Monday, 27 December 2010

Gone Fishing

Blue Kelong.Image by Reggie Wan via FlickrWe braved the Boxing Days sales yesterday in our local town centre. For once they reminded me of the till queues experienced in the good old days of the Robinsons Sale; a Singapore institution.

The origins of 'Boxing Day' are believed to come from the practice of the British rich distributing their largesse to the luckless poor, thereby accentuating still further the class divisions of the times.

In large households the servants were expected to work on Xmas Day and were compensated by being allowed to take the next day off.  Their masters gave them a box and based on their performance over the year, varying sums of money which were placed inside the box.

Am I alone in spotting the similarity of this Victorian custom with the annual performance bonus which features so largely in Singaporean working lives?

This year we have had the "Boxing Day" sales a week or two before the actual day as the New Zealand retailers desperately canvas for customers.

Unlike Singapore which has recorded respectable economic growth despite the recession, New Zealand has very narrowly avoided a 'double-dip recession', a term which may sound like a chocolate dipped NZ icecream but is in reality far less palatable.

The Singapore government's tight stewardship during the economic turbulence is to be commended and the results are for all to see.

As a trading nation far for its markets and with a strong dollar against our major trading partners, New Zealand has some major economic challenges.  This has not be helped by the past excesses of the welfare state.

Despite the gloom and doom, sport remains high on the list of leisure pursuits in this country and with the traditional summer holidays upon us, many New Zealanders head to the beach.

Fishing is a very popular activity with local television channels featuring fishing shows and the customers purchasing cut-price rods and reels in the Boxing Day sales.

I have very fond memories of this sport with fly fishing for trout as well as rod fishing off the rocks for a catch from the sea featuring in my past.  I have done neither in recent years but the thrill of the catch is still a fond memory.

Source: Straits Times
In Singapore the fishing experience is somewhat different and I must discount fishing for one's supper at a local prawn farm.

Travelling to a raised platform called a kelong is a preferred method and nowadays with few of the Singapore kelongs remaining, Singaporeans go across to Malaysia for their sport.

Boxing Day was not a good day for Singaporean fishermen with the news that three of them drowned and another two were missing returning by ferry from a kelong in Pulau Sibu, off Mersing.

As per usual, the problem was a grossly overloaded ferry which capsized in strong winds and a treacherous current near the Tanjung Leman jetty.

Ferry capsizes in South East Asia happen with monotonous regularity, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia were maritime rules are flouted in a grab for more profit.

Malaysian incidents are fewer but do occur and arresting the captain and boat operator post-event is not going to curb such negligence.


Is prawning fishing?


Meanwhile back on land, hedonistic spending ensures that the mall tills continue to jingle a happy tune.

Crowds are returning to the Singapore malls with Vivo City recording a million more visitors compared to the same period last year and their security staff remain vigilant for any kind of misdemeanor.

According to the Straits Times, pickpockets, shoplifters and even molesters enjoy the festive season. Here in Auckland the 'molesters' usually make the malls off limits but shoplifting has always been a problem.

Both countries though enjoy a good deal and in Singapore the newly Groupon-acquired site Deal.com crashed under the weight of bargain hunters.

Even then, the online option is probably safer than venturing out?

Boxing Day in our southern city of Christchurch was an eventful one with a series of earthquake after-shocks rattling customers and the shelves that were groaning under the weight of bargains.
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Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Joys Of Flying

This new BBC Comedy series "Come Fly With Me" looks a lot of fun.





And don't forget to try out the "Online Check In" with Melody and take a visit to the Passengers Lounge.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

PC Xmas Wishes

I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to my colleagues, but it is difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday, and on his advice I wish to say the following:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress , non addictive, gender neutral celebration of the summer solstice holiday practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious / secular persuasions and / or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great ( not to imply that New Zealand is necessarily greater than any other country ) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wisher.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her / him or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.


Best Regards ( without prejudice )


Name withheld ( Privacy Act )

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Today's Print

Condo - Roger Smith 2010
The view from our outside balcony in Queen's Condo, Singapore with its stark structural elements.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Photo: Eustaquio Santimano
When I think of Christmas I think of the lights of Orchard Road as they used to be ten or twenty years ago.  In recent years the lighting has been a 'shadow' of what it used to be.

The impact of satellite malls has made themselves felt.  This year will be the first time in five years that I will not be experiencing a Singapore Xmas.  Even a watered down version of Orchard Road lighting is better than the limp affair in New Zealand cities.

This wasn't always the case but as the spirit of the festive season has been steadily eroded by commercial greed and avarice, the little personal touches have been lost.

At least in Singapore the shops stay open on Christmas Day. In Auckland as happens elsewhere in New Zealand, everything comes to a grinding halt.  This enforced break used to last for up to three days but thankfully now the supermarkets reopen on Boxing Day and the Boxing Day sales in the Antipodes remain a feature.

If we are into commercialism at Xmas let's go the whole way!

We have had two weeks of steady rain which has broken the back of the drought we were experiencing earlier in the month.  While in Singapore the weather is cooler and wetter, here the weather is warmer and should be drier from December to February.

Our news is full of Kiwis stranded at Heathrow airport in the UK who will not be making it back to Godzone for the Xmas reunion with family. 

According to a BBC report, Heathrow can only afford one runway sweeping machine to clear the snow and ice, so departure delays are expected to continue for some time.

Having experienced the diabolical atmosphere and attitude of Heathrow on more than one occasion I am not surprised by this news.  Such unpreparedness would simply not be tolerated at Changi.

Perhaps the Brits could try amusing passengers stranded in the terminals by adopting the Bangladeshi approach to entertainment?

Dhaka's Shahjalal International inadvertently screened a pornographic film for a full five minutes before anyone realised what was happening. The presentation replaced their usual recorded documentaries about the culture and geography.

Things like Heathrow's service levels may never change but other things can change a lot.

Take the recent activity in my Singapore 'home town' district of Queenstown, an older estate in the Republic.  Apparently the locals have taken to divesting themselves of their garments if this report is to be believed.

The heat at the bus stops used to get to me, but I was never tempted to strip.  Apparently the gentleman concerned couldn't understand why he was not getting "fries with everything" when he divested himself of his gear at McDonalds.

Try doing that in the UK at the moment!
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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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