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