25 December 2011

Act blur, live longer?

Spotted at VivoCity on Christmas Eve.


My daughter and I at VivoCity helping to sell my wife's bags.


Merry Christmas!

23 December 2011

Orchard Road flood deja vu

Wendy's at Liat Towers flooded again today. Sorry, not "flooded". I mean ponding.


Wendy's at Liat Towers flooded in June 2010.


Did someone refuse Joanne Peh water again?

21 December 2011

Santa, U Are The One - Super Junior

Merry Christmas shopping and look out for my fat guy.

(As in the one in Super Junior, not the one in the red suit.)

He makes me happy.



LYRICS

[Kyuhyun] You come around to every child in the world
[Siwon] Always on time you’re never late, every year
[Ryeowook] How does it feel to work, everyone’s off, no one to help you
[Sungmin] How do you reach us all, it’s for sure, no one does it better

[Leeteuk] Christmas is finally here
It’s time to celebrate
[Eunhyuk] ‘cause you make a better world, year after year
[All] Soon you’ll be on your way
Spreading joy everywhere
There’s no one like you
[Sungmin] Santa, you are the one

[Donghae] You creep down the chimneys at night, that’s right
[Kyuhyun] And you always know who has been naughty or nice
[Henry] How does it feel to work, everyone’s off, no one to help you
[Yesung] How do you reach us all, it’s for sure, no one does it better

[Zhoumi] Christmas is finally here
It’s time to celebrate
[Shindong] ‘cause you make a better world, year after year
[All] Soon you’ll be on your way
Spreading joy everywhere
There’s no one like you
Santa, you are the one

[All] Thank you Santa, thank you ( [Donghae] you are the one)
Don’t go Santa, don’t go ( [Eunhyuk] you are the one)
Thank you Santa, thank you ( [Leeteuk] you are the one)
Don’t go Santa, don’t go

[Ryeowook] I hope you enjoy this song
[Yesung] It’s a gift from everyone
[Kyuhyun] Thank you for all that you have done

[Siwon] Christmas is finally here
It’s time to celebrate
[Yesung] ‘cause you make a better world, year after year
[All] Soon you’ll be on your way
Spreading joy everywhere
There’s no one like you
Santa, you are the one ([Leeteuk] Santa, you are the one~)

[All] Christmas is finally here
It’s time to celebrate
‘cause you make a better world, year after year ( [Kyuhyun] year after
year)
Soon you’ll be on your way ([Kyuhyun] on your way)
Spreading joy everywhere
There’s no one like you ( [Ryeowook] no one)
Santa, you are the one

[Ryeowook] You are the one
Santa, you are the one
[Yesung] You are the one
Santa, you are the one

[All] You are the one
I said, you are the one

18 December 2011

Do you hear what I hear? Is the MRT train falling apart?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take the MRT train from Yishun to Yew Tee.

As always, should you or any of your family be delayed or killed, SMRT will disavow any knowledge of your existence.

It may not sound like much of a mission - until the train you’re on seems like it’s about self-destruct in five seconds.

That was what happened on Thursday evening after I took my kids to see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol at GV Yishun.



While waiting for the train home on the crowded Yishun platform during the evening rush hour, I half-heard a pre-recorded announcement about a one-hour delay for trains headed for Jurong East due to a track fault.

I didn’t know whether to be impressed that there was a pre-recorded announcement or be dismayed that one-hour train delays occurred often enough that there was a pre-recorded announcement.

How could SMRT have another service disruption less than 48 hours after the Circle Line breakdown? Could the publicly-held train operator be so inept?

Just then, the train headed for Jurong East arrived, which confused me. I thought there was going to be a one-hour delay. Did I mishear the announcement?

I hesitated for a moment, but people were getting on the train as if nothing was wrong and so my two kids and I followed suit.

I mean, what was the worst that could happen?

Once on the train, I quickly checked my Twitter feed on my iPhone for news about a another possible MRT breakdown.

At the time, the closest thing I found was a tweet that said, “Just heard: all commuters chased out of #SMRT City Hall station. No alternative transport. No explanation.”

That sounded serious, but City Hall was about a dozen train stations away in the opposite direction, so I figured we were safe.



I relaxed a little. After the Woodlands station, the kids and I even found seats in the last car of the train and I was playing Angry Birds’ new Birdday Party levels on my iPhone when suddenly, there was a loud clanging.

Then it stopped. It sounded like the train had hit a piece of metal on the tracks.

The passengers looked at each other, silently asking, “What the hell was that?"

But the train was still speeding along unabated and so we thought (or hoped) it was nothing.

Just before reaching Yew Tee station, there was another clanging sound. This time, it was louder and lasted longer.

Now people were starting to panic. Were we all going to die?



As the train arrived at the station and slowed down to a stop, our train car rattled with an ungodly roar that sounded like it was about to fall apart.

When the train doors opened, most of the passengers (including me and the kids) rushed out as if our lives depended on it.

The few who remained behind looked confused as to why people were suddenly fleeing the train.

Maybe those few had their headphones on. Or maybe they were waiting for an official announcement to evacuate.

Fortunately, it was my stop anyway, but for many of the passengers who alighted from the same car as us, it wasn’t theirs. As I headed for the escalator, they were nervously waiting for the next train.

Curiously, only the last car, which we were in, was almost deserted as the train left the Yew Tee station. The rest of the train seemed unaffected.

When I reached home, I searched the Internet for news about an MRT train disintegrating on its way to Jurong East. What I found out instead was worse (or not as bad, depending on how you look at it).

That was, of course, the night of The Great MRT Breakdown of 2011.



Four trains north-bound had stalled between Braddell and City Hall stations after being damaged by a faulty power rail.

Now I wonder if the train that my kids and I were on was also damaged, which would explain the horrific noises.

Yesterday, the north-south line was disrupted again.

Not a good week for commuters.

It had started with a taxi fare hike despite taxi operators failing to meet service standards. Then came news of the SBS bus driver who got lost for two hours. Then came three epic MRT fails in four days.

Even the Prime Minister called for a public inquiry.

Looks like fixing our “world-class” public transport system is going to be a - yes, I’m saying it - mission: impossible.

Tom Cruise for Transport Minister!

- Published in The New Paper, 18 December 2011

11 December 2011

How taxis are turning us into zombies after midnight



A zombie apocalypse in Singapore? At least, that was how my wife described it.

It happened on the night of Nov 11 - yes, 11.11.11. Oooh, spooky.



It was past midnight (which technically made it Nov 12, but let’s not pick nits).

She had just left the Red Dot Design Museum (formerly the Traffic Police building) on Maxwell Road with my teenage son and was unsuccessfully looking for a taxi to take them home.

As she wrote in her blog:
“We walked further away from the museum...Then we came to a road where there were lots of taxis with the green light on. We were so happy and so were the groups of people with us.

“And the stupidest thing happened. NONE of the freaking taxis would stop.

“They just zoomed past us and after a while, I realised that the taxis were just going round and round, not picking up passengers. I could recognise some of the taxis."

Frustrated, she complained on her blog: “There ought to be a law against taxis not picking up passengers, Mr Transport Minister! Like caning or something.”

Her ordeal continued:
“So we walked once more. The streets were really deserted save for us, the walkers.

“It was like a scene from the TV show The Walking Dead. The taxis were the humans running away from us.”



How’s that for a twist? My wife and son were the zombies! Along with all the other people who couldn't get a taxi. (M Night Shyamalan must be so jealous.)

If only I could be there with a shotgun and put them out of their misery. Don’t worry, I know to aim for the head.



They would probably thank me for it. Anything is better than the existential frustration of yet another empty taxi going past you as if you weren’t even there despite your frantic waving.

Because of how late it was, my wife and son didn’t have the option of taking the bus or the MRT. She tried using her mobile phone to book a cab but couldn’t get through.

The prospect of spending the night sleeping in the streets like a homeless person loomed larger with each passing cab.

How did a supposedly First World country with a “world-class” public transport system come to this?

And now ComfortDelGro is raising its taxi fares?

It’s enough to turn you into Quan Yifeng.



Last month, the TV host pleaded guilty to “committing mischief” last year in a dispute with a taxi driver where she pulled out the taxi fare meter and spilled water on the receipt printer



Who knew she was pre-emptively acting out against the taxi fare hike for the rest of us?

Quan Yifeng, folk hero … or martyr?

The thing is, no matter how angry you get at the cabbies for not picking you up during the zombie apocalypse, when one finally does, you’re just so grateful to him for saving your life.

After an hour of wandering the streets like the undead, my wife and son eventually found a taxi to take them home because the driver was changing shift and heading in the direction that they wanted to go.

In the cab, the driver explained matter-of-factly to my wife that it’s almost impossible to flag down a taxi after midnight in the area because the cabbies are waiting for bookings.

That was when my wife bit a chunk out of his neck and turned the cabbie into The Driving Dead.

Nah, I’m kidding. My wife just protested feebly and the driver just shrugged.

“It’s like that one,” he said.

Where was Quan Yifeng when you needed her?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 December 2011


Dear Mr. Ong,

I read your article.

Sincerely I wish there is a printing error on what you wrote "Frustrated, she complained on her blog, 'There ought to be a law against taxis not picking up passengers, Mr Transport Minister! Like CANING or something.'"

To cane a taxi driver for not picking up passenger? If your wife's wish really come true, I wonder who dare to be a taxi driver.

By then, what complaint will your wife make again? Mr Transport Minister, make all male Singaporean to join Taxi companies after they complete their National Service?

Why can't she just use her handphone and on call for a taxi? It's just $2.50 or more (could be more), isn't this what we call we pay more for better service? [SM: Actually, I did mention in the article that my wife tried to call for a cab, but couldn't get through.]

It is not easy being a taxi driver now, high rental, expensive petrol, road traffic condition and the worst, facing our very educated and love complaints Singaporeans.

Not all taxi drivers are bad, just as not all Singaporean love complaints. I just wish we can really understand them more and knowing their difficulties in making a living.

Give them some breathing space, tell your wife I tell her this.

Sincerely,
eric


Hi,

I believe that Mrs Ong did not mean that seriously. However, she does bring up a valid point.

I will bet that a lot of us have experienced that taxi blissfully whisking by even though it is unoccupied despite every futile attempt to flag it down.

It is very frustrating and I sometimes think that the taxi driver did it on purpose.

I have sat in taxis that drops me off at a condo I live in where the taxi driver blatantly tells me he doesn't want to pick up any more passengers and promptly turns on his "on call" sign as he pulls up in front of the taxi queue to drop me off.

I can tell you that he had definitely had not responded to a call. And it was way after the usual taxi shift change time.

More stringent measures must be taken against such taxi drivers. Just suspend their taxi driver license for one week and if they continue to be recalcitrant - a 2-week suspension on the second occurrence. On a third occurrence - remove his license permanently.

Matthew

4 December 2011

Why Korean pop group Super Junior is bigger than the Beatles

So did you catch the Mnet Asian Music Awards (Mama) on Channel U last week? It was held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night.

I’m not a fan of Korean pop, but I think K-pop group Super Junior, who won the awards for Best Male Group, Album Of The Year and Singapore’s Choice, is the greatest boy band in the world ever.



Yes, even bigger than the Beatles.

I mean, literally.

The Beatles were only four people. Super Junior at one point had as many as 13 members, which mathematically made Super Junior more than three times bigger than the Fab Four.



Take that, John, Paul, Ringo and George! (Speaking of which, Take That is also bigger than the Beatles, but only when Robbie Williams is in the group.)

When I first saw a Super Junior video, I thought it was meant as a spoof of boy bands. I mean come on, why would a band need 13 members?

Who do Super Junior think they are? Earth, Wind And Fire? (If you were over 40, that reference would be hilarious.)



Thirteen is the number of people you need to form a football team with two reserve players.

Thirteen is the number of colleagues Glenn Ong will marry and divorce.

Thirteen is the number of people who will read this column.

But 13 people in Super Junior?

That’s not a boy band. That's someone taking the product development strategy of Gillette razors (the more blades the better), stretching it to the illogical extreme (why stop at mere five blades when you can have 13 in a razor?) and applying it to boy bands.

It’s as if South Korea is thumbing its nose at the West, saying: “You think you’re so cool with your Backstreet Boys and Westlife? Well, we have a boy band with 13 members! Top that, bi-atch!”

Disappointingly, only nine members of Super Junior performed at the Mama show on Tuesday.

At least, my favourite member was there. His name is Shindong, but I just call him “the fat guy”.



He's another reason Super Junior is superior to any boy band out there. What other boy band you know has a fat guy in it?

And he barely sings! He just mostly dances and raps.

He’s my favourite because all the other band members look the same to me. But I can always spot Shindong because, well, he’s the fat guy (although he’s not as fat as he used to be).

An inspiration to chubbies all over the world, he’s proof that you don’t have to be a skinny pretty boy (or sing) to be in a boy band (but only if that boy band can have as many as 13 members).

Apart from looking out for the fat guy in Super Junior, I had another more personal reason for tuning into the Mama show last week - my sister was on it.

Except you couldn’t actually see her. And you could also barely hear her. She was the tired-sounding woman off-camera providing the Mandarin translation for the Korean banter on the show.

I don’t blame her for sounding tired. The live telecast was six grueling hours long. To be honest, even I turned it off after watching my fat guy perform.



My mother was watching for my sister and I tried to get my mum to appreciate the awesomeness of the fat guy’s performance, but she kept asking where each performer and presenter was from. I said most of them were from Korea (well, except for Snoop Dogg, but I hope she figured that out).



Then how could they call it the Mnet “Asian” Music Awards, she complained, when the focus was on Koreans.

Yes, my mama had a point about Mama.

But then I’m used to things being called “Asian” even though their focus is clearly on only one country. We have Channel NewsAsia and AsiaOne. Apparently, Malaysia is “truly Asia”.



“Look at the fat guy, Ma. He’s dancing! How awesome is that?”

But it wasn’t Asian music, she insisted. It was just Korean.

Trust my mama to even ruin Mama for me.

To console myself, I’m going to look for Super Junior videos on YouTube.



Look at the fat guy. He’s dancing! How awesome is that? He makes me happy.

Bigger than the Beatles? I think he ate them.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 December 2011



27 November 2011

Will Thanksgiving (or Black Friday) be as big as Halloween in Singapore?

A month ago in this column, I suggested as a joke that since Singaporeans are already celebrating Halloween, we might as well celebrate other American holidays like Thanksgiving which was on Thursday.

At least, I thought I was joking (whether I’m actually funny is irrelevant).

It turned out I was prescient.

Because just over two weeks later, I saw in The Straits Times an ad by local supermarket chain FairPrice Finest with the headline: “Joyful feasting this Thanksgiving”.



Okay, a couple of things.

If I ask my wife for some “joyful feasting” tonight, she would probably say she has a headache.

Another thing is that I think this is the first time I’ve seen an Thanksgiving ad in Singapore.

Sure, it was only one ad and I assume it was just targeted at Americans living here, but this is how it starts. This must be how Halloween first gained a foothold on our formerly devil worship-free island years ago.

Before you know it, local netizens will be calling for the resignation of the CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore after she replaces Thanksgiving Turkey Day at Jurong Bird Park with some Deepavali event.



Maybe President Tony Tan Keng Yam will pardon a turkey at the Istana. Maybe Singaporeans will start watching American football.

Okay, now I’m just being ridiculous, I know.

I mean how can I expect Singaporeans to care about a sport played by teams in a country practically half way around the world from us?

(Oh, by the way, how’s Man U doing this season?)

But American football and presidential turkey pardons notwithstanding, I believe that Thanksgiving’s insidious takeover of Singapore is imminent and inescapable, thanks to our fixation with American entertainment and its accessibility through the Internet.

So to get ahead of the game, I decided to practise celebrating Thanksgiving this year by listing what I’m thankful for – and what I’m not thankful for.

For a start, I’m not thankful that Thanksgiving Day was also PSLE Resultsgiving Day.

But I’m thankful that my daughter’s results were good enough to get her into the Express stream.

I am not thankful that my 12-year-old daughter is now getting hooked the Twilight book series.

But I’m thankful that the latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1, is rated PG13, so that my daughter is too young to see it and be spared the vampire sex scene.



I’m also thankful that Sitex is back this weekend, so that I can get a good deal on a new hard drive to replace yet another hard drive that broke down which I bought at Comex earlier this year. Or was it at the IT Show? Maybe it was the PC Show...

But I’m not thankful Sitex is held at Singapore Expo, which is a long way from my home in Choa Chu Kang. Maybe I’ll shop for a new hard drive online.

Which brings me to what I’m thankful for most of all – Black Friday.



Not named after how some 12-year-olds and their parents felt the day after getting disappointing PSLE results, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when the Christmas shopping season kicks off in the US in earnest.

Ironically, even though Singaporeans don’t care much about Thanksgiving (yet), Black Friday is another matter, thanks to the Internet (again) and the universal appeal of getting something at a discount.

Last week, I saw ads by local companies such as vPost and comGateway promoting Black Friday deals. It’s like the US version of The Great Singapore Sale crammed into a single day with the convenience of online shopping for Singaporeans (thus avoiding getting pepper sprayed).

If you missed Black Friday, don’t worry. Just be thankful for Cyber Monday tomorrow.

So you’ll still have a chance to “feast” on more good deals. Just don’t tell the wife.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 November 2011

20 November 2011

Phew! The Great McDonald’s Curry Sauce Crisis of 2011 averted



So McDonald’s stops providing a condiment and the Internet gets into an uproar. Why does it feel like déjà vu all over again?

Let me take you back to 2008.

That was the year when Mas Selamat Kastari managed to disappear and be everywhere at the same time. I wanted to order a Mas Selamat hoodie at CafePress.com, but the shipping charges were just ridiculous.

That was the year when Singapore won its first Olympic medal since 1960 only to have the party ruined by she-who-must-not-be-named.

That was the year when the Grand Prix turned into grand comedy with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s hilarious pitstop at Singapore’s first Formula One night race. Loved that dangling hose!

That was the last year when no one heard of Lady Gaga. I miss not having heard of Lady Gaga.

And to the horror of many Singaporeans, that was also the year McDonald’s stopped providing its garlic chilli sauce, replacing it with a sweeter non-garlic chilli sauce.

Oh my gosh, the outcry! The indignation! The cyberstorm in a teacup!

It was as if Wildlife Reserves Singapore had cancelled the Halloween Horrors event.

Or someone had turned Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance into the NDP Fun Pack Song.

Or a radio show caller had told heartlanders to stay out of Holland Village.

Or a soldier was photographed with his maid carrying his backpack.

Let it not be said that Singaporeans are apathetic.

At one point during The Great McDonald’s Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008, I counted as many as 14 Facebook groups (the largest had more than 2,500 members) demanding that McDonald's bring back the sauce. An online petition garnered as many as, uh... 20 signatures.

McDonald's response at the time? “Thank you for your feedback... We have a wide range of sauces to complement our menu items and the current chilli sauce provided is in response to meeting our customers' changing tastes.”

I for one was glad the fast food chain finally got rid of its halitosis-causing garlic chilli sauce. At last, I thought, McDonald's was responding to meet my taste.

Unfortunately, the more typical sentiment online was closer to this posting in a forum: “Get a group of friends to wear the same T-shirt that says, ‘Bring back old garlic chili!’ and sit at Mac.

“Once a few people take notice, the whole chain automatically begins. People start to take photos ‘secretly’, upload to Stomp.

"Soon media gets word, people start to voice their views openly, leading to increased awareness and voila! Mac might just bow to public pressure on this.”

Wow, this must be how the whole Occupy Wall Street thing started.



Although I don't recall any media coverage of The Great McDonald's Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008, the company apparently must have bowed to pressure of some sort because by the middle of 2009, the garlic chilli sauce was back.

Singapore rejoiced. Now that the crisis was resolved, we could get on with our lives and focus on watching Lady Gaga videos.



It seemed everybody was happy - except me. So I wrote to McDonald's for an explanation.

This was the company's reply: “We recently re-introduced garlic chilli sauce at all our restaurants in response to strong customer preference, and have since received extremely favourable feedback.”

Oh well, I guessed I could live with the garlic chilli sauce - as long as I had the option of getting the curry sauce for my fries (although officially, the curry sauce is meant for the McNuggets).

But even that threatened to change when McDonald's ran out of the curry sauce last weekend. Netizens were outraged. It was like The Great Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008 redux.

But last week, McDonald’s moved quickly to avert The Great Curry Sauce Crisis of 2011 by apologising and reassuring Singaporeans that the shortage was only temporary.

This time, it even got some media coverage. And no one had to wear any “Bring back curry sauce” T-shirts.

Meanwhile, I guess the barbecue and the sweet and sour sauces are okay too. And there’s always ketchup.

Just keep the garlic chilli sauce away from me!

You know what? To console myself, I think I'll get the Mas Selamat hoodie after all.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 November 2011

UPDATE: Know your Great McDonald’s Curry Sauce Saga: a trilogy

13 November 2011

Will you marry me? (And stay married for more than 72 days?)



When I heard about the guy who proposed to his girlfriend at The New Paper Big Walk last week in front of thousands of other Big Walkers at Resorts World Sentosa, my first thought was: “Spoil market!”

There was also this Malaysian guy who proposed to his girlfriend with a fake Groupon ad online.

And then there was this other guy in Thailand who trained his elephant to write “Will you marry me?” in the sand with its trunk, but the careless quadruped misspelled “marry” as “carry”, causing much hilarity among the girlfriend, zoo visitors and more literate animals.



Okay, I made the last one up, but what’s with these guys making a big production out of popping the big question?

They’re just making it more difficult for the rest of us. Now our girlfriends will have more reasons not to be satisfied with a simple “Let’s a book a flat together” over a greasy plate of char kway teow.

Haven’t we spoiled these women enough? Before you know it, they want extra lup cheong with the char kway teow. Give ’em 2.54cm and they’ll take 1.6km.

The thing is, although we seem to read a lot about these creative marriage proposals, newspapers don’t usually keep track of what happens to the couple afterwards.

Usually (but not always), the woman says yes to avoid embarrassing the guy because of the public nature of such proposals.

It's hard enough to reject someone - or be rejected - without it becoming a YouTube sensation.



Let’s say the woman says yes and goes through with the nuptials, we don’t know how long the marriage actually lasts.

But I suspect a creative marriage proposal - along with a big expensive wedding or an "auspicious" wedding date like 11.11.11 - does not guarantee or even improve the chances for a lasting happy marriage.

Take Kim Kardashian for instance. Her marriage to basketball player Kris Humphries lasted all of 72 days. I have eaten leftovers that lasted longer than that.

How did Humphries propose? He spelled out the words “Will you marry me?” with rose petals. That was pretty creative and romantic.



I repeat, 72 days. If only he had the elephant.

And the wedding reportedly cost US$10 million (S$13 million). I would’ve hated to have to give a hongbao for that wedding dinner.

And now that the celebrity couple have divorced, I don’t think I would’ve gotten my hongbao refunded.

Fortunately, I didn’t give any hongbao for the two local celebrity wedding dinners I attended. (Let’s say I forgot.)

The first was that of Gurmit Singh, who is still married to Melissa. So no refund would’ve been necessary.

The second was that of Mark Richmond and Vernetta Lopez, both of whom have since divorced and married other people. I doubt any of the original wedding guests got their hongbao refunded.

But at least their marriages lasted more than 72 days.

So has mine - and let me tell you, my marriage proposal didn’t involve rose petals, Groupon or Big Walk. But it did involve a big commute.

Before we were married, my wife lived near Katong and I lived on the other side of Singapore in Jurong.

After about a year of dating, she got tired of transversing the island almost on a daily basis and suggested we should get married just to cut the travelling time.

So it wasn’t so much a marriage proposal, but a suggested solution to a logistics problem. I took her suggestion under advisement and eventually agreed to its implementation. Viral videos are not made of this.

But despite the less than reality TV-worthy beginnings, my marriage still outlasted Mark Richmond and Vernetta Lopez’s - and two of Glenn Ong’s. (Touch wood.) I’m now gunning for three Glenn Ong marriages.



So guys, don’t be deterred by all those market spoilers.

Just be reassured that Singapore law requires you to be married for way longer than 72 days before you can file for divorce.

Skip the elephant.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 November 2011

EARLIER: Will Glenn Ong run out of colleagues to marry?

6 November 2011

Why I ain’t afraid of no ghost on Pulau Tekong



I know Halloween is over, but let’s talk about ghosts.

Sorry, not ghosts – since there’s no such thing as ghosts – but ghost stories. There are plenty of those. Specifically, army ghost stories.

Now showing in theatres is 23:59, a new local horror movie starring Mark Lee set in Pulau Tekong army camp.



I haven’t watched it, but I bet that at some point in the movie, soldiers see ghosts in the woods.

Why does that sound so familiar?



Perhaps it’s because one of the two stories in The Ghosts Must be Crazy released in January this year was also about soldiers seeing ghosts in the woods.

Ditto one of three stories in Where Got Ghosts? in 2009.





Ditto the 2008 made-for-TV Pulau Hantu, which MediaCorp aired again on Okto only a few months ago.



It’s like a mini movie subgenre unique to Singapore, films about soldiers seeing ghosts in the woods.

I’m old enough to remember one of Channel 8’s earliest dramas, Army Series, which included a memorable episode about, yes, soldiers seeing ghosts in the woods. This was back in the early 80s.



So for almost 30 years now, Singapore soldiers have been seeing ghosts in the woods – at least in TV shows and movies.

But how often does it actually happen in real life?

I doubt that Mindef keeps track of such figures, but I do recall when I was a recruit on Pulau Tekong, I got lost in the woods quite a number of times and during all those times – even the times at night (hated that) – I never saw any ghosts.

What’s more, I was in the notorious Charlie Company of the three-door bunk fame, which I wrote about in a column two years ago.



So instead of me repeating my version of the three-door bunk story, here’s what a reader wrote in response to that column: “My uncle also told me the story, but his version was a bit different.

“He said that the bunk had three doors initially and when the recruit died (they found him with his stomach slit opened and organs arranged out nicely), they needed a place for his corpse.

“So they put his body back onto the bed where he used to sleep, which was the bunk with three doors.

“Because spirits only know of two doors... his spirit was stuck in the bunk. After the sightings and haunting, someone invited a Taoist master and he suggested locking the third door so that the spirit could leave.

“My cousin said that the padlock is still there and very rusty.”

I can testify under oath that I have seen the three-door bunk and rusty padlock, but I can’t vouch for the rest of the story.

So how did I manage not to see any ghosts during my three months in Charlie Company on Tekong despite getting lost in the woods as often as I did?

I credit my mother.

Just before I went into the army, she gave me some unexpected advice. Actually, it was more like a specific instruction, which she made me promise to follow.

She told me that before peeing in the woods, I must always first apologise to the person who might be buried at the spot where I’m peeing.



Okay, a couple of things.

First, I found it awkward to be discussing urination with my mother. Yes, I know she used to change my diapers, but I was much, much, much shorter then.

Second, why did she assume that I would be peeing in the woods? Being extremely shy, I would be more likely hold it until I return to civilisation.

I would’ve felt more reassured if her advice was “If you ever feel the need to pee in the woods, don’t. People may see you.”

Also, since the woods is vast enough for me to get lost in, what are the chances of me peeing at the exact spot where someone is buried?

Why would people be buried in the woods anyway? I believe we have cemeteries for that.

And since people buried in the woods are probably dead, I didn’t think they would notice being urinated on or hear my apology.

But a promise is a promise.

I did as my mother instructed and thus avoided pissing off any spirits (so to speak).

Instead, I’m haunted by too many local movies about soldiers seeing ghosts in the woods.

How about a horror movie about Bedok Reservoir?

Oooooh...spooky...

I want my mummy.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 November 2011

31 October 2011

A Halloween treat for Phua Chu Kang fans

An episode written by me where Rosie thinks Margaret is turning into a vampire. It climaxes with the funniest scene I've ever written involving Unchained Melody.

Phua Chu Kang Season 2 Episode 19 from gurmitsinghfan on Vimeo.


The Ally McBeal reference in the first scene dates it terribly. By the way, it was the highest rated PCK episode ever.

30 October 2011

Why Deepavali is better than Halloween (but not Independence Day)



Deepavali versus Halloween?

How did we come to this?

I remember a time when Halloween was like Thanksgiving and Independence Day – US holidays familiar to Singaporeans mostly as plot devices in Hollywood movies and TV shows.

But in recent weeks, some grumbled about seeing more decorations in Singapore for Halloween (which is tomorrow) than Deepavali (which was on Wednesday).

Halloween detractors regard the foreign holiday as an interloper, encroaching on the celebrations of a long-standing local holiday.

Halloween-themed events are being held around Singapore with at least two on Sentosa alone – Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and the Sentosa Leisure Group’s Sentosa Spooktacular.

Why the sudden fervor for all things mock scary?

I blame Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

By abruptly deciding to replace the popular Halloween Horrors event at Night Safari with a Deepavali-themed line-up, WRS unwittingly turned Halloween into the wronged underdog and Deepavali the unwelcomed interloper.

The irony is that in its clumsy rush to promote Deepavali, I fear WRS might have inadvertently diminished the holiday instead.

This is why I now feel the need to remind people why Deepavali is better than Halloween:

1.
Deepavali is an actual public holiday – as in you get a day off from work or school. Halloween is not, even in the US.

2. Deepavali is the festival of lights. Halloween is the festival of black and orange.

3. I don’t like pumpkin.

4. Three words: no devil worshipping.



5. For Halloween, we get horror movie sequels like Paranormal Activity 3. For Deepavali, we get Ra One, reportedly India's most expensive blockbuster ever, starring Shah Rukh Khan as a Bollywood superhero.



I repeat, a Bollywood superhero. To quote Stan Lee, ’nuff said.

Unfortunately, despite the misgivings, I expect Halloween to get even more popular in Singapore in coming years.

Fortunately, Deepavali will be on Nov 13 next year, so no more Deepavali versus Halloween.

Unfortunately, in place of Deepavali, Hari Raya Haji takes over the Oct 26 date next year, so it will be Raya versus Halloween instead.

So a year from now, will my column be about how Hari Raya Haji is better than Halloween?

Aiyah, you know what I’m thinking? Why stop at just Halloween?

Since Singaporeans are already celebrating one US holiday, we might as well celebrate them all.

Here are a few to start:

Thanksgiving

This is probably the most important holiday for Americans apart from Christmas. But I don't think it will catch on with Singaporeans because it involves a lot of travelling, eating turkey and watching American football. (Go, Packers!)

Groundhog Day

This is the day when you wake up and it's the same day as yesterday.



Independence Day

Also known as the Fourth of July, this is no longer just an American holiday, thanks to Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and US President Bill Pullman.

This was the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

And then we beat the aliens.



I’m sorry, but even Deepavali – or Shah Rukh Khan – can’t top that.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 October 2011

Very funny and enjoyable article. Really made my day. I was at Clarke Quay last night and somehow Halloween has become a costume party. With superman, princesses and prince charmings, playboy bunnies sexy busty policewomen, topless cowboys and clowns. Heehee.

Janice

23 October 2011

Hair-raising mole mail just in time for Halloween

I’ve got mail!

And not the usual “You’re so sexy and talented” fan mail. These e-mails are only slightly less disturbing. Just in time for Halloween too.

I received them after last week’s column about how I ended up removing one of the three moles on the face - the Ber-mole-da Triangle - because of something a fengshui expert said.

The mole that I amputated was on my lower left cheek and had two strands of hair growing out of it.



I still have that mole in a plastic container in my refrigerator so that I can pay my respects every time I open the fridge door to get my Marigold Peel Fresh Mangosteen Mixed Fruit Juice with no sugar added.

(You too can get your product placement here. Just write to smong@ymail.com to get rates.)

I mentioned in the column that the hairs on the mole are still intact.

A reader wrote: “Try keeping the amputated mole for a few months and see if the hair continues to grow. Wouldn't that be insanely creepy?”

Thank you for the suggestion.

In fact, I plan to keep the mole for not just a few months, but for many years so that I can show it to my grandchildren and give them nightmares to remember me by after I’m dead and cremated, possibly with the amputated mole.

“Remember when crazy Ah Kong showed us that fossilised mole he kept in his fridge? Eeeeee! I couldn’t sleep for weeks after that. I could still see the hair!”

And yes, it would be insanely creepy if the hair continues to grow.

Now there’s an idea for a Halloween costume - a human-size amputated mole with still-growing hair.

Don’t worry. You won’t hurt my feelings if you’re still going as Lady Gaga.

But you know what would be creepier than if the hair continues to grow? If a whole other me grew out of that amputated mole.

We would probably end up fighting over the mangosteen juice. I don’t like to share.

Though it would be nice to have someone else take the kids to tuition.

Actually, my bigger concern is that hair would continue to grow from the spot on my face where the mole used to be. I have enough stray hairs growing from unexpected parts of my anatomy to trim. I’m looking at you, nipple fur.

As it turned out, I might have been a little too hasty to excise my mole because of something a fengshui expert said, according to another reader.

The reader wrote: “Actually, your life path is all in your date of birth. Not about looking at the number of moles you have.”

Oh, now he tells me.

The reader continued: “If you do not mind giving me your date of birth, I can tell who you are and what will become of you. It is free of charge just for you only.

“I set up my company PON Consultant Pte Ltd doing consulting on Life Destiny. If you are keen, please provide me with your date of birth and I will provide you with a 20-page report of who you actually are and what will become of you in the future.”

Flattered as I am that someone is offering something free “just” for me, I find this e-mail disturbing on several existential levels.

First is the idea that everyone’s future is pre-determined on the day he or she is born.

Second is the idea that my life can be summed up in 20 pages. I’m not sure whether it’s too many pages or too few. I don’t know what font size he’s using.

Third is the idea that this stranger, whom I’ve never met and know next to nothing about, expects me to give him my birthdate so that he can unlock everything about me. And you thought Facebook had privacy issues.

And last but not least, the idea of knowing my future is scarier to me than mutant mole hair or any Lady Gaga costume.



I can barely deal with knowing the present.

Have a creepy Halloween and keep the fan mail coming.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 October 2011

UPDATE: I had the "teardrop" mole removed on 15 Nov and it's also in my fridge now.

16 October 2011

(Remove) The mole, the merrier?



Talk about losing face.

Last month, without my knowledge, a reporter colleague showed a photo of me to a fengshui expert to read my fortune based on my face and birthdate for an article in The New Paper on Sunday.

Among other things, Mr Fengshui said that I was “childlike”, “too candid” and that I should take up yoga to be more relaxed.

You know what would make me more relaxed? If people would stop showing my photo to creepy fengshui experts without my knowledge!

Oh, am I being too candid?

Anyway, the fengshui guy also said: “A narrow nose indicates that making big bucks does not come easily and he may spend more than he earns.”

He was right about that – I have not been making big bucks, easily or otherwise.

Naturally, my first thought was that I should get a nose job. The problem is that Mr Fengshui said I have a narrow nose, so to change it would mean I need to make my nose wider?

I’m sorry, but I think my nose is fat enough as it is.

So my dilemma was this: Stay poor with my narrow nose or get a fatter nose and make big bucks easily?

But the dilemma sort of resolved itself because since I don’t make big bucks, I don’t think I can afford a nose job that would’ve allowed me to make the big bucks. Which would’ve allowed to me to get a nose job.

I believe this is what is known as the poverty cycle.



The fengshui guy also said that because of the mole below my left eye, I should “pay attention” to my small intestines and my heart .

I can take care of my heart by watching my diet and exercising, but I have no idea how to look after my small intestines.

This leaves me no choice but to remove my mole.

My wife was okay with it, but I felt I also needed to get permission from my mother because, well, my body belonged to her too, if you know what mean.

She said she was all for it as she never liked that mole anyway because it resembled a teardrop below my eye.

So I made an appointment to see a doctor at the National Skin Centre.

I told the doctor I wanted to remove all three moles on the left side of my face: the “teardrop”, the one on my temple and the Phua Chu Kang mole on my lower cheek with two strands of hair growing out of it, which I had to keep trimming.

Those three moles form what I call the Ber-mole-da Triangle.

But the doctor said I should remove just one mole first and see how it goes.

I said I was hoping I could pay for two mole removals and get the third one free. She said no.

Okay then, which mole should I remove first?

She recommended the Phua Chu Kang mole because it was the smallest. She didn’t say anything about the two strands of hair and didn’t seem to care about the fengshui guy or my small intestines or my mother.

The doctor also warned that I would be exchanging a mole for a scar on my face. I told her just to make sure the scar was at a sexy angle (whatever that means).

And so on Tuesday, I went under the knife for the first time in my life.

I think it counts as cosmetic surgery. I feel so Hollywood. Maybe I’ll get implants next – I mean for my cheeks. Or perhaps even a nose job?

To remove that one mole cost me about $300. So the rest of the Ber-mole-da Triangle would cost me another $600. That’s a lot of money. I’m not sure I want to go through with it now.

Hmmm... what would Phua Chu Kang do?

By the way, I’m keeping my amputated Phua Chu Kang mole in a plastic container in the fridge so that I can visit it every day.

The hairs are still intact.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 October 2011



Dear Mr. Ong,

Actually your life path is all in your date of birth. Not about looking at the number of moles you have.

If you do not mind giving me your date of birth, I can tell who you are and what will become of you. It is FOC just for you only.

I set up my company PON Consultant Pte Ltd doing consulting on Life Destiny. If you are keen please provide me with your date of birth I will provide you with a 20 page report of who you actually are and what will become of you in the future. This discovery is truly amazing and awesome. Its all true statistics and research over more than 10 years.

You can actually go to my website at www.ponconsultant.com to have a look.

Best regards
Raymond Suen
CEO/Consultant
PON Consultant Pte Ltd


UPDATE: My response to the e-mails and comments.

UPDATE UPDATE: I had the "teardrop" mole removed on 15 Nov and it's also in my fridge now.

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