June 22, 2017

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https://www.facebook.com/singapurathemusical/photos/a.745779432136285.1073741827.745778928803002/842207945826766/?type=1&theater

by Nicholas Khaw

WHEN people go to shows, they expect the drama onstage. Not offstage.

Though, that’s what has happened with Singapura: The Musical, a show which apparently no one is going for.

The $2.72 million musical that has come under fire for featuring predominantly Filipino talent has drawn its curtains just two weeks after announcing that its run at the Capitol Theatre was extended to 19 July 2015.

No word from its organiser the 4th Wall Theatre Company, but reports in MSM suggest it was just not making enough money to continue. Apparently, the cast has not been paid and an external vendor said he was paid only four months after the work was completed – though, the company said yesterday that it would “honour all contracts“.

“At this juncture, we cannot discuss further details due to confidentiality reasons. We want to assure everyone that Singapura: The Musical will honour all contracted agreements.”

The cast is made up of 35 Filipinos, 11 Singaporeans, and two from North America. The two-hour long play centres on a family in Singapore during 1955-1965, and Singaporeans Jonathan Lim and Sally Marina alternate with two Filipino actors as parents of the protagonist, played by Marian Santiago, who is also from the Philippines.

News of the musical when it was first announced attracted criticism for featuring a pre-dominantly Filipino cast. Directed by American Greg Ganakas and written by Filipino playwright Joel Trinidad, the production debuted at the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre to mixed reviews.

Musical lovers however can still enjoy a bit of local history when the Lee Kuan Yew Musical opens next week on July 21. Local celebs Adrian Pang and Sharon Au will play Mr Lee and his wife respectively.

 

 

Featured image from Singapura: The Musical Facebook page.

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by Arin Fong

WALK along the aisles of any NTUC FairPrice supermarket and you’ll notice little red discount tags scattered across the shelves. They read: “10 per cent off FairPrice Housebrand products“. This is part of a $35 million initiative, Big Value Bag, launched by NTUC social enterprises and will last until the end of this year. The brands eligible for the discount are: FairPrice, FairPrice Gold, Pasar, and Pasar Organic.

We wondered if this initiative made NTUC house brands the cheapest in the market. We compared the prices of essential items from FairPrice, Giant, and Sheng Siong to find out where you can get the best deals for your groceries.

Rice (5 kg)

A 5kg bag of Thai White Rice is $5.50 before discount, down from $5.90.
A 5kg bag of Thai White Rice is $5.50 before the 10 per cent discount. It will revert to $5.90 after July 15.
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
$4.95$7.75$6.20

FairPrice wins this round, with its house brand of Thai fragrant white rice priced close to $3 less than Giant.

Oil (2 litres)

P1050037
Other types of “Happy Family” oil (2 litres) available at Sheng Siong: vegetable oil ($3.90), sunflower oil ($6.20), and soya bean oil ($5.50 until July 12).
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
$6.12$6.80$6.10

Sheng Siong’s “Happy Family” house brand of canola oil beats FairPrice by a mere $0.02 but that’s only because of NTUC’s Big Value Bag initiative.

Eggs

A tray of 10 eggs at Giant is $1.85, the most expensive among the three supermarkets. But a tray of 30 eggs is still cheaper than Sheng Siong.
A tray of 10 eggs at Giant is $1.85, the most expensive among the three supermarkets. But a tray of 30 eggs is still cheaper than Sheng Siong.
 FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
Tray of 30$2.97$3.25$3.50
Tray of 10$1.35$1.85$1.60

Normally Giant would offer the most value for money, but the 10 per cent discount at NTUC slashes the price of a 30-egg tray from $3.30 to $2.97.

Bread

Sheng Siong sells a jumbo loaf of 600g for a dollar, as compared to 500g in the other two supermarkets.
Sheng Siong sells a jumbo loaf of 600g for a dollar, as compared to 500g in the other two supermarkets.
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
$1.12 for 500g$1.15 for 500g$1 for 600g

Sheng Shiong might not have a house brand for bread but it does offer the best deal with a 600g Super Value loaf for only $1.

Margarine

You get more out of your dollar with FairPrice’s margarine.
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
Margarine (375g): $2.25
MeadowLea Original (250g): $2.70MeadowLea Original (250g): $2.55

FairPrice is the only one with its own brand of margarine, which is still cheaper than MeadowLea in the other supermarkets. It also has its own house brand of pure creamery butter (250g) in block form for $2.80.

Soya milk (1 litre)

FairPrice's unsweetened soya milk is $1.55 before the 10 per cent discount. It will revert to $1.70 after July 31.
FairPrice’s unsweetened soya milk is $1.55 before the 10 per cent discount. It will revert to $1.70 after July 31.
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
Fresh soya milk: $1.40Sobe fresh soya milk: $2.15Sobe fresh soya milk: $2 (2 for $3.60)

FairPrice is the only supermarket with its own brand of soya milk, and is cheaper than Sheng Siong even with its two for $3.60 promotion.

Coffee (200g)

Discounted items are labelled with these red tags.
Items on discount are labelled with these red tags.
FairPriceGiantSheng Siong
House brand: $8.82Nescafe Classic: $9.90Nescafe Classic: $9.90

FairPrice is also the only house brand with its own coffee, and is priced at $8.80 now, down from $9.80.

Judging by these few essential products, FairPrice is the clear winner for the most affordable supermarket. NTUC supermarket also has a wider variety of house brand products unlike the other major marts. Looks like NTUC social enterprises is on the right track in making basic necessities more affordable for the general public, at least until December 31 2015. Could these prices be here to stay then?

Tell us what’s your best buy and which is your favourite supermarket!

 

 

Featured image by Arin Fong.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/mightyjc/1563390953/in/photolist-84EoRX-sTFod-qBUDAG-BuP5B-rbMxhs-e1ZN1G-8sD84S-gLve75-fiY4he-oKG93-9mMqHx-aERkB-jiBgTT-3o9MEr-oDe7QD-zmqYp-oQPXNN-4dmJFi-6so7nH-6bGork-nf3JSh-gLGmYp-qGZX8P-qrCvwL-2iGHm-6acy5x-9nAbk-6qjo7F-saKSQB-bAC4hQ-qhKtb-bDZoht-oCSHz-4SYW6m-AyGb7-eZEii3-35C9hP-4MsXMP-oCT7x-5aZ6y-5Xik1J-7j6xqw-5aiWWj-2icxc-eYqS3-fqofd6-yGJ6F-5Vew2s-6t8AZG-5bYVs

by Arin Fong

ITALIAN cybersecurity firm Hacking Team witnessed 400GB of its private data and security-related technology leaked on Sunday night, including an alleged clientele list with the Singapore IDA’s name on it. The Infocomm Development Authority hasn’t denied that it subscribes to Hacking Team’s services. In fact, it is maintaining a studious silence despite the attempts by online media for verification. IDA had also not replied to our queries at press time.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at PM 09.38.19
Screencap of Hacking Team’s alleged clientele list.

Hacking Team sells surveillance software to national agencies and police forces around the world that basically helps them infiltrate digital devices, such as your phones and laptops. According to its website, Hacking Team prides its services in being able to “defeat encryption”, have “total control over your targets”, and “evade computer security”; tools that make a “cyberspy” essentially.

The particular software in question that is being sold to government agencies (its supposed clients also include Ethiopia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia) is “Remote Control System”, which can activate cameras, extract emails, record Skype calls, and collect passwords on targeted devices. It’s a bit like what you see in the movies, when investigators track down potential terrorists and criminal suspects.

Foreign media such as International Business Times and Forbes have reported this incident, questioning the ethics of authorized privacy invasion.

In the wake of the leak, a spokesman for Hacking Team told its clients to shut down their use of “Remote Control System” for the time being.

Hacking Team claims its product to be “lawful intercept” technology. According to The Intercept, an online news publication, if its list of clientele is restricted to government institutions, its trade is deemed legal as the use of spyware is legitimized only in “law enforcement or intelligence investigations if used with the proper legal authorization.”

This technically makes IDA’s use of this technology (if it is indeed a client) valid. The problem is what could happen if it falls into the wrong hands or is wrongly used even by the “right” people.

The software could be terribly intrusive:

* It allows the “cyberspy” to surreptitiously survey your personal data on your mobile devices. If you’re harbouring any secret material (credit card information, nudes, drug dealer contacts, you name it), be mindful that somewhere in cyberspace, some government official could be watching you. Oh, that also includes your bank account numbers, passwords, or passport and NRIC numbers of your whole family.

* It could record your key strokes to monitor everything you do online, from your network usage, to what you’ve been downloading and purchasing online. It could also obtain that classified corporate work you stored on cloud sites like Google Drive.

* It could allow an investigator to take over your social media accounts and use these mediums to access things like private Whatsapp conversations where you blabbed about how your boss is a slave-driver and shared last week’s drunk pictures. If you’ve deleted a bunch of conspiratorial messages or embarrassing videos, the system may also have ways to retrieve these. This could also apply to deleted search histories; so nice try attempting to erase the time you Google searched your very personal medical condition.

“Remote Control System” is able to infect devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. This means your mobile device or computer could be infected and monitored, and this is how your emails and messaging apps could be used to spread viruses, all under the veil of a stealthy network of proxy servers.

This is not to say that IDA would do these terrible things to the cyber networks here, but the fact that it could is what’s unsettling.

There have been cases where spyware has been abused. In the United Kingdom, an abusive husband managed to gain access to his spouse’s eBay account using spyware and found a delivery address, allowing him to stalk and assault her. Needless to say, it has happened before. It would be good to know what restrictions or parameters are in place to safeguard personal information from official prying eyes who peek for less than official reasons.

 

 

Featured image from Flickr by user Jonathan Schwartz.

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by Adrian Tan

The phrase is back! The Manpower ministry wants to strengthen “the Singapore core” of Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs). Made famous (or infamous) by the poorly-received Population White Paper, the phrase has faded from use since 2013 but it looks like there’s no escaping it now. MOM today announced a slew of measures to gladden the hearts of those who wonder if their skills are still relevant in this day and age. The objective: to ensure Singaporeans are gainfully employed and, ideally, not under-employed.

It is focusing on four areas:

1. Hiring foreigners comes under greater scrutiny

First, there was the Fair Consideration Framework which requires employers to post job ads for Singaporeans first, before being able to open the job to foreigners. From Oct 1, employers will have to also publish the salary range of the job vacancies they put up on the Jobs Bank. Those who do not publish the salary range will have their Employment Pass (EP) applications for the position rejected.

EP applications for selected firms with a “weaker Singaporean core of PMEs relative to others in their industry” will be scrutinised more closely. Such employers will have to submit more information to ensure Singaporeans were considered for the job fairly. MOM didn’t specify how a firm would fall under this category, but told CNA that about 150 firms are currently on a watchlist, which is expected to grow. Are there so many naughty employers out there?

So what?

  • Companies can no longer use “you are too expensive” as an excuse not to consider a Singapore applicant – salary range is already declared upfront.
  • Firms need to be consistent in their salary structure. Now you can go look at the next job ad your HR department puts out on Jobs Bank and maybe ask for a raise to match? Assuming you’re worth it.
  • Employers will have to start redesigning their business to make economic sense to hire Singaporeans, since foreign PMEs will no longer be “cheaper”.

 

2. Wage support for mature PMEs

A two-year pilot scheme starting from Oct 1 will extend wage support to workers switching to careers not already covered by the Professional Conversion Programme. Called the Career Support Programme, PMEs over 40 who have been unemployed for at least six months, and who earn at least S$4,000 in mid-level jobs will qualify for wage support. The subsidies are tiered, with those aged 50 and above getting up to 40 per cent of their gross monthly salary, capped at $2,800 a month.

PMEs have to register with the Workforce Development Agency’s Career Centres and e2i to be eligible. They will also have to get structured on-the-job training or external training. Hopefully, those who are unemployed in the current tight labour market aren’t stigmatised as employers tend to view them as more risky hires.

So what?

  • To maximise this support scheme, an employee’s salary can be a maximum of S$7,000 per month.
  • The S$4,000 to S$7,000 range fits snugly into the EP criteria, meaning that there’s an edge that down-and-out Singaporeans have against foreign talent.
  • Employers: Don’t even think about the “you are too expensive” excuse here. Every qualified hire only costs the company 60 per cent for six months, and 80 per cent for the next six months.
  • Smaller employers can finally afford talents that are accustomed to MNC pay scale.

 

3. Refining work pass controls

MOM will now reject work pass applications that “contain doubtful qualifications such as those from degree mills”. The ministry already bans applicants with forged qualifications for life. The applicant’s experience, especially for professional occupations, will get more attention.

The ministry “intends to progressively encourage and facilitate the transfer of expertise from foreign professionals to Singaporean PMEs over time”.

The IDA degree mill issue came up only in May. If this is in response to that loophole, then it is really impressive turnaround from a ministry.

So what?

  • MOM will check, which means HR must also check, chop and confirm. Plus guarantee.
  • Singaporeans with “doubtful” degrees won’t be going through this system, so… but just don’t do it.
  • Transfer expertise to Singaporean PMEs? Time for Singaporeans to step up and steal some lunch.
  • Companies should also start thinking of deliberately transferring skills from foreign PMEs to local PMEs.

 

4. Dispute resolution expanded 

Starting in the first quarter of 2016, the Employment Claims Tribunal will be available to PMEs who earn more than $4,500 a month and who therefore are not covered by the Employment Act on issues like rest days, hours of work, annual leave and other conditions of service. This category of employees can now have a more accessible, faster way to resolve statutory and contractual salary-related disputes than the current avenue of going to the civil courts.

The Tripartite Mediation Framework, which helps to settle workplace disputes over contracts, salaries and other grievances with their employers will be extended to PMEs who earn more than $4,500 and who are union members in non-unionised companies, as well as rank-and-file union members in non-unionised companies. It was previously restricted to PMEs earning under $4,500 who were union members in non-unionised companies.

So what?

  • Does your contract look like a contract for slavery? Time to go ask for a change. If you are a union member, you can check with NTUC about whether free legal help is available for you.
  • Employers will have to be more careful and get lawyers to run through employment agreements to make sure they don’t run on the wrong side of law.
  • If you didn’t get paid, or didn’t get paid on time, it’s going to be much easier and cheaper to get a legally binding settlement.

 

Adrian is an author, speaker and recipient of 2013 HR Entrepreneur of the year. He helps companies acquire the skills necessary to recruit better talents and succeed at work. Follow him at http://adriantan.com.sg

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Mumford & Sons featured on Apple Music's website (Image screen capture from http://www.apple.com/music/discover/).

by Abraham Lee

A lot has been said about Apple Music, the company’s latest development and attempt to enter the music streaming services industry. While Taylor Swift has indeed put Apple Music on everybody’s Facebook news feeds and Twitter feeds, perhaps her recently resolved fracas and all the fanfare surrounding it has distracted everyone from what Apple Music will actually be offering – besides Tay Tay’s latest album of course. Here’s the lowdown on what’s in store for you.

Apple Music will be launching tonight at 11pm, Singapore time, with the release of iOS 8.4. Users can then start streaming the Beats 1 radio broadcast, created and put together by Zane Lowe and his hand-picked team of DJs, later at midnight.

Apple Music will not be selling songs or albums, unlike the iTunes store, and instead will run on a subscription basis, charging customers USD$9.99 (about SGD$13.50) per month. This means that you no longer have to pay USD$1.29 for an individual song on iTunes and can play all 30 million songs in Apple’s database for a flat rate. Users will get to try Apple Music in a three-month free trial, after which the service will auto-renew itself unless you opt out.

Apple Music will support all PC, Mac, Apple Watch and iOS devices that can run at least iOS 8 while a version for Android devices will be launched in the third quarter of this year. iPhone users can download Apple Music by downloading the iOS 8.4 update.

What’s so great about Apple Music?

1. Special Features

Apple Music is touted to help users listen to the best music at any time of the day with its live radio station, Beats 1, which will feature appearances by celebrities like Elton John and Pharrell, and interviews with stars like Eminem. The service will also feature Connect, a social feed through which artists can share exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and videos, and engage their fans directly.

2. A More Integrated Apple Experience

Apple has tried very hard to make the transition to Apple Music a smooth one by consolidating your music collection into one place via your Apple ID. The service will upload tracks from a user’s library that aren’t available in the Apple Music catalog, to an iCloud account. This will allow users to stream music from any device, minimising the need to use scarce phone space. Also, users will be able to store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud, even as Apple plans to raise this limit to to 100,000 in the third quarter.

Besides the Single membership, you can also subscribe for the Family membership which allows up to six people to enjoy the services for USD$14.99 (about SGD$20.20) per month. Set up iCloud Family Sharing on your iOS device or Mac, invite family members to join and you’re ready to go. This feature will also be part of the three-month free trial.

3. Exclusive Releases

Apple has lined up exclusive deals like being the first site to stream Taylor Swift’s album, 1989, along with Dr Dre’s album, The Chronic, Pharrell’s latest track, Freedom, and more.

4. Personalised music selections

Apple has previously struggled with the algorithmic limitations of iTunes Radio, which may be why Apple Music will be curated by humans. This feature, derived from the Beats Music service which Apple bought over in 2014, will better help discover the music you want to hear. The initial set up will have you choose at least three overarching genres, allowing the service to find music according to your tastes and adapt accordingly as your preferences evolve.

How does Apple Music compare with its competitors?

1. Free Services

Like Pandora, Apple Music offers a live station, Beats 1, and artist and genre-specific online radio stations for free. Streaming under the limited-time free option won’t have ads but rather announcements from sponsors at regular intervals, to minimise interruption. Other services like Google Play Music and Rdio also have free tiers with online radio channels as opposed to on-demand streaming. However, while Spotify’s free service runs ads, it remains the most comprehensive of the free services as it allows desktop users to play songs on demand and mobile users to curate playlists, to be enjoyed in random order.

2. Social Media Integration

Spotify retains pole position in social media integration as it allows for collaborative playlists and tight integration with Facebook. Apple has yet to mention collaborative playlists but has allowed you to create playlists and save them for offline listening or share them on Facebook, Twitter or Messages.

3. Sound Quality

Apple Music will stream at a maximum bitrate of 256kbps, falling short of the industry average of 320kbps offered by Spotify, Google Play Music, Tidal and Rdio. This means that the sound quality from Apple Music will be slightly lower than that of its competitors. If you’re a casual listener, you might not notice the difference. You can use songs bought from iTunes as a gauge as it also offers songs at 256kbps.

So what’s the bottom-line?

Apple Music doesn’t seem to be bringing anything new to the table. Artists are already sharing their behind the scenes activity and connecting with their fans on established social media like Facebook and Twitter. Taylor Swift has hinted that her latest album won’t be exclusive to Apple Music and will be available on other sites sooner or later. Apple may want to hype up its exclusive deals but the music scene is greater than Dr Dre and Pharrell. You’re not likely to miss out on anything. And personalised music selection has been offered by incumbents Pandora and Jango for years. If Apple Music is going to impress, it better be smart enough to adapt quickly and predict what users would like to hear before they even hear it.

Compared to its main competitor, Spotify, Apple Music has a long way to go. Spotify is more comprehensive and allows you to curate playlists collaboratively. It also offers songs at a higher bitrate which can be noticed by the more serious audiophiles. You’d think that a company that prides itself in constant innovation would at least have caught up to what Spotify offers.

It appears that Apple Music’s main draw is giving Apple users a place to consolidate their music into one place, which can then be accessed from any device, via their iCloud accounts. And that’s about it. It seems like Apple is trying to sell us its brand instead of a great music streaming service.

In any case, it probably won’t hurt to enjoy your three-month free trial before coming to your own conclusions. Remember to opt-out of the auto-subscription if you aren’t won over.

 

Featured photo from apple.com

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By Nicholas Khaw

Disclaimer: Opinions presented are those of the author, who is certain he does not qualify as a gentleman, given his limited wardrobe (if wardrobes are to be a criterion on which a gentleman is made). It must also be stated from the onset that he has never been into pop culture and fashion trends. Which is why he has written this.

What is The Gentleman’s Pride?

As far as I can gather, it is a movement that consists of an Instagram account, a hashtag #thegentlemanspride and a (introductory) video. Their focus seems to be well-dressed men which make up the bulk of their photos and video. The group calls itself The Pride and consists of 6 males, 5 less well known people in their 30s and 24-year-old singer, Benjamin Kheng, from the local band of some renown, The Sam Willows.

A photo posted by @thepridesg on

They aim to “promote dressing and behaving like a gentleman” and “to take pride in everything you do”, hence the name (I presume).

They have been greeted with much criticism. A basic Google search reveals many articles and comments disparaging them, mostly for their choice of wear. Criticisms include the impracticality of their gentlemanly fashion in sunny Singapore, the exclusivity and elitism of expensive menswear, pretentiousness and the proverbial “manners (not dress) maketh man” brought into recent spotlight by the movie Kingsman. There is also this article by a self-proclaimed Brit that claims the notion of a gentleman is a British construct of class-markers and these people fall short of it especially in authenticity. He also amusingly claims that some of their outfits are “garishly mismatched” and “weird”.

A photo posted by @thepridesg on

Nonetheless, they stand undeterred and in (attempted? Good attempt, say I) gentleman fashion, replied that they “would like to extend an invitation to those people [their critics] to hang out with us and they can decide after that”.

I postulate that there is a commercial angle to this. They want to be ‘influencers’ in the mould of Xiaxue, providing a male alternative in this influential industry dominated by females.

“There are so many female influencers, but very few male ones. One of the reasons is that both women and men like to look at women, but people are less interested in male influencers, so we thought the six of us coming together would make more of an impact,” said Eugene Lim, leader of The Pride.

The publicity (all publicity is good publicity) and controversy generated from this bout of tussling over what is a ‘modern gentleman’ would seem to aid their cause. Influencers are endorsed by brands which want to reach the largest number of people and it appears that there is a market for menswear influencers in the local market given that billboards on Orchard Road still use predominantly white models. Whether or not they are gentleman of the authentic mould does not matter, as long as there are people who aspire to look and dress like them.

That being said, I think it is possible to legitimately champion a cause for itself and seek to earn some dough.

From another perspective, this movement might bring about some good. In this world of ever changing trends, people can select for themselves by what or whom they are influenced by. Some people might take to heart the higher calling of the (supposed) virtues of gentlemanliness rather than wallow in superficial dress. Others might benefit from the confidence gained from dressing well at whatever price they are willing to shell out. The majority who are derisive about the group isn’t going to be affected in any noticeable form beyond splitting their sides from laughing at well-dressed men drenched in perspiration. Just because a group of people claim that gentlemanliness includes certain aspects that you disagree with, does not mean that the concept of gentlemanliness is irrevocably altered.

In other news, Ashraf recommends the website http://www.artofmanliness.com/ which teaches the reader how to be a man, though not necessarily always a gentle one.

 

 

Featured photo from Jana Zilcayova of Ensof Photography.

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Source: Old Chang Kee Singapore

By Anna Fernandez

You would think you would read about curry puffs in food sections of the media but they have actually been making the news headlines. You have Madam Robiah Lia Caniago, 40, who was fined $3,000 for selling them without a licence out of her two-room HDB flat. It seemed she was part of a foreign syndicate, leading wags to wonder how a syndicate could actually make money from the humble pastry. But it seems like selling curry puffs is a good business. Earlier this week, a 47-year-old man was arrested for driving his 7-series BMW sedan past the Tuas Checkpoint despite receiving orders to proceed to another area for further checks. Instead of finding drugs or cigarettes or exotic animals, police officers found – you’ve guessed it – curry puffs. More than 100 boxes of them.

Before stuffing your face with a curry puff, here’s a quick and dirty (or rather sanitary) guide to them.

First, a general definition: a curry puff is a miniature pie-like pastry usually filled with a specialized curry coupled with a meat filling. It bears a resemblance to the Portuguese stuffed bread, empanada (a meat pastry with crimped edges), as seen below. The name comes from the Galician, Portuguese and Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Now, we bet you didn’t know that.

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons by user Tamorlan
Empanadas baked to golden perfection (Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons by user Tamorlan).

Believed to be inspired by the British Cornish pasty, the different types of curry puffs are as varied as Singapore’s ethnic composition.

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons by user David Johnson
You can almost feel the nostalgia the British colonialists felt (Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons by user David Johnson).

They can be found almost anywhere in Asia, from small street stalls to neighbourhood bakeries. The curry puffs that are sold at street stalls and by itinerant hawkers are mainly deep-fried in oil to a crisp, golden-brown while those sold in confectioneries are usually baked, with a glazed over finish. The benefits of choosing to bake instead of deep-fry, we believe, do not overshadow the actual existence of curry puffs themselves.

Here are some popular types of curry puffs or curry pop, as some people pronounce it:

1. Epok epok

(Photo from
Photo of epok epok on a photo of epok epok (Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons by user Yosri)

Many regard the terms “epok epok” and “curry puff” as words to describe the exact same pastry – in different languages. Although the meat used can be changed to taste, potato, chicken and vegetable bits usually line the interior of this curry-based pastry with its thin and crispy exterior enabling it to remain crunchy for an indefinite period of time.

But the curry puff pastry is flakier and often more buttery. Many regard the legendary Polar Café founder, Mr. Chan Hinky, on High Street (now Polar Puffs & Cakes) as the pioneering chef of curry puffs. These iconic curry puffs consisting of a slice of egg, evenly cubed potatoes and chicken pieces quickly gained traction and became the go-to snack food at tea time in the Parliament House during the 50s and the 60s.

Another long-time player is Old Chang Kee which has been in operation for almost 60 years. Best known for its Hainanese-style curry puffs, Old Chang Kee sells more than 40,000 curry puffs daily and has since expanded beyond national boundaries. Other well-known brands include Tip Top The Puff Factory and 1A Crispy Puffs. In the 60s, curry puffs could go as low as 10 cents a pop. Today, prices usually fall between the range of $1 to $1.40 and they are cheaper at pasar malams and hawker stalls than at bakeries and confectioneries.

2. Karipap pusing

Source: Image screen capture from Youtube
Optical illusion – the longer you stare, the more you’ll want it (Image screen capture from YouTube).

Spiral curry puffs don’t only look majestic but its fragrant curry potato filling is moister than other forms of curry puffs. Its swirled exterior is light, flaky and super crisp. Usually filled with chicken, beef or sardine and accompanied by spices, potatoes and chillies, these traditional savoury breakfast items are fried until golden-brown and turned so they are cooked evenly. A favorite especially within Malaysia, these pastries go for RM 0.50 – RM 1.00 per curry puff at markets (depending on where and type of ingredients used) or RM 3.50 – RM 5.00 at specialty shops and bakeries.

3. Samosa

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons by user Go2africa
How many triangles do you see? (Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons by user Go2africa).

This “Indian” curry puff is not actually from South Asia. It was originally named samsa, after the pyramids in Central Asia. These deep-fried potato and mince-filled triangles coated sparingly in chutney are loaded with calories; one serving alone is laden with around 300 calories. Even those tiny, bite-size ones have 28 calories each. Instead of the regular meat-and-potato combination, samosas can be neatly-folded with almost anything from seafood and vegetable to a sweeter coconut filling. Its miniature size may fool you into thinking that you haven’t exactly pigged out quite yet but before you know it, you’ve fulfilled half your required daily calorie intake with just two samosas. Mini samosas are priced from as low as $0.30 and the bigger ones can go up to $2.30 each and both can be found in Indian hawker stalls.

4. Karipap bai

Source: Indian Muslim Bakery & Confectionery Pte Ltd
The flakier, the better (Photo from Indian Muslim Bakery & Confectionery Pte Ltd).

Samosas are not to be confused with another similarly-shaped pastry – the karipap bai. Especially popular among Indian Muslims and practically ubiquitous at sarabat stalls and prata joints, this Indian curry puff, usually filled with ground meat and spices has an extremely flaky exterior and layers of dough which takes great preparation time and patience. If the dough layer is not allowed to rest for an appropriate period, it will end up becoming tough, destroying any possibility of its layered perfection. The sheer thickness of the layers differentiates the karipap bai from samosas. Because of the tedious preparation process, these pastries are slightly more expensive than the regular curry puffs and can go up to $2.50 each, especially at confectioneries.

5. Curry chicken feuillete

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons by user JPS68
Wait! Lemme Instagram this first! (Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons by user JPS68)

Most commonly found at Délifrance, these thick and flaky English-style crusted pastries have roots that are deeply grounded in French heritage. Feuilletes are almost like pies and usually filled with ground beef or chicken and accompanied sparingly with mushrooms and seasoning. It epitomises the Western take on a local delicacy and is different from the other types of curry puff-like pastries because it is not based upon a curry mix. Instead, beef or chicken stock is used and as it comes to simmer, thickens, and forms a creamy sauce. A non-promo price of one of these at Délifrance is worth $7.60 (with a drink).

Just like the peculiar involvement of this particular pastry in the above-mentioned crimes and arrests, the unique and intriguing juxtaposition of sweet, savory and spicy remains a mystery begging to be bitten into.

 

Featured photo from Old Chang Kee Singapore.

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Photo By Shawn Danker
A Travel agency in Chinatown Point.

By Wan Ting Koh

SINGAPOREANS are taking flight during the National Day period, with working adults managing their annual leave schedules around the long weekend.

Since the announcement in March that Aug 7 would be declared a public holiday, travel agencies are getting more bookings for long-haul flights. Aug 7 falls on a Friday, marking the start of the National Day holidays which includes Monday, Aug 10.

One tour agency even had an unprecedented 50 per cent jump in number of tour packages booked for the period compared to the previous year.

Mr Rick Cheong, a Tour Consultant for EU Holidays, which organises tours to destinations such as Europe and the United States, recalled that there were only three to five groups slated in the same period last year. The count has increased to 10 this National Day, with the last group departing for Canada on August 7.

Photo By Shawn Danker
Tour Consultant Mr Rick Cheong from EU Holidays on the increased number of tour groups to further destinations.

“If people travel between August 1 to August 14, they only have to take eight days of leave,” he added. Although the tour agency started receiving bookings during its February travel fair this year, bookings for the period rose by a dramatic 30 per cent after the announcement.

Dynasty Travel’s Director of Marketing and Communications Ms Alicia Seah told TMG that compared to the same period last year, there was a 20 to 25 per cent increase in demand this time, with bookings still streaming in. Mid to long haul destinations such as Japan, Australia and Europe number among some of the most popular travel destinations. Leisure travelers are taking two to four days of leave from work for tour packages which are seven to 10 days long, Ms Seah remarked.

Photo By Shawn Danker
Mr. Cheong of EU Holidays explains how people plan their holiday trips around the National Day weekend.

Companies too are taking the opportunity to reward employees by organising short incentive trips during the period, she added. They hail from the financial, manufacturing and electronics industries which reward their workers for good performances. These 4D3N trips will be held in nearby locations like Thailand, Vietnam and Hongkong.

Chan Brothers described a similar phenomenon with demand in destinations such as Europe, China and Japan escalating. In fact, with bookings still ongoing, the company is looking at a 50 to 100 per cent rise in numbers.

Marketing Communication Executive Ms Rebecca Chia noted that long weekends traditionally see at least a 50 per cent increase in travelers over a regular weekend. Double long weekends, such as Chinese New Year, even result in a 100 to 200 per cent increase.

“Prudent consumers can take advantage of holidays that fall neatly over the double long weekends, minimising leave and maximising their holidays,” she said, noting that an 11-day holiday to Italy or the United Kingdom would require just five days of leave if passengers depart on July 31.

Destinations closer to home will see a surge in Singaporean tourists as well, resulting in more expensive air tickets. Flights to popular retreats such as Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong have been all but snapped up, said travel agents, leaving a few seats at inflated prices.

Mr Ding Jun Bin, 30, a Tour Executive from CS Travel, said an influx of enquiries for short-getaways like Bangkok have resulted in a 30 to 40 per cent increase in bookings. As a result, budget air tickets that used to cost $170 now go at $375, more than twice the original price

Travel agents say that more would have gone abroad if not for the higher ticket prices. Airfares for carriers such as Singapore Airline have nearly doubled, from a usual range of about $250-320 to $530 for a round trip to Bangkok. Likewise, round trip tickets to the same destination are priced at $861 for airline Cathay Pacific, as compared to off-peak periods when the airfare dips below $300.

Even the price of tour packages to nearby Batam and Bintan has spiked. For 2D1N trips that used to cost $60 have now escalated to a price tag of about $200-300.

Photo By Shawn Danker
Mr Ding Jun Bin, a Tour Executive from CS Travel, observed an influx of enquiries for short getaways like Bangkok.

It seems that Singaporeans prefer to be offshore despite the number of programmes lined up to celebrate the Jubilee event. Gardens by the Bay will be displaying a floral depiction of the “Singapore Story”, which would be accompanied by special music rhapsodies, light shows and even discounted entries to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest from 9am to 9pm. Those aged 60 and above will be offered free entry.

At the Marina Barrage, families can expect to enjoy a family picnic organized by Families for Life, RSAF, PUB and NParks on the mornings of August 7 and August 8, where performances by the SAF and games will be arranged.

Even Sentosa is joining in the celebrations with its creation of a sand sculpture on Siloso Beach chronicling Singapore’s transformation throughout the years. Measuring 100-metres long and replete with three-dimensional elements, the sand sculpture will be displayed during the Golden Jubilee weekend.

In March, after the public holiday was announced, Speaker of Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob appealed to Singaporeans to join in the celebrations at home. “I understand that Singaporeans take the opportunity during periods of long weekends to chill out with their families overseas…but on this occasion, I hope that they will stay and really celebrate together as a nation.”

For the Fongs, however, the long weekend was a good chance to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Said Mrs Allyson Fong, 54, who will be off to Hoi An in Vietnam: “It is hard for my husband to get leave days. Besides, why waste your leave when you can go during declared holidays,” the housewife said. She invoked the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s devotion to his wife. “We believe that he would understand an emphasis on celebrating our union.”

Student Celestine Goh, 20, will be with her family in Batam at the time. “It is rare to have a long holiday where everyone in my family is free,” she said. As for missing the big birthday, she said, “There will be more birthday celebrations for Singapore.”

 

Featured photo by Shawn Danker.

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http://www.terminatormovie.com/#gallery

by Ryan Ong

The latest in a 30+ year old “cyborg killer” franchise, Genisys is Director Alan Taylor’s attempt to restore interest in the ailing series. This movie takes place in an alternate timeline from James Cameron’s 1984 original. Resistance fighter Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and the Terminator (a CGI rendered, younger Arnold Schwarzenegger) both go back in time to tussle over Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame). And that’s where the ties to Cameron’s original abruptly ends.

Photo By Shawn Danker
Air planes berthed and awaiting departure at Changi Airport.

by Arin Fong

Hasn’t the recent Scoot fiasco taught consumers and budget airlines anything about the reliability of cheap services? Why not avoid unnecessary drama and just fly with a commercial airline? Perhaps the solution isn’t to completely boycott budget airlines, but to simply read the fine print the next time you’re booking a tightly-budgeted flight.

Here are the 10 finer points of budget airlines that you might have missed:

1. Your scheduled date and time of the flight is liable to change so check your emails consistently for any last minute delays or updates from the airline. On Tigerair’s website, it states that “all fares, flight schedules and routes published are correct at the time of publication”, but then it expects customers to be on their toes because “we reserve the right to revise any fares and flight schedules at any time and from time to time without prior notice”.

2. In the event that your flight is rescheduled and you are unable to make the new schedule, the airline assumes that you would be able to plan around its schedule, and refunds are hard to come by. AirAsia’s policy is that it would either board you at the earliest opportunity on another available flight, retain the value of your fare for future travel (but only if you re-book within 90 days), or refund the value to your bank account if the flight rescheduling “occurs three hours or more before or after the original scheduled departure time”. Clearly, we are all very flexible people.

3. Your airfare might not cover ground transport services if you have a connecting flight. Also, the airline is not responsible for handling your transition to a connecting flight, so you will have to factor in time for possible delays, security check-in, and baggage transfer.

4. Your seat isn’t guaranteed. And, you pay to select your seat too. With Scoot, if you select a seat instead of going with the one you’re allocated, you could be paying from $7 extra for an economy seat, up to $33 for a stretch seat with extra leg room for a flight that is less than five hours. The airline is also free to change your seat any time, even after you have boarded the aircraft, and doesn’t clarify whether it will refund the extra cost of your seat should you be asked to move.

5. The airline will likely not be able to compensate you if you suffer any damage to your baggage. This is why it warns you not to pack any valuables, electronic devices, or important business and travel documents in your check-in baggage. Jetstar has a convenient little note that says “we exclude all liability for any costs, expenses, losses, or damage whatsoever that may arise in any way in connection with the carriage”.

6. With all the uncertainty that comes with travelling cheap, it’s best you buy a proper travel insurance plan as the insurance provided by budget airlines covers the bare minimum. A basic $24 travel plan by Hong Leong Group gives you unlimited repatriation coverage and emergency medical expenses and a total of $500,000 for personal liability. If you were to buy a travel policy from Scoot for about the same price, all you get to claim is $20,000 for accidental loss of life and permanent loss, $3,000 for luggage and travel documents, and unlimited coverage of Loss of Deposits and Cancellation Charges.

7. Don’t expect flexible customer service staff who are willing to cater to your needs (the most clichéd excuse “It’s part of our company policy”).

8. Check the airline’s standards for carry-on and check-in baggage dimensions and weights. Your carry-on luggage which you thought was light enough might cost you extra during check-in.

9. Fees are given out very freely. They might try to charge you for check-in fees if you don’t check-in online. Scoot charges a $30 booking fee via its call centre and a $9 payment processing fee. It’s always cheaper to book online than over the phone, but be sure to get all your details correct because it costs $60 ($90 if you make a call) for a name change or flight change fee.

10. Most bookings for budget airlines can be done online, but there have been instances where consumers are charged double for wrongly booked flights due to human or computer system errors. According to a study done by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), Scoot is the only airline with a no-refund policy for duplicate bookings, and have instead implemented various measures against these system errors. For AirAsia, only refund requests received via its web portal are accepted.

 

 

Featured photo by Shawn Danker.

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