Wearing shorts and slippers to school a sign of disrespect

From ‘Issue of respect over comfort’, 30 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Tan Lin Neo): A proper dress code for university students should be implemented and strictly enforced (Implement dress code for university students, by Mr Pavithran Vidyadharan; Dec 28).

I often see students going to campus dressed sloppily in T-shirts, shorts and slippers, as if they had just come out of their bedrooms. I am astounded that they dress like that to go to a place where they attain knowledge and prepare themselves to enter the workforce.

It is wrong to say that dress codes do not determine one’s ability to study, learn and acquire knowledge. Adhering to a proper dress code shows respect to the institution of higher learning and to the lecturers who, themselves, dress appropriately to impart knowledge to their students.

It is also a way to teach students to dress appropriately for the occasion and environment. How you dress influences your own bearing.

Discipline and respect are the core issues here, and are more important than the need for comfort while attending lectures.

Our universities are ranked among the top in the world and we didn’t get there by wasting resources chastising students for dressing like bums. In 1972, a NUS lecturer, sickened by a generation of ‘flip-flopping’ students, said this reflected ‘loose manners’ and an ‘erring sense of values’. Almost half a century later, in an age where the most successful people in the world are drop-out geniuses in hoodies, there are people who still subscribe to the antiquated convention that dressing well correlates with one’s moral worth and success, just like how stabbing peas with a steak knife is a telltale sign that you’re a fucking psychopath.

You could attend class all dapper but still end up getting caught cheating during your exams. And that applies to lecturers faking data or plagiarising for their publications too. Give our young people some credit. The majority are sensible adults who should already be familiar with unspoken rules when blending into society. No one in their right mind would stride into the lecture theatre in pyjamas using their iPad as a tray for a sandwich and kopi-o. If some weirdo creative type wants to stand out in suspenders and a sunflower bowtie then so be it. After all, once you’re done with university you either spend the rest of your working life as a corporate drone emulating the Wolf of Wall Street having to iron 5 damn shirts a week, or screw this socialist conformity shit and become a hawker, selling hipster mixed economic rice in an old army singlet and slippers. Either way, at that age assholes will remain assholes, whatever dress code we impose in uni. These are not kids who run crying home to Mommy and promise to turn over a new leaf whenever they get a tongue lashing from the dean for dressing like beggars or sluts.

One could argue conversely that it’s not our temples of learning that have succeeded on the world stage in spite of our student’s liberal dressing, but maybe BECAUSE of it. Because it made learning more conducive in this chronically hot weather, that it imbued students with a sense of empowerment and identity, that it allowed students to focus on academic work than being oppressed by an ascetic dress code taken out of a Good Behaviour Manual for monks and nuns in a monastery. The analogy that our students look like they just stepped out of their ‘bedrooms’ is also ironically apt. Aren’t we all encouraged to dream, after all?

 

 

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Asian koel too noisy

From ‘Better solution for noisy birds?’, 13 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Lim Chye Hai): In recent months, my estate Tanjung Rhu has seen an increase in the population of Asian koels.

These birds’ powerful calls can be heard early in the morning, before dawn, and throughout the day.

I called the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to highlight this issue two months ago. Its response was that the Asian koel is a protected species, so the agency can only prune the trees to remove the crow’s nest, where the koel lays its eggs. The problem has persisted without improvement to this day.

The birds’ calls have become a nuisance, especially when they start as early as 5am. The well-being of residents must not be compromised. Are there other effective ways to contain the Asian koels’ population?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EZ66v4T7Zw

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
                                                     –  Blackbird, the Beatles

For the sake of the ‘wellbeing’ of residents, stray chickens have been culled and pigeons are lured with poisoned bait (that end up killing curious dogs on a stroll). We complain about snakes invading our premises, wild boars terrorising children, yet conveniently forget that we are the ones tearing down forests to build estates and shopping malls and chasing our feathered friends out of their nests.

We bemoan a sterile concrete jungle yet make demands on the authorities to regulate the ‘powerful’ cries of a bird. Our steel offices are infused with greenery yet we view mating calls as a nuisance detrimental on our ‘wellbeing’. We think we can handle nature but in the end we still retreat to the snug comforts of our bed, huddling over our gadgets, gushing over our nature-themed wallpapers and pretending that the calls of the wild do not exist. Our 8 hours of sleep is paramount. More important than all the birds in the sky and all the worms in the earth.

The writer should be grateful that all he gets is a premature alarm. Some residents get pythons sneaking out of toilet bowls and trying to eat their pet birds. How about monkeys raiding your pantry. Would you rather deal with your neighbours’ shitty singing, or kids running amok in the void deck with their e-scooters or skateboards. In fact, according to NPARKS, as a brood parasite that lays its eggs in crows’ nests, the Asian koel has a role in keeping the crow population in check. So if you are lucky enough not to have crows randomly attacking you, you probably have this noisy koel to thank for an intact scalp and eyeballs.

I would rather the jarring noise of a cuckoo bird, than one coming out of an empty vessel.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Oxley Castle book not for kids

From ‘Is Oxley castle book really meant for kids?’ 16 Nov 2017, ST Forum

(Francis Cheng): Epigram Books chief executive Edmund Wee says that the children’s book, The Phantom Of Oxley Castle, is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events (Picture book’s launch event cancelled; Nov 13, and Arts House sets out events leading to cancellation of launch; Nov 14).

Who is he trying to kid?

It is obviously a satire or a parody.

The picture book is about a grand castle with 38 rooms, on a tropical island, where two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler named OB Markus live. Its title and storyline clearly bring to mind the 38 Oxley Road saga and the Lee family feud.

Writers and publishers should avoid exploiting a sensitive event that is still unresolved. Those who pick up the Oxley Castle book at another launch venue should note that not all children’s books are indeed children’s books.

Indeed, not all fairy tales should be read by children. Little Red Riding Hood is a metaphor for bestiality. Hansel and Gretel is child cannibalism. The song Puff the Magic Dragon is about drug abuse. And Tango Makes Three is gay marriage propaganda.

Oxley Castle only becomes an ‘exploitative’ parody of a national embarrassment if an adult familiar with the Lee saga reads it. To an innocent child, it’s just a story, one which features a butler who sidelines as a member of Wu Tang Clan. No sane parent would read this to their child and explain that this is actually based on a true story about three elite siblings who don’t invite each other to CNY reunion dinners. Nor would they dare even suggest that the ‘Phantom’ really represents Ah Kong rising from the grave.

Somehow I have this feeling that the story won’t end with ‘And they Lived Happily Ever After’. Still, this gives me an idea for my own children’s story: Samy the Sad Subway Train. It’s about a train that can never get things right; stopping for long hours, getting soaked by the rain, bumping into other trains, and getting on the nerves of its grumpy station master named Khaw Wan Kuek.

 

 

 

 

Who wants to watch live feeds of Parliamentary proceedings?

From ‘Videos of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government: Chee Hong Tat’, 7 Nov 2017, article in CNA

Video recordings of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government which in turn commissions national broadcaster Mediacorp to cover the sittings and show the footage on various platforms, including free-to-air television as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s Parliament micro-site and its Facebook page.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat clarified this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party (WP). Mr Perera had asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings.

He also asked if the Ministry would consider removing the copyright if indeed they are protected by one, and make all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use.

To this, Mr Chee said the public can use the recordings for personal and non-commercial purposes with attribution to Mediacorp. He said the recordings are already used regularly by social media sites and political parties, including the Workers’ Party.

Mr Perera then questioned why Parliament is not given the funding and ability to makes its own live feed and video recordings available with a searchable archive as is the case with countries like Australia, Taiwan and the United States.

Mr Chee said demand for a live feed of proceedings is low.

To be fair, it’s probably true that there are less people willing to sit through a live Parliamentary feed than a Crime watch episode. Mediacorp being a business entity struggling with ratings overall however, has a vested interest in making Parliamentary sessions not so much informative than ‘entertaining’ in bite-size snippets to cater to the general public, yet at the same time refrain from making their political masters look bad, no matter how attention grabbing it would be. Like when they’re caught napping for example.

Beyond intellectually stimulating debates, TV is also the perfect politician toolkit for drama. You have MPs bawling like a baby.

Begging for mercy.

Pointing to the heavens like in Taiwan drama serials seeking divine justice

Could anyone forget the saga that is ‘Tang Liang Hong is Not my Brother’

Some make grand exits like a boss without saying a single word.

And you have the occasional stand-up comedy bringing the House down, like Chan Chun Sing’s ‘Madam President’ skit.

In fact, when Today in Parliament debuted on SBC in 1985, while it was welcomed with much fanfare, there were already calls by Parliament fans for full uncensored telecasts, an act that would symbolise ‘democracy in action’. Though it’s often assumed that PAP speakers would reap the most airtime from these sessions, there were also complaints of opposition MPs hogging the limelight, like JBJ’s ‘unending complaints’ ‘unending complaints’ and ‘belching hot air’.

One MP, Tay Eng Soon, opposed the format of TV broadcasting altogether, recommending that viewers ‘close their eyes’ and listen to the crux of debates rather than picking on visual distractions like a politician’s dress sense, body language, or shiny reflection off his bald plate. But what is politics without its histrionics and theatre anyway.

Despite Chee Hong Tat’s claims of low viewership, I do believe there is value in putting up videos wholesale (by topics at least) as a supplement to the standard edits since the government has always emphasised on digitalisation and transparency, so that hardcore Parliament fans should be given the chance to dissect discussions, warts and all. Isn’t the purpose of the party whip or Speaker to serve as a real-time moderator/editor of the proceedings anyway, so that debates don’t get out of hand?

Besides, in the age of Netflix, TV viewership has been anaemic for years anyway. Given a choice between Parliament and watching a run-of-the-mill drama with actors spouting foreign accents, I’d rather spend my time on the former. The acting may even be better.

 

Jingapore plaques removed from MRT stations

From ‘ Welcome to Jingapore mural a wordplay on artist’s name’, 9 Nov 2017, article by Lydia Lam, ST

Welcome To Jingapore, reads an explanatory plaque for a two-part artwork installed at two new stations on the Downtown Line. The line, which was a play on words, drew flak from netizens, with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) receiving feedback that the term “Jingapore” appeared to be a misspelling.

The Art in Transit work by local artist Jing Quek was made up of two collages installed at Tampines West and Tampines East stations, LTA told The Straits Times on Thursday (Nov 9). The pieces feature images of people, places and objects found near those two stations.

“The title ‘Welcome to Jingapore’ is a wordplay on the artist’s name,” said the LTA spokesman. “By combining his name ‘Jing’ and ‘Singapore’, the work was an attempt by the artist to portray Singapore through his eyes.”

The Chinese word “Jing” has several meanings, including scenery and sights.

LTA said it is in discussions with the artist, and the explanatory plaques that accompanied the murals have been temporarily removed. However, the art pieces continue to be displayed at the stations.

Photos of the plaque went viral this week. Facebook user Mark Tan Tk posted a photo of it on Tuesday, writing in Chinese: “Is it real or fake? Why is it Jingapore not Singapore?

The artist himself posted an explanation on Wednesday night, saying it was brought to his attention “that some people raised a fuss about the title of my artwork”.

If Jing Quek had put up ‘Jingapore’ nearer to Christmas, then people are more likely to let it go because ‘Jingle Bells’. But unfortunately some commuters are afflicted by a neurological disorder that prevents them from understanding the concept of puns. If you tell them the classic joke about Billy throwing the clock out of the window to see ‘time fly’, they’d probably give you a blank stare and ask if you’re ‘real or fake’ and demand an explanation for a clock defying the laws of physics. If you represent the nation in a sporting contest and have ‘SIN’ emblazoned on your shorts, they would curse you for tarnishing the country’s reputation.

There are worse forms of wordplay, of course.

11 years ago, STINKAPORE made its appearance in a blog titled ‘Disillusioned‘. Self-explanatory, it was also used in the literal sense by Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Sydney to describe the city conditions back in the 1930s when the pair paid us a visit.

SINKAPORE is another common variant, usually used to express how the country is going down the drain, with its hapless citizens affectionately nicknamed as ‘Sinkies’. One past Presidential Candidate actually mulled over this in a Facebook post.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.07.39 PM

Inevitably, there’s also this – BLINGAPORE  , which, as you can guess, relates to the finer aspects of our glitzy cosmopolitan city, a jewel at the tip of the Asian continent.  Or how about complaining about this site for pets called SingaPAWS. Because it suggests that our country is going to, well, the dogs.

But what’s bewildering about this is LTA actually removing this despite explaining that this is clearly not a typo and that puns exist in this world. Look at fucking My First Skool , a mispelling which some complained as being ‘cruel and nonsensical’. Are LTA doing this just to appease a public already suffering under the ‘sad and embarrassing’ screw ups by SMRT management? Can I complain and get unlimited free rides for a month if I drop a 2 dollar note down the escalator grills? Instead of tongue in cheek artwork, maybe LTA/SMRT would prefer instead to install a ceiling fresco of a contrite CEO Desmond Kuek and team half-kowtowing to everyone to save them time from apologising or making excuses every time the train breaks down.

 

 

 

 

 

SMRT giving amnesty to flood culprits

From ‘Some SMRT staff own up to lapses during amnesty’, 4 Nov 2017, article by Adrian Lim, ST

Staff from at least one department in SMRT have admitted to lapses in their work, in response to a company call to own up – without penalty – before a wide-scale audit is launched.

The Straits Times understands that the employees are from SMRT’s building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations.

It is unclear how many staff have come forward in the “amnesty” exercise that ended yesterday, and which is targeted at quickly plugging gaps in maintenance operations – one of which caused the flooding of an MRT tunnel last month, bringing down train services on a stretch of the North-South Line for about 20 hours.

…PeopleWorldwide Consulting’s managing director David Leong said: “From an HR perspective, it’s very poor people management. The trust between the management and staff is totally lost.

“It doesn’t lead anywhere… Are you going to retain the people who owned up and let them do the same job? Or are you enticing them to come out, to remove them later?”

This amnesty is a witchhunt disguised as a saintly pardon. It’s like the bad guy in movies saying he won’t shoot you if you spill the beans, but lets you suffer a fate worse than death if you do anyway. SMRT’s CEO being a military guy probably explains the strategy behind this snare. It’s like urging the enemy out from the trenches with promises of warm baths and a 3 meals a day as a POW.

In a separate article, interviewed commuters were furious that those responsible would be given a second chance, but this gesture, like extending a greasy hand to someone hanging onto the edge of a cliff, can only mean that one’s career standing in SMRT is effectively over. And I believe those who owned up already know it, whether they end up with a stern warning or not.  Nobody expects a tea party with balloons and hugs of forgiveness.

Staff ferreted out by this so-called amnesty, supposedly without penalty, will be implicitly blacklisted and deprived of further opportunities within the company. The fact that management even needs to twirl a carrot to lure the culprits out from hiding suggests incompetence in governance and a dearth of ownership among workers. So, to quote something Trumpy, this makes ‘both sides’ look really, really shitty.

As the man in charge has said, all the fuck-ups boils down to ‘deep seated cultural issues’. Instead of pulling out all the stops with this fake magnanimity as a diversion from assigning blame, get to the core of the problem and fix it instead of dusting off table scraps.  I mean, that is your job after all, right?

UPDATE: Once the amnesty ended, SMRT embarked on a massive internal audit code- named ‘OPERATION OSPREY’, which sounds fiercer than the kinds of names we have for SAF mobilisation (Mighty Duck?). It was last used in 2001 by CNB to crack down on drug fiends, which gives you some idea of how the bigwigs view underlings who mess up, that they have to conjure an image of swooping talons snatching filthy rats out of their burrows.

13 staff including Vice Presidents from Maintenance were hauled up for disciplinary action, while SMRT maintains its deathly silence over the numbers ‘saved’ after owning up during the amnesty period (in the process exposing their colleagues). Meanwhile, the heads that matter remain firmly attached to their bodies, despite some talk of adjusting their salaries, while others roll.