Busking as a form of begging

From ‘Do not allow busking as a day job’, 17 Apr 2018, ST Forum

(Susan Tan): I have noticed an increasing number of buskers in Singapore. I see some buskers at certain places every day and for most of the day, suggesting that this is their permanent day job.

This should not be allowed.

Busking should never evolve to become a form of begging or a person’s sole source of income. I am also concerned that foreign students are allowed to busk here (On song & coining it; April 15).

Foreign students are here to study and should have sufficient funds to finance their studies, without resorting to busking. Allowing them to do this would encourage more foreigners to come to our shores to earn an income via busking.

Busking is meant to create a vibrant art culture and interesting street life. We should aim to see more of our local talents performing publicly to gain confidence and exposure.

There are many talented people in Singapore and we should support them by giving them more opportunities to perform. Perhaps the National Arts Council could hold monthly events at major parks where local and foreign talents can freely perform.

This will help them gain exposure as well as engage the public in our goal to become a distinctive global city for the arts, and will bring the arts closer to where people live.

There are people out there earning their keep prostituting themselves or blocking passageways running surveys and even the Ministry of Manpower doesn’t get to decide what should or should not be allowed as a day job. The mindset that busking is a form of glorified begging can be traced back to the early eighties, when ‘underpass musicians’ were associated with ‘hippie-like’ groups. 

There was even a time during the nineties when busking was deemed such a nuisance that it was banned from 1994 to 1997, revived just in time for a STB endorsed Buskers’ festival. Not sure why it was banned outright though. Maybe troupes of sword swallowers and fire breathers and parang jugglers were rampant then and we didn’t want passers-by to get set aflame or turn up at the office with a dagger lodged in their back.

Today, we have ordinary people becoming viral stars overnight after jaunting through trains and buses with their ukeleles. Uncles like Tampines MRT dancer Ronald Chua have become endearing role models for active ageing.

Yet, people like Susan Tan remain on this planet, people who would only stop and show their appreciation if the busker they meet in the bus interchange wears a tuxedo and plays a Schubert Opus on the violin. And then walk away without leaving a single cent.

Of course not all buskers are necessarily good entertainers nor contribute to this elusive ‘vibrancy’ that the country needs. For every street guitarist who can create acoustic magic by covering any song by Barbara Streisand, there are others cranking out screechy golden oldies in the middle of your lunch break at the hawker centre.

But like any form of public performance, if you don’t like what you see or hear you can jolly well walk away. You don’t stand on a high pedestal and lecture people on how they should live their lives. In fact, maybe the writer should literally try that for a change. Stand on a platform for hours like busker celebrity Roy Paramal. Yes there will be begging all right – not for spare change, but sweet mother of God’s mercy.

 

 

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Birds shitting in food at hawker centres

From ‘Growing bird population is worrying’, 15 March 2018, ST Forum

(Ng Boon Soon): The increase in the bird population in Singapore is causing too much inconvenience and creating health hazards. Judging from the frequent bird encounters at hawker centres, coffee shops and canteens, the bird population has increased substantially.

It is not possible to order food and leave it unattended on the table.

Recently, I visited a hawker centre in Farrer Road and was shocked to see two mynahs perched on the metal rail directly above a stall owner cooking noodles.

My immediate concern was of bird droppings mixing with the food.

Another encounter was at Serangoon Garden hawker centre. We had some difficulty getting a clean table because many tables and seats were stained with bird droppings. When we asked the cleaner to do something, he said he had already cleaned the same table and seat many times.

Recently, when I visited my daughter at her primary school, I saw bird droppings on the tables and benches as well.

I believe the cleaners have done their job but the situation is happening too often. I am worried about the health of the children.

Something needs to be done.

In Orchard Road, one can hear the loud chirping of birds and see their droppings on the pavement. It is sad to see such an ugly sight in Singapore’s iconic shopping belt.

The Government needs to start a working group to resolve this persistent problem.

Yes, evil hovering mynah birds are a threat to national security, more so than disinformation, deliberate falsehoods and fake news. But it’s not just bird poop that’s causing everyone distress, it’s the way they sound in the morning, especially the call of the Asian koel. Not only are our children exposed to the risk of accidentally eating birdshit or getting infected by pandemic bird disease, they get distracted from their schoolwork because these tiny flying bastards make too much noise.

You want proof?

If we don’t set up a Committee of Avian Management to Safeguard Public Health, this is the scenario we’ll be facing, one that no SG secure or anti-terrorist drill can save humanity from.

Yes, students will be chased out of schools, their scalps and eyes pecked at by beaks sharp as machetes. Do you want to see this happening to our tourists in Orchard Road, their hair soaked white with shit and their eyeballs plucked out of their sockets as easily as these flying demons pulling worms out of the ground? Zombies in trains are nothing compared to this calamity.

Maybe this is an elite mastermind at work, someone who has deployed an army of birdie minions to hawker centres to poison us lower social economic status (SES) folk. Or maybe all this rampant shitting is their way of avenging the culling of their chicken brethren by AVA.  Let’s get rid of them all then. The crows, the pigeons, the koels, the two mynahs staring at us eating at hawker centres, even the fucking peacocks in Labrador Park. Let us have our walks in peace, without having to worry about shampooing our heads with Dettol thereafter or listen to their terrible twittering that sends chills down our spines, their chirpy conspiring to end the human race once and for all, to bring back the age of the dinosaurs from which they all descended from.

How about this, AVA? Installing a scarecrow in public areas if you don’t want to call in pest control. I know the perfect effigy, one with the face that will send a thousand crows scattering into the sun.

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.

 

 

 

SSO concert audience not applauding

From ‘Address audience behaviour at concerts’, 17 July 2017, ST Forum

(Margaret S Gremli Dr): I have been a regular attendee at Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concerts since 1979, when the orchestra was founded.

It has gone from strength to strength, and the calibre of its invited artists is outstanding and much appreciated by serious and loyal concertgoers.

However, I am horrified by the behaviour of some members of the audience at SSO concerts. For example, there are many latecomers – a group that is almost non-existent in other concert halls around the world.

These latecomers clatter down the steps of the concert hall and disturb other seated members of the audience as they shuffle to their seats.

The obvious remedy is for concertgoers to plan to arrive early. Some people also fail to show their appreciation of the performances by not applauding. This is ungracious.

Even worse is the behaviour of some members of the audience who leave the concert hall the minute the conductor lowers his baton. There is a stream of people heading for the exits even as the orchestra and invited artists take their bow.

This is blatantly disrespectful and especially insulting to invited soloists. I suggest a rigorous programme to educate concertgoers.

This can be done by handing fliers to latecomers and those people who leave early. Ushers should also not permit people to leave until the concert is actually over.

I have attended concerts in almost every continent in the world and have not encountered the type of behaviour I see in Singapore. The orchestra and the visiting artists give their best, and deserve due respect and recognition.

To be fair, some people refrain from applause not because they lack an appreciation for a concert performance, but because they don’t want to be scrutinised by experienced concert-goers like the writer for not ‘clapping in a dignified manner’. Like so.

Another reason for not clapping is you’re not sure if you’re doing it between the movements, which betrays a lack of ‘musical education’. 

Clapping etiquette aside, attending a orchestral concert is traditionally not meant to be a place for you to ‘let it all hang out’. You need to dress appropriately, stash your phone away, refrain from eating or drinking, hold your bladder, and find a place in your jacket to keep your opera glasses.

In the eighties, concert-goers complained about ‘howling’ kids and suggested that they be banned, not just because they were running around making a nuisance of themselves, but also ‘clapping in time to the music’. Yes, children are not allowed to enjoy themselves. They basically have to behave like their adult parents. The same complainant called for a ban on keropok because of the munching noises. Sit next to someone like this and be prepared to be stared at should you even need to gulp your saliva.

Singaporeans today may play with phones during a movie or throw bikes down flats and into canals, but such inconsiderate assholes still form the minority in society. To label Singaporeans the soccer hooligans of concerts, suggesting that we’re among the worst in the world however, seems a bit of a stretch. Furthermore, to propose a ‘rigourous’ campaign against disgusting behaviour would only deter laymen from supporting the arts.  Though that could be the intention of avid concert-goers all along, that it would be a niche activity dedicated to only those who’re ‘culturally aware’ – posh – enough, as exclusive and ‘invitation-only’ as an elite bacchanalia in the basement of someone’s mansion.

 

 

 

24 noisy chickens culled by AVA

From ‘Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers’, 2 Feb 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

As a debate flared up yesterday over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in the Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

…The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GZJeplKV18

According to the AVA’s own FAQ,

It is rare for the bird flu virus to be transmitted from chickens to humans. Of all the bird flu virus strains, only the H5N1, H9N2, H7N7 and H7N9 (Shanghai 2013 strain) strains have been known to pass from chickens to humans.

Unless you’re the kind of sick pervert who sneaks up behind cockerels and sodomises them, the chances of anyone getting exposed and infected by bird flu from stray chickens is, by AVA’s own admission, rather low. So how is this poultry-cide even justified? Using this public health argument, these chickens are being put down with the same nonchalance as one does fogging to get rid of mosquitoes.

There was a time when chicken-stealing was a thing. With the demise of kampongs, having the occasional cock around serves as a nostalgic reminder of how simple life used to be. Now, with the authorities chick-hunting in response to complaints, all we have left to wake us up in the mornings is the metallic grumbling of the MRT train nearby.

So the weird neighbour with the noisy parrot that squawks ‘Fuck the PAP’ all day gets to keep his fowl-mouthed pet; while the free-as-a-bird chicken responding to nature’s call is slaughtered for being a nuisance and an indeterminate carrier of pathogens. Add one more bird to AVA’s kill-list, which also includes pigeons, but not crows (NEA) or mynahs (nobody’s business).

Thanks a lot, Sin Ming residents, now that the python in the woods has nothing to feed on, we have to be prepared to find them swimming around in our pools more often, waiting for a treat in the form of a juicy, plump baby perhaps.

No playing of chess at common areas

From ‘Poster banning chess did not reflect intentions: Marine Parade Town Council’, 14 March 16, article by Loh Chuan Junn, CNA

The poster put up by Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) banning chess games at common areas did not reflect the intentions of the Town Council, MPTC said on Monday (March 14).

The clarification came after a picture of a poster stating “No Playing of Chess at Common Areas” caused a stir online when it was first posted on social media on Sunday (Mar 13), with some people questioning how “rowdy” a game of chess could be to have caused the ban.

…Responding to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, a spokesperson from the Town Council admitted that the content of the poster was not clear, and that there was no ban on playing the game.

“We acknowledge our oversight for the content of the poster which does not reflect our intention well,” said MPTC. “As such, we would like to apologise for the wrong context of our poster.”

I wonder how much time and effort was spent making the chess poster, when in fact the game that’s causing all the fuss is actually draughts/checkers, or colloquially known as ‘dum’, a word that describes perfectly the thought process that goes into the creation of such a notice. Firstly, they got the game wrong. Nobody plays classic Western-style chess in public anymore and aristocrats don’t live in HDB flats. Second, by specifying chess you set yourself up for cheeky retorts like: ‘So does that mean poker or mahjong is OK?’. What about having a Magic cards gathering, or ping bloody pong? No chess? No problem. Unleash the Go! set.

The real problem, though, is not so much the noise, but when a dum gathering turns into a makeshift gambling den. One player reportedly lost $30,000 over a week. Still, if you’re a die-hard gambler, what better way to get your fix through a battle of wits instead of praying to the gods for lucky numbers. I would rather experience the clatter and commotion of a dum match than the annoying squeals of a casual handphone game, or the pontianak mating calls that pass off as karaoke singing. Board games like dum are also an entertainment source for sore-loser drama. We all know of that one petty friend who flips the board over whenever he loses a match, ruining the party for everyone. You can’t vent your frustrations on your precious phone.

Like void deck football, the image of uncles crowding around a grandmaster duel looks set to be a thing of the past. A couple of generations down the road and the concept of a game that requires you to move physical tokens, instead of swiping pixels on a screen, would be, tragically, an unfamiliar one. Gone too would be the ‘terrazzo tables‘, an icon of the senior citizen’s corner where Chinese chess enthusiasts gather, and in its place metal barriers and naggy posters telling you to shelf your activities and just stay at home while dementia gradually kills you. If all else fails, there’s always Fish Hunter at the arcade. Yes, you’ll spend the rest of your dying days gawking at digital fish instead of engaging whatever’s left of your brain.

Not all hope is lost though. If you can’t kick a ball around or have a dum tournament in your own void deck, I’m sure town councils would be perfectly happy turning the space down there into a library outpost, but they probably have to ban reading newspapers because of the noise generated from all the page flipping.

Playing musical instruments banned during Thaipusam

From ‘Ban on playing music at Thaipusam aimed at ensuring peaceful procession:Iswaran’ 5 Feb 2015, article in ST

The ban on playing music at the annual Thaipusam procession was introduced because of past incidents of fights breaking out between competing groups which disrupted the procession, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran. The ban, which has been in place since 1973, also applies to all processions, and not just Thaipusam, Mr Iswaran told reporters.

Given that Thaipusam is the longest foot procession in Singapore which goes through major roads in the heart of the city, it is even more important to make sure that the procession is conducted in a peaceful manner, he added.

…His comments followed the arrest of three Singaporean men over a scuffle that broke out on Tuesday evening during the annual Thaipusam procession. Police said organisers had asked a group of people to stop playing traditional Indian drums as it was not allowed under the event’s police permit.

Following the incident, some have questioned the ban on musical instruments at the annual procession. Responding to this, Mr Iswaran said the authorities have in fact made special concessions for Thaipusam and a couple of other Hindu foot processions, pointing out that there is a ban on religious foot processions, which has been in force since 1964 following “some very bad episodes and experiences“.

Back in 1981, the police had a different explanation for the banning of music from religious foot processions, that it wasn’t so much the music itself that was disrupting the peace or inciting people to beat the hell out of each other like alcohol does, but that it moved people to DANCE all over the streets and block traffic in their spiritual ecstasy. The 1973 ban, of course, didn’t stop people from bringing on the bongos still, and things got ugly when the police tried to seize drums from participants in the 80s, with one cop suffering a black eye for performing his party-pooping duties.

‘Musical instruments’ back then included portable radios and cassette players, and I’m not sure if the police would swoop in to restore order and silence if devotees were playing ukeleles, harps or doing mass accapella instead. In 1984, there were Thaipusam near-fatalities after a fight and stabbing in Serangoon, music or no music. The ST did not mention if those involved ‘smelt of alcohol’. Nor did anyone consider the possible theory that maybe it’s not thumping music or dancing that’s responsible for a religious procession turning into a Little India riot. Maybe it’s, I dunno, dangerous WEAPONS perhaps? Instead of looking for parangs, the police are raiding boom boxes. If someone rolled in a grand piano, they may just gun the damn thing down before it hypnotises people into a murderous trance. It gives new meaning to the term ‘killer beats’.

The penalty for holding a parade without permit in honour of some deity’s birthday, Hindu or not, can earn you a $1000 fine, or up to 3 months jailtime back in 1989. The police won’t do anything, however, if you decide to hold a funeral bash, banging drums, gongs and cymbals included, for a deceased loved one. Best not to anger the spirit of a dead grandmother I suppose, compared to say Lord Muruga or the Monkey God.

It’s interesting how it’s only parades on foot that are illegal. What if I went around on top of a tooting bus cheering at the top of my lungs in a victory dance interfering in people’s business and getting them to wave at me? Wait, you mean this has actually happened before? With no police around to grab people’s loudhailers and telling truck drivers to STFU with their horning? The audacity!