Sunday 29 October 2017

Newton Challenge half marathon: Deja vu (and free food) all over again

Last year's Newton Challenge was my most enjoyable half marathon.

This year, just about everything is the same with a couple of notable exceptions,

What's the same:
  • It was held on the last Sunday of October.
  • The race singlet looks pretty much the same with minor tweaks.
  • The event area is at Marina Barrage.
  • The route is very similar with much of the first half at East Coast Park, then running around Marina East before running past Gardens By The Bay and Marina Bay Sands to the U-turn near the Promontory.
  • Even the stupid incline at the 16km mark is back despite runners (like me) bitching about it last year.

  • My favorite part of the race: free food after the race

What's not the same:
  • 10km category is introduced.
  • Instead of black, the finisher's polo is now dark blue to match the race singlet. Nice.

  • This is a big one: no pacers.
Last year, the pacers helped me achieve my personal best official half marathon time of 2 hours 40 minutes.

This morning, my time was 2 hours 53 minutes, not that pacers would've made a difference.

Having barely recovered from my recurring Achilles tendinitis, I have been holding back on my training for fear of the pain coming back.

I'm just glad I made it under three hours.

In the box are pineapple rice and a springroll. I regret getting the vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate, but free food is free food.

DAY-AFTER UPDATE: My Achilles tendinitis came back again.

EARLIER: Taking the shorter Newton Challenge

Saturday 28 October 2017

I am (was?) one of The Middle Ground's 215 patrons: Can I still get my umbrella?

When The Middle Ground announced that it was calling it quits, I was taken aback. Was it my fault? If only I had attended its event last night. But I had to work.

I have been a "patron" of TMG since January after it launched its Patreon fundraising campaign.

I could have just pledged US$10 per month to get the umbrella.

But I didn't want to appear to be supporting TMG just for the umbrella, so I leveled up to US$25 per month instead.

Besides the umbrella, the rewards of being a US$25-per-month patron are:
  • We will write your name on our office wall and let everyone know that we've got you to thank for what we are able to do!
  • Invitation to TMG forums and focus groups
  • Inside stories - how TMG staff covered key news events
  • Regular (quarterly) reports on how TMG spends the funds it raises
  • Early access to TMG videos
  • Patron-only polls
  • Sustainable, independent journalism

The highest level is US$100 per month, where the rewards include all of the above, plus:
What else can we offer? Drop us a line and swing by our office any time - coffee's on us, and we'll let you in on what we're up to.

I could have had the umbrella sent to me, but I opted to pick it up myself because I wanted to see what The Middle Ground office looks like and look for my name on the wall.

But the office is in some out-of-the-way place at Commonwealth Drive (near my old secondary school, New Town), so I never got around to picking up my umbrella.

Then two weeks ago, I received an invitation to "an exclusive backers-only event".

I figured I could go and get my umbrella at the same time, but suay suay, the event was last night when I had to work.

So I missed the event and now TMG is shutting down.


Publisher Daniel Yap wrote:
We have just over 200 patrons on the platform, contributing about $3,000 each month, and the choices we made meant that we were not as attractive as other platforms when it came to sheer traffic and viral content – the lifeblood of ad campaigns. Unfortunately, the overheads for a solid news editorial team run into the tens of thousands, and TMG wasn’t an operation we could sustain long term, not without departing from the core values that we hold dear.
So it seems times are tough for journalistic enterprises both big (like SPH and Today) and small (like TMG).

Mr Yap added:
This process of winding down TMG will take between one and three months, because of some of the obligations we have to our clients and suppliers. These will have to be negotiated, but we commit to publishing what we can while we fulfil our obligations. We will cancel our TMG Patreon campaign effective Nov 15, 2017.
So I'll have US$25 more to spend on shoes after next month.

The Middle Ground is, of course, the second successive website editor Bertha Henson is shutting down after The Breakfast Network in 2013.

I guess she still has her blog, Bertha Harian, which was always more interesting anyway.

But I still don't have my umbrella.


That escalated quickly: Bertha Henson's new website gets MDA's attention

Inconvenient Questions shuts down

Monday 23 October 2017

Blamed for MRT's problems? Join the club

Dear SMRT anti-flood system maintenance team,

Welcome to the club.

The construction of our new clubhouse will start very soon at Stevens Road. I promise.

I believe you may already know some of the other members — track fault, power fault, aluminium foil balloon, new signalling system, deep-seated cultural issues and, of course, life.

It’s a rather exclusive club.

Not like Safra where anyone who did national service gets a free one-year membership just because it’s NS50.

To become a member of our club, you have to be blamed for MRT’s woes.

As part of the media, I received my embossed membership card three months ago after Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan called out the media for “magnifying” the problems caused by the testing of the new signalling system.

He said: “Even our main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on, you know. Glamorous, you know, frightening figures.”

The figures were frightening, yes, but glamorous?

Were the figures parading down the red carpet wearing Alexander McQueen?

It was Valentino knock-off at best.

Mr Khaw also said the media “were being unfair to the team working their guts out on this re-signalling project”.

Your guts must be intact because your team didn’t get the same support from the minister at last Monday’s press conference.

He said: “The SMRT team in charge of maintaining the anti-flood system at Bishan had failed us.”


He really threw you guys under the bus. Or in this case, under the MRT train.

Unless there’s a service disruption due to ponding in the tunnel.

In which case, you were thrown under the free shuttle bus.

On the other hand, your CEO for five years, Mr Desmond Kuek, blamed the company culture.

He said: “There remain some deep-seated cultural issues within the company that have needed more time than anticipated to root out.”

I wonder if by “deep-seated”, he meant the seat his predecessor, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, sat on, carried by half-naked men like she was a Maori chief (and not an Egyptian queen as it’s widely assumed) in that meme-ready viral photo.

Was that a cultural issue or a cultural appropriation issue?

As a former army general, Mr Kuek is probably more used to his balls being carried by uniformed men.

I’m surprised no one blamed the tunnel ponding on the weather: “It was a Geostorm! Like the movie! Except we didn’t have Gerard Butler to stop it.”

After all, Mr Khaw said the ponding could have been avoided if only it had rained a few days later after the water pumps were replaced as planned.

It was the rain’s fault for showing up too early.

But the minister actually defended the weather over you, saying: “Nothing to do with this extremes of weather. It is just poor maintenance.”

Ouch again.

If it’s any consolation, you weren’t the only ones Mr Khaw blamed for the Oct 7 ponding which led to no train service between Ang Mo Kio and Newton MRT stations for 20 hours, affecting thousands of commuters.

“But I suppose that is life,” he said.

Yes, life was also a scapegoat.

And now a fellow club member.

So don’t feel too badly. You’re in pretty good company, yours truly notwithstanding.

With Saturday’s troubled opening of Downtown Line 3, we’re expecting even more new members.

We’re not just a club. We’re a support group.

Any time you need someone to talk to, just hit me up on Whatsapp.

That’s what I’m here for.

Just remember to wipe off your sweat after using the gym equipment.

That’s not how I like to exchange body fluids.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 October 2017

EARLIER: Khaw-ed by a balloon? MRT breakdowns no enough, so they faked one

Saturday 14 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein's Singapore connection: Forever Fever

Talk about box office gross behaviour.

By now, even non-movie buffs should know who Harvey Weinstein is.

But did you know Weinstein has a Singapore connection?

Back in the late 90s, Singaporean theatre maven Glen Goei made his fiim directorial debut with Forever Fever starring Adrian Pang.

It was the first time I heard of Pang.

Goei financed the film with credit cards. According to a 1999 New York Times report:
Then, through serendipity, someone saw his film in a lab in Sydney and asked if he could take a copy and try to market it at the Cannes Film Festival.

"On the very first day, Harvey Weinstein happened to stumble into a screening and bought the film," Mr. Goei said.

"He called me up. At the time, I didn't know who Harvey Weinstein was."

Mr Goei soon found out, and the check from Miramax helped him pay off his entire credit-card debt.

"It was all quite surreal," he said.

Weinstein was reported to have said: “Forever Fever has heart.”

Goei wrote in 2015:
Harvey Weinstein from Miramax, who later picked up Forever Fever for an international release, said it was the music that allowed him to connect with the film.

Fortunately, screenings in international audience markets ensured a healthy profit for Forever Fever - its local takings would not have come close to breaking even.

The movie grossed over $19 million, making it the first internationally successful Singaporean film.

At one point, the movie's title was changed to Don't Call Me John Travolta. It was eventually released internationally as That's The Way I Like It.

The poster didn't even show anyone from the movie, just random Asians.

Goei recalled: "In its North American release, Forever Fever was dubbed over by American actors because of fears that audiences would not understand the Singaporean actors."

You can hear the American accents in the trailer below:

Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C-.

Miramax reportedly signed Goei to a three-picture deal, which appeared to have lapsed by the time he made his second feature, The Blue Mansion, in 2009.

Goei has yet to release a statement about Weinstein.