Monday, 11 November 2019

National Steps Challenge: Is this the real reason e-scooters are banned on footpaths?

Well, that was sudden.

Last Monday, the Government decreed that e-scooters would not be allowed on footpaths from the next day.

It’s not as if there were Select Committee on E-Scooters On Footpaths hearings where Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam grilled a Foodpanda rider for six hours about Operation Coldstore. A Ban E-Scooters On Footpaths Bill wasn’t tabled in Parliament, debated, voted on and passed into law.

At least the Government prepared us for the fake news law that is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act earlier this year.

Not so with this.

You know how when you look out for vehicles while crossing the road, expecting it to be safe when you reach the sidewalk, only to be surprised by a speeding e-scooter that almost hits you.

The banning of e-scooters on footpaths is like that e-scooter that almost hit you on the footpath – it sort of just came out of nowhere.

It is the e-scooter riders’ turn to be hit by something they didn’t see coming, and they’re not liking it.

That’s one thing millennials can’t dismiss with a glib “Okay, boomer.”

But why now? Why the short one-day notice?

When the new 10kmh speed limit for e-scooters was announced in September last year, it wasn’t implemented until five months later.

When the Government introduced UL2272 as the new standard for personal mobility devices (PMDs) in September last year because of all the PMD-related fires, PMD users originally had until the end of next year to comply. The deadline was later brought forward to next July, all of which seems rather pointless now.

So what’s the rush with the footpath ban?

Instead of an immediate ban with an advisory period until the end of the year, why not start the ban next year so that everyone has more time to adjust?

I have a theory.

The National Steps Challenge Season 5 started on Oct 26. Ten days later, we have the footpath ban.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

The National Steps Challenge is the Government’s attempt to get us off our asses and move around more by rewarding us for every step we take up to 10,000 a day.

The Government is even giving you a nifty Fitbit knock-off you can wear on your wrist to count your steps.

You could even take a picture with Pokemon at the mega roadshows where the free fitness trackers were distributed.

What is the point of the Government spending all that effort and taxpayers’ money to encourage you to get fitter by walking more if you are just going to scoot around on your damn e-scooter?

Or sit around waiting for your food to be delivered by e-scooter instead of using your own two feet to get your bubur cha cha or bubble tea with brown sugar or whatever?

People may also be afraid to go for a walk because they don’t want to get hit by Ah Boy on an e-scooter.

Having PMDs defeats the whole purpose of the National Steps Challenge, which lasts until April.

Ergo the timing of the ban.

It could also be because of the elderly cyclist who tragically died after colliding with an e-scooter in September.

And Tan Tock Seng Hospital reporting an alarming 70 per cent increase in PMD rider injuries in two years.

And the horrific viral video of a e-scooter rider crashing into a three-year-old girl in a Boon Lay void deck last month.

Perhaps the ban shouldn’t be so unexpected after all.

Is it too late to meet Pikachu?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 November 2019

Monday, 14 October 2019

Inspired by Alfian Sa'at, I wrote a poem called McDonald's, You Did Not Have My Pyjamas

Dear McDonald’s,

Look what you made me do.

Last Monday at exactly 6pm, I opened your app to order the $24.90 McDelivery Night In bundle that included loungewear (which is just a McFancy way of saying “pyjamas”).

But all I got was this message: “The service is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.”

So I tried again a few seconds later and got the same message. So I tried again. And again. And again for the next few hours.

I had flashbacks to April when I was traumatised trying to book the Avengers: Endgame advance tickets online.

At 6.55pm, you posted on your Facebook page:
“Thank you for your overwhelming response. We’re experiencing high traffic to our McDelivery website and app at the moment.

“Please bear with us as we work to get it back up as soon as possible.”
That was no help.

After about three hours of clicking repeatedly, I was finally able to order the set on the website, but only the women’s jammies were available. The men’s set was sold out.

And because I didn’t want to go through all that for nothing, I ordered the women’s. I should mention here that I am a man, not to be overly binary about it. So I didn’t get what I wanted.

Inspired by award-winning writer Alfian Sa’at’s poem, Singapore, You Are Not My Country, I decided to write you a poem to let you know how I feel:

McDonald’s, you did not have my pyjamas
McDonald’s, you did not have my pyjamas at all
You are surprising McDonald’s, promo-starved McDonald’s, sold-out McDonald’s of two-piece loungewear in Big Mac-and-fries print.
You apologise, but without compensation, without placating, without Mayor McCheese,
but through your Facebook page,
through your 40 Days of Thank You 1-for-1 deals
and that white chocolate strawberry cream pie I swear
is working voodoo on my body fat percentage.

McDonald’s, what is this “high traffic” on your website?
There are so many pyjamas fans,
You should’ve anticipated the demand.
McDonald’s, I assert, you did not have my pyjamas at all.
Do not thank us for “our kind understanding”,
I am not afraid of your mascot
although the clown is scarier than It and Joker.
And how can you call yourself a restaurant,
you terrible hallucination of queues for Hello Kitty dolls,
My Melody food holders and McGriddles hoodies?

That was as far as I got.

Writing poetry was harder than I thought, even when I didn’t have to rhyme. Props to all poets.

I give the Ministry of Education permission to reprint my poem in future literature textbooks and welcome the Education Minister to quote it in Parliament when your failure to have my pyjamas is brought up for debate.

Yes, I know you started taking pre-orders for the “loungewear” on Friday, but the estimated delivery is the end of next month.

By then, I (and the rest of Singapore) would’ve moved on to the next craze, like KFC underwear or who knows what. Yes, I do want my crotch to smell like fried chicken.

What’s the point of me posting pictures of me in McDonald’s pyjamas on Instagram in a month’s time when no one cares about McDonald’s pyjamas any more?

And I’m not going to pay double for the men’s jammies to some opportunistic reseller on Carouhell.

So what did I do?

I posted pictures of me in the women’s pyjamas.

I was that desperate. Gotta do it for the Gram.

I got 16 likes.

Even though the clothes are supposed to be “free size”, the top is a bit snug around my manly shoulders. The shorts, however, are so small that if I tried them on, I would’ve castrated myself. That’s because, if you need reminding, I am not a woman. Hear me rant.

Look what you made me do, McDonald’s.

You turned me into a cross-dresser for 16 lousy Insta likes.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 October 2019

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The problem with Tommy Koh's 'Third World' comment: Did he actually say it?

The headline:
Tommy Koh laments that Singapore is a First World country with Third World citizens
What a great quote!

But if you read The Straits Times report carefully, Prof Koh isn't quoted as saying that at all.

The report on the Singapore Bicentennial Conference starts with the sentence:
Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh laments that Singapore is a First World country with Third World people.
But it's not clear whether Prof Koh actually used those words or the reporter was paraphrasing him.

"Third World" is not mentioned in the article again.

Considering how ST has gone to town with the line, I wish the paper had reported the exact quote.

What Prof Koh did say was:
"I am more critical of Singaporeans than of the Government. Many of our people don't give a damn for the environment when they should. Many of our people are selfish and unkind. Just look at the way they drive."
Even in ST's follow-up report "Singaporeans are Third World people? Public figures react to Tommy Koh's comments", nowhere is Prof Koh quoted as using the term "Third World".

Instead, it's someone else, Singapore Management University sociologist Paulin Straughan, who is quoted as saying: "We can't really have a First World Country with Third World behaviour."

So it may appear that ST has put the words "Third Word" in Prof Koh's mouth. Is it (dare I say it) fake news?

Because if he did say it, it would be a rather undiplomatic thing for a diplomat to say, especially to Third World nations.

What does "Third World" mean anyway?

Here is an explanation from a website called World Population Review:
What is a third world country? Recently, third world countries can be defined by high poverty rates, economic instability, and lack of basic human resources compared to the rest of the world.

The term “Third World countries” was first used during the Cold War. This term was used to describe countries that were not aligned with the Communist Bloc or NATO or that were neutral. This term was first used to categorize countries into three groups based on their politics and economics.

During the Cold War, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and Western European nations and allies were categorized as First World countries. Second World countries included China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their allies. Third World countries typically had colonial pasts in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the terminology of the “three worlds” has changed somewhat. Today, the term Third World is used to describe a country that is not developed as much as other countries and faces economic, social, political, environmental and other issues. This has led to some confusion as to how the term was originally used.
Despite the confusion, people still tend to use "Third World" to mean poor countries and "First World" to mean rich countries. I haven't heard or read anyone use "Second World".

This would mean that what Prof Koh supposedly said was that Singapore is a rich country with citizens who behave poorly like they're from a poor country.

The problem with this is that it equates being poor with poor behaviour, which I find offensively elitist.

And that is why I hope Prof Koh didn't say what The Straits Times said he said.

For me, Third World will always be this reggae band:

Monday, 30 September 2019

Toggled: I watched Joanne Peh's 'nude' scene in Last Madame and I feel so dirty now

Okay, I fell for it.

When I read that Mediacorp actress Joanne Peh was going nude for the first time in a drama, Last Madame, I was curious enough to want to watch the show.

Yes, “curious”. That was it.

At first, I thought it’s a Channel 8 drama series, but then I learnt it’s in English.

Oh, so it’s on Channel 5?

Wrong. It’s on Toggle, sort of like Mediacorp’s version of Netflix except nobody says “Toggle and chill”.

All 12 half-hour episodes of the M18-rated series dropped last Thursday for you to binge and purge.

On the day of release, Peh posted a blurry photo on Instagram with the warnings “Mature content” and “Restricted access”. What a tease!

When you swipe left, you can see a still from Last Madame of Peh and co-star Jeff Chou topless in bed but not showing much, just a lot of bare shoulders.

I guess if you want to see more, you have to watch the show.

Peh, a mama of two who plays a mamasan in the drama, wrote on Insta:
“It took me a long time to decide if I would go nude for our bed scene in Last Madame. A story set in a brothel in the 1930s, we can’t shy away from sex.”
The 36-year-old ex-girlfriend of Bobby Tonelli said she made the right decision because “showing two bodies moving in unison captured the passions and inner conflict of the two characters so vividly, it pushed the show to a different level”.

“Two bodies moving in unison”? I couldn’t create my free Toggle account fast enough.

Again, I was just curious. Perhaps a little too eagerly so.

I made the mistake of watching the whole of the first episode before realising the “bodies moving in unison” scene is not in the first episode. That was 36 minutes of my life I will never get back. (The episodes are laboriously longer than publicised.)

I went online and found out that the sought-after nude scene is in the ninth episode after the 23-minute mark.

Here’s what you see.

It starts with a close-up of clasping hands before fading to black.

Then a close-up of Chou kissing Peh’s upper lip, which is how actors in local shows pretend to kiss each other on the mouth without actually kissing. No tongue.

Another fade to black.

Next, a close-up of him kissing down the side of her waist and some sort of weird puncture wound or a very scary mosquito bite above her right hip.

And yet another fade to black.

The scene continues with a few unrevealing shots of them “moving in unison” and breathing heavily interspersed with even more fade-to-black transitions.

It’s over in just over a minute (no reflection on Chou, I’m sure) and half of it is a black screen. That’s all we get for M18?

I now suspect the M18 rating is just for all the smoking in the first scene of the first episode.

Even Peh wanted more nakedness.

Asked about the scene by 8 Days magazine, she said:
“When the final cut came out on Toggle, I was, mmm, slightly disappointed. I think we could really have shown a little bit more probably, because no body parts were shown.”

Actually, body parts are shown – hands, hips, plenty of shoulders – just not the right ones.

So why do I feel so dirty after watching the scene?

Mrs Qi Yiwu used the promise of nudity to appeal to my basest instinct – curiosity – and I let her.

I should have known better. It was the oldest trick in the book. Sex sells.

I wonder how many other people fell for it too and created a Toggle account they will never use again.

If I didn’t have the potential to excel in life, I should be punished by being forced to watch all 12 episodes of Last Madame.

Fade to black.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 September 2019

Sunday, 29 September 2019

18.45km Straits Times Run in hazy photos

Actually, no haze.

My first race since Februrary.

Flag-off at Sports Hub at 5.30am.

I started out fast (for me) - maybe too fast because I totally lost steam after 5km.

That was hard.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Peel The Onion: Could Media Literacy Council be right? Satire can be fake news? Yes, but...

Why did the Media Literacy Council (MLC) say that satire was fake news?

I blame Mrs Lim Hwee Hua.

Remember her?

You should. She is the first woman to become a full minister in Singapore when she was promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009.

But she was voted out in the 2011 General Election after her People’s Action Party team lost Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party.

And that might have been a good thing.

Because the next year, she shared fake news on Facebook.

The article was about then US President Barack Obama complaining about partisan politics and asking a crowd at a campaign rally why he would want to serve another term as president of “this godforsaken country”.

If you didn’t read the article too closely, you could easily mistake it for a genuine US news report.

That was why Mrs Lim shared it with the comment:
“Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama’s campaign strategy might be.”

The problem was that the article was from The Onion, a Peabody Award-winning US satirical newspaper, which Mrs Lim had apparently never heard of.

The article was satire. It was also fake news.

She might have known this if she had read other Onion articles like “Study reveals: Babies are stupid” and “9/11 hijackers surprised to find selves in hell”.

I believe this must be why the MLC posted a graphic that said satire was a type of fake news, which got the council into so much trouble recently.

It was all Mrs Lim’s fault.

Wait, you may ask, doesn’t this Onion episode illustrate that satire can be fake news and that the MLC was right?

Well, yes and no.

The issue is that even though fake news may be satire, not all satire is fake news.

It could just be local DJ Chris Ho posting on Facebook:
“I’m with you foreigners! Kill the (censored) Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”
That actually happened in 2014. He called it his “little satirical remark”.

But I think the larger issue is that in Singapore, “fake news” has become a loaded term. (And not because of Donald Trump.)

We now conflate “fake news” with “Pofma”, a cute name for what many consider a scary new law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, passed four months ago.

To many, by equating satire with fake news, the MLC appeared to be saying that satire came under Pofma and that would make people like Ho and beloved self-described “satirist” Mr Brown criminals to be prosecuted. (I’m safe because I’m merely an alleged humour columnist.)

To assuage such fears, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugan said last Friday:
“The suggestion that satire is covered by Pofma is erroneous. We’ve been very clear, I’ve been very clear, both in Parliament and outside, Pofma does not cover satire.”

But he defended the MLC as “good people” even though this is the council’s second Facebook mishap in two years.

Last year, it was “Signs your child is a cyberbully” that got the council cyberbullied.

This year, it is fake news about satire being fake news from the organisation formed by the Government in 2012 to educate us about online hazards like cyberbullying and fake news.

The MLC has apologised for the post.

But Mrs Lim Hwee Hua didn’t for sharing fake news seven years ago.

In those carefree pre-Pofma days, after she realised the news article she shared was fake, she just wrote:
“Indeed, it is increasingly challenging everywhere – to foster a trusting relationship between government and people, and between people and people, and to differentiate between real and not-so-real news.”
She could be one of those people who thought The Noose was the news.

Her gaffe is even mentioned on the Wikipedia page about The Onion.

I guess it was fortunate she was voted out of office by then because as a former minister who shared fake news rather than a sitting minister who shared fake news, she was a little less embarrassing to the Government.

Then the Media Literacy Council came along.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 September 2019

Monday, 2 September 2019

Woman forced open MRT door because of 'autistic sister': 'Hoax' claim also a hoax?

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said last week that commuters may have to wait longer for trains during off-peak hours.

He must be expecting more delays caused by desperate women forcing open doors in MRT stations and getting stuck between them.

That last part is not true. It’s my attempt at a joke. You know that – I hope.

I don’t want to be accused of spreading fake news. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in his National Day Rally speech, POFMA will catch me.

Already too much fake news has been going around lately.

There was no ceiling collapse in Jewel Changi Airport or stabbing in Tampines Mall as alleged in a couple of viral videos.

There is no gang war in Yishun, although a man in Yishun was caught trying to steal a bra from a pole hanging outside a second-storey flat with an umbrella, which is unfortunately not fake news and probably more disturbing.

But the viral video of the woman forcing open the MRT doors at the Little India station is legit. We know that because SBS Transit confirmed that the incident happened last Monday at 3.30pm.

People criticised the woman for her anti-door behaviour.

Then a screengrab of a Reddit post by someone named “phong” started circulating.

It read:
“I know this auntie. While everyone here is blasting her, I thought I will provide some context for her actions.

“The lady who scurried into the train first? Her younger sister, who is autistic. Who has a history of wandering off and forgetting her way home.

“Hopefully you will begin to understand her motivations for trying so hard to board the train after her.”
Though it was unverified, many shared the post as fact and vilification turned into sympathy.

Then a Twitter user named EllieTay tweeted a whole thread to claim:
“She is my mother and regarding the story about her chasing her autistic sister is a hoax.”
She explained:
“What actually happened is that she and her friend were rushing to get home… (This was at the time where everyone is also getting home from work) and the MRT was packed with people, my mother’s friend got in first, with my mother from behind didn’t want to be left alone to wait for another train, barged forward and pried open the door which got her stuck.”
EllieTay added:
“When my mother and her friend arrived at their stop, they were approached by the SMRT staff for questioning. I was called in to pick up my mother and have talked to the staff, fortunately they are not asking for any compensation for the door, they only gave a warning to my mother to be more careful.”
So which account is true?

While a couple of websites have reported the tweets, they have not been as widely shared as the “autistic sister” post.

My guess is people are now wary that the tweets claiming that the earlier post was a hoax may be a hoax too. Once bitten, twice shy.

The funny thing is that you can see that reporters from The Straits Times, The New Paper and Channel NewsAsia have replied to the one of EllieTay’s tweets, asking her to get in touch with them, most likely to verify her claims.

Since the news outlets have yet to report the tweets, it’s safe to assume they have not been verified. Don’t want POFMA to catch them and all that.

I find the tweets rather dubious myself.

First, EllieTay said the incident took place when everyone was “getting home from work”, but SBS Transit had said it happened at 3.30pm, which is not when most people leave work.

Second, she said “the MRT was packed with people”, but in the video, the train and the platform were not “packed” – since, you know, it was only 3.30pm.

Third, she said that “SMRT staff” approached her mother and friend for questioning, but the incident happened on the Downtown line, which is operated by SBS Transit, not SMRT.

Okay, maybe she got the two rail operators mixed up, which is understandable enough, but I doubt that the staff members could have so quickly identified and tracked down the mother and friend at a different station. That’s a lot of surveillance, coordination and running around just to give someone a warning.

Also, SBS Transit hasn’t said anything about having spoken to the passengers involved in the incident, which I believe it would if it did.

What do you believe?

What do you want to believe?

An auntie running after an autistic sister is a better story than a mother trying to catch up to a friend.

And that’s what makes fake news so seductive. It’s hard to resist sharing a good story.

Sometimes you wish the news was fake.

Like when the Transport Minister says you may have to wait longer for the train.

Hey, where’s my bra?

- Published in The New Paper, 2 September 2019

Monday, 19 August 2019

‘Cuckoo bird’ cheer at NTU freshman camp: ‘We didn’t know it would become so big’

Maybe they’re really into ornithology.

That’s why they kept repeating the words “cuckoo bird” over and over again.

But the way the young men and women were pointing at their crotch while chanting the words in last week’s viral video suggests that they’re probably more interested in anatomy.

I was their age once, though not so publicly demonstrative of where my prurient interests lay.

When I first heard there was a video going around of inappropriate behaviour at a freshman orientation camp at a local university, I assumed it was the National University of Singapore (NUS) again.

Three years ago, reports of sexualised games at NUS camps led to then Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung declaring that “pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student plays no part” in university education.

Which is always a helpful reminder.

I believe it was the first time an acting minister had ever used the word “ejaculate” in public. (God knows how many times he said it in private.)

NUS was also in the news in April because of the Monica Baey episode, which highlighted the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus, mostly by shower voyeurs.

I also remember the sordid sex-for-grades trial in 2013 involving an NUS law professor and his student.

He took her virginity on his NUS office sofa! She got pregnant! He made her pay for her abortion! She bought him a Montblanc pen and an iPod Touch when the iPod Touch was a thing!

So is it any wonder that by now, whenever I hear there’s inappropriate sexual behaviour at a local university, I’m conditioned to think it must be NUS?

But to my surprise, the video was not taken in NUS – but in Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

What a twist!

An NTU spokesman said last Thursday:
“Looking at the video, the cheer is not in line with the standards set at NTU, as it runs contrary to the values of safety, respect and inclusiveness which are emphasised in the university’s transition and orientation programme.”
So how did it happen?

I asked a person who was actually there when the video was taken.

She said the cheer took place in a lecture theatre on Aug 8, the last day of the camp organised by the business school.

The NTU student added: “It was during a cheer fight when they were running out of cheers.”

A “cheer fight” is a game where groups of students try to top each other by coming up with louder, more entertaining and frequently more outrageous cheers to get a bigger reaction for their performance.

Someone happened to take a video of this one and posted it online where it went viral.

“We didn’t know it would become so big,” the student said.

I asked if anyone there was offended by the cheer.

She said: “Everyone kind of laughed it off because it was part of the cheer fight and nobody really said anything.”

I spoke to another NTU student who recently attended a different faculty camp as a freshman, and she said she heard cheers using the Hokkien term for vagina, you know, the one with the initials C and B. (Coincidentally, also the initials for “cuckoo bird”.)

So the lewd cheer in the video was not an isolated case.

She said the obscenities in the cheers were a “culture shock” for her, but she didn’t complain.

Well, at least no one pretended to ejaculate into anyone’s face. Right? (Please don't let a video of someone ejaculating into someone’s face show up.)

I’m not sure which is worse, but Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has yet to comment on whether shouting the local slang for male genitalia while thrusting and gyrating your hips in unison is part of university education.

After all, the cheer could just be an over-enthusiastic homage to Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel-turned-1975 Oscar-winning movie starring Jack Nicholson.

Three geese in a flock, one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo bird’s nest.

Or something like that.

I guess it would be easier just to say “cuckoo bird” two dozen times.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 August 2019


After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?

Minister says 'ejaculate', thanks to rapey NUS freshman orientation games

Sequelitis: Darinne Ko is no Cecilia Sue (and farewell, Yam Ah Mee)

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Did a 'Singaporean farmer' really propose to girlfriend with ring on cow’s teat? Sh-udder

I believe it started with this Aug 6 Daily Mail report “Man proposes to his girlfriend by putting ring on a cow’s udder”:

The only mention of Singapore is in this paragraph:
In the post, shared with 18,000 members of the global Facebook group 'That's it, I'm ring shaming', a young woman from Singapore shared a picture of an engagement post that had come up on her Facebook feed.
That just means that someone in Singapore posted the picture, which could be from anywhere.

But that somehow became the headline "Singaporean Farmer Proposes to Girlfriend By Putting Engagement Ring on Cow’s Teat" on NextShark.

Which in turn became this bit in James Corden's monologue on his Late Late Show on Thursday.

But how true is this story? Was it really a "Singaporean dairy farmer"?

Well, there are cows in Singapore and at least one dairy farm that we know for sure.

But I call bullshit.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Spacebib apologises for fat-shaming e-mail

Speaking of apologies...

I subscribe to the mailing list of Spacebib, an online platform for running events like Shape Run and Hello Kitty Run.

Yesterday, I received this e-mail below from Spacebub with the subject line, "I hope I never get fat".

Dear Sm,

Everyone hates getting fat. But how many of us really do something about it. This email isn't a typical type of inspirational email or those transformation case studies to encourage you to lose weight.

The amount of time you wasted being unhappy about your weight is astronomical. What a waste. Because, you will learn that nobody care if you're fat except you. Well, maybe your mother cares, but no one else.

For a lot of people, their weight is something they can have a little bit of control over by adjusting their diet and exercise regimen. But the reality is, your health is what’s important, not the number on the scale. When you make being healthy your number one priority, you’ll be surprised how little that number matters.

So these are a few fantastic running events to get you moving in a healthy way.

  1. Run For Singapore Online Challenge: Sign up now and start running anywhere and anytime to contribute to the total distance target. So far more than 10,000km out of the 54,000km has been reached. (Biggest Singapore running movement)
  2. Double Seventh Festival Online Race from 7 Aug to 22 Aug at Anywhere. Run with your partner and celebrate by earning your first ever glow-in-the-dark finisher race medal. (Registration ends today)
  3. Batman Run Series Singapore on 21 Sep @ 6pm at Marina Barrage. Get a Batman fanny pack if you sign up at Spacebib. (Limited to the first 2,000 participants)
  4. International Cat Day Online Race 2019: Celebrate International Cat Day on 8 August with a run for your furry friend. (Cat video not included)
  5. UD SG-Ultra Marathon 2019 on 19 October at Gardens by the Bay East. Long distance running is the best way for you to lose weight. (Moderation is important.)
  6. BFF Run on 6 October @ 7am at Bedok Reservoir Park. Run together with your best friends and lose some weight together. (Running with friends is fun)
  7. Shape Run on 25 Aug at Kallang Practice Track. Yes, as the event name say, great way for you to keep in Shape.
  8. NERF Action Xperience Online Race 2019: Gear up and join us in preparing for the launch of World's first NERF Action Xperience at Marina Square at the end of the year. (Great for family to get fit together.)

Remember beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and your happiness shouldn’t be based on how much you weigh.

With Love,
The Spacebib Team

Two and a half hours later, I received another e-mail from Spacebib. This time the subject line was "Previous email".

Dear Sm,

We are embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry for the previous email that was sent to you titled "I hope I never get fat".

At the heart of our mission is the idea that we are inspiring people in a positive way. We don't say this because it sounds nice. It's the goal that everyone at Spacebib works towards every day.

Bias and insensitivity have no place at Spacebib, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, the previous email has caused some unhappiness. This is saddening because we know we should have made our content in a clear and sensitive way.

We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused and we take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly.

We will be more sensitive and scrutinise our future communications to prevent such incident from happening again.

Nothing is more important than supporting you in your running journey and we hope you will give us the opportunity to once again provide you the positive Spacebib Experience you have come to expect from us.

The Spacebib Team

I guess Spacebib must have received complaints that the earlier e-mail was fat-shaming people despite the last line about "happiness shouldn’t be based on how much you weigh".

But hey, at least no brownface.

Monday, 5 August 2019

E-Pay Dennis Chew brownface ad controversy: Everyone is apologising – well, except...

Dear Dennis Chew,

How are you doing, man?

Congratulations on playing Aunty Lucy for all these years. Who knew you could build a career on ripping off Jack Neo’s Liang Xi Mei?

What a week it has been, right? It seems like everyone and their ad agencies have been apologising as a result of that E-Pay ad you did. Some more than once.

Well, everyone except you.

Your employer Mediacorp and the creative agency Havas Worldwide said in a joint statement on July 28:
“We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused.

“The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone. For that reason, Dennis Chew, well-known for his ability to portray multiple characters in a single production in a lighthearted way, was selected as the face of the campaign.”
In this case, “everyone” in the ad meant Chinese men in drag and/or brownface holding a plate of food. That seems like a rather tiny demographic.

How does it feel to be the face of a lighthearted racist campaign?

Nets, one of the organisations behind E-Pay, also apologised “for any hurt that its campaign has caused”.

Then Havas apologised again while Mediacorp released a separate statement:
“The portrayal of some races in the advertisement was done in an insensitive fashion. We take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly.”
YouTubers Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas also apologised for their rap video made in response to the ad. This was after Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam criticised both the ad and the video – but the video more harshly.

However, the siblings’ apology was called out by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as “mock, insincere” because it was “a spoof of an earlier apology issued by Havas”.

So the video makers apologised again on Saturday, this time using the words “sincerely” and “unconditionally”. MHA has yet to respond on whether it’s another spoof.

On the same day, writer Edwin Yeo apologised after writing an article for the Singapore Kindness Movement that said “casual racism” was “okay”, among other things.

Et tu, Singapore Kindness Movement?

That’s like seven apologies in seven days over one thing. It must be a record of some sort.

(UPDATE: Singapore Kindness Movement General Secretary William Wan has also apologised.

So it's now eight apologies in nine days.)

I am still waiting for apologies from Enterprise Singapore, National Environment Agency, Housing Board and JTC Corporation. They are the other organisations behind the E-Pay thing, along with Nets.

They must be wondering what the hell they got themselves into.

Here they are, just trying to get people to use a card or phone instead of cash to pay for food, and suddenly they’re enmeshed in this messy debate about racism and majority privilege in Singapore because of one ad.

All they want is for you to pay for your prata with a QR code, no brownface required.

Now E-Pay will forever be associated with being racist. I believe some drastic rebranding is in order.

And, of course, another missing apology is from the brownface that started it all – yours.

But was it really your fault? I mean, you were probably only following Mediacorp’s orders, right?

Yeah, that was the same kind of excuse the Nazis used.

I’m trying to remember whether James Lye ever said sorry for VR Man.

Would an apology make a difference anyway? Even a sincere, unconditional one?

While some have hailed the Nair siblings as champions for the under-represented, you’ll always be the Chinese guy who wore brownface in that ad no matter what.

Perhaps you can take comfort in the careers of your Mediacorp colleagues Shane Pow and Desmond Tan, which have survived, if not thrived, after they were separately called out for going blackface in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Both are still starring in TV shows on Channel 8 like nothing happened. Did they ever apologise?

But then Pow and Tan never appeared in an ad that was described as “in poor taste” by the Law and Home Affairs Minister. Yikes.

Oh well, you still got Aunty Lucy.

Hope I don’t have to apologise for this column.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 August 2019

Dear Mr Ong,

I am a retired 66-yr old uncle, and I had spent many years watching Gurmit Singh in various portrayals - as a chinese man, chinese woman, malay man, malay woman, indian man, indian woman, caucasian man, caucasian woman - on TV, roadshows, newspapers, magazines, Internet, stage, advertisements, brochures, flyers, posters, postcards, etc. And what happened. Nothing happened. No problem. Gurmit Singh was not wrong. Mediacorp and its agencies were not wrong.

Gurmit Singh had done it all. Nobody thought there was anything wrong.

I hope you find time to compile old images of Gurmit Singh in his various portrayals and write an article about the evolving perception of racism in Singapore and other countries.

The person hardest hit is not Dennis Chew but Gurmit Singh bcos after what happened last week, Gurmit Singh has to stop what he does best, which is portraying various ethnic men and women.

Where do we draw the line now, after what happened last week? Jack Neo cannot portray Liang Po Po? Dennis Chew cannot portray Auntie Lucy? Kumar cannot portray you-know-what? Wang Lei (getai king) cannot portray "Kong Foo Po" (cantonese granny)? Thank you.

i was at Pink Dot @ Hong Lim Park on Sat-29-June-2019.

Preetipls and her brother were on stage talking and rapping, stirring up the crowd with hate speech that would make Amos Yee blush.

You lack insight to comment on their latest video if you weren't at that Pink Dot event to witness what they did there.

I believe your media company has recorded plenty of footages of what the siblings talked and rapped about at that event. Why don't you look at those recordings?

You should monitor closely how they are hijacking various events and platforms to promote their private agenda of hate.

This is my last email to you on this matter. I will not be drawn into politics and hate speech, as I don't have the energy and time to do so, considering my frail health and lack of resources in my sunset years.

Do you still want Dennis Chew and Mediacorp to apologize? Then what is your view on Gurmit Singh and Jack Neo and Kumar and Wang Lei, etc? Where you draw your line?

UPDATE: Dennis Chew finally apologised on Instagram on Aug 7, two days after this column was published.