Thursday, November 24, 2005

Civilization that Raffles left behind

It is my routine to pick up the Today newspaper when I leave home from Sengkang every morning, to read while I travelled the subway to work. However, this week, I was travelling to downtown Singapore to attend a course, and Today had runned out at my usual pickup spot. Well, ok, I wouldn't suffer any withdrawal effects from not reading Today for one day. In any case, I had this fantastic book on Small Businesses with me to work into that morning.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that at 8.30am, when I emerged from the Raffles Place MRT (subway), Today was still being distributed. So I reached out to get a copy (its free, by the way). But so many others were just grabbing the paper that I never seem to be able to lay my hands on one. Being an educated person (ahem, smirk), I waited until somebody would yield and give me the chance to pick up my copy. But no, nobody was interested in me, nobody gave a d*n. It was as if I was invisible!

Well, if that's the way this game was played, I'll join in, since I obviously couldn't beat the vultures. So I grabbed a paper, but lo and behold, somebody else grabbed it at the same time, so we ended up holding two ends of the same paper. Sheesh, its not as if this is gold, you know, so I let go. I tell you, it was quite an effort to pick up just one copy of the paper there that morning. It was an entirely unpleasant experience.

This was the first time I returned to that Mecca of capitalism (i.e. the center of the business district in downtown Singapore) after an absence of about 3 years. I will not be carrying away with me any longing or fondness for that place nor the people that commute there everyday. Its so 'uncivilised'.

It goes to show how free things can bring out the worst in people.

P.S. For those of you reading this and live outside of Singapore, don't get the wrong impression. Singapore, by and large, is a pleasant and interesting place. But sometimes it is these behaviour that spoils the proverbial broth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The spy who blogged me

It was reported in yesterday's Sunday Times (the Sunday paper of the Singapore Straits Times) that several Singapore bloggers were told to remove their blogs because they had posted pictures of their recent army training stint in them. One of these bloggers goes by the moniker, Miyagi, and is supposedly a popular blogger. He writes a column for the Today newspaper, a Singapore tabloid, where he discusses blogs that others write. The people who issued this take-down order was the Ministry of Defence. The reason - that the photos in these blogs (and I understand there were quite a few) are potential sources of information for terrorists who may be scanning the environment, especially those of the Defence Forces' training grounds. Terrorists have only one thing in mind - terror and destruction - so the photo blogs had to go. Some people might think this is being paranoid, but I am reminded again of what Andy Grove once warned: "Only the paranoid survives".

I would have thought that these bloggers had greater sense than to put up such photographs in the first place, never mind that there is probably great pride in showing off their, ahem, man-hood to the world.

The repercussion of this is that the Singapore Civil Service will probably issue a circular to the effect that civil servants must declare their blogs (if they have one), and that these blogs must henceforth following certain guidelines. Well, no thanks, Miyagi. You have just inadvertently contributed to the gagging of the blogger community of which you write about.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Excuse me, are you British?

My family and I (just the three of us) plus my son's Uncle, who is only one year older than him, saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Saturday. This is the newest (and some say the last) of the Harry Potter books to be made into a movie - at least for those starring the current actors. It seems to me that the stories remain engrossing and entertaining, given my son's wish to re-read the Half-blood Prince (after less than a month of first reading it).

Never having read the book before, this movie was intriguing, suspenseful and long - 2 and a half hours. Even then, it doesn't cover all the material in the book, as my son pointed out to me. The movie is worth the price of the ticket, which is S$9.50 a pop - weekend rate.

It just occurred to me that the most successful children's movies of the last few years that were made from an original book were all written by British authors. Joan K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, J.R.R. Tolkien for Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis for Chronicles of Narnia (well it hasn't screen yet, but its building up to a major release. We plan to watch that movie in December when it will be shown in cinemas). The Americans, on the other hand, has had more success in original movies such as Nemo, Bug's Tale, Madagascar, Star Wars etc., but their successes are perhaps not on the scale of these British effort. There is something to commend stories that come out first in book form, and then followed by a movie. The irony is that Tolkien and Lewis could never have imagined that their stories would one day garner such a strong following among children 50 years or thereabouts after they were first published.