Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011 (Singapore)

SAIL HO! Sandy and I grabbed a late lunch on the rooftop restaurant (The Lantern) of the Fullerton Bay Hotel this afternoon, killing time before an 11:55 p.m. flight to Seoul. We were intrigued by the sight of some small sailboats skittering around on Marina Bay. It added a welcome touch to the area. We have noticed that the docks seem to vastly outnumber the boats in the bay and adjoining waters. We liked the recreational feel to this.
It turns out that it's part of Boat Asia 2011. The sailboats are Laser Bahias. Unfolding before our eyes was Singapore's FIRST EVER city sailing match race. Even though the setting offered neither characteristic, we each had a DARK 'N' STORMY. We have no idea who won.

ARE THEY CLEANING IT OR PAINTING IT? While gazing at the sailboats on Marina Bay, noticed some work being done on the roof/wall of the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum across the bay (above and right). It's hard to tell whether it needed a paint job (unlikely) or a good cleaning (more likely). Who knows? Maybe this was another kind of competition, to complement the sailing going on far below. In any case, it's neck-and-neck between the two workers on the right.
Assuming that they were, in fact, cleaning not painting, their timing could be really good--or not. There's a lot more stuff in the air these days, thanks to the winds that are bringing haze (and particulates) from stubborn peatland fires in Sumatra. Whatever they're doing--I really think it's cleaning--the museum needed something.
It was a hot day for this--29 degrees C, feeling like 34 degrees (which converts to 84 and 93 respectively). I wonder if they wish they were sailing.

Friday, May 13, 2011 (Sydney, Australia)

IT'S WORTH JAYWALKING TO: I was so excited about seeing the Sin City exhibit that I made two or three illegal street crossings to get to the Justice and Police Museum. (I almost got smeared by a big white bus emblazoned with the words "Spirit of Australia".) The exhibit, which unblushingly deals with Sydney's 20th century infatuation with organized crime might be a sign that Sydney is a "self-actualized" place. It's comfortable in its own sin, I mean skin.
Lots of the sin is linked to corrupt police and politicians. And lots flows from liquor, and the prohibition thereof. One gets a good appreciation for the background of the time-honored "six o'clock swill."
One of the great quotes that is featured on one of the walls came from the well-swilled lips of the crime boss Leonard McPherson:
"I'm the toughest man in f***king Sydney. I can kill anyone I f***king well want to, but I can't get my f***king dinner on time!"
The display notes he said this to his FIRST wife. I'm amazed there might have been a SECOND one.
. I found it outstanding. One exhibit included weapons taken from miscreants, including a wide range of bludgeons and stilettos pulled from walking sticks. Another daunting weapon: the handy mace (right). It's not the squirt-in-the-face kind of mace, either. The exhibits also included a look at the fabled bushrangers, a collection of some sour dour looking mug shots from the 1800s, information about some famous crimes (e.g., Graeme Thorne kidnapping), and a glimpse at some CSI-type forensic techniques.
A 19th-century court room is on display. Such a room heard about 120 cases a day in the later 1800s.
The prisoner's dock is preserved (right), looking like something that would fit in well at the great Taronga Zoo across the harbor . A journalist from the Sydney Mail (14 April 1889) had this to say about the dock: "Iron bars surround the prisoners, who are seated on forms, and it is almost impossible for one to regard its occupants as anything but the most abandoned of the Water Police Court, the occupant of the cage is very heavily handicapped, and the spectator is invariably astonished when acquittal is granted..."

TOTALLY BOARED: We had dinner with most of he Cambridge staffers on Thursday night at a restaurant in the fabulous Strand Arcade. The restaurant was Pendolino. Having had donkey in China, I absolutely had to have the ragu with WILD BOAR. The beast--the European variety anyway--has been an invasive nuisance in the United States. The memorable "Hogzilla" came to mind, briefly. It sure was tasty. I chased the wild boar with a dessert item that was topped by a GOLD LEAF. That also tasted good.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011 (Sydney, Australia)

GETTING BOWLED OVER? Fueled by her own growing knowledge of Australian sports (thanks to a class at the U. of Melbourne), Eileen Turpin gave Sandy and me a copy of Inside Out: Writings on Cricket Culture by Gideon Haigh of Melbourne. It's better than trying to sit down and read the rules. He made me pause--I knew then that he had me in his flipper-grip-- when I got to a small sequence on page 14. Here it is:
Cricket takes time. Games evolve. Light fluctuates. The ball ages. The players tire.
This sequence made me stop and take note, for a reason other than the fact that he nearly set a world's record for using only 13 words (19 syllables) to make five sentences. I suddenly liked cricket, in a scales-dropping-from-the-eyes kind of way. One sentence probably did it: "The ball ages."
I had no idea that they allow balls to deteriorate during a cricket match. [See this, from Wikipedia: "During cricket matches, the quality of the ball changes to a point where it is no longer usable, and during this decline its properties alter and thus influence the match."] In contrast, baseball has scrubbed itself clean from the "aging ball". A mere scuff on a baseball disqualifies it from competition.
Still, a tough go awaits if I want to watch a game. There's no denying what will likely happen when Sandy and I do so...
Cricket takes time. Minds wander. Heads droop. Blackberries buzz. Eyelids flutter.
[NOTE: If you are counting, that's 11 words (17 syllables) for five sentences. Still not a record, though.]

A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY: Yes, a lot of coffee gets consumed here. So does another pick-me-up, which I have enjoyed. This is a Ginger Zinger juice drink (right). There are plenty of variations. This includes orange juice and carrots, plus the requisite ginger. That's a bircher meusli in the background. I slid the sausages, bacon and eggs aside for a more healthy look.

THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN: Evidently, when you want to control an image, it's not always as easy as simply sliding the sausages, bacon and eggs out of the picture. The Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn called Der Zeitung had a tougher task, and today's Sydney Morning Herald took them to task (right) for the way it manhandled the official "situation room" photograph related to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In keeping with its policy to NOT publish photographs of women, the paper simply removed Hillary Clinton and counter-terrorism expert Audrey Tomason from the photograph (see above). The paper allowed Clinton's laptop to remain in the room, however. This was originally reported by After criticism surfaced, the paper printed an apology/explanation/excuse (which triggered the report in today's paper). Here's an excerpt:
Our photo editor realizing the significance of this historic moment, published the picture, but in his haste, did not read the "fine print" that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes and published a picture omitting the female participants in the room.
Sure, the photo editor (man or woman?) was working in great "haste". But he/she had enough time to take two important people out of the picture. The apology names Clinton; it would have been a nice gesture if the newspaper's apology had actually NAMED the other woman. So, fine, you don't want to print pictures of women. But don't change reality, for goodness sake.
The Sydney paper says Der Zeitung's "coverage of the women's final at Wimbledon must look very surreal." Furthermore, the paper "must live in fear of a first woman walking on the moon."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 (Melbourne, Sydney, Australia)

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO? Coffee-drinking used to be fairly straight-forward (as pitched by Joltin' Joe). There's a lot of coffee drinking going on around here, and it's not that easy to order it. The Aussies (who seem to be putting tea in the rear view mirror) have taken this to a level with which I am not familiar. Here are some terms:
Short black: a shot of expresso in an expresso cup.
Long black: shot of espresso mixed with half a cup of hot water. In other countries, this might be called an "Americano." This is the closest thing to a regular cup of coffee, U.S.-style. For me, a "long black with milk on the side" basically does the trick.
Macchiato: a shot of expresso with a drop of froth.
Flat white: a shot or two of expresso with steamed milk and no froth in a regular cup.
Cafe latte: shot or two of expresso with steamed milk and a touch of foam. (A piccolo latte is a smaller version.
Mocha coffee: a latte mised with cocoa powder.
Cappuccino: a shot or two of expresso, steamed milk and lots of froth.
Iced coffee: a shot or two of expresso mixed with cold milk, ice cream and topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder.

OH, THE THINGS WE MISSED IN MELBOURNE: We blew in and out of Melbourne really fast. Here's what we did NOT do. We didn't get tickets to see Dr. Zhivago, the Musical. I would like to see how they handled the image of the Russian soldier frozen to his Maxim machine gun in the movie (above). Also, despite heavy promotions in the hotel, we did NOT see what will be a spectacular King Tut, the exhibition. I did take a photo of various athletic arenas, including the Rod Laver stadium and tennis complex, site of the Australian Open (below).

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011 (Wellington, N.Z.)

SEE IT BY THE SEASIDE: At the last minute, we visited the Museum of Wellington City and Sea late in the morning. We found it incredibly rewarding. A main focus was on the city's maritime history (which runs as deep as the harbor). One exhibit followed the 1900s year-by-year with a news highlight and mini-exhibit for each year (above). Even for a non-resident, it was fascinating, with a blend of humor and drama. It includes (under 1997) a prosthetic foot used by Pippin (aka Peregrin Took) in The Lord of the Rings and an elven wine glass also used in the trilogy (shown).
Particularly memorable will be the exhibit on the Wahine disaster in 1968.

TO DO, OR NOT TO DO, THAT IS THE QUESTION: After crossing the city's art-adorned City-to-Sea pedestrian bridge--there's a 360-degree panorama on the web--we came face to face with a marker that is one of several erected along the Wellington waterfront as part of the Wellington Writers Walk. The installations call attention to the city's infatuation with literature.
The one Sandy noticed, and we photographed (above), has the following inscription, without attribution:
"It's true you can't live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb--"
Interesting. "The world headquarters of the verb." That's a much better reputation than, say, "The city where verbs go to die." (Any suggestions for that one?)
I know one verb that the city adores: TO CAFFEINATE.
[NOTE: In places other than the granite stone, the "world headquarters of the verb" quote is attributed to poet Lauris Edmond.]

Saturday, May 7, 2011 (Wellington, N.Z.)

OVER SOME VERY MISTY MOUNTAINS: We headed to Martinborough (about a 90-minute drive) to visit some vineyards and were rewarded by some great conversations and truly wonderful wines. Our third stop was at Vynfields, which featured a house that was originally built about 1905 in Wellington. The vineyard owners had it dismantled and trucked over the hills and planted amid their vines (above). The leaded glass and stained glass remained intact.
One of the views hints at the fact that this part of New Zealand offered director Peter Jackson numerous options for the setting of his Misty Mountains for the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, which has shooting sites peppered all over the country.
(We learned that director Jackson recorded crowd noises at Westpac Stadium--where we saw rugby on Friday--to create the sounds of orcs at Helms Deep. He is evidently working nearby and keeping an official blog on his work on the long-awaited Hobbit.)
We very much enjoyed the dolce wine at Schubert, which also featured a sign crafted from vine pieces (right) that duplicated each letter in the winery's name (only the "e" was manipulated). We also really enjoyed our visits to Vynfields (Kaye McAuley), Alana Estate (Alana Smart) and Ata Rangi (Bron de Grey). I can't really recall the names of the two others.
On the way back, we stuck our head into Old Saint Paul's, one of the truly amazing wooden structures in New Zealand.

A BIT OF THEATER: In the evening, we took in a comedy show called "Did I Believe It?" (It was reviewed in Auckland.) The four-person troupe performed on a raised floor in front of a bar in an upstairs room in a building on Queen's Wharf. This show featured about one hour of acting and a lengthy intermission during which audience members imbibed vodka, which was included in the price of the tickets. The show was apparently underwritten by 42 Below vodka, which is made in New Zealand. There were some good gaqs, good impressions, good physical humor (e.g., slapstick); maybe too much raunchiness--a safe refuge for many comedians. (All PC controls were switched in the OFF position. News Flash: If you walk into a BAR to see a PLAY, leave your sensibilities in the safe hands of the bouncer.) But we enjoyed the show, which was attended by a group of about 20 employees of a construction firm who had NO IDEA what they were in for. Still, the audience (which was large for the space, about 110) was appreciative. (Vodka can help with that.)
The show has drawn some flak for its apparent similarities to a British TV parody show, as discussed in a Wellingtonista blog from April.