Sunday 26 August 2012

We're No. 1 in the world in wealth and health - and Bejeweled Blitz

I’m bitterly disappointed in M&Ms.

More specifically, I’m bitterly disappointed in the M&Ms store that opened in Changi Airport Terminal 2 two weeks ago. It’s reportedly the biggest M&Ms store in Asia.

But only in Asia. The biggest M&Ms store in the world is still in New York City.

How can we not be No. 1 in the world? I’m sorry, but I find this hard to accept as I’ve become so used to Singapore being the global numero uno.

It's almost enough to make want to make a police report.

Earlier this month, we learnt that Singapore is not only the wealthiest country in the world, but we’re also the healthiest country.

Not only in Southeast Asia. Not only in Asia. Not only in Asia-Pacific. But in the world!

This means if there was a World Cup for being rich and healthy, we would be Spain.

(Incidentally, Spain is ranked the seventh healthiest country in the Bloomberg survey and is not even among the top 10 wealthiest countries, based on GDP per capita, according to The Wealth Report 2012 compiled by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank.)

Since Singapore is the wealthiest and healthiest country in the world, don’t you think we deserve to have the biggest M&Ms store in the world – not only in Asia?

And I just I checked Guinness World Records online – Singapore is tops not only in the categories of wealth and health, but we are also world beaters in dozens of other noble human endeavours.

I mean, just a month ago, our indomitable young nation set a new Guinness record for the largest cupcake mosaic in the world – not only in Asia.

This epic feat was achieved by the Ayer Rajah Community Centre Youth Club on July 29 at the Singapore Expo with 20,000 cupcakes.

If you think one cupcake is filling...

But that’s just the tip of the frosting. Here are 10 more inspiring official Guinness world records held by Singapore you may not be aware of:

Most people sitting on one chair
On Aug 16 2008, 1,058 people set this record at Springfield Secondary School.

Most people playing Sudoku simultaneously
On Aug 1 2008, 1,714 people set this record at Fairfield Methodist Primary School.

Largest egg and spoon race
On July 27 2008, 1,308 students set this record at Singapore Polytechnic.

Longest chain of helmets
On Oct 21 2007, this record was set with 18,000 safety helmets on Sentosa

Longest satay
On July 21 2007, this record was set with a 140.03m-long chicken satay at Lau Pa Sat. Not recommended for Diner en Blanc.

Most games of Scrabble played simultaneously
On March 14 2006. 1,042 people set this record with 521 games at Northland Secondary School.

Largest body mass index check
On Sept 5 2004, 3,594 people set this record on Sentosa.

Largest game of musical chairs
On Aug 5 1989, 8,238 people set this record at the Anglo-Chinese School. The game lasted three and a half hours. That was the last time no one heard of Gangnam Style.

Longest human tooth extracted
On April 6 2009, Dr Ng Lay Choo removed this record-setting 3.2cm-long tooth from Loo Hui Jing at the Eli Dental Surgery. Ouch.

Highest score on Bejeweled Blitz
On July 19 2011, Lee Chen Wei scored 804,200 points. This person is an unsung national hero.

But despite having the greatest Bejeweled Blitz player in the world and being No. 1 in wealth and health, we don’t rank so highly where perhaps it matters most.

According to the World Happiness Report by the United Nations released earlier this year, Singapore is only the 33rd happiest country in the world.

That’s just depressing. Even Spain is happier than us – they’re ranked at No. 22.

But then they won the actual World Cup.

Maybe some M&Ms will cheer me up.

No, wait ...

- Published in The New Paper, 26 August 2012

Friday 24 August 2012

One reason I'm glad the Olympics are over

I don't know what to do with all these glasses I have now.

Sunday 19 August 2012

I'm rich! I want more than just the Kate Spade bag

Does it come with the box?

That’s what I want to know.

I want very much to bid for the Kate Spade bag that Ms Tin Pei Ling is donating to an Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) fundraiser for auction on Sept 10.

But I’m actually interested only in the box that Ms Tin posed with in the photo that Aware described as “one of the defining images of the 2011 General Election”. (By the way, it was a watershed election.)

No one really knows what - if anything - was in the Kate Spade box. It could be a Kate Spade bag. It could be a dead raccoon.

It doesn’t matter. It’s the box that is famous.

I don’t mind paying the $500 reserve price for just the empty box - though another dead raccoon would also come in handy.

But why stop at Ms Tin’s Kate Spade bag (or box)?

Being a citizen of the current and future richest country in the world (according to the 2012 Wealth Report compiled by Citibank and Knight Frank), I’m flushed with so much disposable cash that I’m also looking to acquire other local cultural flotsam and jetsam drifting out there in the vast ocean of Internet memes.

Here is my wishlist:

Alex Ong’s scarf
Mr Ong is famous for the viral video of him pushing an elderly woman off a stationary bus. He is also famous for wearing a scarf in the video. Photographs of him also show him rocking a scarf. I want that scarf.

Ah Lian’s earphones
Her real name is Huina. She was called “the most polite ah lian” because of the viral video of her apparently enduring the verbal abuse of another passenger on the MRT train before eventually retaliating. She later told The New Paper that she didn’t react at first because she didn’t hear what the other passenger was saying as she had her earphones on. They look like Monster Beats by Dr Dre, but I'm not sure. I want those earphones.

A piece of “My Grandfather Road”
Artist Samantha Lo was arrested for acts of vandalism that included painting the words “My grandfather road” on the road. I want a piece of that road. I’ll pay for the jackhammer.

The giant Abercrombie & Fitch ad
I’m talking about the four-storey-high hoarding showing a shirtless man with no head outside Knightsbridge on Orchard Road last year. I want to get it as a birthday present for my wife. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Saw Phaik Hwa's sedan chair
I want to be carried in this everywhere I go by the shirtless guys from Abercrombie & Fitch.

MRT fire extinquisher
I'm talking about the one that a passenger used to break a train window during The Great MRT Breakdown of 2011. Apparently, it can also be used to put out fires.

NDP 2011 Funpack
They wrote a song about it, stealing the tune from Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. I understand Madonna claims Lady Gaga stole from her. I believe everyone stole from Weird Al Yankovic.

A glass of hot water from Nando's
Not mild or extra hot, but just hot. If I can't get it, I'm going to tweet about it like Joanne Peh did.

Army backpack
If I can't get the backpack the maid is carrying for the soldier, I'll take the maid. My mansion needs some tidying up. You can keep the soldier.

Ris Low's Miss Singapore 2009 tiara and sash
It has been three years already? I miss her.

Tin Pei Ling’s hat
I'm talking about the white baker boy hat she wore in the popular foot-stamping video. I'm surprised this eye-catching item isn't in more demand than the unseen Kate Spade bag.

I think it will go perfectly with my Alex Ong scarf and my Miss Singapore tiara and sash on the sedan chair. The dead raccoon is optional.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 August 2012

UPDATE: Tin Pei Ling's bag goes for $1,600

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The story of a story

The story is my column called "My mother says Tao Li is too fat to win".

This is the story of that story:

Sunday 5 Aug

The column was published in The New Paper. As usual, I posted the column on this blog.

The article was mentioned on two online forums at Hardware Zone and Spatchy. The comments were generally positive.

But I felt the need to correct the perception that I was mocking foreign talent in the column and so I wrote a blog post entitled "Not my intention to mock foreign talent".

Tuesday 7 Aug

AsiaOne website picked up my column (which it has done before) and put it under the heading Sports.

Then AsiaOne did something it has never done before with my column - it shared the link to the article on its Facebook page and exposed my column to a whole new readership.

That was when things got a little crazy.

People on Facebook, Twitter and blogs started condemning my column (and my post "defending" it) for being rude, offensive, trashy, unfunny, xenophobic, sexist and so on.

My favourite comment is "My father says the reporter is too stupid to be published".

A blogger named Andrew Loh even wrote a post dedicated to calling me stupid entitled "Wow. This guy is really stupid".

Wednesday, 8 Aug

Reddit and The Singapore Daily linked to my blog, bringing in another wave of new readers.

That was when the tide seemed to turn a bit and I started to get more positive comments again.

Even my old boss, former CEO of MediaCorp and SPH Mediaworks Lee Cheok Yew, wrote a supportive comment on my blog. I haven't spoken to him in a decade.

A blogger named Dotseng wrote a blog post entitled "Wow... this Andrew Loh is really stupid to call that TNP journalist stupid!"

In the blog, Dotseng referred to me as the nameless "poor TNP journalist".

So you see, it was a rather interesting National Day week for me.

And that's my story of my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday 12 August 2012

10 ways the NDP is like the James Bond movies

Is the National Day Parade (NDP) a victim of sequelitis?

Since we celebrated Singapore’s 47th birthday on Thursday (assuming we had a parade for every National Day), that makes NDP 2012 the 46th sequel.

That’s like 39 sequels too many if it were a Harry Potter movie.

I mean, even Resident Evil has only four movie sequels, including the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution. See Milla Jovovich kill zombies! In 3D! Again!

Of course, the biggest movie franchise in the world is the 50-year-old James Bond series, but even Dr No, the first 007 movie, has only 22 sequels, including the upcoming Skyfall.

(In the Skyfall trailer, Bond is thought to have died but is actually alive. Sounds familiar? That’s the plot of You Only Live Twice! I never believed for a second the man was dead.)

And even if you count the “unofficial” 1967 Casino Royale and the “unofficial” 1983 Never Say Never Again, that’s only 24 sequels compared to NDP’s 46 sequels. No fight.

Yet, like the movie franchise, despite having been around since 60s, the NDP remains popular after all these years by sticking to and expanding on a time-tested formula.

After watching every 007 movie on DVD with the audio commentary (twice), I’ve come up with 10 ways the NDP is similar to James Bond:

James Bond is British and was in a movie called On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The NDP is a celebration of Singapore, a member of the British Commonweath, headed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Every 007 movie has a new theme song performed by a famous artiste like Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney and Madonna. My favourite is Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon from The Spy Who Loved Me.

In recent years, every NDP has a new theme song performed by a famous local artiste like Kit Chan, Tanya Chua, Stefanie Sun, Hady Mirza and Olivia Ong. My favourite is What Do You See by Electrico from NDP 2009 (not to be confused with Mr Brown's Hokkien-titled version).

The movies have been filmed all over the world (well, except Singapore) and beyond, from Jamaica in Dr No and Live And Let Die to Hong Kong in The Man With The Golden Gun to outer space in Moonraker. The NDP has been held all over Singapore, from National Stadium to the Padang to the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

There’s usually some gunfire in the movies. There’s usually some gunfire at the NDP.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh jump over a helicopter on a motorcycle. In the NDP, too many people dangerously ride one motorcycle at the same time, but at least they’re wearing helmets.

In Moonraker (my favourite James Bond movie), Roger Moore is thrown out of a plane without a parachute and survives. In the NDP, some people jump out of a plane with parachutes and survive.

In 1973, Live And Let Die made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest speedboat jump. In the NDP, some boats go around the bay a few times very fast.

The casino scene has become a trademark of the 007 movies. In the backdrop of the NDP at Marina Bay Floating Platform, you can see Marina Bay Sands.

Uh... Diana Ser?

The movies usually end with some expensive pyrotechnics. The NDP usually ends with some expensive pyrotechnics.

Can you think of other ways the NDP is like the 007 movies?

As a final note, remember how in the London Olympics opening ceremony, Daniel Craig as Bond played the bodyguard of Queen Elizabeth as she parachuted out of a helicopter?

It has been suggested that our President should also parachute out of an aircraft for the NDP.

His bodyguard could be Diana Ser's husband James Lye as Inspector Mike Chin from Triple Nine.

Or better still, he could be VR Man.

Wait, I just thought of one more way the NDP is like the James Bond movies:

Every few years, a new actor will play James Bond. Every few years, a new President will be at the NDP.

Long live the Queen!

- Published in The New Paper, 12 August 2012

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Not my intention to mock foreign talent

On Sunday, after my column headlined "My mother says Tao Li is too fat to win" was published in The New Paper, I discovered that the article was discussed in two online forums at Hardware Zone and Spatchy.

On the one hand, I'm happy that people read my column and cared enough to share it online.

On the other hand, it's kind of surreal to read things about yourself written by people you don't know.

Of course, there are some negative comments. But I'm especially dismayed that my column is characterised as mocking foreign talent, which was not my intention.

But I'm relieved yet also feel conflicted that many people seem to enjoy the column because they think I was mocking foreign talent. Which I guess I was - but not intentionally.

My intention was just to make fun of the physical appearance of certain members of Team Singapore and it just so happened that they are foreign-born athletes.

But the point of my column is in the headline rewritten for this blog, "To win an Olympic medal, looks aren't everything."

So in a way, I was actually making fun of my mother for saying that Tao Li looks fat and that's why she can't win.

Ang Peng Siong looked like a world champion, but he never won an Olympic medal. Wang Yuegu looks like a beer aunty, but she helped win Singapore's first medal in 48 years.

As I wrote twice in my column, looks can be deceiving.

Yes, I also wrote that you can take Feng Tianwei out of China, but you can't take China out of her. That was just about her hair.

Ironically, I was writing about the National Day Parade for last Sunday's column but changed it hurriedly at the last minute after finding out that Neil Humphreys had also written about NDP in his column next to mine.

Not sure if it was a blessing in disguise.

I'm a little upset that someone in the Hardware Zone forum calls me an "unker". I suppose that's retribution for calling Wang a "beer aunty".

What's more disconcerting is that someone in the forum also mentions the area where I live. Scary.

UPDATE: The story of a story

Sunday 5 August 2012

To win an Olympic medal, looks aren't everything

So last week, I was having dinner with my mother, which nowadays, is an occurrence almost as infrequent as Singapore winning an Olympic medal.

As usual, the topics of conversation were how much her leg hurt, the different physicians she had seen because of her leg and how I should give her more money to pay for those physicians.

Then out of nowhere, she suddenly launched into a rant against Singapore swimmer Tao Li.

“She’s so fat!” my mother said in Mandarin.

“How can you look like her and not expect to lose in the Olympics?”

This was the day after Tao Li had failed to qualify for the women's 100m butterfly final in London, ending her medal hopes.

I never knew my 72-year-old mother was such a sports fan. Or a comedian.

While seated at the dinner table, she started doing the front crawl to demonstrate how Tao Li’s fat little arms were useless in competition.

My mother had never made me laugh so hard before in my life.

That’s the magic of the Olympics. It brings families closer together in the ridicule of defeated sports stars.

I laughed so hard I didn’t have the heart to tell my mother that she got the stroke wrong. (Tao Li's events are the backstroke and the butterfly, not the freestyle.)

Or that 22-year-old Tao Li had done pretty well for Singapore in the past despite her, uh, chubbiness.

But I understood where my mother was coming from.

I once spotted the cherubic swimmer and her colourful hair in the Soup Spoon at Ion Orchard and was surprised by how small she was for a two-time Sportswoman Of The Year award winner.

I couldn’t decide whether to congratulate her on her achievements or put her over my shoulder and burp her.

For the record, Tao Li is 1.6m tall and it would be unchivalrous to mention the lady’s weight.

But she isn’t the only member of Team Singapore who doesn’t quite look the part of a world-class athlete.

I was watching 32-year-old Singapore table-tennis player Wang Yuegu's loss to Japan’s 19-year-old Kasumi Ishikawa in the quarter final of the women's singles competition on TV and wondered, “Why are we sending a beer aunty to the Olympics? Of course, we’ll lose.”

You can't blame the Germans for that.

It’s like when I see people of certain body types (similar to Tao Li’s) wearing the Standard Chartered Marathon 42.195km finisher T-shirt and I'm thinking, “Really?”

Of course, looks can be deceiving. Runners taking part in marathons can come in all shapes and sizes, but I doubt the top finishers look like beer aunties.

Unfair or not, we expect Olympic athletes to look like superheroes, not like us. Gymnasts are supposed to look underage and weightlifters must have ample armpit hair.

You know which local sports figure I think really looked like a world champion? Ang Peng Siong.

I met the former "World's Fastest Swimmer" a few years ago while filming an episode of Phua Chu Kang at the Farrer Park Swimming Complex and he still looked like he could beat me up.

But then I also met another former Singapore swimming great, Joscelin Yeo, on the same day and she also looked like she could beat me up.

(Who knows? Maybe if Junie Sng showed up, she could’ve beaten me up too. I’m staying away from Pat Chan.)

The sad thing is even though they looked the part, Ang and Yeo never won an Olympic medal.

And who finally won a medal for Singapore in 2008 after 48 long years? The beer aunty and her two mei-mei, Li Jiawei and Feng Tianwei.

Once again, looks can be deceiving. So Tao Li still has a chance despite my mother calling her fat.

But since my mother started it, I shall continue to mock the physical appearance of Team Singapore with one last observation.

Did you see the photo of Feng, who won the bronze in the table-tennis women's singles competition last week, posing with the gold and silver medal winners?

How is it that Feng has been a Singapore citizen since 2008 and the other two are from China - and yet all three managed to have the same hairstylist?

You can take the girl out of China, but you can’t take China out of the girl.

(Yes, I know. My mother is funnier.)

- Published in The New Paper, 5 August 2012

UPDATE: The story of a story