Sunday 5 January 2014

Why was Ivan Heng 'flipping channels' on New Year's Eve?

Why does it always seem that everyone is having more fun than me?

I didn’t attend any New Year’s Eve party last week, even though there were parties all over Singapore.

On Sentosa, 18,000 people welcomed 2014 at the Siloso Beach Party.

Coincidentally, 18,000 were also reportedly the number of party-goers at Marina Bay for MediaCorp’s Celebrate TV50 show, which doubled as Channel 5’s New Year’s Eve countdown show.

And apparently, 30,000 showed up for the Boon Lay countdown party, which included fireworks.

Wait, what? Boon Lay? Fireworks?

I understand fireworks at Siloso Beach and Marina Bay, but how come the boonies like Boon Lay can get fireworks?

I live just seven MRT stations from Boon Lay in Yew Tee. We didn’t get any fireworks.

Jealous? You bet I am.

You know what I was doing on New Year’s Eve? I was at home, playing mahjong with my wife and two teenage kids.

(You see, the Government had the foresight to tell us to stop at two all those decades ago because a family of four is the perfect number of people to play mahjong.)

But you know what is worse than playing mahjong with your wife and two kids at home on New Year’s Eve while everyone else is partying and enjoying the fireworks?

It’s playing mahjong with your wife and two kids at home on New Year’s Eve and losing.

I lost so badly that for Chinese New Year, I expect my kids to give me a hongbao instead.

Not that we played for money. That would be gambling – and wrong.

So to distract myself from another losing hand, I turned on the TV for the Channel 5 countdown show a few minutes before midnight.

I was just in time to catch the performance of UK boyband The Wanted, who are supposedly in a feud with another UK boyband, One Direction.

I used to prefer 1D, but their last few singles kinda sucked. (I’m bracing myself for the hate mail from Directioners in my inbox tomorrow.)

Come on, the chorus for the One Direction song Midnight Memories is basically a rewrite of Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me with only slightly less inane lyrics.

Then on the New Year’s Eve show, I heard The Wanted sing We Own The Night and it’s their best song ever. And that Siva Kaneswaran is such a hottie.

So at the stroke of midnight, the new year began with one new The Wanted fan – me.

Hello, 2014. Goodbye, the Harry Styles poster on my bedroom wall.

And that was my New Year’s Eve.

So I was rather surprised to read about theatre veteran Ivan Heng slamming the countdown show on Facebook.

Calling the show “cheena”, Heng wrote:
“I kept flipping channels to double-check to see if I was watching Channel 8 or CTV. Jack Neo and Zoe Tay wished me Happy New Year in Mandarin, and Wang Lee Hom took to the stage as the main act. Wake up your ideas, MediaCorp.”

He neglected to mention The Wanted, who are not “cheena” at all. In fact, Siva Kaneswaran is half Sri Lankan Tamil. Wake up your idea, Ivan Heng.

Even MediaCorp-owned Today newspaper reported that the countdown show was “conceived as a multi-lingual, multi-cultural show to reflect Singapore’s multi-cultural heritage”.

But Heng wasn’t the only one who complained about the over-Chineseness of the show.

Another widely shared Facebook post criticising MediaCorp by a Mr Ravi Samuel called the show “a linguistic assault on the non-Chinese and non-Chinese speaking among us”.

A blogger, Mr Abdillah Zamzuri, wondered if “this was the intended direction of the leadership – to move Singapore towards a more China-based or Chinese-speaking audience”.

That would explain MediaCorp organising the Chinesey-sounding “Hong Bao Run” next month.

And what about playing mahjong on New Year's Eve? That’s so “cheena” too.

But you know what surprises me most about Heng’s Facebook post?

The 50-year-old founding artistic director of Wild Rice theatre company, who was awarded the Cultural Medallion last year, has been known to throw some fabulous parties where he usually dressed up as a woman.

How is it that on New Year’s Eve, this Wild Rice and crazy guy had nothing better to do than watch the boob tube?

That’s even more shocking than Boon Lay getting fireworks. I'm sure MediaCorp is grateful for the viewership, but still.

What is he – me?

But being a bachelor, Heng doesn’t even have a wife and kids to play mahjong with.

So maybe I had more fun than at least one person in Singapore on New Year’s Eve.

He could be a Directioner.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 January 2013

UPDATE: Ivan Heng is not a bachelor any more