NEA making rain to wash off the haze just for F1

From ‘Cloud seeding rumours are false, malicious: MEWR Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’, 17 Sep 15, article in CNA

Rumours that cloud seeding is taking place to induce rain ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix are false, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said.

Addressing a WhatsApp message that has been making the rounds in Singapore, Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook on Thursday (Sep 17): “The National Environment Agency does not engage in cloud seeding and has no plans to do so. Singapore is so small that even if anybody tried to do it, the rain would almost certainly fall outside Singapore.”

He added: “Singaporeans should beware of malicious people spreading false rumours during a period when anxieties are heightened.”

The original WhatsApp message called for people to be wary of what it claimed were “chemically-induced rain showers”, purportedly meant to reduce haze levels in light of the coming Formula 1 race, which will be held on roads in Singapore’s Civic District from Sep 18 to 20.

In 2006, the NEA did in fact conduct a feasibility study on cloud-seeding to combat the annual haze scourge (S’pore may make own rain to beat the haze, 17 Nov 2006, ST). If you go further back to 1963 when the country was drought-hit, we embarked on the first ever rain-making attempt by sending a Royal Australian Air Force DC-3 up into the air. It is not known if that crew was actually successful, or the lack of suitable clouds to fertilise put a damper on their efforts. That probably works on the parched Outback, but not on our little pinprick of an island. Alternatively, you could try to pray for 4 hours, like what our Sikh community did that same year. I wonder what precipitated out of that. So, yeah, the possibility of us ‘playing God’ and dabbling in rainmaking is not as outright incredulous as the MEWR minister makes it seem.

Rumours of using this expensive technique, the science behind which is still rather ‘hazy’, to bring on the showers aren’t new to Singaporeans. We hear of it being done to deplete the clouds of their load so that the National Day Parade would be rain-free. But why hire a pilot and an aircraft full of silver iodide when you could do something far cheaper, and simpler, a method even endorsed by our PM himself: Making an offering chillies and onions to the rain deities.

Conspiracy theorists may recall how the US War machine supposedly weaponised the weather using aggressive cloud seeding over Vietnam. Code named Operation Popeye, the mission was to ‘reduce trafficability’ along infiltration routes. A war euphemism for torrential rain, floods and landslides. Apparently not everyone dreams of making it rain meatballs.

Cloud seeding by our neighbouring countries has also been linked with hailstones, a speculation that was firmly debunked by NEA for the reason that rain clouds formed by such seeding cannot travel such long distances to reach us. Till today, there remains no clear explanation for the freak weather we had post-haze in 2013. Not everyone complains about this ‘raining like ice cubes’, though.


F1 Grand Prix is not a $25 chicken rice race

From ‘Singapore GP not a $25-chicken-rice race: organisers’, 14 Sept 2014, article in CNA

The Singapore Grand Prix is meant to be a great experience and not a ‘$25-Chicken-Rice’ race, said the organisers of Formula One’s (F1) only night race, in response to a report that showed the city-state may not be the most affordable place to catch an F1 race.

Race organisers say Singaporeans consistently make up about 60 per cent of the over 80,000 race-goers each year. This applies to every price category – from the cheapest walkabout tickets to the Pit Grandstand.

“Over and above a sporting occasion, it is a huge social occasion now. Singaporeans like a good party,” said Mr Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore GP. “I think this loyalty has grown among Singaporeans – they’ve become quite proud of the Singapore Grand Prix and they like it when the world is watching Singapore and the skyline.

“We don’t want to be a ‘$25-chicken-rice Grand Prix’. We want to be a great experience.”

But there is a price to be paid for the chance to experience F1’s only night race. Travel website TripAdvisor ranked the Singapore Grand Prix as the seventh most expensive, out of the 19 races worldwide. It said the price of catching the Sunday final race here is S$622.67. This includes the cost of the cheapest tickets at S$207.33, a meal and a night’s stay at a hotel near the track.

Roche’s analogy of a ‘$25 chicken rice dish’ is likely a snub at the famous house special at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which now incidentally costs $27. Curiously enough, the ‘legendary’ chicken rice was created by a German chef back in 1971, who was inspired by the hawker version to create a premium dish, made from COBB 500 chickens, medium grain jasmine rice and homemade ginger and chilli sauces. I wonder what former executive chef Peter Gehrmann would think of the comparison, with Roche suggesting that $25 for a plate is overpriced, overrated when it seems like only top-grade ingredients went into its concoction. Chicken rice will never be ‘sexy’ or ‘glamorous’ like an F1 race no matter how you mark it up. And honestly, thank God it’s not.

While Chatterbox used to be a ‘coffee house’ in those days, today it’s a casual diner and its ‘award-winning’ chicken rice still wins the hearts of some locals who appreciate the generous servings of meat, describe the sauces as ‘sublime’ and the meal as an ‘annual pilgrimage’ (WHAT awards exactly, I wonder). Perhaps the Night Race is more of a $25 XO Chai Tau Quay instead? 20 years ago, Chatterbox charged their chicken rice at $16 per plate (Is $16 too high a price for chicken rice, 17 Aug 1995, ST), which is still cheaper than what you can get for a BURGER at F1 ($17) today.  In 2009, food stalls in the F1 zone were charging chicken rice and HOKKIEN MEE at $8, which was expected since the whole event was designed to milk the most out of rich people, though if I had to choose between a sub-par, measly $8 chicken rice and the Chatterbox dish, I’d rather splurge on the latter. According to Trip Advisor, we also sell the most expensive pint of beer in the history of F1 ($13.58), no thanks to our recent increase in sin taxes. Nobody seems to be overly concerned about a riot breaking out on the grandstands.

But look at the discrepancy between our minimum ticket price vs Malaysia just across the Causeway ($207.33 vs $39.12). The CNA article also didn’t mention that, according to the BBC, Singapore has the MOST EXPENSIVE 3-day ticket OF ALL (1,109 pounds) (2013). The second most expensive ticket in the world was from Brazil, at a distant 745 pounds per ticket. This year, for $42276.50 you could book a GREEN ROOM (Oops, you can’t now, it’s sold out!). What the F1 organisers are avoiding to explain really is WHY so expensive compared to the rest of the region (i.e Malaysia), even for a night race. It’s not that we have the most ardent racing fans so much as we have the greatest concentration of goddamn billionaires  (26) here.

Not to mention the other intangible costs of a night race on our environment, namely the excessive use of lighting. No, the F1 isn’t a $25 chicken rice dish. Ecologically speaking, it’s a $25 triple-decker Big Mac, sinful beyond redemption, greasy, artery-clogging, too much of which will eventually kill you. In the government’s eyes, it’s a billion-dollar baby.

F1 tickets delivered only after F1

From ‘YOG helpers get F1 tickets – after race’, 29 Sept 2010, article by Ng Kai Ling in Home, ST

An administrative boo-boo has led to volunteers at the Youth Olympic Games getting free tickets to the Grand Prix – after the event

…(Benson Quek): It’s such a waste that the ticket arrangement was not handled properly. I don’t want to blame anyone but it’s a joke to receive tickets after the race is over.

…(Goh Ek Ming): The most ridiculous thing was that the envelope was stamped Sept 24, when the ticket was for Saturday, Sept 25.

…(Angeline Wong): Among my group of volunteers, it seems like I’m the only one who got it. In the end,I went alone.


Even if Singpost were still working a 5 and a half day work week, isn’t the last-minute dispatching one day prior to the  F1 weekend itself a glaring indication that whoever’s in charge just can’t be bothered about this whole volunteer appreciation business? Not the SYOGOC but a MCYS blunder this time round, ‘sincere’  though futile apologies were conveyed, but the volunteers would be better off not wasting their time and hopes on any form of attempted compensation offered for this error, knowing the history of YOG blunders so far.  Who knows, even the most obvious, simplest gesture of gratitude may go awry at the way things are going, like giving expired shopping vouchers, or commemorative YOG pens with no ink, or YOG badges with no pins, or posters bearing genuine JJ Lin signatures except that the singer on the posters isn’t JJ Lin. Maybe generosity is such an unfamiliar concept to the organisers that the very thought of giving people free things short circuits their executive functions if not their perception of time and space altogether.

Helicopter to fly flag at F1

From ‘Give it the respect it deserves’, 28 Sept 2010, ST Forum

(MRS SOO TING NG TOPOLSKI): ‘My husband and I have attended the Singapore Grand Prix since its inception in 2008. One disappointment is the lack of proper etiquette during the singing of the National Anthem. It was not announced to race-goers and we realised it was being sung only when we saw it on the trackside television screen. The organisers should mark the National Anthem as a proper event on the schedule and arrange for the singing to be announced in the four official languages, so that race-goers will have the time to prepare for it and give it the respect it deserves.

The organisers should also consider using a staple icon of the National Day Parade – the flag flypast – by having a helicopter carry a large Singapore flag when the anthem is being sung. And, how about lighting up the flag over City Hall? The Singapore Grand Prix is a major event and we should use the occasion to express our national pride.

Why stop at helicopters? How about having our other NDP staple Red Lions parachuting off the helicopter in a crescent moon and five stars formation against a backdrop of dazzling fireworks, and having each parachuter land with pinpoint precision right into awaiting, customised red and white racecars, and then having them zoom off with one hand waving a Singapore flag,  the other blowing a vuvuzela to the tune of Chan Mali Chan? How about turning the entire Marine Bay Sands into a giant LCD screen, broadcasting a montage of feel-good stock footage from the Singapore Heritage Board, with the lyrics to Majulah Singapura big and bright enough, karaoke style,  for the whole of Marina Bay to see, so that people know when to sing berseru and not bersatu?

At such a glitzy event like the Night race, with celebrity drivers and their hot cars, hot girlfriends and hot famous friends, can you really blame anyone for not giving the national anthem due attention? Would you, at a wild swingers orgy, listen to the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally? Would Paris Hilton, socialite extraordinaire, with Martini in hand, give two cents about our National Anthem if she ever graced the occasion? It’s party pooper music and not cool, man. People go to F1 to feel the throbbing grandstands, revel in the riotous, sexy swarm of engines, to soak in the atmosphere of grit, tarmac, sweat and petrol, not to stand up, stand up for Singapore. To my surprise, we had a Grand Prix in the 70’s too, and if you thought not caring about the national anthem is bad, how about insulting the flag itself as seen in this letter ‘The State flag swept the grit!’ 14 April 1971, ST

YOG flamed

From ‘Slack preview of YOG opening ceremony’, 4 Aug 2010, ST Forum online

(Iswaree Balakrishnan):… I was given four tickets to the event (YOG opening ceremony rehearsal) and was excited to take my cousins, aged five to 10. I was sure that such a major event, be it a rehearsal or preview, hosted by Singapore would be superior.

I was surprised when the hosts came out in casual attire, holding their scripts and asking us to take out the battery-operated heart-shaped torches and air sticks from imaginary goodie bags and to make some noise. Most performers were dressed casually. There was no continuity between the different “chapters” of the show, leaving the crowd bored. YOG representatives dispersed among the audience, whose role was to keep the spirits up, were struggling.

It’s not just goodie bags that are given the ‘imaginary’ treatment. The airports are filled with teens with imaginary smiles ready to welcome our delegates with imaginary warmth, who are then shepherded along imaginary traffic-free lanes into an imaginary village, where a welcome fanfare represents the imaginary enthusiasm of 5.5 million people waving imaginary banners. A ill-conceived effort to promote the event, giving away tickets to lacklustre previews and expecting them to pay to come back for a second round.

From ‘Let’s light up our city at night’, 4 Aug 2010, My Point, ST Forum

(Michael Seet): With the upcoming Youth Olympic Games, following our National Day celebration, then the Singapore Grand Prix, I appeal to the relevant authorities to give a rebate to owners of office towers in the downtown areas on their electrical bills during these periods, to encourage them to light up their buildings. Such a practice in cities like Hong Kong, Sydney and New York makes the skyline really impressive. The results could be spectacular, making Singapore more visible to the world. Let’s light up our city at night

Yeah, and show the world that our recognition of Earth Hours and promises to cut down carbon emissions are flagrant lies too. Mr Seet, I appeal to your inner child to think of how much electricity this is going to waste  and if that doesn’t prick your green conscience, I suggest you watch the entire Season 1 of the Captain Planet cartoon series. Has anyone started doing the calculations on the ecological damage done to our country since this whole YOG onslaught began? Think of all the emissions from ferrying athletes to and fro, all the resources and wattage spent in rah-rah festivities, pointless fireworks (if any) etc. I think the greener, and more sincere way to show the world we give a damn is to have our PAP cheerleaders dressed in all white forming a human ‘YOG, oh yeah!’ on some grass patch in Marina Bay. The results would be more spectacular than all NDP fireworks combined.

From ‘中年艺人传青奥会圣火 公众:为什么?’, 4 Aug 2010, article in (LHZB)

有人认为,属于年轻人和运动员的青奥盛事,为何找来像郑各评年龄与“青年”扯不上关系的艺人当火炬手? 《联合晚报》读者朱德晖(52岁,退休人士)受访时说:“就像《红星大奖》不会找李佳薇去颁奖,青奥运也不该找艺人传圣火。”

Translation: Readers feel that middle aged veteran Mediacorp actors like Zheng Guoping shouldn’t bear the YOG torch, because for one, they’re not athletes and two they’re not youthful.

Honestly, who gives a damn who runs with the torch?I for one can’t even name a single Singaporean sprinter more befitting of the privilege other than the old sport on the Oh Yeah YOG cheer. Isn’t transcending prejudice and age barriers the crux of the Olympic spirit? In a desperate plea for ratings they may even get Fiona Xie in a bikini to run with the torch for all I care. Oh wait. Maybe I would care.

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