Freakonomics & B-words.

(Originally published as “The Economic Theory of Mathilda wasting time at the there” on Facebook on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 5:38pm)

Sitting in the MRT, back home from work at 11pm is a new experience. I was pondering taking my usual mode of transport, the car or taxi till I wondered, “Hey, what’s the rush? Nothing good on TV…the swimming pool is closed, Sialla boring go home so fast with nothing to do.”
So contrary to my aching feet I decided to trudge to Lavender MRT station and take the train to indulge in some people watching.

As expected, the train was full. So I pulled out my Economist Magazine and started feeding my brain with the backdated issue that was celebrating Barack Obama’s fresh ascension to the throne.
I like the way economists think. Not the fuddy duddy boring ones who give interviews on the news channels, but the accomplished theoreticians who can string together abstract, seemingly unrelated issues that when connected, can be so volatile, they spark revolutions. They form the link between the butterfly flapping its wings over the ocean and the impending hurricane.

So I decided, lets look around the MRT train and see if I can find a link between our current economic state and what I see immediately in front of me.
I looked up to the advertisements above my head. And I noticed the bloomin link.

The Letter “B”

“Bad Flu?”
Panadol’s new flu medication adverts were plastered over half the Ad space in the train. Is this an indication of a new flu pandemic or could this be a late introduction? Remember just months ago the Banking (another B word) industry issued a silent flu pandemic warning to employees. The rest of us normal Singaporeans just thought it was a “bug” going around…not realising that virtually everyone had caught the flu/cough or other assorted illnesses. Could this advert be a harbinger of doom? Could this “Bad Flu” add further woes upon the world’s strung out populace? Pls note, the H5N1 virus is back in HongKong threatening all chicken rice lovers…now what was that viral strain called…the BIRD FLU! Yet another “B” word!

Prepare for the “Bear” market with XXX “Bank”.
The word Bear and Bank seem to go hand in hand these days. The advert tried to water the ill-fated pairing down by using the image of a cute cuddly Teddy Bear. As I write this 8000 Sony employees will find themselves jobless during this dismal Christmas. Business development people at all companies are staring at empty E-mail Inboxes and starting to re-think their Bangkok getaways.

The 1987 Black Monday fiasco happened when I was 5 years old. I barely remember anything about that day or even that year except for my Dad watching a lot of Adam Smith’s MoneyMind and hearing a lot of jargon about the market that my 5 year old brain would not understand. I also remember him saying that a lot of people commited suicide that year by jumping from tall buildings. The single day loss on Black Monday amounted to 508 points on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. On the 29th of September this year, amidst gaping mouths and faxes flying helter skelter at the Business Desk of every News Agency, The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 778 points, or 6.98 percent, to 10,365.45.

Recently I was watching a CNBC re-run of their own NBC special aired during 1987 (the Great Crash).
They took a retrospective look at the Great Depression, and described an eye-witness account of residents who would stand guard with shotguns on their porches as thousands would drift from one state to another…looking for work or even just a loaf…sometimes breaking into homes for crumbs.
Such was the suffering that it spawned the birth of another “B” word. The Blues. Are we in for another musical genre next year?

“Beijing” 101 Haircare.

Sitting just opposite me was a Chinese couple, obviously from Northern China. They had their work clothes on, visibly tired after a long day of working the Bubble tea stand. Regardless of dischevelled hair, their accents were so elegant I could’nt help but strain to listen to their conversation. It revolved around the guy wanting to “get some” tonight but she was “too tired” and no amount of his hugging, kissing and assorted legal love-making would convince her otherwise.
Most of the people in the train were giving them dirty looks but I found it refreshing that the “Zhong Guo Ren” couldn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thought about them making out in their Bubble Tea uniforms. Later on I saw the Chinese girl cycling past me. Looks like Bubble Tea buddy didn’t get none that night.
I bet the Chinese couple looked at the “Beijing” 101 Haircare and sniggered to themselves. What about “Beijing” as a brand bolsters the idea of hair care? If anything, the amount of pollution + the recent Melamine scare in the capital city would make me more wary of any hair care solution either eaten or topically used. Will solving hair loss be a money making enterprise in 2009? Or will it disappear like a fart in the wind….which brings me to the next point.


It wasn’t an advert but it was the woman next to me. Dressed in a Bebe suit with Charles & Keith shoes, this woman looked like WOW POW. She was obviously tired, nodding off to sleep and waking up intermittently to give me a dirty stare and hug her branded bag closer. I, being a creature threatened, was pissed to high heavens and returned her stare with a loud “tsk..tsk…” but did nothing else, just reading my magazine.
And then….she started letting out the silent farts. To prevent you from vomiting your dinner into your mouth, I’ll spare you the gory details. However I must tell you, her farts had the distinct smell of curry puffs gone awry. Dont ask me how or why. It just did. Now I am conjecturing of course, but when a business professional, dressed to the nines, upset to be sitting in a train next to “thieving mamas” such as myself who obviously want to steal her handbag only has curry puffs for dinner that can mean 3 things.

1)The economic downturn is worse than we thought and our Fashionistas have to resort to taking the train instead of the MRT, eating curry puffs instead of Apple Waldorf Salad and sleeping next to aforesaid “Thieving Mamas.”
2)The farting bitch could have had some curry puff death concoction and it was my BAD LUCK to sit next to an ungracious fart-face.
3)Old Chang Kee Curry Puffs are making a KILLING at the till.

For economic purposes, let me sum up my observations just within a 3 meter radius and wildly project them as economists do, to our current state of affairs.

If medical companies are allegedly engineering flu viruses to co-incide with their marketing campaigns…Panadol got the brief too late.
If you can’t get a job, sell curry puffs with the sliced egg inside at Shenton Way.
Beijing 101’s tagline of “Its works” aint gonna cut it. Forget hair loss treatments. Find a new way to bring back affordable hourly rates at Hotels so that Chinese couples can “de-stress” after a hard day at the Bubble Tea shop.
Open a Bubble Tea shop.
If the Freddy Mac/Fanny Mae/ Lehman Bros fiasco has taught you anything, its that a cute Teddy bear on an MRT advertisement is no adequate reason to buy ANY FINANCIAL PRODUCT.
The music industry needs a new genre to re-place the Blues. Invent it.

As economists are also very fond of numbers, here are some figures to remember.

1987 Black Monday DJIA crash-508 points
2008 September 29 crash-778 points
Number of “B” words in this article- 60

I’m so clever. Bluar!



  1. i think you guys should be on google…..i can’t find you on google search engines

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