Sunday, 26 December 2010

Should old acquaintance be removed from Facebook 'Friends' list?



This year, I received a total of one Christmas card (as in it’s made of actual paper and you don’t need a computer to see it).

I guess that means I have only one friend.

Actually, it’s fewer than that because the card was from my insurance agent and I don’t even remember what he looks like.

More importantly, he has never been my Facebook “friend”.

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Well, at least Facebook lets you quietly remove that old acquaintance from your “Friends” list.



No wonder the social network’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was named Time magazine’s Person Of The Year and had a movie made about him.



Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with the guys I worked with many years ago at my college newspaper in the US and found out that one of them, Adam Horowitz, is the co-writer of Tron: Legacy.



The only movie I wrote was Phua Chu Kang The Movie.

The Tron sequel earned more than US$44 million (S$58 million) at the US box office last weekend alone whereas PCK The Movie made less than 2 per cent of that amount in its entire theatrical run.

Yes, thank you very much, Facebook, for making me feel like a bigger loser than I already am.

One small consolation is that Tron: Legacy is getting reviews almost as nasty as the pans PCK got.

CNN said: “The 3D was terrible, the battles boring, and talk about a lame script!”

Ha! Take that, Horowitz! Now you know how it feels, you former writer of Lost the TV series, you.

Actually, even though we worked at the same paper at the same time, I don’t remember Horowitz at all. He’s just a friend of a Facebook “friend”.

Oh no, I think I’m suffering from second-hand Facebook envy.

According to Urban Dictionary, Facebook envy is the “feeling you get when you come across an old friend on Facebook and realise that their life turned out way better and is more interesting than yours”.

That’s why I don’t understand people with Facebook “friends” numbering more than two digits.

I have less than a hundred and I’m already struggling with self-esteem issues.

I mean, how meaningful can it be to get birthday wishes from people who were reminded by Facebook that it’s your birthday?

Even I have stopped posting Jeremih’s Birthday Sex music video on my friends’ walls on their birthdays.



Are they even really my friends? None of them ever sent me a Christmas card.

I’m looking forward to getting my one and only Chinese New Year card from my insurance agent next year.



I hope he never “adds” me on Facebook. That would just ruin a beautiful relationship. I might have to wish him a happy birthday.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 December 2010

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Why a naked man can't get coffee at McDonald's



Talk about overexposed.

Last week, we had WikiLeaks, public nudity around Singapore and a photo of bare (possibly underaged) manga breasts on page A17 in Wednesday’s The Straits Times.



Which was why I was feeling a bit overdressed.

I was also feeling a little peckish.

Being a dedicated follower of fashion (or the absence of it) and a sucker for any food ad starring Sheikh Haikel, I wanted to strip and head for the nearest Burger King outlet to sample the new Steakhouse Burger naked.



But then I had read about the naked man who tried to order coffee at McDonald’s, but was refused service.



What if Burger King also refuses to let me have the Steakhouse Burger because of my lack of clothes? I don’t take rejection very well.

Why are naked people being discriminated against? Why are we being persecuted?



Why should fast food joints refuse to serve a customer just because he’s naked? How is that good business?

Isn’t the customer always king, even when the emperor has no clothes? Was that naked man’s money not good enough for McDonald’s?

Wait a second, I just realised something.

Naked means no pants. No pants means no wallet. No wallet means no money.

So that was why McDonald’s didn’t serve him!

Unless he kept his cash in, uh … certain parts of his anatomy. In which case, McDonald’s would be right to tell him, “Your money’s no good here.”

Hold on. It was reported that the naked man had a laptop case with him, so maybe he kept his money there.

Wait, something else just occurred to me.

We all know how hot McDonald’s coffee is. If it’s possible for a beverage to be above boiling point temperature, McDonald’s has achieved it.



And we all know how painful it is if that hot coffee is spilled on your lap. Imagine if it’s spilled on your lap when you’re naked.

“Ouch” doesn’t even begin to cover it. We're talking wrath-of-god kind of hurt.

So maybe McDonald’s refused to let the naked man have coffee for his own protection. It was a safety issue.

McDonald’s was actually doing the naked man a favour by refusing to serve him. He should be thanking McDonald’s for saving him from himself - and the hot coffee.

Unless that was what the “laptop” case was for.

But then coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. You can't blame McDonald's for not wanting to get the naked man "stimulated".

Anyway, I can take a hint. I went to get my Steakhouse Burger at Burger King fully clothed.

My only complaint is that I didn’t know where to put the onion rings.

I wondered if Burger King would serve Sheikh Haikel if he showed up naked.

Suddenly, I lost my appetite.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 December 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fowl scent: For me, everyday is Smelly Monday

For you classic rock fans out there, name the band that recorded this song:
“Ooh, that smell! Can't you smell that smell? Ooh, that smell! The smell of death surrounds you.”
That was what many Singaporean were probably singing (if they were Lynyrd Skynyrd fans) recently on what I will forever remember as “Smelly Monday”, thanks to a particularly pointed New Paper headline.

On that day, the National Environment Agency (NEA) received more than 100 calls about a strange chemical smell.

And it wasn’t caused by the haze. The NEA doesn’t know what the smell was. I can’t tell you because I didn’t smell anything on Smelly Monday.

But then, as my wife has pointed out, I’m not good at detecting smells. This could be due to my body odour and flatulence problem. To me, everyday is Smelly Monday.

And when everyday is Smelly Monday, Smelly Monday is just Monday. Smelly is a given and redundant.

When I first met my wife, I was living in Jurong West. When she first came to my place, she asked, “What’s that smell?”

This was after we had been going out for a while, so I didn't think she was referring to my BO and gasworks.

I said, “What smell?”

She said, “Can’t you smell that smell?”

I said, “Lynyrd Skynyrd!”



I guess because I had been living in Jurong - an industrial area since before I was born - for a few years, I no longer noticed the thickness of the air caused by the factories.

“How can you people live like this?” asked the future mother of my children.

My wife had lived in the east of Singapore all her life. I have noticed that people from the “right” side of the island tend to be a bit uppity and look down on the rest of us non-easterners.

Then last week, The Straits Times revealed the source of the stench that so offended my uppity wife.

The newspaper reported:
“For some two decades, the smell of burnt cocoa has been pervasive in Boon Lay. Part of the smell comes from the Cadbury factory located about a kilometre away from the Boon Lay MRT station.”


That’s just one MRT station from my Jurong home, where my mother still lives. So I have another excuse not to visit her.

After marrying the uppity easterner, I moved to Choa Chu Kang, relieved that we have finally escaped the stink. Or so we thought.

According to the same Straits Times report,
“Choa Chu Kang residents do not have it any better: they have had to live with the smell of chicken dung coming from the poultry farms in Sungei Tengah”.
So basically, I have upgraded from the smell of burnt cocoa to the smell of chicken shit.

Sometimes not being able to smell stuff is not such a bad thing after all.

My wife isn't so uppity anymore. Nowadays, her relatives back east look down on her.

And when the fowl smell of chicken shit hits me, I just yell out, “Free bird!”



Then after checking that it’s not my own flatulence, maybe I’ll flick my Bic as if I were at a Southern rock concert. There’s an app for that.

Skynyrd forever!

- Published in The New Paper, 12 December 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Curfew? I want my kids OUT of the house during school holidays

I would like to ask you something if you are a parent of children between 10 and 15 years old – although judging by the kind of comments from readers I get on Facebook, I believe you’re more likely to be between 10 and 15 years old yourself.

Anyway, I’m a parent of an 11-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. The year-end school holidays have started.

It is the best of times because I no longer have to keep asking my kids to do their homework.

It is the worst of times because without the interruption of having to go to school, my kids now spend most of their waking hours in front of a screen of some kind.



It could be the TV, the computer, the PSP or their mobile phones – and sometimes, two of these at the same time.

My question is: Are other kids like this?

This can't be healthy.

And when I take the gadgets away from them, they turn into pumpkins. They have no other reason for being. They would lie down in bed and can't be motivated to do anything else except wait for the chance to return to their virtual worlds. Or fall asleep.



I try to get them interested in Universal Studios, Walking With Dinosaurs, Harry Potter's Hallows - deathly or otherwise - or the latest animated 3-D movie, but they won’t bite because all these things involve going out – and being separated from the home computer.



Hey, I'm grateful that their indifference to the outside world saves me a lot of money – but still.

When I do manage to get them out of the house, they would either be playing with their PSP and mobile phones or asking me when it's time to go home.

You know how the recent incidents of youth violence have prompted discussions about a curfew?

I wonder if a “reverse curfew” is a good idea.

A curfew requires young people to be home by a certain time. A “reverse curfew” would require young people to stay out of home until a certain time.

Yes, I’m that desperate to get my kids out of the house.

Once again, as my wife pointed out, it’s partly my fault. I, too, spend most of my waking hours in front of a screen of some kind. At work, it’s the computer monitor. At home, I’m doing exactly what the kids are doing.

When I chase them away from the home computer, it’s usually so that I can use it to bid for country music CDs on eBay. I’m a bad role model in more ways than one.



At least when school starts, I can tell them to do their homework so that I can have the computer to myself.

But then there’s this thing called e-Learning, which requires them to do their homework online.

How do I check the comments on my Facebook page then?

I just can't win - at least until I get another computer.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 December 2010

Friday, 3 December 2010

Putting semen in someone's drink is more than just 'mischief'

It has been described as possibly "the first case of its kind".

I shall now recap this widely reported court case - interjected with the appropriate exclamations of disbelief, amazement and snark.

Consider this my early Christmas present to you, dear reader:

On Wednesday, a man was jailed for spiking a female colleague’s drinking water with his semen.

Ewww! That’s disgusting!

The colleague drank the semen-fortified water.

Choke! Did he think his colleague was Zoe “I swallow” Tay? Gag! Vomit!



He had obtained the semen by masturbating to a photograph of his female colleague.

Is this supposed to be some sort of compliment?!

He recorded himself collecting the semen in a small bottle on video with his mobile phone.

Why?! So that he can relive the moment over and over again?!

Then he waited for his colleague to leave her desk and mixed his semen into her water bottle.

Wow! Did he have to shake the bottle really hard to get the semen mixed into the water?!

The water bottle was tinted red, so the colleague did not realise the water was no longer clear.

Oh! So he didn’t have to shake the bottle that hard!

He also recorded himself doing this.

This guy is an idiot!

He struck up a conversation with his victim when she returned to her desk and then he secretly recorded her drinking the inseminated water.

Didn’t she taste anything?! What lousy water was she drinking?!

He did this to two female colleagues.

Twice?! He got away with this twice?! Champion!

He was working at the Singapore Police Force at the time.

He was with the police?! That makes us feel so much safer! Talk about the thin blue line! Or maybe it's blue balls!



He was eventually caught when he tried to shoot an upskirt video of another female colleague by squatting near her with his phone.

Aiyah! Cheap trick!

She grabbed the phone from him and found the upskirt shots.

Why didn’t he just run away with the phone?! So dumb!

The police were informed. They raided the idiot’s home and found 155 illicit videos dating back to 2005 on his computer, including those of him creating the semen mocktails for his other two colleagues.

He had been a very naughty boy!

He created separate folders on his computer for each of his colleagues with sub-folders for each incident. He labelled each video file with the date taken and the victim’s name.

Wah, for a pervert and an idiot, he’s so organised!

He was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to eight counts of taking underskirt videos and two counts of mischief.

'Mischief'?!

Holding up two fingers behind your colleague’s head while she has her picture taken - that’s mischief.

Putting semen in her drink - that’s a whole other ball game!


I thank you for your time.

- Unpublished

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Overcharged: How can we trust bus companies now?



Last Monday, the Land Transport Authority revealed that bus commuters have been overcharged a total of $300,000 since the new distance-based fare system was implemented in July.

I pitied those poor public transport-dependent souls.

Out of curiosity, I went to www.publictransport.sg and typed in the number of the sole bus service plying my area just to see what would happen.

I got the message: “This bus service is affected. If you had travelled along the affected bus stops between 3 July and 25 November 2010, you may be affected by the distance discrepancies.”

Alamak! My kids take that bus to and from school practically every day (even during the school holidays because they have volleyball practice).

Out of the hundreds of bus services in Singapore, the service that my family rely on the most unfortunately has to be one of 27 SMRT bus services that have been erroneously syphoning a few extra cents from our ez-link cards with every trip.

It was like winning an “unlucky draw”, except instead of winning money, the prize is finding out that you’ve lost money.

Sure, commuters can get their refunds “at their convenience” at bus interchanges and MRT stations. But wouldn’t it be more convenient for commuters not to have to get refunds at all?

And money isn’t even the real issue here since each individual refund amounts to only a few dollars at most.

It’s the betrayal of public trust.

Remember all those complaints about the new fare system three months ago and how the powers that be reassured us it was an “equitable” system that saved us money?

Remember all those times over the years when the Public Transport Council kept insisting that the fare hikes were justified?

How are we to believe any of that now?

I’m not suggesting that they’re lying to us. I’m saying they can’t seem to get their numbers right.

Such incompetence has resulted only in financial loss, but what if the bus companies are just as inept in the maintenance of vehicles and training of drivers?

Am I naive to entrust the safety and lives of my children to them?

Speaking of financial loss, the bus companies are also foregoing the $100,000 they lost from undercharging on some services and won’t be reclaiming that money from commuters.

Are we supposed to say “thank you”? “Spank you” maybe.

All I know is that when I get the refunds, I’m going to check the amounts in my kids’ ez-link cards - and then check them again.

You know, just in case they deduct our money instead. “Erroneously”, of course.

- Published in The New Paper, 28 November 2010


Hi mr. Ong

great article that you wrote on tnp today.

Cheers
steven


Dear TNP,

Just wanted to draw your attention to the TNP article by SM Ong, “Overcharged" on 28 Nov.

While we understand that this is a light-hearted piece, we do not agree with Mr Ong on two points - betrayal of public trust and if distance fares is an equitable system.

In fact, the recent announcement on the bus stop distances refunds affirmed the intergritty of our system, rather than betrayal of trust as Mr Ong claimed.

He has chosen to ignore the fact that LTA/operators have been upfront and we came forward to correct these errors.

We also failed to understand how this episode would detract from the argument that Distance Fares is an equitable system, since the basis and rationale of the policy remains unchanged. More importantly, any errors is rectified quickly.

We are concerned with this as there is suggestion of betrayal of public trust in the article, when we have been forthright in correcting the errors.

We do take this seriously and we felt it is really not a fair comment to us.

Rdgs
Helen LIM (Ms)
Deputy Director, Media Relations, Corporate Communications
Land Transport Authority

Sunday, 21 November 2010

What's with all these cross-dressing comedians in Singapore?

I dressed like a girl and I liked it. I might not have looked as hot as Katy Perry, but I did it just to try it.



My excuse is that I was young, I was in college in the US and I was going to a Halloween party.

I wore lots of eye make-up, some blusher, my girlfriend’s lipstick, her hairband, her black top and her black Fido Dido leggings – plus my own army boots.

The look I was aiming for was scary goth chick, albeit a scarily big-boned, flat-chested goth chick in rather unscary Fido Dido leggings.

Thinking back now, I realised I might have looked like Marilyn Manson – except for those damn Fido Dido leggings which were just dorky.

At least it turned out better than the time I shaved my eyebrows. I mean I could simply change my clothes and wash off the make-up, but it took months for me to grow back those damn eyebrows.

As much as I enjoyed playing dress-up that one time, I’m not making a career comeback out of it. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jack Neo.



What does it say about Singaporeans that some of our most popular comedians are men in drag?

There’s Neo as Liang Po Po and Liang Ximei, Dennis Chew as Aunty Lucy, Kumar as Kumar and Gurmit Singh as Phua Chu Kang.

Wait a minute, you say, Phua Chu Kang isn’t drag. I say he’s wearing a wig, make-up and a costume, he might as well be drag.

When I was working at MediaCorp in the 90s, I was told that it was forbidden to have men dressed as women on local programmes – with the special exception of Neo.

For a while, Kumar was thought to be banned from TV after The Ra Ra Show until it was clarified that he just wasn’t allowed to appear as a cross-dresser. Unfortunately, Kumar out of drag is not as funny as Kumar in drag.



But things change. Today, Chew’s Aunty Lucy is carrying on from where Neo’s Liang Ximei left off.



Both Kumar and Gurmit have played women on Channel 5 in recent years. You would think that cross-dressing is a can’t-miss gag, but the PCK episode where Gurmit did it was among the lowest rated of the series.

So is it a good idea for Neo to play another female character for his next movie, Homecoming, eight years after he last played Liang Ximei on TV?

Comedically, it’s going backwards, but as a marketing ploy, it’s brilliant. The movie won’t be out until Chinese New Year and we’re already talking about it.

The easy joke is that instead of other women, the Cultural Medallion-winning film-maker, scandalised by an extra-marital affair eight months ago, can now have an affair with himself.

But will the new movie be a hit?

Of course, it will – it’s a Jack Neo movie.

But then I said the same thing about the PCK movie. And I thought Fido Dido leggings were a good idea.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Want to lose weight? Just hang out with me - if you're Singaporean

According to the latest National Health Survey, one out of every 10 Singaporeans is obese. According to my latest mandatory employment health screening results, I am overweight.

So if you don’t want to be overweight, just be one of the nine people standing next to me.

In the unlikely event that more than nine people are enjoying my company, don’t worry. With the influx of foreign talent in Singapore, chances are that not all of them are Singaporean, which means statistically, you could still not be obese.

All this is assuming, of course, that you are Singaporean.

If you’re not, you could be the guy who completed his full-time National Service and renounced his Japanese citizenship, but lost his Singapore citizenship because he failed to take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty before he turned 22.

Hey, at least he’s not overweight.

I have been fighting obesity for most of my adult life. Sometimes I win, other times I order pizza.

One early victory was due to a simple advice my wife gave me: During meal times, you don’t have to eat until you’re completely full.

This came as a revelation to me.

Before that, I thought I was supposed to keep eating until I was so stuffed that I had to loosen my pants and couldn’t walk anymore – at every meal.

So I stopped doing that (now it’s just every other meal) and lost a few kilograms. But I recently gained them back because I started having meals with other people regularly.

There are two sets of “other people”, one set consisting of my wife and two kids, and the other my colleagues.

The trouble with eating with other people is that other people tend not to finish their food.

This is problematic for me as I was raised by my parents to finish all my food because of the starving children in Africa.



So I can’t bear to see wasted food. So I’m compelled to finish food that other people can’t – even though my belt is already unbuckled and my legs can no longer support me. Hence, my latest medical results.

I was better off when I was single and a loner, but then I wouldn’t be able to experience the joy of fatherhood or have someone "chope" a table for me at the coffee shop.

By the way, that’s another way you could lose weight by hanging out with me – martyr that I am, I would eat your food for you.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 November 2010

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ignoring strange people doesn’t make them go away

Is there ever a need to swear?

Personally, I love to swear, but only with people I know. With strangers, I usually try to be more genteel - that is, until recently.



I was riding the MRT and reading a newspaper when a boy - maybe around eight years old - boarded the train, sat next to me and started tugging at my newspaper.

He asked me in Mandarin which day’s newspaper it was. He wanted me to give it to him.

I was taken aback. Who was this strange boy? Where were his parents?

I looked around, but the boy seemed to be by himself. I could sense that the other passenger also thought he was behaving oddly, but they avoided eye contact with me. No one wanted to get involved.

I ignored the boy, hoping he would go away. It didn’t work.

He kept holding on to a corner of my paper and insisted that I gave it to him.

Finally, I spoke to him, asking him in Mandarin where his mother was.

He couldn’t understand what I was saying and asked me what language I was speaking. So now the kid was making fun of my Mandarin.

I stopped talking. I was getting mad, but I didn’t want to show it. This had become a battle of wills, which I was losing. I should’ve just given him my paper at the start, but to cave now would be to admit defeat.

So I stubbornly read my paper to the very last page and then just let go.

The boy took my paper without a word of thanks and left his seat like he was looking for someone. Just then, the train stopped at a station and he got off. As far as I could tell, he was still alone.

What the hell just happened? I couldn’t believe I let this weird little boy get the better of me.



A few days later, I was looking for something to eat in the basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre when a large Caucasian woman approached me and said: “Konichiwa, can I ask you a question?”

Apparently, I looked Japanese. I could tell she was a promoter with one of those pushcarts selling I-don’t-know-what and I didn’t want to find out.

I ignored her, hoping she would go away. It didn’t work.

She kept following me and insisted that I answer her question. She said: “I’m just a simple Israeli girl who just wants to know where you’re from.”

For a second there, I thought she was going to quote Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.



Finally, I said, “I’m from here,” and she immediately went away.

Huh? That was it? How strange.



Later that same day, I was walking along Bras Brasah Road toward the Singapore Art Museum with a cup of iced Milo in my hand when another stranger approached me.

The man said, “I’m very thirsty. Can I have some of your drink?” and pointed to my cup.

This time, I didn’t ignore the stranger. I said, "Fuck you," and continued walking without looking back.

It worked. He never bothered me again.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 November 2010

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Forget Halloween - I wish you a happy new year

You know, I like to be ahead of my time because it makes me feel superior to other people.

That’s why I wear a T-shirt that says “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet”.



That’s why I was on Facebook long before anyone heard of the movie The Social Network.



That’s why almost 20 years ago, I raved about this little horror movie called Braindead long before its director, Peter Jackson, became famous for The Lord Of The Rings movies and unleashed onto the world the horror that is Orlando Bloom’s acting.



That’s why I get hungry before it’s time to eat. That’s why I don’t think premature ejaculation is all that bad. And that’s why I read monthly magazines as they too are ahead of their time. Do you know that you can actually buy the November issue of many magazines in October? It’s like time travelling!

Imagine if you can get tomorrow’s edition of The New Paper today. You’ll be rich from betting on the horse racing results. But then you would also have to race against time to save the woman who was hit by a car in an accident that is reported in tomorrow’s paper but hasn’t happened yet. Wait ... wasn’t that a TV show? Anyway, where was I? Oh yah, magazines.

So I was getting my future copy of Yachting World in Borders last week when I noticed the bookstore was selling Christmas stuff. Already?

Then I stepped out of Wheelock Place and I saw the Christmas decorations along Orchard Road. Already?



All of a sudden, I felt so behind the times. And here was I, still preparing for Halloween, which is today.

I’m planning to go as Jack Neo, by the way. My costume consists of a pair of spectacles and an obliviousness to my own moral hypocrisy.



But I have yet to decide on what to wear for Deepavali on Friday or figured out my outfit for Hari Raya Haji, which is less than two weeks after that. I couldn’t believe Orchard Road is three holidays ahead of me.

If I was still living in America, there would still be the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov 25. The Christmas shopping season starts the day after - on what has become known as Black Friday.

In Singapore, the Christmas shopping season can start whenever it wants as long as it’s after the Great Singapore Sale.

Which I think is great because if there’s one thing that this country sorely needs, it’s an excuse to go shopping.

But I’m not letting anyone – or anything – get the better of me, even if it’s a road that has to be raised over the next few months to reduce flooding.

So next week, I'm going to get a haircut, wear red, visit my relatives and demand they give my kids hongbao. Gong xi fa cai!

(The TV show was Early Edition.)

- Published in The New Paper, 31 October 2010


Sunday, 24 October 2010

A hazy shade of 1997: It’s not the end of the world

I had such big plans last week.

I was going to start training to become the first Singaporean to climb Mount Everest and not use it as a springboard for my motivational speaking career.

On Wednesday, to commemorate the special 20/10/2010 date, I was going to renew my wedding vows with my three wives at a lavish outdoor ceremony on top of Marina Bay Sands where Katy Perry recently held her poolside press conference.



And then I was going to change the name of my website to temasekreport.com, but because of the haze, I couldn’t see my computer monitor clearly and accidentally typed temasexreport.com by mistake.

The damn haze ruined everything.



My Everest training and the rooftop ceremony were both canceled, but curiously, the traffic to my website with the new miss-typed domain name has increased hundredfold.

Yes, the haze is bad, but it’s no 1997.

That was the year the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) hit the all-time high of 226 in Singapore.

That was the year tracking the PSI first became a national obsession.

That was the year we turned on the TV just to see the little PSI number in the corner of the screen rather than the wonderful local programmes like Three Rooms and Shiver. (I’m still quite proud of some of my work on Shiver, by the way.)

Before that, we cared more about psf (per square foot) than PSI.

Before that, we didn’t even know what PSI was – and it doesn’t stand for “pound per square inch”.

Before that, if you wore a mask while walking down the street, people would stare at you like you were crazy or preparing to rob a pawn shop (which I wasn't).

Now, after Sars and H1N1, people stare a little less. They just steal a glance and look away.

Now, we don’t have the 1997 financial crisis.

Now, the haze has become like an old acquaintance whom you wish would stop dropping by every year or so and stinking up the joint with his smoking.

Back in 1997, the haze was unlike anything we had seen before. Like the flooding of Orchard Road a few months ago, I took it to mean Armageddon was upon us. (The movie Armageddon actually came out in 1998.)



Although the world didn’t end back in 1997, with the record-breaking PSI, the financial crisis and the Spice Girls topping the charts, it might as well have.



Wait, could Justin Bieber be a sign of the apocalypse?

- Published in The New Paper, 24 October 2010



UPDATE: Solving the haze problem

Sunday, 17 October 2010

I’m sorry but I think slimmed-down Ris Low is kind of hot

Did you see the pictures of Ris Low in The New Paper on Wednesday?



Those legs! That hair! The peek-a-boo panties!

If the pictures were Bengs, they would have beaten me up for staring at them for so long and hard.

Having lost some weight, the former Miss Singapore World looks better and sexier than when she won the beauty pageant last year.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking:

“Eeeeeeeeeeee!”

This reaction could be due to a couple of reasons. One is the unfortunate image of a dirty old man like me leering at pictures of a young woman like Low.

The other reason is that saying anything positive about the convicted credit card fraudster is almost like a social taboo tantamount to clipping your toe nails on the MRT train while singing “Love your ride!”

Low has been a target of much mockery since she crashed into our collective consciousness with the infamous “leopard preenz” interview a year ago.



Now I think she’s kind of hot after her weight loss.



And what’s wrong with that? It’s not like I’m complimenting Hitler on his posture. Low didn’t exterminate millions of Jews – she just murdered the English language.

One colleague exclaimed that he wouldn’t sleep with her even if you paid him. I find that somewhat ingenuous, but I can see where he was coming from.

Take US TV reality stars Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian for example. Intellectually, I’m able to understand how they can be considered sexy even though I don’t find them particularly appealing myself – but if you paid me, hey, why not? I’ve done worse things for a buck and half a springroll.

Another colleague said that he was okay with Low as long as she didn’t speak. That’s perfectly understandable.

But that’s also my point. Don’t judge the cover by the book, which may be a slim volume containing made-up words like “boomz” and “shingz”.

Wow, I just managed to associate books with Ris Low. I should get a Cultural Medallion for that feat alone.



You see? I can still make fun of Low even though I think she’s hot. Admitting that she is physically attractive doesn’t mean you’re endorsing anything else about her.

Unless you happen to also own a “Boomz” T-shirt.

Eeeeeeeeeeee!

- Published in The New Paper, 17 October 2010



2013 UPDATE: Not so slim or hot anymore



Sunday, 10 October 2010

Even Loserpool fans are better off than a baseball fan in Singapore



For the past few days, I have been following every game in a major sporting event happening in another country and it doesn’t involve kicking a ball or disqualifying Singapore swimmers for tardiness.

I’m talking about the 2010 Major League Baseball post-season play-offs.

Yes, I’m a baseball fan.

No, wait, don’t run away. This is not one of those columns where the writer is a fan of some esoteric thing (like playing Cafe World on Facebook) and tries to convince everyone else how interesting it is when really, no one cares.



No, this column is about how lonely it is to be a fan of some esoteric thing (like American baseball) and not having anyone to talk to about it.

OK, now you can run away.

If you’re still here, let me clarify a couple of points. I know American baseball is not really an esoteric thing. The sport has millions of fans around the world, but in Singapore, it might as well be on Okto after 8pm.

I also know that if I really want to, I could probably find someone to talk to about baseball on the Internet, like the guy at www.singaporesoxfan.com (except that I’m a Minnesota Twins fan).

But it’s not the same.

How I envy football fans in Singapore ... I mean soccer fans ... I mean ... you know what I mean.

Even if you’re a fan of a faraway football team like Loserpool... I mean Liverpool, you can easily find someone to commiserate with when the Merseysiders are eventually relegated. I mean I can’t swing a corked bat without hitting a pitiable Reds fan in The New Paper newsroom.

But whose shoulder can I cry on when my beloved Twinkies are once again yanked from post-season competition by defending champions New York Yankees? No one cares.

Maybe I can go to The New Paper Sports Bar and cry in my drink, which has to be non-alcoholic because I’m a teetotaler. Perhaps a fruit mocktail.



And I’m somewhat comforted that Liverpool is being bought by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, long-time bitter rivals of the Yankees, the baseball equivalent of Manchester United.

You see? I’m able to appreciate the parallel because I’m a baseball fan. Like the Reds, the Red Sox had a disappointing year too - though not as sucky as Liverpool’s.

Worlds are colliding. Singapore Loserpool fans may want nothing to do with baseball, but it looks like baseball is going to have a lot to do with Loserpool.

And still a baseball fan in Singapore walks alone.

Oh, I also love country music.

- Published in The New Paper, 10 October 2010

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Like father, like daughter? Children's Day is so over

Because Friday was Children’s Day, I had intended this column to be about my belief that the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.



Then last weekend, my 11-year-old daughter called me an “asshole”.

Suddenly, I'm not so keen on Children’s Day any more.

What happened was that I was supposed to meet my two kids somewhere in Jurong Point. When I didn’t see them, I called my 13-year-old son’s handphone to find out where they were.

My son said they were on their way. I could hear my daughter snapping in the background, “We're almost there, asshole!”

Okay, I have several issues with this, the least of which is its accuracy.

I know many people who would agree with her assessment of my character, but even they would concede that a Primary 5 schoolgirl likening her parent to a body part is somewhat inappropriate.

But they would also argue that such inappropriate language coming from an offspring of mine is hardly surprising, if not expected - the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that.

In my defence, I had previously forbidden her to use such bad words, which admittedly, may be a little hypocritical in a “Do as I say, not say as I say” kind of way.

Yes, I may occasionally swear like a sailor, but I didn’t start until I joined the navy during my national service, which is as it should be.

When I was my daughter’s age, the worst thing I called anyone was “girlie”. Whereas according to my daughter, her classmates are already using Dick Lee’s name to insult each other.

I know it’s not Dick’s fault, but children seem to be losing their innocence earlier and earlier.

And this is without R21 movies showing in heartland cinemas.

I mean I didn’t realise Boy George was gay until I was in my 30s. I thought all that make-up was just a gimmick - you know, like the band Kiss.

Nowadays, my kids are already savvier about “alternative” lifestyles just by watching a single episode of the animated TV series Family Guy on Fox.

I still don’t understand how Brian the talking dog can have a human girlfriend on the show. Since when did bestiality become acceptable prime time cartoon fodder?



And even though my daughter and her friends don’t meet Facebook’s minimum age requirement of 13, they’re already on the social networking site sharing links to pages such as “Did i ask you? No. Then shut the fuck up” and “Ah Sorry Late Reply My Boner Knocked My Laptop Across The Room”.

And I let her. But calling her father any kind of hole is clearly crossing the line.

But the horses have already left the barn. Would punishing her merely be a “symbolic statement of community values”? If only there’s a filtering tool for real life, like for the Internet.

And if there is one, the first undesirable thing it will probably block is me.

By the way, learning to love yourself is not the greatest love of all. It’s better with someone else.

Happy Children’s Day.

- Published in The New Paper, 3 October 2010



Sunday, 26 September 2010

What graciousness? Want a seat on the MRT? Ask for it

There is a viral video featuring an over-excited woman on the MRT train that reminds me of something my mother told me.

But first, let me introduce my severely mentally handicapped younger sister. Seriously.

In her mid-30s and intellectually incapable of speech, she doesn’t even know how to brush her teeth and fights off anyone who tries to do it for her. Consequently, most of the teeth are rotting and her bad breath is effective within a 5m radius.

When she takes the MRT train with my elderly mother and gets tired from standing, my sister simply sits on the floor of the train, oblivious to the graciousness campaigns starring rapping sitcom characters and Dim Sum Dollies, and the embarrassment she’s causing my mum.





Someone may take a picture and send it to Stomp. So what does my mother do? She asks the nearest person with a seat to give it up for my sister.

If my mother is to be believed, the unfortunate stranger usually complies and my sister gets the seat.

When my mother first told me about this, I was taken aback by her forwardness. How could she just ask strangers to give up their seats? My mother said she didn’t care.

From experience, she knows that passively waiting for someone to voluntarily give up a seat on a crowded MRT train is like...well, waiting for the graciousness campaigns starring rapping sitcom characters and Dim Sum Dollies to work on non-mentally handicapped commuters.

I can imagine how that poor stranger must have felt.

There he was, nursing his migraine after being inflicted with the “Train is coming, training is coming” jingle day after day after day after day after day...

He really needed to sit down.



Suddenly, a strange old woman was in his face, demanding that he give up his seat for her weird-looking daughter sitting on the train floor. He wished he had a camera phone so that he could take a picture and send it to Stomp.

And what was that funky smell?

What was the guy to do?

Dazed from the migraine, the pushy old woman and the ungodly stink – where was it coming from? – he was too weak to resist and just did what he was told.

He got up and let my sister have the seat. He realised the smell was from her. The old woman said thanks.

Then, because my sister’s breath is so bad, the passenger sitting next to her would also flee and my mother would get a seat for herself as well. Two birds, one stone.

Forget graciousness campaigns. This is how the elderly and the handicapped can get seats on the train.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 September 2010

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