Sunday 25 April 2010

Not enough parking space for your three cars? I have an AT-AT

Radio DJs mimicking the accent of a race other than their own to get laughs?

I think it's offensive, but then I've worked on a TV show where an Indian comedian mimics a Chinese Ah Beng contractor to get laughs. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you obviously don't read this blog often enough. Shame on you.)

People who live in glass houses and all that.

But you know what I find really offensive?

No, not the radio station's response that it was "done in good, clean fun and is never intended to disparage or poke fun at race or language".

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that.

What really offends me is recent news reports of rich people complaining that their condos don't give them enough parking space because they have too many cars. (And if they complained in a mock Indian accent, I would be even more offended.)

Too many cars? Didn't COE prices just hit their highest levels in 10 years? Chump change for these multiple-vehicle owners.

Why do we even bother opening new MRT stations on the Circle Line when our entire rail network is clearly superfluous?

And what's this debate over long-distance bus routes? Do we even need buses at all?

As one condo resident said: "My family really does need all three cars for easy mobility, so I didn't want to give up any car."

You don't expect his family members to use our world-class public transportation system, do you? How pedestrian.

Earth Day? That's for losers who can't afford the COE.

I know the Singapore economy is booming again, but come on! You don't have to rub my face in it.

Now that I think of it, I also want make to complaint: HDB doesn't give me enough parking space for my Batmobile, Concorde and AT-AT. (If you know what an AT-AT is, congratulations, you're a nerd.)

Actually, there's plenty of space on the top floor of the HDB multi-storey carpark for my AT-AT. The trouble is getting up there. Not enough height clearance.

Getting attacked by rebels is also a bitch.

But let me tell you something, when your problem is that you can't find a a place to park your fleet, you're better off than 90 per cent of the population out there. So stop moaning and buy your own kingdom already.

I have to decide whether to hire Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber for my daughter's birthday party - now that's a problem.

Screw it, I'll get them both. You turn 11 only once.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 April 2010

Friday 23 April 2010

Being Human & Kidnapper at the box office: Singapore films flop (again)

With the Phua Chu Kang movie (for which I'm the credited scriptwriter) coming out in a few months, I'm following closely the box office returns of two recent local films, Being Human and Kidnapper.

Being Human, the latest movie directed by Jack Neo, released in Singapore a day before the scandal of his affair broke, has topped out at just over $700,000 at the local box office.

Compare this to Money No Enough 2's $3,389,709 and Ah Long Pte Ltd's $2,115,640, both movies also directed by Neo.

Was the scandal a factor in the weaker box office performance of Being Human? Or is it because the movie didn't have a strong enough hook like Neo's previous success Where Got Ghost?, which made $1,851,721?

Being Human also opened in Malaysia three weeks ago and looks likely to duplicate its Singapore box office performance there.

Kidnapper, starring Christopher Lee and directed by Kelvin Tong, has managed only around $350,000, about half of Being Human's Singapore BO.

It's also about half of what Tong's previous film, Rule Number One, earned in 2008. My guess is both of Tong's movies didn't make back their production cost.

Even Christopher Lee's previous movie, The Wedding Game with wife Fann Wong, did better, earning over $1 million last year.

(And if you're wondering, Glen Goei's The Blue Mansion made about $150,000 last year. He should feel blue.)

Being Human and Kidnapper clearly had a hard time competing with Hollywood blockbusters like Alice In Wonderland, How To Train Your Dragon and Clash Of The Titans which were released in the same period. These three hits took in at least $3 million each in Singapore.

Not very encouraging for local films.

My hope for the PCK movie is that it makes at least $1 million in Singapore and another million in Malaysia. If it doesn't, I'd consider it a failure.

Sunday 18 April 2010

'Ice-cream sandwich' on The Amazing Race: The PCK of Singapore food?

A few years ago when I was putting together the series finale of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, I wanted to include a clip of PCK's appearance in the third season of The Amazing Race.

Handing out clues on the Emmy-winning US reality show was undoubtedly one of the major achievements of the fictional contractor played by Gurmit Singh.

On the flipside, many Singaporeans didn't think the yellow-booted local icon was exactly the best choice to represent our great nation to discerning TV viewers around the world.

We were no longer just the country that outlawed chewing gum and flogged an American citizen - we're also the home of this weird-looking curly-haired guy with a giant mole who speaks something resembling English.

Anyway, I e-mailed the rights holder of The Amazing Race to get permission to use the clip on the PCK series finale - for free. I didn't get it.

Fast-forward to last week's episode of The Amazing Race which returned to Singapore for the first time since that nefarious 2002 PCK episode.

To the relief of many I'm sure, PCK didn't make a return appearance. Instead, we got Allan Wu.

Wu looks and speaks better than PCK, but he's no Singapore icon. I don't think he's even Singaporean. Wong Lilin's hubby was most likely chosen because he's the host of The Amazing Race Asia and has fantastic cheekbones.

But what really impressed me about the latest episode was the segment involving local food.

You know how Singapore likes to promote itself as a food paradise? lists the following as Singapore's "signature dishes": fried carrot cake, Hokkien prawn mee, chilli crab, rojak, nasi lemak, nasi padang, ice kachang, kaya toast, fish head curry, chendol, laksa, thosai, char kway teow, otak, bak kut teh, satay, roti prata, ayam buah keluak, teh tarik and Hainanese chicken rice.

But did the producers of The Amazing Race select anything from this long list? No, and they didn't even pick durian.

They chose the humble $1 "ice-cream sandwich".

Host Phil Keoghan described it as "ice-cream sandwiched between wafers or slices of actual bread". Not make-believe bread, mind you, but "actual bread".

Can you imagine? We wacky Singaporeans eat ice-cream with "actual bread"! How exotic!

Once again, it took foreigners to appreciate what locals have long taken for granted.

Step aside, chilli crab. Malaysia can have you.

It's time the "ice-cream sandwich" with "actual bread" takes its proper place as a true Singapore icon.

PCK must be so jealous.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 April 2010

Hi Ong,

I was in secondary school from 1958 to 1961. One of my tuck shop meal was this three inches bread (in the form of cube) sliced in the middle by the hawker and a sliced of ice-cream (half inch thick) was sandwiched into the cut. My favourite was vanilla with straw berry.

Today, most ice-cream bread is just a scoop or two and placed in a slice of bread.

The cost then was ten cents, equivalent to the bus fare to school. If we can avoid the bus conductor, then it brings great joy, as we can have two loafs of ice-cream.

I believe it has nutritional value and how it was developed could possibly by the ice cream company!

Regards and Best Wishes,
Tan Thian Seng

Sunday 11 April 2010

Pole dancing at the National Day Parade? Take it off!

Remember the pole dancers in the National Day Parade show last year?

Although our nation's 45th birthday is still four months away, I'm already hoping they will return this year.

I know what you're thinking - because I'm thinking the same thing:

If we're going to have pole dancers at the NDP, we might as well go all the way and have them do a striptease too. After all, isn't it customary for pole dancers to take off their clothes?

Of course, we can't have nudity at the NDP. Children are watching. The dancers could just strip down to their bikinis, which would cover all the naughty bits. That should be okay.

It would make up for the closing down of Crazy Horse.

This may sound like a pipe dream, but I'm telling you now it's quite possible.

I believe one of the justifications for featuring pole dancers in the NDP is that gyrating around a long vertical metal bar is no longer reserved for adults-only strip clubs. Pole dancing has become a form of aerobic dance exercise, along with Latin, hip-hop and yes, belly dancing.

There is even an International Pole Dance Fitness Association - seriously.

It has recently petitioned the International Olympic Committee to recognise pole dancing as an Olympic sport - though probably not in time for the Singapore-hosted Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August.

We may not get pole dancing at the YOG, but all is not lost. Singapore is hosting the grand finals of the Pole Stars Talent Showcase in two weeks on April 24.

 So by showcasing pole dancing at last year's NDP, the organisers were simply introducing another way of keeping fit to Singaporeans who may not be otherwise familiar with the activity since we don't have access to strip clubs here as Singapore doesn't allow them.

And how can promoting fitness be a bad thing? So if pole dancing can be a form of exercise, why not stripping? Like an answer to my prayers, RazorTV reported last week that Groove Dance School in Singapore is offering a course in “Stripexercise”.

I immediately clicked onto the school's website to check it out. The website says: “Take them off...the clothes, the calories and the inhibitions. Groove will teach you the basic moves of the striptease and combine them with aerobic elements and dance techniques to create a fun, energising, and sexy workout.”

The course is “for ladies only”, which means I can't join, dammit!

The school also offers courses in “Exotic Dance” and “Lap Dance Naughty Schoolgirl”. Surprisingly, the website doesn't say that these two courses are for ladies only. In the Exotic Dance class, you'll learn the “kitten crawl” and the “hooker walk”.

Forget stripping. I, for one, am dying to see the hooker walk at the NDP. It could one day be an Olympic sport.

- Published in The New Paper, 11 April 2010

UPDATE: Pole-dancing was part of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games opening ceremony (below), but not as a competitive event.

Monday 5 April 2010

Excited about the Youth Olympics? Sure, two years ago

I remember it like it was two years ago.

That's because it was two years ago when after much hype and suspense, Singapore was declared the host of the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) - beating out mighty Moscow no less.

Oh, how the former Cold War superpower and long-time supplier of James Bond villains had fallen.

And oh, how Singapore celebrated. We won something with the word "Olympic" in it! That's always a good thing. It's called branding, my friend.

And that was when our interest in the YOG peaked.

It's like being told you got a new job. That's the most excited you'll ever feel about a job because after that, you'll realise a job is just a job. Unless you get a sexy new co-worker with a proclivity for wearing mini-skirts and knee-high boots.

Singaporeans like me became so disinterested in the YOG that the Government expressed concern.

Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: “All the effort that we invest in this will be wasted if every Singaporean doesn't feel that this is a once-in-a-lifetime (thing).”

An announced theme song composed by Singapore Idol judge and Vasantham fan Ken Lim didn't help - and may have actually frightened people away.

Yet, when 320,000 tickets went on sale last Wednesday, organisers have reportedly said that they are "definitely quite confident that ticket sales will be good". I shall refrain from making a scoffing noise because of the wear and tear to my throat.

The trouble is much has happened in the two years since we crushed the Ruskies.

We lost and found Mas Selamat - although technically, it was the Malaysians who caught the escaped terrorist but let's not split hairs.

We hosted the first F1 night race to great acclaim and the second one a year later to dwindling crowds.

We hosted the first Asian Youth Games, also known as the AYG, which admittedly, I confused with the YOG because both have the letters Y and G. Maybe I've been hanging around Ris Low too much.

Unlike the F1 night race, last year's AYG suffered crowds so small the first time out that they didn't even have a chance to dwindle.

The much anticipated opening of Singapore's first integrated resort, Resorts World Sentosa, also fizzled out. Attractions at its Universal Studios theme park were shut down. Even Tom Jones cancelled his concert at RWS - twice.

Sir Tom Jones!

He who has been chugging along for 45 years since his first hit, It's Not Unusual, in 1965. He who survived that last note in the James Bond theme song, Thunderball. He who managed to make an incomprehensible Prince song, Kiss, semi-comprehensible.

Yet, faced with the RWS audience two Fridays ago, the laryngitis-stricken 69-year-old singer thought to himself, "I'm done."

Considering these disappointments, is it any wonder I'm not raising my hopes for the YOG?

It has been mentioned that perhaps some controversy might help create buzz for the August games.

Almost on cue, The New Paper reported that during the YOG Chefs de Mission Seminar last month, local female volunteers were propositioned by foreign Olympic Games officials. Ooh, a possible sex scandal?

I'm clicking online to buy YOG tickets now! No, wait, what's this about an alleged Jack Neo sex video? I'm going to look for that instead.

This wouldn't happen in Moscow.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 April 2010