Sunday 28 February 2010

$10 million Toto draw losers need help too

So you didn't win the Toto $10 million Hongbao draw.

You know how I know you didn't win the $10 million? Because you're here reading this column instead of out celebrating with hookers and booze.

Not that you couldn't read this column and celebrate with hookers and booze at the same time, but you have only two hands. So you have to give up the hookers or the booze. Personally, I would give up this column.

Anyway, as I was saying, so you lost whatever sum of money you spent on the lottery tickets - in addition to the time you invested in queuing to buy the tickets from your "lucky" outlet. Time is money after all.

Your dream of quitting your dead-end job and not having to sleep with your boss again to get an increment is dashed.

So is your dream of opening your own restaurant specialising exclusively in dishes made from canned luncheon meat.

As well as your dream of bribing all four members of Abba to reunite so that you can finally watch them perform Dancing Queen live before you (or they) die.

And also your dream of not having to write this column any more.

So what does Singapore Pools, which runs Toto, do? Last week, it announced a new programme to help the big winners manage their windfall.

Say what? Help the winners? Shouldn't Singapore Pools be helping the losers?

Because once you've won a few million bucks, I think it's fair to say you won't be short of ideas and advice on how to spend it. Hey, that Ferrari looks pretty nice.

According to Singapore Pools CEO Tan Soo Nan: "There are enough real life cases overseas of major lottery winners losing all their winnings and ending up broke and depressed because they did not have proper financial advice on how to manage their wealth."

What about those of us who lost all our money betting on Toto and ended up broke and depressed because we didn't get proper financial advice on how to manage our lack of wealth?

We're so desperate and self-deluded that we'll blow whatever cash we have left on next year's Hongbao draw too.

I'm changing the date on my resignation letter to February 2011.

Get the hookers and booze ready.

- Published in The New Paper on 28 Feb 2010

Hi Mr. Ong,

Reading papers these days are so predictable, they are written to look "good" and favorable.

I am so delighted to read your article and my respect for you for writing it. Before you, I have the following questions which are debated among our group of 'free thinking' people:

1) How on earth is our Toto so easy to win, almost like every weeks!

2) Isn't it true, to win a Jackpot is like 1.1 million of a chance to do how come we do not get to see a 'snowball' result like other nations with winning hitting more than 200 million.

3) Who are the true winners, shouldn't they be featured in the Straits Times.... we understand it is not being done for security reasons - what a bull!

4) Incredibly, why are there so many winners, I have yet to see a sole winner of a 10 million Jackpot.... WHY?

Spreading the wealth? Who decide this? There are so many talks on this. The real truth is out at the Singapore Pool.

There are probably more points to highlight, but the above are the disturbing ones.

It so utterly ridiculous for this bloody SP CEO to think that Jackpot winners need help, his brain must be the size of a frog to even made a press statement. Firstly, a million or two is nothing to go nuts financially, not like you are winning $200 million.

Secondly, he thinks Singaporeans are stupid. With his over a million salary, you could be a better CEO with the article you wrote.

Hey, this bloody CEO should be more on the ground and speaks to the non-winners, my wife included..... the kind of money they spend to achieve their dreams. How these peoples' life are so affected, some very badly.

Like my wife made a fuss over an Adidas T-Shirt worth 45 which my son wish to purchase... my affected son ask his Mum, how much do you spend on Toto every week? I guess easily at least a $100 each week. Well, don't you think, this is an
imperative issue this bloody CEO should talk to my son?

Wake up Singapore, Mr. Ong, you did the best thing today... the truth we can relate. I see you as my hero to stand up for the unfortunate majority.

Me too, if I ever strike a Jackpot, you are on the top of my list to spend our time with hookers and booze!

Great stuff, I look forward to read more of your article in the future.

My sincere thanks and also on the behalf of those who miss your article, our respect for you as a 'stand up guy' we rarely see these day.

Kind regards

PS I seldom write email, I gave myself a pat for writing this one.

Sunday 21 February 2010

I 'lo hei' every year, so why am I still prosper-less?

So here I am, trying to reach the yusheng with my disposable chopsticks between the bodies of my colleagues during the office "lo hei".

Why am I doing this?

I suppose it's because this tradition of tossing the yusheng during Chinese New Year is believed to bring prosperity in the coming year.

The problem is I did the same thing a year ago and in the ensuing 12 months, I didn't prosper that much, if at all.

For one thing, I'm "lo hei"-ing with more or less the same bunch of losers as last year. I guess the yusheng didn't work for them just like it didn't work for me. It's safe to assume that if they had prospered, they wouldn't be stuck here with me as their colleague either.

Remember Color Me Badd? No, you don't and I'll tell you why.

Color Me Badd was a US boyband that had string of big hits, such as I Wanna Sex You Up, I Adore Mi Amor and All 4 Love, in the early '90s.

In February 1994, the four-member group came to Singapore to promote its second album and was scheduled to appear on a local TV variety show on Channel 5 called Live On 5, which I happened to be working on at the time.

Since it was around Chinese New Year, someone - not me - had the bright idea of having the four guys "lo hei" on the show.

So during the live telecast, after Color Me Badd performed its final number in the packed TV studio, a huge plate of yusheng was brought out by a Chinese chef from the sponsoring hotel.

The guys were each giving a pair of of extra-long chopsticks as the strange, exotic custom of tossing the yusheng was quickly explained to them.

They were told that the higher they could toss the yusheng with their chopsticks, the better.

Unfortunately, no one told them that they should also try to keep the yusheng on the plate.

So once the lo hei began, shredded vegetable and other carefully prepared ingredients flew all over the place. The crowd went nuts.

Even the chef laughed. These crazy Westerners, what to do?

The credits rolled as everyone picked bits of food out of their hair and clothes.

It was great TV, but as I expected, a few days later, the show received a letter from an offended viewer who berated us for making fun of a revered Chinese tradition. We were lucky not to be called up by ISD.

I made a mental note that the next time we "lo hei" with American boybands, I must remember to tell them to try and keep the yusheng on the plate.

I needn't have worried. I left Live On 5 a few months later and the show was cancelled before the year was out.

As for Color Me Badd, well, the group's fortune faded after that and you could colour them broken up by 2000.

Wait. So maybe I'm not getting prosperous from my yearly lo hei because I've been doing it all wrong.

Which means I probably won't win the Toto $10 million Hongbao Draw this year.

Dare I even go near the new casino?

Colour me prosper-less.

See you losers again next year.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 February 2010

Saturday 13 February 2010

Local celebrity babes marrying foreign Caucasians: I support you, sisters!

In the 1995 book Revenge Of The Sarong Party Girl, sequel to The Official Guide To The Sarong Party Girl, I was listed as No 4 among “Local Desirable Men”.

The top three were entertainer Najip Ali, footballer Fandi Ahmad and TV host Bernard Lo, who’s now with Bloomberg.

I managed to beat Mr Johnson Lock, famous for his roast duck, who came in at No 5 (the man, not the duck).

So as you can see, I have no reason to feel insecure that all these local celebrity babes are eschewing local men and hooking up with foreign Caucasians. On the contrary, I applaud these women’s excellent taste.

Joanne Peh is dating Singapore-based US actor Bobby Tonelli while Jamie Yeo is seeing Englishman Thorsten Nolte. Sharon Au is engaged to a French guy while celebrity blogger Xiaxue is getting hitched to US engineer Mike Sayre. Vernetta Lopez married an angmoh last year.

It would be hypocritical of me to criticise them (Pinkerton Syndrome, anyone?) since I too have eschewed local men and hooked up with a foreign Caucasian.

Like Carole Lin, my marriage to a white person lasted about a year.

Unlike Carole, who married a Frenchman, I married a French Canadian-Irish American.

I did so because my Hainanese mother forbade me to a marry a Khek. Her reason: Hainanese and Khek don’t mix. Huh? Whatever. But since I can’t identify Kheks by sight, I decided to avoid marrying all Chinese people just to be safe.

Perhaps these celebrity babes also have Hainanese mothers.

The question is not why so many local female celebrities are marrying Caucasian men. The question should be why not more local male celebrities are marrying Caucasian women. Is Adrian Pang the only one?

Unfortunately, my own marriage to a Caucasian woman failed, so I decided to give Chinese people a shot. My present wife is Hokkien.

Could she have done better than me? Most definitely. I believe Najip Ali is still single. (Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.)

But, honestly, for the rest of you ladies, if you can’t get any of the top five “Local Desirable Men”, don’t bother with the rest of the local guys.

As the Government has reminded us time and again, to succeed, Singapore needs foreign talent – both male and female.

Roast duck can get you only so far.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 February 2010

UPDATE: Carole Lin: Third marriage's the charm?

Sunday 7 February 2010

Who wants to be the richest guy in the cemetery?

Is death really the great leveller?

When Singapore's richest man Ng Teng Fong died on Tuesday, it was front page news.

Three days earlier, Tan Eng Yoon, who represented our country in the 1956 Olympics, was killed in a road accident and also made the news, but the coverage was nothing compared to what Ng's death was getting.

When I die, no one besides my immediate family will know because I won't be able to update my Facebook status. Maybe I'll tweet something.

Coincidentally, on the night before I learned of the death of Singapore's richest man, I chanced upon YouTube video of a 2007 joint interview with two great business rivals, Apple's Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates.

The latter, of course, has been the world's richest man for the past two decades or so, occasionally giving up the top spot to stock picker extraordinaire Warren Buffett, depending on the vagaries of the stock market.

Asked if he envied Mr Gates, Mr Jobs replied in the video: "I think the world is a better place because Bill realised that his goal isn’t to be the richest guy in the cemetery."

Mr Jobs was referring to Mr Gate's 2006 announcement that the Microsoft founder would relinquish his day-to-day role at the company to focus on philanthropy and giving away some of the billions he made through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mr Jobs, on the other hand, was more focused on launching a new Apple product, the iPad, last week. Judging by its name, I'm guessing it's a revolutionary digital feminine hygiene device.

Maybe Mr Gates was heeding the words of another iconic entrepreneur who said: “There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can't do any business from there.”

That iconic entrepreneur was Colonel Harlan Sanders. Yes, that Colonel Sanders.

Anyway, the day after I saw the video, my colleague Paik Choo mentioned that she had been assigned to cover Mr Ng's wake and I thought of what Mr Jobs said.

Whether it was his goal or not, Mr Ng will probably be the richest guy in the cemetery.

According to reports, he was a reclusive man, but a generous boss. No mention of any philanthropy though. However, that could just mean he donated millions to charity but chose not to send press releases about it.

Where does that leave the rest of us who have yet to make our first billion? What will be our legacy?

Like Bill Gates, I can never get a good haircut and my goal also isn't to be the richest guy in the cemetery.

No, my goal is to be the wealthiest pile of ash in the columbarium. And the world is a better place for it.

But for now, I just want some fried chicken. Extra crispy.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 February 2010

UPDATE: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on Oct 5, 2011. He was 56.