Traditional Media in SG


It’s an open secret to most (at least, most of the cynical and critical online crowd) that the news in The Straits Times, the main English-language newspaper in Singapore, can’t really be trusted 100%.  Over the years you hear stories here and there from others as well as  your own experiences and these little (and not so little) anecdotes add up to an overall impression which is hard to shake, even if I couldn’t list and detail all my reasons for you as evidence.

However, here’s a recent piece of evidence that seems really, really low to me: ST misrepresenting part-time models.

The Straits Times article paints the girls in a terribly trashy light, like slutty attention whores. That’s completely different from what the girls were expecting– they were explicitly told the article would be about “the dangers of doing free-lance shoots and tips on how to protect yourself” and definitely not about how they like to “show off their sexy side”, which was the title of the article. How ironic, then, as the article has brought them loads of negative attention and online flak. So much for protection. (Screencaps of the conversation between the reporter and the girls and their photographer in the article linked above.)

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Recently, there’s been a petition to shut down STOMP, a branch of The Straits Times which features ‘citizen journalism’. More accurately, it’s usually used as a platform where people post videos and pictures of others doing what they deem to be bad behaviour, kind of like a public shaming platform. “Eh better don’t lah, later kenna STOMP” (Better not do it, in case you get posted on STOMP) is a common, half-joking refrain.

There are many things that could potentially bug you about STOMP; the voyeuristic quality of filming others and watching such videos; the petty complaints that get posted as ‘news’ just because this is ‘citizen journalism’; the infringement of privacy with the sometimes secret act of filming or snapping a shot and posting it online; the judging from the sidelines mentality it encourages, where you publicly shame others while remaining anonymous yourself; the mentality of whipping out your camera instead of confronting the individual directly or stepping forward to help.

If all that is not enough to phase you, there’s still the occasional fabricated story and the xenophobia, negativity and cyber bullying it encourages, reasons mentioned by the petition starter. Although the petition has garnered almost 23, 000 signatures to date, MDA (Media Development Authority) gave only a dismissive reply:

“Should you believe that Stomp, together with other class-licensed and individually licensed sites merit stronger regulation, we invite you to propose how the standards should be tightened. Let’s build a healthy online environment together.” 

We should propose how the standards should be tightened? You mean, do your job for you? Funny how this is in sharp contrast to how quickly alternative online news sources or political blogs or other independent individuals are taken to task. We certainly weren’t asked for our opinion on how strict the monitoring should be then.

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In 2013, Singapore fell 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, according to an annual report by non-governmental, international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB), placing us between Russia and Iraq. In the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House, Singapore’s press was rated as ‘Not Free’, tied at the 153rd place with Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar. This is what our Prime Minister has to say:

 “I have given up that (Reporters Without Borders’ ranking)… I do not take them seriously.”

He pointed out that information flows freely on the Internet and newspapers report the news freely, but also responsibly.

Well done, great example set; when someone gives you feedback you don’t like, simply dismiss and ignore it (that is, if it’s beyond your power to shut it down). Sticking your head in the sand is something certain people seem to be very good at.

What if money didn’t matter?


How would you really enjoy spending your life?

If you say that getting the money is the most important thing… you’ll be doing things you don’t like doing, in order to go on living, that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid!

Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

I really like this video.

Really like it.

And yet real life isn’t that simple, is it. These chase-your-dreams sentiments all paint a one-sided, black-and-white picture; if you’re not chasing your dreams,  you’ve betrayed yourself and succumbed to society’s expectation.

Of course that’s part of the story. Too often we’re too afraid to do what we’d really love because we’re afraid of, or have been convinced by, what society says to us.  Too often we erect unnecessary barriers.

But that’s just part of the story. Here’s the other part: we make personal sacrifices for the things we think are worth it. We make personal sacrifices in our life choices for the people around us.

Sure, I can spend my life riding horses or writing poems and that would make me happy. But riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to buy a laptop or internet access or books or music or a camera or a motorbike or the luxury of travelling overseas.  And all those are things that would make me happy too.

More importantly. Riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to… help pay for my sister’s education. Help take care of my parents in their old age. Pay for my parents’ medical fees. Riding horses or writing poems may not give me the money to… support my partner, buy my own home, start a family and give my children the best upbringing I can. And these are the things that, if I can’t do, would make me really upset with myself and take away all the pleasure from riding horses or writing poems. It’s difficult to enjoy even the thing you enjoy most if you’re worrying about where your next meal is going to come from, or worse, your loved ones’ next meal. Or whether your mum is going to live another few years or not, because you can’t afford treatment. Money may not be the most important, but it sure can buy a lot, including security and a peace of mind.

So make the call; where along the spectrum are you willing to stand, how much sacrifice are you willing to make? Opportunity costs between your day to day personal dreams and enjoyment and the other things that money can buy. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing the wrong things for the things that aren’t worth it.

If money didn’t matter?
Wildlife photographer, please. 

The right to kill? I’d rather the right to die.


This is old news, but my sister recently watched the video; Collateral Murder, released by wikileaks showing US soldiers opening fire on some men in Baghdad in 2007 from Apache helicopters.

Two war correspondents from Reuters were in the group and their cameras were mistaken for weapons. Wikipedia as an entry on the incident.

Some quotes from this news article:

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

I watched the video and it’s pretty horrifying and depressing how the soldiers are eager to open fire; how nonchalant they are about the bodies on the ground (and being the cause of them) or even about having opened fire on children. And yet… why were people outraged, why was this a big deal? Only because of the cover up, the fact that the men were reporters and the fact that there were children, right? What if the men hadn’t been war correspondents, what if there were no children? Then… ‘Meh, it’s a war. What do you expect?’?

Exactly. What do you expect?
You give soliders deadly weapons and you train them to kill; then fault them for not having compassion? You train them to do a job and then fault them for taking pride in executing a nice shot, fault them from wanting to finish the job, fault them for taking deaths in their stride?

When we see the footage with the knowledge of what happened and imagine things from the point of view of those on the ground… imagine carrying your camera walking down the street in a group. No conflict or battle in sight, you’re just making your way from one place to another. Suddenly, bullets rain from the sky. Your friends or colleagues drop like flies around you, you try to run. But the shooting doesn’t stop until everyone is dead on the ground. Nothing you could have done, no where you could have hid. Sitting ducks. Over in seconds. Imagine you’re the driver of the van, with your kids with you. You see wounded people on the floor. If you don’t help, they’re sure to die. So you stop, and pay for it with your life.

Try it from the soldiers point of view; can you really blame them? We’re in a war. Our job is to spot threats. We see weapons, we see trouble, we shoot. When you see men on the street, you don’t stop to wonder who they are or if they have kids or if they miss home like you do. You’re not suppose to empathize with people you’re might have to kill!

I think what’s more horrifying than this ‘scandal’ itself is the fact that if the casualties had not included war correspondents or children, this would be no big deal at all. Just a day in the life of. What is horrifying is how people are not outraged or horrified by routine killing, just because of the context that ‘It’s a war.’

So men in wars aren’t human? Men in war don’t have wives, families, children? They don’t have lives? They don’t have feeling and emotions? If you’re in a war, life isn’t precious? Somehow ‘war’ makes all this violence okay and acceptable?

It makes me think of Gandhi and the Gandhi movie I watched a several months back. (Read about that here.) While I really admire him and his philosophy, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe it really wasn’t the smartest or best way to do things, as noble as it sounds. The scene where they just walked up in neat rows to be struck down by the guards again and again and again, especially.

I saw some discussion among friends about national service, and among the conversation this comment stood out to me: “i’m a strong believer in having a strong national army to defend our sovereignty.” With the above video fresh in my mind, and Gandhi’s example at the back of my mind though, I find myself thinking, “If defending my nation and my safety means having people kill and take lives on my behalf then… I think I’d rather let myself be killed.”

You can make being in a army and fighting for your country sound as glorious and noble as you like. Use words like duty and honour; bravery and sacrifice. But at the heart of it, weapons are tools made to destroy and kill. And armed forces consist of men trained to effectively wield those tools. A killing machine.

Something a little more current: It’s apparently World Peace Day in 3 days time, on the 21s of September, and that’s being celebrated here in Singapore at Fort Canning from 4-8pm on the 22nd of September.

I’m all for peace but I’m just wondering how much of this is lip service and abstract, feel-good, vague support. I hope people who support and attend think about what they mean by peace in more a more concrete sense– it’s easy to say you support peace over violence– who doesn’t?

But what exactly do you mean by it? When is violence acceptable?
Is this a case of:
I support peace… EXCEPT for criminals on the death sentence?
I support peace… EXCEPT when in a war?
I support peace… EXCEPT when my religion is attacked? (In light of the recent riots around the world)
I support peace… EXCEPT in self-defense?

Or a truly Gandhi-type peace, where violence is NEVER okay?
My idea of peace:

no heaven, no hell. no countries, no religion. no possessions, no greed, no hunger. 

People champion the right to kill for honour, duty, safety and other ‘greater goods’. What about the right to die for peace?

Of pink boys, the man box and gayness in Hebrew


Maybe my expectations of society have gotten too high– after all, it was just in my father’s generation where left-handers like him were forced to write with their rights hands. But with the super rapid pace of change that’s happening these days, one can always hope that all the changes I wish to see will happen within my lifetime…

Three things to share today.

1. Pink Boys: Gender is not binary!

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? is an article from The New York Times. I really agree with what it says, and wish everyone would read it and broaden their perspectives a little. Some excerpts:

“…gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.

It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities, but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality.”

 

“In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century.”

 

“These days, flouting gender conventions extends even to baby naming: first names that were once unambiguously masculine are now given to girls. The shift, however, almost never goes the other way. That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity. “There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. “When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?””

2. The manbox and why men must and should be liberated from its walls.

Tony Porter: A Call to Men, at TEDwomen

You can find the transcript helpfully typed out here at Shakesville as well. Excerpts below:

“I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you, you were playing like a girl?” Now, I expected him to say something like, “I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry,” something like that. No, the boy said to me, the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.”

And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?””

 

Well, just watch the video, it’s only 12 minutes long. And it speaks The Truth, a truth that you need to know!

3. Pretty girls, thorny religious plus gender plus lgbt themes all wrapped up in an exotic foreign language (everything sounds sexier in a foreign language, no?). What’s there not to like? 8D

The Secrets

The 20th Israel Film Festival (IFF) in Singapore is happening from 5th – 11th of September this year and Cathay will be screening this film. I definitely plan to catch it!

Synopsis: Two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women. Naomi’s quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past, they begin a risky journey into forbidden realm, opening up overwhelming new horizons. The girls soon find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.

Accolades
9 Nominations including:
Best Supporting Actress and Actor, Ophir Awards 2007
Best Feature, 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival

Pink dot updates!


I’m back from Sydney! We went sand boarding and whale watching and all was awesomeawesome. It would be nice if I can upload photos and do a proper entry for my quick holiday, but I’m not sure if I will have the time to. :(

Anyway, being in Sydney was the reason I missed this years Pink Dot, so I’ve been combing through the videos and pictures from the event and it looks BEYOND AWESOME. Simply watching the videos makes me grin so widely and feel like crying. If I had been there in the swaying crowd singing along to ‘True Colours’, I would probably have been bawling.

When I went last year, the sense of community and belonging was already so strong. You look around you and it’s so… strange and refreshing. Positively heartwarming. You get this surprising sense of… oh wow, I’m not alone after all. There are people just like me! A surprising sense of feeling comfortable and at home. Surprising because you’re so accustomed to the norm that you don’t realize those out-of-place feelings are constantly there until you have this to contrast it with.

To think it was just last year when I attended with my ex; I wore my platforms plus borrowed a pink shirt from her. She was fully decked out in a pink yukata.

Well, I won’t say too much since I wasn’t even there this year. Shall leave you with some links to articles and pictures and sharings of the event. :) Can’t wait to be a part of this next year! It’ll be even bigger and better! <3

Shout out from Jason Mraz! Aw, I like him even more now. <3

Singapore shines at Pink Dot 2012!

Featured on inSing!

On the Wall Street Journal: Pink Dot in Singapore Highlights Gay-Rights Debate
A straight person’s (very moving!) perspective: Elyssa on facebook
Msn news: Pink Dot Breaks Record with 15,000 Attendees 

Gay activist Alex Au wins Singapore Humanist of the Year award


Life has been slightly hectic for me recently and while I’ve had ideas and inspirations for posts, I haven’t had time to sit down and write them. Hopefully things will ease up next week and I can be more active here again.

In the meantime, I have to share this speech by Alex Au aka Yawning Bread, a well-known Singaporean blogger and activist. He was recently awarded the Humanist of the Year Award by the Humanist Society (Singapore). You can read more about that here (Fridae).

“It strikes many people as somewhat strange that I, like many other gay men, foreground my gayness as one of the key defining characteristics as a person. Well, there’s a simple reason for it. Those who are heterosexual live in a world where heterosexuality is normative: social conventions, expectations, law and institutions are built upon assumptions of heterosexuality. It’s as comfortable as wearing a right glove on your right hand. After a while, you’d hardly notice you have one on. But gay people have to go through life wearing the left glove on our right hand. There is no moment when we are not conscious of the misfit.”

I personally would give his speech a standing ovation.

Definitely do read the rest of his speech at his blog at here at yanwingbread.wordpress.com.


We may have limited power, but still we have the ability to make a stand for the kind of world we want to live in.

Yawning Bread

“To be very honest,” said Mei, a student aged 23, “I don’t know much about what happened then.” She wasn’t even born when the arrests began in 1987.

“But somehow the whole idea that you can imprison somebody without having to show proof in a court just strikes me as wrong.”

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Pink Dot 2012: Someday


Pink Dot is a non-profit movement started in Singapore in 2009 that supports the freedom to love for LGBT people. Every year, participants gather to form a giant pink dot to show their support for the cause.

Last year was my first time attending, and a record of over 10, 000 people turned up. It’s a very simple event– you just show up for a couple of hours and there’s some entertainment and performances as well as some booths. Then we gather as a photographer from a vantage point somewhere captures the moment. Nothing more. But such a simple thing can be so powerful; it was so heartwarming just to wander around and see so many LGBT and pro-LGBT people being open, being themselves and supporting the cause. It gives me hope.

The video above is this year’s campaign video, and watching it made me cry.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this year’s Pink Dot (30th June), so if you’re Singaporean or are in Singapore at that time please do go down on my behalf! Bring your friends, family, pets… and share the video!

Find out more about pinkdot from their website, the wikipedia entry, their facebook page or watch last year’s campaign video as well as videos of the event itself on their youtube channel.

Someday… 

Prayers for Bobby


Touching story. Real people, real lives.

From the description, “The true story of a mother’s struggle to reconcile the tension between her deeply held religious beliefs and the suicide of her gay son. Mary Griffith came from a religious family and raised her four children to believe in God and live a Christian life. Their conservative Presbyterian church was the center of family life for every family member except Mary’s husband, Bob. When 17-year-old Bobby confided to older brother Ed that he was gay, the family’s life changed. Mary convinced Bobby to pray that God would cure him and to seek solace in church activities. Bobby did it all, but the church’s hatred of homosexuality and the obvious pain his gayness was causing his family led him increasingly to loathe himself. Excerpts from a diary he kept, family photos, and letters written by Mary to her dead son make the book intense reading for both high-school and public library patrons.”

Give it a watch if you have the time!

Will it take the death of someone close to you for you to consider that you may be wrong?