Monday, 20 December 2010

A New Fitness Regime?

An American Adaptation

Maybe Singapore could adopt some of these for the malls?  At least in Chinatown they don't try to camouflage the stairways like this.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Problem Posties

I have learnt over time that the Chinese view the properties of food differently to Europeans.  Certain foods are "heaty" and others cool the body.

While this may seem strange to those brought up on a western diet, the balance of foods is deemed to be criticial for continuing good health.

The Cantonese seem to have more food taboos than other dialects but I am prepared to be corrected.  One of my favourites relates to foods that should not be consumed because they give one wind.  Bamboo shoots are forwned upong by some.

The Cantonese produce a post-natal dish of chicken with ginger wine which is consumed from the first week of a confinement period. Reportedly it protects the stomach, promotes blood circulation, helps to ward off coldness and dispels 'wind' in the body.

The Cantonese classification of food explains why certain foods are taken and why they have paid so much attention to the body's reaction to the ingestion of various types.

Hakka, Teochew, Fuzhou and Nyonya all have their own variations of confinement dishes with the Peranakan  dishes being more spicy than some.

Beans have a universal and deservedly notorius reputation for gas production. Carbohydrates in some foods which can not be broken down and absorbed in the intestine are the problem.

In New Zealand it would appear that we have a different approach to  the problem of wind; we sack people.

A farting postie has failed to get his job back.  He apparently falsified his time sheets as he had to make a lot more toilet stops than most.  His Ying Yang balance was clearly out of kilter but maybe his defence should have been that he was 'full of beans"?
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Monday, 13 December 2010

Today's Print

Dancing Pipe  ......................................  Roger Smith  12/2010

I took a walk around our Mews development today and came across this water pipe which the builders are still using.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Entente Not So Cordiale

Logo used by Wikileaks"Big fat red faces for Singapore leaders" thundered the Sydney Morning Herald this morning.  Naturally this got my curiousity going.

A too strong laksa perhaps?  No I was mistaken.

It proved to be the frank assessment by Singaporean diplomats of their ASEAN and Asian neighbours as (apparently) revealed in cables leaked to WikiLeaks.

The Straits Time's headline for the same news item was undertandably more subdued - "S'pore diplomats on region".

Which ever way one chooses to deliver it, the cable contents are embarassing and at variance to the public persona displayed, and public announcements made, by the ASEAN membership.

As I wrote in a recent article on the Digital Consultant blog, the WikiLeaks saga has "proved without doubt, the duplicity of diplomacy; what has been said publically is often at complete variance to what is being shared in private."

While privately many Singaporeans may agree with the sentiment that "Malaysia's "dangerous" decline is fuelled by incompetent politicians, Thailand is dogged by corruption and a "very erratic" crown prince, Japan is a "big fat loser" and India is ''stupid''" very few, if any, would say so publically.

What these revelations have done to the "binding spirit" of ASEAN, one can only imagine.

To cap off a week of diplomatic misery comes the news that there is a be a second and competing site, created by former WikiLeaks collaborators who are less than enchanted with Julian Assange.

This one is to be called 'OpenLeaks'.

..... and with Xmas in mind, Santa's cables and WikiLeaks
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Friday, 10 December 2010

A Hole In Geylang

Stories in the Republic must be few and far between if a pothole occupies the minds of Singaporean media; albeit a growing subsidence.

At a time when the world is focussing on student anarchy in Britain, the arraignment of WikiLeak's founder Julian Assange and the "Not So Nobel Prize", it is hard to see why a hole in Geylang should prove attractive?

Subsidence is after all not something new in Singapore.  The MRT and road tunnelling has produced subsidences in the past that have been far more spectacular.

In June of 2008 Marina Boulevard developed a five metre wide despression to the consternation of some citizens.

I have always marvelled at the levels of tunnels in the MRT especially where the various lines intersected at stations. Quite an engineering achievement.

In New Zealand we specialise in large holes which people through money into.  In most parts of the world  these are called ponzi schemes and just yesterday, a couple were charged with fleecing Kiwis out of $15 million.

These are minor glitches if one compares the 10 per cent of the entire stock of US currency on this planet which is unusable after printing problems in manufacture produced defective notes.  They are the also first bills to have Preident Obama's signature on them which is not exactly a good omen for the future.

A small hole in Geylang doesn't seem so bad after all.
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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Today's Print - Magnolia

Magnolia ..................................................................... Roger Smith  12 / 2010

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Igniting The Passions

Bak Kut Teh herbs
Bak Kut Teh Herbs
Radio advertising holds little attraction to me; it is a necessary evil that happens between the playing of tracks that I remember from my distant past.

CoastFM here in Auckland plays music I can sing along to and many of the the tunes I used to play in bands in my youth.

There are two recurring adverts that seem to monopolise the airways.  The first is a sexual potency product with the stimulating name of "Herbal Ignite". The second is is a concrete mould and gunge remover called "Wet and Forget".

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the courier van got the deliveries of these two products mixed up?  Very quick growing mould no doubt, or.......?

The copyrighting for the first product's radio advert is mildy amusing with references to satisfied wives and 'big boy'.  Wet and Forget extols the virtues of easy application and guaranteed performance -  somewhat similar to the Ignite I would have thought.

Ignite is New Zealand made and attempts to capitalise on the greener aspects of the country  - "produced in an environment famous world-wide for its pristine mountains and forests, and unpolluted air and water, free from pesticide or heavy metal contamination".

Wet and Forget's web site boasts a green superhero whose aim it is to eliminate the "Muggers of Mossville".

While I rarely listened to commercial radio in Singapore, I hazard a guess that very few of their advertisments were for sexual stimulants, unless one counts Tiger Balm, which is best kept for sprains and bruises.

Tiger Balm has an interesting history having originated from a herbalist of the Imperial Court who set up shop in Burma.  His two sons bought the ointment to Singapore at the beginning of the 20th century.

It is the other parts of the tiger that are meant to turn wimps into studs, but these potions are to be found in Chinatown, not on the radio.
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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Chop Chop!

My staple diet in Singapore was rice in its many and varied forms. Something I should add that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though my diet has now changed again and a knife and fork is called for in New Zealand.

Chop sticks were the utensil of choice in Singapore and I mastered these many years ago, so felt completely at home in any foodcourt or kopitaim.

How I wish though that we had been able to use some of the new adaptions of the humble chopstick:

The combination glasses and chopsticks set may have many virtues but I have yet to think of one.

Then of course we had the HDB-inspired combination of clothes peg and chopsticks.  I can envisage these anchoring washing on the bamboo poles that sprouted from the upper stories of the HDB blocks.

Finally we have a nifty design which is both a sauce dispenser and chopstick set

A quick squeeze of the chopsticks and a squirt of soy sauce embellishes the dish.  Struggling with a piece of kampong chicken might result in an overdose of the sticky black fluid but this is clearly a minor inconvenience.

It is truly remarkable what the human mind can dream up in moments of complete idleness!
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Friday, 3 December 2010

Their Cup Runneth Over

TOKYO. President Putin on a tatami at the Kodo...
President Putin working out
We all knew that Australia's bid to host a future World Cup was doomed when they trotted out a severely plasticised Crocodile Dundee as part of their promotion. Most people could understand Elle McPherson's presence but a botoxed Paul Hogan was a step too far.

By comparison, the 'Alpha Male' remained in his Moscow lair, secure in the knowledge that Russia had its bid in the bag.

There was no need for Mr Putin to follow the steady stream of ex-Presidents, Prime Ministers and nuptial-contemplating Royals to FIFA's European headquarters.

Money talks when it comes to football's governing board and little else matters. Recent corruption allegations should have reinforced this understanding and people delude themselves if they think otherwise.

It is not just football; witness the recent debacle of the Commonwealth Games in India.

The reality of all of these global sporting events is that it is a select number of multi-nationals who make money out of them and these corporations and individuals are not really worried where an event is staged.

Sure, there is political kudos for those who win the right to stage a world sporting event but the real financial returns are few and far between, if at all.

It is highly debatable that the common man reaps any economic benefit at all from global events being staged in their country.

Usually there is a huge PR spin during the bidding process to sell the idea to the country and an equal amount of professional justification to cover up the real financial numbers at an event's conclusion.

Those countries such as China and Russia who can marshall the resources of a nation with little fear of a public backlash, will continue to stage "successful" sporting events.
Others should count themsleves lucky that, in these times of economic uncertainty, their bids for the FIFA world cup hosting were unsuccessful.

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Flabby Old Men?

The latest revelations from Wikileaks is very much in peoples minds and they are causing huge embarrassment for the States.

While MM is renown for his straight talking on any subject, I think he will be very displeased to see a private conversation about the North Korean leader being aired across the Net.
The Guardian has the full text of the communication posted on its web site.  If you read the memorandum in entirety it would seem to me to be a frank and fairly astute assessment of the political machinations of North Korea and the perspective of China.

"The next leader may not have the gumption or the bile of his father or grandfather. He may not be prepared to see people die like flies. China is calculating all this. They have their best men on the job. They want to help the United States to advance common objectives. But they do not want the South to take over the North, MM Lee said"

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Heat and Dust

Heat and Dust - Roger Smith  11/2010
Click on image to see larger photo
Yesterday I could hear the roar of a crowd echoing around our neighbourhood. This is a rare occurrence and I decided to investigate.

Three blocks away is a park and it transpired that two enthusiastic gridiron teams were slugging it out in the heat and dust.

Gridiron has a small following in New Zealand where the predominant codes are rugby and rugby league.  Most of the practicioners are Polynesians with a few displaced Yanks making up the team.

The ground is already rock hard as summer has come early to Auckland.and their protective gear was put to good use in every bone-crunching tackle.

The rules of the Amercian game remain a mystery to me, and to most of those on the sideline.
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Thursday, 25 November 2010

It Pays To Advertise

There is much debate in the Singapore media about the new design of the men's water polo team's swimming togs.

An unfortunate juxstapostion of the crescent moon and the bodily location has got the government agency in charge of communications buzzing:

The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (Mica), which governs the use of the national flag, revealed that the team did not seek its advice or approval for the design.

'We would have told them that their design is inappropriate as we want elements of the flag to be treated with dignity. This is because many Singaporeans recognise these elements as representing the Singapore flag,' said Ms Carol Tan, director of Mica's resilience and marketing division.

Manhood and virility were key elements of a popular water polo base drama that played on Singapore's television but real life emulating art is a step too far for some.

The designers who were meant to have the flag elements placed more to the side than full frontal clearly misundertstood their brief, or should that be briefs?
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Pike River Requiem

Its a cool, crisp dawn with a strong New Zealand sun emerging to dominate an intense blue sky.

And it's a dawn that will not be shared by twenty nine of my fellow countrymen.  They have been interred in a West Coast coal mine this past week, only to be confirmed as dead late yesterday when a second gas explosion ripped through the Pike River mine.

The West Coasters of this country are no strangers to such tragedies, and mining, upon which much of their economy relies, is centred on high quality, gaseous coal seams.  It's a lucrative but dangerous occupation.

While there have been some recriminations that the police were over cautious in not allowing a rescue operation early on, most would regard these statements as ill founded.

The advice of old miners is that the best time to effect a rescue is straight after a blast, as the gasses have been dispersed.

This could well be true, but testing of the gas content of the mine showed that the level remained extreme and the risks of a rescue were just too high.

Whatever the truth about the rescue approach the incident has reached a terrible conclusion.  New Zealand is a small country and we share the mining families grief.

Mention must be made of Peter Whittall, the CEO of the mine and an Australian who earned a very rare round of applause from the assembled media, at the end of a gruelling press conference in which he announced the second deadly explosion.

His face grew more noticeably haggard by the day and yet he never waivered from the job he had to do, communicating with the families and the media.  He has earned the enormous respect in this country.

The tragedy that has unfolded over the week has has etched itself into the psyche of New Zealanders and today flags will be flown at half mast throughout the nation.
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Monday, 22 November 2010

Nothing New Under The Sun

One of our local supermarkets has an irritating television advert playing at the moment.  It consists of people converting vegetables and then playing them in a poor rendition of a NZ classic pop song.

While boring at least the idea had a degree of novelty, or at least so I thought, until I discovered this CBS news item.

Vienna's Vegetable Orchestra plays concerts in all over the world and they even have their own website.  This is not a novelty act. They are committed to " the further exploration and refinement of performable vegetable music is a central part of the orchestra's aesthetic quest".

I never had aspirations to play the courgette.  Classical pianoforte training followed by a misspent youth playing in rock bands  was music enough for my ears.

The New Zealand advertisement and its orchestral clone can be seen in the clip below.

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