Sunday 27 January 2013

How I became a fool for stool

Caution: You may not want to read this if you are eating.

Unlike the residents of Punggol East, the big question for me last week was not who I should vote for, but whether I want someone to stick his finger into my rectum.


That was what happened during the prostate exam at my last medical check-up two years ago.

I’m required by my employer to get a health screening every year, but I skipped it last year because of my reluctance to go through the whole someone-sticking-his-finger-into-my-rectum thing again.

The memory still haunts me. I remember after the exam, I was so traumatised that I went home and hugged my family for a very long time.

The thing is, I could’ve said no.

Sensing my discomfort, the doctor actually gave me the option of not having my prostate examined.

But I said yes because well... okay, I was curious to know what it would feel like to have someone stick his finger into my rectum.

So now I know.

I probably shouldn’t even be talking about this since the Attorney-General’s Chambers has warned against making comments related to Section 377A of the Penal Code.

This time, I resolved that when the doctor wants to examine my prostate, I would say no, thanks. After all, my curiosity was sated two years ago.

My appointment was on Tuesday. I had to be at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital by 8.30am.

As I would be taking a blood test, I was told not to eat or drink anything besides water after 10pm the night before.

At the hospital, a woman handed me two small plastic containers, one for my urine sample and for my stool sample.

Wait, what? Stool sample? That was new.

But they had told me to fast for the blood test and now they wanted me to provide a stool sample? Didn’t one thing kind of work against the other? How was I going to produce a stool sample on an empty stomach?

There was a water-cooler in the waiting area I could drink from, so providing a urine sample wasn’t a problem.

There was also a small pantry where, after my blood was taken, I made myself two slices of toast with jam and a cup of Horlicks – and waited for my body to turn them into stool.

I saw the doctor and to my surprise, there was no prostate exam. I was almost disappointed. All that angst for nothing!

So now my problem wasn’t something going into my rectum but that nothing was coming out of it.

I was told that I had a week to provide the stool sample, but I didn’t want to go home, collect the sample and travel all the way back to Novena on another day with my own excrement.

So I sat in the waiting room and waited some more.

Feeling restless, I decided to try my luck on the toilet bowl, but shot blanks - and realised I had another problem.

Let’s say I did have a bowel movement, how would I get my stool into the small container?

Was I supposed to catch it as it was coming out? Or scoop it from the water in the toilet bowl?

This wasn’t exactly something we were taught in school.

And it would be too embarrassing for me to ask the woman how to collect my own stool.

(Hey, stool rhymes with school.)

So I called my wife for advice. She suggested that I could poop on the floor and collect a sample from there. I rejected her disgusting idea.

If only I had the PAP candidate for Punggol East, Dr Koh Poh Koon, there with me for consultation. After all, he’s a colorectal surgeon. He should know about rectums and collecting stool samples.

By 10:30am, I came to the conclusion that those two slices of toast with jam and that cup of Horlicks weren’t going to get my bowel moving.

I decided to walk to nearby Novena Square for an early lunch and take a stroll around the shopping centre until I reached the Promised Land.

So I ate some noodles at the food court and the plan worked. I soon felt the urge to go No. 2.

I also thought my other problem was solved when I miraculously found a squat toilet in the shopping centre.

Unlike a regular toilet bowl where your stool drops directly into the water, a squat toilet has a long, relatively dry area where you can land your stool above the waterline.

But it requires good aim. I totally missed it with my first attempt which fell right into the water.

I adjusted my position and my second piece landed where I wanted.

Unfortunately, it was such a big chunk that gravity and the slick surface caused it to slide down into the water before I could get to it.

I had just one more chance. I didn’t have any more in me. I decided to bite the bullet and go for a more direct approach.

As the stool was coming out, I tried to catch it with the container.

But because I couldn’t see what was happening down there, I misjudged and scraped against the emerging stool with the container and my fingers.

Mission abort! Mission abort!

I just got warm crap on my fingers!

I gave up. I might as well just go home and return with the stool sample on another day.

And then I spotted it. Another miracle.

Lying in the squat toilet far above the waterline was a small piece of stool, waiting for me.

My heart lept.

As I bent down to get my sample, I somehow activated the autoflush and my miracle was washed down the toilet.

Noooooooooooo! My precious faeces!

I was spent. What now, Kemosabe?

I looked at the container. The scraping from my stool was still on the brim.

Wait. Could the scraping be considered a “sample”?

I mean, the amount was about as much as the free samples that ice cream sellers give out.

So with the lid, I carefully pushed the scraping into the container, closed it and voilĂ , I got my stool sample.

I returned to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital with my filled container and a sense of accomplishment.

Mr Yam Ah Mee might not have announced it on TV, but it was a triumph as hard-earned as winning any by-election.

And yes, I’ve washed my hands.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 January 2013

UPDATE: After reading this column, someone suggested that I should have just put some toilet paper on my hand, poop into the toilet paper and collect the stool sample from there. It sounds like a good solution except that pooping into your own hand is kind of gross. Plus my arm may not be long enough for me to poop into my own hand.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Rod Monteiro & his Married Men: Getting away with it - until someone complains

It’s not about censorship.

You know, despite all the trouble I got into throughout my almost two decades working in Singapore media, I’m thankful for what I’ve managed to get away with.

For one thing, I’ve never been terminated.

On Friday, radio station Hot FM91.3 terminated its contract with The Married Men team, featuring popular DJs Rod Monteiro, Andre Hoeden and Jillian Lim, and it wasn’t because they played that song about how to blow a whistle by Flo Rida. (“You just put your lips together and you come real close.”)

It was because of a segment on Thursday involving a prank phone call containing “material that was wholly inappropriate on air and breached the terms of the contract”.

According to a Straits Times report, Hoeden had called a woman and claimed to be an officer from an embassy who was doing a background check on her.

He asked if she hit children, to which she said no. Hoeden then advised her to only hit children from poor families as they would not have the money or time to go after her with lawyers, unlike “expat children” from “very rich” families who could afford lawyers.

Just as I have apologised a number of times in this column, SPH UnionWorks senior programme director Jamie Meldrum apologised to listeners who were offended by the “indefensible” segment.

In other words, people complained, probably not for the first time.

So bye bye, Married Men.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years in this business, it’s that as long as no one complains, you would be amazed by what you can get away with.

Just look at Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, which you now can do so after the Media Development Authority (MDA) lifted the ban on the local movie over a week ago.

Last October, the Ken Kwek film already had its premiere screening in Singapore when its M18 rating was withdrawn by MDA after people complained about the movie’s online trailer containing racist jokes about Indians.

The movie can now be shown under a R21 classification “with edits”. The film’s producers said in a press release that the MDA's edits included “beeps and mutes” on dialogue considered offensive.

So they almost got away with it, but then shot themselves in the foot with the trailer, which led to the complaints which led to the ban which now leads to a compromised version of the movie, which I guess is better than not being allowed to show it in Singapore at all.

With all the publicity, which peaked three months ago, the producers may still be able to make some money from people curious to see what the fuss was about.

I suspect that the “beeps and mutes” will be to cover racist dialogue that can already be heard in the trailer, which is still online. So if you’ve seen the trailer, you probably won’t be missing much.

Another film that was unbanned in Singapore last week was the sex addiction movie, Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

Last year, MDA gave it an R21 rating on condition that a group sex scene be edited. Unlike the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers, Shame director Steven McQueen refused to make the edit and so the movie was withdrawn from Singapore.

Now it’s being shown uncut by the Singapore Film Society to its members.

Perhaps if the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers wait a year, they can also show their movie unedited to the film society members, that is, if anyone still cares by then.

At least they didn’t have to wait 44 years, which was how long it took the movie Wit’s End (also known as The G.I. Executioner) to be finally shown here.

Billed as the first American film shot entirely in Singapore, Wit’s End was produced in 1969 and will be screened at The Arts House (in the Old Parliament House) from Jan 23 to 30.

According to the trailer I saw on YouTube, the “incredible action of The G.I. Executioner could only take place against the background of sultry Singapore” from “the exotic glamour of the Raffles Hotel to the erotic danger of the Singapore pleasure palaces”.

The movie is rated M18 and I don’t know whether it will be shown uncut, but the trailer offers ample nudity and one goofy scene involving gay bondage.

Yet, no one has complained about the trailer - probably because it doesn’t contain any racist jokes about Indians.

Actually, the whole movie is available on YouTube for those of you interested in seeing, uh... what Singapore looked like back in 1969.

After all these years, it still surprises me what gets complaints and what doesn’t. So trying to avoid them can be rather futile.

Back when I was writing for Phua Chu Kang, there was an episode where Rosie was pulling Chu Beng away from Margaret because Rosie believed Margaret was turning into a vampire.

Rosie said to Chu Beng: “I’m trying to save you! She’ll suck you to death.”

And he said: “Well, I was hoping she would.”

Yes, that actually went on air. I’m not proud.

It makes the lyrics of Flo Rida’s Whistle seem subtle by comparison.

Looking back, I’m almost appalled that I got away with it, but no one complained. And it wasn’t like no one watched the show. That was the highest rated episode of the series.

Maybe it was because there weren’t any racist jokes about Indians.

The danger is that the more you keep getting away with it, the more you keep pushing your luck until...

We’ll miss you, Married Men. Consider this a divorce.

Please don’t complain about this column.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 January 2013

Thursday 17 January 2013

Oddly (in)appropriate Facebook timeline juxtapositions

A couple of recent screenshots of my Facebook timeline.

Yes, someone needs to be spanked and it's not the girl.

BTW, Patrick Paulo is an old friend from the navy. Of course.

Monday 14 January 2013

Middle age, yes, but scary?

I just discovered that if you search for "middle age scary man" in Google images, deep among the results is my picture.

Don't ask me how I discovered this.

COLUMN: My own son mistook me for a woman

Sunday 13 January 2013

Sequelitis: Darinne Ko is no Cecilia Sue (and farewell, Yam Ah Mee)

2013 is the year of sequels.

Actually, just about any year is the year of sequels, but I need a premise for this column, so work with me here.

Last year, we had The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Men In Black 3, Taken 2, The Expendables 2, Wrath Of The Titans and Piranha 3DD among others, including the ultimate sequel, Marvel’s The Avengers, which was like a sequel to four different movies.

This year, we’ll have Ah Boys To Men Part 2, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, A Good Day To Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Hangover Part 3, Kick Ass 2, Red 2, The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, Scary Movie 5, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug and quite a few more.

I can’t wait to see which new movie will have a burger named after it, like the Avengers Zinger Double Down, “the mightiest burger ever assembled”. I propose The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Spicy Whopper, flame-broiled to shoot your hunger down and set your taste buds on fire.

Yet, despite the deliciousness of sequels, none were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar last week, not even The Dark Knight Rises. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln doesn’t count because apparently, it’s not a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer. And Zero Dark Thirty isn’t a sequel to Zero Dark Twenty-Nine.

I mean, was a burger named after any of the Best Picture nominees? Sure, there’s Life Of Pie, but that’s a pastry.

The pervasiveness of sequels is such that they may have spilled over to the non-movie world.

For example, last week’s sex-for-grades trial starring former NUS law professor Tey Tsun Hang and his former student Darinne Ko resembled a sequel to last year’s sex-for-contracts trial starring former Central Narcotics Bureau chief Ng Boon Gay and former IT sales manager Cecilia Sue.

But comparing Tey and Ms Ko to Ng and Ms Sue is like comparing Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy to Matt Damon in the previous Bourne movies. It’s just not the same.

In our hearts, we would always wish it was Matt Damon or Cecilia Sue.

Other upcoming follow-ups in 2013 include another sex-for-contract trial (starring former Singapore Civil Defence Force chief Peter Lim) and the continuation of the City Harvest saga starring founder Kong Hee with the soundtrack provided by his singer wife Ho Yeow Sun. Yes, more China Whine.

But the big sequel this month is the fourth election we’ll have in Singapore in less than two years.

First, we had the “watershed” General Election in May 2011. Then we had the Presidential election three months later. The Hougang by-election last May made it a trilogy.

When Mr Michael Palmer unexpectedly resigned as the Member of Parliament for Punggol East last month, a quadrilogy was inevitable.

Just when Singaporeans thought we were out, Mr Palmer pulled us back into another election season.

(That line, by the way, is based on a quote from another sequel, The Godfather Part 3.)

It was like when director Peter Jackson announced that he’s turning The Hobbit from a two-parter into three movies.

Really? Another one?

I wonder how Dr Koh Poh Koon, the People’s Action Party candidate for Punggol East, will look in High Frame Rate 3D.

I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that this upcoming by-election will be the series finale. That’s it. Over.

Then after about three years, there will be a reboot in the form of a General Election.

And how will that future reboot be different from this current election series?

No more Mr Yam Ah Mee.

As returning officer, he has announced the polling results on TV for the past three elections.

Pursuant to last week’s news that Mr Yam will be stepping down as the chief executive director of People’s Association later this year, the Punggol East by-election will likely be his farewell performance.

Remember how we thought the original three Star Wars movies were about Luke Skywalker? Then the three prequels revealed that the entire six-movie saga is really about Darth Vader?

Well, these four elections are really about Yam Ah Mee.

We were introduced to him in the 2011 General Election and we will say goodbye to him in the Jan 26 by-election.

Just be grateful he was never played by an eight-year-old Jake Lloyd.

There may not be a burger named after Mr Yam, but his name is already a noodle dish.

How’s that for a happy ending?

- Published in The New Paper, 13 January 2013

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Gee, your hair smells

Partly because my son mistook me for a woman two Saturdays ago, I went to get a haircut on Monday.

I decided to try this new place in Yew Tee called Snip Avenue where a haircut is only $3.80.

That's even cheaper than QB House which has raised its price from $10 to $12 last month.

The trouble I have with these hair places is that if you don't speak Chinese, you may have some difficulty communicating with your cutter.

My Snip Avenue cutter first spoke to me in Mandarin, but when I took a while to respond, she switched to English. When I spoke to her in English, I sensed she wasn't very comfortable with the language.

The last thing I wanted was someone holding a sharp instrument near my head to be uncomfortable with me and so I switched to my pre-school level Mandarin. She seemed relieved and spoke to me in Mandarin from then on.

And what she said was:
  • My hair was dirty.
  • I had dandruff.
  • My hair was falling out because of the dandruff.
  • My hair was smelly.

It was the first time a person I was paying to cut my hair had ever told me that my hair stank. I didn't know whether to be offended or impressed by her bluntness.

I asked her what I should do with my smelly hair. She recommended scalp treatments and hair products were brought out for me to buy.

That was when I began to suspect that she might have an ulterior motive for verbally abusing my hair - she wanted me to buy stuff.

I mean, how else are they going to make money when they charge only $3.80 for a haircut?

I gave the excuse that I had to consult my wife before I could buy any hair product and left the salon after paying $3.80 for the haircut and immediately headed for NTUC FairPrice supermarket where I bought a $12.90 (reduced from $14.60) bottle of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo for men hair retain (after getting my wife's approval on the phone, of course).

Upon returning home, I asked my wife if my cutter had said my hair was smelly because she wanted to sell me stuff.

My wife said yes, but my hair also really stinks.

And after all that, I think I actually look more like a woman now than before the haircut.



Sunday 6 January 2013

Man! He’s not a woman!

I’m a country music fan.

Before Taylor Swift, the big country crossover star was Shania Twain. One of Twain’s hits was a song called Man! I Feel Like A Woman! with two exclamation points in the title.

I’m bringing this up because I’ll be referencing this song title several times in this column and I want to make sure you get the reference like Captain America did with the “flying monkeys” reference in The Avengers movie.

I just hope I don’t have to explain that Captain America reference.

Anyway, not long ago, I received an e-mail from a reader who addressed me as “Samantha”.

Man! That made me feel like a woman!

It was not the first time I was mistaken for a woman and it wouldn’t be the last.

It is, of course, not uncommon for a man to be mistaken for a woman.

On Wednesday, the front page of The New Paper read: “New Year’s Eve party shock: Woman has cardiac arrest in Zouk. Two people give her CPR. Page 2.”

The next day, there was arguably an even bigger shock.

Thursday’s TNP front page read: “‘Woman’ in Zouk cardiac arrest turns out to be a man. Described by witnesses as a ‘very attractive woman’. Page 2.”

Fortunately, Friday’s TNP front page didn’t read: “‘Woman’ in ‘Zouk’ cardiac arrest, who turned out to be a man, turns out to be at St James Power Station. Page 2.”

I’m wondering what went through the minds of the two people who gave “her” cardiopulmonary resuscitation - which includes mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions - after reading the second TNP front page.

“Man? He felt like a woman!”

The man was last reported to be in intensive care and I wish him a speedy recovery.

(UPDATE: The man has died in hospital)

Also last week, there was a Straits Times report about a 7-Eleven store assistant named Tan Yeong Perng who lured a 15-year-old boy into the storeroom and committed an obscene act.

The report said the boy “felt something was amiss when his leg accidentally brushed against Tan’s groin, and realised that Tan was actually a male”.

Man! That doesn’t feel like a woman!

Tan was jailed for 15 months for the offence.

My son is also 15 years and I’m a little worried for him.

He joined his school’s Chinese orchestra last year, which was a surprise to his mother and me as no one in the family, including him, ever had any interest in traditional Chinese music before. It isn’t exactly Taylor Swift, you know?

Someone had somehow coaxed my son into trying a traditional Chinese wind instrument called the suona, which he turned out to be good enough at that he was asked to join the orchestra.

Last month, my wife and I got tickets to see our son for the first time performing in the Chinese orchestra, but she couldn’t make it. So I went alone.

The performance was in a room in the school and I was a bit late. My son was already there and I thought I made eye contact with him as I took my seat.

As I watched him play the suona, I felt so proud of myself for being such a supportive parent - unlike one mother I could mention.

After the unexpectedly enjoyable performance, the audience was directed out of the room while the students remained.

I didn’t want to leave the school without saying goodbye, so I called my son's mobile phone, but he didn’t answer and so I left without speaking to him.

A couple of hours later, I received an SMS from my son: “Why you call me? Is it pocket dial?”

He must have seen the “missed call” alert on his phone.

I replied: “I just wanted to say bye to you in school.”

He messaged back: “You were at school?”

Wait. He didn’t know I was there?

I immediately called him and asked: “You didn’t see me at the performance?”

He said: “No.”

I said: “But I saw you see me. I came in late.”

He said: “All I saw was this woman in an orange top.”

I said: “That was me! I was wearing an orange top!”

He said: “Really? Oh.”

Man! My own son mistook me for a woman!

Maybe this was just the universe’s way of reminding me to get a haircut before Chinese New Year.

And that I should keep my son away from convenience stores.

I wanted to ask him if he at least thought I was a “very attractive woman”, but then another Shania Twain song title came to mind - Don’t Be Stupid.

I think I’m going to start listening to more Faith Hill from now on.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 January 2013

UPDATE: Gee, your hair smells