19 October 2014

Open letter to Gurmit Singh about his open letter-writing daughter Gabrielle

Dear Gurmit,

How’s it going?

It’s been a while. The Phua Chu Kang movie didn’t turn out the way I hoped.

You look good for a guy a year older than me. Still hitting the gym?

I feel old.

I shouldn’t say that since there are older people who must be feeling older. I know how annoying it is to hear people younger than you complaining about feeling old.

Even when you’re 80, you can’t complain about feeling old because there’ll be someone 90 years old saying, “Old? You have no idea what feeling old means, you young punk!”

But I felt particularly old last week when I read about your daughter Gabbi’s open letter to Forever 21, calling out the misogynistic rap song being played in a clothing store targeted at women.

It’s cool that Forever 21 has apologised, explaining: “A staff member had played his own personal list, which was not part of the company recommendations.”

Gabbi reminds me of the Hwa Chong girl who wrote the open letter to her principal about the “sexist” relationship workshop in her school.

With young people like these, there may be hope for Singapore’s future after all.

As you can see, I’m also jumping on the public missive bandwagon by writing this open letter to you.

Kids. They grow up so fast.

I still think of Gabbi as the baby I saw when I visited you in your HDB flat in Woodlands in the 90s. And now she’s using words like “misogynistic”, “bitches” and “fellatio” in her open letter.

I can faint.

By the way, remember when you were still living in HDB? How crazy was that?

Would a Lamborghini fit into a standard HDB parking lot?

Just kidding!

Hey, I went through a mid-life crisis too. You bought an Italian supercar, I bought skinny jeans.

But you’ve replaced the Lambo with an Audi S5, right? I saw it on Instagram.

I also read on your Instagram that Gabbi has published a book of her poetry called Anomic Aphasia.

And she’s only 17!

That’s seriously impressive. I had to look up what “anomic aphasia” means. (It’s a medical condition where you can’t recall names.)

I’m still waiting for someone to publish my book of song lyrics I wrote in secondary school. And I’m 48!

My son is still working on his never-ending space fantasy epic which I’m afraid to read. I blame Adrian Pang for encouraging him to be a writer.

Which brings me to the real reason I’m writing you this letter.

No, not kill Adrian Pang.

As you may or may not know, my son was born in the same year as Gabbi. I remember thinking at the time how cool it would be if they grew up, started dating and got married – then you and I could be in-laws!

Well, it’s now 17 years later. They’re sort of at the age when they can start dating.

I was wondering... you know.

I know what you’re thinking – is my son worthy of dating your daughter?

Probably not.

I mean, he’s no Irfan Fandi, who’s also 17 and was just named one of the 40 best young talents in world football by The Guardian newspaper in UK.

But then at 1.86m, Irfan is way too tall for Gabbi.

My son, on the other hand, is about your height, which your daughter should be used to.

And frankly, I would make a better in-law than Fandi Ahmad. I would let you beat me at football.

Just like how Fandi let all those other teams beat his LionsXII.


Also, my son doesn’t like rap. He prefers Chinese orchestral music and there’s no such thing as misogynistic Chinese orchestral music.

Admittedly, he might have listened to Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot a little too often because he kept rewatching the episode of Friends with that song on Blu-ray.

But he’s never all about the bass. Or treble.

He will never refer to anyone as a “pink fat lady” since he doesn’t work at Pizza Hut.

You may have read somewhere (my column last week) that my son can get pretty surly, but that’s only to me, his father.

Rest assured that to other people, he’s much, much, much less surly.

An introduction – that’s all I’m asking for after 20 years of acquaintance.

I may sound a bit desperate, but that’s because my wife and I are afraid no one will ever marry my son and we have nightmares about being stuck with him for the rest of our lives.

Yes, Gabbi deserves better, but so do we.

Just think about it. No pressure.

And please apologise to your wife, Melissa, for me. I didn’t mean to snub her at the PCK series wrap party at Zouk in 2007. I didn’t realise it was her until after I snubbed her.

Good luck with the President’s Star Charity show next month.

All the best in Singapore and JB,

PS: Would you happen to know how old Kheng Hua's daughter is?

- Published in The New Paper, 19 October 2014

EARLIER: My son attended 'sexist' relationship workshop & survived!

18 October 2014

Is Taufik Batisah truly Singapore's idol?

"Ten years after being crowned Singapore Idol, Taufik Batisah is still on top of his game."

That line in The Straits Times FB post got wondering: Exactly what "game" is Taufik on top of?

Is it the game of being a Malay-language pop star? Then yes, he certainly seems "on top" of it, having won the Most Popular Song (Singapore), Most Popular Artist and Social Media Icon awards at the Malay music awards show, Anugerah Planet Muzik last night.

But if the "game" is being a Singapore Idol, then I would say not quite.

My impression is that the objective of Singapore Idol was to find an English-language pop star.

Since English is the common language among the different races here, it makes sense that to be a truly Singapore's idol, you should be an English-language pop star.

Which was why SI was shown on Channel 5, an English-language channel. The Malay, Tamil and Chinese-language TV channels have their own talent shows.

After winning the first Singapore Idol in 2004, Taufik released his first album, Blessing, which was an English album. His second album, All Because of You, was a mix of English and Malay songs. His next three albums were all Malay.

The second Singapore Idol, Hady Mirza, who won in 2006, followed practically the same path but accelerated - his first album was mostly English but already contained one Malay song. His next album, Sang Penyanyi, was all Malay.

Take Two, the English-language first album of the third Singapore, Sezairi Sezali, who won in 2009, came and went in 2010. Last year, he was courting the Malay market with the single Sayang.

Yes, I know there's no market for a local English-language recording artist.

The only one I can think of who has made any lasting impact in recent decades is... Dick Lee?

Kit Chan may be known for singing Dick Lee's Home, but her career was built on her Mandarin recordings. Ditto Stephanie Sun, Tanya Chua and JJ Lin.

If any of the Singapore Idol winners had been Chinese, one suspects he or she would eventually record Mandarin songs too.

But wasn't the premise and promise of the three Singapore Idol competitions (where Dick Lee was a judge) and last year's already forgotten The Final 1 was to find a break-out English-language singing star and change the market?

I feel misled.

16 October 2014

Singapore goes viral - again - thanks to Agatha Tan & 'Pink Fat Lady'

Remember in July when Singapore went a weird hot streak where a series of local news items got international attention?

I'm talking about the NLB gay penguins tango, the Archie gay wedding comic book ban and the anti-gambling World Cup ad starring Andy.

It seems to be happening again this month.

Starting small, the first is not quite local news, but it involves a Singaporean, cartoonist Heng Kim Song, whose NYT cartoon received some backlash:
BBC: India Mars Mission: New York Times apologises for cartoon

Indiatimes: New York Times Issues Apology For Racist Cartoon On India's Mars Mission

Business Standard: Online anger forces NYT to apologize for 'racist' cartoon

We also had the To Singapore, With Love movie controversy (although technically this started last month):
New York Times: Banned Film Reunites Singapore With Its Exiles

The Independent (UK): Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now

Huffington Post: For Yale in Singapore, It's Deja-vu All Over Again

Then came Hwa Chong student Agatha Tan's open letter about a "sexist" relationship workshop in school:
Buzzfeed: A Teen’s Open Letter About Her School’s Sexist Sex-Ed Class Is Going Viral

Huffington Post: 17-Year-Old Spells Out Everything Wrong With Her Lousy Sex Ed Class

Jezebel: Badass Teen Pens Letter Against Focus on the Family Sex Ed Workshop

And of course Pizza Hut's 'Pink Fat Lady' receipt:
Buzzfeed: Pizza Hut Apologizes For Calling A Woman A “Pink Fat Lady” On Her Receipt

Time: Pizza Hut Singapore Apologizes for Calling Customer ‘Pink Fat Lady’ on Receipt

Gawker: Pizza Hut Customer Says They Called Her "Pink Fat Lady" on a Receipt

I expect the open letter by Gurmit Singh's daughter to Forever 21 about misogynistic rap songs to appear on Jezebel some time soon.

I would love to see John Oliver's take on that.

PS: No one outside Singapore seems to care about Singapore Sports Hub's grass problem.

UPDATE: Unexpectedly, the local news item about a Singapore fisherman catching a basket star has also gone viral internationally.
Huffington Post: Bizarre Sea Creature Caught In Singapore Looks Like Kraken Come To Life

Salon: Check out the terrifying deep-sea creature someone pulled out of the ocean

USA Today: Fisherman catches terrifying creature off the coast of Singapore


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