Farewell, JBJ

JBJ outside City Hall MRT
Taken by elsija

I woke up to an SMS from my dad telling me JBJ had passed away. He was 82.

I didn't follow his political career that closely, but I remember he made Parliament sessions in the mid-1980s more lively, more alive (not that I understood the issues, at that time). What I didn't know was that he'd been running in elections since 1972, getting a larger and larger share of the votes in different constituencies each time, until his 1981 by-election win in Anson.

You can't find Anson constituency today. It's been eaten up by one of the Group Representative Constituencies. (Tanjong Pagar, I believe? But I might be wrong about that.)

The newspapers will undoubtedly recount the details of Jeyaretnam's bankruptcies and legal face-offs with various senior PAP politicians. I prefer to remember his fire and verve in Parliament, and his tireless attempts to reach out to Singaporeans outside City Hall MRT station.

JBJ passed away today, and Singapore is the poorer for it.


Tying up loose ends

The funniest thing I overheard last week was the following exchange between two secondary-school-aged boys on the bus:
Boy 1:... so you know that Mamma Mia ---
Boy 2: "Not the movie, lah, the songs. They've been around a long time --- like, since the late '80s.
The most random thing today was learning via SMS that my mother was in Chinatown at the same time I was, so I called her and we met at the bus stop outside Chinatown Point. This kind of serendipitous technology-assisted encounter happens with friends all the time, but it's the first time it's happened with a parent.

The strangest feeling this past week is saying goodbye to family and friends and knowing I won't see them again for about two months --- which isn't a long time, but isn't a short one, either. I feel like the farewells ought to be either more protracted or more casual, not farewells at all. And I find myself neither sad nor un-sad.


Formula One, schmormula one

While I was waiting for my hair to dry so that I can go to sleep, I came across this zinger of a response by Ovidia Yu to today's Straits Times article "Pride in F1 race missing". I didn't read the original article and there isn't a registration-free online version, but I'm guessing the news editor who wrote it feels that the ordinary Singaporean just doesn't give enough of a damn that the world's! first! Formula One night race! is being hosted here this weekend.

Yu had me with her first two paragraphs:
People I meet in & out of the city are polite to show ‘disinterest’ in the upcoming F1. In less guarded/more candid moments the response is more likely disgust/disapproval/ridicule.

Plus I doubt the F1 ‘fever’ you feel in town is for the F1–most people are more interested in working out road closure times & boundaries.
Amen, sister! Read her full letter, "F1 Singapore".

The taxi driver I was chatting with yesterday summed up the situation thus (in Mandarin): "All this Formula One, the government organises it to make the big companies, the government make money. What difference does it make to the rest of us?"


My fridge smells faintly of durian

Durian delights

I haven't had any durian this season, so I treated myself to the next best thing today: durian puffs from Puteri Mas. The treat was for finishing all my Singapore-based work ahead of time, thereby giving myself one entire week to do last-minute prep and research for my trip. This includes:
  • Finalising my air ticket back to Singapore.
  • Buying a poncho or three.
  • Changing money.
  • Getting my second hepatitis jab.
  • Getting a haircut.
  • Buying Apple Care.
  • Seeing family and friends.
  • Backing up the laptop.
  • Packing and making sure I can heave the backpack around.
  • Avoiding the downtown area where the first! ever! Formula One night race! is majorly fucking up traffic.
I'm sure there's other things I've forgotten.

In other news, my landlord is selling the place where I live, so I have to wait and see if the buyer wants to let me renew the lease. Failing which, it's back to the classifieds after I get back from Vietnam.

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An unexpected soundtrack

In shuffle mode, my iPod went from "Angel" by Massive Attack, to The UnXpected's cover of "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan. I half-expected it to segue to the opening theme for the Angel TV show next.

Formula 1, Singapore-style

Downtown Singapore is being transformed into a playground for really fast cars. Good thing I'm running all my weekend town errands tomorrow instead of next week.


Google, I am not a bot!

Every time I use the "define:" operator in a Google search, it thinks I'm sending automated queries and makes me type in a CAPTCHA to prove that I'm human.

Maybe I use "define:" too often.

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So ...

I would post a picture here, but my camera is in the shop. (LCD screen leakage, not covered by warranty, even though I only bought the camera in June and I most certainly did not drop it or sit on it. Yes, I'm seriously annoyed.)

I would write a witty and entertaining post here, but for the past week or so, I feel inordinately tired even after averaging seven hours of sleep a night.

I would post some links here, but, er, I haven't read anything that linktastic recently.

Er ... goodnight.


Gearing up

Get thee hence, paparazzo!

Today was shopping day: sandals, compass, baby Maglite, travel pouch and padlock --- all for the upcoming trip. Wandering around Beach Road Market was never so much fun.

I also have new sunglasses, which may not sound like much of an achievement in itself, but the proportions of my face are just so, that most sunglasses look either ridiculously oversized or incredibly ho-hum on my face. Finding one pair that works is cause for pure jubilation.

The only thing I didn't get were mooncakes. Despite intense champagne truffle mooncake cravings yesterday (which had me messaging any friend whom I thought might be in the vicinity of Raffles Hotel to snag me a box), I didn't make it down there myself today to get any. Maybe that's why tonight doesn't feel very much like the Mid-Autumn Festival, even though I was sitting out under the moon over a late dinner a couple of hours ago.

Related posts: New glasses, A kick in the butt, I got my shots, Like a lost backpacker, It was supposed to be a mooncake party, An embarrassment of mooncakes, Happy mooncake season!


Random observations about food from the last few weeks

Having a flimsy memory is not remembering to drink the milk in the fridge unless I set a daily email reminder for it.

Sometimes I buy food from unlicensed street vendors, just because.

I have 40 39 pieces of vadai in my kitchen, fresh from Gordon's Katong Vadai, for tonight's party. Woot!

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Do not make me uglify my blog

The National Heritage Board (full disclosure: I work for them from time to time) is having a "heritage star blogging competition", which asks people to write about a heritage-related topic or a museum visit. Aside from the cringe-worthy name of the competition, or the fact that it is a blogging competition at all, I'll allow that it's well and good to get people interested in writing meaningfully about their history or sense of identity. I even thought of taking part for the hell of it, seeing as I regularly write about museums or being Singaporean anyway.

Until I got to the part where I read that to qualify for the competition, one has to insert the "Brag Badge" on one's blog.

The term "Brag Badge" instantly set off alarm bells in my head (it sounds like something out of a Bratz product line), but even it hadn't, I took one look at the badges and decided that this was a deal-breaker.

Heritage starbloggers Brag Badges

Forget it. No way was I sticking anything that ugly on my blog, just to enter a competition. (Yes, I did it here to illustrate its ugliness, but the above is a screencap from the competition website and doesn't link back to the competition.)

I understand that they need a way to track competition entries. I understand that they're trying to stamp some kind of "branding" on this activity. But the "brand" of my blog is going to last a whole lot longer than any government campaign, and I don't need to clutter it up with other people's short-lived campaign artwork (particularly when that artwork conflates "star" and "blogger" as one word, ugh). Wouldn't a simple text link do the job as well?

Corporate attempts in Singapore to target (or should I say co-opt?) bloggers have been going awry lately (see what Vanessa Tan and my brother have to say). When are PR types going to figure out that not meaningful new media publicity does not come from, in the words of Cowboy Caleb, those who "[v]alue attending blog meetups, blog events, blog outings, blog sex orgies even MORE than actual blogging anything unique and interesting that you came up with yourself"?

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New glasses

New glasses

I bought a new pair of glasses for the trip --- y'know, glasses I can actually appear in publicly, without feeling like I look like a total dork. I haven't really had a pair of glasses that wasn't for wear-at-home use in quite a few years.

Fortunately, Little Miss Drinkalot was on hand last week to play fashion consultant, as I tried something like 40 different pairs of spectacle frames. The shop assistant serving me got bonus points for her everlasting patience and energy, as she whipped out pair after pair for my evaluation.

I was tempted to get a pair of red-framed glasses too, but they were $300 for the frame alone. Crazy lah!

The other good news is that my prescription has gone down by 50 degrees for both eyes. Hurrah!

Related posts: A kick in the butt, I got my shots, Like a lost backpacker


The problem(s) with Palin

So I got up this morning, thinking I was going to get some work done (much to do before I go off to Vietnam) --- but then I made the mistake of reading the local news. I still hardly ever read The Straits Times, but I occasionally dip into Today to see if I'm missing any kind of critical Singapore news.

As it turns out, had I not read today's Today, I would've missed the very critical Singapore news that, in contextualising Sarah Palin's Republican candidacy for US Vice President:
Well. Nothing like news first thing in the morning to make me angry.

Okay, first of all, I'll give the writers some benefit of the doubt, in that perhaps their essays have gone through the usual newspaper editorial process and may not represent their complete views on Palin and "women's roles". In particular, I've read some of Singam's other more writing, which is typically more progressive, so this one seems uncharacteristic. But unless either writer offers a clarification of her position and/or posts an unexpurgated piece for the world to read, I'm going to have to take these published versions at face value.

And that face value is a very disappointing one indeed. Here you have opinion pieces by two representatives of modern Singapore women (Rajaram is the deputy editorial director for news, radio and print at MediaCorp, which publishes Today, even though it wasn't footnoted in her essay), and neither one takes Palin to task for all the very substantive reasons her policy positions are a problem for women, regardless of Palin's gender, and why her being a woman per se is no reason to support her.

Sure, Singam mentions in passing at the beginning (right before the gushing about how charismatic Palin takes over), "I am not sure if I want a superwoman and a conservative like Mrs Palin to make public policy decisions that affect my life." But then there's no elaboration. At the end of her essay she concludes, "women are still not powerful enough to change the value system that currently expects women to be superwomen and excludes men and women from achieving work-life balance." Amen, sister! But why wasn't this the primary argument of the essay, as opposed to the aforementioned gushing?

And if Singam's going to quote Gloria Steinem saying that the Republican Party is "trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice-president", why not go the whole hog and point to Steinem's critique of Palin's policy positions in that same opinion piece ("Palin: wrong woman, wrong message", published in the LA Times)? Specifically, Steinem writes:
Palin's value to those [right-wing Republican] patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation ... [emphasis mine]
Rajaram, while you're busy saying you "respect the fact that [Palin's] decision [to support her pregnant daughter in keeping the baby] is based on her own values", you might want to note that Palin is keen on imposing those same values on the rest of America (and possibly the world, if Dubya's record with abstinence-only Aids aid to Africa is anything to go by). Which means that women and families wouldn't actually get to make their own decisions based on their own values anymore.

I think what annoyed me the most about the two Today essays was how much the underlying message was: "Palin's a woman, ergo we identify with and support her." Behold the gushing:
  • Rajaram: "Mrs Palin, 44, is one of us — a wife, a mother (to a brood of five, at that!) and a career woman all in one. All of us 40-something baby-boomer women can identify and bond with her."
  • Rajaram: "Three days after the baby was born, she was back at work. All mothers know how difficult that must have been ..."
  • Singam: "The combination of these qualities makes her attractive to both men and women."
  • Singam: "Women, can relate to her — a woman who has succeeded as a wife, mother and a public figure and who had to face the challenges of bringing up a child with Down’s Syndrome and face the problem of teenage pregnancy. Which family hasn’t had its problems?"
Okay, look: One does not support a person, political candidate or otherwise, only because of their gender (or age group, for that matter). Because then boys would only vote for boys, and girls for girls, and ... I mean, do I really need to explain this?

And if you are going to, in Rajaram's words, "identify and bond with her", how about examining the whole Palin package first? For a start, see the Steinem excerpt above (or the full article, while you're at it), or Slate's Sarah Palin FAQ. Instead, Rajaram's love-fest highlights the fact "before she was Alaska’s governor, she was the mayor of her hometown, Wassila [sic]". That would be the Wasila with a population of 5,400-9,000 people (depending on who you ask), i.e. the town had about as many people as 3-6 Singapore secondary schools? Singapore doesn't even have a constituency that small.

This, you know, is the evil genius of the Republican Party in the US: that in putting up Palin as their vice-presidential candidate, they have unleashed --- even in faraway Singapore --- a discussion of "women's roles" that demeans the very subject. Singam notes:
[Palin] symbolises family values dear to the aspirations of conservatives everywhere. Singapore policymakers would love her. Can they get Singapore women to have as many children and be active in the workforce?
Unfortunately, she only briefly critiques that Singapore position, pointing out that "[h]owever successful [Palin] is, she still goes home to her responsibility as daughter, mother and wife" while men are not subject to similar expectations of being son-father-husband. Meanwhile, the concluding paragraphs of Rajaram's essay happily flogs that conservative Singapore position:
... She is a small-town girl, who has worked hard to get where she is today.

Whether she gets voted in or not, Mrs Palin's small town values of family, fidelity, honour and responsibility will certainly hold her in good stead.

At the end of the day that's the backbone of what makes a good man ... or a good woman ... a great leader. [emphasis mine and what is up with those misplaced ellipses?]
Ah, conservatives and their "small-town values" (read: Asian values?). Because everyone in the big city doesn't give a damn about "family, fidelity, honour and responsibility" (just like anyone with those damn "Western values"). Thank you for buying into the culture wars, both the American and Singaporean versions. Thank you for so elegantly reframing the discussion of women's issues. NOT.

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I am as old as ...

The cable car service that runs between Singapore and Sentosa.

Okay, I'm actually a month or so younger than the cable car service. But it's a pretty random local landmark to be "as old as".

Ah, the things you learn while doing research ... Now I wonder what other Singapore landmarks I'm "as old as".

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A kick in the butt

That's what I need sometimes. Fortunately, today Deanna was available to provide it, which is why I have finally booked my air ticket to Vietnam. For those of you who have been asking when I'll be away, I now have a clearer answer than "early October" for you: specifically, from Thursday, October 2.

When I will return is still up in the air, but likely mid-/late November. I will book my air ticket this week, though, because Tiger Airways is having a fare sale and I was an idiot not to book my departure flight earlier when it would have saved me some money.

If anyone has any interesting tales to offer about north-central or central Vietnam --- anything from Ninh Binh down to Hue, Hoi An and Danang, then south through the highlands where Buon Ma Thuot and Dalat are --- let me know.

Related posts: I got my shots, Like a lost backpacker