Archive Page 2

What My Father Said About Chinese New Year

Wishing all a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year. I wonder how many of us are familiar with the traditional Chinese way of telling time of the day? Most of us have come across such ways of telling time in old Chinese movies or dramas.

Never mind, let me go straight to the point. My father said that when he was young (teenager probably, he is now 80 years old), those who set off fire-crackers at Zi hour (子时) on the eve of Chinese New Year were usually the Cantonese. The rest of the dialect groups usually set off fire-crackers later at 12am or maybe even later at Chou hour (丑时). How true is this, I”m not sure as I cannot find any “evidence” to support this, but my father said he is very sure about it as he had even read about it in the Chinese newspaper articles in the past. So anyone heard about it too?

I’m only very sure that Chinese regard Zi hour (子时) as the beginning of the day but as to the different dialect groups marked the start of Chinese New Year at different times – I”m really not sure. My father said that in the past, Guangzhou was like the first door opened to the foreigners for trade. This is true as around 618 to 609BC, many Arab, Indian and Persian merchants set their feet on Guangzhou. So Guangzhou may be more established and advanced compared to other places in Chinea. As such, people living in Guangzhou may be using the above method to tell the time of the day and then later spread to other provinces.

Believe it or not, up to you haha.

Note : Sorry for not updating this site for quite some time due to my son’s O level exam last year 2010. Glad he did very well – All As for all his 8 subjects (4A1s and 4A2s), much better than me….what else can I ask for? As for this year, I’ll be preparing my daughter for her PSLE…sigh…..

What my father wrote;

“I smell a rat”, “可疑”

I Remember John Denver

Remember the RSAF Apache Attack Helicopter (AH-64D) that crashed landed between Woodlands Avenue 12 and Woodlands Driver 75 open field on 30 Sep 2010 in the afternoon;

Credit : STOMP

I was sorting some old newspapers yesterday when I came across this article again and somehow reminded me of John Denver’s odd shaped Long-EZ plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California killing him on 12 October 1997.

Credit : AirSafe.com

Today, 13 years after his death, many youngsters including my son (16) and daughter (11) may not even have heard of his songs.

John Denver, a pilot with over 2,700 hours of flying, was flying his newly purchased kit aircraft designed by Burt Rutan (one of the world’s greatest aerospace designer). The flaw that led to John Denver’s death were the work of the builder and had nothing to do with the designer. The flaws (placement of the fuel selection valve) were meant to improve on the designer’s work however kill Denver. Other factors that led to his death include his unfamilarity with the aircraft and failure to refuel it. The wreck had badly disfigured Denver’s head and body.

I remember John Denver cowboy figure with long blond hair, with his signature round granny glasses and a cowboy hat;

I love listening to his songs in the 70s when I was a primary 4 or maybe 5 boy and of course the first song I listened to, that probably made him popular, was “Take me home, country road“.

As I was only in primary school with little pocket money, so I had to tape down his songs with a blank cassette tape direct from the radio. This seem common to most school boys of my time but of course not now any more with technology advancement. I love John Denver’s songs as he shared his personal history via his songs. This song “Take me home, country road” was written by his friends Taffy Nivert, Bill Danoff and together with him. Inspiration came to Danoff and Nivert while driving to a family reunion and to pass time en route, Danoff made up the ballad about the little winding roads in the journey. Later the story changed to fit an artist friend who told him about the splendors of West Virginia countryside. The three stayed up till the early morning, changing lyrics and moving lines and Denver decided to use this song for his album, Poems, Prayers and Promises;

The original album advertising art;

Credit : Janet Reva Maslin, Rolling Stone, 9/16/71

This album Poems, Prayers and Promises did not contain all John Denver’s songs and include songs from Paul McCartney and John Lennon, etc. The other song that I liked in this album is “Sunshine On My Shoulders” sung by John Denver;

John Denver’s first album was “Rhymes and Reasons” released in 1969 by RCA Records. Of course during that time, vinyl records were the in-thing as there wasn’t such a thing as CDs yet. This definitely make up my favourite song list from him;

You may see how this song Rhymes and Reasons was interpreted here, interesting. This was his debut album after going solo as before he was usually sang and performed with groups.

The other song “Leaving on a jet plane” in his debut album, was originally named “Babe I hate to go”, which was a demo song Denver gave out as Christmas presents. The folk group Peter, Paul and Mary sang this song and their version became the Billboard Hot 100 number one hit.

Synchronicity are things seem like more then mere coincidence and one good example is John Denver’s songs. One may relate his song “Leaving on a jet plane” to John Denver died in his plane…. The other song “Rocky Mountain High” that he wrote relate how much he loved Colorado till his death. The capitol of Colorado is Denver – he adopted this surname “Denver” instead of his name “Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr”.

Some of my favourites are;

Annie’s Song : This song was written as an ode to his then wife Annie. It took him only ten and a half minutes in a ski lift on top of the Bell Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. Thinking about his wife at that moment inspired him to write this song.

Perhaps Love : This song became a commercial success because the record player couldn’t work at that time. Denver wrote this song and recorded with Pacido Domingo as a duet. The owner of the radio station wanted to hear it but the record player was down so he played it live over the air. In seconds, calls came in asking where they could get the record and it became a smash hit! Interesting?

Last but not least Sweet Surrender : This song was chosen as the lead single from the concert album “An Evening with John Denver” recorded in 1974.

If you want to read a bit more on him, here it is. Though we may have CDs now, but nothing beats listening to his song on tapes and records.

 

What my father wrote;

“Death quits all scores.”

Remembering Our Teachers On Teachers’ Day

For those that have left school more than 30, 40 or 50 years, it’s difficult to remember all our teachers that had taught us before. But somehow, maybe like me, there are always a couple or a few teachers that will leave a lifetime memory in our life. Anyway let’s take some time to remember and appreciate our teachers on Teachers’ Day – 1st September.

Before I talked about the 3 teachers that I still remember till now, let’s take a look at the below Teacher’s Day card some 29 years ago;

The above card was given to my mother who was a primary school teacher then in 1981. This card leave a very deep impression in me because the card portrayed the so called “Oriental way” of respecting the teacher with the students kneeling down and bowing to the teacher. I hope the student that gave this card to my mother didn’t hint that my mother wanted her students to ‘greet her like an Empress’. Now it’s even more humourous when you see the inside of the card;

Here is what the student wrote “Dear teacher XXX, I will still forget to bring my books. Thank you.” Instead of writing I will never forget to bring my books, she wrote “I will still forget to bring my books”. Amusing right, I wonder if she is trying to make my mother remember her forever…by the way, my mother still keeps this card till now. Even the drawing of the lion dance performance inside the card for a Teacher’s Day card seem rather amusing.

I have never given any teachers a card or a simple present. Don’t ask me why, I really don’t have the answer to it. Frankly I thought Teachers’ Day is celebrated throughout the world on 1st September until I google on it. Now I knew that different countries celebrate Teachers’ Day on a different date and different ways. The World Teachers’ Day is on 5 October annually.

Now back to my 3 most memorable teachers, first my Pri.4A form teacher Mr. Lee Chee Kong (if I didn’t remember wrongly). I wonder why he was not in the class photo taken in 1972;

He was a young man then and the type of teacher that most will termed as “Mr. Nice Guy”. Coincidentally he was also my gymnastic teacher then, and I remember how he walked with us from Beatty Pri Sch to Farrer Park ECA centre for the gymnastic lesson. He even brought us to see the Inter School Gymnastic event to bring out the interests in us. He himself was a gymnast as he used to show us the finer movements when teaching us. The last time I saw him before he left for overseas study was at a class gathering probably in the 80s. Since then, I have lost touch with my primary school classmates and teachers…

Next was another Mr.Nice Guy – Mr. Boh (sorry I only remember him as Mr.Boh because my class nicknamed him as Mr.Boh Tea). He was my class form teacher as well as Maths teacher. I have progressed well in my results because of his teaching and encouragement. I wonder if he is still teaching. Mr. Boh my Sec.2G form teacher;

Mrs.Lee Kian Soon was my Sec.4T1 form teacher in 1978 as shown below;

She also taught us Chemistry. She was very patience with us and helped us a lot in our Chemistry lesson. After 32 years, she is still in Victoria School now as a Larger HOD. With her as my form teacher, I enjoyed my last year in VS and did well in my ‘O’ level too.

Though I’m not a good student (I must admit honestly), I would like to thank the above 3 teachers and appreciate their hardwork and their love for teaching. Happy Teachers’ Day!

 

What my father wrote;

“Do not weary Heaven with prayers.”

Soft Drink Bottle Cap – Hor Lan Shui Koi

Every year after the National Day, I will get to see many pages about who and who getting the PBM and BBM awards or National Day Awards in the newspaper.

Credit : The Straits Times

Of course the PBM and BBM are part of the National Day Award and is given annually to those who have made outstanding contributions in public service or community work. You will be surprised that 3,195 individuals will be awarded this year 2010! But what does PBM and BBM means and what the awards about?

The Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) or PBM in short, was instituted in 1973. The medal may be awarded to any person who has rendered commendable public service in Singapore for his achievement in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters PBM as shown below;

Credit : The Straits Times

I remember when I was staying with my parents, there was this RC (Resident Committee) chairman who was very active and enthusiastic in his role that you were able to see him appearing in very events held at the neighbourhood. I asked my father is he trying to get his “Hor Lan Shui Koi” (荷蘭水蓋, soft drink bottle cap) – and why is it called Hor Lan Shui, you may see my previous post. True enough, after some years of hard work, he was awarded the PBM. After that, he seems to have taken a back seat (a more leadership role than a doer role).

The PBM award;

What I remembered most about him was he would go round door to door selling the National Day dinner tickets. Once he knocked on our door and my mother answered it. She paid for the National Day dinner ticket for the dinner that held just below the flat (not at the restaurant or hotel). I thought it was just a few dollars or the most $10 but my mother told me it was much more than that, if I didn’t remember wrongly, was it $50? (my goodness, at that time for $50 I can watch Anita Mui Concert or have a buffet lunch at the top of Mandarin Hotel). Initially I thought the National Day dinner was a treat by the constituency MPs to reward the residents for supporting and voting for them…but….

OK when the dinner day arrived, I saw the workers roasting the piglets below and I told my mother that she was going to have roast piglet for dinner too (at least quite a consolation for the $50 paid). But my mother told me that not all tables were served with that and only the VIPs tables were served with roast piglets. Since then, I do not bother to open the door whenever someone trying to sell us the National Day dinner ticket (not because my mother don’t get to eat the roast piglet, but I felt that it was unfair treatment and it showed a class differentiation).

The Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star), instituted in 1963, is awarded to any person who has rendered valuable public service to the people of Singapore, or who has distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. Bars may be issued for further service. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters BBM just like the PBM. One thing I wonder – must one get the PBM first before one is awarded the BBM?

The BBM award;

Now why do the Cantonese said “荷蘭水蓋” when referring to those awards? I think the phrase came from Hong Kong people when they referred to those awards as “荷蘭水蓋” as the awards shape resembles the soft drink bottle cap;

Don’t you find the shape similar to the real awards;

or

or

Of course those who have been through the Singapore National Service will get their military decorations too, like mine;

Sometimes I find the Hong Kong people very creative – how they can relate the awards to soft drink bottle caps ‘荷蘭水蓋’. I think this must be some of the cultural differences that we can see in Hong Kong. Of course when we were young, many of us were playing with the bottle caps ‘荷蘭水蓋’. One of the most common games with the bottle caps is;

Do you still remember the above game?

 

What my father wrote;

“A little bird whispered it to me.” (Guess my father wrote the whispered wrongly)

“告密于我.” or “有人私下告诉我”

Holland Water – Hor Lan Shui

Have you ever wonder why the Cantonese usually called soft drinks as “Holland Water” (Ho Lan Shui, 荷兰水) in the past?

I remember Victor had a related post  on this in his blog, and he mentioned something like “originated from a Hokkien who while entertaining a visiting guest, called out to someone in the house to ‘hor lan chui’ which means ‘serve the guest water’ ” which Chun See dismissed it as plain nonsense. Of course there are some that think “Hor Lan Shu” was first produced or invented in Holland…

Credit : 现代快报

Here is a bit of the history on soft drinks. It all depends on how you look at soft drinks – “non carbonated water” or “carbonated water”.

The first soft drinks to be marketed appeared in 1676 (17th century) which is a mixture of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. The company “Compagnie de Limonadiers” was formed in Paris and granted a monopoly for the sale of its products. Vendors carried tanks on their backs from which they dispensed cups of lemonade. This is the first version of “non carbonated” soft drinks.

Soft drinks are also referred to as carbonated drinks that are non-achoholic and thus the term “soft drinks” is employed in opposition to “hard”, i.e. drinks with high alcoholic content by volume. In 1767, Dr.Joseph Priestley (an Englishmen) invented the first drinkable man made glass of carbonated water.

Dr.Joseph Priestley

His invention was meant as a cure for scurvy (a kind of disease caused by lack of vitamin C) for the crew in James Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas.

Dr.Priestley did not exploit the commercial potential of this carbonated soft drinks, but Johann Jacob Schweppe, a German-born jeweller but amateur scientist, did in 1770 (late 18th century).

Johann Jacob Schweppe

J.J. Schweppe moved his business to London in 1792 but was not successful and failed in 1795. OK, so much for the history of soft drinks.

In fact this post is a bit related to my previous post on “Holland or Netherlands“. Remember I mentioned about The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) established in 1602, and was granted a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. The Dutch East India Company beat all of its rivals in the Asia trade. Of course Holland was not the first to trade in China, in the 13th and 14th centuries, a number of Europeans mainly Christian missionaries sought to penetrate China. One of the famous one was Marco Polo then, but all these had little permanent effect on the East-West trade.

Marco Polo

The Portuguese succeeded in finding new sea route for a cheaper and easier access to South and East Asia goods. The first Portuguese ships reached Canton on the southern coasts of China in 1516. By 1557, they gained a permanent base in China at Macau. But the Portuguese maritime supremacy still lose out to the Holland in the 17th century. This posed a serious challenge to Portugal with the establishment of Dutch East India Company.

Below shows the Dutch East India Fleet in 1599;

Credit : National Maritime Museum, London

The Dutch East India Company colonies or outposts were also established in Canton, China and Taiwan (1624 – 1662). But in 1662, Zheng Chenggong expelled the Dutch from Taiwan. By 1669, the Dutch East India Company was the richest private company in history, with a huge fleet of merchant ships and warships, tens of thousands of employees. They were confined to trade only in Canton and Macau from the 16th century to 18th century.

Below shows ships off Canton circa 1847-1856;

Credit : National Maritime Museum, London

By the 18th Century, the number of merchants who came to China increased. As you remembered, the soft drinks were already commercialised during this period and were brought into China via Canton by the Holland merchants.

So the people in Canton termed such soft drinks as “Hor Lan Shui” (荷兰水).

Below shows selling of Mint drink “薄荷水” passing off as “Hor Lan Shui” in China;

This “Hor Lan Shui” (荷兰水) was mentioned in a 1876 book titled “沪游杂记” in Shanghai.

The book “沪游杂记”;

Along with soft drinks, potatoes and snow peas were also brought into Canton by the Holland merchants.

Thus the word “荷兰薯” for potatoes and “荷兰豆” for snow peas. It was a common practice to term the products or goods from the countries that brought them in – in this case Holland.

But now, are there potatoes and snow peas really from Holland? Guess….But when someone said you “饱死荷兰豆” (literally translate – full until die snow peas) it means you are really stupid and silly. When someone said something silly and stupid, we said “饱死” to ourselves in cantonese. As to how “荷兰豆” also means stupid and silly, it is actually translated into “Holland Bean” which means “好伦笨” in Cantonese tone and that “伦” is rather vulgar in Cantonese. So “好伦笨” also means “very stupid”. In full, “饱死荷兰豆” means you are silly and stupid. This phrase was very popular in the 80s but not so now.

Now do you think that we Cantonese really like to relate a lot of things to Holland? Before I end, just to let you know that the Cantonese also called playing cards as “荷兰牌”, why?

Haha why is it known as  “荷兰牌”, I really don’t know – do you?

 

What my father wrote;

“He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

“出资的人作主.”

1st National Day Parade At The Padang

This year marks Singapore 45 years of independence and the 2010 National Day parade will be held at the Padang and old City Hall once again. Of course this year my Pri.5 daugther has the opportunity to watch the National Day Parade preview on 24 July 2010.

2010 NDP at the Padang.

This is probably part of the National Education but when I asked her about the words “Majulah Singapura” pinned on the top of the old City Hall mean, she replied “dunno”….and I wonder how many know what “Majulah Singapura” about. I’m thinking that’s bad, I better start teaching her social studies!

Part of the Funpack given during the National Day preview show.

“Majulah Singapura” (in Malay language) means “Onward Singapore” and is our Singapore’s National Anthem composed by Zubir Said in 1958. When Singapore attained full independence in 1965, “Majulah Singapura” was officially adopted as Singapore’s National Anthem. There are a few occasions where the “Majulah Singapura” words are pinned on the top of the old City Hall as you can see in the following posts.

Of course in this National Day post, I’m going to blog about something unique about those National Day parades held at the Padang and in which year the past Presidents had their first National Day Parade at the Padang.

The venue of the parade is usually at the Padang and the old City Hall, where the declaration of Singapore’s independence was held. In fact the old City Hall and Padang was used for the National Day parade even before Singapore achieved independence in 1965.  Below shows the photos of our National Day parade in 1963;

National Day parade in 3 June 1963 held at the old City Hall;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Credit : Above 2 National Heritage Board

See the words “Majulah Singapura” pinned up on the top of City Hall in the above photos. Can you identify the Head of State in the 3rd photo? In case you have forgotten why are we celebrating National Day on 3 June, pls see my previous post here.

Below are our Singapore past and present Presidents first National Day Parade at the Padang and City Hall:

1. Late President Yusof bin Ishak first NDP in 1966 at the Padang;

The above 2 photos showed the Late President Yusof bin Ishak in full military attire attending the NDP in 1966 (our 1st NDP after full independence). Note that the NDP started at 9am sharp at that time!

2. Late President Benjamin Henry Sheares first NDP in 1971 at the Padang which was also his very first NDP as Singapore 2nd President;

3. Late President C. V. (Chengara Veetil) Devan Nair first NDP in 1982 at the Padang;

4. Late President Wee Kim Wee first NDP in 1987 at the Padang;

5. Late President Ong Teng Cheong first NDP in 1995 at the Padang;

6. President  S. R. Nathan first NDP in 2000 at the Padang;

I hope thru the above photos, we can remember some treasured moments our late presidents shared with us on National Day. As this year National Day is back to the old City Hall and Pandang (of course it’s no longer at 9am sharp), I wonder how many know the historic City Hall building was designated as a National Monument on Feb.14 in 1992.

BTW, this year National Day theme is “Live Our Dreams, Fly Our Flag”, did you fly the Singapore Flag?

What my father wrote;

“A small leak will sink a large ship.” or “A small leak will sink a great ship.”

“一个小漏洞可能弄沉一艘大轮船.”

Holland Or Netherlands?

I must admit I didn’t pay much attention to those countrys’ names until the recent football World Cup. It was also the first time in my life I bet on football (Singapore Pools) probably influenced by the prediction by that octopus Paul.

My World Cup 2010 bet slip that didn’t win hehe;

Credit : Singapore Pools

I first got startled by the Channel 8 news when it showed “Holland vs xxxxx”, then the next moment it showed “Netherlands vs xxxxx”.  My mind suddenly went ‘blank’ and quickly refleshed my mind to think if they meant the same country like what I’ve learnt in primary school then – Sri Lanka is the new name for Ceylon. I checked with my son who is in Sec.4 now (probably his teacher might have taught him), and he said he was not sure and his teachers have yet to touch on that….(maybe after World Cup final). I’m wondering why from the same source (Channel 8 in this case), 2 different names were used? Is Netherlands the new name for Holland like Sri Lanka?

A check on the 11 July 2010 (just before the World Cup final) Sunday Times;

Credits : Singapore Press Holdings

As you can see, even on the same page – Netherlands and Holland, 2 different names, were used! Now check the Singapore Pools website;

Credit : Singapore Pools

It stated Holland instead of Netherlands, which is the same as my bet slip shown above.

First thing to verify is – Do Holland and Netherlands mean the same country? Second thing – when do we use Holland and when to use Netherlands?

OK, first thing first – very simple : Holland and Netherlands mean the same country. Most of us use Holland to refer to Netherlands as a whole but in actual fact, Holland comprises of North Holland and South Holland which are the 2 of the the 12 provinces in Netherlands. So to be more precise, Netherlands is the country’s name and Holland is the province’s name. Now the name Holland and Netherlands are used interchangeably without one realising they are referring to the same (at least to some people like me). Now after knowing the truth, I would preferred to use Netherlands when I’m referring to the whole country.

So have I forgotten what my teacher taught me? A check with my primary school Geography texbook “New Primary Geography For Singapore” in 1971;

Credit : McGraw Hill Far Eastern Publishers (S) Ltd

Yes I was taught Netherlands at that time but I don’t remember why I wrote the word “Holland” in bracket.

To add to the confusion, Netherlands is usually referred to as “荷兰” (Holland) in Chinese. Very seldom you can hear one said “尼德兰王国” (Netherlands) – and this is very true as I’ve asked my parents and both answered me 荷兰 is the country’s name. But one thing they told me that I’m not aware of is Holland was also known as “低地国” in the past. This simply means “Low Country”, but why? This is because geographically, Netherlands is a low-lying country and thus in Dutch (the language of Netherlands) “Nederland” means “Low Land” literally. So how “low” is it – 27% of it lies below sea level and the average elevation for the whole nation is only 11 meters above sea level.

This is confirmed by my son’s Sec.1 Atlas book;

Credit : Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd 2002

Maybe we should learn from the Netherlands on how to prevent flood and build better drainage system (OK maybe our Marina Barrage pumps already from Netherlands, right?). Flood control and land reclamation have been ongoing in Netherlands and they are among the world’s leading experts in hydraulic engineering.

So “Netherlands” in dutch is “Nederland”. One of the best ways to learn about a country is via stamps. I took a look at my stamps and realised that I only have Nederland stamps and not Holland stamps;

Now where the name “Holland” comes from? The name Holland ultimately stems from the term ‘holt land’ which means ‘wooded land’. Do take note of another incorrect, fake etymology holds that it is derived from ‘hol land’ (‘hollow land’), inspired by the low-lying geography of the region. In the past, two-third of Holland’s land lay below sea level and made up mostly of mud flats and shallows, salt marshes, blackish lakes, and flood banks, and also with patches of “woodland” (“Holt Land”).

The purpose of this post is not to go into detail history of Netherlands but just a very brief explanation why the confusion on the word “Holland” and “Netherlands”. But for those who are keen to read more about Netherlands, here is a very good read “A Brief History of Netherlands“.

From the 10th to 16th century, Holland was a county ruled by the Count of Holland. After independence around circa 1581-1795, Holland became a province of the then Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. By the 17th century, Holland had risen to become a maritime and economic power, dominating the other provinces. Colonies and trading posts were established all over the world.  The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch, was established in 1602, when the States-Generarl of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. This will lead to my next post…a very interesting one…

Thus we can see that the term “Holland” is more popularly used than “Netherlands” because most traders were from the Holland province in the past. Holland was the richest and most powerful province then.

What my father wrote;

“Beggars must not be choosers” or “Beggars cannot be choosers”
“行乞者不得有选择”

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