Monday, 8 July 2019

Cryptopsy in Singapore: I wore a Hello Kitty shirt to a death metal concert and didn’t die

On March 7, the Singapore concert by Swedish black metal band Watain was cancelled by the authorities at the last minute.

I and presumably most of Singapore had never heard of Watain before. Only 150 were expected at the concert.

The cancellation was largely attributed to a petition by a Rachel Chan to “ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore”.

Soilwork’s concert is in October. I and presumably most of Singapore had never heard of Soilwork before.

But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said: “The petition per se did not influence the decision.”

Even so, two months later, the petition was updated to include on the ban list the death metal bands Pestilence and Cryptopsy plus an event called Metal United World Wide.

I had never heard of Pestilence or Metal United World Wide before. The shows were last month.

But I have actually heard of Cryptopsy. I own one of their albums, The Best Of Us Bleed.

You know how we all go through a phase where we seek out music that would annoy our parents? I went through that last year. I was 51.

I wouldn’t say I “stan” for Cryptopsy, but I like their album.

After news spread that Cryptopsy was added to the petition, the Canadian band responded on their Facebook page to the “potential banning” in Singapore:
“We as a band have no say or opinions when it comes to any sort of religion. We believe that everyone should choose their own paths in life.

“The lyrical & visual content in our music is a parody of the extremity of our music. It is a theatrical representation of the brutality and has been created to shock and awe as much as the drumming, guitar & bass riffs.

“We are in no way encouraging our fans to act out any of the content our art depicts.

“For us, our music and visual imagery is in no way worse than most of the Hollywood movies that are available today.”

Way to throw Hollywood under the bus, guys. Could a petition to ban horror movies about killer dolls be next?

Annabelle and Chucky in the same week? Come on, Hollywood, space them out!

To show my support for Cryptopsy, I bought two tickets to their concert at The Substation last Friday night. I paid $75 each, which is still much less than a U2 ticket or so I keep telling myself.

I forced my 19-year-old daughter to go with me. She prefers Bastille and K-pop.

She sported a black Snoopy T-shirt while I rocked a white Hello Kitty Run T-shirt because wearing black to a metal concert is so basic – even though neither of us had been to one before.

There were more than 100 paying audience members in the small Substation theatre, mostly men in black T-shirts and only a few women. No seats. We all stood.

As expected, the music was very loud and the singing consisted mainly of growls without any discernible words. I couldn’t tell the songs apart. The repetitiveness made my daughter sleepy even though she used ear plugs.

But I enjoyed myself, watching the fans stage dive, crowdsurf and wince in pain when they crash to the floor. I just had to be careful not to let any metalhead land on me.

My daughter and I got violently jostled a few times by slam dancers as we were standing too close to the mosh pit, but we’re okay.

In between doing the windmill with his buttock-length hair, Cryptopsy frontman Matt McGachy alluded to the petition when he urged Singapore not to let anyone tell us what we can and cannot listen to. I’m giving you the censored version of what he said.

After the hour-long performance, I queued up for the meet-and-greet with the band to get a picture with them.

No one commented on my Hello Kitty T-shirt.

I asked if they were told not to play any songs like Watain were. Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier shook his head and joked that nobody can understand what they are singing anyway. So at least they have some self-awareness.

Asked whether they were worried that the concert could have been cancelled like Watain’s, Mounier said that Watain and Cryptopsy are very different bands.

He’s right. Watain is a black metal band while Cryptopsy is a death metal band.

You may ask, aren’t black metal and death metal the same thing?

That’s like asking if Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are the same person. In case you don’t know, they’re not.

Well, at least the concert wasn't cancelled.

The Rachel Chan petition has since been deleted. Could it be because of a petition asking Mr Shanmugam to “get Rachel Chan deported from Singapore”? Who knows?

I wonder whether I should go to the concert by Swedish death metal band Soilwork if it does not get banned.

My daughter says she never wants go to another metal concert. I’ll have to ask someone else. My mother may be free.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 July 2019

Monday, 24 June 2019

How I survived the $4.50 durian buffet

A durian buffet for $4.50?

That’s less than the price of a Mala Burger meal at Burger King.

Even though I’m not a durian lover (we’re just friends), it was an offer I couldn’t resist.

But, of course, there was a catch.

The buffet was at Plaza Singapura and you had to spend at least $45 in a single receipt at the mall to get one $4.50 durian buffet ticket for an appointed 45-minute session.

Why the recurring number 45? Because it’s Plaza Singapura’s 45th anniversary.

Yes, that’s how many years since Singaporeans first heard of Yaohan.

Anyway, a week before the durian buffet, my daughter managed to spend over $90 on a hoodie and too many T-shirts at the Uniqlo outlet so that I could get two tickets because I knew I couldn’t survive a durian buffet on my own.

But my daughter hates durian. My wife hates durian. My son hates spending time with me.

So I asked my mother. She is 78.

If she dies from eating too many durians, at least she would die happy – and fed.

She even came prepared with her own bottle of salt water because, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to drink when you eat durian.

I don’t know whether she had been to a durian buffet before, but I hadn’t.

The Plaza Sing buffet sessions were spread out from last Friday to yesterday. I got tickets for the Saturday session at 2pm.

To get ready for D-Day, I went on Friday to recce a session and gathered some intelligence.

The buffet was held outdoors under a tent in front of the mall, presumably so as to not stink up the building. Queues had formed more than half an hour before the session started. Plastic gloves were provided.

Each person was given four or five pieces of freshly harvested durian of different varieties on a paper tray.

Once you finished eating, you had to leave the tent and queue again for another tray.

You could queue as many times as you wanted up until 15 minutes before the session ended, because by then you wouldn’t be able to get your durian in time anyway.

If you went early enough, you could easily get at least three trays of durian.

On Saturday, my strategy was to re-queue immediately after getting a tray, leaving my durian with my mother. Repeat until time was up. This way, I could maximise my haul and eat later.

Well, that was the plan anyway. After I got my second tray, my mother offered to re-queue in my place so that I could enjoy the fruits of my labour.

But after she returned with another tray, I realised there was such thing as too much of a good thing.

I didn’t want to eat any more durian and neither did she. Her salt water didn’t help.

I had to force myself to finish the last piece.

So even though there was still time to re-queue, I decided to throw in my yellow-stained gloves and surrender.

It had been only 25 minutes.

I fought the durian buffet and the durian buffet won.

We left the tent and went to Tim Ho Wan to recover with dim sum and Chinese tea.

My mother claimed this was the first time I had ever taken her out to eat. (I guess she didn’t count her birthday meals.)

And all it took was a $4.50 durian buffet. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Thank you, Plaza Sing. For your next anniversary, you should bring back Yaohan.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 June 2019

EARLIER: Forbidden fruit is smelliest: I was cast out because I wanted to eat durians

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fact-checking The Alternative View's post about K F Seetoh, Jewel and me

So The Alternative View posted this yesterday:

Since my name appears in the post, I feel I need to fact-check it line by line.

First line:
In May, after F&B entrepreneur K.F. Seetoh shared a post showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype ... PAP trolls and cronies were quick to bark that it was "fake news" as he had gone on a weekday morning.
For the most part, this is true... except...

It's impossible to confirm whether it was "PAP trolls and cronies" who were "quick to bark". It could be just people wanting to get all the facts right.

Also, I want to point out that even quicker were the people who immediately derided Jewel as a "white elephant" in response to Seetoh's post.

It was only later when commenters started questioning what time Seetoh's photos were taken that he revealed that it was at 9.30am.

So while he did share a post "showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype", Seetoh subsequently amended his post to add that he was referring specifically to "pre-opening" hours.

He also added: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

Which contradicts the "dwindling crowds" claim in The Alternative View post.

Granted, Seetoh also added "The decline is slow and real", but this is stating the obvious because of course the crowds would decrease from opening day. At least "the decline is slow" rather than fast.

Finally, he added: "I feel for the tenants, esp the 24/7 ones."

So apparently, this was what his post was really about, not "dwindling crowds" per se. In a reply to a comment, Seetoh wrote: “If nobody at some hrs..why make them open 24/7 in these depressed manpower conditions.”

Which I guess is a fair point.

Here is Seetoh's post:

Second line:
One notorious IB even went on a weekend to "prove" him wrong.
This is accompanied by sceenshots of my column on The New Paper website with the headline: "S M Ong: Fake news? Explaining K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post".

I'm not an "IB" if it means what I think it means. As in I am not a member of the PAP Internet Brigade, paid to rebut anti-PAP views online.

I'm just a guy who every two weeks, has to come up with something to write about in 500-700 words for my column and that week, Seetoh's Jewel post was it.

In fact, I considered headlining the article: "Fake news? Defending K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post", but decided to go for something more neutral instead. If I had stuck with my orginal headline, I probably wouldn't have to write this blog post. People mostly just read headlines anyway.

You may argue that simply by writing for The New Paper, I’m an IB by default. If that is your perception, no amount of denial on my part is going to make a difference. I could point to some not so pro-establishment articles I have written, but who cares?

As for whether I'm "notorious", that's an opinion and I'm flattered that someone thinks I am.

And I didn't go to Jewel "on a weekend". As I wrote in my column, I went on a Friday afternoon, which is close to the weekend, but not technically the weekend yet.

Also, I went to Jewel not "to 'prove' him wrong".

As mentioned above, Seetoh already wrote in his post: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

So if anything, I went to Jewel to prove him right.

Third line:
But now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at Jewel appears to be dying down.
This is accompanied by screenshots of two Today reports:

Is Today "PAP's own MSM"? Not factual but I would call it a fair assertion. (See "Here Today, gone tomorrow: Remember the time Mr Brown's column got suspended?")

Is Today "reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down"? Well, no and sorta maybe.

The most recent article, which was published on Friday, is about how restaurants on level 5 of Jewel have little or no business after midnight. This jibes with Seetoh's point that tenants shouldn't be required to open 24/7.

But it has nothing to do with the hype dying down.

Yes, the other Today article can be loosely described as about the dying hype, but it's more specifically about how businesses in the other airport terminals are affected, not Jewel itself.

Moreover, the article was published on May 19, which was before my column (May 27) and before Seetoh's post (May 22).

So it's a bit disingenuous to claim that "now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down". It’s not “now”. It was four weeks ago.

Also, I just want to say there's nothing scandalous about the hype dying down anyway. That's the nature of hype.

No one expects the crowds to be as big as when Jewel first opened.

But when I was there two days after Seetoh's post, it was still pretty damn crowded.

Some businesses will do better than others. Yes, opening 24 hours or till 3am is probably not a great idea.

And maybe one day, Jewel will become a ghost town which some are eagerly looking for signs for as proof of PAP's ineptitude.

But that day isn't here yet.

Elsewhere in The Alternative View post, there's this line:
One notorious but brainless IB even went on a weekend to join the queue for one of the restaurants and claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news.
I've already addressed the "Notorious" and "IB" part. As for "brainless", yeah, I wish I could be smarter and avoided this contretemps.

In my column, I didn't mention joining any queue. I just sort of said I saw a lot of people in Jewel. And I didn't "claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news". I just reported that one person commenting on Seetoh's post warned that the post may be considered fake news and I expanded on it.

I swear.

Take it from the Notorious S M Ong.

EARLIER: Fake news? Are there no more queues at Shake Shack in Jewel as K F Seetoh seems to claim?