Birds in cages crying for help

From ‘Stop bird-singing competitions’, 20 Jan 2018, ST Forum

(Tan Kim Hock): Mr Donny Ho Boon Tiong is right – keeping pet birds should be made illegal (Have animal activists forgotten about birds?; Jan 17). Although Singapore is a small island, bird lovers should have no difficulty finding places to admire the animals in their natural habitats.

The keeping of birds in small cages is very cruel. I often wonder whether they are singing or crying for help when they call out. I also wonder if there have been any studies carried out on the welfare of caged birds.

The keeping of songbirds has been a practice in Asian societies for many years. Hence, the banning of the practice will certainly face objections, initially at least.

In Singapore, bird-singing competitions are regularly held by some grassroots organisations. This practice indirectly promotes the keeping of birds in cages.

As a first step, the People’s Association should perhaps discourage such competitions.

Like fining people for burning incense during Hungry Ghost month, it would be hard to crack down on bird hobbyists, especially since ‘Bird-singing corners’ was recognised as an official SG50 icon in 2015. Yes, if you want something for a tourist to remember the Garden City by, it’s a yellow bird in a small cage.

birdsingingcorner

 

Just like we have no idea what it’s like being a bat, we can’t judge the emotional state of a bird by the ‘sweetness’ of its melody. If a bird in a cage starts pecking its face off on the cage bars, it may look to me like it wants to get the fuck out, but to a songbird contestant, it could be just part of the avian maestro’s vocal ‘training’. As a songbird I may get daily massages and premium birdseed, I may be the reigning champion of Bukit Ho Swee constituency, but for all my talents I’m stuck in this pretty cage while the noisy bastard  Asian koel is out there laying eggs and using its wings to do the stuff birds do.

One of the silliest explanations given in support of Bird Idol contests is that a bird wouldn’t be singing if it weren’t HAPPY. Which is the same flawed anthropomorphic reasoning as saying dolphins are happy being held captive entertaining their human overlords because they look like they’re smiling all the time.

Besides, even as a human, singing doesn’t mean that I’m overjoyed. It could be a cry for attention like crooning ‘Tissue Paper One Dollar’, or raging against an ex-lover through Ceelo Green’s ‘FUCK YOU’. In the case of songbirds, it could very well be their version of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Halloween pumpkins with scary faces

From ‘Widespread celebration of Halloween in S’pore is befuddling’, 31 Oct 2017, Voices Today

(Skye Tan Su Cheen):  I’m a Singaporean who returned home last December after living overseas for 11 years. When we visited kindergartens here last October in preparation for my six-year-old’s enrolment, I was surprised to see Halloween decorations — obviously handmade by the students as craft projects — adorning the school. There were cobwebs, ghosts, witches and pumpkins.

Fast-forward to this year: Every mall we go to these two months seem to have Halloween decorations, deals and even “fright nights” planned. When we dropped by a community library on Oct 28, Halloween decorations jostled for space with Deepavali decorations. There was even a Halloween-themed section showcasing horror fiction that came with a challenge, “Do you dare to read this?”.

The widespread promotion and “celebration” of this day is dumbfounding, whether in schools, libraries, malls, and even among communities in the heartlands.

…My homeland, a South-east Asian country, looks like it has wholeheartedly allowed Halloween to be a part of our communal consciousness, and I find this befuddling. One thing I absolutely love about Singapore is how we celebrate every religious festival in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society, but Halloween is not a religious holiday.

What is its cultural significance here when it has its origins in western countries? Why is it endorsed so openly here?

It has become so pervasive that I see less decorations and programmes in malls about Deepavali, which is a relevant religious and cultural celebration by one of our key races.

I’ve two children aged two and six, and personally, I very much detest that there are so many horror images around public spaces that have been put up since August. I much rather spend my time explaining to them what Deepavali and a rangoli is about, instead of the differences between vampires and zombies and why pumpkins have scary faces. And don’t get me started on those advertisements at bus-stops promoting Halloween nights at a certain resort here.

I don’t quite want to keep telling my daughter’s school principal that I don’t want her cutting out figures of ghosts and witches as art and craft. It’s all plain silly.

…There must be other ways to build a sense of community and fun among our neighbours, ways that do not include horror figures, props related to witchcraft, and so forth.

First off, Halloween isn’t a ‘HOLIDAY’. People go to work as usual on the 31st of October, some with early morning mugs scarier than those faces on pumpkins. Though the modern version of Halloween isn’t associated with any particular religion, it has ancient Christian roots. You also can’t blame Halloween entirely for taking the shine off Deepavali, with Christmas lighting being notorious for overshadowing a fellow religious holiday. Instead of pointing your finger at zombies and overgrown Chuckys, blame a fat old man in a red suit.

But you know what’s another silly, befuddling non-religious ‘holiday’? Instead of witches you have chocolate hearts, expensive bouquets instead of pumpkins, lacy lingerie instead of cobwebs. Yes, Valentine’s Day, I’m looking at you. The widespread promotion of pink balloons and rip-off roses is as befuddling as people dressing up as Pennywise the clown and hiding in longkangs.

Sure, people can go overboard with the scares, with hanging mannequins and such. But believe it or not Halloween used to be a classy affair and was celebrated even way back in the 1940’s, when it was the theme for a ‘fancy dress ball’, a social event where people dance and eat pumpkin pies. Today’s Halloween incorporates cosplay culture, a marriage made in hell. But hey, people go to silly extremes when the occasion calls for it. You can go around dressed like a zombie chewing on your own amputated arm on Halloween just as well as you zip around half-drunk on New Year’s punching policemen in the face.

As for young impressionable children, you don’t need to wait till Halloween to scare the bejesus out of them. Kids encounter scary images in movie trailers, books, advertisements all the damn time. I mean, parents willingly introduce a purple dinosaur and a train with a face (named Thomas) into their innocent lives. A TRAIN WITH A GODDAMN FACE! And you’re worried about them cutting out paper bats and spiders. Geez.

I guess like most things in life that kids are not prepared for, we as discerning adults should adopt a ‘PG’ approach whether it’s Halloween festivities or half naked bodies on bus ads. They need to figure out for themselves that a gaping pumpkin isn’t scary, that witchcraft isn’t all about devil worship, and yes, sometimes life is too short NOT to be occasionally, well, silly.

 

 

 

 

Halloween hanging dummy glorifying suicide

From Halloween display of hanged woman taken down at *SCAPE after criticism, 27 Sep 17, article by Vimita Mohandas, CNA

A Halloween display showing a mannequin hanging from a tree at *SCAPE has been taken down in the wake of criticism that it was “distasteful”. The female doll, with long hair and a blood-soaked gown, had been tied on a tree near outdoor stalls at the youth-oriented hangout along Orchard Road.

Some netizens complained that it glorified the idea of suicide.

A post on the Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family said the display was “extremely disturbing and done in very bad taste and traumatising to children”.

It urged people to write in to the National Youth Council CEO David Chua, who is the chairman of the board of directors for *SCAPE.

“In view of the rising suicide rate and prevalence of suicidal thoughts among young people, the image of a person who appears to have hanged herself being used to promote fun Halloween activities would surely trivialise the issue of suicide among young people,” the post said.

It added that it might encourage youth to attempt suicide “especially during this examination season where many already face stress, anxiety, or even depression”.

scape-insta

Yes it’s a disturbing display which could easily cause public alarm if viewed from a distance, but kids are not going to see this and suddenly think it’s cool to inflict harm unto themselves. Why? There are at least 13 reasons Why. 

People can find a bone to pick anytime when it comes to Halloween scares. 6 years ago, a Halloween Horrors event scheduled at the Night Safari was axed by management because it was not family friendly. More recently, a fake memorial wall to commemorate victims of a fictional shopping mall disaster was criticised for being ‘very inauspicious‘ in light of the Hungry Ghost festival.

Our Transport Minister Khaw would have cringed at events that were held in a mock-up MRT train wreck because they put the SMRT’s reputation in a bad light, though it’s exactly the kind of scenario that would occur in train stalled in a tunnel by a signalling fault during a zombie apocalypse. Moreover, paying money to get spooked out seems a bit – masochistic, no?

The only thing scaring the shit out kids taking their exams this year is not creepy clowns peeking out of longkangs nor bloody pontianaks hanging from trees. It’s when the goddamn MRT breaks down on the first day of the PSLE.

Should the good folks at the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family ever decide to host a Halloween party of their own, this below is the only costume that you’re ever allowed to wear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The danger of running with durian for charity

From ‘Running with a prickly companion for charity’, 28 May 2017, article by Tay Hong Yi, ST

A quirky charity run is raising a stink on social media. In the Run for Good Durian on July 13, each runner will get a durian to run with for 5km. After that, he can eat it.

The cause is nothing to sniff at, as proceeds will be donated to the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Community Development Welfare Fund.

…Said Twitter user Gwen Guo: “(This is) possibly (the) most Singaporean charity run I’ve seen.” But there was room for some thorny questions too. In the comments section of the community centre’s post, Facebook user Ho Shigure asked: “Has anyone conducted a risk assessment?”

The run’s official website encouraged runners to “be creative” with transporting their durian safely.

“At 8am sharp, the race will be flagged off by the special guest and participants will carry, lug or hug their durians for a 5km distance until the finish,” said the organisers.

However, no recommendations on safely handling the King of Fruits were offered, beyond suggesting that “a backpack, plastic bag, gloves or other creative ways” could be used to minimise the risk of injury to oneself and others.

Participants will receive a T-shirt, while those who complete the run will receive a medal, a coconut and, of course, a chance to win a mao shan wang durian in a lucky draw.

People have done things worthy of the Darwin awards in the name of charity, of course. You could walk on flaming charcoal barefoot over 100m, volunteer to be shot with 21,000 paintballs, or be like Jack Neo and lie on a bed of glass. The difference is you don’t risk hurting anyone else other than yourself.

Safety is always the number one priority for any kind of race, whether it’s imposing restrictions on light sabres for the Star Wars Run, ensuring that zombies don’t actually bite people during ‘Race the Dead’, or that nobody sneaks anthrax powder into the Color Run.  The record shows, however, that more people have died running an actual Marathon than all these gimmicky events combined.

The number of ways a Durian Run could go wrong is easy to imagine. Though unlikely to kill anyone since this is a horizontal run and not a race up a building, one probable scenario is that people may drop the King of Fruits along the way. A runner behind could be injured not so much by stepping on the fallen durian or falling face-first onto it and getting iris incarceration, but from a rear-end collision with the durian dropper. A heated argument could result in the prize being used as a mace to hit someone in the face, like what happened to a bus driver in 1985. Yes you could go home not just with a durian but a few minor skin punctures along the way but at least that beats a fatal cardiac arrest near a 42 km finish line. 

Common sense would tell participants that under no circumstances should you, no matter how creative you are:

  1. Tape a durian to chest while running
  2. Walk in stilts while juggling durian
  3. Or go dressed like this

Still, all these hazards are at best hypothetical. The only scientific risk assessment one could ever conduct for a race of this nature is to determine if the combined odour of durian and sweat is potent enough to knock passers-by out cold.

A pity that the race doesn’t end at the Esplanade, though.

Public servants using Workplace by Facebook

From ‘All public servants in Singapore to use Workplace by Facebook by 2017’, 10 Nov 16, article by Irene Tham, ST

All public servants in Singapore will be using Workplace by Facebook to communicate with one another on their mobile phones and tablets, marking yet another first for Singapore among governments in the world.

Workplace by Facebook, a professional edition of the popular Facebook social networking tool, has been rolled out to 15 public agencies. It is in use by more than 5,300 public officers.

The plan is to get all 143,000 public servants from all agencies on board by March next year (2017), said Mr Peter Ong, head of the Public Service Division. The decision was made taking into consideration factors such as security, cost and ease of use.

…The use of Workplace by Facebook follows the Government’s move to delink public servants’ computers from Web surfing, first reported in June, to prevent leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

Based on pricing info on Facebook’s website, costs for the service for all 143,000 public servants is estimated at around $154,000 per month.

If this was meant to be the deal sweetener in exchange for Internet separation (incidentally, also another First in the World), then why does it leave such a sour taste in the mouth? For such a new platform, this move to expose officers’ internal worksharing and personal data like a wretched slut to Facebook, an organisation not exactly known for keeping user data confidential, is horrifyingly premature, especially  coming from the same folks who researched long and hard before pulling the plug on the Internet for work computers.  Yes, Facebook will save us all from the bogeyman that is Internet Separation, an era of darkness that we dread more than 4 years of Trump Presidency.

As it is with the current Internet access, not many bother to ‘collaborate’ online through the Cube portal. With $154K out of the pocket every month, what makes the civil service think that officers would play around with Workplace when they’ll be busy struggling with dual devices once Internet separation sets in? If I need 2 minutes to send a link from a second device to my own work email, where do I find the time to log in Workplace and ‘Like’ that highly informative article that my boss just shared on his/her timeline? And I have to do this on MY phone? In between Whatsapp group chats and Youtube? Yikes.

In 1 year, the same amount of money that we willingly ejaculate all over Mark Zuckerberg’s Face (book) could have been used to beef up our cybersecurity while keeping the Internet as we know it intact. If not, at least it could send people off to an island villa work retreat – food and transport included. Public officers are barely recovering from a prickly slap in the face. This is the Government pouring calamine lotion on a fistful of dollar bills and rubbing the wad all over the wound.

 

Jetstar making inflight announcements in Singlish

From ‘Confirm plus chop: Jetstar to go Singlish for National Day’, 1 Aug 2016, article by Wong Pei Ting, Today

In-flight announcements on Jetstar Asia flights flying into Singapore will be made in Singlish on National Day this year, and this time it is not a prank.

So don’t be surprised if you hear the cabin crew saying “make sure your seatbelt kiap tight tight” or “cannot smoke anywhere hor”. The Singlish lines were first cracked as part of a joke on the eve of April Fool’s Day this year, but they will be used on flights following “an unprecedented number of requests from passengers and fans on social media”, the airline said on Monday (Aug 1).

…“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking ah! Weather along the way is quite swee. But just to be safe, please kiap your seatbelt tight hor. Thank you and enjoy your flight,” it went.

Incidentally, the Singlish version of ‘fly aeroplane’ is completely different from the literal form. As a one-off publicity stunt, Singlish on a Plane is probably harmless, provided the captain doesn’t confuse passengers with ‘Eh siao liao, the left wing pecah already, very jialat leh!’ when disaster strikes. By then, the joke isn’t funny anymore. To foreign ears, the cutesy use of ‘kiap’ or forced ‘lahs’ may raise a smile or two, but to Singlish veterans, there comes a point when it just seems, for lack of a better word, “bo liao”.

If Jetstar keeps it restrained and limits the use of Singlish to non-essential communication, it’s unlikely that their reputation would go down the longkang.  Just don’t expect Singapore icon SIA to follow suit. Passengers have complained that flight attendants spouting Singlish were a disgrace to international travellers. Yes, our very own Singapore Girl is forbidden from speaking the local tongue, and was bred only to articulate with the same eloquence as our television newscasters, or befuddle passengers with a chapalang of fake Western accents that make Singlish more intelligible in comparison.

Speaking of whom, it would be fun to see our CNA anchors breaking into Singlish as part of the festivities. Just watching Cheryl Fox reading a story in Singlish for 3 minutes would be far more entertaining than the entire Red Lions-less National Day parade.

No playing of chess at common areas

From ‘Poster banning chess did not reflect intentions: Marine Parade Town Council’, 14 March 16, article by Loh Chuan Junn, CNA

The poster put up by Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) banning chess games at common areas did not reflect the intentions of the Town Council, MPTC said on Monday (March 14).

The clarification came after a picture of a poster stating “No Playing of Chess at Common Areas” caused a stir online when it was first posted on social media on Sunday (Mar 13), with some people questioning how “rowdy” a game of chess could be to have caused the ban.

…Responding to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, a spokesperson from the Town Council admitted that the content of the poster was not clear, and that there was no ban on playing the game.

“We acknowledge our oversight for the content of the poster which does not reflect our intention well,” said MPTC. “As such, we would like to apologise for the wrong context of our poster.”

I wonder how much time and effort was spent making the chess poster, when in fact the game that’s causing all the fuss is actually draughts/checkers, or colloquially known as ‘dum’, a word that describes perfectly the thought process that goes into the creation of such a notice. Firstly, they got the game wrong. Nobody plays classic Western-style chess in public anymore and aristocrats don’t live in HDB flats. Second, by specifying chess you set yourself up for cheeky retorts like: ‘So does that mean poker or mahjong is OK?’. What about having a Magic cards gathering, or ping bloody pong? No chess? No problem. Unleash the Go! set.

The real problem, though, is not so much the noise, but when a dum gathering turns into a makeshift gambling den. One player reportedly lost $30,000 over a week. Still, if you’re a die-hard gambler, what better way to get your fix through a battle of wits instead of praying to the gods for lucky numbers. I would rather experience the clatter and commotion of a dum match than the annoying squeals of a casual handphone game, or the pontianak mating calls that pass off as karaoke singing. Board games like dum are also an entertainment source for sore-loser drama. We all know of that one petty friend who flips the board over whenever he loses a match, ruining the party for everyone. You can’t vent your frustrations on your precious phone.

Like void deck football, the image of uncles crowding around a grandmaster duel looks set to be a thing of the past. A couple of generations down the road and the concept of a game that requires you to move physical tokens, instead of swiping pixels on a screen, would be, tragically, an unfamiliar one. Gone too would be the ‘terrazzo tables‘, an icon of the senior citizen’s corner where Chinese chess enthusiasts gather, and in its place metal barriers and naggy posters telling you to shelf your activities and just stay at home while dementia gradually kills you. If all else fails, there’s always Fish Hunter at the arcade. Yes, you’ll spend the rest of your dying days gawking at digital fish instead of engaging whatever’s left of your brain.

Not all hope is lost though. If you can’t kick a ball around or have a dum tournament in your own void deck, I’m sure town councils would be perfectly happy turning the space down there into a library outpost, but they probably have to ban reading newspapers because of the noise generated from all the page flipping.