Gold 90 FM, Home of Brian Richmond

I was slightly offended when I turned on the radio and heard, “Gold 90 FM, Home of Elvis Presley”. It was read out by Brian Richmond, the doyen of radio presenters.

Then I realised that they really should have a promo/announcement that says something to the effect of “Radio Singapore – Home of Brian Richmond”, for he is nothing less than a living legend, an institution, and a life story that mirrors this country’s own history – an Englishman, an orphan of Empire, adapting to local climes, flourishing, maturing and evolving into the voice of Oldie Goldie Radio, with his slow, deliberate sentences and flat vowels that bely his enthusiasm when he introduces Glenn Campbell’s and other country songs.

If I had a hat, I’d tip it to you, Uncle Brian.

Brian Richmond sings Elvis
Brian Richmond sings Elvis

The salty salesmen of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea Mudpack

The sales tactics of Vardi & Migdal – the Israeli company with pushcarts in malls all over the island – used to work. They use pushcarts instead of renting a shop space because if you were a salesman in a shop, you wouldn’t be able to roam a mall’s thoroughfare and accost passers-by.

We have some nail buffer thing we bought about two years ago thanks to a salesman who insisted on buffing Naomi’s and my nails. I agreed to buy the item just so he’d stop holding our hands like we were conducting some seance.

One of their (presumably Israeli, I don’t know for sure, I’m just assuming based on my racist profiling of what they look and sound like) salesmen struck again yesterday with the same aggressive approach.

Well, not quite the same. He approached Naomi and startled her by declaring, “Your skin has a lot of blemishes!”, followed by an enquiry, “What skin care product do you use?”

Thankfully for him, before I could smack his presumably Israeli head with my shopping bag, Naomi brushed him off, telling him she didn’t use any skin care product and didn’t care for his Dead Sea mineral-enriched jars of mud and crap.

Vardi & Migdal, your time is up. Pack up your pushcarts and traverse back to whence you came! (After you wind up your local registered company and pay your taxes).

Female circum… whaaaaat?

I was shocked to learn from Naomi yesterday that female circumcision is practiced in Singapore. I had no idea.

You learn a lot from motherhood forums, where Naomi stumbled upon discussions on whether to circumcise, where to circumcise, how to do it and how much is done and how much is charged.

I’ve always thought that female circumcisions were only carried out in some tribes in Africa, and that there was never any religious basis for doing so.

Further googling the subject:

In Singapore’s small Muslim community, female circumcision involves nicking the prepuce, the skin covering the clitoris.

It is markedly different from the practices of some Muslim communities in Africa and the Middle East decried by human rights activists as female genital mutilation. In those cases, a young girl’s clitoris is clipped and burned. In a few communities, all the external genitals are cut off and the remnant tissue is sewn up to leave only a small opening.

Those practices originated 1,400 years ago, before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, says Noor Aisha Binte Abdul Rahman, a professor at the National University of Singapore.

Singapore’s milder form is viewed as symbolic of this tradition.

But anyway, I’ve always known male circumcision to be ‘compulsory’ among Muslim males, and I’ve a story of a friend of mine who’s Muslim, but whose mother managed to hide him from the circumcisor’s (is that what they’re called?) scissors until he was about eight or ten years old, when he was found out by his mosque mates, presumably when they went to the loo together.

My friend was dragged kicking and screaming to the circumcision table and given the sunat. His mother, heartbroken and guilt-ridden by her only son’s wails and pleas, bought him an Apple computer to help soothe him as he recovered.

A few years ago this friend and I were talking about computers, and he was complaining that his laptop was on the blink. He couldn’t afford a new one at the time, and said that he thought about asking his mother for a loan, but decided against it eventually, because “I think my mother will sunat me again”.

Inappropriate children’s songs


Now that Kai is beginning to learn and mimic, we are starting to be more mindful of the songs we sing to him. Especially children’s songs.

On our banned wagon now is the French ditty Alouette, which we thought was about a skylark.

It is about a skylark, and the cruel thing (plucking its feathers) the singer does to it.

The song gets really awful at the end, when the singer goes:

And your neck
And your back
And your wings
And your feet
And your tail
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai

Skylark, I shall pluck you

The other song we’re considering either banning or changing the lyrics of is the Chinese children’s song called “Ke Ren Lai Kan Ba Ba” (There’s a visitor to see Daddy), in which the child sings:

A visitor came,
To see Daddy.
Daddy was not home.
I invited the visitor in and asked him to sit
And gave him a cup of tea

I know, right? WTF? You’d smack your kid if he did that. He could’ve let in Jehovah’s Witnesses, debt collectors, travelling salesmen, NEA inspectors even if he didn’t let in criminals or something!

So we’re changing the lyrics to something (I’ll get Naomi’s mum to translate it back to Chinese) like:

When a visitor comes
And says he’s looking for Daddy
And Daddy’s not home
I’ll tell him Daddy said get lost
See this cup of tea?
It’s hot and will scald your face
If you don’t step away right now.

The music they play in hell

We had to go out to Paragon today because Kai had to see the doctor to get some medication for his cold.

We’re all a bit under the weather, but we managed to soldier on because Paragon’s common areas didn’t play that infernal racket known as Chinese New Year music. The individual shops and the supermarket were another matter. We had instantaneous severe migraine to add to our flu the moment we stepped in to pick up groceries for dinner.

President Obama, I give you the solution to the war in Afghanistan: just send your humvees and choppers into the mountains blaring this the music they play in hell, and I guarantee you, the Taliban will be flushed from their caves, surrendering in shock and awe.

Click here and bleed from your ears

Unthinkable Singapore


So we might not get to watch the World Cup.

They say you can feel the pulse of the nation on, and yesterday, a heartfelt plea from “Rogue Trader” summed up the disbelief and desperation among soccer fans around the island.

Dear singtel and starhub,

i writes to you as a football fans. Please show us all world cup matches this year.

Please note that I write only “matches”. We don’t needs any other channels like:
1) “bench area” view for the both sides’ substitute bench and managers,
2) the “tactical” top-down view where we can only see which player is balding.
3) “Beckham” view to show him for full 90 minutes (or “Christiano Ronaldo” view etc).

I know singaporean telco/ISP very high tech can show all this. probably last time you can charge us more for these channels we didnt choose to subscribe.

Just show us the Live game from the match camera view. This way your bid can become cheaper. And then we can all watch the world cup this year.

Thank you!

The other unthinkable thing I read about was how Sassyjan and her family were harassed by loansharks who struck – the usual paintjob, phonecalls and ripping her front gate out – with apparent impunity, because her calls to the police resulted in merely ineffectual advice (install a CCTV) while she and her family cowered in fear, half-hoping that our Home Team would be on the job, and that the Investigating Officer had a very, very good reason not to return her call for an entire week.

Maybe they should change the name of the “The Home Team” to “The Go Out and Protect Our Citizens Team”. That might do the trick.


Vegetarian food can taste this good

Once in a while I hanker for a steak, done medium-rare, and I used to think I wouldn’t survive a day without meat. I also have a sensitive stomach, about which Naomi loves to talk with some glee to her friends and relatives.

We read somewhere awhile ago about ‘eating for your blood type’, and that because I’m type A+, I should avoid meats, especially red meat. And though it’s been rubbished by some people, I decided to give vegetarian diets a try about two years back. Wouldn’t you know it, the tummy aches and explosive diarrhea more or less disappeared.

You’d think it’s as simple as converting oneself right away to a completely vegetarian diet, but when you’ve got meat eaters in your family, it’s hard not to put some meat on your plate. Plus, I like my steak, roast pork, charsiew, and sometimes, I feel like it’s worth the tummy ache.

But Naomi and I have decided again, whenever we’re at home – because it’s usually just Kai and ourselves, to eat as much of a vegetarian diet as possible, with just a little meat on the side, instead of the other way around.

If you’re omnivorous like us, and you’re considering switching to a vegetarian diet, don’t think of it as having to give up good tasting food, or having to suffer Chinese vegetarian horrors as “mock duck”, “mock abalone” and “mock pork” at some vegetarian eateries. I think it’s ridiculous that vegetarian dishes are made up to be facsimiles of meat ones. It’s not supposed to be a sacrifice.

We’ve been fortunate to have friends who’ve given us tips on where and what to eat – and the restaurant we lunched at yesterday is one of the places we’d recommend highly.

Naïve is at 99 East Coast Road, opposite Katong Mall, and when Naomi called to make a reservation, she was told not to worry about that and just walk in. Walk in we did, and stand and wait we did for a table for about 15 minutes before we over-ordered, overate, and then lugged our full vegetarian stomachs around for the rest of the afternoon.

If you were teetering on whether to turn vegetarian (for whatever reasons – to save the planet is a good one), a meal at Naïve could tip you over the edge. The food is that good. It’s even more amazing that not only are their dishes meatless, they’re also MSG-less, egg-less, onion-less and garlic-less.

If you over-order and over-eat, expect to pay about $30+ a person.

Cheeky Monkey - monkey head mushrooms with crispy oats

Olive brown rice

Sambal broccoli

Hong Kong fried noodles

Mac the Dog’s visit to the vet

Mac waits for walkies

Mac the Dog’s chronic itchy paw problem may have a solution. Thanks to a tip from our super doggie mommy friend, we visited Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre at Sunset Way, where the vet told us that almost everything Mac’s previous vet told us was bunk.

Mac probably doesn’t have a thyroid imbalance causing skin problems. Nor is he likely to be having hormonal problems caused by food allergies caused by chicken and meats. Nor does he need long term steroid and thyroid medication.

A sigh of relief all round, you might think. But knowing how dogs understand what we say even if they don’t quite speak human, Mac has mixed feelings about yesterday’s visit because the new vet also says that there is no issue with him being neutered because there is no hormonal imbalance, and even if there were, it has nothing to do with his reproductive organs.

Oh well.

Why Tanglin has a Halt

Block 80, Tanglin Halt

Yesterday, someone tweeted something quite innocuous – about food and about how she was about to eat food – but the locality she tweeted about – “Tanglin Halt” – piqued my interest.

I’ve always wondered who Tanglin was named for, and why there is (or was) a “Halt” in Tanglin. It isn’t exactly a burning question, so I’ve left it aside for the best part of three decades, until now.

Googling “Tanglin Halt History”, I found the NHB site, “Heritage Trails“, which explained:

This area, bordered by Stirling Road, Queensway and the Malayan Railway, derived its name from Tanglin Road and the Malayan Railway, which used to have a stop (thus the word ‘halt’) near the junction of Tanglin Halt Road and Tanglin Halt Close. ‘Tanglin’ came from “Tua Tang Leng” (Hokkien: Great Eastern Hills), a name given by the Chinese to the hilly area around Tanglin Road. Tanglin Halt was also known as ‘Tanglin Halt Chap Lau’ (Hokkien: Ten Storeys), after the ten-storey blocks which make up the estate. Today it is called Tanglin Halt Green with three new 40-storey blocks towering over the original Chap Lau which are still standing

So now I know: The Ten-Storey Blocks on The Great Eastern Hills where The Train of the Land of the Malays (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) used to Halt.