Where is the Love?

February 19, 2008

Let’s face it, Singapore is an achievement-fuelled nation. That’s the reason why the Singapore Flyer was built to become the world’s highest ferris wheel (at least for now), while all sorts of missions are frequently organised such as to write the nation into the Guinness Book of World Records (Longest popiah, anyone?).

I suppose that is precisely why, despite the numerous believable conspiracy theories abounding that the voting system was flawed, when local contestant Hady Mirza won Asian Idol (which should more effectively be named South East Asian Idol because it only featured contestants from around the region, with the exception of India. What about Taiwan and China, the land of the singing competitions? Are they ineligible just because those countries chose to be original and not rip off the tried-and-tested, yet unreliable, idol format?) against all the powerhouses, his pretty mug was unabashedly splashed all over the front pages of all local tabloids AND the advertisements were replayed over and over again on television.

Total Overkill.The Amazing Race Asia

Now, Adrian and Collin from The Amazing Race Asia 2 have gone one-up on fellow Singapore competitors Sharon and Melody from the previous season by winning the whole damn thing, furthermore on home soil. And they won by being the underdogs too (like Hady), being last for most of the final leg back in Singapore!

That would have been, all by itself already, such a strong media storyline (and I have not gone into the fact that Adrian is the first hearing-impaired contestant ever casted on The Amazing Race. How’s that for a sweet victory?) Yet, their victory was marginalised to small articles within the newspaper itself.

Where’s the front page news?! Where is the Love? The achievements of Hady shagging his lungs out against other vocal powerhouses in the inaugural Asian Idol is probably on par with the achievements of Adrian and Collin shagging their energy out for close to a month against other competitors from around the region, flying 4 continents in the process.

Is this because The Amazing Race Asia 2 is unavailable on free-to-air television here?
Or is this because Asian Idol is more prestigious just because it is shown live?

Angmoh Issues

February 11, 2008

What enthralls me towards the entire Singaporeans-cannot-speak-proper-English brouhaha stirred by Taiwanese variety programme “Mr Con & Ms Hsi” is the fact that, with all these misgivings towards Singapore’s style of the language, it somewhat seems to me (as an assumption here though) that Singapore is more capable of attracting expats than Taiwan. Surely communication and language have a huge role to play in this?

In addition to that, undergraduates (such as celebrities like Jolin Tsai, who has even ironically released an English Language guidebook) are able to graduate with degrees in the English Language, when, I suppose, foreigners have more trouble understanding them and their inaccurate pronunciation, deplorable grammar and poor vocabulary. I guess we should all further our language studies there? Since with such standards, most people in Singapore will be able to graduate with PhDs already, not only degrees! (The most grating ones of all is hearing things like “Happy Burstday”)

But knowing how Singapore reacts to criticism, I guess the “華語 Cool!” movement will take a backseat this year while the nation campaigns even more strongly for the Speak Good English Movement.


Aiyo die la.. lidat hor.. Singapore English aka Singlish how? So what if it’s a jia-ba-lang rojak language.. All the heritage and culture in it leh..? i think Singapore English not good enuf to be the best in the world la.. but still.. kena say until like dat by those taiwan ppl hor.. sibeh paiseh one leh..

*Written by aR

Transport in Singapore

February 10, 2008

In recent months, much has been said about the (increasingly deplorable state of) transport systems in Singapore, as compared to previous years. Also, there has been a lot of talk on what we can look forward to in the future.

Firstly, an increased number of ERP gantries (some of which are being placed at ridiculous locations such as in the Toa Payoh heartlands – notice how the authorities are somewhat evading the touchy topic by giving extremely non-commital replies to complaints about the issue. Replies such as “This is a necessary measure so as to curb the rise in…” tell the public nothing at all – instead they should focus on the “How” of the issue and dwell more in depth as to how residents will not be shortchanged.

Secondly, higher ERP rates, especially during peak hours, so as to reduce congestion on the roads and to coerce more people into utilising public transport and to leave their well-groomed trusty vehicles behind in their own car parks, failing to acknowledge the fact that this will eventually lead to more congestion on public transport itself. (But of course, people are obsessed with the age-old antediluvian idea that Singapore has a ‘world-class public transport system’ to acknowledge the flaws which have started to show up.. No wonder, while I find that the recent MRT disruption was handled properly on the ground, what with the numerous shuttle buses catered to shuttle affected passengers, people were nonetheless left bewildered as to what the entire issue was until they managed to catch the news on television that night)

Thirdly,  the LTA is in the midst of testing and developing a world-first GPS-based ERP system, which charges commuters based on how much they “contribute” to congestion on the roads in ERP-activated areas (factors include the length of time spent on the roads as opposed to being parked in some carpark somewhere within the CBD), tentatively slated to be up by 2010. This would mean that the flat rate system currently adopted will be abolished.

Next, the government has announced plans to accelerate the expansion plans of the MRT, which is definitely a good thing as it will cut travel time around the region. (Of course, the downside is that with all the costs in maintaining a larger network of MRT lines, we are bound to be faced with a further hike in MRT fees?)

The following shows an artist’s impression of the future MRT-LRT network. (Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Rapid_Transit_(Singapore))

Future MRT-LRT Network
* Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, SMRT and SBS will be implementing measures to ease congestion on public transportation, through measures such as increasing the frequency of trains, especially during peak hours (a move which SMRT has announced was to take place on 4 Feb 08), as well as revising the frequency of buses on the roads (which is an irony all by itself as wouldn’t more buses, while it means good news for the commuters as it eases congestion on the buses itself, add on to the congestion on the roads?).

Mr Brown recently posted an article on his blog www.mrbrown.com, titled “There is a reason that MRT train feels less frequent and more crowded…”, which is worth reading.

My personal opinion? The SMART announcement which SMRT made regarding the increment of train services on 4 Feb 08 doesn’t seem to have made any difference. Prior to 4 Feb, at least on the East-West Line, the waiting time for trains for peak hours is about 2-3 minutes, while it is 7 minutes for off-peak hours. Even after 4 Feb, there isn’t any improvement made to the waiting period for trains, while trains are as crowded as usual during peak hours.

SBS and SMRT personnel (especially those ‘with rank’) allege that they understand the actual situation on the ground, using some statistics they gather from who-knows-where, to boost up their claims to make them sound more credible (or laughable,. you decide). But I doubt they actually have even a pea-sized inkling of how the situation actually is, on the ground, and how horrible travelling on public transport has become, in comparison to the past.

You know what? I think they themselves do not travel on the public transport they govern, driving their own flashy cars to work.

PS: If anybody of importance is reading this, I would like to make an appeal to increase the frequency of bus service 518, especially during peak hours on weekdays and weekends. It is exceptionally frustrating when the company charges so much, since it is after all, an express service, but people on the bus are packed like sardines most of the time. Whatever happened to travelling in comfort?

*Written by aR

The tides have changed, the trends have shifted, the fad has passed, the world has evolved. (ok you probably get the gist)

mrbrown made the acute observation that most screens in Singapore are only offering 4 movies throughout this CNY festive season – Ah Long Pte Ltd, CJ7, Kung Fu Dunk and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Meanwhile, let’s take Sweeney Todd out of the picture of our discussion as it is evidently sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the other CNY feel-good movies. (The movie genre sticks out like a sore thumb in the first place, albeit in an interesting sort of way – a macabre gory musical – nice!)

The sad observation I have made is that, amongst GV screens at least, there seems to be a certain belittling of the King of Chinese Comedy in terms of box office draws and people pull, by said movie distributorship organisation. And this is in spite of the fact that Stephen Chow movies have been affirmed box office hits throughout the years. 

If you pay close attention to the Golden Village movie timeslots, of the three Chinese festive movies, it is Kung Fu Dunk which has been assigned the most movie timeslots, opening on more screens than the other two. And if you have bothered clicking on the timeslot links, you’d notice that the halls assigned for Kungfu Dunk seats more people than the halls reserved for CJ7 and Ah Long Pte Ltd

What, so they think Stephen Chow and Jack Neo cannot hold their ground against Jay Chou, who incidentally is more renowned for his music than his movies? As opposed to the former two who have made the movie industry his bread and butter throughout the years?

It has now become apparent that, through some close monitoring of their seats availability page (as I intend to catch a movie or two), seats in halls for Stephen Chow’s CJ7 and Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd are ‘selling fast’ or ‘sold out’ despite it being so early in the day and the movies only being shown at night. Why then, do they not cater bigger halls for these movies, since movies by these directors have been confirmed box office draws in the past?

Of course detractors are bound to argue that in economical terms, more timeslots and bigger halls will eventually lead to a more even distribution of audiences for Jay Chou’s movie. On the other hand, why let this happen in the first place? Why not ensure a more even distribution of audiences for the other two movies as well?

The following are some screenshots of the seat availability of the three movies at selected cinemas at timeslots close to each other. (CAA 8th Feb 2008, 1205hrs GMT +8.00)

GV Tampines

Stephen Chow - CJ7 @ 2305hrs
CH7 @ 2305hrs
Jack Neo's Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2240hrs 
Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2240hrs

Jay Chou's KungFu Dunk @ 2250 hrs
Kungfu Dunk @ 2250hrs

GV Jurong Point 

GV Jurong Point - CJ7 @ 2130hrs
CJ7 @ 2130hrs
GV Jurong Pt - Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2100hrs
Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2000hrs
GV Jurong Pt - Kungfu Dunk
Kungfu Dunk @ 2105hrs

[Legend: Light blue means the seats are available, dark blue means the seats are taken, purple means the seats are “blocked” due to ongoing transactions]

On a sidenote, realise how people technically go “Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd” and not “Mark Lee’s Ah Long Pte Ltd” or “Fann Wong’s Ah Long Pte Ltd”? Until someone actually goes Kevin Chu’s “Kungfu Dunk”, all the limelight is being taken away from him! (Though I doubt anyone can name him in the first place)

*Written by aR

Graciousness

February 8, 2008

Singapore indeed has a long way to go before it can really become a gracious society, at term which has been plaguing the nation since PM Lee talked about it last month.

Why?

Apart from the smorgasbord of other reasons which I am sure, everybody can throw up offhand as to how Singaporeans are generally not gracious (inclusive of the usual refusal to give up seats on the MRT, the hogging of seats at crowded hawker centres even after finishing their food… …) here’s what I feel is the main one:

Some people leave traces of their shit in public toilet bowls after they have completed their big business.
THAT’s such mindless far-from-gracious 3rd world behaviour, don’t you think?

*Written by aR

Unless you have been living in a hole or are one of those ‘financially-free’ people who do not really give two hoots about all this, it should not be news that the rising inflation rates are threatening to engulf Singaporeans (especially the middle-income and low-income groups; what, you thought there wasn’t any income ‘hierachy’ around?). Or rather, have already overwhelmed Singaporeans.However, for the benefit of said clueless people, here’s a rehashing of the statistics which have virtually been appearing in the papers daily:Singapore’s inflation rates grew 2.9% last year as compared to 2006, and are set to grow further this year.
(How’s that for a new year gift.)

Though there’s a positive side in all this inflation nonsense in that angpow rates have been inflated as well, as reported by mypaper a few days ago. While it was $2 a few years back, the market rate is $4 currently for the minimal angpow amount you may packet without having to be seen as indecently cheapskate by said angpow receiver and his parents. (Good news for all unmarried people!)

However, by inflation here, it means MARKET inflation, which may not necessarily be such a good thing after all.  Though I realise that newspapers here love to make a lot of comparisons with the inflation rates in other countries to essentially soften the impact (and that is where the scary close-to-10%-inflation-rates-in-Dubai comes in.. While global economics are intrinsically linked, face it, nobody really cares how much more people in Dubai have to pay for an egg). However, this impact certainly hasn’t been reduced much when people have been making radical changes to their lives!

It all seems to be a chain reaction to me. The companies, organisations and what not get affected by all the rising food costs, fuel costs, and what not, and the people subsequently get affected. When this happens, the people will get buay song and blame said companies for not paying attention to their needs and threaten not to patronise the services of these companies again. But at the end of the day they’ll somehow mince their words and go running back to these companies because it has formed part of their lives. Which in turn gives them more reason to up prices in future because they know they have a stable customer base to fall back on!

Let’s take a look at the good news:

– 75% of 1,271 hawkers here have yet to raise their food prices (though I realise the key word here is ‘yet’)

– Supermarkets such as Giant, Carrefour, NTUC and Sheng Siong are producing their own house brands which mean cheaper goods becos they can do away with all the intermediary shipping costs and all that.Let’s take a look at the flipside:- Higher fuel prices mean higher transportation fees (PS: I find that guy who deliberately bought oil at $100 a barrel and sold them off at $99.40 later just for bragging rights selfishly lame. Just for his grandchildren he sent the entire global market into panic.)
– More ERP gantries mean higher transportation fees
– Higher ERP rates mean higher transportation fees (Gosh, sooner or later it’ll probably offset the public transport-personal transport balance so much that it’d cost $10 to drive into town!)
– Higher costs of food products (oil, eggs)
– Higher taxi fares (which is another interesting issue to be looked at in a later post)
– More expensive flats
– Higher movie ticket prices, albeit only for Cathay cinemas (though it won’t be soon before long that the other movie players join in the fun), by $0.50 for normal movies and $1.00 for blockbusters. I have to say that they’re quite smart; trying to fleece more out of sure box office hits such as “Kungfu Dunk” than arthouse draws such as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”.
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And all this coincidentally comes on the back of the GST hike last year. I know, I know, nobody really wants the US economy to falter into recession considering how it’s the biggest stock market in the world, and the timing isn’t that great. But let’s face it, if the GST had not been raised by that 2% the pinch will not be that hurtful.Seems like what has been painted isn’t exactly a scenic transquil picture with nice flowing rivers and beautiful trees, is it?Well, it would be, if something actually deflates for once on a long-term basis, not one of those one-off promotional discounts!

*Written by aR