Saturday, January 24, 2009

Last minute spring cleaning

One day before CNY eve. A day dedicated to collecting pork from the market, collecting Aunt Shirls from the airport, and collating piles of no longer wanted assorted detritus, taking what's recyclable to the newly discovered recycling point downstairs where we hope it will find a new lease of life somewhere, somehow, as long as it isn't cluttering up our second bedroom any more.

A little last minute spring cleaning before the Ox takes over the new calendar year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Baring boobs ends in bum deal

Eh, this isn't fair, is it? "A FILIPINA [pub employee] was fined $1,000 on Friday for appearing topless while dancing at a pub in Duxton Hill."

The story goes on to say she was dancng in front of a bunch of male patrons when the cops walked in. How come no one followed up on the culpability of those unnamed male patrons? I'm sure their modesty had been soooo outraged.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All quiet in the Tower

Three Titans are all that remain from the previous battle. But now Starfire has left Earth to patrol the intergalactic pathways around her home planet, Tamaran. Raven has grown much since, and is now the guardian of the extradimensional planes. Cyborg, the sole Titan still based in Jump City has his hands full with the never-ending chaos of a city fraught with imperiled citizens at every corner.

Titans Tower is often quiet now, but Cyborg is grateful that Raven still checks in on him and the mortal realm every so often. With so much going on, Jump City needs to rebuild a new team of heroes... and quickly. Could Poison Ivy be a likely candidate?

Another possible plotline for the non-existant Season Six of the Teen Titans animated series.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, Mr President!

I confess to having attempted to stay up to watch Obama give his inauguration speech 'live' on CNN, but my brain initiated shut-down immediately after Biden's swearing in. Despite the long wait for things to happen, I wasn't bored, just tired.

Fortunately I could still catch a recording of it on the web:

A down-to-earth speech, practical and touches on many pertinent issues challenging the world today. It's about people having to work hard, in mutual cooperation, holding fast to strong values and looking towards a brighter future. The message is mundane, but a necessary reminder that if we are to progress forward, first we have to rebuild the economy and repair our foreign policy from basics in order to remake our present from scratch.

Gosh, suddenly I'm speaking in the first-person plural. There's something about this speech that seems to apply to everybody, whether American citizen or not.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A change of leadership

It's only a few minutes before the change in US leadership becomes official. Media hype has built up Obama's Inauguration into some kind of historical event, and the sense of it, the excitement, the expectation and anticipation are almost palpable.

The man bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. People are expecting big things from him, but in general all we want is a little more peace, a little bit more spending money. Not sure how he's gonna pull it off, but we put a lot of faith in that which is new, and for him to actually become President already signals big changes in favour of the optimistic.

I never realized how deeply-felt this change of leadership was until I came across this clip of Grade (Primary) School kids reading their letters of congratulations to their new President Elect. So young and already so politically aware.

The eyes of the world are on the man, even the children's. Could we be expecting too much? We won't know for a while yet, but in the meantime, let's just soak in the euphoria of this historic Inauguration first.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Civil servant makes a splash, gets a public dunking

For all our cosmopolitan aspirations, the vast majority of us S'poreans are still very much a kampong people. We keep a close eye on each other's behaviour and expect that all of us should conform to a certain standard of decorum in our public conduct.

That's probably fine in most situations -- we do want an orderly and safe public space to live in -- but when we set our expectations on the basis of pettiness and envy and enforce them through punishment, or in this case, public censure, I think we're causing our own brain drain. We're chasing away those who appear "different" and narrowly defining our society as only accepting of those who are equally small-minded and conformist as the rest of us.

So a top Civil Servant makes a splash of his publically-funded wages by taking a long vacation with his family to bond over exotic Parisian cuisine. And he has the temerity to publish his travelogue in the local press. But because the rest of our incomes are going down the toilet with this economic climate, we get upset because this "insensitive" individual refuses to put on an unhappy face and wallow with us in the dumps of despair. It rankles further because we feel that it's our taxpayers' money that has gone towards funding his high life, and so we can take the moral high ground to question if this is how our hard-earned taxes are to be frittered away.

The S'porean mind is complex and hard to fathom. We tell our kids to strive for success, to do everything it takes to raise their lot in life. Do better, work harder and above all, earn more money so life can be more comfortable for them and their family. And then we have this backlash directed at someone who has attained the S'porean Dream and is living the way his parents had hoped he would one day.

It's an interesting message we're sending our kids. Perhaps more than our National Pledge, that dusty old Ribena ad has done more to dictate S'porean existance for the generation that still remembers it. Two kids under a tree are having a conversation that goes like this:
'What are you drinking?'
'Ribena. My marder say it is good for me.'
'Can I have some?'
'Yes, but not too murch.'

It seems moderation in all things is the expected norm, so much so that we're now dictating how one's earned income should be spent to maintain par with the Tans of the underclass. All the more so when said income comes from taxpayer dollars. Let's see, which government department did he work in? Ah, Environment and Water Resources. Now, how much would we pay for our relatively low levels of pollution in our densely packed urban landscape? For the garbage disposal efficiency that so many of us discard our junk without thought to where it all goes, apart from away? For the swarthes of green oases blended integrally and seamlessly with our buildings and roads? For the crystal clear water from our taps we drink, wash and play in with no fear of falling sick upon contact? These conveniences are our taxpayer dollars at work. If we still lived in squalor in an environment made of crap and he was livin' it up, I'd shout "crucify him!" with the rest of the mob, but in all good conscience, I can't because I don't.

And consider this: what has he bought? Some international exposure, some new knowledge, a new skill, a cultural exchange and a potential partnership with a world-renowned institution. If only our own vacations were so focused and purposeful. Most of us just hop on a bus and drive through city after city bleary-eyed just to come home and say that we've been there. Guess we get what we pay for.

It's not the over-the-top vacation expense that worries me as much as the public response to it. It's a response that will drive our best and brightest away from our doors. If they're not appreciated here, they have the means and resources to move elsewhere where they and their money are more welcome (and good riddance because they were spoiling our kampong anyway with their extravagant lifestyles).

Even more scary than that, we're implying that dreams and aspirations have no place in our society because they don't -- or shouldn't -- come true. We take a perverse delight in tearing others down if we don't make the grade ourselves. In a different kind of society such stories tend to be celebrated instead. Think Forbes' "Made Bank?" programme on Channel 5, for example. Such societies comprise a population that is enterprising, innovative and optimistic. They're also a people that are proven to be able to pull together as they stand through hard times.

I don't know how we're going to respond as a people to this current economic situation. But if today's story is any indication, the biggest problem we face isn't the financial crisis. It's Small Penis Syndrome.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dim sum brekkie

One more reason to celebrate living up North: taking a morning stroll up Admiralty Hill to work up an appetite, then feasting on delectable dim sum at the Dragon Phoenix perched right up there on the summit. Ok, maybe I'm overdramatizing the location a bit, but it's fun to imagine.

According to the website, the restaurant runs under the chefs whom between them have concocted some of most popular local dishes as we know them today. The take the credit for chilli crab, and the now ubiquitous annual yu shang without which no new year would be complete.

But we were only scouting the dim sum for a new year brekkie with the Wongs, and I believe we've found the perfect spot this year (last year we ended up at McD's because of a misunderstanding over our reservation at some Chinatown restaurant -- never again). Here, as long as we show up at opening time we're practically guaranteed a table. Being out of the way has its perks.

How's the food? Best pushcart dim sum I've had, ever. You know how when at a certain point the oil and grease suddenly cause you to feel like you've run into a brick wall, right? Not here. I felt I could keep ordering more and keep going. Everything was light, impacting only the tastebuds and not the stomach. Even the lo mai gai didn't just sit in my gut and make me wish the meal was over... there I was ordering egg tarts for dessert.

Cost for June and me: $40. That sounds a bit expensive, but if we had brought more people with us, the per capita cost should reduce quite significantly.

For us, the question about where we could get a good dim sum meal has now been laid to rest. Hike up the hill, and then to burn off all those calories hike back down again.