Sunday 29 January 2012

Heartland Auntie threw pie in my face over Oscar predictions

With the announcement of the Academy Awards nominations last week, I’m reminded again – as I am every year – of how The New Paper on Sunday’s "Heartland Auntie" Maureen Koh once threw a pie in my face.

The Ground Zero columnist hates being called Heartland Auntie (who wouldn’t?), which is why we must all continue to call her Heartland Auntie.

The pie incident happened way back in 1994, long before Heartland Auntie became Heartland Auntie. She was only Heartland Lian then.

I was reviewing movies on a Channel 5 variety show called Live On 5, hosted by some guy named Gurmit Singh.

After that year’s Oscar nominations were announced, The New Paper decided to create some buzz by challenging me to predict the winners.

The TNP team, consisting of four entertainment reporters, would make their own predictions. One of the reporters was, of course, Heartland Lian.

If they correctly predicted more winners than I did, they would each get to throw a pie in my face.

(Why pies? I don't know. Maybe someone at TNP watched too many Bugs Bunny cartoons.)

If more of my predictions were correct, I would get to throw a pie on each of their faces.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Four against one.

How could they hope to beat me with only four people? It was so unfair to them.

But I accepted the challenge because it meant publicity for the show. I’m selfless that way.

That year, Schindler’s List won the Oscar for Best Picture, which everyone predicted.

The biggest surprise was then-11-year-old Anna Paquin (future X-Man and True Blood heroine) winning the Best Supporting Actress award for The Piano.

Both the TNP team and I wrongly predicted Winona Ryder (future shoplifter) would win the award for director Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence.

The TNP team also wrongly predicted that Daniel Day-Lewis would win the Best Actor award for In The Name Of The Father.

I, along with the rest of the world, correctly predicted Tom Hanks would win for Philadelphia.

But I wrongly predicted that Pete Postlewaite would win the Best Supporting Actor award for In The Name Of The Father.

The TNP team, along with the rest of the world, correctly predicted Tommy Lee Jones would win for The Fugitive.

So who won the Great Oscar Slugout of 1994 between the TNP team and me?

No one. It was a tie.

Did that mean all our faces would go un-pied?

That would be anti-climatic. So someone quickly made up the rule that in the event of a tie, everyone would get a pie in the face – in my case, four times.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Yes, it was.

So on Friday, March 24, 1994, at 1:30pm, I went toe to toe with my nemeses at the open space outside Raffles Place MRT station with cream pies sponsored by Boulevard Hotel. The emcee was Hamish Brown. (He had more hair then.)

I reflexively ducked to avoid the first pie. I had to force myself to stand passively as each of the four TNP reporters, including Heartland Lian, shoved a pie in my face. It felt creamy.

Then it was my turn.

Soon, pieces of pie were all over the five of us, not just our faces.

A female bystander came up to me and licked some pie from my ear – then left without a word. Wham bam, thank you, ma’am! Even today, I still have no idea who the woman was.

Three months later, I quit Live On 5 and the show was cancelled some months after that.

I didn’t see Heartland Lian again until 2008 when I joined TNP full-time. By then, Heartland Lian had become Heartland Auntie.

She insisted on becoming my Facebook friend just so she could share 14-year-old photos of her smashing a pie in my face.

So what are my predictions for this year’s Oscars?

I predict that between now and the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb 26, whenever I see Heartland Auntie, I will be thinking of cream pie.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 January 2012

Now sweetheart,

I am ok being called a heartland aunty what... hahahah... but me!? Lian?!? ahhh... can't you call me heartland sweetie instead?!

Maureen Koh

Sunday 22 January 2012

Woohoo! I’m an English assignment question

Many years ago, someone introduced me to local literary lioness Catherine Lim.

I don’t remember what I said to her, but after the meeting, that someone told me Lim requested never to have anything to do with me again.

Yeah, I have that kind of effect on people.

Many Singaporeans know of Lim because they were forced to study her works in school.

Last week, I discovered that one of my old columns is being used to teach English. That’s right. Some poor kids are being forced to study me in school.

That puts me on the same literary level as Lim and – dare I say it? – William Shakespeare. Yes, I dare.

Shall I compare myself to a summer’s day? I’m more lovely and more equatorial. (That joke is for all you poetry and geography nerds.)

What happened was that on Tuesday, I was searching the web for the video of some kid named Amos Yee dissing Chinese New Year so that I could write a column about how wrong it was and I would never do such a thing.

But then I came across a WordPress blog called “2R1’s English Classroom”. It seemed that a teacher has created this blog to distribute English assignments to her students.

One of the assignments is to pick one of three selected newspaper articles about neighbours and answer questions about the article.

One of the selected articles is “How to be a good neighbour (according to HDB)” by – ahem – S M Ong.

It was a column I had written for The New Paper On Sunday in 2009, deriding an e-book created by the Housing Development Board (HDB) called My Neighbour, My Friend, It Begins With Me.

Ironically, while I usually decide what to write about in my column, that particular article was grudgingly written as an assignment given to me by The New Paper editor at the time.

I would’ve preferred to write about Glenn Ong’s love life again. But then I don’t think the deejay’s multiple marriages would’ve been selected as a topic for an English class. (But then I could be wrong.)

And now my assignment has become someone else’s assignment.

For the class assignment, the questions that the students have to answer regarding my HDB article are:
1. Do you think the author, S M Ong, is positive about the initiative launched by HDB? Why?

2. Quote from the article two phrases that back your answer in Question 1.

3. Do you agree with S M Ong’s point of view in this article? Explain your answer.

All three questions must be answered to be considered a complete answer.

In the blog, that last instruction was punctuated with a smiley face emoticon, probably to reflect the grin on my face.

The name of the school is not mentioned in the blog, but since the blog is called “2R1’s English Classroom”, I’m guessing that this assignment is for a Secondary 2 class – and not a Primary 2 class.

I know my writing is juvenile, but it’s not that juvenile.

The other two articles in the assignment are a My Paper report on a noise dispute between neigbours and an AsiaOne translation of a Lianhe Wanbao report on the Everitt Road dispute.

But my TNPS article is the only one in the assignment where the author is mentioned by name. Ahem.

​And this is just one class assignment about me that I happened to come across. Who knows how many teachers out there are using me as a teaching tool (as opposed to a cautionary tale) that I'm not aware of?

See? I’m not just a pretty face. I’m educational too.

To further extend my questionable influence on the youth of Singapore, I have also been invited to speak at an event targeted at students called All In! Young Writers Media Festival at the Rendezvouz Hotel on Feb 18.

The event is organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.

My fellow TNPS columnist Neil Humphreys will also be there.

You know who won’t be there?

Catherine Lim.

​And apparently, that Shakespeare guy isn’t available.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 January 2012

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Speaking of The Noose, see the PowerPoint that started it all

To take credit where it isn't due, I can truthfully say that if not for me, The Noose (currently in its fifth season on Channel 5) wouldn't have made it to air.

No Leticia the maid. No Barbarella the SPG. No International Emmy Award nomination.

Yeah, I made it all possible!

No, I didn't create The Noose. But I created the PowerPoint presentation.

It all began in 2006 when I was still working at MediaCorp as an executive producer. I think I was working on the final season of PCK Pte Ltd at the time.

There was going to be pitching session for new programmes for Channel 5.

The producers were broken up into teams to come up with new concepts to pitch. I was in charge of a team of three or four people.

I remember meeting in a tiny room at MediaCorp with my team and regretting the white, yellow and blue Beetlebug shoes I was wearing because they didn't quite achieve the look I was aiming for.

Anyway, I asked my team if they had any ideas for new shows.

One of them, Prem Anand, said he had this idea that he had pitched before and was rejected because it was deemed too politically sensitive, but he wanted to try again.

Prem is a very large guy. I once gave him a size-XL jacket I bought at Robinsons that was too big for me. I was kinda hurt he never gave me anything back. That'll teach me for not trying on clothes before buying them.

Anyway, his idea was a show called The Noose.

We discussed it. I liked the idea because I thought it could be like The Onion on TV, but I also thought it would most likely be rejected again.

Still, I decided to pitch it anyway, just so we had something to pitch.

So imagine my surprise when after we pitched The Noose, the response was rather positive. The reservation about the political sensitivity remained, but everyone seemed to like the idea.

I didn't think it would go any further than that.

So imagine my bigger surprise when Channel 5 later commissioned a pilot.

I was even more surprised (and worried) when one day, out of the blue, I was told that I would be working the show.

But before I did anything, just a couple of days later, I was told just as suddenly I wouldn't be working on the show after all.

Which was probably for the best. If I had done The Noose, it would be a different animal and not become the hit it is.

I resigned from MediaCorp soon after.

That, in total, was my involvement with The Noose.

The Noose is pretty much Prem's baby. At best, I helped midwife it.

And for fans for The Noose, below is the 2006 PowerPoint presentation I created for the pitch which started it all. (Remember, this was long before anyone thought of casting, Michelle Chong, etc.)

As a bonus, also included in the PowerPoint is the concept for a sitcom called My Dad's The Principal, which was my idea and was also pitched but thankfully, never produced.

I guess the moral of this story is that even if you have been rejected before, don't give up because, well, you never know. You could give Michelle Chong's career a boost.

Hey, maybe My Dad's The Principal still has a chance.

COLUMN: Best of sitcoms: Why The Noose and not this award-winner?

Sunday 15 January 2012

Lim Hwee Hua, believing The Onion is like believing The Noose

This is a thank-you note.

Despite the recommended paycuts, Singaporeans still expect our ministers to accomplish big things like fixing the public transport system and preventing Orchard Road from flooding again.

But the small stuff matters too.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank a former minister for a little thing she did which made the day of an old friend of mine half way around world.

Ms Lim Hwee Hua is a former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office who was a member of the People's Action Party team that was voted out of the Aljunied GRC in last year's General Election.

Last week, I found out via Facebook that Ms Lim posted on her Facebook page a link to a news story on The Onion website headlined “Obama openly asks nation why on earth he would want to serve for another term”.

Along with the link, Ms Lim commented: “Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama’s campaign strategy might be.”

Based on her comment and a series of rather earnest comments by others on her post, it’s fair to infer that Ms Lim and some of the commenters didn’t know the Obama news story was fake. It was only about 30 comments later that they realised this.

To save face, Ms Lim posted another comment: “Indeed, it is increasingly challenging everywhere - to foster a trusting relationship between government and people, and between people and people, and to differentiate between real and not-so-real news.”

But it was too late. A screen grab of Ms Lim’s original post was circulated online and she was roundly mocked for being "clueless”.

Contrary to Ms Lim’s last comment, in this case, it was actually quite easy to “differentiate between real and not-so-real news”. When the news source is The Onion, you can safely assume it’s not-so-real news.

Just because The Onion calls itself “America’s finest news source” doesn’t mean it is.

As one of the mockers pointed out, believing The Onion is like believing The Noose is Channel NewsAsia.

But it's unfair to expect everyone to know about The Onion - even a former minister.

So what if The Onion organisation received a 2008 Peabody Award for “providing ersatz news that has a worrisome ring of truth”?

I first came across The Onion in 1989, a year after it started as a satirical newspaper in the US town of Madison, Wisconsin, where I went to college.

That was also where I met one of my Facebook friends, Todd Hanson, who now lives in New York and has been writing for The Onion for 20 years.

He also used to be a cartoonist at the college paper where I worked.

He once drew a wonderful caricature of Freddie Mercury, buck teeth and all, to illustrate a tribute I wrote for the lead singer of Queen when the rock star died in 1991.

If you want to know what Todd looks and sounds like, you can see and hear him in the trailer for the 2010 documentary The People Vs George Lucas on YouTube. He's the long-haired guy who says: “People hate Jar Jar Binks. They hate him now. People are going to look at these films in 50 years, 100 years - they’re going to hate him too.”

(Speaking of which, anyone looking forward to the theatrical re-release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 3D? Now you can hate Jar Jar in three dimensions!)

Anyway, knowing that he works at The Onion, I posted on Todd’s Facebook page the screen grab of Ms Lim's post which unwittingly took The Onion article on Obama seriously.

He responded: “How funny. That seems to happen a lot with The Onion. I actually wrote the article for this headline too, so this made me feel extra good about myself. Thanks!”

You’re welcome, Todd.

But I think the person he should really be thanking is the former minister, which I shall do so now on his behalf.

Thank you, Ms Lim.

By the way, if you see Michelle Chong, the news is probably also not so real.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 January 2012

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Going to the mountains for pimple cream

At the end of my now controversial column about why I like Christmas better than Chinese New Year, I wrote:
"Hey, I want to make money as much as the next guy. And find a pimple cream that actually works."

A reader on Facebook, Grace Loh, instead of wondering why a man in his 40s still has acne problem, suggested that I try the Himalayan brand.

At first, I thought, "I'm not going to the Himalayas for pimple cream. I would only go as far as Bukit Batok."

And then I realised Himalayan could be the name of a brand.

This was confirmed when I went to the Guardian outlet in Lot 1 shopping centre and found skin products by a company called Himalaya Herbals.

But no pimple cream.

Then last night, imagine my joy when I spotted the Himalaya Herbals Acne-n-Pimple Cream at the Watsons outlet at Yew Yee Point.

It was $10.90 and best of all, on sale at 20 per cent off. Score!

I just hope it works. No pressure, Grace.

Sunday 8 January 2012

'God of Fortune gives as much hope as your lovely chubby Santa Claus'

To recap, last year, a colleague showed my photo to a fengshui expert to read my fortune based on my face and birthdate.

Among other things, the fengshui guy said that I “can be too candid with his thoughts and words, and could offend others without realising it”.

Consequently, to remedy this, I sought to change my face (since I can’t change my birthdate) by surgically removing two facial moles.

It didn’t do me any good because after that, I still offended people without realising it.

For example, last month, after Comfort DelGro announced its taxi fare hike, I wrote a column criticising cabbies for not picking up passengers. You would think this was a pretty safe topic.

To my amazement, an offended reader actually wrote in to defend taxi drivers. And he claimed not to be a taxi driver himself. He just takes cabs “very often”.

Although to be fair to the reader, it was suggested in the column that errant cabbies should be caned. It was a joke! Okay, maybe half a joke.

But that was nothing compared to the long angry e-mail I received condemning last Sunday’s column about why I like Christmas better than Chinese New Year (CNY).

How long was the e-mail? It was longer than the column itself.

The e-mail writer said: “I am sure that we all have our own preferred festivals ...but that does not give anyone of us any right to belittle the ones that we may not prefer.”

Consider me chastened and contrite.

But I would like to address a few issues raised in the e-mail.

I said in the column that I like Christmas better than CNY because I don't have to visit relatives on Christmas Day. The writer argued that “for those who truly celebrate Christmas, they do visit friends and relatives”.

But my point was that I don’t celebrate Christmas (truly or otherwise) and I don’t visit relatives on the day - and that’s what I like about it.

I also said that Santa Claus seems less creepy than the God of Fortune.

In defence of the latter, the writer wrote: “Without going into religious issues, this God of Fortune... gives as much hope to everyone over the whole world who celebrates CNY as your lovely chubby Santa Claus...

“I would think that you should perhaps offer more respect, sensitivity and perhaps a bit of sensibility... than to use 'creepy' to describe this deity worshipped by billions.”

First, I don’t think Santa is lovely. He’s just less creepy, being a housebreaker who maybe likes children a little too much. (Please, Santa worshippers, don’t write in to complain.)

Second, I apologise. My mistake was that I thought God of Fortune was a mythological figure like Thor, the Thunder God, who pines for Natalie Portman; Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods, who gets to say “Release the Kraken!”; and of course, Santa Claus. (Yes, Virginia, Santa is a myth.)

All I know about the God of Fortune is that there will be a giant cartoon figure of him throwing out shiny stuff at the River Hongbao every year.

Oh, and some guy dressed up as the God of Fortune at last year’s The New Paper Big Walk. Now he looked creepy.

I also pointed out facetiously though accurately in the column that bak kwa is more expensive during CNY.

The writer countered: “Isn’t this how the commercial world works now? Have you tried campaigning for cheaper roses during Valentine’s Day?"

But I’m not campaigning for or against anything. It’s not like I’m demonstrating at Hong Lim Park for the CEO of Chinese New Year to resign.

I’m just trying to write a funny column without offending (too many) people (that much).

The juggernaut that is CNY will survive my little jibes, me, my children and my children’s great-great-grandchildren with nary a scratch.

While I imagined myself as giving voice to the captive minority like me who feel besieged by the trappings of CNY, I realise now that the underlying message of intolerance is wrong and should not be... uh, tolerated.

Well, I have one more mole on my face I can get rid off.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 January 2012


Hi Mr Ong

may I offer a suggestion if you want to change your features. Get rid of the facial hair and you'll be surprised by the results.

Like Luis Suarez say, in my country its ok to call a person *****. The lesson here is to be sensitive. We live in a multi cultural country. Tolerance tolerance tolerance.


Hi SM Ong

I'm an regular reader of your Sunday column, in fact it's one of the sections I look forward to when I flip open the New Paper on sunday:)

For one, I'm also a Yew Tee resident (which my friends and i affectionately call it the Yew Tee village simply 'cos there's just way too many ppl in one concentrated area served by only 1 bus) and i'm one of those who prefer X'mas to CNY (by a long shot) given any year.

The email writer u mentioned in your column today was obviously looking at the wrong places if he/she is looking for views that take into account all the sensitivity and sensibility of every possible person on this planet.

I appreciate that you 'say it as it is' and that not all views that come to print must be 'correct', politically, socially or otherwise. Kudos to that!

Looking forward to your columns... :)


Hi Mr SM Ong,

I was really tickled by your column on Sun 8 Jan. It was truly a glib comeback in response to the letter-writer who felt you were insensitive in dissing Chinese New Year. You had, with one fell swoop, adroitly turned the irate letter into fodder for your new column!

Yours is, after all, as you rightly asserted, "a funny column" intended to provide comic relief and perhaps make a wry dig at how we Singaporeans observe certain customs and practices.

I for one share your sentiment about the discordant "tong, tong tong chiang" of Chinese New Year ditties with their over-materialistic lyrics of making more money in the coming year. That however doesn't mean I am against the spirit of celebrating the lunar new year per se.

Santa Claus and the God of Fortune signify different things to different people and should remain so. Non-Taoists who do not worship Cai Shen should moreover be allowed the liberty not to venerate the deity in the same way as believers do.

I believe most readers did not take umbrage at your facetious comparisons between Christmas and CNY and know for a fact that your comments are not the rantings of a bigot.

Do keep those laugh-out-loud articles coming and leave that additional mole of yours alone...your contrition is superfluous.

marietta koh

Wednesday 4 January 2012

'Insensitive and bigoted' about Chinese New Year?

Wow. I just received a long e-mail condemning my last column about why I like Christmas better than Chinese New Year.

Did I really go too far this time?

Dear SM Ong,

I refer to the subject article written by you and published on the 1st of January 2012 in The New Paper on Sunday under the 'Humour' section.

I was actually expecting a light-hearted article to bring me into 2012 but unfortunately, I finished the article with aghast at how insensitive and bigoted you are writing this article.

Instead of an article singing the praise of the Christmas spirit to bring insight into why you love Christmas so much, it reads more like an article 'Why I hate Chinese New Year'.

Even if you do hate it, which I assume you do based on the choice of words you use, it does not give you a fraction of any rights to belittle a day celebrated by billions around the world.

I believe many will feel the same if I said the same as what you did for other festivals such as Hari Raya or Deepavali for that matter.

I am sure that we all have our own preferred festivals in our modern cosmopolitan society but that does not give anyone of us any right to belittle the ones that we may not prefer, especially in a national newspaper that has a considerable following here.

I do not know what may have traumatised you to detest Chinese New Year so much but you definitely do not have to bring this into a public newspaper.

1) I believe that for those who truly celebrate Christmas, they do visit friends and relatives as well. A lot of expats I know personally take this chance to fly home to be with close ones during this period of Christmas celebrations.

Locally, families and closed ones do visit another for turkey and Christmas goodies as well. Lousy reason you have there.

2) The colours of CNY may not be your kind of colours but this to me is the colour of the Chinese New Year which I happily celebrate every year. It brings the whole feel of CNY around the country and it is very rude and insensitive of you to describe it as tasteless, garish.

3) My dad prefers the dong dong chiang over the silent night that you probably prefer. But I don't hear my dad whining to the whole world about his preference because he respects the festivities of others as well.

4) God of Fortune creepy? Dear Mr. Ong, may I remind you that we had some uproar over here with insensitivities over religious issues and here you go stirring again.

Without going into religious issues, this God of Fortune over here that we are talking about gives as much hope to everyone over the whole world who celebrates CNY as your lovely chubby Santa Claus.

Till the day you are able to offer half as much hope to my little boy at home, I would think that you should perhaps offer more respect, sensitiviy and perhaps a bit of sensibility given the structure of our multicultural society , than to use the 'creepy' to describe this deity worshipped by billions.

5) Bak Kwa more expensive during CNY? Isn't this the commercial world works now? Have you tried campaigning for cheaper roses during Valentine's day?

I have also never seen turkeys flying off the shelves other than during Xmas, and my, they ain't that cheap either considering no one even have them on their dinner table other than the turkey hams.

6) Great for you that you manage to find better discounts during Xmas but I don't think that should be something will come out from someone who's supposed to be intellectual to be published in a national newspaper?

7) Shopping for Xmas presents is definitely fun but it doesn't have to make shopping for the new clothes and shoes any less fun or at least enjoyable.

In any case, I do know of a number of people who finds Xmas shopping a chore as they are just obliged to do it because of some parties that they feel obligated to attend to. Which is something like your point 1.

8) Have you ever been toasted good health and good wealth during Xmas or New Year? I am not the greatest bilinguist around but I would think that they mean the same with shen ti jian kang & gong xi fa cai.

May all your wishes come true = xin siang shi cheng? No?

It's not Chinese New Year's fault that Singapore Pools should decide to hold the annual 10 million draw during CNY and not during Xmas.

While we are all welcoming the arrival of the Spring Festival, aka Chinese New Year, I sincerely hope that you will help to promote this festive period for us Chinese.

You may prefer the Xmas for reasons of your own but I hope that you realise that CNY does bring a lot of joy to others as well who celebrates it.

The folks who await this festive season once a year, just like how you may anticipate Xmas, do not deserve to have someone degrade, humiliate and insult their share of festive joys.

The creepy God of Fortune, 'Garish' definitely sound like choices of words used for the purpose.

Lee Ker Shiun


Sunday 1 January 2012

Why I like Christmas better than Chinese New Year

It’s New Year's Day already? I guess this means Christmas must really be over.

Yet I’m still seeing Christmas trees around town. (At least I don’t see the Singapore flag hanging outside my neighbour’s window anymore. Majulah!) Other places are already awash with red for Chinese New Year (CNY).

Last Tuesday when I was at the NTUC FairPrice outlet at Yew Tee to buy mangosteen juice, extra soft toilet paper and pimple cream, the supermarket was still decked with faux boughs of holly.

But instead of Yuletide music like, say, Deck The Halls, I heard something in Mandarin that sounded like a CNY song playing over the store's public address system.

I was so thrown off by the visual-audio dissonance that I almost bought mango juice instead of mangosteen juice by mistake. The horror.

Merry Christmas! No, gong xi fa cai!

Make up your mind! Co-ordinate much?

Talk about culture clash. Blame it on the two holidays being only a month apart this time round.

If given the choice, I would extend Christmas and hold off CNY for as long as possible.

Why? Here are a few reasons I prefer Christmas to CNY even though I’m an atheist and Chinese:

1. I don’t have to visit my relatives on Christmas day. Not that I mind my relatives that much (love ya, Ah Ma!), but dragging my family to three different relatives’ homes in one day is about as appealing as a long walk though a dark MRT train tunnel.

2. All the red and gold decorations during CNY are kind of garish. And so cheena.

3. Three words: tong tong chiang.

CNY music is much, much, much more annoying than Christmas music. Way too many drum solos. If I want a drum solo, I’d listen to the live version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and I’m not going to do that.

Christmas music also has more variety, from the cynicism of Tom Waits’ Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis to, uh, the cynicism of Weird Al Yankovic’s The Night Santa Went Crazy.

CNY music could use a Silent Night or two. It’s safe to say Michael Buble won't be making a CNY album anytime soon.

4. Santa Claus seems less creepy than this God of Fortune character even though the latter doesn’t get children to sit on his lap.

5. Bak kwa is more expensive during CNY.

6. I can find bigger discounts at a Christmas sale than at a CNY sale.

7. Shopping for Christmas presents is more fun than queueing for new notes at the bank. Wrapping Christmas presents is more fun than stuffing cash into red packets. (On the other hand, receiving cash is more fun than, well, anything.)

8. While many decry the commercialisation of Christmas - even the Pope urged people “to see through the superficial glitter" - CNY is inherently a celebration of the superficial glitter.

It's about new clothes, new shoes and yes, new notes.

My Chinese language sucks, but I think when you say “gong xi fa cai”, you’re basically wishing that someone makes a lot of money, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But if the love of money is the root of all evil, then CNY is a major root that sprouts annually.

There’s a reason Toto holds a $10 Million Hongbao Draw and not a $10 Million Christmas Draw.

It’s the same reason there isn’t a Glee version of a song called Do They Know It's Chinese New Year to help the starving children in Africa.


Okay, that’s it.

I will stop at eight reasons because the Chinese word for “eight” sounds like the Chinese word for “fortune”.

Hey, I want to make money as much as the next guy. And find a pimple cream that actually works.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 January 2012

Hi there,

how much do you know the history and origin of GOF and CNY?

As a Chinese, GOF is creepy? You are insulting the a taoism God n taoist/chinese culture.

People might write a complain to Singapore Taoism Association!

Pls be sensitive in yr words. And furthermore it came from a Chinese like yourself!


Just wanna let you know that your articles really crack me up, they're so easy, interesting and fun(ny) to read :)

Haha happy new year!


READER'S ANGRY E-MAIL: 'God of Fortune gives as much hope as your lovely chubby Santa Claus'