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Gadgets Highlights International Review Singapore

New Apple Fitness Service Introduces Healthy Competition to the Fitness App Industry

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is reportedly working on launching a bundled fitness-oriented service by October for the higher end, to push its services business into the fitness and digital health industry. Apple’s fitness app is set to move into the digital-only subscription fitness space dominated by Peloton and Nike, that provides access to a library of virtual fitness classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership.

And while the details remain unclear, Apple’s fitness app sounds very much similar to Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON) offerings: a digital-only subscription offer that provides access to a content library of virtual fitness classes.

The question is: Will Apple be giving Peloton a run for its money?

Following the report of possible competition from Apple, shares of Peloton, the trendy at-home fitness service that streams classes to a spin bike or treadmill, fell more than 4% in premarket trading — but then quickly recovered — and closed at $65.65, up 2%. Though Wall Street analysts remain confident that the exercise-bike company can maintain its lead in the virtual fitness space.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an upsurge in interest for at-home fitness classes due to gym closures and a preference to reduce contact between individuals. During the pandemic period, guided workout app downloaded grew 220% year-on-year globally.

In broad strokes, the plan echoes products from Peloton and Nike, which offer streaming classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership — a trend that has recently gained popularity as people have been flocking to at-home fitness classes during the coronavirus pandemic that has forced temporary gym closures across the globe. As a result, Peloton shares have been up more than 120% this year thanks to a surge in sales for its bikes and treadmills, even garnering diehard fans that some would consider ‘cultish’.

Apple’s new fitness app will be available on the company’s devices, like the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, while Peloton’s offerings are tied to hardware devices such as bikes and treadmills. As compared to Apple, Peloton already offers thousands of on-demand classes in addition to live-streamed ones. Whilst the former has lots of groundwork to be done, given how its recent new video streaming platform does not have a particularly robust content catalogue. It is also unclear how much Apple’s fitness subscription service would cost. Though it might make sense to bundle it with the Apple Watch.

In Q3 2019, Peloton’s digital-only subscription revenue represented only 1% of total revenue, which means that the biggest value in digital subscribers for the company is their potential conversion to connected fitness subscribers.

“We think Apple’s new fitness app could compete vs. Peloton’s digital only subscription offer, but will have limited impact on Peloton’s connected fitness base that uses Peloton’s bike or a tread,” Bank of America Securities Analyst, Justin Post wrote. “Longer-term, it is unclear whether Apple would partner with other at-home fitness hardware companies, or create its own proprietary bike/tread, though we think former is more likely than the latter.”

One potential partnership could be ReflectFitness Asia, a one-stop portal filled with digital classes on demand or live-streamed, and supported with resources related to fitness, health, and exercise. Launching in October, ReflectFitness builds upon its community roots and creates a digital ecosystem that revolutionises the way people exercise and consume fitness related information. ReflectFitness aims to make exercising in the comfort of home, at the user’s own time, simple and convenient. Operating with paired accessories such as heart rate monitors to track output and progress after each workout, world-class Reflect instructors will provide live and on-demand one-on-one style workouts including Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Kickboxing, and Zumba, all within the ReflectFitness ecosystem. The portal also allows users to compete with friends through community challenges and leader boards, creating an exciting platform to engage friends and family on the user’s fitness journey.

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Lifestyle Relaxation THG Youth

6 Techniques Therapists Recommend to Reduce Stress

Experiencing stress is inevitable at any point in our lives. With the evolving COVID-19 situation, fear and anxiety about the future could cause overwhelming emotions in adults and children. Social distancing measures, albeit necessary, can also evoke feelings of loneliness which might further increase stress.

It’s important to handle stress proactively to minimise its impact and prevent anything from spiralling out from control. If not managed or kept on track, high stress levels over time can negatively impact your health, such as risk of anxiety and depression and high blood pressure. If you’re currently going through a rough time or know someone who is, here are some therapist-approved stress reduction techniques to employ. 

Practice journaling

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Journaling, a tried and true practice for many therapists, is a simple yet powerful tool that reveals your internal thoughts and worries. Not just that, it helps create order when you feel like your world is in chaos. According to professionals from the University of Rochester Medical Center, not only does journaling help you prioritise your problems and fears, it also tracks day-to-day symptoms so you can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them. Maybe you’ve been stressed over work, but could there be other larger factors at hand, such as demanding perfection from yourself? Journaling provides the opportunity to gain greater insight into your thoughts so you can work on a plan and reduce your stress.

Have a daily ritual

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Do your days tend to get overwhelming? Try to work with a schedule, and fit in intervals throughout the day where you can pause and get some me-time. “Take five seconds to pause before you get out of the bed, before you get in the shower, get to work or go on your next task,” says clinical social worker Jihan Madyun, LICSW, in an interview with Bustle. She recommends taking that time to do some gentle breathing, or think about what’s gone well for the day. “Make this a regular daily habit, and your feelings won’t feel so scary.”

Practice the 4 A’s of stress management…

Stress can hit us anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at a meeting with your boss or dealing with difficult family situations. In such instances, you can either change the situation or your reaction. Regardless of what you choose, it’s helpful to keep in mind the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. Avoid unnecessary stress by learning how to say no; alter the situation by changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life; adapt to the stressor by reframing problems; and accept the things you can’t change.

Try breathing exercises

When you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is breathe — better yet if you employ breathing techniques. Try the diaphragmatic breathing technique, which uses patterns of deep, regular breathing from the diaphragm, and is found to reduce stress and muscle tension. Psychologist Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, Ph.D, recommends practicing two to three times a day for three to five minutes each time. The 4-7-8 breathing technique (also known as rhythmic breathing) is also another effective method to employ — focus on breathing in quietly through the nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale forcefully through the mouth for eight seconds. Remember to take your time.

Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. A 2019 study show that taking at least 20 minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. By being in the outdoors, many discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination. So the next time you procrastinate on going on that walk — don’t.

Talk to someone

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It’s important to get help and support from others, as humans are social creatures. “Having a heart-to-heart conversation with a family member can diminish your stress. Not only that, the other person will provide important perspective, instrumental support and emotional feedback,” Sadeh-Sharvit tells Bustle. If you’re not comfortable confiding with your family, a friend or therapist is just as good. Some social time can also provide immense benefit as spending time with people who care can help you feel better. So make it a point to connect regularly with family and friends. 

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Culture Games Highlights

Luxury Fashion Brands Get Into Gaming And Play It Right

At first thought, fashion and gaming may seem like an unlikely duo. But if the fashion industry were to ensure it continues to be accessible and relevant in every way possible, it would seem almost ignorant to cash in on the gaming trend as esports becomes more mainstream. 

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to an acceleration of various trends. And perhaps this is why the convergence of both industries may not come as a surprise, as more and more major fashion houses and fast-fashion giants want in on a piece of that gaming pie. Besides, with thousands of gamers in the virtual world, what better place than that to reach out to potential customers. If you can’t flaunt it in real life, you do so online by dressing your avatar in new skins, clothing, and accessories from various brands. What’s more, these fashion brands would also be able to reach out to a much younger audience, a group that is relatively harder to get to. 

But before we get into the subject itself, let’s have a look at the numbers. According to research firm Newzoo, the online gaming industry generated approximately US$138.7 billion in sales last year, and is most likely to rake in US$159.3 billion this year — that’s about a 10% growth! And by next year, this is likely to exceed US$180 billion. Now here’s something more interesting. If you were expecting teen boys to constitute the bulk of mobile game users, you’re sorely mistaken. Because 63 per cent of them are women. That’s right. And according to a marketing report by Liftoff, female gamers are 79 per cent more likely to make an in-app purchase than their male counterparts. A research from Mindshare has also shown that over half of esports fans are millennials, a generation that is reaching their prime spending years. So whether it’s a small in-game purchase or for the whole gaming experience, the esports industry has definitely proven to be a viable avenue for fashion brands to get to potential customers, and convert them into loyal clients.

In all honesty, you would probably have seen this coming. Some 20 years ago, fashion brands were already making their foray into the gaming industry, and exploring this territory by venturing into games like ‘The Sims’. Or just like how Moschino and Diesel opened virtual boutiques in ‘Second life’ in the early 2000s.

Louis Vuitton recently entered a partnership with US-based developer Riot Games, the business behind the famous ‘League of Legends’ online championship which saw 100 million global e-spectators watch its finale last November. All it took for the French fashion house to ensure maximum visibility was for its Creative Director, Nicolas Ghesquière, to design an outfit for one of the characters in the game during the finale.

And most recently, on March 20 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s Nintendo launched ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’, a social simulation game that invites its players to control digital avatars live on paradise islands and indulge in various sorts of peaceful activities including gardening, DIY, fishing, and even having picnics with neighbours. In just a span of a few weeks, it sold over 10 million units and became the star game of the lockdown.

With increased possibilities for customisation and dressing up your avatar, it certainly didn’t take much to lure fashion brands to Animal Crossing. It’s in-game ‘Pro Designs’ function allows users to make their own outfits by reproducing the trendiest pieces from brands like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, and even streetwear labels like Stüssy and Supreme.

This surge in creativity spilled over to social media, with players creating dedicated profiles just to share their outfits. One such example that capitalised on this want for fashion-savvy avatars is Nook Street Market, recreating looks from luxury labels like Chanel, Off-White, Vivienne Westwood, and Fendi. This buzz prompted brands including Valentino, Marc Jacobs, and many others to offer their own designs to Animal Crossing players — offering them the ability to access virtual clothing and accessories for free via special codes which can be obtained from Instagram stories.

And it doesn’t really matter that the in-game outfits are simplified, and without details. Perhaps what’s fascinating is how these luxury labels are still able to command desirability even in the virtual world, making the gaming industry a viable way for brands to reach out to a new clientele, and even strengthen relationships with their pre-existing fans.

In recent years, designer labels like Burberry and Gucci have even created their own games. Similarly, Italy’s LUISAVIAROMA has also just launched the ‘Mod4’ application, which gamifies the shopping experience. ‘Client players’ are invited to create their own avatar, browse items offered by the store, and take part in contests with other players.

Perhaps this is part of the new normal, an increasingly virtual world that has forced fashion to switch from e-commerce, digital showrooms, and even online fashion weeks, to the gaming industry, a new territory with immense potential for its businesses to diversify.

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Exclusive International News Popular

David Blaine Defies Death With New High-Flying Balloon Stunt

47 year-old American illusionist David Blaine has once again pushed boundaries on 2 September 2020 by ascending nearly 7,600 metres with just about 52 helium balloons.

In his Youtube live-streamed stunt termed “Ascension”, Blaine took off from the Arizona desert (United States) and had to gradually drop small weights to speed his ascent. The entire feat took about an hour from lift-off to landing, where he free-falled for 30 seconds before activating a parachute to secure his landing.

Blaine is no stranger to triggering a series of high-profile and high-risk feats of endurance performance in the past. He was buried beneath a three-ton water tank for a week in 1999 and subsisted with only a few tablespoons of water daily. He also tried encasing himself in ice for 72 hours in 2000 but that attempt was unsuccessful.

“Ascension” is his most ambitious feat to date, where his original plan was to float across the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. But this was foiled due to unforeseen weather conditions. Nonetheless, Blaine said “this feels like a dream so vivid  (that) it had to be real.”

The event hit a record as the most-watched Youtube Originals live event that garnered over 770,000 viewers.

Catch his feat here:

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Culture Featured Lifestyle Local Singapore

Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore, Explained

Growing up in Singapore, there was always a month in the year where respect to the dead was commissioned. The trail of incense and joss paper burning signaled the beginning; the flashy live performances (‘Ge Tai’) its peak.

The seventh month of the lunar calendar (July or August in the Western calendar) is known as ‘Ghost Month’ and the 15th day of the seventh month ‘Ghost Day’. A special custom to honour the spirits of the dead, it celebrates the Taoist (and Buddhist) belief in the afterlife. This year, the festival is held from 19 August to 16 September 2020, and as I’m writing, a familiar haze of smoke signals Ghost Day (2 September) is in full swing.

History

The festival’s origins come from a Buddhist tale of filial piety, where a Buddhist monk called Maudgalyayana (or Mulian) wanted to save his mother from perpetual hunger in the pits of hell. Buddha explained the only way was to make offerings to the monks returning from their annual retreat (15th day of the seventh month), as they could offer prayers that would bless his ancestors and relieve their suffering. As the story goes, Mulian’s mother was eventually raised from the status of hungry ghost to human being through this ritual, and thus, a new tradition was born.

Background

During Ghost Month, Chinese believe the Gates of Hell are opened, allowing spirits to roam the land of the living and visit their family members and descendants. These hungry ghouls are in constant search of food and entertainment, which is why all sorts of offerings are made — to keep the dead appeased and out of trouble.

While Taoists celebrate the festival as ‘Zhong Yuan Jie’ (or中元), the Buddhists name it ‘Yu Lan Pen Jie’ (or兰盆节’) — after the sutra from which the origin of this festival was derived. In Chinese tradition, deference and reverence to all ancestors is demanded; one of my earliest memories of Ghost Month was being instructed to say ‘excuse me’ whenever I passed offerings or prayer sticks, as an expression of respect.

Today, accidentally trampling on food, stepping on incense ashes, or kicking over joss sticks is still very much taboo, unless you’d like to suffer the wrath of angry spirits. The Chinese are a superstitious lot, but much of these special customs are centered around educating the next generation on proper decorum and the value of respecting the community’s elders and family members.

Offerings

Following that line of thought, making offerings are a significant part of Ghost month tradition — families burn joss paper replicas of anything their ancestors might need in the afterlife. Paper money is the most common offering, but believers also burn paper cars, luxury houses, clothes, even paper durian and pets.

Much of the joss paper burning now takes place within dark-coloured metal bins scattered around heartland estates and at temples where large furnaces facilitate mass prayer. The tradition of offering joss sticks or plates of food (often unpeeled fruits, cake or a cup of tea) still holds, and you’ll see these along pathways and public housing void decks as an aid to prayer.

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Ge Tai

Because wandering ghouls need entertainment, flashy performances and raucous auctions are also a mainstay. Unique to Singapore and Malaysia, these live performances are called ‘Ge Tai’ (literally translated to be song stage), and it’s often thrown by religious affiliations and temples as a culmination of Ghost Day. Large tents are temporarily set up in open fields, or in my case, an open car park and crowds of heartlanders and believers gather to watch.

Auctions are part of the lively affair, during which dinner attendees (usually members of the hosting association) bid for items ranging from a fan to thousand-dollar liquors. Winning the bid is as much about saving ‘face’ (prestige and social standing in the Chinese context) as an ego boost; things can get heated as bidders try to one-up each other.

As the night wears on, the live performances take over — singers in flamboyant, glittery costumes take center stage to perform songs in dialects — Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Mandarin. The occasional Chinese opera performance and irreverent comedy dialogues intersperse the jazzed-up performances — it’s a heady mix of old and new that entertains with choreographed song numbers and technopop LED. Just be sure not to sit in the first row, as that is purely reserved for the ‘honoured guests’.

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Asia Highlights International Japan News Popular

Japanese Prime Minister’s Resignation: A Walkthrough of Shinzo Abe’s Legacy

Japan’s longest serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced his departure from office last Friday, citing his health as the main problem. His abrupt resignation sent shock waves throughout the world, especially Japan as they ponder about the great strides Japan has taken since Abe’s presidency. Throughout the 8 years in power, this premier has rendered a paradigm shift in the Japanese society through its economic, political and social reforms.

Commentators have noted that his loss of popularity as a prime minister in recent months was also the prime reason he is deciding to leave after serving Japan for many years. Despite having steady support from its citizens for seven years, Abe saw a steady decrease in support for his cabinet in 2020.

When the pandemic swept in, Abe was criticised for the way he handled the whole situation.

Who is Shinzo Abe?

Abe, 65 was initially elected to Parliament in 1993 after the death of his father, who was a foreign minister. However, he only started serving as a prime minister in 2006, but stepped down the following year after a scandal broke out.

In 2012, Abe became the country’s leader once again where he made key promises such as fixing the besieged Japanese economy and also amending Japan’s pacifist constitution, which will allow for a full-fledged military.

Abe first exited the office in 2007, after nearly serving for eight years due to his ailing health — a relapse of a bowel disease.

Throughout his time at office, Abe’s presence has definitely left an indelible mark on Japan’s defence policies and economy. Not only that, he also managed to maintain high profile relationships with foreign allies from all over the world.

However, Abe has said that he will continue to serve as a prime minster until his successor is chosen.

Here is a walk-through of Shinzo Abe’s prominent legacy.

International Policy

Since coming into power for the second time, Abe has changed its international affairs approach. The highly contested Yasukuni Shrine which was dedicated towards war casualties ruffled the feathers of regional countries like China and South Korea. Although Abe visited the shrine in 2013, which created much public outcry, he has thoroughly refrained from visiting the shrine, knowing all too well that it will sour the relationship with South Korea — a huge departure from his predecessors. Similarly, Abe has radically changed the interpretation of Article 9 constitution, which originally renounced the right to go to war. Instead, the reinterpretation of Article 9 allowed Japanese forces to fight alongside overseas allies, drawing condemnation from China and South Korea while simultaneously receives blessings from U.S. This move has allowed U.S. to continue developing good relationships with Japan.

While regional countries like China continue to drive a wedge with the hegemon U.S., Japan under Abe has made great investments in forging closer relationship with President Donald Trump to benefit from economic investments such as trade. For example, Abe has hosted President Donald trump in high-profile summits in Japan. Their intimate relationship, as seen in their close interactions through 32 phone calls and 5 rounds of golf, has allowed Abe to pursue Japan’s interests such as keeping the Trans-Pacific Partnership alive even after America’s withdrawal.

Domestic Policy

Aside from international or political affairs, Abe has also managed to move Japan’s society towards an inclusive and diverse one with an open market that embraces migration into Japan. He has reformed unproductive corporate culture by creating a new form of corporate governance code and investor stewardship code that aims to increase shareholder control and profitability. Meanwhile, the power of the traditionalist managers weakens. Additionally, Abe has also sought to punish the toxic corporate culture where workers had to endure unproductive overtime hours. Of particular importance, while his party had long resisted Japan’s movement towards gender equality and immigration, Abe has nudged companies to hire more women and minimise gender inequality through the provision of funded daycare centers, encouraging more men to take paternity leave as well as provide companies incentives if they hire women.

Economic policy

Abe will leave behind his biggest legacy, Abenomics, which was aimed to curb the threats of deflation and an aging work force through fiscal spending, corporate deregulation, and cheap cash.

Abenomics delivered great results in the early years of Abe’s term which lifted Japan’s economy immensely and at the same time, lifting Abe’s profile as a prime minister. However, in 2019, the steady growth suffered due to the trade war between United States and China. It then took a further downfall when the pandemic hit Japan, causing its economy to hit a slump.

Who will take over Abe? 

Certainly, Abe has done pretty well in his political and public policy approach during his 8-year long term. However, Abe has not groomed a successor during this time, and this creates anxiety for Japan; some scholars have argued that with Abe stepping down, Abe’s rival, Shigeru Ishiba who is the most popular politician will take over. What lays ahead for Japan and its society? It would be tough for the next prime minister to match Abe’s legacy on economic, political, and social policies where he brought the country out of recession and diversified Japan’s labour force.

Ishiba will have a tough challenge ahead as it tries to win the support of its party members as well as Abe’s party who regards him as a political foe. With this tussle ahead of him, one wonders his plans for the future and if he is able to charismatically deliver policies despite the constant tension within the cabinet.

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International Japan News

Japan’s Revolutionary Transparent Toilets Reveal Deep-Seated Problems

Social and cultural issues drive the need for transparency.

On the ground, sentiments regarding Japan’s new transparent toilets have been a mix of privacy concerns and praises for safety; on Twitter, most Japanese netizens have felt that they were impractical due to fears of malfunction.

But what exactly are these transparent toilets?

THE TOKYO TOILET Project

These transparent toilets are part of a new project unveiled by The Nippon Foundation in early August. As part of this project, three conjoined transparent toilet cubicles were installed in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and three other in Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park.

The main aim of these installations is to address two main concerns surrounding public toilets, especially those located in parks: cleanliness and safety. They come amidst stereotypes among the Japanese public that public toilets are “dark, dirty, smelly, and scary”.

These stereotypes could be caused by mysophobia and sexual harassment.

Mysophobia

A cultural phenomenon in Japan, ‘keppekishō’, could be one possible cause of the nation’s fear of using public toilets. Roughly translated, the term means “fastidiousness” or “phobia of dirt”.

From antibacterial products to squat toilets, Japan’s obsession with cleanliness has always been fascinating.

Yet, it has also been a sign of a serious mental epidemic. According to an anonymous 52-year-old Japanese reporter, his fear of contamination by germs in toilets became so extreme that he would avoid public toilets in train stations altogether.

Of course, he isn’t the only one suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and there are many more like him.

Sexual harassment and perverts

The Japanese social phenomenon of ‘sekuhara’ could be another possible cause of the fear of using public toilets. The term is an abbreviation of ‘sexual harassment’. In a country where sexual harassment and public indecency are grossly under-reported and under-criminalised, public toilets are hotspots for sexual predators to lurk in.

In 2018, two men were arrested on the same night for willfully entering a Sapporo supermarket’s women’s toilet. One of them was caught secretly filming a female supermarket employee from a neighbouring stall while the other was wearing women’s clothing and occupying a stall. Both of them were middle-aged men.

Public harassment faced by Japanese women has been reported to be much more common than that faced by Japanese men. 47.9% of Japanese women surveyed in 2019 claimed that they had been touched inappropriately before, while 41.9% of them claimed that they had experienced close physical contact (presumably unwarranted).

Similar campaigns in other countries

In a bid to weed out voyeurism, Seoul’s government dispatched 8,000 workers in 2018 to inspect “more than 20,000 public restrooms, in subways, parks, community centres, public gyms and underground commercial arcades”.

In the West, the British Toilet Association (BTA) had implemented the “‘Use Our Loos’” campaign in the same year to have more toilets in businesses open to non-customers, following a 39% decrease in the number of public toilets. The aim of this campaign was to make public toilets more accessible to the general public.

Would Japan’s transparent toilets campaign work in Singapore?

Unfortunately, no. This is simply because the Singaporean government’s focus has always been on keeping local toilets clean and improving mass awareness of good toilet etiquette since 1982, when the first “Keep Public Toilets Clean” campaign was launched. Therefore, a campaign like THE TOKYO TOILET would be highly irrelevant to the imperative needs of our nation in its current stage of development and would not soothe Singaporeans’ fears of public toilets being dirty.

A step forward in the right direction

While these newly-sprung toilets continue to garner attention from both Japanese and international news media, unwelcome fundamental issues have also been brought to light. Thankfully, The Nippon Foundation has acknowledged the presence of said fundamental issues.

Still, the country lacks legislative safety nets for sexual abuse as well as public awareness of and treatment for mysophobia.

On the governmental level, women’s sexual rights protection is nonexistent. In fact, Japan is the only high-income country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) without a law prohibiting sexual harassment.

On the social level, sufferers of mysophobia (and OCD in general) normally delay seeking treatment until their conditions become severe. Moreover, the lack of trained therapists has prevented diagnosed patients from receiving the proper treatment they need.

The transparent toilets are a step forward in the right direction. Thereafter, the real work begins.

Categories
Entertainment International Review

Tenet (2020): Nolan’s Half-Empty Vessel With Barely Any Noise

Let’s get one thing straightened out — Christopher Nolan makes resplendent cinema.

Whether its chronologically mischievous narratives in 20th century breakthrough Memento, bouncing Joseph Gordon-Levitt off twisting corridors à la Inception, or the (literally) star-spangled intergalactic regurgitation of Interstellar, the mercurial filmmaker requires no introduction to his mastery of tapping into our childlike wonder whilst simultaneously turning our adult psyche into mush.

When it comes to commandeering tropes which are often deemed tried-tested-expired by even the most venturesome filmmakers, it’s Nolan who wraps his claws around stale waters, promising riches in waterfalls and Trevi fountains. Where many see difficulty it’s Nolan who sees opportunity.

Which makes writing this all the more gruesome. I wanted to love Tenet.

It encapsulated much of what pandemic fatigued movie-goers needed after being holed up indoors; a paradoxical, mind-melting plot device anchored by time; a Black ‘James Bond’ display of nitty gritty action sequences; a devilishly handsome cast; and another Nolan puzzle that would dominate dinner party conversations for months.

Tenet dons the classic ‘spy saves the world’ suit by introducing our Protagonist (which is also his only callsign throughout), played by John David Washington, embroiled in a mysterious global war he doesn’t yet seem to understand, spearheaded by equally talented counterparts in Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh for its pivotal characters.

For its score, longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer took a backseat for a more sentimental project, meaning Nolan relied on Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, The Mandalorian) to curate the grand synergy between visuals and sonics that’s trademarked as a Nolan signature in his blockbusters.

We’re steadfastly thrown into disarray as Tenet’s opening seconds follows Protagonist into an asset extraction mission that takes place in an Opera house. All seems to be going well (or not, we can barely tell because of intentionally murky character dialogue, a well-documented gripe audiences have with beloved Nolan) until, amidst the swarm of gunfire, we’re shown that a single bullet is un-fired from an object of which it has already hit, closing its initial entry point, ricocheting back to its firer’s direction, and the surface is spanking brand new again.

Our visibly perplexed Protagonist spots this anomaly, now etched into his mind, before scurrying on with his time-sensitive extraction mission. This is the film’s first tease and entrapment of what its sci-fi element entails, reminiscent of Inception’s opener/Di Caprio’s dream-state flurry, and in we go to the whirlpool of time travel.

Except it isn’t. It’s inversion, the reversal of an object’s entropy, allowing it to move backwards in motion while everything else around it tick-tocks forward as per normal. How it all works is briefly explained several scenes later, with Protagonist and an inversion scientist convincing him (and invariably us) that understanding it is futile — feel it, she says. To grasp inversion she advises him to first picture traditional movements in his mind’s eye, then to execute it backwards. And what follows is brilliant absurdity.

In the realms of Tenet, punches, or inversion punches, are sonically portrayed as vacuum-like suctions accompanied with the visual motion of arm moving backwards, yet still inflicting damage. Try picturing an inverted wrestling match with multiple participants.

Inversion car chases mean engines roar to strange screeches when being driven. Devastating explosions deconstruct from clouds of smoke into atom-less nothings, with surrounding damage reconstructing back into its original form. A Boeing 747 is un-blown to smithereens to form its whole again. Inversion fire? Sub-zero ice.

All of which makes for fantastic viewing, and when coupled with backwards sound design, Tenet is unlike anything any film has offered in such elaboration, unless you count putting on Transformers entirely on rewind.

But the grandiosity stops there.

The same intricacy and accuracy to sound, however, is alarmingly absent for the aforementioned character dialogue. A substantial amount of understanding the film hinged upon its explanations, and in all his inversion whimsy, Nolan seems to have forgotten that his audiences aren’t soppy sacks of toddlers that salivate at mere booms and swashbuckling action.

For all the cerebral lunacy which he wants us to feel when watching Tenet, the sheer inaudibility of speech meant viewers are left with more questions than answers, and not in a fun ‘solve the mystery’ notion.

If Inception was an unsolved Rubik’s cube, Tenet is that cube, but with its sides so disheveled and banged up to the point where you could no longer discern its colours. The cube becomes unplayable and  thus unsolvable, similar to how Tenet was at times unwatchable because a plethora of its key plot points and explanations was, to put it mildly, audible mumbling.

We’re left pondering over every minute detail in its major action sequence, which consisted of an impressive inversion ‘Pincer movement’ of soldiers in differing timelines, before we could indulge in all its glory. But by then, the pace of the movie had already swept its viewers into incongruent abyss. Purchase a second screening in attempts to re-hear what was said? Not in this economy.

Unlike in Dunkirk, where dialogue wasn’t pivotal, and Inception, where visual cues already contained precedence in meaning, it’s deplorable that Nolan’s post-pandemic endeavour suffers from something that could so easily be rectified.

All this, without even getting started on the casts’ poor character development, his tiresome, sexist caricature of Elizabeth Debicky’s character, and his continuous blindspot for female portrayals.

Under the guise of ‘the next Inception’, or even as a standalone, I wanted to love this film — but this was too far off the mark. If Tenet was intended as a pandemic reprieve, look (and listen) elsewhere.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Tenet/Cinemablend
Categories
Local News

Religious Headgear in the Workplace: A Lack of Acceptance or Professionalism?

The recent incident regarding Tangs department store and its dress code guidelines has sparked a public furore. A part-time promoter at a pop-up booth in Tangs was reportedly informed to remove her hijab, a religious head covering scarf, as part of the grooming standard to maintain professionalism. In the Islamic religion, the hijab is worn by women to protect their modesty and privacy, especially from unrelated males.

The business owner, Ms Chin, was selling handmade leather bags in a pop-up booth in the department store and had hired Ms Nurin Jazlina Mahbob as the part-time promoter. On her first day at work, Ms Nurin was told by Tangs staff to remove her hijab to be allowed to continue working on the premises. This incident has escalated with Ms Chin deciding to end her lease early with Tangs, despite having weeks left on her contract, while investigations are being made by Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep).

As per the guidelines handed to the tenants of Tangs, the “grooming standard” had stipulated wearing black polo T-shirt and long black pants while religious headgear and accessories were not allowed. Ms Chin was appalled at the rationale for the removal of hijab which Tangs had cited was for ‘professionalism-sake’. This lack of tact and sensitivity touching on race and religion has ignited a public outrage with many coming forth with their opinions.  

The Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Mr Zaqy Mohamad urged employers to review their workplace policies. “Religious attire should generally be allowed at workplaces, unless employers have uniform, or dress code requirements which are suited to the nature of their work, or for operational and safety reasons.” Moreover, Ms Nadia Samdin, the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, stated that discriminatory hiring practices – including those against age, gender, ethnicity or religion – do not have a place in Singapore. 

“Discrimination of any form has no place at all in our society and, most certainly, not at the workplace.” The President Halimah Yacob had also heavily accentuated her views in a Facebook post, adding on that “people should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else”.

While the above statements made by various political officeholders are valid and reasonable, this progressive belief does not seem to resonate with a few employers. In 2016, a similar incident had occurred when Ms Sharifah Begum was told that she could not wear a hijab for work during an interview for the role of administrative assistant at a preschool operator. Meanwhile, in 2014, Isetan was under a negative spotlight when a sales assistant was allegedly told by the managers to end her shift early and leave their premise for wearing a hijab. Although, since then, Isetan has adopted a new guideline for female Muslim staff to don the hijab during work. 

Ultimately, Tangs has since removed such restrictions and will allow the hijab to be worn at work, releasing a statement, “As a Singaporean company with a diverse, and multi-racial workforce, we must respect cultural and religious practices and requirements on all accounts. We have made an immediate change to ensure a policy that uniformly respects all our employees and our brand partners.” 

Both the business owner and staff, Ms Chin and Ms Nurin respectively, are heartened to receive the support of the community, especially the strong voices of the Members of Parliament and Mdm Halimah. Ms Nurin added that she is excited that there is a [positive] change happening, hoping that nobody should experience what she had gone through. 

As quoted from Ms Chin, who is highly commended for standing by her staff, “I am hoping to bring to the attention of all workplaces [especially] the frontline that there should be no reason or logic for this kind of discrimination, and they really need to review their skewed practices if they are practising it.”

On a darker note, although Tafep has stated that religious wear should be allowed in the workplace unless specific dress code guidelines are stated, employers may use the latter to enforce on the removal of religious wear. While many have expressed shock and disbelief at this incident, especially in a well-known establishments such as Tangs, a number has shown support that it is fair for companies to have their own dress code guidelines. 

In Singapore, the embrace of multiracialism and meritocracy is strongly advocated in all ages and all walks of life. However, the discriminatory practice illustrated in this post may serve to be the tip of an iceberg as racial and cultural differences are deep-rooted in the minds of many. Despite Singapore’s continuous efforts on racial and religious harmony, racism is a profound issue where most have experienced discrimination at one point in life. It seems that more work needs to be done to encourage acceptance in this day and age.