Sunday 31 August 2014

Hello Kitty crisis: The cat is not a lie

I’m okay. Really. Thank you for your concern.

No, you don’t need to do the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for my benefit.

Unlike the rest of the world it seems, I didn’t have an existential crisis last week when news spread that Hello Kitty is not a cat. (It’s an Avril Lavigne song.)

But I understand why you might have thought I would be in a catatonic state by now.

Yes, I have the complete collection of Hello Kitty Bubbly World toys that McDonald’s released two months ago.

And I didn’t pre-order them online because that would be cheating. I bought them one by one at a McDonald’s restaurant over six weeks like a real man.

Yes, I took selfies with each of the toys and posted them on Instagram.

But I had difficulty taking a group selfie with all six Hello Kitties, so I ordered a selfie stick from Qoo10. Problem solved.

Best invention ever.

Yes, I had quick enough cat-like reflexes to pre-register for the 5km Hello Kitty Run to be held on Nov 1 to mark Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday before all 15,000 slots were lapped up last week.

I save all of five bucks by pre-registering. Now I need to pay only $65 to join the run, instead of $70 like pathetic regular folks.

That makes me feel special. Like I’m riding in my own chartered MRT train to see the upcoming Leo Sayer concert at the Esplanade on Oct 18. He makes me feel like dancing.

I have been a long-time fan of the afro-wearing British singer, something I can’t say for Hello Kitty.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m actually not a Hello Kitty fan.

So what’s with all the Hello Kitty toys and selfies?

Well, like wearing polo shirts when I don’t play polo, I like Hello Kitty ironically.

As radio DJ Chris Ho explained after his “kill the Singaporeans but not my friends” Facebook comment was criticised a few months ago, it’s satire.

What that means is that I find the obsession with Hello Kitty bemusing and amusing. To make fun of this cultural quirk, I’m pretending to be a creepy 48-year-old guy with a Hello Kitty fetish.

I repeat, “pretending”.

As it turned out, I’m not alone in my mockery.

Take, for instance, this mock-serious news headline: “Hello Kitty is not a cat. Everything is a lie.”

Over-dramatic much?

That’s from The Washington Post, the US newspaper that uncovered the truth about the Watergate break-in and brought down an American president over 40 years ago.

Now the paper has uncovered the truth about Hello Kitty that will bring down all of reality.

Can you uncover the sarcasm?

How many of us really believe that the world is ending because Hello Kitty is not a cat? Or are we just playing along like me with my Hello Kitty selfies?

You know who HDB should debark?

Anyone making any more “If Hello Kitty is not a cat, then Scooby Doo (or Goofy or Snoopy or any other canine cartoon) is not a dog” jokes.

As it turned out, it was all just a big misunderstanding.

Someone said that Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, said that Hello Kitty is not a cat.

To quote:
“She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.”
The Internet went ape. Suddenly, my wife had good reason to be jealous of me sleeping with my Hello Kitties, even ironically.

Someone else then called Sanrio to confirm the species of my McDonald’s toys.

Sanrio replied:
“Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”
Since Sanrio is a Japanese company, I suspect something must have been lost in the translation.

But I get it.

Saying Hello Kitty is a cat is akin to me taking the news headline “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive in Singapore” literally last week.

I was about to rush out to get the celebrity mega-couple to autograph my Blu-Ray copies of 12 Monkeys and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but was crushed to learn that the newly-wed Brangelina aren’t really in Singapore.

They are just waxwork figures of the movie stars that are here ahead of the opening of Madame Tussauds Singapore in October.

The headline was a cruel lie.

But then there are lies everywhere.

The Singapore Flyer doesn’t really fly. It just goes round and round. No wonder it went bankrupt and had to be sold.

The Singapore Grand Prix is not really that grand. It’s just cars going round and round. It’s coming back next month.

Singapore the Lion City is a lie because lions aren’t indigenous to this area and Fandi Ahmad’s LionsXII don’t count, especially in the Malaysia Cup tournament.

Oh no, now I’m starting to have an existential crisis.

Where are my Hello Kitties? They always make me feel better.

Ironically, of course.

- Published in The New Paper, 31 August 2014

Monday 25 August 2014

Whatever happened to Miss Singapore?

Rathi Menon was just crowned Miss Singapore Universe 2014 on Friday night.

I know what you're thinking: "There's a new Miss Singapore Universe? Was it announced?"

Well, yah. They had a show hosted by Bobby Tonelli at Shangri-La Hotel and everything.

The problem is none of the papers reported it.

I don't think this has ever happened before. The PR person must be sleeping.

There was some newspaper coverage in the run-up to the event, but the closest thing to mainstream media that actually reported the winner is the xinmsn website, which is partly under MediaCorp.

Yahoo doesn't count, despite it being asked to register by MDA.

You can mock mainstream media for being lamestream media all you want, but MSM still has its power because of its mainstreamy-ness.

There was a time when you couldn't not know that a new Miss Singapore Universe had been crowned.

The hype peaked in 1987 when the Miss Universe pageant was held in Singapore. I shall forever remember the show as the one where they opened with Wang Chung's Let's Go, baby, let's go, baby, come on!

In more recent years, the best known Miss Singapore Universe is former NMP Eunice Olsen who won in 2000. Then there's Jaime Teo (2001), who married DJ-turned-cupcake magnate Daniel Ong, and Bernice Wong (2003), who married public transport non-fan Anton Casey.

(And let's not forget last year's finalist Jesslyn Tan, who was widely and unfairly attacked for her "Holey Moley" Facebook comment.)

But interest faded to the point where in 2008, Channel 5 stopped showing the finals on TV.

Then came Ris Low.

Because of the controversies surrounding her diction and credit card fraud conviction, the fascination with local beauty pageants went boomz in 2009, although she was not a Miss Singapore Universe, but a Miss Singapore World, which has never been televised.

In the short term, Low might have raised the profile of such pageants, but I suspect she might have diminished their reputation in the long run.

There is such thing as bad publicity. Big sponsors are scared away. Fewer big sponsors mean less money.

Which brings us to this year's Miss Singapore Universe.

I tried going to the website to find out who the sponsors are but got a "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded" message. I went to the website of the organiser Derrol Stepenny and it looks like it hasn't been updated since 2011.

At least you can find this year's videos on the Miss Singapore Universe YouTube channel.

But the best place to get the latest is the Facebook page, where I got these photos.

I guess Harley-Davidson and Aldo are two of the sponsors.

Apparently, the event was shown on something called Fashion TV. I have never seen Fashion TV and I don't intend to.

Unless they play some Wang Chung.

There may be some confusion over whether it should be called Miss Singapore Universe or Miss Universe Singapore.

It used to be Miss Singapore Universe until it was switched around in 2012. I'm old school.

UPDATE: Mainstream media outlet Channel NewsAsia finally reported the winner four days after the fact.

But the organiser seemed more concerned you get the name of the pageant right.

Note the same correction in this post and link to the belated New Paper report the next day.

Is changing the name really that important even though it creates so much confusion?

2015 UPDATE: No pageant, but still a winner

2016 UPDATE: Miss Universe Singapore back to take the limelight

Sunday 24 August 2014

Otak man was my wife's fishball stick

My wife has a “nose problem”.

Which is to say, she is highly sensitive to polluted air. One whiff of something disagreeable and she would complain of a runny nose for days.

That is why when I fart around her, I make sure that it’s as loud as possible to warn her of the impending olfactory assault.

I reserve my silent killers only for other people. That’s what makes me the best husband in the world.

Her nose problem also makes me dread this time of year. Because of the Hungry Ghost Festival, people are burning stuff outside near our block.

As we live on a low floor, the smoke gets into our flat, which irritates my wife’s nose, which irritates me because I hear her bitch about it every year. I would almost rather be haunted by actual hungry ghosts.

My wife can get pretty fired up when her nose problem flares up.

A couple of years ago, someone started grilling and selling otak on a makeshift grill at our block. The smell really got to her.

Unlike the mass public incinerations during the Hungry Ghost Festival, cooking and hawking food in the open void deck were against the law — or so she believed. My wife decided to do something about it. She called the police.

Although it was a nasal emergency, illegal otak wasn’t exactly life and death. So she didn’t call triple nine, also the name of the local 90s TV cop show that people still remember actress-turned-fitness entrepreneur and Allan Wu’s ex-wife Wong Li-Lin for.

Instead, my ball and chain called the neighbourhood police post hotline, expecting someone (not necessarily Wong Li-Lin) to be sent over immediately to arrest the unlawful otak man.

But after grilling my wife for the exact location the unlawful otak man was peddling his illegal grilled fish products (was it in the void deck or on the walkway?), the police told her to call the town council.

So with her nose problem getting worse by the minute, my wife called the town council. After hearing about the unlawful otak man, the woman at the town council told my wife to call the police.

That was when my wife lost it.

She said she had already called the police who told her to call the town council. And now the town council wanted her to call the police?

Relenting, the woman at the town council said she would send someone over (most likely not Wong Li-Lin), but also told my wife to contact the National Environment Agency (NEA).

So for one errant otak seller, my wife was told to contact three different government agencies.

Whatever happened to the “No Wrong Door” policy?

The policy was introduced on Aug 12, 2004, by then Senior Minister of State for Health and Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan.

He said: “Many a time, when faced with an issue that did not belong to an agency’s purview, the agency would simply tell the citizen that he was knocking on the wrong door, and the poor citizen might have to go from door to door until he found the right one.”

With the No Wrong Door policy, the civil servant receiving the call is supposed to contact all the relevant agencies and come up with a concerted response.

Then came the the First Responder Protocol, a supposed enhancement of the No Wrong Door policy, in 2012.

Under the new protocol, the first agency that receives the call, if it has some domain expertise, must diagnose the problem, and draw the required expertise across the agencies to coordinate an effective response. It must also “close the loop” with the member of public.

But that clearly didn’t happen with one member of the public — my wife. The otak man kept coming back.

Apparently, that also didn’t happen with South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling recently — except her otak man was a fishball stick.

At the National Day Rally last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong related how the mayor “had to make multiple calls to several agencies” to find out why a stray fishball stick wasn’t cleared from a public walkway.

As he explained:
“On the left of the walkway is a slope. The slope belongs to NEA, okay? In the middle, this is a park connector… (It) belongs to NParks. On the right-hand side is a pavement. Pavement is next to the road, road comes under LTA.”
Sound familiar?

The PM then announced the setting up of a Municipal Services Office (MSO) to tackle this problem.

My question is, how do they know it’s a fishball stick?

It could have been a sotong head stick from Old Chang Kee.

Or a Korean meatball stick from Dong Dae Mun.

Without the attached food, don’t all these sticks look alike?

My other question is, with the new MSO, is the PM pretty much acknowledging that the 10-year-old No Wrong Door policy is a flop?

As far as my wife’s nose was concerned, it certainly smelled like one.

The otak man eventually moved on to sell his otak elsewhere in our area, but I haven’t seen him for months. I dare not tell my wife that I actually bought otak from the guy a few times.

Does that make me the worst husband in the world?

Hey, three for $2 is a good deal.

In my defence, otak doesn’t give me gas.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 August 2014

EARLIER: National Day Rally 2014: Door still wrong

Thursday 21 August 2014

Video: Birth School Work Death (Singapore Version)

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I first heard the song Birth School Work Death by The Godfathers in 1988 when I was a college student in the US.

I thought the title really reflected modern life, especially in Singapore. I also thought, how cool it would be if someone actually performed the song in Singapore?

But the song was not a big hit. It didn't help that the lyrics made references to Michael Caine, heroin and kissing Margaret Thatcher's shoes. I bet most of you have never heard of The Godfathers (apart from The Godfather movies).

But more than 25 years later, it remains one of my favourite song because of the monster guitar riff and catchy shouted chorus.

I thought maybe if I could come up with my own Singapore-specific lyrics for the song, I could...

Actually, I didn't know what I could do. So I carried the idea with me for two and a half decades and did nothing with it.

Then I woke up Monday morning and the lyrics just came to me as I was lying in bed. Excited, I decided to record myself performing those lyrics over the orginal song and even make a music video for it.

I downloaded the free software Audacity to record my vocals with a cheap computer microphone and created the video with Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, this was how low-budget it was.

It took me about two days and the result is above.

My rapping is quite embarrassing, but some of you may be amused by how bad it is. Kenya West has nothing to worry about. Clearly, I'm no Shigga Shay.

My apologies to The Godfathers.

Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Monday 18 August 2014

National Day Rally 2014: Door still wrong

By sharing the fishball stick story and announcing the new Municipal Services Office in his National Day Rally speech, is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pretty much conceding that the "no wrong door" policy introduced 10 years ago is a failure?

Introducing the new policy on Aug 12, 2004, then Senior Minister of State for Health and Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan said:
"Many a time, when faced with an issue that did not belong to an agency's purview, the agency would simply tell the citizen that he was knocking on the wrong door, and the poor citizen might have to go from door to door until he found the right one.

"It can be extremely frustrating. And we want to cut that out."
With the new policy, in cases where the feedback applies to several ministries, the recipient civil servant has to contact all the relevant parties and come up with their concerted response.

Unfortunately, judging by these subsequent newspaper reports in 2007 and 2011, the policy didn't quite take.

So it took a stray fishball stick and a frustrated mayor for the PM to create a new agency to fix the problem – but only for "municipal" issues.

I suspect this reflects a wider problem in the government bureacracy, which the would-be "no wrong door" policy failed to solve, and it needs to be addressed.

We need more fishball sticks.

COLUMN: Otak man was my wife's fishball stick

Sunday 17 August 2014

No littering: She wiped her bottom with a tissue & placed it in her bag

She’s all about that bass, ‘bout that bass.

No treble.

The song by Meghan Trainor was replaying in my head as I kept seeing the photo of the woman’s big bare bottom on my Facebook timeline last week.

Or should it be “bare big bottom”? English is hard.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Of course, you would see pictures of women’s big asses on Facebook. That’s because you ‘liked’ the Big Ass page.”

Well, that’s true, but I’ll have you know that Big Ass is the name of a Thai rock band and they post surprisingly few pictures of actual big asses, if any.

Fortunately, unlike Sir Mix-A-Lot, I don’t really like big butts and I do lie on occasion.

So this omnipresent photo of this woman’s nude glutes isn’t very appealing to me. I would rather watch Sun Ho’s China Wine video again. Asian-reggae fusion rocks! (Yes, I’m lying.)

Further reducing the photo’s appeal is that the woman is in a squatting position, like she is relieving herself. Cannot unsee.

I know that there are people into coprophilia, which is a fetish for faeces, since there is actually a word for it. But I am not one of those people.

And I’m not lying about that.

I could never understand perverts who install hidden cameras in women’s toilet stalls and not, say, changing rooms or shower areas. I guess that’s why they’re called perverts.

So why were people on social media so eager to share this photo of a woman relieving herself like it’s the latest Ebola news or Robin Williams tribute?

Are they coprophiliacs?

No, it was because the woman was relieving herself in a public place with people walking by.

Such scatological incidents have made headlines before.

Last month, it was reported that passengers on a Delta Airlines flight from Beijing to Detroit revolted after being revolted by a Chinese family who allowed a boy to defecate in the aisle on the plane.

Earlier this year in Hong Kong, a couple from China letting their child defecate on a public street also pissed off many people.

These incidents and other things I’ve read have led me to suspect that people relieving themselves in public is not all that uncommon in China.

So at first, I thought the photo of the squatting woman was taken in China. But then I saw the unmistakable SMRT logo on a sign in the background.

Holy crap, this happened near an MRT station! In Singapore!

SMRT confirmed that the incident took place outside Holland Village MRT station on Wednesday.

Wait, could this be the same woman who was caught on CCTV urinating in the lift at the Peennacle@Duxton a few weeks ago?

The MRT station nearest to Duxton is Tanjong Pagar. I advise anyone taking the train to or from that station to watch out for human excrement as well.

Or could she be one of the participants of the Penang Nude Sports Games 2014?

No, wait. Those were just “naturists”. Just because they like being naked in the open, it doesn’t mean they like to do everything in the open.

Understandably, many Singaporeans believe that the defecating woman is from China, but this hasn’t been confirmed although a witness said the woman spoke with a “PRC accent”.

Actually, there’s some debate over whether the woman was urinating or defecating.

Judging by the lack of distance between the floor and the bottom of her bottom in the photo, my No. 1 guess is that it was No. 1. There was just not enough clearance for her to produce a proper stool.

But a witness said the woman had diarrhoea. That makes No. 2 a possibility as there was enough clearance for watery stool.

The No. 2 theory gained more credence with the emergence of a second photo, which showed the woman standing up and wiping her backside.

If it were No. 1, she would’ve wiped her front side. (Or so I’m told by other women.)

Another witness also said the woman “wiped her bottom with a tissue and placed it in her bag”.

Now that doesn’t make sense. Why would she keep the soiled tissue?

She had just done unspeakable things to the floor outside the MRT station and she was worried about littering?

She may be a public defecator, but she’s no litterbug. (What are we? Animals?)

According to an SMRT spokesman: “She’s believed to be of unsound mind.”

So the prevailing assumption is that the woman is either a “PRC” or of “unsound mind”. Of course, she could be a “PRC” of “unsound mind”, but to some Singaporeans, that may be a bit redundant.

But what I find more amazing is that the first photo showed people walking past the defecating woman like it’s the most normal thing in Singapore.

I suppose if I were a passer-by, I would pretend not to see her too because it was too disgusting to behold.

I won’t even mention the smell.

Looking at her would make me feel like a pervert, specifically a coprophiliac.

Let’s say if I had diarrhoea in public from eating too many satay burgers, I would also want people to pretend not to see me.

Partly because I’m a little embarrassed by my fat butt, a result of eating too many satay burgers.

As Meghan Trainor sings: “Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two.”

You will notice this as you watch me go No. 2.

Unlike the woman in the photo, I may litter afterwards.

As for whether I’m of “unsound mind”, the jury’s still out.

- Published in The New Paper, August 17 2014

UPDATE: The woman has been identified by authorities as a 34-year-old Singaporean "with a long history of schizophrenia and intellectual disability".

Wednesday 13 August 2014

What's this ad selling 'cream for men'?

I was puzzled by this huge half-page ad that caught my eye in today's Straits Times.

What exactly are they selling?

What is this "cream for men"?

At first, I thought it was a face or hair cream.

Then why the collage of "illegal sex drugs" headlines on top of the ad?

That suggests that this is an ad for a legal sex drug. The only legal sex drug I know is Viagra, but this is not an ad for a pill.

According to the ad, the cream "helps restore male vitality" and "when used topically, it supports blood circulation to the applied area".

Uh... what area is that?

And why can't it also restore female vitality? Can't women use this cream to "support" their blood circulation too?

Since the tagline is "rediscover your youthful vitality and active lifestyle", I thought maybe it's sports-related.

I was wrong.

I eventually googled Andro cream and learnt that it "helps men who are suffering from erectile dysfunction".

Oh, so that's where you apply it.

Why didn't they just say so in the ad?

This can't be a very good ad if readers have to google their product to figure out what they're selling.

I'm still not quite sure how it works.

What happens after I "apply daily for at least 2 weeks"?

Maybe I'll meet them at Health & You 2014 Booth B27 at Suntec Singapore Hall 401 on 16 & 17 Aug to find out.

Good thing I didn't apply it on my face.

It would have made my hair stand.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Something missing in this year’s National Day celebration

Our first selfie National Day!

Oh, what hast thou wrought, Mr Baey Yam Keng?

Another year, another NDP is over.

When you put your red shirt in the laundry, remember to wash it separately from your whites or you’ll have something new to wear for next year’s Pink Dot hootenanny at Hong Lim Park.

And if your shirt is both red and white (like our flag), you’re pretty much screwed. After the wash, the white part is going to turn pink.

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has worn pink for every one of his National Day Message since 2011?

You know what that means, right? (Wink, wink.)

It means he must have forgotten to separate his reds from the whites.

That pink shirt has almost become a National Day tradition, like fireworks, Gurmit Singh urging NDP spectators to “make some noise” and way too much discussion about flags.

Every year, someone will complain about how someone else is displaying the flags wrongly while others point out that fewer flags seem to be displayed every year, which must mean that Singaporeans are less proud of our country than before because of all the foreigners coming in and it’s all the Government’s fault.

And CPF!

The flagging number of flags on display this year has even prompted The Straits Times to find out why.

One reason is that residents’ committees (RCs), who were responsible for blanketing housing estates with flags in previous years, have decided they have better things to do. Another reason, at least according to ST, is that the newer HDB block designs discourage the display of flags.

Oh, so it is the Government’s fault. I mean, aren’t RCs and HDB part of the Government?

I displayed the flag for National Day once a few years ago.

I was grocery shopping at NTUC FairPrice supermarket and happened to see full-size flags for sale at $2 each.

Only two bucks? Hey, why not?

And that was how I ended up displaying the flag that year. If the flag had cost $3, I would’ve given it a second thought. I may be a patriot, but I’m a patriot on a budget.

I wanted to display the flag again the next year for National Day, but in the intervening months, the flag had become rather dusty due to improper storage.

Even I know that displaying a dusty flag is tacky. (Actually, it was my wife who stopped me.)

I thought of washing the flag, but since the flag is red and white, I was afraid the white part would turn pink.

And displaying a red and pink flag is even tackier than displaying a dusty flag.

Of course, I could always get a new flag, but then I already have a flag, as dusty as it is. Do I throw the old flag away? That just seems so… treasonous.

So you can see the conundrum I’m in.

Another National Day staple that’s missing this year is a new theme song, which means another National Day staple is also missing – controversy.

That’s because in the last few years, the National Day controversy usually involves a song, from the Lady Gaga-inspired Fun Pack Song of 2011 to last year’s cyberbullied One Singapore.

But wait, just when you thought the NDP organisers had dodged the bullet, someone complained about a coupon in the fun pack offering puppies on a zero per cent instalment plan and it went viral online.

Yes! The annual tradition is preserved. Heaven forbid we have a controversy-free National Day.

It’s no plagiarising Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, but it’ll do.

But something else is missing from this year’s National Day, which I find most disappointing.

National Day is the time when we celebrate the achievements of Singaporeans, like the medals we won at the Commonwealth Games that ended last Sunday.

But there is one Singaporean who is once again overlooked.

He has won international awards, like the Golden Horse and Hong Kong Film Awards, for his achievements in film-making.

This Singaporean has worked with such luminaries as Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen, Zhang Ziyi, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Morgan Freeman, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson when people still liked Mel Gibson.

What’s more, he has a new movie coming out this week. So yesterday’s NDP would’ve been the perfect occasion to celebrate this Singaporean’s achievements – but it didn’t happen.

The Singaporean I’m talking about is, of course, actor Jet Li.

Can someone please tell me why we aren’t making a bigger deal of this naturalised Singapore citizen who is in The Expendables 3, opening this Thursday?

Is he any less Singaporean than the likes of table tennis players Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Gao Ning, Jian Zhang and Li Hu?

Jet Li might not have won any sports medals for Singapore, but I think he deserves a Cultural Medallion.

Alas, he probably won’t get one.

This is another example of how Singapore doesn’t appreciate local talent.

I don’t blame him if he doesn’t display the flag, dusty or otherwise.

Bring on SG50!

- Published in The New Paper, 10 August 2014

Friday 8 August 2014

The National Day satay burger death match is on!

McDonald's introduced its new "Shiok Shiok" satay burgers a few weeks ago.

A common complaint was that McDonald's is stingy with the sauce, which resulted in dry satay burgers. Not so shiok.

McDonald's has since responded:
Based on all feedback, all our restaurants will start serving our Shiok Shiok Satay Burgers with more sauce.

This was also what happened in May with the dry rending burgers at Burger King, which I wrote about in my column, Shitty times: Nasi goreng poisoning, $9.70 nasi padang & dry Rendang Burgers.

And now Burger King has introduced its own "real" satay burgers to go head to head against McDonald's "Shiok Shiok" satay burgers.

But has BK learnt from its own mistake as well as McD's to avoid serving any more dry burgers?

The National Day satay burger death match is on!

EARLIER: Never mind the Minions, here’s the rendang burger death match

Monday 4 August 2014

No new official NDP song this year? We've got you covered

National Day is almost here.

Since there is no new official NDP theme song this year, the organisers have recycled some of the old ones.

Like this We Are The World-like "I sing one line, you sing one line" cover of Home feat. some questionable rapping by Sheikh Haikel.

And this Mumford & Sons-like cover of Electrico's What Do You See from 2009.

And this mash-up of the 2002 NDP song We Will Get There Singapore and 1990's One People, One Nation, One Singapore.

But while there is no new official NDP song this year, there are a few new unofficial ones I found on YouTube.

This first one by Lorraine Tan is the most professionally produced, but then she had already done several of these.

This one by by Audris Ho is slightly less polished but still tasteful to a fault.

This one could use a better singer and better lyrics than "All these we did for you, my dear".

Who are you calling "my dear"? Is Singapore "your dear"? Can you call a country "my dear"? Also, I think "All this we did for you" sounds more grammatical.

This last one just made me laugh.

NDP goes punk.


UPDATE: Oh, I missed this one. It's sponsored by a 3-in-1 coffee brand.

UPDATE UPDATE: Mr Brown finally releases the video of his new National Day song... about food.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: I received this e-mail from Audris Ho on 8 Aug 2014:

Dear SM Ong,

After reading your 4 August 2014 blog post on "No new official NDP song this year? We've got you covered", I realised there is a misrepresentation of information in regards to “There’s no place like home"

We have registered our song with COMPASS and this is the only video that is authentic :

Yes, you have used the above link tagging it to my name, but I noticed you embedded Vivian Poh’s version of our song as well and said it’s by me.

Firstly, she did not seek permission from us to use our audio track for mv. Secondly, she added on drums and guitar herself without us agreeing to it and leaving people the impression that I’m the one who did it. She has infringed on our reproduction rights and we are now in the midst of working things out nicely with her without alerting COMPASS and/or flagging down her Youtube video.

Charlyn and I really appreciate it if you can update your blog post and embed our link instead of Vivian’s version so that with the ease of playing for viewers, you can help us promote our message across to as many people as possible. We really would like to promote holding an annual NDP songwriting competition and will be grateful if you can mention this in your blog too.

As of now, it is with our great honour that the following parties are helping us to spread this message and we hope with your platform, you can help us to create awareness too:

Featured in:
- 前线追踪 Frontline Ch 8 Aug 8 2014 8pm
- 前线追踪 Frontline Facebook (will be featured after Aug 8 ep is broadcast)
- Eunos National Day Observance Ceremony 9 August 2014 at Eunos CC (700 pax)
- Eunos CC facebook (
- in process of archiving in National Library Board (NLB)

Feel free to contact us if there is anything you need to clarify.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Warmest regards,
Audris Ho

EARLIER: We don't have a new NDP song to kick around any more

Sunday 3 August 2014

Big Brother? We have bigger things to worry about - like scary movie posters

“Quite a country you got there, Ong.”

That was the comment posted with a link on my Facebook timeline last week by an American friend whom I was in college with and haven’t seen since SWV were topping the charts.

Before this, Bill hadn’t contacted me in months.

So what was this irresistible item about Singapore that Bill, who’s now an archaeologist in the US Midwest, felt compelled to share with me and comment on?

I mean, he didn’t comment on the hilarious bit that comedian John Oliver did two Sundays ago on his HBO show Last Week Tonight on the National Council on Problem Gambling’s World Cup ad where Andy’s father bet on the Germany, the eventual champs.

Yes, Jimmy Fallon had already done a bit on the same thing a week earlier on The Tonight Show.

But Oliver took it even further by producing “prequels” to the ad where Andy’s father also correctly bet Andy’s savings on the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and that Ryan Gosling would get Eva Mendes pregnant.

But, no, not a peep from Bill about that.

Also no pithy remarks from him when newspapers around the world were running headlines like “Singapore libraries to destroy copies of gay penguin book”.

Maybe he thought the headline was from The Onion, the satirical website known for fake news stories where a mutual acquaintance is a writer.

But Bill is a little more high-minded than that. The link he sent me was to an article entitled “The Social Laboratory” in a US magazine called Foreign Policy.

This intro alone was enough to make me want to curl up in a corner and cry:
“Singapore is testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society.”

What I read was: “Singapore is big words, big words, big words society.”

Did he really expect me to read this article?

Sorry, Bill, I don’t have a PhD like you.

Can’t we just go back to talking about homosexual flightless birds and movie stars making babies? That’s more my wheelhouse.

Could I just ignore Bill’s comment? Would that offend him?

What’s the social media etiquette for a situation like this?

I mean, I really didn’t want to read the article.

Or maybe I can just click the “like” button on Bill’s comment and be done with it.

But that would be lying.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “I don’t know what you’re talking about and I can’t be bothered to read what you sent me” button on Facebook that I could click.

I felt I owed Bill a proper reply, like something with words.

Well, since the article is about Singapore, I guess I should read it.

The article begins with an anecdote about some Singaporean bureaucrat meeting some American defence research guy in the US in 2002 and how that started Singapore on the track to “testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society”.

I assume.

To be honest, I just skimmed through much of the article. It just goes on and on.

But I got enough of a gist to realise that from the point of view of Bill, who has never been to Singapore, Singaporeans must be living in some sort of “Big Brother” dystopia, as in George Orwell’s novel 1984, not the reality TV show for voyeurs.

Or perhaps a little of both.

I don’t know how many Singaporeans care about the issues of privacy and individual freedom raised in the article.

Even the author of the article acknowledges:
“Most Singaporeans I met hardly cared that they live in a surveillance bubble.”
After all, we have bigger things to worry about.

Like the growing number of ATMs that dispense only $50 bills and not $10 notes.

This is apparently such a major problem that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, also Finance Minister and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said: “MAS will continue to monitor the situation to ensure adequate access to smaller denomination currency notes.”

On Tuesday, I read a letter to The Straits Times from someone complaining about a bus stop ad for a horror movie that “traumatised” his daughter and demanding that the Media Development Authority (MDA) “explain why this was allowed”.

My own daughter is demanding to know why the X-Men comic book issue with the gay wedding cannot be found in the library even though it’s not banned by MDA.

Now the only way she can read about queer mutants tying the knot is if I pay for the comic book at Kinokuniya. It’s 24 bucks!

I wish I could withdraw the money from the ATM, but it dispenses only $50 bills.

These are the kind of First World problems that Singaporeans really care about.

Yes, it’s quite a country we got here.

So how did I reply to Bill?

I wrote: “Quite a positive article, I think.”

He “liked” my reply.

As SWV would sing - weak.

- Published in The New Paper, 3 August 2014