‘Passion made Possible’ reflecting the Singapore spirit

From ‘Move over YourSingapore, it’s now ‘Passion Made Possible’, 24 Aug 2017, article by Rumi Hardasmalani, Today

The Republic will now be marketed overseas to potential investors and visitors as “Passion Made Possible”, under the “first unified brand” for the country launched by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Economic Development Board (EDB) on Thursday (Aug 24).

The brand was the result of “qualitative and quantitative research with close to 4,500 respondents on what Singapore stands for”, involving residents, industry stakeholders, and international audiences in Singapore and across 10 countries, the agencies said in a press release.

According to STB and EDB, the respondents felt the themes of “passion” and “possibilities” best reflected the Singapore spirit. “While ‘possibilities’ was strongly associated with Singapore as a destination, the ‘passion’ to strive was what drove these possibilities,” they said.

Passion Made Possible sounds like the title of a self-help book for couples to have more sex. And the cover would look something like this:

So in that context, yes, given our dismal birth rate, this new slogan is the impetus for us not to soar to greater heights, or make the world our oyster, but to make more babies.

We have passionate people doing the nation proud, the Schoolings and the Nathan Hartonos, but we also have individuals who, despite their dogged pursuit for excellence or for a worthy cause, get snubbed because of political sensitivities. Think Sonny Liew’s award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, or the Pink Dot conglomerate, who to nobody’s surprise, didn’t make the cut for the ‘gritty’ hipster promo video. Even our latest National Day Song rouses as much passion as one responds to a soggy teabag in a dirty cup.

The previous incarnation, Your Singapore, was criticised for ‘courting disaster’. 7 years on, ‘PMP’, seems to contradict a previous report that Singapore is the least emotional society in the world. So what do you call an automaton with passion? A fucking Ultron that’s what.

 

Advertisements

Orchard Road is kind of boring

From ‘Pedestrianising will only worsen woes of malls’, 21 Apr 2017, ST Forum

(Ronnie Lim Ah Bee): Shopping is no longer restricted to Orchard Road, where premium shops and foodcourts charge premium prices.

With big shopping malls sprouting up in neighbourhood centres and within walking distance of homes, there is little incentive to go down to Orchard Road.

The people who can afford premium shopping tend to be those who drive.

If they cannot drive to Orchard Road to shop, they might as well visit their neighbourhood malls.

The large crowds which are expected to come about with pedestrianising Orchard Road are more likely to be there to socialise and soak up the atmosphere than to shop.

Pedestrianising Orchard Road is going to do little to help the shopping malls along that road.

We all know what the writer means by people going there to ‘socialise and soak up the atmosphere’ but nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room – why locals prefer to stay at home to do laundry than go ‘gai-gai’ along Orchard Road on Sundays. If the pedestrianising would benefit anyone it would be a certain group of foreign workers who could then dance unhindered on the streets beyond the confines of Ion.

It was only a year back when we realised that the car-free experiment was a failure from the retailers’ perspective. In the days of HMV and Tower records, Orchard Road was the go-to hub for music lovers. I could spend half a day browsing CDs or magazines at Borders. After school we would go ‘hang out’ at Macs at Far East Plaza, traipsing through the underpasses, transversing the Patterson Road crossing which could have been our own little version of the Shibuya landmark, or watch a movie at the old Lido. The family would look forward to Xmas lights, or chaperone the kids to piano lessons at Yamaha, Plaza Singapura. Today, the only reason for me to go ‘downtown’ is to catch a R21 movie or attend a book-signing at Kinokuniya. Even the buskers are moving out and entertaining commuters at MRT stations instead. The only ‘floods’ happening in Orchard aren’t the shopping kind, but those due to a random Act of God.

My feelings for Orchard died at the precise moment when Marks And Spencer took over Borders bookstore. I remember first walking into Borders mouth agape, awed by the sheer scale of it all, books stacked almost to the ceiling and the fact that you could just walk in and out without spending a cent or any of the staff bothering you. True, such musings may be merely blind nostalgia, that the people who say Orchard Road is kind of boring are the ones who lost what they loved most about the place. Still, GSS after GSS can’t save the hollow retail shells like the fancy-pants Scotts Square. Occasionally, some gastronomic hype like a Michelin-star ramen shop or a cafe/bistro would bring some buzz to Orchard, but people soon tire of novelty and business owners eventually move to the ‘suburbs’. I dare say ‘Haji Lane’, or even Criminal Minds:Beyond Borders’ Geylang would ring more bells in tourists’ minds than ‘Orchard Road’.

Orchard Road is no longer Instagrammable, and even if you get rid of the traffic and inject some flashy gotong-royong on weekends, with Good Morning towel-twirling trishaw riders and ice-cream sandwich carts etc, Singaporeans would rather jostle with sweaty crowds at some pop-up hipster event like Artbox, or watch a midnight movie at a neighbourhood mall so they don’t have to spend a bomb on taxi fare to get home. You can infuse the streets with all the local fanfare you want, but in the end it’ll still be a place where you have to pay almost $15 for a plate of mediocre Nasi Padang.

So let’s take a moment now to remember the Orchard Road of the past – and ask yourself if you’d rather spend your leisure in a place like this today or along a concrete stretch of copy-and-paste designer brands, flash-in-the-pan food joints and mobs of selfie-stick carrying revellers. I think we should just take the pedestrianising to the extreme and rewild Orchard Road so that becomes just the Istana and a green extension all the way to Botanic Gardens. Make it the ‘Central Park’ of Singapore instead.

Orchard Road is dead. Long live Orchard Road.

Orchard_Rd_THEN_-_edit.jpg-itok=VSRY4_Tv

Little India in need of sprucing up

From ‘Little India needs sprucing up’, 10 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Roy Goh Hin Soon): Little India is not as organised as Chinatown. Most of the shops in the small lanes feature businesses that have no relevance to tourism at all, such as shops selling automobile spare parts, and food caterers.

More can be done to spice up the area to attract more visitors, such as having food and beverage outlets with reasonable standards, and outdoor performances.

Currently, apart from Mustafa Centre, only the Indian Heritage Centre is an attraction in the area, but I see few visitors dropping by.

Also, walking along Serangoon Road is truly a safety hazard. Visitors are forced to squeeze and walk along the five-foot way.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority and Singapore Tourism Board need to go back to the drawing board to work out how we can fully capitalise on this precious tourist belt and put Little India and Serangoon Road back on the tourism map.

Little India has long been recognised as a tourist spot ever since the early eighties, and unlike the stark , ‘organised’ pretentiousness of today’s Chinatown, always had a haphazard, chaotic charm about it, especially if you dive into the deluge of humanity on Sundays. Not only is Little India a colourful enclave with a bit of violent social history, the area was once known for its tourist-terrorising ‘giant rats’. Today, our own politicians paint a slightly anarchic picture of the Serangoon area, calling its foreign worker patrons ‘walking time bombs‘.

What the writer is suggesting by relocating businesses with ‘no relevance to tourism at all’ is to turn the district into a manufactured theme park that is more ‘blah’ than ‘buzz’, where you’ll eventually need paid entertainers to make putu ayam in front of gushing, selfie-snapping tourists. Instead of row after row of sari souvenir shops, wouldn’t it be more interesting to chance upon, say, a UKELELE shop for a change? Even Chinatown, I’m sure, has its fair share of merchants selling stationery and photocopy services to nearby office workers, and not bak kwa at every corner you turn.  Mom-and-pop stores in Little India may not even survive for long, with STB embarking on an online marketplace project called Dei.com.sg. Even Mustafa, a 24 hour shopping mecca, will have its work cut out for them.

The complaint betrays a naive lack of understanding of what modern tourists want to experience, something off the beaten path but not too far off; a place – in other words, with ‘character’, where people actually live and work, not just performers paid by STB to put flower garlands over your neck in greeting while performing a scene from Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, tourists are already flocking to the ‘real Chinatown’, a district already tagged as a ‘powder keg’ and long renown for its street food and uncharacteristic sleaze: Geylang.

NAC Bin Centre costing $470K, mostly on consultation

From ‘Inadequate financial controls, weak governance uncovered in AGO report’, 26 July 2016, article in CNA

…For instance, in the audit of the National Arts Council (NAC), the Auditor-General found from its checks of contracts for the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall Redevelopment project that 47 out of 164 variation works were carried out before approvals were given. The delays in obtaining approval were up to 3.5 years, it added.

“The large number of instances indicated a breakdown in the controls put in place to ensure that variations were properly justified and approved before works commenced,” it added.

AGO also found that NAC had paid a consultancy fee of S$410,000 for the construction of a bin centre costing S$470,000. “There was inadequate assessment on the reasonableness of the exceptionally high consultancy fee, at 87.2 per cent of the cost of construction,” it said.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) had told AGO that the construction of the bin centre was more complex and required significantly more design expertise, technical consultancy services and effort to coordinate with multiple parties and these were the reasons for the fee to be above the norm.

The NAC Bin Centre is the EC of all bin centres. To foreign workers who’ve been found living in HDB bin centres, or more commonly known as ‘rubbish dumps’, the NACBC is the pinnacle of refuse repository luxury. For near half a million, you get a classical design, odour control, maybe even air-conditioning and wi-fi. Right in the heart of the Civic District too.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.58.17 PM

Imagine how much $40K could do for the arts scene, or local graphic novels like The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Instead of channeling resources into promoting a vibrant local culture, the NAC decided to focus their energies into making a rubbish collection centre ‘blend in’ with the help of some overpaid consultants, and in doing so have unwittingly made the NAC Bin centre a star attraction, as Instagrammable as the departed Punggol lone tree. Soon it’ll make it into the TripAdvisor Top Things to See List, favorited by those with a morbid fascination with the logistics of rubbish. Step aside, Supreme Court Jail Cell, this is next big thing to hit the Civic District since thousands queued for hours to see a dead politician’s body.

We’ll never look at bin centres the same way again. NAC has taken the humble bin centre from its smelly eyesore roots, pumped in an extreme makeover and created an icon for architecture junkies everywhere. Some foresight may have gone into this; you never know when one can repurpose a lowly bin centre into a hipster cafe, or even a RC meeting room. Yes, versatility is built into its price tag. One day it’s piling trash, the next it’s selling profiteroles or artisan hot dogs. For those who see utility out of having a deserted train station, a 1 billion dollar artificial Gardens, a giant spinning wheel or high-end sandy turf inside the Sports Hub, this $40K is worth every peanut – I mean penny.

PRC peddlers waving tissue paper in your face

From ‘Upset over foreign tissue paper sellers’, 13 Sep 15, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Able-bodied foreigners are flying in to sell tissue paper in public areas, upsetting elderly or disabled Singaporeans who are earning a living this way.

Women in their 50s and 60s from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar have been seen selling packets of tissue paper at hawker centres, coffee shops and other places. They come as tourists, stay as long as their visas allow, and sell three packets of tissue for $1 – the same as the local sellers.

Hawkers and local tissue paper sellers said they first noticed the foreigners about a year ago.

…In the first six months of the year, the NEA rounded up 145 illegal hawkers selling tissue paper, mobile phone accessories, clothes and other goods. About half were foreigners, an NEA spokesman told The Sunday Times.

…Retired organisational psychologist Michael Loh said he finds it annoying when Chinese nationals approach him at food courts and coffee outlets at malls near the Jurong East MRT station.

“They are aggressive and wave the tissue paper in your face. This is a disguised form of begging and I feel they are taking advantage of Singaporeans’ generosity,” he said.

The elections are finally over, and we already have the first piece of news that would make the Opposition think: ‘Damn, why didn’t I bring this up during the rallies?’.

I’ve always wondered how foreigners who need to sell tissue paper or even beg from generous Singaporeans could afford to even buy their ticket into the country. During Ramadan, foreign beggars from countries as far away as Pakistan make up the ‘seasonal menace’ at Kampong Glam, going around the enclave receiving alms from locals. (Beggars descend on Kampong Glam, Jul 5 2015, ST). Some speculate that these foreigners could be part of a syndicate. In 2014, a ST Forum writer cited an incident of a man coming out of a ‘Malaysian-registered’ van collecting and replacing a donation tin belonging to an elderly man with no legs. It’s no wonder that tissue paper is lucrative enough for schemers to capitalise on, since Singaporean office workers can’t have their lunch without their trusty ‘chope’ companion.

If these ‘guest’  tissue sellers are truly part of an international syndicate, they could be sent home with a comfortable cut on a plane the very next day, having sumptuous airline food, while our ‘pioneer generation’ count coins to buy themselves kopi for breakfast, not to mention recoup their $120 licence fee. NEA may be rounding up the flock, but perhaps the damage has already been done, as Singaporeans become more wary of tissue peddlers or street vendors in general, whether they’re licensed by the authorities or not.  But this foreign competition isn’t the least surprising, considering that it’s a struggle faced even by elderly cardboard collectors. Here we have needy Singaporeans living day by day toiling in the sun, only to have some fly by night PRC on a tourist visa bossing them around and claiming territory in a land that doesn’t even belong to them.

Maybe the Workforce Development Agency could do something, like teach our cardboard collectors how to negotiate with aggressive foreign competitors around turf lines, or self-defence catered for seniors, which they should be able to pick up easily since they’ve done so much ‘exercise’ already. Caring for our unskilled work force and throwing money at them isn’t enough. The Government needs to fight for their very survival against this tide of strangers who invade our shores to illegally eat into the rice bowls of our own people. Interpol should be engaged to crack down on syndicates, not runaway rogue politicians. ICA needs to do a more thorough job screening visitors with shady agendas, whether they’re here selling tissue paper or their own bodies for a few days. If the NEA can’t physically hunt them down, then by God, Tan Chuan-Jin, please put your sprint prowess to better use.

LKY wanted his Oxley Road House demolished

From ‘Mr Lee Kuan Yew stated in will that he wanted Oxley Road Home demolished’, 12 April 2015, article in Today

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had specified in his will that the house he shared his late wife on Oxley Road be demolished after his death, and this wish will be “administered strictly”, said his children Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

In a statement issued today (April 12), Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who are the executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee’s will, said their father had given them clear instructions directly and in his will — dated Dec 17 2013 — to demolish the house immediately after his death. If Dr Lee continued to live in the house, then the house should be demolished immediately after she moved out.

The late Mr Lee, who passed away on March 23, had been aware of the calls to preserve his home, but his wish expressed to his children and publicly was “unwavering” — that the house to be torn down upon his passing, said Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

“He was concerned an order might be issued against his wishes. He therefore added in his Lee Kuan Yew Will that ‘If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants’,” they said.

When interviewed during the launch of his book Hard Truths in 2011, LKY said that he didn’t want his Oxley residence, a ‘big rambling house’, to end up in shambles like Nehru or Shakespeare’s, and that because of his presence, nobody in the estate would dare build anything higher than his own. Even Google Maps can’t get anything out of its Street View of 38 Oxley Road beyond what appears to be an impenetrable forest.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 10.05.55 PM

The media tells us that the house was ‘spartan’, with LKY’s bed bearing nothing more than a ‘towel blanket’ and a bolster. The downstairs bathroom had traditional mosaic tiles, a ‘hamdankong’ (barrel for making salted eggs) and an urn filled with water for bathing like how people used to wash themselves in the old days. Other than the old man’s computer, the second most modern thing in the house is probably his exercise bike, which looks set to the next piece of memorabilia to be displayed at the National Museum alongside his red box and the ‘battleship’ telegram. I’m sure LKY wouldn’t mind if someone designed an exact replica of the house as an exhibit by itself, with Gurkhas, hamdankongs and all.

There is currently a 1500-strong petition to gazette the house as a national heritage site and museum, which seems like a good idea for the sake of future generations, provided the government maintains it such and ignores the issue of property prices. Hundreds of years down the road people would still flock to Oxley Road like how tourists swarm the House of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, where you could bring home a mini 38 Oxley Road fridge magnet as a souvenir, or get your picture taken with a Gurkha against the backdrop of the PAP’s ‘War Room’. The Chinese are already doing that to LKY’s ANCESTRAL home in Guangdong, regardless of what Singaporeans think.

Alas, LKY was not a man who would succumb to fawning sentiment, and would rather see a hideous luxury condo take its place in Oxley than have a part of his legacy worshiped and swooned over like devotees to a shrine. The last thing our late founding father wanted was to have his private domain turned into a site of pilgrimage, or a giant statue built in its place like our version of Christ the Redeemer. He already has a baby in India named after him, Jeyaprakesh Lee Kuan Yew. The least we could do, as grateful Singaporeans, is to fulfil a dying wish, and not be disobedient to Ah Gong like this writer/consultant in 2013, who basically thought destroying a monument in Singapore’s history was a silly idea. Ignore his wishes, and risk having Oxley Road eternally haunted by his angry hatchet-wielding spirit.

Still, it would be nice if we had an open house before the government sends the demolition team in, with the blessings of daughter Lee Wei Ling of course. You would probably have to start queuing from Novena MRT station for 8 hours to get a sneak peek, which could be a boon to Orchard Road businesses by the way.  Wonder what’s to become of the Nassim Jade and Scotts 28 apartments, though.

UPDATE(13 April 15): Lee Wei Ling has decided to continue staying in 38 Oxley Road. The house gets to live another day.

‘Lau Pa Sat’ in Tamil can be used to curse people

From ‘STB to correct Lau Pa Sat and tighten translation process’, 7 Nov 2014, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

The Lau Pa Sat sign which was incorrectly translated has been removed and will be corrected, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in a statement on Friday. STB also said that it will tighten the process of translating its brown signs, which indicate tourist attractions or landmarks.

“We had notified the operator and they had taken immediate steps to remove the sign and work on correcting the translation,” Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, director of attractions, dining and retail said in the statement, referring to the erroneous Lau Pa Sat sign.

She added that the board will ensure the new sign is checked by language experts. A photo of the sign, which translated “Sat” as “Sani” or Saturday in Tamil, was being circulated on social networks. The word can have a negative connotation, and can be used to curse people.

Mr Samikannu Sithambaram, president of the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union, told The Straits Times on Thursday that the mistake could have come about because the translators thought that “Sat” in Lau Pa Sat was a truncation of “Saturday”.

SAT you, STB

SAT you, STB

Notice that this brown sign has Chinese, Tamil and Japanese on it, but no Malay. Contrast the selection of languages with other tourist attraction ‘brown signs’, such as East Coast Park, which has Malay, Japanese but no Tamil. There are inconsistencies elsewhere. Sri Krishnan Temple has no Malay or Japanese, while Little India has Malay, Chinese, Japanese but not Tamil. The image next to the Lau Pa Sat text doesn’t look like Lau Pa Sat at all, more like the Supreme Court dome. Why didn’t anyone spot this glaring error instead?

According to ST, the Tamil translation for ‘Sat’, or ‘Sani’, is also a reference to ‘Satan’, the only diabolical connection to the Lord of Darkness being that Lau Pa Sat is owned by food court conglomerate Kopitiam. Other Tamil speakers from the ST FB page were quick to clarify that ‘Sani’ refers to the planet ‘Saturn’. This isn’t the first time STB made a mess of their promotional material, summoning the Devil or otherwise. In 2002, the Hungry Ghost Festival was translated in Chinese to ‘HUNGARY Ghost festival’.

I’m not sure if Tamil is notoriously difficult to translate, but getting lost in translation has haunted Tamil linguists for more than a century. In 1940, a slogan on signboards campaigning for people to grow their own vegetables for ‘health and victory’ was read as ‘Unless you grow vegetables we shall lose the war’. Or maybe that was secretly intended to serve as war propaganda to rally Indians into amassing combat rations for our comrades. A Malay song in 1952 titled ‘A yoyo Ramasamy’ riled some Indians because it translated into derogatory lyrics describing labourers who ‘drink toddy and get intoxicated’.  In 1989, a multi-lingual No-smoking sign on a TIBS bus was slammed because it contained a nonsensical Tamil word. You also don’t see Tamil subtitles for English movies on national TV, or hear any of the PMs in the 60-year history of the PAP speak a single full sentence of it during their National Day Rallies. It can be a problem too if you even attempt to anglicise Tamil. Some years back Bread Talk were accused of mocking the race and language by naming one of their creations ‘Naan the Nay’, which probably has the same racial connotations as someone mocking Mandarin with ‘Ching Chong Ching Chong’.

But it’s not just STB who deserves Hell for their laziness in translation. NHB made a more humiliating mistake previously by translating Bras Basah in Chinese to the literal ‘bras’ (undergarments) on their Night Festival website. They soon made a ‘clean breast’ of it and fixed the atrocity. I wonder if STB has a brown sign for Sim Lim Square. Now if that were translated into Satan’s Square because of its reputation of scamming tourists out of their hard earned money and forcing people to get down on their knees and wail to the gods, they wouldn’t be that far off.