Sunday 27 April 2014

Why does it seem Aware is treating NSmen like the enemy?

Something must be wrong with me. I feel a little ill.

It’s Aware’s fault.

Yes, the Association of Women for Action and Research is at it again.

Last week, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said that the Government is coming up with a set of “meaningful” benefits to recognise the efforts of NSmen “by giving them a greater stake in Singapore, whether it’s housing, health or education”.

In response to this news, Aware posted on its Facebook page:
“Every person deserves access to housing, education and healthcare, because these are basic requirements for human sustenance and social participation.

“Aware disagrees strongly with any link between support for fundamental needs and an individual’s status as an NSman, especially when the military may not be suitable for many people, regardless of their gender.

“Aware has long maintained that military service should not be held up as the single gold standard of citizen belonging – an approach which this proposal threatens to intensify, creating different tiers of people with different social entitlements and worth.”
Almost right away, Aware kena tekan online like a sotong recruit on Tekong.

Aware seems to be saying that “access” to basic needs are given only to NSmen when that’s clearly not the case. I shall resist any puns about Aware being unaware.

Why doesn’t Aware “disagree strongly” with the link between getting the Jubilee Baby Gift and the year a baby is born? What sacrifices have these infants made for the country? They’re not even born yet.

This latest affront to NSmen comes after last year’s Purple Light episode, which also irked a few army guys.

Aware even gloated about it on Facebook:
“Ever wonder if speaking up about sexism really creates change? Here’s one case where it has!

“Earlier (last) year, Aware learned of Purple Light, a marching song sung by many NSmen, which included the lines: ‘Booking out, see my girlfriend, saw her with another man, kill the man, rape my girlfriend with my rifle and my buddy and me.’

“We were troubled that NSmen were bonding over misogynist lyrics about committing sexual violence against women. So we raised our concerns with Mindef and SAF.

“And now we have excellent news: Mindef and SAF have confirmed that they took steps to investigate. They will ‘immediately halt’ the singing of these lyrics, which they describe as ‘contrary to the values of (their) organisation’.

“It’s really encouraging that Mindef and SAF are prepared to listen to feedback, recognise this as an issue and take action on it. Thumbs up!”
So Mindef and SAF gave in to Aware and now Aware is hitting us with this “military service should not be held up as the single gold standard of citizen belonging” thing?

Give ’em an inch...

Can you blame the nation’s defenders for feeling that Aware is treating them like the enemy?

And now someone online just threatened Filipinos that if they celebrate their national day at Orchard Road, “we will take this as an act of war and will defend ourselves with our lives”.

Uh... what do you mean “we”, kemo sabe?

The soldiers are too busy not singing songs with misogynistic lyrics and luxuriating in our single gold standard of citizen belonging.

But you know what really sickens me as a former NSman?

I actually kind of agree with Aware.

The horror. The horror.

I feel like I’m betraying my bros.

But singing about raping anyone in any situation is wrong. (Killing, on the other hand, is okay unless you’re Chris Ho.)

And I get Aware’s point that you shouldn’t be entitled to more stuff just because you’re an NSman. You should get it because you need it more.

For example, let’s say you’re a general with a Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa flyback chronograph watch – or even a fake one. I think you can do without more benefits.

But most of us aren’t generals and we own a G-Shock at best. So if the Government wants to give NSmen a “greater stake”, don’t be a cockblock.

If the Government really wants to show its appreciation for NSman, it should just stop Jack Neo from using NS as fodder for any more movies. Ah Boys To Men, Ah Boys To Frogmen, what’s next? Ah Boys to Storemen?

Never mind giving NSmen more “meaningful” benefits.

Just let uniformed servicemen have a seat in the MRT train without someone taking a picture and sending it to Stomp as if they’re doing something disgraceful.

It’s not like they’re celebrating the Philippine Independence Day at Ngee Ann City.

To quote my man-crush, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng:
“Let’s be fair. Everyone should give up his seat to someone who needs it more, not just NSmen. Nothing wrong for an NSman to take a seat too.”
Or does Aware want to disagree strongly with that too?

Let me check its Facebook page.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 April 2014

Friday 25 April 2014

20th anniversary of my 8 Days magazine interview

In early 1994, I was a movie reviewer on a Channel 5 variety show called Live On 5 hosted by a newcomer named Gurmit Singh.

As "Smong", I achieved enough notoriety in a few short months to be featured in the 23-30 April 1994 issue of 8 Days magazine with Chew Chor Meng on the cover.

I'm listed on the Contents page under People as "the man everybody loves to hate" (page 20) with a picture of me appropriately sneering at the camera.

Yes, very different hair then.

On page 20, I was described thus:
He's the Abominable Showman - that surly movie critic, courtesy of Live On 5, whom everybody loves to hate.

("Shower without soap"? Isn't that called rinsing?)

I wasn't very happy with the way I was presented. I disliked the picture and several things the article said I said I didn't say at all. But I guess no harm done. I just learnt never to trust journalists again. Ha!

I agreed to the interview to help promote the show, but ironically, the week the article came out was the first week I stopped appearing on Live On 5, although I still worked behind the scenes as the show's research writer until June.

I wonder whatever happened to that Gurmit Singh fellow.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

This photo of Vivian Balakrishnan is a meme waiting to happen

Reminds me of failed US presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

Earlier Vivian Balakrishnan meme:

UPDATE: A reader sent in this, "Saving Dr Vivian":

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Meet the other S M Ong

So I was googling myself again last night and found another S M Ong.

He is apparently a financial planner and a web designer, a rather unexpected combo.

How to tell the difference between him and me? I would never use the non-word "irregardless". I also believe he is based in Malaysia near KL.

I have previously found other S M Ongs in Singapore: a property agent...

...and a plumbing company.

Baey Yam Keng gets lookalikes. I get name-alikes.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Reviving #BYKlookalikes (where my man-crush on Baey Yam Keng takes an obsessive turn)

To recap, two Fridays ago, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC and my man-crush Baey Yam Keng Instagrammed a photo of himself next to a photo of someone who looks like him with the comment: “Someone sent me a photo of ‘me’. Can you tell which is the real me?”

The next day, he posted a collage of more doppelgangers and introduced a new hashtag: “More people sending me photos of #BYKlookalikes. Any more to contribute? I guess each of us can look like someone else from certain angles.”

Another collage of #BYKlookalikes was posted on Monday and then... it stopped.

No more #BYKlookalikes on Instagram.

I was disappointed. Who doesn’t want to see more guys resembling the person I once nominated as the Sexiest Man Alive?

But what also irked me was that a couple of the supposed lookalikes didn’t look like Mr Baey at all.

Heck, even I look more like the former managing director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies. I credit my facial hair.

That gave me an idea.

To keep the hashtag alive, I tried to recreate photos of Mr Baey but with me in my room instead and then share them on Instagram with the hashtag #BYKlookalikes.

Here are the results:

- Published in The New Paper, 20 April 2014

Thursday 17 April 2014

Occupational hazard: I got a weird letter today

I came to work today and found this on my desk.

It's a letter and it says:

You wrote about my movie Ah Boy to Frogman now I want to tell you and your diver friend about the story of the C.B. Bear Pls call my number (65) 6509 8056.

It's unsigned with no return address.

It's obviously regarding my March 30 New Paper column about Jack Neo's upcoming movie Ah Boys To Frogmen, but I honestly don't know what to make of the letter.

Is it a threat? A prank? And what is "the C.B. Bear"?

The "I LOVE YOU" stamp on the envelope just confuses me even more.

It's postmarked April 10, so the letter took a week to reach me.

I asked a colleague who knows Jack Neo personally if there's any chance the letter could be from him. She scoffed and said either I see Jack "no up or too up" to think that he would bother to respond to my column.

So does anybody want to be a hero and call the number? I know I don't. I give you permission to pretend to be me. Let me know what happens.

And why add (65) to the phone number? If you're writing to someone in Singapore, isn't that kind of redundant?

Actually, why even use snail mail and pay for an "I LOVE YOU" stamp? There's this invention called the Internet...

People are strange.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Say three Hail Hydras & call me in the morning

“Hail Hydra” is a catchphrase taken from the motto of the fictional terrorist organization Hydra (alternative spelling: HYDRA) in the Marvel Universe. While the quote has appeared in a number of Marvel franchises since 1965, it spawned an image macro series of two characters, one whispering to the other, shortly after the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April 2014.

Monday 14 April 2014

Selfies not narcissistic enough for Baey Yam Keng, so...

What do you do when you're accused of narcissism because of your fondness for selfies?

You take it to the next level!

You post Instagrams of not just yourself, but also of people who look like you.

And this is exactly what my man-crush Baey Yam Keng is doing.

It started last Friday when he posted this Instagram with the comment: "Someone sent me a photo of 'me'. Can you tell which is the real me?"

It escalated the next day with the birth of a new hashtag: "More people sending me photos of #BYKlookalikes. Any more to contribute? I guess each of us can look like someone else from certain angles."

"More #BYKlookalikes contributions" were posted today.

Not wanting to be left out, of course I have to attempt my own #BYKlookalikes photo.

Fail. I think I got the whiskers right, but that's about it.

At least Mr Baey "liked" it on Instagram.

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

UPDATE: Reviving #BYKlookalikes

Sunday 13 April 2014

'Cringeworthy' videos, Stomp petition & the emperor's new logo

This may be hard to believe, but I actually put some thought into writing this column.

First, I have to figure out what to write about.

In the past week, a few topics caught my eye.

There were the promotional videos by the Singapore Tourism Board and SingTel, both of which have been ridiculed as “cringeworthy” on social media.

This topic is what I call a “low-hanging fruit”.

It's an easy target. You can get some laughs just by describing the videos.

Readers are ready to laugh along with you laughing at the videos because everyone is already laughing at them.

But I’m reluctant to jump on the bandwagon and join the pile-on by adding my voice to the disapproving chorus.

One option is to provide a contrarian view as I did when I defended last year’s similarly much mocked National Day Parade theme song, which I genuinely liked.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I genuinely like the two videos and I don’t want to be contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian.

That would be disingenuous.

And as you know, the one thing I always strive for in this column as well as in life in general is to be ingenuous. (I think that’s a word.)

Besides, Neil Humphreys is already writing about it in his column, so screw it.

Another hot topic last week was the petition to close down, owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

But I can’t comment on this because I work for The New Paper, which is also owned by SPH, and so there’s a clear conflict of interest.

If I write anything nice about the petition, I would be biting the hand that feeds.

If I write anything bad about the petition, I would appear to be trying not to leave teeth marks on the hand that feeds.

So it’s lose-lose.

If I no longer work for SPH, then I could comment ingenuously on the topic, like former SPH journalist Bertha Henson did on her blog. She seems to disagree with the petition that Stomp should be shut down but accede that something has to change.

She wrote:
“Any media must move with the times, the demands of its ever-changing audience and in the case of Singapore and its media duopoly, show how responsible online journalism should be conducted.

“Stomp should take a step back and re-consider its content if it wants to continue to stomp ahead.”
I appreciate that she disclosed she was “party to the setting up of Stomp all those years ago” and provided some insight on the intent behind the site’s creation.

And as far as I can tell, the intent was not to turn whether you give up your MRT seat to someone who may need it more into a blood sport.

But like I said, the topic of the Stomp petition is a no-go for me.

How about a “safer” controversy like the new National Gallery Singapore logo?

It’s basically just two rectangles side by side, one shorter and wider than the other.

It has been criticised as bland and lazy. I call it “the emperor’s new logo”.

But again, this is a low-hanging fruit.

Even Mr Brown has made fun of the logo and once Mr Brown gets into the act, you’re just following the tide.

How about a contrarian view? I could defend the logo like I defended the NDP song.

But even that has been done.

On Wednesday, My Paper, another SPH publication, ran an article praising the logo.

The article was contributed by Mr Daniel Yun, who used to be my boss at MediaCorp and is best known as the man who produced Liang Po Po The Movie.

He left MediaCorp in 2009 and recently started an acting school called Act Academy.

Mr Yun explained in the article that the two rectangles in the National Gallery Singapore logo represent the two iconic buildings, City Hall and the former Supreme Court, which house the gallery.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, now I get it.

He continued:
“Some said: ‘You pay millions for such a logo? My child can do it.’ Ironically, it will take maturity to see the beauty in simplicity.

“I am not saying I have good taste. Or that I know better. But I love this logo. Purely for its simplicity.”
But what wasn’t disclosed in the article is that Mr Yun has a twin brother, Mr Woon Tai Ho, who happens to be the director of media and marketing at National Gallery Singapore.

Cough (conflict of interest).

Hey, I’ve just figured out what to write about for next week’s column.

Interested in learning Korean?

There is a private school in Jurong East called Hanok Korean Class which is Singapore’s highest rated Korean language school with certified instructors.

So what if it happens to be run by my sister?

- Published in The New Paper, 13 April 2014

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Do Not Call Registry useless against moneylenders

Four months ago in December, I registered my phone number in the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry in the naïve hope that I won't get any more spam on my phone.

For a while after the registry came into effect on 2 January, it seemed to work.

No more cold calls or SMSes from property agents and eczema cure salesmen.

Then last Thursday, I received this spam SMS (below).

I decided to make a complaint and found this webpage at

PDPC stands for Personal Data Protection Commission, the Government body running the DNC registry. Welcome back to Abbreviation Hell.

The page title is "Lodge a Complaint of a Do Not Call Registry Offence".

The first suggestion is:
If you suspect that an organisation has breached the Do Not Call (DNC) provisions, you may wish to directly contact the organisation sending you the telemarketing message and request that they stop doing so.
This is like the dumbest thing I've ever read. The last thing I want when I get spammed is to have any contact with the spammer.

The next suggestion is:
You may also wish to lodge a complaint with the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). The following checklist is to assist you in assessing whether to make a complaint.

All I wanted was an e-mail address to send my complaint. I didn't expect homework. It's quite a long checklist to go through:

Did the sender of the telemarketing call, text message or fax breach the DNC Registry provisions?

1. Was the telemarketing fax, text message or call sent to you within the first 60 days of adding your Singapore telephone number to the DNC Registry?

2. Have you previously given clear consent to the organisation to send you telemarketing calls, text messages or faxes, and that consent has not been withdrawn?

3. Is the message or call excluded from the scope of the DNC Registry provisions? For example, it would be excluded if it was sent by a public agency under, or to promote a programme carried out by that public agency which is not for a commercial purpose or solely to conduct market research or survey or for offering you an employment opportunity.

4. Is the call, text message or fax for Business-to-Business telemarketing? For example, is the telemarketer trying to sell corporate insurance to your company?

You may wish to consider filing a complaint if you have answered “no” to all of the above. If you received a text message or fax, then please also consider the following additional questions:

1. Do you have an ongoing relationship with the organisation sending the text message or fax?

  • Yes (Please proceed to question 2 below)
  • No (You may wish to lodge a complaint)

2. Is the purpose of the fax or text message related to the subject of the ongoing relationship?

  • Yes (Please proceed to question 3 below)
  • No (You may wish to lodge a complaint)

3. Have you withdrawn your consent, opted out more than 30 days ago through an opt out notice, or indicated to the sender that you do not consent for the sender to send you marketing text or fax messages?

  • Yes (You may wish to lodge a complaint)
  • No (You may wish to contact the organisation to inform them that you withdraw your consent, opt out, or inform the sender that you do not consent for the sender to send you marketing text or fax messages)

I just skipped to the part with the heading: How to Lodge a Complaint of a DNC Registry Offence. That was more helpful.
Under the Moneylenders Act, licensed moneylenders are not allowed to advertise their moneylending services via SMS or voice calls. Therefore, any SMSes or calls soliciting for loans are either sent by a licensed moneylender in contravention of advertising restrictions, or by an unlicensed moneylender.

You are advised to report such moneylending SMS (with a screen capture of the SMS you received) or call through:

(a) the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000;
(b) the National Crime Prevention Council's 'X Ah Long' Hotline at 1800-924-5664 (1800-X-AH-LONG);
(c) the Crimestopper Portal; or
(d) the Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office at
It's as if they knew the spam I wanted to complain about would be from a moneylender.

So I sent the screen cap of the SMS to, hoping for the best but expecting nothing.

So I was surprised to receive this e-mail (below) from IPTO yesterday.

So they're basically passing the buck to the police.

From DNC to PDPC to IPTO to UMSF - have I welcomed you back to Abbreviation Hell yet? Or AH!

The upshot is that the DNC Registry is pretty useless against moneylender spam. You have to make a police report.

The irony is that I actually like Spam the meat. I'm so sad I lost my Spam T-shirt.

UPDATE: Do Not Call rules hit SMS marketing

Sunday 6 April 2014

I know Chris Ho didn't really mean he wants to 'kill Singaporeans', but still...

Remember six months ago?

When people were wondering what the fox said?

When we were watching Sandra Bullock floating in space in a movie where her lines consisted primarily of “Ah! Ah! Ah!”?

When the most critical lunchtime decision you had to make was whether you should order the Beef Samurai Burger or the Chicken Samurai Burger at McDonald’s? (Answer: beef.)

That was also around the time when a mysterious fire at a SingTel facility disrupted Internet service, forcing Singaporeans to talk to each other for a change.

And Kiss92 DJ Arnold Gay held a bonfire to burn his son’s school work and commemorate the end of PSLE as a way to bond with the kid.

Because the two fiery incidents happened within days of one another, I wrote a column suggesting that Gay should be the prime suspect in the investigation to find the cause of the SingTel fire.

What I didn’t write was this “editor’s note” at the end of the column:
“Our writer’s theory is clearly off. Gay did not have anything to do with that blaze.”
Really? Was the editor’s note necessary?

Were people going to read my column and say: “That Arnold Gay started the SingTel fire and I couldn’t get on Twitter for two minutes. Let’s lynch him!”

Or was Gay himself going to call me and complain: “Hey, why did you write in The New Paper on Sunday that I started the SingTel fire? There’s now an angry mob outside my house with pitchforks and torches calling for my head.”

Where would you get a pitchfork in Singapore anyway? Maybe at Mustafa. They sell everything.

But the idea that Gay had anything to do with the SingTel fire is so far-fetched that I would be shocked if anyone took it seriously.

Which brings me to another radio DJ who started a minor firestorm last week.

I have been a fan of Chris Ho’s since the early 80s. I was thrilled to finally meet him two decades ago when I was a guest on a Rediffusion show he was hosting.

The self-proclaimed “Punk Monk Hunk” may have a reputation for being a “rebel” – hence his 1998 book Skew Me You Rebel Meh? – but as a DJ, he was a complete professional and knew his job.

On his Facebook page, however, anything goes. He just lets loose. His frequent targets are the local mainstream media, the Government and Singaporeans in general, whom he likes to call “sheep”.

Here’s a recent post:
“I fully understand that Singaporeans are nice folks at heart. They just can’t help themselves... from denial of repression and the Govt’s all-intrusive control. A fascism that dares not speak its name.”
Wah, cheem ah.

Then on Thursday, the Lush 99.5FM DJ might have gone a little too far, so to speak.

Commenting on a Singapore Army recruitment poster’s headline “How far would you go to protect our home?”, Ho wrote:
“How far...? Let’s see... I’m with you foreigners! Kill the fckn Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”
Do I think he’s advocating genocide? No, but it is consistent with his oft-expressed view that Singaporeans are “sheep” for slaughter.

The backlash came fast, but some defended Ho, saying his “satirical post was taken too seriously”.

You know how at the airport, you’re not allowed to make bomb jokes? I think you should also not be allowed to make jokes about killing anyone on social media.

Yes, not even Justin Bieber.

Insinuating that Arnold Gay might be an arsonist was one thing, but siding with foreigners to kill your fellow countrymen (but not your friends) even ironically might be crossing the line just a tad.

If only Ho had made the comment two days earlier, he could’ve at least claimed it was an April Fool’s prank and offered free ice cream like Ikea did.

So on Friday evening, he posted an apology on his Facebook page – if you can call it that. Although he used the words “apologise” and “sorry”, he didn’t sound very apologetic.

He wrote:
“I will formally apologise here if anyone felt offended by my little satirical remark cos it was not meant to offend anyone at all. Sorry if a wake-up jibe offended your sense of what’s right.”
Maybe we “sheep” should even thank him for the “wake-up jibe”.

In his “apology” for his “kill Singaporeans” comment, he also wrote:
“I was shocked that something so far-fetched was taken so seriously and not seen for what it is – a satirical call for Singaporeans to think for themselves and know what’s what.”

You see? Ho was only trying to save us from ourselves – through satire.

No, wait. Maybe the apology wasn’t meant as an apology, but more satire!

The “sheep” are just too sheep-like to get it.

But as the sheep turn into wolves in the online savaging of Ho over his “little satirical remark”, I do agree with Ho unironically that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. It’s not like he set anything on fire.

Perhaps an editor’s note isn’t such a bad idea after all.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 April 2014

EARLIER: Chris Ho versus New Nation: Who pwns who?