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Archive for October, 2009

Cartoon courtesy of Steve Kelley and The Times-Picayune.

Cartoon courtesy of Steve Kelley and The Times-Picayune.

This is brilliant. It’s hilarious, current and spot-on.

Happy Halloween. At least candy is still an affordable treat.

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As the year begins to wind down, it is fair to say that it has been a tough year for many Americans.

Wall Street is Set to Award Record Pay

Wall Street is set to award record pay.

Unemployment is close to 10%, foreclosures have not abated, and there doesn’t seem to be any real recovery.

And then, this week there was this report “Wall Street On Track To Award Record Pay” in the Wall Street Journal. It states that: “Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year – a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture.

“Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.”

This come months after many banks and financial firms took taxpayer-funded bailout money to survive.

It’s no wonder that the average person reacts to this report with puzzlement, anger and disgust. MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan and filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on the Today Show on October 15 to talk about this huge disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. Their explanations are excellent in helping one understand the situation. Watch the clip below.

Moore echoes the feelings of most people on these compensations: “They burned down our economy. They completely crashed it. And now they’re getting rewarded for it… It’s absolutely insane that we allow this to happen, but not surprising because that’s our capitalist system.”

And we often see the bankers and the financiers explain on TV that they have to pay top salaries and bonuses in order to retain the best employees. Once again, Moore brilliantly articulates the average citizen’s response to this bizarre explanation: “Let’s pay the best people, who helped to wreck and ruin our economy… This is absolutely crazy logic.”

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Singapore Malay wedding

Iqbal and Haslina arrived in traditional Malay costume for the bersanding ceremony, the day’s main event.

A wedding is like a microcosm of life. Family, friends, hope, past, present and future all meet on that special day.

On my recent trip home, I was fortunate to attend the wedding of my cousin’s daughter, Haslina. It was wonderful to meet again so many people who have been a part of my life, including former neighbors whom I have not met in years.

Though the Malay community in Singapore lives in a thoroughly modern city, much of our heritage still permeates our lives. For instance, weddings still remain big, community affairs. This dates back from the kampung (which means village) days when all the neighbors and relatives pitched in to help with the preparations and celebrations. And relatives from Malaysia, and sometimes Indonesia, made the trip over to spend a few days with their relatives on the island.

The number of guests can easily be between 500 to 1,000 people. We have a large extended family, and my cousin Rashid is active in the community, so his guest list was quite extensive. There was a constant stream of guests from lunch time till dinner time.

Malays have been pretty adaptable people and have found ways to merge or synthesize the new and the old. In the old days, tents were set up in the front yard for the wedding celebrations. Today, most Singaporeans live in high-rise flats and apartments. To accommodate the number of guests, the spacious lobby of the apartment building, or what is known locally as the void deck, is utilized as the wedding venue. I think this is a uniquely Singaporean feature.

Singapore Malay Muslim wedding banquet

The newlyweds taking a little rest.

Weddings used to be the launching pad for budding musicians who entertained the guests. Today, live music is not such a common feature of weddings. Haslina’s wedding had a band which played Hindi songs, and it was really fun listening to the popular hits.

On Haslina’s side, we celebrate our Malay and Indian Muslim roots, while the groom, Iqbal, celebrates his Pakistani traditions. And this was seen in the costumes and the two groups of musicians and dancers, the kompang and the bhangra, that heralded the arrival of the couple.

Haslina and Iqbal make a wonderful couple, adding another branch to our kinship tree. And thanks to my cousin Rashid and his wife Masita for giving me an opportunity to get close to my heritage and all the folks that I cherish.

Singapore Malay wedding

The sounds of the kompang (Malay hand drum) musicians bring excitement at a wedding as they signal the arrival of the bride and groom.

Malay wedding Singapore

The bhangra musicians arriving. Bhangra, a dance and music which originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, is popular at weddings which celebrate a connected heritage.

Malay wedding Singapore

Family and guests gathered to watch the bhangra dancers. (Watch the video clip below.)

Malay wedding Singapore

The band entertained the guests with classic and new Hindi songs.

Singapore Malay wedding

The “kitchen” area is the unseen HQ of a Malay wedding, serving briani rice and side dishes to a constant stream of guests.

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orange flowerLast week, I had orange on my mind. I was thinking of ways to update or change the look of my living room with the coming of fall.

I was not quite ready to give up the bright, sunny colors of summer, and I still wanted bright, uplifting hues in my surroundings. Then it occurred to me to add some orange decorative accents or accessories. After all, orange is a color that bridges the hot and cold seasons. It brings to mind the citrus of summer and the leaves of autumn.

Later, over the weekend, I read an article “Haute orange” in the Orange County Register where Cindy McNatt wrote that orange is the “it” color this season. Well, that’s nice to know. She quoted designer Amanda Malson as saying: “Orange is a vibrant color that has less intensity than red or yellow and actually a calming effect. We love using orange with a neutral base and pairing with hues of blue.”

Color psychology, which studies the effect of color on human feelings, moods and behavior, points out that orange can have a positive impact on one’s emotional state. Orange represents warmth, energy, exuberance and excitement. It is said to open up your emotions, and will stimulate activity and socialization.

It is also said that sometimes we are drawn to a color because we want to have the attribute that it represents. The exuberance of orange will be a good attribute to have as the days get shorter and nippier.

An orange item adds zest to a room. (Pic from photos8.com)

An orange item adds zest to a room. (Pic from photos8.com)

I bought this fabric to make cushion covers. I was drawn to its orange accents and somewhat retro feel.

I bought this fabric to make cushion covers. I was drawn to its orange accents and the somewhat retro feel.

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