Friday, September 28, 2007

Movie Reviews

The other day it occurred to me while browsing through some of my favourite blogs that the only movie reviews I can write with any authority at the moment would be for GA rated kids movies. The sum total of my movie going experience over the past year has been: Shrek 3; Mr Bean’s Holiday; Surf’s Up; and last weeks exciting offering of Underdog.
Never before have I lived in such close proximity to so many really good movie theatres, yet hubby and I have never been to one together. In fact I've never been in the evening, either. It’s such a shame because there have been some great movies passing through, plus there are lots of local offerings as well. Asians seem to just love horror flicks in particular and some of the posters alone are enough to give me nightmares.
If I never have to watch another movie with talking animals, that would be a good thing.
And if I ever have to sit through another full length Mr Bean movie, I’m taking a hand gun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moose Milk Anyone?

Couldn't resist sharing this clip with you which I've lifted from the website of the local newspaper, The Straits Times on Monday 24. The woman in the clip is braver than me for getting this up close and personal with one of these things.
When hubby and I were travelling around Canada we were suitably awed by the size of moose, plus the stories of them killing dogs (which apparently they detest) and even unfortunate humans who got in the way of moose trying to leave in a hurry. So between the Grizzly bears, Black bears, and moose prowling around the campsites, I didn't get much sleep in our little tent most nights. Hubby of course snored the night away, oblivious to the world. Men.

Click on the link above to view the clip.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Look Out For The Bo-Geh Man

Here in Singapore they are facing the same problem as most developing countries: people are living longer and the falling birth rate means that there just won't be as much money to pay for all those oldies in a few years. The PM Lee Hsein Loong has announced a government plan to launch 'longevity insurance' to tackle this looming problem.
It's proven quite controversial. Basically the plan is that those aged below 50 will have to buy an annuity they they will only start collection 35 years later upon reaching 85 years of age. At a meeting of 550 'grassroots leaders' yesterday the PM was asked what the point of lengvity insurance and having so much money at age 85 was, when one might be bo-geh, or toothless in Hokkien, and able only to eat porridge and ice cream. Mr Lee replied "Bo-geh, you cannot enjoy. But bo-geh, bo-lui (no money) is worse."
Whether you agree with the concept or not, at least the government can form long term plans and is willing to risk taking a stand on something like this which will not generate any immediate benefits in terms of winning voters, when there is no election looming, and which they can't spin into some glossy image boosting tack.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brownie Points

There exists in every relationship an invisible yet entirely tangible system of keeping track of who has more ‘brownie points’. A sort of good tempered keeping of the score if you will, a tongue-in-cheek weighing up of how either of you has performed or outdone the other recently. You know what I mean. He remembers my favourite Chanel moisturiser for my birthday: 5 brownie points. I find a shop that sells an obscure book he’s wanted for ages and surprise him with it: 10 brownie points. He gives me a shoulder rub after too many hours behind the computer: 8 brownie points, and so on. Well today I CASHED IN BIG!
This story starts way back in October 2006 when hubby finally, after more than a year of deliberating and pouring over geek magazines, bought himself a Nokia PDA. Basically a home pc the size of a chocolate bar, this thing is supposed to be able to everything but bake a cake. With great anticipation and quivering with excitement, hubby sat down behind the laptop to hook up his Nokia, install the software and synchronise the two machines. I wisely retreated out of reach adn hearing range.
Some time later hubby emerged, flushed and not very cheerful to say the least. He couldn’t get the software to install and the bloody thing wouldn’t talk to our computer. This was the start of nearly A YEAR of frustration with this gadget. Tense, terse and eventually downright snarly emails were exchanged between the Nokia Nerds and hubby but to no avail. In disgust he thrust it into my hands last month and said I could use it as a mobile phone since I didn’t like my current one anyway. Defeat most dreadful.

Well yesterday I started thinking about how disappointed hubby was and so took it upon my self to have a crack at figuring out what was going wrong. First port of call: the Nokia Nerd helpline and a long conversation involving several software doewnloads from their website punctuated with multiple laptop re-starts. Some of you may find these anonymous helpdesk calls daunting, but I have some experience in this field: when we purchased our first Dell pc years ago I once spent over two hours talking to the amiable “Sean-from-Dublin-how-you-doin-today” and then another two hours with “Jim, from Texas, ma’am” while completely reformatting the damn thing and re-installing the sound and video cards from the internet - in the days before cable. After that experience, I feel bullet proofed, baby.
This morning however, lacking the stamina and mental fortitude of either Sean or Jim, my Nokia Nerd gave up and suggested I head downtown to the Nokia Help Centre at Wheelock Place. Sadly I wasted an hour of my time there, with the final advice being to remove all software (again!) and reinstall the software from the cd whcih was delivered with the pda. As if this wasn’t the first thing we tried.
Home again, I decided to gave it one last shot….

…and it worked! I’ve got that sucker up and running and singing to my laptop like they’re the best of friends. Now if that doesn’t add up to a mountain of brownie points, I don’t know what does! That’s if hubby ever wants to have his PDA back again, of course.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

That's What I Said

One of the things you have to accept when you move to another country is that you will at times – hopefully not too frequently – be labelled a DF. That’s Dumb Foreigner, not Dumb Fuck in case you were wondering. There is a difference – anyone can be a Dumb Fuck but to be a Dumb Foreigner you actually need to have arrived from somewhere else. Hey, we paid money to look this stupid.
Because I’ve moved twice – first to the Netherlands and now to Singapore – I have had plenty of opportunities to be laughed at, made fun of and generally treated like the sad little DF that I admit I occasionally am. Fortunately in Singapore most people speak a form of English known as Singlish which, while at times baffling to DFs like myself, is at least better than landing in the backwoods of Holland where gobbledygook is the predominant dialect and the chances of picking up the language without professional help are practically zero.
A case in point: For a while there was a tv ad running in Holland for McDonalds where a chubby American tourist walks in and orders the local speciality, the McCroquet. Now a croquet (croquette in English) is of course a long sausage shaped deep fried creation, a crumbed capsule containing the pulverised remains of various animal parts they couldn’t think of anything else to do with. It’s pronounced ‘crow-ket’ and cloggies love ‘em. Anyway the DF American walks in and says loudly ‘I’ll have a Mc-crocket!” The serving gimp says “you mean a Mc-crow-ket?” To which the American honks “that’s what I said, a Mc-crocket!”
From that moment on my friends and I all celebrated our personal McCroquet moments by crowing “That’s what I said!” It became the catchcall for all DFs struggling with the Dutch language and their bizarre pronunciation.
One time I was in a local bakery on a busy Saturday morning. I spotted the weekly special, a baked roll with sauerkraut (zuurkool) and a sausage inside. I'm always game to try anything new and bizarre so I asked for one in perfect DF Dutch. The conversation – in Dutch – proceeded as follows.

Me: "One zuurkool bun please"
Sales girl: “A what?”
Me: “A zuurkool bun”
“A what??”
“A zuurkool bun”
“A WHAT??”
By now all the customers in the shop are staring at me, it was so quiet you could hear my breathing, and I was flushed red from the tips of my ears right down to my toes. As sweat started to break out I pointed desperately at the row of buns and sqauwked “A zuurkool bun!”
“Oh, a zuurkool bun” she sneered, relishing in the chance to watch me squirm. And all this time the buns were right in front of us on the counter. Bitch.
I paid and scurried out as fast as I could. Now at first glance you may think this a harmless incident, just another hapless DF embarrassing themselves in public, but consider this. I told all my friends about it, and hopefully they told their friends…and in a small village how many DFs do you think now shop at that bakery? That’s what’s known as ‘viral marketing’ in action.
The moral is be nice to all of us struggling Dumb Foreigners, we’re human too even if our accents are a little kookie sometimes.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Monkey Business

I've mentioned the monkey population here in Singapore before, but we recently recevied this newspaper article (although it dates from February the situation hasn't changed). Most people think that monkeys are cute and cuddly but frankly, they've never appealed to me. Maybe it's those sharp little teeth, or the long snake-like tail, or perhaps it's their resemblence to humans that puts me off. Anyway they aren't my thing and having read this article, you might feel a bit more the same...
Click on the article for a larger (readable) version.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Haka II

OK so it’s a day late, but as promised here are some links to real hakas being performed. There are few things quite so spine tingling for a New Zealander than to see a haka, it taps into some primitive instinctive wellspring deep inside us, raising the heart beat and getting our blood pumping. Hubby would no doubt argue that this is the normal state of affairs for at least his kiwi – he is fond of quoting Captain Cook who upon writing home about the newly discovered New Zealand: “the locals are friendly but not to be trusted”.
Kids also love hakas and our two little testosterone charged rockets start boucing off the walls whenever they watch one of these You Tube videso. So enjoy! And be grateful that it’s not you that the haka is aimed at.

This is the All Blacks playing South Africa:

And this is a traditional Maori dance group performing another haka:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Daily Grind

I’m the first to admit that I love coffee. I mean really LOVE it. Lots of people are fond of the odd cup of brew of course but I really, truly love it.
Hot or cold, iced or steaming, black, latte, sweetened or topped with frothy milk…it’s all delicious as long as it follows the basic rule. Just like sex, coffee should be good, hot and plentiful. I’m not compromising for a quickie out of a dusty jar of Nescafe, if it’s not the real deal I’m not going to enjoy it and certainly not fake that I do. It gives the expression "going through the daily grind" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
No doubt at least half of my stomach troubles stem from my chronic coffee habit but frankly, I’m willing to put up with a little gastritis if it means I can imbibe enough of the good stuff to make my world a sunnier place.
In the interests of improving my health I did once switch to decaffeinated coffee at work. It seemed like a good idea at the time because my consumption had skyrocketed. All journalists seem to drink a lot of coffee. Whether it’s to help us reach those deadlines faster or make our fingers so jittery that we can type more quickly, whatever the reason the only time I heard my colleagues swear was when the coffee machine was on the blink, necessitating a hike up the fire escape to use the machine upstairs. I spurned those ridiculous single-portion disposable plastic cups and brought my own heavy duty coffee mug, a sturdy beast with a picture of a kiwi in All Black kit and the words “tiny kiwi tuffy’ on the side. I could fit TWO regular cups of coffee in there, and would fill it up at least three times before lunch. Eventually I thought it might not be too healthy so decided to try de-caf.
After a couple of days I began to get worried. I seemed to be going to the loo every half hour. Did I have a bladder infection? What was wrong with me?? Suddenly it clicked. Desperately craving its caffeine fix, my body was making me drink cup after cup of decaf in a fruitless search for that elusive high. I suddenly realised I was drinking the equivalent of NINE CUPS of coffee each morning! De-caf or not, that can’t be good for you. It was time to face up to it: my name is Joanne and I’m a coffee addict. I didn’t go through a seven step program but I did admit defeat and change back to regular coffee, limiting my consumption to two mugs in the morning.
Something I don’t get is the trend for people to have those fancy espresso machines in their homes. Of course the coffee tastes great, I’m sure you’re friends are as impressed as hell when you can turn out a double espresso amidst clouds of steam like a professional barista, but people…it takes forever! Who can wait ten minutes for a single shot of coffee?? Not me, when I need coffee I need it now. Our filter paper is still dripping when I swallow my first mouthful in the morning.
My sister recently bought a beautiful machine which she loves with a passion usually reserved for discreetly hidden toys and iPods. Ironically her hubby doesn’t drink coffee and her kids are too young so you've got to wonder at the strength of her addiction to feel compelled to shell out several hundred dollars on a sleek black and chrome contraption. However I had to text her to let her know when I was on my way so should could start making the coffee when I jumped in the car. By the time I pulled up in the driveway the first cup was nearly ready – and I’d finished it before she’d even started hers. Round two, anyone?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It's rugby season again! All over the globe keen fans are glued to their tv watching to see who will reign triumphant in this years Rugby World Cup. Of course I am cheering on New Zealand, but as we say back home: "I support two teams: New Zealand and anybody playing against Australia".
Most of you are familiar with the spine-tingling haka war dance which the mighty All Blacks (that's New Zealands national team) do before each match. This is a tradition which dates back to 1884 when the first New Zeland rugby team toured overseas. Appropriately enough, they went to Aussie. Frankly if I was faced with a line up of these huge, muscle bound rugby players screaming a war dance and rolling their eyes at me I would be pretty intimidated, and that is of course the point. However for those who are really interested the haka is not always a war dance, it can be performed by men and women and even children. Hakas can be a war dance but also a welcome, to mark special ccasions or achievements (they are sometimes done in honour of someone) or even just for entertainment. However considering the finger drawn across the throat and gruesome facial grimaces of the last All Black haka, the meaning of this version is pretty clear. Just for a laugh, following is a funny, light-hearted animated version. For those interested in seeing a real haka I highly recommend You Tube, or check back here tomorrow when I will upload a video file from there of an All Black haka.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Taking Comics Too Seriously

There are some things which the Asian youth cultures take very seriously and one of these is anime. For those of you who are not up to speed on the whole anime scene it’s a form of animated film derived from ‘manga’, which are the source books, comics, or animated novels. It’s usually sourced from Japan and is hugely popular.
The follow little news item from Reuters highlights a little reported protest action which was carried out here in Singapore. In itself the story isn’t very interesting, but the way in which the local authorities reacted to it speaks volumes. See for yourself.

Singapore anime figurine protesters meet real police

Reuters - Friday, September 7
SINGAPORE, Sept 7 - A protest action by a group of Singaporeans with Japanese anime figurines such as the 5-inch tall Ultramen, robots and monsters with placards met some real-life police in the city-state.
A handful of fans of Japanese anime had turned up at a Singapore public park on August 25 with armfuls of the toys to protest against a clampdown on Internet downloading of anime material by Singapore animation distributor Odex.
The incident was not reported in the local press, but pictures and accounts have started circulating on many blogs and political Web sites. .
"The police didn't stop us from what we wanted to do. But their being there was enough to intimidate," the event's organiser -- who only wanted to be known by his online moniker Zer0 -- told Reuters by telephone.
He added that police -- who had four anti-riot vans at the scene -- also took down the anime fans' particulars and that they were filmed by plainclothes policemen. A police spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment.
Public protests are rare in Singapore, where outdoor demonstrations are banned and any public gathering of more than four people requires a permit.

...Sorry was that FOUR anti-riot vans for a bunch of comic nerds clutching action figures????
P.S. Thanks to Zero, one of the key figures in this story, who posted his comment below.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Famous Bunny

Ok so it' smore bunny news, but remember I had four legged kids before two legged ones.

Following is a link to a short film clip which Liesbethhas posted on You Tube showing Rocco blissed-out getting groomed. This is one bunny who LOVES a good scrunching and plucking to get rid of the masses of excess hair he sheds at moulting time. If you looks at the surface he is standing on you'll also see the piles of sand coming out of his fur, a by-product of his favourite activity: shifting a hole from one end of his pen to the other. He is usually assisted by his partner in crime and all things else, Ashely when he does this. She however can dig like a demon and still comes up glossy and clean at the end of the day.

Here's also a picture of the terrible two at their bunny villa in Eindhoven, otherwise known as Opvang Franky ( Enjoy!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pulau Ubin

Just to the north of Singapore is Pulau Ubin, a small island which once best known for its commercial granite quarries. The name literally means Granite Island, although today the quarries have filled with water and the island is now a nature reserve. At one stage several thousand people lived here, hewing the stone out of the ground to help build Singapore’s impressive skyline or working on one of the rubber, mango, or coconut plantations or prawn farms. Today about 100 locals live in primitive conditions on the island, serving a flourishing tourist industry of about 300,000 visitors – mostly locals - per year.
Getting to Pulau Ubin is half the fun of the visit. First you need to go to Changi Village (the town lends its name to the nearby Changi International Airport), on the north of the mainland. Then you jump in a ‘bumboat’, a small vessel originally designed for coastal fishing now used to ferry 12 visitors per trip to the island. There are no queues and no tickets. Once 12 people have gathered at the departure jetty a wizened captain in flip flops and tatty shorts will wave you over to his boat and departure with a roar of the engine and a cloud of diesel fumes. His cheerful wife will then collect the money, the entire transaction being conducted with nods and smiles and without a word of English. About 12 minutes later you arrive at Pulau Ubin. The captain swings his boat around to approach the jetty backwards and at a great rate of knots, with everybody clinging on for dear life and expecting half of the jetty to end up in splinters on the beach. At the very last second he cuts power, and the boat bumps ever so gently up against the buffer. Journey over.
While there are a few vehicles on the island for use by the locals, and in particular by the police and rangers, there is basically one mode of transport on Pulau Ubin: bicycle. For as little as $2 per day you can rent bikes, many of dubious quality, to trundle around the island and work up a sweat in the 30°+ heat. This weekend we had my mother in law Mieke and her partner Jan Willem with us who, in good Dutch style, are excellent cyclists and were keen to try their hand at a tropical ‘fiets tocht’. The point of cycling on Pulau Ubin is not so much to go anywhere, but just to enjoy the novelty of doing it. We always see plenty of wild life, particularly very large monitor lizards, impressively scary monster sized bugs and a range of birds. The island is known for being home to the only colony of Pied Crested Hornbills, and this weekend we were lucky enough to see three of these rather strange yet quite beautiful birds up close, feasting in a banana tree. To see a good photo of a hornbill check out this link to an earlier posting:

A half hours gentle cycling followed by a walk on the beach looking at Malaysia’s coastline just a couple of hundred metres away was followed by a more sweaty uphill ride back to the only village. On the way we stopped to drink from fresh coconuts and let the kids run around. Back in town the only real diversion is lunch at one of the excellent live seafood restaurants, where the food is so fresh it’s practically still moving on your plate and yet only cost $34 for the six of us.
For anyone who plans to spend more than a couple of days in Singapore this is a lovely way to see what it must have been like living here 50 years ago, although without the mosquitoes and swarms of bugs which are now controlled, thankfully. While the locals seem perfectly adapted to life with generators for electricity and water pumped from their own wells, I have to admit it was lovely to get back to the air conditioning. How we take the little things for granted, and how spoilt we have become!