Pulping penguins: the NLB and a space that used to be ours

Disbelief. Disappointment. Rage. These emotions have not been in short supply on my Facebook news feed recently. And although a lot of it was World Cup-related (sorry, Brazil fans) most of it was actually about the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of certain children’s books.

I’m sure the NLB had hoped that the removal of the books would happen quietly, unannounced and mostly unnoticed. It’s not the first time they’ve done it, after all. It has emerged that three books written by Robie Harris, making sex education accessible to young children, have also been withdrawn.

But now the news is everywhere, and it’s a revelation that hurts. I see it in the reactions of my friends and I feel it myself; indignation and anger mixed with deep, deep disappointment.

The national library was ours – a publicly funded institution open to all members of the public, a house of knowledge, culture and learning for all Singaporeans. As a child I visited the library often. I still remember learning how to use the self-checkout machines, carting my books home and devouring them while lying on a mattress spread out on the floor of my grandmother’s house. Those books were the foundation of a lifelong love for reading that endures till today. The library belonged to me, and my family, and my friends. It felt like it would always be a space for us to turn to, a neutral space that would be open to all Singaporeans, regardless of who we are.

Discovering the NLB’s willingness to cave to conservative religious anti-LGBT pressure has shattered that illusion. We now realise that our public library is complicit in denying space to people who don’t conform, and in using the “pro-family” excuses used by homophobes and bigots committed to the marginalisation of sexual minorities.

We now realise that our public library is not actually ours, and probably hasn’t been for a long, long time.

Continue reading



Dear Police Officers,

Why you arrest Sticker Lady? Her stickers didn’t hurt anyone, or cause any inconvenience. In fact, most of us seem to find it very cute. Those who saw the stickers had a bit of a chuckle, then shared them on Twitter with the rest of us, and then we had a chuckle too! The “My Grandfather Road” thing was brilliant. While so many of us are rushing about with our lives busy and stressed out Sticker Lady stopped to do something spontaneous and creative and fun, and brightened our day.

Why you go and catch her and say she is a vandal? She is not a vandal, she is Sticker Lady. And we love Sticker Lady!

Some more Channel NewsAsia say that “[a] person who is convicted of vandalism shall be punished with a fine of up to S$2,000, or jail up to three years and caning. Police said they take a serious view of such irresponsible actions and warned that offenders will be dealt with severely.”

Wah! You even want to fine her and make her stay in jail because she painted some roads and stuck some stickers? (At least you cannot whack her backside because she girl, we don’t cane girls because that would make us barbarians hor.)

Please Police Officers, Free Sticker Lady! She was just trying to make Singapore more fun for us all. When you saw the stickers you also laugh right? Right? Don’t bluff, I know you got laugh!

Thank you,

Continue reading

Would you like your Singapore ‘Mordor’ or ‘Shiny’?

A few days ago I was reading Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s article ‘Disneyland with the Death Penalty, Revisited‘ on Wired, and ended up in the comments section, where I saw fine specimens such as these:

It’s not new; these comments pop up everywhere Singapore is discussed in the international media – in articles about Yale-NUS, in articles about business in Singapore, etc. I divide them into two general categories:




Along with these two general lines (calling them “arguments” feels like too much of a stretch) would be the predictable responses: if you disagree with ‘Singapore Is Mordor’ then you’re a materialistic uncaring individual, and if you disagree with ‘Singapore Is Shiny Fuck You Westerners’ you’re probably a PAP weasel, or a Western imperialist.

Continue reading