Singapore is boring. What’s new?

From ‘Yeah, Singapore is boring: STB hits back at Timeout city ranking’, 2 Feb 2018, article in CNA

Is Singapore one of the least exciting cities in the world? The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) begs to differ – and released a tongue-in-cheek video on Thursday (Feb 1) to respond to the charge.

On Tuesday, Singapore came in 31st out of 32 cities in an anonymous survey by Time Out, which took into account criteria such as culture, food, drink, friendliness, liveability, affordability and happiness. About 15,000 people across the 32 cities took part in the survey.

Singapore was named “the worst rated city” for culture, and the worst for drinking apart from Dubai.

Saying Singapore, or any country, is boring is like saying watching MRT trains alighting and boarding passengers is boring. There will always be some people fascinated by it regardless of your useless opinion. No matter how much you want to add to the ‘vibrancy’ of our cosmopolitan state, the Casinos and the Jewels, we will always be viewed as unhip and sterile by marijuana junkies, Hare Krishnas and cowboys.

But what’s new? What would you expect for a small country? How much fun can you cram into this clusterfucked city?

We’ve been boring for 30 years. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked us as one of the most boring countries in the world in 1987. More boring than IRAN and LIBYA. At least our stagnant night life today isn’t accompanied with bomb blasts or machine gun fire. At least if you’re not into watering holes or human company, you could hop on a train in the city and reach a mangrove swamp within an hour. Yes there’s not much that would excite you if you have a week to kill, but give her a day and there may be surprises in store. And if it still doesn’t thrill you, you could fuck off to somewhere ‘grittier’ where people spit on the pavements, piss on the walls or shit on the streets.

So really, there’s no need to be defensive about it. We cane criminals so instinctively we’ll be cast as party-poopers. Let Singapore be boring as a 50 year old marriage is boring, with the occasional orgasm to keep us going.

 

 

 

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Birds in cages crying for help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

birdsingingcorner

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Radiance of Resistance banned for skewed narrative

From ‘IMDA bans film on Palestine-Israeli conflict, citing its skewed narrative’, 2 Jan 2018, article by Yuen Sin, ST

A documentary film that was due to be shown at the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival on Thursday (Jan 4) has been banned from public screening by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) for its “skewed narrative”.

The IMDA gave Radiance Of Resistance a rare Not Allowed For All Ratings (NAR) classification, over concerns that the film may cause disharmony among different races and religions in Singapore.

…According to the IMDA website, the one-hour film was banned from public screening and distribution here as it explores the Israeli-Palestine conflict “without counterbalance”.

“The documentary focuses on the Tamimi family, and two young girls, who are presented as the new faces of Palestinian resistance. In holding up the girls as role models to be emulated in an ongoing conflict, the film incites activists to continue their resistance against the alleged oppressors,” said the IMDA.

The trope is all too familiar. The rise of an underdog against the might of a superior power. A lone figure standing before a tank in Tiananmen Square. A Japanese soldier fending off American marauders. Tom Cruise in a conspiracy to assassinate the Fuhrer (Valkyrie). Hua Mulan charging on a horse against the Huns. Braveheart vs Mighty England. Pocahontas vs the Great White Male.

You get the point. ‘Skewed narratives’ are what STORIES are made of. The posthumous LKY film ‘1965‘ was skewed, so is Jack Neo’s juvenile depiction of NS life in the clusterfuck of Ah Boys to Men sequels. The Passion of Christ was biased towards the Romans. The Journey of the West epic put deities in a bad light. None of these got banned, or even a R21 rating, because filmgoers were trusted to form their own impressions. Because we’re sensible adults. We read books. If ‘counterbalance’ is desired, then it would be mandatory to view ‘To Singapore With Love‘ after ‘1965’.

Then a film from the Israeli-Palestine border comes along and the authorities suddenly decide to interpret its message as inflammatory propaganda on our behalf because national security. The thing is, if Singaporeans want to take up arms for some war-torn country in the name of religion, they’re not going to be inspired by an arty-farty documentary about teenage girl warriors. They’ll get self-radicalised from ISIS rap videos that promise rivers of wine and  virgins in the afterlife on You-fucking-tube.

Which is where everyone will turn to to watch Radiance anyway, thanks to IMDA’s inadvertent pitch.

 

Wearing shorts and slippers to school a sign of disrespect

From ‘Issue of respect over comfort’, 30 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Tan Lin Neo): A proper dress code for university students should be implemented and strictly enforced (Implement dress code for university students, by Mr Pavithran Vidyadharan; Dec 28).

I often see students going to campus dressed sloppily in T-shirts, shorts and slippers, as if they had just come out of their bedrooms. I am astounded that they dress like that to go to a place where they attain knowledge and prepare themselves to enter the workforce.

It is wrong to say that dress codes do not determine one’s ability to study, learn and acquire knowledge. Adhering to a proper dress code shows respect to the institution of higher learning and to the lecturers who, themselves, dress appropriately to impart knowledge to their students.

It is also a way to teach students to dress appropriately for the occasion and environment. How you dress influences your own bearing.

Discipline and respect are the core issues here, and are more important than the need for comfort while attending lectures.

Our universities are ranked among the top in the world and we didn’t get there by wasting resources chastising students for dressing like bums. In 1972, a NUS lecturer, sickened by a generation of ‘flip-flopping’ students, said this reflected ‘loose manners’ and an ‘erring sense of values’. Almost half a century later, in an age where the most successful people in the world are drop-out geniuses in hoodies, there are people who still subscribe to the antiquated convention that dressing well correlates with one’s moral worth and success, just like how stabbing peas with a steak knife is a telltale sign that you’re a fucking psychopath.

You could attend class all dapper but still end up getting caught cheating during your exams. And that applies to lecturers faking data or plagiarising for their publications too. Give our young people some credit. The majority are sensible adults who should already be familiar with unspoken rules when blending into society. No one in their right mind would stride into the lecture theatre in pyjamas using their iPad as a tray for a sandwich and kopi-o. If some weirdo creative type wants to stand out in suspenders and a sunflower bowtie then so be it. After all, once you’re done with university you either spend the rest of your working life as a corporate drone emulating the Wolf of Wall Street having to iron 5 damn shirts a week, or screw this socialist conformity shit and become a hawker, selling hipster mixed economic rice in an old army singlet and slippers. Either way, at that age assholes will remain assholes, whatever dress code we impose in uni. These are not kids who run crying home to Mommy and promise to turn over a new leaf whenever they get a tongue lashing from the dean for dressing like beggars or sluts.

One could argue conversely that it’s not our temples of learning that have succeeded on the world stage in spite of our student’s liberal dressing, but maybe BECAUSE of it. Because it made learning more conducive in this chronically hot weather, that it imbued students with a sense of empowerment and identity, that it allowed students to focus on academic work than being oppressed by an ascetic dress code taken out of a Good Behaviour Manual for monks and nuns in a monastery. The analogy that our students look like they just stepped out of their ‘bedrooms’ is also ironically apt. Aren’t we all encouraged to dream, after all?

 

 

Asian koel too noisy

From ‘Better solution for noisy birds?’, 13 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Lim Chye Hai): In recent months, my estate Tanjung Rhu has seen an increase in the population of Asian koels.

These birds’ powerful calls can be heard early in the morning, before dawn, and throughout the day.

I called the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to highlight this issue two months ago. Its response was that the Asian koel is a protected species, so the agency can only prune the trees to remove the crow’s nest, where the koel lays its eggs. The problem has persisted without improvement to this day.

The birds’ calls have become a nuisance, especially when they start as early as 5am. The well-being of residents must not be compromised. Are there other effective ways to contain the Asian koels’ population?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EZ66v4T7Zw

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
                                                     –  Blackbird, the Beatles

For the sake of the ‘wellbeing’ of residents, stray chickens have been culled and pigeons are lured with poisoned bait (that end up killing curious dogs on a stroll). We complain about snakes invading our premises, wild boars terrorising children, yet conveniently forget that we are the ones tearing down forests to build estates and shopping malls and chasing our feathered friends out of their nests.

We bemoan a sterile concrete jungle yet make demands on the authorities to regulate the ‘powerful’ cries of a bird. Our steel offices are infused with greenery yet we view mating calls as a nuisance detrimental on our ‘wellbeing’. We think we can handle nature but in the end we still retreat to the snug comforts of our bed, huddling over our gadgets, gushing over our nature-themed wallpapers and pretending that the calls of the wild do not exist. Our 8 hours of sleep is paramount. More important than all the birds in the sky and all the worms in the earth.

The writer should be grateful that all he gets is a premature alarm. Some residents get pythons sneaking out of toilet bowls and trying to eat their pet birds. How about monkeys raiding your pantry. Would you rather deal with your neighbours’ shitty singing, or kids running amok in the void deck with their e-scooters or skateboards. In fact, according to NPARKS, as a brood parasite that lays its eggs in crows’ nests, the Asian koel has a role in keeping the crow population in check. So if you are lucky enough not to have crows randomly attacking you, you probably have this noisy koel to thank for an intact scalp and eyeballs.

I would rather the jarring noise of a cuckoo bird, than one coming out of an empty vessel.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.