Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Going Green

You may be wondering what Singaporeans are doing to save planet earth. I’m happy to report there is quite a bit of recycling going on. Unfortunately, it’s happening in the wrong places.

Most of the recycling is happening on TV. For several months you could watch snippets of “popular” commercials in between TV shows and even during regular commercial breaks. Yes, commercials of commercials. You were invited to text in your vote for the best commercial. The voting period lasted almost forever. If there’s anything worse than an annoying jingle running through your head, it’s five annoying jingles in a certain sequence, so you can anticipate the other four as soon as you hear the first one! I came very close to hurling my TV out the window, killer litter police be damned. After the balloting was completed, the results were announced in another torrent of commercials lasting several weeks more. Either they’re running out of programming, or they want to reward their advertisers, or they want to pat themselves on the back, or they want to make money from phone charges. Or they want to recycle!

With that nightmare finally out of the way, what can they show now? There was one recent show comparing expensive and cheap versions of certain items, like mattresses. I think they made four episodes. As soon as the last one ran, they began running the entire series again! I don’t think they took even one week off. Recycling!

Not long ago there was an international theatrical production about fat thighs, hot flashes, and other women’s problems. It was supposed to be funny, but the commercials for it were so unfunny and boring it made me drowsy. I’m glad I know where to get a cheap mattress. A few months later it was back for another run! Recycling!

A local theatrical production with a hallowed past is also back for yet another encore run!

And the Chinese TV star award show was just on, using the same annoying theme music it always uses! A fanfare of fifteen notes, repeated endlessly. Recycling! Can’t they get the national tunesmith (the guy who writes almost all of the annual National Day songs) to come up with something new?

But what about real efforts to go green? Well, there has been a movement to eat local. By this they mean eat locally produced eggs, chicken, pork, etc. Or at least food trucked in from Malaysia, as opposed to flown in from Australia. [Note: They advertise air flown pork – how else would it fly, through the water?!]

This is all wrong! If you want to save the planet, eat local – as in, near your house. Every Singaporean has a food court or coffee shop within fifty paces of their home. And they all have the same food – rice and noodles with assorted toppings and gravies, curry, seafood, and Muslim and Indian food. But people won’t go downstairs to eat. They will get in their car and drive halfway across the country to buy a three dollar packet of rice or noodles from some other food stall that’s supposedly better! That explains why traffic is worse on Saturday afternoon than during rush hour on a weekday morning. Countless tons of carbon emissions are shot into the air every day by people driving around for food they can get just outside their door! If you’re serious about going green, support your nearest hawker!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Growing Old in Singapore

There’s talk of turning Pulau Ubin into a retirement village. Located a few minutes by bumboat from Singapore proper, this island is known for its kampung flavour. In other words, these folks could spend their final years in much the same environment as their childhood years.

In the US when people move to a retirement community the men usually get a white belt and white shoes. I have no idea why, but almost all of them do. I wonder if Pulau Ubin newcomers will don sarongs?

Overall, I like the concept. I just hope they have a Shop ‘N’ Save there. Many elderly Singaporeans would be lost without this supermarket. It gives out a sticker for every $15 dollars spent. When you fill a card with 12 stickers ($180 worth) in one month you get a 5% rebate ($9). I never spend enough at this place to fill a card so I give my stickers to the auntie at the door. Yes, there is an auntie who stands just outside the store asking people for these stickers. As she is always there when I go there, she must spend hours a day every day pursuing this hobby. I’m not sure how long it takes for her to fill a card, or how much groceries she buys every month, but it seems like a hard way to stretch her food budget.

A few meters away is another auntie doing the same thing. If they get too close they hiss at one another. Gotta protect your turf! Though SORRI has not conducted a comprehensive survey, I have noticed this occurring at more than one outlet. What an undignified way to spend your Golden Years. And in a country that supposedly reveres the elderly.

Of course, retiring to Pulau Ubin is not for everyone, only those who can afford to actually retire.
Taxi fares in Singapore are low compared to most developed countries. You could say that cab drivers are subsidizing the nation’s growth. And what does the nation do for them when they’re old? Why, it allows them to keep on driving their cabs into their seventies!

And we’ve all seen elderly folks cleaning tables at hawker centers and sweeping up litter. No rest for these weary, until they find it in the grave. But maybe they prefer to live a life of purpose rather than loafing around the mahjong table.

There seems to be an abhorrence of the very idea of a welfare state, which is understandable. I don’t understand how this justifies taking the opposite extreme, and making old people toil every day of their lives.

On the plus side, there might be a need for taxi drivers and table cleaners in the retirement village.