Sunday 26 February 2017

Marina Run: I wanna banana

Yesterday's Marina Run was my first night race.

It was nice not to have to wake up early before dawn to get to the starting line for once.

The 21km flag-off was 7pm, but I was in the second wave which started 16 minutes later.

Because of the pain I have been feeling in my left leg for the past few weeks, I started the half marathon as slowly as I could.

By the time I reached East Coast Park, I was going faster than I should. It was still early in the race and I knew I would pay for it later, but I couldn't help myself.

As anticipated, I pretty much ran out of steam even before reaching East Coast U-turn around the half-way mark.

Then someone gave me a banana.

Usually, the banana is handed out at the end of a race. This was the first time I got a banana in the middle of a race.

Hey, who am I to look a gift banana in the mouth?

Even though it went against my rule of never eating and drinking on the run, I just can't say no to free food.

I hoped the banana would give me an energy boost for the rest of the race, but I think it just slowed me down even more.

It got kinda eerie to be so far behind on a deserted road with only a few other runners late at night.

I regretted not being in the first wave. I really didn't want to be last for this race.

In contrast, later on, runners had to share a narrow path with runners going the opposite direction (because of another U-turn) plus cyclists, e-scooters, skateboarders and what have you to dodge.

As usual, the last 5km were the hardest.

At least, unlike in a morning race where slower runners like me have to deal with increasing heat as the sun rises, a night race is cool throughout. Well, unless you take more than 12 hours to finish a race.

I finally crossed the finish line in just over three hours. My worst half marathon time.

But I was surprised my left leg didn't hurt. That is, apart from the pain I usually get after a long run.

I consider that a win.

I have five more races this year to improve my half marathon time.

Usually after a morning race, the atmosphere at the event area is like the party is just getting started. But in this case, the party was over and the volunteers were packing up to go home.

Granted, it was almost 10:30pm by then. Still, it was a bit of a let-down after all you went through to get to the finish line.

I was half-expecting to get another banana or other food at the end of the race, but alas, no such luck. This wasn't the Newton Challenge.

I overheard another runner asking for a banana after the race too.

I suppose one banana a night is enough.

EARLIER: My year of halves (except Star Wars Run)

Friday 24 February 2017

My year of halves (except Star Wars Run)

I made a New Year's resolution not to join any more 10km races.

I broke that resolution two weeks ago when I signed up for the 10km Star Wars Run.

Because Star Wars.

But all my other races this year are half marathons.

I have already signed up for more 21km races this year than I've run my entire life.

I avoided half marathons in the past and joined mostly 10km races because running 21km was just too hard. Forget about full marathons.

My two Army Half Marathons were miserable experiences. But I enjoyed the Newton Challenge last year and decided to run only half marathons from then on.

I wanted to break out of my comfort zone as I was getting bored with 10km races.

2017 will be my year of halves (except for the Star Wars Run):
Tomorrow night's Marina Run will be my first race of the year.

Just my bad luck, for the past few weeks, I've been struggling with persistant pain in my left knee and upper left leg in addition to my now permanent left heel pain due to plantar fasciitis. So I haven't been training as much as I should.

I will be happy if I could just finish tomorrow night's race in under three hours and not too much agony.

I hope it won't be like this for the rest of the year or my year of halves is going to suck.

Like my two Army Half Marathons.

May the Singapore Armed Forces be with me.

UPDATE: Marina Run: I wanna banana

Monday 20 February 2017

Syonan Gallery: Naming stuff is hard

Has this ever happened to anyone else?

I once told a taxi driver I wanted to go Marina Square and was driven to Novena Square instead.

I was nonplussed.

“You said Novena Square, right?” he said.

Did I?

That was when I realised how similar “Marina Square” sounds to “Novena Square”.

For a split-second, I half-considered getting out of the taxi and taking the train from Novena station just to avoid the awkwardness.

I felt foolish. And I was about to make the cabbie feel foolish too.

“No, Marina Square,” I said.

The driver was not having a good day.

“Aiyah, next time can say properly or not?”

So the cabbie very resentfully drove me to Marina Square while I sat in mortified silence.

Yah, I definitely should've taken the MRT instead.

You know who I blame for this? Whoever decided there would be a place in Singapore called Novena Square when there's already a place called Marina Square.

Why are we so bad at naming stuff?

Yes, that taxi anecdote was just my roundabout way (literally) to get to the topic of Syonan Gallery.

The name of the permanent World War II exhibition at the Former Ford Factory museum was criticised, you know, because Japanese Occupation.

It is roughly the same reason my father refused to buy a Japanese car. We had a Volkswagen and then a Ford. I doubt he had ever eaten sushi. He’s dead now. I’m not sure how he would feel about Pokemon Go or Syonan Gallery.

On Wednesday at the exhibition’s opening, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim defended Syonan Gallery, saying the naming did not express approval of the Japanese Occupation.

He said:
“Some among older Singaporeans who lived through that dark period feel that the name legitimises the Occupation. Others among them say that Syonan was a painful fact of history, and we should call it what it was.”

But two days later, the name was gone.

Dr Yaacob said:
“I have reflected deeply on what I heard. We must honour and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation.

“I have therefore decided to remove the words ‘Syonan Gallery’ from the name of the exhibition, and name it Surviving The Japanese Occupation: War And Its Legacies.”
He also apologised “for the pain the name has caused”.

So sayonara, Syonan Gallery, we hardly knew ya.

Also this month, it was reported that Changi Naval Base will be renamed “RSS Singapura — Changi Naval Base” to help commemorate the Republic of Singapore Navy’s 50th birthday this year.

Apparently, our navy is going through some sort of mid-life crisis.

Can't it just buy a sports car and have an affair like everyone else?

The backstory is that RSS Singapura is the name of one of our navy’s first ships half a century ago.

At least one person has written to The Straits Times to complain about the naval base’s waterlogged new name.

Dr Sunny Goh wrote:
“Most people — visitors and taxi drivers included — will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.”
Yah, Singaporeans already have enough trouble deciding whether to say Espla-naid or Espla-nard.

Dr Goh also pointed out that the abbreviation of the new name, RSSSCNB, is “unwieldy”.

I would add that at first glance, it appears vaguely vulgar too.

(KNNBCCB, anyone?)

Remember the uproar over Eunoia Junior College?

It may annoy ya to know that’s it’s still Eunoia JC.

Remember the outrage over 1 Sengkang Mall?

The name has since been dropped despite it having nothing to do with the Japanese Occupation and the mall is now Compass One.

And yet people are okay with Tampines, the spelling of which is so close to tampons but it’s pronounced Tam-penis.

That’s wrong on so many levels.

Is the problem the names or is it sometimes our overreaction to the names?

Whatever happened to sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never cause me to go on a social media rant?

Just remember, the next time you tell the taxi driver you want to go to Marina Square, enunciate.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 February 2017

Dear Sir,

I read your article with interest as you can imagine, how confusing it can be to direct taxi operators (when I visit Singapore) to the Singapore Institute of Management, which did not work. I then went through a few permutations of "SIM" or S-I-M and in some instances, giving the actual address.

Now, I found that with the more experienced (not older) drivers, telling them about "chee-pow-kai" or the Union Farm Chicken Eating House also works in getting me to SIM.

I can identify with Dr. Sunny Goh's comments which were refuted by accusations that Dr. Goh was "ignorant" of Singapore Navy history. To be honest, visitors wouldn't care. Nonetheless, I suppose in terms of international visitors, only locals would call upon RSS Singapura Changi Naval Base.

Dr. Sunny Goh's comments were pragmatic, and should not be taken as being disrespectful nor ignorant or history.

Singaporeans seem to have a fun, perhaps cynical streak, and it is bemusing to see that taxi drivers now accept the "Durian" as accurate instructions for the Esplanade.

To the chagrin of the naval traditionalists, perhaps one day taxi drivers will be confused over the old "Rasa Singapura" food centre which will be a manifestation of a Singaporean style tension between food history and naval tradition.

Best wishes,

Friday 17 February 2017

Friday flashback: 10 years ago, Phua Chu Kang ended (and then it didn't)

It started with a lion dance because Chinese New Year was a week away.

And, you know, because it was so fittingly cheenah.

The series finale of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd aired on Channel 5 on Feb 11, 2007.

This month is the 10th anniversary of that last episode.

I was executive producer of the eighth and final season of the show. I wrote a few of the episodes too. (I was also involved in seasons two and three.)

When I die, my orbituary will likely say I was a "former executive producer of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd". has already described me as such in a recent article.

Admittedly, the TV series was probably the most impactful thing I worked on in my career. I've spent the last 10 years doing little of note except waiting to write this blog post.

Producing that last episode was tricky. Although the show was ending, we knew it wasn't the end of the Phua Chu Kang character(s). We knew we couldn't, say, kill him off. Or have PCK and Rosie get a divorce.

A status quo had to be preserved to allow the possibility of PCK returning in some future form if need be.

This was before we knew anything about the Malaysian series or the movie or the webisodes.

For the final two episodes, I brought back Ah Ma, played by Neo Swee Lin, who was in seasons one to four, to complete the circle.

I wasn't around when Neo left the show, but from I was told, it wasn't on good terms.

Of course, I had to also bring back her husband, Lim Kay Siu, to play PCK's arch enemy Frankie Foo (albeit without a leg) for that last episode.

I got the idea for the show-within-a-show from the series finale of the US sitcom Cheers, which I saw in America in 1993.

For the PCK series finale, I got Adrian Pang to host the show framing the last PCK episode and interview the cast at the end.

The episode itself wasn't a particularly good one. It tried to do too much and was too big and unwieldy.

But overall, I was happy with that final season of PCK. It ended the series on a good enough note that there was a demand for a sequel, which was produced two years later in Malaysia, called Phua Chu Kang Sdn Bhd.

The show aired in Malaysia first, then in Singapore. PCK is apparently more popular in Malaysia than in his country of origin.

Along with returning stars Gurmit Singh and Irene Ang, the new series also starred Malaysian Harith Iskander, the comedian who was named World's Funniest Person last year (but not for PCK Sdn Bhd).

Then came Phua Chu Kang The Movie (2010), which I was involved in and didn't turn out so well. I have yet to see it and frankly, I don't want to because I didn't have much creative control over it. While the script I wrote wasn't that great to begin with, it was made worse by trying to turn it into a Jack Neo movie, which was all the production company knew how to do.

Like PCK Sdn Bhd, the movie was set and filmed in Malaysia to cut cost.

Over the years, I have observed the ebb and flow of the popularity of PCK.

I first knew about Phua Chu Kang when he was just a recurring character in Gurmit's World in 1995 after I heard some kid say "Use your blain, use your blain!"

The first season of PCK Pte Ltd was like a breath of fresh Beng air amid the proper English-speeaking Under One Roof and Three Rooms.

Then second season reached a new ratings high with an episode I wrote called Bloodline.

Then came the Singlish backlash with then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's 1999 National Day Rally speech.

Season three's ratings sufferred because people believed the show wasn't as good anymore after PCK attended BEST English classes.

But the 2000 President Star Charity featuring the first PCK musical was well-received.

So was the timely 2003 PCK Sar-Vivor rap.

But the 2005 stage musical at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was not.

In 2006, I was asked to be executive producer of PCK's final season because the brand was so damaged, nobody else wanted the job.

I helped rehabilitate the brand enough that people wanted to make the Malaysian series and the movie.

And then I helped kill the PCK brand again by writing the 2010 movie, which was about as poorly received as the 2005 stage musical.

But the PCK character remained iconic enough to join Madame Tussauds Singapore in 2014.

In the same year, Mediacorp's Toggle also started streaming the 10-part online series, PCK Walkabout.

Yes, as long as Gurmit lives, Phua Chu Kang will never die.

Even though the original TV series ended a decade ago.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

AVA versus PM Lee in Year of the Cock: Bird flu or lovebirds?

Yes, we're still talking about chickens.

So Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted this picture of chickens for Valentine's Day, writing:

"It’s quite the romantic period, with Chap Goh Mei and Valentine’s Day just a few days apart.

Thought this photo of a pair of lovebirds especially fitting this rooster year."

Unfortunately, this comes a day after Today newspaper published a letter from Agri-food & Veterinary Authority director-general Yap Him Hoo, which said:

Various media reports may have given the impression that the AVA is taking action solely because of complaints about noise.

But that is not the case. Our concern is not about noise but about public health and safety.

The noise issues only serve to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chickens in certain areas, which in turn raise 
the risk of exposure to bird flu in these localities.

So one day, the chickens are potential carriers of disease to be culled.

The next day, they are "lovebirds".

In just 24 hours, the poor birds have been both vilified and romanticised by our Government.

It's like KFC's heart-shaped Chizza for Valentine's Day.

On one hand, it's supposed to represent love. On the other hand, it's also dead chicken meat.

Way to mash up Valentine's Day, chicken culling and Year of the Cock.

EARLIER: In defence of the KFC Chizza (sorta)

Monday 13 February 2017

See Nat Ho, Vernetta Lopez & other S'poreans audition for Crazy Rich Asians

If you don't know, Crazy Rich Asians is a bestseller by Singapore-born Kevin Kwan. I haven't read the book myself.

It is being turned into a movie directed by Jon M Chu, who directed Now You See Me 2.

Last month, the director posted a video asking Asian talents to post a video with the hastag #CrazyRichaAianscasting to be part of the movie, "whether you're in Thailand, Singapore, Phillipines..."

And quite a few Singaporeans have done just that, including Nat Ho and Vernetta Lopez.

I'm just kinda of amazed by the number Singaporeans with angmoh accents. It's not just Amos Yee and Joseph Schooling.

Yeah, there's plenty more where these come from.

Saturday 11 February 2017

In defence of the KFC Chizza (sorta)

For the first time, I ordered something at KFC and it was sold out.

I had to return the next day to get my Chizza. Even then, I had to wait 12 minutes to get my order.

What's better than a Chizza?

Two Chizzas!

Admittedly, after the initial excitement, some poeple have been disappointed by the actual thing.

But you have to credit KFC for creating the excitement in the first place. KFC did this before when it brought the Zinger Double Down here.

Sure, the Chizza may not look like in the picture, but neither does the Big Mac.

Although Singapore is not the first country to have the Chizza, it's such big news that its even reported overseas.

It was even mentioned on a US talk show.

What I did was put the Chizza between two slices of bread and made the Chizza Sandwich.

Yes, I hacked the Chizza.

It was fun to try the Chizza once, but I doubt I would order it again.

Thanks, KFC, for making the Year of the Chicken great again.

EARLIER: How 'Max' is the new KFC Zinger Double Down Max?

Monday 6 February 2017

America first... but can we just say Singapore second? Please, Mr Trump?

Dear President Donald Trump,

Greetings from Singapore.

We’re not part of China even though we have literally millions of Chinese people here. I know it can be confusing.

Please don’t start a trade war with us.

Or at least don’t start a trade war with us because you think we’re part of China.

We have our own issues with China. (Cough, Terrex, cough.)

Remember? You mentioned us in a campaign speech last year when you said: “Baxter Health Care laid off 199 workers and moved their jobs to Singapore.”

That’s right. We’re the bad dudes who stole American jobs.

But then you withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we wanted very badly. So let’s call it even on that front.

In your inauguration speech last month, you said: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”

It was tremendous. The best inauguration speech ever with the hugest inauguration crowd ever. Period.

But if America is first, which country is second?

The Dutch were the first to throw their funny pointy hat in the ring by producing a viral video that proposed “America first, the Netherlands second”.

Of course, having lost three World Cup finals, the Dutch are experts at coming in second. (I’m talking about soccer, a sport played by girls in your country.)

Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Lithuania have since released their own videos and apparently, there’s now an international online competition called Who Wants To Be Second.

But why are only European countries in the competition?

That’s racist and I know you’re the least racist person I would ever meet. It’s true.

I want to make the case for “America first, Singapore second”.

We’re okay with not being first because we have a political party that calls itself Singaporeans First, believing that Singaporeans would vote for that. Wrong! The party did not win anything in the last election. Sad!

Almost as sad as the Democrats in your country. Losers!

While protesters demonstrated against you and your travel ban last week around the world, including in Indonesia and the Philippines, Singaporeans were more upset about something else — chickens.

Yes, chickens.

Last week, our Government was pecked by animal lovers for its decision to cull non-headless chickens running wild in our country.

They’re like our Mexicans. They’re noisy and some, I assume, are good chickens.

The timing is also rather insensitive as it’s the Year of the Chicken.

Are we going to cull stray puppies next year when it’s the Year of the Dog?

It could be our new annual tradition, culling the animal that it’s the year of.

2024 is the Year of the Dragon? No problem. If we can’t find Komodo dragons, monitor lizards will do. Just grab them by the tail.

A video posted by SM Ong ( on

By the way, some people may insist on calling it the Year of the Rooster, not the Year of the Chicken, but I think that’s sexist. That’s just talking cock on so many levels.

No other animal in the Chinese zodiac is gender-specific. It’s discrimination.

Like you, I love all women, even hens. It’s true.

Hmmm, I wonder what happened to the culled chickens.

Coincidentally, I read that KFC is bringing the chizza — a pizza with the crust made of fried chicken — to Singapore this week.

My feathers will be ruffled and I will cry fowl if that turns out to be fake news.

I believe you can also eat the chizza with a knife and fork, which I know is how you like to eat your KFC to avoid getting your small hands dirty.

Thanks, KFC, for making the Year of the Chicken great again.

It’s knife and fork-lickin' good!

Speaking of KFC, if you should meet our own president, don’t call him Colonel. He is not in the military.

I understand you also like pussies cats.

We have the Merlion, which is half cat (a lion) and half fish, although for you, the cat part may be at the wrong end.

If you want, we could have our Merlion statue spray water on you. But only water.

You like golden, uh, stuff? We have Golden Mile.

We call it Golden Mile and not Golden Kilometre because we know how you Americans hate the metric system.

You have Trump Tower. We have Orchard Towers, the best towers in Singapore. Believe me. No alternative facts here.

I am sure you will be peed, I mean, pleased.

You like walls. We have Wall’s ice cream (which is actually a UK brand, but hey, Brexit).

Incidentally, the Singaporeans First party also has the same logo as Wall’s ice cream. And like ice cream, the party appears to have melted away.

So we totally understand that it’s going to be America first, but can we just say, Singapore second?

If you could sign an executive order to make it so, you would be the best US president in Singapore and JB.

And some say Batam.

You can rub that in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s low-rated face.

God bless America!

- Published in The New Paper, 6 February 2017