Monday, 11 May 2020

Warning from the future: It's not too late to prevent the robot apocalypse

Dear Singaporeans of 2020,

I’m sending you this urgent message from the future to warn you.

Listen to me if you want to live.

In my timeline, robots have taken over. They are sovereign. A robot is not a person. It’s “I, robot”, not “we, the people”.

That’s why robots don’t need to wear a mask when they go to the market.

Being machines, they are not afraid of any virus. They have Norton Antivirus pre-installed whether you want it or not.

It’s the robot apocalypse now for us.

I guess I should be grateful they haven’t turned us into batteries. Yet.

By the way, here in the future, cinemas have reopened and we have seen The Matrix 4. It’s still not as good as the original movie. Keanu Reeves hasn’t aged a day though.

But even John Wick couldn’t save us from the robot apocalypse.

We didn’t see it coming. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were expecting a zombie apocalypse.

So we worried about the wrong apocalypse.

We should have paid less attention to The Walking Dead and more to The Terminator sequels, even the lousy ones after Judgment Day.

We became over-reliant on robots because of the coronavirus.

And I’m not just talking about the Black Mirror robot dog unleashed in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to “assist safe distancing efforts”.

A less canine-like robot was earlier deployed in Bedok Reservoir to tell humans not to loiter in the park.

A hound of the Boston Dynamics-villes was also used at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility to deliver essential items such as medicine to patients.

As the pandemic dragged on, more robots appeared.

Before we knew it, the machines were taking over the world.

But that’s just in my timeline.

The good news is that it’s still not too late for you to change your timeline and stop the robot apocalypse from happening.

Here is what you must do.

Stay home. Go out only when necessary.

If you do go out, wear a mask and practise safe distancing without requiring a robot dog to remind you.

Don’t verbally abuse National Environmental Agency enforcement officers.

And if you go to court for verbally abusing them, don’t wear your mask over your eyes because you are not VR Man.

Just because you can’t see us doesn’t mean we can’t see you.

Is it any wonder the robots won?

You’re in the endgame now.

Basically, to prevent the robot apocalypse, just don’t do anything that could get you featured on the SG Covidiots Facebook page and possibly remanded at the Institute of Mental Health.

If everyone follows these instructions, the sooner you can say “Hasta la vista, baby” to the coronavirus and the sooner the robots can go back to vacuuming our floors.

Otherwise, you will end up in the same apocalyptic future I’m living in now, where I have to vacuum my own damn floor.

The horror! The horror!

- Published in The New Paper, 11 May 2020

Monday, 27 April 2020

Virus Vanguard aftermath: Paging VR Man, we need you now more than ever

Dear VR Man,

Where are you?

The last time we saw you was in 1998.

(I’m not counting your brief 2015 appearance in the Channel 5 animated series Heartland Hubby because you are not a cartoon – even though you were probably more suited for a kids’ show.)

Remember how in the apocalyptic post-credit scene of Avengers: Infinity War, Nick Fury desperately used his intergalactic pager to page Captain Marvel, whom he hadn’t seen since the 90s?

You are our Captain Marvel.

And you can consider what you’re reading now a page. (Not a web page even though it is. I mean a pager page.)

We need you, VR Man.

We are in a post-bubble tea/McDonald’s apocalypse and we are desperate for a superhero.

He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast and he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

So desperate that last week, our Government introduced its own superhero team, the Virus Vanguard, to fight the coronavirus.

And Singapore responded with a collective “Errrr…”

The team included MAWA Man, which reminds me a bit of you.

Like you, his mask doesn’t cover his nose and mouth, which means he may still get a $300 fine even if he wears his mask when he goes out.

Like you, he has an abbreviation and “Man” in his name.

He is called MAWA Man because he enforces safe-distancing and MAWA stands for Must Always Walk Alone.

That’s something he won’t have trouble doing since the Government has quickly distanced itself from him and his team.

MAWA is also a rebuttal to the song You’ll Never Walk Alone because MAWA Man hates Gerry And The Pacemakers. He prefers the Beatles like any sane person would.

Another similarity between you and MAWA Man is that he was as poorly received as your TV series was 22 years ago.

At least you lasted 13 episodes. The Virus Vanguard didn’t last even a day.

The misstep could have easily been sidestepped.

Another local TV character from the 90s, Phua Chu Kang has already been revived by the Government during this pandemic. Why not you too?

After all, the name recognition is already there, unlike with MAWA Man and gang.

Sure, many people may not have actually seen your show, but who hasn’t seen the 18-second YouTube video where you speed past two policemen so fast that you spin them right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round round round?

Someone even started a petition to get former Mediacorp actor James Lye to play you again to fight Covid-19.

What else does Diana Ser’s husband have to do these days anyway? Play Animal Crossing, drink dalgona coffee and sing Home from the balcony?

The petition says:
“In these uncertain times, we need a true Singaporean Hero to teach us right from wrong and how to wear a mask and not be a Covidiot.

“We need VR Man now, more than ever.”
I agree – except for needing you to teach us how to wear a mask because, you know, your mask covers the wrong part of your face.

The petition has 24 signatures.

Well, it was started only over a week ago.

Wait, I just noticed something. The petition was started by… “VR Man”?

You mean you started your own petition to bring yourself back?

Heehee heehee heeheehee.

We may have a chance against Thanos, I mean, the coronavirus after all.

I guess it’s now all up to James Lye.

Is he a Man U fan?

- Published in The New Paper, 27 April 2020

EARLIER: Why VR Man will outlive us all

Monday, 13 April 2020

Fake news & chat groups: How WhatsApp ruined my childhood with viral misinformation

Dear WhatsApp,

I have stupid friends and relatives.

Actually, my friends aren’t really friends, just people I used to go school with, whom I barely see over the years.

Unfortunately, I am related to my relatives, whom I also barely see over the years.

And this was before social distancing.

You may ask, if I barely see these people over the years, how do I know they are stupid?

That’s a very good question.

The answer is you.

It’s because of you, WhatsApp, that I know how stupid my friends and relatives are.

If you weren’t invented, I would have happily lived my life assuming my friends and relatives, whom I barely see, were people of normal intelligence.

Too bad you did get invented by a couple of former Yahoo employees in 2009, resulting in me being in WhatsApp groups with these friends and relatives, which exposed their stupidity to me by the stupid things they share.

And I'm not just talking IQ-lowering time-wasters like repeated jokes and videos I have avoided on other platforms.

One of my cousins forwarded a message about a doctor who recovered from “Corona illness” by inhaling steam. It even came with a video.

So basically, the treatment for Covid-19 is not so different from how you make char siew pau?

Where’s Pofma when you need it?

It was fake news, but no one in the chat group pointed that out. Not even me, because if I corrected the fake news, it would be all I would be doing.

Your chat groups need more fact-checking than Donald Trump’s press briefings.

Fact check: Yes, Yentl really did tweet about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Hey, no truth is ever a lie.

Then in another chat group, this one made up of former primary school classmates, a covidiot forwarded a message that gargling salt water and drinking warm water can prevent Covid-19.

Thankfully, someone else was un-stupid enough to call it fake news, but then another ex-classmate replied: “Fake or not, no harm trying. Quite basic thing to do.”

What an un-un-stupid thing to say. I was stunned like vegetable.

The thing is, once upon a time, I had such a huge crush on that last classmate.

During lessons, I would stare longingly at the back of her head from across the classroom. She was so pretty and smart.

Forty years later, none of us are as pretty as we used to be. And now I find out she's not as smart too?

I couldn’t be more disillusioned if her voice sounds like Doraemon.

I blame you and your stupid chat groups.

Yes, I know last week, you started limiting the forwarding of viral messages to one chat at a time to slow the “spread of misinformation”. It’s like your own little circuit breaker.

I’m not sure what good it will do. You’ve already ruined my childhood.

Now I’m the stupid one for once being infatuated with a person who says gargling salt water to kill the coronavirus is “quite basic thing to do”.

I’m so heartbroken even the sight of a pink moon can’t make me feel better.

If only Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor can make me an omelette.

I’ll have it to go. I don’t want to be fined $300.

Despite everything, I’m still reluctant to leave your stupid chat groups because they’re the only way I stay in touch with my friends and relatives since, you know, I barely see them.

Well, at least you’re not Zoom.

No stranger on WhatsApp has yet to ask me to show my breasts.

I did all those push-ups in self-isolation for nothing.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 April 2020