Sunday 31 July 2016

Minister says 'ejaculate', thanks to rapey NUS freshman orientation games

Last week, Mrs Hillary Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee for a major party in America.

It was a historic moment. (Or should it be “her-storic”?)

We had a history-making moment of our own in Singapore.

Last week, Mr Ong Ye Kung became the first minister to use the word “ejaculate” in public.

You may quibble that his official designation is Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, so he’s not a full minister (yet), but let’s not deny the man his place in history.

Mr Ong was reacting to a New Paper report about games at freshman orientation camps in the University of Singapore (NUS) becoming increasingly sexualised.

He wrote on Facebook:
“Orientation marks the start of University life...

“Activities can be rigorous, creative, even wild; students may push boundaries.

“But at all times, we must respect human dignity and remember the point and purpose of a University education.

“Pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student plays no part in this purpose – it is a reprehensible act that cannot be tolerated; goading others to act out a rape scene not only degrades the real suffering of rape victims, it inflicts fresh humiliation on female students.”
He was referring to the part in the TNP report about the NUSWhispers Facebook page, which had posts about a cheer that “simulated a group of guys ejaculating on a girl's face”.

Such collective misogyny is reminiscent of the Purple Light episode in 2013.

Remember that song sung by national servicemen? It included the lines:
Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me
The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) was understandably “troubled” when it learnt about this army ditty which was even more rapey than Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines since Purple Light actually had the word “rape” in it.

Aware raised its concerns to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), who said they would “immediately halt” the singing of the offending lyrics.

But was the damage already done? Is it possible that such misogynistic attitude has been carried over by our young men from national service to university?

Or is it because they watch too much Animal House? (Which is unlikely since the movie is nearly twice the age of a typical NUS undergrad.)

Of course, Aware has also raised concerns about the oversexed orientation games in NUS — in 2014.

That was the year when Campus Eye, an online newspaper by NUS students, reported:
“A student who attended a camp organised by Kent Ridge Hall witnessed forfeits such as Seven Wonders, in which two students touch each other as instructed by their peers, and male students doing push-ups over females...

“Psychology Camp organiser Lau Boon Yen described a similarly sexual-themed activity called Secret Pals. ‘They wake the participants up at 3am and blindfold them, and make the girl sit on the guy’s lap,’ Lau said.”
Yes, this is on NUS’s own website — since 2014.

So the 12th-ranked university in the world has been aware (Aware!) of what has been going on for years but still let it continue.

You know how the Immigrations And Checkpoints Authority can “facilitate” the clearance for a minister like Mr Tan Chuan-Jin on a durian trip to JB?

Similarly, Mr Ong may not be a full minister (yet), but since his Facebook post, NUS has suspended all student-organised freshman activities after a video showing someone getting dunked during an orientation camp surfaced.

It looks like a form of water torture akin to waterboarding, which has been euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation”.

Perhaps dunking is just “enhanced orientation”.

But is suspending the entire orientation camp necessary, disappointing many who have worked hard to prepare for the camp?

Is NUS just overcompensating for its own tardiness in taking the problem seriously?

As Mr Ong wrote in his Facebook post:
“I thank the staff and student volunteers for their hard work and the many hours of planning that have gone into the orientation programme. I know that much of it was useful and edifying.

“Let us forswear the parts that were not.”
In other words, NUS, just take out the rapey parts.

Meanwhile, take another bow, Mr Ong.

You may be the first Singapore (acting) minister to use the word “forswear” ever.

I swear.

- Published in The New Paper, 31 July 2016

Sunday 24 July 2016

Please invite me to your wedding, Glenn Ong (I missed your first two)

Dear Glenn Ong,

Congratulations! I just read that you’re finally marrying fellow radio DJ Jean Danker in December.

It’s about time, right? I mean, you have been engaged since 2011 and dating since 2009.

That was like three Ah Boys To Men movies ago. We’ve had four Education Ministers since then.

We’ve had two general elections, two by-elections and one presidential election.

And three MPs have quit because of alleged extra-marital affairs.

Not exactly great advertisement for the institution of marriage.

But then neither are you.

I’m kidding! Who is anyone to judge just because you have been divorced twice and don’t want to make it three in a row?

Still, it was a bit of a shock when you and Jean called off your wedding in 2012.

Back then, she told The New Paper that she had cold feet after a fitting for a bridal magazine photo shoot.

“The gowns were beautiful,” she said. “Then I was like oh-oh, we were jumping the gun. I panicked a bit. I had sweaty palms. The vision that was running through my head was that of the wedding, and it was just too overwhelming.”

Last week, Jean explained to Today newspaper that her mother died soon after you proposed.

She said: “It was hard to plan something happy because you’re always grieving.”

But we didn’t know that back then.

In 2012, you told TNP: “People kept asking us when the wedding date was going to be and there was just so much pressure to deal with.”

You said:
“Many times, I feel like I shouldn't have proposed. It was a way of saying to Jean: ‘Look baby, I love you, you're the only one for me and I'm showing you my commitment.’

“I’m regretting it now. I proposed too soon. I wish I could press the reset button and do it all over again.”
Wow. What a bombshell that was.

After that revelation, my wife wanted to bet with me that you and Jean would break up before any wedding.

My wife is such a cynic. Please forgive her. You know how wives are. You’ve had two of them. And another one akan datang.

Way to prove my wife wrong four years later. Now I wish I had taken that bet.

But you know what you can do to help me really rub it in her face?

Invite me to your wedding!

That will definitely show her.

I didn’t get to go to your previous two weddings. I don’t want to miss another one.

Yes, I know that Jean has told Today that the dinner would be a “relatively small affair” with fewer than 30 tables.

Yes, I know that you and I barely know each other.

Yes, I know that we’ve had maybe just one face-to-face conversation back in the 90s.

But we did make eye contact four months ago at the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.

And in February last year, we had a Twitter fight over whether VR Man was funny which devolved into me correcting you on some Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney lyrics that you misattributed to Lionel Richie.

Hey, it’s easy to confuse Say Say Say with Say You Say Me. After all, you’re just a DJ who makes a living playing music.

Sure, our mini feud was no Taylor Swift versus Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, but we made up and I feel like we have bonded on an existential level since then.

You even tweeted:
“All is cool again between @sm0ng and me. Everyone please continue to buy @thenewpaper and read Act Blur! OK?”
So what if I’ve made fun of your proclivity for marrying fellow DJs n this column you were urging your Twitter followers to read? I did it only four times, right?

Just as people have forgiven you for that time you said, “If you have to put these mad dogs to sleep, then you should,” regarding the mentally ill (for which MediaCorp was fined $4,500 in 2012), I believe you are big-hearted enough to let bygones be bygones.

If nothing else, consider me a good luck charm.

You know why your previous two marriages to Kate Reyes and Jamie Yeo didn’t work out? Because I wasn’t invited to the wedding.

I was invited to Gurmit Singh’s wedding in 1995, and he and his wife Melissa are still happily married after more than two decades.

I was also a guest at Mark Richmond and Vernetta Lopez’s wedding dinner, and see how happily married they are now.

To other people.

I shall patiently await your invitation in the mail.

Yours existentially,
S M Ong

- Publlished in The New Paper, 24 July 2016


Kate, Jamie, Jean – will Glenn Ong run out of colleagues to marry?

Another 'online spat': Glenn Ong versus... me?


I didn't really want to be invited to Glenn Ong's wedding

Sunday 17 July 2016

Here today, Pokémon Gone tomorrow: Digital marketing VP digitally markets himself out of digital marketing job

I once ate 10 Taco Bell tacos in one sitting. It was a rather serious case of the munchies.

That is neither a boast nor a cry for help. I mention this only to illustrate how much I used to like Taco Bell tacos. This was years ago when I was living and studying in America.

Returning to Singapore after graduation, I was hoping to recreate my 10-taco feat but was distraught to find out that my favourite faux Mexican fast food place hadn’t opened here yet.

We had McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut but no Taco Bell? What kind of world were we living in?

There was no social media back then too. If there were, I would’ve probably gone on Facebook and posted something like: “You can’t fucking get tacos in this piece of fucking shit country.”

My guess is Mr Sonny Truyen must have felt as passionately about Pokémon Go as I did about Taco Bell.

That’s the Australian guy who was fired from property portal last week after posting on Facebook: “You can’t fucking catch pokemon in this piece of fucking shit country.”

The unavailability of Pok√©mon Go is probably also the reason that Standard Chartered bank robbery suspect David James Roach, who was arrested in Thailand, doesn’t want to be sent back to Singapore.

Mr Truyen’s job title was vice-president of digital marketing, which is ironic since he essentially digitally marketed himself out of a job.

You would think that someone who described himself as a “battle-tested digital marketer with 10 years’ experience directing marketing and technology teams at global arena” would, you know, be familiar with how the Internet works.

Okay, maybe he hadn’t been in Singapore long enough to have heard of Amy Cheng, Anton Casey or Edz Ello since Mr Truyen wasn’t in the job for more than a week before he was fired.

But as a “battle-tested digital marketer with 10 years’ experience”, surely he must have heard of Justine Sacco.

That’s the US woman who, in 2013, tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!” before turning off her phone and boarding a plane from London to Cape Town.

By the time she landed in South Africa 11 hours later, she was the most hated person on the Internet.

Like Mr Truyen, Ms Sacco was also a senior manager at an Internet company. She was the InterActiveCorp director of communications who communicated her way out of a job.

Both Mr Truyen and Ms Sacco have prompted a debate over whether they deserved the online lynching they got.

Except that Mr Truyen was fired so quickly that the online mob barely had time to gather and do the lynching.

In less than 24 hours of the Pok√©mon post, CEO Darius Cheung apologised for his employee on his company blog and announced that had “terminated” Mr Truyen’s “engagement”.

I guess the wedding is off then.

Usually, when the online mob goes on a rampage, it would demand an apology and/or that someone be fired. By apologising and firing Mr Truyen so swiftly, Mr Cheung robbed the mob of its reason for being.

It happened so fast that website called it a “blink and you miss it” Internet saga.

Conspiracy theorists have even suggested that since Mr Truyen is a search engine optimisation specialist, he intentionally called Singapore a “piece of fucking shit country” just to get to appear higher in Google search results.

Admittedly, before this happened, I thought was the website for a shop where everything is 99 cents.

Appearing contrite, Mr Truyen told website Mashable: “It was disappointing the lengths Singaporeans went at to attack me and deny any chance of making amends for my actions.” asked him what “amends" he had in mind. He said: “I think donating some time and resources to help out some local charities would have been a good start.

I’m not sure how doing charity work makes up for such a social media faux pas, but Mr Truyen is not the only one with that idea.

Remember the aforementioned Anton Casey, the professional rich guy who was run out of the country for making fun of poor people on Facebook two years ago?

Now going by the name “Anthony S Casey”, the Brit is apparently back in Singapore and has created several web pages highlighting his contributions to causes like the Community Chest, Willing Hearts, Autism Research Centre and Action For Aids Singapore.

No update on whether he has managed to wash “the stench of public transport” off himself, though.

Just as Mr Casey asked to be forgiven for his “poor judgment” in 2014, Mr Truyen said it was “a very big error in judgement to negatively label an entire country over Pok√©mon”.

Talk about an understatement.

And ultimately, that’s the most embarrassing thing for Mr Truyen. He wasn’t fired because he was racist or xenophobic. This is a grown-ass man who basically lost his job because of a game.

Hey, you gotta catch ’em all, right?

I know if I were fired over tacos, I would never live it down.

At least Pokémon Go, which has become a worldwide phenomenon, will be released in Singapore eventually.

Taco Bell has already come and gone.

I’ve tried eating 10 kong bak bao in one sitting, but it’s just not the same.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 July 2016

Saturday 16 July 2016

MSIG Action Asia 10km run with my Baey

So I ran into MP and my former running companion Baey Yam Keng at the MSIG Action Asia trail run this morning, Well, not literally ran into him.

He was there to flag off the 10km race. I knew he did the same thing last year, so I wasn't too surprised to see him there.

But I was surprised he recognised me.

It has been more than a year since we ran together and nowadays I wear this stupid-looking bandanna when I run to manage my sweat.

The first thing he said to me at the start line was "I see you stopped writing about me".

Seeing my stunned reaction, he quickly indicated he was joking.

The last time I wrote about him in my column was when he posted a photo of himself with the Eiffel Tower after the Paris terror attacks last November.

It wasn't a very positive article. I would be surprised if he actually wants me to write about him more. So I hope he was kidding.

With so much going on, I didn't get a picture of him flagging us off.

The problem with the 10km route is that in the beginning, it crossed paths with the 50km and 21km routes. So you had to avoid running into the longer distance runners going the opposite way.

While I was running, I suddenly heard someone coming close from behind me.

It was Baey Yam Keng!

He said hi and gleefully overtook me.

So after flagging off the race, he joined the race and still managed to catch up with me. What the hell.

That's him in front of the woman in front of me.

About half way under a bridge, he slowed down to wait for a companion and that was when I finally overtook him for good, I thought.

Of course, I took a selfie to celebrate:

The 6km checkpoint:

It was an interesting and challenging course with a variety of terrain including mud, tall grass and plenty of slopes. Damn slopes.

As I approached the finish line, who did I see trying to overtake me?

Him again!

This time, I wasn't letting him pass me.

Somehow I still had enough energy to sprint to the finish line.

I did it!

I beat Baey Yam Keng!

According the official time, I came in eighth out of 34 in the 10km Men age 50+ category. So I'm in the top 10!

(Mr Baey came in 21st out of 87 in the 10km Men age 40-49 category.)

More importantly, I beat Baey Yam Keng!

CLARIFICATION: Even though I beat Mr Baey to the finish line, he finished the course faster than I did because he started later. His timing was 1 hour 16 minutes 11 seconds. Mine was 1 hour 17 minutes 13 seconds.

EARLIER: 50 shades of Baey: Run to be with him

Monday 11 July 2016

10km Compressport Run: A personal best

I have to admit, the only reason I joined the Compressport Run was to get the free calf sleeves.

So I was surprised I enjoyed the 10km run yesterday as much as I did, more so than the two Performance Series races.

Yes, it was the same old route around Marina Bay again, but I appreciated how the first few hundred metres of the course along Nicoll Highway was wide enough to accomodate the thousands of runners without much congestion.

This wasn't the case for the two Performance Series runs.

I was also surprised when my NikePlus running app told me this was my fastest 10km ever, which made the run even more enjoyable in retrospect.

I don't know whether I had ever run 10km in under an hour before in my life.

But it's nice to know I can still do it after my 50th birthday last month.

I like the free Compressport calf sleeves too.

Kinda disappointed there was no finisher T-shirt though.

Coincidentally, the last time I ran my "fastest 10k ever" was also in my On Cloudster shoes. They are becoming my 10km good luck charm.

Except I had a painful blister on my left ankle yesterday after the run.

I guess I should wear socks the next time.