Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hey, so do you make $7,000 a month?

I bumped into my neighbour as I was getting out of the lift today.

Since he's a taxi driver, I wanted to ask him - as a joke - if he actually makes $7,000 a month.

But then I stopped myself because I thought it would be rude. Yes, I actually care about not being rude.

He's an older guy, so maybe he's not on social media and isn't aware of all the online discussion about The Sunday Times report on the $7K-a-month cabby, Muhammad Hasnor Hashim.

I'm rather surprised this has become such a hot topic.

Is it so unbelievable that a taxi driver can earn $7,000 a month? But then there are so many unbelievable things all over the place, including in the newspapers. Why pick on this particular story?

It's not as if the cabby is a foreigner because anything about foreigners is a hot topic online, which I've come to accept (although someone did manage to dig up the fact that the reporter, Maria Almenoar, who wrote the story is a foreigner).

Sometimes it seems almost random the way people on the Internet will just latch on to a new thing to obsess over week after week and others will follow like lemmings.

And I would feel obligated to mention the thing in my Sunday column like a lemming myself because, you know, it "went viral".

(I still can't believe Diner En Blanc became a thing.)

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't ask my taxi-driver neighbour if he makes $7,000 a month as I don't think I would like it if he asked me the same question.

My neighbours and I don't talk to each other very much, but we get along. I just don't want us to end up sending angry letters to each other like a former DJ I can mention.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Phua Chu Kang Halloween episode? Not quite, but close enough

Since it's Halloween, here's a spooky Phua Chu Kang episode (in three parts) I wrote from the final season.

It's a spoof of Incredible Tales as well as a crossover episode with a character from Police & Thief.

Don't miss the post-credits outtakes at the very end of the third part. Utt was a good sport to play along.

The episode was shot and aired in 2006. That seems like a lifetime ago now.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Daniel Ong: I hosted NDP ... I love my multi-racial country!

So have you seen the new trailer for The Iron Man Rises … I mean Iron Man 3?

It was kind of depressing.

Where’s Black Sabbath? An Iron Man trailer without Black Sabbath is like The Noose without Michelle Chong.

In other words, it’s like Random Island, the new Channel 5 sketch comedy series that started last week not starring Michelle Chong.

But you know what’s most depressing? We won’t get to see the Iron Man 3 movie until next year in April.

What are we going to do for entertainment until then?

I mean, the biggest movie opening in Singapore last week was Trouble With The Chair starring Clint Eastwood.

So what if the title is actually Trouble With The Curve? It’s a movie about baseball - who cares? If it were Curve It Like Beckham, maybe we’d care.

Then on Monday, who should rescue us from the entertainment recession but Singapore’s “blogfather” himself, Mr Brown (who’s real name is Lee Kin Mun).

He “shared” a photo on Facebook with the comment: “Ex-DJ and Twelve Cupcakes boss Daniel Ong writes angry letter to neighbour doing renovations.”

At the end of the comment, Mr Brown added a word between two asterisks - “popcorn”.

The message was clear: Hey, everyone, got show to see!

The photo was of the “angry letter” written by Ong. Among other things, he wrote that a woman in the neighbourhood had died from the “noise and dust pollution” created by the neighbour’s renovations.

Shin Min Daily News later reported that the woman’s son said that she was in her 70s and had died because of an illness.

At the end of the letter, Ong also offered an aesthetic critique: “The reno looks terrible. Esp your brown living room wall tiles. Hope the paint job can save it.”

Mr Brown was right. This was definitely popcorn-worthy.

Of course, there have been many such shows online. In this month alone, we've had the Amy Cheong show and the Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee show.

But those were like indie productions starring people we’ve never heard of compared to Daniel Ong, who is an actual, uh ... I was going to say “star”, but I can already hear the snorting.

How about “celebrity” then?

Lest we forget, apart from being a popular radio DJ, Ong was once the audience-preferred host over Gurmit Singh on Singapore Idol and even acted as Mr Kiasee, brother of Mr Kiasu, played by Chew Chor Meng on the Channel 5 sitcom Mr Kiasu.

Sure, Ong is no Terence Cao, but then Cao is in possibly the most boring sex scandal ever.

A woman Cao had met in Shanghai claimed last week that the unmarried MediaCorp actor had fathered her child. I would like to tell you more, but I fell half asleep just typing that. Cao is no Jack Neo.

Cao is also not married to a former Miss Singapore Universe like Daniel Ong.

The Daniel Ong show is, of course, more than just about the letter.

His neighbour, Mr Sivalingam Narayanasamy, made a police report and claimed that Ong made fun of his name and culture.

Ong responded on Facebook: “Siva says I was racially discriminating and insulted his culture. That’s insane, I gave him a nickname. That’s it. Sivalinganamstyle (the hottest dance on the planet). It’s a cool cute nickname!”

Ong added: “And some of my best friends are both Indian and Malay. I hosted NDP…I love my multi-racial country!”

Hey, I’ve marched in the National Day Parade. Does that count too?

Aware of the attention he is getting, Ong also wrote on his Facebook page: “Many people are here to ‘watch a show’, have some ‘popcorn’ as they say, coz to them, it’s entertainment. It’s not, it’s my life.”

Still, not wanting to let the attention go to waste, the owner and CEO of Twelve Cupcakes couldn’t resist a little self-plug at the end: “Have a pleasant day, and if you’re feeling the blues like me…do what I do. Have a cupcake. It makes everything better.”

Thanks, but I prefer popcorn. Less filling.

- Published in The New Paper, 28 October 2012

Saturday 27 October 2012

Anti-pee sign: Make wall not piss

I saw this in the stairwell of my HDB block on the 16th storey.

Thou shall not piss!

Or shit here.

Okay, a few things.

  • Has someone been urinating and/or defecating in this stairwell that I'm unaware of? Because (touch wood) I haven't encountered any urine or defecation in the stairwell so far.
  • Why only the 16th storey? Why is only the top floor of my block targeted? Could it be an inside job? (Whatever that means.)
  • If someone is urinating and/or defecating in the stairwell, will a piece of paper with a drawing of a policeman discourage him or her from doing it again? Some people just can't do it while they're being watched.
  • There's a Chua Chu Kang Town Council logo at the bottom left corner of the poster. Did the town council really put this up? I'm not sure whether to be impressed by the diligence or dismayed by the cheap photocopy.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Entertained by Daniel Ong-neighbour saga? Have some popcorn (& a cupcake)

Former Singapore Idol co-host and current cupcake magnate Daniel Ong is in a bitter spat with his neighbour that has spilled online and beyond.

Saturday, October 20

Someone named Charlene Sivalingam posted this photo on Facebook, writing:

Ex DJ / Current Twelve Cupcakes Managing Director, Daniel Ong's ridiculous letter to my family...I could never imagine him being so childish and nasty with his groundless accusations and personal opinions...check it out!

Monday, October 21

1:15am: Influential blogger Mr Brown shared the photo on his Facebook page, writing:

Ex-DJ and Twelve Cupcakes boss Daniel Ong writes angry letter at neighbour doing renovations.


6:36pm: Charlene Sivalingam posted another photo on Facebook, writing: "And so, my dad's reply to him was..."

8:33pm: Daniel Ong posted this on Facebook:

To whomever is reading this ,

There are 2 sides to every story. I wish I didn't have to tell you mine. I am not going to share EVERYTHING that transpired to make me write the letter to my neighbor…. But I will share some things to clear the air.

And though she started this online campaign toward me, I didn’t want to drag the family through dirt coz of 1 man’s actions.

But please know one thing, I am not a person to retaliate…unless provoked.

To all our reporter friends, me n Jaime do not wish to add fuel to this mans fire. I’m just trying to set the record straight. We also do not wish for this to go to print.

I am writing this now, to state some facts…and to over throw some false accusations hurtled my way. Many people are here to “watch a show” have some “popcorn” as they say coz to them its entertainment. Its not, its my life and I’m living thru it everyday with my unpleasant neighbor. I would like to ask you to hear my side first before you continue insulting me or my business on cyberspace.

Yes, I sent him a frustration letter, and he sends 6 nasty reply letters to my whole entire family and business associates. I sent him a reply after.

He then tries to get a ST reporter to write about the story, but after talking to both sides…the reporter realizes there is no story. He is trying to blow this up as an act of aggression…he tries to intimidate with legal action… but there is nothing to act on.

To summarize everything up, I’ve overheard my neighbor threaten his contractors with violence if they didn’t finish work on time.

I’ve heard stories on him refusing compensation for damaging a neighbor’s wall, where water seeped through and damaged a mattress.

I’ve heard a scuffle that broke out between him and our neighbor and he picks something up to threaten our neighbor?

And his daughter wonders why I don’t speak to him … and only to the nice main contractor about anything?

Since my letter, I’ve endured numerous stare downs where he curses me under his breath.

Just last weekend, I step out of my house with a friend and upon seeing me, he shouts …


I tell him …

“No I don’t wanna fight, I’m not scared of you, and if you touch me or my family, or get violent with me, I will report you .”

he says…“CALL THE POLICE LAH!!! “

I tried to make peace with him by saying…

“Look Siva, I don’t want war. I’ve written to you to express my displeasure and extreme frustration…you wrote 6 letters to my whole family with your nasty letter…we are even no?, lets stay out of each others way.”

To which he replies…

“NO! its not ! “

He obviously does not want peace, so I stopped trying.

He claims I insulted him coz I addressed him as Sivalingam num-style in my last letter…but I told him that I didn’t mean that and it’s the coolest thing around now.

He says he is Asian, and does not like that dance. ( I didn’t even try to explain that Psy is Asian too.)

We part ways, but I’m glad my friend, his friends and my wife were around to witness that unprovoked lash out at me, and the refusal of peace.

Anyhoo, here are the untruths circulating online now.

Untruth # 1- After talking to the family, according to the reporter his son says I stared/”shiong” at his him for over a minute as I drove past his car the other day.

That’s crazy coz I didn’t even know that that was his son! It was a narrow road, and I was trying not to hit any cars…a man steps out of a parked car , and I glance up to see who it was…and I drive off. I later hear the story about my “Glare off” from the reporter. Amazing.

Untruth #2-Also, Charlene Sivalingam claims I came out of our house while she was on her roof and showed her the middle finger the other day, which is weird coz IVE NEVER SEEN HER ON THE FREAKING ROOF!!! Why in the hell would I do that?!?!?! Did I come out of my house and stretch? And in that moment…you deemed I was giving you the finger? OMG??? What??

Oh, and Charlene, you coming to my store at Millennia walk the other day to loudly exclaim…”HMPHHH…twelve cupcakes! “And snorting before walking away …What was that about? Is it coz we were sold out? Im sorry if we were.

Untruth #3- That this is a publicity stunt for Twelve cupcakes. From the start, they went to the press (with no results) …then they started an online campaign against me, Surely I have to defend myself now.


Here are the facts.

Renovations started in April, and just ended recently… Over 6 months of it. You would go mad too, if you lived through the pounding/drilling and hacking that gets EVEN LOUDER through walls. Sometimes, 3 pile drivers are at work at the same time. Its crazy loud. They use this as a torture technique in some countries. I’ve seen it on TV.

It starts at 815am sometimes earlier, even after I spoke to them about starting at 9am multiple times. Amazing thing is they hack from 8-9…then stop for an hour before continuing at 10. I spoke to the main contractor to start at 9 , who said he will change it. It changes for 2 days…and reverts to the 8am schedule. Btw, I have late nights…and only sleep at 2am.

In the afternoon, after lunch…same deal…I’ve had to move 2 year old Renee out from home for her afternoon naps coz of the BOOMING noise. You know kids, they need naps or they get real cranky.

About the car, I moved my car from the front of my house to the side of the road many times whenever they ask, sometimes ringing our bell at 830am to move, even before I’m awake or dressed. Imagine our frustration! Until one day, after moving it to the side again, my car is scratched with a penknife across BOTH sides. I’ve hence told them I will stop moving my car, coz my cameras cant catch the culprits.

Guys, I’ve lived through the dirt, dust and renovations. I Understand that there must be noise in renovations, and I empathized for months…But try it for 6 months… and you might understand why I was frustrated. I know sending the letter might not have been the best way to get through to him…but it sure beats talking to him straight up after hearing over the walls so much about him. I’m sure it would not have ended pretty if I approached him. I especially empathize with his workers and main contractor for what they have gone through, and for some of the family to having moved back even before the total renovations was done.

I have no wish for this to blow up, but many have taken to insulting me on cyberspace even before knowing all the facts.

I have decided not to publish the letter he sent to me, where he insults me, taunts my car being scratched, and boasts of his house being worth $6 million as compared to my smaller abode. But seriously, you would have a serious chuckle and wonder why such a person exists if you read it.

I have no wish for war, or to provoke my neighbor Mr Sivalingam . Who knows what will he do? Like what I told the ST reporter, I will only ignore him from now on, and if he picks a fight again…I will walk away. My mother said to me, “be respectful to the elderly… “ that’s good advice… Pat law says…”only pick on people your size”...that’s great advice too.

In short, I just want to live my life…free from an intimidating neighbor, free from people in cyberspace who attack me and my family without knowing the full story, and more importantly… this is exhausting.

Im uber thankful to my wife for being my beacon of love, wisdom and understanding through all this. And we are stronger everyday coz of trials like this. I’m also very thankful for everyone who has contributed to twelve cupcakes becoming the #1 cup cakery in Singapore . I would much rather focus my attention on making Singapore proud of another local brand to make it big overseas.

I thank you for reading this and would like to offer Mr Siva and his family an offering of peace again. There is no need for War, or hostility guys.

I wrote you an angry letter… you wrote 6 back…I guess we are even!( my math is pretty bad.)

Like it or not, even tho we may never interact.

It is what it is, we are neighbors.

Daniel Ong

PS: Sorry for the long post and does anyone know of any good car spraying companies?

Tuesday, October 23

Noon: Charlene Sivalingam posted a third photo on Facebook, writing:

This came the following day after my dad's reply. You can complain about the noise and dust, but not to the extent of insulting the entire family and make a mockery of our family name.

1:56pm: Daniel Ong posted this on Facebook:

This is a waste of time. It really is. Im pretty sure you have more to do in your life.

What started as prolonged inconsiderate noisy renovations, with me sending a letter in frustration ,he returning it and then his family spreading their side of the story online and to reporters, and me saying my side of it has gotten us here. So what has changed? Nothing!

Yes, i wrote my inconsiderate arrogant neighbor a nasty letter in duress, and yes he is a nasty neighbor back...daily. And I wont press charges against him for vulgarities and threatening me with violence. So that's that. We all live with it.

The family wants 15 mins of fame, so thats why they are pushing it to the papers and police and anyone who would listen. But the truth is, its 2 neighbors angry at each other! Thats it!

To All the reporters trying to get a story, and TNP coming to my house waking my child at 940pm is not cool. Both me n jaime will decline to give any more comments to anyone coz there really is nothing more to say!

To people hiding behind computer screens , saying mean things. Your words don't even deserve any response from me.

I've said my piece, and thats that. Most everything that has happened was in my last post.

Life goes on. Lets try not to waste another second.


Wednesday, October 24

Daniel Ong was on The New Paper (morning edition) front page:

This is The New Paper report:

Spat over noise gets personal

A dispute between neighbours over renovation noise led to one of them making a police report against the other, claiming that the latter had made fun of his name.

In the report made on Oct 16, he said: “By making fun and changing my family surname, he is insulting and degrading the Indian culture.”

In an interview with The New Paper yesterday evening, Mr Sivalingam Narayanasamy, 55, said: “What he has done is to change my surname.”

The other party in the dispute is former radio deejay Daniel Ong, 36, who is now known as a celebrity cupcake-shop owner with his wife, Miss Singapore-Universe 2001 Jaime Teo.

Mr Sivalingam showed TNP a letter purportedly written by Mr Ong to him, in which Mr Ong allegedly made fun of his name.

In the letter, Mr Ong referred to Mr Sivalingam as “Sivalin-ganamstyle” and added, “That’s my new nickname for you... cool, huh?”

Mr Ong addressed this on his Facebook page, saying: “He claims I insulted him coz I addressed him as Sivalingam num-style in my last letter... but I told him that I didn’t mean that and it’s the coolest thing around now.”

He also said that Mr Sivalingam had written “six nasty reply letters” to him and his business associates.

When asked about this, Mr Sivalingam confirmed he had sent the letters, but only to defend himself against Mr Ong’s accusations.

It all started with a dispute over the noise and dust caused by reconstruction works at Mr Sivalingam’s double-storey corner terrace house at Mei Hwan Drive, near Serangoon Gardens.

Mr Sivalingam, who declined to give his occupation, has lived there for 26 years while the Ongs moved into their house, two units away, about two years ago.

He decided to make some major changes, such as building an additional half level, to his house this year. Work began in late April.

About two to three months later, Mr Ong complained to Mr Jeffrey Lee, the main contractor from Imperial Engineering, which is handling the renovation, about the noise. He asked that they start work after 10am instead of 9am.

Mr Lee, 54, said their exchange was amicable and they tried to accede to Mr Ong’s request.

But things turned sour late last month when Mr Ong sent his first letter to Mr Sivalingam, stating his frustration with the noise from the works.

Mr Sivalingam made the police report after receiving a second letter from Mr Ong on Oct 7.

The dispute then became a talking point online after Mr Ong’s first letter was circulated on the Internet on Oct 20.

Mr Ong also commented on the dispute on his Facebook page. According to his Facebook post, the drilling and hacking starts every morning at 8.15am and sometimes earlier.

“You would go mad too, if you lived through the pounding/drilling and hacking that gets EVEN LOUDER through walls. Sometimes, 3 piledrivers are at work at the same time. It’s crazy loud,” he wrote.

Mr Lee said: “They approached us a few times, saying that it’s too noisy and asked if we could start later.

“So we complied and said we would start at 10am instead of at 9am. The main complaint is actually noise.”

But he conceded that the workers sometimes arrived earlier than 9am.

“Their carrying things into the house may have unintentionally created some noise,” he said.

Besides the noise, Mr Ong also took offence at the fact that he had to move his second car, which he parks in front of his house, to the end of the road to allow the contractor’s lorries to drive in.

“I moved my car from the front of my house to the side of the road many times whenever they ask, sometimes ringing our bell at 8.30am to move, even before I’m awake or dressed. Imagine our frustration!” Mr Ong wrote on Facebook.

On one occasion, after moving his car, he said he found scratches on both its sides.
Since then, he has stopped acceding to the contractor’s request to move his car.

Mr Sivalingam conceded that his reconstruction works have caused inconvenience to his neighbours.

“There is some merit to (Mr Ong’s) complaints. I have no doubts about that. But it is exaggerated,” he told TNP.

He pointed out a complaint in Mr Ong’s first letter, where Mr Ong said the hacking had gone on for 10 hours.

“If the hacking had gone on for so long, the workers would have been sent to the hospital for broken limbs,” he said.

He went on to add that it could get “a little too loud” when there were three people hacking at the same time.

“But we have a noise meter present, and it doesn’t show that we have exceeded the noise levels,” said Mr Sivalingam. Mr Lee, the main contractor, confirmed this.

In Mr Ong’s first letter, he also claimed that an elderly woman who lived in a nearby unit might have died because of the noise and dust caused by the renovations.

But Shin Min Daily News quoted the woman’s son as saying that she was in her 70s and had died because of an illness.

So what do other neighbours think of the dispute happening right in their backyard? The residents living in the house between Mr Sivalingam’s and Mr Ong’s declined to comment, except to say that they wished to stay out of the dispute.

The daughter of a neighbour who lives opposite Mr Sivalingam, said she was unhappy with the fact that Mr Ong, in his letter, had spoken on behalf of the other residents at Mei Hwan Drive.

Although she does not live at Mei Hwan Drive, she visits her father at the house every day.

“Sometimes, on weekends, my children and my brother’s children will play on the main road. When (Mr Ong) comes home and gets out of the car, he doesn’t even bother to acknowledge us or to say hi,” said the woman, who declined to be named.

“What right does he have to represent our opinion?”

She said that while the renovation works were noisy, “it’s a give-and-take situation between neighbours”.

She added that she once complained to Mr Sivalingam about the dust generated by the works, and the workers rectified the situation.

At the end of the day, Mr Sivalingam is upset because the dispute has degenerated to a personal level.

“If they say it gets noisy because of the drilling, I agree. The site could have been managed better.

“But what did I do wrong? To beautify my house, that is wrong?” asked Mr Sivalingam.
“So you change my name? That is a joke?” he added.

When TNP visited the Ongs’ residence on Monday, Ms Teo declined to comment.
Mr Ong also posted on Facebook yesterday that both he and his wife would no longer comment on the issue.

3:46pm: Daniel Ong posted this on Facebook:

This just wont go away…sigh…

So I’m on the front page of TNP…must be dry news day there. That is such a skewed and one sided report. No wonder readership falls daily… a newspaper without all the facts. Maybe they should change their name to TNTM- The New Tabloid magazine. “ Where we report WHAT we want.”

Sure make money.

The Siva family is bent on milking this for every drop, trying to get as many people as possible to cover this. Even appearing with a “ke lian” photo…Trust me , he doesn’t look like that when he’s staring me down or picking a fight in person.

Siva says I was racially discriminating and insulted his culture. That’s insane, I gave him a nickname. That’s it. Sivalinganamstyle (the hottest dance on the planet). It’s a cool cute nickname! Since when did I become the register of name changing?

This nickname is in reference to his stance when he is threatening people…with his hands on his hips.

And some of my best friends are both indian and malay.

I hosted NDP…I love my multi racial country!

Oh well, Armed with that only, he makes a police report. A nice police officer visits me and tells me, there is no such classification in law. And he is just following up. I DO learn from our friendly officer tho that Siva has done things that have a classification.

With a few witness around…last weekend…

Siva used vulgar language on me-that’s under “ Intentional harassment”.

Siva also wanted to get violent with me. Wanting to fight- that’s under “Verbal threat” and lucky he didn’t swing anything at me…coz that’s under “criminal intimidation” and that’s an arrestable offence.

Am I going to press charges? Or make a police report? Nah…I respect the time of our police force too much to waste any effort from them on something like this.

That said, I hope for everyone’s sake…they have had enough of the limelight and can move on. If you’re reading this, like my last post…I do hope it’s the last I write about this silly time wasting episode. Someone should write a ch 8 drama on this man…and someone should document the drama that my life has … I think I have enough to fill a book.

Have a pleasant day, and if you’re feeling the blues like me…do what I do , Have a cupcake. It makes everything better. : )


COLUMN: Daniel Ong: I hosted NDP... I love my multi-racial country!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Sumptuous Erotica versus Porn Masala: Same but different?

On Thursday, controversial sex blog couple Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee uploaded a YouTube video to answer “questions and fan mail”.

One of the questions was whether Miss Lee is a transsexual. I’m not sure whether that’s more insulting to Miss Lee or to transsexuals.

In the video, Miss Lee declared that she is not a transsexual and is “100 per cent woman”. I’m not sure whether that’s more insulting to transsexuals or to women.

She has defended the way-too-explicit pictures of themselves on the blog as “a work of art”.

Meanwhile, the controversial local film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, which was banned by the Media Development Authority (MDA), has also been defended as “art”.

To quote Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh: “To misunderstand the artistic intentions of the film-maker, to ban the film without consideration of its context, sets new OB markers that sends a dangerous signal.”

She added: “Art and literature are subjective.”

Could this also be applied to the sex videos made by Mr Tan and Miss Lee?

This led me to consider the similarities and differences between the two, uh... “works of art”.

First, the similarities:
  • The movie Sex.Violence.FamilyValues has the word “sex” in the title while Mr Tan and Miss Lee’s blog was all about sex.

    The short film in the movie that led to the ban is called Porn Masala while the blog was called Sumptuous Erotica. Since “erotica” is just a polite way of saying “porn”, the blog actually had a classier title than the film.
  • In the same week that Mr Tan and Miss Lee posted the video to answer “questions and fan mail”, the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues film-makers held a press conference to answer questions from the media.
  • Both controversies originated online. One started as a blog while the other was the result of complaints about the “dirrrty” movie trailer posted online.

  • Both controversies have real-world consequences. The movie’s rating was changed from M18 to Not Allowed For All while Mr Lee, an Asean scholar at National University of Singapore, has been summoned by the school to a disciplinary hearing.

    He has also been interviewed by seemingly every local media outlet, looking mighty pleased with himself and the attention.

  • Apart from the “art” defence, both the film-makers and sex bloggers are also using the ever popular “How come Westerners can get away with it?” argument.

    Sex.Violence.FamilyValues director Ken Kwek said: “The film mocks racism in the way that films like Borat or TV series like The Office mock anti-Semitism, sexism and all other forms of prejudice.”

    Meanwhile, Miss Lee said: “It is all right for Westerners to do this but not Asians. This is double standard.”

    I would like to point out that I have seen some crazy Japanese porn (with giant horny alien tentacles!) and the Japanese are Asian.
  • Finally, both the film-makers and the sex bloggers believe they have done nothing wrong.

And now the differences:
  • Despite the word “sex” in the title, the main issue with Kwek’s movie is not the sexual content - like the blog - but the racist jokes.

    MDA said it also received complaints about the movie’s porn actress character wearing a uniform resembling that of a local school. Even though banding has been removed, this is not how a school would want to differentiate itself.

    No one cares what Mr Tan and Miss Lee wear because they don't keep their clothes on anyway.
  • The sex bloggers can't claim to have won an Audience Choice Award (Short Film) at the Gotham Screen Film Festival in New York.

    They haven't received an endorsement from the Hollywood REEL Independent Film Festival or the India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay in Florida.

    Ooh, Florida! Disneyland is there. Or is it Disney World?

  • The movie has received plenty of support from such high-profile people as star Adrian Pang (natch), NMP Janice Koh, influential blogger Mr Brown (real name Lee Kin Mun) and even my fellow New Paper columnist Neil Humphreys.

    The sex bloggers, not so much.
  • Kwek is a Singaporean. Mr Tan and Miss Lee are Malaysians. That “double standard” again?
  • I don’t think Kwek’s parents are pressuring him to withdraw the movie.
  • The movie producers need to recoup their investment by showing the movie in theatres and selling some tickets, despite calls to release the movie online to circumvent the ban. That’s why they’re appealing against the Not Allowed For All rating.

    Perhaps used to losing their shirts (since they like posing naked so much), the bloggers’ intentions are a little less mercenary - they just wanted to share their, ahem, “art” with the world for free.
  • And last but not least, no one has asked Kwek if he is a transsexual.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 October 2012

UPDATE: Sex.Violence.FamilyValues given R21 rating with edits

Saturday 20 October 2012

Sex.Violence.FamilyValues press con: About that trailer...

On Wednesday, the producers of local movie Sex.Violence.FamilyValues held a press conference to address the revoking of the M18 rating by MDA, resulting in the movie ban.

It had been reported that this was the consequence of complaints about the movie's "dirrrty" online trailer.

At the press con, director Ken Kwek said: "To anyone who might have been offended by the two trailers of the film, we ask that they withhold judgment until they have had the opportunity to see the film in its entirety."

Asked if he would've cut the trailer differently if he had known the outcome, Kwek replied:

"Trailers are cut and made so that they are attractive for the public to come and see the film. So in many ways, the trailer has to be provocative and, to some extent, they have to be representative, albeit in a somewhat reduced way, of what the film is about and what it says."

But if the trailer is representative of the movie, then won't people who are offended by the trailer be also offended by the movie?

This somewhat goes against the earlier request for people to "withhold judgment until they have had the opportunity to see the film in its entirety".

Kwek continued: "If you were to say, well, given the sensitivity of the climate, we should've cut a less provocative trailer, then we would have attracted fewer eyeballs and we would've sold the film less well. So you see, you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't."

So the result is that you have attracted more eyeballs, but those eyeballs have nowhere to go to see your movie.

In this case, you're damned if you do, but you would've been less damned if you didn't because you could've at least shown your movie to the fewer eyeballs.

Kwek also said: "We as producers do not believe that the Singapore audience is too immature to understand satire. I certainly, as a filmmaker, do not set out to make any film on the premise that Singaporeans do not have a sense of humour or are unable to laugh at themselves and their own foibles."

If this were true, then why did people complain about the trailer?

Kwek also said: "I must assert very firmly that I did not make a film that is in any way demeaning or offensive to any ethnic community."

He may not have intended to make an offensive film, but clearly, somebody has been offended. The road to hell and all that.

Nobody is accusing the film-makers of being racist, but the Indian joke in the trailer is certainly racist, albeit for "satirical purposes".

Sorry if I'm dwelling on this, but I've been down this road a few times myself.

See The story of a story.

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

And That’s insensitive! (Or how not to say something insensitive about Japan).

And even Educating Phua Chu Kang - and failing.

Intent is irrelevant. If you've offended someone, well, then you were offensive. Suck it up and try to be more careful next time.

Unfortunately, this could lead to self-censorship, which is a dirty word to many. So the tendency is to dismiss those who are offended as being overly sensitive.

Instead of "self-censorship", let's use the word "editing".

When you're making a movie or TV show (or writing a blog or newspaper column), potentially a lot of people are going to see your work, which increases the chances of someone getting offended.

Then it becomes a numbers game. How many people have to be offended (not only offended, but offended enough to complain) before you admit to yourself, "Aiyah, I screwed up"?

Or should it take only one?

Fortunately for the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers, they have many supporters, which makes it easier for them to dismiss the detractors.

Good luck on the appeal. I hope they make their money back.

UPDATE: Sex.Violence.FamilyValues given R21 rating with edits

Thursday 18 October 2012

No, I did not Q for my iPhone 5

This is a follow-up to my column about my failed attempt to be the first person in Singapore to get the iPhone 5.

Seven days after the iPhone 5 launch, I went to the SingTel website and ordered the phone online, and it was delivered to me (at no extra charge) four days later.

It was a surprisingly painless process compared to what I went through earlier.

But when colleagues see me with the phone, they would say, "Oh, so you're of those people who queued up."

Why do they assume that?

Anyway, here's my quick first-impression review of the iPhone 5.

It's lighter and slimmer, which is the most immediate improvement over my old iPhone 4.

The taller display gives you one more row of apps on the screen, but otherwise it makes little difference for now as most apps are still designed for the smaller display.

The battery seems to last longer, but the new Lightning connector is a pain because I have so many old connectors.

The new EarPods earphones are impressive bass-wise for its price (free), but not very comfortable and not secure enough for use when running.

Not to be confused with the LTA, the LTE - where available - is definitely faster than 3G.

Yes, the new Apple Maps app is not as detailed as Google Maps, but it's not a deal breaker.

I guess I'm just slightly disappointed the phone didn't change my life like my first iPhone did.

The biggest difference this time is just a little less weight in my pocket.

I'm actually more excited about the $5 iPhone 5 cover (including shipping) I ordered on eBay and received a couple of days ago. Five bucks!

So Y Q?

I mean, why queue? There's this invention called the Internet ...

Sunday 14 October 2012

The Amy Cheng conspiracy: Sex, violence & cheap weddings

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it when I read about Amy Cheng’s racist comments on Facebook.

Having worked with Amy before, I can say that there was never any hint or slither or smell of racial ill will from her at all.

I first became aware of her when she was cast as a regular on the Channel 5 drama Growing Up.

The actress also guest starred in a couple of episodes in the final season of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd I produced.

I know Amy can’t be racist because she is in an inter-racial marriage with actor R. Chandran, who is also founder-director of Act 3 Theatrics.

So people are wrong to attack her online for …why are you interrupting me?

What do you mean it’s a different Amy?

Amy Cheong? Who the hell is Amy Cheong?

Never heard of her. Why should anyone care what this Amy Cheong says on Facebook? It’s not like she’s a celebrity like Amy Cheng. Or Cecilia Sue.

Amy Cheong is an assistant director at NTUC? Oh, she’s not any more?

Come on, we’ve all seen much more racist stuff on the Internet. So she made a crack about $50 weddings in the void deck. Meh.

You know where I held my wedding dinner? I couldn’t even afford the void deck. It was in the corridor outside my HDB flat.

To be more accurate, it was my mother’s flat and it was not a dinner but a catered buffet lunch arranged by my mother.

I didn’t even pay for it. My mother did, but then she collected all the hongbao, which is fair.

That was 17 years ago and I still remember faxing an invitation to my colleagues at then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (yes, I used the fax because invitation cards and delivery cost money). I was very disappointed that none of my colleagues, especially my then best friend in the whole world Gurmit Singh, showed up. I mean, after all the trouble I went through!

I guess I should count myself lucky that Ms Cheong wasn’t my neighbour back then and Facebook wasn’t invented yet.

What would she have written?

“How many hours do cheapskate weddings at home go on for? Pay for a real wedding, you cheapskate! Then the cheapskate divorce rate won’t be so high! How can society allow people to get married outside their HDB flat? KNS.”

Since there was no Facebook, she could fax it.

Anyway, I don’t understand why the misguided Facebook rant of one woman (whether it’s Amy Cheng or Cheong) should get so much attention that even the prime minister, who was out of the country at the time, has commented on her comment.

It’s not like she painted the words “My grandfather road” on the road or told off a fellow MRT passenger in a priority seat.

One apparent consequence of the contretemps is the banning of director Ken Kwek’s movie Sex.Violence.FamilyValues.

Made up of three short films, the 46-minute movie was originally given an M18 rating by the Media Development Authority (MDA) and premiered in Singapore two Fridays ago.

Then on Monday - the same day that Ms Cheong (not Cheng) suddenly became the Internet’s hottest topic - an MDA panel changed the rating from M18 to Not Allowed For All, meaning the movie was no longer allowed to be shown in Singapore, due to some racist jokes based on Indian stereotypes.

(You can get a sampling of the jokes in the movie’s foul-mouthed “dirrrty” trailer below.)

According to The Straits Times: “While the sacking of Ms Amy Cheong ...on Monday over her racist online comments was not mentioned during the panel's deliberations, there was a ‘general atmosphere’ of heightened sensitivity.

“This can be seen in the recent spate of racially offensive Facebook posts and tweets, and the public backlash that followed.”

Someone from the MDA panel was quoted as saying: “From these, we can see that Singaporeans are not ready to accept comments about stereotypes.”

So thanks to Ms Cheong, we un-ready Singaporeans are now shielded from the movie’s comments about stereotypes.

One silver lining for the film-makers is that because of the ban, more people are talking about the movie, thus creating pent-up demand, which ...wait, I just realised something.

Sex.Violence.FamilyValues was directed by Ken Kwek, who also wrote the movie The Blue Mansion, which starred Lim Kay Siu, who is the brother of Lim Kay Tong, who starred in Growing Up, which also starred ...Amy Cheng!


Could it be that this whole $50 void deck wedding thing was just a conspiracy to create publicity for the movie?

Oh, I forgot - it’s Amy Cheong, not Cheng.

Aiyah, just when I thought I had it figured out.

Hey, would anyone happen to know if Ms Cheong acted in anything?

- Published in The New Paper, 14 October 2012

UPDATE: Sex.Violence.FamilyValues given R21 rating with edits

Friday 12 October 2012

Do samurai say 'cheese'?

Because of Amy Cheong hogging everyone's attention, another major ongoing scandal in Singapore has gone unreported.

McDonald's Samurai Burger meal comes with Cheese Shaker Fries and not Seaweed Shaker Fries!

This is just wrong and I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Someone wrote on the McDonald's Singapore Facebook page: "The new promotion of Samurai Burger is back and the Samurai meal includes Shaker Fries and Heaven & Earth Jasmine Green Tea.

"Since you are going for the Japanese theme for the Samurai meal, why don't you have Seaweed Shaker Fries instead of Cheese Shaker Fries? Makes sense no?"

McDonald's reply: "Thank you for your suggestion. We will take this into consideration. Cheers!"

I think the Samurai Burger just committed seppuku.

UPDATE: I wrote to McDonald's to find out the rationale behind the Cheese Shaker Fries. After some back and forth, I got this reply:

“We look to provide our customers variety with a wide range of flavours and choices.

“We recently brought back Seaweed Shaker Fries in March of this year, and we hope our customers will enjoy the return of Cheese Shaker Fries, which is one of our most popular flavours.”

What this means is that since the Seaweed Shaker Fries was offered only seven months ago, McDonald's decided to offer something different for the Samurai meal.

In other words, in the choice between thematic consistence and not repeating itself, McDonald's went for the latter.

Not a decision I agree with, but then I care too much.

Now that we've got that settled, we can return to discussing Amy Cheong.

2013 UPDATE: Almost a year later, McDonald's gets it right.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Local film banned: Amy Cheong's fault?

Don't blame the Media Development Authority (MDA) panel for giving the rare Not Allowed For All Rating to the Singapore comedy Sex.Violence.FamilyValues on Monday, revoking the previous M18 rating and effectively banning it.

"An overwhelming majority of the panel members have expressed that the film should not be allowed for public exhibition in view of its overt racial references which are demeaning and offensive to Indians," said MDA.

According to The Straits Times report:

While the sacking of Ms Amy Cheong, an assistant director in the National Trades Union Congress, on Monday over her racist online comments was not mentioned during the panel's deliberations, there was a "general atmosphere" of heightened sensitivity.

This can be seen in the recent spate of racially offensive Facebook posts and tweets, and the public backlash that followed.

"From these, we can see that Singaporeans are not ready to accept comments about stereotypes," said Ms Cheryl Ng, the first vice-chairman of the Films Consultative Panel.

So it's Amy Cheong's fault.

If not for her, we could be not seeing the Ken Kwek short film by choice rather than because MDA is not letting us see it.

Before Amy Cheong, the racist jokes in the movie were okay.

But after Amy Cheong, the racist jokes in the movie are not okay.

So it's not the movie's racism that's offensive per se - it's the timing of it.

Well, you know what they say about comedy: Timing is everything.

Actually, Amy Cheong may have poisoned the well for racist jokes in local movies for a long time to come as MDA has decided that, based on the reactions to her comments, "Singaporeans are not ready".

By the way, when you call your little short film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues and release a trailer like the one above, you're pretty much daring MDA to ban you.

According to The New Paper, it was complaints about the trailer that led to the change in rating.

Having worked in Singapore media for almost 20 years, I've learnt that it's about what you can get away with. If nobody complains, you can get away with a lot.

After getting the M18 rating, the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers pushed their luck by releasing the trailer. People complained. So MDA had to act.

You can blame MDA if you want, but the producers also have themselves to blame for releasing the trailer.

Actor Adrian Pang, who stars in the movie, is quoted in today's Today newspaper as saying: "As someone involved in the project, I can say that there was not ANY hint or slither or smell of racial ill-will at all."

Which reminds me of this Amy Cheong quote: "What I said had nothing to do with race. It was about the situation."

Yeah, and some of my best friends are white supremacists.

Maybe like the movie's supporters, Ms Cheong can use satire as her defence.

COLUMN: The Amy Cheng conspiracy: Sex, violence & cheap weddings

Tuesday 9 October 2012

I'm biting my tongue

I see this on AsiaOne today:

Why today of all days?!

"Cheap wedding"?

Damn you, Amy Cheong, for putting void deck jokes in my head.

Let me apologise now before someone sets up an online petition to make me.

Monday 8 October 2012

Amy Cheong cheonged: Boy, that escalated quickly

I woke up this morning and suddenly, everyone online is talking about Amy Cheong.

Amy who?

At first, I thought it was the actress Amy Cheng because there is a resemblance.

But it's Amy Cheong with an "o" as in "Oh no! I'm fired for posting racist comments on Facebook."

And it all happened like within 24 hours.

The now former assistant director of NTUC's Membership Partnership & Alliance posted the comments only yesterday.

The cyber lynch mob amassed literally overnight. Someone has even made a police report.

Ms Cheong apologised for her comments online, but the villagers with the pitchforks and torches wouldn't be so easily placated. They want blood.

By lunchtime today, she was sacked, accompanied by a statement from a minister. (UPDATE: By dinner time, even the prime minister weighed in.)

Still not satisfied, some are demanding a "public apology" and her first-born.

I'm kidding about the last part - I hope.

With the online bloodlust, it seems not everyone will be happy until she is literally and physically lynched. Strange fruit.

I can't help feeling once again that "netizens" are overreacting just a tiny bit. Maybe they're just bored. Cecilia Sue isn't testifying any more.

Yes, Ms Cheong's comments were wrong and her being an assistant director of a government organisation makes her comments even more deplorable, but the online piling on is tantamount to cyber-bullying, the justification being: "She's racist. She deserves it."

Netizens will soon move on to their next target and Ms Cheong will be left to pick up the pieces of her life.

Speaking of the next target ...board up your windows, Eve Tan, I think the villagers are coming for you.

To end on a lighter note, here is Amy Cheng the actress in a PCK episode I wrote and produced about revenge.

UPDATE: Ms Cheong has fled Singapore to Australia, where she is a citizen.

UPDATE UPDATE: Local film banned: Amy Cheong's fault?

COLUMN: The Amy Cheng conspiracy: Sex, violence & cheap weddings

Sunday 7 October 2012

Transgender Ah Kua Show star called 'ah kua' by sashaying bus driver

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. Not to be confused with Anti-Bullying Week in the UK which is in November. Also not to be confused with Anti-Bullying Day in Canada which is in February.

In Singapore, Anti-Bullying Day is on ...actually, we don’t have an Anti-Bullying Day. Yet.

If we decide to have such a day, may I suggest that it should be on Oct 2?

On that day, which was Tuesday, Ms Leona Lo, author of From Leonard To Leona: A Singapore Transsexual's Journey To Womanhood, was at the Bedok bus interchange when a uniformed bus driver “shouted ‘ah kua’ and adopted a woman’s gait as he ‘sashayed’ past” her.

According to Ms Lo’s blog, the driver’s colleagues “hooted and clapped”.

She wrote: “I was stunned and I felt intimidated (one woman versus so many men intent on shaming her).”

The irony is that two years earlier, Ms Lo had written, produced and starred in a stage show called Ah Kua Show and now the name of her show was being used against her.

She once said in an interview promoting the show: “Yes, ‘ah kua’ is about the most common insult hurled at transsexuals. ...The title was also chosen because it is our way of re-framing a term that has a negative connotation into something positive.”

Unfortunately, the bus driver was re-re-framing the term as something negative again (unless he was paying homage to Ms Lo’s Ah Kua Show by re-enacting a scene from it, which I doubt).

As she was late for an appointment, Ms Lo just kept walking, but later decided to go back.

She wrote in her blog: “To walk away from bullies is not my style – unless they are wielding guns and knives. Foolhardiness is also not my style. By the time I returned, the perpetrator was nowhere to be seen. I took some photos and left.”

Ms Lo, who is also a public relations consultant, wrote to the bus company, SBS Transit, about the incident. The company replied soon after that it had identified the sashaying bus driver.

The company spokesman said: “He is deeply apologetic and we will be taking disciplinary action against him.”

In response, Ms Lo wrote in her blog: “My intention was never to seek revenge, and that the important thing is to use this sorry episode as an opportunity to educate on basic human respect.

“I can perfectly understand the bus driver and his colleagues’ discomfort with transgender people. Our everyday social environment fosters and encourages this discomfort – just look at the portrayal of transgender people in MediaCorp productions. We are either sex workers or psychopaths.”

Oh, burn!

MediaCorp must be thinking: “Alamak! How come another company’s employee made fun of her and we’re the ones who get blamed?”

Yes, how did MediaCorp get - ahem - "dragged" into this?

I’m not sure what MediaCorp productions Ms Lo was referring to, where transgenders are portrayed as sex workers or psychopaths.

Did she mean Liang Ximei? Or Aunty Lucy? I didn’t know they’re sex workers although their behaviour is sometimes borderline psychopathic. They’re also not transgenders, but men in drag.

Maybe Ms Lo was referring to The Silence Of The Lambs, since the movie is old enough to be still shown on Channel 5, but then The Silence Of The Lambs is not a MediaCorp production.

Maybe there was an episode of Crimewatch about a psychopathic transgender sex worker I missed.

Maybe I’m just not watching enough MediaCorp productions. I have the Internet.

Anyway, despite the unexpected dissing of MediaCorp productions (hey, that’s my job), I appreciate Ms Lo’s measured response to the situation and that she didn’t resort to name-calling or worse.

Too often, in our over-eagerness to punish bullies, we succumb to behaviour akin to or even more abhorrent than that of the bullies themselves and justify it by saying: “They’re bullies. They deserve it.”

Perhaps on Oct 2 next year, Ms Lo can commemorate Singapore’s first Anti-Bullying Awareness Day by re-staging her Ah Kua Show and send free tickets to the bus driver and his friends.

She can even invite MediaCorp.

But maybe not Aunty Lucy.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 October 2012