Escobar eatery named after evil drug lord

From ‘CNB to keep very close watch on Escobar eatery named after Columbian drug lord’, 8 Feb 2018, article in CNA

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) will be keeping a “very close watch” on a bar named after Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, following an angry complaint lodged last Friday (Feb 2) by the country’s embassy to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“CNB and the Singapore Police Force will be engaging the owner of the bar and will take the necessary action to uphold our strict anti-drug policy,” said a CNB spokesperson.

“It will also be keeping a very close watch on the bar and its patrons to ensure that no illegal drug activities take place there,” said the spokesperson, adding that the agency understood that the Colombian embassy and community, as well as some Singaporeans were upset about the matter.

In a three-page letter, the Colombian embassy expressed “serious concern” over the eatery in China Square Central, saying that it was paying tribute to the “worst criminal in the history of Colombia”.

The way that Pablo Escobar’s name and image are being used to promote the outlet runs counter to Singapore’s approach towards drugs and government efforts in preventive drug education, the CNB spokesperson added.

“The glamorisation of a drug kingpin and associated drug use is irresponsible and insensitive.”

CNB should also be keeping an eye on Mcdonalds’ because they name one of their breakfast staples a ‘HASH’ brown. They should also check out ACID bar at Peranakan place, and review a classical performance named ‘Poem of Ecstasy‘. Seriously, what exactly is CNB expecting? If I’m going to run an underground drug ring, the last thing I want to do is blow my cover by naming it after a crime lord, and choose something seemingly playful and innocuous like Gudetama cafe instead.

Some years back, people complained about a pub that called itself Aushwitz because it reminded everyone about the Holocaust. Yet nothing was done about a hotpot restaurant that honoured a brutal Chinese dictator responsible for 45 million deaths (House of Mao Hunan Hot Pot). Nor did we touch restaurants with suspiciously subversive communist elements, like Red Star Restaurant.

We disapprove of exhibitions that summon the sufferings of our forefathers under the yoke of colonialism, yet we celebrate the legacy of a man who was borne of that very same system, a man whose name graces a world-famous hotel that also is the birthplace of our very own Singapore Sling.

Would Christians complain if I opened a hipster cafe called ‘Satan’s Lair’?  Would the Russian embassy knock on my door if I open a gallery of Soviet kitsch? Would the police run checks on Hannibal restaurant to make sure they don’t store human corpses in their fridge?




Future Music festival banned because of drugs

From ‘Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for permit denied’, 7 March 2015, article in CNA

Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for a permit has not been approved, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (Mar 6).  “The Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore to hold the Future Music Festival Asia 2015 in Singapore,” said MHA in a statement. It said the appeal was received on Mar 3, and the outcome was conveyed to organisers Livescape Singapore on Mar 6.

Livescape Singapore, which has sold about 15,000 of the 20,000 tickets available for the two-day festival, previously submitted applications for a public entertainment licence to the police in January and last month, but was rejected both times. Police cited “serious concerns” over potential drug abuse at the event.

…The festival, which had a three-year run in Kuala Lumpur, has been marred by drug problems. Concert organisers had to put a stop to the event on its third day last year, after six Malaysians died of drug overdose and another 16 people were hospitalised for drug-related reasons.

Several Singaporeans were also hospitalised after a suspected drug overdose. Two were later charged for drug offences in Kuala Lumpur.

In Parliament on Friday, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli said that the Government is “keeping an eye” on music events, over concerns of potential drug abuse at such festivals.

In 1970, Woodstock: THE MOVIE was banned in Singapore. No official reasons were given then, but for a nation that also banned Puff the Magic Dragon, it became clear that the censors deemed Woodstock as not only a vile gathering of unsavoury, promiscuous, slovenly hippie characters who strut around nude, but also as a rock bacchanalia promoting and glamourising drug use.

Then ‘electronic music’ in the form of techno/trance arrived on the scene, and the Ecstasy-fuelled ‘rave party’ was born. Not only was such head-bobbing monotonous music conducive to getting high or stoned, it also served as a mantric, vulgar call to arms for secret society hooligans, as depicted in Royston Tan’s ’15’.

We mananged to keep Zoukout in check though, thanks to an army of security officers, though that didn’t stop people from falling into the sea and drowning, or getting molested. In fact, the risk of getting drunk or groped, whether it’s a rave or a state-sponsored New Year countdown, is higher than you slipping into a psychedelic death trance after popping some fun pills.

Zoukout isn’t all that innocent as we might think. Some folks have called for a total ban on that as well, for promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, spreading STDs and encouraging people to have random sex on the beach. The Zouk management insisted that this was the work of a few black sheep, and we shouldn’t allow such ugly incidents to taint the image of Singapore as THE nightlife destination in all of South East Asia.

Not that drug abuse isn’t already happening anyway. If you can’t drop some ketamine or mephedrone at beach festivals, you can always do it in the clubs, or ‘house parties’, where you don’t have nosy bouncers or undercover cops poking into your business all the time. This isn’t the first time we’ve deemed music a threat to public order and civilization as we know it. We’ve pressed the mute button for Thaipusam festivals, for example.

If it’s not due to knee-jerk ‘serious concerns’ over drug use, we also have zero tolerance towards artistes promoting the ‘gay lifestyle’. In 2005, an Action for Aids charity concert Affect05 was banned because it featured a gay couple as lead singers. Some Christians were aghast that openly gay Adam Lambert was performing in Singapore. Taiwanese veteran Ah Mei was banned from performing ‘Rainbow’ at Gardens by the Bay. It appears that succumbing to toxic hallucinations from Avicii-induced euphoria is just as bad as having the idea drilled into your head that ‘gay is OK’.

Maybe we should ban the Laneway festival as well, for turning our clean and green Singapore into a hideous ‘garbage city‘. Not to mention K-pop boyband concerts, for inducing cult-like behaviour. How about F1 concerts? In 2013, mega superstar Rihanna was allegedly high on weed while lip-synching on stage. Think of the harm this would do to her teenage fans! It’s been a while since we’ve seen the ‘Stomp!’ troupe performing in Singapore. Maybe we secretly banned them because they encouraged people to pick up random trash cans and sticks off the street and raise a ruckus, fooling the police into thinking that a riot is happening. And finally Sentosa New Year countdown parties too, because we don’t want women to get gang-raped in full public view.

What we’ll have left is ‘good clean,  wholesome, drug-free fun’, like Air Supply or Kenny Rogers in concert, where you’ll be exposed to love ballads about the sun and the rain and not think about getting high on marijuana at all.

UPDATE 9 March 2015: FMFAsia is officially cancelled. You could say it won’t be coming our way anymore in the near..future.

Forever 21 playing vulgar, misogynistic rap songs

From ‘Forever 21 apologises to Gurmit Singh’s daughter over offensive music’, 16 Oct 2014, article by Yeo Sam Jo, ST

Fashion retailer Forever21 has apologised to actor Gurmit Singh’s daughter, Gabrielle, after an open letter she wrote criticising the music played at one of its outlets went viral online. According to an update on the 17-year-old’s Tumblr blog on Wednesday night, Forever21 apologised for the music, which she had described as “horribly misogynistic” and “damaging” to the women and young girls who frequent the American brand’s stores.

She wrote: “F21 has responded and apologised for the music, which is pretty great! However, misogyny as a common occurrence in our everyday lives is still a big issue, which is why I’m leaving this post on my blog.” Her father, local celebrity Gurmit Singh, also took down one of his Facebook posts of the incident at about 10pm on Wednesday night, explaining that they had managed to get in touch with the store’s manager.

In her original post about a week ago, Gabrielle recounted how while she was shopping with her mother and baby sister at the Forever21 outlet in 313@Somerset on Orchard Road, the store was “blaring” songs with lyrics that were derogatory to women, such as “half you b***hes like p***y too”.

Speaking of bitches, Forever 21 was once criticised for refusing entry to guide dog Esme and her owner Cassandra Chiu, whom Joe Augustine refers to as an ‘asshole’. I doubt anyone would use the same insult on Gabrielle for her hissy fit against an explicit rap song played in a fashion boutique. This ‘open letter’ appears to ride on another pro-feminist leaning tirade by a Hwa Chong student against an offensive sex education booklet, accusing the perpetrator for promoting ‘rape culture’. In Gabrielle’s original blog post, she rants about F21 promoting a belief that ‘men only love women if they suck their penises’. It looks like AWARE are spoilt for choices for future board members.

Naturally, I searched for the song that pissed off Gabrielle and made her queasy when she was trying on clothes. Titled ‘P.W.A’ by rap collective 5th Ward Boyz, the ‘gangsta’ track goes right into the subject matter, its first verse and chorus being ‘Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussy’. In summary, it’s about some drunk horny gangstas high on weed going around hunting for ladies who receive fellatio from after doping them with weed and alcohol (hence P.W.A). There’s a lyric that goes ‘stick yo fingers in yo cat, taste yo uterus’, which makes these fellas from the hood not just date rapists, but practitioners of bestiality with 10 inch tongues. Nasty stuff, and it was indeed tasteless of F21 to play this dope shit, though by calling them out, Gabrielle has unwittingly introduced us all to the 5th Ward Boyz and their penchant for benz, ‘hoochies’ and their unforgivable abuse of not just women, but pronouns (I’s a playa, I’s a never had to trick’).

Department stores have been bombarding customers with raunchy rap and hip hop playlists for almost a decade with what I suspect to be similar themes of fast cars, fast cash, booze, boobs, ass and dicks, all part of the marketing department’s ploy to subliminally induce guys to buy oversized cargo pants and basketball jerseys, because ‘that’s how yo roll with the chicks dawg’. But it’s not just rap painting women as fast and loose sex objects. Even some of the ‘radio-friendly’ pop stuff on the airwaves hint at getting high, drunk and making the ladies obey your every command if you threaten to hit them or douse them with narcotics and intoxicants.

Here’s a sample, for aspiring feminists to write ‘open letters’ about.

1. Blurred Lines. ‘But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature’

2. Young Wild and Free. ‘So what we get drunk, So what we smoke weed’

3. Stupid Hoe. ‘You can suck my diznik if you take this jizzes’

4. The too obvious ‘S&M’. ‘But chains and whips excite me’

 5. Timber. ”Im slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will, timber’

Gabrielle’s dad himself is an occasional rap playa. As Phua Chu Kang he rapped about SARS and graciousness on the train, a fine example of how rap can be used for the greater good beyond money and buttocks, even if he had to resort to some violence to get the message across( ‘Excuse Me While I Give you a KICK!’)

Apology to humanity accepted, F21. Maybe it’s time to switch your HQ’s playlist to the entire soundtrack to the female-empowering Frozen instead.

Zouk an institution that needs saving

From ‘Zouk may shut by year end’ 18 June 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The founder of Zouk, Mr Lincoln Cheng, says he is tired of getting short lease extensions for the popular dance club’s Jiak Kim Street site. If he does not get a three-year extension he is now requesting, he will close the 23-year-old iconic nightspot for good by the end of this year.

…When the club first opened in 1991, the land around it was largely vacant. But today, the club – which is situated within three recently conserved riverside warehouses – is dwarfed by neighbouring condominiums and hotels. It was no surprise, therefore, when questions about the fate of Zouk started making the rounds in 2012.

…When told of the news, celebrity presenter and Zouk regular Najip Ali said he was shocked. “When Zouk opened, it was ahead of its time. In the 1990s, Zouk put a stamp on the kind of nightlife that didn’t exist.” It was where he learnt about music and deejays. “Zouk has been and is still an institution,” he said.

Development plans aside, it was MP Indranee Rajah (“If Zouk was not there, then it is unlikely the youth would congregate there.”) who indirectly blamed the rise in drunken rowdiness in the Robertson Quay area on the dance ‘institution’. Since complaints by residents, the Government has been mooting the idea of a ‘no-alcohol’ zone so that babies from nearby condos can sleep at night. If Zouk were an ‘institution’, then its graduates are Masters in Inebriation. No riot has broken out on Jiak Kim Street so far, though there may soon be a protest or two. Like the SaveZouk campaign for example. I wonder what colour these guys will be wearing. Maybe neon rainbow.

I’ve been to the club myself a few times, and back in those days it was a hedonistic eye-opener seeing people gyrating on raised platforms, revellers decked out in the wildest accessories, meeting gays, transgenders and Najip Ali, sweating and grinding to guest DJs spinning revolutionary dance tracks that no other disco at the time were keen to play. In the 90’s, Zouk WAS Clubbing, a place that has become synonymous with a street with the unlikeliest of names in ‘Jiak Kim’. You didn’t need to give taxi drivers directions or addresses. You just had to say ‘Zouk’, and he’d give you that knowing wink and a nod, sometimes breaking out into small talk about how ‘happening’ you are. Then again, it’s also the same place that revived Rick Astley’s popularity, thanks to Mambo Jumbo Nights, a phenomenon that has even been exported out for the 2012 Singapore Day in New York.

For 23 years, Singaporean merrymakers have stayed faithful to the icon of glam, the ‘queen’ of clubs, despite intrusions by global players like Ministry of Sound and Supperclub, which all bowed out of the scene entirely while Zouk continued to attract 24 hour party people, even till now, except to the wrath of condo owners, who obviously didn’t have a clue about what Zouk was about when they decided to move in right next to it. In the spirit of MP Indranee’s argument: If the condos were not there, there would be no one to complain about noise, piss and vomit. And we probably would have let the kids drink themselves to death or fall off the bridge and drown or something.

Here are some facts every Singaporean should know about our homegrown premier club:

1. Zouk means ‘village party’ in French Caribbean, and was refurnished out of 3 abandoned riverside godowns. The logo was inspired by Arabic script and is a mixture of the ‘sun, all-seeing eye and the sea’. Zouk’s address is 17 Jiak Kim Street, though no one knows what happened to the other 16 numbers.

2. Founder Lincoln Cheng is an architect by training. In 1995 he was charged for bringing in 376 diazepam tablets and having possession of 125 Upjohn tablets, 4 Playboy magazines and some porno tapes, all part of a high profile drug bust which forced the club to close temporarily.

3. Tan Jiak Kim was a fifth generation Baba merchant who formed the Straits Steamship Company in 1890 with a few other rich businessmen, in addition to sterling work among the Chinese community and setting up a medical college. He would have qualified for the Pioneer package. Most of us would have never heard of him if not for Zouk. Thankfully, there’s also a nearby bridge named after the man, a bridge that the very same drunk kids are puking and dumping trash on.

4. In 1993, a brewery bar named ORANG UTAN opened in the Zouk complex. No it wasn’t a place where you could pet Ah Meng for free over beer and grub like what you do in a cat cafe. Though that just MIGHT work elsewhere.

5. A ‘Healthy Lifestyle Party‘ without cigarettes and booze was held for 1000 SAF personnel in 1992. As fun as your Grandaunt’s birthday bash, I reckon. The words ‘healthy’ and ‘party’ belong together like ‘innocent’ and ‘sex’. I hope there was at least Hokkien techno.

6. ‘Zoukette’ is what you call a fashionable female club regular. It was also the name of one of the more popular IRC channels in Singapore. Yes, Zouk has outlived even IRC, ICQ and Windows Messenger.

7. The PAP celebrated its 50th anniversary there in 2004, an event that most true-blue Zoukers and Zoukettes would rather forget. Amongst those boogieing the night away then was PM Lee himself, Lim Swee Say, and a certain Indranee Rajah, the same MP who thinks Zouk turns our kids into raving alcoholics. Look, here’s proof!

Party people in the house, y'all.

Party people in the house, y’all.

Wait, that means 2014 is the 60th year of PAP’s reign. How about a farewell All-White Zouk party again this year, for the club to go out with an unforgettable BANG?. After all, who WOULDN’T want to see our ministers dancing?Not sure if invitations will be extended to Ms Indranee though.

8. Zouk is likely to have played host to a more diverse range of international stars than any other stadium or concert hall in Singapore. From 80’s synth-pop band Erasure to techno/trance maestros, Kylie Minogue to K-pop girl groups, even a crooning Tony Leung.

9. In 2007, Zouk was where you could watch girls in skimpy attire wrestle one another in spaghetti sauce. 3 years later, the club organised an event called ‘Baby Loves Disco’, where hip parents could bring their babies for an afternoon party, some as young as 2 MONTHS. It looked like the beginning of a slow demise, less an ‘institution’ than a free-for-all venue for any event under the sun.

10. In 2008, it was reported that Zouk hired 70 security officers and had 100 surveillance cameras installed. What would become of these bouncers once Zouk is gone? Maybe protecting our ministers when they queue for chicken wings, perhaps?

So those were the days, my friend, we’d thought they’d never end. Thanks for the memories, Zouk. The puke on the sidewalk, the awesome live DJ gigs, the vodka-Ribena, the silly dancing, for being the only place in town where you could impress the girl of your dreams with cheesy 80’s moves. Unlike high-end exclusive clubs like Ku De Ta, Zouk welcomed mopey teens, the fuddy-duddies, the geeks and the wannabes with open arms. You did well to put us on the map of ‘cool’ and convince the world that Singapore was not THAT boring after all, but like all good parties, this 23-year-long one must come to an end. Good night, and Zouk Out.

Cannabis awareness website banned by MDA

From ‘CNB objects to cannabis promotion website; MDA orders its removal by Wednesday’, 18 Feb 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan,  ST

The owners of a website with information on what they claim to be “productive uses of cannabis in Singaporean society” have been told to remove the contents entirely after an assessment by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, CNB confirmed that it had reviewed the Singapore Cannabis Awareness website and found it to be objectionable.

The Media Development Authority has ordered the owners to remove the website by Wednesday as it “contains material that promotes or tends to promote the use of a prohibited substance”. By Tuesday afternoon, the website appeared offline, but the Singapore Cannabis Awareness Facebook page was still live.

CNB said in its statement that the website “undermines Singapore’s efforts in drug preventive education and erodes our society’s resilience against drug abuse”. “Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure environment because of our firm stance against drugs and crime, and central to this is our ‘zero-tolerance’ approach against the drug menace,” it added.

The website also makes claims about the purported benefits of “medical cannabis”, said CNB, despite a lack of “properly conducted and validated clinical trials to show that the purported benefits of this drug outweigh its risks”. CNB advised those who claim to have evidence of its medical properties to submit such evidence to the health authorities, rather than promoting the use of a prohibited substance to the public.

You don’t need a Singaporean website to tell you how awesome marijuana is. Just ask US Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, who both used to smoke pot, or you can drop by Denver Colorado for a spliff, where recreational use of cannabis has been legalised. The ‘zero tolerance’ approach is invariably a stuffy, close-minded one, and CNB was quick to divert any enquiries on medical marijuana to ‘the health authorities’ whilst inadvertently acknowledging that there might be some pharmaceutical potential in pot after all. To the Ganja Regulatory Association of Scientists Singapore (GRASS), perhaps?

Of course, no matter how miraculous a shot of cannabis has been proven to improve the quality of life of a terminal cancer patient, it would probably take ages before drug companies get past the legislative hurdles and red tape in order to sell a cannabis in a capsule locally. We could harvest it like a ‘prescription herb’ for far cheaper but the pharma industries would not have medicinal weed eating into their market share of blockbusters. But then again, there’s always MORPHINE,  itself a derivative of OPIUM, the stuff old Chinese men used to smoke all day keeping busy instead of visiting prostitutes or getting into gang fights. It is probably a matter of time before Cannabis becomes the next Morphine, but with ‘zero tolerance’ as a guiding principle, we’d have deprived scores of patients in dire need of an alternative, affordable drug when that happens, one that you could practically grow in your own backyard. You wouldn’t arrest an end stage lung cancer patient for smoking to death with tobacco but will charge him for drug abuse if he stashes ganja to ease the pain. What a crackpot irony.

The Cannabis FB page makes an argument against blockbuster drugs with safety complications including cardiovascular deaths like painkiller Vioxx, since withdrawn from the market because it was killing people instead of treating them. Supporters of pot also draw comparisons with another potent drug, one allegedly deadlier and far more accessible. A drug that has been cited as a ‘contributory factor‘ for the Little India Riot: ALCOHOL. Imagine if the would-be rioters weren’t drowning themselves in liquor but chilling out on ganja instead.

Nowhere in the page does it promote the use of cannabis as a ‘fun’ drug. There’s also a lack of ‘properly conducted and validated clinical trials’ to show that the benefits of ‘recreational’ caffeine outweighs the risk, but nobody would ban me if I start a ‘Caffeine Appreciation’ or ‘Weight Loss Fat Burners for Life!’ webpage. But these aren’t ‘addictive’ you say? Go ask an anorexic about her slimming pills, or the disgruntled office worker without his morning cuppa. How about the less sensational abuse of prescription drugs for ADHD like Ritalin to improve academic performance in students? Many ‘legal’ drugs today are used in a seemingly ‘illegal’ manner, yet CNB only seems to care about the illicit stuff that screws with your mind. Ritalin, incidentally, is related to methamphetamine, or ‘speed’. Try promoting that to save tuition fees or score for PSLE and see if MDA or CNB gives a hoot. By the way, it does mess up your mind with inappropriate use too.

The Cannabis site creators should be thankful, though, that they aren’t yet charged under the ‘Undesirable Publications Act’, like how you may be caught for selling ‘drug-themed’ T-shirts with pictures of cannabis leaves on them. Since we’re regressing into ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’(banned in 1963 for promoting marijuana) territory, why not ban Mary Poppins  for secret ‘drug references’ too?

SIA steward arrested for smuggling heroin

From ‘SIA steward arrested in Sydney for alleged drug offence’, 24 March 2013, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member was arrested last Sunday at Sydney International Airport after he allegedly tried to bring in 1.6kg of heroin.

Nicholas Tan Ngat Liang, 50, was a leading steward who was believed to be on duty during the flight from Singapore to Sydney. In response to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from the Australian Federal Police confirmed that a 50-year-old Singaporean was arrested on Sunday and has been charged with “importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin”. “The man was arrested for attempting to import 1.6kg of heroin into Australia,” the spokesperson said.

In Australia, the offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or an A$825,000 fine (S$1.1 million). Tan’s case was first mentioned in a New South Wales court on Monday.

It’s not reported how Tan carried his stash, all 1.6kg of it, but he is only one of several  Singaporeans who have tried their luck with drug trafficking Down Under.

In 2008, a Singaporean drug mule was caught by Australian authorities with 91 packets of heroin in his stomach (net weight 286 g of heroin), and was forced to defecate the goods over 2 days in a hospital. In 2009, two of our countrymen were raided whilst in a taxi carrying $4.5 million worth of the stuff. Last year, one was caught by Melbourne police smuggling 5kg of the same substance in a heap of Chinese books, while another 2 Singaporeans were charged for stowing 4.5kg of it in a vehicle and a service apartment (Sydney). The most sensational Aussie drug bust to date involving a Singaporean was that of Tan Wee Quay, who was part of a North Korean ‘Pong Su’ ploy to ship in 150kg of heroin in 2003.  According to reports, he was born in the ‘Golden Triangle’ and once blasted his way (with the help from some friends in the heroin business) out of a Danish prison in 2001. He was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment and remains there till this day, being ‘held in high regard’ for his skills as an interpreter. Tan would have been gone in a whiff if he was caught in his home country.

At the rate of our own citizens being hauled up by Aussie police, the perception of government-fearing, law-abiding Singaporeans making perfect drug mules doesn’t hold anymore, even if you’re part of our prestigious airline crew. In the 1980’s, SIA crew members were detained for suspected smuggling of GOLD, once in Seoul, and another incident in Kathmandu. But bad behaviour wasn’t restricted to sneaking in illicit drugs or precious metals. In 2008, A PILOT captain was snared for having child pornography on his laptop (again in Australia, Adelaide to be precise). A chief and leading steward were arrested in Denmark for using a passenger’s credit card to go on a shopping spree in 1982. In 1995, steward Zaini Jeloni was charged for the rape and murder of his female colleague (and alleged lover), Chang Yu, in Los Angeles. There’s even a hint of the paranormal about Chang Yu’s murder and some spooky association with the SQ006 crash in 2000, Taipei (the deceased was of Taiwanese descent).

Maybe it’s the long hours spent airborne and psychological stress of jetlag, or the wrangling over salary and leave entitlements that have plagued the airline of late that drives some SIA personnel to desperation and wilful wrongdoing.  If I were a jetsetting cabin crew myself, I would imagine my experience with immigration checkpoints giving me an edge in couriering contraband too. But why Australia, with its hefty penalty of life imprisonment and its experience in apprehending Singaporeans? The last count of Singaporeans in Australia stands around 50,000. Nobody knows how many of those residing are dope fiends or crime lords, but if you’ve got connections, and you’re an extreme risk-taker at your wits’ end, Australia was probably still a better bet than, say, the chance of execution by firing squad in Vietnam.

Incidentally, Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged in Changi Prison in 2005 (the first to be executed in more than a decade) for carrying 400g of heroin into the country. Tan Ngat Liang had 4 times that amount with him in Sydney.

NUS Professor spurring creativity through LSD

From ‘NUS Prof removes blog posts on using psychedelic drugs’, 16 June 2012, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Chinese language and linguistics professor who suggested the use of psychedelic drugs to spur creativity among youths, has since removed his blog post. He also removed most of his blog entries related to the topic of psychedelic drug use.

Associate Professor Shi Yuzhi in a blog post on Thursday night explained that many people were still not ready to participate in the discussion. He wrote: “To prevent others from misreading or misconstruing (my intentions), I have decided to remove the posts temporarily”. In this same entry, he stressed that he was merely sharing late Apple founder Steve Job’s experiences with psychedelic drugs. “It does not represent my views, I was interested in this issue and wanted to spur public discourse on this,” he added.

Assoc Prof Shi’s actions came after the NUS on Wednesday said that it was investigating the matter. The university has also since publicly distanced itself from Assoc Prof Shi’s comments and was said to be in touch with him. In a blog post on Tuesday, the academic who hails from China made reference to Mr Jobs and his use of LSD, asking if such drugs could be helpful in creating creative thinkers in China. The post has attracted a slew of responses from netizens, some of whom criticised his suggestion while others agreed that his comments were valid.

Lecturer in the Sky with Diamonds indeed. Although Steve Jobs was cited as crediting LSD use during his hipster days for ‘thinking differently’, a more relevant anecdote on how major discoveries may have needed an LSD boost is that of Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, who envisioned the double helix during one of his acid trips. Other academic advocates of mind-altering substances include physicist Richard Feynman, Sigmund Freud and Mr Cosmos himself, Carl Sagan. The hazy hey-days also brought us a generation of creative individuals such as artists, philosophers, writers, poets and musicians, who, if not smoking pot or dropping acid, were on some sort of drug nonetheless, be it nicotine, alcohol or even caffeine (the proverbial philosophers’ coffeeshop). If we criminalised anything with a pharmacological action on the central nervous system, we’d probably hit a mass writer’s block and a nationwide dearth of imagination. In fact, we’re probably halfway there already. Except that we’re hooked on another sort of drug: Foreign talent.

With all these visionaries having dabbled in ‘turning on and tuning in’, I would think it’s perfectly fine, even logical,  to explore the relationship between bursts in scientific advancements and LSD as a tool for inspiration.  It is a valid question to ask even if it’s totally untestable, like whether people can turn into literal zombies, or if human beings were seeded from aliens in another galaxy. Prof Shi isn’t suggesting that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, though that’s what the NUS administrators seem to think of his question, fearing that endorsing drugs means more hostel orgies and students jumping nude off rooftops in their intoxication. This quasi-religious censuring is like punishing a priest for telling his flock that MAYBE God is just a figment of our imagination, a dangerous idea that no church is willing to entertain: A student’s ‘little helper’.

It’s also unlikely that ANYONE who takes controlled doses of LSD would get instant epiphanies; you’re not going to turn a wandering vagabond into a Nobel Prize winner overnight with psychedelic drugs. Some scientists get breakthroughs from other non-drug (or so it seems) means, such as Kekule’s account of a vision when he was half awake of a snake biting its own tail (the benzene ring). Other ideas that came out of dreams include complex number theories and even the melody of the Beatles’ classic ‘Yesterday’. The link between dreams and hallucinations is a blurry one, and you could say taking LSD is like having an accelerated ‘waking dream’. Every successful maverick has a favourite story to tell on how they stumbled upon their world-changing ideas, almost none involving pen and paper or through a textbook. You could be sleeping, sitting on the toilet, taking a stroll, idling on a couch, or in the case of Steve Jobs, getting high on LSD, before getting your ‘Eureka!’ moment. The inspiration for this blog came when I was eating with friends at Mushroom Pot in Stadium Walk in 2010, and no they weren’t Magic Mushrooms.

Then there’s the problem of establishing cause and effect. Were these scientists already creative to begin with, or did drugs boost their creativity? The fact that they ‘experimented’ with illegal substances does itself point to a certain devil-may-care, risk-taking attitude which is needed for any trailblazing work. Or perhaps the fact that they smoked this stuff at ‘parties’ with like-minded individuals in a relaxed (putting it mildly) environment led to a free-flowing ‘cross-fertilisation’ of ideas, which would have occurred anyway if they had been dining, drinking coffee, or playing squash. In the corporate world such get-togethers in order to ‘brainstorm’ ideas are called ‘retreats’, though in most cases they’re as productive as a damp drizzle.

Prof Shi’s suggestion of  ‘getting help’ from banned substances also undermines the ‘traditional’ process of innovation (i.e hard work and intelligent discourse), rocking the very foundation of the robust, scientific ‘method’ that NUS worships, not lying on the grass in a purple haze and having an image of a rainbow-coloured AppStore swirling around your head in a higher state of consciousness. If the prof had instead discovered a herb that ‘increases blood flow to the frontal lobe’ and suggests that consuming it could modify cognition, i.e a potential blockbuster drug in the making, NUS would have blasted the news with the enthusiasm of an Ecstasy user at a rave party.

Perhaps this uproar over LSD is because taking drugs to generate ideas or boost intelligence doesn’t just have implications on academia, but raises all kinds of moral and ethical ambiguities as well, a scenario captured nicely in the 2011 film Limitless, where Bradley Cooper stumbles upon a drug that turns him into a best-selling author, sexy beast and millionaire. It would have been more convincing if the guy was actually UGLY. It’s too easy and it’s unfair for anyone to be smart and successful without even trying. And that alone goes against everything a meritocracy stands for, though we have people who are effortlessly successful because their parents were. But that’s another story. NUS wouldn’t even allow the argument to go that far before forcing the prof to remove his post.

If you want to start your kids young with ‘creative thinking’ to get ahead of the curve, it’s unethical to dose them with LSD (though those with ADHD  are using ‘focussing’ drugs like Ritalin). You just need to fork out money to enroll them in GEP tuition classes, whereby they’d be too busy with homework to take mindbending drugs or even dream their little dreams, coming out into the real world where the only ‘retreats’ from reality to ‘think’ about problems are in the form of company chalets, powerpoint slides and torturous minutes taking.