THE SCENE. NEIL, BEN, and JEFF at dinner. Pretend I’m the WINGED INSECT buzzing around the tea. Pretend this conversation is verbatim, but it’s actually paraphrased from memory. I stand by the punchline.
BEN: Jeff, I looked up stuff about nuts and fat, and you’re right, it’s the healthiest fat you can get.
JEFF: (Goes off about fat and cholesterol and health, while the WINGED INSECT zones out — healthy eating is not part of a bug’s life. The WINGED INSECT wants some of that peanut smoothie.)
NEIL (smirking): I can hear it now, “But baby, it’s okay! It’s nut fat!”
WINGED INSECT hides in the shame that she started dating NEIL because he seemed like such a decent, clean cut boy at the time.
Via Vantan.org, I’ve discovered a small group of Singaporeans who are advocates of Web standards. There are currently ten codemonkeys (of varying degrees, and I know this because they let me join), and I just know there are more out there.
If you’re Singaporean or in Singapore and are interested in joining this community, send Jaime an e-mail.
Let standards rule, or something. I’m sure I’d get all their undying respect if I come up with a super-smart tagline. Yes.
He is the son of Singapore’ s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and shares his father’s measured, practical and technocratic approach to government. He also shares a somewhat condescending, didactic bent, and a tendency to chide and admonish rather than charm and encourage. His speeches brim with grim economic prognoses and stern injunctions to Singaporeans to tighten their belts. After a 14-year interval under the affable Goh Chok Tong, most Singaporeans will find the reversion of leadership to the Lee dynasty more like a cold shower than an exhilarating leap into the unknown.
Sons turn out like their fathers, the saying goes (personal note: I’m really glad I don’t have a brother). I was (and am) away for much of the 14 years Goh Chok Tong has been prime minister, so I’m not sure about that whole ‘affable’ thing. As for Lee Hsien Loong, his profile has been energetically lifted in the last couple of years, we’ve all seen him on teevee, doing the public relations thing, being the finance minister, being the head of the central bank.
Hark back to the days of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, where language was flowery and men dressed like poofs. The younger Mr Lee puts me in mind of the Earl of Upnor, a well-educated, well-spoken, privileged young man. Naturally, I would never claim that Mr Lee killed a Puritan, or anyone for that matter — I am only talking of attitudes.
I’m sure growing up in the Lee household is tough — if you’re not among the best (if not number one all the way) among your peers, the weight of family disappointment must be crushing. I imagine it’s Chinese Family Expectations Turbo®, really. But with these expectations comes a life of privilege and preference (see my previous post on the Lee Family Super Gene® that can apparently be transmitted through marriage).
Fans of the family argue that this concentration of power stems simply from its members’ remarkable talent, not their connections. They claim the younger Mr Lee’s rapid ascent through the ranks of the army to become a brigadier-general by the age of 32 rested purely on merit, as did his promotion to the post of deputy prime minister after only six years in politics.
Six years? I demand to know why the Bush Administration isn’t scoffing at his lack of experience!
Does Singapore want another prime minister like Lee Kuan Yew, whose tactics brought the country much progress when it wasn’t exactly developed? The younger Mr Lee, as well as all the Smart Political Friend-Lees® in the government or political machines, know he cannot rule like his father did. Hence all that talk about ‘taking the plunge’. But they are not loosening the ropes that bind their power together (yet, if ever).
Who cares if bungee-jumping is allowed, what difference does it really make? If Mr Lee is serious about opening up, let us do things like gather freely in groups to discuss politics and society, or anything under the sun — don’t let an old law from the days of riots hang over our heads. Let us express ourselves in speech, in print, on stage, on the teevee — don’t let the Internal Security Act bogeyman hide under our beds.
With freedom comes responsibility, and not letting Singaporeans be free is explicit in its distrust for our capacity to act responsibly.
To add another cliche, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
When I’ve moved, I’ve not usually had much stuff to shift. A car, some willing friends and relatives tend to accomplish the job with minimal fuss. I’ve only needed a truck to move a bed frame and some small items of furniture a couple of times.
This week, we had to hire a moving company to help us. How I’ve moved up in the world!
I was assured the company was large and professional. I presume they must have been, when three men showed up wearing matching yellow t-shirts with a cheerful bee printed on the back. Ever the salesmen, they went through the flat and marvelled at how much stuff we have (we don’t, we have enough for us and a guest).
“Have you been quoted a price?”
“No. How much are you proposing?”
“300RMB. We don’t ask for much, and there are some big items here… really, we aren’t asking for much.”
We’d already been advised that it would be about that number, and neither of us were too willing to move two bed frames and mattresses, two closets, two sofas, a coffee table, a television cabinet, fridge and washer on our own, so agree we did, and the three Bee Boys started work.
I always feared that our mattress would cause a problem. When it was first delivered, the furniture store staff said it was too big to fit in the elevator, so they took it up the stairs, all 11 floors. Our experience with moving companies is they are not at all thrilled to have to take the stairs, ever. So I was stunned to see the king-sized mattress wedged into the lift.
“Those guys who sold you the mattress, they’re not professionals like us!”
Ah, I see.
Moving homes in the summer is not the best time one can have. Especially if you need to make two trips and your furniture, odds and ends, and food that made it on the first trip has to sit and melt (or go off) under the sun. I sat in the shade with the security guards, who gave me lessons about employment (I should go back to Singapore to find a job, I’m doing it backwards), tea (Tieguanyin is cooling, and I must drink lots of it), and real estate (we should buy our apartment, since rent is money down the drain).
The Bee Boys, as soon as they had taken a quick lunch break, returned to move everything from our new apartment complex driveway to our fourth floor apartment. Although it wasn’t in our agreement, they were quite happy to move things into the correct rooms, reassemble what they’d broken down, and lift heavier things out of their boxes.
Although I do think it’s only because they wanted to have a look at our television.
My pal, who is on holiday, spends most of his days at the beach. The beach on Xiamen island faces Taiwan, and he reports that it is now full of soldiers in their Speedos and floaties (for those who can’t swim — many Chinese can’t).
Many apologies for the unintended, extended break. I’ve only just been hooked up to the Internet (unlimited broadband-ish!), there is a little man ripping out a leaking water pipe in the bathroom, and the air conditioner service man is perfectly able to clamber in and out of the bathroom window (where the compressor is), which makes me feel really safe.
Robin and Daphne Wild think it’s possible their son was assassinated:
Mr and Mrs Wild heard about their son’s death in a late-night Foreign Office call. “We were told he had been surrounded by an angry mob and shot. They have never presented us with new information; we have had to put the pieces together ourselves,” says Mr Wild.
This turned out to be untrue; he was shot in the back of the head as he was crossing the street.
The Wilds buried their son in a small country churchyard close to home and were trying to adjust to life without him when their lives were turned upside down again last autumn. They were contacted by Michael Burke, who had returned from Iraq with some of Richard’s possessions. He suggested a meeting and the Wilds saw him at Euston station; they were surprised at Mr Burke’s insistence that their conversation should not be overheard. Mr Wild recalls: “We were sitting in that glorious pale autumn sunlight and for the next two hours, we heard things that made hair on the back of our necks stand up.”
As a former chief dental officer for England and Wales, Mr Wild “knows how things work”; yet even he could barely believe what Mr Burke – who had spoken to eyewitnesses – told him. “Far from being picked off on the spur of the moment by a mob, we were being told our son had been assassinated, probably by the CIA. He had not been in Baghdad long but he was asking questions, rocking the boat, maybe making himself unpopular. As a journalist he was not ‘on message’. We think he knew something that could have destabilised, or certainly embarrassed, the coalition and that’s why he was killed.”
More than this, the Wilds have resigned themselves to never finding out. They will not spend the rest of their lives campaigning and harrying government for answers. “Political assassinations involve cover-ups,” says Mrs Wild. “We do not have the resources to find out exactly what went on, but we have certainly found out more than we were told.”
The beginning of the story says the Wilds are not much for conspiracy theories. If the Foreign Office can’t, or won’t, tell them anything, after having given them incorrect information, and someone who was there tells them what he thought actually happened, crazy as it may seem, no one can really blame them for coming to that conclusion.
From what I can understand from this story, American legislators are trying to remove a tax break deemed illegal by the EU, and they are proposing to replace it with… a whole new range of tax breaks and cuts.
The core of the tax bill eliminates the exporters’ tax break and replaces it with new tax cuts for manufacturers. The House and Senate also used the bills to streamline some international tax rules.