Singtel charging $105 to watch World Cup

From ‘Breaking the bank to watch the World Cup on TV’, 14 March 2014, article by Chua Siang Yee and Terence Ong, ST

SINGAPORE will be one of the most expensive places in the world to watch football’s World Cup in June.

Pay-TV operator SingTel announced on Wednesday that it will cost $105, excluding goods and services tax, to catch all 64 matches of the month-long tournament.

This is more than double what fans in Malaysia have to pay and more than five times the price in Hong Kong.

The number of matches being offered on free-to-air TV here also pales in comparison to those in other countries. Only four matches – the Brazil World Cup’s opening game, its two semi-finals and final – are set to be screened on terrestrial channels. In contrast, Britain, China, Australia and Cambodia are just some of the countries showing all 64 matches free.

In the last World Cup 2010, Singtel’s chief of content and media services Edward Ying remarked that at $66 (before GST then), subscribers would be paying about $1 a game to watch in the comfort of their homes, equivalent to less than a CUP OF COFFEE. That’s provided that you actually get to watch EVERY live match, which makes you a soccer bum, or the kind of fanatic who accumulates years of leave just to splurge them all on the biggest sporting event of the year. Just 12 years ago, you could get your World Cup Fix at a lowly $25 (SCV), which works out to be about the price of ONE 3-D IMAX movie ticket on a weekend these days.

This year, the price per match is about $1.60, or roughly the adult train fare from Ang Mo Kio to Bedok ($1.69), which means the money you save from boycotting the World Cup entirely can give you 32 return trips from the North to the East. What more can you expect from a country recently rated as the most expensive city in the world? But I suppose only cheese-eating expats are rich, or foolish, enough to sign up for the package without complaining, while Singaporeans will probably never see their home country take the stage in their lifetime, make the most noise about extortion, yet still end up grudgingly paying more than anyone else in the world to support other nationalities’ teams.

If you’re resourceful enough, you could still try to find some places to watch the World Cup for FREE, secret spots where one could tap World Cup transmissions like one establishing contact with extraterrestrials through an inter-dimensional portal. Bishan HDB residents, for example, were able to mooch off Indonesian channel RCTI during the last Cup using nothing more than a $6.50 coaxial cable. So good news if you have friends staying there, though the fact that Bishan used to be a burial ground may explain the presence of offshore signals, a spooky, though fortuitous, breach in the ether. The World Cup is also probably the only time when Singaporeans all begin fiddling with antennas and the tuner function on their TVs, or remember there’s such a channel known as RTM1.

If you’re willing to pay the higher alcohol tax, you could pop by a kopitiam and chug a Tiger while supporting your favourite team.  In 2006, some Geylang coffeshops were able to tap into SCTV signals, while others who subscribed to pay TV providers had to fork out at least $600-1000 for alfresco viewing.  McDonald’s also cashed in on World Cup Fever previously, with their free broadcasts in 2010 ringing in customers dining at their 24 hour outlets.  Probably cheaper than beer, but if you’re hanging out at Macs everyday to watch all 64 matches over supper, you probably wouldn’t live long enough to catch the Grand Final.

Forget about going Hong Lim Park to protest about the ridiculous prices. The best way to stick it to profiteering cable providers is to share your tips on how, or where, to watch the World Cup without having to pay a single goddamn cent. Open up your house to friends or strangers, gather a group of fans at the nearest CC, shout profanities together with the uncles at the kopitiam, just like what the World Cup spirit is supposed to be, bringing people of all walks together, not mass pillaging our wallets.


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Mediacorp New Year Countdown too cheena

From ‘Why Mandarin segment on Channel 5 show?’, 3 Jan 2014, ST Forum

(Maria Alice Anthony):WHILE watching Channel 5’s countdown show on New Year’s Eve, I was shocked to see a host speaking in Mandarin during the programme. I had to switch between channels to check if I was tuned in to Channel 5, an all-English channel, or Channel 8, the Mandarin channel.

If the hosts were present to translate the English-language segments into Mandarin, where were the hosts to do translations into Tamil and Malay?

Why was a national celebration turned into a bilingual event catering to only one ethnic group?

Maria’s party-pooper rant about the TV50 spectacular is mild compared to theatre actor Ivan Heng’s scathing Facebook complaint about how ‘cheena’ the programme was, where MCs send greetings in Mandarin and you have singers like Wang Lee Hom headlining the event instead of homegrown artistes. To be fair, the show kicked off with a multiracial mix of talents including legend Dick Lee and the original Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah. But you’d soon realise how barren the Channel 5 ‘English-speaking’ talent pool is when you have Gurmit Singh coercing people to ‘make some noize’ as host. FOR THE 7823th TIME. The last time I remember anyone doing MC duty for BIG parties in English was Moe Alkaff.

Gurmit’s partners Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong are themselves ‘cheena’ veterans, but if you look back at the history of our 50 years of television, cheena has clearly dominated the scene, and the fact that two-thirds of the MC lineup were Channel 8 artistes suggests that national television, not to mention NYE countdowns, is unsustainable without Channel 8 celebrity. In one PCK/City Beat/Under One Roof skit, Gurmit was trading jokes with 4 ‘cheena’ artists and 1 Pierre Png, technically now a Channel 8 regular after crossing over from 5. In the final minutes of 2013, the hosts interviewed in succession a who’s who of Channel 8’s star roster, from Zoe Tay to Jack Neo, all of whom didn’t even attempt to say three simple words of Happy New Year in English. Not a single Suria or Vasantham personality was in sight. It was probably the most-watched sequence on stage when everyone’s ready to ring in the new year, yet it almost felt like Cai Shen Ye on a golden steed could ride in at any moment. And where the hell was James Lye? Or the fabulous Muthu?

Critics didn’t just pick on the language bias in the past, but even racial quotas. In 1999, Mediacorp, then known as TCS was accused by a forum writer of being a ‘Totally Chinese Station‘, where English dramas have mostly Chinese as lead actors, or foreign talents with mixed heritage (but still look Chinese). Nothing much has changed since. Think of a current Channel 5 hunk in a leading role and he’s most likely to be Chinese. Or half-Chinese. That’s if you can even think of such a programme in the first place.

It’s really all business and eyeballs for Medicorp, a company that has to struggle to reflect the ‘inclusivity’ of the real world by selling ‘make-believe’. I wouldn’t want to pay money to watch a mash-up of PCK and Moses Lim doing Dick Lee’s rendition of Rasa Sayang on NYE, especially when there’s always catch-up TV. But diehard fans will flock just to watch Jeanette Aw pirouette in a shimmery dress.  If you want a REAL Singaporean year end party, you should have been at Boon Lay instead of sitting at home miserable and wasting time channel surfing. As for Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong, see you in a few weeks’ time at the Lunar New Year Countdown then. I doubt anyone could complain about that being too ‘kantang’.

Final 1 voting system is a big joke

From ‘The Final 1 a big joke’, 18 May 2013, Mailbag, ST Life!

(Daniel Dam): As one who handles contests and promotions regularly, I can say that voting for reality talent show contestants via SMS and social media is a big joke these days (Viewers Blast The Final 1 Voting System, Life!, May 10).

There are techies who are able to auto-pump votes in the thousands with some applications or devices. Thanks to this, the most popular contestant may not win, let alone the most talented. Surely MediaCorp should know this by now.

(Jimmy Wee): I think The Final 1 Contest is a big joke and it is not just the judging. As a television show, it is a disgrace, with very bad presentation and poor production value. The talents are weak and comments from the judges are stupid. One or two of them are trying to copy the American Idol judges. I do not understand why MediaCorp and the Media Development Authority would support such a show.

If Ken Lim wants to gain fame by putting his own money into such a show, it is doing more harm than good to his credibility. And someone should be honest with the participants. Tell them not to waste their time – there is no future for them in the music industry. I hope this TV show will be the final one.

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 6

If you’re looking for actual talent, try Youtube. The Final 1 is reality programming, which means it was designed to sell a face more than a voice. You’re not going to get a Susan Boyle out of this; Final 1 is obviously targetted at the teenage set, with fresh faces gracing the screen exuding a larger-than-life personality polished and tweaked to the producers’ liking to suit the intended ‘vibe’ of the show i.e fake. If you’ve a great voice but camera-shy and don’t like to wear Jason Mraz hats nor have a goofball smile to charm an audience, skip the talent show, broadcast on Youtube instead. After all, who watches TV, not to mention Channel 5, these days?

The thing about reality singing contests, especially in the Singaporean context, is that you’re obliged to have as diverse a pool of singers as possible. One of the promos of the Top 40 contestants speaks for itself, the usual multiracial mix with cookie-cutter character favourites: The underdog, the nerd, the babe, the diva powerhouse and an Eurasian hipster with ambiguous sexuality. It’s like musical Cluedo, and I use the word ‘musical’ very loosely. I’m not even sure if these people get along though Mediacorp certainly WANTS you to believe so.

What’s sorely missing from the Final 1 is the unintentional humour of the ‘Idol’ series. By taking itself too seriously, the end product is a pale shadow of the contest that launched Taufik Batisah’s career. We used to watch the first few episodes of Idol to laugh at bad performers, who seemed more natural than the confectionery that gets voted into the finals. But at least we DID watch Idol, nevermind if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

The Final 1 isn’t the only competition banking on an ‘unfair’ online platform to garner votes. If you’ve nothing better to do with your life you can campaign for votes via a Facebook page or fan club to vote in contestants for Manhunt International and Star Awards. You may even throw in your life savings to BUY unlimited votes via the Facebook app ($8 = 100 votes), or earn votes by getting a friend to register. The ghost of Huang Wenyong is shaking his head as we speak.

With all this revenue generated through Facebook and SMSes, it’s strange that we still haven’t found that ONE breakthrough mega popstar till this day, the closest we’ve had being, sadly, Sun Ho of China Wine fame, who just needed a generous congregation and some shady investments without going through the hassle of being judged (though she and her ilk will be judged by someone far mightier than Ken Lim).

This would be illegal if votes that actually matter

This would be illegal for votes that actually matter

Incidentally, a public voting system was already implemented during Taufik’s stint in Singapore Idol, which itself generated a ‘shock result’ when the judge’s favourite Jeassea Thyidor dropped out based on viewer ratings, her being a ‘non-Singaporean’ cited as one of the reasons of her departure (Wait, isn’t this SINGAPORE Idol?). A 2004 article summarised the benefits of being popular: A true Singapore Idol only needs to CONNECT. For the Final 1 finalists, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner also being the one with the most ‘Likes’ and ‘Friends’ on Facebook, is hyperactive on Instagram, Twitter, Vine,  or a member of City Harvest Church. Hell, if public voting were so critical to success, you could have Yam Ah Mee as the Final 1.

Here’s an idea for Ken Lim, have a ‘reunion’ contest for all the good singers who ‘got away’ because voting viewers are idiots, screw social media, and see what kind of superstar you can groom out of it. Hopefully the winners don’t end up being resident judges of teenybopper reality talent shows because no one wants to buy their album from iTunes.

9 year old complaining to MP about scary trailer

From ‘MDA to probe horror trailer during TV primetime’, 16 Nov 2012, article in Today online

The Media Development Authority (MDA) will investigate if MediaCorp had breached guidelines under the Television Advertising Code by showing a horror trailer during primetime. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Communications and Information Sim Ann, said this in response to a question by Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza.

Mr De Souza had related how a nine-year-old resident (Renee Guerville) had told him that she couldn’t sleep after she saw the horror trailer on TV at 8pm. Regulations stipulate that on free-to-air television, trailers for films featuring violence or horror elements, which are unsuitable for viewing by children cannot be aired between 6am and 10pm, as that time belt is meant for family audiences. Trailers with stronger content can only be shown after 10pm.

I don’t watch TV, but I’m guessing this movie was shown during the Halloween season last October, and only one horror anthology has a track record of sending little kids to emergency wards for tranquiliser shots. Even adults would be disturbed by creepy movies that feature nothing but prolonged videocam footage of things waiting to appear out of NOWHERE.

Instead of calling for the ambulance like Italian kids, some traumatised Singaporean children complain to their MP instead of dealing with fear the usual way, by bunking in with their parents, snuggling with teddy or leaving the light on, until they eventually forget about it altogether. After all, it’s not just untimely scary movie trailers that will haunt a kid to tears. Seeing a squashed bird on the road would give them nightmares as well. If irrational fear didn’t serve a purpose, we wouldn’t be wired with it, and coping with ghosts and eerie pale children sprawling all over ceilings is simply the artifact of an emotion that would come in handy when you’re stuck in a tent in the woods, where being ‘anxious’ about what’s out there would make the difference between survival or becoming breakfast platter for a family of bears.

Most adults harbour a niggling horror trope in their minds, whether it’s the climax of Blair Witch Project or images from other classic movies like the Exorcist or the Ring. I belong to the generation where clowns are considered more frightening than demented chainsaw-wielding maniacs wearing hockey masks.

Not funny

The Internet, of course, is full of shock pranks like people cutting a nasty video into otherwise harmless cartoons or Barney. There’s also G-rated horror especially catered for kids, like R.L Stine’s Goosebumps. Singapore-based writer James Lee has also made a name for himself with his Mr Midnight series, which includes hilarious titles like ‘REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH’ and ‘WHAT’S THAT THING ON MY HAND?’. Obviously some kids love being spooked otherwise these wouldn’t sell. The book covers look pretty scary too and I wonder if any other 9 year old is going to start complaining about such material being openly displayed in bookstores.

That’s it. I’m not going to Pastamania anymore

The above cover bears an eerie resemblance to a scene from Insidious.


You can’t protect our children from the occult forever, and some parents would agree that it’s better to numb children to violence and horror early on before they start preparing for PSLE, when instead of memorising formulas they turn around to check on the door every 2 seconds. I do that sometimes when I’m alone in a hotel room, but I don’t blame my parents, the MDA or the filmmakers for it. If kids don’t start embracing fear and dealing with it, they’re always going to find someone to blame for their emotions whenever something tragic, violent or shocking happens. On the flipside, having surprise Jack-in-the-Box trailers on TV may be a good thing; shouldn’t you kids be playing outside or doing your HOMEWORK instead of watching scary TV?

It also helps that the writer is a picture of innocent youth, and giving a sympathetic fatherly ear would make any MP look good, notwithstanding how many other letters written by grown-ups about more important matters get ignored or served on a template. One must wonder what’s happening to parenting these days when kids are made to run to the authorities directly instead of having ‘family discussions’. Thanks to the attention given to Renee, Chris De Souza should expect more letters from concerned kids from now on, whether it’s about teachers being too fierce or why Santa Claus never gave them any presents for Christmas. Hell, if I wanted my MP to do something for me all I need is a pseudonym, bad spelling, crayons and paper blotted with tears. Why bother with formal lengthy emails when juvenile pleas would do? A 9 year old complaining about a Malay wedding Amy Cheong style would go something like this:

Dear Mr MP Sir,

My PSLE is next week. Today there is a Malay wedding downstairs in the void deck and the noise is very loud. The singing is very awful and I can’t study. Please tell them to stop. My daddy will beat me if I don’t get 290 for PSLE. Your help is very much appesiated.

Yours fatefully,

Ah Boy

Gory trailers are unlikely to turn children into emo recluses, but something else more sinister may harm them in the long run, not so much dark spooky shadows but bright golden arches.

‘Double confirm’ more catchy than ‘confirm confirm’

From ‘Double confirm, double confusion’ 18 Aug 2012, article by Melissa Kok, ST Life!

When it first aired last year, television gameshow We Are Singaporeans made the catchphrase “double confirm” its trademark. Such a phrase went down well in the light-hearted show, which tests contestants on their general knowledge of Singapore history and culture.

“Double confirm” is what the show’s host, Hossan Leong, said to ask contestants to lock in their answers. But now that the show is back for a second season on MediaCorp Channel 5, viewers have noticed that Hossan uses the phrase less often.

Hossan now uses a new catchphrase – “confirm confirm“. The change has got some viewers wondering if it is because the original catchphrase is “too Singlish” for mainstream broadcast.

…When contacted by Life! last week, host Hossan Leong admitted that he was told to use the phrase “double confirm” “less frequently”, but did not give a reason.

But Ms Choo (Mediacorp Vice President) said Leong was advised to do so as they “had planned to introduce the new catchphrase in Season 2″ of the show, which started airing in May. A problem that English language experts find with “double confirm” is that the “double” is redundant.

‘Double confirm’ has entrenched itself in the vernacular of Singaporeans as ‘non-standard’ English, but Hossan Leong’s catchphrase has drawn flak previously for being ‘bad English’. Technically, it consists of two legitimate English words merged in a ‘redundant’ manner, though most of us would understand what someone means by ‘double confirm’, like how we ‘get’ a salesperson telling us we’re entitled to a ‘free gift’, instead of the less enticing GIFT with every purchase. It’s just a pidgin way of emphasis, though it loses its meaning once we ply another layer of ‘confirm’ to make it ‘triple confirm’. In fact, replacing the favourite ‘double confirm’ with yet another tautological ‘confirm confirm’ would make it more similar to Singlish than Anglophiles would care to admit, as the use of repetition is a hallmark of many troublesome Singlish and non-English phrases which purists often frown upon.

For example, Phua Chu Kang’s catchphrase Don’t PLAY PLAY (or the deliberately mispronounced ‘Don’t PRAY PRAY’) was used in a gracious commuter campaign, much to the annoyance of some people who thought it should be rephrased, or rather neutered, to ‘Don’t fool around’. The Malay language is also chockfull of rhythmic repetitions, such as SUKA-SUKA, MASAK-MASAK, AGAR-AGAR (a gelatinous dessert) and AGAK-AGAK ( estimate). If your boss gives you a dressing down, it’d best that you ‘DIAM DIAM’ (keep quiet), and if you want to say ‘I knew it!’, what better way to express a self-pat on the back by ‘ZAI ZAI (eh)’. You’d better be careful what you say online, in case you ‘SUAY SUAY’ (by bad luck) get caught and posted on STOMP. Perfectionists like their tasks done ‘SWEE-SWEE’ (flawlessly). The Chinese use ‘Q-Q’ to describe springy noodles, as well as SK-II models’ cheeks which also happen to be ‘BAI BAI NEN NEN (fair and soft)’. The use of redundant repetition also has its roots in how fairy tales use ‘A long, long time ago’ ‘ many, many times’, which serves not so much to quantify time, but rather for melodic, even poetic, effect.

Some words, however, are not meant for rhythmic repetition. You can have a ‘No-no’ but not a ‘Yes-Yes’, a ‘Boing-Boing’ but not a ‘Thud-Thud’. ‘Confirm’, too, is NOT one of those words you could multiply in a bid to sound cute (1 CUTE would suffice). It’s like saying ‘ARMADILLO ARMADILLO’, or a doctor telling an unfortunate patient that he has ‘AIDS AIDS’. It’s fine if you want to scrape ‘double confirm’ off telly altogether, though Singaporeans are likely to switch to ‘SURE OR NOT’ or ‘YOU SURE AH’ if saying ‘double confirm’ became a crime. Even if you insist on pitching this new phrase, at least HYPHENATE it. You can’t explain it, but Confirm (x2) just sounds, well, WRONG WRONG.

‘Pledge’ documentary dubbing lost in translation

From ‘Channel 8 documentary on Singapore’s history to be redubbed’, 3 Aug 2012, article by Walter Sim, ST

An hour-long documentary on the history of Singapore containing at least 10 translation gaffes will be re-edited and retelevised on Monday, Aug 6, Mediacorp has said….The Day I Said The Pledge, which aired in Mandarin on Channel 8 last Sunday, July 29, contained errors in the names of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, who was deputy prime minister from 1980 to 1985.

…Mr Paul Chan, the vice-president of channel branding and promotions for Mediacorp Channel 8 and Channel U, said the translation was outsourced to an external company which has done dubbing and subtitling for regional and international channels. He said: “It is unfortunate that the delivery of the Mandarin dubbing was not up to standard, and we regret that certain inaccuracies were overlooked.”

In the original broadcast, since removed from video site Catch-Up TV by xinmsn, Singapore Mandarin turns of phrase for “public housing” (zheng fu zu wu) and “secondary school” (zhong xue) were replaced by terms used in Taiwan or mainland China, namely guo zhai and guo zhong respectively.

Didn’t anyone in Mediacorp check before releasing the programme to the masses, especially one as austere as the history of the Pledge, and during the National Day festivities too? Comic relief aside, inaccurate translation can also be an embarrassment when it confers a completely different meaning to the subject matter, sometimes with painfully ironic, even tragic, consequences. But any attempt to dub one language with another will always face resistance from purists. Fans of Hong Kong classic serials like Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre objected to the dubbing over of Cantonese with Mandarin in the late seventies. Now a thing of interest only to media historians, the Dubbing Unit was first formed in 1978, when Mediacorp was then known as RTS. We had local professionals then performing what always has been an unenviable task of taking the ‘flavour’ out of dialects. Today if you tell anyone that you work as a ‘dubber’, you would get no less than a blank, awkward stare and the general impression that you are in the business of rubbing lubricants.

But it’s not just the television industry that gets ‘lost in translation’. In 2002, the Singapore Tourism Board, in promoting Chinese versions of tourist guidebooks, turned the Hungry Ghost Festival into HUNGARY Ghost festival, and London ‘cabs’ were ‘horse-drawn carriages’. In fact, Hungary Ghost is a double mistake, the first is the genuine human error of misreading ‘hungry’ for the country, and second is not realising that there’s no such thing as a Hungary Ghost Festival (well at least not in Singapore). The Chinese Garden became the ‘Garden of China’, and River Hong Bao became ‘red packet’ of the Singapore river.Things were taken a bit too literally and churned out hastily without any use of common sense syntax at all. A free online ‘Sino-centric’ translator would do no worse than a hired goof.

Earlier this year, STB succumbed to lazy translation yet again, referring to the Chinese New Year as ‘CHINA New Year’ and Chinatown as ‘Tang Ren Jie’, or ‘Chinese street’, in their website.  Therein lies the problem of outsourcing translation services to people who don’t bother to do their local research, or are sneakily dependent on Google Translate, passing it off as the work of a thinking human professional when they’re really cheating. But it’s not just statutory boards who rely on translation software without proofreading. The Malaysian Mindef blamed Google Translate for publishing blooper text such as ‘clothes that poke eye’ on its staff dress code webpage, which in Malay means ‘revealing clothes’. If no one had tweeted about the cock-up the site would have continued to read like the crazy English bits on a restaurant menu in Guangzhou. It even included the bizarre phrase ‘collared shirts and TIGHT MALAY CIVET BERBUTANG THREE‘, and this is the ARMY you’re talking about here, not bushmen. Husband and wife’s lung slice, anyone?

So just how well does Google Translate fare in converting English to Chinese then? I ran a test and this is what I got:

Teo Chee Hean – 张志贤 (sounds right)

Rajaratnam – 拉贾拉特南 (sounds right)

Chinatown – 唐人街 (wrong)

Secondary School – 中学 (correct)

Hungry Ghost Festival – 中元节 (correct). Shame on you, human!

Conclusion: Save the money. Might as well Google translate.

Brastrap flash in Triumph ad a disservice to women

From ‘Not so triumphant for women’, 11 May 2012, Voices, Today online

(Tham Kun Moon): It was not too long ago that International Women’s Day was celebrated here and in many other countries. In the same month, an advertisement by an undergarment brand, in which the protagonist wowed her male audience by showing off that bit of her undergarment and appeared triumphant in the deal, aired regularly on the free-to-air channels.

It is pointless to celebrate the wonders and beauty of being a woman when old stereotypes persist. It is a disgrace and a disservice to women. To suggest that the modern woman succeeds on the merits of her undergarment is an insult to many women who rise up to the highest ranks in the corporate world, including several well-known ones locally.

( Ad could be this one below by Triumph. Who would have guessed?)

Nothing sweetens a deal like a little peek-a-boo, and as much as this depicts sultry women as wily go-getters, it also insults men as shallow creatures, that our executive functions are clouded by an exposed brastrap even if it’s flashed for less than a second. It’s like a cinema flick running subliminal split-second images to tell you that you want a hot dog. This ad may be a ‘disservice and disgrace’ to femininity but it merely dramatises a sullen truth that sex has been used, and will always be used, to secure deals, among other things worth getting. Countless movies have depicted women weaponising their cleavage to disarm violent criminals, escape from captivity or steal tiny keys from pockets, yet here we are, only on International Women’s Day, suddenly realising that there’s discrimination going on all this while. It’s like remembering we have someone to love on Valentine’s Day.

But wait, if you view the ad a couple more times, you’ll appreciate the context of what at first glance looks like a prelude to a striptease. The men were having trouble picking a colour scheme, and perhaps, by sheer coincidence, the bra’s shade of orange was EXACTLY what they had in mind. Or they just wanted to see a brastrap. Either way, both sexes are stereotyped, and an underwear ad without stereotyping is like a Burger King ad without fries.

Whether it’s a glimmer of a smile, affectionate touching, laughter or a winning bosom, sensual gestures will always influence the outcome of a sale or a payrise. A maximiser bra and a silly flash are just a few of the many flirtatious tools at a woman’s disposal, whether she’s conscious of her actions or not. Kudos to bosses who manage to see through the visual foreplay and make purely objective decisions without the reptilian brain being stimulated by primal mating signals (Or they could just be gay). It’s so hard to market underwear without pissing some women off. If you take the sexist messages away, you’ll have prudes complaining about topless models, or models unzipping their tops suggestively. At least the ad makers kept the scene restricted to a typical suit-and-tie corporate board room. If recent events are anything to go by, the ad would have been more accurate if it had been men in uniform discussing tenders of IT projects instead.

Girl-on-girl kissing at Star Awards

From ‘Girl on girl kiss to be censored in re-run of awards show’, 4 May 2012, article in

A kiss between female actresses Vivian Lai and Kate Pang has sparked a furore among Singaporeans. Actress-host Lai, 36, kissed actress Kate Pang, 29, on the lips for one second when she was announced as one of the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes during Sunday’s live telecast of the Star Awards Show 2.

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that many viewers called its hotline to say they were offended by the kiss. They said that while some women may find kissing each other to be “trendy”, they were not used to it.

Some also said that it was strange to see female artistes dressed sexily and kissing each other. The Media Development Authority (MDA) said it will probe the incident to ascertain whether it has breached content guidelines of the free-to-air TV programme code.

A spokesperson for broadcaster MediaCorp told The New Paper that the “kiss” will be censored for this Sunday’s repeat telecast as some viewers may not be comfortable.

They should have won Most Favourite Couple

This will probably be the most useless snip in the history of television, regardless of what people think of two women kissing. Even if there were erotic undertones here beyond a ‘sisterly’ peck, it would have went unnoticed if the people obsessed with ‘lesbianism’ hadn’t cried foul over it. Perhaps cleavage just fails to shock anymore,  that there’s only a few ways to display one’s assets,  to the point that even the underboob has been milked dry. This Western glam concept of celebrity lip smooching has taken the attention away from boring speculations of boob jobs or waiting for wardrobe malfunctions to occur. The awards  have become secondary and our Mediacorp artistes are being ravaged on the red carpet for tasteless frocks, if not accused of aping the decadent West and turning viewers gay with their antics. People who’ve never seen a single Mediacorp drama the entire year would have at least heard of this event, but only for the wrong reasons. Soon no one will even remember or care about who won the Best Drama or Actress, nor male artistes who dress like hobos, and the Star Awards will be known just for two things: Ann Kok’s ample bosom and a hot girly kiss. Pity the former wasn’t involved in the latter, or you would have the prudes getting cardiac arrests before even writing in to complain about too much sex on TV.

This spontaneous couple seem to have taken a cue off Britney and Madonna, who locked lips on stage at the 2003 MTV awards, with a hint of tongue too. Nobody’s calling either a lesbian.

Our authorities have also banned the first hit single from Katy Perry titled ‘I Kissed a Girl’, which anyone can download off Youtube below, although no girls were actually kissing in the video. Katy went on to marry comedian Russell Brand in a rather short-lived romance, proof that she too wasn’t a lesbian.

Our censors also deleted scenes off critically acclaimed films like The Hours, and banned films like Shame altogether because of threesome scenes which I presume, would have some girly action as well. Kissing used to be a fun thing; experimental, playful and affectionate, and celebrities have the privilege of playing fast and loose with their PDA as they deem fit. Because they ARE celebrities.  Better that they engage in same-sex kissing than snort cocaine. These complainants are treating the act as if someone dropped a box full of forceps in the middle of a life-saving surgery.

Football players smooch each other all the time after scoring goals, yet no one talks about censoring matches because these contain ‘harmful’ scenes of sweaty men kissing, that boys who watch them may end up spending more time in the locker room than necessary. If two men kiss, it’s awkward or a prank, especially when presidents do it. If two ‘sexily dressed’ ladies kiss, however,  a ‘guideline’ has been breached and the innocent need to be protected.

One thing’s certain though; the kissing video would garner more hits than the  combined viewership of both live and rerun shows, even among people who have no idea who Joanne Peh is. Kate Pang may even score the Top 10 favourite artist list every year from now on, even if nobody has seen her act. Going near topless to boost a lacklustre career doesn’t work anymore, and it’s no longer peek-a-boo but ‘peck-a-(chio)bu’ that makes the Star Awards worth saving.

Slapping on TV does not reflect reality

From ‘Love the show but not the slapping’, 28 Jan 2012, ST Forum

(Esther Wong): MY FAMILY and I enjoy watching Double Bonus on Channel 8 at 9pm from Monday to Friday.

However, the frequent slapping scenes are uncalled for and are very disturbing.

I hope the Channel 8 drama team can cut down on these scenes because they do not reflect reality and are likely to teach wrong family values, especially to young children who watch the drama serial.

Zoe gets it

If everyone were to disapprove of Channel 8 dramas ‘not reflecting reality’, the station would go bankrupt from lack of entertainment value, not that I’m a fan myself. Just look at the gung-ho action setpieces and bomb-in-a-dustbin hijinks in C.L.I.F. In fact, the trailer of Double Bonus itself (click pic above), with its cheesy recycled from the 80’s special effects,  dry-ice masquerading as celestial clouds, and the presence of two gorgeous Pan-Asian hunks, already says a lot about the gratuitous fantasy  in this serial without you having to watch a single episode. Like its name suggests, Double Bonus is your obligatory Chinese New Year drama special designed to promote family togetherness, with plenty of images of people eating at a table and doomed to climax to fever pitch with the entire cast breaking the third wall and wishing viewers long life and prosperity ahead and making you feel like hugging your Ah Gong right away. Long-time fans of local drama would remember CNY clones like ‘Prosperity‘, ‘Happy Family’, ‘Reunion Dinner’ and ‘Uncle, Where’s My Ang Pow?’. OK the last one was made up.

Times like these you can’t just bank on veterans like Zoe Tay or foreign eye candy anymore, which explains why scriptwriters, already running short of ideas other than cashing in on rape scenes, need to woo viewers with some good old fashioned family violence, something which Taiwanese family-spat marathon melodrama like ‘Ai’ is famous for. The Pan-Asians, the goofy costumes, the supernatural angle, are light-hearted elements just to suit the occasion and getting in the way  of what the folks at Channel 8 really aspire to produce: An all-out domestic slap-happy scandal-a-minute Armageddon. If you look at the trailer closely you’ll notice friendlier acts of violence like the ‘forehead push’, which could inadvertently cause as much harm as a whiplash in a car accident. Hugs and kisses just don’t do it for viewers anymore. We are instinctively attracted to domestic abuse like we rubberneck at car crashes, which is why slapping works. We like to see people ‘lose it’ as a vicarious, sadistic pleasure, and nothing serves up the tension like an impending slap to the face, especially after random objects like vases, plates and windows have been destroyed.

Slapping is probably unheard of in the writer’s sanitised window of the world, but to say slapping doesn’t reflect reality is like denying the existence of masturbation. Perhaps she should go out more often, chances are she may even catch a rare public slapping act in action. Teachers and supervisors of orphanages are known to punish by slapping, and I’m pretty sure some passionate couples still abuse each other in the heat of argument (and still make love after, perhaps with different forms of ‘slapping’). Ordinary citizens have been known to slap policemen, and so too women clashing over male lovers.  Google the definition ‘catfight’ and you’ll find ‘slapping’. Even today’s kids reverse the domestic order of discipline by giving a tight one to their mothers and boast online about it, like Adelyn Ho Seh Bo.

So, slapping, despite most people restraining themselves from delivering one to their spouses, bosses, MPs , other people’s annoying children or a kinky lover, is very REAL indeed. It’s the only bloodless physical act where one can feel so good after unleashing one, but wracked with guilt just a second later. How often do we vent ‘I feel like giving him a tight slap’ or ‘He deserves to be slapped’? In a way, the act of slapping is like learning what sex is. You have to see it with your own eyes or experience one yourself, and since slapping has been in existence since God knows when, it’s unfair to blame the media for taking the drama one slap too far, though one should deduct points for lack of imagination. The alternative to insulting a character in a show is to flame his Facebook account, but you don’t need TV for that do we.

Hawker gambler glamorised by media

From ‘Media hype over MBS winner glamorises gambling’, 12 Nov 2011, Voices, Today

(Sebastian Tan Gee How): …While I am happy that Ms Choo Hong Eng will get her S$416,742.11 winnings from Marina Bay Sands, and even happier that she has decided to donate half to charity, I am worried that too much hype and attention has been accorded to her case.

Already, we are grappling with the real problem of elderly persons gambling away their (or their children’s) hard-earned money at the casinos. Surely such publicity would make it more “attractive” for them to try gambling. I can imagine the elderly persons now telling their family members and friends, who may be trying to dissuade them from gambling, that it is possible to “get rich” by citing Ms Choo’s example.

I urge the media to stop their reporting of Ms Choo, which has inadvertedly “glamorised” gamblers like her.

( The following photo was published in ST on the same day this forum letter appeared)

The most guarded piece of paper in the country

Vegetarian hawker Choo has become a minor celebrity not so much of her claimed generosity (will anyone actually check that she puts the money where her mouth is?), but because this saga is a classic  biblical trope of small-time folk hero battling the odds to smite a Goliath in the casino business.  If she weren’t a hawker but a rich man’s wife, we’d probably wouldn’t care so much. Justice may have been served, but this admittedly over-sensationalised rags to riches story, including an elaborate background of hardship as an orphan (could there be a Jack Neo autobiographical movie in the making?) is exactly the kind of news that people lap up, because it gives us HOPE, makes us ENVIOUS, and for those in the anti-casino camp, a satisfying dollop of just deserts (though $400K means nothing to MBS; they have been reported to make $11 million a DAY).

What the media is selling isn’t MBS or gambling per se, but a narrative that Singaporeans would all sympthatise with, one that celebrates the triumph of humility and good over evil i.e the papers are just selling themselves. It was geared to tug at our emotions, and for all this ‘victory for the common people’ and how Choo seemingly deserved her fortune for doing good deeds most of her life, it doesn’t dispel the irony of the other deliberately subdued lesson here; that one can strike it rich by sheer luck, whether you’re rich or poor, especially if you’re kind-hearted by nature. The fact is, for every good hawker who strikes a lottery, there are plenty others like her living on a prayer at the brink of bankruptcy, no matter how active they have been doing charity or saving people’s lives, waiting for the day of their divine reward to arrive in the form of a highly improbable alignment of numbers, jackpot icons or rolls of the die. These people will continue to wait, and hope, or take a shot at the MBS, with or without Choo’s story being blared all over the media.

What’s really underplayed here is whether MBS will be penalised for trying to pull the wool over a patron’s eyes and deny payouts, which could help take some of the limelight off Choo, maybe even dissuade gamblers from patronising a casino with a reputation of cheating their customers. Instead, it’s likely the reverse has already happened, judging by the recent reports of MBS daily takings. But gambling influence aside,  the flip side of such publicity is that Choo probably has to sleep with one eye open for a while, and even if her story reveals a no-nonsense feisty character about her, the very fact that she’s an ordinary person, doing an ordinary job, does put her and her family in an unnerving, and quite unnecessary, spotlight.  If I were in her shoes, the first thing I’d buy for myself would be a bodyguard. THEN donate everything to ‘charity’. I would also change my mobile number in case some long lost friend in need suddenly calls to ‘see how I’m doing’.

You don’t physically need a casino, or journalists, to ham up gambling as a glamourous lifestyle. Back in 1993, a certain SBC blockbuster called the ‘Unbeatables’ was aired, a blatant copy of Hong Kong’s God of Gamblers series, complete with flying cards and slow motion, close-up  dice rolls. This spawned parts 2 and 3, as well as a new generation of high-roller drama called ‘the Ultimatum’, with good-looking leads in opulent settings, throwing in some gun-totting intrigue, romance and overblown card tricks for good measure to complete the allure of the casino universe.  I’m sure none of the producers or actors are losing sleep over the casino problems we’re facing currently, but Choo’s life story blends in well with any of the synopses of these dramas. Let’s all hope her tale ends here on a happy note.

How can anyone watch this poker-faced?


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