Thursday 27 February 2014

Two 1983s, same day, different fates

At Marina Bay Sands.

At Yew Tee.

The one at Marina Bay Sands is basically a food court while the one at Yew Tee decidedly was not. It started out in 2012 as sort of like a more eclectic Toast Box but specialising in nasi lemak. So there was no consistent branding.

I actually liked the pandan nasi lemak (especially the fried chicken that comes with it) but boycotted the place after my wife ate some mouldy bread there.

The Yew Tee outlet later changed its menu to sell what looked like nasi padang, but I never went back because it was way overpriced.

A few days ago, the place finally closed down to my surprise and it made feel a little sad. The space was previously occupied by Pick & Bite which also failed.

But the 1983 at MBS seems to be going strong, even though (or because) it bears little resemblence to the Yew Tee one. There are now also 1983s at NTU, Republic Poly, Ang Mo Kio ITE, Jem and Changi Airport, but I believe the one at Yew Tee was the first.

Can't wait to see what will take over the space. To say goodbye to 1983, let's sing: "Should old acquiantance be forgot..."

EARLIER: Beware the savage roar ... of 1983?

The space has been taken over by McCafe. Yet another McDonald's outlet at Yew Tee. At least it is less unlikely to close down.

Monday 24 February 2014

The so-called art thing at Yew Tee (plus Ann Kok)

A reader, Mr Steven Wong, e-mailed to remind me about two news items last week I might've missed.

One is the news that this sculpture just outside Yew Tee MRT station is being restored after finding a sponsor.

It was earlier reported that the sculpture "faced the possibility of being removed last month due to a lack of funds for repairs".

(By the way, the sculpture is called Tree Of Love, not Tree Of Life as reported by The Straits Times.)

When the artist, Ben Puah, was approached by South West Community Development Council last December to touch up the sculpture, he had given a quote of $6,600.

According to The Straits Times:
He later revised the amount to $4,000 after the council suggested making the restoration a community project and roping in resident volunteers.

Last month, however, the council asked him if he could "do it for free" because it did not have the funds to restore the work. He was told the work would have to be removed if it was not conserved.

"I am very disappointed and sad. This shows no understanding of the arts," he says.

The council has since found a corporate sponsor and volunteers to help spruce up the work.

I live in Yew Tee. So I see this horrid thing practically every day. I would've paid to get it removed. Now it seems I'm stuck with it.

The sculpture creeps me out because it reminds me of the creature from the movie The Thing (both the 1982 and 2011 versions).

Where's Kurt Russell when you need him?

For something slightly less gross, the reader, Mr Wong, also alerted me to the news that my "favourite" Ann Kok has quit MediaCorp.

So that's "one less person for you to poke at", he wrote. Yes, we all know how much I like to poke her.

All I can say is, we'll always have the mammaries.

EARLIER: Celebrating Singapore’s 17-year love affair with Ann Kok’s breasts

Sunday 23 February 2014

No air-con in schools but give them Mentos in the army

It has been called the most important invention of the 20th century.

And I’m not talking about the Internet or Flappy Bird. (For one thing, Flappy Bird was created in the 21st century.)

I’m talking about air-conditioning.

And the person who once called it the most important invention of the last century was former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He even told the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1999 that he wished someone would invent an “air-conditioned undergarment, enclosed around the neck, wrists and ankles, and battery-operated”.

He said that “before air-con, mental concentration and with it the quality of work deteriorated as the day got hotter and more humid”.

So I’m a bit perplexed that our Ministry of Education (MOE) is so anti-air-con.

Or at least, that was the impression I got from recent news reports. An MOE spokesman told The New Paper last week: “Schools are urged to use air-conditioning prudently and to exercise the option to operate with fans where possible.”

This is supposedly in line with the ministry’s goal to be ecologically sustainable and cost-effective in operating the schools.

I was wrong. MOE isn’t anti-air-con. It’s just anti-air-con in schools.

The ministry’s headquarters at North Buona Vista Drive seems very well air-conditioned. I wonder how ecologically sustainable that is.

I’m surprised that instead of this trendy “save the planet” bromide and the evergreen “save money” rationale, MOE didn’t trot out another dependable argument that has been used in the past.

Air-con in our schools will make our kids soft.

People are already complaining about the Strawberry Generation, named after the fruit because they bruise so easily. (Despite its name, a “strawberry” is not a berry but an aggregate fruit. I looked it up. It’s also not made of straw.)

With more air-conditioning in schools, aren’t we just creating the Strawberry Shortcake Generation? (Named after the dessert because they crumble so easily.)

They’re certainly no Pioneer Generation. They’re more the Samsung Generation.

Served by maids and smartphones, kids today have it too easy. A little heat and humidity will toughen them up.

Especially the boys. The lack of air-conditioning will help them prepare for national service (NS). There is no air-con during the 24km route march.

Speaking of NS, the Singapore Army is so tough that in an article last week about “how the world’s armies get fed”, The Guardian newspaper in the UK described our army ration pack as “sparse” and “paltry”.

To quote:
“The offerings in the Singapore pack were sparse despite its reputation for high-quality cuisine. There were a paltry three dishes, of Szechuan chicken noodles; a mushroom, basil, rice and chicken dish; and soya milk with red-bean dessert.”

But a day later, a footnote was added to the article on The Guardian webpage, clarifying that the “Singapore pack is, in fact, only the main pack”.

The “foodnote” continued:
“In addition, each Singaporean soldier receives an ‘accessory’ pack as part of a 24-hour ration package, which includes canned drinks, energy bars, isotonic drinks powder, tinned food, instant noodles, biscuits, ‘candy’, instant tea and coffee, tissue paper, and heating packs.”

What? No pineapple tarts?

So our army ration pack isn’t so sparse and paltry after all.

I think the poor Guardian journalist must have received a number of angry e-mails from Singaporeans because she posted on The Guardian webpage:
“For those complaining that the Singaporean ration pack is misrepresented, it was given to us by a Singaporean officer working at the headquarters of ISAF (international military mission here). He gave us no reason to suppose that it wasn't representative.”

ISAF stands for International Security Assistance Force, which is led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as Nato.

The next day, the Singapore Army posted on its Facebook page a photo of the complete combat rations with a somewhat sarcastic comment: “All your favorite Singaporean flavours (except fish and chips).”

I assume the “fish and chips” part was a dig at The Guardian. Who knew the Singapore Army had such a wicked sense of humour?

And a sweet tooth. Curiously, the Singapore Army picture of combat rations includes two rolls of Mentos, which must be the “candy” The Guardian footnote was referring to.

The two Mentos flavours look like Lime and Fruit, which is an assortment of lemon, orange and – oh, no – strawberry flavours.

It’s a sign – there’s no escaping the Strawberry Shortcake Generation!

What’s the point of toughening up our kids by withholding air-con from them in school if we’re just going to give them fruit-flavoured Mentos in the army?

We might as well let their maids carry their backpacks for them.

And give them air-conditioned underwear.

I prefer the mint-flavoured Mentos myself.

They help keep me cool. No batteries required.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 February 2014

Sunday 16 February 2014

Why PM Lee Hsien Loong can't 'unfriend' anyone on Facebook

It’s no laughing matter.

Three people were killed and 33 injured in the bombing of a Singapore building in 1965.

Forty-nine years later, Indonesia wants to name a warship after the two Indonesian marines found guilty of the bombing.

Too soon?

Singapore’s foreign minister, Mr K Shanmugam, seemed to think so, having “registered his concerns” with his Indonesian counterpart how the naming would impact “the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Last Sunday, it was reported that following the “diplomatic row”, Singapore cancelled the invitations of Indonesia’s top military officers to the Singapore Airshow which ends today.

On Tuesday, blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as Mr Brown, jokingly suggested on his blog that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should send “a strong diplomatic message” to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by unfriending him on Facebook and unfollowing him on Twitter.

“And don’t take selfies with him anymore,” added Mr Brown.

Okay, now it’s a laughing matter.

I believe Mr Brown was joking for several reasons.

For one thing, PM Lee may be on Facebook, but his is not the regular Facebook page that most ordinary folks have - it doesn’t have a link for you to “send him a friend request”.

You can only “like” him.

This is good as it eliminates the likelihood that PM Lee will ignore your friend request because, let’s be honest, he has better things to do than be Facebook friends with the likes of you.

I mean, you’re no president of Indonesia, you know?

This also means PM Lee can’t unfriend anyone as he has no Facebook friends to unfriend.

But anyone can “like” his Facebook page without fear of rejection, even if you voted opposition.

Ditto President Yudhoyono who also has a “likable” Facebook page and not a “friendable” one, although there are couple of friendable “Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoos” on Facebook whom I suspect are fake.

One of them has only nine friends, including a Drew Barymore (not to be confused with US actress Drew Barrymore).

Even with PM Lee unfriending him, I think a president of Indonesia would have more than nine Facebook friends.

Heck, even I have more than nine Facebook friends and I have barely nine real friends.

Anyway, now you know why Mr Brown must be joking when he suggested that PM Lee should unfriend President Yudhoyono on Facebook.

Taking the joke further, the fake news website New Nation published an article with the headline, “PM Lee unfriends Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Facebook, untags him from photos”.

The article quoted a fictional expert named “Eric de Yaya” as saying: “The scale of Singapore’s retaliation is completely out of proportion. But this is a sure sign that both sides mean business.”

But some in Indonesia didn’t know it was joke.

One Indonesian newspaper cited the New Nation article as fact with the front page headline “Singapore PM-SBY cut off friendship”.

But the Indonesian media soon realised they were punked and ran stories about themselves getting punked with headlines like “Singapore PM unfriends SBY, Indonesian media fell for hoax”.

Then the Singapore media, specifically and inSing, picked up the story that the Indonesian media had picked up the story that the Indonesian media had picked up the story that turned out to be a joke.

Now it’s a laughing meta.

Bragging about its achievement, New Nation posted on Facebook: “New Nation is proud to announce that we have done more to ease tensions and foster deeper Singapore-Indonesia diplomatic relations than (Singapore President) Tony Tan.”

But not everyone is amused. One Facebook user commented: “Politicians in Indonesia may just use this to build a stronger case for hostility. Satire is lost in a propaganda war. Giggle while you can.”

Then another Facebook user called the first Facebook user “uptight” and the circle of life and death continues.

In defence of the Indonesian media, I can understand how being Indonesian, they could not have known New Nation is a satirical website.

They might have confused New Nation with an actual newspaper with the same name in Singapore that reported actual news many years ago.

It was an easy mistake to make.

The US satirical website The Onion is more well-known internationally than New Nation and yet people still get fooled by The Onion, including former Singapore minister Lim Hwee Hua in 2012.

That said, I guess someone in the Indonesian media could’ve verified whether President Yudhoyono was “friendable” on Facebook in the first place for him to be unfriended by PM Lee.

And I’m talking about the real President Yudhoyono, not the fake “Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoo’’ with Drew Barymore as a Facebook friend.

Actually, having seen the profile picture of Drew Barymore, I wouldn’t mind having her as a real friend. She’s kind of hot.

She can “like” me on my Facebook page any time.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 February 2014

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Behold the waffle burger (And butterscotch chicken wings)

You like waffles? You like burgers?

Then why not put them together?

If you read my column on the KFC Zinger Double Down Max, you know I'm intrigued by unexpected food combinations. (Who can forget my blog post about turkey bak kwa?)

So I had to try the Griddy Burger ($8.90) at Griddy Gourmet Waffles at Westgate in Jurong East.

I loved it. The meat was fresh and juicy with the mushrooms giving it an added texture.

Surprisingly, for a place named after its "gourmet waffles", the weakest part of the burger was the flaccid waffle which seemed like an afterthought.

But the overall result was a winning mix of sweet and savoury.

My friend ordered the Ocean Catch and said the same thing, although I was rather put off by the overdousing of mayonnaise.

Starting this week, Griddy is offering half off on selected sandwiches for lunch on weekdays. I really want to try the Gourmet Ribs, which is the most expensive.

I had a little trouble finding the place the first time because I was unfamiliar with Westgate which opened only late last year next to the more infamous Jem.

The trick is to find the escalator to B1 in The Courtyard, then after reaching B1, make a U-turn to find the escalator to B2 where Griddy is located. (Another option is using the escalators in Isetan.)

Another new food place I discovered at B2 was Wingadees, which is like the local Baskin Robbins of chicken wings, offering up to 20 flavours of fried chicken wings from savoury to spicy to sweet.

The more intriguing flavours are butterscotch, vanilla, honeydew and green tea.

I bought six wings for $10. The different flavours did make things interesting, but the wings themselves weren't as well-cooked as I hoped.

I do appreciate that the wings are individually packed and labelled to take out the guesswork of what flavour you're eating.

Still, it's no waffle burger.

UPDATE: Sadly, Wingadees has closed, but Griddy's business seems to be getting better. The 50% off lunch promo is over.

Monday 10 February 2014

Star Trek's shout-out to Lee Kuan Yew?

Who needs musicals when you're name-checked in Star Trek?

I was watching Season 2 of Star Trek: The Original Series on Blu-Ray last night and was surprised that Singapore's former prime minister is mentioned. Sorta.

See for yourself in the video clip below.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. You tell 'em, Bones.

It's from the last scene of the episode Patterns Of Force where Kirk and Spock find a planet resembling Nazi Germany. The episode first aired in the US in 1968 when Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister of Singapore.

Hail, shirtless Kirk and shirtless Spock!

Lee Kuan Yew is also mentioned in the Star Trek wiki.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Fann Wong to rescue Singapore’s 49th birthday

Last November, I was at Swissotel The Stamford for the Swissotel Vertical Marathon and met members of the Team Singapura Everest 2015.

They were taking part in the vertical marathon with their training gear to drum up publicity for their goal to summit the world’s highest mountain next year to mark Singapore’s 50th birthday.

But it was not as if a bunch of Singaporeans sat around to brainstorm what to do for our nation’s “Golden Jubilee” celebration and someone said, “Hey, let’s climb Mount Everest.”

According to the Team Singapura Everest 2015 website, the idea of climbing Everest came first. Then came the idea of celebrating Singapore’s 50th birthday.

But it did involve a bunch of Singaporeans sitting around.

To quote the website: “It all started in June 2010 when four individuals met up for regular coffee. Shariff Abdullah, aka Singapore Blade Runner, shared with the rest that he has a dream to climb Mount Everest in 2015.

“Spontaneously, we began to realise that 2015 is the 50th birthday of Singapore.”

I have to say that took remarkable foresight.

Back in June 2010, most Singaporeans were more concerned that SingTel and StarHub were overcharging them to watch the World Cup, a scenario that may be replayed this year.

Who was even thinking about Singapore’s 50th birthday back then?

It was at least two bad National Day songs ago – the Fun Pack Song of 2011 and last year’s even more hated National Day song, One Singapore (which I personally liked).

Team Singapura Everest 2015 were clearly way ahead of the curve.

It wasn’t until last August that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled the Singapore50 (SG50) committee to look for ideas to mark Singapore’s 50th birthday.

Remember earlier I mentioned a bunch of Singaporeans sitting around and brainstorming what to do for our nation’s “Golden Jubilee” celebration? Well, now it’s official.

Last month, SG50 committee chairman Heng Swee Keat made the call for proposals: “If you have ideas that will help us all celebrate in a truly Singaporean spirit, please come forward and share them and make this really our celebration.”

You can submit your proposals online at

The website has received more than 600 submissions so far. My top three recent favourites are:
  • #632 “Wrap the iconic buildings in red, decorate the trees on the big roads in red, fly thousands of balloons in the sky.”
  • #610 “$5,000 hongbao for Singaporean.”
  • #637 “My idea for SG50 is to have less disruptions to our train services and reduce waiting time for buses.”

It’s going to be tough to top that last one, but last week, it was reported that not one but two as-yet-unnamed musicals about former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew are in the works and expected to be staged next year in time for Singapore’s 50th birthday.

Not stage plays, mind you, but musicals. With singing and dancing and all that jazz.

Like Jersey Boys except it’s Joo Chiat Boys.

Like Miss Saigon except it’s Miss Serangoon.

Like The Phantom Of The Opera except it’s The Phantom Of Victoria Theatre.

Like Hello, Dolly! except it’s Hello, Mr Lee!

Like Mamma Mia! except it’s Ah Gong Mia!

Like Les Misérables except it’s, uh, Les Misérables (no change).

I think musicals about local politicians are long overdue. You know how much they love to wayang.

Also announced last week were the 26 men and women vying to become the first Singaporean to pilot a craft into near space on – when else? – Singapore’s 50th birthday.

I guess getting launched into “near space” is one way of getting away from road bullies who are caught on video and later apologise on YouTube.

I hope whoever is selected to go won’t be unselected at the last minute and post it on Facebook.

Now all these birthday plans are great – but they’re for next year.

What I want to know is, what are we doing for Singapore’s 49th birthday this year?

Can’t we at least have one musical about former prime minister Goh Chok Tong?

Why isn’t Mr Heng chairing the SG49 committee?

There’s no website to submit my Goh Chok Tong musical idea.

I can’t help feeling we’re saving all the really good stuff for next year.

But just when seems this year’s National Day is going to be a wash, who should come to our rescue but MediaCorp actress Fann Wong, who was revealed last week to be three months pregnant.

This means her first child should be born in about six months – just in time for Singapore’s 49th birthday!

It’s not climbing Mount Everest, but it’s close enough.

Thanks, Fann!

As for the Goh Chok Tong musical, may I suggest Christopher Lee for the lead role?

- Published in The New Paper, 9 February 2014

UPDATE: Fann Wong gives birth on National Day

Sunday 2 February 2014

All you zombies: Google autocomplete more insulting than Anton Casey?

Singaporeans are idiots.

Singaporeans are lazy losers.

Singaporeans are most disgusting and irritating.

Singaporeans are retarded and ugly.

Wait, before you call my son mentally disabled and my ex-beauty queen wife a tranny, I’m not the one saying all those insulting things about Singaporeans.

It’s Google’s autocomplete function.

Last week, I was intrigued by a map tweeted by @Amazing_Maps of the 50 states of America showing the Google autocomplete results for “Why is [state] so…”

For example, if you type in the Google search box, “Why is California so”, a list would appear, offering a few suggestions for how you might complete your query, the first of which is “Why is California so expensive”.

The map shows that many Google users also asked why New York is so expensive.

Curiously, for two US states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the top suggested query is why they are so “haunted”.

Just for fun, I decided to Google “Why Singapore is so” and see what I’d get.

The first suggestion is:

• Why is Singapore so rich

It seems that Google users may have confused Singapore with Mr Anton Casey. But it jibes with the next two suggestions.

• Why is Singapore so expensive

• Why is Singapore so successful

Obviously, Singapore is so successful because we’re so rich. Duh!

And Singapore is so expensive because we can afford expensive stuff because we’re so rich because we’re successful. Double duh!

The fourth suggestion is also flattering.

• Why is Singapore so clean

Clearly, whoever asked this question hasn’t seen the part of Singapore that is my kitchen bathroom.

The last suggestion has to do with our climate.

• Why is Singapore so hot

It’s also possible the word “hot” could be used here to mean “sexy” as in “Why does Singapore have so many hot babes and hunks?”

I can only say I work out.

But not content with the five suggestions, I decided to add the letter “a” to my query, as in “Why is Singapore so a”.

The top suggestion is:

• Why is Singapore so awesome

“Awesome”? Really?

I mean, unlike Miss Stephanie Koh, I'm semi-proud to be Singaporean, but even I would never describe Singapore as “awesome”.

I suspect this question was asked ironically. Can a search engine be capable of sarcasm?

Moving on to the next letter in the alphabet, I replaced “a” with “b” and got this:

• Why is Singapore so boring

That’s more like it. That’s the kind of question people like Miss Koh would ask.

I went through the rest of the alphabet and here some of the less boring suggestions:

• Why is Singapore English so bad

• Why is K-pop so popular in Singapore

• Why is Singapore so racist

• Why is Zara so expensive in Singapore

I assume Zara refers to the clothing store and not a specific woman.

Otherwise, who is this Zara and why does she seem to cost more in Singapore? Oh, I forgot. Because Singapore is so rich.

I was hooked and experimented with other Google queries.

Instead of “Why is Singapore so”, I typed “Singapore is”, followed by a different letter from “a” to “z”.

I learnt that Singapore is better than Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia.

Yet Singapore is evil and doomed.

Yet Singapore is a good place to work.

Yet Singapore is hell and horrible.

Yet Singapore may be utopia.

On the other hand, Singapore is also overrated.

But most of all, Singapore is gay and weird.

Then I Googled “Singaporeans are” and that’s when the Google autocomplete suggestions turned into Anton Casey.

According to Google, Singaporeans are arrogant, angry, brainwashed, bad drivers, childish, cowards, champion gamblers, dogs, elitist, fed up with progress, getting fatter, grossly underinsured, greedy, hard to please in bed, hypocrites, ignorant, judgemental, kiasu, lame, materialistic, not gracious, poor, politically apathetic, pathetic, rude, robots, selfish, too dependent on domestic helpers, unfriendly, weak, whiners, xenophobic and zombies.

Yes, zombies. Not vampires or werewolves, but zombies.

Before Tay Ping Hui calls Google a half-wit and asks the US company to leave zombieland, I should point out that Google also says Singaporeans are becoming more health-conscious, environmentally-conscious, friendly, fashionable, gracious, happy, kind, living longer, mostly not racist, open-minded, family-oriented, pragmatic, quick to help foreign victims, smart, tech-savvy and not xenophobic.

But still zombies.

I remind myself that this is not what Google says we are, but what millions of Google users around the world say we are.

And that is millions of different points of view represented in the Google autocomplete function.

To put things in perspective, these millions of Google users also say Malaysians are rude, lazy idiots.

So perhaps the problem is not with Singaporeans or Malaysians. It’s the millions of Google users who are rude, lazy idiots.

The irony is that these millions of Google users are made up of people like you and me.

So we are the rude, lazy idiots.

Dammit! Why couldn’t Singapore be haunted like Connecticut and Pennsylvania?

We already have the zombies.

I may start using Bing.

- Published in The New Paper, 2 February 2014

EARLIER: How taxis are turning us into zombies after midnight