Wang Yuegu blaming umpire for being German

From ‘Wang lets fly at officials after loss’, article by Tan Yo-Hinn, 1 Aug 2012, Today

Singapore paddler Wang Yuegu yesterday lashed out in a controversial attack on the umpire after her quarter-final exit from the women’s singles competition yesterday. Moments after her 4-1 defeat to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa at London’s ExCel Arena, Wang stunned the Singapore media when she hit out at the appointment of German Claudia Moller as the umpire for their match.

“As soon as I saw I had a German umpire, I knew I was going to lose points,” said the 31-year-old, who is ranked world No 11, and who could be competing in her last Olympics. “My husband is German, and I have a private problem with them. Someone from their team is abusing their relationship with officials and has arranged for me to have a German umpire.

“They’re abusing their power and I can’t respect that. “Today, I feel fine personally about the match, but I feel bad for the sport and bad for the Olympic Games that this is allowed to happen.”

…At the World Championship in Dortmund, Germany, in March this year, Wang was shown the red card for protesting a series of dubious service calls by German umpire Klaus Seipold and Kosovo’s Jeton Beqiri during Singapore’s 3-0 win over Taiwan in a Group B match. She initially refused to leave, and women’s team coach Zhou Shusen and assistant coach Jing Junhong were also involved in the incident.

Damn you, Sky!

Considering how strange it is for Wang to discriminate against Germans when she claims her spouse is German himself, I dug further and pulled out another report stating that Wang’s husband is actually a TAIWANESE BASED in Germany. If not convinced, look no further than this Facebook pic of Wang in a wedding photo shoot.  Another discrepancy is the reason for Wang being red-carded in March; CNA reported that Wang was tossed out of the match for giving ‘illegal advice’ or ‘coaching’ from the sidelines. I didn’t think you could get ejected from a game of ping pong, but even in the face of immense pressure to perform for the current World no. 11, such unsportmanslike hysteria is disappointing of any athlete in any stage of competition, especially a silver medalist. Incidentally, Wang’s ranking points according to ITTF are on a rather steep decline, in proportion to her shortening temper and turning into the female Wayne Rooney of Table Tennis. I wonder if estrogen pills are permissible drugs in the Olympics because it seems obvious that a temperamental Wang needs some hormone replacement therapy. STAT. (Even though she’s only 32 this year, according to the Wang Yuegu Fanclub Facebook Page)

Wang’s not the only athlete to lash at everything other than their own inadequacies. Fellow paddler and ex-countryman Gao Ning blamed his coach and manager for his crashing out of the 2008 Olympics, humiliated and suffering a blow to the ego for being cast aside in favour of his silver-medal winning counterparts (Wang included). Naturalised citizen and foul-mouthed swimmer Tao Li ‘attributed’ her loss this year to the short time spent with a new coach. Teen sensation Joseph Schooling blamed officials sticking to their list of approved goggles rules for ‘messing up his swim’. Shooter Jasmine Ser was distracted by ‘a photographer’s camera clicks’ despite winning ‘only a silver’ in 2011’s SEA games. Singapore’s top golfer Mardan Marmat, bizarrely enough, blamed GOOD WEATHER for his failure at this year’s British Open. Wang Yuegu herself blamed the English summer heat and the lack of air-conditioning for ‘affecting her rest’

Picking on a bad coach, a spectator sneezing or the weather (good or bad) are petty excuses and typical of not just celebrities but instinctively loss-averse humans in general. To bear a grudge against certain ethnicities while representing the nation, however, is just shameful. Wang Yuegu is one racist weibo tweet away from being sacked from the Olympics, and while she’s giving the Germans all the more reason to think that Singaporeans are all ‘crazy’ in the head, perhaps the table tennis federation, for the sake of keeping ping pong prestigious and as our Olympic bread and butter,  should consider retiring her out of courtesy already.

Breaking news that Feng Tianwei just won Singapore a BRONZE after half a century of an individual medal eluding us. Yay to Tianwei! Boo to Yuegu!

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Eye-candy male pacers in Shape Run

From ‘Change of pace for Shape Run’, 21 June 2012, article by Chan U-Gene, ST

ONE of Singapore’s women-only runs is getting – for the first time – a shot of testosterone. This year’s Shape Run will introduce 30 male runners as pacers – chosen not only for their running abilities but also their pin-up looks.

Ms Diana Lee, general manager of fashion and beauty at Singapore Press Holdings, the organiser, said: ‘This is a chance for women to chase the guys for a change. It’s to introduce a fun element, to provide ‘eye candy’ for the runners.’

…Jason Tan, 38, is hoping to use the communication skills he developed from his six years in the insurance industry to engage the runners. The financial services manager, who has completed more than five marathons, said: ‘Talking to people is part and parcel of my life. I want to lift their spirits by greeting them in the morning, exchanging high-fives, and also by singing songs during the run.’

Most female runners are receptive to the novel idea. Human relations officer Audrey Huang, 29, said: ‘I’ll be running at my own pace. Unless they are eye candy, then maybe I’ll run faster.’

But there are a few women who are less than impressed. Ms Erika Keilig, 40, said that while she is fine with running alongside the men, some women preferred to keep women-only events, well, only for women. These women feel more comfortable running with members of the same sex, she said.

Avid marathoner Anne Date, 31, said: ‘If it’s a women’s race, then it’s a women’s race. It’ll be nice for women to be independent of men sometimes.’

Got to catch ‘em all!

Good looks or not, these guys have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to strut about providing cheerleading services, but have to make sure that they don’t look out of ‘shape’ themselves, considering that they have 18 year old professional Kenyan runners in their midst, one of whom won last year’s 10km event. The annual Shape run is serious business, which explains why the intrusion of a few good men  into an exclusive marathon may be regarded by the more ambitious runners as a damper on their crowning achievement.  Some women are particularly bothered if boyfriends or husbands scamper uninvited in women’s only events taking snapshots of their partners. If there’s anyone who should feel stressed by this idea, it’s the pacers themselves. Imagine the pressure of having to keep the enthusiasm, high-fives and stamina up in front of thousands of women, some possibly as old as their mothers who can brisk walk faster than most NSmen can run 2.4 km for IPPT. Imagine facing the wrath of angry feminists who would toss used paper cups at you given the chance. It’s not an easy job, girls.

Who knows what this potent COCKtail of marathon running (itself a risk factor for sudden death) and sweaty hot bods would do to everyone involved in the event. Distractions and discomfort aside, if I were the organiser I would be extra wary about people collapsing, if not the eye candy themselves for over-enthusing, but women whose desperate hearts flutter easily at the sight of six-pecs and tight buns, or those over-exerting themselves running away from pacers like Jason Tan singing like they were leading a BMT road march ( Purple Light, anyone?). Any woman running beyond her capacity under the influence of hunky pacers risks injuries like patellofemoral pain syndrome. Any man who runs beyond his capacity just to impress a woman risks an unscheduled visit to the morgue.

Even if your timing remains unaffected by the presence of men as gratuitous sex objects, there’s nothing like a brawny dude getting in the way of some serious female bonding. A ladies only run is essentially a mahjong session or high tea for the active, sociable woman, and throwing in a man in the fray is like having the husband budging in asking when dinner is ready. Men have their motor shows, soccer bars, and online vice rings, why not leave the ladies alone with some ‘we-time’? On the other hand, putting sexy chicks in a mostly male marathon to man water stations like they straddle cars at motor shows may see less records being broken because of rubbernecking, but could potentially save a life or two if catching a glimpse of a real RACE queen means slowing down and queuing up for a drink (and drinking very slowly too).

Being a male pacer isn’t as lucrative as posing as a glorified gigolo or Chippendale in ‘host bars’, where men  are subject to bids like cattle in a beef auction, not only having to wiggle their way into a tai-tai’s heart but wear garlands around their necks like cowbells. If you insist on subjecting yourself to ogling, might as well make some good money while at it. Otherwise you’re just an Abercrombie stooge with running shoes.

Parents sending kids for GEP tuition

From ‘My child is GIFTED’, 3 June 2012, article by Jane Ng, Sunday Times

Parents desperate to get their children into the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) are turning to tuition centres that claim they can help bright nine-year-olds ace the screening test. A growing number of enrichment centres are offering these classes at monthly fees of between $200 and $1,000.

…Mr Kelvin Ong, 36, went from being a GEP student to a GEP teacher before he quit to start his tuition agency, AristoCare. He decides whether to accept a pupil only after a month of lessons which cost $1,000.…He has even started GEP ‘foundation classes’ for kindergarten pupils priced at $600 a month.

At Doctor Peh Associates, a 10-year-old outfit started by Mr Allen Peh – who does not have a doctorate – children who want to sign up for the ‘GEP clinic’ must have English and mathematics scores above 90, while kindergarten pupils must have an IQ score of 130 and above.

‘If they don’t meet those criteria, the GEP is not suitable for them as their foundation is not there,’ said Mr Peh, 51, who has a science degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Warwick….He charges $2,600 for 10 lessons.

Enrichment school Morris Allen offers an annual two-week GEP intensive preparation course in June, after selecting its pupils through an IQ test…. ‘With practice under pressure, and repeated exposure to the questions, they show significant improvement and become more confident in answering them,’ said Mr Scarrott (Principal). The fee for 10 days: $888.

Housewife Cindy Tan, 40, is among the hopeful parents whose children are attending GEP preparation classes ahead of the ministry’s screening test in August….’Every mother has hopes for her child. Since we can’t help him at home, we have to get some help for him,’ said Mrs Tan…Adrin, who scored above 95 in his English and mathematics mid-year exams, is getting help at AristoCare. He also has tuition. ‘He has the occasional tantrum but I’ll tell him to finish his homework and I’ll take him out for a McDonald’s treat,’ said Mrs Tan, who has O-level qualification.

What if Adrin does not make it to GEP in the end? ‘I’ll be very sad and disappointed – after all the money spent and we get nothing,’ she said.

I vaguely remember going through the GEP screening test myself and I had no idea what to expect, though I spent most of the time flipping my paper around to work on picture puzzles.  I might as well be deciphering hieroglyphics or Matrix alien squiggles. Not being naturally GIFTED, I flunked out of the first round. Now, if I had MONEY then, that could have been a different matter altogether. I would be out there, you know, making a DIFFERENCE, instead of writing a blog post complaining about GEP.

‘Gifted’ used to describe individuals ‘born’ with a special ‘talent’, and implies extraordinariness and exclusiveness, not something anyone can attain purely through ‘hard work’, or in this case, the help of an ex-GEP student turned tuition teacher with a ‘gift’ for business. One would expect an ex GEP student to do something more worthwhile with his intelligence, like solving the problems plaguing the world today (and getting a doctorate while at it), but that’s besides the point. It’s obvious that having a scorching IQ as determined by some screening test doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do anything particularly useful for humanity. There are so many exceptions to the rule, game-changers, high school dropouts turned self-made billionaires or Nobel-prize winning authors or scientists, people who excelled not just through IQ alone, but mostly through creative innovation, inspiration and sheer luck, things which all these tuition centres and GEP programmes can’t deliver in an entire lifetime no matter how many derivative puzzles they drill their gifted brethren with. Yet these ‘geniuses’ and ‘icons’, though having qualities of the ‘gifted’,  remain, in all appearances, perfectly NORMAL save a few eccentricities without anyone seeing the need to classify them as higher evolved beings in school.

Being a prodigy and working on your ‘gift’ go hand in hand, and one shouldn’t deny kids with a genuine obsession for complex maths puzzles from achieving one’s fullest potential in this scheme, at the risk of being oestracised from their ‘mainstream’ peers, which is an inevitable side effect of being cleverer than your age group. A screening test alone isn’t THE litmus test for genius, and selects for only a certain skill-set that may or may not qualify you as being ‘highly intelligent’.  If you can buy IQ scores through very specific practices like training an archer how to shoot arrows, one trivialises the GEP programme to that of a very expensive, elite mind-sports fraternity. You may well get a couple of sharpshooters in the end, though you’ll also have some singed by their own arrows, victims so worn out by the demands of the programme that their behaviour changes completely, some into angry little recluses who ignore their families. Moreover, the Ministry clearly feels that you’re wasting your time with ‘normal’ students, as what is stated in their GEP webpage.

The intellectually gifted need a high degree of mental stimulation. This need may not be met in the mainstream classroom and the gifted child may become mediocre, indifferent or disruptive in class.

Meaning, if you don’t put your above average kid in GEP, he’ll ROT in class among the minions! Such divisive , sweeping presumptions on what smart kids need for mental nourishment have led many to call the GEP programme ‘elitist’. In fact, the MOE’s statement is copied and pasted wholesale in Kelvin Ong’s Aristocare Gifted programme website. Hell, even the name of his agency has a kingly ring to it.  Here’s a chicken-and-egg argument in reference to those GEP kids who think high and mighty of themselves: Are these kids ‘gifted’ hence arrogant, or did they ‘become’ arrogant once they were labelled and exalted as ‘gifted’ 1%-ters? What have we produced in 30 years that justifies the relevance of a GEP breeding ground in creating mavericks, trailblazers and great thinkers? In an age where brains alone don’t cut it and ‘EQ’ matters more than ever, have we instead LOST ‘functional’ geniuses rather than spawned them through a scheme that cuts them off from the more socially fertile morass that is ‘the rest of us’?

The gifted have been stereotyped as being ‘socially inept’, stick to their own ‘kind’, and summon the image of an awkward, quantum physics textbook totting, bespectacled kid with imaginary friends because all his real ones have left him/her. Meaner ‘mainstream’ kids would refer to them as ‘freaks’.  ‘Gifted’ already has a euphemistic cousin known as ‘high-ability’, which attempts to tone down the lofty suggestions of innate genius but ironically emphasises the disturbing trend that one can be ‘trained’ to qualify for GEP, as long as you’re willing the spend the money and forget about June holidays altogether. One thing these tuition centres dare to boast about is a high success rate of passing tests, but as to what becomes of their students after that, nobody has the slightest clue. High-ability doesn’t equate to hire-ability. From the way they are being groomed and hothoused, they’ve either become stark raving mad scientists  or Phantoms of the Opera.

Adrin above is a high-scoring kid with the occasional lack of interest in homework (like everyone else) but yet nudged by parents to prepare for a programme which he may not be suited, using McDonalds as bait like a  Pavlov dog salivating to the sound of a bell. He may very well ace the screening thanks to some insanely methodical and ultimately meaningless grilling, but end up at the bottom of the GEP pack because his ‘giftedness’ is a product not of his genes or upbringing, but that of a tuition machine. Not to mention having his arteries clogged with all the fat from the ‘reward’ fries he’s been eating to finish his work. His mum may be utterly disappointed from all the wasted money and effort, but failure to get into GEP only means one thing for a face-saving kiasu parent: More enrichment classes.

Brastrap flash in Triumph ad a disservice to women

From ‘Not so triumphant for women’, 11 May 2012, Voices, Today online

(Tham Kun Moon): It was not too long ago that International Women’s Day was celebrated here and in many other countries. In the same month, an advertisement by an undergarment brand, in which the protagonist wowed her male audience by showing off that bit of her undergarment and appeared triumphant in the deal, aired regularly on the free-to-air channels.

It is pointless to celebrate the wonders and beauty of being a woman when old stereotypes persist. It is a disgrace and a disservice to women. To suggest that the modern woman succeeds on the merits of her undergarment is an insult to many women who rise up to the highest ranks in the corporate world, including several well-known ones locally.

( Ad could be this one below by Triumph. Who would have guessed?)

Nothing sweetens a deal like a little peek-a-boo, and as much as this depicts sultry women as wily go-getters, it also insults men as shallow creatures, that our executive functions are clouded by an exposed brastrap even if it’s flashed for less than a second. It’s like a cinema flick running subliminal split-second images to tell you that you want a hot dog. This ad may be a ‘disservice and disgrace’ to femininity but it merely dramatises a sullen truth that sex has been used, and will always be used, to secure deals, among other things worth getting. Countless movies have depicted women weaponising their cleavage to disarm violent criminals, escape from captivity or steal tiny keys from pockets, yet here we are, only on International Women’s Day, suddenly realising that there’s discrimination going on all this while. It’s like remembering we have someone to love on Valentine’s Day.

But wait, if you view the ad a couple more times, you’ll appreciate the context of what at first glance looks like a prelude to a striptease. The men were having trouble picking a colour scheme, and perhaps, by sheer coincidence, the bra’s shade of orange was EXACTLY what they had in mind. Or they just wanted to see a brastrap. Either way, both sexes are stereotyped, and an underwear ad without stereotyping is like a Burger King ad without fries.

Whether it’s a glimmer of a smile, affectionate touching, laughter or a winning bosom, sensual gestures will always influence the outcome of a sale or a payrise. A maximiser bra and a silly flash are just a few of the many flirtatious tools at a woman’s disposal, whether she’s conscious of her actions or not. Kudos to bosses who manage to see through the visual foreplay and make purely objective decisions without the reptilian brain being stimulated by primal mating signals (Or they could just be gay). It’s so hard to market underwear without pissing some women off. If you take the sexist messages away, you’ll have prudes complaining about topless models, or models unzipping their tops suggestively. At least the ad makers kept the scene restricted to a typical suit-and-tie corporate board room. If recent events are anything to go by, the ad would have been more accurate if it had been men in uniform discussing tenders of IT projects instead.

Transsexuals in Miss Universe Singapore

From ‘Beauty contests’, 28 April 2012, ST Forum

(MR ACE KINDRED CHEONG): ‘Transgender participants should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants meant for women (‘Miss Universe Singapore: Could the next one be originally male?'; Wednesday). They will have an advantage over biological women as some, if not all, will have undergone cosmetic surgery. Instead, why not have beauty pageants meant solely for transgender participants?

Transsexualism has been discussed rather openly in Singapore since the early 80’s, where attempts have been made to distinguish the terms ‘transvestite’ from ‘transsexual’, as well as define the colloquial ‘ah kuas’, the latter often used interchangeably between a transsexual, an ‘effeminate’ man or  ‘sissy’ or a ‘male prostitute’, yet SBC deemed it ‘appropriate‘ for use in drama serials.’Transgender’ was coined as recently as the 1990’s, as in LGBT, a term that may be preferred when addressing the community as a whole as it seems to take the ‘surgical knife’ undertones off ‘transsexual’, though both are still commonly used in the media today. ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘bapok’, however, have become derogatory, though ‘bapok’ in Malay literally means ‘effeminate’ (like the equally offensive catch-all that is ‘ah kua’), while ‘Tranny’ and ‘shemale’ are reserved for porn genres. When it comes to transsexualism, even quotation marks can be highly offensive, as in ‘woman’, ‘sister’ or ‘queen’ to describe transwomen (men who became women).  The Malaysian press has even hidden the full word behind an acronym, TS.

Even the same act of ‘going under the knife’ has been euphemised over the years. Today it’s called SRS or ‘sex reassignment surgery ‘, when we used to call it a ‘sex change operation’. The Miss Canada Universe who started it all, Jenna Talackova, herself underwent ‘GENDER reassignment surgery’, the term ‘assignment’ making the procedure as innocuous as amending one’s birth certificate. Like most behavioral deviations, transsexualism has also become medicalised;  if you’re born a man and feel like a woman you have a ‘gender identity disorder (GID)’, which implies that ‘feeling like a woman’ when you’re a man is a form of ‘sickness’. The term ‘intersex’ has been proposed as the ‘third gender’ for official purposes, though being ‘intersexed’ could also refer to a sex development disorder in which one was born with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia i.e hermaphrodites, a term used to describe flowers and worms other than human beings.  Hermaphrodites, other than getting embroiled in sporting arena controversies, also have their own problems dealing with transsexual beauty contestants who were born 100% male.

Allowing transsexuals in pageants puts judges in a spot, even if it may well boost up ratings. You don’t want to appear to cast a sympathy vote nor do you want the LGBT community to complain about discrimination if their representative fails to even make the top 15. Cosmetic surgery also may not give that desired edge over female participants (unless the writer was thinking of shocking beauties like Thailand’s Nong Poy below). But perhaps this is more a victory for ‘medical science’ than anything else. Or rather medical science AND make-up. But wait a minute, since when was Miss Universe JUST about LOOKS (or femininity for that matter) anyway? Didn’t ‘masculine’ Tania Lim take the crown in 2010?

For every Nong Poy...

...There's this.

There are already transgender Miss Universe-ish pageants as we speak, such as the Miss International Queen pageant (which allows transvestites as well), not to be confused with Miss Tourism Queen, Miss Global Beauty Queen and Miss QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Still, this is a vast improvement from our stigmatisation of transsexuals in the 80’s, when they were barred from such contests because it was seen as an ‘embarrassment’ and  a ‘big joke to organisers’. It would be a while before we see transsexuals or transvestites in high-flying positions such as doctors, lawyers or politicians (though some may be closest cross-dressers…there’s a difference!), but pitting them in competition against natural-born females could be symbolic of this social ‘inclusiveness’ that the PAP has been bragging about, even if the platform is as superficial as a beauty contest, or in the promotion of ‘cabaret’ shows (Does that mean our pageants need to be R18 as well?)

Audiences are suckers for underdogs, and since the Miss Universe franchise here needs saving, a transgender Miss Universe Singapore hopeful could very well be a Beautiful Boxer in the making. But first, we’ll have to lift the bar on transsexuals into certain clubs, and that includes Ladies’ Night, to show that we really mean it. Still, it’s hard not to be hypocritical when advocating equality for transsexuals as a heterosexual man. Some would rather be seen in public with an openly gay man than a transsexual, and I for one have reservations about getting a hot oil massage from either.

PRCs ‘abducting’ boy at AMK Hub

From ‘ PRC couple attempts to abduct local boy?’ 22 March 2012, article in insing.com

A woman has complained on the internet that a Chinese national couple tried to abduct her child at Ang Mo Kio Hub. Ms ‘Allison Goon’ shared her experience on her Facebook page, explaining that she was at the AMK Hub Fiesta on Sunday (18 Mar).

She had just fed her son and walked away to throw some rubbish when she turned back and found another woman taking her son away by his hand. She shouted after her son and asked the woman why she was holding her son’s hand.

The woman, who spoke with a China accent, replied that she had “the wrong child”, then walked away with another man while pretending that nothing had happened. When Ms Allison Goon asked her son why he had followed the stranger, the boy said that the woman had told him, “follow me, I will bring you home”.

According to the ST, ‘Ms Goon said the woman had spoken in Mandarin and sounded like she could have been from China’. Whether or not this incident really happened, it speaks volumes about the recent paranoia surrounding Chinese nationals, whether they’re flaming us online for being ‘dogs’, hijacking taxis and running people over with them or murdering taxi drivers themselves,  stealing men from their wives, and in this case, attempting to steal other people’s children. Which is pretty much consistent with what foreigners have been accused of doing anyway, taking away what’s rightfully ours.

In 2008, a China national set up a phantom kidnap scam in exchange for $100,000 and was eventually thwarted by a quick-thinking parent. There was even a recorded anonymous Chinese child’s cry for help circulating last year according to a Stomp contributor. A similar ‘attempted abduction’ case occurred in Disneyland Hongkong in the same year, sparking speculations of PRC ‘kidnapping syndicates’. There doesn’t appear, however, to be any cases of successful kidnapping/torturing of local kids by PRCs to date. In fact, it was a China national’s kid who was kidnapped and brutally murdered at the hands of a Malaysian Took Leng How in the Huang Na case in 2004. In 2009, a 28 year old PRC KTV hostess named Han Yan Fei went missing, with speculations that a murdered Singaporean man and a human trafficking ring were involved.  Statistically speaking, PRCs should be more concerned for their own kids’ safety (or themselves) than us ours.

I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the high anxiety parents face whenever a child disappears into thin air, but terrified parents like Goon here sending out almost-horror stories of predatory PRCs would inevitably lead to panicky knee-jerk reactions like parents huddling kids and getting ready to call the police whenever someone who remotely looks or sounds like a PRC flashes a seemingly over-friendly wink or a smile at their child.  It’s like how people instinctively breathe through their mouth whenever a foreign construction worker boards the train, forgetting that some schoolgirl passengers in PE attire with towels wrapped around their neck smell as bad, if not worse. It also explains why toddler leashes are such a hit.

Still, one can’t get too cosy with any stranger, be it foreigner or local; a sensational history of PRC vice and violence has simply heightened our suspicions and hence the stereotypical cautionary anecdotes like Goon’s here. We would have taxi drivers having their hand on the emergency button whenever a PRC passenger’s on board, bus passengers bracing themselves for hazardous brakes when the driver’s a PRC, wives clamping down on husbands if they find out about his PRC colleague, etc.  Instead of drilling maths algorithms and phonetics into our kids or lamenting that Singapore is a PRC thief haven, perhaps we should consider inculcating some basic defensive skills in children like our parents used to do, like how to say no to strangers, screaming at the top of your lungs to draw attention, or headbutting a kidnapper in the groin when push comes to shove.

FHM magazine depicting Jesus with a shotgun

From ‘FHM pulled off shelves over articles’, 3 Feb 2012, article by Jennai Durai, ST

ALL unsold copies of this month’s issue of FHM Singapore magazine will be pulled off stands islandwide, after two articles in it sparked the ire of Christians here for being insensitive.

…The magazine, published by Media-Corp Publishing, carried an article headlined ‘Which Of These Celebs Might Secretly Be Jesus?’ and another headlined ‘Jesus 2.0: What Can We Expect?’. In the former, a number of well-known personalities, including American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and teenage pop singer Justin Bieber, are assessed for ‘evidence’ that they may or may not be Jesus Christ.

The second article had a photograph of a man dressed as Jesus, holding a gun and strapped with ammunition. Stating the Christian belief that Jesus will return one day, the article listed ‘updates’ that people might expect to see in him, such as the ability to shape shift. It includes a review of a controversial book called The Second Coming by John Niven, which imagines Jesus coming back to earth as a musician in New York.

…The articles rankled IT professional S.W. Ong, 48, who wrote to The Straits Times about it. ‘In this country, race and religion are sensitive things. I understand that FHM is a light-hearted magazine, but they should exercise some editorial responsibility and not make fun of any religion,’ he said. He said that one of the things that offended him was a careless phrase in the second article that said that Jesus ‘only made it to 33 years of age before things went downhill’. In the Bible, Jesus is said to have died on the cross at the age of 33 before rising from the dead.

‘To say his life ‘went downhill’ is wrong and very insensitive to Christians. It’s written without understanding the religion or how Christians understand the purpose of Jesus’ life on earth,’ said Mr Ong. ‘Most of the time, Christians don’t want to appear very dogmatic, but no magazine should be making fun of a religion. It can be seen as blasphemous.’

…When told about the articles, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) condemned them as ‘highly objectionable and deplorable, as they make fun of the Lord Jesus Christ who is worshipped by Christians’. The council noted that the articles appeared during the season of Lent, during which Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

‘We request the authorities to look into the matter and ensure that the objectionable material is removed, and that the gross disrespect against any religion and its religious figures who are held sacred by a religious community, such as in this instance, is not repeated,’ said the council in a statement.

(Found the scanned article from a certain ‘Princess Yuki Empire in heaven’ blog. Judge for yourself, fellow sinners)

Jesus: First Blood

According to the Guardian’s review of ‘The Second Coming’, Jesus is depicted not just as an aspiring musician, but ‘smokes dope’ as well. Not sure if John Niven’s book is banned here, but this isn’t the first time any attempt to demystify the Lord Jesus Christ into a fallible militant or singing humanoid has been clamped down by churches for blasphemy. Naturally, this hasty recall would draw curiosity to what Jesus 2.0 is about (as evident from searches landing as blog hits), or how Justin Bieber is in any way related to the Son of God (Both are famous, worshipped and have the ability to make people cry hysterically). ‘Shape-shifting’, traditionally practiced by the ultimate master of disguise and deception, the Devil himself, could be seen as a demonic power that may offend Christians, though that would technically make Jesus a rather cool X-men character. The man can already walk on water, for God’s sake. Not even Magneto could do that.

In 1974, churches were riled by the screening of ‘rock opera’ Jesus Christ Superstar to the point of petitioning to the PM to ban the film. To minimise the possibility of viewers taking the film at face value and believing that Jesus is actually David Bowie in disguise, pamphlets citing ‘religious guidance’ were distributed at cinemas. Before the screening of each film, the following announcement was flashed:

This is not an authentic portrayal of Jesus Christ, Son of God. For a true and accurate account, please read the Bible – The Protestant Churches of Singapore.

In the clip below, Jesus screeches in falsetto demanding God to provide an answer to why ‘he has to die’.

In a musical film of similar religious bent called ‘Godspell’, a Superman costume-wearing Jesus is ‘crucified’ on a fence to a gospel rock soundtrack, again a ‘gross misinterpretation’ of what really happened in the Bible.

Jesus being too ‘human’ for the churches’ liking was portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, while in the 1999 film Dogma, God was played by rock icon Alanis Morrissette. Needless to say, both films were banned here. There appears to be little tolerance, or sense of humour, for Jesus the Man to  manifest himself as anything but, in particular a singing, dancing, smoking, funky dude who fancies a little fun  and rock music on the side other than the gruelling, divine work of saving us from all our sins.To boost Christ’s ‘hip quotient’, he’s referred to in some circles as the catchy ‘JC’, urban shorthand like ‘JLo’ or ‘MJ’. In the film Jesus camp, there’s even a scene of kids dancing to ‘JC in Da House’, I kid you not. Yet if one were to put Jesus in a hoodie, ‘blinged ‘out  with gold crosses and hint at the slightest bit of ‘swag’ whatsoever, you would get the church elders up in arms. You can rap about Jesus, but you can’t suggest that he ‘busts a rhyme or two’ as well.

As for turning Jesus into Rambo, how often do you hear sermons preaching about Christians being ‘soldiers’ for Christ? In ‘The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy’,  Paul tells Timothy ‘Suffer hardship with me,  as a good soldier for Christ Jesus’. A 2002 sermon by the Gospel Light Church in Singapore was titled ‘Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War!‘. I would think Jesus donning a helmet instead of a crown of thorns and leading his faithful Christian soldiers into ‘battle’ would be a more accurate metaphor of biblical mission than him rocking out and pouting defiantly with an electric guitar while his adorers wait eagerly offstage to body -surf their musical Messiah to Heaven. Maybe the folks at FHM should have fitted Rambo Jesus with a wooden sword and a shield instead.

Banning a FHM magazine, which isn’t the sort of material good Christians should be browsing anyway judging from its sultry covers, wouldn’t staunch the wave of gross blasphemy that one encounters everywhere else. On Youtube you’ll see Jesus sashaying to ‘I Will Survive’, in a Street Fighter challenge vs God, fighting Santa Claus in South Park, or matching wits with the Terminator in Nazareth. In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it is even suggested that Jesus HAD SEX with Mary Magdalene. In the upcoming Lady Gaga concert, you may even hear some blasphemous lyrics about the Man’s race. In the bid to spread the Word and make an ancient religion appealing to modern minds, today’s Christ has been unwittingly morphed into a fashionable target in pop culture, parodied to death like Ronald McDonald or Kim Jong Il, yet despite the abundance of comic trivialisations, the Church remains a force to reckon with, not only having the authority to pull magazines from shelves but stop their own believers from wearing samfoos to service.

I’ve read the article above myself and don’t see any intended malice in it, with the ‘going downhill’ statement referring to Jesus’s fate on the cross, not the state of Christianity. If anything it was a rather tame satire on Jesus as icon and superhero, a harmless commentary on the godlike divinity of celebrities (including Simon Cowell and Tom Cruise) without undermining His existence, teachings or the veracity of the Bible in general. It’s not a Christian version of the ‘Satanic Verses’ that’s for sure, but I think Dan Brown beats this hands down in terms of  outright heresy. A case of the Church ‘jumping the gun’, perhaps. Maybe it’s not Jesus that needs an upgrade, but the Church that needs to , and  I quote DPM Tharman, ‘catch up’ with the times instead.

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