Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Week Passes By

As we muddle through stimulus packages (sounding like sex tours, say comedians like Jay Leno), expert forecasts (remember the guys who said the US crisis' impact on Singapore would not be too adverse?) and so on.....I recalled an old cliche : necessity is the mother of invention.
If so, it is certainly necessary to think more creatively, not simply muddle through more "same old, same old". To climate change guys, come on, be like Bruce Willis in Armageddon! Remember, they blew up a comet or something to save the earth? To the money guys, please redistribute wealth. Nationalise wealth, not banks too big to fail. Either way, the critics will sharpen their knives at you. They care not that they have no better alternatives; not their job.
Let me show you a game I saw. See photo. You pay about $0.20 per try to fish the prawn. The mechanism's quite interesting, although you can't tell from the picture. If you succeed, just grill on the barbecue cooker next to the store. You fail, well, the storekeeper's got spare change. I don't see it in Singapore.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I know; the photographs have dried up, so here it comes.
Presenting...The Little Mermaid, a statue that sits on a rock in the Copenhagen harbour. It was unveiled in 1913 and has been the victim of vandals since the 1950s. She has lost her head at least twice and her right arm once, she was blasted entirely off of her rock in 2003, she’s been painted on several times, and she has had several “additions” over the years, including a burka, a dildo, a bra and a head scarf.
Yet here she remains, my photo taken in 2008. Someone once told me: if it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger.
So, Li'l Mer, you go girl. Show the Singapore whinger a thing or two. Some banking fella just claimed we're going to lose 99,000 jobs by 2010, bringing unemployment to 5%, unprecedented in Singapore.
I bet he's wrong. Obama supports my belief, how about that?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Wider Perspective

This is a little more serious than before:( . A comment about yesterday's post that a 20% discount at a thieves' bazaar should mean that thieves are having to steal more to make up for the discount got me thinking: what kind of fool worldview leads me to such preposterous conclusions.
And then it hit me - thieves don't sell the stuff they stole. "Fences" (people who sell for thieves) do. The fence works at the market, stealing money from buyers because neither thief nor fence can give legal ownership of the stolen goods! So, in the overall context, the 20% discount is truly an offer to steal less.
Relating this episode to the world (ambitious project, that), American financiers sold seemingly AAA-rated investment packages as safe and profitable ways for everyone to grow their hard-earned money. In fact, the "packages" contained "toxic assets", such as sub-prime mortgages, (Ben Benanke/Hank Paulson's words) and many people lost big time. To me, and quite a few others I'm sure, this is worse than the combination of thief and fence - there is an organized deception here, that the "instruments" are "structured products", which deceptively suggest that they have been carefully studied and approved by knowledgeable people, especially the ratings agencies.
So why isn't this phenomenon confined to the US of A? Because many other foreign banks, sovereign wealth funds, government linked corporations, etc, also invested in these packages.
So, the question is - what makes them any different from the guy who buys from the fence at Sungei Rd?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Fresh Start

Right, after a weekend's recharge, how is the world? In Singapore, some big names in F & B (food and beverage) continue to shock. Angelo Sanelli, one of the best known names in pasta, has left his flagship Michelangelo's group. On a completely different market, Sungei Road, affectionately known as "thieves' bazaar" in the '70s, was reported to have slashed prices by 20%. Imagine a thief offering to steal less of your stuff?
Luxury stores have been known to offer discounts , reports the Sunday Times 22 Feb 2009.
Know what I think? All the talk about "bottoming out" is just denial. There's more bottoming to be done. A fresh start would be to stop all this denial and actually add a 20% discount to how low each company's net value is.
There's a fresh start.
At least, we can start looking forward to positive news from there on. If any world leader is reading this post (fat/slim chance), let him/her take note. When you are unprepared, that's the first thing your audience notices.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My 1st Down Day

"Where is the moment when we need it most. You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost ..." Daniel Powter rocks today.
Naturally, my day sucked. Big time.
On top of that, news of more people being conned of their hardearned savings just keep piling up.
But, that being said, the thought of coming back to this blog and counting the 4 good days before really helped. Hearing my kids say they missed me, ah.....
Smiles are warming my cockles. Right, let me just sign off with this thought: you can choose to feel glad/sad. I choose to be happy. Go, ManYoo!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Don't Just Relax 1 Corner, Live Till U Kena Shiok

1st, some clarifications are in order. The picture on yesterday's post is a blind musician smiling like a newly-minted millionaire.(I promised happy pictures , right).
2nd, on the same theme of free stuff. I caught the 4th Season of free-to-air (ie tv programmes where you do not need to pay $ to cable company to watch) Boston Legal.
Quite delicious to see John Larroquette take on the role of office disciplinarian in place of Rene Auberjois. Even more delicious that he's sleeping with Shirley Smitt (Candice Bergen) who (in case you don't follow the series) is the unattainable (wet)dreamgirl of office naughty-boy lawyers, Danny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader). The only let down is that James Spader's usually eloquent Alan Shore was not his usual self, because he went ga-ga over the opposing counsel's lady lawyer (who was having sexual trysts with Spader's character, Alan Shore) in the court lift (of all places). Mind you, he was arguing that his client should be excused from honouring a $2.3m pledge to fund Stamford University's research into climate change because she just discovered that an oil company just pledged $100m in the same program. The client's point is that the $100m corrupts the independence of research against the use of non-fossil fuel (used in petroleum) in the interest of the oil companies!
Us lawyers live for this stuff. Come on David E, you can do better than that.
Overall, considering the acting chops of this stellar cast, I saw better acting from the cast of this season-opening episode of CSI(Las Vegas).(Strange for a CSI eposide, the action is quite tame and acting quite good - as compared with, say, David Caruso's CSI Miami Horatio Caine with his melodramatic lines like "do it", "give me birds in the sky". Don't ask me why it's alright for Leo DiCaprio to say "I am the king of the world!") Anyway, please don't subscribe to cable just because I blogged that! Remember, in a few weeks, CSI will likely be aired on Mediacorp's free-to-air. Unless you're already hooked by SCV(Singapore's monopolistic cable network).
3rd, wouldn't it be more creative if politicians who found themselves victimised by nude pictures of them being circulated on the Net, do a Paris Hilton instead of quitting? That is to say, they might consider offering to give free videos of themselves to people who sign declarations that they voted for the victim? Ok, scratch that, silly thought. But hey, ideas are free, so long as they are not treasonous.......right?
Weather forecast - would you believe , in the midst of this job loss crisis, there are still people who say "this job sucks, I won't do it". Really.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What We Can Still Enjoy For Free In This Financial Squeeze

Some practical stuff first:
1. Chinese and Hindu Temples actually offer free vegetarian food. If you feel bad about eating for free, donate what you think you can afford in the donation box. Ok, please be honourable about it. Don't bring plastic containers for the next 3 meals, please.
2. Singapore libraries provide free internet access and free electrical powerpoints. Not to mentioned air-conditioned comfort on an intolerably hot day. Go on, especially if you paid taxes.
3. On weekends, Chinatown and Little India provide free shuttle buses to Orchard Road. Also, free shuttle services run from Clementi Rd to IMM Jurong, and Compassvale to Parkway Parade, I think. 11am to 9pm.
4. The museuems are free on Sundays and Public Holidays. Free entertainment. Sometimes, free movies are available at community centres, Fort Canning etc.
5. For the really desperate, there's Mr Bean shows at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
Ok, now for some erm...well... you judge for yourself.
6. Smile instead of make-up. I swear, one day I saw a slightly plump lady, some wrinkles, a trace of greying hair gave a perfectly radiant smile. The next moment, I saw a slim (read - no visible trace of fat), younger lady, no grey hair with a stretched face suggesting some cosmetic surgery. However, her look was sour; weighed down perhaps by this climate of possible retrenchment. Guess who looked better?
Ok, just so there's no confusion, the picture with this post is not related to these ladies.
7. Watching some poor worker bee scurrying around, possibly to save his job. It's a matter of perspective: if I've been retrenched, I could empathise with him and feel sad, or thank heavens I'm now free from that worry (about losing jobs). If I still have a job, I could feel thankful I'm not scampering about like that; or curse our respective bosses. Either way, the choice is also free:)
8. Look at postings like mine. Again, you can join the crusade to enjoy life, or cuss like a sour puss.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oops, I Goofed!

I didn't really answer my question , right? Is this really like the Great Depression in 1930s?
I'm no economist, so I can't really make the statistical comparisons, such as cost of living indices, purchasing power parity etc (ow, my tongue is hurting....)
I guess it's much better in some ways, and much worse in others (so lamely equivocal).
How is it better? Well, the technology's much better, there's quite a lot of cool, free stuff which empowers the individual. For instance, I can learn how to create animated pictures, learn to play the piano and even master some foreign language all from the internet. (It's especially good if you're using free internet access from Singapore's public libraries - some of them have power sockets so, even the electricity's free). In short, life's more fun. Really!
What's worse, then? Well, the scale of sheer scale of greed and outright dishonesty which led to the markets collapse, banks and financial institutions tottering, it's a shame to be part of the human race (don't even get me started on global warming). If you believe in penance, it would seem like cosmic karma that heat waves, and financial disasters are happening before our eyes.
Whoa, wait a doggone minute! Is there a point to all this rambling? Well....yeah (sort of). We can all do something about it. Dammit, we're a little smarter, now. The range of skills which the average Joe Blo is capable of, is simply staggering. So what can we do? I don't know, post blogs, send flyers, contact your friends in places high and low . Start self help groups, engage in recycling. Maintain networks to help the needy. Volunteer to put out neighbourhood fires. Feed a hungry child. Teach someone to fish, write a song. Live!!!!
The 1930s never had it this good:)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Very Bad Beginning

I wanted to start this blog much earlier (like before 31 Dec 2008), to encourage my friends to look on the bright side; but a series of unfortunate events blocked my blogging (writer's blog?)

After endless rounds of procrastination, I decided: it's now or never.

You see, I feel destined to do this somehow. I read somewhere that a lawyer who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930s kept a diary throughout the economic upheavals which saw a lot of shattered lives and dreams, but somehow he kept at it and emerged from the dark times into a revitalised America which made a huge impact on the world order.

Well, I am a lawyer, who was punished (unfairly, in my view) by being prevented from earning a living doing what I did best: lawyering (which is not to say that I'm outstanding in that field; just that I seem best able to earn a living in that way). However, I am now immensely grateful that the inevitable result of my suspension was that I was forced to sell down whatever I could to provide for my family, being the sole breadwinner.

The end result of that "tragedy" (still can't believe I can now use inverted commas on this word; I was all but crying my eyes out on the inside) was that I had absolutely nothing to invest, nor place with esoteric financial instruments which turned out to be massive scams!

Now that I've come back to practising law with a vengeance (barely exaggerating), I found myself climbing from rock bottom (or ground zero) way ahead of the economy.

But, enough about me. The surprise is, I have found other places which thrived and prospered beside myself. Here are some images from Taiwan, where I'd recently visited. Look on and, I fervently hope, smile and whistle/rap/dance a jig. Life is good!

If I chance upon other scenes which show that the human spirit (and determination to survive)continues to thrive, I'll upload for you to see.