne eateries, maybe a Kopitiam in the form of a spiralling tower selling hawker delights, a refreshing gastronomic SPIN on what’s previously a Ferris Wheel ride so boring you need to pay extra for booze to help get it over and done with.

We could rename the attraction – wait for it – the Singapore Fryer.

Singapore Girl announcing that she’s from China

From ‘Stewardess making announcements:Why the need to specify her origins?’, 25 May 2013, ST Forum

(Kua Bak Lim): WHEN on board a recent Singapore Airlines Beijing/Singapore flight, I was puzzled when the flight stewardess who made announcements in Mandarin identified herself as someone from China. It struck me as odd that the airline found it necessary to make such a distinction when it came to announcements in Mandarin.

I then asked the in-flight supervisor whether the stewardess or steward on board an SIA flight to London needed to declare that he or she was from the United Kingdom when making announcements. The answer was no. This piece of personal information about the staff is completely irrelevant to the announcements, regardless of the language spoken.

This, in my view, tends to be divisive for the staff on board. I also find it disconcerting for SIA’s image as a world-class international airline. One also cannot help but notice that there seems to be the subtle insinuation that Singaporeans cannot speak good Mandarin, which is certainly not true.

Would the SIA management please comment?

There’s no need for an SIA stewardess from China to announce her origins simply because her accent and grammatical precision would be a dead giveaway, if the intention is to cater to PRCs on board. SIA has been hiring foreign staff for a while now so it’s no secret,  though they still insist on keeping the ‘Singapore Girl’ moniker.  As of April 2013, 7 out of 10 cabin crew are locals, with Malaysians, Thais, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Koreans making up the numbers. It is perhaps the only airline in the world to brand their attendants after a nationality. Even Air India doesn’t call their ladies ‘India Girl’, nor China Airlines ‘China Girl’. The latter is also derogatory in the local context, often associated with mistresses and illegal immigrants than a glamorous profession that involves pushing foodcarts up and down a aisle asking if people want the chicken or the beef.

Interestingly, according to the SIA recruitment site, it’s a prerequisite to be ‘proficient in English and Mandarin’ if you’re a Taiwanese, whereas the requirement specified for candidates from China is just ‘a HIGH level of English proficiency’, though I believe the average Chinese or Taiwanese native could deliver any announcement in Mandarin without much difficulty at all. No such language criteria has been set for the Singaporean candidate, though you’d need to have A and O Level credits in General Paper and English respectively. Which means you can fail your Chinese exams and still become a successful Singapore Girl. But having splendid passes in GP or even Chinese doesn’t necessarily make you proficient in ANY language. The writer above seems highly optimistic about our locals’ standards of spoken Mandarin, but if we were that good we wouldn’t need ‘Speak Mandarin campaigns’. Even ang mo children put Chinese Singaporean adults like myself to shame. I can only remember one Chinese nursery rhyme during my childhood, the one that goes ‘san zi lao hu’ (Three Tigers, Three Tigers, run very fast, run very fast, one has no eyes, one has no ears, very strange, very strange), compared to today’s non-Chinese kids reciting Confucian EPICS like San Zi Jing.

So how many Singaporeans you know are actually up to the task of delivering a message to international travellers over a PA system? How many can deliver a simple interview to a Mandarin news crew in full sentences? How about telling a Chinese tourist the TIME? Not a lot, apparently.  Ex Mediacorp actor Ix Shen says we have a TOTAL DISREGARD for grammar and sentence construction. Sumiko Tan posits that English educated folks like herself lacked interest in the language because it was forced down our throats and not promoted in a fun, lively way. Journalist and film-maker Pek Siok Lan mocks our ‘half-baked English and half-baked Chinese’. Back in 1981, a Taiwanese professor urged us to ‘DROP Singapore Mandarin’ because we were over -’translitering’ it. We could consider a Speak Mandarin mascot like Water Wally or Singa, but it would be hard to conceive of a character related to Chinese culture without making it a dragon or coming across as racist and xenophobic.

From a business and customer service standpoint, it’s better for SIA to let a ‘professional’ handle a Mandarin announcement than risk an unseasoned Singaporean butchering it in front of PRCs, generally thought to be so proud of their language they wouldn’t stand for anything slipshod and ‘half-baked’. It would also be a hassle for the cabin crew if PRCs started throwing up their meals because they heard us speak. But you don’t have to tell people you’re from China because it’s obvious and it would confuse everyone about what ‘Singapore Girl’ means. I suppose with enough practice, a true ‘Singapore Girl’ would be able to deliver Mandarin with striking confidence. Maybe that would be the ‘makeover’ that we locals can truly be proud of, a bilingual SIA stewardess who knows what is Chinese for ‘mild turbulence’ and ‘fried mee goreng’, rather than say, toning down on blue eyeshadow.

Singapore as a location for blockbuster movies

From ‘Lights, camera, action – in S’pore’, 25 April 2013, ST Forum

(Matthew Varughese): THE Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is constantly striving to come up with creative ways to promote Singapore as a tourist destination…A lot of resources have been spent on advertising and organising events such as the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. Perhaps it is time for the STB to consider another form of marketing that targets an international audience and creates a lasting legacy – that is, entice big-name international film studios to use Singapore as a location for blockbuster movies.

In this way, the STB can achieve its target of showcasing Singapore to the world and marketing it as a vibrant place to visit. Already, Indian film studios have shot movies in Singapore, and some Korean and Japanese bands have used our landmarks for location shoots in their music videos.

The next step would be to get leading Hollywood studios to shoot on location in Singapore. Our country has already been referenced in a number of films and, as a global city with multiple attractions and an iconic skyline, there should be little difficulty in incorporating a Singapore sequence into a modern blockbuster.

Regional cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong have already made their mark in Hollywood, and it could be time for Singapore to take to the silver screen. Movies in the James Bond and Godfather series have become staples that will be watched and re-watched for generations to come. Should Singapore be featured in such a film in future, the effects of marketing and publicity would endure for far longer than any print, radio or television advertising campaign.

Singapore’s skyline will never match the scale and pomp of China or Dubai, where you have impressive monoliths like the Burj Khalifa as a phallic set-piece for Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol. Hong Kong gets to be featured in Batman and was among the first Asian countries to headline the globetrotting James Bond franchise (You Only Live Twice, 1967). Even Petronas Towers in KL has been immortalised in the spy-caper Entrapment starring ex-James Bond himself Sean Connery. The last time someone attempted to pull off an action flick in our high-rise metropolitian setting was in the Hong Kong film 2000AD, which starred heartthrob Aaron Kwok and local actors like the now obscure James Lye and Phyllis Quek, though the HK superstar served more as product placement for RSAF in the trailer than a skyscraper-crawling daredevil.

Meanwhile, we await Hollywood magnates to take notice of the only candidate to star a blockbuster so far, the Marina Bay Sands. Fast and Furious star and rapper Ludacris gave us a boost by soaking in the Infinity Pool during the F1 season and tweeting about it in 2011, though since then we haven’t heard from Tom Cruise, James Bond or even the guys from the Hangover (with its sequel shot in hot and sultry Bangkok). We have, however, been featured in a Japanese porn film. MBS, chicken rice and all.

Even Julia Roberts’ character in Eat Pray Love would rather head to Bali for some spiritual me-time. So, if our buildings aren’t glitzy or gigantic enough and we’ve lost out on that Oriental lustre and LUST to fellow ASEAN nations, where does that leave us? Bollywood and its song-and-dance with national icon backdrops I suppose. Interestingly, the first ever Indian move to be shot here was titled ‘Singapore’ (1960), and featured Haw Par Villa in its prime. The ‘strange garden’ exists till this day, though more of a curiosity than a tourist attraction that it once was.

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There was hope in the late 60s/early 70′s. Homegrown action starlet Marrie Lee (real name Doris Young) was featured in several foreign films including the iconic, Quentin Tarantino-endorsed, CLEOPATRA WONG, which had our campy heroine kicking butt in Chinese Garden (Trivia: Cleopatra also starred a dashing BRIAN RICHMOND, now veteran DJ with Gold 90 FM). Then America took notice with the softcore thriller Wit’s End, aka The GI EXECUTIONER (1971), which featured ‘sultry Singapore’ and sleazy sex in the Raffles Hotel. One version of the trailer started with an old local smoking an OPIUM PIPE. Singapore would have been perfect for the Hangover movies then. I’m surprised even master of the C-grade action movie Steven Seagal gave us a miss.

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Then the Government happened. Local martial arts film The Ring of Fury(1973), featuring real-life kungfu master Peter Chong, was BANNED for its ‘portrayal of crime’ and depictions of gangsterism. Still, that didn’t stop Saint Jack (1978) from being filmed here, another American flick banking on what was left of our sleazy exoticism in Bugis Street. That means two American films in a decade, both with one thing in common. Barenaked BOOBIES. And nothing from Hollywood thereafter except for totally misleading references like the Singapore of Pirates of the Caribbean, a low-life haven that crosses evil Chinese temple with Old World kampong chic. Even our attempts to market the country through local film without foreign money have been stifled for being too seditious or racist for our own good. Jet Li, martial arts superstar and erstwhile Singaporean, has done absolutely NOTHING for our flagging entertainment industry. US chart-topping Singaporean diva-pastor Sun Ho would also rather sing about China than Singapore Wine.

‘Singapore’ has since been featured a 80′s MASK cartoon episode, the occasional foodie documentary with Anthony Bourdian and an Australian mini-series about the Japanese Occupation called Tanamera: The Lion of Singapore. Which ALSO FEATURES BOOBIES. Need I mention Sex: The Annabel Chong Story? Forget Batman, James Bond or Amitabh Bachchan. STB, you should know what to do to make Singapore more ‘Shiok’ now. How about an erotic courtroom drama about an underage prostitute and a high-flying politician, eh?

Singapore Shiok ad makes Caucasian look like a schmuck

From ‘Singapore Shiok, or just silly?’, 28 April 2013, article by Nicholas Yong, Sunday Times

First, Singapore was marketed as uniquely itself as a tourist destination. Then, it became yours. Now, it is “shiok” too. The Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) latest marketing video on YouTube revolves around the Singlish expression – derived from the Malay word “syok”, which means nice – for extreme pleasure. Cold ice kacang on a hot day? Shiok. The adrenaline rush of sky-diving? Shiok! Being massaged at a posh spa? Shhh…iok.

…In the Singapore video, a Caucasian man struggling to pronounce “shiok” – defined helpfully on screen as “a Singaporean expression denoting extreme pleasure or the highest quality” – opens the clip. When he finally succeeds, his Singaporean friends applaud him…Branding expert Tim Clark, a Briton in his 60s, thinks “using the local language to help visitors to connect with a country is a good thing”.

…Professor Gemma Calvert, a British professor at NTU’s Institute for Asian Consumer Studies, agrees with Mr Clark that the video makes the featured foreigner struggling to pronounce “shiok” look “a bit of a shmuck“. She says: “The phrase isn’t particularly difficult to pronounce and therefore may come across as slightly patronising to outsiders. As a Caucasian myself, I admit I cringed to some extent at the representation portrayed by this particular individual.”

…Creative director Hanson Ho, in his 30s, of H55 studio also notes: “‘Shiok’ is sometimes expressed somewhat artificially in certain scenes, making it seem quite unnatural.” For instance, having a little boy whisper “shiok” at the sight of zoo animals at the Night Safari seemed to be stretching it a little.

…Lawyer Samantha Ong, 31, wonders if the video could have varied its local vocabulary a little. “There’s a serious overuse of the word ‘shiok’ that’s kind of cheesy and annoying,” she says of the yelled, purred and breathed incarnations in the video.

“Aren’t there other ‘uniquely Singapore’ words or ways to express pleasure, such as ‘sedap’ or ‘ho chiak’ (delicious in Malay and Hokkien)?”

Shiok

By attempting to globalise the word and sell it to visitors, ‘Shiok’ has become as problematic as ‘Lah’: Both also ‘ANYHOW use one’. If a kid exclaimed to me that watching animals in a zoo is ‘shiok!’ I would instantly correct him that he should have used the more generic ‘Wahh’ instead. I may even tolerate the Americanised ‘Awesome’ or ‘Whoa!’. Other scenes where the use of shiok is exaggerated and unnatural include Singaporeans showing off their shopping haul, ‘shioking’ at a club, or marvelling at the LV island in MBS. A simple ‘Wow’ or ‘Niiice’ wouldn’t stick as well, but these poor examples of shiok are as misplaced as getting locals to yell ‘Yahoo’ or ‘Yippee’ while exhibiting ‘extreme pleasure’, though ‘yahoo’ is something I often say in my head with an imaginary fist-pump whenever I manage to board an MRT train during peak hour.

Singaporeans also tend to be bad teachers of their own beloved lingo. When UK boyband The Wanted popped by to perform, fans cheered when they said ‘Singaporean girls are SHIOK’. Totally wrong and even demeaning in today’s context, but the fans don’t care, and this mistake will be perpetuated to every celebrity the world over, who’ll pepper their concerts with forced Singlish like ‘You’re such a SHIOK audience, LAH’. Ugh.

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When singer Demi Lovato was in town, DJ Divian Nair decided to teach her how to use shiok (like ‘awesome’) as a warm-up during an interview, with the superstar obliging with ‘I’m feeling shiok right now’. Lucky Divian. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine says Singapore is ‘like, TOTALLY SHIOK’. Neither of these Caucasians has difficulty pronouncing the word, which is like replacing the C in Coke with Sh- (unless you want to be picky and insist that there should be a ‘-yee-ok’ sound). We seem to have an obsession with trying to get foreigners to speak Singlish with the same sadistic enthusiasm as teasing a kitten with a laser pointer. It may well be pride on our part to promote Singlish, but it does make a sporting goon out of non-Singaporeans when they mutilate it, be it shiok, lah or ‘Ho-Say’.

The worst abuse of shiok, however, comes from our Board of Censors. In 1999, when they found the use of ‘Shagged’ in the movie title Austin Powers:The Spy who Shagged Me objectionable, they proposed to replace the offensive word to the verb-form ‘SHIOKED’, as in The Spy who SHIOKED me, which would suggest to those unfamiliar with Singlish that shiok is a euphemism for the F-word. Thanks to our authorities, IMDB now thinks that shioked means ‘to be treated nicely’. If they had really pulled the title edit off, this ad, with the zoo kid whispering a potentially foul word into Daddy’s ear, wouldn’t exist. Max George from the Wanted would have said: ‘I’m here to Shiok some Singapore Girls’. To some cheers still.

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Yet, it’s not so simple defining when exactly shiok should be used. It’s like trying to teach someone when to use ‘lah’, ‘leh’ and ‘lor’. We have been known to use it in various contexts outside of food from which I believe it originally evolved (Humorist Paik Choo described ‘shiok’ mee rebus in a 1979 ST article). Enjoying rainy weather, lying on a hard cold floor on a blistering hot day or even sprawling out on a king-size bed in a hotel room may qualify as ‘shiok’ activities today. It’s often an interjection ejaculated reflexively, like the opposite of ‘Ouch’, and preceded by a period of anticipation or suffering, specific to a relatively quick, pleasurable stimulus. Nobody goes to a club and yells ‘SHIOK’ while dancing, nor experiences shiok-ness after staring at a fancy floating building for minutes. A massage after a long day? Shiok. A hot bath after a marathon? Lagi shiok! But saying ‘Singapore is SHIOK’? GET LOST LAH.

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