Maki Kita means ‘curse us’ in Malay

From ‘Sushi chain Maki San apologises for making a mistake with name of National Day themed rolls’ 6 Aug 2017, article by Fabian Koh, ST

Puns can be creative and hilarious, but puns can also go so wrong. Local sushi chain Maki-San launched a special chicken char siew sushi roll for Singapore’s 52nd birthday, calling it the Maki Kita.

The name is a play on the lyrics of Singapore’s National Anthem, in which the first two words are “Mari kita”. In a Facebook post on Friday (Aug 4) afternoon, the chain explained that the name aimed to reflect “the cheeky and playful side” of the company, and means “Our sushi”.

Unfortunately for them, in Malay, while “kita” refers to “us” or “me”, “maki” means to curse or insult.

Thus, the name Maki Kita essentially means “Curse us”.

The sushi chain acknowledged the kerfuffle and announced in another Facebook post that night, just seven hours later, that it was changing the name to Harmony Maki.

If there’s any consolation, this is not the worst pun to pull off when it comes to promoting limited-edition culinary creations. In 2015, Breadtalk made a grave mistake with its commemorative LKY bun following his passing. While naming a pastry over a dead person was in poor taste, the Maki Kita appears to be an honest, but unfortunate, screw-up (Incidentally, Makikita also translates in Tagalog to ‘You’, though using that as a defence would probably backfire horribly as well).

Whether it’s getting hopelessly lost in translation or bastardising our food heritage, everyone seems to be jumping on the SG52 bandwagon, from pandan souffles to salted egg yolk panna cottas. Unlike McD’s Nasi Lemak Burger, there’s nothing distinctively ‘local’ about the renamed ‘Harmony Sushi’, unless we can claim ‘chicken char siew’ as a Singaporean delicacy (The other ingredients are egg, cucumber, fried shallots and coriander mayonnaise)

Tricky names aside, at least this brainchild of 4 Spectra secondary school students doesn’t strike one as an overdecorated, pompous travesty. Check out the ‘atas-trophe’ that is the ‘Satay’ : a ‘skewer of roasted Japanese eel, king prawn and squid served with a peanut-based sauce’ from French diner Saint Pierre.  Part of a $248 set that includes Nasi Lemak with goddamn King Crab, this is one luxurious starter that not all Singaporeans can afford. Or if you want something slightly less pricey, dig into Jamie’s Italian’s version of Chicken & Rice ($19.65).

Sometimes you just gotta call a risotto a risotto. And it’d rather have cucumber slices than some half-arsed broccoli. If you see any local delight corrupted by the word ‘infused’, take your money and run far, far away.

 

In the spirit of ‘maki kati’, I have a suggestion for a novelty dish that every Singaporean can enjoy. Fishball Meesua in Laksa broth. Or F.M.L.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold storage having beef promotion on Deepavali

From ‘Cold Storage apologises for insensitive beef promotion during Deepavali’, 2 Nov 2016, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

Supermarket chain Cold Storage has apologised for a price promotion on beef at one of its outlets during Deepavali, acknowledging that it was “insensitive” to Hindus. A photo of the promotion, which advertised a 38 per cent discount for certain beef products, was uploaded by Twitter user @AdamFlinter on Monday (Oct 31).

“Cold Storage’s #deepavali promotion was on beef!!! Cultural understanding eh?” he wrote, adding that the photo was from a friend.

Hindus generally abstain from eating beef as they regard the cow as sacred. In a statement to The Straits Times on Wednesday, Cold Storage explained that the promotion was put up at one store by a junior team member who had “overlooked the cultural sensitivity“.

It added: “We have since explained and coached him on the cultural sensitivity and he assured us that he had no intention to disrespect the Hindus. We also took this opportunity immediately to coach all our team members to be mindful of cultural sensitivities in Singapore.

“We sincerely apologise to all Hindus who are celebrating Deepavali on this matter.”

Someone's beef with Cold Storage

Someone has a beef with Cold Storage

It’s also culturally ‘insensitive’ to wear black on Deepavali. Just ask ex CNA presenter Otelli Edwards, who got a complaint for turning the Festival of Lights into the abyss of Hades. Someone else blasted the premature setting up of Christmas Lights in conjunction with Deepavali celebrations. Elsewhere, Burger King had to apologise for suggesting that Hindu deity Lakshmi feasts on beef burgers. Yes, our beloved gods don’t eat sacred animals. In some cases you can’t depict them in any form out of scripture. Period.

British Airways went the whole hog and banned beef from their inflight meals entirely, in order not to offend Hindu travellers. Why not extend this ‘cultural understanding’ to some non-Hindu folk who frown on beef, like some Chinese Buddhists for example – which means you should think twice about lelong-ing beef, or meat of any sort, during Vesak Day too. Milk this ‘sensitivity’ further and you’re going into Malaysian ‘ban the word dog from hot dog’ fiasco.

I personally know someone from India and enjoys beef, and has no qualms eating it in front of everyone, saying that it was a ‘state’ preference. Wouldn’t CS be depriving this group of Indians of the promotion too? Being culturally ‘sensitive’ is just one side of the racial harmony coin. Let’s put more meat on the ‘tolerance’ side, like – I think eating beef is a sin worse that those committed by Kong Hee, but my faith is compassionate and forgiving of those who get divine joy feasting on cheap murdered cows.

Still, when it comes to incurring religious wrath due to taboo food , nothing beats the hoax Fairprice ‘halal pork‘ incident, which actually involved the police. If anyone did call the police in for Deepavali promo beef, they better not be coming fully clad in black.

Foreign entities banned from sponsoring ‘sensitive’ events

From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum

(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.

LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.

Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn.  Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.

And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.

The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?

MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.

Tampines 1 reported to police for racial discrimination

From ‘Women files police report against Tampines 1 for alleged racial discrimination; mall issues apology’, 9 April 2016, ST

A woman filed a police report on Friday (April 8) against Tampines 1 shopping mall, alleging that she was subjected to racial discrimination by an employee of the mall.

The mall had earlier issued a public apology to businesswoman Diana Hairul, and told The Straits Times it had counselled the employee about her actions.

Ms Diana, 36, who uploaded on Facebook on Thursday (April 7) evening a screenshot of an e-mail she received from the employee, wrote that she had felt discriminated by the reply.

The e-mail read: “Hi Dee, We are not so keen to run a Malay road show as our target audience are mainly Chinese. Thus, we regret to inform you that we are unable to rent a space to you.”

What’s shocking to me is not so much that a police report is being filed, since the police have been activated for more petty things, like a child getting scolded by a teacher. What’s unnerving is Diana’s FB post and Tampines MP Masagos Zulkifli’s follow up.

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First, she specifically addressed the Malay Muslim community. She didn’t say ‘Hey hey everyone’.  Then there’s ‘rejected US’, which by implication to her first sentence suggests that Tampines 1 wasn’t just declining her business, but Malays in general. The use of CAPS on ‘mainly the chinese’ is to emphasise that this is a race issue. And oh, you should feel discriminated ‘against’, not ‘feel discriminated’, but I think people would have been drowned in CAPS by then to notice. People complain about how Tampines 1’s email was worded but in all fairness, the complainant’s rant and its capacity to incite negative feelings is worth looking into as well.

From a business standpoint, Tampines 1 should have done its calculations and decided that a Hari Raya road show simply would not be profitable. The trick is fudging the answer to make it seem like such road shows are not compatible with the mall’s ‘theme’ or ‘direction’ (They eventually gave the excuse that they were fully booked). We also should not expect businesses to patronise a certain race at the expense of their bottom line. If I were to propose to those in charge at Geylang Serai market that I want to sell Chinese new year decorations, it’s likely that I’ll get rejected because of the obvious ‘target audience’ in the area. Likewise if I were a real estate agent intending to sell a house in Kampong Glam, I’m not going to ‘feel discriminated’ if my boss decides it’s better for my Malay colleague to pitch the sale.

Fine if a member of public makes a commotion over something businesses have to manage discreetly on a daily basis. Anyone who’s mature and sensible enough wouldn’t be riled by Diana’s outburst into believing that Tampines 1 is anti-Malay and doesn’t want their money. When news broke that a Chinese man attacked 3 madrasah students we didn’t descend into a mob. So yes, we can be certain that Singaporeans are rational people and will not boycott Tampines 1 over an isolated incident, no matter how someone tries to assault our senses with complaints in CAPS.

I’m also not too sure about MP Masagos’ strongly worded response on his FB. (Post was deleted at time of writing. Hmmm..)

masagos1_0

‘INSENSITIVE AND INCOMPETENT’, ‘SPREAD ILL WILL’, “SHAME ON YOU!’.

Insensitive, yes, but I don’t think the staff deserves the rest of the berating. Spreading ‘ill will’ is a serious charge, the kind that will land you in court. Didn’t Minister Gan just tell us to develop a ‘learning culture‘ from such mistakes? Has the Minister considered the career repercussions of the affected staff from this public bashing? As a public figure I would have expected something more neutral, diplomatic and forgiving, like ‘Let us all learn from this lesson in our bid to become more inclusive’, or ‘The reply was a missed opportunity. Businesses could emphasise communication skills as part of their training programme’, or ‘The staff may wish to apply for course via SkillsFuture so that such incidents may be avoided’. Taking sides, shaming and fanning flames on the matter short of accusing people of Islamophobia helps no one.

This was Masagos’ response to the Paya Lebar assault earlier in the month.

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Yes, more ‘SHAME ON YOUs’, though in this case he did urge us not to ‘incite hatred and division’. In other words, don’t stir shit while the Police are investigating. The same applies to the Tampines 1 case, whatever the Police are doing to resolve the matter while at the same time managing ‘walking time bombs’ in Little India.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to patronise Tampines 1, Hari Raya bazaar or no bazaar, and hopefully it doesn’t turn into the Little Chinatown of Tampines after this incident. If there’s any mall that deserves to have the police knocking on their doors, it’s not one as supposedly ‘racist’ as Tampines Mall is, but those with the potential to randomly kill you. Jem, I’m talking to you.

SG50 bringing the nation together

From ‘Singaporeans  felt SG50 brought nation together:Poll’, 28 Dec 15, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans polled in a survey said they felt that the celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence had brought people closer, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Speaking at an interview earlier this month, he said the SG50 Programme Office had been doing monthly surveys since November last year to gauge people’s feelings towards SG50.

People were asked if they knew about SG50 and whether they were excited about it, among other things. The polls showed growing interest and participation in the activities organised for the occasion.

Needless to say SG50 was a success, and we had loads of fun thanks to our Government pumping millions’ worth of freebies and promotions into the festivities. But to say it ‘brought Singaporeans closer together’ based on a snap poll seems quite a stretch. I wonder if those surveyed included the same folks who disappeared overseas for holidays during the long SG50 weekend. Have we forgotten that our Speaker of Parliament even had to urge Singaporeans to stay home instead? Maybe we answered ‘Yes we’re closer now’ out of firstly, gratitude, and secondly, guilt, without actually thinking about what unity means.

To cap an awesome year, we have Adam Lambert performing for the grand SG50 send-off. Thanks to this guy, our supposed unity was tested as two camps embarked on an all out petition war, which some international observers called a ‘cultural divide’.  Not all of us were unanimously happy about the SG50 bonus payout either, with some complaining that the rewards weren’t fair to everyone. When Amos Yee bashed LKY and Christianity after his death, we saw another case of ‘us vs them’, those who supported Amos, and those who wanted to give him a slap across the face. So despite all the feels we have for the country and a newfound reverence following the passing of a great leader, there remain issues that continue to divide people no matter how many free concerts and goodie bags you give them: Sex, religion and money, the same stuff that rip the closest of families apart.

But maybe these are just minor defects in the tapestry that is our Singapore. We can’t all agree on the same things. We may complain about how useless the SG50 goodie bag items are, condemn the local movie 1965 as the worst film of all time, or whine about trivial things like not getting tickets for a free BBQ, but when it comes down to a ballot of even greater importance, the GE, most of us seemed to agree that the PAP are doing pretty fine after all, and our ship is being steered by the right people, for better or worse.

It has been a year awash with sentiment, coupled with a very significant death and a climate crisis inflicted upon us by an incompetent neighbour who blames us for not being thankful for their supply of fresh air on non-haze days, so it does FEEL like we’ve bonded as countrymen, in suffering against a common enemy and in mourning of a god-king figure. It just SO HAPPENS to be SG50. Whether this will keep us united, however, we’ll have to wait and see over the coming years. Unity isn’t measured by how loudly we sing the national anthem, it’s how we behave in little situations with little acts of kindness towards your fellow Singaporean. How many of those who felt ‘closer’ were willing to hug a complete stranger but still refuse to say hello to their neighbours? We know we’re united if we don’t need the Government do give us money or holidays just to express it.

If we wake up one fine day and realise we have something similar to what the Malaysians call a Bumiputera-only mall, then all this talk about SG50 bonding and togetherness is a big fat $10 million illusion. If we see a foreigner pinned under a bus and we do nothing, then we know we have failed. If we lock ourselves in our houses in fear of getting caught in a racial riot, then the Singapore as we know it is doomed.

NEA making rain to wash off the haze just for F1

From ‘Cloud seeding rumours are false, malicious: MEWR Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’, 17 Sep 15, article in CNA

Rumours that cloud seeding is taking place to induce rain ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix are false, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said.

Addressing a WhatsApp message that has been making the rounds in Singapore, Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook on Thursday (Sep 17): “The National Environment Agency does not engage in cloud seeding and has no plans to do so. Singapore is so small that even if anybody tried to do it, the rain would almost certainly fall outside Singapore.”

He added: “Singaporeans should beware of malicious people spreading false rumours during a period when anxieties are heightened.”

The original WhatsApp message called for people to be wary of what it claimed were “chemically-induced rain showers”, purportedly meant to reduce haze levels in light of the coming Formula 1 race, which will be held on roads in Singapore’s Civic District from Sep 18 to 20.

In 2006, the NEA did in fact conduct a feasibility study on cloud-seeding to combat the annual haze scourge (S’pore may make own rain to beat the haze, 17 Nov 2006, ST). If you go further back to 1963 when the country was drought-hit, we embarked on the first ever rain-making attempt by sending a Royal Australian Air Force DC-3 up into the air. It is not known if that crew was actually successful, or the lack of suitable clouds to fertilise put a damper on their efforts. That probably works on the parched Outback, but not on our little pinprick of an island. Alternatively, you could try to pray for 4 hours, like what our Sikh community did that same year. I wonder what precipitated out of that. So, yeah, the possibility of us ‘playing God’ and dabbling in rainmaking is not as outright incredulous as the MEWR minister makes it seem.

Rumours of using this expensive technique, the science behind which is still rather ‘hazy’, to bring on the showers aren’t new to Singaporeans. We hear of it being done to deplete the clouds of their load so that the National Day Parade would be rain-free. But why hire a pilot and an aircraft full of silver iodide when you could do something far cheaper, and simpler, a method even endorsed by our PM himself: Making an offering chillies and onions to the rain deities.

Conspiracy theorists may recall how the US War machine supposedly weaponised the weather using aggressive cloud seeding over Vietnam. Code named Operation Popeye, the mission was to ‘reduce trafficability’ along infiltration routes. A war euphemism for torrential rain, floods and landslides. Apparently not everyone dreams of making it rain meatballs.

Cloud seeding by our neighbouring countries has also been linked with hailstones, a speculation that was firmly debunked by NEA for the reason that rain clouds formed by such seeding cannot travel such long distances to reach us. Till today, there remains no clear explanation for the freak weather we had post-haze in 2013. Not everyone complains about this ‘raining like ice cubes’, though.

Color Run powder and the risk of cardiac arrest

From ‘Any danger if it is inhaled?’, 4 July 2015, ST Forum

(Ace Kindredzen Cheong): I am relieved that the powder used for the Colour Run in Singapore is different from that used in Taiwan, which caused a fire that has left at least two dead and hundreds injured (“Colour Run to continue in S’pore”; Thursday).

However, I wonder if the powder used in Singapore will trigger allergies and irritate the eyes and skin. Worse yet, will it cause cardiac arrest if inhaled?

Already, there have been cases of sudden deaths due to cardiac arrest during running events in Singapore. Will the powder increase this risk? The event organisers, police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force should ensure that such powders are safe for use, other than being non-flammable.

While Chinese cities like Shenyang have cancelled the event under direction from ‘government agencies’, it seems like we’re going ahead with the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet’.  The inaugural 16,000-strong race went without a hitch in 2013, and close to 20,000 participants graced the 2014 event. Other than tens of thousands of stained white shirts being sent to the incinerators, there appeared to be little bodily harm that came out a festival inspired by the Hindu ‘Holi’. During the same period, a man died while running a powder-less, ‘normal’ marathon. No one has asked for 42 km marathons to be cancelled over the risk of unexplained death.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t minimise the use of potentially hazardous materials if you can help it. The organisers have assured us that the powder has been tested for inflammability and successfully passed ‘the required EU standards’. On their Facebook page, they tell us that smoking is prohibited during the race, and that they use no electrical devices to douse runners with the stuff, though that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a freak ignition happening if a rainbow dust cloud gets zapped by a stray bolt of lightning. I doubt the EU can put such a scenario to the test. The fun people at Color Run encourage you to run in the rain, though.

As with all foreign particles, including baby talcum powder, coloured powder may well irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and most Material Safety Data Sheets about seemingly harmless corn starch that I browsed through online do alert users about its irritating nature. So you may complete the run teary-eyed, slightly coughing, or take the next day off because of a dye-induced facial rash, but otherwise happy as a lark, which makes running the tiny risk of ‘high pressure corn starch inhalation’ – a life-threatening accident, mind you – worth it. After all, there are considerably more dangerous recreational activities out there that involve jogging; you could break your ankle stumbling over a stone in Macritchie Reservoir for example.

The Color Run’s track record of no exploding-powder casualties speaks for itself, but what we lack information in is its impact not on human health or happiness, but the environment. Where does all the dye go after being washed off, for instance? In a cruel twist of irony, it was the Taiwanese EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) that had a legitimate concern about Color Runs contaminating the soil, groundwater and rivers in 2013. Maybe NEA would want to look into what happens during the clean-up process, lest we all end up drinking chendol-coloured Newater.

Not sure about sudden cardiac arrest, but you may not come out of the Happiest 5K smiling from ear to ear after your phone dies from exposure to green dust.

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