Monday, 29 April 2013

I have a big head (but you know that already)



I went to see Iron Man 3 in 3D last week at West Mall in Bukit Batok. (The cineplex there used to belong to Eng Wah but was recently bought over by Cathay.)



When I collected the tickets, I was told I had to buy 3D glasses at $2 a pair. It used to be the movie theatre would just lend us a pair that we returned after the movie.



The new reusable $2 glasses come in a nice pouch with a cleaning cloth inside, which is thoughtful.

The problem is the glasses are TOO SMALL FOR MY HEAD. They come in only one size and let me tell you, one size does not fit all.

Previously, the old 3D glasses the theatres used to loan us were so big that you could comfortably wear them over your regular glasses.

At Iron Man 3, my wife struggled to fit the new 3D glass over her own glasses. Fortunately, I wore my contacts, but I still felt my head being squeezed by the 3D glasses.

And because the frame of the new 3D glasses is not as wide as the frame of the old ones, the viewing experience is less immersive.

But then I guess that's what you get for two bucks.

After the movie, I found out there were special Iron Man-themed 3D glasses that cost $10.90 each. They look bigger than the $2 glasses, but the $10.90 ones weren't offered to me at the theatre.



Still, the movie was a blast, easily the most entertaining Iron Man movie of the three and better than the KFC Zinger Double Down Max.

By the way, the bad guys in Iron Man 3 are from an organisation called AIM, which was surprising pbecause I didn't know the movie was set in Singapore.



Also, am I the only one to feel a little stupid to be among the few people to sit through the lengthy credits after the movie ends just to see the post-credits scene which is so much shorter than the credits I just sat through?

But it was worth it.

UPDATE: Two weeks later, I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness in Imax 3D at JCube (Shaw Cinemas) and got the big 3D glasses again. Much better. Of course, I had to return them after the movie.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Street cred = Eating spaghetti with a spoon in jail?

What is street cred?

I don’t know how to describe it. All I know is Justin Bieber doesn’t have it.

And based on what happened to local cartoonist Leslie Chew last week, it seems one way to get street cred is to get arrested.



After he was arrested and released on bail, "Chew and his work have automatically gained far more street cred than they would have otherwise", according to one online commentator.

Hey, I want to get me some of that delicious street cred too.

How can I get arrested?

I know! I can spray-paint the words "My grandfather war memorial" on the Cenotaph.

No, wait. I just realised I don't know what a Cenotaph is.

I know! I can bite the arm of a football player from the opposing team during a match for no good reason.

No, wait. That would just get me a 10-match ban.



I know! I can get into a fight and get thrown in jail for a night.

No, wait. I already did that in 1992 when I was living in the US.

Does that earn me any street cred?

I don’t recall much about that night, but I later wrote a review of the food for the special restaurant and bar issue of my college newspaper.

The article was called "Jail grub not bad but service lacking".

I managed to dig out the old newspaper and here is a reproduction of that article from 21 years ago:

You’ve heard the jokes. You know the routine.

Everyone ritually makes fun of cafeteria, airline, hospital and army food.

I’ve sampled them all, including prison food recently, and frankly, they aren’t as terrible as they’re often made out to be.

Granted, the Dane County Jail, located on the top two floors of the City-County Building in downtown Madison, can hardly be considered a prison. But it's about as close as I ever want to get. For now, anyway.



I’ve also learnt that, like the food, local law enforcement officers aren't as bad as their reputation may sometimes suggest.

But then I was arrested only for disorderly conduct that Sunday night and was extremely cooperative, almost to the point of ingratiating. (I had to practically beg them to cuff me. They wouldn’t.)

I was treated with the same professional politeness I get from restaurant hostesses (which may or may not be saying much).

Service in the jail, however, was almost non-existent. Promptness left much to be desired.

After an early pre-sunrise breakfast - that was a little too prompt - of a piece of toast, a pat of butter, Rice Krispies, coffee and lots of milk (in Wisconsin?), my fellow inmates and I were soon impatient for our next meal, hungry for sustenance and something to alleviate the boredom of incarceration.

Like most good restaurants, beverages were served before the main entree. Unlike most good restaurants, the beverages were served way, way, way before the main entree, like maybe half an hour.

It could’ve been longer. Who knows? They took away our watches.

Anyway, more milk!

When the food finally arrived - brought in by other more permanent guests of the county wearing cool white T-shirts with "DCJ" stenciled on the back - it was served hot (but not too hot) on round compartmentalised metal trays and passed through a convenient slot among the beige iron bars.

On that Monday, lunch was spaghetti in tomato sauce mixed with what we were told was ground turkey meat, accompanied with boiled broccoli and diced pineapple, probably from a can.



Although some of my new cell pals found the combination unappealing, I thought it was both creative and nutritious.

On the minus side, the broccoli was slightly overcooked and the pasta resembled the instant noodles I usually get from the supermarket at 19 cents a packet. I could hardly taste the turkey, which might have been a blessing.

On the plus side, the portions were generous and the spaghetti sauce brimmed with hearty tomato chunks. Overall, the meal was filling as well as tasty.

But all the inmates, including myself, had one common complaint. Spaghetti is a dish that is awkward enough to eat when armed with a whole arsenal of utensils. All we were given was a small plastic teaspoon.

Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.

Fortunately, the noodles were flaccid enough to be cut into small, more manageable pieces and then scooped with the spoon.



After the meal, it took a long time for the empties to be cleared away, making an otherwise neat jail cell look rather cluttered. If forced to rate the jail’s ambiance, I’d give it a fair.

When I was released from Dane County Jail a couple of hours later on a signature bond, I was kinda disappointed I didn’t get a T-shirt, but was grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the hospitality of the county.

In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, I returned to the Dane County Jail less than a week later, this time for alleged violation of a restraining order.

And who says there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch today?


- Published in The New Paper, 28 April 2013 and The Daily Cardinal, 14 October 1992

Sunday, 21 April 2013

How 'Max' is the new KFC Zinger Double Down Max?



Okay, you just produced the biggest superhero movie in the world ever. Only Avatar and Titanic earned more money than The Avengers.

So how do you follow up?

Well, you carefully and methodically rebuild.

First, you release Iron Man 3 (opening in Singapore on Thursday). Then Thor: The Dark World will be released later this year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out next year.

All this will culminate in the second Avengers movie to be released two years from now.



Okay, you just released the Zinger Double Down in Singapore last year to coincide with the first Avengers movie, calling the sandwich “the mightiest burger ever assembled”.

So how do you follow up?

Well, you add a hash brown and the word “Max” and voila! You have the KFC Zinger Double Down Max. Earth is saved once again.



Clearly, creating a sequel to a superburger is a little less complex than creating a sequel to a superhero ensemble movie.

Still, it must have been a challenge for KFC to produce a worthy successor to last year's Double Down.

In the first place, KFC painted itself into a copywriting corner with the tagline: “The mightiest burger ever assembled”.

Now you can’t say: “You know how we called last year’s burger the mightiest burger ever assembled? Well, this year’s burger is actually mightier than that.”

If you do that, then no one will believe any advertising copy ever again.

I, for one, truly believed the original Zinger Double Down was the mightiest burger ever assembled. Yes, even mightier than Burger King’s four-beef-patty Quad Stacker of 2008.

This year’s Double Down tagline is the more modest and somewhat less mighty “The hero-sized burger for hero-sized appetites”.

Detractors may argue that the bunless burger is less a hero and more a villain to your digestive system.

In the second place, last year, KFC had the biggest superhero movie in the world ever to piggyback its promotion on. This year, KFC has Iron Man 3.



Sure, I like Iron Man as much as the next superhero movie geek, but ultimately, Iron Man is just one Avenger.

Last year, I collected all four KFC Avengers toys: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk.

This year, there’s not even a KFC Iron Man toy. What is the world coming to?

As if to compensate, KFC couldn’t just re-launch the Zinger Double Down as it was. The company had to add a hash brown and call it Zinger Double Down Max.

This is practically heresy to a Double Down purist like me, but hey, I’m willing to go along to get along.

But since KFC has already introduced “foreign talent” (I’m looking at you, hash brown) into the burger, why not go all the way?

I mean, assuming that Max is short for “maximum” (and not “maxi-pad”), is just adding a hash brown really the “max” that KFC can go with the Zinger Double Down Max?

So just as there are different versions of the Iron Man suit, I decided to create my own variations of the Zinger Double Down Max.



But there are two rules:

FIRST RULE
Only ingredients from existing KFC menu items can be used. So no bak kwa or egg prata.

SECOND RULE
No buns.

So suit up and check out my maxed-out versions of the Zinger Double Down Max. Forget Iron Man. You’re going to need an iron stomach



Lets start with the Zinger Double Down Max, the base from which the other versions are built. It’s made of hash brown, turkey bacon, sliced cheese and mayonnaise between two Zinger fillets.

The hash brown has been a controversial addition with some people complaining that it adds more oil to an already oily mess.

I’m more concerned that the hash brown adds carbs, which goes against the spirit of a bunless burger.

But then if you’re going to eat the Double Down, extra carbs should be the last thing you worry about. Life's too short. And even shorter after eating this burger.




Since the hash brown is from the KFC breakfast menu, why not continue with the breakfast theme by adding a waffle and blueberry pancake? Syrup is optional.

You’ll love the way the softness and sweetness of the waffle and the pancake play with the crispiness and spicy savoriness of the Zinger fillets in your mouth. The blueberries also give it an extra kick.

Definitely a breakfast for heroes, the Zinger Double Down Breakfast Max is easily my favorite of the bunch.

I left out the scrambled eggs because it was too messy. I wish I could add the perfectly shaped fried egg from McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, but that would break the first rule.



Seafood fan? Try my Zinger Double Down Surf ‘N’ Turf Max, created with the fish fillet from the Fish Ole Burger plus two Shrimp Stars and two Fish Donuts from the Snacker menu.

Surprisingly, what brings this combo together is the dill sauce that I couldn’t scrape off the fish fillet. Tangy.

If only there were an Aquaman movie, this would be the perfect cross-promo item. But then Aquaman is DC and the Avengers are Marvel, so that might not work.




For the chicken purist who thinks that two Zinger fillets just aren’t enough chicken, my Zinger Double Down Chix Max also includes the roasted chicken fillet from the Roasta Burger and the mushroom-topped chicken fillet from the Shrooms Burger.

I left out the Original Recipe chicken fillet from the O.R. Fillet Burger because that seems too repetitive even for me. And the Popcorn Chicken isn't correctly shaped for a sandwich.



Speaking of repetitive, the Zinger Double Double Down Max is for the purist’s purist. It’s the Zinger Double Down Max inside another Zinger Double Down Max. Did I just blow your mind?

I considered calling it the Zinger Double Down Max Squared, but then I realised how much I enjoyed saying Zinger Double Double Down Max
.

I look forward to next year’s KFC-superhero movie cross-promo – if I live that long.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 April 2013

UPDATE: The next year, the KFC Double Down promo was a World Cup tie-in, not a superhero movie cross-promo, although some may consider Cristiano Ronaldo a football superhero.




Sunday, 14 April 2013

Joanne Peh & Qi Yuwu: Is she really going out with him?



I couldn’t believe it.

One month after 8 Days magazine broke the news that Joanne Peh had split with Bobby Tonelli, the MediaCorp publication again broke the news last week that she’s now with actor Qi Yuwu.

To quote The New Paper headline: Really?

I used to get 8 Days for free as a MediaCorp employee. After I stopped working at the company five years ago, I stopped reading 8 Days.



But in the last four weeks, I have been compelled to buy the weekly entertainment magazine twice for its game-changing coverage of Peh’s love life.

At $2 per copy, that’s $4 I could’ve saved to help pay for the new KFC Zinger Double Down Max – now with hash brown!



At the rate the actress is changing boyfriends, I may have to go crawling back to my former MediaCorp boss and grovel for my old job back just so I can get my 8 Days for free again.

And maybe it’s because I haven’t been reading 8 Days (or watching Channel 8) for so long that I had no idea who Qi Yuwu was.

But then I know who Bobby Tonelli is only because he was Joanne Peh’s boyfriend.

Which explains the speculation that this Qi-Peh coupling is just a publicity stunt.

Even the 8 Days reporter who interviewed Qi expressed “surprise”.

To quote: “We’re surprised. After all, you guys seem so different – you’re quiet and calm while she’s outspoken and energetic.”

And to further ram in the point: “You’re like mountain and river; night and day.”

To which Qi replied: “The mountain needs the river, right?”

Uh... no. Why does the mountain need anything? It’s a mountain!



And here is another reason for the reporter’s incredulity: “You must know about the gay rumours swirling around you in the industry...”

To which Qi responded: “People can say whatever they want.”

Hey, thanks for the permission!

Qi’s most revealing quote is this response to the question of whether he had a girlfriend in the last 10 years or “dalliances”, perhaps while filming in China:

“Things like sex and passion, they don’t attract me. These are hollow and empty. I could have those, but what’s the point? I would look down on myself. What would be the difference between me and a monkey, then?”



Whoa! So Qi is equating having sex and passion with being a monkey?

I will have him know that teachers, law professors, bankers, members and speakers of parliament and heads of major government organisations are having sex all over the place. They may be horndogs, but they’re not monkeys.

Qi’s parents probably also had sex or he wouldn’t be around today to bad-mouth monkeys.

So the issue here is not whether Qi is gay. The issue is that he is a monkey-phobe.

And that’s another reason it’s hard to believe Qi and Peh are together.

I mean, what’s the point of having a hot girlfriend like Joanne Peh if you’re not “attracted” to sex and passion? Never mind being a monkey. I would be King Kong.

(Yes, I know King Kong is technically an ape and not a monkey, but according to a recent scientific study, size matters.)

Even Tonelli is taken aback by the news of his ex’s new relationship. He told TNP: “It was shocking, but as long as she is happy, that is the most important.”

Peh is indeed so happy with Qi that she told 8 Days: “There’s no possibility that this relationship will fail.”

She sounds very emotionally secure about their relationship.

It reminds me of what she told TNP about Tonelli back in 2009: “He’s not afraid to show his feelings for me, and that makes me emotionally secure about the relationship.”

I bet she thought that relationship wouldn’t fail either.

But you know the biggest reason I have doubts about Peh’s new relationship with Qi?

In the earlier interview with 8 Days, she told the magazine that after Tonelli, she now knows what kind of guy she doesn’t want: “Someone too good-looking.”

Okay, I would concede that not being a Manhunt judge, I am hardly an expert on how good-looking a guy is.

But if Qi is not considered good-looking, then I’m the Goblin King in The Hobbit.



And so are you.

Granted, Qi may not be as good-looking as Tonelli, but then Tonelli is so good-looking that if the High Court didn’t dismiss the legal challenge that Section 377A of the Penal Code is unconstitutional last week, I might ask him for a date myself – you know, since he’s available.

So even if Qi is good-looking, the question is, is he “too” good-looking?

I suppose it’s possible that to Peh, he’s not. As the saying goes, good-looking is in the eye of the beholder.



Before I go, I want to address the unfair comparison of Peh to US singer Taylor Swift just because Peh found a new boyfriend so “swiftly” after breaking up with Tonelli.

It’s unfair to Swift. At least when Swift breaks up with a guy, she writes a hit song about it.



When Peh breaks up with a guy, 8 Days just sells more magazines.

Now where’s the number for my old MediaCorp boss?

- Published in The New Paper, 14 April 2013



EARLIER: Why didn't we know about Joanne Peh's break-up sooner?

UPDATE: Did Joanne Peh marry Qi Yuwu just to spite me?




Sunday, 7 April 2013

Thanks for the Safra vouchers, but... I’m no Bruce Willis



I finally received my Safra vouchers in the mail last week - $100 worth. Woohoo! Free money!

This comes about half a year after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced that all former and current NSmen will receive the vouchers “to enjoy a movie or meal with your family and friends” to commemorate the 45th anniversary of national service.

It has been so long since that announcement in October last year that the vouchers (which expire March 31 next year) can now also be used to commemorate the 46th anniversary of national service.

It has been so long that one of the participating outlets where you can use the vouchers doesn’t even exist any more. Shop N Save has become Giant as of last Monday. Fortunately, Giant is also a participating outlet.

It has been so long that last month, I received an e-mail from a Ms Yap Mong Nah, who’s the director of membership services at Safra, seeking my “kind understanding and patience” as they “strive to expedite the process”.

She wrote in the e-mail: “We are in the midst of processing your benefits but due to overwhelming responses, we need a longer processing time.”

Overwhelming responses? You mean Safra doesn’t know the number of NSmen we have?

Maybe that’s because Safra stands for Singapore Armed Forces Reservists Association and not Singapore Armed Forces NSmen Association

Maybe it’s about time Safra changes its name, although “Safna” sounds like a South African musical about apartheid.



There’s even an online forum thread dedicated to calling for Ms Yap to resign because of the delay.

That’s Singaporean for you. Even when we get something free, we complain that we’re not getting it fast enough.

(BTW, if you haven't received your vouchers, you did register for them, didn't you?)

Anyway, I got my vouchers and I thank Ms Yap and Safra for sending them to me along with the free one-year Safra membership card which I will never use.

You know what would be really useful? Bring back discounted beer!

That was how SAF used to show appreciation for the contributions of NSmen.

Even though I don’t drink beer myself, I still remember queuing up to buy cheap beer for my relatives with my green SAF-11B identity card at Beach Road once upon a time.

It’s a shame SAF doesn’t promote alcoholism anymore.

Although one of the outlets where you can use the Safra vouchers is a place called Barossa Bar, which offers craft beers, new world wines and champagnes, and “there’s no shortage of your favourite shooters, martinis and Mojitos”. Hic!

My initial plan was to use all my vouchers at my neighbourhood NTUC FairPrice supermarket, but then I thought how boring it would be to commemorate the 45th (or 46th) anniversary of national service by spending the vouchers on daily essentials like food, toilet paper and anti-dandruff shampoo.

I decided to follow the prime minister’s six-month-old suggestion and took my wife to see a movie.

And not just any movie but one that befits the 45th (or 46th) anniversary of national service. No, not Ah Boys To Men 2.

We went to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation.



It is the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen this year. I like Bruce Willis so much better in this than in the not-so-good A Good Day To Die Hard.

But most of all, I enjoyed paying for the movie with my Safra voucher. FYI, the vouchers can be redeemed at Cathay and Shaw cinemas.

The day after I saw G.I. Joe, I thought about Willis when I was at the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium burning paper offerings for my dead father and grandmother during the Qing Ming Festival.

Talk about dying hard. As I set the fake paper money alight, I wondered how long I had to keep doing this every year. My father has been dead for two decades and my grandma for twice as long.

Somehow, the fake money I was burning reminded me of the Safra vouchers. Both may not be real money, but someone still had to pay for them.

The difference is that not being dead, I actually have use for the vouchers.

But how long do I expect the Government to keep giving me money for my national service even though I have retired my navy uniform seven long years ago when I turned 40?

It's not as if I would ever be like 58-year-old Bruce Willis, whose retired general character in G.I. Joe was (spoiler alert!) reactivated to help save the day.

The only thing I can hope to save is 2 per cent of my grocery bill at NTUC FairPrice on Tuesdays after I turn 60.

Three years ago, I was so upset that the National Service Recognition Award, which amounted to between $9,000 and $10,500, wouldn’t be given to ex-NSmen who had already completed their service that I wrote a column to complain about it.

(As if to compensate, ex-NSmen get more Safra vouchers than current NSmen. Sons who get $80 or less worth of vouchers now envy their fathers who get $100.)

I had grown so accustomed to the extra money I got in my GST Offset Packages and Growth Dividends over the years just because I’m an ex-NSman that I felt entitled.

Now, realising that I’m no Bruce Willis, I feel the money would be better spent on the “living”, meaning the young Singaporeans who are still and will be serving our country as operationally-ready NSmen, to improve their pay and training safety.

Not that I would ever complain about getting vouchers and extra money from the Government just because I’m an ex-NSman. I would just complain less if I don’t.

I can’t wait to see what we’ll get for the 50th anniversary of national service.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 April 2013

Monday, 1 April 2013

After quitting SMRT, she has quit her blog too



After all the hype a year ago, it appears that former SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa has abandoned her blog despite my "urging" her not to.

She has let the domain name of her blog, isaw-isphy.com, expire.



Her last blog post was on June 1 last year about testifying at the public inquiry into the 2011 train breakdowns.

There were a total of five blog posts over three months. Started last March after she quit SMRT, the blog can still be found at isawisphy.wordpress.com.



I guess she's now too busy being CEO of Auric Pacific Group. Hey, all that Sunshine bread doesn't bake by itself, you know?

Fortunately, Singaporeans adapted swiftly to her departure from SMRT and found someone else to blame for SMRT-related transport woes like the bus drivers' strike late last year.





EARLIER: ‘Isaw-isphy’ is a sphytty name for a blog

UPDATE: Former SMRT chief Saw Phaik Hwa to retire as Auric Pacific CEO. Maybe she'll return to blogging

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