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.

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Covered linkways is money well spent

From ‘Covered linkways a much-needed facility’, 25 March 17, ST Forum

(Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon):  Providing covered linkways for people to transport nodes is definitely not spoiling the population (Use umbrellas at unsheltered areas by Mr Alex Yeo Eng Buan; March 16).

Covered linkways are a much-needed facility, especially for the wheelchair-bound, the elderly and those who use prams and trolleys. It is money well spent, considering the long-term and wider benefits to the community as a whole.

Using umbrellas, particularly on busy walkways linking up to transportation nodes, can inadvertently impede people’s movements because the objects take up more space. Wet umbrellas will also create puddles on MRT platforms and in buses, which may be slippery.

Certainly, money assigned to building communal amenities could be used for other purposes, like helping the poor.

But there are already many social outreach organisations across the spectrum, such as voluntary welfare organisations, community stakeholders and religious bodies, which ensure affected individuals and households receive help promptly.

The Government also provides support in the form of the ComCare scheme for the low-income. So, let’s not suggest that money for covered walkways be used to help the poor.

According to the LTA and HDB, covered walkways cost $200,000 to $600,000 per 100m to construct, excluding maintenance (Running short of shelter, 12 March 17, ST). When the walkway project was initiated in 1976 in a bid to make Singapore a pedestrian-friendly city, it cost $10 million.  A mild inconvenience of putting your handbag over your head, or running in the rain, costs nothing. For those who need a little help, like mothers with babies or old folks, you could offset the need to pamper our people with shelter wherever they go with a little kindness by sharing an umbrella, or stripping to overlay your shirt on puddles like a true gentleman. Though folks these days would rather forego the umbrella in place of a bulky portable phone charger.

We tend to take our public amenities for granted and this grousing about the lack of covered linkways is a sign that we’re a victim of our own success. We complain about the break in the linkway en route to the train station but forget that we practically have a train station at our doorstep. Would you rather walk without getting wet or scorched for 2km before even getting a glimpse of an MRT track? It’s the same thing with trees. We complain about not having enough trees for shade, but bash the authorities when one collapses on a car or kills someone at the Botanic Gardens.

What next? Charging stations along walkways? Or designated paths for personal mobility devices? How about we make our walkways air-conditioned? In the grand scheme of things we need to question our priorities when it comes to building ‘nice to have’ structures vs what is really essential. The money could be better spent on more disabled-friendly facilities like ramps for example, or upgrading our lifts so they don’t kill people.

 

Singaporeans debasing the English language

From ‘Why debase English?’, 18 March 2017, ST Forum

(Manoraj Rajathurai): In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Singaporeans spoke proper English.

Today, they don’t, and they take refuge in something called Singlish.

It is a shame. If only those who use it could hear themselves.

Nothing is done to discourage it, and remedy the situation. People are getting away with debasing a language and making it fashionable to do so.

Singlish is not even a language. There is no grace in it, especially when it comes to grammar.It is nothing to be proud of, and should not be made into something that is associated with this country.

Many expatriates and foreigners whom I deal with often tell me they are unable to understand much of what many Singaporeans attempt to pass off as English.

Why do we even encourage Singlish, especially with this display of it on public transport?

Will we, one day, stop speaking English, and speak Singlish instead?

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Nowadays very fashionable to hantam Singlish, hor? Sometime back got people say those who talk Singlish is ‘missed opportunity’ to master English. I ask my English sifu friend he say this means our English cannot make it so use Singlish good enough. Also, last time 50’s, 60’s, 70’s people’s angmor very good meh? I asked my lim peh he say no leh, this bugger obviously never do NS before. Only his school teacher speak proper English, and also those people on TV read news one. And the policemen wear shorts.  

But hor, he say Singlish is not even a language. AHBUTHEN? If different language then ang mor totally liak no kiu right? My ang mor colleague even learn how to say ‘lah’ and ‘lor’ already. If not he go hawker da pao food sure die. Simi sai. My English sifu say in UK the people from different regions ownself don’t even understand each other also. Hello, these are the people who invented ENGLISH ok. Don’t tell me they all speak different language? Don’t talk cock lah. 

Brother, relac lah brother. Phua Chu Kang already retire. The bus sign just for fun only. Why so serious. You go kopitiam how to order tea with evaporated milk less sugar (teh si siew dai). Anyway Singlish is our way of life, it’s not fashion like bubble tea. We are not taking ‘refuge’ in it. It’s people like you who are hiding from the reality of how our society works, up on your high horse telling people their grammar no good, say we should be ashamed of ourselves. We are Singaporeans OK. People say durian smell like shit we still proud of it can. 

Anyway I say what you also no understand. If you do, then I rest my case. Kthxbye.

14 year old boy can’t watch Beauty and the Beast

From ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast prompts advisory from Anglican Bishop’, 13 March 2017, article by Foo Jie Ying, ST

In the live-action remake of Disney’s classic Beauty And The Beast, LeFou shows more than just friendly feelings for the handsome antagonist Gaston.

This prompted Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah to issue an advisory before the film premieres here on Thursday.

In a statement released on the St Andrew’s Cathedral website, Bishop Rennis Ponniah urged the clergy and deaconesses to alert their congregation about the homosexual content in the film.

He wrote: “Disney films for children’s entertainment are usually associated with wholesome and mainstream values. But times are changing at a foundational level… LeFou is portrayed as gay and a ‘gay moment‘ is included in the movie by way of a subplot.

…LeFou, played by Josh Gad, is Disney’s first openly gay character and director Bill Condon’s way of increasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visibility on screen. The new film has caused quite a stir around the world.

An Alabama theatre said it would not screen it. In Russia, only those aged 16 and above are allowed to watch the film.

Here, the film was passed clean by the regulators with no edits. It was rated as PG with some intense sequences of characters in perilous situations.

…Marketing consultant Wilfred Chan, 43, said he will not let his 14-year-old son watch the movie as the homosexual content is against his religious beliefs.

Is Disney really all cotton-candy, honey and apple-pie wholesomeness? Not if you take the subliminal sex conspiracy seriously. Maybe the creators could no longer repress their Freudian instincts after decades of slipping naughty references in their animation and decided to – as Elsa would sing -‘let it go’ in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

The story of homoeroticism, like how the song goes, is a tale as old as time. And sadly, in 2017, certain religious circles still call it a breaking of ‘foundational’ values, and parents impose their own moral attitudes on their teenage kids. How strange that a teen would be forbidden from watching a film because of its ‘gay moments’ when he would have already been exposed to head-splitting violence, gore and hardcore porn at that age, including perhaps hentai porn involving animated over-endowed women and another kind of beast – with tentacles.

Sure, watching a man drive a screwdriver into another man’s eyeball is fine, but when the film shows men having ‘feelings’ for each other, it’s a no-no, though I have my doubts that Beauty and the Beast would be among the top movies to watch this weekend for guys in general. Unless they’re fathers whose last memory of Beast was when he was Ron Perlman of Hellboy fame, or pimply boys out on a first date.

I guess nothing would give the Bishop and his flock more peace of mind than having the censors step in to cut the gay subplot out of a ‘family-friendly’ movie. After all, that’s what IMDA did to the gay kiss on Les Miserables. So why didn’t they rein in the LGBT beast here? Would the book version be banned from our libraries like how they took down a children’s tale of gay penguins?

Disney, of course, produced one of the most emotionally staggering death scenes in the history of cinema when Bambi’s mother died. So they’re not one to shy away from the harsh realities of life despite their main audience being young, impressionable children – whether it’s cold blooded murder, or hot-blooded gay men.

Tangs having frying pan promotion on International Women’s Day

From ‘Department store TANGS panned for offering discounts on Women’s Day’, 10 March 2017, article in Today.

A popular Singapore retailer came under fire on Thursday (March 9) for “trivialising” International Women’s Day by cooking up a promotion offering cut-price frying pans. The department store chain TANGS marked the day, which falls on March 8 and is observed across the globe by women pushing for greater equality, by discounting a range of items, including two frying pans.

Other deals included beauty products, high heels and shavers.

The retailer sent out a promotional email to customers with the S$38 frying pan offers listed at the top, according to Marketing magazine. The deals were still listed on TANGS website on Thursday.

Campaigner Ms Jolene Tan said the promotion appeared to overlook the struggle of women in the city-state, who are pushing for better representation in company boardrooms.

“International Women’s Day is a day to honour the struggles of women for equality, safety and respect,” said Ms Tan, head of advocacy and research at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research.

“Sadly, too many retailers present it as a consumerist event to be trivialised through sales and discounts rather than attention to the serious issue of gender equality.”

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If there ever were an International Men’s Day, and Tangs decided to have bargains on six-pack beers, remote controls, Crocs and cycling shorts, not only would NO ONE complain, but it would be a total non-event because men and shopping go together like AWARE and flour rollers.

So, what should retailers do to contribute to the recognition of women’s ‘place in the boardroom’? Discounts on designer power suits? Special edition name card holders? Wouldn’t that ignore other no less steely women like the the grandmother who’s also a taijiquan master, our Paralympian swimmers, nurses, Mother Theresa? Would Bollywood Veggies’ head honcho Ivy Singh-Lim call Tangs out for not having sales on potted plants and daisies? If these don’t apply, then International Women’s Day should really be renamed as ‘Alpha-women Day’, or better still, ‘AWARE day’.

For ages, the kitchen has been cast as a symbolic prison for the female of the species. Gone are the days of corsets and chastity belts, and women are referred to as the ‘weaker sex’. Though we had a minister who once said he would rather women spend money on mammograms over a trip to the salon, overall we still live in an era of ‘girl power’. The best selling artistes in the world are women, pop culture is awash with strong female characters, from Dragon Queens in fantasy epics to zombie hunters facing down the Apocalypse to goddamn nasty aliens.  We spend more on Mother’s than Father’s Day. Yet here we have feminists, in the face of a grim economic outlook, slamming deals on household items, footwear and cosmetics, because apparently women are not supposed to benefit from them on Women’s Day. Because the frying pan is the yoke that chains a woman to a livelihood of servitude. Throw away that apron, woman, and join the Sisterhood of the Travelling (Office) Pants.

Congrats Tangs, you just made yourself on the list of nominees for the ALAMAK AWARDS. Imagine the blood that would be spilled if they had offered promos on THIS instead.

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Golden staircase in HDB an act of vandalism

From ‘Town council says student’s effort to cover HDB staircase in gold foil ‘not permissible’, 7 March 2017, article by Wong Pei Ting, Today

The Jalan Besar Town Council is reaching out to an arts student who covered the 20th floor staircase of a Jalan Rajah flat with gold foil to explore future collaboration, although it made clear what she did was “unauthorised” and “not permissible”.

 …Ms Priyageetha Dia, who is studying fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts, had earlier identified herself on Facebook as the person behind the “golden staircase” at Block 103 Jalan Rajah. “We appreciate Ms Priyageetha Dia’s desire to enhance her surrounding space,” said the spokesman. “Under the Town Council’s (Common Property and Open Spaces) By-laws, however, this constitutes an unauthorised act and is thus not permissible.”

Set in the public area near her unit, Ms Dia said the artwork exists to question “what constitutes public and private spaces” and if it is “possible to draw a line between art and vandalism”. …Aware that she was treading a thin line between art and vandalism, Ms Dia asserted that she “did not deface anything”.

“What I did was to enhance the space and my surroundings,” said Ms Dia, who lives on the 20th floor. “This work provokes. Provokes in all sense (as) we are used to living the standard way of life, and all of a sudden something as glaring as gold negotiates the space. My work does not seek to obliterate a public space; vandalism in all sense has no respect for another individual.”

…Members of the Jalan Besar Town Council were also present on Tuesday to ascertain if the gold foil made the stairs slippery.

…Ms Akiko Ler, 43, felt that such an act, if done on the artist’s own accord without seeking counsel from the town council, is considered vandalism. “Residents here pay fees to keep the public space clean, so it’s only fair that it’s kept like how it was meant to be,” said the housewife from Japan.

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‘Enhancement’ is subjective. When ‘Sticker Girl‘ spray-painted My Grandfather Road, she was promptly arrested for public defacement. Pave a road with gold like it were the Yellow Brick Road of Oz and you’re likely to suffer the same fate. If an allocated section of HDB void deck is splashed with colour, it’s called a ‘mural’, but when it’s ‘unauthorised’ and presented on some random wall or tunnel outside, it’s called ‘street art’. On an MRT train, or on a HDB rooftop that says ‘Fuck the PAP’, it becomes ‘vandalism’.

Covering a staircase with gold foil to add an illusory aura of royalty to HDB peasantry is not the only decorative activity going on in HDB flats. Potted plants, for example, are breeding grounds for dengue and if lined up on parapets becomes potential killer litter, yet you hardly hear of town council officials going around cracking down on fauna enthusiasts trying to ‘enhance’ living space with their own little Edens.

The artist should count herself fortunate that the authorities are waving an olive branch of ‘future collaboration’ instead of taking her to court. Others with the same intent outside of HDB blocks were not so lucky. What I’m curious about, though, is how much money the artist spent and if it were actual gold, why hasn’t anyone tried scrapping it off for keeps already?

Xiaxue calling K-pop boyband trannies

From tweet by Xiaxue, Feb 25, 2017

 

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Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

– Blur, Girls and Boys

In one tweet, Xiaxue – still at it all these years – has managed to offend not just the K-pop cult, but some members of the LGBTQ movement who consider the word ‘tranny’ derogatory. Well, what alternatives could she have used if the tweet was intended as an insult?

Bapoks? Pondans? Transvestities? Ladyboys? Shemales? Ah Kuas? Queers? Nope. Would ‘cross-dressers’ deliver the same punchline? Probably not. ‘Sissies’ sounds old fashioned, the kind of insult your granduncle would have used on the 80’s sensation New Kids on the Block.

OK how about the politically correct terms. Transgender? Transexual? Or the bewildering ‘non-binary‘, a term that seems to describe calculators rather than actual human beings. If she had said ‘look like a bunch of girls’, it may even be taken as a compliment, because maybe these performers DO want to look like girls. Neither would you use ‘drag queens’ because these kids are nowhere as fabulous. And it would be an insult to Kumar.

So yes, in order for the insult to ‘work’ and since no celebrity is immune to insult, Xiaxue decided to use ‘tranny’, which to me has the same borderline effect as referring to someone as ‘cheena’ without coming across as a blatant racist. Would LGBT people find it offensive if I say to a ‘cisgender’, straight person ‘that shirt makes you look gay’? Or ‘That hairstyle makes you look like a butch’? Why can’t ‘tranny’ be an identifier like how people call others ‘geeks’, ‘weirdos’, ‘tai-tais’, ‘mummy’s boy’ or ‘gym-rats’ without someone flaming you for being an insensitive bigot?

If you need to point out a transgender in a crowd to another party, imagine the awkwardness of coming up with a description. Um, the guy wearing lipstick. The one in a dress with muscular arms. Would you even say the word ‘Transvestite/Transexual’?  Have we become so PC that you need to describe a trans individual carefully without making references to either gender? Like ‘You know – hand gesture – nudge nudge- wink wink’.

Being an experienced blogger who gets paid for attention, I’m sure XX knew what was coming when she threw the bait. Ultimately there are only 2 people in the world to stand to gain from this silly altercation: XX herself and the ‘Tranny’ Band from Korea.