China dog circus perpetuates animal cruelty

From ‘Amid furore, organisers pull circus out of Chinese New Year show’, 9 Dec 2017, article by Victor Loh, Today

A segment of a Chinese New Year show featuring dog performances has been withdrawn following a backlash online. The show, which was branded as the “Chinese New Year Dog Circus 2018”, was scheduled to take place at Resorts World Sentosa in February 2018 to welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year.

…Ticketing operator Sistic first promoted the China-based show on its Facebook page on Friday (Dec 8) morning. By Friday night, a petition to ban the show from performing in Singapore — started by animal advocate Summer Ong — was created.

The petition — addressed to the show’s promoter HE Productions, Sistic and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) — garnered 7,237 supporters by the time it was closed on Saturday (Dec 9) afternoon.

“To be even campaigning for this is baffling because Singapore prides herself as a progressive first world nation,” Ms Ong told TODAY.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see RWS and SISTIC promoting such animal performance and animal cruelty. And we are all unsure and very appalled why RWS and Sistic gave the green light to approve this China dog circus.

“Such venue operators should never accept these shows. Accepting such acts shows they support these performances. Promoting these unethical shows thus perpetuates animal cruelty.”

Describing the practice of using animals in circus as “archaic, cruel and unethical”, the petition cited the closure of the Ringling Brothers, an American travelling circus company famous for using elephants in its performances.

If only a petition like this was as effective in getting RWS Marine Life Park to stop their dolphin shows.  In 2012, Wen Wen the dolphin died en route to Singapore before she could perform for her ‘archaic, cruel and unethical’ human audience. Today, we continue to laugh and clap to the antics of aquatic beasts in glorified colosseums, blissfully unaware of the trauma inflicted when these creatures of the oceans are air-flown in specifically for our entertainment.

We may have given the poor China canines some respite through this protest, but we still tolerate owners who dye their chow chows to look like fucking pandas. So why recruit animals for public entertainment at all, caged-bird singing included? If dogs were not meant to do the conga or ride e-scooters, then neither should songbirds be held captive by uncles 24 hours a day. Such a practice is in fact celebrated as a ‘heartland icon’ when circus animals actually spend more time outside cages than our feathered sopranos. One activity is slammed for its barbarism, while another is hyped as a ‘uniquely Singaporean’ hobby.

In 1982, an animal lover complained that Ah Meng should not be made to ‘sit in wicker chair, sipping tea, nibbling a watermelon and politely tolerating the inane chatter of several humans’. Yes, why stop at circuses when animal shows are also guilty of grilling seals into clapping, tigers into begging and elephants into tiptoeing on a trainer’s head without crushing his face to pulp? We have sequel after sequel of Planet of the Apes reminding us of our arrogance and yet we persist in training a primate to stir a cup of tea.

The ultimate act of animal cruelty that’s somehow embedded as a cultural icon and national consciousness, immune to any protest whatsoever, is Spanish bullfighting, where the ‘ringmaster’ – the matador – is a sexualised alpha-male/hero who gets to sleep with Madonna in the ‘Take a Bow’ video. Unlike dogs in a circus, a charging bull doesn’t play dead, it literally dies at the end of the show, impaled in a manner less humane than in the hands of a slaughterhouse butcher.

 

 

 

 

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Oxley Castle book not for kids

From ‘Is Oxley castle book really meant for kids?’ 16 Nov 2017, ST Forum

(Francis Cheng): Epigram Books chief executive Edmund Wee says that the children’s book, The Phantom Of Oxley Castle, is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events (Picture book’s launch event cancelled; Nov 13, and Arts House sets out events leading to cancellation of launch; Nov 14).

Who is he trying to kid?

It is obviously a satire or a parody.

The picture book is about a grand castle with 38 rooms, on a tropical island, where two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler named OB Markus live. Its title and storyline clearly bring to mind the 38 Oxley Road saga and the Lee family feud.

Writers and publishers should avoid exploiting a sensitive event that is still unresolved. Those who pick up the Oxley Castle book at another launch venue should note that not all children’s books are indeed children’s books.

Indeed, not all fairy tales should be read by children. Little Red Riding Hood is a metaphor for bestiality. Hansel and Gretel is child cannibalism. The song Puff the Magic Dragon is about drug abuse. And Tango Makes Three is gay marriage propaganda.

Oxley Castle only becomes an ‘exploitative’ parody of a national embarrassment if an adult familiar with the Lee saga reads it. To an innocent child, it’s just a story, one which features a butler who sidelines as a member of Wu Tang Clan. No sane parent would read this to their child and explain that this is actually based on a true story about three elite siblings who don’t invite each other to CNY reunion dinners. Nor would they dare even suggest that the ‘Phantom’ really represents Ah Kong rising from the grave.

Somehow I have this feeling that the story won’t end with ‘And they Lived Happily Ever After’. Still, this gives me an idea for my own children’s story: Samy the Sad Subway Train. It’s about a train that can never get things right; stopping for long hours, getting soaked by the rain, bumping into other trains, and getting on the nerves of its grumpy station master named Khaw Wan Kuek.

 

 

 

 

Who wants to watch live feeds of Parliamentary proceedings?

From ‘Videos of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government: Chee Hong Tat’, 7 Nov 2017, article in CNA

Video recordings of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government which in turn commissions national broadcaster Mediacorp to cover the sittings and show the footage on various platforms, including free-to-air television as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s Parliament micro-site and its Facebook page.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat clarified this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party (WP). Mr Perera had asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings.

He also asked if the Ministry would consider removing the copyright if indeed they are protected by one, and make all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use.

To this, Mr Chee said the public can use the recordings for personal and non-commercial purposes with attribution to Mediacorp. He said the recordings are already used regularly by social media sites and political parties, including the Workers’ Party.

Mr Perera then questioned why Parliament is not given the funding and ability to makes its own live feed and video recordings available with a searchable archive as is the case with countries like Australia, Taiwan and the United States.

Mr Chee said demand for a live feed of proceedings is low.

To be fair, it’s probably true that there are less people willing to sit through a live Parliamentary feed than a Crime watch episode. Mediacorp being a business entity struggling with ratings overall however, has a vested interest in making Parliamentary sessions not so much informative than ‘entertaining’ in bite-size snippets to cater to the general public, yet at the same time refrain from making their political masters look bad, no matter how attention grabbing it would be. Like when they’re caught napping for example.

Beyond intellectually stimulating debates, TV is also the perfect politician toolkit for drama. You have MPs bawling like a baby.

Begging for mercy.

Pointing to the heavens like in Taiwan drama serials seeking divine justice

Could anyone forget the saga that is ‘Tang Liang Hong is Not my Brother’

Some make grand exits like a boss without saying a single word.

And you have the occasional stand-up comedy bringing the House down, like Chan Chun Sing’s ‘Madam President’ skit.

In fact, when Today in Parliament debuted on SBC in 1985, while it was welcomed with much fanfare, there were already calls by Parliament fans for full uncensored telecasts, an act that would symbolise ‘democracy in action’. Though it’s often assumed that PAP speakers would reap the most airtime from these sessions, there were also complaints of opposition MPs hogging the limelight, like JBJ’s ‘unending complaints’ ‘unending complaints’ and ‘belching hot air’.

One MP, Tay Eng Soon, opposed the format of TV broadcasting altogether, recommending that viewers ‘close their eyes’ and listen to the crux of debates rather than picking on visual distractions like a politician’s dress sense, body language, or shiny reflection off his bald plate. But what is politics without its histrionics and theatre anyway.

Despite Chee Hong Tat’s claims of low viewership, I do believe there is value in putting up videos wholesale (by topics at least) as a supplement to the standard edits since the government has always emphasised on digitalisation and transparency, so that hardcore Parliament fans should be given the chance to dissect discussions, warts and all. Isn’t the purpose of the party whip or Speaker to serve as a real-time moderator/editor of the proceedings anyway, so that debates don’t get out of hand?

Besides, in the age of Netflix, TV viewership has been anaemic for years anyway. Given a choice between Parliament and watching a run-of-the-mill drama with actors spouting foreign accents, I’d rather spend my time on the former. The acting may even be better.

 

Jingapore plaques removed from MRT stations

From ‘ Welcome to Jingapore mural a wordplay on artist’s name’, 9 Nov 2017, article by Lydia Lam, ST

Welcome To Jingapore, reads an explanatory plaque for a two-part artwork installed at two new stations on the Downtown Line. The line, which was a play on words, drew flak from netizens, with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) receiving feedback that the term “Jingapore” appeared to be a misspelling.

The Art in Transit work by local artist Jing Quek was made up of two collages installed at Tampines West and Tampines East stations, LTA told The Straits Times on Thursday (Nov 9). The pieces feature images of people, places and objects found near those two stations.

“The title ‘Welcome to Jingapore’ is a wordplay on the artist’s name,” said the LTA spokesman. “By combining his name ‘Jing’ and ‘Singapore’, the work was an attempt by the artist to portray Singapore through his eyes.”

The Chinese word “Jing” has several meanings, including scenery and sights.

LTA said it is in discussions with the artist, and the explanatory plaques that accompanied the murals have been temporarily removed. However, the art pieces continue to be displayed at the stations.

Photos of the plaque went viral this week. Facebook user Mark Tan Tk posted a photo of it on Tuesday, writing in Chinese: “Is it real or fake? Why is it Jingapore not Singapore?

The artist himself posted an explanation on Wednesday night, saying it was brought to his attention “that some people raised a fuss about the title of my artwork”.

If Jing Quek had put up ‘Jingapore’ nearer to Christmas, then people are more likely to let it go because ‘Jingle Bells’. But unfortunately some commuters are afflicted by a neurological disorder that prevents them from understanding the concept of puns. If you tell them the classic joke about Billy throwing the clock out of the window to see ‘time fly’, they’d probably give you a blank stare and ask if you’re ‘real or fake’ and demand an explanation for a clock defying the laws of physics. If you represent the nation in a sporting contest and have ‘SIN’ emblazoned on your shorts, they would curse you for tarnishing the country’s reputation.

There are worse forms of wordplay, of course.

11 years ago, STINKAPORE made its appearance in a blog titled ‘Disillusioned‘. Self-explanatory, it was also used in the literal sense by Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Sydney to describe the city conditions back in the 1930s when the pair paid us a visit.

SINKAPORE is another common variant, usually used to express how the country is going down the drain, with its hapless citizens affectionately nicknamed as ‘Sinkies’. One past Presidential Candidate actually mulled over this in a Facebook post.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.07.39 PM

Inevitably, there’s also this – BLINGAPORE  , which, as you can guess, relates to the finer aspects of our glitzy cosmopolitan city, a jewel at the tip of the Asian continent.  Or how about complaining about this site for pets called SingaPAWS. Because it suggests that our country is going to, well, the dogs.

But what’s bewildering about this is LTA actually removing this despite explaining that this is clearly not a typo and that puns exist in this world. Look at fucking My First Skool , a mispelling which some complained as being ‘cruel and nonsensical’. Are LTA doing this just to appease a public already suffering under the ‘sad and embarrassing’ screw ups by SMRT management? Can I complain and get unlimited free rides for a month if I drop a 2 dollar note down the escalator grills? Instead of tongue in cheek artwork, maybe LTA/SMRT would prefer instead to install a ceiling fresco of a contrite CEO Desmond Kuek and team half-kowtowing to everyone to save them time from apologising or making excuses every time the train breaks down.

 

 

 

 

 

SMRT giving amnesty to flood culprits

From ‘Some SMRT staff own up to lapses during amnesty’, 4 Nov 2017, article by Adrian Lim, ST

Staff from at least one department in SMRT have admitted to lapses in their work, in response to a company call to own up – without penalty – before a wide-scale audit is launched.

The Straits Times understands that the employees are from SMRT’s building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations.

It is unclear how many staff have come forward in the “amnesty” exercise that ended yesterday, and which is targeted at quickly plugging gaps in maintenance operations – one of which caused the flooding of an MRT tunnel last month, bringing down train services on a stretch of the North-South Line for about 20 hours.

…PeopleWorldwide Consulting’s managing director David Leong said: “From an HR perspective, it’s very poor people management. The trust between the management and staff is totally lost.

“It doesn’t lead anywhere… Are you going to retain the people who owned up and let them do the same job? Or are you enticing them to come out, to remove them later?”

This amnesty is a witchhunt disguised as a saintly pardon. It’s like the bad guy in movies saying he won’t shoot you if you spill the beans, but lets you suffer a fate worse than death if you do anyway. SMRT’s CEO being a military guy probably explains the strategy behind this snare. It’s like urging the enemy out from the trenches with promises of warm baths and a 3 meals a day as a POW.

In a separate article, interviewed commuters were furious that those responsible would be given a second chance, but this gesture, like extending a greasy hand to someone hanging onto the edge of a cliff, can only mean that one’s career standing in SMRT is effectively over. And I believe those who owned up already know it, whether they end up with a stern warning or not.  Nobody expects a tea party with balloons and hugs of forgiveness.

Staff ferreted out by this so-called amnesty, supposedly without penalty, will be implicitly blacklisted and deprived of further opportunities within the company. The fact that management even needs to twirl a carrot to lure the culprits out from hiding suggests incompetence in governance and a dearth of ownership among workers. So, to quote something Trumpy, this makes ‘both sides’ look really, really shitty.

As the man in charge has said, all the fuck-ups boils down to ‘deep seated cultural issues’. Instead of pulling out all the stops with this fake magnanimity as a diversion from assigning blame, get to the core of the problem and fix it instead of dusting off table scraps.  I mean, that is your job after all, right?

UPDATE: Once the amnesty ended, SMRT embarked on a massive internal audit code- named ‘OPERATION OSPREY’, which sounds fiercer than the kinds of names we have for SAF mobilisation (Mighty Duck?). It was last used in 2001 by CNB to crack down on drug fiends, which gives you some idea of how the bigwigs view underlings who mess up, that they have to conjure an image of swooping talons snatching filthy rats out of their burrows.

13 staff including Vice Presidents from Maintenance were hauled up for disciplinary action, while SMRT maintains its deathly silence over the numbers ‘saved’ after owning up during the amnesty period (in the process exposing their colleagues). Meanwhile, the heads that matter remain firmly attached to their bodies, despite some talk of adjusting their salaries, while others roll.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Middle Ground can’t go on anymore

From ‘The Middle Ground to wind down, publisher says ‘can’t go on anymore’, 28 Oct 2017, article in CNA.

Local sociopolitical website The Middle Ground announced on Saturday (Oct 28) that it was winding down in a note by its publisher, Daniel Yap.

“I want to let you know today that we’ve decided to start the process of winding down our publication,” said Mr Yap. “It’s a decision that the TMG team has been dreading for some time, and we wanted to let you know as soon as possible.

…The Middle Ground was launched in June 2015 with Mr Yap and editor Bertha Henson at the helm.

On its Facebook page, The Middle Ground describes itself as a “space for everyone in the middle, somewhere in between the madness at both extremes”.

It added: “It is a place where two sides can meet and be informed about opposing schools of thought. It is a place for moderate speech and agreeable disagreement.”

Video killed the Radio Star, MDA’s registration requirements killed TMG’s previous incarnation, the Breakfast Network (founded by TMG editor Bertha Henson), and what we refer to as news and op-eds these days (on Facebook feed, mainly) is killing blogs and ‘socio-political’ websites.

Regulatory burden and fear of censorship (or self-censorship) are not all to blame. Online journalism, especially of the serious political commentary kind, is no longer a sustainable business model. In the age of memes and personally curated newsfeeds, readers’ attention spans have reduced to that of a gnat’s. We choose to read only what aligns with our worldview, be it pro-PAP or anti-establishment. The number of fence-sitters out there who want to ‘discuss issues and agree to disagree’ are probably less than those willing to pay money to see Steven Lim fight in a ring.

If you’re an intelligent person with an opinion to make, you no longer submit your work as a contribution to credible online media. You simply publish your essay on Facebook. It’s faster, it’s free, and you can go viral before you can make sense of whatever form the MDA wants you to fill to register your site. You just have to be careful not to do a Li Shengwu and get your arse beat by the AGC. Whether people bother to plough through more than 2 paragraphs of your post is another matter.

Meanwhile, registered sites like The Independent resort to sensationalism and shit-stirring reporting to stay afloat. Mothership becomes more ‘Buzzfeedy’ with its foray in the memeverse and quizzes like ‘Which kind of Singaporean Social Media User Are You’. The Online Citizen has a category called ‘Animals’ and has a paid banner for ‘Gold-D’ Cat food. Then we have the offspring of the Father of Fake News that is The Real Singapore, the StatesTimes Review, stuff that people share on their feeds whenever they were late for a job interview because the fucking train broke down. The socio-political site that we used to know is dead. It gets flickers of traffic every 4 years during the elections, but for most of its existence it feeds off people who don’t know shit about society, or politics for that matter.

If you’re looking for a serious read without the flashy ads and millennial-pandering listicles about who serves the best bubble tea in Singapore, then you’d have to head to the library to borrow an actual book.

And who in their right mind would do that?