Saturday, 28 April 2007

The Other Canadian

I was emailed this brilliant insight to the Canadian psyche. And, I love it.

It was written by Rick Mercer a presenter/comedian who does a show that is called "The Mercer Report". It has scathingly funny skits & commentaries on Canada & the world in general. Suffice to say that if we had a Singapore version of Rick (Mr Brown comes the closest), he'd probably not be living in Singapore.

"On behalf of Canadians everywhere I'd like to
offer an apology to the
United States of America.

We haven't been getting along very well
recently and for that, I am truly sorry.

I'm sorry we called George Bush a moron.
He is a moron but, it wasn't
nice of us to point it out.
If it's any consolation, the fact that he's
a moron
shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America.
After all
it's not like you actually elected him.

I'm sorry about our softwood lumber.
Just because we have more trees
than you
doesn't give us the right to sell you lumber that's
cheaper and
better than your own.

I'm sorry we beat you in Olympic hockey.
In our defence I guess our
excuse would be that
our team was much, much, much, much better

I'm sorry we burnt down your White House
during the war of 1812. I
notice you've rebuilt it!
It's Very Nice.

I'm sorry about your beer. I know we had
nothing to do with your beer
but, we Feel your Pain.

I'm sorry about our waffling on Iraq.
I mean, when you're going up
against a crazed
dictator, you wanna have your friends by your side.
realize it took more than two years before you
guys pitched in against
Hitler, but that was different.
Everyone knew he had weapons.

And finally on behalf of all Canadians,
I'm sorry that we're constantly
for things in a passive-aggressive way, which is
really a
thinly veiled criticism.

I sincerely hope that you're not
upset over

We've seen what you do to countries you
get upset with.

Thank you."

R. Mercer

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Go Canucks GO!!!!!!! Going Native on Hockey

From a girl who comes from the humid tropics, the appeal of the rough sport of ice-hockey is hard to understand. In Singapore, we had no ice on which to skate let alone shoot a puck. So, you can imagine my gob-smacked surprise when I discovered myself cheering and yelling like a banshee when the Vancouver Canucks Hockey team scores a goal (they call ice-hockey hockey in North America, and what the rest of the world calls Hockey, they call Field-hockey. Go figure!). All of a sudden I'm logging on to websites called National Hockey League) and to find out who's injured and who's not; what the stories were behind no. 44, Tod Bertuzzi (thank god he no longer plays for us) being boo-ed at games and how the Swedish Sedin (interestingly nos, 22 & 33) twins came to be in the Canucks team. What was happening to me?
I was being swept up by the very game that I've thought too violent. Too many guys getting viciously banged against the boards.Broken teeth and broken sticks. Argh. I might do just as well watching wrestling. But wrestling's never made my blood pulse as hockey does, nor blacken my disposition so when the Canucks loose a game. There was something more to this.
The last time I felt this quickening was during the Malaysia Cup when the Singapore football team beat some Malaysian state's team in the finals after which they summarily kicked us out of the cup. And thus was born our sad little S-league. T'was the same feeling with the Canucks, there was something to cheer for. A little pride in the home team. Or in my case the team in which I've made my home. It's a way to say "neh, neh-neh, neh, neh . We are better then you-oo!", without having to go to war ala George Bush. No one really dies, just your heart if your team doesn't make it.

For me, going through an entire hockey season's really helped me bond to this, my adopted city. Joining a hockey pool, being sent emails of crazy, funny Canuck videos, seeing cars all over town with little Canuck's flags flying from their windscreens reflecting the pride & support for 20 men on the ice. The same 20 give or take ( as I've learnt from mid season trades) I've come to know and vigorously support. This game has given me something of great value: a common history & touch point with the native Vancouverites. Which any new immigrant will tell you is precious. And best of all, the Canucks have given me something that, sad to say, even Singapore can't, a chance to world class sporting team out there fighting for fame & glory.

For those of you who want to know and have had truncated communications with me on MSN , skype or yahoo because of hockey, the Vancouver made it to the playoffs where the 16 best teams out of a 32-ish team league battle for the Stanley Cup. Yesterday we beat the Dallas Stars to go into the semis. Where we will meet the Anaheim Ducks.
And with so many Chinese in Vancouver, I'm sure will be able to come up with a good recipe to roast Californian duck.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Joy of the Unexpected

Sometimes I wished I made jewelery. Like my Etsy friend Marsha has on her blog, the makings of a stunning red (OOAK) necklace. From start to finish. Pictures of every step looks as delicious as the next. All sparkly red & silver.
But instead, I'm making paper these days. Now that the weather is getting warmer, there is little demand for warm, funky scarves which is what I usually make.

The making of paper, especially from recycled paper, cannot be called a pretty or accurate process. What you put in isn't necessarily what you get out. A polite way to describe the somewhat messy process is that it's.....well...hmmmm...... organic? You're never quite sure of what you'll end up with when everything dries. While this makes things interesting, it is does leave the house scattered with stacks of 'experimental' papers.
For instance, I was recycling yellow pages the other day and had expected the finished paper to come out at least a tiny bit yellow, or olive green at least.
But no. I harvested sheets of stony bile grey. Sigh, not something you'd be writing your love letters on I'm afraid.

I do persevere, however. Yesterday I used basically white used printer paper blended with Lover's Rose Elixir tea (I work part-time in a tea shop & can get my hands on all sorts of exotic teas) that has rose petals, hibiscus and lime leaves. The mushy pulp smelt ambrosial (another benefit of making paper, the scent spa your nose gets) and the inclusions (technical term for the tea I added) gave such a cheerful pinky, purplish sprinkle to the mix.
And today, as I peel the newly dried papers from their couching sheets, I'm a happy girl!
The finished paper is in a couple of shades off white, which I guess the best you can expect without the use of bleach. And the inclusions are speckled snowflakes in the white.
All that's left now is to convert these sheets into note cards, envelopes & decorative paper for scrap-booking & other crafty projects. All of which will be sold sooner or later in Rumah Kampung, my Etsy store.

Monday, 16 April 2007

More Than Just Haircut

More than Just A Haircut

People who Inspire

You know, there are times when you meet the most unusual people in the most unlikely of places. I met Joo Hock in a hairdressing salon a dozen or so years ago in Centerpoint, I think that's where it was.
It's a funny thing about life, that she throws your way gems and jewels when you least expect it. My hairdresser Joo Hock must count as one of these.

Quite apart from the buzz I get from my neat & streaky gold coiffures, I get oodles of new ideas and perspectives from my talks while in the chair. Joo Hock is an avid fan of the teachings of R. Buckminister Fuller. For those of you who haven't heard of the man. Bucky was a philosopher, thinker, visionary, inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet, cosmologist.

Probably one of the first futurists and global thinkers,

it was he that coined the term
"Spaceship Earth". The creator of the geodesic dome , his work inspired and paved the way for many who came after him. In fact Spaceship Earth is an attraction at Epcot, a theme park at Disney World in Florida, USA.

The building was designed with the help of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.

The sphere itself and the attraction's name was inspired by the work of Bucky, but he was not given credit.

And, apparently I'm not the only one who gets more than a cut & wash at Joo Hock's. Another customer, Jek Kian Jin, an IT expert who use to write for The Straits Times, wrote this in an article that was published in April 2000 entitled


"Instead I went to get a haircut. My hairstylist Joo Hock is an enthusiastic promoter of the ideas of Buckminster Fuller, who, although best known for the invention of the geodesic dome, was also one of the truly original thinkers of the 20th century.
Not only will I get a good haircut, I didn't mind having my head expanded as well."

I was going to tell you Joo Hock's story but no. ...he tells it better. So here goes.

" In 1993 I attended this seminar called Money & You, which featured the principles uncovered by Bucky. The facilitator was touting Bucky's book entitled "Critical Path" which had the awesome reputation of being a pretty challenging book to read. It was said that you have to have another book beside it to read it, called the dictionary. True to its reputation many, after the first 2 pages usually gave up on it. (**Kampung Girl comments... I has exhausted after 4 paragraphs.)

Browsing through the pages, I have to admit it did look intimidating. I passed it up.

However another fellow participant came to me and offered it to me. "Hey Joo Hock, you want to read Critical Path? Here take it. When I need it, then return it." True to who I am, I never refuse a good offer. Nothing to lose after all.

Strangely though, (Bucky's one sentences: a ten to twelve line paragraph) I seem to be able to make out what Bucky was saying.

As I checked out his Self-disciplines of Buckminster Fuller, I was awestruck when he shared about his direct experiential evidence of God. I felt that here was someone, who is in my opinion,was a first rate scientist. Someone very meticulous in how he described things, and this guy was saying he had direct experiential evidence of God. Wow!!

Quite uncharacteristic of me, (normally I shy away from talking about God) I went around telling my friends about this. Look, what this guy Bucky is saying. I've not come across any scientist who has come upfront to say so.
Since some of my friends were also keen to read Critical Path, we kinda got to reading it as a group. In fact to read his "Critical Path" what is really needed, is a group, not the dictionary.

As I read further, I began to share the content of his book to anybody who would listen. Though I cannot say I got it all correctly immediately. I just went back to his book, ever so often, to clarify my learning and understanding of his book.

Hah! I always had a captive audience, my customers, as I worked on their hair. I give them not just a haircut, I gave them what I called "metaphysical therapy" heh heh!

Fortunately, nobody challenged my audacity to talk about and explain Bucky.

It was very encouraging.

In June 1994, while preparing ourselves to go for Business School (a Money & You Boot Camp), my friends and I began to go to MacRitchie Reservoir to run/jog. We decided to combined the two, jogging together with the reading and discussing Bucky's Critical Path. We have been doing so, ever since then.

We seemed to have found the formula that worked for us. We not only enjoyed the fresh morning air of MacRitchie, we had the physical exercise, plus the mental gymnastics of figuring out Bucky's writings. And of course, good natured teasing and ribbing each other. There was lots of laughter, which as they say, is the best medicine.

We've been at it since then, even through the blizzard-like rainstorms here in Singapore!! Yup, a very committed bunch. Who would be crazy enough to turn up in this kind of inclement weather? Members of the PSBC Bucky Group Singapore!!!

PSBC? Pak See Buay Chau!!
Perhaps, we're an idealistic balance for the seemingly materialistic Singapore. Surely there is more to life then chasing the what? 3Cs? Car Cash, Condo.

We dared to reach out for the sublime, to spiritualize, to philosophize... and decide what we are about..... life makes more sense this way.....then the crass materialism.... no regrets then on the day I lie in the box."

Joo Hock has just started his own blog with more relections, stories and inspirations from bucky. Congrats Joo Hock!

It may be found at

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Seredipity by the River

Be careful, very careful when taking new ways home. You never know what will happen when you do.
Two Sunday's ago, a suggestion to go home by a way we'd never tried before, took us well into the depths of Ladner and onto the south bank of the mighty Fraser river (you know, where the Salmon go to spawn?). Ladner is still in the Greater Vancouver area and stuffed in a none-too-clear area in the Corporation of Delta just above Tsawwassen ( where you take the ferry to Vancouver Island). Yeah, I'm still having problems finding where things are. But then, that's the part of the adventure in living in a new place, isn't it?
We decided to drive toward the river and then along it to find a place on the bank where we could go look out and maybe take pictures. After passing, substantial dikes on which were an amazing collection of dilapidated fishing huts and shops, a surprisingly modern pod of floating homes with a marina and the S&M industries building (it's not what you think. S&M in this case, stands for Seafood & Meats). We come up on a modest little park. And that's where we saw it!
At first, I was just interested in the lovey-dovey pair of seagulls nestled on top of a pile. Then, as Bogart said to Kate on The African Queen, you learn to read the river. Where there is whitewater are rapids, where the water's surface is disturbed, is not surprising, something underneath. Out by the pier, just below the nesting gulls, the water was indeed not as smooth as it should have been. Odd, I thought to myself, waves usually swell and then fall. But this wave just continued to bob higher and higher. Then it hit me! Silly girl! It wasn't a wave, it was a head! A wet black, smooth & shiny head. Then this thing crawled out of the dark water and flopped onto the wooden deck like a jelly giant slug. Heaved itself tall and looked like it was right chuffed with itself. Never having seen a seal, or was it a sea lion(?) real life & up close before I was spell bound by this lumbering flippered creature sun-tanning on the deck. I must have taken 50 digitals, until my batteries went dead. Ten minutes later, when we left the park, our Californian Sea Lion (I checked up when I came home), was still lounging in the sun as bold as brass.
Amazing to a tropical girl like me, the working Fraser River is a ecosystem teeming with life of all sorts, not only fish. Tourists come from all over to visit Steveston, at the mouth of the river to see the Californian & Steller Sea Lions congregate & frolic. But only the males. It seems that all the females are back in the breeding ground looking after the pups. Sound familiar?

This from a tourism write-up I found online

"In the waters around Vancouver other marine mammals can be seen. Many of them follow the migrations of eulachons, herring and salmon, particularly around river mouths. Harbor seals are very common and can be recognized by their spotted coats, large eyes and earless heads. While there are two species of sea lions, the giant Steller sea lions are rare as compared with the California sea lions. Tour boats take tourists out to observe sea lions from the Steveston docks near the mouth of the Fraser River

Every year during April and May, when the Fraser River estuary is teaming with spawning eulachons, thousands of sea lions migrate into the area to feast on these herring-sized members of the Smelt family.

California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) come all the way from Mexico and the large Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) travel South from the Arctic.

Only male sea lions travel here. Females and calves stay behind. Because they have no rookeries to protect, they are playful and non-territorial."

Monday, 2 April 2007

Cherry Blossom Sky

Every start of spring in Vancouver, much of the city is covered by a blanket of wafty, delicate profusion of every shade of pink. This is my third spring here and even though I've seen it before, the sight of entire roads lined with fluffy, puffy pink trees takes my breath away. Every time.

I'd always associated cherry blossoms to Japan but there are an incredible 130,000 cherry blossom trees planted in the parks, roads and boulevards throughout Greater Vancouver and in most recent years a Cherry Blossom Festival runs from around mid March to April. This comprehensive website gives a map of where the different cherry species can be found. It also organises events that have a somewhat Pacific Zen feel about it. Like trolley tours , Cherry Jam Concerts and Haiku competitions. This won the 2007 Canadian Haiku award

street hockey
young boys shoot cherry petals
into the net

Terry Ann Carter
Ottawa, Ontario

The story of Vancouver's Cherry trees starts way back in the early 1930s. The mayors of both Kobe and Yokohama presented the Vancouver Park Board with 500 Japanese cherry trees for planting at the Japanese cenotaph in Stanley Park. These were to honour Japanese Canadians who had served in WWI. By the mid 1900s, the park board started to replace the older and much larger elm, maple and plane trees that were traditionally planted with cherry trees. Because the roots of the larger trees were breaking up pavements & roads.

And now for a fleeting 2-3 weeks, the sunlight is made gentle with the frosty glow of pinks and plums of the Cherry Blossom. Life is good!

And in celebration of Spring ( altho it did snow a bit not an hour ago), I've entered this picture of a Cherry Blossom Sky to the Fuel My Blog photo competition, called "Outside My Window".