Red Dot 2018: The Half-Yearly Review

Its 2018, there is snow in the Sahara desert, a blood moon that occurred once in a blue moon (#TotalLunarEclipse #30th/31st January) and Swaziland* has been renamed as Eswatini. Over at the White House, there is Fire and Fury as the bestselling book by Michael Wolff spilled the beans on the obnoxious behaviour of Donald Trump and his staff throughout his presidential stint. Meanwhile there was an auditory illusion (#laurel or yanny) that divided America and the world at large. But for Trump, only two names will be ringing in his ears constantly this year…Stormy Daniels (#pornstar) and Karen McDougal (#FormerPlayboyModel). He wouldn’t be too keen to hear their sordid affairs with him, complete with lurid details and salacious bits, unprotected sex included.

*Swaziland is a poor country and a former British colony with the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. It is also one of the world’s remaining monarchies, ruled by a man (King Mswati III) with 15 wives.

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While Trump’s risque personal life unfolded in tabloids, it is his persona that will come under scrutiny as the mercurial President fired yet another underling (#RexTillerson #FormerSecretaryofState) and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal that his predecessor initiated. He also fired the first salvo of a trade war against his country’s trade partners (#China #Japan #SouthKorea #Canada #Aluminium&Steel #SolarPanels&WashingMachines).

While the first shot of his protectionist stance (#AmericaFirst) may has been fired, domestically, 3 deadly shootouts* garnered repeated calls and gathered momentum for stricter gun control laws. Throw in a serial bomber into the mix and you could almost manufacture a Texas massacre (#TexasSerialBomber). I say banish the ammunition and explosives, forget the fire and fury, go for something tamer like poisoning an ex-spy instead. That sparked a diplomatic row and triggered a wave of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats between Russia and the West.

*#Florida: MarjoryStonemanDouglasHighSchool #Texas: SanteFeHighSchool #California: YoutubeHQ

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While there is fire, fury and poison in the West, graft and malaise plagued the East. President Xi wrote himself into the pantheons of “great” China leaders when he abolished the maximum 2-term presidency rule policy. (He has effectively made himself the modern day emperor of China until his death). While the megalomaniac perched himself on a pedestal, others have fallen from grace….Ex-President Park Geun Hye (#SouthKorea) was sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption while reverence for Myanmar’s Aung Sun Suki as a female figure of democracy has eroded somewhat after Nobel laureates slammed her openly and publicly for not doing enough in the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Elsewhere, trouble is brewing in Abe’s second term as he refuted allegations of cronyism in a questionable land sale (#Japan #Corruption #FinanceMinistry #DocumentsTampering) and mayhem manifested across Indonesia in the form of suicide bombings and samurai sword-style attacks (#JamaahAnsharutDaulah #Terrorists #FamilySuicideBombers)

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In other parts of Asia, Australia was rocked by tainted rock melons (#Listeria) while India is embroiled in the largest bank fraud in the country’s history (#US$1.8 billion #NiravModi). The melons may have caused a stir but rocky relations were on the mend as an isolated North made peaceful overtures to a capitalist South, including participation in the Winter Olympics and a peace talk at a truce village (#Panmunjon #27thApril). The path to reunification on the Korean peninsular may have been paved, but the passage to an exotic locale (#Boracay) is certainly closed until November. That apparently did not deter Malaysians from taking leave on 9th May….not for vacation, but to save their country. Thankfully, save their country they did as they sent a nonagenarian-led coalition (#Mahathir #Aged92 #PakatanHarapan) into Parliament, ending Barisan Nasional’s six-decade stranglehold.

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Boracay may be closed for business, but others are looking at new avenues of revenue, funding and expansion. Kodak launched its own cryptocurrency, smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi is set to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Sony bought a controlling stake in EMI* and Louis Vuitton launches its first collection of fragrances** for men. The flurry of deals are encouraging signs but the US of A went against the grain by interrupting and subsequently halting an acquisition deal (#Broadcom #Qualcomm). The deal was cancelled for security reasons but in the case of fraud, it required a bailout as the China government ensured Anbang Insurance’s viability. (#ChinaGovernmentBailout). Others simply have had enough of the intricacies in commercial wheelings and dealings as Stanley Ho (aka “Godfather” of Macau casinos) and Li Ka Shing (richest man in Asia for decades) announced their retirement.

*The $2.3bn (£1.7bn) deal will make Sony the world’s biggest music publisher and EMI’s music catalogue include the likes of Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Drake, Pink, Kanye West.

**The last time Louis Vuitton launched a perfume range was way back in 1946. They have re-entered the perfume business since 2016.

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While the Hongkong casino magnate and billionaire businessman may have taken a backseat with their retirement, Asia still stood out even among the competition. Chung Hyeon became the first South Korean to reach the Australian Open semi-finals while Ariya Jutanugarn is the first Thai golfer to win the US Open. Elsewhere, Yuki Kawauchi* outran the competition (including the African elites) and torrid weather (rain, blustery wind-16kmh and cold temperature-3 degree celsius) to become the first Japanese to win the Boston Marathon since 1987.

At times, a little help goes a long way in eliminating the competition….Eventual finalists Naomi Osaka (Yes, another athlete with Asian descent) and Daria Kasatkina held their heads high as they sent Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki packing enroute to the Indian Wells finals. That’s a whopping six former No. 1s with 16 Grand Slam titles that the duo eliminated. (FYI, Naomi Osaka was the eventual winner).

*Yuki is not a professional athlete, has no corporate sponsorships, no coach or training group and he didn’t train full-time prior to winning the Boston Marathon.

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While Asia brimmed with inspiration, the fountain of youth overflowed with promises. 16-year-old James Bowen became the youngest jockey to be paired with the oldest horse and won the Welsh Grand National*. Elsewhere, Chloe Kim became the youngest female snowboarder to win gold at the Winter Olympics (#Aged17).

However, do not write off the oldies yet as a creaking but age-defying Federer strained every sinew to win his 20th Grand Slam (Australian Open) and Tiger Woods is making a gradual comeback in the sport that used to be synonymous with him (#2018Masters #ValsparChampionship). Even ex-athletes should not be discounted because you can teach an old dog new tricks…Retired runner and still the fastest man Usain Bolt is hopefully on his way to becoming a footballer while a former footballer (#GeorgeWeah  #AC Milan) became the President of Liberia. Even ex-basketball star Kobe Bryant got into the act by winning an Oscar for an animated short film

*Raz De Maree(horse) became the oldest winner of the race for the first time in 90 years while Bowen is the race’s youngest winning rider.

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The ex-athletes reminded us that their relationship with sports and the world at large still remain. Others (#ArseneWenger #Arsenal) ended their dalliance with the club they revolutionized and an increasingly brittle relationship after 21 years at the helm (considered an eternity in modern-day football). Wenger is undeniably the epitome of longevity in sports but others were taken from the prime of their life. *Italian football wept for Davide Astori (#Aged34 #SerieA #Fiorentina) while Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts (#Aged23) died in competing at the Paris-Roubaix race. The two athletes will be remembered by their respective sporting fraternities but some will try hard to forget their nightmares….Australian cricket was hit by a ball-tampering scandal (#SteveSmith<captain> #DavidWarner<vice-captain> #Banned12months) while Conor Mcgregor and his teammates were charged with assault and criminal mischief for attacking their rival’s team bus (#MMA #UFC).

*Both athletes died of cardiac complications (#HeartAttack).

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While Mcgregor may have abominated his fellow competitors, arch-rivals (#Intel #AMD) in the tech world bedded together by marrying their chips and GPU in an unprecedented union*. Others like Apple are going solo in their quest for world domination as they confirmed plans of creating their own processor chips (#ByeByeIntel #Year2020). Apple may be planning for the future, but the return of an artefact (#Nokia8110 #BananaPhone #MobileWorldCongress2018) from the past made us ruminate our cellular origins.

That phone certainly hark back to the days of yore before there was even Facebook. Yet it was the past that came back to haunt the world’s biggest social media giant as a whistle-blower blew the lid off the Cambridge Analytica scandal (#Users’DataHijacked #87-million-accounts). The inquisition on the data hijack might be still ongoing, but that has not deterred them from going into the online dating business on their platform (Watch out, Tinder !).

*In industry parlance, you can imagine it is akin to Apple and Google coming together to launch a mobilephone or Singtel and M1 offering joint mobile plans.

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The scandal might have caused a huge dent to Mark Zuckerberg’s reputation but it is the momentum of the #MeToo movement that has sullied the good name of many. It has outed more transgressions from actors (#KevinSpacey), comedians (#Louis C.K #BillCosby*) to hip-hop mogul (#RussellSimmons) to celebrity chefs (#MarioBatali) and even high-flying legal aces (#EricSchneiderman #NewYorkAttorneyGeneral #Resignation). You might now question: “Where is the conscience of these perpetrators?” Francis McDormand had not only conscience but also tenacity (#ThreeBillboardsOutsideEbbing #AcademyAwardForBestActress #Oscars2018) even though she momentarily lost her Oscar statuette in the process*.

*Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault in April and is awaiting sentencing.

*She eventually recovered her Oscar statuette after it was stolen briefly at the awards ceremony after-party. The thief was apprehended at the same venue after he streamed himself holding the statuette on Facebook.

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While the actress did find her statuette eventually, Thanos united Marvel heroes (#Avengers #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy #BlackPanther #DrStrange) in the search for the infinity stones in a colossal blockbuster film. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg rediscovered his movie magic as his nostalgia-soaked science fiction adventure film (#ReadyPlayerOne); littered with pop cultural references from the 70’s to 90’s, was well received by critics and global audience alike. While Spielberg got back his mojo, Kendrick Lamar found his groove as he became the first rapper ever to win a Pulitzer Prize*.

*Interestingly, the album that won him the Pulitzer is named “Damn”

Lamar may have been an inspiration to his peers in the music industry, but Stephen Hawkings not only had a career that inspired many but was also fondly remembered for broadening our horizons to space and beyond (#Physicist #Visionary #Aged76 #RIP). The world also paid glowing tributes to others who have paid their dues in their careers including Dolores O’Riordan (#Cranberries), DJ Avicii (#TomBerling #Suicide), Seridevi (#Bollywood) and fashion doyen Hubert Givenchy after they knocked on Heaven’s door.

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As mentioned at the beginning, freaky weather and strange phenomenon are prevalent in the world at large in 2018. Our island similarly weathered bizarre weather patterns in more ways than one. There were storms that battered and flattened some farms (#LimChuKang), flash floods in the eastern part of Singapore (#8thJanuary #BedokNorthAvenue4 #carpooling), hail in some neighbourhoods, and that unexpected cold spell in January. Its not Game of Thrones, but winter has come and it did came, albeit for a brief moment.

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I know, it could be the effects of global warming but trust me, we doing our darndest to save the environment. The idea of supermarkets charging for plastic bags had already been mooted, Koufu at SMU is the first foodcourt to do away with plastic straws and the 8-days and i-weekly magazines (#Mediacorp) will go paperless from October onwards. These green initiatives may be music to one’s ears, but for others, it can be a bruising and traumatic encounter (#Pre-school #PoliceInvestigation).

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We certainly deserve some praise for going green but others are undoing the good for all the wrong reasons. There was the divisive textbook (#Non-MOEapproved #HighSES-LowSES) that segregated us into social classes, a greedy town council manager (#AngMoKioTownCouncil #Arrested&Charged), a government-linked organization tainted with corruption (#KeppelOffshore&Marine #Petrobas #SeteBrasil), and those who evaded GST altogether.

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The bad behaviour spilled into the political sphere when the bullies came out in full force, hounding an opposition MP for an apology over a purported “trial balloon” (#SylviaLim #GraceFu #HengSweeKiat #KShanmugan). The MPs are certainly getting out of hand because one (#TanWuMeng #JurongGRC) was assaulted at a MPS (Meet-The-People) session while another (#LouisLim) cosplayed as a cardboard collector…that I can assure you is not a senior citizen exercising (#Pun-TanChuanJin). Others have simply shifted their priorities in queuing altogether (#BukitBatokSMC #PriorityQueueForPRs? #Murali).

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Not only is there bad behaviour, misbehaviour also pervaded in the Garden of Eden. Don’t worry, Adam and Eve are perfectly fine, I am referring to Singapore’s very own #MeToo movement complete with racy details and raunchy narration (#EdenAng<Youtubber>* #AllegedSexualHarassment #Lilith #NicoletteLim #MelissaFaithYeo #NaomiTindall #PoliceInvestigation).

Not only is the holy nature of the biblical place debased, our local sporting arena also experienced its #MeToo moment as sporting coaches were jailed for sexual offences committed against their trainees. On the topic of local sports, it has been a humdrum year so far because Martina Veloso was the golden girl in an otherwise largely disappointing Commonwealth Games while Sundram called it quits as Lion’s coach. Much remains to be seen as a rebranding of the S-league (#SingaporePremierLeague) aim to lift our domestic league out of the doldrums.

*He is a “youtub-ber”, or you may be more familiar with him playing Michael on channel 5’s long-form drama “Tanglin”. His role on the show has since been replaced by another actor.

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While the rescue operation is underway for the local soccer scene, resuscitation is futile for others. There were the conscripts who paid for National Service with their dear lives, prompting more questions than answers in the aftermath (#PrivateDaveLee #SAF #1stGuardsBattalion #HeatStroke #AllegationsOfMaltreatment #CPL KokYuenChing #SCDF #Hazing #Drowned #ArrestMade). There was also the ailing tropics-borned polar bear that had to be put out of her misery due to old age and sickness, but many felt the company attempting to profit from its demise should have been the one euthanized instead (#Inuka #SingaporeZoologicalGardens #Iuiga). Not only was Inuka’s misery put out, the local broadcaster also ended a veteran’s (#Jin Yingji) grievances by bestowing her a Top 10 Most Popular Female artiste award after a career spanning 30 long years.

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While the controvertible deaths cast a pall over National Service, it is heartwarming to witness the actress finally receiving due recognition for her contributions. We also envisage more good things to come particularly with the leadership renewal of Workers’ Party (#PritamSingh), the cabinet reshuffle that purged the old to make way for the new (#LimHngKiang #LimSweeSay #YaacobIbrahim #OUT) and the recently announced Jurong Regional Line. We also fondly welcomed the world’s first suspended playground (#CitySquareMall) and blocks of flats (#TeckWhye) cloaked in Piet Mondrian* colours. It is also fitting that we salute not the Olympic gold medalist (#JosephSchooling) that became a Hugo Boss ambassador, but the feat of 11-year-old Chloe Chua in winning the Menuhin Competition**.

*Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter and is regarded as one of the pioneers of 20th century abstract art. His works are renowned for incorporating geometric elements with primary colours and have been featured in luxury labels such as Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent.

**She and 10-year-old Christian Li (from Australia) were awarded joint 1st prize in the junior category in the violin competition.

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It’s things like this that make me love this country and I adore the quirks and kinks of it even more. There is the non-elected President who did not write her own speech (#Halimah #2018PresidentialAddress), the Parliament that needed a mascot (#Parley), the delusional blogger that aspires to be an NMP (#Xiaxue), the global search that ended up with yet another military honcho (#SMRT #NeoKianHong) and the jarring property listing that exhibited phallic properties (pardon the pun) (#propertyguru.com).

Ultimately, what beggars belief is not the postman that delivered your mail right into the trash or the Ministry that engaged social media influencers to raise awareness for a Budget, it was unbelievably the maid that single-handedly killed a cobra with a broomstick.

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The events that have unfolded so far serves to remind us that bad and reckless behaviour should not be condoned. Maybe our educational institutes have failed us because a polytechnic had to do a U-turn after mistakenly accepting 16 students (#RepublicPolytechnic) or exam scripts are getting stolen (#A-level Chemistry #238students). Elsewhere, a blondie sparked a altercation midway through a lecture (#TemasekPolytechnic) and instagram wannabes armed with toilet brushes, toilet-seat covers and black trash bags are running riot…in the school’s lavatory (#Bullying #AssumptionPathwaySchool #SpecialNeedsStudent). It is safe to say problematic students are a bane for educators but that is nothing compared to the parking woes they are about to face.

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While teachers will start to pay for parking fees in school compounds this year, the most reliable form of transportation still remain on the roads as other forms of transport proved mediocre at best… Travelling by air required the escort of RSAF fighter planes (#Scoot #FlightTR634 #FakeBombThreat), a sampan highlighted you cannot even reach the neighbouring shores (#FoiledEscapeBid #JohnChew #CityHarvestChurch #Extended-jail-sentence) and not to mention, even a train system infused with F1 McLaren technology was unable to save its beleaguered CEO from resigning (#SMRT #DesmondKuek). I tell you, our love affair with cars is particularly evident and we have taken it to the next level. Our car enthusiasts walk the talk, and in some instances all over your vehicle (#GrabDriver #SentosaGateway), others prayed on the steps of a temple or literally hop onto the bonnet for a joyride (#Jaywalking).

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While our affectionate display for cars is particularly endearing, the antipathy towards PMDs (personal mobility devices) is growing judging from the spate of serious accidents. Those reckless riders definitely raised one’s hackles, but what raise our eyebrows were the recent high-profile fatal accidents at traffic junctions (#BukitTimah #Clementi). Speaking of junctions, it reminded me that we are currently at the crossroads* in our country’s leadership succession. There was intense speculation (from the press and social media) fuelling rumours on who will be the the country’s next Prime Minister (#4G-Leaders #ChanChunSing?).

*A crossroad is another name for a junction

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Others are fuelling, not rumours, but the real deal, to a tune of $3 million through misappropriation (#Shell #PulauBukom). At the opposite end of the spectrum, $10 worth of a refuel triggered a witch hunt and a tank full of criticism and opprobrium for a car owner (#”Fuel Ten”-or-”Full Tank” controversy). I urge you to give car owners a break because a few of them, presumably good samaritans, have been offering free rides to students enroute to their prime district schools…according to the police force (#TanglinTrustSchool #UWCSoutheastAsia #NotAttemptedKidnapping).

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While the aforementioned car owners are not private hire drivers, the app ride-hailing industry is definitely undergoing another massive shakeup of sorts. The turf war continues as Grab swallowed up its biggest competitor (#Uber)* while new entrants* are aiming for a slice of the pie. Others are consolidating (#SIA+SilkAir) purely for operational synergies and to provide uniform service offerings*.

Other companies also exhibited their voracious appetite as ComfortDelgro expanded its British operations* with a £1.2 million acquisition of London taxi-circuit operator “Dial-a-Cab”, KPMG(Singapore) acquired an app developer (#RainmakerLabs) and Starhub joined forces with a solar power firm (#Sunseap) to sell electricity. By the way, FYI, the electricity market is already liberalized** starting with Jurong.

*For the casual observers, it may come as a surprise, but it was already in the making when Softbank became a major shareholder in both Grab (2017) and Uber (2018). It is pointless and makes no sense for the 2 firms to fight and bleed heavily against each other, thereby draining and exhausting precious company resources. The consolidation eventually had to happen.

*New entrants to the ride-hailing industry include Ryde<local>, Jugnoo<India>, MVL<local>, FILO<local>, DacSee<Malaysia> and Go-Jek<Indonesia>.

*The strategy rethink is apparent, for the premium segment, SIA merges with SilkAir (2018); for budget segment, Scoot merges with TigerAir (2017). If you realise by now, they have gone full-circle (from 2 to 4 and back to 2 again). For those not in the know, SIA is the parent company for all of them.

*With the acquisition, ComfortDelgro’s total taxi fleet in Britain numbers 3,000

**Yes, you can now buy electricity from retailers other than Singapore Power, pretty much like how you choose your mobile plans between Singtel, M1, Starhub, etc. In short, more choices, more plans for you as a consumer.

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A word of caution as some business deals do gradually sour over time as a Yong Tau Foo stall seek to protect its trade secret from Mr Bean in a joint venture gone wrong. Meanwhile, business interests are tearing the brothers of Tong Garden apart and the co-owners of the famous Eng’s Wantan Noodles are reportedly not seeing eye to eye. Elsewhere, the SGX saga continues as debt-ridden Noble* is mired in a lawsuit filed by one of its major shareholder (#GoldilocksInvestment) while Hyflux**, the water treatment and management company (#OliviaLum) is ironically drowning in a sea of debt.

*Goldilocks Investment is suing Noble for alleged mismanagement that includes inflating the profits of the company and paying inflated salaries to its management staff.

**Back in 2010, Hyflux had a market capitalization of $2.1 billion. At the end of March 2018, the company is only worth $165 million and has about $2.4 billion of outstanding debt. It has seek court protection to prevent its creditors from winding up the company.

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Admittedly, I can fathom the urge to devour your rivals in business. For us normal folks, to curb those hunger pangs, there is the Nasi Lemak concoction from Old Chang Kee, the short-lived chocolate pie from McDonald’s and the “Crispy” Rendang brouhaha (#MasterChef) that got everyone talking and all riled up (including KFC and IKEA).

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But seriously, I think this year’s feted culinary feat has got to be the slow grill….particularly on a Oxford historian (#ProfThumPingTjin) and social media giant (#Facebook #SimonMilner). I have to warn you that it is a process that consume hours (a record of 6 hours at its longest) and taxpayers’ monies, and….it could probably ruin your appetite for a hearing on fake news and falsehoods. Then again, if you do not have the patience for such cuisine and need an instant kick while you dine, you will do no wrong with Geylang’s famous frog porridge (#GeylangLorong19) as it delivers the kick….literally right through the back of your head*. If its dessert that you craved after dinner, I would suggest picking up alcoholic ice-creams before the restriction hours kick in (#NTUCfairprice #Udders #NannyState).

*The fight occurred at a frog porridge eatery.

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I guess that sums it up for the first half of 2018. In the coming days, we will look forward to the most anticipated date with bated breath ever since Trump swiped right (#Tinder) for Kim Jong Un in the pursuit for world peace and CVID*. It is set to take place at Sentosa (#Capella) and common folks like you and I are picking the tab for the summit. Meanwhile, let us sit back, relax and watch events unfold in the second half of 2018.

*The bone of contention in the denuclearization talks is that the US wants CVID (Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Dismantlement) of North Korea’s nuclear programme. North Korea has spent billions on its nuclear ambition and test-launches and the nuclear programme is also what keeps Kim in power. Without it, will he easily be overthrown by his very own government or people ? Will Kim give up the country’s nuclear capability so easily ? Food for thought.

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Picture Credits

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/

www.asiaone.com.sg/

www.straitstimes.com/

www.stomp.com.sg/

https://sg.yahoo.com/

www.todayonline.com/singapore

https://andrewlohhp.wordpress.com/

https://www.sgag.sg/

https://www.theguardian.com/

www.cnn.com/

www.reuters.com/

www.cnbc.com/

www.bbc.com/

https://mothership.sg/

http://mediacock.sg/

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RED DOT 2017: The 2nd Half Review

Its that time of the year again… nope…not the festive cheer nor the jingle-hymning, but the many countless New Year resolutions made that you most probably will not fulfill in the coming year. Ok, just kidding, let’s shift our attention from the Gregorian calendar to the Chinese Zodiac. It was only 6 months ago I lamented that the Year of the Rooster is an inauspicious one. It all started with the culling of those darn chickens (If you need to jog your memory, here it is: Red Dot 2017: Count for me, Singapore ).  Almost 6 months later, my gripe is almost on the verge of vindication, but there is hope yet…


This second half of the year, we were met with an increasingly inward-looking America, faced off against an outward-spreading ISIS engaged in vehicular terrorism (#Barcelona #Paris #London #Stockholm), confronted with a provocative North Korea (more missile tests), yielded to an assertive China, (#SouthChinaSeaDispute) felt sorry for an isolated Qatar (#Gulf-dispute #Arab nations), watched helplessly at a politically-crippled Venezuela (#Nicolas Maduro) and gawked at the towering inferno of Grenfell (#Britain).
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With all that has been happening in the second half of the year, if ever there is a need for divine intervention, it will have to be “God bless America”. Trump’s first year in office hasn’t been smooth-sailing with white supremacism rearing its ugly head in Charlottesville, repeated naval collisions (#USSJohnSMcCain #USSFitzgerald), rugby players brought to their kneels literally (#Protest #NationalAnthem #NFL) and mass murder returning under a hailstorm of bullets and shocking body count (#LasVegasShooting #58dead #489injured).

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Meanwhile in Europe, there was an insecticide-contaminated egg crisis (#Fipronil #Holland), an engineered breakaway from Spain (#Catalan), a country banned from next year’s Winter Olympics (#Russia #State-sponsored doping #IOC #Pyeongchang) and Merkel’s hollowed victory at the election engendered a coalition government (#Germany). Elsewhere in Asia, China reined in its capital outflows, Hun Sen dissolved the main opposition party to tighten his political iron grip (#Cambodia), Japan’s Kobe Steel grappled with a quality-control scandal (#DataTampering) and the Rakhine crisis in Myanmar is tantamount to “ethnic cleansing” according to the UN (#Rohingyas #UnitedNations).

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Genocide, pesticide, launching missiles over your neighbour’s heads (#NorthKorea #Japan) and threatening each other with military action….I get it….we are having a trying time obliterating one another. Fear not, the tech sector has already stolen a march; Apple killed the ipod while Adobe is set to terminate the flash. In that passage of time, a volatile cryptocurrency’s price has surged 1,700 percent (#Bitcoin #Blockchain #Scam? #Bubble?)* while a metal-&-glass monolith (notch included) celebrated its 10th anniversary with a premium price tag (#iPhoneX).

* Macro-perspective: The market capitalisation of Bitcoin at US$190 billion has already exceeded the GDP of some countries alone (Ex: New Zealand-US$185 billion, Qatar, Hungary).

Micro-perspective: Even if Bill Gates and Warren Buffet pooled their fortunes together (US$90 billion + US$83 billion), it wouldn’t be enough to buy all the Bitcoins in the world.
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Even as tech purges obsolescence, it continues to push the boundaries from time to time. Increasingly, chat-bots have replaced hotline service operators, “Fintech” is touted as the future of the finance industry while the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple have already announced plans to move into the content-streaming entertainment industry (watch out, Netflix). Interestingly, Three Square Market became the first US company to microchip its employees* while Spanish avant-garde artist, Moon Ribas** had seismic sensors implanted in her elbows and feet to “translate or interprete” the Earth’s movements/vibrations into art. Strangely, Bladerunner or its reboot (#Bladerunner2049) was a prescient embrace of droids living amongst us…it is now a stark reality instead of science fiction.


The embedded chips will allow employees to pay for food and drink in the company’s break room, open doors, login to computers and use the copy machine.


** She is also the co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization that encourages humans to become cyborgs and promotes cyborgism as an art movement. And no, this is NOT fake news.
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On the topic of movies, it has been an emotional year because emoji-s migrated from mobilephone screens to cinematic ones, Jack Ma (yes, you read it right, Alibaba’s CEO) starred in a film (#GongShouDao) and Harry Styles (more popularly known as a member of boyband One Direction) emoted in a serious war movie by Christopher Nolan (#Dunkirk). I know, Harry’s thespian stint and Jack Ma’s acting chops could be scarier than Halloween, which inadvertently led many to seek solace from a clown in the sewers (#IT[movie] #Pennywise #StephenKing). If you are yearning for horror, that clown though pales in comparison to the heinous deeds of Harvey Weinstein. The allegations of sexual assualt, molestation, rape and the staggering list of the movie mogul’s victims* culminated and led to his downfall in a matter of days.

* #RoseMcGowan #AngelinaJolie #GwynethPaltrow, #AshleyJudd #LeaSeydoux #MiraSorvino #LouisetteGeiss #KateBeckinsale #CaraDelevingne #Jessica Barth #AndManyOthers
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While Weinstein became a Hollywood pariah overnight, the quintet of supermodels from the 90s (#CindyCrawford #NaomiCampbell #CarlaBruni, #HelenaChristensen #ClaudiaSchiffer) reunited on the catwalk to mark the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s passing*. That is alot of emotional baggage as a tribute to the fashion maven, but rest assured, you can carry them in totes inspired by our local pasar malam (#Balenciaga) or flaunt your material excesses via a royal flush (#LouisVuitton). And if its paragons of style you are looking for, Jimmy Choo (#ManoloBlaknit) has big shoes to fill, literally, as it was sold to Michael Kors. Elsewhere, the dearth and death of brick and mortar stores claimed more victims as the world’s biggest toy store  (#Toys ‘R’ Us) filed for insolvency protection while Gap is closing most of its Gap and Banana Republic outlets to focus on its Old Navy and Athleta brands.

* Gianni Versace was gunned down on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion in 1997. His murderer, Andrew Cunanan, used the same gun to commit suicide eight days later.
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The worlds of Hollywood, fashion and retail might have cast a pall of gloom, but thankfully we still have time to celebrate holy matrimony. Song Joong Ki & Song Hye Kyo (#DescendantsOfTheSun) went from lovers in reel life to husband and wife in real life. In another realm, The King of The North, heir to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms as we now know (#KitHarrington #JonSnow #GameofThrones) and a Wild-ling (#RoseLeslie #Ygritte) got hitched in similar circumstances. Meanwhile, HongKong actor Shawn Yue tied the knot with his girlfriend of one year (#SarahWang #DaughterofLeatherMagnate) and Markle is ready to sparkle after Prince Harry announced their engagement. The American actress may have stolen Harry’s heart, but others fancied his mid-game snack even more. While these couples can hear wedding bells ringing in the distance, Ayumi Yamasaki is almost certainly going deaf in both ears. That could probably explained why Adele is quitting concert tours for good.


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If there is one song you won’t find hard of hearing this year, it has to be that Latino tune that sticks in your head (#Despacito). Ultimately, what dominated the airwaves boils down to two genre-defying artistes, one uprooted from Country beginnings to Pop, the other, a pious girl-cum-gospel singer gone the commercial route. Yes, the loggerheads are at it again in the duel for album sales supremacy as their rivalry continues (#TaylorSwift #KatyPerry #”Reputation”VS”Witness”). Losing your hearing like Ayumi is one thing, losing your kidney’s vital functions like Selena Gomez is life-threatening (#Lupus #KidneyTransplant), but losing your band’s frontman is simply heartbreaking. Linkin Park (#ChesterBennington #Suicide), AC/DC (#MalcolmYoung) and SHINee (#KimJongHyun #Suicide) sung a sorrow tune while other icons of rock kicked the bucket (#TomPetty #JohnnyHallyday). Elsewhere, Playboy parted with its flamboyant silk pyjamas-wearing founder (#HughHefner) while follicular virtuoso (aka celebrity hairstylist) Shunji Matsuo dies of pancreatic cancer.

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As the celebrities/popstars reached their final destination in life, others fumbled and faltered even before the finish line. There was the strayed elbow that disqualified Peter Sagan and upended Mark Cavendish’s overtaking manoeuvre (#TourdeFrance), the cramps that floored Usain Bolt in his final competitive event (Yes, the world’s fastest man has officially retired from competitive running), the despair of the Azzurri (#Italy)* as they failed to qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup and Vettel’s disastrous start at the Singapore leg of the F1 Grand Prix that paved the way for Hamiliton’s eventual championship.

* The last time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup was in 1958.
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Not only race cars, worlds also collided as the exponents of MMA took on the Kings of the Rings. Manny Pacqiao was schooled by ex-teacher Jeff Horn while Mayweather dispatched Mcgregor with unsurprising and relative ease. Despite unfulfilled dreams, unaccomplished goals and varied disappointment, records were still broken and history rewritten in the sporting arena. Dressel romped to a 7-gold medal haul at the FINA World Championship banishing Joseph Schooling’s Rio gold feat to a distant memory while Jelena Ostapenko became the first unseeded women’s player to win the French Open since 1933.
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I know… its a fascinating world that we live in for this second half of the year, our 719.1 square kilometres of land is equally intriguing as well. There was the Presidential Election reserved for Malays which 3 non-Malays vied for, the presidential committee (thankfully its not another secret one) that determined your race, the town council that sued its own town councillors (#AHTC), the transport operator that took a bow literally (#SMRT) and the picture that was worth a thousand words and scathingly a ton of brickbats (#MissSingaporeInternational2017). Yet, much of our attention was centered on the lady that was converted from an Indian (by birth) to a Malay and then turned into the most controversial President in the country’s history. While that lady will now live with the curse that she is not an elected President (#ReservedPresidency), the consolation is at least she has left the damned neighbourhood of Yishun for good.
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While the first female President took her place in the Istana, an abode in Oxley Road played out like a Korean drama (according to one opposition MP) where the misdeeds of a dishonourable son came to light in a blow by blow account via social media in the middle of the year. There was the stellar cast: the disgruntled and bullied siblings forced into a corner, the son that went against his late father’s wishes and who played the role of the defendant, judge and jury all in the space of one parliament seating, the son’s wife (#HoChing) that did dogsbody work in the patriarch house, the personal lawyer turned Attorney General (#AGuyCalledLucien) who had his name dragged through the saga and the cacophony of rebuttals from the supporting cast of ministers and politicians who came to the aid of their boss under siege.
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While that house sowed the seeds of discord and discontent, eventually blooming into a full-blown nationwide affair for its previous occupants, we all know that a good Korean drama is not only built on strong characters alone. It is also essential to have compelling storylines, lurid details and plot twists. The revelations, damaging accusations and insinuation came thick and fast as the story unfolded….

1. Informing your siblings you absolved yourself from the affairs of the house but going behind their back to make a statutory declaration to a secret committee;
2. Being told by your brother to engage a lawyer to “discuss” matters pertaining to the house (which left the siblings gobsmacked);
3. Not inviting your siblings and their respective family members over during Lunar New Year celebrations;
4. Questioning the validity of a will.

I tell you, forget about building a cashless payment society or fighting diabetes (#NDPRally2017), Hollywood is where we should be heading to.
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The house is certainly destined to be a meretricious artefact for hagiography in the foreseeable future, but it should work equally well as a tourist destination. This year, there are other tourist attractions worth mentioning…the newly opened but aloof 4th Terminal (#ChangiAirport) that is not serviced by the skytrain, the park with 26 slides to make up for your deprived childhood (#AdmiraltyPark), the Tiger Sky Tower gondola that can leave you stuck for hours (#Sentosa), Yishun’s new hawker centre which holds your dollar for a ransom (#TrayReturnInitiative), the country’s first bungy jump tower (#Sentosa #AJHackett) and the island’s first glow-in-the-dark pavement (#BukitPanjang #OnTrial).
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With a plethora of attractions, who says the little red dot is a boring or rather, boar-ing place? Not a day goes by without incident…. There were:

-plummeting lifts (#JurongWestAvenue1), checked
-unsterilized dental equipment used at a national healthcare institution (#72-batches #NationalDentalCentre), checked
-claddings that did not conform to fire safety regulations (#TampinesHub #SingaporePolytechnic #ManyOthers), checked
-a flyover that collapsed while undergoing construction (#OKP), checked
-defection of 300-odd insurance agents from one company to another (#AIA #GreatEastern), checked
-consolidation in the property industry (#Propnex+DennisWeeGroup #OrangeTee+EdmundTie), checked

-the first lady detained under the Internal Security Act (#ISIS #PCFSparkletots #TeacherAssistant), checked

-a pride of woeful Lions going one full calendar year without a win, checked
-a gargantuan tissue pack to “chope” a parking lot, checked


Yes, all these are emblematic of a “Uniquely Singapore” indeed.
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If you must know, that hugely derided tourism promotion tagline (“Uniquely Singapore”) has been replaced with “Passion Made Possible” (#SingaporeTourismBoard #EconomicDevelopmentBoard). Yes, we are manufacturing passion now so to speak, just like how we encourage people to mate in confined spaces. Not to worry, passion was all around evident from the riot of colours in Yayoki Kusama’s polka dot craze (#NationalGallery), the fervour and fever of a record number of en-bloc sales* birthing several newly minted millionaires overnight and a salaried professional gaming career** (#ChaosTheory). Thats right, its legit now to be professional gamer with CPF included.

* #NormantonPark #RioCasa #Eunosville #SerangoonVille #FlorenceRegency #LagunaPark #PineGrove #IvoryHeights #TampinesCourt #Many-many-more

** Chaos Theory (local E-sports team) pay players a monthly salary, CPF and medical benefits.
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Sometimes too much passion could be a good or bad thing…particularly with the millennials. There are children held transfixed by fidget spinners and the studious drone garrisoned at cafes, armed with a profanity (written on that piece of paper is “FXXX YOU” in the picture) and a self-entitled attitude. I know, they are literally crying out for attention, pun intended. But nothing could top the kid who celebrated the nation’s birthday with a middle-finger salute live on TV (#NDP). That little rascal reminded me of the typical school bullies that usher you into the drudgery of school life (#StHilda’sSecondary) …welcome to the life of the YOLO generation in 2017. Regrettably, an abundance of passion couldn’t prevent one of our proud retail institutions from closing its shutters after 174 years of service (#JohnLittle). Passion alone could not stop Cathay Organization from selling its cinema operations (its lifeblood) to focus on its property business and it is crystal clear that not enough passion is left to save the last standing bastion of kampong life (#LorongBuangkok).
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Yet, when you talk about passion, there is no better way to describe it other than having a CEO personify it himself…because according to a transport minister, he volunteered for the job. (#DesmondKuek #KhawBoonWan #SMRT). Under his stewardship, rail reliability was three times better than before while customer satisfaction in public transport reached a 9-year high. Train service proved to be so popular that citizens started queueing starting from right outside the train stations. Not only did the CEO exude the passion needed for the job, he also embodied the deep-seated cultural issues within the organization. There was the recurring signalling issues (#Thales), the train that went amphibious (#Flooding #North-SouthLine) and those that “came into contact with each other” (#Collision #JooKoon)…. ??
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While doubts were expressed on the usage of words in describing that collision, one thing that is certain is that ex-Chief of Defence has taken the company to where it has never gone before. The rail operator that used to be associated with reliable, clean and comfortable rides in its heyday is now synonymous with frequent disruptions, overcrowding, blackouts, flooding, falsified maintenance records and a fatal worksite accident (#PasirRis2016). Other significant milestones in the transport sector this year include the debut of the 3-door buses, the first Ang Moh bus driver in its ranks (#SBSTransit) and the simultaneous opening and breakdown of the Downtown Line 3 on its first day of business. And who can forget the half-hearted and half-baked gesture in inducing us to don our military uniforms just to enjoy a free ride for the day (#EpicFail #illogical).
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If there is one area where we get our passion spot on, it has got to be the shopaholic streak and bubble-tea freaks in us. Gong Cha’s return prompted overnight queues, Amazon Prime descended on our shores (#SameDayDelivery) and the invasion of Japanese retailers (#Lumine #DonDonDonki) is set to loosen our purse strings further. As you splurge on your purchases, I urge you folks to tighten your belts not because of the warning shots fired for a GST hike but also because you can be sued till your pants drop (#LowThiaKhiang #ParliamentStatement #LeeFamilySaga).
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It looks likely that somebody within the sporting fraternity may need a pair of new pants as a national athletics body threatened legal action on a local pole vaulter. (#SingaporeAthleticsAssociation[SAA] #RachelYang #SEAgamesSilverMedalist)*. Ironically, factions within SAA are plagued by infighting and embroiled in internal turmoil over a Whatsapp saga. Our local marathoner (#SohRuiYong) wasn’t impressed with the fractious organization’s shenanigans and he had some strong words after reluctantly parting with a portion of his prize money. I think I better warn him that he can be prosecuted even if his opinion is a private and personal one because there is a precedent now (#LiShengWu #AGC).

* You are not reading wrongly, a staff of SAA had threatened to sue their own athlete for defamation.
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A family name besmirched, ties severed, members torn asunder, deep-seated cultural issues, unreliable infrastructure, public institutions bereft of accountability and a reputation gradually going down the drain, the list goes on…. I understand…we have had a tough year. But do not be discouraged because this is the year where we were urged to Do Good, Do Together…sans the million dollar salary, of course.

There was the 17-year-old Republic Polytechnic student (#MatthewYap) who set a new world record of 208 kg (FYI, that is 3 times his bodyweight) in the World Classic Powerlifting Championships. There was also gold for golf in the SEA games after 28 years, the first Singaporean (#CheyenneGoh) to qualify for next year’s Winter Olympics and a near fairytale for Singapore’s darts duo. While these athletes walk tall amongst us, there is a samaritan, small in stature but steeped in charity, in the form of 10-year old Phoebe Lim*. She helped to raise funds for a cancer-stricken hawker by selling homemade chilli paste. Although this little kid with a big heart is home-schooled, she has certainly passed the test of life with flying colours.

* After her deed was publicized, she found herself on the receiving end of other people’s kindness as a chef opened up his commercial kitchen for her use and also helped in procuring the ingredients. The gist is: it helps to pay kindness forward. This is truly Do Good, Do Together.
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Doing good together also meant getting together for a good cause. There were the nuptials for ex-Mediacorp artistes (#VincentNg #TracyLee #PopiahKing #SamGoi), Jessica Liu said “Yes I do” to Jeremy Chan while Apple Hong and Xu Bin wedded their respective partners outside the entertainment circle. Love was evidently in the air as another oddball couple (#JoannaDong #OlindaCho) wooed and wowed the judges with Jay Chou as their mentor (#Sing!China). In light of more would-be mothers, our country has opened its very first breast milk bank as we put the mammaries of mums to work (#KKH).
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While the couples are settling down and heeding the government’s clarion call to boost the declining birth rate, there were individuals that came to the fore. They ran the gamut from the amusing to the outrageous. There was the photographer (#Chuando) from 50-going-on-30 (age wise), the Singapore Idol alumni that dealt a decisive but deadly blow (he won the bout) after Sylvester Sim’s withdrawal (#StevenLim #RIP-Pradeep #LastMinuteReplacement), the scion (#Metro) jailed 2 years for drug possession, the literary comic artist awarded not one but three Eisners (#OscarsOfComics #TheArtOfCharlieChanHockChye) despite the controversial funding withdrawal for his book and the artiste who highlighted racism for an audition (#ShreyBhargava #Stereotyping #AhBoyzToMen4).
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Be it couples or individuals, they all typify the trappings of our dysfunctional society. Yet food will always be a common denominator that binds us together, even if it meant being charged discriminately for a “makan” session when you are a local citizen (#MacPherson #RC). I am pretty sure those brokers/remisiers trading in SGX wouldn’t mind paying extra because their lunch-breaks came back after a long absence (cancelled since 2011). And for good measure, David Beckham drop by for a meal at our local eatery. It is a pity because I would have recommended the Nasi Lemak Burger (#McDonald’s) or those old school buttery fluff cakes (#GrandCastellaCake) that are hugely popular this year to him. But I guess I will never go wrong with Bak Ku Teh because even politicians from opposing camps consume it together during lunch as a conversation starter (#LowThiaKhiang #TanChuanJin #Bro-mance).
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Despite everything that has happened throughout this Year of The Rooster, I am actually optimistic on the outlook for 2018 because our country is in good hands…literally. And if there’s one motivational mantra I live by nowadays…forget about YOLO, its “Speaker Today, President Tomorrow” (#Halimah).

Meanwhile, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.

 

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Side-note:

In case you are wondering what’s with those words in bold you came across earlier while reading (besmirched, dogsbody, gobsmacked), these were the actual words used in the Lee family saga. 

 

Picture Credits:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com

http://www.asiaone.com.sg

http://www.straitstimes.com

http://www.stomp.com.sg

http://www.yahoo.com.sg

http://www.todayonline.com/singapore

http://www.sgag.sg

http://www.cnbc.com/

https://www.theguardian.com/

http://www.cnn.com/

http://www.reuters.com/

http://www.cnbc.com/

http://www.bbc.com/

Red Dot 2017: Count for me, Singapore

We are 7, no… make that 6 months into 2017. My bad, we have a problem with counting this year. But before I drag you down the aisles through the first half of 2017 with a bloodied mouth to boot (#UnitedAirlines), lets clear off the remanants of 2016 before commenting on the new state of affairs. On Christmas Day in 2016, George Michael’s passing gave us a rude awakening (#WakeMeUpBeforeYouGoGo). It wasn’t a Merry Christmas as the stars departed one after another when Princess Leia (#CarrieFisher) was laid to rest a few days later while Debbie Reynolds followed suit a day after in heartbreaking circumstances (#CarrieFisher’sMother #SingingInTheRain). The grim reaper promptly arrived in 2017 as we sent off a New Kid On The Block (#Tommy Page) while tributes poured in for the King of Electronica/Trance genre (#RobertMiles #Children) and the founding father of Rock ‘n’ Roll (#ChuckBerry). Asia meanwhile paid homage to a legendary comics series creator who left his lasting legacy (#AlfonsoWong #LaoFuZi).


Out with the old, in with the new, we thought 2017 is gonna be a better year because a new President proclaimed: “Lets make this country great again !!”. Well, things haven’t gone swimmingly thus far, he is drowning in a pool of mounting disapproval and repeated rejections from Congress, a string of resignations/sackings/exit of his appointment holders (#MichaelFlynn<NationalSecurityAdvisor> #SallyYates<DeputyAttorneyGeneral> #JamesComey<Director of FBI>) and the shocking possibilty of an impeachment (#RussiaInterference). Many of us WannaCry, not because of how Trump is running or ruining the country, but because we were actually held to ransom by malicious scripts.


Against the backdrop of anti-globalization and protectionism, the world this year is rife with immigration bans (#USA), tighter visa controls (#UK #Australia #New Zealand), repeated missile test launches reciprocated with deployment of missile defences on the Korean peninsula (#NorthKorea #South Korea #THAAD) and an a endless wave of terror attacks (#UK -parliament-building #Russi<subway-bombing> #France #Egypt<suicide-bombing> #AriaGrandeConcert #Philippines<Marawi>). Senseless killings and violence aplenty, it seems inevitable that we now live in the age of “Hunger Games” as murders are broadcasted live on Facebook.

 
Elsewhere, Theresa May called for a snap election to fortify and consolidate her government’s Brexit passage. France elected its youngest head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte (#EmmanuelMacron #Age:39) while Netherlands opted for a safer choice in Mark Rutte. In the far East, Carrie Lam was elected the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong while South Koreans were over the moon as a new leader (#MoonJaeIn) replaced Ex-President Park Geun Hye who was impeached and subsequently arrested. Closer to our shores, Basuki loses his governor post and freedom in a religion and race-tinged gubernatorial election (#Ahok #Blasphemy #Jakarta #Jail) while Najib preps Barisan Nasional for the upcoming election (Another blackout coming ?). 

 
But for others, it is still business as usual as luxury goods behemoth LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) bought Christian Dior for a staggering sum of $18 billion while Coach acquired Kate Spade in a bid to accelerate its growth. In the land of the rising sun, Toshiba was brought to its knees by its losses in its nuclear unit (#Westinghouse) while a prison stint looms for Samsung’s Vice-President (#LeeJae-Yong #Bribery). Meanwhile, Apple Inc and Berkshire Hathaway are flushed with cash** while Cathay Pacific makes its biggest job cuts in 20 years as it registered its first loss since 2008.
** The difference between the two is that Apple is facing lacklustre growth while Warren Buffet hasn’t spotted any good buys to add to his portfolio. 


Forget about how crazy the world has become for the moment, instead, let’s adjourn to recent breakout performances in the entertainment industry. No, I am not talking about Wentworth Miller reprising his breakout role of breaking out of prisons (#Prisonbreak: Resurrection). But rather, the prize presentation gaffe that almost led La La Land to steal the limelight from Moonlight (#Oscars2017 #PricewaterhouseCooper #AcademyAwardforBestPicture). The spotlight then briefly shifted to a streaming giant as Netflix made its first competitive entry in the Cannes Film Festival (#Okja #TheMeyerowitzStories). Despite that, we should put Cannes aside. I tell you, this year, its all about girl power in Hollywood as the Emma-s (#Stone #Watson) set Tinseltown alight with their box office performances. While one tamed a beast (#Beauty&TheBeast), the other breaks into song and dance under the watchful eye of the cobalt sky. Not to be outdone, Gael Gadot channels Amazonian might, kicks ass with pizzazz and oozes sass as Wonder Woman while Katherine Waterston takes charge in outer-space as the new protagonist in Alien: Covenant (#Flashback:SigourneyWeaver). 


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The ladies continued making the headlines as East literally meets West…a thrilled Jolin Tsai scored a high-tea date with a famous Scientologist (#Tom Cruise). On the other hand, the guys are not doing too badly as wedding bells rang for a Heavenly King (#AaronKwok), A Running Man (#Gary) declared his holy matrimony and George Clooney becomes a father of two. Royalties or wannabes jumped on the bandwagon as Pippa** weds while Princess Mako*** is set to marry her commoner sweetheart, forgoing her royal status for good. Awwww…the power of love.
**more popularly known as the sister in a figure-hugging bridesmaid dress that stole the limelight at Kate Middleton’s wedding back in 2011

*** Japan’s centuries-old imperial law requires a princess to leave the imperial family upon marriage to a commoner.


Speaking of love, love for the game is evidently strong as golfer Sergio Garcia wins a major after 18 years and 73 attempts to be exact (#NeverSayDie). But the love for the game evaporated as Djokovic is on the wane since becoming a dad while Tiger Woods was recently arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant. Love and adulation also proved to be fleeting as Claudio Ranieri was sacked just 9 months after leading Leicester City to their most improbable title in football history and the love for the rules caused Lexi Thompson to incur a 4-stroke penalty after she was penalized by an overzealous television viewer, denying her of a possible victory (#Golf). 

Forget about sacked managers, wronged competitors and athletes past their prime because fresh young blood is still coursing through the vein of sports. Embrace the new prodigy in Russell Westbrook (#NBA), keep your eyes peeled on the fast-rising Valtteri Bottas (aka Hamiliton’s teammate, #F1) and pay heed to the big-hitting serves of Alexander Zverev. While the new sporting talents may have emerged, a seasoned winner (#SerenaWilliams) is in a hiatus counting down her final trimester (Yes, she was already pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January this year). Others have returned to the fold after a stabbing-related injury (#PetraKvitova) and some (#Sharapova #WildCard) to varied criticism after a long involuntary lay-off (15-month doping ban).


Evidently, it seems like the Year of the Rooster does not bode well for the world. Here on this island where everybody live from hand to mouth, residing cheek by jowl with those ubiquitous app-activated bikes, it is no different. In fact, we cried foul over some fowls (#SinMingEstate #culling) after committing the very first cardinal sin of the year. IKEA Singapore protested and stopped selling chicken wings…but seriously, I hope those culled chickens did not end up in the form of a portmanteau of sorts, the Chizza (#PizzaHut #KFC). Yes, it looked like the love child of the pizza and fried chicken if they were to have a baby. The Chizza looks edible, in fact it seems a better alternative than joining “hip-pies” at food establishments in British colonial residences (#SeletarAerospacePark) or queuing hours at Artbox for overhyped food at exorbitant prices. Honestly, I rather go have a smashing good time for my porridge fix at Upper Serangoon Road or patronize Southeast Asia’s first Apple flagship store (#OrchardRoad). 


Killing those chickens was like opening Pandora’s box, the woes just kept piling on. No, I am not referring to Jack Neo going back in drag (#LiangXiMei), the misdemeanour of Aloysius Pang (#Mediacorp #DrinkDriving) or the poor man’s version of Fish N Chips in a high-end restaurant (#IkanBilis #Pathetic-strips-of-potato #Level33). While our feathered friends were getting slaughtered, the administration arm of the military got hacked (#Mindef), mud was slung with accusations thrown in the FAS (Forget About Soccer) election and one of LKY’s old guard (#OthmanWok) bade farewell.

 

Things descended into pandemonium as stark naked figures ran amok, a repatriated Inam conducted sermons of seditious nature and someone filed a legal challenge on the basis of the Reserved Presidency. More misfortune befell on us as a Tembusu falls (#BotanicGardens #TembusuTree), a false parapet gives way (#OrchardCentral), an innocuous goalpost kills (#GeylangMethodistSecondarySchool), newborns receive conscription letters and the dead get hounded by tax authorities for payment. As the saying goes, there is nothing more certain in life than death and taxes.


Speaking of money, it’s baffling because it can be the cause and panacea of our troubles in the same instance. There was the mysterious $500,000 donation to a regional football organization for the “good” of Singapore football (#FAS #Zainudin #WinstonLee #BillNg), second-tier football clubs (#TiongBahruFC #CAD) richer than their S-league counterparts and billions burned by sovereign wealth funds in a failed investment (#GIC #UBS). 


While the country’s most heavily-funded national sports association, football clubs and sovereign wealth funds had the cash to splash, others simply came up short. Ezra tanked, SingPost took a huge impairment (#TradeGlobal) and Noble ($2 billion in debt) is on its last legs as local-listed companies floundered. There was slight reprieve as Kimly became the first coffee-shop chain to list on the stock exchange while a joint winning bid (#LoganPropertyHoldings #NanshanGroup) of over $1 billion dollars landed in the vicinity of Queenstown. (Good luck to future residents). While the developer’s winning bid could be bang for your buck, flashing a thick wad of moolah could be our claim to social media infamy (#FamousChickenRiceChainOwner).

Amidst all the chaos and revelations, sometimes we wish we could stop time to take a breather. Actually that was what some nondescript luggage and white powder did as they brought life to a momentary standstill on a disruption-ridden train network (aka the latest form of disruptive technology other than self-driving cars). Life thankfully and predictably went back to normal as milk formula prices continued soaring (The average prices doubled in the past decade), water and electricity tariffs increases were announced, a carbon and a restructured diesel tax will soon be implemented and a public transport fare revision is in already in progress…. All these of course you should have long been acquainted with because it is a tale as old as time after every General Election. 


I know, all your monthly expenses are rising while million-dollar Ministers are waxing lyrical or cynical about milk powder being milk powder. I can already see the curses and profanities in your imaginary speech bubbles, but do refrain from externalizing them like what a relief teacher did in Northbrooks Secondary School. She swore probably because junior colleges and secondary schools are going through another round of extensive mergers or that parents are suing schools over their son’s confiscated mobilephone (#ACS). Some students of the affected institutions complained of lost identity as the merged entities will have a new moniker, but a tertiary institute (#SIM) has already thrown the baby, or rather the institute out with the bathwater. It has been renamed as WUSS (Anton Casey is famous for this one),… oops, typo,…SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences). Naming controversies aside, let’s try not to glorify the Japs of World War 2 like what the government initially and foolishly did (#SyonanGallery)**. 

**For the uninformed, it has since been renamed .


We have to admit, all that stress from the high cost of living could be getting on our nerves. There was monkey business in Segar, a touch of gold for a certain estate’s staircase (#JalanRajah) and even a depressive neighbourhood like Yishun got its very own Netflix promo. According to some, Yishun is cursed and could be a living hell for its residents, but actually, Toa Payoh is no better. As the saying goes: “Hell hath no fury like a couple scorned”. They manage to “chope” and push their way to some hawker centre seats (#InfamousCouple #ToaPayohHawkerCentre) while on the way to internet stardom. Others exhibited their homosexual proclivity and violent tendencies in drunken stupor (#FamousMRT”Gay”Uncle) while some resorted to inflicting bodily harm in the hope of finding a bracelet (#BraceletLady #OwnDays). That rage, the anger, those pent up sexual frustrations…. it isn’t surprising that some clever entrepreneur has already capitalized on the demand in opening the country’s first rage room* *
  * *No kidding, Singapore’s very first rage room is located in Balestier. You literally pay to obliterate things to smithereens.


Don’t let all that negativity and boorish behaviour weigh you down, because we got some good and inspiration on this island. No, it’s not Angela Lee (#MMA) as she is not even a Singaporean (FYI, she is a Canadian through and through. It’s just that her dad used to be a Singaporean, that’s all), and neither is it the Olympic gold medalist because he is busy training hard for other swim meets and sparring with Angela Lee during his free time. I am actually referring to the unconventional: 
1. The wonder and dexterity of 14-year old Kyra Poh in winning gold at the World Cup of indoor sky-diving in Poland last year and beating adults to clinch gold again at the Wind Games (Solo Speed Category) in February this year.
2. The winning jabs and grit of Muhamad Ridhwan in landing Singapore’s first professional boxing title.
3. The grace and tenacity of Yu Shuran in being the first Singaporean to qualify for the World Figure Skating Championship. 

Then there is the elephant in the room…no, i am not referring to whether the Speaker of Parliament (#Halimah) is set to be the next President even though Chan Chun Sing has jumped the gun by addressing her as such (not once but twice) in Parliament. But rather, I am brimming with pride and admiration at Kirsten Tan’s “Pop Aye” in being the first local film to win an award at the Sundance Film Festival. We are proud of you folks, but do steer clear of this year’s National Day song as it’s an embarassment to forget.

But to be frank, our biggest problem this year is the Elected Presidency, I beg your pardon, the Selected Presidency. People in ivory towers are in denial of historical facts and are incapable of counting. President Ong Teng Cheong will forever be our first elected President, the history textbooks says it and even Google confirms it. What do we do now? Sue Google for displaying fake news via their search results? Rewrite history textbooks? or better yet, read our textbooks blindfolded (#Protest #ISAdetention #MarxistConspiracy) ? I propose we engage The Count from Sesame Street. If you still remember that vampire with a French accent, he teaches kids how to count. Maybe he can help teach these aristocrats how to count again.
 
I am sure we will be in good hands because Sesame Street did something laudable this year. They included an autistic character (#Julie) in their show to teach kids about appreciating and interacting people with autism. Yes, its all about inclusiveness and non-discrimination, not exclusiveness shoved down your throat. While I applaud the efforts of Sesame Street, one swallow does not a summer make, particularly in Singapore. Discrimination and exclusiveness couldn’t be further away from the truth as the pioneer generation of Sungei Road Thieves’ Market and a veteran actress (#JinYingji #Mediacorp) dished the dirt on how they were being treated…exactly like dirt. With job security under threat and the future looking bleak, its no wonder a politician (#TeoSerLuck) is throwing in the towel as a Mayor while another (#TinPeiLing) reverted to doing an MP’s job on a part-time basis. 


Slain chickens, roaming monkeys, a cost of living that keeps going North and a future President that will become a divisive figure instead of a unifying one….we are taking them all in our stride. However, for many, what broke the proverbial straw on the camel’s back was when the pastor and his band of false prophets (#KongHee #CityHarvestChurch) were gifted light prison sentences. I tell you, even Kong Hee’s anointed oil won’t save us from all this mess. If you are planning to leave this country (sounds familiar recently ? #LeeFamilyFeud), you could seek asylum in other countries like what the country’s most famous boy did (#AmosYee). Alternatively, you could opt for one of the 7 new Earth-like planets discovered by NASA. 
Be it Mother Earth or out there in outerspace, a word of caution: do not jet off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport unless assassination is your kind of thing. But metaphorically speaking…it will be over your dead body for your exit plans to materialize (#KimJongNam #Malaysia #NorthKorea #Assassination). 

Meanwhile, hang in there and lets brace ourselves for the 2nd half of 2017.

**Picture Credits:
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/

http://www.asiaone.com.sg/

http://www.straitstimes.com/

http://www.stomp.com.sg/

https://sg.yahoo.com/

http://www.todayonline.com/singapore

https://andrewlohhp.wordpress.com/

https://www.sgag.sg/

https://www.theguardian.com/

http://www.cnn.com/

http://www.reuters.com/

http://www.cnbc.com/

http://www.bbc.com/

RED DOT 2016: The Year in Review

And so we got off on the wrong foot at the start of 2016, North Korea conducted another hydrogen bomb test (#nuclear), ISIS struck the hearts of Indonesia (#Jakarta), France (#Nice), Belgium (#Brussels) and Bangladesh (#Dhaka) while Zika is the new dengue with head-shrinking ramifications (#microcephaly). Meanwhile, Duterte does the purge on the drug trade (#hitman #drugwar) while two old foes shook hands for the first time in 18 years to battle a new and bigger foe (#Mahatir #Anwar #Najib). Some papers from Panama (#MossackFonseca) revealed how the rich hid their wealth to avoid taxes and prosecution while Najib’s huge bank balance was controversially and conveniently cleared by the Attorney-General. The Brits exited EU twice in a space of less than 7 days, the first in a shocking referendum (#Brexit), the second in shambolic fashion against a minnow (#Iceland #Euro2016)

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In th US of A, the demagouge of the US Presidency race culminates to a showdown between the former First Lady (#Hillary) and the megalomaniac with moral turpitude (#Trump). Not to be outdone, the incumbent (#Obama) slow-jams his presidential milestones with Jimmy Fallon on primetime television and not surprisingly, became the first US President to set foot on Cuban soil in 70-plus years. The question on everybody’s minds is: “Will history be made twice? – The first black president in Obama and the first American female president in Hillary. In fact, not just in USA, this year, there is a gender shift in the geopolitical scene (#GirlPower) as Brazil’s Rousseff is set for impeachment, Britain’s Theresa May steers UK’s post-Brexit strategy, Germany’s Merkel faces waning political support (#refugeepolicy) and Taiwan elected its first female President (#Tsai Ing-Wen). Oh boy, or rather girl, its a tough job.
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Getting down to business, Foxconn (more popularly known as the contract manufacturer for Apple) readies itself to buy Sharp, Marriot acquired Starworld (the owner of your Sheraton-s, Westin-s and St Regis on this planet), Hanjin Shipping (The world’s sixth largest shipping line) files for bankruptcy and Yahoo is going under the hammer. Elsewhere in the tech world, cellphone batteries are exploding/combusting (#SamsungNote7) while augmented reality (#PokemonGo #NianticLab) cemented a hold on our daily lives and at the same time briefly revived Nintendo’s flagging fortunes. But what really grab us by the scruff of the neck was when Tim Cook dropped the mike…the new iPhone goes jack-less (#RIP 3.5mm jack), the earpods goes wireless, jet black is the new black and Apple rejected the FBI’s request for a backdoor to the iPhone.
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And then there were those that departed without a word but left a lasting legacy, iconic David Bowie released his last album, Severus Snape (#AlanRickman #Harry Potter) is schooled eternally at Hogswarts, Glen Frey (Eagles founder) flew the coop literally, Christina Grimmie is no longer The Voice (#GunnedDownByFan) and golfing great Arnold Palmer made his last swing on the greens. Royalties vacated or relinquished their thrones as King Bhumibol (#Thailand) ended his reign, Prince bites the dust and Muhammad Ali is immortalized as the people’s champion.
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Then there were those that came together in marital bliss, we offer our heartiest congratulations to Tavia Heaung (#TVB #HimLaw) and Ruby Lin as they walked the aisles while second time is a charm for newly-wedded Nicky Wu. Others unfortunately had to part ways as it was au revoir to marriage for Selina Jen (S.H.E) and Johnny Depp while Mr & Mrs Smith (#Brangelina) are no more.
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There were also startling discoveries and sensational revelations. No, I am not talking about Josephine Teo’s claustrophobic copulation preferences (#YouNeedASmallSpaceToHaveSex). That was nothing compared to the discovery of 5 new elements, say “Hi” to Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine, Oganesson and Meldonium, new elements added to the periodic table. My bad, the 5th one is not really an element but a banned substance that Maria Sharapova conveniently overlooked as she serves her shortened suspension from the tennis circuit. While Maria is unable to compete for the time being, others were contesting fiercely at the box office. Superman took on Batman (#DC Comics #Ben Affleck) while Captain America fought Ironman in a civil war (#Marvel). Reboots made their comeback this year from movies like Ghostbusters to television series like Gilmore Girls, Macguyver, The X-files (#AgentMulder&Scully). Some rehashed the originals so badly that it make Bridget Jones have a baby.
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Fear not, all is not lost as Jon Snow is not dead (#GameofThronesSeason6), Leo gets his long-deserved Oscars (that bear in the The Revenant deserves an Oscar too), Messi gifts a boy in war-torn Afghanistan some Argentina football jerseys, Cleveland Cavaliers (#CurryVSLeBron) recovered from a 1-3 deficit to win the NBA finals 4-3 (a first in NBA’s 78-year history), Leicester City defied a 5000 to 1 odds (the odds suggested impossible) to become kings of England, and to top it off literally, Angelique Kerber knocks Serena Williams off the pedestal (she became the oldest player to reach World No. 1 in tennis at the age of 28, #Old-is-Gold). Elsewhere, FIFA elected a new chief (#Infantino) and Sam Alladyce was made a laughing stock for England (#SackedAfter1game) despite his 100% win record (1 out of 1).
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Back home, on this island beset with disappearing landmarks, an unhealthy number of malls and a morbid obsession with relentless tuition and enrichment classes, we were busy as usual. I tell you, nothing could detract us from the drudgery of our daily work. Things were as usual, there was the collapsed sunbreaker (#Tampines), the dislodged train station platform door (#DowntownLine #SBS), the bus stuck in a rut literally (#SBS #KimKeatAvenue) and the Prime Minister’s vasovagal episode (that’s what they called it in medical terms for that fainting spell) at the NDP rally. In fact we occupied ourselves with hunting for eateries listed on the first ever Michelin list for Singapore, themed restaurants (#Pompurrin #HelloKitty@T3), food from vending machines (#Sengkang), canned and banned milk teas from Taiwan and virtual monsters (#PokemonGo). Besides those, we also hankered for baked cheese tarts (#Hokkaido), egg tarts (#Tai Cheong Bakery), steam-layered cuisines (#Captain K) and Song Joong Ki’s winsome smile in Descendants of The Sun. We also send off a Nathan that departed (#RIP PresidentNathan) and embraced another Nathan (#Hartono #Sing! China) that crooned his way into our hearts. While one was best known for sanctioning the dip into the reserves for the 2008 financial crisis, the other spurred Nestle to mobilize a calvacade of vans into serving free Milo a reality.
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There were other headliners as well; there was:

The Golden Couple

Thank you Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu for bringing home Olympic gold.

The Indebted

Court orders Roy Ngerng to pay PM Lee $150,000 for libel lawsuit.

The Unrepentant

Amos Yee goes to jail again, seriously his plan to evade NS is an absolute disaster. (#HeNeverLearns #recidivism)

The Desperate

Sun Ho launches a new music album, those legal fees for Kong Hee’s court case must be pretty steep. (#ChinawineTheSequel #MoneyNoEnougn)

The Murderous

Lifts that kill. Last year it maimed an old lady’s hand, this year it has claimed a life. (#HDB, #TownCouncil).

The Photoshop-ed

Who knew a “digitally-enhanced” plane could generate so much malice on social media ? #NikonPhotographyContest #Cheating)

The Terminated

The driver of the train that terminated the lives of 2 SMRT employees was himself terminated. And the best employer award goes to…..

The Laughable

A bank that got robbed by a piece of paper literally, need we say more ? (#StandardChartered, #JamesRoach #Urban Legend #SGSecure),

The Tomfoolery

The government’s decision to hive off the Civil Service’s connection to the worldwide web, we can hear Facebook Inc and Google chortling from miles away. (#FirstWorldStupidity #SmartNation).

The Controversial

The debate on whether Madonna was anti-Catholic after she ruffled the feathers of a local archbishop.

The Exhorbitant

The $400,000 state of the art dumpster storage site in the history of mankind. Its state of the art because the project was commissioned by the National Arts Council.

The Banished and Unprofitable

The Jurong Bird Park will soon be banished to the further reaches of Mandai, yes, they will also be building a hotel in the middle of Mandai reserve to complement the zoo and birdpark (their idea of “integrated sustainable nature conservation”). Sadly, Sentosa’s Underwater World ran (or rather swam) its course and left an indelible watermark as a tourist attraction.

The Scammed
From the DHL scam to parties claiming to be immigration officers or police officers soliciting money to fake CPF, MOM and ICA websites, it was truly scams galore.
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I hear you, and I empathise with you. While that expensive rubbish dump site might have send us into an anaphalytic shock and the Civil Service’s draconian measure to unplug from the internet may result in a brain aneurysm, they got the nation talking amidst the doldrums of a slowing economy. And while that foreign artiste (Madonna) fanned the flames of controversy (#RebelHeartWorldTour), local artistes erred as Rebecca Lim goads you into her retirement via a abysmal social media campaign (#NTUCIncome), Rui En reminded us who she really is when an accident happens (#DoYouKnowWhoIAm) and Noah Yap did a mini-Sharapova. He went from Ah Boyz to Men straight to the Detention Barracks (#Cannabis, #DrugAbuse).
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There was more breaking news as our local league signed its first ex-English Premiership player (#JermainePennant) and NCMPs in Parliament were bestowed with voting power. While Pennant filled the void of a marquee star player that the S-league craved, Sundram and Fandi took over the national team after Bernard Stange’s departure. There were also spurious debates on whether teachers should pay parking fees in schools while a family resides in a parked lorry (thankfully they live in a flat now after help from the relevant government agencies). But one thing is certain other than death & taxes; parking charges in housing estates are set to rise. We also closed the chapter on Benjamin Lee and Dominique Sarron but not without controversy. Police questioning techniques were called into question regarding the teenager who took his own life and the judgement on the conscript’s demise (or rather the extent of the offender’s culpability) vigorously debated.
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While Benjamin Lee and Dominique Sarron cases are already closed, the authorities are in the midst of closing down Swiss banks (#BSI #Falcon #Moneylaundering #1MDB). The closing down spree was well under way as California Fitness goes belly up in a new fitness move and Swiber (formerly a golden boy of the marine services sector) tanked under a mountain of debts ($200 million+). Others (#PacificAndes #Ezra #Swissco #Rickmers #MarcoPoloMarine #OttoMarine) are in dire straits, a sign of woes that have plagued the economy. The banks have been casting furtive glances over their debtors as they chase or write off non-performing loans while bond holders are staring at material paper losses as a record number of companies (not since 2009) defaulted on bond payment or seek deferment on the coupon payment. Even floating your shares on the exchange isn’t vogue anymore as some companies like Eu Yang Sang, Osim and SMRT decided to delist from SGX. While these firms opted to go private, others chose to air their dirty linen in public….
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Harry Lee’s son and daughter had a go at each other on social media with accusations of abuse of power, dynasty and dishonourable son thrown into the fray. Well, we will never find out what prompted the son’s wife to flash a primate’s middle finger and who it was directed at in the midst of this ugly family spat. While some flashed the middle finger in a fit of anger, others flashed their undies in a flash mob demonstration at a Jurong car workshop (#UmbrellaLady). And who can forget the holier-than-thou lady who berated a hearing-impaired foodcourt cleaner. The biggest question is not whether she is a grassroot member, but rather who died and made her king ? I beg your royal highness pardon,….queen.
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Judging by the mentioned events that have unfolded, we are glad that citizens are taking matters into their own hands instead of the government mollycoddling them. Others also took the initiative as Tan Cheng Bock threw his name prematurely into the hat for the Presidency Election due in 2017, Elon Musk (#Tesla) calls upon our Prime Minister directly after his “green” automobiles were levied a surcharge while a Chinese opposition member and a Indian lawyer threw down the gauntlet in the single-seat constituency of Bukit Batok. See…..what race you are didn’t really matter as the Indian lawyer won. Honestly, we think the changes in the elected Presidency shouldn’t really be about a allocated provision for race.
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Inspired by the initiative taken by Tan Cheng Bock and Elon Musk, I decided to do the same….for this Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I did not dress up as a Snorlax (#PokemonGo) even though that lazy fat cat-like creature is cute as hell. In fact, I rather be your (or your husband’s) worst nightmare… dressed up as a knight in white, throw in a balding pate for good measure while perambulating the electoral landscape. Forget Tinder, if I could just get lucky, I might be able to score a grassroot member. Oops…I did it again.. (#PAP #David Ong #MichaelPalmer #BritneySpears).

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snorlax-pokemon-go

 

 

So there you have it, an eventful 2016.


 

Red Dot 2015: For Yew, With Yew, The Year-End Rev-yew

So there you have it, the force has awaken (#movie), the guilty as sentenced (#JoverChew&KongHee), the brat has been slapped (#AmosYee), the post SG50 hype has died and this pivotal year will be casted into oblivion soon. The is the year where social media became a natural extension of our lives and possibly the bane of our existence in a postmodern world obfuscated with notions of selfhood, ego and altruism in the age of Twitter and Instagram. Ahhh…yes, that’s us having nomophobia*. As we trundle down the final day of the Gregorian calendar, we take a look back at how the year went, the saints and sinners, the forgettable and the memorable, the heroes and villains, the victors and losers, the sorrow and joy, the pomp and pizzazz, the epiphany and cathartic moments…

*Side-note: nomophobia – anxiety and fear felt when separated from a mobile device

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This was a quite simply a hectic year. Charlie Hedot and ISIS shook France, Mali and Lebanon with a tectonic jolt, hitting them with a terrifying array of shootouts, suicide bombings and paralysis. Elsewhere, Volkswagen had a emission software that cheats while Takata had airbags that kill, both prompting worldwide recalls. In the far east, China grapples with industrial disasters (#TianjinExplosion #ShenzhenLandslide) while a Taiwan foam party had a mid-air combustion. In another galaxy far far away, Miss Colombia loses the universe (#MissUniverse2015 #SteveHarvey #Gaffe) and the boy who was arrested for making a clock device lost his innocence (in a Faustian pact with his greedy lawyer, his family demands a $15 million apology). It was business as usual as the greenback strengthens, the Aussie dollar weakens and regional currencies depreciated under challenging market conditions. It was business as un-usual when the Feds raised the interest rates after 10 long years. Meanwhile, Toshiba was embroiled in a profit-padding scandal and Japan Post launched the year’s biggest IPO. On the queer side, the smiley became the word of the year according to Oxford while Google transformed into Alphabet.

Side-note: The term “google” itself is a creative spelling of “googol”, a number equal to 10 to the 100th power, or more colloquially, an unfathomable number.

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Girl power was evident when Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party swept to a landslide victory in Myanmar’s elections while Dr Tu Youyou became the first Chinese woman to nab the Nobel prize for discovering a cure for malaria. Elsewhere, there was a cheer for gender equality when women in Saudi Arabia finally voted for the first time while some were elected into office. (but they are still banned from driving). Not to be outdone, Bruce Jenner (ex-winning Olympian and aka Kim Kardashian’s stepfather) went transgender-ed. You go girl !! (pun intended)

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On a lighter note, China aborted its one-child policy (but still capped births per couple at two), Zuckerberg and Jay nurtured their paternalistic instincts by becoming proud daddies (#JayChou #MarkZuckerberg #Fatherhood), Vic Zhou (Zai Zai from Meteor Garden) weds, Myolie Wu marries (#TVB) and Heavenly King Aaron unveils his 27-year-old Shanghai girlfriend. While these aforementioned stars are finally settled down, others are still trying their darndest to get hitched or patched up. Odd couple Xin Jinping and Ma Ying Jeou went on their first romantic date in Singapore (#ChinaPresidentvisitsS’pore) while Russia had a spat with Turkey over a downed Russian jet presumed to have infringed Turkey’s airspace.

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We are happy for the newly inducted dads and minted oddball couples. But nothing could make our toes laugh harder than the cockamine tale of the US$700 million donation to a politician’s bank account. That was probably a donation beyond his wildest dreams and embarrassingly the Malaysian citizens’ worst nightmare (#1MDB #Najib #Bersih 4.0).

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On the tech front, Amazon readies itself to deliver via drones, Apple launches the mega tablet with the stylus pen (#ipad pro) and Marty Mcfly (#BackToTheFuture) reached his pinnacle year, the day 21st of October in 2015 to be exact. Some of the visions and predictions the movie envisaged for 2015 came through and true: Big screen television, biometric scanners/sensors, drones (in news reporting), virtual reality headsets/information-relaying eyewear (#OcculusRift #GoogleGlass), hoverboards (still a work in progress) and the shoe that ties it own shoelaces which Nike is still working on. Other science fiction concepts realised in the form of voice-controlled devices (#Siri #iWatch) and holograms (holograms of deceased celebrities performing have been used in concerts).

 

Marty Mcfly rides the hoverboard scene

It was annus horribilis (no, its not a vulgar word, its Latin for “a horrible year”) in the world of sports, not because Kobe Bryant (#NBA) calls it a day or Ronda Rousey (the highest paid female MMA athlete) falls to her first defeat. That world reached its nadir after it was tarred with corruption and tainted with widespread doping. Sep Blatter and Platini, came under probe and suspension (8 years), their cronies arrested one after another in FIFA’s corruption scandal. Meanwhile, IAAF (world governing body for track and field) had its ex-President indicted for accepting bribes as he and IAAF kept mum on Russia’s systemic, state-sponsored doping program in numerous athletics meets. 

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All that dirty money and drugs however couldn’t sully the spirit of sports. There was a glimmer of hope when The All Blacks won the rugby world cup, a sliver of inspiration as Djokovic steamrolls his way to record grandslams and victories, an iota of goodwill when Sonny Bill Williams gave his winning medal to a gatecrashing fan and a scintilla of respect for the demise of Jonah Lomu, one of the greatest All Blacks rugby player. A smidgen of humour put the smile back on our faces when Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, got run off the tracks (pardon the pun) literally by a segway.

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Usain Bolt gets knocked over by Segway (COMICAL MOMENT)


A subset of the tumultuous world in sports is the current topsy-turvy season of the English premiership. The clubs couldn’t stop sacking, Chelsea couldn’t stop losing, Leicester couldn’t stop winning, Jaime Vardy couldn’t stop scoring and Diego Costa hurls a bib of petulance at his manager. Meanwhile, Klopp, a bundle of irrepressible energy, breathed new life into Liverpool. Thankfully, some semblance of normalcy remains; Under Van Gaal, Manchester United passes the ball sideways or backwards more times than the whole of the past 10 seasons combined. Mourinho, the enfant terrible of English football, lost his cool with the club doctor (#EvaCarneiro), loses his temper with referees, loses faith in his players, loses his players’ trust and ultimately lost his job, just 7 months after leading Chelsea to the title. Oh such drama !!….

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Diego Costa hurls his bib at Mourinho


Drama accompanied the season where television took us through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Arya Stark goes blind, Cersei Lannister does the walk of shame, Downton Abbey (#SeriesEnd) came to a fitting end while Crime Scene Investigation (#CSI #SeriesEnd) limp away with a whimper, Mr Con and Miss Csi announced their imminent demise and Benedict Cumberbach (aka #Sherlock or Alan Turing in #The Imitation Game) got his marital blessings, breaking many hearts in the process.

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But the biggest shock of all was Jon Snow getting murdered in cold blood. He, that graceful swordsman of The Night’s Watch guarding the frozen North, an eye candy worshipped by female fans of the series worldwide and that mere mortal of a man with trademark long locks who wouldn’t look out of place fronting a rock band. He…. lives…according to a teasing twitter post for the forthcoming season, and that news is music to fans’ ears. #KitHarrington #GameofThrones

Speaking of music, this was the season where Youtube (say hello to Youtube Red) joined the video-equivalent of the music streaming business and Drake does numerous backbreaking work in his new music video. #HotlineBling #meme. But the most anticipated event was Adele at the grand age of 25 launching her new album, a $3.48 million-copies-sold-in-the-first-week record shattering one to be exact, considered a feat in the age of rampant piracy and music streaming landscape. Take a bow Adele, admirably, you had us at Hello.  (#JerryMaguire-movie quote #Hello #25)

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Drake’s “Hotline Bling” Parody (SUPER FUNNY, MUST WATCH)


Forget those testerone-laden hero film fare with self-depreciating humour (#Antman #Avengers:AgeofUltron) and ditch the dystopian blockbuster sequels, we just can’t get enough of Jennifer Lawrence, can’t we ? (#HungerGames:MockingjayPart2 #Divergent:Insurgent #MazeRunner:TheScorchedTrials). This was the year dominated by the return of your past heroes; there was the comeback kid (Michael Keaton from Batman to #Birdman), the conflicted hero (#American Sniper), the old fogey mentor-kind of hero* (Sylvester Stallone reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in #Creed, Arnie in #Terminator Genisys, Harrison Ford perish as Hans Solo in #Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and theme park prehistoric heroics (#Jurassic World). Wean on a diet of these geriatric heroes, pile on the nostalgia we say, cry me a river to relive memories of your school days/first love/crushes/idol worship/ink erasers/liquid paper. That Taiwan film (#OurTimes) worked those tearducts so well (guys & girls alike), it attracted many repeat viewers making it a box-office hit.

*Side-note: Michael Keaton is 64, Stallone is almost turning 70, Arnie is 69 and Harrison Ford is 73

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Turning our attention back to our motherland, or rather fatherland (#LKY), this year, its really all about you, the citizens. Its all you, yew, you, yew… One of yew (#LKY) departed, another of yew (#TuckYew) resigned himself to fate and you gave the former yew a rousing send off on his last journey. In fact, you stay yew-nited to vote a 70% landslide victory for yew, with yew and said goodbye to tuck yew in the process.

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This election was another watershed because Mother Tin finally wins it on her own, Chee Soon Juan returns with not vengeance but collected calm and renewed focus, Tuck Yew rolled up his sleeves to put up election boards, Li Lian couldn’t sit no more (she lost her seat to Charles Chong), WP almost loses Aljunied by a whisker and Kenneth Jeyaratnam still has that bulging tummy carried over from GE2011. In a battle of the quotes; Lao Goh tells Pritam Singh they can “ownself own check” while Kenneth fired his defeatist parting shot: “Singaporeans get the government they deserve, so I don’t want to hear any more complaints.”

Oh how Kenneth got it so wrong, we didn’t complain much because there was a $100 reward for a missing cockroach in Fajar and some China lass captured our imagination at NDP. In fact, we absolutely had no qualms with Con Hee and his gang of false prophets being sent packing to jail, in view that he and Jover can seek solace in each other and set up a new cellgroup. But we will miss Serina badly as she goes for her furlough (#OrangeIsTheNewBlack) while the ex-pastor’s wife picked up where he left off (#SunHoTakesOverAsPastor). Rest assured Kenneth, if we ever needed to air our complaints, we will talk to a fire hydrant (#IDA #FestivalofTech #SmartNation) as advised and advertised.

Of course, even when there are fewer complaints, nothing is perfect. Negligence and poor hygiene practices were the main causes of a Hepatitis C outbreak, coupled with poor delineation of roles and responsibilities among the implicated healthcare bodies (We can smell a lawsuit if their compensation is deemed insufficient). There were also minor scares with tuberculosis and conjunctivitis (aka “red eye”) casting doubts on infection control measures in local health institutions (#KKH #TTSH). Morale is that low in the healthcare sector we could barely keep our heads up. (#SIA #planeheadcollaspses)

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While systemic failure, like the Hepatitis C episode can happen in any environment, freak accidents do happen in the case of the lift that severed an old lady’s hand and almost choked her dog to death (#Liftseveresoldlady’shand). While losing a hand is bad enough, some gave us the finger (#SMRTdriverpointsmiddlefinger), and we were up in arms after witnessing the abuse of an old lady. But what really galled us was the audacity of a LTA enforcement officer’s aggression, pulling no punches (actually he punched alot) as he let fly like kungfu panda and Ip Man gone amok on a Uber driver.

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Cyber-bullying and non-cyber-bullying became a talking point due to a spate of incidents. We learned that all it takes to launch yourself onto online infamy, a barrage of barbs and face-shaming exercise is actually to stand (or rather, sit) your ground and not give up your seat. Another bully kicked 12 Lions out of the Malaysian league bringing an unexpected end to their 3 year sojourn. The reality is…if even big and Noble commodity trading firms are sabotaged by short-sellers (#Noble #Short-selling #IcebergResearch), kids playfully slapping their classmate’s head is mere child’s play.

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School bully slaps classmate’s head playfully

It’s not a case of schadenfreude as there is some shred of humanity still left in us. From the worker that saved the dangling baby or cat to a group of passerbys that helped lift a truck to free a South Korean tourist, to Amos Yee entertaining us with his antics and histronics, there is hope for humanity afterall !! Our spirits were particularly lifted by enduring displays and determination from the para-olympians, the event proving to be a landmark achievement (#para-olympics). In fact, we are no strangers to landmark achievement as we upheld our tradition of bulldozing whatever landmark that sits on prime land (#TanjongPagarRailwayStation #Farewell). We didn’t leave natural landmarks untouched either as the authorities uprooted the iconic punggol lone tree as a safety precaution. We also “upgraded” landmarks like Capitol building, the Supreme Court & City Hall (now known as National Gallery) and the former NCO club (now known as South Beach), all very contemporary-forward looking after their refurbishment but bereft of historical character.


With all that bullying, freak accidents, thuggish behaviour and disappearing landmarks, what better way to soothe our nerves is with some retail therapy. The Great Singapore Sale was in effect when the national shipping icon, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) was sold to a French conglomerate at a discount* [a long overdue move as it has been bleeding money for the past 5 years, it is for the better]. Zouk gladly followed suit, the place that embodied every young adult’s rite of passage to drinking age was acquired by the Genting group. As it prepares to leave Jiak Kim street (it couldn’t extend its lease any longer) and embrace Clarke Quay (the former premise of Butter Factory), we wonder whether it will lose that mambo night DNA.

*Side-note: During its heyday in the middle of the past decade, one NOL share was worth $5, it will be sold at $1.30 per share in the sale

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I know we all love retail therapy, but sometimes retail therapy is in need of therapy itself. There were falling sales, crashing ceilings (#HiltonHotel), plummeting figures, a human one to be exact (#Man-falls-7storeys #WismaAtria) and rat-infested malls (#BedokMall #MarinaSquare). We bade farewell to the dog with the gramophone (#HMV), parted ways with a well-known local fashion chain (#Mphosis) and said our premature goodbyes to Funan The IT Mall (#MakingWayForNewConceptMall #ItWillNeverBeTheSameAgain). Customer satisfaction was non-existent when a three-dimensional pirate’s unfulfilled sales orders was met with ire from its backers and the company’s subsequent smug retort on social media invited more opprobrium (#3Dpirate, #kickstarter #3Dprinter #Buccaneer). We thought maybe the services sector might help lift the retail scene out of the doldrums, but sadly, even they left the customers of a hair salon (#TheScissorhands #Shizahanzu), tour agency (#Asia-Euro Holidays) and bridal salon (#SophiaWedding) in the lurch.

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After all that shopping, we really need some comfort food. Put aside the soft serve, lobster rolls and forgo eating crap or crab in a bag (#cajun-style seafood) with your bare hands, they are all passe. The time of the hipster cafe is over. And please don’t get me started on bread, particularly the bread that got us talking about the pretence of the soyabean milk drink. (#BreadTalk #UnauthenticSoyabeanMilk). Instead, this is the year where a smorgasbord of sinful delights from desserts to snacks to pastries, simply dazzled us (#DazzlingCafe). Wash down those Bingsu, Thick Toast, and Churros with Thai Milk Tea or Craft/Artisanal beers. If you still got room to spare in the gut, the famous gustatory cookies from a bakery by Jenny might just be the answer. However, be warned that it will cost you an arm and a leg almost literally to eat raw fish (#GBS).

With our shopping bags filled, stomachs fulfilled, its time to head home to usher in the new year as home is where the heart is or rather, where the grave was, the Bidadari estate proving so popular that it was oversubscribed 4 to 5 times. Metaphorically or logically speaking, either way, this one will take you to the grave-bed literally in servicing the mortgage if you are Tyrion Lannister, because he always says with unwavering conviction “a Lannister always pays his debts” (#GameofThrones). The romantic mood is set, without further ado, let us dim the lights (#blackout #OrchardCentral), huddle around the bonfire (#Xmastree #Fire #Orchard), roll in the sand (#Otters #BishanPark) and send off 2015 with a big and whimsical bang (#UncleKnocksInto Car #AccidentScam #Fraud).

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I wish you a Happy New Year.


Red Dot 2015: The Un-un-un-un-believable SG50 Edition

Un-un-un-un-believable, thats what you are (the tune goes)….. 2015 is starting to be an unbelievable year. Honestly, it is unbelievable because Jay Chou dumps singlehood for fatherhood, Malik jettisons One Direction, Taylor Swift ditches Spotify, Donald Trump campaigns for presidency with that bad hairdo while Pacquiao & Mayweather punched each other silly and wealthy to a US$300 million salary windfall in a fight of the century. Meanwhile, Ireland (a country with a predominant Catholic population) and the US of A said aye to same sex marriage while Greece defaulted, voted and got itself mired in further financial decadence. Elsewhere, 2 quakes rocked the region while Rohingyas found themselves with hardly anywhere else to go. But the biggest question that piqued our curiosity is did someone pocket the money or did the money consume his soul?

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Many mourned for the loss of their beloved celebrities’ celibacy, affected music streaming services and taxpayers’ monies. The only consolation is Windows 10 is finally coming after the much panned Windows 8 (yes, its so bad that they decided to skip one edition nomenclature-wise). I too, mourned for the loss, but more so for predictable Chelsea winning the title, Stevie G biding farewell to flailing Liverpool, Man United’s expensive flops like Di Maria & the already departed Falcao (Good luck, Chelsea) and the likes of Arsenal and Spurs flattering to deceive again. The good news is the most corrupted football chief has agree to step down. Man, What a season.

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On this island, we may not have Vivaldi’s four seasons, but the year has already gifted us the most memorable ladies pick-up line; “Please be the metal cable to my cable car”. That isn’t as sexy as “I feel rich looking at my cpf account” (#LimSweeSays), but yeah, I am already feeling the love and I am sure the ladies love it. Over here, unbelievable could mean 2 periods of mourning (#LYK, #SabahEarthquake), snaking long queues not seen since past iphone launches and a Youtube video that landed a boy in remand for 50 days. Then there is that unbelievable $31 million coffeeshop which many mistaken for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s first casual eatery venture here and assaulting taxi-drivers being recognized as a national sport. Last but not least, unbelievable was also when a blogger got to cross-examine a prime minister in court, that akin to a court-side (pun intended) seat at the NBA finals of a libel suit.

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In fact, this year, its the season of SG50, not to be confused with Shades of Grey 50, that overrated, over-hyped movie based on the best selling novel or the 50 shades of greying old folks you see clearing tables in foodcourts, cleaning toilets and scavenging for cardboards/cartons to eke a living. SG50 is itself, a phenomenon. Gripped by 50 years in the making and the passing of one of its former prime minister, the island is steeped in nostalgia this season. In the yew-topia that he built, many citizens got caught up in the yew-phuoria, and this adulation could be aptly expressed as a yew-phueism for We Love SG or We Love Harry.

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SG50 celebrations hit fever pitch when an extra public holiday was declared. It had us opting to fly with wild abandonment. But if you are planning to fly, do pray for a plane with functional engines (#SIAplaneenginestopsmidflight), or one that is feline-themed (#EVAflightHelloKitty) and remember most important of all is to always buy travel insurance (#ScootFlightDelayDebacle). Topping off the SG50 celebrations were 50 Steinway-designed pianos, gifts for babies and parents, free goody packs, free lego sets, a plethora of theatrical releases and even a movie (#1965) on a deified founding father camouflaged as the history of the island.

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Getting “scoot-free” (#pun”scot-free”) with poor service:

(Scoot TZ8 from Singapore to Perth – delayed from 20 June to 21 June)

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This SG50, there is nothing like a sporting event or sporting heroes to stir up patriotism and stoke the fervour of fellow countryman. Everyone helped by doing their part; Schooling scored the golds, Shanti sizzled in an epic finish towards the finish-line, Safuwan impresses in the land down under and Izwan built the great wall of Singapore in Japan. Me? my only contribution was I tried really hard to bat an eyelid at Tianwei’s shock loss at the SEA games singles event. Oh well, if I ever needed inspiration, I am looking to no other than golden boy Schooling. Those brooding eyes, that sinewy mass of aquatic brawn, his in all the right places, mine in my dreams. We both share an obsession for 6 packs, his ripped and flaunted, mine ice-cold and guzzled in the confines of my couch.

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The Great Wall of Izwan Mahbud (World Cup Qualifier against Japan):

In the spirit of SG50, we celebrate the good, the bad, the funny, the wacky and the ugly:

Some brought back the kampung spirit (#FriendlyNeighboursBondOverMakan);

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Some brought bananas (#FamousAmos);

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Some brought home the FA Cup (#LionsXIIFAcupwin);

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Some went heroic (#WorkerSavesDanglingBaby);

Some went bersek (#SCDFtraineestrashesbunk) post course completion;

Some went ballistic (#ShangrilaRoadblockShooting, #DetaineeShootsCop);

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Some went radical-ized (#S’poreYouthofISS);

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Some stood up against bullies (#S’poreanStandUpAgainstBully);

Some went running for 50 consecutive days (#UnclesRun50kmfor50days);

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Some went for ubiquitous cardboards to do the policing (#TheCardboadPoliceFixture);

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Some policed the train in cardboard-like manner (#smrtCEOtakestrainafterbiggestdisruption);

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Some went UNESCO-certified (#botanicalgardensUNESCOsite);

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Some went downright rude lording over others (#FamousRudeTaxiPassenger);

Some went for the kill (#HowToGetAwayWithMurder -TV series);

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Some went for a slashing good time (#SlashingAtTertiaryInstitution);

Some went spitting (#SpittingArguementAtCondoMgmtOffice);

Some went monumental with a 57-station shutdown (#SMRTBiggestDisruption);

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Some went seditious (#Ello, #TheRealSingapore);

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Some went to join echelons of the multi-millionaire club (#smrtceopayraise, #masagospromoted, #khongheesellssentosacoveapartment);

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Some became a soldout after funding was controversially withdrawn (#TheArtofCharlieChanHockChye);

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Some were discriminated (#NDPpersonnelbannedfrommall);

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Some simply got stuck in the unlikeliest of places (#pipes-trains-benches);

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I guess the celebrations unleashed the animal in us. It was so effective that we developed a fixation on 2 pandas having coitus, had a problem naming 4 koalas gifted by antipodean friends and had buses refurbished to roaring or rather meow-ing approval from Hello Kitty. Some of our furry friends made a mountain out of a molehill or rather a rat-hill near a subway station and later on we realized our marsupial problems had burrowed deep into the recesses of a buffet spread and probably some lucky diners’ stomach.

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SG50 season is also a colourful season. We were confounded by the triage of colours (white and gold or blue and black) for a dress. But most of us are colour-blind, seeing only RED on fare hikes and performance that do not really match up with crazy remuneration (one which increased 2-3 fold in 3 years despite mediocre performance). But sometimes seeing red (in a fast, blinding kind of way) could mean a slap in the face leaving one stunned like vegetable.

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Seeing red in a fast blinding way (note the colour of the aggressor’s attire)…

The ladies of SG50 were doing their bit as well. A manipulative b**** named Cheryl (I know what you are thinking, but the word I am actually using is “belle”) tried to stir rivalry and sow discord between 2 guys. Many parents thought this is the quintessential SG50 examination question because nowadays they use apps to help their children do homework or engage tutors to complete their children’s homework. But we know such a mathematical question isn’t realistic because the last thing a woman want is 2 guys probing her age, much less guess her date of birth. Come on guys, that is not the right way to pick up ladies, remember the memorable pickup line mentioned earlier ?? Or at least have the decency to use that age prediction app after you check out her facebook photo.

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SG50 is also a season of drama. Bloggers applying for protection order against troll/satirical social media accounts, defence ministry filing harassment suit against a local inventor, ex-student suing former school for failing to prevent bullying and telcos executing smear campaigns via bloggers against their rivals. That is way more Channel 8 drama than Arnie coming back as Uncle-nator (#TerminatorGenisys) or Jover Chew getting his comeuppance (#JoverChewArrested).

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Speaking of television drama….it gets me excited because the AMC spin-off of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is starting this summer (Fear The Walking Dead). However, The Resting Dead was the star of the show in a colombarium project gone creepily wrong. At issue were the residents’ solipsistic NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality and the merits which the winning tender bid was evaluated upon. After intense grilling from residents, media scrutiny and public outcry of displeasure, it caved and actually gravitated from Fear the Resting Dead to Fear the Unhappy Electorate for the politician in charge of public housing. This ineluctable episode literally blew up in his face like what a hotpot dinner did. The lesson learned from this farce is: You always need a dose of chinese fables to unwind the mess, in this case Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Yin Tai.

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Watch how your politician regale you with the chinese fable of Butterfly Lovers (Liang Shan Bo & Zhu Yin Tai).

SG50 is also a season of acromyns and we are not talking about guys going gaga over 2NE1, AOA or SNSD, all hot and sexy but none more so than last year’s widely debated CPF. This year; LKY, SMRT, LTA, and AHPETC dominated the headlines. But the most talked ones about were BTO and DBSS (aka “Don’t Buy, So Stupid”, “Don’t Build So Small” and “Design & Build So Small”). There were horror stories of shoddy workmanship, faulty fixtures/installations, design flaws aplenty and corridors that can only fit midgets like Tyrion Lannister (#GameOfThrones).

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As I am putting the concluding touches to this article, the radio is playing Home. The sights and sounds of yesteryear begin to populate my memory: blended ice came in packs, playgrounds came with sand, recesses came with brushing your pearlies, ads were creative and fitness workouts were more vogue than your neighbourhood gym. Aaaah…nostalgia !! Come this National Day, forget Dick’s second stab at doing another iconic song or JJ’s uplifting version, instead, come be my coffee table and I’ll be your sofa. It is so original, so Singaporean and yes….so unbelievable. I wish you readers a happy and un-un-un-un-believable SG50.

Memories…

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Remember this stunning TV commercial ?

Remember grooving to this fitness workout ?

NDP Song 2015 – Dick’s melancholic version:

NDP Song 2015 – JJ’s uplifting version:

Come be my coffee table and I’ll be your sofa:

P.S. >> Right after SG50 fever will be Election Fever, Sept/Oct/Nov, one of these months, get ready to vote.

Red Dot 2014: A National Satire, Literally

So here we are, on the cusp of year 2015. In the planet of the strange, Russia started the war games against Ukraine and Scotland voted to remain faithful to the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, ISIS (with their revolting decapitation executions) came into prominence & dominance as the bigger, gruesome version of Al Queda. Ebola made a sequel and the year also heralded the era of the bendable smartphone and a cloud called iHack.

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In the world of sports, Germany trounced Brazil 7-1 in an unbelievable World Cup semi-final enroute to winning the tournament. Hope was dope for a badminton player’s controversial fall from grace. The freak demise of a cricket player (when he was hit by a ball in the neck) reminded us the fragility of life.

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Closer to home, Asian countries witnessed the changing of the old guards, some democratically, others not so. We welcomed Prayut Chan-o-cha (by way of coupe d’e tat), Jokowi and Modi. Elsewhere, Abe manage to stay in power longer with a win in a recent snap election. There was also outpouring of grief and outrage for a ferry that sank, a plane that disappeared, another one that was allegedly shot down and a place called Martin.

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Celebrity weddings and secret marriages set alight the entertainment industry. While some dabbled in drugs, earning an apology from their superstar dad, others had skeletons jumping out from their closet. Therein lies The Fault in Our Stars…afterall, they are only human.

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On the homefront, 2 penguins lost their identities, a blogger that courted controversy landed in court. Local celebrities helped to prop up the birth rate while others set wedding bells ringing. Cat cafes bloomed to the ringing jingle of cash registers around the island while vandalism hit a new high (roof level). You could be Peter Parker with the ominous entry of radioactive rice. Toll hike struck (in the form of tit for tat) and strike (in the form of bus drivers) on opposite sides of the causeway. A $1.33 billion stadium opened on an embarassing and bald note with a sandy pitch fit for beach soccer/volleyball. A local billionaire bought over a Spanish football club earning adulation worthy of a Hollywood red carpet reception.

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It was a year where the numbers and figures mattered. $5,000 was deemed a derisory amount while a $120 license was required to sell tissue paper. $411 in conservancy fee arrears was enough to land a 75-year old lady in jail for 2 days. $70,000 was raised in less than 5 days for a ex-healthcare worker to fight a civil libel lawsuit. $19,000 and $1,010 was paid entirely in coins to a car dealer and a aggrieved customer respectively. Meanwhile, a roast meat joint was sold for about $4 million ($2 million for the premises, $2 million for the recipe and know-how).

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Comedy was aplenty when less than 25 members of the parliament (out of a total of 99 parliamentarians) were present to pass a Bill, not once but twice*. There was also this memorable ex-tour guide who roused multiple government agencies from their slumber with one damning lusting power of attorney. And who can forget the epic fishball stick that launched a municipal body.

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*Note to readers: For a Bill to be passed in parliament, as specified under constitution, a quorum of one-quarter of the total of 99 members, excluding the Speaker, is needed.

National Identity

I think this year, Little Red Dot is having abit of a identity crisis. It all started when 2 male penguins were not taken seriously as penguins and adjudged to be an abnormal family unit for hatching an egg and taking care of a baby penguin. It outraged some in the community and made National Limitation Board (NLB) do an about-turn in its decision to pulp the books. The kerfuffle led to the library, members of the public and a ministry on a tripartite mating-dance, And conclusively Tango Makes Three.

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(Note to readers: The book is based on the story of Roy and Silo, two male Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo were observed performing behaviors typically seen in penguin couples, such as bowing to one another. Roy and Silo made a nest together, and seemed to be trying to hatch a rock that resembled an egg. When zookeepers realized that these two males had formed a couple, they gave them an egg to hatch. This egg was obtained from a male-female penguin couple, named Betty and Porkey, who had two eggs and could not care for both at once. Roy and Silo took turns sitting on the egg, and eventually it hatched. The female chick was named “Tango” by the zookeepers.)

The fact is even though they were villians in batman comics, I honestly couldn’t blame these 2 penguins…because look, Hello Kitty (according to its creator, Sanrio) is not a cat but a British school girl who happened to have whiskers, the ears of a cat and doesn’t walk on all fours. That is akin to declaring Mickey is not a mouse, Donald is not a duck, Snoopy is not a beagle and a $8 bypass surgery is a unicorn in sighting.

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As if figuring out who you were wasn’t confusing enough, radio deejays cross-dressed to impress in a cloth-swap challenge. And I can tell you that certainly wasn’t the most impressive outfit of the day [OFTD] (twitter lingo). The deserving OFTD accolade goes to a lady named Serina, everytime she visited the courthouse, it was Project Runway redux.

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But the one that was most confused about his identity was an ex-tour guide . This guy was playing so many roles he forgot who he really was. One minute he was a guardian of a old lady’s $40 million assets via a Lusting Power of Attorney, the next minute he is a “grandson” to the old lady. Some days he is a loving father who brought his wife and son to move into the old lady’s bungalow, some days he is a grassroot member helping foreigners to integrate with locals, some days he is a guy whose PR application was approved even though it was riddled with fake information, some days, he is purportedly quasi business partners with various local business associations, but most days, he is a man with fake academic qualifications and falsified receipts. Interestingly, in the later days, he is a suspect facing 349 criminal charges (latest update). At the rate he is going, he could soon be a felon in the movie: “Con Man – Days of Future Past“. One thing is guaranteed, you will never look at a Lusting Power of Attorney the same way again after what he did.

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National Security

With the riot and escape of Mas Nasi Lemak still fresh on our minds, national security was a huge talking point this year as Little Red Dot live up to its name of a nation with no borders. A teacher started the ball rolling with the first breach (she eluded the police for three days after illegal entry, had time to pay the ministry of foreign affairs a visit before she was eventually arrested). Not long after, an uncle followed suit despite the efforts of a multi-million dollar, state of the art protective barrier and a garrison of feckless immigration officers attempting to stop him. To complete the hat-trick, a mother sneaked in effortlessly via a marina to abduct her own kid in a dramatic custody battle.

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More was to follow when more than 1,500 national online accounts pass for transaction were accessed illegitimately . Even a film on political exiles was deemed a threat to national security prompting many to cross the border to assess this “threat”.

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National Service

National Service was also back in the news prompting us to recall fond memories of the maid who carried a conscript’s backpack. We are heartened that the maid’s act did spur 200-odd PR and new citizens into signing up for a new voluntary national service scheme. Those 200-odd will be thankful though they do not need to help carry the leftover dummy anti-tank weapon at Sembawang.

In a widely welcomed move, the IPPT for NSmen was revised to a simpler format consisting of only 3 stations. Elsewhere, citizens unhappy with the watered down revision and presumed lowering of the army’s fitness standards protested by conducting their own version of IPPT (Individual Public Pooping Test) at a subway station.

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Broaching on the subject of protests, it pales in comparison to Hong Kong ‘s pro-democracy demonstrations. While jingoistic youths and academics in Hong Kong were protesting for universal suffrage, controversy couple Roy & Gal Hui Hui were doling out universal suffering to patrons and special needs kids at an event in an apparent turf war with a non-secular body. Many branded the crusading duo as a threat to national security, but in my opinion they seem more of a threat to national serenity. These 2 activists gave us a lesson in heckling 101 when they and their band of merry brothers surrounded a guest-of-honour and demanded for retirement money to be released. (fast forward to 12:00 minute mark in the youtube video).

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National Transport

Public transport, a bug-bear in recent years couldn’t keep itself out of the limelight. There were improvements made since the massive North-South line breakdown in January, notably starting with the fares (a fare hike to be exact). The then public transport cartel (PTC) chairman placated citizens by declaring that citizens should hire a chauffeur if current standards of public transport doesn’t live up to their demands or expectations.

–The Herd (aka Lambs to the Slaughter)–

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–The Spiel–

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–The Prophecy–

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–The Quote–

If you treasure your time and treasure your comfort, you pay a premium-there are premium services. If you value your time and comfort even more, buy a car. And then ultimately get a chauffeur

Other improvements included chartered trains for schools, traffic lights installed in the stations, free wifi (on trial), charging stations (on trial), busker performances, zombies and a game of Commuter Crush (a pirated version of Candy Crush) at the escalators. Rest assured If you are traumatized by the buskers or spooked by the walking dead, there is a “care-zone” specially allocated for you to sooth your nerves. Interestingly, there were also 3 repeated invites to foreign graffti artists for them to put their skills to good use at the train depot.

–Improvements–

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–Commuter Crush–

–Once bitten, twice shy, 3 times is a charm–

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National Education

This was also the year where parents taught their kids about the birds and the bees and most important of all, where not to pee. Our kids are growing at a phenomenal rate and they are definitely an expressive lot. We were impressed with an opinionated epistle of a school kid, who disagreed with what was being taught at a relationship workshop conducted by a non-secular body. She found the notions of sexuality, traditional gender roles and stereotype propagated at the workshop demeaning to women and amounted to bigotry.

Meanwhile, a celebrity’s daughter edging towards the age of forever 21 objected to the misogynistic songs played in-store by a clothing retailer and aired her displeasure via an open letter. While these 2 kids displayed maturity beyond their years, others remain in a quagmire of adolescence.

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Maturity beyond their years…

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Adolescence beyond their years ??

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National Challenge

It was a challenging year for the red dot because it was challenges galore. For a limited period, every narcissistic, self-obsessed, attention-seeking wannabe was doing the ice bucket challenge or nominating someone else to do it.

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However, the most talked-about challenge was that of Hunger Games: Catching Celebrities. It was a battle of fashion, poise and showmanship when a under-dressed, waif-like superstar mom duke it out with a politician in the food queue. Alternatively, it was dubbed as the battle between the burger and chicken wings. All in all, this could well have been the mother of all challenges or in this particular instance, the mother & uncle of all challenges.

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National Pastime

Photography rose to become the prime national pastime in 2014, beating “queue crazy for iphone si-ck-x” by a narrow margin. This was the year where the selfie met the we-lfie and formed the twin-lfie. From the young to the old, everyone was latching onto the frenzy including politicians, doctors and taxi-drivers.

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Another highly popular national pastime released the inner coin fetish in us. 2 guys, one a mobilephone shop owner and another, the scion of a famous nasi lemak franchise owner displayed their vast coin collection to the chagrin of the public. In the prophetic words of Jover the coin genie: “your wish or rather, your beg is his coin-mand”.

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Do check out this spoof of the Sim Lim saga, very well done, its hilarious !!

National Campaigns

The Pleasing Geriatric Package (PGP) was a welcomed move to honour the pioneer generation. It was laudable that 2 Bengs, one from broadway and the other from local tv industry, were recruited to inform the pioneers of their entitlement (we give a thumbs up for this informative approach). At issue however were the multiple terms and conditions tied to its usage and the tiered complexities subsumed in the conditions when you throw in CHAoS.

–Chinese Version–

–Hokkien Version–

–Cantonese Version–

–The Reality–

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Different campaigns had varying degree of success. There was more comic relief than campaign effectiveness when someone’s dad defied all odds to win a fortune, making a mockery out of an anti-gambling campaign. However, it achieved worldwide fame when it was lampooned at talkshows in the US.

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Lampooned on US talkshow:

National Conflict & Confrontation

Polarizing issues, often a harbinger of an increasingly divided and fragmented society, surfaced this year. It was liberals versus non-liberals, gay versus straight, white versus pink, penguins versus humans, parent versus ambulance and uncle politician versus uncle politician. Disagreements and disputes were a dime and a dozen.

I guess at the end of the day, we have to agree to disagree, be it in having an issue with a woman’s handbag, customer service, verbal sparring in parliament and destroying someone’s altar.

–White versus Pink–

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–Dad versus Ambulance–

Selfish Dad-Ambulance incident

–The Handbag Chronicles–

–The Curious Case of The Destroyed Altar–

–Customer Service 101 at SingPost–

–Uncle Politicians Verbal Sparring–

National Heroes

It was also a year where national athletes crown the Little Red Dot with glory. A sharpshooter lass named Jasmine and a home grown boy who is still Schooling at a Ivy League university shared the honours at the Commonweath Games and Asian Games respectively. On a sad note, the longest serving and naturalised footballer called time on his career at the grand age of 44. Our outmost respect goes to him for his industrious runs (he last longer than his younger counterparts in most matches), infectious energy and his contribution to the football fraternity.

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National Vocabulary

The year has also showered us with some catchy words. It may be wise to add some of these words to your vocabulary arsenal.

1. Anton-ed: the act of mocking public transport commuters by making derogatory remarks and at the same time making a wuss out of everyone.

Example: Public transport commuters were anton-ed by some wuss earlier this year.

2. Jover-ed: the act of scamming customers with thuggish behaviour or underhand tactics and paying customers entirely in coins should a refund arises.

Example: The tourist was jover-ed at Scam Lim Square, prompting vigilante action from netizens.

3. Yangyin-ed: the act of taking over a vulnerable elderly person’s assets through a lusting power of attorney

Example: The old lady was yangyin-ed by a tour guide whom she met at a tour in China.

National “Auld Lang Syne”

We are only left with a few days of 2014, lets hope for a smooth passage to 2015. But as the saying goes, its not over till the fat lady sings, or rather complain…

Fat Lady Pizza Hut

As we draw the curtains down on 2014, we look forward to SG50 celebrations, the general election and more interesting stories or events in the coming year.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year…