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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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)…. ??
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.