Orchard Road is kind of boring

From ‘Pedestrianising will only worsen woes of malls’, 21 Apr 2017, ST Forum

(Ronnie Lim Ah Bee): Shopping is no longer restricted to Orchard Road, where premium shops and foodcourts charge premium prices.

With big shopping malls sprouting up in neighbourhood centres and within walking distance of homes, there is little incentive to go down to Orchard Road.

The people who can afford premium shopping tend to be those who drive.

If they cannot drive to Orchard Road to shop, they might as well visit their neighbourhood malls.

The large crowds which are expected to come about with pedestrianising Orchard Road are more likely to be there to socialise and soak up the atmosphere than to shop.

Pedestrianising Orchard Road is going to do little to help the shopping malls along that road.

We all know what the writer means by people going there to ‘socialise and soak up the atmosphere’ but nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room – why locals prefer to stay at home to do laundry than go ‘gai-gai’ along Orchard Road on Sundays. If the pedestrianising would benefit anyone it would be a certain group of foreign workers who could then dance unhindered on the streets beyond the confines of Ion.

It was only a year back when we realised that the car-free experiment was a failure from the retailers’ perspective. In the days of HMV and Tower records, Orchard Road was the go-to hub for music lovers. I could spend half a day browsing CDs or magazines at Borders. After school we would go ‘hang out’ at Macs at Far East Plaza, traipsing through the underpasses, transversing the Patterson Road crossing which could have been our own little version of the Shibuya landmark, or watch a movie at the old Lido. The family would look forward to Xmas lights, or chaperone the kids to piano lessons at Yamaha, Plaza Singapura. Today, the only reason for me to go ‘downtown’ is to catch a R21 movie or attend a book-signing at Kinokuniya. Even the buskers are moving out and entertaining commuters at MRT stations instead. The only ‘floods’ happening in Orchard aren’t the shopping kind, but those due to a random Act of God.

My feelings for Orchard died at the precise moment when Marks And Spencer took over Borders bookstore. I remember first walking into Borders mouth agape, awed by the sheer scale of it all, books stacked almost to the ceiling and the fact that you could just walk in and out without spending a cent or any of the staff bothering you. True, such musings may be merely blind nostalgia, that the people who say Orchard Road is kind of boring are the ones who lost what they loved most about the place. Still, GSS after GSS can’t save the hollow retail shells like the fancy-pants Scotts Square. Occasionally, some gastronomic hype like a Michelin-star ramen shop or a cafe/bistro would bring some buzz to Orchard, but people soon tire of novelty and business owners eventually move to the ‘suburbs’. I dare say ‘Haji Lane’, or even Criminal Minds:Beyond Borders’ Geylang would ring more bells in tourists’ minds than ‘Orchard Road’.

Orchard Road is no longer Instagrammable, and even if you get rid of the traffic and inject some flashy gotong-royong on weekends, with Good Morning towel-twirling trishaw riders and ice-cream sandwich carts etc, Singaporeans would rather jostle with sweaty crowds at some pop-up hipster event like Artbox, or watch a midnight movie at a neighbourhood mall so they don’t have to spend a bomb on taxi fare to get home. You can infuse the streets with all the local fanfare you want, but in the end it’ll still be a place where you have to pay almost $15 for a plate of mediocre Nasi Padang.

So let’s take a moment now to remember the Orchard Road of the past – and ask yourself if you’d rather spend your leisure in a place like this today or along a concrete stretch of copy-and-paste designer brands, flash-in-the-pan food joints and mobs of selfie-stick carrying revellers. I think we should just take the pedestrianising to the extreme and rewild Orchard Road so that becomes just the Istana and a green extension all the way to Botanic Gardens. Make it the ‘Central Park’ of Singapore instead.

Orchard Road is dead. Long live Orchard Road.

Orchard_Rd_THEN_-_edit.jpg-itok=VSRY4_Tv

Overeasy sexy buns ad banned for showing butts

From ‘Eatery’s cheeky ad removed’, 23 July 2015, article by Jessica Lim, ST

A cheeky advertisement that raised eyebrows has been removed, after the eatery that put it up was ordered to do so by the advertising watchdog here.

The large billboard ad, featuring three scantily clad women exposing their buttocks, was put up by OverEasy Orchard, an eatery that is taking over the space occupied formerly by Wendy’s at Liat Towers. Beside the image was the tagline: “Seriously sexy buns. Two are better than one. Smack that. Aug 2015.”

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) ordered the eatery to remove the ad as it was deemed indecent and in breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP), an ASAS spokesman told The Straits Times in response to queries.

…When contacted, lifestyle company The Lo & Behold Group, which runs OverEasy and other restaurants, said that the ad was meant “to celebrate the female form” and that it intended to showcase OverEasy’s “characteristic cheekiness and irreverence”.

“The Lo & Behold Group apologises for how our advertisement might have made women feel,” said a spokesman for the group.

She added that the marketing for OverEasy, including the ad’s design, was done by an all-woman team. “To us, it is about women feeling sexy and confident in their own skins.” She said the phrase “lo & behold” has long been used colloquially to introduce something distinctive and impactful.

…Madam Raja Lachimi, 55, a housewife who has an 18-year-old daughter, said that such advertisements were “embarrassing” and “objectify women”.

She said: “That’s one reason I don’t take my daughter to Orchard Road. There are unsavoury locations there such as Orchard Towers and there are advertisements like the one at OverEasy.”

“I don’t think my daughter is ready for such ugly sights. I am happy they took it down,” she added.

ASAS decided to butt in and take it down

In 2010, Overeasy ran a ‘Fill My Cups‘ promo offering free booze to women based on the size of their breasts. 5 years on, they’re still in business despite complaints of ‘objectifying women’, proof that sex does bring in the booty, so to speak.

Lo and Behold is also the group behind ‘Extra Virgin Pizza’, which features ads like this:

All in the spirit of naughtiness then. ‘Lo and Behold’ is more an anachronistic expression than a ‘colloqualism’ as described, used most emphatically by medieval knights who managed to unlock chastity belts of damsels in distress. Looks like the group has all the erogenous zones of a lady covered in their campaigns.

It’s a shame that an 18 year old can’t even go shopping with her friends in town because she may stumble into sexy ads, be it the giant torso of Abercrombie and Fitch, or the simulacrum of a vagina by the Ministry of Waxing. Truth is, tits and ass are all over the heartlands as well, from semi-nude lingerie ads to Burger King ads that hint at fellatio. Did I also mention that she was EIGHTEEN?

The explanation about ‘women feeling confident about themselves’ is rubbish, considering the ad is all butt and nothing else. ‘Confidence’ is for sanitary pads and underarm whitening sticks, not light snacks. Subtlety is not Overeasy’s forte, and they’re downright shameless about it, even suggesting BDSM with the phrase ‘Smack That’. It’s crass, unimaginative and a sign that the marketing folks, whatever gender they belong to, have hit rock bottom when it comes to ideas for innuendo. A short skirt revealing a hint of undies is far more provocative than in-your-face buttocks, though the authorities may ban that too in case it increases the rate of people taking upskirt videos.

Forever 21 playing vulgar, misogynistic rap songs

From ‘Forever 21 apologises to Gurmit Singh’s daughter over offensive music’, 16 Oct 2014, article by Yeo Sam Jo, ST

Fashion retailer Forever21 has apologised to actor Gurmit Singh’s daughter, Gabrielle, after an open letter she wrote criticising the music played at one of its outlets went viral online. According to an update on the 17-year-old’s Tumblr blog on Wednesday night, Forever21 apologised for the music, which she had described as “horribly misogynistic” and “damaging” to the women and young girls who frequent the American brand’s stores.

She wrote: “F21 has responded and apologised for the music, which is pretty great! However, misogyny as a common occurrence in our everyday lives is still a big issue, which is why I’m leaving this post on my blog.” Her father, local celebrity Gurmit Singh, also took down one of his Facebook posts of the incident at about 10pm on Wednesday night, explaining that they had managed to get in touch with the store’s manager.

In her original post about a week ago, Gabrielle recounted how while she was shopping with her mother and baby sister at the Forever21 outlet in 313@Somerset on Orchard Road, the store was “blaring” songs with lyrics that were derogatory to women, such as “half you b***hes like p***y too”.

Speaking of bitches, Forever 21 was once criticised for refusing entry to guide dog Esme and her owner Cassandra Chiu, whom Joe Augustine refers to as an ‘asshole’. I doubt anyone would use the same insult on Gabrielle for her hissy fit against an explicit rap song played in a fashion boutique. This ‘open letter’ appears to ride on another pro-feminist leaning tirade by a Hwa Chong student against an offensive sex education booklet, accusing the perpetrator for promoting ‘rape culture’. In Gabrielle’s original blog post, she rants about F21 promoting a belief that ‘men only love women if they suck their penises’. It looks like AWARE are spoilt for choices for future board members.

Naturally, I searched for the song that pissed off Gabrielle and made her queasy when she was trying on clothes. Titled ‘P.W.A’ by rap collective 5th Ward Boyz, the ‘gangsta’ track goes right into the subject matter, its first verse and chorus being ‘Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussy’. In summary, it’s about some drunk horny gangstas high on weed going around hunting for ladies who receive fellatio from after doping them with weed and alcohol (hence P.W.A). There’s a lyric that goes ‘stick yo fingers in yo cat, taste yo uterus’, which makes these fellas from the hood not just date rapists, but practitioners of bestiality with 10 inch tongues. Nasty stuff, and it was indeed tasteless of F21 to play this dope shit, though by calling them out, Gabrielle has unwittingly introduced us all to the 5th Ward Boyz and their penchant for benz, ‘hoochies’ and their unforgivable abuse of not just women, but pronouns (I’s a playa, I’s a never had to trick’).

Department stores have been bombarding customers with raunchy rap and hip hop playlists for almost a decade with what I suspect to be similar themes of fast cars, fast cash, booze, boobs, ass and dicks, all part of the marketing department’s ploy to subliminally induce guys to buy oversized cargo pants and basketball jerseys, because ‘that’s how yo roll with the chicks dawg’. But it’s not just rap painting women as fast and loose sex objects. Even some of the ‘radio-friendly’ pop stuff on the airwaves hint at getting high, drunk and making the ladies obey your every command if you threaten to hit them or douse them with narcotics and intoxicants.

Here’s a sample, for aspiring feminists to write ‘open letters’ about.

1. Blurred Lines. ‘But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature’

2. Young Wild and Free. ‘So what we get drunk, So what we smoke weed’

3. Stupid Hoe. ‘You can suck my diznik if you take this jizzes’

4. The too obvious ‘S&M’. ‘But chains and whips excite me’

 5. Timber. ”Im slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will, timber’

Gabrielle’s dad himself is an occasional rap playa. As Phua Chu Kang he rapped about SARS and graciousness on the train, a fine example of how rap can be used for the greater good beyond money and buttocks, even if he had to resort to some violence to get the message across( ‘Excuse Me While I Give you a KICK!’)

Apology to humanity accepted, F21. Maybe it’s time to switch your HQ’s playlist to the entire soundtrack to the female-empowering Frozen instead.

Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.

Clubhouse for maids a space to call their own

From ‘Clubhouse for maids a good move, but charity leader’s remarks irksome’, 17 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Mannat Johal):…I am heartened to read about the clubhouse, which will provide facilities such as a computer lab and library, as well as various courses, for only S$4 a year. This will greatly benefit domestic helpers and make their experience working in Singapore a lot better. They will have something to look forward to each week, knowing that they can enhance their skills and spend time fruitfully at the clubhouse.

What irked me, though, was the statement by the President of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). He said: “We want (the workers) to go to a place where they can be among themselves, where they will not be disturbing the owners of the building or residents of the area.”

This gives the impression that domestic helpers generally cause owners and residents annoyance by simply patronising places such as tourist attractions. No such problems are said to exist when Singaporeans and tourists patronise these areas. Are domestic helpers that different? Should they not be allowed to enjoy these areas as we do? Are they that much of a nuisance compared with tourists, who are possibly more unfamiliar with Singaporean culture and etiquette?

Also, why does FAST want domestic helpers to be among themselves? Singapore is a multiracial society where harmony between people of different races, religions and backgrounds is a significant feature.

In 2001, Sri Lankan maid Sanda Perumal, along with her employer Angie Monksfield were given the boot out of Singapore Cricket Club because having maids in the premises was against internal club policy. As recently as 2011, some condos were still banning maids from using swimming pools.  Having a clubhouse just for maids would seem like an apologetic gesture for years of discrimination bordering on colonialism, a place where FDWs may benefit from the enrichment activities that such centres can offer rather than doing wild stuff like turning a stretch of Orchard Road into a street party . The other unspoken purpose here is to keep foreign workers out of sight, out of trouble, though you can’t stop them from murdering their rich employers. It’s like how people are uncomfortable with having workers’ dorms just down the road, treating the living quarters of others like a concentration or leprosy camp. The next question then: What about having a club for workers from Little India? One which holds a masterclass on anger management perhaps? A place where they can bond over some Darjeeling tea instead of Tiger beer?

Ethnic enclaves form all over the world as part of natural urban progression, and some even serve as tourist attractions, classic examples being Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. What FAST is concerned with here is gatherings of FDWs disrupting business, but one can think of some iconic commercial spaces that may have benefited instead from foreign workers milling about, never mind the occasional drunken brawl, sleaze or spontaneous mass dancing.

1) Lucky Plaza

Though initially viewed as an ‘image’ problem, Lucky Plaza remains till this day Orchard Road’s premier maid hangout, and some businesses have learned to adapt to capitalise on the loyal throngs, from fast food chains like Jollibee to IDD sellers and remittance. It’s also the first place I would think of if I have a sudden craving for Pinoy fare like sisig and pata.

2) Golden Mile Complex

Earning its title as ‘Little Thailand’, Golden Mile is renown as a foodie destination if you’re looking for authentic, homely cuisine. Some Thais refer to the Beach Road complex as their ‘second home’. Locals looking for some alternative entertainment to Bangkok barhopping can boogie all night long at places like ‘Pure Thai Disco’.

3) Peninsula Plaza

A lesser known enclave, this place is our very own ‘Little Myanmar’. Not all’s rosy in terms of local business though, with some lamenting that Peninsula has turned from a ‘classy mall’ into a ‘Myanmar market’. It has also become a collection centre for Cyclone Nargis donations and a place to congregate and discuss politics. In my youth, it was a place to get rare records and band merchandise. Yes, those were the days when it was cool to wear a cap with your favourite band’s logo on it. Backwards.

4) City Plaza and Joo Chiat

The newest enclave on the block, City Plaza is turning out to be ‘Little Indonesia’, and would have been a ghost town if not for maids flocking there on weekends. For obvious reasons, it attracts Bangladeshi workers too. Joo Chiat, with its string of bars and restaurants, is close to becoming ‘Little Vietnam’. Now you know where to go if you’re in the mood for pho or Ayam Penyet. Or some intimate Vietnamese hospitality, if you know what I mean.

So, with or without these club facilities, our FDWs already have a place to mingle (sometimes with other foreign nationalities) and be seen, even if it means moonlighting on the fly or simply fooling around. The fact that places like Lucky Plaza and Golden Mile have hardly changed at all means that the authorities are silently aware of their social (and economic) significance.  It is, however, unrealistic to expect migrant workers to integrate with Singaporeans on weekends, when they already spend almost their entire working lives dealing with us. In some situations, in fact, we’d rather they leave us the hell alone.

Let’s not forget the many other ‘enclaves’ and invisible boundaries that we draw around us every single day. Christians have their mega-churches, Muslims their mosques. Billionaires have their fancy clubs, golf courses, Iggy’s and Nassim Road. Women have Ladies’ Night and entire shopping mall levels dedicated to them. Hipsters have arty-farty cafes, expats Robertson Quay, and even seniors have ‘retirement villages’. What’s the big deal about a clubhouse for maids?

We’re a motley nation, not an orientation camp where everybody sits around the campfire singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, and by all means let FDWs have places to ‘call their own’ as long as they abide by our laws and don’t have mass orgies in public. A artificial enclosure like a clubhouse may be a place for maids to be ‘among themselves’, but without the flavours of home and the calming familiarity that Lucky Plaza brings, it’s unlikely to be a place to ‘belong’.

Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

Cineleisure gang not happy with arrogant walking styles

From ‘Victim’s arrogant walk riled gang of youths’, 17 June 2013, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

IT WAS the 20-year-old’s “cocky” walking style that purportedly riled a group of 10 tattooed youths who set upon their victim with parangs outside Cathay Cineleisure Orchard on Saturday night. Mr Wilson Siau, a full-time national serviceman, said he was smoking in an empty space between the mall and *Scape with five other friends after dinner at about 9pm.

The youths approached him and commented on his walking style, particularly the way he swung his arms, which they described as “arrogant”. Ignoring their taunts, Mr Siau turned to walk away when all 10 went after him.

He told Shin Min Daily News: “At least three of them punched and kicked me. Another two with parangs slashed at my head. To protect my head, I wrapped both my hands around it, resulting in numerous slashes on my arms and lots of blood.”

The parangs are said to have been about 20cm long. The attack lasted about a minute until security guards from the mall emerged. The attackers are said to have fled in three taxis.

Just over the weekend, it was reported that Singapore rose 7 places to become the 16th most peaceful country in the world. And then a gang-related incident occurs, where you have a young man viciously attacked in full view of public with 20 cm parangs over a trifling matter, getting away in TAXIS AT THE SAME TIME. It’s not mentioned how a bunch of bloodstained gangsters with weapons managed to get away in cabs so quickly on a Saturday evening without call-booking beforehand, but perhaps the police should investigate if the drivers were in fact accomplices to the assault. Some cabbies do look, and behave, like secret society members after all.

Most random gang assaults occur over petty disputes or staring incidents, and this slashing over having a problem with how someone walks is taking senseless violence to new low. Wilson Siau may be walking with less swagger from now on and he’s lucky that he doesn’t have to plod around with a permanent limp. Meanwhile, the authorities seem to have more success smoking out illegal immigrant prostitutes than local gangsters. Time to step up the patrols in Orchard and stop hunting down comic-strip and graffiti artists, boys. The lives of innocent shoppers are at stake here for God’s sake. It’s also probably not a good time for Royston Tan to start filming a sequel to the beloved ’15’.

Secret societies seem out of place in squeaky-clean Singapore, though there’s still one too many in operation, some even having bases where I live. In the seventies they did serious triad stuff like extorting hawkers, and have since indulged in enterprising black-market activities like hawking counterfeit and porno VCDS/DVDs, betting and online pimping. The rest without assignments sit around at McDonald’s all day waiting for someone to pick on with choppers and watermelon knives discreetly tucked in shopping bags or in baggy trousers because ganging up on unarmed victims and fleeing in cabs is such a MANLY thing to do. As you would expect in this age of social media, some gangsters even own blogs. They should be out there on Facebook as well, and I urge netizens the world over to report to the CID if they see anyone bragging over a posted pic of a bloodstained parang or a missing pinkie. Don’t get too agitated over kids posing with ‘gang signs’ though, they could merely be doing a Gwiyomi dance.

What’s interesting to me though, is how secret societies come up with their names. One of the oldest, Gang 18, was named after the ’18 Arahants’, which are described in ancient Buddhist scripture as ‘enlightened beings’ who are above worldly pursuits. Gang 24 was based on a Confucian morality tale about filial piety called the ’24 Filial Exemplars’.  Gangs 108 and 8 were named after the Chinese classics ‘Water Margin’ and ‘Eight Immortals’ respectively. Here’s another fun fact: The notorious 369, or ‘Salakau’, is supposedly an offshoot of 18, with the numbers 3, 6 and 9 adding up to 18. The rest, like Ang Soon Tong and San Ji Kia, sound like freaking chicken rice stalls (I write this at the risk of drawing death threats, but I don’t walk or talk like some big boss so it’s OK). If you want to start a secret society yourself, choose a multiple of 6 or 8 and not single digits below 4 because that would make you appear so weak that your peers will question your ability to even give a boy scout a wedgie.

With already flailing patronage, the last thing that our famed shopping district needs now is a reputation for deadly turf wars and hacking sprees. This is already the 2nd attack at Cineleisure following similar routs at Orchard Plaza (2012), Orchard Towers (2008) and Ngee Ann City (2001),  If something’s not done to weed out this menace, it won’t be GSS as in Great Singapore Sale, but Gangs of Secret Societies. If you really want to play safe, stay at home and shop online, where you won’t get brutally scalped for strutting, staring or wearing ugly shoes.