Tuesday 27 August 2013

So how do you follow up the Great Singapore Penis Panic?

I just received a copy of Fietlebaum's Escape, the new book by Dr Scott Mendelson.

He also wrote The Great Singapore Penis Panic And The Future of American Mass Hysteria, which I was obsessed with for a month last year, writing three columns (and even more blog posts) related to it. Even my editor expressed concern.

I was hoping it would win the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year award - but it eventually lost to Cooking With Poo.

Dr Mendelson first got in touch with me through one of the blog posts last year. He then e-mailed me a month ago to tell me about his new book, Fietlebaum's Escape, which is "about a Yiddish speaking psychiatrist's peculiar, drug-crazed, adventures in the galaxy".

It's a long way from Singapore men panicking about their disappearing penis.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Singaporean idle: Is Ken Lim addicted to judging?

Congratulations to Farisha Ishak on winning The Final 1.

I had expected Shaun Jansen to win, simply because he’s a guy and the winners of four previous singing competitions on Channel 5 were all guys.

Hold on, you say. Four? But there were only three seasons of Singapore Idol.

The winners were Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza and a third guy whose name I had to look up. (It’s Sezairi Sezali.)

So what’s this fourth competition I’m talking about?

Remember something called Live The Dream? Probably not, since the ratings for the 2007 Singapore Idol knock-off were so horrifying low that a former MediaCorp colleague working on the show called it Live The Nightmare.

Anyway, the winner was also a guy. I do remember his name because it sounds like the team manager who just quit the Johor Darul Takzim football team but it’s actually the name of a handbag – Fendi.

But Farisha isn’t the first woman to win a Channel 5 talent contest in the Idol era.

In 2010, singer Jill-Marie Thomas won the MediaCorp knock-off of America’s Got Talent called One Very Fleeting Moment Of Glory. (Okay, I added a couple of words to the name of the show.)

So why so many knock-offs? There were also Channel U’s Project SuperStar and Campus SuperStar.

It all started with the unexpectedly huge success of the first Singapore Idol in 2004. Imitation was the next logical step for MediaCorp.

Idol was so big that as the executive producer of the Channel 5 sitcom Living With Lydia at the time, I wrote an episode about Singapore Idol to ride on its popularity.

In the episode, the title character played by Lydia Sum (may she rest in peace) wants to get on Idol and sort of kidnaps Idol judge Dick Lee who gets amnesia after he is knocked unconscious by her. It may or may not be based on a true story.

Sample dialogue from the episode:

Sum: “Dick! You’re awake. Now you can hear me sing.”

Lee: “Who’s Dick?”

Sum: “You’re Dick.”

Lee: “I’m Dick?”

You get the idea.

The episode also includes a brief scene with Idol host Gurmit Singh and the other judges, Florence Lian and Douglas Oliverio, discussing Lee’s disappearance.

Hold on, you say. There were four judges on that first season of Singapore Idol – Lee, Lian, Oliverio and Ken Lim.

Where was Lim?

All four judges were asked to appear, but Lim was the only one who said no.

My guess is that since he wasn’t an actor or a comedian, the Hype Records honcho didn’t want to jeopardise his credibility as a judge by appearing in my rinky-dink sitcom.

Living With Lydia has long since ended, but Lim was back on Channel 5 as a judge on The Final 1, for which he also received a “created by” credit.

Maybe he started believing the hype that he’s “Singapore’s Simon Cowell”. I just hope Lim isn’t also having a baby with a friend's wife.

The other two judges in The Final 1 were Kit Chan and Taufik, who once appeared with his Idol co-finalist Sylvester Sim in ads selling Triumph BeeDees underwear for girls.

I didn’t make that up.

In early 2005, if you had spent at least $80 worth of Triumph products including a BeeDees bra-and-brief set or swimwear, you would’ve stood a chance to meet Taufik and Sim on Valentine’s Day.

As part of the promo, 200 BeeDees cami-and-shorts sets autographed by Taufik and Sim were also auctioned off for charity.

That didn’t jeopardise Taufik’s credibility as a judge at all.

As for Ken Lim, he has now been a judge six times – three times on Singapore Idol, once each on Asian Idol (which Hady won in 2007), Live The Nightmare and The Final 1.

Somewhere, Dick Lee, who has been a judge four times (three times on Idol and once on Live The Nightmare), must be shaking his head and saying: “Aiyoh, even I have better things to do.”

I’m getting concerned.

I think we need to have an intervention for Lim. The man could be addicted to reality TV singing competition judging.

I wonder if there’s a Judge-aholics Anonymous support group he can join.

Could it be that Lim was so desperate for a fix after going cold turkey for six years since Live The Dream, he created The Final 1 just so that he can be a judge again?

I’m not sure if he has hit rock bottom yet, but please let The Final 1 be his final one.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 August 2013

UPDATE: The Final 1 returned for a second season in 2015. So far, that was the final one.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

I’m on Baey Yam Keng's Instagram!

It helps to explain this very brief e-mail I received from the Member of Parliament for Tampines.

You're welcome!

Here's the column he's referring to: Who are you calling narcissistic?

UPDATE: PAP has shared Mr Baey's Instagram of my column on Facebook.

It's also mentioned on Stomp.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Me, my selfie & I: Baey Yam Keng is not a sissy

Narcissus is not just a brand of canned food products.

Okay, I admit it. I once took a picture of myself in a public washroom mirror.

I was at Changi Airport and for some reason – maybe it was my hair or the jacket I was wearing – I thought I looked particularly dashing that day.

The photo proved that I grossly misjudged.

But then I’m no Baey Yam Keng.

As the selfies of Mr Baey curated at the Popspoken website under the heading “Baey Yam Keng is our selfie crush: Here are his 10 hottest selcas” affirm, the Member of Parliament for Tampines is a ridiculously photogenic guy.

The photos were taken from Mr Baey’s Instagram account. I have an Instagram account too. The first picture I posted was of myself while I was on the toilet. It was a crap photo.

I’ve refrained from posting more selfies because I’m afraid people will think I'm narcissistic.

(When I say “people”, I mean my 17 Instagram followers, including members of my family who already know I'm narcissistic, so I am not sure what I’m worried about.)

Mr Baey, on the other hand, didn’t refrain. Last week, he even took a selfie during a RazorTV interview about his selfies. How meta is that?

In the interview, Mr Baey explained that he is experimenting with social media to try and reach more young people.

This was also the reason that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined Instagram a few months ago.

But so far, Mr Lee has posted only one selfie. And even that was a picture of him with another person, so it’s not technically a selfie selfie.

Therefore, no one can accuse Mr Lee of being narcissistic.

As for Mr Baey, however, one blogger has called him “the most narcissistic MP Singapore has ever had in history”.

Mr Baey told The New Paper: “I’m used to it. It happens on Facebook as well.

“All along, I’ve been telling myself that we can’t make everyone happy. As long as we are sure of ourselves, we do it with the right motives. That’s the most important thing to me.”

Hey, at least he wasn’t called the most sissy MP Singapore has ever had in history.

Have you seen the selfie of Mr Baey in the gym?

He may be the MP with the most well-toned arms Singapore has ever had in history.

The only possible challenger I can think of is Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Teo Ser Luck.

Mr Baey only posed with an Iron Man mask in one selfie, but Mr Teo has actually completed four Ironman triathlons.

On Friday, Mr Teo posted on Instagram that he now does 10 chin-ups, five sets of sit-ups, three sets of bench presses, one session of “run intervals” and one bottle of energy drink.

But sadly, no arm-baring gym selfie. Yet.

So can all this oversharing by elected officials on Instagram be a bad thing?

Mr Baey told RazorTV: “I think these are aspects of our personal life that members of the public are quite keen.

“Sometimes they have this perception that politicians are not real people. They don’t have a life or they’re all very stuffy, you know, very serious.”

I believe that thanks to former MPs Yaw Shin Leong and Michael Palmer, that perception has been tweaked somewhat. Politicians not only have a life – they have a double life.

Mr Baey said that when he posted his first selfie on Instagram, he wasn’t sure how people would react. “But so far it has been a lot more positive than negative.

“There will always be the critical ones, who, for example, say, ‘If you post another selfie, I’m going to unfollow you.’

“I was very heartened when another netizen say: ‘It’s his own Instagram account. Of course if you don’t like it, you don’t follow. I mean, no one is forcing you to follow Baey Yam Keng.’ ”

(By the way, if you don’t like this blog, don’t read. I mean, no one is forcing you to read S M Ong.)

What’s so wrong about taking selfies anyway? It’s not like he was trimming his fingernails while driving a public bus.

Selfies are just self-portraits. Vincent Van Gogh painted self-portraits.

Leonardo Da Vinci painted self-portraits. There’s speculation that his Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world, is a selfie.

“Selfie” was on Time magazine’s list of top 10 buzzwords of 2012. Also on the list was “yolo”, the acronym for “You only live once”, which is reason enough to keep taking selfies.

After all, selfies are not the only signs of narcissism.

According to another recent Time article, a US study has linked narcissism to frequent Facebook and Twitter use. The more often you post, the more likely you’re narcissistic. Stating the obvious much?

I would venture that if you have a blog, you’re also a narcissist at some level.

Anyone who writes an autobiography is a narcissist. Anyone who has a weekly newspaper column is a narcissist. I’m looking at you, Neil Humphreys.

Anyone who has written several autobiographies, including a book called One Man’s View Of The World, is a narcissist mentor.

And frankly, “narcissistic” is not the worst thing you could be called for taking selfies.

You could also be called a “cam whore”.

If God didn't intend for us to take selfies, why did He put a front-facing camera on our phones?

It’s so much better than using the washroom mirror at Changi Airport.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 Aug 2013

UPDATE: I'm on Baey Yam Keng's Instagram!

Sunday 11 August 2013

Had a bad National Day? Have an extra long weekend

And another National Day is over.

So how was it for you? Did you enjoy the parade?

Or did you give it a miss and take advantage of the extra long weekend by leaving Singapore on its 48th birthday to go on a holiday?

I understand. There’s an NDP every year. But getting back-to-back public holidays on Thursday and Friday is rarer than a wig-wearing St Margaret’s Secondary School girl.

And if nothing else, getting out of the country means you don’t have to hear this year’s much-loathed National Day song one more time.

Speaking of One Singapore, I wonder how National Day was for the performers in the music video for the song, which has been so viciously slammed by apparently no less a luminary than Hong Kong movie star Stephen Chow.

Even more brutal is this YouTube comment: “This is the only song I know that is worse than Justin Bieber.”

Being the hardened professionals that they are, One Singapore composer Elaine Chan and lyricist Selena Tan have likely brushed themselves off and moved on to the next project.

But for the 68 amateur singers, many of whom are very young, it must have been traumatising to experience such vitriol their first time in the national limelight.

And they all look so happy in the video and at the NDP, as they should be, singing about “sharing the love with all that we do”. They must have been blindsided by all the hate.

I feel bad for them, having worked so hard on the song only to have their well-meaning efforts publicly mocked by the likes of me

I imagine that their family and friends remain supportive except maybe that one jerk who believed that honesty is the best policy and told them the song really sucks (which I don’t think it does more than any other NDP song).

Instead of feeling proud of their National Day contribution, will future National Days only bring back bittersweet memories for these 68 Singaporeans?

This reminds me of a guy I marched with in the navy contingent 12 years ago in the 2001 parade.

Actually, he didn’t exactly march in the parade. He attended all the rehearsals just as I did. But on National Day itself, just minutes before we were to march into the yet-to-be-demolished National Stadium, something happened.

First of all, for people who have never participated in the NDP before, let me tell you that rehearsals and the parade itself involve a lot of waiting.

So to keep himself occupied, this guy would put on earphones and listen to a small radio he kept in his pocket. (Yes, people still listened to pocket radios back then. This was before iPods and smartphones.)

Before the parade, our Encik, the contingent commander, reminded us that for security reasons, we were not allowed to have our mobile phone or other electronic devices inside the National Stadium.

Well, you can figure out what happened next.

As we were about to march into the stadium, the Encik spotted the guy listening to his radio, snatched the electronic device and angrily threw it into the sea.

(Yes, we were near the sea. Don’t ask me how or why. It was a dozen years ago. We were the navy contingent.)

The guy was furious and demanded the Encik pay for his radio.

Clearly in no emotional state to be marching in front of the President, ministers and the rest of the nation, the guy was taken out of the parade literally at the last minute.

I never saw him again.

In his defence, I can understand how when the Encik said mobile phones and other electronic devices, the guy probably thought “other electronic devices” meant a pager and not his radio. (Yes, people still used pagers back then too.)

Also, the guy had his radio with him in the stadium during previous rehearsals and no one said anything.

It was just horrible luck that the Encik only noticed his radio on the big day itself.

I felt bad for the guy. Three months of gruelling weekly rehearsals and it was all for nothing.

At least my family got to see me on TV, even if it was only my crumpled pants from the back. I saw myself in the parade on videotape. (Yes, people used videotapes back then.)

Since then, I’ve wondered how the guy feels every time Aug 9 rolls around. What does National Day mean to him?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he skips the parade and goes on a holiday - whether it’s an extra long weekend or not.

At least he wasn’t in the One Singapore video.

- Published in The New Paper, 11 August 2013

EARLIER: In defence of the new National Day song, One Singapore

Sunday 4 August 2013

Never mind Justin & Selena, here’s Kim Song & Sylvia

And you thought Joanne Peh dating Qi Yuwu was weird.

Remember last Sunday, I wrote about how on social media, every day is like April Fool’s Day even when it’s not April. I woke up that morning to see on my Facebook timeline what I thought was another out-of-season April Fool’s joke.

The headline was “Look who has stolen Sylvia Lim’s heart”.

My first reaction was I hoped she made a police report.

So who was this thief who had made away with a vital organ of the Workers’ Party (WP) chairman?

Below the headline was a small photo of Ms Lim with an old lady. Oh, how sweet. That must be Ms Lim’s mother.

I clicked on the link and read that Ms Lim is now dating former football hero Quah Kim Song.

Wait, that’s no old lady. That’s Quah Kim Song!

I couldn’t be more surprised if Nicole Seah were dating Samad Allapitchay.

But it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. According to The Sunday Times, Ms Lim and Quah became close after he sang at a WP fundraising concert in January.

Wow, another shocker. Quah Kim Song can sing?

I searched “Quah Kim Song can sing?” in YouTube and found a video called “Asian Mosaics - Singapore: Unplugged Quah Kim Song”, where he performs a pitch-adequate though somewhat lyrics-deficient cover of Harry Belafonte’s Jamaica Farewell. As the song goes, the nights were indeed quite gay.

But for the WP concert, he reportedly sang Simon and Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa and “ended up twirling Ms Lim across the stage”.

The choice of El Condor Pasa was pretty savvy as the song contains the line “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail” and the WP logo is a hammer.

I believe it was this clever musical reference that swept Ms Lim off her feet and not this “twirling across the stage” stuff.

Have you ever been twirled across the stage? Gives me a headache.

Sure, Quah could’ve sung Peter, Paul And Mary’s If I Had A Hammer, but that would’ve been too obvious.

Another choice would be U Can’t Touch This by - that’s right - MC Hammer, but harem pants would make Quah look even more like an old woman. My, my, my, my...

He could’ve also done Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines even though it does not mention hammers all. It’s just such a hot song.

But music is not the only thing that Ms Lim said she and Quah enjoyed when asked what they had in common. The others are food, drinks and sports.

By that criteria, Ms Lim could be dating the entire New Paper sports desk. I’m not sure if Godfrey Robert is single.

Too bad for me, I don’t drink and I’m not that into sports. Oh yah, my wife just reminded me that I’m also married. To her.

But you know what surprises me most about Ms Lim and Quah being together?

It’s not that he’s 61, since advances in pharmacology now allow men to, uh, score well into extra time.

It’s not that she’s 13 years younger than him and was probably worrying about her PSLE when Quah headed in the winning goal for Singapore against Penang in the historic 1977 Malaysia Cup final.

And it’s not because one is in a profession where it’s all about beating the other team, and the other used to be a footballer.

No, what I find most surprising is that despite all that, fate has managed to bring together these two very famous but very different Singaporeans to show us that love knows no politics or age gap.

To the left, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. We have a new even cuter celebrity couple to gossip about.

The comparison of the two famous couples is not as facetious as you may think. Ms Lim also peformed at the January concert. Everyone’s a singer.

Last week, the National Family Council unveiled the Family Pledge, a new initiative “to encourage Singaporeans to take a collective stand on their commitment to family”.

Inspired by Ms Lim and Quah, I decided to write my own Love Pledge just in time for National Day:

“We, the couples of Singapore, pledge to love each other, regardless of date of birth, political party or rumoured third party, to build a lasting relationship based on food, drinks, music and sports, so as to achieve happiness, property co-ownership and progress for our nation.”

I would be very disappointed if there’s a wedding and Mr Low Thia Khiang doesn’t give the bride away.

And that’s not a joke.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 Aug 2013


Love today's piece. Hope the couple does too!

Jeanne Lim