Saturday, October 22, 2011

Obedient Wives

The Straits Times has had at least two articles about the Obedient Wives Club in recent weeks. This is a group of Muslim women in Malaysia and a few other Muslim countries which is apparently making inroads in Singapore as well, though local Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from the group. These obedient wives believe that a Muslim woman has a duty to please her husband in bed to keep him from seeking adventure elsewhere. They have stirred up controversy, with some Believers upset because they deem the subject matter unsuitable for public discussion, and other Believers upset because it objectifies women and suggests that wives are somehow responsible for the infidelity of their husbands.

As a non-Believer, I find it troubling for an altogether different reason. The OWC has released a book entitled “Islamic Sex: Fighting Against Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World.” I don’t understand why the words “Fighting Against Jews” appear in the title. Are they suggesting that Jews have something to do with the absence of Islamic sex? How is “Fighting Against Jews” relevant to the subject?

In a country that emphasizes religious harmony and forbids comments that can incite religious tension I find it curious that these words have been published at least twice without explanation. I hope some reporter at the Straits Times can report what the title of the book means.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Help needed - desperately

I was at the Slop ‘n’ Save stupidmarket at the West Mall today (Monday afternoon) and picked up half a dozen items. The queues were super long, as in nearly to the back of the store. I was glad I’d be in the ‘express’ lane. Or so I thought. There are actually three registers at the express lane, but only one of them was open. The line snaked down an aisle quite a distance, about 15 customers long and getting longer. You would have thought they were giving food away for free! Or you might assume that their stuff was really excellent. It isn’t. In fact, this place is pretty much near the bottom of the local supermarket hierarchy, along with its sister store the super-gigantic-mega-hypermarket.

The cashier’s name was May. Not ‘Mae’, who says “Don’t wait!” on the TV commercial, but ‘May’ as in “you’re going to wait a hell of a long time to pay for those things.” May was doing her best and I don’t blame her one bit. But I couldn’t believe a manager would allow such a state, so I asked May if the store even had a manager. After all, some orchestras don’t even have a conductor and manage to play just fine, so I thought maybe the store was trying to save costs by not having anyone in charge. May got on the speaker and called for the manager. Twice. Then a third time. I didn’t want to delay the other customers, so I went to those doors with the ‘authorized personnel only’ signs and opened them, calling for the manager. A young lady came out and told me the manager was in a meeting and wasn’t available.

I sure hope that meeting was in fact a mass hiring interview. I don’t go to that store all the time (or I would have killed myself by now), but I’ve been there several times when all of the queues have been intolerably long, so I know it’s not a rare occurrence. On a few occasions I abandoned my basket and left rather than wait in line.

That manager should not have been in a meeting at that time. If he cannot manage to have adequate staff on hand he should have been at the register next to May helping her (and his customers) out. What is his job, to have meetings? Or to provide a quality shopping experience for his customers?

They have some kind of loyalty card called the “Passion” card. May asked me whether I had the Passion card, as they all do, and I told her I had no passion whatsoever for that place. And while they always ask, no one has ever asked me whether I want one or explained how to get one or what it would do for me. I guess even the employees have no passion about that store.

Just what are we supposed to be saving at Slop ‘n’ Save? Surely not time. Could we be saving money? No, it’s not the cheapest shop in town, and if you value your time even a little bit you are losing big there.

I mentioned that this ugly wretch of a store had an equally horrid sister. The funny thing is, they have a third sister who is like the Cinderella of local supermarkets. They should try to learn a few tricks from her.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Much ado about boo at the zoo

The Night Safari has just cancelled its planned Halloween Horrors event due to some feedback that it has nothing to do with conservation. In addition, some believe it is not wholesome and family friendly enough. This comes in the wake of new changes in management personnel.

The event has proved popular in the past, and over 1,000 tickets have already been sold. In addition, 17 polytechnic students have put in a lot of work developing characters and costumes as part of a school project.

Halloween can be a fun family event. It can also be fun for teens and young adults, even if not suitable for the wee tots.

The rationale strikes me as highly bogus. It reminds me of the time a group of religious fanatics took over a women’s organization and tried to cram their anti-homosexual agenda down everyone’s throats. Perhaps some ultra-religious anti-devil fanatics are operating behind the scenes. I can’t wait to see who is unmasked and what tricks lie ahead. BOO!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ugly people need not apply

There has been some discussion lately about the coming of clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch to Orchard Road. Most of the talk has centered not on the merits of having their clothes available, nor on their giant billboard of a nearly naked young man clearly in need of clothes (A&F or any others), but on their practice of hiring only very attractive young people to work as salespeople. There always follows a deafening silence – the sound of no one mentioning SIA’s long standing practice of hiring (and retaining) only very attractive young stewardesses.

I might be more likely to buy clothing from an attractive person than an ugly one, but I would definitely be more likely to buy from a knowledgeable and helpful person who took an interest in me than from a clueless person, no matter how good looking. And being served by a gorgeous stewardess does not make the food taste any better.

Today’s “Home” section in the Straits Times had an above the fold story of A&F’s no ugly people policy, as well as mention of a few small local companies that also seemed to have only good looking counter help. Again, no mention of our sacred cow airline. But below the fold was a half page ad featuring a beautiful Singapore Girl hovering over a passenger. Talk about irony!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This family is begging for trouble

In the wake of some recent lip service about whether to mandate time off for maids comes a report about a Swiss family who give their maid not just one day off a month but every Sunday off. Not only that, they give her public holidays off. They also gave her a camera for Christmas and pay her fees for a photography class.

What’s the matter with these people? They’re spoiling the market for everyone else. Pretty soon other maids will want to have time off and be treated like human beings. Where will it all end?

Not to worry, these people will get what’s coming to them. It’s just a matter of time before she turns her employers’ home into a brothel, invites over boyfriends who steal from the home, gets pregnant, and maybe makes a few bucks from selling some pictures. God knows what else she might do. She’s been working here for fourteen years and so far she hasn't been caught doing anything illegal, but that’s probably just luck. Those na├»ve Swiss are going to learn the hard way that you just can’t trust a maid!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hacker backer sacks attacker

Wendi Deng, wife of Rupert Murdoch, quickly beat back an attacker who threw shaving foam at her hubby. The beleaguered media mogul was appearing before a parliamentary committee in London that was conducting an inquiry into his news organization’s hacking of phone lines.

That was a quick reaction by the feisty lady. Or was it? Did she know he was coming? Perhaps the foamer was hacked.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Orchid Revolution?

Ever since the election the government has been bending over backwards to appear responsive to the people. I had strange thoughts creeping into my head – is the whip being passed from the government to the governed? Spring Singapore chairman Philip Yeo expressed fear that the government may become “terrified of the people” and pamper them too much. A reader wrote in to the Straits Times expressing a similar fear. Though the Speaker’s Corner is empty as usual, could we be in the midst of an Orchid Revolution?

Meanwhile, over at the Maplewoods condominium, a bunch of crybaby residents are whining about construction work on the new MRT line going on outside their development. After hearing their alternative plan, LTA engineers felt it would cause delay, but that that did not satisfy the residents. I guess these Complaint Kings and Queens think they know better than the professionals who have done a remarkable job to date in building a world-class mass transit system. It looks like the whiners will secure a number of concessions, or “goodies,” after their pathetic outburst. Which means we can expect more to come – if not from them, then from many others who will no doubt try to follow their example.

MRT related construction is causing disruption all over Bukit Timah and other areas. Maplewoods owners will benefit greatly when the new line is completed, with a station right outside their door. They will gladly accept the increase in value to their property and the proximity to the MRT. They just don’t want to bear any inconvenience along the way.

There are few things in life as irritating as a spoiled brat – except for a hundred of them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

These foreigners are getting out of control!

Straits Times columnist Sumiko Tan vented some half-hearted gripes about the invasion of foreigners in Singapore. She laments the cacophony of Chinese dialects other than the ones she’s accustomed to, and the foreigners’ penchant for hanging laundry on playground equipment instead of on bamboo poles, balcony railings, and parapets like real Singaporeans do. Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t noticed much change. In fact, when I’m on the MRT and hear the announcement about reporting suspicious looking characters, I’m thinking they all look pretty suspicious to me!

Ms Tan is lucky she didn’t grow up in Miami, which has been subject to a fifty-year invasion of Spanish speakers who make little or no effort to speak English, monopolize many jobs because of that language divide, and disrupt traffic by selling oranges, flowers, and cocaine at your car window. They paint their houses in shades of papaya, lavender, and aquamarine instead of white or beige. Miami streets are named after foreign statesmen and heroes unknown to most Americans. Politics has been dragged into the gutter (more so and earlier than in other parts of the US) and corruption is off the charts. [Disclaimer: I’m not saying the population shift was the sole cause of all of these ills, but merely point out that they resemble conditions traditionally found in South America more than in North America.] Because they have used their political weight to impose an embargo on Cuba, which has loopholes for themselves, the foreigners have more freedom in America than native-born Americans do.

Singapore has always had a rojak population (see how I’ve adapted!), and most of the newcomers are from the same countries as Singaporeans’ ancestors. Foreigners in Singapore generally speak the language(s), have a hard time getting citizenship, keep their noses out of politics, and rarely venture any harsh or non-mainstream opinions. They pay more for medical and other services and are clearly second-class in many ways. Maids and foreign laborers are treated well below second-class. (Okay, so some foreigners do have stronger opinions!)

The bottom line is the world is changing far faster than most people would like, and we all feel alienated or left behind in some ways. Deal with it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July

After 11 years of celebrating Independence Day with a lonely hamburger, we finally made it to the American Association’s 4th of July bash this year at the Sembawang naval base. About a hundred US sailors are permanently stationed at the base, which is shared with the British, Australian, and New Zealand navies.

There were several thousand people roaming the grounds and picnicking on blankets, many wearing college T-shirts, athletic jerseys, and other articles of distinctly American clothing. A few bands performed the sort of music you would expect from middle-aged performers – Springsteen, Allman Brothers, and a lot of country music. On this occasion even songs I never really liked sounded good.

I never saw so many ang mohs and so few Singaporeans at one time in Singapore. In fact, the only thing to remind me that I was in Singapore was the long queue for the toilets.

There were lots of organized activities for the kids, and at least one unofficial one – a bunch of adventurous kids were riding down a steep embankment on large cardboard sheets. In the evening there was a modest fireworks display. There was also plenty of food and beer. I had ribs, a pork sandwich, and cole slaw. Margarete and Cherisse had hot dogs, chicken wings, and lemonade. All of the food was reasonably priced. It was so nice to have a meal without rice or noodles!

After our four hour vacation we boarded the shuttle bus back to Sembawang MRT station. The bus traveled just a few blocks, but it brought us from one world to another. I’m sure we’ll be back next year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

These maids are getting out of control!

Maids are in the news again. Maids in Singapore are a hardworking bunch. Many of them have to wake up at 5:00am and work nonstop until after midnight. The first thing they do in the morning is wash the car. They do this every day, even if the car has been unused since the previous day and is still sparkling.

We sometimes hear of a maid who isn’t given enough food. As cheap as food is here, some maids only get one or two slices of bread a day. Fortunately, they can sometimes get a bit of extra food from a neighbor’s maid.

Quite a few maids fall to their death each year while cleaning windows. The government has tried to teach employers how to safeguard their maids, but they still keep splattering on the pavement. I suspect many of them lean out too far because they are terrified at what might happen if they miss a spot. Many employers abuse their maids for the slightest reasons. And the abuse is not a simple slap or punch as you might expect. An informal SORRI survey of newspaper accounts over the last twelve years suggests that the most common forms of maid abuse are:

Beating her with a bamboo pole, broomstick, clothes hanger, or cooking spoon

Smashing her head into the wall

Scalding her with boiling water

Burning her with a hot clothes iron

For some reason, pinching her breasts is also a popular form of abuse.

Once in a while an employer (usually a woman) goes to jail for maid abuse, sometimes for several weeks, but these punishments are very light compared to those meted out for other offenses. I am sure many more instances of maid abuse never become public because the maid is paid to keep quiet, or she is too terrified or ignorant to take action. Some maids are sent home before they even earn enough to repay the loans they took to come here, thus going home in worse financial shape than the poverty that drove them to come here in the first place, simply because they were cursed with a lousy employer.

There has been talk of making it mandatory for employers to give their maids one day off every week. Predictably, most of the talk from the street opposes the idea. Some complain because they need their maids every day to take care of elderly parents, young children, or invalids. But many are more concerned that their maids will get into trouble by getting boyfriends, getting pregnant, or doing part time work. The thinking seems to be "I'm not paying her to have a life, I'm paying her to work."

To these people I'd like to say:

Your maid was a human being long before she became "your" maid. Her time off (if any) is hers. If she wants companionship on her day off that's her choice. If she gets pregnant she'll be on the next flight home, so it won't be your problem. If you're worried about the expense of sending her back and replacing her, that's the risk you agreed to when you took her. And Singaporeans tend to admire ambitious go getters of the non-maid variety, so why is it so bad if a maid wants to earn extra money? They didn't come here because they want to care for your family, they came to make money to support theirs.

In addition to giving maids tests to determine whether they are suitable to work here as maids, we should test would-be employers to determine whether they are worthy of having a maid.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bank speaks Plain English

OCBC Bank announced that they have adopted the Plain English approach. They will begin using simple language instead of legalese for their contracts with customers.

When I was in law school twenty five years ago we were taught to draft documents in Plain English. For example, instead of writing “cease and desist” we would write “stop.” I thought that was a good idea. When you’re charging a client a princely sum to draft a document it is only fair that said client should be able to peruse and comprehend said document, regardless of the cranial capacity and level of intellect of the aforesaid client. As a young attorney I began using simple language in my documents and turned them over to the senior partner for his approval. He would take out his red pen and change all my “stop”s to “cease and desist”s.

If OCBC can get these past their legal department it will be a welcome change.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SIA to launch low-cost carrier

That was the exact headline from today’s ST. And welcome news it is. I have often thought it would be wonderful to fly non-stop to the US and speed up the miserably long flight I make every year, but SIA’s current flights that go direct to New York have no economy class whatsoever!

It makes good business sense. Let the highly profitable airline take only high-paying business and first class passengers, and start a budget airline for regular people who don’t have $10,000 to spend on a single ticket.

The new airline would focus on medium and long haul flights. Most Singaporeans have done the usual holidays in the region – Bali, Phuket, Hong Kong, etc. This might help them get to more distant destinations, without paying SIA’s usual pricey rates.

There are other synergies as well. Instead of firing their Singapore Girls when they get pregnant, or develop crow’s feet, they could simply redeploy them to the low-end side of the operation.

Singapore Biennale

There has been some controversy surrounding the recent Singapore Biennale, aside from the removal/shutdown/censoring/call-it-what-you-will of the installation piece with the gay porn. It concerns the attendance figures of the event.

The Biennale supposedly drew over 900,000 visitors to its various venues, including the Singapore Art Museum. Over 700,000 “visitors” were passing by public displays, a highly suspect figure. SAM itself drew about 740,000 in all of 2009. The world renowned Venice Biennale drew a measley 375,000 during six months in 2009, according to the Straits Times. The paper further states that about 196,000 attended SAM, the National Museum, the highly publicized Merlion Hotel exhibit, and the Old Kallang Airport location during the two month run.

Dividing 740,000 by 12, let’s say SAM would have had about 62,000 visitors a month, or 124,000 during the entire event. Take that from 196,000 and you get 72,000. I assume the National Museum also gets several thousand visitors in a normal month, and the Merlion Hotel exhibit had so much hype it no doubt lured many thousands of curiousity seekers. Which leaves just a few for the Old Kallang Airport.

I joined the extended family for an afternoon at OKA during the Biennale. It was a weekend afternoon, billed as “Family Day,” yet the place was not crowded by any measurement. Cherisse made three kites, a couple of badges, and a cardboard house at the kiddie art area. I ventured into a few of the buildings to see the “professional” art. And what did I see?

There was one space (a good art critic doesn’t use words like “room,” we prefer “space”) containing the contents of a Chinese provision shop. Lots of plastic buckets, porcelain bowls with roosters painted on them, feather dusters, etc. I guess this was for the benefit of any local or tourist who never ventured into such a shop in Chinatown. Pointless. Another room (I mean space) was filled with huge paper tubes representing who knows what. There was a very fake looking German barn with some real live boys in lederhosen lounging on the hay, which might have qualified as child porn in some places.

I have done a few installation and performance art pieces during my high school and university days, and my idea of art encompasses more than the traditional still life/portrait/landscape kind of thing. But I have to say this was the worst art exhibition I have ever seen, and a few of my friends felt the same way. The best part was a large space (there I go again – damn, I’m good!) filled with hundreds of drawings by local primary school students.

Forget the incredibly misleading numbers, this event was an unpopular fiasco. And I don’t mean to belittle the organizers, the people helping the tykes make their kites, or the primary schoolers. I just hope they do a better job next time.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'll drink to that...

I was in a bookstore this afternoon. Actually, it’s more of a stationery shop as it sells more school supplies and school assessment materials than books. I won’t mention the name, but let’s just say it’s quite a popular chain.

Anyway, they had a large selection of board games. Alongside Monopoly and Cluedo I was shocked to see a game called Drinking Roulette, another called Shots and Ladders, and two other drinking games. I had the impression that they catered mostly to the primary school market, but it seems they have something for the university crowd as well.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I know it when I see it

An artist had an installation on display at the Singapore Art Museum, but something was missing, namely, a number of gay pornographic magazines that had been part of the exhibit. Said magazines had been removed by SAM, allegedly without the knowledge or consent of the artist. While SAM may have had some legal concerns, the artist could have been consulted.

Kudos to Straits Times columnist Ong Sor Fern for her courageous stand. She not only lashed out at the museum, she compared their actions to vandalism! Actually, she said it was “tantamount to an act of vandalism,” and further qualified her statement with a “to me”. Still, pretty gutsy. Whether her comparison is accurate or not, I don’t expect anyone at SAM to be caned like Michael Fay or Ollie Fricker.

I recall seeing some X-rated art in China (okay, it was actually Taiwan), where the galleries containing the “offending” images had been cordoned off and warning signs displayed. Pretty liberal, eh?

I gotta wonder whether it was the gay part of the porn that set off the censors. Perhaps Ms. Ong or fellow intrepid columnist Andy Ho would like to look into that. What with Yale hooking up with NUS with the understanding that discussions on campus will be free as befits a liberal arts college, perhaps the times they are a-changin’.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Driving for exercise

Homeowners near MacRitchie Reservoir are having problems with joggers parking their cars in front of their homes, sometimes blocking their driveway and causing them to park far from their own homes. This is due to the public parking lot charging for what was until recently free parking.

Here’s how it works. The joggers get into their cars, pay for petrol, maybe even pay ERP charges, drive to the reservoir, and park in the surrounding neighbourhood because they are too cheap to pay for parking at the reservoir itself.

What is the point of driving your car so you can go jogging? Why not jog to the nearest park? Don’t they have sidewalks in their own neighbourhoods?

Monday, February 28, 2011

The doctor is in ... her pocket

A local surgeon is being investigated by the Singapore Medical Council for the outrageous bills she submitted to a member of the royal family of a nearby country. She claims she did nothing improper as she had an agreement with her fabulously wealthy patient.

I suspect most people with a potentially life-threatening illness would agree to anything their doctor suggested, with her white coat and esoteric knowledge, especially given the mortal fear the patient must have been experiencing.
Just because your patient is rich, it is not OK to soak her. Not only did this doctor submit hefty bills for her own services, she inflated the bills she submitted on behalf of other doctors involved in the case. A $400 bill became $211,000, a $3,000 bill became $285,000.

I was thinking this surgeon deserved to occupy the cell next to Bernie Madoff. But now, five of the eight doctors who had their bills surgically enhanced have filed affidavits swearing that there was nothing wrong with this practice.

None of these doctors have been accused of wrongdoing, and it seems likely that they were unaware of the inflated billing. I wonder why they don’t see a problem? I can speculate on a number of reasons, but let’s assume they genuinely believe it is perfectly acceptable to take a $9,000 medical bill and increase it to $400,000. Doesn’t that worry you?

This show of support for their colleague makes me worry that we may be on the verge of an epidemic of doctoritis grabyourcashis.

Singaporeans, protect yourselves! Wash your hands and hold tightly to your wallets! Drink plenty of alkaline water – some doctors sell it on the side, so you can believe it works! And don’t brag about your cousin the sultan during your consultation, just mention your uncle Ah Seng the durian seller.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Congratulations to Andy Ho

Straits Times columnist Andy Ho, who writes on science and medicine, has been short listed by the Singapore Organization for Research on Relevant Issues (SORRI) for its “Person of the Year” Award. In recent weeks Dr Ho has written two impressive columns. The first recounted medical studies showing that acupuncture is no more effective than a placebo, and the second debunked astrology. With all the charlatans running amok on this island, it is a pleasure to see someone take a stand for science and reason. Well done, Dr Ho.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is Singapore cool?

CNN has somehow determined that Singapore is the second coolest country in the world, after Brazil. Brazil is known for fabulous beaches, scantily clad bathers and carnival dancers, a formidable soccer tradition, bossa nova, and a laid back vibe. The two countries seem poles apart. So how were the rankings determined? Who knows? It depends on how you define “cool.”

The Straits Times did an informal survey of 200 Singaporeans. Nearly half did not think Singapore was cool. When asked to name the coolest icon in Singapore, the most common answer was “can’t think of one.” In second place was Lee Kuan Yew. I’ll bet if you told MM Lee he was cool he’d think you were siao. The venerable statesman was followed by the new Marina Bay Sands hotel/casino/integrated resort.

What makes Singapore cool? The top answer was its transport system, with its shiny trains free of graffiti. In some places, graffiti is considered cool and shiny is bland. Predictably, food and shopping made the list, as did safety. Cool is edgy and clearly in the danger zone, not safe. I’m not sure many respondents understand what “cool” is; they seem to associate it with something vaguely good or positive.

I see Singapore as the honors student who always wears a cardigan (you might catch cold!) and plays the clarinet in the marching band. Singapore is not the jock, cheerleader, leather-clad biker, or lead guitarist in a garage band. Being a goody two shoes has certain advantages, but “cool” is not one of them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No shortage of suckers

I got a huge laugh out of the Sunday Times this morning, and it wasn’t from reading the comics. The headline that caught my eye read “Tuition to train the brain,” and was accompanied by a photo of a kiasu couple watching their young daughter supposedly identify cards while blindfolded. (Clarification: the daughter was blindfolded, not the parents, but I doubt the parents really “see” that well.) The article discusses the rising popularity of brain stimulation classes, some of which claim that their students will learn to see and read while blindfolded.

I have no doubt that children can learn to read while blindfolded – provided they are learning Braille.

The two medical experts quoted in the article were not impressed. But the boss of one of these brain building afademies explained his program: the children play games, sing, and watch funny videos (I’m guessing Tom and Jerry or Mr Bean) while a machine plays sounds in the background. Ooooo-eeeee-oooh. He was actually quoted as saying “I can’t explain it scientifically, it’s a mystery.” No doubt. His academy only takes children between ages 5-12, but it will accept older kids if they are deemed suitable after an interview. I can imagine the interview going something like this:

Brain boss: “Are your parents able and willing to pay our exorbitant fees?”
Prospective but over-aged student :”Yes.”
Brain boss: “OK, you’re in.”

The article did not just quote a couple of neurological authorities and the academy heads, it also quoted a couple of parents. One parent reported a change in her son’s personality after a few days! Another has yet to notice any academic improvement in her son since he began the course, but feels the kid is more confident in doing his homework. Sounds like the placebo effect to me. And by the way, she is now an “ambassador” for the company and gets 12% commission for referrals. Sounds like the dollar effect to me now.

I recall a recent article about the alkaline water business (on which I commented on November 22, 2010) and I am struck by the similarity of the structure of the articles. An unbelievable claim, promoters careful not to say anything that will get them in trouble, some half-hearted testimonials by unqualified or biased supporters, and a couple of qualified experts offering very reserved opinions casting doubt on the claims. Maybe it’s a formula they teach at journalism school.

I hope the next time ST covers such a dubious product or service they get experts willing to call a spade a spade. Of course, most experts are very cautious as they may not know all the facts (one never does) and are afraid of being sued.

With this kind of hard-hitting investigative reporting it’s just a matter of days before we read about the next bunch of suckers.

I have not seen many tiger moms in Singapore, but it seems there are lemming moms and sheep dads aplenty.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

State of the City (of Miami)

People have been asking about my trip to Miami, so I’ll lay it out for you. Miami was about the same as last year, only more so. Let me explain.

Cell phones. I usually enjoy driving in Miami – it’s not nearly as stressful as driving in Singapore. But this year I’d have to call it about even. The reason is cell phone related. It appears that Miami cars will not move unless the driver is talking on the cell. You see a guy creeping along with half a mile of space between him and the car in front and as you pass him and shoot him a dirty look you notice he is on the phone. Everyone in the mall is also on the phone. What the hell are these people talking about all the time? I almost wonder how people were able to function before we all had cell phones.

Traffic. As if driving while yakking on the phone isn’t bad enough, most of the expressways are in their usual state of being under renovation. You drive along and see debris everywhere, the roads lined with earth moving equipment of all sorts, yet you never see any work being done. Maybe they ran out of money. It’s been going on for many years, but this time I noticed signs on the road saying the works would be completed in – get this: 2015. Wanna bet?

Cars. Last year marked the debut of the “new” retro Camaro and Mustang. This year I noticed quite a few new retro Dodge Chargers. I sure hope they don’t bring back the AMC Gremlin.

Bazoombas. It looks like the last few adult women who had not had boob jobs have now had them. Not a single woman over the age of 18 has avoided the knife, and the teen market is rapidly being exploited. This is disturbing on several counts:

1. So many doctors are going into plastic surgery rather than doing something useful with their lives. Don’t they have any qualms about taking a seat in medical school just to give insecure women bazoombas the size of Jay Leno’s head?

2. So many women are willing to look ridiculously fake in a pathetic attempt to feel good about themselves.

3. An entire generation of teenage boys will grow up never knowing the feel of a real breast.

Black leggings. I think I recall seeing one female who wasn’t wearing black leggings. Probably not.

Like I said, it’s all the same, only more so.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Guns "R" Us

One Sunday morning during my extended holiday in Miami I picked up a copy of the Miami Herald. The Sunday edition is quite hefty, though it is light on news. The damn thing is mostly advertising inserts from K-Mart, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, JCPenney, Walgreens, CVS, Staples, and practically every other store in the county.

There was even one from Badass Pro Shops (I have added a couple of letters to disguise the name). What do they sell there – bass? Pros? Bait? This Temple of Testosterone, this Monument to Macho sells everything the modern sportsman could ever want, and quite a bit more. A glance through the insert told me I had to see this place for myself.

I visited an outlet in the Doral area. In the parking lot was the usual array of pickup trucks with bumper stickers proclaiming “When guns are outlawed I will become an outlaw” and other comforting thoughts. Just inside the entrance was a cozy little cafe serving not beef jerky and trail mix but coffee and pastry, just like at your friendly neighbourhood bookstore. Inside it had all kinds of gear for fishing, scuba, hunting, and camping, including rods and reels, guns and knives, ammo galore, clothing for the great outdoors in all its forms, candy, plus a wide selection of boats and trailers and 4x4s. All this and more under one massive roof (though the boats were outside and technically not under the roof). This place would arouse Sarah Palin the way a trip to the jewelry store would excite most normal women.

In the midst of it all was the gigantic “educational aquarium,” which would not have been out of place at Sea World. I think they mean educational in the sense of how lobbyists “educate” politicians on various issues of importance to the public (not to mention themselves), such as, to pick a not exactly random example, the God-given right of everyone to own a gun. Or an entire arsenal.

Then I saw the object that had caught my eye in the ad. It was a Daisy BB gun, just like the ones my elementary school classmates used to shoot birds and squirrels and the occasional window. And it was only $29.99! And they even had some in pink! What is the educational message here?

On my trip back to Singapore we passed through Houston, and I noticed a very small Badass Pro Shop right there in the airport. What luck! I moseyed in and noticed that they sold mostly clothing and small items. I asked the lady who worked there if they sold any guns. She said not at that outlet, in a matter of fact tone that suggested she thought it wouldn’t be unusual to buy guns in a major international airport. I also spotted a Red Head Neck Pillow (you read it right, not a Redneck Head Pillow as you might expect) in a nice camouflage pattern for only $9.88. You wouldn’t want the friggin’ deer to see you napping, would you?