Singapore is boring. What’s new?

From ‘Yeah, Singapore is boring: STB hits back at Timeout city ranking’, 2 Feb 2018, article in CNA

Is Singapore one of the least exciting cities in the world? The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) begs to differ – and released a tongue-in-cheek video on Thursday (Feb 1) to respond to the charge.

On Tuesday, Singapore came in 31st out of 32 cities in an anonymous survey by Time Out, which took into account criteria such as culture, food, drink, friendliness, liveability, affordability and happiness. About 15,000 people across the 32 cities took part in the survey.

Singapore was named “the worst rated city” for culture, and the worst for drinking apart from Dubai.

Saying Singapore, or any country, is boring is like saying watching MRT trains alighting and boarding passengers is boring. There will always be some people fascinated by it regardless of your useless opinion. No matter how much you want to add to the ‘vibrancy’ of our cosmopolitan state, the Casinos and the Jewels, we will always be viewed as unhip and sterile by marijuana junkies, Hare Krishnas and cowboys.

But what’s new? What would you expect for a small country? How much fun can you cram into this clusterfucked city?

We’ve been boring for 30 years. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked us as one of the most boring countries in the world in 1987. More boring than IRAN and LIBYA. At least our stagnant night life today isn’t accompanied with bomb blasts or machine gun fire. At least if you’re not into watering holes or human company, you could hop on a train in the city and reach a mangrove swamp within an hour. Yes there’s not much that would excite you if you have a week to kill, but give her a day and there may be surprises in store. And if it still doesn’t thrill you, you could fuck off to somewhere ‘grittier’ where people spit on the pavements, piss on the walls or shit on the streets.

So really, there’s no need to be defensive about it. We cane criminals so instinctively we’ll be cast as party-poopers. Let Singapore be boring as a 50 year old marriage is boring, with the occasional orgasm to keep us going.

 

 

 

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China dog circus perpetuates animal cruelty

From ‘Amid furore, organisers pull circus out of Chinese New Year show’, 9 Dec 2017, article by Victor Loh, Today

A segment of a Chinese New Year show featuring dog performances has been withdrawn following a backlash online. The show, which was branded as the “Chinese New Year Dog Circus 2018”, was scheduled to take place at Resorts World Sentosa in February 2018 to welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year.

…Ticketing operator Sistic first promoted the China-based show on its Facebook page on Friday (Dec 8) morning. By Friday night, a petition to ban the show from performing in Singapore — started by animal advocate Summer Ong — was created.

The petition — addressed to the show’s promoter HE Productions, Sistic and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) — garnered 7,237 supporters by the time it was closed on Saturday (Dec 9) afternoon.

“To be even campaigning for this is baffling because Singapore prides herself as a progressive first world nation,” Ms Ong told TODAY.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see RWS and SISTIC promoting such animal performance and animal cruelty. And we are all unsure and very appalled why RWS and Sistic gave the green light to approve this China dog circus.

“Such venue operators should never accept these shows. Accepting such acts shows they support these performances. Promoting these unethical shows thus perpetuates animal cruelty.”

Describing the practice of using animals in circus as “archaic, cruel and unethical”, the petition cited the closure of the Ringling Brothers, an American travelling circus company famous for using elephants in its performances.

If only a petition like this was as effective in getting RWS Marine Life Park to stop their dolphin shows.  In 2012, Wen Wen the dolphin died en route to Singapore before she could perform for her ‘archaic, cruel and unethical’ human audience. Today, we continue to laugh and clap to the antics of aquatic beasts in glorified colosseums, blissfully unaware of the trauma inflicted when these creatures of the oceans are air-flown in specifically for our entertainment.

We may have given the poor China canines some respite through this protest, but we still tolerate owners who dye their chow chows to look like fucking pandas. So why recruit animals for public entertainment at all, caged-bird singing included? If dogs were not meant to do the conga or ride e-scooters, then neither should songbirds be held captive by uncles 24 hours a day. Such a practice is in fact celebrated as a ‘heartland icon’ when circus animals actually spend more time outside cages than our feathered sopranos. One activity is slammed for its barbarism, while another is hyped as a ‘uniquely Singaporean’ hobby.

In 1982, an animal lover complained that Ah Meng should not be made to ‘sit in wicker chair, sipping tea, nibbling a watermelon and politely tolerating the inane chatter of several humans’. Yes, why stop at circuses when animal shows are also guilty of grilling seals into clapping, tigers into begging and elephants into tiptoeing on a trainer’s head without crushing his face to pulp? We have sequel after sequel of Planet of the Apes reminding us of our arrogance and yet we persist in training a primate to stir a cup of tea.

The ultimate act of animal cruelty that’s somehow embedded as a cultural icon and national consciousness, immune to any protest whatsoever, is Spanish bullfighting, where the ‘ringmaster’ – the matador – is a sexualised alpha-male/hero who gets to sleep with Madonna in the ‘Take a Bow’ video. Unlike dogs in a circus, a charging bull doesn’t play dead, it literally dies at the end of the show, impaled in a manner less humane than in the hands of a slaughterhouse butcher.

 

 

 

 

Changi naval base renamed RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base

From ‘Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base’, 18 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Sunny Goh, Dr): Names and labels have been under scrutiny lately. While the Syonan Gallery has been hotly debated, one other name change has escaped attention: RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base (“Changi Naval Base’s new name to hark back to beginnings“; Feb 10).

It is problematic in two aspects. First, is the new name supposed to shift the emphasis away from “Changi” as the base onto the ship “Singapura”?

If so, this will force a contest between two historically powerful words, and not everyone will agree that the ship triumphs over the base.

Most people – visitors and taxi drivers included – will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Second, how is the ship related to the base?

The RSS Singapura was a former Japanese minelayer that was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin and was used by the then Singapore Naval Volunteer Force as its headquarters from 1966 to 1968, while the base was officially opened only in 2004, almost 40 years later.

Those at the Republic of Singapore Navy must be able to account for this, if foreign dignitaries were to ask them about the name. From a practical point of view, there is another problem.

Over time, an abbreviation for the name will probably emerge – the same that has taken place for the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC). But having seven letters, such as RSSSCNB, is itself unwieldy.

All of this begs the question: If the original name wasn’t broken, why fix it?

Just the day before, the Government made a reluctant and rather surprising U-turn after a public outcry over the Syonan Gallery, changing it to the mouthful’ Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies’, which sounds more like the title of a history textbook than an actual venue. What if my grandfather DIDN’T survive the Japanese Occupation? Wouldn’t this new name be a snub to those who sacrificed their lives during this horrific period?

Think ‘Changi’ and our world-famous airport comes to mind. But there was a time when naming our iconic airport after a place that evokes bloody war atrocities was deemed to be ‘in poor taste’. Brand it anything else to soothe psychological wounds and we may not have the Changi Airport as we know today. Similarly, I’d like to think that if we had retained ‘Syonan’ as a name for exhibitions, Singaporeans would learn to accept and move on over time like how ‘Changi’ became mundane, yet still retaining a prickly reminder of wartime history. Unfortunately, we’d rather sanitise our labels than learn to deal with them.

The ship RSS Singapura itself has some interesting history. Once bequeathed with the Japanese ‘WakaTaka‘, it was given its current name when Singapore joined Malaysia. It was also intended in the 60’s to be converted into a floating night club. Now thanks to the Syonan saga, we have to be wary of labels that summon wartime sensitivities, and by coming with up a practically useless and cumbersome hybrid-hyphenated name for the naval base, we’re injecting those affected with a double whammy; combining a ship that once served the Japanese Imperial navy and a place once associated with instituted mass murder.

Maybe the Navy should emulate Yaacob and reverse the decision after some ‘deep reflection’.

 

24 noisy chickens culled by AVA

From ‘Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers’, 2 Feb 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

As a debate flared up yesterday over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in the Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

…The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GZJeplKV18

According to the AVA’s own FAQ,

It is rare for the bird flu virus to be transmitted from chickens to humans. Of all the bird flu virus strains, only the H5N1, H9N2, H7N7 and H7N9 (Shanghai 2013 strain) strains have been known to pass from chickens to humans.

Unless you’re the kind of sick pervert who sneaks up behind cockerels and sodomises them, the chances of anyone getting exposed and infected by bird flu from stray chickens is, by AVA’s own admission, rather low. So how is this poultry-cide even justified? Using this public health argument, these chickens are being put down with the same nonchalance as one does fogging to get rid of mosquitoes.

There was a time when chicken-stealing was a thing. With the demise of kampongs, having the occasional cock around serves as a nostalgic reminder of how simple life used to be. Now, with the authorities chick-hunting in response to complaints, all we have left to wake us up in the mornings is the metallic grumbling of the MRT train nearby.

So the weird neighbour with the noisy parrot that squawks ‘Fuck the PAP’ all day gets to keep his fowl-mouthed pet; while the free-as-a-bird chicken responding to nature’s call is slaughtered for being a nuisance and an indeterminate carrier of pathogens. Add one more bird to AVA’s kill-list, which also includes pigeons, but not crows (NEA) or mynahs (nobody’s business).

Thanks a lot, Sin Ming residents, now that the python in the woods has nothing to feed on, we have to be prepared to find them swimming around in our pools more often, waiting for a treat in the form of a juicy, plump baby perhaps.

NTUC cigarette vending machine reminds smokers of cigarettes

From ‘Cigarette dispenser an ad in itself’, 28 Mar 16, ST Forum

(Liu I-Chun): In having a cigarette machine, it seems FairPrice is disingenuous in fulfilling the letter of the law but not the spirit, and dressing it up as a productivity improvement (“Tobacco display ban: FairPrice pilots opaque dispenser“; March 17).

The mere presence of these prominent dispenser machines, sans branding notwithstanding, reminds people of cigarette availability. After all, advertising is, in essence, association, implication and conditioning.

Under Article 13 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it is recommended that vending machines be banned “because they constitute, by their very presence, a means of advertising and promotion”

FairPrice says that it “supports the Government’s efforts in protecting the health of Singaporeans”. If this is so, the proper thing to do would be to stop selling cigarettes at all FairPrice outlets and convenience stores, like what the CVS drugstore chain in the United States did in 2014 (“US chain to end tobacco sale”; Feb 6, 2014).

Unfortunately, FairPrice’s latest venture suggests that it has no intention of giving up this easy money-spinner, which runs counter to its corporate philosophy of doing good for the community.

FairPrice should adhere to WHO guidelines by not using tobacco vending machines and scale down tobacco sales.

NTUC is willing to take shark’s fin off the shelves but can’t let go of sin-tax generating cigarettes, hiding the goods behind a drab looking machine and making it tedious for smokers to obtain their fix. The reason behind banning shark’s fin was that the organisation was committed to being ‘socially responsible’. If a supermarket were truly ‘socially responsible’, it wouldn’t just stop selling tobacco products, but alcohol, snacks and carbonated drinks as well.

In other words, a supermarket with a moral compass would go bankrupt, and NTUC, by setting itself as an exemplar in ethical consumption, has put itself in a quandary with the cigarette dispenser program. It’s like placing the candy jar on a higher shelf to discourage a kid from grabbing it. It only makes the object more desirable to the addict. By making cigarettes slightly less accessible, it also encourages the smoker to purchase more packs from the machine so that he can skip the hassle the next time round. So, how ‘socially responsible’ is NTUC when it spends money on cigarette dispensing technology, and then allows the media to run a story that practically says ‘Cigarettes for sale!’ all over it?

In any case, I suspect even banning tobacco from supermarkets wouldn’t deter the hardcore smoker. We may have banned cigarette ads since 1973 but that didn’t stop the industry from seducing their clients through subliminal cues. Malboro’s disposable lighter ads, with their epic Magnificant Seven soundtrack, were banned from all cinemas in 1984. In 1986, ‘travel’ ads by the likes of Peter Stuyvesant were scrutinised by the Ministry for alluding to smoking. Thankfully, we haven’t resorted to censoring movies featuring lead actors puffing away in style.

Scare tactics with disgusting pictures of charred lungs on cigarette packs didn’t work. Neither did the public service ads featuring victims of lung cancer talking through an eviscerated windpipe. Nevermind cancer, deformed babies or infertility, people continue to puff anyway, and simply keeping visual cues away from them is inadequate to curb nicotine cravings. You don’t need a cigarette vending machine to remind people of cigarettes. A familiar smell, a particular place, a random memory of a specific event or person may all trigger the urge to smoke, whether it’s the decorative alpine vistas that look no different from a Ricola herbal candy box, or the piss and vomit-filled back valley of the club where you had your virgin smoke.

Some countries have in fact banned cigarette vending machines altogether, England and  Malaysia included. And here we are introducing it to the world like it’s some breakthrough in retail automation. NTUC, if you care for the smokers in Singapore as much as you care for sharks swimming in the oceans thousands of miles away, do the ‘socially responsible’ thing and cease sale altogether. If you don’t want the investment to go to waste, simply substitute by stocking it with another vice product. Alcohol, R21 DVDs, maybe even chewing gum perhaps?

Israeli diplomat using Singapore flag as a tablecloth

From ‘Israeli embassy apologises for junior diplomat’s misuse of Singapore flag as table cloth’, 30 Dec 15, article in Today

The Embassy of Israel in Singapore has apologised for the behaviour of a junior Israeli diplomat who misused a Singapore flag as a table cloth during an outdoor party. In a press statement, the Embassy said it “was appalled to learn of deplorable behaviour displayed by one of its junior staff members and expresses its sincere apologies”.

“The Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed that requisite strong disciplinary procedure will be adopted against the individual after his meeting with the Singapore authorities, reflecting the severity with which Israel views this incident, especially in light of the close and friendly relationship between Singapore and Israel,” added the statement issued tonight (Dec 30).

Photos apparently showing the incident were posted online earlier this week.

TODAY understands that the Israeli Ambassador was summoned in by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) after a police report on the incident was made and investigations revealed the identity of the diplomat.

singapore_flag_tablecloth_0-Israeli-diplomat-Israel

When an American rock band who call themselves The Used performed in Singapore, a defaced Singapore flag was displayed as a stage prop. Despite complaints and police investigations, nothing happened to the band, which suggests that some foreigners don’t need to have  ‘diplomatic immunity’ to get away  scot-free with flag misuse. On the other hand, we arrest 13 year old girls if they set the same object on fire.

The fact that an Israeli official was involved is bound to set tongues wagging about preferential treatment. Our country has been described as the ‘Israel of South East Asia’, bearing strong similarities in terms of geographical vulnerability and military might. If not for the Israelis, we would not have an army as mighty as we do today, having sought the help of what the late LKY called ‘Mexicans’ to set up shop here right after independence. Which puts us in a difficult position when it comes to making our stance heard regarding the ‘senseless killing’ of Palestinians in Gaza. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, for one, openly condemns Israeli aggression, though the Government as a whole is still relatively silent about the atrocities. Israel has its avid supporters, no doubt, none more so than some Christian communities who proudly declare their love for our ‘brother-in-arms’, that they are ‘very vocal in their support of the Jewish state’.

Netizens slam the tablecloth incident as a case of abusing diplomatic immunity, harking back to the hit-and-run saga involving the late Romanian embassy official Dr Silviu Ionesu. In the Ionescu case, the Romanian embassy argued that the accused had been ‘engaging in official duties’ at the time of the crash, citing ‘Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention’. Official duties here referring to ‘attending a private birthday party of a karaoke hostess’.

In 1956, diplomatic immunity was invoked by a German vice-consul in defence against inconsiderate driving. According to his lawyer, such a status shielded one against more serious charges, even murder. In 1988, the same legal protection spared American diplomat E.Mason Hendrickson from being charged under the ISA for supposedly encouraging Francis Seow to join opposition politics. The US embassy defended their mission delegate, that he was just doing his job as an envoy. Hendrickson was expelled nonetheless and LKY refused to apologise to the US, referring the case to international arbitration. If you could get booted out for interfering in local politics, abusing the state flag should be no exception.

According to Kishore Mahbubani, this power was never intended to protect one against local laws, that it was invented centuries ago to enable diplomats to talk to leaders of enemy states without fear of getting killed. So theoretically, you’re not supposed to enjoy immunity if you’re engaging in any activity ‘outside of official duty’, condo parties included. I, for one, haven’t the slightest clue what diplomats do when they’re not in ‘working mode’ other than sleeping, pissing and shitting. Disciplinary action is in order, though expulsion seems rather unlikely. As for the flag in question, let’s hope it’s washed down with tender loving care rather than ending up in the dumpster. Or how about a discount on our next Protector purchase as compensation perhaps?

All bicycles need to be regulated

From ‘All bicycles, not just electric ones, need to be regulated’, 26 Nov 2015, Voices, Today

(Alfred Lim): I support the suggestions in the letter “Greater regulation needed for electric bicycles, riders” (Nov 24). I would state further that every means of transport used on the roads, including regular bicycles, should be regulated. The growth in bicycle usage is unprecedented. Since the cost of motorcycle Certificates of Entitlement (COE) went up substantially, many have switched to bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise.

In land-scarce Singapore, car and motorcycle ownership is regulated in part by the COE system: There is a limit on the number allowed. Cars and motorcycles are required to be tested and insured, and are subject to ownership and usage laws. However, few regulations apply to bicycles, which were once few in number and hardly infringed on other road users’ rights. But this is no longer so. To be fair to all, the cost of bicycle usage cannot be zero or negligible.

Cyclists are not required to pass any test, which perhaps explains the unsafe behaviour seen regularly when they speed at pedestrian crossings, ignore the red light and disregard traffic laws. Being unregistered, they are rarely caught.

Bicycles require other road users to keep a safe distance; one occupies as much space on the roads as a motorcycle. They can cause accidents; hence, insurance is necessary.

Bicycles were once slow and cumbersome, but the new, lighter ones are capable of speeds nearing 50km an hour. Accidents could prove injurious to riders and other road users.

It is time to revisit the premise that we need not regulate bicycle ownership and usage. Accountability and regulation in this regard would be to the benefit and protection of all road users and pedestrians.

The call to issue licences to anyone who owns a bicycle is a case of backpedalling into the early 20th century, a time when bicycles were ‘slow and cumbersome’ and yet it was still dangerous to cycle one-handed while doffing your hat when a lady walks by.

In 1933, such measures were lauded as revenue-generating for the Government, in addition to deterring theft. Licensing did eventually come into play in 1936, with nearly 100,000 bikes being registered with the authority, and naturally, the Government took credit for  the subsequent reduction in traffic offences. I’m not sure if baby tricycles were spared, and whether it was your civic duty to report to the Police if you caught someone’s kid on an unauthorised vehicle blazing down the pavement without having to pass any sort of ‘test’ whatsoever.

In 1981, the Registry of Vehicles decided to scrap bicycle registration as they thought it was no longer sustainable to continue producing number plates and that it involved too much paperwork. The fee then was a measly $5. The very thought of applying for a licence for bicycle-riding today would turn many budding riders off, even if the fee is in the low double-digits. All this runs contrary to our vision of a cyclist-friendly nation. If roads do eventually appear to be safer following bicycle registration, it could merely mean that there are less cyclists on the streets, not because errant cyclists suddenly begin behaving more responsibly. You could register your killer pitbull with AVA, but if you don’t leash him in public there’s still the risk that it would bite someone’s face off.

Perhaps we should be thankful, for now, that the Government doesn’t already mandate bicycles to install ERP gantry readers. ‘To be fair to all’, as the writer suggests, maybe it’s not just cyclists who need to ‘pay’ for running riot on our streets. How about that oblivious jogger with earphones on, or those trolley-pushing cardboard collecting aunties? Or the uncle on a motorised wheelchair? Not every nail that sticks out needs to be hammered down.

The blunt instrument of regulation is not the answer to harmonious commuting. For cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to get around seamlessly requires creative rejigging of the current infrastructure given our space constraints. It requires smart policies coupled with enforcement, not slapping on another bureaucratic hoop that echoes the days when Mamasans rode around in trishaws.