WOOHOO! 2016

2016 is the year:
– the British defied all expectations and put David Cameron out of a job by voting for Brexit;
– the Americans defied all expectations and allowed a thin-skinned, obnoxious racist to annihilate Hillary Clinton;
– Taiwan elected its first female president, while South Korea’s first female president created a spectacle more captivating than Descendants of the Sun, W and Train to Busan;
– Joseph Schooling surprised Michael Phelps and the rest of the world with that spectacular swim in Rio;
– Nathan Hartono single-handedly activated the Milo trucks;
– we bade farewell to former President S R Nathan, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Shimon Peres, Fidel Castro, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, as well as Underwater World, California Fitness Singapore, John Little, Rochor Centre, Dakota Crescent and SMAP×SMAP;
– haunting pictures of Syrian children made us tear;
– Michelin organisers made restaurant owners in Singapore tear;
– we all found out that Rui En stays in Clementi #doyouknowwhoiam;
– 康熙來了 finally ended after 12 years;
– Finding Dory finally made it to the big screen after 13 years;
– Leonardo DiCaprio finally got hold of an Oscar after 200 years;
– people wasted their lives had plenty of fun with Pokémon Go;
– people wasted their lives watching X-Men: Apocalypse, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Independence Day: Resurgence.

2016 is also the year Cruz Teng held two business cards.

The Transition

People were understandably confused when they heard I ‘parted ways’ with NoonTalk Media in less than a year. Well, the stint at NoonTalk was always meant to be temporary. There were never plans for me to receive a long service award there.

My employment contract with Mediacorp contained a whopping six-month notice period. I was kept extremely busy till the end— management, Global Chinese Music Awards, radio hosting, television hosting, etc— so I didn’t have time to plan anything at all.

I relied on my friend, Dasmond Koh, to keep me partially employed during the transition, as I took time to seriously consider what to do for 2016 and beyond. In between the launch of FrozenAge and producing The Freshmen, I found time to do some volunteer work, and also managed to clock an incredible amount of time at the gym.

The Temptation

For a month or so, I flirted with the idea of venturing overseas, specifically Taipei. I got my financial advisors to look through my portfolio, and even drafted exit plans— like when to sell my car, and how to freeze certain recurring payments, etc. Eventually, the pragmatic Singaporean genes in me prevailed. It wouldn’t make any financial sense to move to Taipei at this point. I like the city, and there are people in the city I like. But no, I chose to remain in Singapore.

The New Challenge

After I got back from a two-week stay in Taipei, and with almost half the year gone, I finally decided that I would look for something outside Radio. My criteria: (1) I must be able to learn something new— something that requires major brainpower. (2) It cannot be boring. It cannot be too easy. I don’t want to be in a retirement village. (3) The remuneration and benefits must be reasonably attractive.

The company, which called me for an interview in July, offers all of the above.

I had a million and one first-world problems I had to settle before the first day of work:

(1) “I have nothing to wear!” And I really mean it. The stuff in my wardrobe belonged to two extreme ends of the spectrum— (a) super casual i.e. jeans, tees and sneakers, and (b) black tie i.e. crisp dress shirts with French cuffs, and maybe some shimmery bits, and red patent shoes for the stage. I didn’t own any normal shirts and pants for normal usage by a normal human being.

(2) “Should I drive?” I went to work at 6AM for more than a decade, and I never paid ERP fees (unless I overslept). And it was dirt cheap to park at Caldecott. I wondered if it would be extremely expensive to drive into the Downtown Core, and if I would go berserk getting caught in morning and evening peak traffic.

(3) “How expensive is it to eat there every day?” I was used to cheap and tasty canteen food at Caldecott, you know.

No, I didn’t worry if I would be able to pass my probation, or if my new colleagues would like me. I was occupied with frivolous thoughts after I was called back for a second, and then, a third round of interview.

(1) I had twelve shirts and two pairs of trousers tailored in time. I would have had more trousers done, but the tailor told me to ‘get used to them first’.
(2) I decided to drive— although I’m given free travel privileges on all buses and trains.
(3) My colleagues brought me somewhere to enjoy a plate of economical rice for $2.60!

“Are you sure you can get used to this?”

That was the number one question I was asked.

I obviously need time to settle down in a new environment and get to know new people. However, if the question is about my will and ability to survive outside my comfort zone, the answer is a definite YES (no pun intended).

Back in 1996, I told the folks at Ngee Ann Polytechnic to thrash my application for Mass Communications because I was already on air by then and I no longer required the paper qualifications to pursue what I wanted to pursue. I then applied for Business Studies so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.

When I became a full-time presenter, I nudged my way into non-programming stuff like marketing communications and event planning, and did crazy things like asking for a seat in the Singapore Hit Awards committee and making drastic changes to the rules and regulations, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.

I later took a part-time degree in Translation and Interpretation, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.

I took up a management position primarily as a calling, but also to gain new knowledge and hone my skills in other areas, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.

I was in Radio for nearly twenty years, and I spent an equal amount of time preparing myself— technically and mentally— for a post-Radio chapter.

Thank you for your concern. 2016 has been rather interesting. I hope 2017 will be better. And I need to get back into that pair of jeans.

#cruztamjiak: The Taipei Edition

I think we would all agree that I should have published this much earlier. Every time someone asks for recommendations, I’d have to type everything from scratch, and send the information via WhatsApp in bits and pieces. This blog entry would make things way easier. I’m finally motivated enough to put this together, after spending two weeks in Taipei last month, doing nothing much and pretending to live and eat like a local. I found some new eateries, and the old haunts didn’t disappoint.

This isn’t a typical “eat-or-you-will-regret” checklist crafted in a kiasu fashion to cover everything under the sun. This merely contains my personal favourites— items I eat again and again, and places I go to repeatedly— which means you may or may not concur. For instance, I tried but really cannot swallow smelly tofu. I don’t do bubble milk tea and iron eggs either, so stuff like these aren’t included here. Also, several establishments have various branches throughout the city— I’ve listed the ones that I frequent as standards may vary.

Please try not to drool if you’re reading this in public.

A scoop of braised minced meat atop a bowl of steamed rice. Close your eyes and pretend the fatty bits will magically disappear on foreign soil. I usually order a couple of side dishes, such as braised eggs, cabbage and tofu.

鬍鬚張滷肉飯
八德路三段124號 | Map | Link

金峰滷肉飯
羅斯福路一段10號 | Map


The Japanese occupied Taiwan for five decades and left an indelible legacy. Donburi— Japanese rice bowls— is widely available, and would suit the typical Singaporean palate. The meals may not necessarily be cheaper than what we have here, but they try to value-add with a small dessert or a beverage.

開丼
微風廣場—復興南路一段39號B1 | Map | Link


We are blessed to grow up in a food paradise. We don’t fumble when told to enjoy the unagi in three ways— as it is, with wasabi, and with broth.

一膳食堂
微風信義-信義區忠孝東路五段68號4F | Map | Link


There’s a nationwide fish and chips competition in England, and they have a similar one for beef noodles in Taiwan. Pictured above is the signature Taiji bowl from 牛易館, presumably for people who cannot make up their minds and infuriate patrons queuing behind them. Ha. I’d had stewed, red braised and tomato, and I still can’t decide which is my favourite. Tip: If there’s a certain part you don’t like— e.g. I don’t take tendon— don’t be shy to tell the staff, who would usually provide an alternative.

牛易館
四平街30號 | Map | Link

川味老張牛肉麵
愛國東路105號 | Map | Link

永康街牛肉麵
金山南路二段31巷17號 | Map | Link

林東芳牛肉麵
八德路二段274號 | Map | Link


If I only have one meal in Taipei, it would be my ultimate favourite 陳家涼麵。It is hard to comprehend how a plate of cold noodles drizzled with a simple peanut and sesame sauce and topped with some garlic, would be so addictive. The miso soup with egg and meatballs is a winner as well. 劉媽媽涼麵, which I was introduced to two years ago, is pretty good too.

陳家涼麵
松山區南京東路五段123巷29號 | Map

劉媽媽涼麵
市民大道五段37號 | Map


I had always thought this was a tourist trap, and I’d always avoided the crazy queues at Ximending. Years later, I finally discovered a second outlet quietly nestled in Zhongxiao East Road and became a fan of the the oyster vermicelli served in a piping hot savoury broth.

阿宗麵線
站著吃:峨嵋街8號之1 | Map
坐著吃:忠孝東路四段17巷2號 | Map


Danzai noodles was created more than a century ago by the Hong family. They couldn’t fish in stormy months and had to look for ways to supplement their income. The brand expanded northwards from Tainan and has been widely featured in travelogues.

度小月
忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號 | MapLink


When it comes to xiaolongbao, people shout 鼎泰豐 immediately. Several Singaporean friends claim that the Taiwanese do it better, but I’ve yet to judge that myself. I’ve been to 高記 many times though— because they have a restaurant right next to where I’d always stay, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

高記
復興南路一段150號 | Map | Link


There are all-you-can-eat choices, complete with elaborate condiment and dessert counters, and there are à la carte menus which are more costly. My new favourite is 火鍋106 (pictured above). The peppery soup base filled with pork belly was awesome on its own. 千葉火鍋 provides individual pots, which is great if you’re dining with people you don’t know well.

火鍋106粵式豬肚煲鍋
南京東路三段12號 | Map | Link

千葉火鍋
中華路一段41號2樓 | Map | Link

洛神賦麻辣極品鴛鴦 (pictured above)
仁愛路四段27巷16號 | Map | Link

辣中間
信義路四段199巷18號 | Map | Link

川巴子
復興南路一段144號 | Map | Link

魯旦川鍋
建國北路二段16號 | Map | Link

Sukiyaki:

潮肉壽喜燒
延吉街131巷26號 | Map | Link

Mo-mo Paradise
京站-承德路一段1號4F | Map | Link


The 熱炒 shops in Taipei are the equivalent of our tze char eateries, providing a wide array of dishes catering to all demographics at very reasonable prices. Most provide steamed rice for free.

Painful tip: Check opening hours. Because I was with friends of a friend of mine, I had to pretend to be a Singaporean with impeccable table manners. I didn’t take too many pictures, and I only had two slices of the pig kidney I LOVE. I went back on my own one afternoon, determined to have a full serving of kidney all to myself, only to discover that it was only open at 5PM.

紅翻天生猛活海鮮
吉林路239號 | Map


Technically, this family tze char shop styled like a teppanyaki outlet isn’t in Taipei City, but you can easily take the MRT to New Taipei. I like my fish raw or steamed, until the chef presented a whole new taste.

湘賓鐵板燒
新北市永和區保平路55號 | Map

The keyword here is nostalgia. Never mind if the toys and ornaments from the 1960s don’t resonate. There is just this impression that retro = comfort food = non-pretentious = good. I was sold the minute they asked if I wanted some lard to go with my rice. Of course I did!

磚窯古早味懷舊餐廳
敦化南路一段7之1號 | Map | Link

I was in Taipei for Christmas, and needed a place to impress someone with. The legendary restaurant named after its manager, is housed in one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, and fully deserves five stars for its atmosphere, food and service.

Robin’s Grill, Regent Taipei
中山北路二段39巷3號2樓 | Map | Link

I love meat. Period. I am always the person who orders an additional plate of beef after everyone else is done. There are so many grill and teppanyaki restaurants I like.

一氣爐端燒
市民大道四段101號 | Map | Link

乾杯燒肉居酒屋
敦化南路一段236巷17號 | Map | Link

夏慕尼新香榭鐵板燒
光復北路95號 | Map | Link

牛角日本燒肉
忠孝東路四段177號2樓 | Map | Link

原燒
京華城-八德路四段138號8F | Map | Link

The latest trip to Taipei was rather bizarre in the sense that I had a constant craving for desserts. Dazzling has reached the shores of Singapore, but did you know that Coffee Alley also serve Instagrammable waffles? agnès b. cafés are all over Taipei— when will they finally set up shop here?

Coffee Alley
館前路18號2樓 | Map | Link

Dazzling Cafe
忠孝東路四段205巷7弄 | Map | Link

鮮芋仙
復興南路一段36號 | Map | Link

agnès b. Café LPG
松高路11號 | Map | Link

COFFEE LOVER’s PLANET
Sogo敦化館-敦化南路246號B1 | Map | Link

And if you do have to go to the ubiquitous Starbucks, you might wanna consider going to one which requires an appointment.

You can find 豆漿油條 everywhere and at any hour, but if you subscribe to the notion that long queues equals good food, you’d have to go to this place. It was the only time I was forced by a Taiwanese friend to queue thirty minutes for breakfast. I would have bought the entire tray of 焦糖甜餅 if I could.

阜杭豆漿
華山市場二樓-忠孝東路一段108號2樓 | Map

You don’t leave Taiwan without visiting a night market. I go to 饒河夜市 all the time. 士林夜市 is huge— it is worth a visit even though it might seem very touristy. And I remember grabbing a lot of stuff at 公館夜市

Items I always eat:
-滷味
-雞排
-鹽酥雞
-大腸包小腸
-烤生蠔
-花生捲冰淇淋

Finally, if you’re looking for tarts and pastries to bring home, there are a couple of shops I go to: 犁记, 佳德維格 and 微熱山丘. (Again, I think it’s a matter of personal tastes.)

Happy eating! More food pictures here.

Twenty years of WOOHOO!



0200 hrs – 0600 hrs, 31 March 1996
. I went on Radio Corporation of Singapore’s 93.3FM for the first time as a part time DJ. Singapore’s number one radio station would only be known as YES 933 a few years later. The very first song I played was 伤痕 by Sandy Lam. I chose that track because the song intro was about 20 seconds, just enough for me to deliver the opening lines I scripted in advance. Childhood ambition— check.

I had sat for my O-Levels a few months earlier. Instead of joining my friends in junior college, I opted for intensive training at Caldecott Hill, and was ready to go on air within a month. Since I already had half a foot in the media industry, I aborted plans to do Mass Comms, and chose the (way easier) Business Studies diploma instead. It was more like as a backup plan, in case I failed as a DJ. 20 years later, I think I can safely announce I didn’t fail as a radio presenter. Hurhurhur.

Right after my national service, I was given a full-time job. My first pay cheque was slightly below $2,000. I didn’t know how much my peers were earning; I was just glad to be doing radio. Before I even retrieved my identity card from the army, I launched a brand new evening drive time show with Liyi in February 2002. We would go on to host several other programmes together. The following year, I was put on morning drive. It was a complete nightmare. I hated waking up early. I was occasionally sick, and perpetually grouchy and sleepy. I would never have expected to last that long on morning radio. Can I just add that「就是萬人迷」was the number one radio show across all stations and languages for almost a decade. Woohoo!

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
-Coco Chanel

It isn’t just a job. Radio is in my blood. It’s like a calling, of sorts. Every now and then, I tell myself (and the people around me) that I am the most fortunate person in the universe— for finding something I like to do, be able to do it, and not screw up.

My heartfelt gratitude to everyone I met on this incredible journey. I’m indebted to Yuanqing and Jieqi for the opportunities and encouragement during the initial recruitment phase. I have an elephant memory. Before Yuanqing emigrated to Hong Kong, she said,「不進則退」. “Progress, or regress,” is a stern reminder— or warning— I never ignored. There are two names that must be highlighted in bold and enlarged to font size 72— Veron and Wai See. Thanks for basically everything, and for tolerating and seeing me through my frontline radio career. Thanks to Zigan, Zhiyuan, Baobao, Dasmond and Jiang Jiang, who trained me back in 1996. Thanks to Flo for the mentorship when I entered management. And thanks to my seniors, colleagues, partners, and clients. Thank you very much for the last 20 years.

By the way, I’m only 36 hor. *flickfringe

And the most important group of all— the people who were actually listening. You know, I would have done a self-glorification post on this anniversary, listing all my inconsequential accolades and minor achievements, if I was much younger. But what really matters is that I was told on many occasions I had informed, entertained, and influenced my listeners, and entered their lives in a non-intrusive manner but left a indelible mark along the way. Other than the fact that I don’t warm up easily to strangers in the flesh, the Cruz Teng in person, is every bit the Cruz Teng you hear on air. Thank you for accepting Cruz Teng as he is. The off the cuff remarks were 100% authentic, and I genuinely think that counting down to Friday makes the working week more bearable. Thank you for listening. It’s been a huge privilege.

It is a shame I can’t mark this occasion in the studios. In the last few months, people asked why I ‘left’ Radio. Actually, I didn’t leave. I’m merely taking a break. And I repeated this cheesy line over and over again— Radio is my first love. It sounds more mushy in Mandarin.

「廣播是我的初戀」。
-丁志勇

I would like to emphasize one more time that I have every intention to go back on air sooner or later. I’m not discussing anything with anyone at the moment because of my current responsibilities at NoonTalk Media and FrozenAge. But I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out with someone somehow someday.

Whatever it is— and barring any unforeseen circumstances— I WILL GO BACK ON AIR ONE DAY, OKAY? I’M NOT DONE YET! WAIT FOR ME, PLEASE!

Xiexie.

And WOOHOO!

Alive


Great Ocean Road, 2011.

The end of a dreadful week. For the first time (outside a funeral setting) I cried five times in 24 hours. Wahlaoeh. I never knew I was capable of generating so much tears. Note to self: you’re not in some music video. Crying while driving could be rather dangerous.

My reaction completely took me by surprise. One of those extremely rare moments the invincible and conceited Cruz Teng was finally rendered completely helpless. Temporarily.

And then, one has to realize that one is but a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. The sun continues to rise from the east; Planet Earth continues its orbit. I carried on working. I didn’t cancel any of my appointments. I breathe. I eat. I sleep. I laugh. And I eat some more. And I sleep some more. And I am still alive.

And that’s the most important thing. Still alive.

The one word radio DJs react very strongly to starts with W.

It is the time of the year when your favourite radio DJs dash around with harassed faces and tired limbs. They have to be in tiptop condition for their radio shows, and are constantly told by their bosses— some irritating, some not so— to inject more surprises, more games, more interviews, more stories, more jokes, more songs or more whatever that is appropriate on that station. They host and attend more promotional events than other months, and they give away a crazy amount of money and other fabulous prizes. Class 95FM, for instance, is smashing all records by giving away $55,000 cash in the next few weeks.

It is the time of the year when your favourite radio DJs work their arses off— primarily because they love their jobs, and partially because it’s the listenership survey period. The jargon that radio people use is WAVE— as in, “What are we going to do for Wave? What are they doing for Wave? Our ratings went up the last three Waves, it’s probably going to drop this Wave.”

The first Wave for 2016 starts on Monday. For the first time in my adult life, IT’S NONE OF MY BUSINESS! Hurhurhur.

A lot of people I met over the years do not know how radio ratings are determined. It’s perfectly all right. Listeners tune in to a station because they like the music, content, and/or DJs. It doesn’t matter to the listener whether that station is ranked #1 or #10, does it?

Radio ratings are for three groups of people: a) radio broadcasters who need the numbers on nifty powerpoint slides to attract advertisers, b) clients and agencies who need the data to plot their marketing spend, and c) programme directors, presenters and overworked but underpaid station staff who need the figures to justify a pay raise or a bigger bonus. Radio ratings, is all about money. I had secretly envied public broadcasters like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Television Hong Kong. They don’t run commercials on air, so radio ratings isn’t their biggest/ only KPI.

The three radio owners— Mediacorp, Singapore Press Holdings and SAFRA Radio— engage Nielsen to conduct two surveys for the Singapore market every year. They’ve dropped the two letters in front, so I hope people— including those in the media industry— would stop calling them AC Nielsen.

Australia is surveyed 40 weeks annually, while China is in Wave throughout the year. It’s less stressful in Singapore. Each Wave lasts eight weeks, and is usually conducted from mid March to mid May, and early September to end October. If you are dating a radio presenter, they CANNOT take leave during these periods. Don’t even try asking. These are like the most sacred months for radio people. Don’t be a nuisance and distract them from doing their jobs.

About 2,000 people, aged 15 and above residing in Singapore are given a radio listening diary, listing every single radio station in the country in a time grid. Participants indicate the station they were listening to at 15-minute intervals. Stations like YES 933 have a HUGE following in Johore Baru, but they aren’t counted. (Damn it.)

E.g.
7.00-7.14 AM: Station A
7.15-7.29 AM: Station B
7.30-7.44 AM: Station C
7.45-7.59 AM: Station A

As you can see, radio ratings is not based on the number of devices tuned to a station. More than one person told me before, “I have radio sets in my living room, my bedroom and my bathroom. All tuned to your station! Your ratings sure go up one!” I thanked them for their support and gently told them that it didn’t work that way.

At the end of the Wave, Nielsen collates the data and generates a comprehensive report. There are many measurement indicators in radio listening. You could find out how many individuals tuned in to the station, how long they tuned in to the station and if they were listening to other stations or only your station, etc. And because there are so many pages in the report, one could highlight a particular set of numbers they fancied.

In the last three years— since the emergence of Kiss 92FM— various stations have claimed to be #1 in different things. This is something that huge markets like America and Australia typically do— it’s just that we are not used to this sort of marketing in Singapore. Read: The media and advertising industries are not used to having a non-Mediacorp station so high up in the overall top ten list. Now, none of them are lying. Everyone who shouted they were #1, were indeed #1 in the areas they claimed— #1 in the number of people tuning in, #1 in market share (which is based on time spent listening), #1 in a certain age group, etc.

It’s all right if you are slightly confused. Like I said, radio ratings are mainly for radio people and advertisers. The rest of us can just chill and tune in to our favourite stations and DJs, while they fight it out on a biannual basis.

If you really want to help, word of mouth is a very powerful tool. If you are a business owner or taxi driver for instance, you could expose the station to your customers simply by leaving the radio on. Or you could demand all your colleagues listen to your favourite station from 9AM to 5PM in the office. You could actively share stations’ social media stuff as well— basically anything to help them gain and/or retain one more listener, and spot that elusive one-in-two-thousand survey participant who would put a tick in his or her diary.

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