DJ Joe Augustin calling Cassandra Chiu an ‘asshole’

From ‘Mediacorp fined $6300 for using derogatory term on air’, 15 May 2014, article by Janice Tai, ST

A fine of $6,300 has been slapped on Mediacorp by the Media Development Authority (MDA) for its deejay’s use of a derogatory term on air. On March 20, Mediacorp radio deejay Joe Augustin used a derogatory term (‘asshole’) on Ms Cassandra Chiu, who is blind, for complaining that the visually-impaired were being discriminated against and denied food at McDonald’s.

Ms Chiu, who moves around with a guide dog, had earlier posted on Facebook that she was refused free muffins at the fast food outlet because she is blind. Ms Chiu has been vocal on social media about being rejected at local establishments, such as clothing store Forever 21 and ice-cream shop Haagen-Dazs, because her guide dog was not allowed in.

Irritated by her constant complaints, Mr Augustin used an offensive term on her,and repeated it on air the next day to ask listeners if he was justified in doing so. MDA said in a statement on Wednesday: “As a free-to-air radio broadcaster, MediaCorp is expected to observe the requirements laid out in the Free-to-air Radio Programme Code which seeks to protect community interests by ensuring broadcast programming do not offend good taste or decency.”

Joe Augustin has every right to think that a demanding blind woman with a guide dog is behaving like an asshole, but to mouth off such a word on air is crude and unprofessional, even if it takes some brash balls to do it.  It’s, for lack of a better word, just MEAN. Even politicians, however, sometimes use it in their petty squabbles. In 1995, Chiam See Tong accused SDP’s Ling How Doong of calling him a ‘bastard’ and ‘asshole’. Ling, in turn, complained about Chiam using ‘bumbling idiot’ on him. The difference is that the media saw it fit to print the ‘A’ word almost 20 years ago. Today it’s just a ‘derogatory term’, which covers everything from ‘bitch’ to ‘silly woman’.

A veteran station hopper covering the whole range of radio channels from Power 98, Radio 91.3, Gold 90.5 FM and now Class95, Joe has a ravenous appetite for controversy, citing his ‘passion’ as a reason why his on-air partners find it hard working with him, except when he was teaming up with  Flying Dutchman on Class 95, a pairing which has become legend in the ANNALS of ‘morning show’ radio. Even his current partner wasn’t spared, with Joe once calling Glenn Ong, another one known for offensive wisecracks, ‘scum worthy’ following his divorce from Kate Reyes. Which can also translate to ‘asshole’. Ong once called for a mentally ill person  creating a ruckus in public to be put to sleep like a mad dog. A pair made in heaven, then.

Joe had a couple of ill-fated partnerships with Petrina Kow and then Shareen Wong, where in both instances he was terminated, the latter for reading out an SMS from management on public radio. In 2012, a Facebook joke landed him a lawyer’s letter, the details of  the joke remain unknown. He also once did a stand-up comedy stint at the Jubilee Hall back in 1998, and if he’s asked to go again following this swipe at a visually handicapped woman, he could try that out for a living, a job where you can pepper every sentence with one ‘asshole’ and get away with it. After all, Singapore is in dire need for a new ‘favourite funnyman’. This ‘asshole’ comment appears to solidify Joe’s position as the enfant terrible of shock jock radio, with people like Rod Monteiro and gang coming off as the next great pretenders to the throne. The throne of DJ assholes.

So how much of an ‘asshole’ was Cassandra Chiu being, really? When she first broke the news about how Forever 21 staff regarded Esme, I felt ashamed for our ‘compassion deficit’. This was followed by a series of dramatic rejections elsewhere, McDonalds’ on ‘Free Breakfast Day’, Haagen Daaz, Tanglin Mall, all told through the eyes of her furry friend Esme on Facebook. Few of us can truly appreciate what a normal day is like for Cassandra, so if you’re looking forward to a hash brown and coffee and squealed at among a stampede of kiasu Singaporeans early in the morning for bringing a dog in the premises, you may be excused if you decide to make a big fuss about it. Some of her, or rather Esme’s, posts may not be entirely fair to the establishment that denied them, like this one for example.

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 8.50.02 PM

Or this one summoning the image of poor Esme being FLUNG right out of the door with her tail between her legs. Of course anyone with a heart who loves dogs will FLIP without even reading further, and maybe even dump their tub of Haagen Daaz right down the chute in disgust. After spitting into it. To folks like Joe Augustin who wouldn’t give you ‘face’ just because you’re blind, it’s emotional manipulation.

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 8.56.42 PM

Of course, Cassandra and Esme seem to have far more pleasant experiences than negative ones, with many random strangers and companies being praised and thanked for their services, and the occasional unlucky ones like McDs suffering their combined wrath. Like Joe and FD once upon a time, these two are inseparable.

If I were blind and someone were to still call me names, I would take it that they were treating me just like they treat perfectly healthy individuals, and appreciate their willingness to suspend all sympathy just because I can’t see shit. Wow, I would say, that’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me! Everyone else who thinks I’m annoying simply shuffles away like they’ve just seen a ghost that they can’t offend! Then I’d flip the bugger my still functional, middle finger and raise my free Egg McMuffin in the air, victorious like Harry Potter catching a Golden Snitch, with my trusty guide dog taking a sloppy piss in his general direction.


DJ Chris Ho calling for ‘fckn’ Singaporeans to be killed

From ‘Radio DJ apologises for Facebook post’, 5 April 2014, article by Walter Sim, ST

A MEDIACORP Lush 99.5FM DJ apologised yesterday for a controversial Facebook post in which he called for Singaporeans to be killed. Mr Chris Ho commented on an army recruitment advertisement on the social media platform on Thursday.

The campaign, launched last December, bears the slogan: “How far would you go to protect our home?” The Singaporean wrote in response: “How far…? Let’s see… I’m with you foreigners! Kill the **** Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”

His comment caused fury among netizens and was reposted on citizen journalism portal Stomp. Contributor Tee Seng said: “What kind of joke is this? If he hates Singaporeans so much, why is he still here? I used to be a fan of his but he has gone too far.”

Mr Ho told The Straits Times yesterday he was surprised by the response. “It is such a far-fetched statement that I’m shocked that Singaporeans are taking it so seriously,” he said, adding that the “satirical” message was meant to mock the campaign slogan. “Hello, Singaporeans, you mean you need people to give you a wake-up call to defend the country?” he asked.

“Why should the question be put forth as such? Singaporeans who love the country would know what to do.” He said he wanted to allude to the rising levels of anti-foreigner sentiment here. The ex-Straits Times rock columnist added: “I think Singaporeans are looking for a new Anton Casey… I’m not advocating genocide.”

How far? Too far for some, apparently

How far? Gone too far for some, apparently

It took me a while to ‘get’ the humour behind Chris Ho’s jibe at the SAF ad, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks he’s ‘too cheem’ for me. It’s also hard to tell when he’s sarcastic or furious when he and New Nation bickered online over the post where the latter made fun of Chris ‘falling’ for a satire piece about ‘Man dying in a protest against foreigners‘ (which wasn’t even very funny to begin with). I don’t know what experts on wit think of either example of this ‘satire’, but in my book, satire should have universal appeal, is spontaneous, and actually funny to someone other than the creator. Or maybe it’s just me.

As for the ad, I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone ‘how far would you go’ to defend the nation, even if any response other than ‘I’ll fight to the death’ will be deemed unacceptable. It’s like asking ‘Will you die for Singapore?’, or ‘How much would you give to society?’, a pedantic rhetorical device to remind you of your duty, where an actual answer isn’t expected because we don’t want to hear the ugly truth.  But there’s a double meaning here too if you interpret ‘how far’ in terms of literal DISTANCE, which is more likely to be the case here, looking at the mountains in the background. It sounds sensible at first, referring to overseas stints from Brunei to Afghanistan to get you all geared up for military operations, but if you think about it, the further away you are, the SLOWER you are in coming back in the event of a real ATTACK back home. Either way, the slogan is bound to get criticised, and Chris, or X’Ho, is no stranger when it comes to controversy or criticising his home country.

Dj-ing for Lush aside, Chris is a local music icon who in the early 80’s performed as frontman for Zircon Lounge and is today revered as the counter-cultural antithesis to more ‘wholesome’ ambassadors like Dick Lee.  He also dabbles in ‘spoken word’ album territory, and from his 1999 album ‘X’ with an X’ came a track called ‘Singapore is Not My Country‘, his take on Alfian Bin Saat’s ‘ode’ to the nation (the full transcript here). In the 2000’s, Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz was formed. The album ‘Follywood’ features the track ‘Mouthless Fish‘ about people ‘barely breathing to make ends meet’, with BigO magazine rating it as the ‘most fucking punk rock album we have ever’. Check out this ‘punk rock’ album cover!

Majulah SingaPawnStarz

The ‘shock jock’ has even been filmed getting his PENIS tattooed. In THAI. A Today review of 2008’s Baphomet Sacrum describes him as ‘Singapore’s unfavourite son’.  Anyone unfamiliar with ‘dark wave’ or goth would think track titles such as ‘Satan’s Blood’ and ‘Her Soul’s Demise’ off the Lucifugous collaboration album were devotional hymns of the occult.  ‘No Ordinary Country’ has the refrain ‘Majulah Fearless Supremacy’ and its album cover has lightning logos on it. There’s even a song about the Blogfather himself called ‘Excuse Me Mr Brown’, where Chris calls Brown the ‘next Talking Cock big time’. ‘Talking cock’ being, well, the lingua franca of social media most of the time anyway.

So the first question that came to mind was: What did this multi-hyphenate (author, singer, DJ, film director) celebrity, being Singaporean and all, actually DO IN NS? According to a 2006 Interview with Today, he said he ‘has done everything he could think of to get into the Singapore Armed Forces MUSIC AND DRAMA Company’, and eventually spent 2 years as an actor after BMT. Like, who wouldn’t right? How far then would you go, Chris Ho, to protect this country that you love-hate so much? A question that wasn’t addressed in his FB apology, or maybe it was hidden somewhere so deep and lost in ‘satire’ that I couldn’t detect it with my radar for low-brow fart jokes and all.

There was a time when the man actually made seriously good pop music, without the Singapore-bashing and ‘satire’ getting in the way. Unlike his current ‘uneasy listening’ work, ‘Deeper’ (1992) is heartfelt and uncharacteristically melodious, and no surprise that this came before the ‘Punk Monk Hunk’ days, where spiritual awakenings mean getting your genitals pricked and scarred in the name of art. Pubic hair snipping? Amateur!

Which suggests that Chris is capable for much more than just ranting against the Government or NS, or participating in the Berlin Porn Festival. It would be nice to see that good ol’ innocent side of him once more.

Children burning schoolwork after PSLE

From ‘Burning question on post-PSLE ‘celebration’, 10 Oct 2013, ST

(Desiree Tan): IT SADDENED me to read about a group of children and parents burning school material right after the Primary School Leaving Examination (“Post-PSLE book-burning photo inflames netizens”; Tuesday). While I agree with netizens that these items should be recycled or given to needy pupils, the more disturbing issue is the celebratory connotation of the act of burning to signify the end of a major examination.

I can understand people blaming the system for placing too great an emphasis on exam grades. I can also understand that in their quest to excel, children experience a great deal of stress sitting the PSLE.

But to use these reasons to justify the act of burning school material is inexcusable. Are we teaching 12-year-olds that once they complete the PSLE, they can burn away what they have learnt?

What is the point of achieving stellar results if our children grow up with such thinking? The damage that has been done is far more serious than just killing trees.

We did start the fire

We did start the fire

Bonfire organiser Arnold Gay said the symbolic act of destroying schoolwork was ‘cathartic and fun’. One critic of the celebration said ‘books and writings’ should be revered and are a ‘sacred part of civilisation’ as if they were magical scrolls or scripture (We were not burning textbooks, says Kiss92 DJ Arnold Gay, 9 Oct 2013).  While my sympathies go to the authors of such assessment books or worksheets, tossing educational material into the fire isn’t a culmination of resentment against the system or deliberately erasing from memory everything primary school taught us so much as a stark, dramatic exaggeration of what people actually do with their old worksheets after the PSLE.  Not many of us would laminate them and stack them nicely in a chest as an heirloom to our descendents, hoping that they would look upon our maths notes like they just stumbled upon ancient manuscripts that foretell the ultimate fate of the Universe.

During my time there were no recycling bins to speak of, and most of what I threw away would have ended up disintegrating into ashes in the incinerator anyway. In fact, the most heinous acts of violence on school material were performed BEFORE the actual exam. Wooden rulers were snapped, pages were stabbed with pens and flunked test papers were ripped to shreds, sometimes by angry parents themselves. The holiest of tomes have been vandalised by the luminous scrawling of highlighter pens, battered into tatters, riddled with stains, disfigured by ugly dog ears and left to die like they were humiliated and gangraped a thousand times over. Though sometimes that is EXACTLY how some kids feel when they’re taking the PSLE. Better we take it out on homework than on ourselves, I say. A search on Youtube will reveal the many creative ways that liberated kids around the world destroy their schoolwork, by torching it with an acetylene flame, flushing it down a toilet, or literally letting their DOG EAT the damn thing.

I would imagine kids hurling schoolwork into the flames with the hedonistic zest of one destroying the autobiography of a ruthless dictator, the belongings of a spouse’s illicit lover, or the Pope condemning to Eternal Hell ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. There is nothing ‘sacred’ about mass-produced assessment sheets, and there’s no reason to treat the act as if someone blew up the National Archives and important knowledge has been lost forever, that these book-burning kids would grow up into rebellious troublemakers who would run their bosses’ family photo through the office shredder. Still, you shouldn’t need to make a party out of it like Arnold Gay did, and any torture that you’d wish to inflict on your notes just to fulfill your wildest, sickest fantasy should be performed in strictest privacy, like how I would gyrate to Ricky Martin songs when nobody’s watching.

Arnold Gay didn’t round up some Satanists to burn bibles or the Declaration of Independence, but such tribal abandon strikes me as rather premature. Let’s hope his kids actually PASS the exam, otherwise it’s not just assessment papers, but hopes and aspirations, that go up in flames.

LKY antagonising an entire generation of Chinese

From ‘Life after Cabinet…and death’, 11 Aug 2013, excerpts from ‘One Man’s View of the World’, Think, Sunday Times.

…Occasionally, when I disagree strongly with something, I make my views known to the Prime Minister. There was an instance of this when the Government was looking to reintroduce Chinese dialect programmes on free-to-air channels.

A suggestion was made: “Mandarin is well-established among the population now. Let us go back to dialects so the old can enjoy dramas.”

I objected, pointing out that I had, as prime minister, paid a heavy price getting the dialect programmes suppressed and encouraging people to speak Mandarin. So why backtrack?

I had antagonised an entire generation of Chinese, who found their favourite dialect programmes cut off. There was one very good narrator of stories called Lee Dai Sor on Rediffusion, and we just switched off his show.

Why should I allow Cantonese or Hokkien to infect the next generation? If you bring it back, you will find portions of the older generation beginning to speak in dialects to their children and grandchildren. It will creep back, slowly but surely…

When the Speak Mandarin Campaign brought its War on Dialect to radio in 1982, clamping down on dialect broadcasts over Rediffusion, that didn’t stop master storyteller Lee Dai Sor from producing his own albums, TWELVE of them in fact. That’s more albums than all the Singapore Idols combined. His bestseller cassette, Ru Chao San Bu Wen, was a folk legend about incompetent Qing emperors. In 1983, he rejected SBC’s invitation to perform at a New Year show because he had to speak Mandarin. In the media, he reportedly ‘retired from broadcasting’, but now we have confirmation from LKY himself that the plug was pulled on his show because it was in Cantonese.

This was a man who could sell the Singapore Story better any million-dollar NDP, but had to pursue his passion working for Radio Australia and Rediffusion Malaysia when his own country turned him away. Celebrated as a folk hero, drama company Toy Factory produced a play about Lee’s life, titled ‘Big Fool Lee’, a homage to Lee’s influence as the voice of a generation who refused to be muted by LKY’s social engineering. ‘Big Fool’ died in 1989, but his spirit, like dialect, lives on today.

Dialects have already crept into mainstream consciousness and pop culture, ‘slowly but surely’ no matter how LKY tried to suppress it with the same vigour as SARS. As late as 1990, Cantonese ‘patriotic’ songs like Sparrow With Twigs were banned from airplay and only recently reinstated. In a big way too, being featured in local movie ‘That Girl in Pinafore’. It’s not just the older generation ‘threatening’ to make dialect fashionable again. Local rapper Shigga Shay boasts about being a ‘Limpeh’. Mr Brown’s ‘Lekuasimi’ was a spoof of an NDP song. Royston Tan’s 881 made us (the English-educated included) all sing ‘Che Lang Che Pua’ in KTVs again.

We continue to order ‘kopi siew dai’, not ‘coffee, less sugar’, and order ‘har gao’, not ‘prawn dumplings’. Dialect has already been embedded in our social fabric, gone beyond the days of ‘Wah Lau’, and there’s nothing a 90 year old Hakka politician can do about it. Especially when his own PAP successors are using it as rhetoric. Goh Chok Tong used ‘pah see buay zao’ in reference to ‘stayers’. You could use the same phrase for Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and what have you. If there’s anything that needs a resurgence it’s Mandarin itself, our general grasp of it left a lot to be desired, though we have more than enough PRCs moving here to help us, well, ‘keep up’ with the language.

Unlike Mandarin, dialect doesn’t exist in textbooks nor does it appear in listening comprehension tests.  It lives only in the hearts, minds and mouths of Singaporeans, young or old, proud enough to speak it and keep it alive, campaign or no campaign, a glorious artifact that binds us to our roots. Anyone can be a polyglot or Chinese scholar if they train hard enough, but only in Singapore can one be a true master of the dialects, like the late Ah Nan was. Those who agree, please Kee Chiu.

Married Men sacked for child abuse prank call

From ‘Prank that got The Married Men in trouble involves mention of child abuse and molest’, 18 Jan 2013, article by Maria Almenoar.

The radio segment which led to the termination of The Married Men’s contract with HotFM 91.3 involved a telephone prank on a woman who was apparently going to take up an early childhood course. On Thursday, deejay Andre Hoeden called the woman claiming to be an officer from an embassy who was doing a background check on her.

He asked if she hit children, to which she said no. Mr Hoeden then advised her to only hit children from poor families as they would not have the money or time to come after her with lawyers, unlike “expat children” from “very rich” families who could afford lawyers.

The call, which was part of the morning show’s “Kena Pluck” humour segment where people are tricked, also involved Mr Hoeden telling her that hugging children was considered molestation in some countries. He then asked if she had ever hit on any of her pupil’s fathers.

Hot FM91.3 said on Friday it terminated the services of The Married Men with immediate effect, citing a breach of the terms of its contract.

Barely a month ago, the Married men team were interviewed regarding their reaction to the nurse who killed herself over the Royal couple prank. They acknowledged that Kena Pluck had ‘limits’ and screened their prank requests carefully, rejecting anything to do with ‘death, disease, race, religion and national security’. In a follow up ST article on 19 Jan 2013, it was revealed that a listener had called in to complain about the prank. There was also mention of how the victim could do ‘favours’ for two officers to get visa approval more quickly, which suggests that the target was a foreign worker. If the station had been more discerning in light of the Royal couple suicide, and also consider how quickly our authorities crack down on defamatory material of late (especially anything related to corruption), perhaps Rod Monteiro and gang would have been spared this harsh twist of fate. They aren’t the first to be fired over inappropriate jokes though; Sheikh Hailkel was sacked from 98.7 FM following complaints for talking about ‘white panties’.

Unlike the random innocent bystander in most prank calls, Kena Pluck, or should I say ‘Kena SABO’, marked specific targets requested by listeners, who would fill the DJs in with the relevant background checks to make the caller as deviously believable as possible. Now why would anyone put their loved ones through such unnecessary evil for the sake of a couple of minutes of rib-tickling Schadenfreude?  Kena Pluck appears to be more of a petty revenge platform for callers to get back at ex-bosses, ex-lovers or a bad service provider. It’s one thing to be embarrassed, another to be freaked out, bullied AND embarrassed on national radio. At the end of each segment, the Married Men would let the victim in on the joke, though anyone in that position would be obliged to play along and laugh it off even though they may secretly be cursing the station for wasting their time. I mean, at least give the poor fellow a cash prize for being a sport or something.

Army gags seem to be a favourite of the Married Men. In 2009, Andre Hoedon commanded a boy to perform push ups over the phone. You actually feel sorry for the little squirt, even as you snigger at ‘Sgt Rajah’s’ antics.

If you’re an old man with a heart condition, you better pray your son doesn’t ‘pluck’ you out of nowhere by landing himself in ‘jail’.

Not all gags go smoothly though. In this jealous husband prank, you actually WORRY for the Married Men’s lives. Instead of funny, this is rather uncomfortable to listen to, with the DJs betraying a hint of nervous laughter rather than the usual maniacal version. Eerily, the victim threatened the DJs about ‘keeping their jobs’. Thanks a lot, wife, for not telling the DJs your husband’s a PSYCHO who forgot to take his daily medication.

In 1994, Class 95 FM reportedly pulled one where a producer posed as a head nurse to inform a new father that he had been given the WRONG BABY (Wrong baby prank on radio show draws listeners’ complaints, 11 May 1994, ST). Not so classy, or funny – especially if you pose as a nurse from KK Hospital.

Phone pranks are notoriously hit-or-miss, and you can’t have a hit without being somewhat MEAN or politically incorrect. They should also be kept short and sweet to end the recipient’s misery early in order to avoid any backlash of emotional distress. The longer the prankster carries on with it, the deeper he gets engrossed into the role, when he gets carried away with the manipulation of his victim and takes things over the edge, which is what could have happened in this case. Or they could have just messed with the wrong person with the wrong theme at the wrong time.  Tough luck to the Married Men, especially Rod Monteiro who suffered an acute stroke in early 2012. I wonder if the unnamed ‘saboteur’ who started all this rubbing his hands in malicious glee, is now holding his head with those same hands in guilt and shame.

Daniel Ong calling neighbour Sivalin-ganam style

From ‘He made fun of my name’, 26 Oct 2012, article by Foo Jie Ying, TNP

A dispute between neighbours over renovation noise led to one of them making a police report against the other, claiming that the latter had made fun of his name. In the report made on Oct 16, he said: “By making fun and changing my family surname, he is insulting and degrading the Indian culture.”

In an interview with The New Paper On Tuesday evening, Mr Sivalingam Narayanasamy, 55, said: “What he has done is to change my surname.” The other party in the dispute is former radio deejay Daniel Ong, 36, who is now known as a celebrity cupcake-shop owner with his wife, Miss Singapore-Universe 2001 Jaime Teo.

Mr Sivalingam showed TNP a letter purportedly written by Mr Ong to him, in which Mr Ong allegedly made fun of his name. In the letter, Mr Ong referred to Mr Sivalingam as “Sivalin-ganamstyle” and added, “That’s my new nickname for you… cool, huh?”

Mr Ong addressed this on his Facebook page, saying: “He claims I insulted him coz I addressed him as Sivalingam num-style in my last letter… but I told him that I didn’t mean that and it’s the coolest thing around now.”

If you read the contents of Daniel Ong’s letter for yourself, you’ll find it full of sarcastic insults, spite, fake LOLS and general meanness. From the way how this neighbourly spat has been overblown, it’s obvious that Sivalingam’s racist accusation is a pretext for filing against Ong’s nastiness and intolerance over a baby-tormenting and ‘old-lady murdering’ renovation project. As with his grudge against SPH, the ex-DJ has made his Facebook page his personal diary and broadcaster now that he’s gone from radio. Regardless of who’s at fault here,  this is really an exaggerated episode of neighbours thrashing it out over one ugly incident after another, culminating in a sensational turf war with a typical but ultimately futile standoff involving the police. I wonder what will become of these two once it’s Christmas.

It’s like two boys fighting in the playground and one threatening with his daddy because the other called him names and he had no comeback. The natural tendency in such testosterone-charged scuffles is for the one picked on to retort with a creative insult of his own, until both get tired of this one-upping nonsense and walk away. At least these two grown ups are civil enough not to bring their Mamas into it or roll around in the mud throwing punches. Conflicts of this sort are inevitable, no matter how we try to inculcate a ‘give and take’ culture, when in fact we’re mostly looking after our own interests and ‘community’ means running into that comfort zone and pacifier called Facebook where your ‘friends’ are obliged to support you all the way even if you’re acting like a child who just got his rattle nicked by a bully.

When it comes to a war of words, it’s unlikely that Sivalingam would get the upper hand over a cupcake king with the gift of the gab (Daniel even refers to himself as ‘FUNNY GUY” on his Twitter page), hence to counter his weakness in petty insult-trading, the big guns have to be summoned on a hot-potato issue (racism) just to show that he means business. I’m not even sure if this guy knows what Gangnam Style is, which may explain why he would consider the name-mashing a childish insult, maybe the equivalent of the Chinese ‘Tan Ah Kow’.  He does cut an imposing figure however, like a superintendent in the force, or someone who runs a butchery franchise and boxes hunks of meat in his spare time.  Daniel Ong (who once played ‘Mr Kiasee’ in the Mr Kiasu sitcom) will get his cupcakes SQUASHED if put in a ring with this bull of a man.

Don’t call him Gangnam

What’s worrying, and yet strangely assuring at the same time, is why our police EVEN BOTHER with such things (Assuring because it means our cops have nothing much to do). Well I suppose if they’re forced to investigate teachers who cut the hair of students without permission, this fight between an angry celebrity and his angry neighbour must seem as exciting as taking down rival triads in comparison. Gangs of Mei Hwan Drive perhaps. Still, this is what happens if you have public endorsement of the over-the-top censuring of anything mocking a minority race. You give people excuses to point fingers at the one thing that will get your enemies in trouble, when you’re really pissed off with them because they embarrassed you, not because they humiliated your race, your family, your ancestry and your gods.

Siva claims discrimination when Daniel Ong mashes up his surname with Gangnam style, while the latter explains the pun away as a reference to his ‘threatening’ stance with arms akimbo. Neither argument makes sense. I can’t imagine an aggressor doing this in a mano-a-mano confrontation, unless he’s trying to subdue you with laughter.

Please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything

I suspect it’s harmless wordplay more than anything else, though these days dropping sly racial references is like tossing firecrackers on a minefield. Siva doesn’t have a case because Gangnam itself has already taken Indians by storm, and just about anyone with an Internet connection and doesn’t understand a single word of Korean.

Vernetta Lopez and Mark Richmond playing masak-masak (with bonus review!)

From ‘Illicit affair off air’, 26 August 2012, article by Akshita Nanda, Sunday Times Lifestyle

…In Memoirs Of A DJ, published by Marshall Cavendish, Lopez reveals that Richmond had wanted to call the wedding off days before the ceremony, and she had refused, fearing public embarrassment. She wrote in the book: “Because little 26-year-old me was worried about the public fallout. What would they say? How could I possibly walk around after that? How would I ever buy nasi lemak in a food court again?”

According to her, she could not see or did not want to admit that there was no connection with Richmond, that they were two kids who were merely playing masak masak. Their relationship dissolved not long after the honeymoon and the book described how she became suspicious of his relationship with another woman, identified only as B in the book,and found an illicit love note in his car when Richmond was away filming.

The note was filled with sweet nothings that only an intimate partner would say, she recalled in the book, including the words “…I can still smell you on my pillow…”

…She later followed Richmond secretly and saw him on a date with the other woman. Even then, she could not make herself ask for a clean break. Instead, she cried in solitude or in front of her make-up assistants.

…Lopez stresses that her autobiography is not intended to lash out at her former husband, even though she is aware that many readers will flip immediately to the pages about her first marriage.

“It’s definitely not revenge. It’s just what happened. If I’m going to do my memoirs, it would be silly not to mention it…..People know who I am, but they don’t really know about my personal life. I thought, let people get to know me a little bit more and let them see if they’ve known me at all.” She says she was initially hesitant to write about her first marriage and its breakdown, but then decided “people are expecting to read it. If you’re going to write about your life, write about your life.”

“My mistake throughout that time was to keep it to myself, I was totally isolated,” she adds, as her sister silently takes her hand.

“But I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I’m not about to take a dagger and stab it in someone’s back and destroy a family. All I’m saying is, this is what I went through.

“At the end of the day, I’m very happy for him, he has a wife and a kid and his career’s doing okay.

The only other Singaporean public figure I could think of to write ‘MEMOIRS’ is Lee Kuan Yew. Despite being a veteran in the media business, you’d need to be of a certain calibre, maybe age, before you may even qualify to describe what’s essentially a tatter tale’s gimmick as a collection of ‘memoirs’.  It’s not like she desperately needed the money to sell books, and although she insists that this isn’t about ‘revenge’, Vernetta seems to have forgotten that both of them are already happily married, herself to a British IT guy and Mark to a pro-gay NMP hopeful with a 5 year old kid Sol . Beatrice and Mark presumably met on the set of Triple 9 in 1998, playing LOVERS, when Richmond’s marriage was already ‘on the rocks’.

What started out as a concerned friend turned into ugly ‘the other woman’ finger-pointing. No surprises that they got together so soon (married in 2004) after the divorce, a celebrity script uncannily similar to Hollywood’s most famous love triangle (Brad and Angelina were LOVERS in Mr and Mrs Smith, Beatrice even behaves like an Angelina Jolie in some aspects). Interestingly, Mark himself previously played Denise’s boyfriend in ‘Under one Roof’, while both Vernetta and Beatrice were co-actors in the 2001 flop ‘Now Boarding’.

In a 2009 interview, she had this to say about her previous marriage:

Any lessons you’re carrying over from your previous marriage (Her seven-year marriage to Mark Richmond ended in 2004)?

Don’t be the stereotypical needy chick. You just chill and enjoy the relationship. Hold it back a little, man! Not that I was needy before, but I think I became needy after that. I’ve never been in such a tolerant, understanding, fun, relaxed sort of relationship, where you feel comfortable to say anything.

We take it that the chapter of life with Mark is closed?

People always ask. It’s so closed. You do your own thing, I do my own thing. There are no hard feelings or anything anymore. I’ve definitely closed the book on that one.

Er, no Vernetta. You literally WROTE a whole needy BOOK to remind everyone about it. Someday even little Sol is going to get his hands on your book and uncover dirty secrets about Daddy.

Whether it’s a sly publicity stunt or some form of self-victimising ‘autobiography-therapy’, she appears to have refused to let bygones be bygones, and you could feel the searing heat of the dagger in Beatrice Chia’s back when Vernetta used the painfully obvious ‘B’ in her account of the affair. The divorce was already swirling with rumours of the involvement of a ‘third party’, which both denied at the time. But perhaps the way the article was framed says a lot about ST’s lust for gossip as well. Little effort was made in pitching the actual BOOK itself, but rather spilling the beans on a celebrity marriage gone wrong and putting everyone involved in a bad light, despite the ex-couple still being annoyingly cordial to each other, maybe even exchanging gifts and buddy-hugs every Christmas.

In 2007, she was cast as an ‘unhappy woman stuck in a dysfunctional marriage’ in a Channel 5 anthology called Stories of Love. Maybe that didn’t help her deal with her ex because her reel-life groom then was comedian Gurmit Singh. Earlier in 2003, 2 years after the break-up, she was cast in ‘Ceciliation’ as a mother struggling with her husband’s INFIDELITY. She won an Asian Television award for ‘BEST DRAMA PERFORMANCE by an actress’, which suits the DRAMA queen manner in which she’s handling her divorce. Maybe all this vicarious acting has whetted her appetite for finally telling the truth, even if it’s only one person’s side of the story.

Maybe the Richmonds are consulting their own publisher as we speak. They could sneak in a response to Vernetta’s bawling expose amid their Grandfather stories, and call it MEMOIRS of a DJ/ACTOR/PRESENTER/COMMENTATOR. I just hope serial DJ-husband Glenn Ong doesn’t get any ideas. Maybe Vernetta’s ex-husband was indeed a total scoundrel and philanderer but there’s no reason to call him out, dig up the past and package it as a sob-story for money. Instead of calling her book ‘Memoirs of a DJ’ and ripping off a Geisha epic, I think ‘V for Vernetta’ would be more appropriate.

Postscript: Following some nasty feedback about how unfair I have been to Vernetta since the post was based on her media interview and not on the actual pages off her book, I decided to head down to Kinokuniya to check it out myself. Surprisingly, Memoirs wasn’t front entrance promo stock, and I took at least 15 minutes just to locate it inconspicuously stacked along one of the quieter info counters (I couldn’t find a ‘Local series’ section. The only local author on display was LKY). Skimming through the chapters, I found them more like essays than a linear timeline of her life from childhood to second marriage. Her tone was exactly like what you would expect from her character on air, sharp, bitchy, even witty. Yes, Vernetta is funny. I said it. Case in point, she excused Mark’s habit of ‘bringing his phone into the toilet with him’ on the basis that ‘reception is better when the toilet flushes’. LOL.

The chapter on everyone’s mind was titled ‘The dark years’ and it started off bleak, about how V was unsure about the relationship and had to consult her mom, who told her that she could still change her mind before wedding day. Then came the rumours of Mark and Beatrice getting too close for comfort in their scenes together as actors, followed by a self-destructive spell of loathing, niggling doubt (felt like ‘strangers on their honeymoon’) and picking up SMOKING. She even had a table of excuses and lies that Mark had presumably told her, of note one about his filming a movie with a ‘famous director’ that either never existed or bombed so bad it just disappeared. The only mention of ‘B’ came when she was snooping around her husband’s stuff, and found the love note, which, as V wrote, ‘was signed off as ‘B’. It was a piercingly shrewd way of pointing fingers, while ‘telling it like it is’. When confronted, ‘B’ came over to ‘explain’ that the pillow story was taken off some literature to ‘console’ her husband who needed to feel loved again. V thought it was priceless. I call it Occupational Hazard.

I had to flip to the last few chapters on the ‘revelation’, when V, with the help of some friends (or relatives, I can’t remember) ‘staked out’ Mark after work, spotting him and B in each other arms, heads nudged together, and him peeking into her car window supposedly ‘kissing her goodnight’. Game over then, with V going ‘I want a divorce’ at the end of it. Interestingly, other than the ‘B’ reference, no names were mentioned in her account. It wasn’t sleazy at all, and although it did seem a little whiny, was over-CAPPED and tends to overplay female empowerment (V worships Oprah), it was actually entertaining enough for me to finish the chapter in one piece. It was snappy, effortless prose and to pay the compliment further, actually worthy of a second flip, though I skipped those BFF moments with Gurmit Singh.

It’s still one side of the story, but for you all know it could have been a restrained narrative when far worse things could have happened in the affair. I would give V credit for her writing style, for putting a witty spin on something gone horribly wrong, but for making public something that happened years ago, for not letting go, even if she had every damn right to spit on her ex’s new family, I still think it isn’t exactly a discerning thing to do. I also think her new Brit husband better watch his back. Memoirs is both a jibe at her ex and love rival, and a stern warning to her current hubby. I bet he keeps it in the office bookcase to remind himself not to mess with his tenacious wife every single day.

So V isn’t going to win the ‘Revenge Sleaze Book Prize’, but someone thinks she’ll get a Pulitzer. When hell freezes over, that is.


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