Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday and Tuesday, May 9-10, 2011 (Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Australia)

SYDNEY--CATCHING UP WITH HOMETOWN NEWS FROM SINGAPORE: Today's papers in Sydney have a few small items about Singapore's Saturday elections, which were viewed as historic by some and ho-hum-more-of-the-same by others. The ruling People's Action Party won 81 of 87 contested seats in parliaments. That sounds, of course, like a huge margin. However the six seats won by the left-of-center Workers' Party sets a RECORD for the opposition in the nearly five decades of Singapore's existence as an independent city-state.
Significantly, George Yeo, the country's high-profile foreign minister, lost his seat when his party lost the Aljunied race, despite the posters such as the one at right. His defeat has saddened many ASEAN leaders. He was, I think, the first Singaporean minister to begin blogging. He has long hosted a Facebook page. This marks the first time the ruling government has lost a so-called Group Representative Constituency.
Despite holding such a wide margin in parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the party would begin doing some "soul-searching" to find out what went wrong.
The Workers' Party sees this as a real breakthrough. The share of the vote won by the PAP fell to about 60 percent. It was at 67 percent in 2006 and 75 percent in 2001. Looks like a trend.
The Aljunied results will be interesting to track because Lee Kuan Yew, the prime minister's father and the man who set up the current political order, had warned of "consequences" if voters in Aljunied supported the opposition. They did. Now, we'll see what comes of the not-so-veiled threat.

BRISBANE--BICYCLES HAVE A FUTURE: Brisbane has loaded up on rent-a-bicycles through a citycycle program (above). It looks like the program is similar to the one Boston plans to launch in July, which was presented in the news with Paris and Washington, D.C., as templates. (Brisbane was not mentioned.) On a beautiful weekday morning (Tuesday), I spotted lots of bicycles neatly lined up at rental stations. Some slots were empty indicating people were using them. I didn't happen to see anyone wheeling around the streets, though.

BRISBANE--BICYCLES HAVE A PAST: I ran into one bicycle at the Museum of Brisbane. It was a major part of the exhibition Send: From Telegraph to Text at the museum. The exhibit, confined to one room at the museum, marks the 150th anniversary of Queensland's first telegraph message, which sputtered its way from Brisbane to Ipswich in 1861. The bicycle, of course, was used by the young boys who delivered telegrams by wheels.
The breakthrough of the telegraph, and its similarity to modern-day text messaging, is clearly articulated and made for some interesting reading. The OMG impulse (to save time and money in communicating) goes way back. It prompted me to download a copy of The Victorian Internet.

MELBOURNE--A GREAT DINNER: Right across the street from Parliament, we ducked into the European for dinner (on Tuesday night). By "we" I mean Sandy, Eileen Turpin (from the Winchester neighborhood), Eugene Snyman (from Cambridge's Sydney office) and me. (That's Eileen and Sandy at right.)
I thought that my zucchini flowers caponata were worthy of photographing (above). Actually, the whole meal was worth capturing in photos, but I didn't. Too busy eating.

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