Report from Tomorrow - Vol 8

1USD = S$1.57 (S$1 = 0.64USD)


There are a small number (6?) public TV channels here - one each in English, Chinese and Malay. Sometimes shows with subtitles (in English or Chinese) are shown on one or the other. There quite a few BBC or USA TV shows here and various made-for-TV movies. The same is true for the Chinese and Malay channels, except I don't know where the shows come from or what they're about. :-)

It's really strange to see how Chinese TV mimics the style of western TV. Many times the commercials look similar in style like the hyped super-fast-talking announcer who says (I imagine), "Hurry! Hurry! Buy your vegematic now and receive the set of 8 stainless steel knives for only S$9.95!". I almost think I know what they are saying :-)

Western (American) entertainment is very dominant here. Lots of TV shows from the US are shown here -- a season late and censored -- Seinfeld, Ally McBeal, LA Law, ER, Chicago Hope, Due South all come to mind. Once nice thing is that since the shows are a season late, they do not repeat the show, but just run through the season and then introduce another series. In addition there are a good number of BBC shows. All of these are in English, sometimes with subtitles. Movies on TV are usually subtitled in Chinese.

The various specialty channels are available on cable - HBO, Showtime, TNT, CNN, BBC, ESPN etc. ESPN sports shows are shown with English commentators on one channel and the same game in Chinese on another. Many sports shows are shown live - usually in the mid-morning here. Mary watched the Final Four basketball tournament at 10AM on a Tuesday here. American football comes the same way. I know of a few Americans that tape the games and watch them at home that night. We watched the Super Bowl on a Monday morning that first week we were here. It's a little weird watching football in the AM and I suspect it makes following US sports very difficult unless you record everything.

On the radio we listen to the BBC broadcast - which must have a station locally since it is on the FM channel, not short wave. Mary listens to the BBC news each AM as she wakes up (I'm on the computer at that time composing these). There is no NPR or MPR (public radio from the USA). I haven't heard "Car Talk" since I arrived and miss things from US Public Radio.

S'poreans are avid movie-goers. I think they just want to get into really cold air conditioning, myself - and cold the movie theaters are. When you purchase a movie ticket, the seat is reserved - and you tell the agent which seat you want. You can see where others are sitting and can pick accordingly. We've been warned that Friday and Saturday evenings, the theaters are filled, but we've not had that experience yet. Since seats are reserved, you can easily buy a ticket several days in advance.

In any case the theaters are all (so far) pretty plush. So far the only one we've been in that was rather sparten is a rather old place near where we live. All movies (regardless of the show or time or quality of theater) cost S$7 each. Normally we don't do the conversion to US, but when we think of it costing about 4.50 USD, it seems a pretty good deal.

Anyway, except for the censorship and the fact the movie shows up a few months late here, we have a very complete variety of US movies available - pretty much the same set we'd see in the USA. So far we've seen Titanic (again), Good Will Hunting (superb movie with Robin Williams), Ice Storm (we went to get cool that day) and some others I don't recall right now.

One very visible difference here is the lack of places to rent video tapes. No Blockbusters here. I'm told this is largely due to a fungus that grows on the tapes here in this wonderful climate. It makes the tapes uneconomical for the rental companies. Yes, you can buy VCRs and yes, you can record your own tapes -- they just don't last long enough for a business to be built on them.

So this part of Asia is way into digital CD - both for recording and renting. There are quite a few places that will rent or sell you the latest edition of your favorite movie on a CD. They are the same size as music CDs (or computer software). They cost about S$50 a piece and people seem to buy them like candy. I rode in a high-end taxi once that had a small digital TV connected to his Video player -- so his customers could ride in comfort.

In the same vein you can buy a gizmo call an MD (from Sony I think) that has a tiny 1-2 inch CD where you can record your own music. I think this is aimed at the market where kids tape various tracks from the favorite CDs and play just those. "Can't go anywhere without my MD" the ad says.

So, as I said, Asia is into digital far more than the USA. I suspect the same items can be found in the US, but since tapes are an option, the market penetration is far less - so far.