Monday, 14 August 2017

NDP 2017: We have a new national bird

Let me first say, I love my country.

And I dislike the new National Day song, Because It’s Singapore, because it’s not Home — like any true pink IC-carrying Singaporean who did his national service and queued up for the nasi lemak burger at McDonald’s even though it was kind of overrated.

But despite my overweening patriotism, I decided to skip watching the National Day Parade on TV on Thursday because I realised they could re-telecast last year’s parade and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

So on our nation’s 52nd birthday, I binge-watched Rick And Morty on Netflix instead.

Now in its third season, Rick And Morty is an M18 cartoon series that’s like a frenetic cross between Back To The Future and Doctor Who but with more decapitations and dick jokes.

I was in the middle of the second season when my teenage daughter interrupted my binge to inform me that some kid showed his middle finger at the NDP and was blowing up on Reddit.

She said there was even a picture of the schoolboy being scolded by his teacher (who reminded me of actor Rami Malek from Mr Robot).

Aiyah, why must something exciting always happen at the NDP when I’m not watching it?

Faster than you can say “guitar-playing grandma”, the video clip of the NDP kid was shared all over social media.

As one Reddit user commented: “$40m spent on the parade and the only thing people are going to remember about it is this. Godspeed, young prince.”

Reactions to the obscene gesture on live TV ranged from disapproval to approval to disapproval of the approval.

It’s like a national Rorschach test. How you react reveals more about your own values than anything else.

The principal of the boy’s primary school told The Straits Times the next day: “The student regrets his action and is deeply apologetic. The school and his parents have counselled him, and will ensure he learns from this incident.”

I’m not sure what the boy will learn from this incident though. That you can be called a “national hero” for flipping the bird at the TV camera during NDP?

Radio DJ Rosalyn Lee wrote on Facebook:
“It’s just a finger. That finger can only be offensive to a person with a deviant mind. Chill the fuck out and leave my lil hero alone.

“He made so many people laugh, and gave the terribly dull NDP an exciting boost! Shouldn’t that be celebrated? Hahaha! #thuglife”

But my former fellow New Paper columnist Ivan Lim (the disgruntled parent of the special-needs student rejected by Yamaha Contempo Music School) disapproved of calling “Littlefinger” a hero.

He wrote online:
“Celebrating the heroics of Littlefinger might start an unhealthy fad: Children could start posting videos of themselves flipping the finger, and we could become famous for starting a trend we couldn’t possibly be proud of later.”
But a video of another young man waving the finger on TV supposedly at last year’s NDP has surfaced in the wake of Littlefinger, so the trend may have already started.

Like I said, they could re-telecast last year’s parade and it would be almost like the same thing.

And that was why I was watching Rick And Morty.

After my daughter’s interruption, I continued with an episode called The Ricks Must Be Crazy.

By some cosmic coincidence, this is the episode where the characters are flipping each other off because it means “peace among worlds”.

Hey, I thought, maybe Littlefinger was just gesticulating “peace among worlds” as a tribute to Rick And Morty.

What does that reveal about my values?

Nah, the show is rated M18 so the primary school kid couldn’t have possibly seen it.

I guess he could just really hate this year’s National Day song.

Peace among worlds, y’all.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 August 2017

UPDATE: I received this e-mail:

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Performance Series Race at Punggol: Running with Achilles tendinitis

For the first time, I limped to the start line.

It was The Performance Series Race at Punggol East-Coney Island this morning.

I had been suffering from Achilles tendinitis in my right ankle since last weekend. I was hoping it would go away by today's race, but I was still limping.

I considered skipping the race and maybe just collect the medal and T-shirt. I might still heal in time for next Sunday's Army Half Marathon.

But being prone to poor decision-making, of course I decided to try to run with the injury.

Flag-off time was 7am, which was unusual for a half marathon. It's usually much earlier before sunrise I believe to avoid the heat of daylight.

Apparently, the late flag-off had to do with the opening hours of Coney Island.

The race was flagged off by Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Ng Chee Meng, who is also Minister of Education (Schools).

At first, I jogged awkwardly with the limp. But to my pleasant surprise, the pain dissipated after a while and I could run almost normally albeit very slowly.

Each kilometre was still a slog.

This was the first race where I got a sponge soaked in cold water.

Even though the weather didn't turn out as hot as I had feared, the sponge provided a cool respite.

I saw these bikes and thought maybe I could use one to finish the race.

After this, I started to walk more than run.

My second time at Coney Island. The first time was another Performance Series race,

The finish line was near the Riviera LRT station. I didn't know there was a Riviera LRT station.

A post shared by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

My time for the 21km race was 3 hours 8 minutes 49 seconds, which is a new personal worst.

Despite my injury, I optimistically thought I could make it in three hours.

Apart from my Achilles tendinitis and general lack of fitness, this was actually quite a pleasant run. The weather was forgiving and it was a nice change to get away from the usual route around Marina Bay. Also, there seemed to be fewer participants (4,500 runners) due to other races (Shape Run, Ground Zero Race for Humanity) on the same day, so it felt less congested.

Surprisingly, my left ankle doesn't hurt as much anymore after the race.

Just both my legs hurt.

I'm actually looking forward to the Army Half Marathon in less than seven days.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Sorry, Michelle Chong, I heck care — but at least Khaw Boon Wan has pride in his work

Dear Michelle Chong,

I’m sorry. You were right.

I saw your viral Facebook post.

It’s like what you said — people in Singapore don’t “have any pride in their work and just have a ‘pass up homework’ heck-care attitude”.

You wrote:
“They don’t check their work, don’t care about how it turns out, don’t take that extra step to value-add or think about how to make it better, don’t want to improve etc.

“It’s a ‘why should I bother? It’s not like I’m getting paid very much for this job’ or ‘please lah it’s just a job right?’ or ‘do extra for what? I’m still getting the same salary right?’ attitude.”

When I read that, I felt like you were scolding me directly.

Even though we haven’t spoken to each other since we worked together on that failed TV pilot at Mediacorp 10 years ago, you still know me so well.

Writing this column is like homework.

I have such a “heck-care attitude” that I can’t even bother to do this column every week any more. It’s now every two weeks and I still don’t care how it turns out.

Like in my last column, I didn’t care that I used the word “boobs” way too many times.

And I’m still getting the same salary!

Instead of taking that extra step to value-add, I’m taking that extra step to value-subtract.

It’s not like I’m getting paid very much for this job.

That’s why I don't check my work. I expect my editors to check my work for me. After all, they are paid more than I am.

But apparently, they too don’t have any pride in their work because they let me use the word “boobs” in my last column way too many times.

However, I doubt that everyone (or even most people) is as “heck care” as me and my editors.

So to say that “people here generally don’t care about what they do” is an unfair generalisation.

In your Facebook post, you cited examples of “shoddy work” by a post-production house and an interior design firm you hired, but I don’t know their side of the story.

For instance, some have criticised McDonald’s for launching the Nasi Lemak Burger for National Day only to run out of the burger two weeks before National Day, which kind of defeated the purpose of launching the burger for National Day.

But as McDonald’s explained, the burger sold out due to “overwhelming demand”.

So it’s actually the people’s fault for buying too many Nasi Lemak Burgers. I bought four myself. I apologise for my overwhelming patriotism.

Many have also been unhappy about the frequent MRT delays in recent weeks.

But as Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan pointed out on Thursday, the MRT has become three times more reliable in the two years since he took charge.

That’s one man who has pride in his work.

Too bad he doesn’t count the delays caused by the testing of the new signalling system because they happen only “once in 30 years”.

Like “ponding”.

The minister blamed the press for “frightening readers”.

Mr Khaw said:
“If it were so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporter to run the train system.”
Having written one or two or half a dozen articles about train delays (even though I’m not a “reporter” per se), I was afraid for a moment that I would be asked to run the MRT.

But then I thought, hey, could I do much worse?

Even with my “heck care” attitude.

You know what’s the first thing I would do?

Change a few station names.

We have too many stations with “Tuas” in their names — Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link.

As if we’re not confused enough by Marina Bay/Marina South Pier and Farrer Park/Farrer Road, which aren’t even on the same line!

You know what I’m talking about, right? You take the MRT all the time.

So I do agree with you, Michelle. At least, partially.

Yes, there are people — such as whoever named the MRT stations — who don’t have any pride in their work.

Not just me.

But not everyone.

Would it be too abrupt to end the column here?

Aiyah, heck care lah.

- Published in The New Paper, 31 July 2017


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