31 May 2007

East Coast Park On Vesak Day

My family spent Vesak Day at East Coast Park. I hurt my left ankle badly last October. Although my ankle never felt as good as it was before, it had recovered well enough for me to skate again.

So while my wife and the boys cycled, I skated along.

We passed by Big Splash which looked more like Big Smash now.

We stopped by at Ski 360. The skiers seemed to be getting younger nowadays. We thought that this kid of no more than 10 years' old skied very well:

Until we saw another kid of about the same age skiing without a rope!

Actually, she was about to end her skiing session and had just let go of the rope. Haha, did I manage to trick you there for a moment?

To my colleagues MGC and THY - if 10-year-olds can ski like that, what are the 2 of you waiting for, huh? Come on, take up the challenge man! Relax okay? I am not asking the 2 of you to ski like this:

We moved on to the food centre where we saw some beautiful bicycles:

This one was obviously owned by someone with a great sense of humour:

Then we were entertained by a busker, Ms Low Geok Lan 49, who played a harmonica. She was a former taxi driver.

She also showed us what must be the world's smallest working harmonica:

She not only played the harmonica very well, she had also written a Chinese book titled "Why I Never Regret That I Am Not Beautiful".

Someone even produced a DVD of her teaching her students how to play the harmonica:

I proceeded towards Bedok Jetty while my family stayed around castle area. It was quite crowded at the jetty:

There I saw a lighted kerosene lamp which I had not seen for a while:

The owner would probably be hanging it just above the sea surface at jetty later. Can you guess why?

26 May 2007

A Slice Of Life - Eulogy (Death Of A Friend)

Last week, I bought a CD which was produced and presented by Mr Eugene Loh, Senior Producer/Presenter and Music Director of 938Live Station of MediaCorp Radio (S) Pte Ltd. It was titled "A Slice Of Life - Vol. 1".

Eugene has a very calming, soothing and therapeutic voice. His stories are still being broadcast 3 times a day, I think. I usually listen to the 7.55 am broadcast while driving to work. For the CD, I find Track No. 19 particularly meaningful. It is called "Eulogy (Death Of A Friend)" and below is its transcription:

A friend of mine passed away recently. And once again, I am reminded of the fragility of life. Somehow we don't think that the people around us - our colleagues, our family members, our friends - can actually die. Sure we all know that death is very much a part of life. But it's only when misfortune strikes that we are violently jolted out of our comfort zone, where we were nestling comfortably, thinking that we will all live to a ripe old age. But our lives can indeed be taken from us at any time regardless of how young or healthy we are. And the point is not to huddle in a dark corner fearing it but to make full use of every opportunity to love and appreciate the people around us. So that when they do pass on, we can be comforted by the fact that we have given all the love we had to give. And that the time has come now for someone else to hold the hands of the ones we have lost.

Funny how a heart beats
It finds its own rhythm

Amidst the cacophony of life
We're raised

Then suddenly take a fall
In a moment we're as dizzy

As the tight-rope artiste
Suddenly without a parasol

Paths cross haphazardly
And no one sees beyond the bend

We always choose to make our enemies
But we never choose to make our friends

Our plans were never grand
The visions we pursued were never really realised

We never packed the house
And the house has mostly sent us packing

But while the music played
The world became small and simple

And our hearts were dancing
So this is where you have gone and this is where you will wait

With the ones who left early
For the ones who will arrive late

We all have tickets for the same destination
Just different dates

Thanks for the ride my friend
Now we must ride on our own

There are many things I can't be certain of
But I'm sure you're not alone

In our darkest hours
You'll be in our hearts

Music brought us together
And through it, our souls will never part

22 May 2007

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

Life could be so unpredictable
Events could make unexpected turns
One moment it was a walk in the park
Next you could be pinned under a tree

You could be playing football
When a bolt came out of the blue
The blue blue sky that is
You died playing your favorite sport

You could be waiting for a bus
Along came a less than sober driver
Made a stop before your bus did
But not before ploughing you down

You cycled the same path
At the break of each dawn
A barrier was erected overnight
Paralysed by it was the least you expected

A minor accident occurred
Whose fault was it anyway?
Did that really matter?
Was it actually worth dying for?

So you broke up with your sweetheart
Whatever the reason given
Why throw away your future and double-degree?
Worse still, put her life in real danger?

He called off a relationship
Maybe it was lust and not love?
Was that so hard to accept?
That you had to throw his little child down?

Yes you might have been tormented
And you could have suffered discrimination
By hedonists or charlatans, who cares?
You've no bloody right to take innocent lives

He might have cheated you of money
Couldn't make a report as the money was dirty
Did that mean that you could gun him down
And then claim that you've had one too many?

You were deep in debt even before IRs were mooted
All because of a gambling addiction
Couldn't be repaid with a meagre salary
But was snuffing out your whole family a solution?

Work stress might be getting to you
Asked for a transfer but got rejected
Were you proving a point by jumping down
Leaving your poor wife to suffer after you?

Happy family you didn't treasure
China woman you went after
Even if a suicide pact failed
Did you have to chop her into 7 pieces?

Why do some babies die
Before they've a chance to live?
Why do some children have fatal diseases?
While others simply die in their sleep?

For some who could live
Everyday is a new challenge
Is that supposed to make them stronger
Or a test of love for their care-givers?

Does everything happen for a reason?
Must events follow a season?
So many questions, so few answers
Especially for us mere mortals

Sometimes it's hard to understand
Are things really in God's hands?
Why does He make it so difficult sometimes?
Could He be putting us through a trial?

Big Fool Lee

I have blogged about Rediffusion and Lei Dai Soh last year. Hence I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Toy Factory will be staging a play about this legendary storyteller from 2 - 12 Aug 2007. The play is called "Big Fool Lee" (not to be mistaken for "Big Foolie"). This is certainly a show for all sentimental fools. (I'd be a real big fool if I named them here.) Like them, I would very much like to catch the show, if not for the prohibitive ticket prices, that is - they range from $27 - $58.

Anyone willing to sponsor me? How about giving me 4 free tickets, Toy Factory? After all, I am marketing the show for you FOC on my blog, you know?

More details about the show are available here. The text below is extracted from the link:

He built a stage 'on air'.
He used his voice as strength.
He captured the hearts of many with ethnic stories.
He lit up the lights of knowledge.
He was a true culture not only to Singaporeans but also beyond.
He is Big Fool Lee!

Big Fool Lee is about a legendary storyteller, Lei Dai Soh who left an impact on many generations in Singapore with his exceptional charisma. Let Toy Factory take you through an enchanting journey of Lei Dai Soh, from his days of fame to the day he sadly retired from radio.

Lei Dai Soh, an icon whom many might have heard but not know of, had gone through major setbacks in life. He suffered from depression after losing his brother to World War II but he picked himself up and continued to glow in his story-telling career. He mesmerised his listeners with his magnetic voice. He triggered the imagination of many with his unique ability in narrating numerous legends and tales. He later married his wife who was diagnosed with mental illness. He then struggled in a battle with the Speak Mandarin Campaign and was eventually phased out by the introduction of television. This extraordinary man held on to his passion for arts till the day he died. Lei Dai Soh is certainly an honorable icon for his passion, love and respect for arts, life and charity.

Through the eyes of Toy Factory’s production team, learn how we tide the different waves to bring the story of Lei Dai Soh on stage. Travel with us, from this modern society into the 1940s to 1980s, with costumes, sets, lightings and of course, one of the most important elements of a play, music. You will not only be humming along the familiar tunes blending in comfortably with the performance but also be pleasantly surprised by our original music. We deliver what was only audible and imagined to a whole new dimension.

A clash between modern and culture. Toy Factory presents to you the most delicate yet delicious slice of Singaporean history in our very own special ways. Big Fool Lee genuinely pushes you to question your negligence and disregard for life and culture.



18 May 2007

International Museum Day 2007

National Heritage Board (NHB) is launching International Museum Day 2007 (IMD'07) today, 18 May 2007. IMD'07 promises more than 80 activities and events spread over 24 museums over 10 days. Unlike other commercial events, most of the activities are FREE or at very low cost. The idea is to make heritage and culture more accessible to everybody, especially the heartlanders and the masses.

There will be lots of fun things to see and do at IMD'07. You can hop on free museum bus tours, wiggle to exotic middle eastern dances, form a group to participate in the Heritage C-Race, dine with your favourite toys plus of course the ever popular MIA Night Tour. Those who are into art collecting and trading can find out all about the art markets in Singapore and Southeast Asia. There is something for foodies too, with the Eastern Surprise Food Trail which combines culture with cuisine!

More details are in the official IMD'07 website here.

So if you are in Singapore or happen to be just passing by, do lend them your support.

15 May 2007

Minding Your P's and Q's

Traditionally, a lot of businesses and organisations are named just by their initials. Examples are:

SPH (Singapore Press Holdings);
NTUC (National Trade Union Congress); and
NHB (National Heritage Board).

Nowadays, it is increasingly common to find shopping centres, food and beverage outlets, and even cars named by letters of the alphabet, in particular, P's and Q's:

PP (Parkway Parade)

QQ car

QQ rice

Q bar

It is a mystery why the letters P's and Q's are preferred over other letters of the alphabet. Also, why must they be repeated most of the time? Could it be because good things always come in pairs? I know that the letter Q stands for (and sounds like) "queue". Perhaps the businesses are hoping for long queues of customers to form outside their doors? QQ also means "springy" in Hokkien and could be interpreted as a description of the texture of mee (e.g. Sarawak's Kolo mee) or rice (e.g. QQ rice).

Despite having an auspicious name, if the business is not making money, it will be closed down eventually. Q Bar which opened only in June 2006 amidst much fanfare, might be closed soon because of "cash flow" problems. (Read the New Paper article here.) How long the "QQ-rice fad" will last is anyone's guess. Surely we all remember what happened to the bubble-tea and coffee-bun crazes not too long ago, don't we?

14 May 2007

No Compliments For This Advertisement

The advertisement on the left was spotted in Pg 27 of today's New Paper. Considering that the publisher of this newspaper is a very respectable company that also publishes the mainstream Straits Times, the typographical error is hard to accept, just like mistaking "cavalry" for "calvary" (or even worse, "chivalry").

Perhaps what made the error even more glaring was that the advertisement was put up by Radio 91.3 which "is managed by SPH Unionworks, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings".

I don't know why but there seems to be more such errors occurring in the New Paper as compared to the Straits Times. A case of double standards perhaps?

13 May 2007

Joo Chiat - Past and Present (2) - 2 Food Delights

This post is a sequel to an earlier one written last year. Today I am featuring 2 of my personal favourite food stalls. Both are located in Dunman Food Centre which is situated along Dunman Road. At this food centre, your S$2 can still buy a decent bowl of noodles from the wanton woman (not the type who works in a nearby bar).

The weather in Singapore is particularly hot at this time of the year. Daytime temperatures can hit close to 40 degree C. In this intense tropical heat, a cold dessert is especially refreshing and thirst-quenching. Kens' Delights (Unit #01-01) sells scores of different types of hot and cold desserts, most of which are priced from 80 cents to around $2. The stall is run by the Lee family - father Jim (photo below), mother and son (Ken).

Most of their desserts that I've tried are nice and not too sweet. I particularly like the following 3 types:

1. Water chestnut (cold) - You will bite into lots of crunchy pieces of fresh water chestnuts in this dessert. Cooked with just the right amount of egg-white, it adds a distinctive texture and flavour to this very refreshing dessert.

2. White fungus (hot and cold) - You can find a lot of white fungi in this one. (No, they didn't grow in the pot while the dessert is waiting to be sold because this is a very fast-moving item.)

3. Barley with gingko nuts and beancurd stick (hot and cold) - One thing you will notice is that there are a lot of gingko nuts (fresh and not canned ones) in your bowl. For a cold bowl ($1.50), you can count anything between 5 to 10 whole nuts - certainly very good value for your money because gingko nuts are quite expensive.

If you are hungry for a snack, just order some soon kueh (60 cents each, main ingredients are turnip and dried shrimps) from First Delight (Unit #01-08) which is located just opposite the dessert stall. They also sell other types of cakes including png kueh (glutinous rice cakes), ku chye kueh (chive cakes), yam kueh (yam cakes) and chui kueh (steamed rice cakes).

This 10-year-old stall is usually manned by the cook Mdm Ng Hwee Kiang, 57, and his son Mr Patrick Goh, 37. Their kuehs are all handmade and freshly cooked at the stall. The skin of their soon kueh is soft, smooth and thin. (No wonder there is a Sunday Times newspaper article dated 5 Apr 98 displayed at the stall which is titled "Beauty really is skin deep". The article was written by Teo Pau Lin.)

Have a big bowl of dessert plus two soon kuehs and you'll still have change left over for $3. Eh, where to find? Some time ago, I even brought Chris to try out the dessert stall. (I can't remember whether I treated him or vice versa though - got to ask him since he seems to recall such details better.) Recently I brought another friend to sample their desserts. Both of them liked the desserts very much. You should try them too.

Disclaimer: I am not related in any way to either stalls and I am not paid in cash, desserts or kuehs for writing this post.

09 May 2007

A Penny For My Thoughts

Firehorse visited a gory blog post yesterday and posted the following comment in my last post:

"Victor, I saw something so horrible yesterday in one of the blogs, was sick to my stomach, would like to hear your thoughts on it but not sure if you have a strong stomach or not. If you think you do, go here:

[blog address deleted]

I can't get this visual out of my head. But go only if you think you can handle it."
Below are my personal thoughts on this issue.

I visited the blog post because:

1. I will take up most challenges (see title of this blog);

2. I don't like to admit that I have no guts, especially publicly;

3. Perhaps being born in the Year of the Monkey, I have a natural curiosity.

Regarding the last point, actually I think it is natural for most people to be curious too, not just a monkey like me. So the warnings which the blog owner and you provided are not really effective in deterring people with weak stomachs from viewing the post to see for themselves. On the contrary, I think many people will be attracted to view the site instead, children included. In my opinion, it is rather naive to think that they will seek their parents' consent first before viewing.

Some people want to find out what is their own tolerance level for gore and violence while some want to test it. Others may view the post because they may not even know what their own limits are. After viewing the photos, they may find that their limits have been exceeded.

Of course, I feel disgusted after viewing photos. (I think any normal person would.) However, I got over it as soon as I moved away from the post. In that sense, I don't think that my limit has been exceeded. However, that is not the same as saying that I enjoy viewing such gory pictures. (If I do, I know where to look - the Internet has plenty of such websites which I will not name for obvious reasons.)

I honestly think they are sick - the perpetrators more than photos, that is. I say perpetrators (in plural) because I think the one taking the photos is just as guilty. My personal view is that we should not help them propagate such gore by blogging about it or forwarding their links. (However, if my blog's theme is about gore and violence, then it would be a very different matter.)

I don't know what was your reason for viewing the post. It is probably one (or more) of the reasons I have listed above. Whatever your reason, I think you are feeling sick and traumatised now because your limit has been exceeded.

So to prevent more people from becoming similar victims, I have removed your comment and reproduced it above (but without the link). I hope you don't mind me doing that. I do not mean any offense; neither am I offended by your comment. But I must say that it is a very unusual way of tagging me with a meme.

Now any of my readers can take up this meme:

What is your opinion on portrayal of violence on the Internet?

07 May 2007

What? A Shooting Incident In Singapore?

Today I heard 3 successive loud bangs coming from a nearby HDB block. At first, I thought that someone was playing with fire crackers (which were banned in Singapore long before chewing gum met with the same fate).

I looked out the window and was horrified to see a man carrying a rifle. Thinking it was a robbery or another one-eyed dragon vs guni ter incident, I quickly grabbed my cordless phone to call the police. Luckily, I made one last check outside the window before I did. This time, I saw the gunman carrying something small and black in his hand.

What a relief when I realised that it was only a crow culling session by the National Environment Agency (NEA). My faith in Singapore's reputation as a safe city was restored. Safe not just from crazy gunmen but I believe also from bird flu as well. However, it looks like there is very little we can do about the current blog flu epidemic.

06 May 2007

Meeting My MP

I met my MP today to seek his assistance in getting Chris to blog again. After a 5-minute chat with him, he promised to write a letter for me to the Blog Revival Authority of Singapore (BRAS) to obtain a court order for Chris to be active in blogosphere once again. (Didn't I say in my last post that I will try all ways and tap all resources to bring Chris back to life again?)

Of course, if you believed what I wrote in the preceding paragraph, then you must be either still living in the virtual world or in the movie world. I recall that in Jack Neo's movie "I Do, I Do", someone sought help from his MP to solve a "girlfriend problem" as he claimed that "it is the responsibility of the government to help him woo a girlfriend" since rising singlehood rate and declining birth rate are national concerns. So even if what I said in the last paragraph was true, I am not exactly being frivolous, am I?

It is true that I did meet my MP today. I just joined a queue at a food stall in my neighbourhood food centre when I heard someone said "Hello" behind me. At first, I thought it was because I had inadvertently jumped queue. I turned around and saw Mr Zainal Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mayor of the North East Community Development Council and Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC (Eunos). (My, his title is even longer than the queue I was in!)

He was doing a Sunday walkabout. He shook my hand and chatted with me for a while. Then he went around the tables and did the same to the people there. I think it was very nice of him to approach the residents, shake their hands and chat with them to get to know them better. He definitely deserved a pay rise for all the hard work he put in for our constituency and country. While he went around doing this, I took a few photos of him:

Later, one of the grassroot leaders pointed to me, probably saying to the MP that I had taken photos of him. Mr Rasheed strode over to me again.

Mr Rasheed: "Oh you have a camera."

Me *sheepishly*: "Er... yes. If cannot take photos then I will delete them now."

Mr Rasheed: "No no, I also have a camera and I would like to have a photo with you."

Me *much relieved*: "Oh sure. It's my honour and pleasure."

So now I have a photo with an influential political figure to show off to other people. However, to be consistent with the anonymous status of this blog, I have masked out my upper face, leaving only my dimples visible.

Aiyah in my excitement, I forgot to ask Mr Rasheed for help about Chris.

05 May 2007

Is Cavalry Dead?

The cavalryman came to be 2 years ago
Horsing around was his motto
And horse around he did
Sometimes I was badly hit

I didn't take it lying down
When I was made the clown
Hit back for sure I did
At times extremely wicked

However it was all for the fun
Thought shine forever will the sun
But no it was not to be
Suddenly no more was the glee

First removed post abruptly
Then closed down blog completely
What's he up to?
I've got no idea too

He who introduced me to blogging
Now says he's quitting
What's going through his mind?
That is very unkind

He who taught me poems need not rhyme
A non-rhyming one is no crime
It only needs to have flow
But how to do I still don't know

So how could I accept your early demise
When I am still far from being wise?
Please will you teach me again?
This time I promise to be a saint

This for you is my blog obituary
In case you really are going to the mortuary
If new friend Kopi Soh can write one for you
It shames a good friend not to do same too

Yes what I write may be crap
But all ways and resources I'll tap
To bring you back to life
However keep the photo of your wife

Now I've tried
And I've cried
Just don't tell me that cavalry is dead
Don't wish that statement was ever said

01 May 2007

The Thinking Blogs

I feel so honoured to have been awarded a feel-good Thinking Blog Award by Firehorse aka Fatty Poh or Overseas Mom-wife. (Gee, if not for programmable html links, this unthinking blogger will never figure out a way to get to her blog. Hehe, can't help making that dig - it's my sarcasm at work.)

In my opinion, every blogger is a thinking blogger. How can anyone write anything that is comprehensible if he does not think before he writes? Even my 10-year-old son needs to think (and very hard too) before he writes a composition. So I guess I should be writing about blogs that make me think instead.

This award was started here. You have to award five others whose blog you think deserve this award. Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote

Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all — blogs that really get you thinking!

Now for the my own list of deserving Thinking Blog Award winners, in no particular order of merit:

1. Mr Wang Says So

Mr Wang is a very popular blogger who writes about Singapore's social, political and economic issues. His posts are often based on newspaper articles on some controversial issues, a recent one being about our ministers' pay. Mr Wang, who is a lawyer by training, would also add his own insightful views on the issues. Each of his posts typically generates more than a hundred comments from readers who offer a variety of opinions.

2. Sleepless In Singapore

This is another blogger who is similar to Mr Wang in terms of what he writes. In his own words, his blog is "one middle-aged Singaporean's commentaries on some of the unpleasant things we read in the news and Singapore society in general". As to why he chooses to focus on writing about the unpleasant things, I have no idea. Perhaps he is a pessimist by nature. His nick gives me the impression that he's sleepless either because he's worried about the "bad news on the doorstep" or he writes his posts when he can't sleep. He does not write very often (his last post is dated 7 Apr 2007) which could be a good sign because it may mean that he is getting more sleep nowadays.

3. Don To Earth

The owner of this blog is the very senior Donald Crowdis. His blog's tagline is "A Nonagenarian (90+) Ponders Life, the Universe, and Aging". He has done work related to museums, libraries, heritage, and radio and television broadcasting. Some investigative browsing through his blog will reveal that he was born on 24 Dec 1913. (Gosh, he has the same birthday as my elder son but their years of birth are 78 years apart!) That makes Don 93-going-on-94 this year - definitely old enough to be a museum exhibit himself, kekeke. He is obviously one of the oldest bloggers around, possibly the 3rd oldest in the world. Don writes extremely well. He is proof that not every elderly person suffers from diminished mental faculty. His posts are short, sweet, thought-provoking and to the point. He even has a great sense of humour to boot - his last post on 8 Mar 2007 with title "I'm Not Dead" assures readers that he is still alive, kicking and writing. In his own words:
"Family concerns are currently preventing me from posting to 'Don To Earth', and from responding to the numerous e-mails that I have received and continue to receive."

It has been almost 2 months since that post. I do hope that he will resume writing soon.

4. Good Morning Yesterday

In his blog, Mr Lam Chun See reminisces about life in Singapore during olden times. Reading his articles never fails to make me think... about my own personal experiences as a child. I can relate to his stories because he is only 4 years older than me, biologically that is. Intellectually, there is no comparison; it is obvious that he is much, much older.

5. Life As I See It

Many of Chris' articles are thought-provoking and insightful. Like mine, there are some mindless ones of course but these are few and far between. He likes to horse around with me and whenever he does, I have to think very hard of how to "monkey around" back at him. It saddens me that I might not have this chance ever again.

I am not tagging anyone for this meme because firstly, thinkers are not known to be doers and secondly, at the rate that blogs are being shut down nowadays, soon there will be no bloggers left to tag. Sad but true. So one day, if you visit my blog and find that I have not written for some time, it could be one or more of the following reasons:

a. I am too busy to blog and have taken a hiatus;

b. I have moved my blog to a new private one or a good old-fashioned diary;

c. I am dead (possibly from deep vein thrombosis because of successive 8-hour blogging sessions);

d. I have quietly shut down my blog as well because it no longer provides the challenge to me.

Yes Elaine, it is proven that the blog flu can be as infectious as the bird one.