Friday, March 23, 2012

6 Sure Signs Your Kid Needs a Chinese Tutor

1) She doesn't like characters.
2) She no longer sings the cute songs in Mandarin she sang last year.
3) She cries because she doesn't understand what's going on in class.
4) You dread asking if she has any Chinese homework.
5) All the kids in her class have a Chinese tutor or a Chinese parent.
6) She looks at you and says: "I wish you were Chinese." She's not joking.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Transit: Julian Has Landed!

Yeah, my little bro, Julian is back in town. He's been playing in concert halls all over the world and finally he's arrived in the Lion City. Free wifi and dumplings are just some of the perks he's been promised. Wake-up call at 6 am by his overzealous niece and nephew was not one of them! He'll be playing a benefit concert for Room to Read this Sunday at 3:30 pm at Alliance Francaise off Bukit Timah Rd. I caught up with Julian over a cup of coffee (full disclosure: he is staying in my guest room so it was just down the hall), and even though it's not his first time in Singapore (he played a benefit last year at the Botanic Gardens for 4,000 people), I still figured he'd be a great candidate for my newly started, "In Transit," series.

1) So Julian, what had you heard about Singapore before coming?
Bring your own gum.

2) What was your first impression when you got here?
I was a bit parched (wasn't aware of Tiger Airways' new slogan: Not Even Water).

3) What is the first thing you ate?
Pizza, I am Italian after all.

4) How is Singapore different from New York City?
No police sirens, come to think of it, no police.

5) What do you want to do while you're here?
Well, besides my concert, I need to give a piano lesson to the silent auction winner who bid $2,700 for an hour of my time. Which begs the question, how does one dress for such an occasion?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Transit: Carefree Clare

Launching today, In Transit, a new series dedicated to friends who are just visiting the Lion City (for business or pleasure). Jetlagged but still witty and athletic (she asks about hiking trails...I look evasive),  is Clare Bundy, an old college friend from Vassar. Hailing from Los Angeles, she has left behind her two darlings Harry and Rosie and her husband James Haygood (the guy who does all the cool superbowl ads). In Singapore on business, Clare is staying at the Marina Bay Sands (pictured above), the iconic hotel and not, as our dear friend Hilary suggested, an attempt by the Italian navy to dock a ship.

1) So Clare, what had you heard about about Singapore before coming?
That it was very clean. A friend may have joked that it is the office park in Asia.

2) What was your first impression when you got here?
I noticed the sign inviting passengers arriving at Changi airport to come visit the butterfly pavilion in Terminal 3. I found that...interesting.

3) What is the first thing you ate here?
Shrimp shumai (dumplings), delicious.

4) How is Singapore different from Los Angeles?
Well, L.A. is spread out and has mountains. You never get a vista's kind of like New York City but greener.

5) What do you want to do while you are here?
Leave the hotel. Which I just did by coming to your house! Oh, and see something older than 30 years.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Special Edition: Interview to General James Dozier

December 17th, 1981.
Most Italians remember this day for the kidnapping of NATO head, General James Lee Dozier, by the terrorist group Red Brigades in Verona, Italy. Exactly thirty years ago, masked men, pretending to be plumbers, gained entry to his house and apprehended him. It would take his wife Judy, gagged and tied, four hours of banging her head against a washing machine to alert the neighbors. At that moment, I was at the theater with my father (I had just turned twelve and this was a birthday present). Shortly after the play had started, carabinieri (Italian police) came into the theater and indicated we needed to follow them (no cell phones then). My father was the NATO liason officer between the Italian and American general. I wouldn't be seeing much of him in the next few weeks.
After a nation-wide search that lasted 42 days, Dozier was freed on January 28th, 1982. The brilliant operation rescue by the NOCS (Italian Special Forces) was over in 90 seconds and miraculously nobody was killed.

General, it's a real pleasure to speak to you. Were you aware at the time you were kidnapped the extent of the search going on for you?

Yes, I was. The guards would bring me international newspapers. They tore out any articles about the kidnapping but they forgot about the table of contents. I was definitely aware of the big manhunt!

You went to West Point Academy and you were in Vietnam. Do you think this equipped you to deal with the ordeal? What strategies did you use?

Well, West Point helped me from a discipline standpoint. I don't think Vietnam helped. What did help was having been sent to the Creative Leadership Center in North Carolina. They have you look at yourself through the eyes of another and put yourself in their shoes. So I did that and made myself a very reliable hostage. That helped a lot. I had had no training at all for a situation like this. I acted by instinct.

What was your first thought when you realized you were being kidnapped?

I wasn't sure what was happening. I was jumped from behind and then got into a fight. My first thought was to get this person off my back. I heard them say: "Sono Brigate Rosse." But after knocking me to the ground, they felt my breath and pulse so I knew they didn't want me dead.

When you relive the moment, would you have reacted differently?

The obvious answer is I wouldn't have opened the door but they had plans for that scenario. They would have thrown down the door. It was a 14 men team with security and back up downstairs.

What was your biggest concern when they apprehended you?

That they would make a mistake and I would die. They had me handcuffed and thrown in the trunk of the car. There were no holes so it got very difficult to breathe. They stopped on the car trip to Padova to open the trunk and let me breathe. My hand were tied and anytime I moved they got tighter. The circulations was cut off. My arms were numb for months.

Have you kept in touch with the NOCS who freed you?

Yes, very closely. I've been back several times. Six years ago,  I re-enacted with them the entire operation at the same apartment for Italian TV.

It has been rumored recently that there may have been 'waterboarding' to find out where you were being held. Any thoughts on that?

I have read the reports but I don't think this is true. I asked extensively how they found out where I was being held and the answer is they found out where the driver was, captured him in bed with his girlfriend. They interrogated them close to each other. When the girlfriend became unglued, the individual who was quite unstable and scared of repercussions, started talking.

I told my son that the first thing you wanted to eat when you were freed was a hamburger. So he wanted me to ask you what type of food you had during your captivity?

I was pretty well fed. Mostly canned food, some pasta. A salad once. One night, I believe it was New Year's, they gave me a glass of wine. You can tell your son that by far the most disagreeable thing was the music they forced me to listen to all day with headphones. It was Acid Rock. I hope he doesn't listen to that.

I don't think so, maybe Johnny Cash. Last question, do you still like Verona?
Are you kidding? I love it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Julian Is Back!

Yeah, my little bro is coming back to Singapore! Because of his busy touring schedule we don't get to see as much of him as we'd like. Last time he was in Singapore he played at the Botanic Gardens for 4,000 people. Amazing, and to think he's the same little boy who had trouble tying his shoelaces as a kid.
(So he was fourteen, who's counting?)
Finally, he's on his way back to Singapore. After Detroit but before Cambodia. The glamourous life of the concert pianist. (Now let's see, where have I been this past week? Pretty sure I left the house to buy groceries.)

For his one day only performance here in Singapore (Sunday, March 18th), he's promised to have all the kids in the audience come up on stage and sit around the piano. I've warned him but the boy has no fear.

If you would like to see him in action, book your tickets (follow the link below) because seats are going fast. All proceeds of the ticket sales will be going to the charity Room-to-Read.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


(Alexander and Eliot)

This morning, Eliot decides she needs to sit on the one chair (out of the possible six) where Alexander's school project is. After a blood curdling yell...
Alexander: "Can't you use your common sense?"
Eliot: "I don't even know what that means."

On a brighter note, when I ask my kids who their hero is....
Alexander answers: "I know you want me to say you."
No, I don't. I mean unless you want to.
But Eliot responds without hesitation: "Alezander."