26 February 2008

Did CitiBank just self-pwn?

If you have noticed, CitiBank is running some sort of a marketing blitz to get us to bank with them. Almost overnight, they installed countless ATM setups similar to the one in this picture.

CitiBank ATM Setup
The CitiBank Holy Trinity
From Left: Cash Withdrawal, Cash Deposit, AXS

Has anyone tried to pay bills with the AXS machine on the right with a CitiBank bank card?

After keying in my bills, the machine asks if I would pay by (1) NETS or (2) CashCard. So instinctively I selected NETS like I always do and go through the process with my CitiBank bank card to key in the PIN as requested. But all I got was a transaction unsuccessful message. I tried again and I got the same response.

It left me perplexed but I didn't dwell on that so I paid with a competitor bank's card.

So fast forward to today when a CitiBanker called me up to chat about some financial packages. They are evil I tell you, it was my first payday going to them last Friday and they are called me up on Monday to encourage me to save even more with them. Anyway, the person the other line ended with asking if there was any questions that I would like to ask.

"Yeah, can your card handle NETS transactions?"

"Uh, no it doesn't"

"That sucks doesn't it? I mean, aren't you guys out to kill off the local banks?"

"Uh... (embarrassed chuckle) No lah. But you can still pay for stuff like NETS."

"But it's NETS. And we are all used to NETS..."

After I hung up, I realized that the transaction failure could have been due to CitiBank's lack of support for NETS. Sure, it's fine when you just use VISA for to pay for everything. But hey, this is Singapore, where everybody's so used to NETS, right?

And remember the picture above? We have a screaming CitiBank masthead that overcasts all 3 machines. One of which is the AXS machine which allows you to pay bills by NETS or CashCard only...

Hmm... So let me get this right, CitiBank sets up their holy trinity at major MRT stations for their customers to bank conveniently. But they don't let you pay your bills at their AXS with their bank cards, even if it is literally just one step away. Gee, I thought the were really good at market research, how could they not be part the Uniquely Singaporean NETS way of life?

S**tty Bank CitiBank may be the largest bank in the world, but it definitely isn't the smartest.
Yup, self-pwn indeed.

21 February 2008

Lady in red cheongsam - An Accidental Photo Shoot

Last Saturday, while waiting for the Mellben feast in Ang Mo Kio, I chanced upon a photo shoot organized by Sony Alpha Club at their digital imaging store, just beside MS Color. Fortunately, the kind people at MS Color (who run the Sony digital imaging store) and the Sony Alpha Club members gladly accommodated a Nikon user in this event. Suffice to say, Sony is pulling all stops to gain market share in the DSLR market. :)

Oh yah, I got trigger happy and I guess I blew the opportunity of providing some proper artistic direction. The model just stood/sat before the lenses and smiled and posed, making these photos void of feeling... Well, except the obvious Chinese New Year feel, but definitely nowhere a Shanghai film noire (like Lust | Caution) kind of mood or the sexy elegance that is embodied in the cheongsam.

More photos from this shoot here.

20 February 2008

Valentine's at Petals & Leaves

During my course of work, I came across a place in ulu Lim Chu Kang where there would be a Valentine's Day dinner. So curious me decided to just try it out. Besides the traveling required, both the girlfriend and I were pleasantly surprised by this place called Petals and Leaves at Gardenasia.

For Valentine's Day, a number of partners and sponsors collaborated to make this event at Petals and Leaves possible, notably Eternally Yours by Vernetta Lopez (ironically divorced from Mark Richmond) which did up the decor for the angelic theme for the night. The wait staff even put on cupid wings. The girlfriend and I liked the details of white feathers, curtains and hearts which ushered the patrons to the seat. We also liked the spaciousness between the tables unlike restaurants in more accessible areas where couples have to be crammed so close together, you can hear the other couple's secrets. Plus there was no need to rush as they were open from 7pm till 11pm for that evening. On top of that, we also got to do some "area inspection" of the venue. With plenty of greenery and tranquil quietness, it was our kind of a nice place.

The dinner we had 4 courses with the mains of either fish, chicken or lobster to choose from. We took the fish and chicken with suspicions that the portion of lobster would be minuscule.

The food served is pretty decent, with the only grouse being the temperature which was rather cold, probably due to mass production. The pace at which the courses were served was also quite thoughtful, with the attentive wait staff making their rounds to ensure the plates are cleared.

In between the courses, the girlfriend and I inspected our goodie bags and were quite pleased with sample vials of fragrances, Godiva chocolates, audio CDs, red packets (it was during Chinese New Year) tissue packs, discount vouchers and massage vouchers (which can only be redeemed from Mondays to Thursdays in Horsecity, i.e. somewhat pointless)

The live band was also a wonderful mood setter as they belted out numerous sentimental songs and jazz standards. Unfortunately, the vocalist also had a rather morbid and graphic sense of humor that can can only be better appreciated in a pub lounge setting. Though I must commend her for being able to take in ground requests and singing even without knowing the lyrics to the whole song, letting good showmanship take over.

Overall, it is a lovely little paradise to spend Valentine's Day. Just remember to plan for the transportation and bring along a bit of insect repellent.

Additional Photos available here.

16 February 2008

Shanghai Blues The Musical (上海之夜)

Toy Factory is well-known (but not necessarily in a good way) for shamelessly riding on the stars of the moment when it comes to marketing their productions. This time is no different. Shanghai Blues - The Musical was well-marketed with all the hype surrounding Hong Kong's anti-drug ambassador and singer, William So (苏永康), 881 star, Mindee Ong (王欣) and Dim Sum Dolly, Emma Yong along with Jeffery Tan, Resident Choreographer of Singapore Dance Theatre choreographing the dances in the performance.

Set during World War II in China, the story started with the Japanese invasion all over the land. In the chaos, Lim Wen Chong (William So) and Du Yun (Mindee Ong) take shelter under a bridge on a dark moon-less night. So dark that both were conveniently unrecognizable. The two protagonists broke into a William So song with extremely cheesy rewritten lyrics. They talked briefly about where they were going and what they wanted to do. Wen Chong was a musician who was about to join the army against the Japanese. Du Yun was just fighting for survive. The superficial dialogue conveniently has both of them falling in love in the darkness and breaking in and out of the cheesily rewritten song and conveniently making a pact to return after the war was over. And just before they had to part ways in the darkness, Du Yun had to give Wen Chong the conveniently shameless slut kiss, which conveniently leaves Wen Chong surprised, so that a second shameless slut kiss can be planted. Oh yes, there was also the convenient token love momento, half a mantou (bun). Plus, the best part: they conveniently did not exchange their names for identification.

If you have noticed the frequently used conveniences, Yes, the script was written so conveniently that it made a trip to 7-eleven seem like an expedition. The characters were so superficially written and the rewritten song was downright crass and had a backfiring effect which was painfully comical. Unfortunately, there would be more of such horrendous and thoughtless scriptwriting.

So as conveniently as the war started, the war ended. And conveniently, 8 years passed. Wen Chong returns unscathed physically and emotionally by the ravages of war. And in his hand was a mantou, even more sickeningly convenient and cheesy was that a joke about a stale 8-year old mantou had to be weaved into the script. He appears like a little boy stepping into Disneyland for the first time. He conveniently reunites with his auntie who gives him a job in her nightclub.

At the nightclub, he bumps into the star singer who was conveniently Du Yun. They do not recognize each other because it was conveniently written previously that they didn't get visual confirmation and the names of each other. They broke into to same cheesy rewritten song because it was convenient that they feel a strange connection. But she isn't the same anymore. Previously a simple girl, now she is a seasoned and jaded songstress. I thought there would have been a bit of recap of the things she went through in the 8 years, but other than the regurgitated story of that night under the bridge from a convenient diary that was even more conveniently read out loud by Dan Lei (Emma Yong), she suddenly became a seasoned and jaded performer! So how the did that even happen? Oh yes, that part was conveniently left out.

So conveniently, Wen Chong and Du Yun were also neighbors who conveniently hate each other because they irritate the hell out of each other. Even more conveniently, was Dan Lei who ends up knowing Wen Chong in the cheesy, carbon copy way Du Yun first known him under the bridge. Conveniently, Dan Lei starts to fall for Wen Chong.

The plot had to have Du Yun chancing upon Wen Chong at the bridge and revealing she was the girl he met under the bridge, but he brushes it away thinking she was playing a prank on him because conveniently, she was a different person from 8 years ago.

Predictably, the story unfolds to reveal a convenient love triangle where the 2 leading ladies realize each other's love/infatuation for Wen Chong and started pushing the other to him. Conveniently, each has their own back up plan so that they could play the to-love-is-to-let-go drama. Du Yun has a cao angmoh (stinky caucasian) wanting her, along with a bitchy and nasty rival who wants the cao angmoh for herself. Dan Lei enters and wins a beauty pageant but soon realized that there would be a price to pay.

Before Du Yun leaves with the cao angmoh, Dan Lei and Wen Chong share a dinner together. Dan Lei asked Wen Chong for an unforgettable night of beautiful memories before she loses herself in her newfound fame. Wen Chong rejected that he didn't want to have an unforgettable night of nightmares. So conveniently, both spill to each other about the night under the bridge 8 years ago. Dan Lei reveals that Du Yun is the one Wen Chong had been waiting for all these while.

Wen Chong rushes off to the find Du Yun at the departure. With a little bit of cajoling, Wen Chong manages to make Du Yun sing along in that awfully rewritten song and therefore returning into each other's arms.

On closing, Wen Chong's song conveniently hit the airwave and made famous thanks to the connections of the cao angmoh because he would do anything for Du Yun.

And so the story ends. The script was unbearably cheesy and awfully corny. It failed spectacularly with an unconvincing story which didn't even attempt to tug at the heartstrings. It took war so lightly like a flip of a page that it was appalling and unacceptable.

Thankfully, the show was kept alive with the wonderful performers. Every one was convincing in his/her role even with the lousy script. Being a musical, the singing was in general pretty good and enjoyable. While Mindee isn't as seasoned in singing, she put up a good effort even when her voice was easily over-shadowed by William's and Emma's.

The dance choreography by Jeffery Tan flowed very well in the scenes in the nightclub, but those outside seemed a little too gay for themes of revolution and war in those tumultous times.

As for the set, it was as awkward as it was ingenious with the orchestra sitting right in the middle of the stage the whole time. Just about every set item had multiple uses when positioned differently, quickly changing to different scenes. However, this versatility seemed to have left the entire stage looking rather tattered and unmaintained with loose lines and ropes dangling all around, which I believe shouldn't be the case for the nightclub scenes.

So yes, the show overall left a really bad flavor, not to mention a continued bad impression of Toy Factory. Well, at least the performers did not disappoint.

4 February 2008

Go Karting at Choa Chu Kang

K1 brought some go-karting action to Choa Chu Kang last Sunday.
Unfortunately, I was unable to have a go at the circuit as I had something else on. So I only managed a few snaps.

And yes, I think this is to pique the interest of the F1 race coming up later this year.

If you are interested to find out more about upcoming motorsports events in the heartlands (perhaps yours), visit www.k1.sg.

Click on the picture for the rest of the album.

The Mr Brown Show: 2 Many 2 Count - ERP Drift

Spread! Must spread! Spread it far far away! Spread it all over!

For all you Singapore car owners out there.


I smell an MTV coming...

3 February 2008

Stupid and crazy pet owners of Singapore

Personally, I thought the owners of these dogs are crazy. I think even as masters over these animals, we should give them the dignity and respect as a life.

Crazy dog owner

Putting the dog on a pram and not letting it move around deprives it from the exercise it needs.

Crazy dog owner

Strapping the dog to the body with a harness restricts its movement and deprives it from the necessary exercise. I am guessing this also puts a lot of strain on the spine of the dog.

Crazy dog owner

Putting on shoes affects the paws' sensitivity of the ground and is unnatural for the dog. Animals in general undergo a lot of stress when they lose the sensitivity that it is depends on for survival.

I think all dog owners need to be educated on how they should treat their pets.

1 February 2008

HDB Night Photography + D70 vs D80

Did a little comparative test on my 3-year-old D70 and a D80 at a night shoot.

The newer D80 did much better at light sensitivity and dynamic range.
The CCD also replicated colours differently from the D70.

The D80 shot.

The D70 shot.

Both shots were taken at 77 seconds, F22.
ISO for the D80 was set at 100 while D70 at 200, the lowest for each camera.

Shadows/dark spots (see areas around windows without light on the blocks and trees) were generally brighter compared to the shot by the D70.

Technically, the D80 is one stop faster than the D70 in this shoot.

Note: This experiment was done in a rather uncontrolled environment. That said, the findings are solely "measured" with the naked eye and thus should not be a conclusive result.

Click to view other pictures taken.

Bikini Girls and Topless Guy at Office Party

Because we got too much of Edison, Gillian, Bobo and Cecillia already.
At a remotely beach-themed office party, they were hired to serve up Malibu cocktails in little clothing.
Warning: may be perceived as "not pretty" to some.

Click here to see more "not pretty" photos.