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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday Buzz!

I know many people feel the money spent on modern football is quite crazy.

Whether its television licenses, player wages, sports gambling, sponsorship, the figures are piling up.

Is it worth all that money?

I got my answer early this morning.

Liverpool Football Club played their hearts out against an out-of-sorts, recently unbeaten-in-49-games Arsenal. LFC was industrious, athletic and unyielding.

But by 90 minutes, it was a 1-1 draw.

Then, out of nowwhere, a young raw striker in the red of Liverpool, from 30 yards, unleashed an unstoppable shot in the 'back of the net'.

Just when all hope is gone, he took the game by the collar and won it with literally the last kick of the game (I apologise for all the cliches).

My poor mother was rudely awakened by my screams of joy.

At 2am, I had to calm myself to get to sleep.

The next morning, I was still feeling the effects of the game. I greeted many people with an authentic "Good Morning". Despite the lack of sleep, I was light on my feet, chirpy and full of life. It was such a fantastic day for me.

It's a crazy game - this football.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Pics from Shanghai (July)

View from Oriental Tower

Propserous Shanghai

A river runs through it

Oriental Pearl Tower

Jin Mao Tower - the 3rd tallest tower on Earth

When Doves Fly - At People's Square

A nice neighbourhood

Old Jazz Band at the Legendary Peace Hotel

Yu Yuan in Shanghai

By the Bund

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I Belong To a Museum

One of my friends told me some time ago that there's too much old time sentiment in my blog.

I guess my last post didn't help change that impression.

I can't help it.

I'm sucker for things the old-fashioned way.

Which brings us to a movie I watched recently on DVD - The Cooler.

In it, Alec Bladwin plays Shelly, who runs a casino the same way since he's taken over 16 years ago. Larry, the young upstart, wants to bring the casino into the new age, transforming it as a one-stop entertainment for the entire family.

Here's a scene:

But, the business has changed out
here. You just have to take a
look at the Strip to see what I' m
talking about.

You mean, that amusement park mook
fest out there? You know what
that is? That's a fucking
violation. Of something that used
to be beautiful. That used to
have class. Like a gorgeous high
priced hooker with an exclusive
clientele. And; then that Steve
Wynn cocksucker knocks her up and
puts her in a family way.

Nicky and Larry exchange looks. Marty drops his gaze into
his lap.

Now she's nothing but a cheap, fat
whore hiding behind too much makeup.
I look at her and see all
those ugly stretch marks and I
want to cry. 'Cause I remember
her as she was.

Yes, well... there's no denying
the bottom line. Those eyesores
are raking it in. And we can't
compete against that.

What? You think I'm trying to
compete with that? You think this
joint's about bringing in the
stroller crowd? Fresh off some
fucking E-ticket ride, looking to
break the house on red and black.
Fremont's never been about that
bullshit. This is where old time
and real money comes to play.

The numbers, they don't back you
up, Shelly. Nostalgia's grand.
We all love nostalgia — but it
belongs in a museum. I think it's
time to decide whether you're
running a museum or a casino.

The movie has some great dialogue and it's extremely well-written. Not to mention some fantastic acting from Alec Baldwin.

And William H Macy.

Most important of all, it's about how some things should never change.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Raffles Girls Don't Play Rubber

Maybe it's because I am a boy.

But I was surprised the other day that I found out my colleague, who went to Raffles Girls Primary, didn't know how to play "Rubber".

In fact, she didn't know what rubber was.

Well, for my more cosmopolitan friends, rubber is another word for eraser.

At least, that's what we used to call it in Monk's Hill Primary.

I happen to think "Rubber" is an amazing game. It is a very humble game. All you need is a rubber; small or big, used or brand new - it don't matter.

The rules are simple. Playing on a flat surface, with each person moving the rubber one at a time, usually with your thumb, all you need is to get your rubber over the opponent's. And winning means you get to keep the loser's rubber.

It's a great game to play to kill the time, even right under the teacher's nose. Rubbers belong on the table, unlike a stack of Snap cards or a Game and Watch game like Octopus. And it doesn't hurt if you like collecting rubbers, provided you're good at the game of course.

I used to remember those rubbers with flags of countries printed on them. It must be one of the first things I ever collected.

Damm. I should have stuck to those. Much much cheaper than anything else I have collected.

Anyway, I was surprised that Rafflesians didn't know the game. What do they do during recess, I wonder? Maybe they hang out in the library or discuss philosophy under a tree.

As for me, I remember my plate of mee rebus and a second helping of Mak Cik's extra gravy.

But then, I am a heartlander.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Seasons Change

"To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring." - George Santayana

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance." - Yoko Ono

I have a theory.

People accustomed to seasonal changes have an advantage over us one season folks.

We often complain about how boring life in Singapore can be.

I say blame it on the weather.

Its always the same here. Hot, hot, hot. Maybe some rain. Then the heat comes back.

The monotony of it all.

Our fortunate friends who live in more frivolous conditions enjoy so much more. A classic coronation chicken for the summer and a bowl of hot caramelised onion soup for the winter. There's the summer games and the winter sports. A cool cotton shirt in the summer and a wooly mitten for winter. The shedding of leaves and the shovelling of snow. A cool swim in the summer and a warm fire in the winter.

Seasons tell us there is a time for everything. Listen to the Byrds (they took this from the Bible) who sing:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

I sometimes feel that living in stuffy Singapore, I am slightly less aware of the passing of time, slightly less appreciative of Nature and enjoying slightly less variety in my humdrum existence.

I miss Shanghai.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Suzhou Pics

I can sit and talk the whole day here

Wangshi Yuan 1

Wangshi Yuan 2

Shizi Lin 1

Shizi Lin 2

Shizi Lin 3

Shizi Lin 4

Shizi Lin 5

Zhuozheng 1

Zhuozheng 2

Zhuozheng 3

Huqiu Shan 1

Boat ride at night 1

Boat ride at night 2

Friday, November 19, 2004

the simple shanghai life (fri)

"Paradise in Heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth." - Chinese saying

Suzhou is simply beautiful.

If you're used to city life, Shanghai isn't that great. It's a lot of buildings and a lot of people.

Like any other city.

But Suzhou is quite the opposite and a nice break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Suzhou is a 75 minute train ride away from the Shanghai Railway station. If you don't intend to stay overnight in Suzhou, start early in the day and you can spend an enjoyable day there. (The last train leaves from Suzhou to Shanghai at 1 am)

I reached Suzhou at about 10ish and was able to visit the following places:

Wangshi Yuan
Shizi Lin (built in 1342)
Zhuozheng Yuan (built in 1513, rebuilt in 1860)
Huqiu Shan

Basically, a lot of trees, flowers, lakes, Chinese furniture, pavillion, one leaning pagoda, some world class heritage sites endorsed by the UN.

And a lot of walking.

But in this weather, it is simply gorgeous.

I would have liked to sit around more and just enjoy the scenery. Still, I enjoyed it tremendously.

In the evening, I took a 70 minute boat ride from Renmin Qiao and took in the beautiful-litted river.

I would have loved to stay another day in Suzhou and visit Zhouzhuang, the little Venice.

But this gives me an excuse to return to this beautiful place.

Pictures in the next post.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

the simple shanghai life (thurs)

My bladder is incredible.

I must have peed about 200 times on Wednesday. The weather here in Shanghai is about 16 -10 degree celsius. And although I loved it, my bladder didn't.

At first.

But on Thursday, everything was back to normal. It adjusted to the weather and I was peeing normally (tall, proud and occasionally).

Damm straight.

I love cold weather. I was here in July where it was the hottest time of the year and I never did enjoy it then.

It's incredible what agreeable weather can do to a city.

Not to mention the people.

In my opinion, the jacket is the most wonderful clothing accesory in the world. It never made much sense to wear a jacket in humid Singapore. But here, at this time of the year, you see people in jackets, coats, windbreakers and all sorts of cool-looking drapery.

Everyone looks so cool here.

I love it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

the simple shanghai life (tues)

Come to Papa is banned in China.

Like cnn.com and news.bbc.co.uk

Nor can I post this blog the usual way. Thankfully, I have the option to email this entry and hopefully, this gets published.

Ok, it's not just my blog as I can't seem to access any blogs at blogspot.com

I'm staying at a second rate hotel that is far away from civilization. The people at front desk don't speak much English. (What's adaptor in Mandarin?) The television channels are all in Mandarin, and strangely enough, we have BBC but that has running Japanese commentary. The aircon is not cold but the weather outside is great.

Boy, I can't wait for more surprises tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2004

I'm off

It's a quiet week for me as I leave for Shanghai Tuesday. Due to the high season, I'll be staying in a hotel where I will not have any Internet access in my hotel room. So I don't expect any updates this week.

But I promise you some nice pics when I come back. I still have some photos from my previous trip.

Stay safe.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

HSBC Tree Top Walk

MacRitchie Reservoir

MacRitchie Reservoir




HSBC Tree Top Walk

HSBC Tree Top Walk

HSBC Tree Top Walk

HSBC Tree Top Walk

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It just works

Don't you love it when it just works?

Technology can be so frustrating.

But not today.

Let me share with you 2 things that work for me.

First, the Firefox browser.

"The open-source application already has a cult following (8 million downloads since mid-Sep), a major portion of which like it because viruses and worms aren't written for it in the same number that they are for Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Others like the Google search field that is built into the toolbar. Still others like the tabbed browsing that simplifies moving among different Web sites. "

The download was a mere 4.7 MB. The installation was flawless. It imported all the IE bookmarks without a hitch. More importantly, it also took all the cookies, recent accessed links and all other settings from IE. (My only problem was that I had to manually set the proxy but that wouldn't be a problem for all you proxyless people in the free world.)

Simply put, the Firefox browser allows a better, safer, more secure browsing experience. And it helps that migration is really easy.

Farewell, IE.

It was painful while it lasted.

Second, the Amazon Theater.

When was the last time you saw something you liked in a film or television program?

Chances are, it may not be of those painfully obvious product placements. It might just be an obscure watch the protagonist is wearing, an archaic bookshelf sitting in the corner of the room or a funky clock on the wall.

With Amazon Theater, you can now watch a short film on the Net, find the products that you have just seen as links, click on those that you like and purchase them.

All that without leaving the browser.

Ethical issue aside, I would imagine this would be useful for many of us.

Right now, the list of products is not as exhaustive as I like, but I'm sure it will evolve with time.

Technology can be frustrating.

But today, I have just shown you a way to shop and entertain yourself at the same time in a browser that is safe and efficient.

I humbly accept your gratitude.

But I'd rather have cash.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Bank Robbers

Someone tried robbing the bank today with a toy gun.

He was shot twice.

With a real one.

Did you know that bank robberies make great movies?

A little bit of film history. The first film to tell a fictional story was "The Great Train Robbery." (Previously, films document events, mainly involving french people, factories and train platforms)

Ok, maybe it isn't technically a bank robbery. But it involved money and robbers right?

Throughout film history, there have been many great films involving robberies. Here's a non-exhaustive list: Bonnie and Clyde, Bob Le Flambeur, Dillinger, Dog Day Afternoon, Killing Zoe, Heat, Honor Among Thieves, Out of Sight, Reservoir Dogs, Riffi, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Wild Bunch.

Even our very own Liang Po Po had a bank robbery scene.

But we were talking about great films.

Somehow, bank robbers make very fascinating characters, whether in reel life or real life. (If you have an opportunity, watch Dog Day Afternoon)

For me, it's their desperation that I identify with. I mean, you must be really up to your neck to want to rob a bank right? It's usually a gut-wrenching struggle with debts, family well-being, poverty, hunger or even a sex-change operation for your partner (just to clarify, this is not gut-wrenching for me but I always think about you, Faithful Reader).

And nobody usually gets hurt in a bank robbery if everybody co-operates. It isn't like other criminal activities such as rape or murder which set out to hurt and kill.

And of course, the most important reason - they rob banks.

Banks are evil things.

While I wish our Toy-Gun-Bank-Robber a speedy recovery, aspiring film-makers will do well to start digging in his background for a good story.

An idea for the quintessential Singapore film.

A honest story about a desperate man robbing a bank in a not so rosy land.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Cheng Tng Tree

The most common trees in Singapore are the rain tree (Samanea saman), the angsana (Pterocarpus indicus), the kayu manis hutan (Cinnamomum iners), the MacArthur's Palm (Ptychosperma macarthuri), the Khaya senegalensis, the jambu ayer laut (Eugenia grandis), the acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) and the Paraserianthes falcataria (Albizia falcataria).

But I'm sure you know that already.

Me? I was totally clueless and had to dig it out.

I'm preparing for a little excursion this Thursday, thanks to Naggy Ng's wonderful idea.

"The HSBC TreeTop Walk is the highlight of an 11 km-hiking route in MacRitchie that brings you through different stages of mature secondary forest. The first of its kind in Singapore and in the region, this free-standing suspension bridge connects the two highest points (Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang) in MacRitchie and offers a bird’s eye view of the community of plants and animals that live in the forest canopy."

A preliminary survey on the HSBC TTW has identified the following flora and fauna:

  • 80 birds including 16 forest specialists. Some of these forest birds include the Drongo Cuckoo, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Thick-Billed Green-Pigeon, Asian Fairy Bluebird and the Green Leafbirds.
  • 8 reptiles including the Black-bearded Dragon and the Clouded Monitor that sleeps on the Terentang tree at night
  • 18 rare trees and climbers including the Cheng Tng Tree (Scaphium macropodum) and Cyathocalyx ridleyi. "

I didn't know there was such a thing as a Cheng Tng (a local desert here) Tree.


Here's a useful link to find out more about the diversity of trees /plants we have in Singapore.

And here's another great website.

I'm looking forward to my little walk on Thursday. And I'll promise you pictures.

Just don't put too much hope on the captions though.

Friday, November 05, 2004

the simple indian life (fri)

Mumbai is a city of opposites.

For a city of great beauty, there is appalling pollution.

For all the glamour and sophistication of the Bollywood and the business community, there is the omnipresent commonwealth of the poor, hungry and homeless.

For a city of such illustrious heritage, there are indisputable signs of its progress.

I did not have much opportunity to walk around the city.

But when I did, I liked what I saw.

Particularly, the European-Indian architecture of its public buildings.

Call me old-fashioned and archaic. But I like my public buildings grand, primeval and with strong links to the past.

I don't know whether you have seen the design of the new Supreme Court in Singapore, designed by Sir Norman Foster. I think someone sums it best by saying, "Who put the UFO there?"

I know most of us will not have a personal use of the Supreme Court. But imagine that one day, you are accused of a crime you did not commit. And the nation's highest court is your last remaining hope. At a time when you're desperate for justice, for decency, for respect, how would you feel standing before this extra-terrestrial, wok-like building?

I think I rather stay in my cell, write my farewell letters, have a superb last supper and say to the Man in the Sky:

Beam me up, Scotty.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

the simple indian life (thurs)

Victoria Terminal

Religious Procession at Malabar Hill

Roadside Store at Colaba

Road leading to Malabar Hill

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

the simple indian life (wed)

Coffee Shop at Colaba

2 Girls at Gateway of India

Boy at Gateway of India

Mumbai Beach, Morning

the simple indian life (tues)

Help me out here.

Elizabeth Hurley is staying in the same hotel as I am.

Apparently, she's getting married in India.

I'm just dying to meet her.

She's simply gorgeous. And I love that accent.

Every time I'm taking the lift, I'm just hoping that the door will open to have her standing in front of me.

So I'm thinking: What do you say to the most beautiful woman in the world?

I don't want to say like How are you or How's your day. You don't say that to beautiful women right?

If I tell her she's beautiful, it's just gonna come out cheesy man. It never worked for me in the past.

You know what, if you don't come out something for me, I think the best option is to speak Cantonese when I see her.

She won't know a word I'm saying. She'll just think that I'm exotic, cute and funny. She'll probably just greet me a bit but that won't work cos she thinks I don't understand English.

So, just to overcome that language barrier, she'll probably reach out and kiss me.

And maybe give me her room number.

A man can dream.

Monday, November 01, 2004

the simple indian life (mon)

Sorry for the lack of updates. But been quite busy.

Passed by Regal Cinema, a famous landmark in Bombay. It was showing Basic Instinct and Fahrenheit 9/11.

What an interesting combination.

Personally, I think both films are showing too much bush.

I dined with Bollywood last night.

And it was none other than Mrs Jaya Bachchan, herself an actress but also known as the wife of Amitabh Bachchan, the God of Indian cinema.

Unfortunately, she was at the next table.

We were at Indigo in Bombay, voted one of the best 60 restaurants in the world.

And deservedly so, because the food was truly amazing.

Over in the adjoining room, there were flashbulbs going off every couple of seconds and ENG cameramen furiously shooting away.

That was some serious flesh parade.

Apparently, I got some of the action too when someone aimed the camera right at me.

Obviously, they cannot resist my charming good looks and beautiful skin.

Bollywood, here I come.

the simple indian life (sun)

Blame it on Indira Gandhi.

That’s the message I got after reading today’s Sunday Times article.

On the plane to India.

According to the writer, it was Gandhi’s dishonest dealings that “stymied a huge country of great human capital and vast natural resources from becoming a genuine economic superpower.”

Gandhi’s corrupt ways started a cycle in which:

“every official - from the lowliest of peons to Cabinet ministers - began demanding their share. To submit a file to a ministry in order to set up, say, a shoe factory, you had to give baksheesh to the peon so that he could relay it to the clerk who registered that file. The clerk had to be paid to move the file to his supervisor and so on”

I will not comment on this until I do more research but here’s something interesting.

After I touched down, we went to rent some camera and lights. And so we found this guy who had a camera available for rental.

But he doesn’t have a tripod.

Apparently, he’s got to get it from his brother.

And he doesn’t have a lighting kit, so we went somewhere to see some friends of his.

We liked what we saw but he couldn’t get us the price because those friends of his needed to check with their brother.

Or brothers.

I heard another story of a cameraman who wanted to rent a light in India. But the guy who owned the light didn’t have the barndoor that usually comes with it.

Guess what?

He had to get the barndoor from his brother.

And that’s not the punch line.

The barndoor didn’t even fit the light.

(If you don’t know how this is like, imagine this. You want to rent a computer. The guy who owns the CPU needs to get the monitor from a brother. The mouse from another brother. And the keyboard from another brother. And to top it off, the mouse is the wrong sort that doesn’t connect to this CPU)

How all this relates to the Sunday Times article, I don’t know.

I just know that the sisters here are missing all the action.