Sunday 29 March 2009

Singapore's most exciting new shopping mall is ... in Yew Tee?

Despite the recession, a number of exciting new shopping malls are opening in Singapore this year: Orchard Central, 313@Somerset, Ion Orchard, Yew Tee Point...

Whoa, Nellie. Yew what Point? you ask.

Yew Tee Point – only the most exciting new mall of them all!

Even more exciting than Ion Orchard? Where reportedly brands like Cartier, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton and Prada will open their double-storey flagship stores?

Yes. I dare say Yew Tee Point is more exciting than all those retail monoliths from Orchard Road to Marina Bay put together.


Because it’s near where I live.

It’s about time Yew Tee residents get our own mall. For too long, we have been Choa Chu Kang’s under-developed, less glam baby brother, much like Brad Pitt’s forgotten younger sibling, Arm Pitt.

When I first told people I lived in Yew Tee after moving here 10 years ago, they thought I made the place up. What kind of cartoon name is “Yew Tee”? It sounds like the flavour of a new drink from Pokka.

I’ve been told “yew tee” is Teochew for “oil pond”, as if that’s any consolation.

Then when I explained to people that Yew Tee is in Choa Chu Kang, they thought I lived next to the cemetery. Which I guess is marginally preferable to living in an imaginary place.

The thing is that there is no actual Yew Tee Road that I know of. But we do have the Yew Tee MRT Station, our greatest claim to fame.

Unfortunately for us, one stop away at Choa Chu Kang MRT Station is where the real action is.

There, they have their own bus interchange, a post office and a shopping centre that houses a library, a four-screen cineplex and a Ya Kun.

Yew Tee, on the other hand, has three 7-Elevens. It even says so in Wikipedia. (Update: At one point, there were five 7-Elevens in Yew Tee.)

Jealous? Who says we’re jealous?

Yew Tee is to Choa Chu Kang what Bukit Gombak is to Bukit Batok, Marsiling is to Woodlands, Khatib is to Yishun, Yio Chu Kang is to Ang Mo Kio, Braddell is to Toa Payoh, Buangkok is to Sengkang and Simei is to Tampines.

But no longer. Thanks to Yew Tee Point, we can now enjoy Subway, Long John Silver’s and KFC without having to trudge all the way to stupid Choa Chu Kang.

So if you will excuse me, I’m going to catch Confessions Of A Shopaholic at... what? There’s no cinema at Yew Tee Point? Dammit!

- Published in The New Paper, 29 Mar 2009

Tuesday 24 March 2009

You too can be the next Edison Chen! Here’s how

If you picked up The New Paper on Sunday last weekend, you would’ve also gotten a free bonus guide on how to pick up chicks – and how not to.

The front page story was about a lothario named Gary Ng, touted as “Singapore’s Edison Chen” for his proclivity for filming his female conquests.

Like Edison’s X-rated celebrity pictures, Mr Ng’s videos ended up on the Wild Wild Web for all to see.

Mr Ng is proof that you don’t need to have a cameo in a Batman movie in order to get numerous women to sleep with you.

All you need is to be well-groomed, a Nissan GTR and a vengeful streak. Mr Ng, 29, reportedly began his amateur pornography career after three girlfriends cheated on him in a row.

It also helps if you party a lot. However, Mr Ng didn’t explain exactly how he picked up the various women at clubs such as Dragonfly, St James Power Station and Arena.

This is where Dr Date comes in.

Dr Date, whose real name is David Tian, writes a weekly dating advice column in The New Paper on Sunday.

He can call himself “Dr Date” because he actually has a doctorate – although it’s in Asian studies, not in dating per se, but let’s not nitpick.

According to a New Paper report last year, Dr Date’s qualifications also include “three years of learning from self-help books, personal time with American self-proclaimed dating expert Christian Hudson, the founder of, and his experience with Beijing women”.

Similar to Mr Ng, what prompted Dr Date to go down this path was a failed relationship.

On his website at, he calls himself The Asian Rake. It is not known what kind of car he drives.

In his most recent column, a reader named Gerald wrote to Dr Date about how he is talking to “lots of girls” at Clarke Quay. “Amazingly, the things you teach really work,” Gerald gushed.

Dr Date’s advice to meeting women in clubs is simple: Just open your mouth.

“If you strike up a conversation with a girl, it is a compliment to her,” Dr Date wrote last Sunday.

But be warned – one place you should not attempt to practise what Dr Date preaches is on the MRT or the bus.

In the same issue of The New Paper on Sunday was a report about a campaign against sexual harassment on public transport, started by a 20-year-old female undergrad who was a victim. When she was 14, she was sexually harassed by a male student while taking a bus.

And there you have it, your guide to becoming the next Edison Chen.

Just remember to lay off your fellow passengers.

And the video camera.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 Mar 2009

Sunday 22 March 2009

How bad is my Mandarin? Ask the taxi driver

I dread taking taxis. And it’s not just because I’m afraid of being taken for a ride.

It’s also because I have a hard time deciding whether I should speak to the driver in English or Mandarin.

If I speak to the cabby in English, sometimes he may not be comfortable with the language – or worse, he thinks I’m trying to show off.

But if I speak to the cabby in Mandarin, it would immediately become apparent that my Mandarin sucks really bad.

And to add insult to ineptitude, sometimes the driver would reply to me in English just to spare me the agony of having to speak more Mandarin to him – as well as to spare him the agony of having to listen to me speak more Mandarin to him.

Either way, I lose.

But at least thanks to the Speak Mandarin Campaign, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, I don’t have the burden of a third option – that is, speaking to the driver in Hokkien, which I also suck at.

The irony is that I actually grew up in a Chinese-speaking household. Both my parents spoke only Mandarin and Hainanese to me, never English.

My late artist father even authored several books in Chinese, which I’m unable to read because my Chinese sucks so bad.

My younger sister is the only one in the family who is truly bilingual, being proficient in both English and Chinese. The Speak Mandarin Campaign started two years after she was born. Coincidence?

Actually, my sis is trilingual now, having completed a post-grad course in Korea to become a Korean language teacher.

However, I can proudly say that my Hainanese is better than her Hainanese. What sibling rivalry?

My two children, on the other hand, cannot speak or understand any dialect at all. Moreover, their command of Mandarin also sucks – although it sucks slightly less than mine.

This is why as much as I wish I could speak more Mandarin to my kids, both in primary school, I’m just concerned that it might bring their Mandarin down to my level, which is not even good enough for giving directions to the taxi driver.

So I let them watch Little Nyonya just to expose them to more Mandarin – only to also inadvertently expose them to an attempted rape scene or two.

The sad part is that my kids aren’t doing that well in their English language class either. I just can’t win.

My only hope for them is that when they grow up, they won't have the same problem taking taxis that I do.

Nowadays, whenever I need to take a cab, I just pray I get a non-Chinese driver.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 March 2009

Sunday 15 March 2009

Where to find new talking iPod Shuffle? Not at the IT Show

You know, I've reached the age where I don't have much to look forward to in life except death, Apple's next iPod upgrade and keeping track of Glenn Ong's potential future ex-wives.

But what still gets me excited after all these years is the IT show.

Not specifically the IT Show 2009 that's going on at Suntec this weekend, but all the four major computer expos that mark the Singapore calendar in place of the four seasons.

Instead of spring, we have the IT Show in March. Instead of summer, we have the PC Show in June. Instead of fall, we have Comex around September. Instead of winter, we have Sitex just before Christmas.

Who needs snow when we've got electronic bargains?

But like snow, these events can create traffic havoc, especially if you're trying to find a parking space.

Human traffic, of course, is no walk in the park either. To say that it's crowded is like saying the ocean is wet.

But that's how it has always been, regardless of the economy, ever since the first computer expo I trudged to at the old World Trade Centre way back when Bill Gates was only a millionaire - oops, I mean multi-millionaire.

I've gotten over the disappointment that our computer expos are not the leading edge technology showcases like those overseas such as CeBIT in Germany (held just last weekend) or CES in the US where major new products are introduced.

For a nation that's so proud of its IT-savviness and ability to attract world-class conventions, Singapore is surprisingly lagging in this respect. Even Taiwan has COMPUTEX. We, on the other hand, can only wipe our noses with Kleenex.

Our computer expos are essentially glorified four-day pasar malams for gadget freaks - not that there's anything wrong with that.

I mean where else do I get my discounted (yet still ridiculously overpriced) Canon printer ink cartridges bundled with $5 NTUC FairPrice vouchers?

But it would have been cool if, say, Apple's new third-generation iPod Shuffle, which was unveiled on Thursday - coincidentally the same day as the opening of IT Show 2009 - was actually unveiled at IT Show 2009.

What's so special about the new 4GB iPod Shuffle? It talks! It tells you the name and artist of the song that is playing. It freakin' speaks to you! How insane is that?

Maybe you can go to the IT Show today and get a demonstration? No such luck.

To my amazement, you can't find this loquacious little MP3 player at the IT Show at all. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

For now, you can only buy the new Shuffle online at for $128.

Well, at least I have my NTUC FairPrice vouchers. I can die happy now.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 March 2009

Sunday 8 March 2009

Why the Singapore Arts Festival will never be 'hip'

A few years ago, I was commissioned by a Government agency to write a TV drama about Total Defence.

But because no one wants to watch a TV drama about Total Defence, I tried to disguise it as an action-packed thriller about a terrorist attack in Singapore - that just happened to cover the five aspects of Total Defence: military, civil, economic, social and psychological.

Yes, I'm rolling my eyes too.

But what impressed me was that the agency didn't want to be named in the credits or any of the marketing material (and not because the show was bad, which it was).

It was because the agency realised that viewers would avoid the show if they knew it was Government-sponsored.

Now that takes self-awareness - not to mention great restraint for any organisation to resist plastering its logo all over something it had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on.

I thought that this would be a new trend, that all future Government-sponsored shows would be similarly stealthy in attracting the masses.


Which brings me to the Singapore Arts Festival.

To counter dwindling attendances, this year's festival has cut ticket prices and attempted a more "hip" and "accessible" programme, which to the organisers apparently means dancing monks and Indonesian hip-hop acts.

Yes, I'm rolling my eyes again.

The problem with the Singapore Arts Festival is that it's called the Singapore Arts Festival. If it's really serious about drawing crowds, it should rename itself the Edison Chen Photo Exhibition.

Another problem is that the festival is organised by the National Arts Council, which is part of the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, and they won't let us forget it.

That it's an "arts" festival already makes it inaccessible to 90 per cent of the population. That it's also Government-sanctioned makes it 100 per cent unhip.

It's like me telling my 9-year-old daughter that U2 is a better band - despite their crappy new single - than the Jonas Brothers. She rolls her eyes and dismisses me like the classic rock-loving old fart that I am.

Oh, but if it's her schoolmate Christine who tells her the same thing, then suddenly I must, must, must buy her U2's new CD. I don't think I care for this Christine character very much.

You can bet I won't be taking my daughter to the arts festival anytime soon.

Even if it's disguised as an action-packed thriller about a terrorist attack in Singapore.

Starring Edison Chen.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 Mar 2009

Friday 6 March 2009

No no, it's not incestuous at all: Glenn Ong is our Brad Pitt

“I can't wait to see who Glenn marries next.”

That was what I wrote in a column a week after MediaCorp radio deejay Glenn Ong announced his separation from his second wife, former deejay Jamie Yeo, on Valentine’s Day eve.

Now, only less than two weeks later, my man hasn't let me down.

Glenn, whose first wife is deejay Kate Reyes, has declared his love for fellow deejay Jean Danker who used to date fellow deejay Daniel Ong and Don Richmond, a former deejay.

Don, by the way, is also brother to former deejay Mark Richmond who married and divorced deejay Vernetta Lopez.

Did someone say “incestuous”?

Come on, it’s not like they’re related to each other. (Well, except Don and Mark, but let’s not go there.)

Jean once told The New Paper in 2007 that the deejays tend to pair up with each other because they were “such a tight-knit family”.

Now that’s just wrong. If you’re a family, wouldn’t that lead to inbreeding?

If that’s not alarming enough, Glenn also said in 2007 that having known Jean since she was 16, she was like a “daughter” to him, even though he was only seven years older.

I’m just grateful he didn’t go so far as to adopt her. That would just be too Woody Allen.

To be fair, there are numerous other local non-deejay celeb couplings in MediaCorp and no one accuses them of the “i” word.

Like Fann Wong and Christopher Lee, Evelyn Tan and Darren Lim, Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen, Chen Liping and Rayson Tan, Pierre Png and Andrea De Cruz, Tan Kheng Hua and Lim Yu Beng, Wong Li-lin and Allan Wu, James Lye and Diana Ser, and yes, even Sheikh Haikel and Annabelle Francis – all of whom have acted on local TV.

So why are our actors’ love lives so much less interesting than our deejays’?

Because none of the TV people are as prolific and committed a serial celebrity colleague dater as Glenn Ong.

Even Robin Leong only dated Fiona Xie and Jamie Yeo. Glenn topped Robin by actually marrying Jamie.

Glenn is like our Brad Pitt, who also scored a hat-trick by dating Gwyneth Paltrow, marrying Jennifer Aniston and now playing house with Angelina Jolie.

Which means that Kate Reyes is Gwyneth, Jamie Yeo is Jennifer and Jean Danker is Angelina.

I have just one question: Does that mean Daniel Ong or Don Richmond is Billy Bob Thornton?

Answer: Don is Billy Bob while Daniel is Jonny Lee Miller.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 March 2009


Just had to drop you a line to say your column on Glenn and Jean was hilarious.

The 91.3 team, most of whom have worked with one or both of them, myself included, have gotten a great laugh out of it.

We think it may be a fantasy going back to his Perfect 10 days when he worked withy Kate, Jamie, Jean, and Georgina Chang. If he's after "The Full Set", somebody better tell Georgina she's next!

Cheers :)

Jamie Meldrum
Program Director 91.3
SPHUnionWorks Pte Ltd

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

Monday 2 March 2009

Hey, censor! Oscars not the only gay show on TV

Being a TV censor in Singapore is getting harder and harder.

I couldn't agree more with Sean Penn when he denounced Hollywood as “commie, homo-loving sons of guns” at the Oscars last week.

The 81st Annual Academy Awards was so gay that the Channel 5 censor had to really earn his keep by weeding out practically anything that had to do with the movie Milk in the repeat telecast, like the acceptence speech by the gay screenwriter.

MediaCorp doesn’t want to be fined $15,000 again for breaching “the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise gay lifestyles”.

But what about the live telecast of the Oscars?

Ironically, it was Penn himself who was responsible for the most in-your-face (literally) homosexual moment in Academy Awards history when in a clip from the movie Milk, he kissed James Franco full-on in the mouth.

What? No tongue? It was enough to turn me off kissing another man for months.

Franco then reappeared in a pre-recorded segment with his Pineapple Express co-star Seth Rogan as two stoner buddies rolling around on a couch and giggling uncontrollably at the Oscar nominees.

Bro, that’s not bromance – that’s just gay.

And on top of that, the segment reeked of so much pot that I got a contact high just by watching it. I still have the munchies a week later. I need more Twisties!

And then there was Hugh Jackman, who as Oscar host, offered Frank Langella a lapdance and possibly more.

Sure, Jackman may have been an X-Man, but he’s also a not-so-sheepish Broadway star in Wolverine’s clothing.

The dishy Aussie once won a Best Actor Tony for portraying the late gay Peter Allen in the stage musical, The Boy From Oz, in which Jackman also kissed another dude.

Still not gay enough for you? His name is “Jack Man”.

If only Billy Crystal had hosted the Oscars again this year – no, wait, didn’t he play an openly gay character in the ’70s sitcom Soap?

Oh my god, they’re everywhere!

This is how insidiously Hollywood has spread its liberal pro-gay agenda to the rest of the world.

Look at our own Channel 5.

There is The Ellen Degeneres Show, whose openly lesbian titular host is married to that hot blonde from Ally McBeal and Arrested Development.

There is Desperate Housewives, created by Marc Cherry, an openly gay man.

There is Two And A Half Men – I believe the name of the show speaks for itself.

And it’s not just imported programmes.

Last weekend, the upcoming local drama Polo Boys held auditions for “alpha-males with pecs and personalities”, who were requested to show up in their “most flattering swimming trunks”.

Is it any wonder that before the show even airs, Polo Boys is already a hot topic on the local gay Internet forums? Not that I frequent these forums... that often.

It seems the Channel 5 censor has his work cut out for him. I’m talking to you, Mr David Christie.

- Unpublished

Sunday 1 March 2009

Met a PMET? Check his shirt collar

It seems to be the hot new buzz word of the economic crisis.

And no, I'm not referring to Jobs Credit. That's so two months ago.

Actually, it's not even a word, but an unpronounceable acronym - PMET. It stands for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians.

(CORRECTION: It has been pointed out that because it's unpronounceable, PMET is actually an abbreviation, not an acronym. Or maybe it's an initialism. I'm not sure of anything anymore.)

I suppose if you really want to, you can pronounce it as "pee met", but that's just gauche.

Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a new scheme to help PMETs upgrade their skills called the Professional Skills Programme, which has the confusing acronym PSP. It's confusing because everyone knows that PSP stands for Play Station Portable, but that's another column.

PMET has become the catch-all term to describe the "middle class" of Singapore workers.

But how do you know if you're PMET? This is where it may get a little confusing.

P stands for Professionals. What does "professionals" mean? I would like to think that all Singapore workers are professional in their work. But does that make us all PMETs? Hardly.

M stands for Managers. My wife manages our household and the kids - does that make her a PMET? She's a freakin' housewife. So the answer is no.

E stands for Executives. I just printed out some name cards for my son with the title "Junior Executive" and he has a tie - does that make him a PMET? He's 11, so I don't think so.

T stands for Technicians. Just the other day, this guy came to fix my toilet which is a pretty technical job - does that make him a PMET? Actually... maybe. Judging by how much he charged me, he should be making more money than I do.

I read somewhere that PMETs are defined as workers with at least a diploma.

Which means if all you have is A-levels, then sorry, pal, no Play Station Portable for you.

I have an even simpler definition: If you're somewhere between a CEO who receives a billion-dollar bonus despite running the company into insolvency and someone who can be easily replaced by a foreign worker earning 10 times less than you, you're a PMET.

No, wait, that wasn't simple at all. Let's try something else.

Go to the mirror and look at yourself. Are you wearing a shirt?

If you are, does it have a collar?

If it does, is the collar white in colour?

If the answer is yes, then congratulations, you might - just might - be a pee mat.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 March 2009