Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Celebrating Halloween

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, a pagan tradition that originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sou-when). In the eighth century Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints as the christian religion continued to try to eradicate the Pagan religion. But as with Yule (or Christmas as the christians refer to it) Samhain was too deeply ingrained in the populace and has survived to this day.

Samhain (also known as the festival of fire) marks the transition between the year's lighter and darker halves, the end of summer and the beginning of winter and for the ancient celts Samhain represented the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It was a time for remembering the dead and planning for the year ahead, and also for making winter preparations; crops were harvested, and animals were rounded up from the fields either to be sacrificed or lodged for the winter and used for breeding.

Samhain was considered an auspicious time for the druids to practice divination, since the connection to the spirit world was stronger than usual. The lifting of the veil between the Otherworld and the physical world meant that Samhain was also considered to be a perilous time for the ancient Celts.  Spirits, both kind and malevolent, could act on the human world, the reason why Halloween has the "scary" element behind it today.

After the harvest work was complete, celebrants joined with Druid priests to light a community bonfire using a wheel that would cause friction and spark flames. The wheel was considered a representation of the sun and used along with prayers. Cattle were sacrificed, and participants took a flame from the communal bonfire back to their home to relight the hearth.

Because the pagans believed that the barrier between worlds was breach-able during Samhain, they prepared offerings that were left outside villages and fields and would dress as animals and monsters so that the spirits were not tempted to kidnap them. And carved turnips (which would later become pumpkins) where left outside homes to ward off evil spirits.

Children would also put on costumes and go door-to-door singing songs to the dead with small cakes  given as payment, and tricks might be played on people that were usual attributed to the spirits (which would later evolve into the trick or treat of today).

Indeed, many of the traditions of Samhain have become part of what people now refer to as Halloween and just as with Yuletide, it remains as a legacy of our Pagan ancestors despite the attempts of the Christian religion  to reframe Samhain as a Christian celebration. 

Today many devout christians still follow all of these traditions, keeping the spirit of paganism alive, unaware of the rich history it has or the true meanings behind the symbols themselves.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Singapore Repeals 377A

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday 21st of August that section 377A of the constitution, a law that criminalises sexual intimacy between two males, will shortly be repealed.


According to another article in Today published on August 22, Minister for Culture, Community and youth, and Second Minister for Law Mr. Edwin Tong is reported as stating that "with recent Constitutional challenges to Section 377A, there is a “significant risk” that the law could be held unconstitutional and struck down by the courts, on the basis that it is a breach of the Equal Protection provision." 

Mr. Edwin Tong goes on to mention that "If Section 377A is struck down, Singapore’s marriage laws could also be challenged on the same grounds, leading to the recognition of same-sex marriages, and this in turn will also have an impact on other laws and policies that are built on our existing definition of marriage – such as laws on adoption, public housing, school curriculum, advertising and so on."

So it's clear that the plan to repeal of section 377A is to remove the risk of any further constitutional challenge to section 377A. And just as equally, the decision by the government to make a series of constitutional amendments to protect the current definition of marriage in the Women’s Charter and in the Interpretation Act is to project that definition of marriage from any constitutional challenge once section 377A is repealed. 

In the same article Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam is quoted as saying "So, if a party, a group of people, want to allow same-sex marriage, they will have to put that in their manifesto, fight elections, win the elections, get a majority, and then change the definition of marriage." 

Meanwhile in an article in the Straits Times published on the 22 August, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong is quoted as stating that " the Government is fully committed to upholding its family-centred policies and marriage as defined between one man and one woman". He is further reported as stating that “the PAP Government will not change the current definition of marriage" inferring that any such change "will not happen under the watch of the current Prime Minister, and it will not happen under my watch "

So, what does all this mean. Well for the project managers out there this is an abject lesson in risk management and mitigation, if not a masterclass. For the LGBTQI+ community the repeal of Section 377A means that homosexuality will no longer be considered a criminal act, but that's all.  There is still some way to go before it will be considered socially acceptable, or dare I use the words, a social norm. 

Meanwhile the government has drawn a line in the sand facing off to the LGBTQI+ community and much like Gandalf in the movie Lord of the Rings can be imagined to utter those famous words "You Cannot Pass", well unless they say you can which if we take the reported statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam will be in the far distant future, if at all. 

So while we can applaud the Government’s decision to repeal section 377A, understand that this is a well-planned strategy and nothing more. If anything, it is time for the LGBTQI+ community, their families, relatives, friends, and allies to come together like never before. To work within their respective communities at changing perceptions, breaking down barriers and stereotypes so that ultimately when the time comes for the next general election that more people use their vote in favour of building a democratic society based on justice and equality regardless of religion just as every Singaporean has pledged to do. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

First World Hotel Genting?

I had a recent trip to Genting, described as an integrated resort development comprising hotels, casinos, shopping malls and a theme park in Pahang, to gather with some friends and escape the heat of the city for the cooler climate of this destination perched on the peak of Gunung Ulu Kali at 1,800 meters high. 

My friends booked the First World Hotel so although the website wasn't inspiring I thought what the hell it's just for one night. The room looked decent, and it was a fairly well sized room. But that's about as many positive things as I can say about this destination. The hotel prides itself on its Guinness book of records entry as the Hotel in the world with the most rooms (7,351 of them), and you will see signs all around the foyer proclaiming this fact. That said, it really needs to change that to the hotel in the world with the most basic rooms which would be far more accurate.

In the foyer as well they have these wonderful trees/lighting effect to give you the jungle experience full of the sound of tweeting birds. At first its novel but slowly becomes irritating to the extreme. Some gentle piped music would have been better since after a few hours I (along with the people I was travelling with) was ready to rip those continually annoying tweeting bird speakers from the wall.

The check in process was painful. Although almost fully automated, the machines themselves looked antiquated and proved to pretty much useless. I had to try 5 different machines before I could get one to read my passport and with a lack of people standing by to help you were pretty much on your own throughout the process. The response times on pressing a menu option was pathetically slow too so half the time you were left waiting and wondering if you had indeed pressed the right button before the machine did it's thing. There's also limited options for room selection, you can select a room with a view or your limited floor offering (all for more money of course). I selected a mountain view, which was a complete waste of time in the end as the view was obstructed by cloud the whole time (something that happens a lot I was told).  And of course if after trying 5 different machines you give up and decide to join the queue for a more personal service, then out of the 30 front desks available only 2 were staffed when we checked in. So, you can imagine that's not a queue you really want to join to begin with.

Of course once you get your key spat out of the machine together with your floor/room allocation, you head to the lifts (which can be walk away given how big the hotel is). The first thing you discover is that there's no real security, key cards are not required for the lift meaning anyone can go to pretty much any floor they want, paying guests and members of the public alike, a little scary on the whole.

Alighting on the floor for my room I almost tripped over the bubbles in the carpet making my way to it. The first thing I looked for when entering the room was the aircon control to get the room to a temperature I like, only to discover there was no aircon. Nope, none. Just a ceiling fan which if you turned on high meant you were not going to sleep given how noisy it was. And the beds, well they were as hard as rock, it was like trying to get comfortable on a slap of concrete. So needless to say I didn't sleep at ALL and was grateful I had only booked one night in the place. There's also no restaurant, so don't expect breakfast either by the way, although that said there are a lot of food options available. 

All in all I would NEVER visit this hotel again. Apart from the above there was no wifi at least in the room I was in (of the 3 rooms we had only one had wife available) and in this day and age that alone is a show stopper all by itself.

So while the room is basic (really basic) and clean, it's really got NOTHING else going for it at all and my advice is, while the price might look attractive, you pay for what you get, and in this case what you get isn't worth paying for.

First world hotel ..... but a third wold experience, don't say you weren't warned.