Orchard Road is kind of boring

From ‘Pedestrianising will only worsen woes of malls’, 21 Apr 2017, ST Forum

(Ronnie Lim Ah Bee): Shopping is no longer restricted to Orchard Road, where premium shops and foodcourts charge premium prices.

With big shopping malls sprouting up in neighbourhood centres and within walking distance of homes, there is little incentive to go down to Orchard Road.

The people who can afford premium shopping tend to be those who drive.

If they cannot drive to Orchard Road to shop, they might as well visit their neighbourhood malls.

The large crowds which are expected to come about with pedestrianising Orchard Road are more likely to be there to socialise and soak up the atmosphere than to shop.

Pedestrianising Orchard Road is going to do little to help the shopping malls along that road.

We all know what the writer means by people going there to ‘socialise and soak up the atmosphere’ but nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room – why locals prefer to stay at home to do laundry than go ‘gai-gai’ along Orchard Road on Sundays. If the pedestrianising would benefit anyone it would be a certain group of foreign workers who could then dance unhindered on the streets beyond the confines of Ion.

It was only a year back when we realised that the car-free experiment was a failure from the retailers’ perspective. In the days of HMV and Tower records, Orchard Road was the go-to hub for music lovers. I could spend half a day browsing CDs or magazines at Borders. After school we would go ‘hang out’ at Macs at Far East Plaza, traipsing through the underpasses, transversing the Patterson Road crossing which could have been our own little version of the Shibuya landmark, or watch a movie at the old Lido. The family would look forward to Xmas lights, or chaperone the kids to piano lessons at Yamaha, Plaza Singapura. Today, the only reason for me to go ‘downtown’ is to catch a R21 movie or attend a book-signing at Kinokuniya. Even the buskers are moving out and entertaining commuters at MRT stations instead. The only ‘floods’ happening in Orchard aren’t the shopping kind, but those due to a random Act of God.

My feelings for Orchard died at the precise moment when Marks And Spencer took over Borders bookstore. I remember first walking into Borders mouth agape, awed by the sheer scale of it all, books stacked almost to the ceiling and the fact that you could just walk in and out without spending a cent or any of the staff bothering you. True, such musings may be merely blind nostalgia, that the people who say Orchard Road is kind of boring are the ones who lost what they loved most about the place. Still, GSS after GSS can’t save the hollow retail shells like the fancy-pants Scotts Square. Occasionally, some gastronomic hype like a Michelin-star ramen shop or a cafe/bistro would bring some buzz to Orchard, but people soon tire of novelty and business owners eventually move to the ‘suburbs’. I dare say ‘Haji Lane’, or even Criminal Minds:Beyond Borders’ Geylang would ring more bells in tourists’ minds than ‘Orchard Road’.

Orchard Road is no longer Instagrammable, and even if you get rid of the traffic and inject some flashy gotong-royong on weekends, with Good Morning towel-twirling trishaw riders and ice-cream sandwich carts etc, Singaporeans would rather jostle with sweaty crowds at some pop-up hipster event like Artbox, or watch a midnight movie at a neighbourhood mall so they don’t have to spend a bomb on taxi fare to get home. You can infuse the streets with all the local fanfare you want, but in the end it’ll still be a place where you have to pay almost $15 for a plate of mediocre Nasi Padang.

So let’s take a moment now to remember the Orchard Road of the past – and ask yourself if you’d rather spend your leisure in a place like this today or along a concrete stretch of copy-and-paste designer brands, flash-in-the-pan food joints and mobs of selfie-stick carrying revellers. I think we should just take the pedestrianising to the extreme and rewild Orchard Road so that becomes just the Istana and a green extension all the way to Botanic Gardens. Make it the ‘Central Park’ of Singapore instead.

Orchard Road is dead. Long live Orchard Road.

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OK chope! making fun of Najib Razak

From ‘Mediacorp Channel 5 apologises for offensive segment on Ok Chope’, 5 April 2017, article in CNA

Mediacorp Channel 5 has apologised for a comedy segment that contained comments on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that some viewers found offensive.

After the segment on comedy show OK Chope! was aired on Mar 29, the channel received feedback from viewers that it was offensive, it said in a statement on Wednesday (Apr 5)

In response to media queries, Mediacorp’s chief customer officer Debra Soon said: “Channel 5 and the production team behind OK Chope! wish to sincerely apologise to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for a segment on last week’s episode.

“OK Chope!, a weekly live show, features comedians providing humorous takes on news and current affairs. Last week’s episode included references to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak which were in poor taste and offensive. We have thus pulled it from repeat telecast with immediate effect. We apologise unreservedly for this mistake.”

When Malaysia banned the comedy classic Zoolander over a storyline that involved the assassination of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Singapore followed suit in order to be ‘sensitive’ to our neighbours. We would have no issue with the countless movies that depict villains trying to kill the POTUS, for example, probably because we don’t share the same brotherly love with the US as we do with our immediate neighbours. I doubt we would flinch if someone made a movie about killing the mayor of Batam.

The OK chope jibes against Najib were rather harmless, even juvenile. Unlike allusions to corruption that got another local comedian Fakkah Fuzz some heat from Malaysian authorities. Curiously, both Najip (with a p) and Fuzz apologised for roasting the Malaysian PM, though both would have no qualms slamming comedy fodder like Trump for the sake of a few laughs (and dollars).

Which puts the state of local satire in awkward jeopardy; that you’re more afraid of insulting another country’s politician than your own. Of all the discontent going in the country, it’s strange that Najib symphatisers should focus on a Singaporean rip-off of Who’s Line is It Anyway, rather than sending the Thought Police to scour their own forums and comedy clubs for anything that suggests foul disobedience against a man treated like a god-king.

Singaporeans and Malaysians tease and joke about each other all the time. We mock their accents, they slam our kiasu-ism. We’re like two buddies in the shower room slapping each other on the butt-cheeks with wet towels, but always in good humour without any malice. It’s unfortunate that one tiny slap from a little known show from the Little Red Dot could cause so much butthurt over the Causeway.

Perhaps Najib and his lackeys could learn a thing or two from our self-professed ‘flame-proof’ PM Lee. 

 

Covered linkways is money well spent

From ‘Covered linkways a much-needed facility’, 25 March 17, ST Forum

(Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon):  Providing covered linkways for people to transport nodes is definitely not spoiling the population (Use umbrellas at unsheltered areas by Mr Alex Yeo Eng Buan; March 16).

Covered linkways are a much-needed facility, especially for the wheelchair-bound, the elderly and those who use prams and trolleys. It is money well spent, considering the long-term and wider benefits to the community as a whole.

Using umbrellas, particularly on busy walkways linking up to transportation nodes, can inadvertently impede people’s movements because the objects take up more space. Wet umbrellas will also create puddles on MRT platforms and in buses, which may be slippery.

Certainly, money assigned to building communal amenities could be used for other purposes, like helping the poor.

But there are already many social outreach organisations across the spectrum, such as voluntary welfare organisations, community stakeholders and religious bodies, which ensure affected individuals and households receive help promptly.

The Government also provides support in the form of the ComCare scheme for the low-income. So, let’s not suggest that money for covered walkways be used to help the poor.

According to the LTA and HDB, covered walkways cost $200,000 to $600,000 per 100m to construct, excluding maintenance (Running short of shelter, 12 March 17, ST). When the walkway project was initiated in 1976 in a bid to make Singapore a pedestrian-friendly city, it cost $10 million.  A mild inconvenience of putting your handbag over your head, or running in the rain, costs nothing. For those who need a little help, like mothers with babies or old folks, you could offset the need to pamper our people with shelter wherever they go with a little kindness by sharing an umbrella, or stripping to overlay your shirt on puddles like a true gentleman. Though folks these days would rather forego the umbrella in place of a bulky portable phone charger.

We tend to take our public amenities for granted and this grousing about the lack of covered linkways is a sign that we’re a victim of our own success. We complain about the break in the linkway en route to the train station but forget that we practically have a train station at our doorstep. Would you rather walk without getting wet or scorched for 2km before even getting a glimpse of an MRT track? It’s the same thing with trees. We complain about not having enough trees for shade, but bash the authorities when one collapses on a car or kills someone at the Botanic Gardens.

What next? Charging stations along walkways? Or designated paths for personal mobility devices? How about we make our walkways air-conditioned? In the grand scheme of things we need to question our priorities when it comes to building ‘nice to have’ structures vs what is really essential. The money could be better spent on more disabled-friendly facilities like ramps for example, or upgrading our lifts so they don’t kill people.

 

Singaporeans debasing the English language

From ‘Why debase English?’, 18 March 2017, ST Forum

(Manoraj Rajathurai): In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Singaporeans spoke proper English.

Today, they don’t, and they take refuge in something called Singlish.

It is a shame. If only those who use it could hear themselves.

Nothing is done to discourage it, and remedy the situation. People are getting away with debasing a language and making it fashionable to do so.

Singlish is not even a language. There is no grace in it, especially when it comes to grammar.It is nothing to be proud of, and should not be made into something that is associated with this country.

Many expatriates and foreigners whom I deal with often tell me they are unable to understand much of what many Singaporeans attempt to pass off as English.

Why do we even encourage Singlish, especially with this display of it on public transport?

Will we, one day, stop speaking English, and speak Singlish instead?

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Nowadays very fashionable to hantam Singlish, hor? Sometime back got people say those who talk Singlish is ‘missed opportunity’ to master English. I ask my English sifu friend he say this means our English cannot make it so use Singlish good enough. Also, last time 50’s, 60’s, 70’s people’s angmor very good meh? I asked my lim peh he say no leh, this bugger obviously never do NS before. Only his school teacher speak proper English, and also those people on TV read news one. And the policemen wear shorts.  

But hor, he say Singlish is not even a language. AHBUTHEN? If different language then ang mor totally liak no kiu right? My ang mor colleague even learn how to say ‘lah’ and ‘lor’ already. If not he go hawker da pao food sure die. Simi sai. My English sifu say in UK the people from different regions ownself don’t even understand each other also. Hello, these are the people who invented ENGLISH ok. Don’t tell me they all speak different language? Don’t talk cock lah. 

Brother, relac lah brother. Phua Chu Kang already retire. The bus sign just for fun only. Why so serious. You go kopitiam how to order tea with evaporated milk less sugar (teh si siew dai). Anyway Singlish is our way of life, it’s not fashion like bubble tea. We are not taking ‘refuge’ in it. It’s people like you who are hiding from the reality of how our society works, up on your high horse telling people their grammar no good, say we should be ashamed of ourselves. We are Singaporeans OK. People say durian smell like shit we still proud of it can. 

Anyway I say what you also no understand. If you do, then I rest my case. Kthxbye.

14 year old boy can’t watch Beauty and the Beast

From ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast prompts advisory from Anglican Bishop’, 13 March 2017, article by Foo Jie Ying, ST

In the live-action remake of Disney’s classic Beauty And The Beast, LeFou shows more than just friendly feelings for the handsome antagonist Gaston.

This prompted Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah to issue an advisory before the film premieres here on Thursday.

In a statement released on the St Andrew’s Cathedral website, Bishop Rennis Ponniah urged the clergy and deaconesses to alert their congregation about the homosexual content in the film.

He wrote: “Disney films for children’s entertainment are usually associated with wholesome and mainstream values. But times are changing at a foundational level… LeFou is portrayed as gay and a ‘gay moment‘ is included in the movie by way of a subplot.

…LeFou, played by Josh Gad, is Disney’s first openly gay character and director Bill Condon’s way of increasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visibility on screen. The new film has caused quite a stir around the world.

An Alabama theatre said it would not screen it. In Russia, only those aged 16 and above are allowed to watch the film.

Here, the film was passed clean by the regulators with no edits. It was rated as PG with some intense sequences of characters in perilous situations.

…Marketing consultant Wilfred Chan, 43, said he will not let his 14-year-old son watch the movie as the homosexual content is against his religious beliefs.

Is Disney really all cotton-candy, honey and apple-pie wholesomeness? Not if you take the subliminal sex conspiracy seriously. Maybe the creators could no longer repress their Freudian instincts after decades of slipping naughty references in their animation and decided to – as Elsa would sing -‘let it go’ in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

The story of homoeroticism, like how the song goes, is a tale as old as time. And sadly, in 2017, certain religious circles still call it a breaking of ‘foundational’ values, and parents impose their own moral attitudes on their teenage kids. How strange that a teen would be forbidden from watching a film because of its ‘gay moments’ when he would have already been exposed to head-splitting violence, gore and hardcore porn at that age, including perhaps hentai porn involving animated over-endowed women and another kind of beast – with tentacles.

Sure, watching a man drive a screwdriver into another man’s eyeball is fine, but when the film shows men having ‘feelings’ for each other, it’s a no-no, though I have my doubts that Beauty and the Beast would be among the top movies to watch this weekend for guys in general. Unless they’re fathers whose last memory of Beast was when he was Ron Perlman of Hellboy fame, or pimply boys out on a first date.

I guess nothing would give the Bishop and his flock more peace of mind than having the censors step in to cut the gay subplot out of a ‘family-friendly’ movie. After all, that’s what IMDA did to the gay kiss on Les Miserables. So why didn’t they rein in the LGBT beast here? Would the book version be banned from our libraries like how they took down a children’s tale of gay penguins?

Disney, of course, produced one of the most emotionally staggering death scenes in the history of cinema when Bambi’s mother died. So they’re not one to shy away from the harsh realities of life despite their main audience being young, impressionable children – whether it’s cold blooded murder, or hot-blooded gay men.

Speak Mandarin Campaign video on classifying round things

From ‘Video draws flak for wrong use of Mandarin’ 12 March 2017, article by Koh Xing Hui, Sunday Times

A Speak Mandarin Campaign video has drawn some flak for its erroneous teaching.

The video, produced by the Speak Mandarin Campaign and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Chinese Drama, shows a woman teaching her friend the right use of classifiers for nouns such as apple, paper and clothing.

A classifier is used in East Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese when nouns are being counted.

In the video, the woman corrects her friend’s use of “yi ge” to “yi li” for apple and ball, saying “yi li” should be used for all round objects.

The video, posted on Wednesday on the Speak Mandarin Campaign Facebook page, has since attracted comments and was shared by various users, including Chinese radio station 95.8FM.

Many said it was embarrassing that the campaign was promoting the wrong use of Mandarin.

Responding to The Sunday Times, the Speak Mandarin Campaign said: “NUS Chinese Drama will follow up with another video to address usage of ‘ge’ and ‘li’.” Dr Kang Ger-Wen, a Chinese studies lecturer, said the NUS Chinese Drama students had good intentions but were teaching the wrong things.

“Normally, for small and tiny things, we use ‘yi li’ or ‘yi ke’. For an apple, it should be ‘yi ge’.” But if one were to translate from Hokkien, which would use “ji liap”, then it would be “yi li”, he added.

However, a Chinese-language teacher who declined to be named said students here are taught to use “yi li” for apples and balls.

The Chinese academic didn’t explain how these classifiers apply to round, but massive objects. Somehow telling the durian seller that you want ‘yi li’ Mao Shan Wang doesn’t sound right, or that our Earth only has ‘yi li’ Moon. Personally my problems with classifiers occur when I’m ordering food that isn’t fishballs. Is it 4 ‘li’ or 4 ‘ge’ chwee kueh? Is it ‘yi zhi’ otah or ‘yi tiao’? My hunch, despite my limited Mandarin prowess, is these are, to some extent, interchangeable. Some things, obviously, like planets or the infinitesimal like atoms and molecules, sound more ‘ge’-lish in my opinion. Then there are things which are not exactly round, like watermelons, eggs, a snowflake or grain of sand. Nor would you denigrate roundish body parts like testicles or boobies.

The original intention of the SMC, of course, was to eliminate dialects from society and streamline the bi-lingual drive, not dwell on technical nitty-gritties. Today, this has taken a dramatic U-turn with dialects making a comeback to appease the greying population, while at the same time correct use of Mandarin continues to be drilled into us. Despite- or because- of this lexical balancing act, outsiders associate our official spoken language with broken, hodgepodge English, or from a more generous perspective, a ‘rojak’ of cultural influences. Even during conservational Mandarin, most of us do away with connectors altogether, peppering our speech with, ‘but’ or ‘then’.

Good intentions by the NUS people, but whether concurrent campaigns seeking to refine the respective languages help Singaporeans improve in BOTH English and Mandarin while preserving our forefather-speak and singing a National Anthem in Malay remains to be seen. So now tell me, is it ‘yi ge’ or ‘yi li’ melting pot?

Tangs having frying pan promotion on International Women’s Day

From ‘Department store TANGS panned for offering discounts on Women’s Day’, 10 March 2017, article in Today.

A popular Singapore retailer came under fire on Thursday (March 9) for “trivialising” International Women’s Day by cooking up a promotion offering cut-price frying pans. The department store chain TANGS marked the day, which falls on March 8 and is observed across the globe by women pushing for greater equality, by discounting a range of items, including two frying pans.

Other deals included beauty products, high heels and shavers.

The retailer sent out a promotional email to customers with the S$38 frying pan offers listed at the top, according to Marketing magazine. The deals were still listed on TANGS website on Thursday.

Campaigner Ms Jolene Tan said the promotion appeared to overlook the struggle of women in the city-state, who are pushing for better representation in company boardrooms.

“International Women’s Day is a day to honour the struggles of women for equality, safety and respect,” said Ms Tan, head of advocacy and research at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research.

“Sadly, too many retailers present it as a consumerist event to be trivialised through sales and discounts rather than attention to the serious issue of gender equality.”

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If there ever were an International Men’s Day, and Tangs decided to have bargains on six-pack beers, remote controls, Crocs and cycling shorts, not only would NO ONE complain, but it would be a total non-event because men and shopping go together like AWARE and flour rollers.

So, what should retailers do to contribute to the recognition of women’s ‘place in the boardroom’? Discounts on designer power suits? Special edition name card holders? Wouldn’t that ignore other no less steely women like the the grandmother who’s also a taijiquan master, our Paralympian swimmers, nurses, Mother Theresa? Would Bollywood Veggies’ head honcho Ivy Singh-Lim call Tangs out for not having sales on potted plants and daisies? If these don’t apply, then International Women’s Day should really be renamed as ‘Alpha-women Day’, or better still, ‘AWARE day’.

For ages, the kitchen has been cast as a symbolic prison for the female of the species. Gone are the days of corsets and chastity belts, and women are referred to as the ‘weaker sex’. Though we had a minister who once said he would rather women spend money on mammograms over a trip to the salon, overall we still live in an era of ‘girl power’. The best selling artistes in the world are women, pop culture is awash with strong female characters, from Dragon Queens in fantasy epics to zombie hunters facing down the Apocalypse to goddamn nasty aliens.  We spend more on Mother’s than Father’s Day. Yet here we have feminists, in the face of a grim economic outlook, slamming deals on household items, footwear and cosmetics, because apparently women are not supposed to benefit from them on Women’s Day. Because the frying pan is the yoke that chains a woman to a livelihood of servitude. Throw away that apron, woman, and join the Sisterhood of the Travelling (Office) Pants.

Congrats Tangs, you just made yourself on the list of nominees for the ALAMAK AWARDS. Imagine the blood that would be spilled if they had offered promos on THIS instead.

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