Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's as plane as day!

Singapore's F-15SGs took part in Exercise Red Flag, Nellis AFB. Here's one of our beauties, nicely "decorated" on its tail fin!...

Wow, this is a whistle-blowing revelation!...

ST, July 31

The Singaporean public deserves an explanation from the university authorities.

Do Singaporean pre-university kids read the newspapers?. These ones here are from the top schools taking part in a national competition!...

ST, July 31

Finally, this headline is self-explanatory. Just do it!...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The passing of the era of craftsmanship in journalism...

Newspaper bloopers may be a source of mirth but I wonder if those spotted in contemporary times suggest a continuing decline in standards and craftsmanship, as guardians of old-school journalism fade away.

For example, the fraternity of journalists have always understood the label "journalists" to be a generic term -- its practitioners included all who "produced" the news, from reporters and sub-editors to photo-journalists as well as presenters and producers. Those at senior levels may carry fancy titles but they cut their teeth in the basic trades. It is thus surprising that no less than the Singapore Media Academy would come up with this ad which appeared in TODAY:

Aspire to be a reporter or journalist? Whoever approved this ad was as clueless as the typical layman who thinks that only reporters can be called journalists!

Being widely read and naturally curious have always been hallmarks of those who aspire to be top-rate journalists. They might even compile a personal list -- a little black book, so to speak -- of little things that can trip them up, like what exactly is a "battleship":

ST, July 30
No, there are no longer any battleships in active service! The US still has a number of World War II-era battleships mothballed or preserved as memorials.

In other words, battleships are a class of warships, which is the generic term for naval combat vessels. So, in the story above, if no one from reporter to senior editor was aware of this -- that the correct term applicable here should have been "warships" -- then the era of careful journalism in Singapore's premier newspaper would have had faded away already.

There are also "tricky" words that journalists have to be aware of. One set is "biennial" versus "biannual". The former means once every two years while the latter means once every six months. ST got that right:

But TODAY got it wrong:

Imagine a political party holding its major internal election for key party posts every six months! Once again, no one at TODAY -- from reporter to senior editor -- spotted that ridiculous error.

Even the major news organisations commit silly errors. One recent gaffe was by the BBC:

The real news was much less shocking, as reported in ST:

Remember that bad piece of headline writing by AP:

AP had to carry a clarification:

Finally, a fundamental rule in journalism is never to start a sentence with a numeral, even if that kicks off the title of a movie!...

Once upon a time, an organisation like Reuters would never have committed such a faux pas.

Incidentally, I watched the movie 300: Rise Of An Empire on board the plane while I was returning home from the US. I learnt something from the Hollywood scriptwriters; that the F-word had been used as far back as ancient Greek times!

The hero had earlier made love (sort of... I would describe the tryst as a "shortcoming") to the female villain. There followed this sword fighting scene between them where, just before he kills her, she hisses: "You fight better than you fuck."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Three jokes...

These jokes had been sitting in my email inbox...

Spoiler alert: Beware the Genie with a wicked sense of humour
A man walks into a restaurant with a full-grown ostrich behind him. The waitress asks for their orders.

The man says, "A hamburger, fries, and a coke," and turns to the ostrich, "What's yours?"

"I'll have the same," says the ostrich.

A short time later the waitress returns with the order.

"That will be $9.40 please," and the man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the exact change for payment.

The next day, the man and the ostrich come again and the man says, "A hamburger, fries, and a coke."

The ostrich says, "I'll have the same."

Again the man reaches into his pocket and pays with the exact change. This becomes the routine whenever the two enter the restaurant. Then Friday comes.

"The usual?" the waitress asks.

"No, this is Friday night, so I will have a steak, baked potatoes, and salad," says the man.

"Same," says the ostrich.

The waitress brings the order and says, "That will be $32.62."

Once again the man pulls out the exact change from his pocket and places it on the table. The waitress can't hold back her curiosity any longer.

"Excuse me, sir. How do you manage to always come up with the exact change out of your pocket every time?"

"Well," says the man, "several years ago, I was cleaning the attic and found an old lamp. When I rubbed it, a Genie appeared and offered me two wishes.

"My first wish was that if I ever had to pay for anything, I would just put my hand in my pocket and the right amount of money would always be there."

"That's brilliant!" says the waitress. "Most people would wish for a million dollars or something, but you'll always be as rich as you want for as long as you live!"

"That's right. Whether it's a gallon of milk or a Rolls Royce, the exact money is always there," says the man.

The waitress asks, "But, sir, what's with the ostrich?"

The man sighs, pauses, and answers, "My second wish was for a tall chick with long legs who agrees with everything I say."

Don't you wish you were this guy (if you have a prickly woman boss)!

A woman office manager of a large firm prided herself on her running a no-nonsense outfit. One day, she noticed a new man and told him to come into her office.

" What is your name?" was the first thing she asked the new guy.

"John ," the new hire replied.

She scowled, "Look... I don't know what kind of a namby-pamby place you previously worked at, but over here, I don't call anyone by their first name. It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority. 

"I refer to my subordinates by their last name only ... Smith, Jones, Baker ...that's all. There will be NO exceptions.

"I am to be referred to only as Mrs. Robertson. Now that we got that straight, what is your last name?"

The new guy sighed, "Darling..... ....... My name is John Darling."

"Okay, John, the next thing I want to tell you is . . . "


The "Genesis 9:7" Pastor

A pastor's wife was expecting a baby, so he stood before the congregation and asked for a raise.

After much discussion, they passed a rule that whenever the pastor's family expanded, so would his paycheck.

After six children, this started to get expensive and the congregation decided to hold another meeting to discuss the pastor's expanding salary. A great deal of yelling and inner bickering ensued, as to how much the pastor's additional children were costing the church, and how much more it could potentially cost.

After listening to them for about an hour, the pastor rose from his chair and spoke, "Children are a gift from God, and we will take as many gifts as He gives us."

Silence fell over the congregation.

In the back pew, a little old lady struggled to stand, and finally said in her frail voice, "Rain is also a gift from God, but when we get too much of it, we wear rubbers."

The entire congregation then said, "Amen."

Monday, July 28, 2014

A little Aussie tale (and the sting if you call a prawn a shrimp).

Colin the brave Aborigine

A rich man living in Darwin decided that he wanted to throw a "barbie" and invited all of his buddies and neighbours.

He also invited Colin, the only Aborigine in the neighbourhood.

He held the party around the pool in the backyard of his mansion. Everyone was having a good time drinking, dancing, "throwing another prawn on the barbie", and chatting up the Sheilas...

At the height of the party, the host said, 'I have a 15ft man-eating crocodile in my pool and I'll give a million dollars to anyone who has the balls to jump in.'

The words were barely out of his mouth when there was a loud splash and everyone turned around and saw Colin in the pool fighting the croc, jabbing the croc in the eyes with his thumbs, throwing punches, doing all kinds of stuff like head butts and chokeholds, biting the croc on the tail and even flipping the croc through the air.

The water was churning and splashing everywhere..

Both Colin and the croc were screaming and raising hell! Finally Colin strangled the croc and let it float to the top like a dead goldfish.

Colin, exhausted but unscathed, then slowly climbed out of the pool. Everybody was just staring at him in disbelief. The host said, 'Well, Colin, I reckon I owe you a million dollars.'

'Nah, you all right boss, I don't want it,' said Colin.

The rich man said, 'Man, I have to give you something. You won the bet. How about half a million bucks then?'

'No thanks, mate. I don't want it,' answered Colin firmly.

The host said, 'Come on, I insist on giving you something... That was an amazing feat. How about a new Porsche and a Rolex and some stock options?'

Again, Colin said "No." 

Now confused, the rich man asked, 'Well Colin, then what do you want?'

Colin said...

'I want the bloody bastard who pushed me in.'

So what's the moral of this little tale? None, except that if you are a non-Aussie (read: American), never say "Throw another shrimp in the barbie!" -- despite what "Crocodile Dundee" Paul Hogan once famously uttered in a tourism commercial:

Note: Singaporeans, like Aussies, follow the same convention on prawns and shrimps. Here's more the difference:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wrapping up my US trip...

Fell asleep at 10pm yesterday, finally breaking -- I hope -- my jet-lag insomnia (two hours sleep or less in the past few days). Hence, I did not blog last night.

I still have some stuff related to my US trip (not all directly, though):

My "fellow travellers" were mostly Americans. Interestingly, even the registered Democrats among them disliked President Barack Obama. One even agreed with the sentiment of Republicans who wanted to see him impeached! I do not know enough about American politics to understand why Obama is such an unpopular figure there.

But I think many of the Obama critics I met will agree with this item which CC sent to me:

"Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game."

~Vladimir Putin

Thomas Jefferson (third US president and key author of the Declaration of Independence) may also have his share of controversy -- such as his continued keeping of slaves in his estate -- but his legacy is assured and he has a memorial to his name:

Here he is looking a little bit like Darth Vader...

More light please! Ah, now it looks like the Force is with him...

We bought a tee-shirt at Monticello, Jefferson's estate in Virginia, now a heritage site...

The Pursuit of Happiness... try the Coolidge Effect!
I also learnt something interesting about Calvin Coolidge (30th president, 1923-1929) though not from my trip but from an article in last Saturday's Straits Times:

So, now we know... one of the 30th president's legacy is the "Coolidge Effect" (fairly or unfairly attributed to him)!

I have this now fading tee-shirt, bought many years ago, when I was in the US...


Our bus coach driver, Wali, was both skilful and ever alert at the wheel. We always felt safe in his hands. We certainly did not have this obviously made-up "highway experience":

Sitting on the edge of the highway waiting to catch speeders, a state police officer saw a car driving along at 22 mph. He thought to himself, that car is just as dangerous as a speeder. So, he turned his lights on and pulled the car over. Approaching the car, he noticed there were 5 old ladies, two at the front and 3 at the back, wide eyed and looking like ghosts.

The driver, obviously confused, said, "Officer, I don't understand, I wasn't doing over the speed limit! What did you pull me over for?" "Ma'am," the officer said, "You should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be dangerous".

"Slower than the speed limit? No sir! I was doing exactly 22 miles an hour", the old woman said proudly.

The officer, trying not to laugh, explained that 22 is the route number, not the speed limit. A little embarrassed, the woman smiled and thanked the officer for pointing out her error.

"Before I go Ma'am, I have to ask, is everyone ok? These women seem badly shaken and haven't said a word since I pulled you over."

"Oh! they'll be all right in a minute, officer. We just got off Route 142".

We also visited an Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Amish are known for their emphasis on traditional family values. They may be often depicted as sombre, humourless folks, but I think that's not true. These items in their souvenir shop certainly were not lacking in humour:


Finally, I met some long-lost relatives and sort of "lost my head" while exploring the wonders of the Museum of Natural History in Washington DC:

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Battle of Gettysburg.

I learnt so much about American history -- from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War -- during my recent trip to the USA. Our group had a very illuminating battlefield tour led by Bobby, a former soldier and current history teacher, at the site of the horrendously bloody Battle of Gettysburg, acknowledged to have been the turning point in the Civil War.

I am glad I found this website below which reaffirmed in detail what Bobby eloquently told us as he took us from one key location to another at the actual battlefield site:

Battle Summary: The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1–July 3, 1863), was the largest battle of the American Civil War as well as the largest battle ever fought in North America, involving around 85,000 men in the Union’s Army of the Potomac under Major General George Gordon Meade and approximately 75,000 in the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert Edward Lee. Casualties at Gettysburg totaled 23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing). Confederate casualties were 28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 injured, and 5,425 missing), more than a third of Lee’s army.

These largely irreplaceable losses to the South’s largest army, combined with the Confederate surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, marked what is widely regarded as a turning point—perhaps the turning point—in the Civil War, although the conflict would continue for nearly two more years and witness several more major battles.

Politically, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the aftermath of that battle, marked the political turning point as he sought to explain why the war that pitted Americans against Americans had to be fought to the bitter end. This YouTube video below is a recitation of one of the most powerful speeches ever made:


The nearby Gettysburg Cyclorama -- depicting the climactic Confederate attack on Union forces on the fateful third day -- was a truly moving experience:


Finally, why is the scourge of war still present today? This classic song attempts an answer:

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Photo: A. Khoo

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My 'visit' to The White House.

Every tourist to DC will surely want to visit TWH, if possible. But not having tried to book one of the coveted escorted tours way, way ahead (and very likely contending with background checks), we did what most people did: take pictures from the outside, with the camera zooming in...

Heck, even this guy on horseback -- seen desperately waving his hat -- couldn't get any closer:

Come to think of it, who will let him in? He's got cannon set up and pointing directly at TWH!...

Then there are always the de rigeuer protest banners nearby:


White House trivia

TWH has a website. But note it is NOT "". If you tried to click on that one, you will get this!...

The correct website address is:

I was curious about what the incumbent Veep in The White House had to say in his "white board" presentation, so I checked out the YouTube video. Quite interesting...

Finally, I think the most hilarious parody of the occupant of TWH before the present one is this YouTube video titled "Hu is the President?"...


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Give me liberty or give me death, said Charlie the revolutionary cat...

I come back from my holiday and what do I see? This awfully bad headline!...

It's as bad as "Please eat grandma". On my trip, I came across this place in the Shenandoah Valley that, likewise, had never heard of punctuation marks (as told to us, the place was named after a ferry boat owner called Harper):

Back to headlines. I can't decide if this one is awful or good!...

Meanwhile, I learnt something amazing from Singapore's own Sunday Times (July 13) -- that some people share the same unusual given name, Writer:

Imagine these folks meeting each other at the event:

Hi, my name's Writer. 
That's amazing, Ms Tan. I am Writer Ng.
Hey, we share the same given name. I am Writer Cheong.

No sub or checker realised that night how ridiculous it was to stick an adjective-label in front of a person's name (at the start of a sentence) and then repeating it for other names in an event like the one above, where almost everyone is a writer?

Here are some interesting signs spotted on my trip:

Hmm, I think the cat chose death. Or maybe it failed in all nine attempts to secure its liberty.

And the road to revolution starts after you have turned the engine off. No riding to victory; you foot soldier! Why do you think we call you that?...

Just as well, anyway. Our bus coach was kneeling in fear...


Finally, I got to meet "Abraham Lincoln"...

...he went around shaking hands with some of the people in our group and asking where we were from. When he came to me, I said, "Singapore, Michigan". I later told him there once had been a town with the name Singapore in Michigan.