Tuesday 27 November 2012

SMRT bus drivers' strike: Who's the villain?

So who has "netizens" vilified most in the dispute between SMRT and its mainland China bus drivers?


I was bracing myself for another round of foreigner-bashing online, now an entrenched local pastime.

While this may not be the first time foreign workers have stopped work en masse in recent times, this is the first time a public service has been affected.

Maybe this will finally force the Government to seriously re-examine our over-reliance on foreign workers for essential public services and beyond. Then these foreign bus drivers would've accomplished with one strike what all the online foreigner-bashing couldn't.

Surprisingly, there is actually some sympathy and even admiration for the bus drivers for standing up to the establishment.


The Chinese bus drivers complained about unequal pay and poor accommodations provided by the company.

Most of Singapore already hate SMRT for the train disruptions. Where are you now, Saw Phaik Hwa?

But surprisingly again, SMRT isn't the big butt of jokes this time round.

So who is the big butt of jokes?


Of all things, "netizens" have chosen to focus their weekly outrage on the reluctance to use the word "strike" in news reports of the dispute.

It's another "ponding"!

I'd rather make fun of SMRT's increasingly ironic insistence on calling its bus drivers "Service Leaders".

So "netizens" actually hate local media more than they hate foreign talent and SMRT. Now that's saying something.

Anyway, here's proof that The Straits Times isn't afraid to use the word "strike" where it's warranted.

Headline on Stomp today: See how badly this auntie wants to score a bowling 'strike'.

COLUMN: Call a spade a spade...

Monday 26 November 2012

I finished the 10km Pioneer Road Run & got a banana

So I joined my second organised run this year and my first since July's Jurong Lake Run. That was 6km. For yesterday's Pioneer Road Run, I ran 10km.

Actually, it was only about 9.8km according to my iPhone running app, although it was advertised as 10km.

At the finish line, I was given a finisher's medal, a can of 100 Plus and a banana.

A banana? Yes, a banana.

I was surprised because I did not get a banana or any other fruit at the Jurong Lake Run, where I got a finisher's T-shirt, which I prefer because it's non-perishable.

It was a nice banana though.

The Jurong Lake Run was a much bigger event just in terms of number of participants.

It was also more pleasant running around the lake than running around the industrial area along Pioneer Road.

There's nothing like the smell of pollution in the morning - while you run.

The first Pioneer Road Run also had too many traffic junctions along the race route, much of which was narrow sidewalk. The organisers didn't even close the roads.

Too bad I've limited my options by choosing to join only 10km events not too far from my home in Choa Chu Kang, which is one reason I didn't sign up for the Salomon X-Trail Run also held yesterday morning.

That looks like more fun, but it's all the way in Tampines.

Next Sunday is of course the big one, the Standard Chartered Marathon, which is way out of my league and my Choa Chu Kang area.

Perhaps someday...

For now, this is me at the Pioneer Road Run starting line.

If only the back of the shirt is true.

The road fears me? I think the road has better things to worry about.

Like strewn banana peels.

UPDATE: I came in at 92 out of 305 in the 10km men's category.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Real men watch Twilight (with their daughters)

Maybe we’re Vulcan.

According to Gallup, Singapore is the least emotional society in the world.

Like Singapore, the people on the planet Vulcan are not very emotional – that is, before the planet was destroyed in the 2009 Star Trek movie.

But it’s a common misconception that Vulcans have no emotions. In fact, they have plenty of emotions. It’s just that they have learnt to suppress their emotions. Some Vulcans are better at it than others.

The most famous Vulcan of all is, of course, Spock, who is actually half human since his mother is from Earth, which would suggest that he is more emotional than regular Vulcans.

It was his "ability to see beyond pure logic" that led Ambassador Spock to seek the reunification of the Vulcan and Romulan people in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

After all, Vulcans and Romulans already have the same pointy ears and bad haircuts.

I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Oh yah, according to Gallup, Singapore is the least emotional society in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we have no emotions. It just means that we’re not as demonstrative as those drama queens in the Philippines who top the Gallup survey as the most emotional.

Which is a good thing or otherwise, I would be bawling my eyes out right now. And it’s not because we’re at the bottom of that survey.

Or because the Ministry of Education will no longer name the top scorers of national exams to end PSLE envy.

Or because McDonald’s has stopped selling the Samurai burger.

Or because Ms Cecilia Sue is not testifying in the sex-for-contracts trial anymore.

No, it’s because there will be no more new Twilight Saga movies.

Yes, I’m a middle-aged man who likes Twilight.

I’ve never read the books (and don’t plan to) and I got into the saga only when I saw the first movie on video out of curiosity long after its initial theatrical release and after it became a worldwide phenomenon.

Like many straight men, I was dismissive of the Twilight Saga for being derivative drivel aimed at teen girls just as I was dismissive of Sex & The City for being a wish-fulfilment fantasy for pre-menopausal women.

But when I saw the first Twilight movie, I realised that it’s actually a thoughtful character study about a teenage girl, Isabella Marie Swan, growing up and dealing with the changes in her life.

All that vampire stuff is just colour, even though the Caucasian vampires themselves don’t have much of it.

Despite criticisms about her acting, Kristen Stewart as Bella is the sympathetic emotional core of the saga.

She plays the character with just enough self-aware kookiness to justify some weird decisions Bella makes (like, for instance, falling for a vampire) yet not alienate the audience.

Unfortunately, as the movies went on, they became less about character and more about plot. When you’ve seen one climactic battle between good and bad vampires (with or without werewolves), you’ve seen them all.

Still, you care what happens in the movies because you care what happens to Bella.

But you know who my favourite character in the saga is? Bella’s dad, Charlie.

Maybe it’s because I’m also a father of a teenage girl.

For five movies, Charlie has been unaware that his daughter was dating a vampire, became a vampire herself and gave birth to a vampire-human hybrid.

He makes me look competent.

And on top of that, he’s the chief of police!

The next time I meet my boss for my job appraisal, I’m going to point out that at least I’m not as bad as the top law-enforcement officer in a town overrun with bloodsuckers and werewolves fighting each other out in the open – and he has no idea!

(Insert your own Cecilia Sue-Ng Boon Gay joke here.)

I’m going to miss Charlie.

But what I’ll miss most of all is watching the Twilight movies in the theatre with my daughter – even though we did that only for Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2.

She also became a fan a little late – around the same time I did. It was perfect synchronicity. Twilight became our thing.

After watching Breaking Dawn Part 2, we once again argued over whether Kristen Stewart can act. We have never been closer.

And now Twilight is no more.

I would cry if not for Singapore being a Vulcan society.

Why can’t the Twilight producers just make more movies and disregard the books like what the James Bond producers have done?

The next Twilight movie could be about Jacob and Renesmee having a werewolf-vampire-human triple-hybrid baby who accidentally gets swapped with a very realistic-looking doll at KKH.

I guess I’m still in denial. I just have to reach that final stage of grief and accept that it’s really over.

My daughter and I tried to get into The Hunger Games, but couldn’t. Damn you, Josh Hutcherson for being too short for Jennifer Lawrence.

On the other hand, my daughter is now getting into Star Trek. The new Star Trek movie is coming out next year. It better not suck. (Get it? "Suck"? As in vampires suck?)

May the franchise live long and prosper.

For I have run out of tears.

No, I didn’t cry and you can’t prove that I did.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 November 2012

Dear Samantha,

So you thought that a movie about a baby-swap at a named maternity hospital was funny?

It is okay to ridicule a hospital where a genuine human error has occured? You know that in the current climate, the institution is not going to respond to your stupid comment. And so, you took a cheap shot.

Did the following ever occured to you?

a. KK Hospital is a tertiary perinatal centre where other institutions refer complicated pregnancies for further management? Their team of dedicated obstetricians and paediatricians look after nearly two-thirds of the complicated pregnancies in Singapore?

b. KK Hospital has a great history?

- Pioneering work in IVF in Asia was done in Singapore?

Did you read the article about the woman who conceived through IVF carried out by Prof Ratnam in KKH. Her son conceived through IVF is now studying Psychiatry in Melbourne.

- A surgical technique in Gynaecology is named after one of former Presidents, the Sheare's operation.

So, you chose to ridicule the hospital and in the process the good people working behind the scenes to do good for future generations.

As humans, we make mistakes. So processes and systems must be in place to prevent such mistakes. The best processes and systems can never reduce error to zero. If errors can be reduced to zero, then we will never have nuclear disasters, airline crashes, wrong site surgeries, cable-car accidents etc...Good systems can only reduce these errors but never eliminate them.

What if someone ridicules the quality of journalists in SPH? Would you or your management be happy about it?

COLUMN: Don't call me Samantha

Friday 23 November 2012

What I saw at Sitex yesterday

Please excuse my crappy iPhone photography.

It's Gandalf enjoying the view.

I think he's there because of some sort of Dell tie-in promotion with The Hobbit, although I don't see the connection between computers and Middle Earth.

But the most amazing thing I saw at Sitex yesterday was actually this turntable.

I felt like I was transported back to 1980.

You just have to plug in some computer speakers to play it. Of course you also need some vinyl records, which I believe I still have somewhere.

The price tag is $216. I actually thought of buying it, but having to replace the stylus would be a pain. And then I remembered what an ungainly invention the turntable was.

I was grateful when CD players finally became affordable in the late 80s, although it made my record collection obsolete.

And now my CD collection is obsolete. And they're rubbing it in my face by selling turntables again. It's the circle of life, man.

This is why I enjoy making a pilgrimage to every IT show four times a year despite the crowds, even when I'm not planning to buy anything. There's always something to see.

Actually, I bought an iPhone 5 cable ($17!) yesterday along with another set of earphones just because of the unusual braided cabling.

Unfortunately, one of the earpieces has already fallen apart out of the box. I thought of exchanging them, but I did not want to travel all the way from Yew Tee to Expo again. So I just glued them back together.

Fortunately, the sound quality is good enough for $48. Bassy!

(A salesman at Sitex yesterday asked me what kind of headphones I was looking for. I guess he expected me to say good bass or something like that. I said I was looking for headphones with unusual cabling and he just turned away.)

The embarrassing thing about testing headphones on my iPhone with the sales people watching is that some really old uncool songs would show up in the shuffle mode, like Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle Of The Road or anything by Abba.

So I quickly skipped through the songs to find something unembarrassing and yesterday, I discovered that Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin is ideal for testing headphones. It has a heavy bass and it's not Abba.

Incidentally, Led Zep referenced Lord Of The Rings in a few of their songs.

Gandalf lives!

Tuesday 20 November 2012

We are the centre of the universe after all

Singapore is to blame for the latest Israel-Arab War?

How cool is that?

I'm, of course, referring The Huffington Post article by Jim Sleeper headlined Blame the Latest Israel-Arab War on... Singapore?, which is the latest time waster my Facebook "friends" (and probably yours too) have felt compelled to share along with "rebuttals" to the article.

It's like me getting over-excited that Singapore is mentioned in US movies and TV shows, such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and Suburgatory.

Or the Singapore press re-reporting that a Singapore actor had joined a US TV series without pointing out that the series had been a ratings disaster and would most likely be cancelled, which it was a week later.

For The Huffington Post to mention Singapore is almost as exciting to some Singaporeans (like me) as MC Hammer dancing Gangnam Style to the Koreans.

And not only is Singapore mentioned in The Huffington Post, we are discussed in connection to the biggest international news of the week apart from US president Barack Obama hitting on the female leaders of South-east Asia.

The headline "Blame the Latest Israel-Arab War on... Singapore?" alone is worth the price of admission. The inference is that our little island could be the cause of the Middle East conflict.

It's like a headline from The Onion.

Hey, if Singapore is not the villain in the next James Bond movie, I'm throwing out my 007 DVD boxed set (and replacing it with Blu-Ray).

Ken Watanabe can play Lee Kuan Yew and Chin Han can be Oddjob.

The article itself is a fun alternative history thing, sorta like War World Z but without the zombies.

If nothing else, along with Captain Jack and Tom Waits, Mr Jim Sleeper has reaffirmed what I long suspected - we in Singapore are indeed the centre of the universe.

Who needs Psy?

Sunday 18 November 2012

Fly Air Singapore & meet the queen of Singapore in Suburgatory

Remember the third Pirates Of The Caribbean movie At World’s End?

Remember how thrilling it was that Singapore was featured so prominently in a big-budget Hollywood movie?

Remember how disappointing and surreal it was, yet somewhat expected and amusing, that the Singapore depicted in the movie bore zero resemblance to the real Singapore?

I mean, Chow Yun Fat is married to Singaporean. Couldn’t he have thrown in some lahs and mehs in the movie?

He could’ve said something like: “Aiyah, Captain Jack, why you so like that one?”

Anyway, I was thrilled, disappointed and amused that Singapore was mentioned in another US show this month, this time the sitcom Suburgatory.

It was in a scene where a character named Dahlia was talking to her high school friends.

Here is the dialogue.
Dahlia: My dad is getting remarried, you guys, to a super cool air stewardess on Air Singapore. Her name is Wan Er.

Friend: Wan Er?

Dahlia: Wan Er is like the name Dahlia over there. All the hot bitches have it

Friend: Is Wan Er really pretty?

Dahlia: No. She’s gorgeous. She’s basically a Singaporean supermodel and I’m going to be maid of honour at the wedding. And we’re going to sell the pictures to the Asian Internet for $10 million.

Friends: Ooh... wow ...

Dahlia: And I’m going to go with them on their honeymoon and there’s a fairly good chance that shortly thereafter I would be named queen of Singapore.

I think that’s the most anyone on a US show has talked about Singapore without actually coming to Singapore.

Okay, let’s go through the departures from reality one by one.

The name Wan Er is plausible except that it was pronounce “One Air” on the show, which made it less plausible.

But the line about all the hot bitches in Singapore having the name is clearly a joke because all the hot bitches in Singapore actually have the name Jane.

The queen of Singapore line is obviously also a joke because the only Singapore royalty I know is Zoe Tay, the queen of Caldecott Hill, and Kumar, the queen of queens.

But the most glaring mistake, of course, is that there’s no such thing as Air Singapore.

I mean, even if you Google Air Singapore, you’re going to get Singapore Airlines.

Could TV writers be even too lazy to Google? I know I was, but then I wasn’t paid as much as TV writers in the US.

With the Internet and globalisation, Hollywood just can’t get away with this sort of isolationist ignorance anymore.

On the other hand, it may not be a mistake. It could be that the producers intentionally chose to make it a fictional airline to avoid legal problems.

Then why not make it a fictional country too? Like Singalasia or something.

Then the writers could make up whatever they want about the country.

They could have hot bitches named One Air. They could have a monarchy-based government.

They could have fluffy clouds of foam drifting onto the roads on Deepavali morning. No, wait, that actually happened.

But I guess the writers decided on Singapore because it’s a country that American viewers have heard of but don't know enough about to know that there’s no such thing as Air Singapore.

What was weird was another scene in the same episode of Suburgatory where Dahlia spoke in English to Wan Er on Skype, who replied in actual Mandarin, not fake Hollywood chong-chong gibberish Mandarin.

So the producers were diligent enough to hire an actress who could speak Mandarin (but looked nothing like a supermodel, by the way), yet not enough to find out that a Singaporean air stewardess would most likely reply to Dahlia in English - lahs and mehs are optional.

On Suburgatory, it seemed that Singapore is still in China.

And what’s this about the “Asian Internet”?

All is forgiven, Chow Yun Fat.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 November 2012

Saturday 17 November 2012

What I saw during my jog tonight

A fountain?

An invisible merlion?

Actually, I think it was a burst pipe.

I also saw a cyclist hit by a car right in front of me on this road.

Amazingly, the cyclist just got up and looked like he wasn't hurt at all. The driver stopped the car and seemed more concerned about the cyclist than the cyclist, although the first thing the driver did was check the front of his car.

I was more concerned that the driver's car was blocking traffic while he was checking on the cyclist.

I continued jogging and absent-mindedly stepped on one of the cyclist's slippers lying on the road. Oops, sorry.

A few weeks ago, I was almost hit by a car at the same spot in almost the same situation except I wasn't on a bike.

By the way, where I jogged is the same area where heaven fell to earth earlier this week on Deepavali morning.

Sadly, by the time I jogged to Pang Sua Canal later that day, the clouds were gone.

So I missed heaven once again.

But at least I saw a fountain at Pang Sua Canal.

UPDATE: A few weeks later on New Year's Day, the Prime Minister was at Pang Sua Canal and I wasn't there too.

Friday 16 November 2012

Welcome to Hollywood, Chin Han

On 8 November, it was widely reported in the local press that Singapore actor Chin Han joined the US TV drama series Last Resort.

To quote:
The series revolves around the crew of a powerful nuclear submarine which found themselves being targeted by their own country instead. Subsequently, they seek refuge on an island and declares war on their home country.

Chin Han will embark on a role as a Chinese ambassador named Mr Zheng, who works with the captain to negotiate supplies for the starving crew and islanders.

His character is slated to appear in several episodes of the action-drama.

A week later, Last Resort was cancelled.

Was the cancellation widely reported here as well?

As Heidi Klum says, one day you're in, the next day you're out.

Sunday 11 November 2012

If Jack Neo can do a story about national service, so can I

It’s not propaganda.

Or so claimed film-maker Jack Neo about his new army movie Ah Boys To Men Part 1.

This is despite the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) having approached Neo to make the movie to commemorate the 45th anniversary of national service (NS).

This is despite Mindef having provided equipment and locations for the movie, including the Basic Military Training Centre on Pulau Tekong.

This is despite Mindef holding a contest on its website to give away movie posters and tickets for Ah Boys To Men. Submit your entry before 10pm on Thursday!

As you and I know, everything in “lame-stream” media is government propaganda.

Like that news report about the $7,000 cabby. Like Phua Chu Kang going for English classes. Like this column.

That’s right. Unlike Neo, I voluntarily admit that what I write here every week is nation-building propaganda. Yes, even all those times I made fun of Glenn Ong marrying his colleagues.

Furthermore, for today’s column, I’m going to share my own NS story to commemorate the 45th anniversary of NS, even though Mindef hasn’t approached me at all.

As a medic in the navy during my full-time NS many years ago, I was once given the opportunity to go to Thailand for an exercise.

Since I was attached to the ship’s crew only for the trip, I didn’t know any of them and felt like an outsider, which I was.

So to fit in, while on shore leave, I went out with a few of the guys to a bar and drank beer - even though I was (and still am) allergic to alcohol.

Before long, I was itchy all over. My allergy had kicked in. I desperately needed relief.

I searched all over town and finally found what I was looking for - Prickly Heat Powder.

I rushed back to my cheap hotel room, took off my clothes, lay on the bed and poured powder all over myself. Shiok, man!

And when I say “all over”, I mean “all over” - especially around the groin area.

After a while, the rash subsided and I felt a little better. Thank you, Prickly Heat Powder.

Then I heard a knock on my door. I got dressed and opened the door, but nobody was there. Strange.

That was when I discovered I had left my room key in the door outside. I must have forgotten about it in my hurry to relieve my itch.

Fast forward to a couple of days later. I was back on board the ship on the way home to Singapore.

I noticed that members of crew were now friendlier to me. Did drinking with them actually pay off?

But they weren’t just friendlier – they literally laughed out loud every time they saw me. I couldn’t figure out why.

The two who laughed the loudest were the ship’s cooks who barely spoke to me before.

By now, they couldn’t contain themselves any longer and spilled the beans.

Apparently, they were staying in the same hotel that I was. They were walking past my room when they saw my key in the door.

They wondered who was so stupid as to leave his key outside.

So they peeked through the window, as the curtains weren’t fully closed properly, and saw me rolling around in bed naked, caressing myself vigorously.

They were the ones who knocked on my door and ran off.

When they returned to the ship, they told everybody what they saw.

I became known as the medic who had sex with himself in a hotel room in Thailand.

I tried to explain about my allergy, but no one believed me. You believe me, don’t you?

The bright side was that I was now the most popular guy on the ship. The cooks even gave me extra chicken wings at dinner time. So what if people thought I was an onanist?

The late great Whitney Houston did sing that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. So did George Benson.

And that, my fellow Singaporeans, is my contribution to the 45th anniversary of NS.

Maybe Jack Neo could do a movie about it for the 50th anniversary, unless he’s afraid of being accused of making another propaganda film.

I would offer to write the script, but I don’t want to appear too self-serving. The last thing I want is to come across as a jerk.

After all, it’s national service, not self-service.

Spank you very much.

- Published in The New Paper, 11 November 2012

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Caution: Turkey bak kwa

At Fragrance Bak Kwa in Yew Tee Point, just in time for Thanksgiving ... in Singapore?

"I'm Santa Claus and I approve this message."

I gave in to curiosity and bought a box of turkey bak kwa for $24.

I didn't like that the pieces of turkey bak kwa were individually wrapped.

Because of the packaging, you may be forgiven if you thought it's reindeer bak kwa, not that you would be able to taste the difference.

It tasted like regular pork bak kwa to me, but with a stronger aftertaste.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Neighbour relations: The only kampung spirit I know is pontianak

I’m probably living Ms Amy Cheong’s worst nightmare.

All my neighbours are Malay.

I live in an HDB point block and mine is the only Chinese family living on my floor.

Yes, I’m aware that my neighbours may be reading this.

Oh, before I continue, let me say that even though I’ve never hosted the National Day Parade like Daniel Ong – I’ve only marched in the parade – I still love my multi-racial country.

Anyway, problems with neighbours have been in the news lately, from Ms Cheong’s Facebook rant about a noisy Malay void deck wedding to Ong’s neighbour’s noisy renovations.

I avoid problems with my neighbours by not holding noisy void deck weddings or doing noisy renovations, both of which I can’t afford anyway.

Furthermore, I make it a point to interact with my neighbours as little possible because I believe familiarity breeds contempt.

My fear is that the more familiar with me they are, the more contemptuous of me they would become.

I don’t believe in kampung spirit because the only kampung spirit I know is pontianak and Halloween is over.

I hope that joke isn’t racist. I remind you that I’ve marched in the NDP. (Now you see why my neighbours could be contemptuous of me?)

The only time when I’m sort of forced to have a conversation with any of my neighbours is when I’m taking the lift.

Once, I was waiting for the lift with my neighbours, an older couple, when the husband started making small talk with me.

I panicked. Not only was he speaking to me, but he was speaking to me in Malay.

This was not long after I moved in, so we didn’t know each other very well. I guess one thing he didn’t know about me was that I didn’t speak Malay.

But I hid my panic and just nodded and smiled and nodded and wondered why the lift was taking so long.

Sensing that something wasn’t quite right, the man then asked me something rather intently in Malay.

So I came up with a brand new move – I shrugged.

He looked at me as if I was the biggest idiot he had ever met.

That was when his wife said something to me in English to which I could respond with actual words and the husband finally figured out I hadn’t understood a single thing he had said.

So now I was not only the biggest idiot he had ever met, but also a sociopath who would mislead an old man about my language ability.

The three of us took the lift together and it was awkward silence all the way down.

Hence my policy of minimal interaction.

That is not to say I’m an unfriendly neighbour. I still nod and smile, but I just try to stay out of people’s business.

Then a few days ago, I bumped into another neighbour as I was getting out of the lift.

He is a taxi driver. So I instinctively wanted to ask him if he makes $7,000 a month – as a joke.

I mean, that seemed to be what everyone was talking about online last week after The Sunday Times reported that a taxi driver claimed he was earning the incredible sum of $7,000 a month.

But then I stopped myself.

How would I like it if a neighbour asked me how much I made? As much as I would like it if he asked me how often I Google myself.

A joke could easily turn into angry letters and police reports Daniel Ong-style.

What would Ms Cheong do?

I remembered my policy of minimal interaction.

So I just nodded and smiled silently at my taxi-driver neighbour, who nodded silently back.

No smile though.

Maybe he was moody because he wasn’t making $7,000 a month. Or he has an even stricter policy of minimal interaction than I do.

You know, I really should use the stairs more often. It’s good exercise.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 November 2012

Saturday 3 November 2012

Sorry, Skyfall, you can't top Moonraker

Skyfall is the best James Bond movie ever?

Don't believe the hype.

This is from someone who has every Bond movie on DVD (even Never Say Never Again, but not the 1967 Casino Royale) and whose favourite is still Moonraker.

I'm not saying Skyfall sucks even though I looked at my watch a few times during the movie out of boredom.

I can even understand why many would call it the best. The stakes in Skyfall feel more real than in any other Bond movie.

I enjoyed all the call-backs to previous movies, marking the franchise's 50th anniversary, although this has been done before, most recently in Die Another Day for the 40th anniversary.

(Spoiler alert: The death of a major character also lends the film a gravitas lacking in previous movies, although it can't match the kick in the gut that was the killing of Diana Rigg's character in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Yes, the George Lazenby one.)

Unfortunately, parts of Skyfall also remind me of non-Bond movies - and the TV series 24.

It's cool that they finally re-introduce Q in the Bond movies, but Q's role is too similar to Chloe's in 24 - a computer hacker nerd who is feeding the field agent information as the agent runs around the city looking for terrorists.

The rural setting for the final showdown in Skyfall recalls the rural setting for the penultimate showdown in The Bourne Identity.

Then there's the whole the villain-planned-to-get-captured-all-along plot twist that we've just seen in The Avengers.

The chase along the rooftops in Instanbul in the beginning of Skyfall brings to mind the Instanbul rooftop chase in the very recent Taken 2, which was unexpectedly funny and disappointingly short.

I wish Skyfall was shorter. At one point, I thought the movie was going to end, but then it went on for like another 30 minutes! The same thing happened with the overrated 2006 Casino Royale.

Both movies were too long by a quarter. Yet, both were highly praised. Everyone hated Quantum Of Solace, which, by the way, was the shortest of the Daniel Craig movies. So it seems the critics like it long.

Speaking of Craig, in Skyfall, he's playing Bond as if he's already getting too old for the role, yet paradoxically, the end of the movie suggests a new beginning of sorts.

(Spoiler alert: The rather clumsy reveal of a female character's name at the end reminds me of the clumsy reveal of Robin's name at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.)

I suspect that if Craig does star in the next Bond movie, people will complain that he's too old for the role, even though he's now only 44.

Sean Connery played James Bond from age 32 to 53. Lazenby was 36. Roger Moore from 45 to 58. Timothy Dalton from 42 to 44. Pierce Brosnan from 43 to 51.

It was kind of shocking for me to learn that the average age of the actors playing James Bond is in the 40s. So I still have a chance.

The age of the character in the Ian Fleming books is around 37. But I'm not from the school of thought that the more closely the movies hew to the books, the better.

To me, the movies peaked in 1979 with Moonraker, which only had the title in common with the book.

Up until then, the Bond movies just kept getting bigger and bigger in terms of spectacle. Moonraker was - and still is - the biggest and the most entertaining.

But once you send Bond out to space, you have nowhere else to go. You can't get any bigger than space.

And the producers knew it and didn't even try. So the next movie was the decidedly down-to-earth For Your Eyes Only, lowering the bar for the sequels that follow. Great theme song though.

Yeah, one flaw of Moonraker is the theme song by Shirley Bassey which doesn't soar as it should.

But then the leaden Skyfall theme song by Adele is actually worse.

But what's most disheartening for me is the continuing Bourne-ification of Bond - the gritty action, the brooding soul-searching assassin, the obsession with the past ...

I think the reason critics have fallen head over heels over Skyfall is that it's as close as a James Bond movie can get to a Jason Bourne movie while still remaining a James Bond movie.

One consolation - or hope - I have is now that the producers have taken this Bourne thing as far as it can go, the next movie will go in a different direction.

But whatever they do, they will never top Moonraker. Unless Bond leaves the Earth's atmosphere again, which would be ridiculous (and repetitive).

Space was the final frontier.

Thursday 1 November 2012

'Images on cigarette packs come to life for kids'

I just saw these two items together on my Facebook timeline today:

South Korean singer Psy not setting a good example for kids.

Here is my solution to the smoking problem.