Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ads for Singapore National Obsession

What if the German Team Wins the World Cup?

I went to the cinema a few months ago for the first time since I've been in Singapore for years (I'm a movie buff, I just haven't been to the cinema). I went because I got free ticket. These days, I can only be lured out of my house with free tickets (like carrot to the bunny. Well I don't like carrot, and I'm not furry and cute. Truth be told, free ticket lit up my eyes better than carrots).

Before the movie started, 4 ads were shown. They were all community ads, not commercial ones. And all these ads revolved around only 2 topics: National Service, and problem gambling and its bedfellows loan-sharks.

These 2 types of community ads are scattered in billboards across Singapore, but their focus are overwhelmed by commercial ads. These pre-movie community ads brought these 2 things into sharp focus.

Singapore Army recruitment poster
Singapore Army recruitment poster

Community message warning against borrowing from loan sharks
Community message waning against borrowing from loan sharks
Ah Longs is local slang for loan sharks.

National Service (or NS as it's more commonly referred with the Singapore's obsession (another obsession) to abbreviate everything) is numero uno topic among Singaporean, especially the youngsters because the NS is a kind of rite of passage into manhood for them. I don't think there's any other country make more boot-camp/military training movies than Singapore (as well as documentary, reality TV, etc). Hollywood may make more of these movies in absolute number, but it has no match in percentage term. If not more than America in quantity, at least more popular. And not surprisingly, the Hollywood boot camp flicks are very popular here.

In fact Singapore is probably the only country where there is a theatre production on this genre. 1987 Army Daze was such a theatre play. Of course, Singaporean liked it so much, it was made into a movie in 1996.

Ah Boys to Men
Yet another very popular army training film.
I think it would be better if they have the guy on the extreme right moved to extreme left.
And the 2nd guy on the right moved to the 3rd position from the left.
The idea is getting the Darwinian evolution thing when we evolve from lower to higher form.
This movie is about boys evolving into men

Spoiler alert: the movie I watched was Robocop. I don't know if the military recruit ads I saw was due to this particular movie or these are typical ads in cinema. I have a feeling the latter. I could be wrong.

Let's move onto the next national preoccupation (I won't mention eating and shopping if you don't).

Problem Gambling is a serious social issue in Singapore, and its partner-in-crime the loan sharks who lure the problem gamblers with exorbitant interest rate. I had a few brushes with them that I accounted in these 2 articles, "A Paint Job by a Student of Jackson Pollack?" and "Got a Hell Banknote on Chinese New Year".

The government took the opportunity of the World Cup to launch an advertising campaign regarding problem gambling in sports betting. One of the location of this ad is the billboard at the taxi stand in Holland Village. I live near there. Since they put up this poster at the start of the Game, I must have walked past this billboard at least half a dozen times.

In one of this time, I was with Etta. I pointed out to her that this ad campaign takes a risky move. What if Germany wins? It would send the wrong message. I told her. She asked me if Germany has a chance. I'm not a hardcore soccer fan. In fact, I know just about only 2 things about the soccer game: Pelé is the King, and the German Team has been a rising star in this sport in the last 10 years. So I answered her, "quite likely."

Community ad that delivers warning message about sports gambling based on World Cup 2014, Singapore
Community ad that delivers warning message about sports gambling
Source: Reuters (click to enlarge)

It seems that the guy who run this campaign knows less than me about soccer. I think they have a new found respect for the German team after today.

And another thing, Holland Village is a fave haunt for expats, and I'm quite sure some would be German. Such lack of faith in their national team seems, well, unseemly. O ihr, wenig glauben !

I quickly went out to take a photo of the billboard for this article, but it had been swiftly replaced when the news of German defeated Brazil was announced, and before the World Cup final even started. I imagine the ad was expected to stay up sometimes after the World Cup finishes. The red-faced marketing team was efficient. So I have to borrow the photo from Reuters, which I recognise is the billboard I'm talking about. This is the poster I saw, instead.

The ad got taken off rather swiftly

Well, there's still a slim chance Germany may lose...isn't it? Well, they wouldn't bet on it. They aren't problem gamblers, I suspect.

Oh, did I mention there's also a TV ad?

Don't get me wrong, Singapore probably has lower crime rate than most countries (but you know that already). As this poster I saw said (when I caught my first bus in Singapore),

community ad with ostrich, singapore
Ostrich sometimes buries its head in the sand

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Singapore Zoo

People of the Forest. King of the Jungle. The Artistic Stroke of a Trunk. The Pale of Colour.

 31 °C

Singapore Zoo ad at MRT
Singapore Zoo ad at MRT
Can't remember the last time I went to the zoo. Etta got free zoo tickets from her office. Since we had never been to the zoo in Singapore that we heard so much, we thought we should check it out.

One of the reason why we didn't go was the hassle of getting there using public transport from Commonwealth - 2 MRT interchanges, got off at Chua Chung Kang MRT and take another bus. It can take up to an hour. We decided just take the taxi, and got there in 17 mins.

As we traverse the island northwards, I realise how green and unspoilt this middle part of Singapore is. Most of Singaporean populate around the southern shore of the island.

Singapore Zoo lies in the middle of the evolution of 3 types of zoos.

The oldest types of zoos are still could be seen in Singapore's neighbours where all animals are enclosed in cages. The newest types are based on the safari concept. One example of that is the Werribee Open Range Zoo near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. I haven't been to that zoo. My uncle, who lives in Melbourne, did. In his own words, this is the type of zoo where animals come to look at human in a cage. The cage he referred to is the bus he was in. They drive you in a bus into an open range where the animals roam.

While this concept is interesting, because of the space it demands, not many countries can implement it. Australia happens to be the least densely populated continent on earth, and it's big on ecotourism. The Werribee Open Range Zoo is about 200 hectares while Singapore Zoo is 28 hectares, which is no small potato by any means considering Sydney's Taronga Zoo is only 21 hectares.

Singapore actually has a Safari type zoo called River Safari that occupies 12 hectares. The park features a boat ride that gives this river-themed zoo its safari title. So instead of enjoy viewing the animals in a human cage  (as my uncle insisted on calling it), the visitors viewing them in a river boat. I haven't been there yet. I'm in no hurry. I'm waiting for free tickets, which are either dropped from the sky (or more likely coming from Etta's office) and land into my grateful, cheapskate, beautiful sculpted hands.

Singapore government manages a wildlife reserve area the size of 220 hectares (similar size to Werribee Open Range Zoo) but it's used to house 4 zoos - Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and River Safari.

Singapore Zoo (and Sydney's Taronga Zoo) is sandwiched between these 3 types where most of the zoos in the world today would be belonged to. Most animals aren't in cages, except for such creatures as snakes. All mammals in the Singapore Zoo have their open enclosures except for leopard and the polar bear.

Emerald Tree Boa
Emerald Tree Boa, nicely housed a glass case

People of the Forest

If you guess the orangutan (or orang utan) is the star of Singapore Zoo after looking at the poster ad above, you ain't wrong.

In fact, there's an activity offered by the zoo called Breakfast with Orangutan. I should know because my very first acting role I had with my amateur film group was playing a TV personality selling this idea with a line that starts with, "Singapore Zoo is the only place in the world where you can have breakfast with orang utans..." (my very maiden line).

Orangutan free-ranging area, Singapore Zoo
Orangutan free-ranging area

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that they have one of the largest free-range area with more room than you can swing a white tiger.

Orangutan with 2 babies hanging on both sides as it hangs around some wire, Singapore Zoo
Orangutan with 2 babies hanging on both sides as it hangs around some wire

Orangutan feeding time
Orangutan feeding time. Here comes the milk, here comes the milk...

The Largest Animal on Land

 Not to be upstaged by its star attraction, the elephants are also quite popular.

Painting done by an elephant in Singapore Zoo

Painting done by an elephant in Singapore Zoo

These 2 photos are examples of elegant elephant paintings. By that, I don't mean paintings of elephants. If they're, then these paintings must be done by toddlers. No. These are paintings done by elephants. And Jati is one of the oldest, and largest elephant in the Youtube video if I'm not mistaken. The elephant performance is quite entertaining, so don't miss out. This is the 1st of a series of 7 youtube clips.

Elephant trunk is truly amazing - and very wacky - piece of anatomy. It can pick up object as small as a pin, as large as a tree trunk, and pick up rumbling sounds from the ground; it can lift food into its mouth and the performer onto its back.  It can also be used as snorkel as elephant moves under water, or suck up water and pour it into its mouth (like a bucket).

Now, let's add painting into another skill that the elephant trunk can master. Man, there's nothing a trunk can't do except making telephone trunk call (I think we can probably train an elephant to make a trunk call. I could make a trunk call on my smartphone with my nose, I'm sure the elephant trunk is 100 times more "dexterous" than my nose. I have yet learn to paint with my nose. I could only play harmonica with it. The question is, there's no such thing as a trunk call in Singapore).

Elephant rides
Elephant rides are popular with visitors

Polar Bear at the Equator

I guess the only way to see a polar bear near the equator is in Singapore Zoo. There's a block of ice in the middle of the pool to keep the bear nice and cold. The only time it springs into action is during the feeding time. And then you can see a polar bear's diving and swimming, which is surprisingly graceful in a lumbering way, like an elephantine ballerina dancing in water.

Orange Bengalese Losing its Color

Speaking of white tiger (earlier), it too is one of the popular attraction. While they're not in cage/case, I think captivity make them restless. They pace back and forth all day long, prowling for preys among the visitors (the one holding a Nikon DSLR looks delish).

I guess the next stage of evolution of zoo is a museum where holographic animals roam around visitors freely. Hope I live that long to see it.

The python showing in "Rainforest Fights" show at the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre, Singapore Zoo
The python showing in "Rainforest Fights" show at the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre

The queue for the taxi was 1 hour long. So the best thing would either be leaving the zoo much earlier, or catch a bus, any bus, and get off at a place that looks like you can hail a cab.

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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Thai Festival

We usually get off at the Thai Embassy bus stop when we visit Orchard Road. We did the same today and saw that there's a Thai Festival being held in the Embassy. It was an event to promote Thai tourism. We decided to hang around for awhile.

Thai artisan creating ritual ornament from flowers
Artisan creating ritual ornaments from flowers

The object he was creating

Thai craft of making object that he made from flowers
Another object he made

Ingredients for the flower making art

Fruit carving is widespread, and not uniquely Thai.

Thai craftswomen doing fruit carving
Thai craftswomen doing fruit carving
Tool for fruit carving
One of the tool for fruit carving

Carved watermelon
Carved watermelon

Carved honeydew
Carved honeydew

We bought some junk food, and ordered a Pad Thai and a Thai green mango salad (Som Tum Mamuang) for lunch.

The salad was quite yummy, and was my first intro to mango salad.

In many SE Asian countries, people eat these green mangoes with fish sauce and sugar (I grew up on these). I guess this salad is a natural evolution of that.

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