Monday 25 February 2013

It's not that Chuck Norris has never won an Oscar...

... it's that the Oscar has never won a Chuck Norris.

Just because I made one reference to Chuck Norris in my last column, here are all the full movies starring Norris I could find on YouTube.

Sadly, The Octagon isn't one of them.

Chuck Norris Biography:

Norris' big scene with Bruce Lee in The Way Of The Dragon:

Sunday 24 February 2013

After 26 years, $1 will finally be bigger than 50 cents

It’s about time.

And money.

For too long, Singaporeans have been vexed by the paradox that is the relative sizes of our 50-cent and $1 coins.

The five-cent coin is bigger than the one-cent coin. The 10-cent coin is bigger than the five-cent coin. The 20-cent coin is bigger than the 10-cent coin.

The 50-cent coin is, as you might have guessed, is bigger than the 20-cent coin.

So based on this logical progression, you would expect the $1 coin to be bigger than the 50-cent coin.

Well, here’s a shocker – it’s not.

The $1 coin is 22.40mm in diameter, making it smaller than the 24.66mm 50-cent coin by more than 2mm.

It’s crazy but it’s true.

At least the $1 coin is bigger than the 21.36mm-diameter 20-cent coin, though by only 1.04mm.

So it’s bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger... then suddenly smaller.

What kind of sick mind game was the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) playing with us when it introduced the smaller $1 coin in 1987?

How can something smaller be worth more than something bigger?

It’s like a society that places more value on babies than on the elderly.

The one saving grace that prevented us from descending into total anarchy is that the $1 coin has a different colour from the 50-cent coin.

That helped me (and many other Singaporeans, I suspect) to make sense of the size aberration by rationalising that the $1 coin must be made of some gold-like metal (actually aluminium bronze) that’s more precious than the silver-like metal (actually cupro-nickel) of the 50-cent coin, and so is worth more despite being smaller.

Oh, and babies are cuter. (You don’t see people sharing many adorable pictures of their grandparents on Facebook, do you? Cats get more camera time.)

So on Thursday when MAS unveiled a new series of coins that will be in circulation by the middle of this year, I silently wished: “Please please please please make the new $1 coin bigger than the 50-cent coin and end this 26-year-long national fumbling for change.”

Good news! The new $1 coin is 24.65mm in diameter, more than 1mm bigger than the new 23mm 50-cent coin.

And all is right in the world again.

So what if the new coins reminded me of the tokens I used to play Time Crisis at the arcade?

MAS also gilded the lily by making the new $1 coin bi-metallic and two-tone, which is a first, setting it apart from every other circulation Singapore coin old and new.

But even with the radical new look, I noticed something familiar about the new $1 coin that’s not found on the other denominations.

The octagon.

Not the Chuck Norris movie The Octagon, but the eight-sided engraving that’s also on the current $1 coin.

The urban legend lives!

The octagon on the coin is supposed to resemble the Chinese ba gua, which has something to do with fengshui and should not be confused with the more delicious Chinese bak kwa.

The story goes that back when the MRT system was being built, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew consulted a fengshui master, who advised that to ensure success, every Singaporean must carry a ba gua.

And so the octagonal $1 coin was created.

While Singapore had $1 coins before then, they were non-octagonal and the $1 note was more commonly used. Nowadays, the $1 note is practically extinct while everyone carries the ba gua – I mean, the octagonal $1 coin.

And look at how successful Singapore and the, uh, MRT have become.

It makes me wonder why they don’t put the octagon on all the coins, not just the $1 coin. Apparently, even some of the currency notes also have the octagon somewhere.

Mr Lee has since laughed off the idea that he believes in fengshui, saying it was “utter rubbish” that people thought he did.

“I’m a pragmatic, practical fellow,” he told The Straits Times in 2011. “I do not believe in horoscopes, I do not believe in fengshui, and I’m not superstitious about numbers.”

Still, I can’t help but muse, why introduce the new coin series with the new octagonal $1 coin at this time?

Is Singapore embarking on some major new national project where some good fengshui would come in handy?

Hmmm, didn’t Singapore and Malaysia just agree last week to build a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by 2020? Coincidence?

No, wait. There’s an even bigger project where Singapore needs all the good fengshui we can get.

On the same day the new coins were announced, the Government also announced that the Office for Space Technology and Industry has been set up to oversee the development of Singapore’s local space industry.

That’s right, we’re going into space. You can’t get any bigger than space.

Well, that’s one way to tackle the overcrowding problem. In space, no one can hear you honk your car horn.

There’s also a plan to send a Singaporean into the space in 2015. He or she must have a pilot licence. May I suggest Zoe Tay’s husband? He’s the only pilot I can think of.

Whoever is chosen to go, just make sure he or she carries the new $1 coin along. You know, for luck. The coin will be easy to spot. It’s bigger than the new 50-cent coin – as it should be.

Hey, is there any bak kwa left over from Chinese New Year?

- Published in The New Paper, 24 February 2013

Hi Mr Ong,

Did you notice the last series of paper notes (not the plastic one) every one has a octagonal hologram. If you look at a certain angle you can see a lotus flower as well.

Just for your info. Cheers.

Best Regards

Sunday 17 February 2013

Censored: Not a good day for Die Hard fans

Want something to protest?

Not something that may or may not happen 17 years from today, but something much, much more serious that is happening in Singapore right now.

In fact, it may be too late.

I am, of course, referring to the censorship of the movie A Good Day To Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis.

And this time, you can’t blame the Government – unless you blame the Government for creating the movie classification system in the first place. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t seen the new blockbuster sequel, which opened here 10 days ago, but you plan to, consider this a spoiler alert.

As in, be alerted that the movie has been spoiled by some really clumsy sound editing.

For example, it seems that whenever Willis uses the four-syllable bad word that describes a person who has carnal knowledge of a maternal parent, the word is replaced by an audio clip of someone saying something that sounds like “chia pet”.

As in “Yippee ki-yay, chia pet.” Which, of course, makes no sense at all.

It’s like watching a poorly dubbed movie on Channel 5 – except you paid for it.

It’s so bad that the Shaw Theatres website has this disclaimer for the movie:
“Please note, the audio inconsistencies within the original movie presentation are intentional.

“20th Century Fox Singapore has chosen to mute out the vulgar language as to observe the PG13 rating requirements. Instead of editing them to keep the flow of action sequences intact.

“Please be informed that no refunds will be entertained.”
That last line would suggest that some ticket-buyers have been upset enough by the “audio inconsistencies” to ask for their money back.

This is kind of unprecedented.

The cinema operator is basically saying, “Hey, it’s not our fault. Blame the film distributor, 20th Century Fox Singapore.”

And a few people have done just that on the 20th Century Fox Singapore Facebook page.

Here’s one long comment by an unhappy moviegoer:
“The Die Hard franchise has always thrived on its tough-talkin' characters.

“Why censor all the foul language, kill the movie’s ‘tough guy’ spirit and disappoint moviegoers familiar with the vernacular of the franchise?

“You even had to hack the iconic ‘Yippee ki-yay’ line.

"The cuts were very jarring and distracting indeed.

“This movie should have gotten a NC16 rating, but, I believe, you chose to have it censored for PG13 so it could have a wider audience and a bigger box office earning...

“I expect you as a movie distributor – as someone who appreciates movies – to at all times possible show the film as it is and fit it into the right classification; to give the audience a deserved, fair, uncut representation.

“In this case, you have failed to do so.”
Wow. Talk about a die-hard fan.

But I’m surprised and disappointed that there isn’t a bigger outcry over this vandalism of a cinematic work of art, albeit one with an overlong multi-vehicle chase and too short running time.

This affront to moviegoers could’ve been prevented or at least mitigated.

Let me take you back to 1999 when Singapore made international news in a rather embarrassing way and it had nothing to do with match fixing.

It involved another movie sequel.

That was when Singapore changed the title of the Mike Myers comedy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shioked Me.

The Singapore Board of Film Censors had asked the film’s distributor, Warner Bros, to remove the word “shagged” from the title as the term was considered “crude and offensive”.

Warner Bros, on its part, decided to replace “shagged” with the word “shioked” because it would generate a "nice, funny feeling".

The spokesman said: “This title also brings attention to Singapore. We can claim this title as our own as it can't be used anywhere else.

Expectedly, there was a huge outcry over the new title – and this was before social media.

The big problem for me was that “shiok” is an adjective, not a verb.

So to be grammatically correct – if that’s possible with a Singlish word – the new title should be Austin Powers: The Spy Who Made Me Feel Shiok.

But that would make the title, which was already too long, even longer.

Anyway, my point is, because of the outcry, the movie was eventually allowed to be shown here with its original title.

Fourteen years later, the original, uncensored version of A Good Day To Die Hard could’ve also been saved this way, especially now with social media and Speakers’ Corner, which were specifically created for this purpose.

Instead, we were distracted by the Population White Paper and Facebook confession pages.

Priorities, people!

All I can say is “chia pet”.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 February 2013

Friday 15 February 2013

Awards season: It's no Asian TV Award, but ...

Remember when I won the award for Headline of the Month for October?

Well, that headline was also nominated for Headline of the Year and last night, it won.

It beat The Straits Times headline "CHAMPIONS CHAMPIONS CHAMPIONS CH4MPIONS" about the Lions winning the Suzuki Cup for the fourth time.

Finally, I get to update the awards section in my CV.

The last time I did something that won an award was when the sitcom Daddy's Girls won the Asian TV Award for Best Comedy in 2005. Before that, it was Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, which won the same award in 1999.

But winning the Headline of the Year is much better because it's a solo thing and I'm actually getting some cash for it.

I also put considerable less work into producing the headline than producing the two TV shows.

Once again, I would like to thank the amorous teacher who gave the book Eat Pray Love to a student and then had sex with the underage boy, thus inspiring my money-making headline: "Teach, prey, love?"

Once again, love conquers all. How appropriate for Valentine's Day yesterday.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The pope versus King Kong

By some weird coincidence, Channel 5 was showing the movie Angels & Demons last night, a couple of days after the pope unexpectedly announced his resignation.

It was like they planned it. Conspiracy theories, anyone?

In case you don't know, Angels & Demons is based on the bestseller by Dan Brown with the selection of a new pope as a big part of its plot.

If only Dan Brown is releasing his new book, Inferno, this month instead of in May, the synergy would've been perfect.

Damn you, Illuminati!

This reminds me of when I was working at TV Works (which later became Channel i, which later became non-existent) back in 2001.

It was right after 9/11 and we were going to show the 1976 version of King Kong starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.

Unlike the original 1933 and later 2005 versions where King Kong climbs the Empire State Building, in the 1976 version, the giant ape scales one of the twin towers of World Trade Centre in the climax.

Yes, the World Trade Centre that was just destroyed on Sept 11.

If that wasn't bad enough, just before the movie was going to air, it was brought to my attention that in one scene, a helicopter actually crashes into a tower.

"Oh my god!" I said. "We can't show that!"

I couldn't believe the coincidence.

Damn you, King Kong!

In the end, we decided to show the movie but edited out the shot of the helicopter crash that was so eerily similar to the attack on the WTC just days before.

I wonder if there was a scramble at Ch 5 to decide whether to air Angels & Demons after news of the pope's resignation broke. Good thing the pope didn't die. Otherwise, MediaCorp would definitely have to pull the movie.

Weirder coincidences have happened.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Year of the shirt

I bought this Stussy T-shirt a few years ago because it was unusual and on sale. I didn't even try it on in the shop.

When I finally tried it on at home, it was like the ugliest, most horrifying thing.

I looked like I was wrapped in snake. (Not snakeskin, but snake.) It actually frightened my wife.

It's also in that particularly unflattering shade of brown. So I put the shirt away.

Well, tomorrow is the first day of the Year of the Snake and I finally have an excuse to wear the hideous thing.

Because of this, I'm actually excited about Chinese New Year for the first time in a long while. I can't wait to frighten my relatives.

Gong xi fa cai, everyone! Or rather, gong sssssssssssssssssss fa cai.

Thursday 7 February 2013

'This is our fifth year, baby, and it feels like I'm in jail'

Any Little River Band fans out there?

This month marks my fifth anniversary at The New Paper. This is the longest I've ever stayed with one company.

Yes, I spent 10 years at MediaCorp, but that was over three separate stints.

I was at SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) for six months in 1994 where I was a research writer and appeared as a movie reviewer with Gurmit Singh on Live On 5.

I returned to TCS (Television Corporation Of Singapore) in 1997 for four years plus a few months where I worked on Shiver, Under One Roof and Phua Chu Kang seasons 2 and 3.

I returned again in 2004 to MediaCorp Studios for another 4+ years where I worked on Daddy's Girls, Living With Lydia, Maggi & Me, Lifeline and the final season of Phua Chu Kang.

So each time I joined (and rejoined) MediaCorp, I would work on a show with Gurmit Singh, which isn't really saying much since everyone at MediaCorp eventually works on a show with Gurmit Singh. But very few can say they worked on his first show, Live On 5.

Also, each time I was there, the company had a different name. So the only chance I'll go back is if it changes its name again, which makes it rather unlikely there will be a fourth time.

So chances are, I'll be staying at The New Paper for a while.

One thing I discovered at The New Paper is how similar it is to working for Channel 5.

Just as TNP is the lesser sibling to The Straits Times at SPH, Ch 5 is the lesser sibling to Ch 8 at MediaCorp Studios.

Because of the sheer volume of Ch 8 productions, they set the standard for production values for Ch 5 in-house productions as well.

Unfortunately, it's harder for local shows on Ch 5 to get away with Ch 8 production values as Ch 5 shows are shown alongside Hollywood productions and will always look like crap in comparison. That is also why some local shows by outside production houses look better than MediaCorp in-house productions.

Anyway, I no longer concern myself with such matters after joining The New Paper in 2008.

Five years later, the paper is now celebrating its 25th anniversary and has a different editor.

But the biggest difference for me personally is that my only real friend at the paper, Paik Choo, left last August.

We knew each other from my second stint at TCS when she was working as a "dialogue consultant" for Growing Up. She would help me get The New Paper job a decade later. She's now freelancing for InSing and others.

I miss seeing her around the newsroom.

Anyway, to commemorate my half decade at The New Paper, here's my first published article as a full-time staffer.

It's the little article on the right, a comment about Mas Selamat, who escaped right after I joined TNP, headlined "Nobody's perfect".

After the article came out, I was stunned to read in an online forum that I was an apologist for the Government. I had no idea.

It was weird to have other people attach some imagined motivation behind what you wrote to fit their conspiracy theories and being so convinced they're right.

Of course, since then, I've been too busy apologising for myself to be an apologist for anyone else.

So far, 17 of my columns have not been published because of political incorrectness and other reasons. One of those rejected columns is about my top five MediaCorp CEOs. You can read why Lee Cheok Yew is my all-time favourite MediaCorp CEO as a prelude to my "fool for stool" column.

Ah, memories.

With dread, I look forward to more columns being rejected at The New Paper for years to come.

Meanwhile, we'll go dancing in the dark, walking through the park and reminiscing.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Population solution: Baby, you can be my car

“It’s all your fault,” he said.

Huh? What I did do now?

I had just bumped into an old friend from the navy while I was jogging and already he was blaming me for stuff.

He was complaining about having to deal with full-time national servicemen in the navy who are permanent residents and can’t speak English.

It’s because of Singaporeans like me who aren’t having enough babies, he said. So we don't have enough Singaporeans doing national service to defend the country.

That was when the magnitude of Singapore’s population problem finally hit me. I felt like running home and procreating with my wife at that very moment.

And then I remembered she might want to cuddle afterwards and I changed my mind. I think Singaporeans would have more babies if women didn’t like cuddling afterwards so much.

Or if men didn’t mind cuddling afterwards so much.

Actually, it’s not even the cuddling that I mind. The problem is I don’t know when I can stop cuddling.

At least for sex, there’s a clear end point. But cuddling can go on indefinitely.

It also occurred to me that if we have another baby, my wife would want me to do the night feeding again and I hate night feeding even more than I hate not knowing when to stop cuddling.

Anyway, we already have two kids, but apparently two isn’t enough for my navy friend, who has three. What is this? A competition?

Moreover, my wife and I are in our 40s and too old to have any more babies as tempting as the recently announced $8,000 baby bonus cash gift for a third child may be.

And then I read that my former MediaCorp colleague Gurmit Singh and his wife are having their third child even though he is 48 and she is 43.

And that was even before the $8,000 cash gift was announced. What is this? A competition?

The baby is due at the end of next month, according to xinmsn. They already have a daughter, 16, and a son, 12.

Gurmit posted on Facebook: “We are gonna have a new baby soon... And I don’t mean a car.”

Was that second line really necessary?

What if the Phua Chu Kang star had just written: “We are gonna have a new baby soon”?

Would people think, oh, Gurmit is getting another Lamborghini?

Yeah, I guess they might.


Wheels are turning in my head. (And they are not on a Lamborghini.)

I just figured out how to get Singaporeans to reproduce like rabbits.

You know how the Government has been dishing out monetary incentives like baby bonuses over the years to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies?

Yet our fertility rate remains too low.

On the other hand, the certificate of entitlement (COE) prices for all car categories have risen to over $90,000 and yet, despite the increasing cost of owning a car, the vehicle population continues to grow.

Which means the Government has been going about this whole baby thing all wrong.

Instead of trying to make it cheaper for Singaporeans to have babies, the Government should be making it more expensive!

We just need to make babies more like cars. (Thanks for the idea, Gurmit.)

Forget baby bonuses. The Government should be introducing baby COEs.

There could be a category A for baby girls, a category B for baby boys and an open category for both sexes.

By controlling the supply of baby COEs, the Government could create more demand for babies.

Under this Baby Quota System, children who are three to 10 years old must be certified roadworthy every two years while children over 10 must be inspected annually.

There could be a road tax for each baby, the amount of which is determined by the baby’s birth weight.

To address environmental concerns, hybrid babies could get special tax rebates, not that I have any idea what hybrid babies are or how they’re better for the environment.

I think parents should also be required to pay ERP charges for each child they enter the CBD with, although I foresee some resistance to installing In-Vehicle Units on babies.

But if we stick to the plan and stay the course, I believe there will be a surfeit of babies in Singapore in no time, thus allowing the creation of a used baby market.

So to Gurmit and my navy friend, I may not have any more babies myself, but my proposal would create more babies for Singapore than both of you ever will.

Not that we're competing.

- Published in The New Paper, 3 February 2012

UPDATE: Gurmit Singh welcomes third child