Thursday 28 June 2018

Remembering Errol Pang: The man who brought Miss Universe here also produced 'Singapore's first full-length English film'

Former Miss Singapore Universe organiser Errol Pang died Monday morning at age 76. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in April.

He was one of the first people I interviewed as a journalist in Singapore after returning from America in 1993.

I was working on my first major magazine feature on the state of the republic's (non-existent) movie industry back then and Pang had produced what was touted as “Singapore’s first full-length English film”, Medium Rare, in 1991.

Local actress Margaret Chan (yet to star in Channel 5’s Masters Of The Sea) was in it. Curiously, she also got a co-writing credit.

The movie was poorly received, but Pang was surprisingly open and good-natured about it. He seemed like someone who was always happy to talk to the press for some publicity.

Since then, I’ve bumped into him once or twice over the decades, although I doubt he remembered me.

But I will always be grateful for his generosity with his time and humour with a youngish magazine writer 25 years ago.

Below are clips of the article from Man Life & Style magazine:

While Medium Rare is mostly forgotten now, its place in Singapore's cinematic history is undeniable, alongside Mee Pok Man and Money No Enough.

And Pang was its progenitor.

Monday 25 June 2018

Undistinguished: Why I would refrain from making fun of anyone's English

English is hard.

Sometimes you write “extinguished” when you mean “distinguished”, or “it’s” when you mean “its”.

Or “South Korean leader Kim Jong Un” when you mean “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un”.

Or you imply that the travel photos on your Instagram are taken by you when they’re not.

Even I make mistakes in this column.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader regarding an article where I spoofed the letter US President Donald Trump wrote to North (not South) Korean leader Kim Jong Un cancelling the June 12 summit.

Remember that? Those were the days.

In the article, I also described how I almost ordered the summit commemorative coin from the White House Gift Shop website.

The reader wrote:
You mentioned that the cost of the coin was US$19.95 and the shipping charge was US$60.50. You further mentioned that the latter was three times more than the former.

Let’s see if that is correct.

If the shipping charge is one time MORE THAN the cost of the coin, it would be $19.95x2=$39.90.

If it is two times MORE, it would be $19.95x3=$59.85.

If it is three times MORE, it would be $19.95x4=$79.80.

The correct way to state the shipping charge as compared to the cost of the coin is as follows: The shipping charge is slightly more than three times the cost of the coin.

So basically, I put the words “more than” in the wrong place.

Just my luck I have a maths and English geek reading my column.

I wrote back to him: “You’re right, of course. In my defence, I was trying to write like Trump.”

The sad thing is that my column is checked by at least four other people before it goes to print, but bloopers still slip through, of course.

Like I said, English is hard.

So I sympathise with the Chinese food court worker who was berated by a self-proclaimed Singaporean for not being able to speak English in the viral video.

Ironically, the day before I saw the video, I sort of had the opposite problem with a non-Chinese food court worker.

This was in the Tangs Market food court in the basement of Tangs in Orchard Road.

My wife wanted me to order for her fishball noodles with the fat yellow noodle, but I didn’t know what to call the fat yellow noodle in English.

In Mandarin, it’s “shou mian”. In Hokkien, it’s “sek mee”.

The only samples the woman taking my order had in front of her were mee pok and mee kia. So I couldn’t even point.

When I said “fat yellow noodle”, she thought I meant mee pok, which is a flat yellow noodle. One letter makes all the difference.

If the noodles were for me, I would’ve accepted the mee pok, having once made a cameo appearance in Eric Khoo's Mee Pok Man, but I was ordering for somebody else.

Eventually, I spoke to the Chinese cook in Mandarin and he immediately understood what I wanted.

But I felt bad that my English wasn’t good enough to communicate with the non-Chinese food court worker.

And I’m a writer!

Despite not knowing how to use “more than” in a sentence.

Which is why I would refrain from mocking anyone making a mistake like not being able to distinguish “distinguished” from “extinguished”.

Let he who is without grammatical sin and does not live in a linguistic glass house cast the the first stone.

Or something like that.

English is hard.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 June 2018

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Hair peace: How I got my commemorative summit Kim Jong Un cut

The last time I cut my hair was in North Korea to look like Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

Because the haircut was so special, I promised myself never cut to my hair again.

That was on 10 April 2016.

In two years, my hair grew so long that I started wearing a bandana to manage it.

My family and co-workers had gotten sick of seeing my long hair and bandana, and told me so.

Even I became so annoyed with my own hair that I wanted to cut it, but a promise is a promise. I am nothing if not a man of my word.

Then the summit happened. One of the unlikeliest events in history and it took place in Singapore.

It was fate giving me an excuse to get a haircut.

I told myself it was okay to break my promise as long as I’m in the same country as the Supreme Leader when I cut my hair.

I mean, what are the odds me being in the same country as Kim without going to North Korea?

And so yesterday, as Rocket Man and the dotard were having their summit on Sentosa, I went to nearby VivoCity to get a haircut at LA Barbershop.

Of course, I asked to look like Supreme Leader Kim again.

I would say that was worth $20 million.

Though the haircut (including wash) cost me personally more than $40.

Now the question is, when will I get another haircut?

I guess I have to wait for the next Singapore summit.

Or go back to North Korea.

If they let me.

EARLIER: I went to North Korea & asked for the Kim Jong Un haircut (and lived)

Monday 11 June 2018

Sorry, guys, about crass commercialisation of US-North Korea peace summit in Singapore

Dear President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,

As Chow Yun Fat once said, welcome to Singapore.

But don’t expect to see the star of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End here, though.

And on behalf of Singapore, I apologise.

You picked our country in good faith to host your historic peace summit tomorrow and we have allowed it to devolve into a crass commercial opportunity for local F&B outlets, foreign impersonators and the Singapore Mint.

And not even the cool, refreshing kind of mint. But the coin!

And not even the fun chocolate coin you can eat. But made of metal!

Gold, silver or nickel-plated zinc. I preordered the zinc because it’s the cheapest ($36).

But I refuse to order the KFC Four Peace Meal because KFC didn’t even bother to concoct a new American-Korean fusion flavour of chicken.

All KFC created was the pun.

Come, I clap for you, KFC.

Even worse, I found out that the KFC Four Peace meal offer is meant only for you two world leaders. An ordinary citizen like me can’t order it if I wanted to. So RI aren’t the only initials that are elitist. KFC too!

We all know how much Mr Trump loves his fried chicken, though apparently not as much as the naked guy loves the chicken in the drawing by artist Vincent Leow that has since been removed from display at the Esplanade.

At least KFC did something for the summit.

Both of you must be disappointed that McDonald’s didn’t create a Happy Summit Meal as Mr Trump is a well-known McDonald’s fan and it was once reported that Mr Kim is more likely to allow a McDonald’s in Pyongyang than give up the nukes.

All McDonald’s did was bring back McGriddles with a promotion involving some obscure Russian event called the World Cup.

But I have an idea to make up for everything.

I read that there was an issue of how the accommodations of the North Korean delegation in Singapore will be paid for.

I also read that two foreigners impersonating you esteemed gentlemen have exploited the hype around the summit by coming here and charging $15 to take a photo with them.

If impersonators can charge $15, imagine how much you can charge since you guys are the real deal.

At least twice as much. Maybe more!

Plus extra for a wefie with Dennis Rodman.

That should take care of the hotel bill.

If not, ask Elon Musk.

The billionaire Tesla CEO should have some spare change after paying the premium to read The Straits Times open letter to him online.

Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the summit will cost Singapore about $20 million, but it’s worth it.

Too bad our teachers still have to pay for school parking.

By the way, since you’re meeting on Sentosa, you should check out the new Jurassic World live show at Universal Studios afterwards.

Just to warn you though, it’s the June school holiday now and Sentosa may be a little crowded, not “secluded” as the the Fox News headline says. Fake news!

I know someone who works at Universal Studios and may be able to get you in free (or at a discount).

Consider it my humble contribution to the peace process.

I look forward to our wefie with Rodman.

You won’t charge me, right?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 June 2018


Saturday 2 June 2018

On The Hills 10k: The umbrella run

When I woke up this morning, I considered not going for the On The Hills 10k race at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

It was storming outside and my left leg had still not fully recovered from the mystery injury. The race might be cancelled anyway due to the weather.

But then I thought I already paid the $45 registration fee and all I got was a T-shirt I can't wear because I chose the wrong size.

So I checked Facebook and found out the flag-off had been delayed an hour to 8.30am. At least I could get a bit more sleep before heading out.

By then, the thunderstorm was over, even though it was still drizzling.

I took the train to Hillview station and reached the starting line minutes before the delayed flag-off.

Instead of waves as originally planned, all runners were flagged off together.

I took my time and started at the back of the pack.

It was the time I saw people running with umbrellas.

The cool rainy weather turned out to be blessing in disguise. Otherwise, it would've been too hot for a race at that time of the day.

Because of the storm, I thought it was going to be muddy, but it wasn't as bad as I anticipated. (After the flooded Rail Corridor Run of 2016, nothing could be as bad.)

The first hydration point:

Only about the first (and last) 2km of the route were trail. The rest was tarmac.

The U-turn:

Whenever I hit an incline, I would walk, but I would still run down slope - and hurt my left leg (again) in the process.

Another umbrella:

One of the marshals was someone I know from the navy though I don't remember his name. He remembered I was the medic.

I finished with a leisurely time of about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Relive 'On the Hills'

The top finishers on stage taking a group photo:

The nuts and fruit laid out for runners were well-recieved.

There were complaints online that the event T-shirt was originally advertised as dark blue and then later changed to white. As someone posted: "If I have known that the tee would be white, I might not have signed up for the run."

Which I can sort of relate because I have decided whether or not to join a race based on the T-shirt design before. But in this case, the point is rather moot for me because I got the T-shirt one size too small.

Another complaint is the poor communication regarding the rain delay.

My feeling about this is that this is what you signed up for. I have come to accept that whenever it rains, things are going to be screwed up. The organisers make the best judgment call they can, but it's impossible to please everyone.

I find that organisers generally try not to cancel the race and I appreciate that.

Also because of rain, some people chose to skip the race but still want the finisher's medal because ít's their entitlement.

Again, I get that. You pay $45 to do something you could easily do for free, you want something to show for it besides the (wrong-coloured) T-shirt.

For novelty runs like the Hello Kitty Run and Star Wars Run where the medal is more of a collectible, I think that is justifiable.

But for a semi-serious race like On The Hills 10k, it should be fair to expect you to finish the race to get the finisher's medal. Otherwise, it would be unfair to those who do.

Like me.