NDP video for cardboard, fun loving hipsters

From ‘Video for NDP theme song lacks inclusivity’, 22 June 2016, ST Forum

(Liew Kai Khiun): Although the music video for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) theme song is made in a novel way, I am disappointed with its overall theme, which lacks purpose and inclusivity (“NDP theme song captures spirit of S’pore’s future“; Monday).

It gives the troubling impression of a Singapore of the future as a flimsy and boxed-in cardboard consumerist city-state, instead of a nation built upon real concrete and steel achievements, which characterised previous productions.

What I found more disturbing was the lack of representation and inclusivity in this production.

Although the featured band 53A has a multiracial make-up, and the performers are also multicultural, the actual footage focuses principally on lead vocalist Sara Wee. The rapidly shifting camera lens pays only passing reference to the rest of the cast, who are mainly young and able-bodied.

Over the years, there has been heightened consciousness about inclusivity in Singapore. We celebrate the achievements of female fighter pilots, scientists, Paralympians, as well as a female Speaker of Parliament.

With the elderly population growing, we are adjusting not just physical infrastructure, but also mindsets, so that seniors have a place in the Singapore of the future. Sadly, the music video for this year’s NDP theme song gives the impression that Singapore is only for the young and beautiful – defined narrowly as the cardboard, fun-loving hipster.

It is good to try out innovative artistic directions, and the production is certainly outstanding as a commercial music video. But as the video for an NDP theme song, it should encapsulate the social fabric and achievements of its citizenry, and be able to connect to the larger public in more intimate and memorable ways. One must not forget this more solemn purpose.

Another year, another complaint about an NDP song. The last time a pop-rock band tried their hand at NDP-composing (Electrico), the end product ‘What Do You See‘ was labelled as boring as Coldplay. To be fair, ‘Tomorrow Here Today’ is catchier than Dick Lee’s SG50 offering last year, though it’s clearly inspired by the rousing tracking-shot jamboree of Feist’s 1-2-3-4 only with recycled lyrics. Yes, it’s full of fun and spontaneity and if you feel oestracised by this video because you’re a grumpy introvert and shit at dancing, then that’s just too bad.

Without making any judgement of song quality, the complainant gives a scathing review of how the video is way too ‘hipster’ for his liking, and is clearly using classic propaganda fluff of the 80s and 90s as a benchmark. Videos like Count on Me Singapore and One People, One Nation, One Singapore have obligatory shots of our ‘steel and concrete’ achievements like new HDB blocks or a cruising MRT train to the tune of faceless singers. Not to mention goosebumps-inducing montages of families of different races hanging out against an unrealistic blank background with no context whatsoever. The NDP video has since evolved, from covert propaganda tool dead set on drilling multiracial harmony into your brains to something with more pop culture leanings, yet still struggling to keep up with the times. At least we try.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.30.16 PM

The ‘cardboard’ reference is also taking things way too literally. What’s intended as a stylish prop is viewed as a metaphor for our ‘flimsiness’. It’s an NDP video, not contemporary art. I’m not going to watch it and go ‘Hmm, that stool floating in the air is a symbol of how we have become ‘unseated’ from our roots’. For every viewer who associates a shot of our MBS or our MRT network with progress there are others who’re given a sombre reminder of the raw wilderness that we’ve lost for the sake of dollars and cents instead.

But do we really need another video full of stereotypical ‘solemn purpose’? Does anyone still care about NDP songs anyway? Why can’t we have some sass for change, like this super non-inclusive video featuring 3 divas competing for everyone’s attention. By the way, hard to believe that this video is 17 DAMN YEARS OLD!

If Singaporeans need an annual reminder in the form of an all-inclusive NDP video to connect them to the ‘larger public in more intimate ways’, then it would be a pretty sad affair. For all the social media slugfests that we have to deal with, the occasional 1 minute video of ordinary Singaporeans helping each other out in situational crises is far more meaningful than a supercut of all the NDP videos in history lumped together, an audio-visual monstrosity best utilised in a cold interrogation chamber to dig info out of people who breach Cooling Off Day.

Besides, if you want to put in a token shot of old people doing taijiquan or a Paralympian blazing past the finish line, why stop there? You can’t call for catch-all inclusivity and cherry-pick Singaporeans from specific walks of life.  You need the good, the bad and the ugly to provide a complete ‘representation’ of society. Here’s a list of people noticeably absent from any NDP video, even if they’re as Singaporean as you and I. I’d be only too happy to be proven wrong.

  1. Cardboard collecting aunties
  2.  Cat-feeding aunties
  3.  Ah Bengs with tattoos/ex-convicts
  4.  Cross-dressers/LGBT
  5.  Opposition party members
  6.  Instagram Influencers
  7. Lawrence Khong
  8. Street artists
  9. Motorcycle gangs
  10. Actual hipsters

So if this year’s focus is on ‘the young and beautiful’, then so be it. Because that is exactly what Singapore is – a still young, beautiful nation. Next year, let’s have Uncle Sim leading the chorus shall we?



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.

Fun pack items a waste of money

From ‘Fun packs should be useful to all’, 9 March 2015, Voices, Today

(Goh Kian Huat): This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is set to be a big affair as Singapore celebrates its golden jubilee. About 1.2 million households are set to receive a free fun pack, so they can join in the celebrations even if they are not at the event itself (“Mega-NDP across Marina Bay area to draw 150,000”; March 6)

To ensure the fun packs are useful to households, some of the items should be different from the ones given out to those attending the parade. For example, things such as face paint, handheld fans, clappers, banners and plastic raincoats are useful only to those who are at the parade. Organisers should consider substituting these items with more useful ones for households, or souvenirs for keeping.

Also, organisers should ensure fun pack items can be recycled or reused as far as possible out of consideration for the environment. For example, the bag for the fun packs can be designed in such a way that students can reuse it as a school bag.

In addition, to avoid duplication of resources, households that manage to secure tickets to attend the parade should not be given a second fun pack. Organisers should find a way of identifying them.

The total cost of the celebrations is expected to be around S$40 million, twice that of previous NDPs. Let us ensure that the resources are put to good use.

Full of fun

Full of fun

This is a nice way of saying that the fun pack and its contents are pretty useless. Even if those at the parade took these out to play, they’re mostly junked once the fireworks have fizzled. 1.2 million households, 10 million dollars. The Fun Pack Song even has the self-prophesying lyric: Attack the Fun Pack,  and the attacks have been relentless. When the government sends a bag of freebies to our doorstep, we either complain that it’s ugly or an utter waste of money, and that we’d rather receive a SG50 hongbao with $10 cold hard cash inside. Such ingrates. Such Singaporeans.

If there’s one thing the SG50 committee hasn’t learned about the Singaporean psyche, it’s that they did not make us QUEUE for the damn thing. Sending the funpack straight to our homes makes it far less desirable than when we’re putting in time and effort to join long, overnight queues to grab ‘limited edition’ goodie bags, like how we drag ourselves out of bed at 4am in the morning to camp outside McDonalds for free Egg McMuffins. Likewise, if you had pitched the funpack such that there are only ‘1 million available’ and forced Singaporeans to fight tooth and nail over it, you would have more people posting their catch on Facebook and showing them off like trophies rather than grumbling about the practicality of banners and clappers. Even if it looks so god-awful that your kid would rather wear your dusty army fullpack to school than be seen slinging a funpack over his shoulder.

But look closer at the spread above and you’ll find oodles of charm and usefulness in every item. The chapteh, for instance, can be used to spice up your bedroom tickle parties in place of a kinky peacock feather if you’re not the sporty type. Face paint can be used as zombie makeup this Halloween, or for your next cosplay event. The ‘commemorative’ publications like the jubilee book can add some zesty patriotic colour to the top of your coffee table. Singapore flag erasers come in super handy when you’re down by the lake in Chinese Garden pencil-sketching pagodas and cranes. And who doesn’t love NEWWATER? This wonderful elixir is the e-pee-tome of our self-sufficiency.

Still, the SG50 folks could have done better with the selection, and should have consulted Singaporeans like how they made us vote for the Jubilee Baby package, bearing in mind that not everyone will be up on their feet dancing on National Day. Some will be doing shift work making sure convenience stores and hospitals are still manned by humans. Others will be worrying about getting food on the table for their next meal. And there are the buggers flying off somewhere for holidays who can’t be bothered about this SG50 overkill.

Here’s my wishlist for a future DREAMpack. I just hope we don’t have to wait until SG100 for this.

1. N95 mask
2. Pre-paid Ezy-link card
3. Hello Kitty Merlion edition
4. A mini rotan
5. Special edition Chope tissue pack
6. An LKY doll with knuckledusters
7. A toy replica of the boat that they used on the set of ‘The Awakening’
8. A toy replica of an ERP gantry
9. A lego diorama of the Istana, with lego Tony Tan.
10. A map of Singapore. 100 years ago.

SG50 song As One written by a non-Singaporean

From ‘Lawrence Wong clarifies issue of song supposedly rejected by SG50’, 7 March 2015, article in asiaone

Ministers Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin have praised an original song written for the SG50 celebrations and uploaded onto YouTube. Titled ‘As One‘, the song was uploaded by Sophie’s World Productions in January. B oth Ministers praised the song in separate Facebook posts. Mr Wong said the song was “was very well-done and inspiring”, while Mr Tan said that it was ” a very nice song”.

The Ministers also said they had received feedback that the song had been rejected as an official SG50 song because it was not written by a Singaporean. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said that he was initially puzzled by this and asked ministry staff to check on what happened. In his post, Mr Wong clarified that the song was submitted to MediaCorp, which held its own song competition with its own rules. “But competition aside, there’s really no limitation on who can contribute songs or other materials for SG50,” he said.

If asked to name one all-time classic National Day song, most Singaporeans are likely to say ‘Stand Up for Singapore’, ‘Count On Me Singapore, ‘Home’ or  ‘We Are Singapore’. Of the 4, 3 were actually written by Canadian Hugh Harrison. And those are the ones with ‘Singapore’ in their titles. The most forgettable one in the history of NDP songs, in my opinion, was performed by Singapore Idol himself Hady Mirza, called ‘Shine for Singapore’. Hady Who? Some, like ‘One Singapore‘ are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

‘As One’ definitely belongs in the top 3 for the Gift of Song competition. It surpasses most of the recent NDP efforts, including ‘In a Heartbeat’ and ‘Love at first Light’, if you even recall what those are. But let’s look at the official finalists of the competition:

1) We Are Stars

This is a slow, soppy ballad with the self-congratulatory chorus:

We are stars
We are golden
We are comets in our skies.

This is probably the first time I’ve heard someone use ‘comet’ in any patriotic song. Like comets, a great song comes our way once every few hundred years. It also has the lyric ‘We are diamonds in the sky’. So which is it, are we gold or are we diamonds in the sky? Hady’s effort, if there’s any consolation, sounds like Hey Jude compared to this far-from-stellar snooze-fest. If this were a ‘gift’, it’d be the equivalent of an ugly Christmas sweater. Knit with love, but received with a painful grimace. Next.

2) These Are the Days

The chorus: These are the days, to breathe and feel.

Is there ANY day that we DON’T breathe and feel? This has an annoying, repetitive weepy riff and a whiny crescendo. Am I the only one who finds this entry, awash with pandering strings, grating and trying too hard to sound like a national anthem? Despite the arrangement, it doesn’t make me feel things, and I lost all interest when Farisha sang ‘Spread my wings and fly’. Better Midler’s Wing Beneath My Wings was clearly an inspiration. Incidentally, for this SG50 contest, 9 submissions were from prison inmates.  Maybe they didn’t make the cut because of one too many ‘spread my wings and fly’.

3) Being Here

One word: Coldplay. The lyrics are safe, it’s upbeat, no cringe-worthy metaphors and the writers, Ciao Turtle, have the greatest band name in the history of local bands. This wins my vote, though it’s still far from the cheesy infectiousness of Harrison’s greatest hits. I’d like to see them do normal pop songs, though. Or consider forming a supergroup called Ciao Turtle and Ah Boys to Men.

Despite the common theme among all these songs being how happy and proud we all are to stay in this country, it’s obvious that no matter how catchy they are, they fail miserably as propaganda tools, given that the number of Singaporeans moving abroad has been increasing over the years, 212,000 to be precise. This excluding of course, those banished from the country for ‘political crimes’. Indeed, quite a number of us are ‘stars’. In the sense that they’re so very far away.

National Flag dropped in Wild Rice play

From ‘Wild Rice play hits a sour note’, 8 Aug 2013, article by Feng Zengkun, ST

THE provocative ending of the recently staged play Cook A Pot Of Curry caught many people by surprise – and none more so than the authorities. When asked, the Media Development Authority (MDA) replied that the final scene – where a huge Singapore national flag is raised and then dropped to the ground – had not been included in the materials submitted to it for the play’s classification.

The agency added that it has sent a note to local theatre group Wild Rice, which staged the play, to remind it of its obligations.

…”As the last scene in the play was not part of the final script submitted, we wrote to Wild Rice to remind them to do so in the future and to also consult the National Heritage Board on the use of the state flag in their performance,” said a spokesman.

According to the NHB, the flag must be treated with ‘dignity and respect’ at all times. This includes not flying it IN THE DARK, displaying it on the exhaust pipe or wheels of your car, or in ‘bad weather’. If you just won a gold medal for Singapore, you’re also not allowed to wrap it around your body ‘like a sarong’ and run around waving to the crowd no matter how happy you are. You may hold it up after winning a national football trophy like a big Royal Baby, just not when it’s raining, or in the haze for that matter.

As for the play’s ‘gimmicky’ curtain flag dropping on stage, this violates the rule that the flag ‘shall not touch the ground’, though if you’re picky and lazy to explain the act in abstract terms, you could argue that technically a stage is a raised platform and not ‘the ground’.  Such ruling isn’t about veneration of a state symbol so much as anthropomorphizing it like a spoilt little princess, one that must not come into bare contact with mortal skin not to mention a man’s groin, or exposed in any way that outrages its modesty or desecrates its honour. The worst insult to the flag would be burning it, a crime akin to  assassination of royalty. I’m not sure how ‘dignified’ it is, then, to wrap a gurgling, pissing, shitting newborn baby in the flag to symbolise rebirth and renewal. If I were a national flag I wouldn’t be too comfortable with the idea of being hung at a great height from a noisy helicopter either. Some of our very own Red Lions even use the flag as their parachutes during their NDP freefalls. Not sure if they catch the flag entirely before allowing it to drag all over the ground.

You can’t use the flag as an artistic device without seeking permission and the people at Wild Rice should have realised this based on past crackdowns on our flags being ‘abused’ in the name of art. Yet it’s also baffling why the MDA paid special attention to a local play while not doing anything about the flag being vandalised with the words ‘The Used’ at a rock concert some months ago. But flag pampering aside, how much ‘love, respect and dignity’ was given in the MAKING of our flags in the first place? Did anyone check on the factories producing these flags to see if they were packed in boxes in a ‘dignified’ manner, or if faulty ones were disposed in a sanitised, government-approved receptacle without being mixed with used staples and banana skins?

According to a ST Forum writer on 7 Aug (Produce better quality flags), a $2 flag purchased from a community centre had many ‘missing stitches and patches of red dye on the white section’. She complained that the poor quality control from the relevant authorities was a lack of ‘respect and dignity’. For $5 from a petrol station, you may get a similarly crappy flag with distorted red and white sections. Made in China too. NHB makes no mention in its guidelines about how a single stitch on the flag should not be out of place, but perhaps they should also take some responsibility for the distribution of such shoddy merchandise from the beginning. If you’re so particular about how a flag is treated, you should jolly well start ‘respecting it’ from the very first stitch from which it birthed and not just when it’s out of its packaging, unless you’re willing to admit that a flag is only to be revered when you unbox it, before which it’s a mere piece of cloth that can barely pass off as a hankerchief.

In fact, if you’re a true patriot you should boycott all poor quality China-made flags and only settle for an artisanal one painstakingly handstitched to precision, down to the exact Pantone 032 reds and Pantone whites, by homegrown veterans. If it weren’t forbidden, I would even use it as a blanket at night and dream sweet dreams of how we built a nation, strong and free.

Happy 48th birthday, Singapore!

68 ordinary Singaporeans can’t save the NDP song

From ‘Netizens slam NDP 2013 song’, 18 July 2013, article by Lok Jiawen, TNP

It’s a birthday song that’s supposed to bring a nation together. But this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) theme song, One Singapore, has become the target of criticism, even before it is officially released.

“On par or even ‘better’ than Rebecca Black’s Friday”, “horrid” and “jialat (terrible in Hokkien)” are some of the online comments on the song, released online by The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Written by NDP creative director Selena Tan with music composed by local music director Elaine Tan, it is sung by a choir of 68 everyday Singaporeans.

Ms Tan has shrugged off the criticism, saying that music is subjective and that even she has songs she likes and dislikes. Local music icon Dick Lee, 56, who penned the NDP theme songs in 1998 (Home) and 2002 (We Will Get There), questioned the need for a new song each year.

Getting theatre people to write NDP songs is probably a bad idea. Selina Tan of the acclaimed Dim Sum Dollies may have written the decent ‘Love Your Ride’ jingle, but put her creative talents under the cloak of patriotism and you have a disaster waiting to happen. The same NDP curse befell playwright Haresh Kumar Sharma, who conceptualised the ‘Fun Pack Song’. There’s something about the crescent moon and stars that regresses artistic people into children, because that is exactly who the annoying cheerleader vibe of ‘One Singapore’ appeals to. Some have commented on the ST page that it belongs on the Kids Central channel, or should be celebrated as a Children’s Day song. The rest talk about comas and bleeding ears.

There’s even a rap thrown in the mix, which goes:

Yo, I may look like I’m a tiny thing, here I am I can bravely sing!
For sure I’m gonna give you my everything, that’s how I play when the recess bell rings
I’m gonna give it my all, cos this is my home, I love (x4) my Singapore

To my knowledge this is the only ever rap composed for an official NDP song, though there have been rap ‘remixes’ of NDP classics. The ‘recess bell’ line doesn’t even make sense, because how kids ‘play’ during recess has nothing to do with nation-building. When kids that age ‘give their all’, it’s almost always for PSLE, not for the nation. Furthermore it’s 2013, not 1993 folks, nobody starts a rap with ‘YO’ anymore. I forsee inverted baseball caps if there’s ever a video for this ( I was wrong. There were caps in the MV, but not inverted).

But to me the biggest culprit of this track is not the recycled lyrics (even the song title is recycled, see below), the forgettable tune or the sheer waste of 68 voices, but the ‘stuck in the 90’s’ production. It sounds like they’re reusing the same TV theme instrumentation from the days of ‘Under One Roof’. There’s nothing resounding or sweeping about ‘One Singapore’ like an anthem should be, it just sounds like a 90’s opening theme for Moulmein High. The ‘Woah-oh’ chorus is something our grandparents may relate to, though.

Dull and uninspiring without the cheesy bombast of the songs of the past, some patriotic soul ought to save this mess with a simpler acoustic version (my prayer answered below), because the current orchestration belongs more on a direct shopping channel or The Pyramid Game ending credits than on a grand stage with millions watching, or ANYWHERE from the 21st century.

It’s not the first time we’ve used an anonymous choir for NDP songs. Some of the most memorable songs were not sung by local celebrities, like Stand Up For Singapore and We Are Singapore. In fact, there’s a far superior NDP song with the same ‘One Singapore’ theme sung by a bunch of nobodies, with more rousing melodies, better production and an emotional climax that will put the whimper of an end of the 2013 song to total shame. It’s the underrated  ‘One People, One Nation, One Singapore’ from 1990. And that’s, believe it or not, from TWENTY-THREE YEARS AGO.

With so many years of experience in NDP songwriting you’d expect these songs to get better with time. Sadly, the reverse is happening. For once, this is one NDP song that is in desperate need for a REMIX. Any takers? (There’s a acoustic version already as we speak courtesy of local boy/girl indie crooners The Animal Parade. Now this is what I call music. Selina Tan, your salvation is here and she wears a Minnie Mouse hat.)

NDP funpack is sleek, modern and elegant

From ‘Simple, elegant NDP fun pack to keep and re-use’, 4 July 2013, article by David Ee, ST

WITH an outline of red trimming, the predominantly white goodie bag for this year’s National Day Parade is a departure from previous years’ more vivid colours and patterns. Last year, the fun pack was a bold red, while in 2011 it depicted watercolour scenes.

Designed by Nanyang Polytechnic industrial design students, the latest pack is largely bare apart from the familiar lion head representing Singapore….The bag is “sleek and modern” and “elegant”, said the organisers, who hope that spectators will re-use it rather than toss it away after Aug 9.

Said Lieutenant-Colonel Chang Pin Chuan, who chairs the NDP’s logistics and finance committee: “The NDP fun pack is an enduring feature, we give them out every year. We want to make sure it is being re-used by people.”

It can double as a sling bag. Some netizens, however, gave the pack the thumbs down.

Posting on The Straits Times’ Facebook page, user Azriel Azman said: “I can’t remember the last time I saw a Singaporean teenager using a NDP bag as an accessory when they go out.”

Packed. With fun.

Somewhere in some parade regular’s home lies a dusty collection of souvenir flags, knapsacks, party packs and sling bags which haven’t been used since they were distributed at NDP parades but being hoarded till they die because throwing away an ugly bag that says ‘Majulah’ on it is unpatriotic. If the funpack is touted as ‘reusable’, why do we keep creating NEW ones to replace the old ones? Because that’s exactly when it’s likely to be used again, ONE YEAR later at the same parade.

We have recovered from the embarrassment that is the ‘Fun Pack Song’ in 2011 and moved on with a concept that passes off ‘plain’ for ‘elegant’ and ‘stylish’. Nothing wrong with simple designs, of course. Except that the 2013 edition fun pack looks like it was inspired by a sexy nurse uniform.

Sleek lines

But let’s forget about what’s fashionable on the outside and look at what’s INSIDE the fun pack. This year’s noise-maker is inspired by the angklung, a three tone bamboo flute that looks like what centaurs hoot with as part of mating rituals. There’s a ‘clap banner’ that resembles a paper accordion, and the standard food and beverage kit that Mindef refers to as ‘sustenance’ items. The weapon of choice this year is an extendable light-stick that is looks like a discarded prototype prop out of a Star Wars knock-off. What’s missing, however, is a red and white special edition N-95 mask, which the organisers probably thought would be a bad idea in case someone decides to sell it online for a ridiculous profit when the haze comes around next year.

Here’s a list of other wacky, fun-filled items that have been dished out to NDP attendees over the years:

2012: Bandana with snap band. You can wear this during Zumba class.

2011: Mr Bean maracas. So you can shake your groove thang to the Fun Pack Song.

2007: Animal hats.  Because there is a bit of Madagascar in every Singaporean.

2002: Heart-shaped drum. So you can ‘make some noise’ when Gurmit Singh tells you to.

2001: Nescafe instant coffee powder. Because there are some people who boil water on the go.

And there’s the stuff for vintage collectors or curators of a museum:

1995: Limited edition phonecards

1993: Pocket radio.

Not sure if there’s too much stuff for a few hours of revelry here. Most people go to 3 hour outdoor concerts with nothing more than a lighter or their handphones passing off as torches, not a picnic basket. There’s also more calories in a NDP funpack than in the goodie bag you get after running a full marathon. You may even survive a day or two lost in desert with the damn thing, fending off sandstorms with the poncho and skewering scorpions as nourishment with the extendable light sabre. If your parade programme is captivating enough, you don’t need to equip your audience with toys to keep them entertained. For the price of fun, you’re also keeping hundreds of cleaners occupied till the wee hours AFTER the merry-making and light-stick waving.

If they don’t end up shelved in the closet, funpack goodies may get strewn across parade grounds as litter, be it deflated clappers, plastic bottles, tissue or biscuit wrappers, whether or not the pack itself is recyclable high-fashion. Unless someone creates a more environmentally friendly, low-carbon footprint party kit, like say, a flute made entirely out of Khong Guan cracker which you can consume after tooting it, it’s not so much a funpack as it is, ultimately, a JUNKpack.