Monday, 26 July 2021

From flow chart to no dine-in apocalypse: Table for one, please?

Remember just over a week ago when the Government announced that for dining in, the maximum group size would be reduced from five to two because of the resurgence of coronavirus cases in Singapore.


Groups of up to five might be allowed depending on whether you were vaccinated, from the same household, under 12 years old or could down 10 bowls of curry noodles in one sitting.

There were more permutations than variants of Covid-19 and Loki. You needed a flow chart and a stiff drink.

It was so mind-bogglingly convoluted that some restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Long John Silver’s, Toast Box and Nando’s said screw it, we would just limit it to two people.

That lasted like three days.

Oh, were the rules too complicated for you snowflakes? Now the Government has made it simpler for everyone.

Vaccinated, unvaccinated, same household, different households, children, no children, pets, don’t care. How many diners? Zero.

Any questions?

What a rollercoaster ride it has been for the F&B industry this month.

Or year. When 2021 started, the number was 8. Then in May, it went down to five.

People were grumbling that they couldn’t celebrate Mother’s Day properly.

Today, we would sell their mothers to get back those days again as a week after Mother’s Day, dining in was banned altogether.

We had to do take-outs for Father’s Day, getting the shorter end of the stick as usual.

When July started, the number was two. Then up to five. Then it was down to two again but five if you have the right combination. Now it’s back to zero.

Pardon the whiplash.

Some blame the KTV joints. Some blame the dirty old men. Some blame the Government’s oversight and/or the lack of it. I blame the Japanese for inventing karaoke.

But instead of playing the blame game where everyone loses, I believe it is time for a new idea. Or perhaps the revival of an old one?

On May 25, in the midst of the post-Mother’s Day dine-in ban, The Straits Times published a letter from reader Cheng Shoong Tat suggesting that we resume dining-in with only one diner per table:
“In response to essential and front-line workers not having enough places to consume their takeaway food at, many malls are opening up their foodcourts and public places for this purpose.

“Only one diner is allowed per table, which must be placed at least 1m from the next one.

“By the same token, why not allow food outlets to resume dine-in service on the same basis, in addition to serving takeaways?

“Outlets that are able to rearrange their seating into single-diner tables at least 1m apart should be allowed to resume limited dine-in service in order to supplement their takings from selling takeaway food.

“This way, the impact of the recent Covid-19 measures on food outlets can be somewhat cushioned, while less takeaway waste is produced.”

While some, including me, liked the idea, many were against it, like the person who wrote this letter that ST published a few days later:
“It is not wise to allow one diner per table during this current period of heightened alert, as suggested by Mr Cheng Shoong Tat (Allow dining in to resume with one diner per table, May 25).

“It is acceptable to make an exception for essential workers, including delivery riders, who do need a place to eat - usually for only a short while.

“But if one diner per table were allowed for the community at large, there may be instances where diners continue to linger unmasked after having their meal.

“Furthermore, there could be a potential loophole when two family members or friends go out together for a meal. They might chat with each other while having their meal, even if they are seated apart.”
It’s an enforcement issue then?

Anyway, the idea became moot and fell by the wayside once dining-in resumed with up to two diners per table (better than one) on June 21.

But now that we have doubled back to the post-Mother’s Day zero dining-in apocalypse since last Thursday, the single-diner idea is worth revisiting as it offers some respite.

While it has been argued that it’s the removal of your mask while you are eating that is the issue regardless of whether it’s one or more diners, the way the Government has been playing yo-yo with the number of diners demonstrates otherwise.

If nothing else, you could finally eat alone in a restaurant without people feeling sorry for you because they think you have no friends.

Best of all, no flow chart required.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 July 2021

Monday, 12 July 2021

Why is the singer not wearing a mask on the bus in the new NDP 2021 music video?

Dear Linying,

Congratulations on the positive response to your National Day Parade (NDP) 2021 theme song, The Road Ahead, you composed with producer Evan Low.

I am not going to report you for not wearing a mask on the bus in the music video as you were lip-syncing to the song even though all the other passengers were wearing a mask.

I understand that we would not be able to see you lip-syncing to the song if we could not see your lips if you were wearing a mask.

However, I am a little perturbed that you were quoted in The Straits Times report last week as saying: “I’m quite grateful because I was so prepared for the hate, but it turned out well.”

Why were you “prepared for the hate”?

What hate?

Don’t you know that our NDP songs are so universally beloved around the globe that at least one person in India has plagiarised Count On Me Singapore and claimed to have written it?

When that happened a few months ago, all Singaporeans stood up, stood up for the song as ours, proof that we have nothing but love for the NDP songs.

So I am not sure why you were expecting hate for yours.

Is it because every new NDP song since Dick Lee’s composition Home in the past 20 years or so has not been as well received such that it has practically become a national tradition to criticise every new NDP song and ask whether we really need yet another new NDP song?

One year, 2013, the NDP song, One Singapore, got so much hate that it was decided that, no, we did not need yet another new NDP song the next year.

At least it was not a song about fun packs sung to the tune of a Lady Gaga hit.

To be fair, that was not meant to be the National Day song that year, 2011. It was just a song about fun packs – meant to be sung on National Day.

Since your song does not mention fun packs or sound like Bad Romance, you are safe.

It also helps that you resisted using any Singlish in your song unlike the Ministry of Health, which lacked such self- restraint with the Phua Chu Kang Covid-19 music videos.

The chorus for The Road Ahead could have easily been “Come what may on the road ahead, just you wait and see, steady pom pi pi.”

But you said no. Why? Because you have standards. And an Ah Beng contractor in yellow boots is not singing it.

Maybe next year.

Also, great job not mentioning “Singapore” in a song about Singapore.

Otherwise, you would have to rhyme “Singapore” with “more”, “roar” or “a land to treasure right down to the core”, whatever that means. What “core”? Earth core? Apple core? Softcore?

One drawback is that without “Singapore”, you are making the song easier for people in India to copy without having to change the lyrics.

No, wait, “island” is mentioned several times in your song and India is not an island. Well played, madam. Well played.

But if videos start popping up on YouTube of Mumbai school children singing The Road Ahead with “nation” replacing “island”, that would just be reaffirmation that the song is good enough to steal.

It feels weird not mocking the new NDP song like Singaporeans usually do.

Is this the abnormal new normal?

The next time people ask me to put on a mask on the bus, I will just show them your video on my phone and start lip-syncing to it.

I will also tell them I used to be from the navy.

Steady pom pi pi.

- Published in The New Paper, 12 July 2021

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

TIL Gurmit Singh's daughter Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk is 'an ícon in Singapore's queer community' and more power to her

You may have read about kids of local celebrities following their parents' footsteps into showbiz.

But you probably haven't read about Gurmit Singh's daughter, Gabrielle.

She did make the news in 2014 after she went viral with her open letter to Forever 21, calling out the misogynistic rap song being played in a clothing store targeted at women. She was 17 then.

That was seven years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I was researching my column about Gurmit's Lamborghini when I came across this 2020 Vice article about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, calling her "an icon in Singapore’s queer community".

Wait, what? Is this Gurmit's daughter? I cross-checked her very unique name. Yes, it is.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Gabbi is a lot of things. Primarily, they're a thing maker, body-shaker, and a rule-breaker; or at least that’s what it says on their website.

Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, 22, is an icon in Singapore’s queer community. The person behind the extremely popular Queer ZineFest, they're also the organiser of QUEERTHEYEAR! Cabaret, a night of unabashed self expression for queer artists.
Nowhere in the article was mentioned that she is the daughter of one of the most famous people in Singapore.

And then I discovered she was a contributor to Huffington Post from 2016 to 2017 and I was further impressed.

One of her articles was titled Growing Up Straight: A Timeline.

She also has a YouTube channel, which has 23 videos, the most recent published in February last year.

But the video that caught my attention was one published in June 2, 2018, titled "happy pride month - here's my coming out video".

It's a powerful, emotionally raw 13-minute video about her struggle with her sexuality and how she eventually came out to her parents, one of whom is, of course, Gurmit.

To start with, she identified as queer. She said in the video:
Personally, I’m not a big fan of labels. At some point, I said I was bisexual. Then I was like no, I’m pansexual.

And now I kind of just go by queer because I’m attracted to people. I don’t really care about people’s gender when I’m attracted to them.

So yes, I’m queer and it has taken me quite a while to get comfortable saying that I’m queer because I live in Singapore which is very conservative and then I grew up in a Christian household which is also very conservative.
She said that when homosexuality was talked about, it was “always in a bad light like we were sinners”.
In my mid-teens, like 15, I went through a phase where I was super super religious. I was cell reading. I was going to church. I was volunteering. I was reading the Bible every day… That was me trying to pray the gay away.

So I just laid low and pretended to be straight for a couple of years.
She sort of came out to her mother one night, but things got weird.
When I was 18, that was when I came out to my mum. I drunk-called my mother… she’s so lovely. She came and picked me up. In the car, I held it together.

And then we got home and I just started crying. ‘Oh my god, I’m a lesbian! I like girls! And I don’t know what to do and it’s so difficult.'

She kind of just sat by me and nodded and like patted my shoulder.

And the next morning, she didn’t say anything about it.

I never dreamed that my parents would be okay with my sexuality because they’re Christian and because the Christianity that I grew up with was not supportive of my sexuality at all.
But her struggles continued.
A few months down the road, I wrote an article about homosexuality. My parents read it and they were not very okay with it. But they were more not okay with the fact that I hadn’t told them. That I put it online before telling them.
She was probably referring to the Huffpost article mentioned above.
I felt really bad about my sexuality. So in order to work things out, I would start dating boys… Maybe I’m gay because I haven’t found the right straight cis man to warm my heart!

I just went out with a string of “normal” boys who turned out to be really predatory.
But when she went to university in the UK, she continued dating boys, which she described as "horrible". She also started dating girls which she preferred.

She finally came out to both her parents by sending them a video.
I knew things were still weird with my parents. I really love my family. So it really bothers me when things are off with us. And I knew things were off because of me.

So I made them a really long really dramatic video, like I cried a lot and my make-up got messed up. I made them a really long coming-out video where I said I needed to tell them things and address the elephant in the room.

I sent it to them and I basically just lie in my bed terrified that they might disown me.

They both texted me. They were really sweet. They were like “Thank you for telling us and feeling safe enough to tell us and we can tell that it’s something that’s very important to you and we’re glad that you opened up.”

So I came home for Christmas break. During that break, both my parents took me out individually. My dad was really sweet… He was like “I can’t control who you choose to love and I’m just going to support you.” And I was like yay!

I know I’m really lucky because I know a lot of friends who can’t come out to their parents because their parents would not be this nice to them. So I am very very grateful.
She said she came out to her parents a year and a half before making the YouTube video, so it was likely aound the end of 2016.

What I find poignant is that I know Gurmit went through his own struggles with his Sikh parents when he converted to Christianity, especially his father; and later, his daughter would struggle with her sexuality partly due to the Christianity she grew up with.

I hope she's in a better place now.

Also on Gabbi's YouTube channel is this amazing video of her performing her obviously NSFW poem, Things to Say While You're Sucking His Dick. It was not what I expected.

She is clearly a very passionate, funny, talented young woman with a cause.

More Singaporeans should know about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk and not just because of her famous father.