Wednesday 30 December 2015

Beyond 'you know ya' & 'pneumonia': Better Twitter jokes about Eunoia JC

COLUMN: Why Eunoia JC is a worse name than 1 Sengkang Mall

Sunday 27 December 2015

No contest: In defence of Compass Point’s new name, 1 Sengkang Mall

Want to make $1,000?

Just enter a contest to rename a mall in Sengkang “Sengkang Mall”.

When I read that joke on Twitter, I laughed so hard I announced the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant.

No, wait, that wasn’t me. It was Steve Harvey. He mistakenly said Miss Colombia when it should’ve been Miss Philippines.

When it was announced last week that the winner of the contest to rename Compass Point is the woman who submitted “Sengkang Mall”, many wished it was a mistake too.

And actually, it was.

The initial announcement was wrong. The winning entry was not “Sengkang Mall” but “1 Sengkang Mall”.

Yes, that “1” makes all the difference.

It’s like an online password. Just letters of the alphabet aren’t good enough. You need a combination of upper and lowercase letters plus at least one numerical character.

Who could’ve guessed that in a year where teen troll Amos Yee falsely accused his bailor of molesting him and MediaCorp executive Sharon Au played Mrs Lee Kuan Yew (badly) in The LKY Musical, the biggest scandal of 2015 would be the renaming of a shopping centre?

Everyone really seems to hate “1 Sengkang Mall”. I mean everyone.

Well, except the woman who won $1,000 for coming up with it.

And the people running the contest who chose it.

And one person who commented that “Sengkang Mall is so much better than any condominium names such as Le Classique, Le Lush Flora, Le Frenchie or Le Fart”.

And me.

Call me goondu, but I like my shopping centres to be named after the MRT station they’re closest to.

I wonder how many tourists headed for Raffles City Shopping Centre have taken the train to the Raffles Place station only to find out they should’ve gone to City Hall.

Great job naming a shopping centre after two different stations. Confusing much?

But to many, calling a mall right above the Sengkang station “Sengkang Mall” is just too obvious and uncreative.

Well, that’s why you have the “1” in front. To make it less obvious and more creative.

Hey, at least the new name isn’t “1 Sengkang Square” because that’s the actual address of Compass Point.

To name your building after the address is just pretentious. I’m looking at you, One Fullerton, One Raffles Place, One Raffles Quay, One Raffles Link and TripleOne Somerset.

But I believe the reason “1 Sengkang Mall” is so hated has less to do with the name than the renaming itself (and someone winning $1,000 for it).

Everyone was perfectly fine with the name “Compass Point”. So if you change it, the new name had better be a hell lot better — especially after crowdsourcing through a contest — and “1 Sengkang Mall” wasn’t.

But then could any name be good enough?

The renaming contest was held in October before the mall was closed for refurbishment. It is expected to reopen next year under different management.

On Nov 12, the top eight names were announced on Facebook:
  • Sengkang Central Mall
  • Sengkang Mall
  • One Sengkang
  • SengKang Square
  • One Sengkang Square
  • Sengkang One
  • #1 Sengkang Square
  • 1SM

Notice they all have the word “Sengkang” — except 1SM, short for “1 Sado-Masochist”, which I don’t think is appropriate for a place meant for the whole family.

How can anyone be so blur as to shorten his name to “SM”?

Also notice that “1 Sengkang Mall” was not in the top eight.

Even then, people commented that they preferred the current name, Compass Point, and didn’t want it changed.

But on Tuesday when the winner was finally announced, that was when the Seng really hit the Kang.

People threatened never to step into the mall again if it’s renamed. Someone even tweeted that he will move out of Sengkang all together.

Some offered alternative names like Darth Mall, One Direction and the most creative of all, Plaza Sengkangpura.

Another guy thought it was a democracy and tweeted: “We need a by-selection!”

Some thought it sounded like a Noose story — even Michelle Chong, who starred in The Noose.

Sounds like a Noose story....
Posted by Michelle Chong on Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It was likened to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) paying a brand consultancy $400,000 to rename Marina Bay “Marina Bay” in 2005.

Although in this case, many would’ve preferred Compass Point to be renamed “Compass Point”.

Someone even created an online petition to keep the name.

Maybe URA knew what it was doing after all.

The Compass Point petition is likely to be about as successful as the petition to get Adam Lambert off the New Year’s Eve show.

Already on Wikipedia, if you search for Compass Point, you will be redirected to 1 Sengkang Mall.

The thing is, if the mall was christened “1 Sengkang Mall” when it first opened in 2002, I believe no one would’ve objected (that much). But now everyone has grown accustomed and attached to “Compass Point” after 13 years.

I live in Choa Chu Kang and have always found it weird that the shopping centre next to the Choa Chu Kang MRT station is called Lot One Shoppers’ Mall — but I got used to it.

If they ever hold a contest to rename it, I’m not going to submit “1 Choa Chu Kang Mall” because that’s what everyone will be doing.

My entry will be “Star Mall: The Shopping Awakens”.

Give me my $1,000 already.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 December 2015

Sunday 20 December 2015

When worst comes to curse: How Orchard Road has become Jem this Christmas

When I read about a fire at a shopping centre on Friday, I thought it was long overdue.

Jem hasn’t had an incident since June when a ceiling pipe burst at the Din Tai Fung restaurant there, drenching dinners with what was euphemistically described as “waste water”.

“It stunk like faeces,” a witness said.

Black water gushed out for about three minutes, before slowing to a drip, according to the witness. A couple sitting directly under the pipe got the brunt of it.

“The pregnant lady let out a horrified scream, and they were both stunned for a few minutes.”

“Minutes”? Really? Under a faeces waterfall? How “stunned” were they?

I wonder how the couple went home after that.

I mean, did they get a new set of clothes at the mall first? Or did they just head straight for their car? No amount of Ambi Pur is going to get rid of that smell.

Or did they take the MRT? I’m sure they wouldn’t have any problem getting a seat. They would probably get a whole train carriage to themselves.

Anyway, this happened six months ago.

I went to Din Tai Fung for my mother’s birthday last month and I’m happy to report I didn’t smell any faeces at all. It was just my breath.

Since its delayed opening in 2013, Jem has been bedevilled by plumbing problems, fires, a shattered glass door, a power failure, a ceiling collapse and a partridge in a pear tree.

So for the Jurong East mall to go without incident for half a year seems almost unnatural. Something has to happen.

Naturally, when I read about Friday’s fire, I assumed it was at Jem.

As it turned out, the fire was actually at Lucky Plaza.

I guess you could call it Unlucky Plaza. Ha!

That would be funnier if there isn’t already a local movie called Unlucky Plaza directed by Ken Kwek last year.

And it’s not just Lucky Plaza that’s unlucky. The fire is just the latest in a chain of mishaps this month that is turning Orchard Road into the new Jem.

Some have even called it a curse.

The curse of Orchard Road. Mua ha ha ha!

The Jemony Snicket’s series of unfortunate events began on the night of Dec 2 with a burning Christmas tree near the Abercrombie & Fitch store at Knightsbridge.

You could say it’s to help the shirtless male models keep warm, except Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t have shirtless male models hanging around the entrance any more.

Trust me. I’ve looked. A few times.

Then on Dec 9, a falling concrete slab from under the bridge linking Orchard Plaza and Cuppage Plaza narrowly missed killing someone.

The next day, a Christmas decoration on a lamp post outside Orchard Road caught fire.

The day after that, in the same area, a tree fell on the road in a storm, blocking traffic. Not a Christmas tree, but a tree tree.

The day after that, another storm caused a power failure at Orchard Central. As if the businesses there weren’t suffering enough.

The day after that, in the Hilton hotel driveway, the ceiling collapsed, sending four people to the hospital.

Then it was reported last week that Orchard Central (the one with the blackout) will be undergoing a major renovation, causing 21 tenants to leave.

One of them is burger place Everything With Fries (EWF).

To me, the closure of EWF at OC is the greatest tragedy of all.

Where else am I going to get my Har Jeong Kai burger with curry fries?

Or my Hainanese pork chop burger with curry fries?

Or my duck leg burger with curry fries?

At Bugis Junction? Oh.

Never mind the fires, the falling tree, the falling concrete slab and the falling hotel driveway ceiling.

The definitive proof that Orchard Road is cursed is that I can longer get my curry fries at EWF at OC after New Year’s Eve.

You know another reason I will miss EWF?

All the times I’ve been there, a ceiling pipe has never burst and poured “waste water” on me while I’m pregnant.

Now I don’t know where to take my mother for her birthday next year.

Din Tai Fung again?


- Published in The New Paper, 20 December 2015

EARLIER: The fault in our Jem: Here come the waterworks

DEC 21 UPDATE: Another fire at Orchard Road

Sunday 13 December 2015

Force-fed the Force: I find their lack of interest in Star Wars disturbing

So are you with the light side or the dark side?

Because I don’t tan easily, I would say I’m more on the pale side.

But the question could also refer to your preferred mall to shop for IT stuff.

If it’s Funan DigitaLife Mall, you’re with the light side.

If it’s Sith Lim Square, you’re in the former domain of Darth Jover and his apprentices.

The ex-dark lord of Mobile Air was sentenced last month to 33 months’ jail and fined $2,000 for cheating 26 victims out of $16,599 last year.

Due to the bad publicity, business at Sith Lim Square has reportedly fallen like Boba Fett into the sarlacc pit.

But like the resurrection of Boba Fett in the non-canon Star Wars Expanded Universe, business at Sith Lim Square could be revived after Funan closes for redevelopment next year.

Actually, I don’t know why Singaporeans still go to Funan or Sith Lim Square. Can’t they just wait for the next IT show? There’s literally one every three months.

If Star Wars fans can wait 10 years between Revenge Of The Sith and The Force Awakens, you can wait three months.

The new Star Wars movie will finally open in Singapore on Thursday, but I would understand if you’re not aware of this as I don't think there has been enough hype about it.

Apart from the Star Wars displays at Changi Airport, VivoCity and Ngee Ann City.

And the Star Wars clothes at Uniqlo, H&M, Cotton On, Bossini, Hang 10, Under Armour and Celio.

And the Star Wars sandwich combos at Subway.

And the Star Wars Crocs. I sense a disturbance in my foam resin footwear.

Kylo Ren has replaced Santa Claus this Christmas. Old white guys with beards don’t seem to last very long in these movies. (RIP, Ben Kenobi.)

Like everyone else, I too am caught up in the excitement of the impending release of The Force Awakens.

Well, perhaps not everyone.

As hard as it may be to imagine, there are people in this world who don’t care about Star Wars (and are not getting any of the Star Wars references I’m making in this column).

Shockingly, some of these people are living with me. I find their lack of interest disturbing.

My wife, the mother of my children, has lived on this Earth for five decades and has never seen a Star Wars movie.

I’ve asked her why and she said: “Because of the monkey.”

What monkey?

When I realised what was she talking about, I said: “That’s not a monkey! It’s Chewbacca. He's a Wookiee.”

She didn't care. “I just don’t buy a monkey as an alien,” she said.

I decided to let her live anyway and turned off my lightsaber.

So because of the “monkey” issue, my wife will never be a Star Wars fan.

But like Darth Vader, I still have a son and a daughter to turn to the dork side — I mean, into Star Wars fans.

So a few years ago, I showed my son the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, the one that spawned an international cultural phenomenon and multi-billion-dollar industry nearly 40 years ago.

That was a mistake.

A New Hope was made in the 70s (though at the time, it wasn't called A New Hope, just Star Wars) and let’s just say the pace of storytelling in those days wasn't exactly light speed. It was closer to bantha speed.

I loved the movie when I first saw it as a kid in the cinema, but now watching it on the TV screen through my son’s eyes, I was getting as bored as he was.

He stopped watching even before we left Tatooine and I don’t blame him.

I could never get him to watch another Star Wars movie again even though I have the complete saga on Blu-Ray. Telling him “These are the movies you are looking for” didn’t work.

Years later, avoiding the mistake I made with my son, I showed my daughter The Phantom Menace, which was made in the late 90s and seemed to be more aimed at kids with short attention spans.

That was another mistake.

Although a lot is happening in the movie (compared to A New Hope), you don’t really care what is happening in The Phantom Menace because it’s like a cartoon aimed at kids with short attention spans.

Was I going to lose my daughter like I lost my son to indifference about the Force?

Desperate to have at least one member of my family other than myself like Star Wars, I eventually managed to Jedi mind-tricked my 16-year-old daughter into watching the other five Star Wars movies last month by letting her believe that Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker have a secret gay relationship.

Is that so wrong?

Perhaps I’ve gone to the dark side after all.

Call me Darth Smong.

Where are my Kylo Ren clogs?

Actually, I’m more of a Trekkie.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 December 2015

Sunday 6 December 2015

Can't go into the Room: Please don't say MDA banned Eric Khoo's new movie

I have never seen any Eric Khoo film — even though I’m in one.

Or at least I have been told that I’m in Mee Pok Man, which celebrated its 20th anniversary with a screening last Sunday at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF).

I mean, I know I went to Goodwood Park Hotel in 1994 to act in a scene for the acclaimed director’s first feature film, for which I was paid with fish and chips.

But whether my scene actually ended up in the movie, I don’t know for certain since, like many people, I have never seen Mee Pok Man.

I mean, I have seen many mee pok men in real life, but not Mee Pok Man the movie.

Yes, it has been 20 years and I’ve yet to see my own movie debut.

Not that I have anything against Khoo’s oeuvre per se. I have never seen any of director Jack Neo’s movies too.

Unlike many people, I have managed to avoid all three of Neo’s phenomenally profitable Ah Boys To Men movies, and I expect to keep the streak alive when he releases the fourth and fifth, which he announced last week.

Is it because of a bias against local films that I avoid them, even those I was involved in like Mee Pok Man and Phua Chu Kang The Movie?

As PCK would say, “Abuden?”

But now it seems that even if I want to, I can’t see Khoo’s latest film, In The Room.

A commercial release of the movie in Singapore appears unlikely as the Media Development Authority (MDA) has deemed two scenes in the movie “to have exceeded our classification guidelines for sexual content”.

MDA said it “informally advised the distributor that the film could be classified R21 with edits for commercial release”.

But Khoo, a Cultural Medallion recipient, doesn’t want to make the cuts, saying: “If I were to censor it, it would go against my principles as a film-maker.”

So without the edits, MDA won’t give the movie a classification. Without the classification, the movie can’t be shown in cinemas here.

Just don’t say MDA is banning the movie. It’s Khoo who is banning his own movie by refusing to edit it according to MDA’s “advice”.

What’s In The Room about anyway?

The synopsis on the SGIFF website says:
“One of the most transitory lived spaces, the hotel room becomes the vehicle that transposes a sprawling tapestry of stories in Eric Khoo’s vision of the history of Singapore…

“Starting off from the advent of Singapore’s occupation in 1942, two men meet for the last time in the hotel room before the Japanese arrive.

“In the 70s, a band celebrates New Year’s Eve fiercely in an orgiastic drug-fuelled party.

“Decades pass as stories unfold within the same hotel room. Reflecting Singapore’s history as an entrepôt, characters of diverse backgrounds and nationalities find themselves in the hotel room, as a spirit watches on, drawn to the suffering and tragedies expressed within it.”
That’s it? One “orgiastic drug-fuelled party”?

Where’s all the “sexual content” that MDA has problems with?

Then I found a somewhat different write-up of the movie on the Toronto International Film Festival website:
“The sensitive and sensual new film from Singaporean director Eric Khoo draws together several narratives spanning several decades, all of them transpiring in the same room of the same Singaporean hotel — and all of them involving sex.”
There you go.

So there’s no mention of the word “sex” in the Singapore synopsis, but in the Toronto write-up, the movie is all about sex.

Three years ago, Khoo asked me to write a movie about sexual perverts as he said I was practically one myself, but I failed to deliver a script.

In The Room is a totally different movie written by Jonathan Lim and Andrew Hook, but it’s still about sex despite what the SGIFF website says (or doesn’t say).

So this could have been a movie written by me that’s not getting a commercial release in Singapore.

But In The Room was allowed by MDA to be screened uncut with an R21 classification at SGIFF on Tuesday night because “more leeway is given to film festivals as they play to a niche audience and have limited screenings”.

To promote the movie, the SGIFF website called it “the perfect bookend to a year of jubilee celebrations”.

Oh, sure. If a flamboyantly gay singer like Adam Lambert can perform in the New Year’s Eve show, why not a local movie inspired by 70s European softcore porn (according to Khoo) to finish the year?

Talk about ending SG50 with a bang.

I can’t wait for SG60 and the 30th anniversary screening of Mee Pok Man in 2025.

I must remember to miss it again.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 December 2015


How I ended up in Mee Pok Man

The last time I met Eric Khoo

Monday 30 November 2015

Running the Jubilee Big Walk: I could've been first, but I didn't wear the T-shirt

Why walk when you can run?

My goal for the Jubilee Big Walk yesterday was to be right in front at the starting line so that I could run 5km distance without a mass of slow walkers in my way.

The flag-off was at 7am. About 25,000 participants were expected.

When I took the MRT train at six plus, I saw passengers wearing the Big Walk T-shirt.

Alamak! That meant there were going to be many people ahead of me. I was screwed.

When I reached Dhoby Ghaut, it was raining a little. Because of the drizzle, many people were seeking shelter instead of waiting at the starting line.

That made it easier than expected for me to manoeuvre my way through the sparse crowd to the front.

I couldn't believe I actually did it.

I was in front at the starting line!

Mark Lee was there too. I wanted to take a picture with him, but he was with his daughter (I think) so I didn't want to bother him.

More importantly, I got to see Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong make his way to the stage and flag off the walk. I think this was the first time I ever saw the PM in person.

A video posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

I was surprised I seemed to be the only person who decided to run the Big Walk. I was way out in front on my own.

It was surreal to have the empty St Andrew's Road all to myself.

Although I had my number bib on, I made the mistake of not wearing the Big Walk T-shirt. Instead I wore my own sexy Skins sleeveless compression top. So the road marshalls weren't sure if I was a Big Walker especially since I was running (not walking) and alone.

I paid for this mistake at Gardens by the Bay. The road marshalls didn't tell me to turn when they should have and so I kept running straight ahead.

I suspected something was wrong when I stopped seeing any more Big Walk signage. So I tried to double back but got a little lost. It took me a while to finally find my way to the finish line.

I thought I was first to cross the finish line — until someone told me I was second or third, but definitely not first.


So someone else must have run the Big Walk too. I wasted all that time wandering around Gardens by the Bay and let them beat me to the finish line.

If only I had worn the Big Walk T-shirt, it would have been the first time I had come in first in any race (even though the Big Walk is not really a race).

Maybe next year.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Countdown petition showdown: Why I'm terrified of Adam Lambert fans

I have been writing this column since 2008. It was so long ago we were still looking for Mas Selamat.

So it’s inevitable that I have received a few complaints over the years. Just a few.

For example, in 2010, I wrote about SMRT bus commuters being overcharged after the new distance-based fare system was implemented.

I called it a “betrayal of public trust” and added with other-worldly prescience: “Such incompetence has resulted only in minor financial loss, but what if the transport companies are just as inept in the maintenance of vehicles?”

Well, the answer to that question last week was that some students were late for their A-level exams. It stopped being a hypothetical a long time ago.

But the Land Transport Authority (LTA) disagreed with my column, writing in to complain that it was “really not a fair comment”.

I have since written numerous articles about the even more numerous train breakdowns due to the transport companies being inept.

Yet I haven’t heard anything from LTA since 2010. Hmm, I wonder why.

But of all the people who have written in to complain about this column, there is one group I fear even more than LTA.

Adam Lambert fans.

They scare me to death.

In 2013, I wrote about the Media Development Authority giving a Lambert concert in Singapore “an advisory rating for those 16 and above with the consumer advice, ‘some mature content’ as it will feature two songs from Adam Lambert’s audio album, Trespassing – Outlaws Of Love and Shady – whose lyrics are based on the singer’s personal experiences and lifestyle.”

In the column, I wondered what exactly “outlaws of love” were and came up with a few possibilities, such as teachers having sex with their underage students in HDB stairwells.

The Glamberts weren’t amused.

First, they attacked me on Twitter: “That’s gotta be the most bizarre nonsensical shit I’ve ever read.”

And “What kind of sick mind does that jerk have anyway?”

And “Yeah. Ignorant asshat.”

Then they fired their e-mails:
“I’d like to question the research and professionalism put into the writing of this piece...

“Is it talking about the NC16 advisory rating on Adam Lambert’s concert?

“What is the relevance of bringing up the comfort and ‘ergonomic advantages’ of sexual activities in HDB staircases and the author’s ‘own experiments’?

“Also, what is S M Ong trying to say when he writes ‘while a couple may fear being caught having sex in the stairwell (though that may be part of the thrill), it would be far more traumatising for me to chance upon you having sex in the stairwell (especially if I don’t have a camera phone with me)’?

“Is he trying to promote exhibitionism?”

That hurt. I had been called plenty of awful things in my lifetime but never an exhibitionism promoter.

I learnt my lesson, though.

I would never do anything to offend Lambert fans again.

I’ll just stick to offending Clay Aiken fans.

And maybe LTA.

But unfortunately, not everyone has learnt the lesson.

Like the people who created and signed the online “Petition against Adam Lambert performing in Countdown 2016” last week.

The petition said the US singer is “a performer fraught with controversy even in his home country” and is “well-known for his active promotion of a highly sexualised lifestyle and LGBT rights, both of which are contrary to mainstream Singaporean values”.

In other words, he is an outlaw of love. Ahem.

Of course, the Glamberts would retaliate, as I have experienced their wrath first-hand.

Another online petition called “We want Adam Lambert performing in Countdown 2016” was created and so far, it has collected more signatures than the first petition.

I didn’t sign either one because both are wrong.

There is no “Countdown 2016”.

The MediaCorp New Year’s Eve show that Lambert may or may not be performing in is actually called Celebrate 2016.

Up to now, MediaCorp’s only response to the controversy is “Celebrate 2016 will be suitable for family audiences and conform with broadcast regulations,” which basically says nothing at all.

The national broadcaster just can’t seem to catch a break with its New Year’s Eve show.

Two New Year’s Eves ago, the show was lambasted for being too “cheena” by theatre doyen Ivan Heng, who is married to another man.

So a show that was once criticised by an openly gay man for not being diverse enough is now being criticised for being perhaps a little too diverse by having an openly gay man on the show.

MediaCorp just can’t win.

For now, it seems that Lambert is still set to perform in Celebrate 2016 (not Countdown 2016). Glamberts, rejoice!

Heaven forbid anyone accuses MediaCorp of promoting exhibitionism.

I’ve been there.

No one likes getting complaints.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 November 2015

Friday 27 November 2015

Mee Pok Man's 20th anniversary: How I ended up in Eric Khoo's first feature film

The Singapore International Film Festival is screening Mee Pok Man this Sunday at the National Museum to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary.

If you're going to see it, just be warned that I'm in the movie.

At least, I've been told I make a brief appearance. I have never seen the movie myself.

How did I end up in Eric Khoo's debut feature?

Back in early 1994, I was the research writer for Channel 5 variety show called Live On 5 hosted by a newcomer named Gurmit Singh. The show had a movie review segment in which I would review a movie with a guest reviewer.

I gained some minor notoriety as "Smong", the movie critic "everyone loved to hate".

For one episode, I invited Khoo to be the guest reviewer and that was how we got to know each other. At that point, he had won a couple awards for his short films.

Later, when he was working on Mee Pok Man, he called me and said he had a small role for me.

So one day, I showed up at Goodwood Park Hotel, owned by the Khoo family, to shoot a scene with some guy named Ong Lay Jinn, who would later become a filmmaker himself under the name Djinn. But at that time, I think he was working for the Economic Development Board.

He struck me as an entitled rich-kid scholar, so it was mutual dislike at first sight.

(By the way, another local film-maker, Cheah Chee Kong, later also gave himself the name CheeK. I can't help feeling that "CheeK" and "Djinn" were just copying my "Smong" with the abbreviated name.)

Anyway, for Khoo's film, Ong and I were supposed to act like we were on some sort of TV current affairs programme, discussing the issue of poverty. I played the heel (which I had had some experience) and said something like we should kill the poor or something like that. It was two decades ago.

There was no script. We just improvised for a few minutes.

Khoo seemed happy with what we did. After we were done, the director paid me with a fish-and-chips meal from the hotel kitchen.

And that was how I ended up preserved for posterity on celluloid.

(I was invited to the movie wrap party on Emerald Hill, but I couldn't find the place. I would meet Michelle Goh only a couple of years later at MediaCorp.)

I'm told I appear in the film for a few seconds on a TV screen. Maybe one day before I die, I'll see it.

Here is a 2005 Nutshell review of Mee Pok Man (I'm copying and pasting it here because it mentions me):
This is probably the movie credited with sparking a comeback of Singapore films, and watching it, you can probably spot various influences this Eric Khoo film had on the other more contemporary attempts by the various local filmmakers like Djinn and Jack Neo (whom of course, were in Eric Khoo movies).

Joe Ng (of local band Padres) front the cast as the title character, and Michelle Goh, in her debut, stars as Bunny, the prostitute he is infatuated with. Being a dim witted noodle seller, he's naturally shy and worships her from afar, as she's one of the regulars at the coffeeshop where his shop is at. Bunny, on the other hand, thinks lowly of the mee pok seller, and in your usual SPG character, goes for the ang-mo Jonathan, some sleazy photographer played by David Brazil.

The storyline's pretty basic, and you might think that at the point when Bunny became a victim of a hit-and-run, that the plot might pick up. Actually it sort of went downhill from there, as the mee pok man carries her injured body off to his home to care for her, to be with her. Alas, you should know what happens without proper medical attention.

Towards the end of the film, it drags with mee pok's man soliloquay, and Bunny didn't have much to do except be there to complete the scene. Somehow with the forced dialogue, it lengthened a scene which should have been shortened to improve the pace, which was quite erratic throughout the movie.

In its day, the language might have the audience taken aback, with characters mouthing off profanities in different dialects. But like I mentioned, it probably had made others sit up and notice that perhaps local movies should feature swearing to give it more street cred? Something else which stood out - while featuring many languages in the movie mirrors our multi-racial / multi-language society, having characters converse in different dialects (like the Fortune Teller scene) sometimes doesn't cut it too realistically.

Another point of controversy at its time was the nudity, or perceived nudity. The opening credits had still shots of a boob, butt and the female pubic region. You might wonder if it's necessary actually - doesn't really serve any purpose or facilitate the plot. Or the fact that Jonathan shoots nude photos. Given today, it'll probably be glossed over without much thought, and given an NC-16 rating.

Characterisation called for attention, as the main characters Bunny and Mee Pok man didn't really have much of a motive, the former seeking inner peace and to leave Singapore, the latter just wanting to be with her until the morbid end. Other characters, like Lim Kay Tong's Mike Kor the Pimp, was stereotyped, as are many of the minor characters in the movie. Cameos were plenty too, like X'Ho, Djinn, S.M.Ong etc.

But I still reckon it's a pretty decent first effort, and marked improvement can already be seen in 12 Storeys. While awaiting eagerly for Eric Khoo's latest offering Be With Me, this movie would allow you to appreciate how much things had changed for the better.

More than 10 years after Mee Pok Man, I would have another cameo in Phua Chu Kang The Movie, but that's another story.

EARLIER: The last time I met Eric Khoo

Sunday 22 November 2015

My French connection & was Baey Yam Keng wrong to post Eiffel Tower photo?

Blame it on my bae.

Okay, technically, Mr Baey Yam Keng is not “my” bae since he is an MP for Tampines GRC and I live in Yew Tee.

And I’m not so cray cray as to call someone my “bae” just because I went on one date with him a few months ago. Okay, it wasn’t really a date but a romantic run around Marina Baey, I mean Bae, I mean Bay. Why am I blushing?

A photo posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

Uh, what was I talking about?

Oh yah, blame it on Mr Baey.

As a tribute to Paris after the Nov 13 terror attacks, I had intended today’s column to be about my visit to the city in 2000.

A photo posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

In the French capital for only a day, I made the mistake of choosing to walk from the Arc de Triomphe to the Musée du Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.

Strolling along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, I understood why Paris had been called one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But the walk took so long that by the time I reached the museum, it was closed for the day.

So no Mona Lisa for me.

My consolation is that I would later read about Leonardo DiCaprio’s famous painting in The Da Vinci Code. Who knew the star of Titanic and Inception could paint too.

That was just a tantalising taste of what this column could’ve been if not for Mr Baey.

Last Sunday, in his tribute to Paris, Mr Baey posted online a photo of himself next to the Eiffel Tower with the caption:
I was in Paris in May as part of President Tony Tan's state visit delegation. It is such a beautiful city with a rich culture.

The recent multiple attacks by gunmen and perpetrators with explosives resulted in many innocent lives lost. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones.

Such planned acts are mindless but very real. This is a common security challenge that many countries, including Singapore, face in the world today. There is a need for constant vigilance and no place for complacency.

Which all seems pretty innocuous until website called out the photo for looking like it had been Photoshopped.

This led to an online backlash against Mr Baey with jokers (like myself) Photoshopping him into photos of other famous international landmarks.

Two years ago, another website, New Nation, had alleged that a newspaper photo showing some errant cyclists on the road had been Photoshopped.

The website later apologised after The New Paper photographer proved that the photo was real.

The people behind New Nation went on to create and are now alleging that Mr Baey’s photo is Photoshopped.

The MP has since posted another photo of him next to the Eiffel Tower to show that the first photo was real, but so far, no apology seems forthcoming.

To call the Sultan of Selfies vain and narcissistic is one thing, but to accuse Mr Baey of deceitfully inserting himself into the photo in the context of such a horrific tragedy is to suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth suffers from a pathological condition far more disturbing than mere vainglory.

I do, however, concede that photo looks awfully like it was Photoshopped even if it wasn’t.

But the controversy has also evolved such that it’s no longer just about whether the photo is real.

Even if it wasn’t Photoshopped, was it appropriate for Mr Baey to post the photo in the first place?

Why did he have to make the Paris tragedy about himself?

The former public relations company director appears to agree with the naysayers as he later posted yet another photo of the Eiffel Tower — but this time without him in it.

The last photo I posted had attracted much attention. I regret that it has distracted the message on the global challenges we face today. Besides the utter senselessness and disregard for humanity, the attacks meant something more to me as I was just in Paris six months ago. I had wanted to provide a personal connection to my thoughts beyond text and decided to re-post a photo I uploaded then. The photo was taken with a timer when I was having a rest during my morning run and I was able to chance upon this interesting perspective with the Eiffel Tower. I appreciate the frank comments by many and I do respect the views expressed. On hindsight, I could have been more mindful about the choice of photo. I would also like to thank those who gave me words of encouragement, both in public and private messages. I have chosen to be active on social media as it helps me connect with people and learn from others. This is an on-going journey that I am committed to. Thank you for your understanding and support.
A photo posted by Baey Yam Keng 马炎庆 (@baeyyamkeng) on

Knowing how much he likes posting pictures of himself, I imagine doing that must have gone against every instinct in his lean body.

But it may still be not enough.

Why just a photo of the Eiffel Tower?

Why not also a photo of the Nejmeh Square clock tower in Beirut, where many were killed in a terror attack just a day before the Paris attacks?

Is not having been there a good enough reason?

Should I feel guilty about using a French flag overlay on my Facebook profile picture and not a Lebanese flag?

Well, Ms Ho Ching (that’s right, the Prime Minister’s wife) says no.

On her Facebook page, she wrote:
Millions and tens of millions of people from around the world have been to Paris, and love the time they spent there - the sunny serenity, the history, the food, the people, the culture, the cafe and the walk around.

Many millions around the world would have friends or people they know working or living in Paris.

And so it is natural that they are shocked by the terrorist attacks - it is a city where they have had wonderful memories, or have friends or colleagues, and may have visited repeatedly for work or leisure.

Many millions more would be tracking their loved ones, friends and colleagues, who may be there, or going there.

So it is natural that phone lines, emails and social media lit up as people around the world would try to check immediately if their families, friends or colleagues may be in Paris or they are safe in Paris.

Much much fewer visitors have been to Lebanon, or for that matter, to Ankara in Turkey, Urumqi in China, or Nigeria, so fewer people have memories of these places or people. At any one time, the number of visitors would be several orders of magnitude less with fewer dots to connect to the rest of the world.

Hence, news of terrorist attacks there don't evoke the same sense of shock or personal responses.

So even as we say our prayers for the victims of senseless killings, or pause to send our condolences to the families of the victims of terrorist murderers, we must know this is not about whether Parisien lives are worth more than others.

Still, to be safe, I’ve added the gay pride rainbow filter to the French flag on my Facebook photo, so I now have an exceptionally colourful profile picture.

And because I’m so afraid to get whacked like Mr Baey, this column is no longer about my poorly planned trip to Paris 15 years ago.

Instead of blaming him, perhaps I should thank him for saving me from myself. I wonder what kind of flowers he would like.

It’s sad that instead of condemning the killings, we seem more interested in condemning each other for how we respond to the killings.

In a way, we have indeed let the terrorists win.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 November 2015

Sunday 15 November 2015

O is for 'over': Giving O levels the finger

Dear fellow parents of students taking O levels this year,

High five!

It’s over. It’s finally over.

I can’t feel my face after the last paper on Friday, but I love it.

But I love it.

We should go to Zouk before it moves to Clarke Quay, get drunk and vomit on the toilet aunty to celebrate.

And I know she’ll be the death of me. At least we’ll both be numb.

Of course, the O levels weren’t just stressful for us parents. The kids did their part too.

They were the ones who actually had to take the exam, the poor things.

We just had to pay for their private tuition.

For all the money I spent on my children’s tuition, I could almost afford an Uber ride during surge pricing.


My son took his O levels two years ago. This year, it’s my daughter’s turn.

But it’s worth it.

I mean, sending them for tuition is better than doing nothing, right?

It’s for the kids. For their future.

So what if it meant making their present hell?

As if their kiasu schools weren’t sucking the soul out of them enough by giving them so much homework, we kiasu parents were vacuuming whatever soul they have left by making them go for tuition as well.

But the stress is only temporary.

The O level results will be forever.

At what cost, though? (Apart from the private tuition fees.)

My daughter is possibly more relieved than I am that the deed is done for better or for worse — although “relieved” may not be the right word.

She said that after taking her last paper, she and her friends walked out of their school and pointed their middle finger at it.

I don’t know where she learned such a rude gesture.

She certainly didn’t learn it from me since I have never given anyone the finger in my life.

I give only the thumbs up.

And the Vulcan “live long and prosper” salute from Star Trek.

And maybe throw the occasional horns as tribute to the late great Ronnie James Dio, lead singer of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio.

But never the middle finger.

So I can’t say I approve of such behaviour from my daughter, but I can empathise.

I hated school at her age too.

The thing is, I don’t think it even matters what school it is.

Remember four years ago when we were so stressed about PSLE?

All that because we want our kids get into the best secondary school possible.

My daughter actually got into her first-choice school.

Now, four years later, she’s giving that first-choice school the finger.

Honestly, why did we even bother?

Same with the O levels — they are just to help you get into a junior college or polytechnic.

My guess is that if my daughter ends up in either one of those, in a couple of years or so, she’ll probably give that institution the finger too.

What I’ve come to realise is that the real reason we try to get our children into the best school is not so much to give them the best education, but to ensure that they have higher-calibre friends.

Hopefully, friends who don’t teach them to flip the bird since, as I’ve established earlier, my daughter certainly didn’t learn it from me.

On the one hand, the finger my daughter gave her school could be seen as an indictment of our whole education system and the damage it does to our children.

On the other hand, it’s also like Daniel Craig saying he’d rather “slash his wrist” than do another James Bond movie after Spectre.

They just needed to blow off some steam, but when the time comes, I trust they’ll do the right thing.

In Craig’s case, it’s playing 007 again.

In my daughter’s case, it’s A levels.

Or else.

Speaking of which, my son still has more than a week to go for his A-level exams.

So, dear parents of students taking A levels now, you can expect another invitation from me to go puke on the Zouk toilet aunty soon.

She told me: “Don’t worry about it.”

She told me: “Don’t worry no more.”

- Published in The New Paper, 15 November 2015