Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1, 2011

A SIGNIFICANT LEAP FOR ARTS AND SCIENCES IN SINGAPORE: Big news here is the announcement that Yale and the National University of Singapore will be working together in a big way. It's being billed as this nation's FIRST liberal arts college. NUS, of course, promotes it at its Web site (above).
Many at NUS applaud Yale's confidence in academic freedom at NUS and think it is totally justified. A political science professor at NUS, sent me a link to a story about a freedom-chilling development at Beijing University as reported by the China Daily.
He said he said he hopes this development will lessen some of the "stereotypical criticism of Singapore that still circulates among American academics."
This is a great time to be here, given Sandy's keen involvement with Yale. She's on the ballot to be on the Yale Corporation, a 19-person group that basically oversees the university.

IT'S THAT LANGUAGE THING AGAIN--WHAT DOES TO BREAK A DUCK MEAN? Here's the opening paragraph about a hapless S-League football team, which lost on Thursday March 31:
"S-League football club Woodlands Wellington finally broke their duck this season, but still fell 1-2 to defending champions Etoile FC at the Woodlands Stadium yesterday."
Yup. They "broke their duck," which must make the Woodlands' mascot--the ram (right)--delighted.
This has nothing to do with a certain Chinese menu item. Puzzled, I looked it up. To "break a duck" means a player or team has scored the first run or goal or basically "broken the duck's egg." In the U.S., we are likely to hear "goose egg" more often than "duck's egg." They may not weigh the same or cook the same or taste the same, but they both mean zero.
I happened to see the Woodlands team in their first game on Feb. 14. They lost 1-0. And they had been held without a goal for more than a month. As you can see from the standings, they have played only six games. But you certainly want to break the duck quicker than that. Big question: When will the Red Sox break their duck for wins? They just lost their opener!

FLYING THE COOP ON THE CRANES: This will be the last installment for the Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator for a while because Sandy and I are heading to HANOI and BEIJING. We won't be back until April 13. Not sure what blogging opportunities will be available. Anyway, here's the reading:
Date: April 2
Time: 7 a.m. (Singapore time)
Cranes Up (bad): 9
Cranes Down (good): 17
CRANES MISSING (neutral): 1

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

JAPANESE RESTAURANTS LOOKING TO ASSURE CUSTOMERS OF SAFETY: Some of the Japanese restaurants here seem to be taking a bit of a hit because of concerns over foodstuffs brought from Japan in the wake of the nuclear-reactor problems. Sandy told me about a sign (above) at the Yamada Restaurant & Sushi Bar in the mall below us.
It says:
"Dear Valued Customer: Our FOOD Is Safe For Consumption."
(Normally such a sign is NOT required. It reminds me of a sign I saw at a Red Roof Inn in Maryland AFTER I had checked in with Andrew, when he was 17. It read something like: "This motel cooperates with all local police agencies." How reassuring was that?)
Anyway, I had lunch there today, and it was wonderful (see photo). And it was somewhat crowded, with 16 people eating on the "outside" tables. I was lucky to find an empty one.
For the record, I did not eat any sushi. But I don't tend to swim with that group, anyway.
One small concern surfaced with the edamame. One of the soybeans (left) bore a passable resemblance to the nose of Homer Simpson (right), dontcha think? Is that stretching things too much? OK, you're right. By the way, what do you think of the green coloring of the edamame? Too much?

CRANES KEEP CONSISTENT PROFILE: We're holding steady with a little streak of less-than-10-cranes-up days, which lends some consistency to the Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator, which continues to be met with DEAFENING SILENCE in financial circles.
Date: April 1
Time: 9 a.m. (Singapore time)
Cranes Up (bad): 9
Cranes Down (good): 17
CRANES MISSING (neutral): 1

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MAKES YOU WONDER WHICH ONE COMPLETED BOOT CAMP: The photo above has thrust Singapore's military--and the readiness of its soldiers--into the spotlight. The photo first appeared on Facebook, zipped through message boards and then was posted on March 27 on a Straits Times-related Web site called Stomp!. The photo appears to show a maid carrying the backpack of a Singaporean soldier.
The discussion around this is so serious because every able-bodied male citizen and permanent resident who is 18 and older must do two years of military training. The big question: Are Singapore's soldier's too coddled to defend this island nation?
Maids are quite a big part of the lifestyle here. And it's quite easy to find women who are eager to do such work in Singapore, which is quite a bit wealthier than the surrounding nations. I like the fact that the soldier appears to be checking his email or something like that. He's peering down at something in his hands. Maybe he's looking for another maid, on a popular Web site.
An article released Wednesday by Agence France Presse said:
"Local daily the New Paper also surveyed 23 national servicemen and found that 22 of them had their maids wash and iron their army uniforms, while 17 had their domestic helpers clean their rooms for them.
Close to 200,000 maids -- largely from Indonesia and the Philippines -- were estimated to be working in affluent Singapore last year."
Sandy recalled something we heard during our tour of World War II sites on the island. The guide said she often sees mothers (or maids) apparently delivering food to the young men who are stationed at various barracks or camps--because the military rations "aren't good enough".
This type of coddling surely doesn't happen for the vast majority of servicemen, I'm sure. But what happens when one of these pampered soldiers pulls KP duty?
Where will this end? Is it a slippery slope that leads all the way to a form of substitution allowed during the U.S. Civil War--one of the great examples of a "rich-man's war; poor man's fight"?

CRANES KEEP A WELCOME LOW PROFILE: We're back in business with the Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator. Everything is looking pretty good with a couple of DOWN days.

Date: March 31
Time: 8:10 a.m. (Singapore time)
Cranes Up (bad): 8
Cranes Down (good): 18
CRANES MISSING (neutral): 1

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, Tuesday, March 28-29, 2011

MUSEUM TURNS TO CENSORSHIP, WITHOUT TELLING THE ARTIST: Earlier, I mentioned the 2011 Singapore Biennale at the Singapore Art Museum and thought it was refreshing and provocative. I think I have to step back a little from that. When we got back from Hong Kong, we were greeted on Monday by an article in the Straits Times that said "Museum censors explicit art work." The piece--which actually transformed a room in the museum into a Spanish bar--is called "Welcome To The Hotel Munber". It included some material that some found objectionable, including some gay pornographic magazines. Museum officials plucked the items from the installation. But the museum officials did not tell British artist Simon Fujiwara about the alteration. The newspaper reported that the museum officials did not have time to discuss the change with the artist during the busy opening weekend. Really? Sounds weak to me. Remember telephones, email, Twitter, carrier pigeons?
Anyway, the ST credited with breaking the story.
The change came AFTER the show's opening and AFTER reviewers had come and gone.

IT'S NOT A TYPICAL PLACE TO VISIT, BUT THE LIBRARY IS EYE-CATCHING: On Tuesday, I MRT'd my way to the City Hall stop and walked to the National Library. It was my second time there. This time I had a purpose. While editing a manuscript, I came across a reference to a book of short stories by Somerset Maugham--The Casuarina Tree. I needed to find a copy to check the reference out. It turns out they had a copy on the eighth floor. I'm not here long enough to merit a library card, but I could read it there. The library's affinity for glass (see photo of entrance above) made the reading room quite enjoyable, even for those whose eyes have seen better days--literally. I couldn't find the reference in any of the short stories to a certain tea-taster. Of course, it's hard to prove something is NOT there (evidence of absence; absence of evidence?). The man might be in the stories. I just couldn't find it. But I enjoyed the stories I read. (Including the "Force of Circumstance" and "The Letter.")
Somerset Maugham's Postscript included this statement, related to Singapore:
"With the exception of Singapore, a city too busy with its own concerns to bother itself with trifles, imaginary names have been chosen for the places in which the action of these stories is supposed to be conducted."

PRESERVING A ONCE-COMMON SIGHT: Gracing the entry of the museum is a bronze assemblage by Chong Fah Cheong of Singapore. It's called Another Day (The Coolies). He depicts a fairly recent pair of coolies--from the 1970s and 1980s, who toiled in various warehouses and boats before the Singapore River was transformed by urban redevelopment. This, I liked. It also showed me that it's OK to raise the soup bowl to the mouth (right). The chopsticks have their limits.

BACK TO CRANE COUNTING: It was hard going a week without counting cranes. Here's an updated chart that includes the numbers for March 28, 29 and 30. I realize this lack of information might have affected your financial adventurism. Sorry about the delay in getting the numbers to you. But you should have seen the SIZE of the CRANES in HONG KONG!!!!! The ones outside our window are kind of small, compared not only to Hong Kong, but also to other terminals along the waterfront here. I think I suffer from cranile envy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Saturday/Sunday, March 26/27, 2011 (Hong Kong)

A MEMORABLE HONG KONG SEVENS: There's lots to do in Hong Kong that I neglected to do. No visit to Kowloon. No hiking. No ferry rides. No Central-to-Mid-Level escalator ride. No visit to the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau. One activity trumped all that. We spent most of Saturday at the second day of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament. We had a blast. We were far enough from the notorious South Stands (above) to be barely touched by the antics. We did enjoy seeing the images of the frolicking on the big-screen TVs at the stadium. We were close enough to see and touch some of the costumed attendees. That included the gentleman pictured at right. We thought he was a lobster of some kind. Nope. He was dressed as a Red Dragon, in support of the Wales team.
We picked up some of the major rules of rugby but totally missed many nuances of the game, I'm sure. For example, we were surprised to learn, upon reading the sports pages of Sunday, that Australia's win over Canada was tainted by a referee's bad call. As described in the South China Morning Post, Australia was
"on the ropes in their own 22 in the dying seconds until referee James Matthew ruled Canada had fed the ball incorrectly at a scrum."
It left the Canadian coach at a loss, joining a chorus for video technology. He said,
"It was a delusion on a call like that at the end, but that's life, there were occasions were [sic] we maybe should have won it earlier."
I have no idea about the correct or incorrect way to feed a ball into a scrum.
As it turned out, New Zealand won the whole tournament. England finished second overall. The U.S. seemed to do well with three wins (over Japan, China and Tonga) and two losses (to England and Japan).

A TAILOR-MADE VISIT: It was evidently OK to visit Hong Kong without going to Kowloon, but I couldn't miss the tailor. One of them, anyway. We had a couple of shirts made, and a suit. The patterns were great (right; to clarify, those are shirt patterns, not suit patterns. I wasn't ordering a suit to wear in the South Stands at the Hong Kong Sevens.). The handiwork was stellar. Will this keep me from gaining weight? Time will tell.

IS THE MEAT REALLY THAT FRESH? While eating breakfast before hustling to the airport to catch a plane back to Singapore, we glanced out the window and saw that a small part of the countryside had been trucked into the Central district of Hong Kong. This beast was on display on what I think is Ice House Street. We wondered why it was parked right outside a hotel-dining-room window. We don't think this was a pick-your-lobster type of arrangement. I'm sure he survived the visit to the Big City. I can think of a couple of rugby teams that could have used this guy on the field.

MY SOCK, HIS SHIRT, OUR MUTUAL EMBARRASSMENT: Sandy and I dined on Saturday at the Aberdeen Marine Club with Chien Lee, his cousin Irene and Dr. Tak Lee. Without planning (and, you will say, without any sense of style), Chien and I happened to wear some Andover garb. (He was in the class of 1971; I was in the class of 1970.) Over the loud protests of my hamstring, we posed to show our Andover-wear. Abercrombie & Fitch need not lose any sleep.