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?

 

 

 

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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.

MDA banning photos of freedom fighters from arts fest

From ‘Photos cut from show’, 24 June 2016, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh, ST

When Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian’s exhibition I Know Why The Rebel Sings opened on Wednesday night, black cards took the place of 15 photographs depicting Kurdish female soldiers who had joined the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Media Development Authority (MDA) had asked that these photographs be removed before a licence could be given for the exhibition, which is part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts’ pre- festival programme, The O.P.E.N.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MDA said the festival team had submitted about 150 of Newsha’s photos for the exhibition. “These included photographs of members from a terrorist-linked organisation, who had committed acts of violence to further their cause, for example suicide bombing.”

MDA asked that these photographs be removed from the show. “Singapore takes a firm stand against extremism and will not allow photographs that undermine public order, national security and/ or stability to be displayed,” it said.

It did not name the organisation, but the women in the photographs removed from the exhibition are part of the YPJ, an all-woman offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in south-east Turkey.

Dear MDA,

I was browsing around at the local library and found this book featuring a photo of an extremist on the front cover. I’m concerned that this may undermine public order and influence readers into strapping bombs to themselves and killing Singaporeans. Please do the necessary. NLB, surely if you could pull out a book on gay penguins you would do the same for this too.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 7.39.49 PM

Dear MDA,

I was shocked and disturbed to find portraits of radicalised Bangladeshis on the MHA website. Please ask your fellow stat board to take down these photos immediately. They are seriously undermining public order. After my kid saw their faces, he insisited on bringing his water pistol to class everyday since.

https://www.mha.gov.sg/Newsroom/press-releases/PublishingImages/Pages/Arrests-of-27-Radicalised-Bangladeshi-Nationals-under-the-Internal-Security-Act-/Photographs%20of%20Bangladeshi%20Nationals%20arrested%20under%20the%20Internal%20Security%20Act.pdf

 Dear MDA,

What is the meaning of this? How did you even let this poster by the Police slip by without mosaicing the said terrorist’s face?

Dear MDA,

Please take action against the Straits Times. Although nobody has seen the face of the Chinese Singaporean taking up arms against Syria named Wang Yuandongyi, an editorial on which his capture was based on (April 2 2016) featured a photo of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during training, which clearly glamorises terrorist-linked violence. I enclose the artistically-taken photo and offending page herein as evidence. Do you want more brainwashed citizens to take up this extremist cause because of the ST’s inexcusable undermining of our national security?

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 10.11.19 PM

Dear MDA,

Thanks to your decisive action and making your censorship newsworthy, I googled ‘I Know When the Rebel Sings‘ and found the uncensored version online. Now I know which sites to block in case my children stumble upon this image and get hypnotised into joining a foreign rebel army.

img_9092-768x576

Now you see me

The Singapore version:

st_20160624_nanewsha24k6ij_2390905

MDA censoring two men kissing in Les Miserables

From ‘Same-sex kiss cut from Singapore staging of Les Miserables’, 11 June 2016, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

A kissing scene between two male performers has been removed from the staging of Les Miserables after complaints from the public. The Media Development Authority (MDA) confirmed that action was taken upon “receiving feedback from members of the public”.

The show, now on at the Esplanade, was given a ‘General’ rating as the same-sex kiss was not highlighted in the script when it was submitted for classification, MDA said. The Straits Times understands that kiss did not appear in performances from June 3.

The scene involved a brief peck during the song Beggars at the Feast. It was not in many other productions of the long-running classic. MDA said it reviewed the performance after receiving feedback from members of the public.

After being advised that the scene exceeded its ‘General’ rating, the producers decided to remove it, MDA said. Earlier, Facebook user Alvin Ng posted in a Facebook group that he wrote to MDA to complain about the scene.

He wrote in a June 1 post that he saw the kiss in the second last scene during the opening performance of Les Miserables.

“This was never in the original production but now it’s been included here,” Mr Ng pointed out. He also appealed for others to lodge complaints too, if they saw the scene in other Les Miserables performances. On June 10, he posted that MDA has liaised with the producers of the show to remove the scene.

Do you hear the people complain?

The Facebook group in question is ‘We are Against Pink Dot Singapore’, and the exact words used by Alvin Ng was ‘gay kiss’. Though the play is set around 1832, I’m pretty sure ‘gay’ isn’t used here in the same context as ‘happy’. Also, clearly we’re not comfortable with people pushing boundaries. Sometimes we cut them off completely, like the boundary between Government email and the Internet. Am I right, IDA?

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.03.07 PM

Maybe MDA should ban the entire Beggars at the Feast song too, for it contains some lyrics that would offend morality ‘watchmen’ (as some commenters have praised) like Alvin Ng, such as:

Here comes a prince/There goes a Jew/This one’s a QUEER/But what can you do

It also contains the words ‘buggers’ and ‘blowing’. Yep. Just ban it, MDA, and while you’re at it, you could collaborate with IDA to ban the segment videos from Youtube too. After all, you stopped Ah Mei from singing a song about rainbows.

Personally not a fan of Les Miz, though I did catch the film version starring Borat, Wolverine and Catwoman, but there was no hint of homoeroticism in there at all, just a lot of shouty chest-thumping singing and people raising muskets. Wait a minute, isn’t this whole French revolution thing about ‘pushing boundaries’?

MDA did not elaborate on the context of the ‘brief peck’, whether it was on the lips, forehead or on the cheeks, but label it as a ‘same-sex kiss’ and it becomes grossly distorted from something cheeky, even ‘bromantic’, to a full-blown pro-family, anti-LGBT, pink-dotty issue likely to rile both camps into another futile war. There was also a controversial, impromptu ‘same-sex’ kiss between two actresses during a Star Awards some years back. Not sure if Alvin Ng was complaining then. Those two ladies still have their jobs, and I don’t see the Star Awards producers making sure that men only sit next to women to minimise the risk of any gay kissing whatsoever.

The whole point of a ‘General’ rating then, is that the show is suitable for children, though I don’t see how Les Miz would appeal to young impressionable minds.  What MDA, and the anti-Pink Dot people, should be worried about, really, is same-sex gratuitousness in CARTOONS.

Spongebob kisses Squidward on his nob. DISGUSTING.

Tom and Jerry same-sex slow dancing? UNACCEPTABLE

Who would have thought Bugs Bunny would be a serial sex-sex kisser as well. JUST LOOK AT THIS WASCALLY WABBIT DOING QUEER SHIT!

Smooching Yosemite Sam

Marrying Elmer Fudd. Oh the humanity!

Perhaps in their next run the Les Miz producers should not only ensure they comply with the licensing conditions by removing suggestively gay scenes, or better still rename their play to ‘Miserables’ without the suggestive ‘Les’ in it too. You can push your boundaries elsewhere.

Madonna performing for the first time in Singapore

From ‘Madonna could perform in Singapore for the first time’, 29 Nov 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

Queen of pop Madonna, who was banned from performing her controversial Girlie Show World Tour here in 1993, seems set to strut her stuff in Singapore for the very first time.

Home-grown concert promoter IMC Live told The Sunday Times it is in talks to bring the 57-year-old American star’s ongoing Rebel Heart tour here for a one-night concert for 30,000 at the National Stadium.

…For the Singapore gig to be given the go-ahead this time, The Sunday Times understands some songs may have to be dropped from the setlist.

Bitch, it’s Madonna, the only singer to continue chart-topping since the Michael Jackson ‘King of Pop’ era. I was a casual fan in the 80’s, when she brought the world timeless ballads like ‘Live to Tell’, ‘Crazy for you’ and sugary pop gems like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Open Your Heart’. She was Material Girl, Madge, Maddie, sex kitten, goddess, Kaballah practitioner all at once. When you look up ‘raunchy’ in the dictionary, you will find Madonna in a bustier.

She has come a long way since the days of the conical bra and Vogue. Things spiralled downhill after she remade American Pie. Today, she struggles to keep up with the Youtube and Spotify generation, sometimes ending up like the Auntie in denial gatecrashing a dubstep party when she should really should be line-dancing. Her ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ collaboration with Nicky Minaj is a case in point. Most singers her age would be more comfortable dueting with the Bee Gees instead.

Despite attempts to stay edgy and relevant, Madonna remains revered among the Pop Princess sorority, from the Britney Spearses to the Arianna Grandes. No one denies her accomplishments, but as iconic as she is, the fate of the Rebel Heart Tour remains at the mercy of the MDA, and a certain lot of Singaporeans among our midst who will stop at nothing to ban her from these shores,  the very same people who signed petitions against openly gay Adam Lambert from performing at the Jubilee Year End concert.

Other than being an active promoter of the LGBT cause, there are several more reasons why Madonna may find herself ‘Swept Away’ by the prudish powers that be.

  1. Hentai Demon Rape

In 2002, the ‘Drowned World Tour 2001′ DVD was banned for sale here as it featured an animation sequence of a monster raping an ‘Asian looking girl’. You can, of course, find the link to the video on Youtube.

2. Insulting Christianity

Another DVD ban. In the ‘Confessions’ tour, Madonna sang ‘Live to Tell’ while strung up on a cross.  This coming from the same woman who brought us the blasphemous ‘Like a Prayer’ video, where the cross was sexualised as a cleavage accessory to black lacy lingerie. And that was in 1989, way before Lady Gaga bugged the Christian community with less spicy stuff like ‘Judas’.

3. Random violence against men

The Guy Ritchie-directed video ‘What it Feels like For a Girl‘ was banned in 2001 because it depicted Madonna going on a misandrist rampage. An advisory warning by MDA alone would not be enough to protect our local men from being castrated on site if all the ladies in the house transform into Amazonian cannibals.

4. Lesbian kissing

This.

5. Drug references

One of Madonna’s more recent albums was titled MDNA, which is one letter away from controlled drug MDMA. You may know it as Ecstasy.

6. Kinky BDSM and Androgyny

Till today, the steamy Justify My Love video continues to stir loins. 20 years later we would have Fifty Shades of Grey. How many more reasons do we need to justify her ban?

If all goes well, we could have the first almost-sexagenarian to perform to a sold-out crowd in Singapore. Toned down or not, Madonna could earn more from this single show than all the Air Supply concerts combined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude-less Playboy still banned by MDA

From ‘Playboy.com ban in Singapore remains: MDA’, 14 Oct 15, article by Lee Gim Siong,  CNA

The ban on access to Playboy.com in Singapore will not be lifted, said the Media Development Authority (MDA) on Wednesday (Oct 14). The US-based magazine had announced on Tuesday that it will stop publishing nude photographs in its pages from February next year. The website had also stopped publishing nude images since 2014.

In response to queries from 938LIVE, the MDA also said that it is too early to comment on the revamped Playboy magazine, as it has yet to be launched.

The spokesperson added that Playboy.com remains on the list of websites which are symbolically blocked in Singapore, to signal the types of content which the community regards as offensive or harmful.

The majority of these websites are pornographic in nature, and this position on the Playboy website has been in effect since 1996.

Playboy’s shift of focus away from naked centrefolds spells the inevitable demise of the ‘girly mag’. Along with Singapore’s very own FHM, we men may no longer bond at the newstands pretending to be browsing golf monthlies but in fact peeking at the covers of dirty magazines. The Internet (more specifically, porn) has made the eponymous bunny and its celebrated flesh parade obsolete, just like how it has made MDA’s ‘honour roll’ of blacklisted websites redundant. Some of these ‘symbolically’ banned sites may not even exist anymore. Not sure if it still has ‘Sex.com’ on it.

MDA’s taking a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach, naturally, but may find other reasons to stick to the status quo, like articles glamourising homosexuality, incest, bestiality or anything that goes against our conservative Asian values. No hot-blooded man is going to access Playboy.com for erotic essays of course, unless they’re doing so out of pure nostalgia, a misty-eyed throwback to the good old days of borrowing a semen-stained Playboy mag from your classmate for a few days and hiding it from your parents under your mattress. It wasn’t a ‘men’s magazine’ so much as a ‘boys to men’ magazine.

Here then, is a curious history of Playboy magazine in squeaky clean Singapore:

1) Playboy and its companion Playmate calendar was banned in 1960. Until then it was being sold at $2.10. Today, you may have to fork out at least 10 times that price considering it’s a collector’s item. You may even choose to feature it as an art exhibit, for hipsters to stare and stroke their chin at, instead of stroking something else.

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield

2) In 1979, there was talk of the glitzy Playboy Club opening in Singapore. Its philosophy stood for ‘refinement, distinction and perfection’. Yes, that is exactly what we teenage boys feel while rubbing ourselves under the blanket spending a hot night alone with the magazine. Remember, the actual Playboy publication was still banned then. I don’t suppose the Club hosted strip-shows. In any case, in 1983, the Club was struck off the register because it wasn’t doing worthy of ‘distinction’, or rather, ANYTHING at all.

3) In 2003, one of the reasons given by the Censorship Review Committee for the ban of Playboy magazine but not Cosmopolitan was that it was ‘demeaning to women’. So I guess movies like Secretary are fine, then.

4) Ngee Ann City once boasted of Singapore’s first PLAYBOY boutique store (Playboy rears its rabbit’s head at Ngee Ann City, ST 1994). I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of this. Maybe I was too busy with, ahem, the Internet. It soon went bust, and was never to be mentioned again.

5) In 1991, Temasek Holdings reportedly acquired a 5% stake in New Zealand-based Brierley Investments Limited (S’pore’s connection with Playboy, 20 July 1991, ST). Industrial Equity (Pacific Ltd), a unit of Brierley’s, acquired a 5.8% stake in Playboy Enterprises in 1987. So, get this, a part of our Government-linked investment funds may once have connections to a girlie magazine that the Government itself BANNED for local consumption. That’s like investing in a company owned by a Mexican narc cartel.

6) In 2007, Singapore-based Acme Mobile Pte Ltd struck a deal with Playboy to distribute ‘Playboy branded’ games, images and ring tones across South East Asia. No nudity, of course. But likewise for Playboy.com.

Without naked pictures, it’s only a matter of time before Hugh Hefner’s salacious legacy goes limp. As limp as the reasons given by MDA to continue banning the World’s Finest Men’s Magazine ever.

Amos Yee parody sketch cut from Chestnuts 50 show

From ‘MDA on cuts to Chestnuts 50: script was sent in late’, 20 Sep 15, article by Akshita Nanda, ST

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so “several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case” could not be processed in time. It was responding to writer-director Jonathan Lim’s sketch parody show showing at the Drama Centre Theatre until Sept 27.

Last Friday, the show ended with Lim saying his team was told just hours before the opening show a day earlier to remove about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by the case of teen blogger Amos Yee, or forfeit their arts entertainment licence.

…Speaking to Life, Lim says he was surprised by the reason MDA gave to cut the Yee sketch, since another segment referencing an ongoing court case was passed. The current Chestnuts 50 performance includes a part inspired by the City Harvest mega-church case, where its founder and five others are alleged to have misused church funds.

*Warning: spoilers ahead*

I was fortunate enough to catch Chestnuts’ second performance last Friday. When Jonathan Lim made his announcement near the finale about the last minute change requested by MDA, I wasn’t sure if it was yet another of the many ‘meta’ gags made at the MDA’s expense. It turned out that he was serious and the Amos Yee gag was snipped, which I was looking forward to based on what I saw in their teaser materials online. If MDA had also decided to tone down the fiery ‘bromance’ between LKY and Lim Chin Siong in another major sketch, it would be a case of Chestnuts being ‘roasted on an open fire’, and the only thing left watching would be Jonathan channeling Kit Chan in drag.

According to Lim’s Facebook page, MDA’s reason given then was that it was an ‘ongoing legal case’. As for the City Harvest sketch, the slightest of changes were made to characters’ names, but everything else about the plot was rib-ticklingly obvious. Even Mediacorp’s The Noose managed to get away with mocking Sun Ho’s music career. And they’re probably itching to do an Amos one too, pending MDA’s green light.

The question would be: Legal case, SO WHAT? Has a gag order been imposed like how the AGC told the public to ‘refrain from commenting’ about last year’s Thaipusam incident? Furthermore, it seems a different set of standards apply to social media, where it’s a Amos Yee lampoon free-for-all. Even Amos himself managed to get his Facebook posts updated while he was in remand. Then there’s this Tumblr blog about Amos’ fashion sense.

Not to mention Youtube. Here’s examples of Amos parody videos which MDA apparently decided is OK for general viewing, ongoing legal case or not.

MDA also beat their personal record of late notification. Last year they issued a NC-16 advisory and licence to the Dim Sum Dollies just 3 days before the opening show. In their press release, they said that conducted the script review ‘expeditiously’, claiming that they received the script on 1 Dec 2014, 10 days before opening. Not so lucky for Elangovan’s ‘Stoma’ though, which was banned completely.

To be fair, maybe the MDA is indeed overburdened by regulatory duties, though some would say they brought it upon themselves, having to nanny not just films, radio, plays, video games and books but political videos and ‘sociopolitical’ websites as well. A previous attempt to introduce a ‘self-regulation’ scheme for arts groups to classify their own productions turned out to be an abject failure. So this last-minute censorship and its excuses about late submissions is like the MDA giving the arts community a retaliatory shrug: “We gave you a chance to regulate ‘ownself’ and cut the red tape, but you didn’t want to, so this is what you get’.

Maybe there is still hope for the Amos Yee sketch if Chestnuts decides to launch an exclusive on Youtube instead. The show is otherwise still worth catching without Amos inside. Hopefully this piece of news doesn’t make the ‘gao lak’ experience a ‘gao wei’ one.