The tableaux in the lobby of Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel features a belligerent ox amid pink cherry blossoms, all fashioned out of chocolate. It’s likely to be dismantled tomorrow which is a pity as its smell is irresistibly cheerful.

Today (Friday) is the last day of the festive season and Chap Goh Meh, normally riotously celebrated with firecrackers in Malaysia, is met here with only a stoic silence.

Firecrackers, or anything louder than a lion dance have been banned for decades.

Indeed, it’s been replaced by silence in Singapore on a sunny and very breezy day that’s left me desperate for a column-idea.

I’m stuck without a plan. Three years ago, I might have stepped out for inspiration through a moody cigarette. But this is Singapore where cigarettes are viewed with as much benevolence as Pol Pot did his countrymen. More to the point, I am long past the habit and, instead, settle for a scrutiny of the newspapers.

The daily horoscope seems a good place to start. Off the bat, I don’t believe in horoscopes but that’s just me: I am a Pisces and we’re sceptics.

The filing on Pisces offers slim pickings. I’m informed I have “valuable diplomatic skills” and had a great opportunity to play “the peacemaker” among people who are “falling out.” At the same time, I am sternly warned: “Don’t let your thin skin hold you back.”

Well, my daughter, Raisa, is also a Pisces so maybe it’s her the post is aimed at. Still, this zodiac stuff can be mystifying: It’s like being inspired only to be disappointed at the end.

Put it this way. It’s not unlike meeting a scientist-looking fellow who tells you that he’s working towards eliminating “all cancers.” Just when you begin feeling impressed, he continues quietly: “Then I plan to move on all Virgos.”

Grim and stern, I tell you!

I felt better after reading Cancer’s fate. “You have a simple choice,” it began in no-nonsense fashion. “Either throw yourself into whatever’s coming your way, or you may stay on the sidelines.”

I say, this isn’t good for the average Cancer-professing fellow about to be rendered pandemically-unemployed and to harbour suicidal inclinations.

The fateful message ends on a killer note, the sort of stuff that pushes one to snapping point.

In short, if he did not throw himself into the path of a speeding bus previously, he definitely would have after reading this. “However, if you choose to stay aloof, circumstance may well force your hand.”

Pity the poor sucker born under the Aries sign, which comes with a chilling warning. “Both at home and at work, expect the unexpected!” it screams with a suicide-bomber’s fanaticism.

We know what time that is because that time is nigh. It’s the still unexpected but oh-so-friendly e-mail from the Nigerian prince whose inheritance had hitherto been unfairly delayed for lack of a man of integrity and, more importantly, a bank account.

There is also a pious bromide to the effect that “it is difficult to erase past memories.”

You think?

It seems to have as much to do with the typical
Aries person as the price of mothballs.



What is it about human beings that enable them to intuit insights from hum-drum events?

Take Archimedes, a Greek thinker who merely wanted a bath before dinner.

As he stepped into his bath, however, he noticed that his weight displaced an equal weight of water which slopped over its bath’s rim.

Now, a careful man might have deplored the waste while an obsessive-compulsive type might have cringed at the mess.

But no, not Archie who grasped its logic instinctively. The yet-unwashed thinker was so excited by his insight that he leapt out of the bath and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse screaming Eureka (Greek for “I have it.”)

He’d understood that the volume of irregular objects could now be measured precisely through its displacement of water. Actually, there would be a lot more gleaned from his original observation including a theorem that would forever bear his name.

At the time, however, the male citizens of Syracuse were unimpressed, pointing out that they, too, had it.

Eventually, however, Greek trend-spotters acknowledged that he had begun a global movement that would culminate in the 1970s as the “streaking” phenomenon.

Indeed, Archimedes continues to resonate. His word of choice Eureka has crept into the lexicon as the widely-used “Aha” or “Alamak,” its slightly more apologetic Malaysian variant.

A later aspirant to serendipitous logic was Isaac Newton. Sometime in the 17th Century, we have him sitting in contemplative silence under an apple tree in the gardens of Cambridge. It was in such drowsy, sun-dappled conditions that an apple fell rudely on his head.

It must be noted that, at this point, scientists are generally grateful that there weren’t any coconut palms In England then. A coconut would have rendered Sir Isaac insensible or worse. The march of science could have been irreparably retarded. So we have much to be thankful for.

Or, other outcomes might have prevailed. A suitably peckish man might have eaten said apple. Meanwhile, a comfortably drowsy fellow might have leapt up in rage and renounced all forms of religion with immediate effect.

But Sir Isaac’s head was hardier. He realised that the force that propelled said apple onto his head was the same that kept the moon from falling on us, or Earth, from plunging into the Sun.

In a word, gravity, which can be explained as the Law unlike, say, Evolution, which is only a theory.

Steven Wright put it graphically: “It’s a good thing we have gravity, or else when birds die, they’d just stay right up there; humans would be all confused.”

But it’s the simple things that really warrant a Eureka moment. Julius Caesar, for example, was already famous for having invented the Caesarean.

But he’s chiefly remembered for a less complicated offering. History will record that in 48 BC the emperor had been wondering if Brutus was out to praise or bury him when his eye fell on some romaine lettuce next to a block of Parmesan cheese.

A religious, more pious, man might have been moved to exclaim: “Lettuce pray” and fall to his knees.

A more indolent thinker might have idly nibbled the lettuce, even sampled the cheese. But JC was made of sterner stuff and rose to the occasion in a Eureka moment that future generations would forever bless.

The former gynaecologist roused his chef and ordered him to assemble the lettuce together with some croutons. He then dressed the offering with the cheese, lemon juice, egg, Worcestershire sauce and topped the creation off with garlic and black pepper.

It was the world’s first Caesar salad and may have been JC’s outstanding contribution to humanity.

Cassius didn’t think so but, if you notice, no one’s put up a statue to him anywhere.



Listen up, folks. There’s something weird going on and it’s nothing to do with Ghostbusters.

It’s called QAnon and it was begun reasonably enough by a man called Q. Little is known about the enigmatic Q save that he is a self-styled patriot and, possibly, a white supremacist. That’s just peaches and cream in the US: the two are avowedly synonymous.

But I digress. We were talking about QAnon, no? Simply put, it’s Conspiracy Central writ large and is primarily located in the United States, although it’s begun spreading rash-like to the UK, Germany and Brazil.

Weirder still, is that what started as a fringe movement, in 2017, rapidly snowballed into millions of followers during the pandemic.

In March 2020, for example, the number of members in the largest QAnon group on Facebook leaped 700% and it’s been growing exponentially since.

The virus outbreak left millions unemployed and with a lot of time on their hands. It could explain why social media grew in importance. And with artificial intelligence guiding people to sites that they might like, it’s not a stretch to see how QAnon vaulted into the popular consciousness.

At its core, Q and his legions believe that a Satan-worshipping, pedophile-practicing, liberal cabal-Democrats, media-types and Hollywood celebs – form a “deep state” that controls America. More importantly, the only one standing against them is the Very Stable Genius, your- ever-rusty- consistently-orange Donald Trump.

To say that the claims are outlandish would be correct. Many diehards, for example, even believe that Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks, among others, “eat children” to fight ageing. According to this view, a group of US generals finally recruited Trump as the candidate to outwit the cabal’s dastardly plan.

During his presidency, the Donald did re-tweet some QAnon bromides himself, which led to many of his assertions becoming Gospel in the QAnon playbook. Like “the coronavirus is a hoax” theory and, its corollary, “bleach is the solution.”

They believe Trump’s tweet typos are deliberate because they are convinced he “misspelled it for a reason” because he’s “trying to tell us something in code.”
But they don’t know what it is he’s trying to say. However, the mysterious Q will provide, because “he knows.”

We are being asked to imagine Trump actually doing something heroic and not boasting about it?

You’ve got to be kidding.

Trump hitched himself to the QAnon phenomenon by referring to them as “very nice people” and “patriots”.

He did it shamelessly too.

Reporter: “At its core, they believe that you are secretly saving the world from Satan-worshipping pedophiles, these cannibals. Do you buy that?”

Trump, without missing a beat; “If I can help in any way, I’d be happy too.”

These are people who believe Cher is an alien. Then there was this guy who took automatic weapons to the Hoover Dam because they “told me” anti-Trump people were gathering there.

Fifty of them ran for Congress. One even won.

So you can understand what might happen if, for two months, a defeated President repeatedly claimed he won and that the election was stolen.

Thank Heaven the FBI has declared the QAnon potential terrorists. And Amen that the Donald is no more.

And Hallelujah that there aren’t such people in Malaysia. And if there were, they would not be lauded. Right?

Wrong! Papagomo – a QAnon-candidate if there ever was one – got a Datukship early this week.