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

 

20170227_xiaxue

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.

 

Decorative ledges to blame for teen death in Orchard Central

From ‘Rethink use of decorative ledges in high-rise buildings’ and ‘Safety measures needed to prevent falls’, 28 Feb 17, ST Forum

(M Lukshumayeh): It was sad to read about how 17-year-old Jonathan Chow Hua Guang fell from a link bridge at Orchard Central and died (Teen fell after ledge gave way under his weight; Feb 25).

It was reported that the seemingly solid-looking ledge that the teen set foot on was nothing more than a decorative plaster board casing.

The obvious question that surfaces is: Should such ledges be allowed in high-rise buildings?

What if officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force unwittingly use such a ledge in their rescue work?

I hope the authorities will look into ensuring that the use of these decorative ledges is discontinued immediately, to avoid any further incidents.

(Loong Chik Tong): …This unfortunate incident could have been avoided if there were prominent warning signs on the glass balustrade, or if the height of the glass panel was higher, so it cannot be climbed over with such ease.

Shopping malls should also have high safety glass panels along the escalators, like Jem mall in Jurong East has. This is an effective measure to prevent falls.

Carparks in public buildings should also have clearly-marked pedestrian routes to the exits. Can building owners go beyond statutory requirements, and be more proactive in anticipating risks to public safety?

According to reports, the deceased Jonathan Chow was attempting to Snapchat a stunt video before falling 4 storeys to the ground, apparently deceived by the ‘concrete-like’ appearance of the ledge. The CEO of Far East Organisation called the plasterboard box-up an ‘interior architecture treatment‘. Chow’s dad understandably started pointing fingers at inadequate safety measures in shopping malls, just like the writers above, while the media remained silent on the teen’s fatal recklessness, or the danger of showing off on social media. Someone described Chow as one who ‘lived life with no regrets’, which doesn’t console anyone nor make doing death-defying shit because YOLO justifiable.

It’s interesting that one writer mentioned Jem as an example, considering its cursed history of fires, collapsing ceilings and shattering glass doors. And these are structures WITHOUT any warning signs that shoppers take for granted. Chow’s death was an unfortunate accident, but there’s little that beefing up barriers can do if people insist on engaging in aerial acrobats for thrills, whether or not the ledge was made of plaster, concrete or surrounded with barbed wire and flashing red lights. Despite installing safety barriers in MRT stations to stop people from jumping in front of trains, we still hear of people straying onto tracks.

And if, as one writer says, the SCDF wouldn’t be able to tell if a ledge is safe enough to step on, that speaks poorly of our civil defence capabilities, that they may not even be trusted to rescue a cat in a tree because they keep falling off broken branches.

It’s also absurd to put a warning sticker not to climb over a glass balustrade when the object exists for no other purpose than to stop you from falling over. It’s like separating a crocodile and you with an enclosure bearing the sign ‘Do not try to pet the croc’.  If anything, forbidding the action may even encourage Snapchatters to do it with more vigour. Like kids smoking below a No Smoking sign, or breaking into a ‘No Trespassing’ Zone.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you effectively seal off all high-rise shenanigans, that you activate security staff round the clock to ensure there’s no monkey business. If someone slips and cracks his skull while walking on level ground, do we blame the building managers for having floors that are too smooth? If a teen decides to use a railing for wheelchair users as a balancing beam or a skateboard trick, crashes and dies, do we put signs that say ‘Do not jump around on railings’?  How about putting a sign upfront at the mall’s entrance saying ‘Do not do stupid things or play Pokemon Go’?

I wonder how different public reaction might have been if Chow took the leap of his own accord. We may start blaming the education system, the parents, cyberbullying. Anything else except the lack of signs on glass barriers telling you to call SOS for help. 

PM Lee against yes-men who say ‘three bags full,sir’

From ‘Leaders must be able to take criticism and acknowledge mistakes’, 26 Feb 2017, article in Today

The most important philosophy that a leader must have is “not to take yourself or your philosophy too seriously”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when asked to share his leadership mantra at a closed-door dialogue with about 100 technology innovators and disrupters from around the world.

Speaking at the event held on Friday (Feb 24) by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India, Mr Lee also stressed the need for a leader of a nation to be close to the ground and not surround himself with yes-men. In addition, he must be able to accept differing views and criticism, as well as acknowledge his mistakes and change decisions when merited, Mr Lee said.

“You have to see the world, you have to talk to people, ordinary people. You have to have a sense of what it looks like not from the point of view of the policymaker, but from the point of view of those who are at the receiving end of your policies,” he said, based on the transcript released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.

Mr Lee added: “I try not to surround myself with ‘yes, sir’ men. That is important because if all you have are people who say ‘three bags full sir’, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous.”

One can imagine all the ‘yes-men’ in the audience guffawing politely at PM Lee’s nursery rhyme joke, just like how he entertained a totally different group with a swipe at China with his pork soup joke. Suffice to say, it’s hard to pick out a BLACK sheep among today’s PAP, and considering that his listeners are ‘innovators and disrupters’, I doubt he could easily pull the WOOL over their eyes. Or anyone else familiar with the regime’s intolerance for dissension for that matter.

This is the same leader who once described his skin to be so thick that it’s ‘flame-proof’, though some of his harshest critics got severely scorched in return. Yes, when one’s integrity and honour are at stake, there’s no way you can ‘not take yourself seriously’. People like Roy Ngerng and even his own sister Lee Wei Ling come to mind. One lost his job while the other stopped writing articles for ST completely because of their besmirching.

So it’s a bit rich that one thinks criticism is a good thing, while having a penchant of sueing not just individuals, but entire publications for defamation before even engaging in productive, lively debate. Yes, we welcome naysayers, but if you don’t watch it I’ll still set my legal hounds on your ass.  As for admitting mistakes, you’ll need to go back 2 GEs ago, when PM Lee made a rally apology for fiascos such as the Mas Selamat escape and Orchard Road flooding. Those were, of course, pre-70% days.

Maybe Lee was in his not-so-serious ‘balloon helmet’ element here, imagining that he was a shepherd of our yes-flock, giving an inspirational TED talk.

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Singapore needs more naysayers

From ‘Why Singapore needs more naysayers’, 25 Feb 2017, article by Charissa Yong, ST

Singapore needs more people to speak up and challenge authority, said a panel of academics and former senior civil servants yesterday.

They lamented the reluctance of civil servants to pose contrarian views when facing political office-holders, and the reticence of university students in asking questions at conferences.

…Said Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani, 68: “We need more naysayers.” He argued that Singapore cannot take its formulas for success developed over the last 50 years and apply them to the next 50 years, as the world has changed drastically.

“We need to create new formulas, which you can’t until you attack and challenge every sacred cow. Then you can succeed,” he added.

…Above all, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, 79, felt that differing points of view should be valued.

He said: “When we appoint people to boards, we can also appoint challengers who are subversive and who have alternative points of view. That’s the kind of cultural change we want to see. It makes Singapore stronger, not weaker.”

Interesting choice of words. A ‘naysayer’ is traditionally a vocal, niggling obstacle to something you want to achieve, be it establishing a semi-autocratic society  or pursuing a dream job as a kids’ party magician despite having a medical degree. In any quest for happiness or greatness, one is usually expected to prove people like the naysayers, the skeptics, the keyboard warriors, wrong – but now, experts are telling us otherwise, that having ‘naysayers’ is a good thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not a role that’s welcome with open arms in Parliament. Our rulers view robust debate as slowing down policy implementation, that having a one-party system may benefit Singapore as a whole. We also know what the Government has done to famous political naysayers in the past: sent them into exile, sued their pants off, or put them in jail. LKY labelled trade union shenanigans in the 1950’s as ‘subversive elements‘, the same adjective Tommy Koh uses for ‘challengers’ today.

Which probably explains the ‘reticence’ of students and civil servants in front of politicians. Decades of critic-silencing has ingrained within our society a climate of fear when it comes to freely speaking our mind. Refraining from challenging the status quo has become part of our Singaporean identity, our DNA. It’s not so much that we’re afraid of losing ‘face’, but rather we don’t want to end up with a defamation suit because we’ve grossly undermined the authority of a figurehead. If you present an ‘alternative view’, there’s a chance you may be dismissed outright as a vile fabricator, or sued for harassment by an entity that doesn’t qualify as a ‘person’ (The Government). If a public officer so much as posts about his disdain about a particular MP under the ruling party, he may risk losing his job as well. Silence, especially the Singaporean kind, is Golden.

Ultimately, the Government DECIDES what needs to be challenged and either ignores or , at worst, deals severe punishment to those who transgress predetermined boundaries. If you challenge the anti-gay law you’re not a maverick but a liberalist troublemaker. When civil servants moaned about the impending Internet Separation, the Government adopted it’s ‘Government knows Best’ attitude. Nobody asks about ministers’ salaries because we know this will never be answered, despite it being the biggest elephant in the room. Yes the world has changed drastically, but some conservative circles are still clinging on to obsolete ‘Asian values’ and waxing lyrical about our moral fibre, the sanctity of human life or marriage, but the Government is wary of offending this bunch at the expense of staying relevant on the world stage because VOTES.

So, really, what we need is not MORE naysayers, but a bold incursion into traditionally taboo subjects to naysay about. Let’s talk about the death penalty, medicinal cannabis, gay marriage, poverty, euthanasia, genetic testing. Otherwise all the naysaying in the world will do fuck all to coax the authorities’ head out of the sand.

Thieves market’s grimy old men

From ‘Thieves’ Market closure ends nightmare for resident’, 25 Feb 2017, ST Forum

(Ang Zyn Yee): As a resident of the Housing Board flats beside the Sungei Road flea market, I have felt only relief after it was announced that the market would be shut down for good on July 10 (“Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes”; Feb 15).

Many of the people whose views I have read oppose the closure. They present a vision of the market as a charming area of Singapore that must be protected from the modernisation that has gripped the other parts of our nation. However, having lived with the market my entire life, I cannot help but disagree with the heavily romanticised narrative presented.

The Sungei Road flea market has been a nuisance to me for years – not because of its actual operation but how it has encroached into residential space.

…The Thieves Market has ruined the aesthetics of the estate by making the area look messy, dodgy and filthy. In addition, several of these stall-holders have made the residential atrium their home, sleeping on the stone benches and washing themselves at the tap under the HDB block. It is not uncommon to spot their clothes hanging from trees near the atrium.

It may be unfair of me to base my judgment of the flea market on the actions of these people, who might constitute just the minority. But I appeal to the public to try and appreciate the situation from a resident’s perspective.

Grimy old men hawking frayed yellow-stained books and broken toys in the pavilion have become the gate keepers to my home. Every day before I enter the lift lobby, I am careful to keep my eyes straight ahead, in fear of seeing a man relieve himself.

The Sungei Road Flea Market may hold precious memories to some, but it has been nothing but a nightmare for me. I am overjoyed that it will soon be gone.

In the mid seventies, Sungei Road market was not just a haven for ‘grimy old men’, but enterprising bootleg cassette tape pirates who sold dubbed version of originals for as low as $1.60. Such unwholesome activity would become the norm more than 30 years later, as ‘stolen music’ became blase in the Napster era. Today, $1.60 would be the iTunes price for a SINGLE, instead of the lovingly curated playlist that the Sungei Road pirates peddled in the past.

It’s a shame that one man’s livelihood is another’s ‘yellow-stained’ eyesore, but residents paranoid about wading through puddles of old-man pee are not the only ones who felt the Thieves’ Market needed cleaning up. Just ask MP Denise Phua.  Of course in a crowded city as ours it’s unrealistic to expect perpetual serenity where we live. Geylang residents are afraid of their daughters getting harassed. Serangoon folks once complained about nearby foreign worker dormitories. Sengkangers wailed about an impending columbarium.  Sin Ming residents indirectly led to the untimely deaths of wild chickens.

Along with the demolition of the Rochor tri-colour flats, the demise of an iconic flea market spells the end of the Rochor ‘character’ as we know it. Things change or get destroyed, and there’s precious little we can do to preserve what the writer calls ‘romanticised narratives’, whether it’s a downtrodden theme park like Haw Par Villa, an obliterated Lentor Forest, or people proposing air-conditioning in hawker centres to turn them into de facto Food Courts.

As for grimy old men, given our aging society, I suppose we’d better get used to seeing more of them around. Who knows when my time comes and my work is taken over by a bot, I’ll find myself peddling smelly old books and vintage handphones at a makeshift flea market, incurring the NIMBY wrath of some post-millennial who’s turned off by my shady wares and yellow teeth.

Changi naval base renamed RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base

From ‘Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base’, 18 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Sunny Goh, Dr): Names and labels have been under scrutiny lately. While the Syonan Gallery has been hotly debated, one other name change has escaped attention: RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base (“Changi Naval Base’s new name to hark back to beginnings“; Feb 10).

It is problematic in two aspects. First, is the new name supposed to shift the emphasis away from “Changi” as the base onto the ship “Singapura”?

If so, this will force a contest between two historically powerful words, and not everyone will agree that the ship triumphs over the base.

Most people – visitors and taxi drivers included – will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Second, how is the ship related to the base?

The RSS Singapura was a former Japanese minelayer that was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin and was used by the then Singapore Naval Volunteer Force as its headquarters from 1966 to 1968, while the base was officially opened only in 2004, almost 40 years later.

Those at the Republic of Singapore Navy must be able to account for this, if foreign dignitaries were to ask them about the name. From a practical point of view, there is another problem.

Over time, an abbreviation for the name will probably emerge – the same that has taken place for the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC). But having seven letters, such as RSSSCNB, is itself unwieldy.

All of this begs the question: If the original name wasn’t broken, why fix it?

Just the day before, the Government made a reluctant and rather surprising U-turn after a public outcry over the Syonan Gallery, changing it to the mouthful’ Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies’, which sounds more like the title of a history textbook than an actual venue. What if my grandfather DIDN’T survive the Japanese Occupation? Wouldn’t this new name be a snub to those who sacrificed their lives during this horrific period?

Think ‘Changi’ and our world-famous airport comes to mind. But there was a time when naming our iconic airport after a place that evokes bloody war atrocities was deemed to be ‘in poor taste’. Brand it anything else to soothe psychological wounds and we may not have the Changi Airport as we know today. Similarly, I’d like to think that if we had retained ‘Syonan’ as a name for exhibitions, Singaporeans would learn to accept and move on over time like how ‘Changi’ became mundane, yet still retaining a prickly reminder of wartime history. Unfortunately, we’d rather sanitise our labels than learn to deal with them.

The ship RSS Singapura itself has some interesting history. Once bequeathed with the Japanese ‘WakaTaka‘, it was given its current name when Singapore joined Malaysia. It was also intended in the 60’s to be converted into a floating night club. Now thanks to the Syonan saga, we have to be wary of labels that summon wartime sensitivities, and by coming with up a practically useless and cumbersome hybrid-hyphenated name for the naval base, we’re injecting those affected with a double whammy; combining a ship that once served the Japanese Imperial navy and a place once associated with instituted mass murder.

Maybe the Navy should emulate Yaacob and reverse the decision after some ‘deep reflection’.