This weekend I…

Louis deejaying
  • went to Louis’ and Megan’s joint birthday party (didn’t leave until almost dawn – I’ve got to stop doing that)
  • ate Hainanese chicken rice at the Miramar Hotel (not bad, not bad)
  • watched Formula 51 (Robert Carlyle and Samuel L. Jackson in a very unentertaining excuse for a film)
  • the officewatched the first season of The Office (I can’t laugh at this F.A.B. programme when it fills me with skin-crawling fear and recognition – except for Tim, I can laugh at Tim)
  • watched Snowboarder (French film. No subtitles. Seemed quite shite. Floppy-haired good snowboarder is taken for a ride by buzz-cut bad snowboarder, or something. Neil couldn’t bear to let it run any longer than it had. He’s three for three on picking films that have turned out to be complete bollocks.)
  • watched the second season of The Office (see above)
  • watched the Wallabies beat Scotland (I had to move away from Neil when I said I supported the Wallabies to win)

Skeppshult

In The Robb Report’s Great Machines Special Issue, they feature Swedish company Skeppshult’s Nature models for men and women. Prices range from US$995 to $1,295:

Many upscale features are standard on Skeppshult bikes: an integrated locking system, spring-loaded rear carrier, chain covers, front and rear fenders, and pedal-generated headlamps.

ladies bike

mens bike

Vintage cool, eh?

Skeppshult chief designer Kjell Sture says,

“Biking is a great form of transportation that incorporates exercise, pleasure, and perhaps the completion of a few errands.”

The catch: the bikes pictured above are not Skeppshults; they are factory-standard push bikes made in Ningbo and Tianjin. They are also about 1% of the price of a Skeppshult, retail.

A big life change

I just answered an e-mail from someone worrying about culture shock, should she move to Xiamen. Answering in the capacity of What’s On Xiamen‘s webmonkey, I was pretty positive about the whole thing, saying, Yes, it will be very different from what I reckon you’re familiar with, but hey, it’s not so bad.

I haven’t told her about the spitting, littering, peeing, cussing, triads, mad driving, or bad techno yet.

(Was on a little bus trip yesterday, a mate and I visited Quanzhou. Found something there that even Singapore lacks. And I mean something good.)

Skateboarding is not a crime

skatestopperA link from SixDifferentWays brought my attention to Skatestoppers, a company that makes ‘anti-skating’ devices (plenty more where they came from). Pieces of metal or plastic are affixed to pavements and other places to prevent skaters (inline and boarders) from grinding.

At least grinding is what we called it when I was skating.

I can understand why property owners wouldn’t want people to grind their trucks or whatnot all over the place, and skaters shouldn’t be destroying other people’s property, but this only looks like lawsuits waiting to happen. Especially since they’re American firms. Will they (or these aggrieved property owners) pony up when someone hits one of these things, flies onto the road and gets hit by a car? From what I’ve read, skaters can pry them out with screwdrivers, causing more damage to the property they’re supposed to protect.

Maybe there should be more skate parks or ‘skate-safe’ areas. Maybe people should stop trying to make the world perfect and pleasant according to their image, because that goal is clearly not the same for everyone.

In a nutshell: you’re always going to have people who disrespect other people’s property, no matter what you do. Unless, of course, you live in a castle, then you can sic archers and musketeers on them or something.

When truth is stranger than fiction

Apparently, lawyers for the Bush White House decided back in March 2003 that Mr Bush and his top officials are above the law.

The March memorandum, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday, is the latest internal legal study to be disclosed that shows that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the administration’s lawyers were set to work to find legal arguments to avoid restrictions imposed by international and American law.

All these pesky laws! How can we expect a great leader like President Bush to obey such anachronisms when they’ve got an enemy to fight. Sure, they can’t see the enemy, but it’s here, it’s everywhere! Only by ignoring the law can they keep your family safe. Anyone who opposes Bush and his pals hates freedom, democracy, and human rights!

This sure explains a lot. Why bother with war films with special effects and even more special premises when we have one that should come with the disclaimer, “All events and characters featured are fictitious and are in no way meant to resemble any thing in real life.”

Except it is real life. Box office ratings must be massive.

(More can be found on Salon’s War Room, ‘Presidential power at its absolute apex’.)

Money is happiness

Todd Crowell, Speaking Freely:

People are upset? It must be about the economy. The solution is to find ways to give them more prosperity. If people are busy making money they will be happy and not agitate for political reforms.

money bagEconomic security in exchange for personal freedoms and democratic reforms. Give up any rights to speak out, demonstrate, gather, organise, and they’ll make sure you prosper. Sounds familiar? Sounds historical?

As the author says, this approach cannot last forever; “… inevitably it will lead to further blow-ups.”

(I’m clearly not talking about China.)

I find myself torn.

One the one hand, the time is long overdue for my government (and I use the term loosely) to give power back to the people. They say we’re a democracy. We’ve got good infrastructure, a well-run (I think) financial system, lots of players in the market, a noisy and relatively fun social scene – all in all, hallmarks of a modern country. Many young Singaporeans are chafing at the bit to do more, to strike out on our own and be independent minded, both in thought and action¹. Government-mandated initiatives in ‘innovation’ pen us in, it’s their way or the highway, since they’ve decided that this is the path to further economic prosperity.

On the other hand, I’m not sure Singaporeans are ready for any real power. We’ve been nannied (what’s the masculine term, Lee’d?) by the state for so long that I reckon most of us either can’t remember or have no knowledge of what life was like before the all-powerful PAP ruled the roost. Even if completely free and fair elections were to be held next week, with no difficulties faced by opposition parties, I doubt any superstars of the Singapore scene would quickly join up with [insert name of opposition party here], and so they will not field any new, household name candidates. Voters would then go with the ‘safe’ bet.

(You know, this might actually be a good strategy for the PAP.)

It would be wonderful if the Registry of Societies relaxed, if the National Trades Union Congress was broken up into unions that were independent, if libel suits were decided by a panel of international judges, if I actually had to vote at the next general election because my constituency didn’t get redistricted yet again to ensure the safe political retention of an important neighbourhood.

¹ I don’t know this for sure, but certain individuals I have become acquainted with recently (online, so about as acquainted as I can be in that respect) inspire a lot of hope that Singaporeans are not doomed to just seek out monetary wealth.

Definitely, definitely RIP

It’s all over the news, stories about and tributes to Ronald Reagan. He died at 93, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for many years.

There are many political weblogs out there, venerating and criticising his legacy as 40th President of the US. This will not be one of them.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease – we found out when I was about 17 or 18 years old. My ah ma, as we called her, was all about the grandchild-coddling – none of her five granddaughters ever missed out on a fabulous home-cooked meal, nor a hand-knitted jumper. She was the lady we turned to when we (okay, I) did something stupid and needed some uncritical hugging.

So we were all quite upset when we found out that she was ill. For a while, my grandfather would bring her over to our place when he got too aggravated dealing with his increasingly-forgetful wife (he was a hard-headed bastard, but was also good in the ‘spoiling grandchildren’ department).

She always forgot to shower, but insisted she had even as she started smelling rather ripe. She would refuse to bathe, so one afternoon, after being deposited at our place, my sister and I put her in the shower and bathed her. During this time, she kept apologising for getting old and sick and not being able to take care of herself.

Not long after this, my mother managed to get a place at a nursing home for ah ma. Then there was this huge feud between my father and grandfather, and a good couple of years passed before we were ‘allowed’ to visit her at home. By this time, I was already abroad, studying at university.

My cousins live in Canada. My sister lives in the US. Visits to the grandparents were, to say the least, extremely depressing. My grandmother no longer recognised any of us, and my grandfather had had a series of small strokes and was now suffering from dementia (and it appeared, paranoia), too.

She was bedridden, and she had sores. What was left of her muscles were all stiff and bent. She looked as though she was in a constant state of befuddled shock.

I’m not proud to admit that I didn’t visit her as often as I could, simply because I couldn’t really deal with seeing her like that. Finally, in 1998, I received a call in Australia, informing me that my ah ma had passed away after breaking her hip in a fall, and no, I wasn’t to go home for the funeral.

My father, however, is a ghoulish freak. He sent me a whole album of photographs from the wake and funeral (as a bonus, I also received photos of my dead great aunt who sadly passed away in the same month). Words cannot adequately describe the skin-crawling revulsion experienced on opening that special delivery.

History repeated itself a little over a year later when my grandfather succumbed to his dementia and failing health. Also bedridden, also covered in bed sores.

“While it is an extremely sad time for Mrs Reagan, there is definitely a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering and that he has gone to another place,” said his chief of staff Joanne Drake.

I don’t care if Reagan was a good or bad President. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. My grandparents are no longer suffering. I have no interest in mourning their passing (the anniversaries are right about now), only in remembering:

  • traditional Chinese herbs taste terrible, but the candy afterwards is worth it
  • learning to play basketball on Saturday mornings
  • playing Barbie in the one-of-a-kind styrofoam house
  • Filet-O-Fish, plus toy, at McDonald’s
  • Novenas on Saturdays
  • being chatted to sleep every weekend

I miss them, I wish I could have done more for them, but this is life. We only get one shot.

Eating disorders should make a comeback

Under the Banner of the ‘War’ on Terror:

A society bingeing on fear makes itself vulnerable to far more profound forms of destruction than terror attacks.

William Greider goes on to explain how things have changed in the US since the ‘War on Terror’ was proclaimed. On the other hemisphere, Robert Corr provides some latest news on hate crimes in Australia. This from Perth:

Another Kenwick resident who would only be identified as Paul, had “no Gooks”, “War on Iraq” and swastikas splattered over his van, car, garage door and front wall.

It’s just great when racist pigs co-opt the stirring ‘us against them’ patriotic hubris.