Singapore is not a SIN city

From ‘Take the SIN out of Singapore’, 6 Oct 2014, ST Forum

(Andrew Choo Ming Sing): SEEING the word “SIN” emblazoned across the chests of our beaming Asian Games athletes (“Finally, a golden day for Singapore”; last Wednesday) evoked a feeling that was somewhat bittersweet. “SIN” is the International Olympic Committee code for Singapore and is used to represent our country in sporting events. “SIN” is also the International Air Traffic Association code for Changi Airport, the gateway to our country.

Sports and travel are two of the most visible platforms through which we project ourselves to the world. “SIN” is the word projected when we make a name for ourselves on these platforms. Sin cities of the world are well known, for better or for worse. Whenever Singapore is elevated into focus, the image must be one that is in keeping with our cultural and social mores.

Singapore is not a sin city. But, with the use of the code “SIN”, the eye will make the association, even if the heart and mind know otherwise. Is it in our national interest for “SIN” to be associated with Singapore?

We should consider adopting the less-used (but not lesser) code “SGP” instead of “SIN”. “SGP” is, after all, the United Nations’ country code for Singapore. Indeed, the Internet domain designation for Singapore is “.sg”. Furthermore, “SGP” corresponds to the syllables that make up the word “Sin-Ga-Pore”.

It looks better, sounds better and unifies all usage and application.

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Team SIN

In 2010, the Today paper published a tongue-in-cheek feature titled I LOVE SIN, instead of the more frequently hashtagged, less embarrassing ‘ I LOVE SG’. Indeed, it’s the only code that stands out among the list of countries which participated in the Incheon games, but only if you’re suffering from excessive self-consciousness, or are more interested in scrutinising 3-letter codes instead of the number of medals that our beloved team has brought home. Incidentally, SIN ranked higher than both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, countries that many people don’t know even exist, let alone realise are part of Asia.

One may argue about how ‘sinful’ Singapore really is. Our 2 IRs already give us something in common with the original ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas. In fact, a report in 2012 states that Singapore’s 2 IRs may have surpassed all 39 casinos in Vegas in takings, making it the global gambling ‘hub’ second only to Macau. The current courtroom news gripping the nation is about church founders embezzling donations to fund a celebrity pastor who exposes a gyrating torso in her music videos. There’s a seething undercurrent of vice online, in the backstreets, occasionally in the highest public offices, right up to the dirty LUSTY antics of a certain Speaker of Parliament. Although adultery site Ashley Madison is banned, it still has a reported 25,000 registered users from Singapore. If you want to argue based on biblical technicalities, we also aim to be among Asia’s top ‘sinners’ when it comes to our fetish for local cuisine (GLUTTONY). If rich, oily food were a sin, we would rank among the most enthusiastic purveyors of food porn.

To still insist that Singapore has to upkeep a squeaky-clean image, to the extent of amending a code used for so long in sporting events which hardly anyone ever notices unless someone mentions it, is like telling a prospective son-in-law to trim his moustache because you don’t want him to resemble a brutal genocidal dictator. It just makes the association more OBVIOUS. Otherwise, no one would even think of Hitler under any circumstance. It would have been a ironic case of ‘Hmm, now that you mentioned it…’, though I doubt anyone would avoid stepping into the country just because the boarding pass tells us that we could be disembarking right onto a land of pure, perverse, EVIL.

Besides, ask a linguist and he would probably disagree that we should even pronounce Singapore as SIN-GA-PORE, with the ‘hard G’. By syllabic emphasis alone, it should be ‘SAP’ instead. But between a word that implies ‘weakling/loser’ vs SIN, I’d much prefer the latter, even at the remotest possibility that the international community, who have many better things to do with their lives, might be scoffing and shaking their heads in utter disappointment at it.

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Fann Wong’s National Day baby named Zed

From ‘It’s baby Zed for Fann Wong and Christopher Lee’, 9 Aug 2014, article in CNA

Baby Zed’s National Day (Aug 9) arrival was announced to the world via social media. A post on Fann Wong’s Instagram account @fannaiaiwong showed off the new addition to her and husband Christopher Lee’s family, with a bib saying “Worth the wait!”

The sex of the child had not been known, until now. Fann’s accompanying message on Instagram said, “Daddy and mummy felt indescribable happiness when we saw you. Our family is now even more complete. 9 August is the best day of our lives!”

Mediacorp celebrities have a tradition of giving their children bizarre names, in the spirit of international superstar choices like ‘North West’, ‘Blue Ivy’ or ‘Shiloh’.   ‘Zed’ is the British pronunciation of the letter ‘Z’, and sounds like the name of a techno DJ, if not an evil planet-raiding robot space lord. Superman’s nemesis is one General ZOD. It could also be short for the Hebrew ‘Zedekiah’, which makes me wonder if the 43 yr old Fann is going through a Madonna Kaballah phase. Maybe the happy couple will name their next kid ‘X’.

Zed, sounding similar to the more earthly Zac or Zack, is far from being the wackiest local celebrity kid name ever. Somehow only males have become victims of this nomenclature madness. If there’s one way to make your teenage kid hate your guts forever, this is it. It also makes your children instantly searchable on Facebook or Google to the benefit of kidnappers or pesky reporters (or, erm, bloggers). So long privacy.

Here’s my rundown of the most unusual celebrity offspring names ever.

8. DASH (Ivy Lee)

The ex-Mediacorp actress named her boy after the lightning-fast superhero kid in the Incredibles. Imagine if you became fat, got enrolled in the army and can’t complete 2 rounds during your IPPT 2.4km run. It’s like calling your kid ‘EINSTEIN’. Never give your baby a name that creates expectations of superhuman abilities. If you insist on something snappy, consider ‘CURT’ or ‘SPIKE’ instead.

7. WAY (Evelyn Tan+Darren Lim)

This doubles up as the Chinese equivalent of ‘HEY’ or ‘OI’ (wei) and an actual name, but gives rise to awkward sentences like ‘Way is on the way’, or ‘No way Way is doing that’. I’d imagine the parents crooning ‘My Way’ while he was an infant. I wouldn’t want to subject my kid to pun overkill. Luckily his surname isn’t ‘Ang’.

6. MAKSONN (Mark Lee)

I’m guessing that this is a cooler version of ‘Mark Junior’ as in ‘Mark’s Son’, and rhymes with ‘Jackson’. It falls under the list of names with ‘unnecessary double consonants’ (like Sherilynn, Vivvian or Alexiss), and sounds like the name of a Japanese otaku store.

5. CALVERT (Hong Huifang+Zheng Geping)

This is what I could call a portmanteau of ‘Calvin’ and ‘Robert’. It sounds like a scientific unit of measurement for how popular a name is, as in this name is 0.5 Calverts. It’s also the kind of name I would imagine an eccentric professor with a polka-dot bowtie would have. Change one vowel, however, and it becomes ‘a drain that diverts water’ (culvert).

4. RITZ and REGENT (Jack Neo)

Named after posh hotels, there was a running joke/rumour that Jack may just name his next kid ‘Raffles’. While there’s something lordly about ‘Regent Neo’, ‘Ritz’ also reminds me of the biscuit namesake. ‘Regis’ may have worked better, though it’s THIS close to just calling the kid ‘PRINCE’, or if your skin is thick enough, ‘EXCELLENCY’.

3. BRAYDEN (Zoe Tay)

Zoe was a pioneer of the ‘Something that rhymes with AY-DEN’ name craze that hit Singapore mums (Jayden, Cayden etc). According to a wiki, Brayden originates from ‘Braden’, Gaelic for ‘Salmon’. I wonder if he’s good at swimming. If I ask a primary school kid today what he thinks a ‘Brayden’ is, he may just guess a collective term for donkeys, as in ‘A brayden of donkeys were grazing on the hill’.

2. KYNASTON (Pan Ling Ling)

A name of surprisingly ancient English origins according to the ‘surname database’ website. The problematic ‘KY’ makes the pronunciation of this ambiguous. ‘KAI-NASTON’ or ‘KEE-NASTON’? Either way, it sounds like something nuclear physicists would name an exotic subatomic particle, or ‘Canesten’, an antifungal cream for the treatment of vaginal candidiasis.

1. BECKHAM (Pan Ling Ling)

The original bizarre celebrity baby name, and another Pan Ling Ling creation, one that made headlines at least 15 years ago. No prizes for guessing who inspired this name. I wonder how many times people ask the kid if he plays football. The only thing worse than calling a kid Beckham is if you use a megastar footballer’s name ENTIRELY as first and middle names. Like David BECKHAM TAN, or LIONEL MESSI CHEW. Today if you name your kid ‘Suarez’, the teachers at childcare may just decide to muzzle him before letting him anywhere near a ball.

Changi Airport food street hawkers not from original stalls

From ‘Airpost’s hawker stalls: Not so famous after all’, 2 Aug 2014, article by Rebecca Lynne Tan, ST

THE week-old food street at Changi Airport, which was touted as offering 13 popular hawker stalls from different corners of the island, is not what it has been made out to be. The Straits Times has found that of the 13 stalls at the 10,800 sq ft Singapore Food Street in Terminal 3’s transit area, seven bear no direct links to the original famous stalls.

Some are new start-ups while others are named after streets or areas well-known for particular dishes, but have no connection to the original brands. For instance, Jalan Tua Kong Minced Pork Noodles at the airport food street is not an offshoot of the famed 132 Meepok in Marine Terrace, which was located in Jalan Tua Kong in the 1990s. It is also not related to Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim Mee Pok Kway Teow Mee in Bedok Road. Instead, it is run by Mr Tan Dee Hond, 33, who told The Straits Times that he had worked at the Lau Lim stall for about two years.

The owners of two popular char kway teow stalls at Old Airport Road, Dong Ji and Lao Fu Zi, said they did not open the Old Airport Road Fried Kway Teow & Carrot Cake stall at Terminal 3. Nor is Mr Elvis Tan, 54, who owns East Coast BBQ Seafood at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, behind the airport’s new East Coast Lagoon BBQ Seafood stall.

When asked if naming the stalls after a street or an area famed for a particular dish was a misrepresentation, Select Group’s executive director Jack Tan, 45, said: “If you use the name of the stall, then you’re in trouble, but if you don’t use the name and just use the street, it’s a free-for-all.”

…It is a common practice for hawkers to capitalise on the name of a well-known location-specific dish such as Katong laksa and Jalan Kayu roti prata. But the prevalence of the practice does not make it right, said Mr K.F. Seetoh, 50, street food advocate and founder of street food guide Makansutra.

He said: “The new stall will be living off someone else’s reputation, someone else’s good will. You cannot register a street name and there is no law against it, but it is not right.”

When the ‘food street’ was launched last month, it boasted ‘household hawker names’, yet with a surprising omission of a dish that even Gordon Ramsay swears by; Laksa. Otherwise, it came across to me then as a rather obvious tourist trap and I was skeptical that our hawker heroes would sell out to a place that calls itself a ‘street’ when it’s actually in a building. Changi Airport’s media release was also damningly cringeworthy, describing the assemble as ‘specially curated’ from all over Singapore, as if they sent hawker archaeologists out with a bag of money to hunt down the holy grails of local delights.

If even our locals could be fooled into thinking that the char kuay teow in Terminal 3 is the same as what you get in an old-timey hawker centre, what more foreigners? Location, location, location. One reason why ‘Katong Laksa’ wasn’t in the list could be that food enthusiasts have been doing so much detective work over the years on a brand notorious for its copycats, that it would have hawker geeks up in arms in protest should anyone even have the cheek to ‘borrow’ the Katong name once more. According to Leslie Tay, the real Mccoy, the ‘Janggut’ style, is from an unassuming stall in Telok Kurau. Fans of prata would also appreciate that there’s only one ‘true’ Jalan Kayu stall, the Thasevi one.  Some hawkers continue to exploit the good name of a place that doesn’t even exist anymore, like ‘Blanco Court’ Kway Chap.  Ponggol Nasi Lemak and Punggol Nasi Padang  are also two completely different entities.

In 2010, a relative of the man behind the original Tai Hwa Hill Street ‘Minced Pork Noodles’, or more affectionately known to Singaporeans as bak chor mee, was brought to court for claiming that his own version in Vivocity food court was the original and in the process ‘misleading the public’ with this ‘publicity gimmick’. Since then, we’ve only heard of such name-stealing suits from the big boys in the FnB industry, like Subway trying to take down Subway Niche for example. If anything, ST’s reveal on the Changi Airport Food Street misnomers helps to raise awareness of where the real deal is located, and if you’re a savvy traveller in transit who’s done your fair share of culinary homework, you would skip the wannabes and go for something less pretentious like Ya Kun Kaya Toast. If you’re a Singaporean and you’re willing to travel all the way to Changi Airport to queue up for counterfeit char kuay teow on a weekend instead of going to Old Airport Road hawker centre, then shame, SHAME, on you.

National Gallery logo should have a dome on the taller box

From various letters, 12 April 2014, ST Life! Mailbag

(Chia Ai Tong, William):…My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red?

(YG Yap): The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple. How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

(Lim Fang Kiat):…As if to pre-empt the anticipated slew of brickbats the renaming of the the art gallery will likely engender, National Gallery director Eugene Tan has said: “We want to be known simply as the National Gallery. Gallery itself implies the word art.

This renaming comes after several names had been bandied about in the past two years or so. These names included National Art Gallery of Singapore (NAGS), The National Art Gallery (TNAG) and National Art Gallery (NAG). These acronyms have been the butt of jokes, but at least the word “art” tells us what the gallery is about.

To have the word “art” removed from this new name when all the proposals in the past have included it is a surprising turnaround and I wonder how much of this decision is due to the need to avoid the negative connotations of the acronym.

It may seem a matter of semantics, but some of us feel that having “art” in the name will provide some semblance of identity for this new gallery, especially when we already have a National Museum, until such time as the name of the National Gallery can stand on its own for the visual arts.

national-gallery-singapore-e1396845995825-700x407

Where Art thou?

Below is my interpretation of how a domed taller box for the much maligned logo would look like, with it overlaying the current facade of the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings.

logodome

The NG Singapore

Now it looks like 2 Duplo blocks or a man with a big nose lying on his back, making it harder for the layperson to, according to the logo description, interpret the design in ‘every imaginable way’. There’s a limit to what you can do with 2 rectangles, really. Corrie Tan of ST thinks the use of boxes smacks of our ‘baggage of over-pragmatism’, and ironically, this ‘geometric abstraction’ of two boxes befits our reputation for being ‘square’. If this were the eighties, we’d have no shame because, as Huey Lewis and the News once sang: It’s HIP to be square. To most people who don’t over-analyse simple geometrtic shapes, it’s just two bloody rectangles.

Asylum lead for the logo project Chris Lee was actually flattered when critics cried ‘My child could do that!’ (‘it speaks of a young child’s purity’, he says, which is really an excuse for ‘lack of imagination’). He also explained that its ‘reductionism reflects the museum’s dynamism and confidence in its vision….It could also represent two platforms, two dialog boxes etc… Art should be a two way conversation’. With a child’s purity. That’s the thing with art, you can explain away rubbish with snappy buzzwords like ‘dynamism’. I could come up with a National Gallery logo in less than 3 minutes, not to mention 3 months as the designers did, using nothing but the letters and symbols on my keyboard and say the following without the slightest hint of satire:

.<National>.
(Gallery)

The parentheses symbolise the ‘implicitness’ that defines modern art, the brackets and embracing periods melding the disciplines of art and language into one seamless, universal dynamic whole – an ironic, playful dualism of words being bounded, yet at the same time designed without boundaries in all its emoticonesque, symmetrical simplicity.

Surprisingly, most of our current museum logos don’t consist of anything beyond some fancy fonts. The National Museum has its acronyms floating in mid air like it were suspended in alphabet soup (NMS also stands for Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.)

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The Peranakan Museum has a bold, flowery typeface that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jurong Bird Park logo. If I had to suggest an acronym for this, I’d go with PAM.

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And there’s SAM, which is an exercise in stark black-and-white minimalism, which you can also replicate using Microsoft Word. Yes, you don’t even need WORDART for this.

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The only one with a graphic is the Asian Civilisations Museum, which depicts the Empress Place building’s facade casting a shadow. Nothing Asian about its ‘neo Palladian’ style at all. Its acronym ACM sounds like an insurance company by the way.

Asian-Civilisations-Museum

Those who look beyond the logo complain about the dropping of ‘Art’ from the former NAG, or more bizarrely, NAGA (The additional A is part of the word ‘GAllery’). Naga is also the name of a serpent deity in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, one that would resonate with anyone who plays World of Warcraft. TNAG or TNAGS look like a typo horror dying for the autocorrect treatment to TANGS (the shopping centre). I’m not sure if the new acronym NG is any better, which not only spells out a common Singaporean surname, but can be an abbreviation of ‘No Good’, in reference to bad takes when shooting a film, while NGS resembles an acronym for a government hospital or a convent girls’ school. Personally I’d prefer NAG to TNAG any day, the latter sounding like an annoying adolescent rapper.

Contrary to director Eugene Tan’s assertion, not all ‘Galleries’ imply art. The Singapore Maritime Gallery exhibits stuff that allows you to play a Captain or a ‘Matey’ for a day. The Sustainable Singapore Gallery shows you how the Marina Barrage works. The HDB Gallery shows you how living space has shrunk over time (probably also the LEAST visited gallery ever). There’s a KINDNESS Gallery devoted to Singa the Courtesy Lion. You can even have a gallery of ICE CREAM. In our context, a ‘gallery’ is just a general space to showcase stuff, whether it’s artifacts, toys, photography, paintings, food or campaign paraphernalia. So don’t be surprised if you invite someone for a trip to the National Gallery, the response you get is ‘Gallery of WHAT?’ To which you’ll reply ‘Erm, ART?’. And then you’ve already wasted 1 second of your life explaining as such.

If naming and logos aren’t problematic enough, some have even opposed the use of the existing building facade to house a modern art gallery, that the stuffy English ‘neo-classic style’ just isn’t ‘shocking enough’ for an institution like NAG. The building needs to be ‘dynamic, contemporary and confident’ like its logo and ‘Akzidenz-Grotesk’ typeface. It needs to ‘push boundaries’, something which the logo has failed to do, and rival the Art Science Museum’s lotus dome in terms of instant iconic recognisability. If it weren’t already too late, they could have come up with an architectural style that shouts ‘playful’ and ‘geometric abstraction’ at the same time.

Something like this, perhaps.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 3.20.01 PM

The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple.

How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/life/story/national-gallery-logo-draws-heated-debate-20140412#sthash.0sKFVS4v.dpuf

My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red? – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/life/story/national-gallery-logo-draws-heated-debate-20140412#sthash.0sKFVS4v.dpuf

Han’s cafe sueing Japanese restaurant Han

From ‘Han’s Cafe sues Japanese restaurant over name’, 9 April 2014, article by Selina Lum, ST

HAN’S, the well-known local cafe chain, is trying to stop a Japanese restaurant from calling itself Han, saying it might confuse the public. Han’s Cafe, which has 21 outlets in Singapore selling Hainanese and Western food, has accused Gusttimo World, which owns Han, of infringing on its trademark. It is seeking a court order to restrain Gusttimo World from using the name “Han” and its Internet domain name www.han.com.sg.

…Han, which opened in 2012, specialises in kushikatsu, or skewers of deep-fried food. In its lawsuit, Han’s, represented by Mr Mark Goh, contends that the use of the word “Han” is likely to confuse the public.

…But Gusttimo, represented by Mr Suresh Damodara, argues that its Han brand is dissimilar to the Han’s trademark and the public is not likely to mix up the two.

…Gusttimo contends that patrons of Han’s are able to distinguish between the service provided by the cafe chain and its restaurant which serves old Osaka cuisine in a kaiseki – or traditional multi-course Japanese dinner – style.

Both companies are relatively big names in the FnB business, Han’s growing into a Superbrand empire from its humble origins as a bakery in Upper Thomson Road, while Gusttimo World owns high-end diners like Sarang and Gusto. The history of Han’s reads like a typical household name success story, specialising in Western food prepared the ‘inimitable Hainanese way’, while Gusttimo sounds like a company run by wine glass-chinking expats. At first glance, this appears to be a no-brainer as to who’s getting their way.

Or perhaps not. In 2012, sandwich giant Subway tried to sue a small-time nonya kueh stall called ‘Subway Niche’, but failed as the judge ruled that there’s no evidence of any risk of confusion between the two brand names, even if both companies were selling common items, namely sandwiches. The food at Han is, of course, nothing like Han’s fare. You have Terrapin Stew at Han instead of Mushroom Soup of the Day at Han’s, and although you have beef on both menus, Han’s’ $16.80 NZ Sirloin Steak is a far cry from the Ohmi Beef Steak Alacarte at Han worth a whopping $120. Han’s is a place for the lunch crowd, Han is one for very special occasions, where homely food items like ‘Pork Chop’ and ‘Fish Congee’ don’t exist and the waiter is likely to give you a funny look if you ever asked for ‘Ice Lemon Tea’.

Speaking of Fish congee, why didn’t Han’s turn their attention to this stall specialising in fish soup called HAN KEE? Or this Korean BBQ place called Han Geun Doo Geun? In 2011, Australian namesake Han’s Cafe actually tried to sue a SHAN Cafe. This ‘Han’s’ was established only in 1995, about 15 years after our own Han’s set up shop. Not sure if naming rights extends across continents, because both Han’s appear to sell Pork Chop Rice and Vegetarian Fried Rice.

On the basis of risk of cuisine ‘confusion’, I doubt the Chinese Han has a strong case against the Korean/Japanese one. If a precedent is set for this suit, Jack’s Place may start going after Mad Jack.  There may be a problem, however, if you want to arrange for dinner at either restaurant, that you need to be extra careful not to omit the ‘s if you wish to dine at the cheaper Han’s. Or if you’re a food writer describing the menu items as ‘Han’s delicious Kushikatsu’ which may have readers asking for deep fried skewers at HAN’S instead, though this can be readily prevented by adding the standard disclaimer ‘Not to be confused with Han’s the cafe’.

Still, I doubt the risk of communicating the brand name inaccurately is sufficient grounds to force the newer Han to change its name. Like saying Mac’s (cafe at Fusionopolis) when I mean McDonald’s because only ‘McDonald’s’ is registered and not its short form. If anything is to come out of this accusation of brand theft, it’s publicity for the victim, just like what litigation did for Subway Niche.

Now, how about some terrapin stew for a change?

Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers

From ‘Singapore concerned over naming of Indonesian navy ship after executed commandos’, 6 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussain, ST

Singapore has registered its concerns over Indonesia’s naming of a navy ship after two Indonesian marines who took part in the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said on Wednesday night that Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, to register these concerns “and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Indonesia’s Kompas daily had reported this week that the last of the Indonesian Navy’s three new British-made frigates would be named the KRI Usman Harun, after marines Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

“The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing which killed three people and injured 33 others,” the MFA spokeman said in response to media queries. “Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines,” he added.

The duo were members of Indonesia’s special Operations Corps Command, which is today the Marine Corps, and had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore during Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia.

In today’s context, Osman and Harun would have been labelled ‘terrorists’, and not a single mention of ‘terrorism’ or ‘terror’ was made in the entire ST article. In contrast, the original report on the bomb blast back in 1965 read ‘TERROR BOMB KILLS 2 GIRLS at BANK’. Dr Toh Chin Chye was also quoted as describing the tragedy as a ‘senseless act of cruelty’ and that people must play a more positive and determined part to ‘weed out terrorists’ in our midst.

In 2012, a blogger by the name of Thimbuktu captured the plaque on the facade of the still standing, and now National Monument, which tells us that the building was a ‘scene of a bomb attack by Indonesian TERRORISTS on 10 March 1965 during Konfrontasi’. I’m not sure if the inflammatory word has been edited since, or if anyone in the Middle East names warships after Saddam or Usama.

Among the innocents killed in the blast were 36 yr old Suzie Khoo, private secretary, 23 yr old Juliet Goh, filing clerk, and driver Mohammed Yasin bin Kesit, 45. I don’t remember the MacDonald House attack being mentioned in any of our history textbooks, nor any of the 37 bombs that hit us during the Sukarno led Konfrontasi. It wasn’t just public buildings being targetted. In Dec 1963, two men were killed in Sennett Estate, while another deadly bomb went off on April 1964 at a BLOCK OF HDB FLATS off Changi Road. The thought of such a disaster happening in the heartland is unimaginable, while people like Caleb Rozario are having fantasies about the MBS being pulverised by missiles from heaven.

LKY was in fact ‘persuaded’ by ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy to sprinkle flowers over the graves of the executed, a symbolic move that supposedly moved the Indonesia diplomat to tears. Lee wrote:

On the night of the banquet given by President Suharto, a bat flew into room which symbolised good luck for them. The relationship between Singapore and Indonesia had been restored.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.58.48 PM

No, no one decided to lead the life of a Caped Crusader since that night, but the ‘flowers and bat’ effect didn’t last long. Ties were strained again in the late 1990s, with BJ Habibie calling us a ‘racist country’ and inadvertently giving us global branding by calling us, derogatorily, a ‘little red dot’, a moniker which has since stuck and used to death by STB. We blame them for the haze and they retort by saying we behave like little children.  In response to our ministers’ lament about the lack of respect from the ship naming, Golkar MP Hajriyanto Thohari had this to say: ‘Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick’ (Jakarta’s move reflects disrespect, 8 Feb 2014, ST). The use of ‘chicken’ is telling, but it also says a lot about the cock-and-bull story people come up with glorify murderers as heroes.

If our government hadn’t expressed their disappointment in the naming, I wouldn’t have figured that ‘Usman Harun’ referred to a couple of militant killers, nor would I have cared about what Indonesians name their vessels after. But whether or not we decide to urge the Indonesians to drop the unfortunate name, the bringing up of decades-old wounds is essential to remind ourselves of how vulnerable we can be in the face of unfriendly forces, and not to take our security for granted.

And yes, the MBS is too obvious a target for bombing. Try keeping an eye out on void decks for a change.

Batman is a normal Javanese name pronounced ‘But-mun’

From ‘Batman Suparman story takes off’, 17 Nov 2013, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohammed Salleh, Sunday  Times

Singapore’s Batman Suparman (below) made news when he was sent to jail last Monday for a string of crimes. His story also took off beyond Singapore, making the list of best-read stories on the BBC website. The interest clearly was less about his crimes – theft, housebreaking and consuming heroin, for which he was jailed for two years and nine months – and more about his unusual name.

His mother, however, was not amused to hear that his name was being talked about here and elsewhere. “A person’s name is not a laughing matter and it’s our business what we name our child,” she said, irritated to be asked if he had been named after the comic hero. She claimed Batman, 23, was a “normal” Javanese name properly pronounced as “But-Mun”.

Only one other person in the phone directory is named Batman but when contacted, the woman declined to be interviewed. There are 23 listings of Suparman, the name of Batman’s father.

…Veteran Malay language teacher Abdul Rahim Omar told The Sunday Times that while Suparman is a common Javanese name, Batman is not and has no meaning in Malay or Javanese. “I think his parents were probably inspired by the comic.”

What happens if you Google Image 'Batman Bin Suparman'

What happens if you Google Image ‘Batman Bin Suparman’

To date, no one has published a photo of Batman outside of his identity card and it would be interesting to see what he looks like now. I thought it was also rather insensitive of ST to ask Batman’s mother about his superhero name when he’s serving time in jail. No wonder she was irritated; she must have been asked the same question a million times. Nobody cares if you name your son ‘Tan Ah Kow’ anymore. Too bad the writer of the Batman article wasn’t Kimberly Spykerman.

Kudos to Ch5 newsreader Chew Wui Lynn for keeping po-faced when reporting Batman’s arrest. And she passed the pronunciation with flying colours. This is how you say ‘Batman Bin Suparman’ like a pro, ‘bart-mon (as in monday)’.

Not so for the rest of the world, who say Batman as, literally, Bat-Man. Holy Java Chip Frappucino!

But let’s go beyond the Internet sensation and the most famous Singaporean other than LKY, or the Dark Knight, and try to uncover the origins of ‘batman’ if its Javanese source is disputed. In 1912, a CAPTAIN BATMAN was fined $10 for stowing away a ‘decrepit Chinaman’ into the ‘Colony’. In Melbourne, there’s a place called Batman’s Hill, named after founder John Batman (1801-1839). All this happening, of course, way before the father of the creator of DC’s Batman was even born.

In the military, a ‘batman’ is an obsolete term for a soldier assigned to an officer as a ‘manservant’, and is tasked with ‘batting’, or basically being at the beck and call of your boss.  You could say that the comic’s butler Alfred is a ‘Batman’ in his own way. In 1951, the Singapore Free Press published a report with the headline ‘Batman in theft case’,  so it’s not the first time that a real-life ‘Batman’ has committed a crime.

A batman is also an ancient unit of mass, as defined by the Ottoman empire, roughly working out to be today’s 7.6 kg. The Turkish province Batman, the Batman River and the Batman airport all hint at a possible connection with the Javanese ‘Batman’. ‘But-man’ itself isn’t immune to mockery either (think ‘Buttman’). Either Batman bin Suparman’s parents are closet superhero geeks, or are well versed in the ancient Ottoman metric system. What the journo should have done to uncover the mystery of Batman as a first name, is to get a Javanese or Turkish phonebook rather than a local one. Only then will you get some insight into how, well, Batman Begins.

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