Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Today's Prints


The Malay


Fish - Baconesque



Monday, 15 October 2007

Rotting Sandals & Worldy Affairs

T'is the season of the Rotting Sandal.

In other words the wet season looms once again, although it is noticeable that as yet we have not had the deluges experienced last year.

Why rotting sandals?

Well, the uppers on leather footwear tend to part company with the sole after prolonged wet weather. No amount of glue seems to remedy the situation and it is entirely desirable to choose footwear that is sown rather than glued.

Then there is the 'mould surprise' where, after a period or prolonged storage in a non-airconditioned environment, strange fungi-like growths of varying hues sprout from the sandals. The moral is to frequently air any stored leather goods, especially shoes.

A visit to Isetan today revealed that the insidious American commercial culture is alive and well in Singapore. Halloween is gaining a strong following amongst the young.

Given the foothold that fundamentalist Christianity has gained in Singapore in recent times, it seems an odd juxtaposition of values.

Not to be outdone, the Brits have sent us a container load of out-of-season Xmas puddings. These are now proudly displayed in that most British of establishments, Marks and Spencers. Mind you, at $19 per modestly sized pudding, there are few takers.

So a year and a bit on, what are the thing I miss from my former life in the 'West' ? Firstly life in the 'West' is a misnomer. It should be 'Life Down South'

Not a great deal. In my day to day life, probably the ability to hold an in-depth discussion on world affairs - in fact hypothesising on anything in a global context.

I am not sure why this is so (and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone I live and work with), but it is often very difficult to strike up a conversation of any topic beyond the boundaries of Singapore.

I don't think this is because Singaporeans are any more insular than other races. Perhaps there is a level of prosperity and contentment here that narrows their focus?

It would also be wrong to suggest that all Singaporeans respond in this way - they do not. I have met many who have travelled or lived overseas who are more than happy to put the world to rights.

My second observation relates to hierarchy. At times there appears to be an almost a departmental paralysis when it comes to decision making. I have experienced this inertia in the telcos and banks in particular.

Few are prepared to stick their neck out on an issue or make a creative suggestion for fear of being wrong. Decision making is often governed by a desire to please those higher up the pecking order.

There is however hope in the creative contribution now being made by the better educated young. They have been prepared to ask questions of politicans here on the matters that they see of significant importance.

I am currently reading the first autobiographical volume of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs entitled "The Singapore Story".

Having seen the Minister Mentor in action on local television I have marvelled how a man in his eighties still has such a sound judgement of world affairs and Singapore's opportunities.

Monday, 8 October 2007

The Six Degrees Of Perspiration

My morning MRT is a microcosm of Singaporean society.

At 7 am it is usually standing room only and so, if one adopts the six degrees of separation principle it is a fairly safe bet that the dozen people in your immediate proximity are related by birth or association.

However there is another observation I have made - certain stereotypes amongst the passengers.

There is the "Overt Preener". The OV is often (but not uniquely) of Indian ethnicity and primps his hair and adjusts his clothing in the reflection of the trains glass door as he prepares to alight.

Another group is the "Slumbering Locals". As observed in an earlier blog entry, they have the ability to fall into seemingly hypnotic trances aboard any form of public transport

Then there are the Expats. They stand out both literally and figuratively. A glance down the train's interior may them easy to spot as their stature or girth gives them away at a glance. The EP's can be further divided into subgroups based around what I shall coin as the six degrees of perspiration.

In ascending order we have the following:

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The "EF"s - Florid expats of the beetroot pink variety and usually newly arrived.

The "EE"s - The Exertion averse group. Having weathered the initial two weeks of settling in they still look and feel like wet dish rags. This is also the group that purchases a selection of reflective umbrellas of ever-widening diameter.

The "ED"s - The Determined variety of expat has been in Singapore for more than a month and is determined to keep a stiff upper lip even though they really 'can't take the weather'.

The "EC"s - Have adopted the Singaporean phrase "can" and use it at every opportunity. An example being "Can catch a taxi if I feel I am going to pass out waiting for the overdue bus"

The "EB"s are Bold and Brassy. They have survived the first year and are writing 'home' at every opportunity extolling the virtues of "no more winters". Deep down though they know that the June to September dry season is going to see them quickly revert to "EE" status.

And finally at the top of the Expat tree are the "EA"s. This elite group are the Actives. They jog in the noon day sun, much to the amusement of the locals who remain quite sensibly in the shade. They seem immune to sunstroke and heat exhaustion and scour the local newspapers for weekly Ironman events. You will also find them monopolising the condo gymnasium facilities at odd hours of the day or night.

As for me, I am probably rated an "EC" and rising.

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A Dash of Kulture

This sign is on the side of a caricature booth in a Children's Play Arcade in Great World City.

Quite what the Impressionists would have made from this, I don't know, especially poor old "Dega" (surely they mean "Degas"?)

As for "Modigliani" he is rather to robust in the proboscis to qualify as being authentic.

We visit Great World City once a month to have a meal at Jack's Place - a nostalgic and none too expensive flashback to our previous Western diet. A nice NZ steak with soup and vegetables for about $13.

Outside the restaurant is the above mentioned games enclave.


It was also noticeable that the 'Dads' seem to be monopolising the games as much as their children. This of course is world-wide phenomonon