Monday, 19 October 2020

From bat to worse: Bat eating bananas versus woman riding baby dino

Bat did not pay for the fruit.

Posted by AsiaOne on Friday, October 16, 2020

Dear bat eating bananas (and not bat-eating bananas because that would be CRAZY),

Hey, save some for me. Or better yet, don’t.

In fact, I may never eat a banana again.

What are you? A Minion?

Have you been tested for Covid-19? I wonder how they would insert a swab up your little nostril.

Why no mask? Want to get fined, is it?

Where’s a safe distancing ambassador when you need one?

Oh, I forgot. You don’t have to wear a mask when you’re eating.

It was an image that shook an entire nation.

And I’m not talking about Mark Lee in drag.

You’re famous now.

But it’s rather insensitive of you to re-enact the scene from the ending of the movie Contagion in the middle of a pandemic.

Too soon, man. It’s still two weeks till Halloween.

Because of you, FairPrice posted on Facebook last Friday:
“We are aware of a video circulating on social media of a bat eating a comb of bananas in the night at our 24-hour store located at 345 Jurong East Street 31. This incident occurred outside the store where the fruits were displayed.

“We have since moved all fruits inside the store to prevent future occurrences, and checks have also been made to ensure any fruits affected have been discarded.

“We are also in contact with the authorities to look into the cause for the presence of bats in the area.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Why should FairPrice apologise? You’re the one who should apologise for making FairPrice move the fruits inside. No inconvenience caused for the rest of us.

I’m surprised FairPrice didn’t shut the outlet down for deep-cleaning or just burn it to the ground, you know, considering the whole Contagion thing. No offence.

But you weren’t the only one caught on camera where you shouldn’t be last week.

You know the Jurassic Mile that opened recently near Changi Airport with the outdoor dinosaur exhibits?

There is a video going around of a woman sitting on a baby dinosaur display and rocking back and forth.

A video of a woman rocking back and forth on a baby dinosaur exhibit started making the rounds earlier this week.

Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, October 17, 2020

It’s a display, not a ride.

Many were outraged by her inconsiderate behaviour. You kind of wish the baby dino would come to life and eat her. Jurassic World 3: Makan Time!

What if because of this and other instances of vandalism, Changi Airport might consider moving the exhibits indoors like what FairPrice did with the fruits because of you?

But you did what you did because, well, you’re a bat. No offence.

The woman is no more civilised than a bat, except she apparently has TikTok.

And this is why we can’t have nice things, like unfenced dino displays and bananas hanging outside the supermarket.

Compared with humans, maybe you’re not so bat, I mean, bad after all.

I promise I will never eat soup made of you, even if it’s offered by Singapore Airlines.

I’m looking forward to see how many people are going to dress up as a bat eating bananas this Halloween.

Say hi to Bruce Wayne for me.

Speaking of which, wear a mask, dammit.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 October 2020

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Amos Yee's surprisingly wholesome first claim to fame: Winning a New Paper short film contest at 13 that led to role in Jack Neo movie

So Amos Yee is back in the news again.

Amos Yee had allegedly exchanged nude photos and "thousands" of messages with a 14-year-old Texas girl while he was in Chicago.

Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, October 16, 2020

It seems like we have been hearing about the damn kid forever.

Actually, not forever. You probably first heard about him in 2015 when his video rant against Lee Kuan Yew went viral soon after LKY's death.

But that wasn't the first time Amos made the news.

In 2011 when he was 13, he won Best Short Film and Best Actor for his film titled Jan in The New Paper FiRST Film Fest.

Amos Yee could not find anyone to act in his three-minute short film.

So he played all four roles in Jan, which tells of a boy trying to get three friends to help save a girl diagnosed with cancer.

The 13-year-old said: “I couldn’t find any actors who were willing to help me and I thought a one-man job would impress the judges.”

And impress them he did: He won the Best Actor prize as well as the Best Short Film award at the inaugural The New Paper FiRST Film Fest (FFF) on Thursday night.

The Best Short Film prize came with a trophy and $5,000 worth of prizes from Sony.

Yee not only acted in the film, but he also wrote, directed and edited the short, which was shot in his bedroom over a few nights.

Not bad for someone with no previous film-making experience.

Speaking to Life! after the awards ceremony at Mandopop club Shanghai Dolly, the student from Zhonghua Secondary said he has been bitten by the directing bug.

“Right now, I’m going to make more videos and put them on YouTube and hopefully, continue making films,” said Yee, who plans to emulate the cinematic styles of his favourite directors Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg.

The judges for the competition, which drew 160 entries, were directors Jack Neo and Wee Li Lin, head of film distribution and programming for Golden Village Pictures Maria Lorenzo, TNP film critic Jason Johnson and co-founder of Sinema Old School Nicholas Chee.

Jack Neo was one of the judges of the film fest. This led to Amos being in Neo's 2012 movie We Not Naughty.

At the time, the precocious teen appeared to have a promising career as a child actor.

Three years later, all that would change as Amos Yee became the Amos Yee we know today.

Monday, 5 October 2020

I have to (m)ask: How do you define 'eating or drinking'?

Do you remove your mask as soon as you sit down at a table, or do you stay masked until the food is served?

Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, October 3, 2020

It was the first time I ate out in months because of the circuit breaker.

Even though I knew better, I reflexively took off my mask after taking my seat in the restaurant.

The hostess immediately rushed over and reminded me rather forcefully that I could take off my mask only after food or a drink had been brought to my table.

I was taken aback and chastened by her fierceness. She must have dealt with idiot customers like me too many times before.

Embarrassed, I apologised and quickly put my mask back on. I felt like a child scolded by my mother and deservingly so.

Looking back now, I might have gotten off easy.

Last week, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment revealed in a news release:
“On 25 September 2020, two patrons were fined $300 each for not wearing their masks when talking to each other at an F&B outlet in Orchard at 2.50am, even though they had completed their meal and their table had been cleared.”

What an expensive meal – a total of $600 plus whatever the two actually paid for the meal and this is Orchard we're talking about.

For that amount of money, they could have gone for a three-hour lunch for two in business class on an SIA Airbus A-380 double-decker superjumbo and maybe have enough left over for some pure Mao Shan Wang durian snowskin mooncakes with edible gold dust.

Here's a look at the various offerings for the Singapore Airlines experience.

Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, October 1, 2020

But what I really want to know is how the two people were caught.

Did a safe distancing ambassador just happen to stroll past the F&B outlet and spot them not wearing masks?

The ambassador must have stood there and watched them long enough to observe that “they had completed their meal and their table had been cleared”.

But exactly how long is that?

As if that isn’t creepy enough, this happened at 2.50am?

There are safe distancing ambassadors working at that time of night?

I mean, if some stranger is standing outside a restaurant and watching me eat at almost three o’clock in the morning, I would be lucky that it’s only a safe distancing ambassador and not some psycho killer stalking me. Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Thanks to the pandemic, eating out is no longer a picnic.

There are rules.

One rule is keep your mask on except when eating or drinking. But how do you define “eating or drinking”?

Remember the hostess fiercely telling me that I could take off my mask once the food or drink arrived and nearly making me cry?

It seems that “eating or drinking” just means having some food or drink in front of you. You don’t have to be actually stuffing your face.

Would those two people have not been fined if their table had not been cleared? Whatever they had left over on their plates could still count as food.

Or would simply having a glass of water in front of them (which they didn’t even have to drink) have saved them $300 each?

I have seen people exploiting this “eating or drinking” loophole when they’re not dining in. They could be walking outside without their masks on simply because they have food or a drink in their hand.

Disney World in the US closed this loophole by updating its policy to allow visitors to eat or drink only when they’re “stationary”.

Disney World Closes Mask Loophole, Bans Eating And Drinking While Walking

Posted by Deadline Hollywood on Sunday, July 19, 2020

I never thought I would say this, but maybe Singapore should follow Disney World.

After all, aren’t we already Disneyland with the death penalty?

I’m not saying we should have a Mickey Mouse government, but the “mask on except when eating or drinking” rule is certainly ambiguous if not a little Goofy.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 October 2020

Monday, 21 September 2020

SafeEntry check-in etiquette: Don't block the damn QR code!

You’re in a hurry.

You don’t want to be late for the job interview. Otherwise, the interviewer might lament on Facebook about our generation not being hungry enough. Or worse, call you an adult baby.

Why doesn’t the company just do a Zoom interview? Don’t these people know there’s a pandemic going on?

You remember to wear your mask so you don’t have to beat up the bus driver.

"Our bus captain could be seen cowering with his arms shielding his face as the man started punching him repeatedly on the head," said SBS Transit.

Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

When you reach the building, a small crowd is milling around the entrance.

Aiyah, forgot. Must do SafeEntry.

You fumble with your phone to open the TraceTogether or SingPass app.

You’re trying to scan the QR code, but so are the people in front of you, getting in your way. You may beat someone up after all.

Who knew the omnipresent QR code would so take over our lives in 2020? Even when you sleep, you need to scan the SafeEntry QR code to enter your dreams. It’s everywhere.

You consider getting your IC scanned instead. Would that be quicker?

Wait, you spot another SafeEntry QR code that no one seems to have noticed. There are actually a few of them. Why didn’t you see them earlier?

Why do people crowd around one QR code when there are others? This must be what US President Donald Trump meant by “herd mentality”. (Talk about “adult baby”.)

You scan the damn QR code and join the stream of people going in. Suddenly, everyone lurches to a halt. Now what?

You look ahead. Some blur king has stopped to scan a QR code, obliviously blocking everyone behind him. That person needs to be beaten up, but you have an appointment. Maybe someone can give him a stern warning.

People are reluctant to go around him lest they are accused of jumping the queue. You check the time.

Eventually, you make it inside and the security guard or whoever barely even glances at the green SafetyEntry Pass on your phone after all you went through to get it.

Welcome to the new normal, where the nasi lemak is $12.50 for free riders.

While the distribution of the TraceTogether tokens to the general public started last week, many of us are still relying on our phones for SafeEntry.

But despite all the information and advisories the Government has provided during the pandemic post-circuit breaker, it has neglected one critical area which affects every single one of us – SafeEntry check-in etiquette.

I’m here to fill that gap. Here are a few tips to avoid annoying your fellow SafeEntry in-checkers. You’re welcome.

Don’t block the QR code
When scanning the QR code, don’t stand right in front of it, preventing others from scanning the code. Stand to the side so that someone else can have access.

Look for another QR code
If someone is blocking the QR code, there is usually another one nearby. Open your eyes.

Don’t block the way
If you need to stop or slow down to fiddle with your phone or for whatever reason, move to the side and let others pass. This is a generally good tip to live by even if there isn’t a pandemic.

This may be slightly controversial, but if someone fails to follow the previous tip, go around that person, especially in a fast-moving line. Don’t think you’re being nice by stopping and waiting for that person. You’re just making all the people behind you suffer because of that one blur king.

Use the SingPass app’s SafeEntry Check-in feature
Skip the QR code and check in by simply selecting the location on the list. (Not every place may be listed though.) The SingPass app is not just for retrieving your O-level results, you know.

Use the TraceTogether app’s Favourites feature
If it’s a place you visit frequently, just add it to the Favourites list and you don’t need to scan the damn QR code again.

If everyone follows these tips, you may never have the urge to beat anyone up again. And vice versa.

And we may have a little less annoying pandemic.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 September 2020

Hi SM,

I noticed that most of the time, the jam @ entrance into the Building was caused by people standing right in front of the SafeEntry QR code to scan as close as possible, which need not be. This will block the moving queue and others who wanted to scan too.

To minimise the unnecessary jam @ entrance into the Building, just place the QR code approx 2.5m high so others behind the “obstructing culprit” can scan from a distance and be on their way.

Hope this tip help.

Thanks & Regards,
WK Yeow

Monday, 7 September 2020

I went to see Tenet in a Shaw cinema and survived – but my mind is blown

Dear Tenet director Christopher Nolan,

Have you seen Mulan?

If you had directed it, it would probably be called Nalum and it would have been an improvement.

#BoycottMulan for not including the song I’ll Make A Man Out Of You and a sassy cartoon dragon that sounds like Eddie Murphy.

Because of the pandemic, cinemas in Singapore were closed for nearly four months and reopened in July with safe distancing restrictions.

Only up to 50 people are allowed per cinema hall and you must wear a mask at all times except – and this is a giant loophole – when consuming food and drink.

And this is how they get you to fork over your money for their overpriced popcorn and sugar water.

As if that isn’t frightening enough, last week, people were hurt while watching Tenet in a Shaw cinema at Nex mall after a ventilation duct fell from the ceiling.

Wasn’t there a fire during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises at Causeway Point in 2012 as well?

More tragically, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting during a Dark Knight Rises screening in the US.

Watching a Christopher Nolan movie in the theatre has become a rather dangerous proposition.

Besides wearing a mask, you need a helmet, fire extinguisher and bulletproof body armour.

But I went to see Tenet last Thursday anyway because I loved Inception, appreciated Interstellar and Dunkirk, was shocked by The Prestige and am still trying to figure out Memento.

Tenet was the first movie I have seen in a cinema in eight months. I even watched it in Imax because you are such a champion of the format.

But you know where’s the only place in Singapore you can watch your movie in Imax?

Shaw Theatres.

That’s right, the cinema chain where a ventilation duct fell on people.

So I basically risked my life to see your bloody movie.

Was it worth it?

Well, it was nice to see RPatz not sucking anyone’s blood while Denzel Washington’s son establishes his blockbuster cred so that he can potentially take over the late Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.

Speaking of Marvel movies, since Tenet is essentially about going backwards in time to save the world, it’s a bit like Avengers: Endgame but with less talking raccoon and more Michael Caine.

Coincidentally, Keanu Reeves’ new movie Bill & Ted Face The Music is also about time-travelling to save the world.

It’s stupid and dumb, but what a relief to be able to understand what’s going on in a movie after seeing yours. Hooray for stupid and dumb.

And it’s not just that the timey-wimey stuff in Tenet is incomprehensible.

The dialogue is sometimes so inaudible in the sound mix that the audience can’t hear what the characters are saying to help us comprehend the timey-wimey stuff.

It’s like suddenly everyone in the movie is speaking like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.

I get that you like to challenge the audience, but I beg of you, the next time you direct a movie, please make English subtitles mandatory.

Don’t make me start the hashtag #BoycottChristopherNolan.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 September 2020

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Is 'Best of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd' on Netflix really the best? Maybe the chicken episode

A bunch of old local movies and TV shows started streaming on Netflix this month with more coming soon.

"Tofu Street" is a classic.
Posted by on Sunday, July 26, 2020

One that is particularly close to my heart is Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd.

If you watch the first episode, the first credit you see after the opening titles is “Written by Ong Su Mann”.

That’s me.

Do I get any residuals? Of course not. Neither does anyone else who worked on the show, including Gurmit Singh. The only one making any money out of this is Mediacorp.

Still, it was a thrill to see my name on Netflix. More so than finally seeing my cameo in Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man, also streaming on Netflix now.

Last I checked, “Best Of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd” was ranked sixth most watched in Singapore yesterday, the only local production in the Netflix top 10. Sorry, Mee Pok Man.

But that first PCK episode on Netflix is not the first episode of the TV series. For some reason, the 26 Netflix episodes are from the sitcom’s third season – and trust me, not all are the best.

For example, in an episode called Yum Seng, someone in a men’s room bumps into a wall and the wall moves!

As executive producer, I could’ve chosen a take where the wall didn’t move. Instead, I decided on the one with the best performance even though it revealed our flimsy set.

Thanks, Netflix, for making me relive that mistake two decades later and exposing it to a whole new generation.

But the men’s room wall isn’t the only thing that hasn’t held up after all these years.

My woke 20-year-old zoomer daughter is appalled by an episode co-written by me called Excuse Me, Are You An Aquarius, where “Aquarius” is used as a euphemism for a local term that could be considered a homophobic slur. You know what I’m talking about.

I probably couldn’t get away with something like that nowadays. Just last month, Mediacorp had to apologise for depicting a gay character as a paedophile in the Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels.

Mediacorp said it had "no intention to disrespect or discriminate against the LGBTQ community in the drama".

Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

At least he wasn’t called an “Aquarius”, I presume.

My daughter is even more horrified by an episode where Rosie acts like a dog and is put on a leash. But I wasn’t involved in that one so not everything is my fault.

So if these episodes aren’t the “best”, except maybe for the one where Ah Ma gets a pet chicken, why did Netflix start with the third season and not the first?

Could it be because the third season starts with the landmark episode where PCK completed the Best English course after being chastised for speaking Singlish by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his 1999 National Day Rally speech?

Many complained the show wasn’t as funny after that.

Yet PCK has endured and this has been a banner year for the character. Besides the Netflix debut, PCK has fronted a couple of Covid-19 videos for the Government and is currently shilling for Shopee.

What’s ironic about the hype over PCK and other Mediacorp shows coming to Netflix is that they have been available for free for years on Mediacorp’s own streaming platform Toggle before it became MeWatch, but no one seemed to care.

That’s the power of Netflix for you. And the lack of power of Mediacorp.

But if Netflix whets your appetite for more PCK, you can watch all eight seasons on MeWatch. I recommend the second and the eighth. They may not be the best in Singapore and JB (and some say Batam), but that’s where my name pops up again.

Remember, I don’t get a single cent.

- Published in The New Paper on 24 August 2020

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Season 1 of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd on Netflix is not actually Season 1 — it's Season 3

So Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd is now on Netflix.

Netflix lists the first episode called Cast The First Scone as Season 1 Episode 1, but it's actually Season 3 Episode 1.

I should know. I wrote it.

Of the 26 episodes available on Netflix, I wrote (or co-wrote) 16 of them. And they're all from seaon 3 when I first took over the show as executive producer. I came on as a writer the previous season.

It's strange that Netflix didn't start with the first season. It's especially jarring since the first Netflix episode opens with a recap of the cliffhanger from the end of Season 2.

Below is the two-part season 2 finale if you care.

The cliffhanger scene was tacked on at the end of part 2 after then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong dedicated part of his 1999 National Day Rally speech to the show. That speech cemented PCK as a national icon.
PM Goh said:
If we want to be an education hub, attracting good students from the region, then we must provide a good English-speaking environment, i.e. one where people speak standard English, not Singlish. Our schools must teach standard English, and our children must learn and speak standard English.

Most of our pupils still come from non-English speaking homes. For them, English is really a second language, to be learnt almost like a foreign language, and not their mother tongue. For them to master just one version of English is already quite a challenge. If they get into the habit of speaking Singlish, then later they will either have to unlearn these habits, or learn proper English on top of Singlish. Many pupils will find this too difficult. They may end up unable to speak any language properly, which would be a tragedy.

Gurmit Singh can speak many languages. But Phua Chu Kang speaks only Singlish. If our children learn Singlish from Phua Chu Kang, they will not become as talented as Gurmit Singh.

We learn English in order to communicate with the world. The fact that we use English gives us a big advantage over our competitors. Parents send children to English language schools rather than Chinese, Malay, or Tamil schools, because they hope the children will get jobs and opportunities when they grow up. But to become an engineer, a technician, an accountant or a nurse, you must have standard English, not Singlish.

And then:
One of the problems MOE has getting students to speak standard English is that the students often hear Singlish being spoken around them, including on TV. So they learn wrong ways of speaking.

Teachers complain that their students are picking up catchphrases like: "Don't pray, pray." and using them even in the classroom. The students may think that it is acceptable and even fashionable to speak like Phua Chu Kang. He is on national TV and a likeable, ordinary person. The only character who tries to speak proper English is Phua Chu Kang's sister-in-law Margaret, and she is a snob. Nobody wants to be a snob. So in trying to imitate life, Phua Chu Kang has made the teaching of proper English more difficult.

I asked TCS why Phua Chu Kang's English is so poor. They told me that Phua Chu Kang started off speaking quite good English, but as time passed he forgot what he learnt in school, and his English went from bad to worse.

I therefore asked TCS to try persuading Phua Chu Kang to attend NTUC's BEST classes, to improve his English. TCS replied that they have spoken to Phua Chu Kang, and he has agreed to enrol himself for the next BEST programme, starting in a month's time. If Phua Chu Kang can improve himself, surely so can the rest of us.
Maybe that's why Netflix chose Cast The First Scone as its first episode since it's the episode where Phua Chu Kang talks about completing the BEST programme as the prime minister instructed. So it's quite a landmark episode.

I mean, can you think of another sitcom where the storyline was dictated by the guy running the country?

PCK also got another mention in next year's National Day Rally speech.

PM Goh said in 2000:
We must therefore bring about a culture of lifelong learning. You are never too old to learn. Even if you speak Singlish, you can learn to improve your English. Look at Phua Chu Kang. He attended BEST classes. He is speaking better English already, although still not as good as Gurmit Singh. Whether Phua Chu Kang wishes to improve his English further is up to him. But if he is wise, he should keep on learning, for example, how to use the computer and e-commerce to expand his business.
About two-third way into the production of the third season, I left the show and Mediacorp in 2000 to join the ill-fated TVWorks in the ill-fated SPH Mediaworks start-up.

I would return to Mediacorp a few years later and somehow ended up as executive producer again of the eighth and final season of PCK Pte Ltd because no one else wanted the job.

Actually, if you want to watch all the Phua Chu Kang episodes in the original telecast order, they're available for streaming on Mediacorp's MeWatch streaming platform. Having the show on Netflix is kind of redundant, but I guess more people watch Netflix than MeWatch.

Why you no watch MeWatch?

EARLIER: Educating Phua Chu Kang - and failing

Monday, 27 July 2020

Cancel culture is coming to our shores, warns Xiaxue, but is it already here? For years

What is cancel culture?

Hands up those who think it refers to stuff getting cancelled because of Covid-19.

Like the disease, the term “cancel culture” first emerged last year but in the last few months, started spreading like, well, the coronavirus.

And there’s no vaccine to protect you from it either.

I’m actually afraid to explain what cancel culture is because I will probably get cancelled for getting it wrong.

So I shall cowardly point you to Macquarie Dictionary, which defines the term as “the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artist’s music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment”.

Recent targets of the woke cancel culture warriors include Mediacorp for its Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels, which depicted a gay character as a paedophile, and Marshall Cavendish Education, puublisher of "an astoundingly racist local book" titled Who Wins?

Both have apologised and the textbook is being recalled. My Guardian Angels ended its run two months ago, so it’s too late for the show to be cancelled, but its stars Kym Ng and Brandon Wong have been receiving “abusive messages”.

This kind of online behaviour has of course been around for years since the rise of social media. Just ask Amy Cheong and Anton Casey.

It’s just that now there’s a fashionable name for it. Also known as “call-out culture” or “outrage culture”, “cancel culture” was Macquarie Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year.

No, I’ve never heard of Macquarie Dictionary either. It’s a dictionary of Australian English. This is where I might’ve made a gnarly joke about Australian English, but I don’t want to get cancelled from Down Under.

Closer to home, local influencer Xiaxue posted a 19-minute video on Instagram last week warning Singaporeans about the encroaching scourge:
“Cancel culture is coming to our shores and right now, it may not affect you, but trust me, it eventually will.”
Yeah, just ask Mediacorp and Marshall Cavendish Education.

In the video, the enfant terrible also known as Wendy Cheng began: “Recently, people have been trying to cancel me. What’s new? But this time around, it’s definitely a little bit more serious.”

By “a little bit more serious”, she meant a “small group of people making police reports against me, resulting in the police coming to my house”.

This was over tweets that her accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.

This was after Xiaxue threw some online shade at Workers’ Party then-candidate Raeesah Khan after police reports were made against the now MP-elect.

This was over tweets that Ms Khan’s accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.

This was after Mr Ivan Lim withdrew as a People’s Action Party candidate, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attributed to “a culture of trial by Internet”. He could have just said “cancel culture” for short.

Hey, at least no one accused Mr Lim of being racist. Just “arrogant and elitist”.

In a way, he started the sequence of events that led to Xiaxue’s video.

In response to it, playwright Alfian Sa’at posted on Facebook:
“Ugh. Stop it already with ‘cancel culture’. It’s just a backlash and a boycott. Don’t make it sound bigger than it is.”
The playwright made news last month when PAP attempted to cancel WP chief Pritam Singh by questioning his support of Alfian. I don’t think it worked. By the way, Xiaxue is a PAP supporter.

He concluded:
“But hey, you’ve decided to build a career out of pissing on the marginalised and engaging in flame wars with other personalities. You’ve made your bed out of pee and gasoline. Now, why complain about having to lie in it?”

Could this finally be the end of Xiaxue’s controversial 17-year career many have long wished for?

Not only are advertisers shunning her, YouTube channel Clicknetwork also announced on Facebook that it had dropped her as host of an upcoming show. In the same post, the company said that it is “against racism, bigotry, and hate”, which sort of implied that Xiaxue isn’t.

Clicknetwork has been producing videos with Xiaxue since 2007 and pretty much built its channel around her. It’s like the company suddenly realised who Xiaxue is after 13 years. Way to throw her under the cancel bus.

Her blog and Twitter account have since been set to private – but her Instagram and Facebook page remain accessible.

I still remember her going to war with K-pop fans in 2017 after she likened Monsta X to a “group of trannies” and tweeted that BTS sucked.

If she can survive the fearsome BTS Army, she can survive anything.

Cancel culture... cancelled?

- Published in The New Paper, 27 July 2020

Monday, 20 July 2020

I have been invited to SDP thank you dinner: Confessions of a polling agent vol 2

Last night, I received an unexpected message on WhatsApp.

It was from SDP. Yes, the Singapore Democratic Party.

Why is SDP inviting me to a thank you dinner?

Well, if you read my column last week, you know that I was a polling agent on Polling Day. But I didn't say for which party.

Here are some details I left out.

It all started one day when I was walking home and noticed a QR code on the SDP poster hanging on a lamp post.

Out of curiosity, I scanned the dotted square with my phone. I was disappointed that the QR code just led me to the SDP Facebook page.

But the first thing I saw on the page was a call for polling agents. That was when I first had the idea of becoming one.

One thing that concerned me slightly was that being a polling agent meant that I was representing the political party that appointed me. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable to appear to be supporting any particular party.

Since the People’s Action Party (PAP) was also contesting in my constituency (duh), I went to the PAP Facebook page to see if PAP was also recruiting polling agents. It wasn’t.

To ensure a fair election, all parties should have their polling agents at all the polling stations. I rationalised that if SDP needed people, I could volunteer to help SDP even though I’m not necessarily an SDP supporter.

I would be doing it for democracy.

So a couple of days later, I went to the SDP office in Link@AMK to register to be a polling agent.

I expected to get some training but was just given a list of instructions and told to watch a YouTube video.

Then I signed an Oath of Secrecy, which sounded very scary, but it just meant I couldn’t “communicate” to “any person” certain voter information.

Sadly, I did not get to meet Dr Chee Soon Juan or Prof Paul Tambyah. I did see plenty of SDP merch though, including Dr Chee’s books. I was tempted but didn’t buy any.

I read somewhere online that parties might give volunteers a party shirt, but I didn’t get one.

One of the instructions on the SDP list was: “If possible, wear red polo and khaki pant/skirt, which is our party colours, BUT DO NOT wear any shirts with party logo or campaign materials. That is not allowed.”

I thought this was a bit contradictory. You couldn’t wear party symbols, yet you could wear the colours that represent your party? Wouldn’t the end result be the same? Even without the party logo, you were telling people what party you’re representing with the colours you were wearing.

Then I read this on Reddit:
“You are there as a party representative to show the public that the polling station is a neutral zone, with equal representatives from both sides.

“frequently (especially in the past), polling stations will be dominated by PAP representatives wearing the party colour - white. while the opposition party contesting in that ward will not have enough volunteers and therefore be unrepresented.

“and voters walking in might see the whole place decked out with volunteers in white get the impression that ‘this is a PAP place’ and it might cloud their minds. you are there to ‘show’ people that the electoral process is fair and equal.”
So the party colours do serve a purpose and that was why every party should be equally represented at the polling station.

I wondered if I could wear a red singlet and khaki shorts with slippers.

Unfortunately, the Elections Department (ELD) has its own dress code for polling agents: “Polling agents should be properly attired. Polling agents dressed in singlets, shorts, slippers or other inappropriate attire may not be allowed into the polling station.”

So on Polling Day, I wore a dark pink polo and olive green cargo pants with brown slip-on shoes. Close enough, I thought.

When I got to the polling station (which was in a primary school just beside my block) at 1.30pm to start my shift, there was no other SDP polling agent working the morning shift for me to take over.

It appeared that if I hadn’t volunteered, SDP would have no polling agent at all at that polling station.

Two PAP polling agents were there, all dressed in white. I wouldn’t have been able to be a PAP polling agent because I don’t have white pants.

I asked one of them if they were given lunch. He said he had a curry puff.

Before 2pm, two white-clad women arrived to replace the two men.

One woman sat with me – while maintaining social distancing, of course.

She was friendly and we chatted a bit at first, more as the hours wore on. She even talked about getting her wisdom tooth taken out.

I learnt that the PAP polling agents were residents’ committees volunteers living in the neighbourhood. She said that I might be the oppostion, but we were all the same.

She insisted that they were not PAP members, yet was surprised when I told her I was not an SDP member too.

She asked if I had noticed that people coming into the polling station were all looking at me because they wanted to see what an opponent member looked like. I hadn’t.

My constituency had always been under PAP, so I guess an openly opposition-supporting resident was not something they saw every day. I mean, if I saw someone in a red top watching people vote at the polling station, I would be checking him or her out too.

So my initial concerns came true. Everyone thought I was an SDP supporter. (Thank god I was wearing a mask to hide my face!)

The PAP polling agent couldn't believe that all I was doing for SDP was be a polling agent for that day and nothing else.

I was amused that I gave people such wrong impressions.

The voters came in waves. Sometimes there was a queue. Sometimes there was no one at all.

Some time after 5pm, my phone rang. It was an unknown number.

I hesitated to answer it because the ELD guide for polling agents said we were not allowed to use mobile phones within the polling station. But my PAP counterpart told me to answer it.

The caller was someone from SDP who wanted to know where I was. What a weird question. Where did she think I was? I was where I was supposed to be. I wondered if someone complained that I was a no-show. I replied at the polling station.

The woman on the phone asked whether I was following the ballot boxes to the counting centre. I said I hoped to, but I didn’t have the required Indemnity Form to do so. She said that someone was bringing “the letter” to me and told me to wait for it.

Around 6.30pm, the assistant returning officer (ARO) came to tell us polling agents that at 7pm, we should leave the polling station as that was when the people on stay-home notice (SHN) would be coming in to vote. It was for our own safety. The presiding officers were already putting on their protective gear.

But weren’t we (the polling agents) supposed to observe the sealing of the ballot boxes after the polls closed, I asked. The ARO said we could come back at five minutes before 8pm to do that because he was going to seal the 8pm regardless of our presence.

And then the ARO received a call and found out that voting had been extended to 10pm.

I was confused by this.

Were these two extra hours for people on SHN or non-SHN people? Did it mean that the SHN people could still vote from 7pm or two hours later? Were non-SHN people allowed to vote after 7pm or only after 8pm?

Meanwhile, I was still waiting for my Indemnity Form. I was worried that I was going to miss the person coming to the polling station with my “letter”.

To my relief, just before 7pm, I saw a guy in a red polo and khaki pants rushing into the polling station.

He spotted me in my dark pink polo and green cargos, and knew right away I was the person he was looking for.

He gave me a fist bump and the Indemnity Form to sign. He was one of the SDP candidates running in my GRC.

I don't remember anyone else ever giving me a fist bump.

When he learnt that I had been told to leave the polling station for the special voting hour, he went to tell the ARO that at the other polling stations, the polling agents were allowed to stay “around” the polling station during the period.

The ARO said he was unaware of such an arrangement, but the SDP guy insisted that the ballot boxes should not be out of sight of the polling agent at all times.

The ARO made a couple of phone calls and eventually agreed to let me stay in the school but moved my seat just outside the cordon tape where I could still keep an eye on the ballot boxes but not technically in the polling station?

Satisfied, the SDP guy departed, leaving me with a styrofoam box of chicken rice and a bottle of water for dinner, which I didn’t consume because ELD forbade polling agents from consuming food and beverage at the polling station.

Although I might have been technically outside the polling station then, I didn’t want to take the chance.

Both the PAP polling agents had left at 7pm. Unlike SDP, PAP apparently didn’t feel the need to have its polling agent keep an eye on the ballot boxes at all times.

I was the only one there not wearing protective gear, but I wasn’t worried about getting infected.

You know why?


No one on SHN came to vote. No one not on SHN came to vote. No one. The last person to come to vote was maybe around 6.45pm.

So the ARO and presiding officers put on their protective gear for nothing.

One of the PAP polling agents came back at 8pm, not knowing about the 10pm extension. She was shocked I hadn’t left the polling station all this time.

We chatted a bit as we waited for another two hours. It was kind of surreal. Like someone threw an election and nobody came.

As 10pm approached, the presiding officers started packing up. I watched as the collapsible voting booths were folded up and put away.

After the ARO declared the polls closed, I stood by to observe the sealing of the ballot boxes. This was the moment I had waited more than eight hours for.

Even more exciting, I got to sign one of the boxes while the PAP polling agent signed the other.

We then boarded the bus with the boxes accompanied by police officers who had also been at the polling station all day.

No one asked for my Indemnity Form.

The bus picked up ballot boxes from two other polling stations nearby before heading to the counting centre in a secondary school.

There, I met the SDP guy again. He gave me another fist bump and thanked me for my help.

By the time I left the counting centre, it was 10.45pm.

I ate the chicken rice after I got home and showered.

It was one of the longest days of my life.

In the end, PAP won my constituency again.

The guy who gave me the chicken rice and fist bumps lost. I feel a little bad for him. He seemed like a nice guy. And not just because he brought me chicken rice.

If I go to the SDP thank you dinner, I may see him again.

Even though I am notoriously unable to resist free food, I don't think I will be attending because I’m afraid I could be breaking some social distancing rule.

And if I go, people will really believe I support SDP.

EARLIER: Not everyone working at polling station was a polling agent (but I was)