Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From Slate to Smart Phone

I have just been listening to a very interesting programme on BBC Business about the rivalry between two German pencil manufacturers; Staedtler and Faber Castell. Both have a centuries old tradition of the craft of pencil making and remain at the forefront of the business.

It reminded me that my first attempts at writing took place on a slate with apiece of chalk.  After World War Two when I was born I guess pencils from Germany and the rest of UK / Europe were in short supply, chewed up in the mouths of anxious army clerks by the boxful.

The expression 'wipe the slate clean' is meaningful to those of use who literally did so. The new entrants classroom at age five meant a change of writing tool and wooden desks with ceramic inkwell holders. These holders were cracked and stained with ink giving the impression of what I later came to appreciate as precious Chinese Ge ware, although of course our receptacles were anything but.

Laborious copying of text using pencils came first and later, the use of dip pens and ink when we were taught the beauty of cursive script.

How technology has moved in one short lifetime.  In the age of smart phones hand gestures such as wiping are digitised and thumbs 'text' at a speed faster than the old nib pen of my early school days could ever have traveled.
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The Cult of Celebrity

Her botoxed lips reminded me of the nether regions of a female baboon in heat.

The siliconed breasts seemed grotesquely out of proportion as she struggled with her friend (should that be bosom buddy?) to secure the frontal position in a glossy woman's magazine in our local supermarket.

The bottle-blonde coiffure of her multiple-married companion matched that of her own and both were a  less than edifying picture of middle age neurosis . Or, as we say in these parts "mutton dressed up as lamb".

This mutton should have been out out to pasture long ago, but the aged glitterati never seem to be able to retire gracefully.

My local newspaper summed up the pair: "In their nihilistic search for fame, we fed upon their every gum-chewing antic and cosmetic enhancement. But haven't we had enough? "

We surely have but they clearly haven't.  Just so long as the editors of women's and society magazines are prepared to pay money for these posing 'party has-beens' then they will continue to project themselves from the checkout racks.

On reflection it is a sad indictment of our society, but it should not be confused with 'Mutton Bustin' which is a peculiar Canadian pastime.  Small children are encouraged to ride a rampaging sheep around the rodeo ring, all the while trying desperately hard to hang on.

Perhaps there are similarities between this and society girls who refuse to age gracefully after all.

Monday, 1 August 2011

National Day Parade 2011



Singapore's National Day is always celebrated in song and heavily promoted by the government and Mediacorp. The above video is of song composed and sung by Lorraine Tan.

The official song for the NDP is called "In A Heartbeat and is sung by a former Singapore idol runner-up, Sylvia Ratonel. She is a Euro-Filipino who signed a fulltime contract with the government's MediaCorp after Singapore idol so it is not surprising she is the chosen one for this rendition.



I much prefer the Lorraine Tan offering as I find Ms Ratonel's effort vocally insipid.  However this is a matter of personal taste.

The country's greatest asset is its people as it has no natural resources to speak of.  Although the lyrics and sentiments may seem rather 'saccharine' to outsiders, they reflect the importance of family as the key unit of social stability and support.

It is interesting to review such ditties from previous years and all have a similar perspective.
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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Today's Print - Melbourne Moves

Melbourne Moves 2
Roger Smith  2011
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Friday, 29 July 2011

Today's Print - Tai Chi Fort Canning

Tai Chi Fort Canning
Roger Smith 2011

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Sweet Spot and Sweet Victories

I don't know which has the most cataclysmic possibilities; the news that a trojan asteroid called 2010 TK7 has been quietly circling above or that our earth's population is reaching 7 billion.

Apparently trojan asteroids need not be feared as they are not the same as the one that wiped out the dinosaur population some sixty five million years ago. According to the media "the 200-300m-wide rock sits in front of our planet at a gravitational "sweet spot", and poses no danger".

One would certainly hope that they have got their calculations correct. Science has been known to get things wrong before but if this proves to be the case there is little we can do about it anyway.




As to the global population we have apparently slowed our birth rate since the 1960's but even then there will be yet another billion mouth to feed twelve years from now.

In Singapore however life is focusing on more mundane matters. A woman has been fined $4,000 for stealing $390 worth of products from a pet shop in Sengkang in June last year. She is reported as having a penchant for feeding stray cats.

Senior Minister Grace Fu
The national football team vanquished their bitter rivals Malaysia to progress to the third round qualifiers for the World Cup for only the second time in its history.  They did so in the face of overt intimidation in the crowd, were some idiot brandished a kris knife.

But the sweetest spot of all belongs to Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore which has contributed US$737.6 million to its  parent company's coffers and is on its way to become the most profitable casino-resort ever.

It's a rich now ( if you will excuse the pun) for Minister Grace Fu to express in her Facebook pages that she is now "concern(ed) about the social effects".

As part of the then government that introduced casinos into Singapore she, and other members of her party, were made well aware of the downside of such a decision at the time.
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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Today's Print - Towards A Harsh Darkness

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Today's Print - Asleep Over London

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'Asleep Over London' is a montage of two images I took during a visit to the British Council HQ in Spring Gardens and the British Museum.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Death in the Key of D

Mozart
Today is a rare respite to the recent winter dampness and I am sitting at the keyboard with Mozart's Symphony No. 5: Allegro con brio playing in the background. Now there was a guy who knew how to turn out a tune or two.

The l'enfant terrible would have had a hard time in Singapore with his non-conformist attitude and all-consuming focus on his own being.

Somehow I can't see him playing a leading role in any national courtesy campaign either.

A touch of Mozart is also a reassurance that not all the world is balmy, countering today's revelation that an organic farmer from Norway has killed 80 people with a bomb in parliament and a later shooting rampage at a youth camp. A diet of organic vegetables no doubt contributing to his insanity.

I doubt if we will ever know what drove Anders Behring Breivik to commit this act but it does remind one that even in a supposedly peaceful society such atrocities can occur.

No wonder Singapore keeps reminding its citizens that it too is an iconic target for acts of terror.  In the past fortnight 11 suspects have been arrested in Indonesia as they planned to attack the Singapore embassy in Jakarta.

As to Mozart,he could have avoided a premature death if he had spent more time basking in the sun and thereby absorbing Vitamin D, recent research suggests.

"Mozart did much of his composing at night, so would have slept during much of the day. At the latitude of Vienna, 48 degrees N, it is impossible to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about 6 months of the year," the authors write. "Mozart died on December 5, 1791, two to three months into the vitamin D winter."

Given the amount of sun in Singapore perhaps he should have relocated to the island republic. At the very least he should not have come to Auckland in the middle of a New Zealand winter.
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Thursday, 14 July 2011

SQ Web Woes

The CEO of Singapore Airlines Goh Choon Phong offered me his apology today (which came as somewhat of a surprise as I had neither requested nor expected it).  The text of the epistle was a follows:

"On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to offer our sincere apology for the inconvenience caused as a result of issues that arose from the launch of our new website on 22 May 2011.

As with all new initiatives that we undertake, the intention behind the website revamp was to improve on our customers’ experience with us. I am truly sorry that the new website, with its technical problems, has instead caused much aggravation for many of our customers. We make no excuses for our failure to deliver an acceptable level of online service.

We have committed full resources to resolving the website problems and have made significant progress in rectifying many of the defects. We will continue to relentlessly pursue all other outstanding issues.  An in-depth investigation as to how the issues that arose went undetected is well underway, and we are treating this with utmost importance.

At Singapore Airlines, we strive to put our customers at the centre of everything we do. I am well aware that there is a wide range of travel options to choose from, and thus, am grateful that many of you have continued to support us. We do not take this for granted.

Thank you for your continued patience during this period. I know that you have high expectations of us, and we failed to meet those expectations. On behalf of the Company, I offer our unreserved apology, and pledge to win back your confidence."

Now there are two reasons that I have reproduced the above.  Firstly it is rare for any airline to be so upfront about such issues and secondly it speaks volumes for the Singaporean business ethic, and SQ in particular, that they have chosen to communicate in this manner.

While it is true that I was a Silver Kris flyer with the airline, I have not used their services for over a year.  The newly launched design has been panned by business travelers who have found it  "a haemorrhage of colours and links which have been haphazardly meshed together".

The functionality has also been labelled a debacle and the SIA call centres have been swamped.  Frustrated passengers who could not get through on the call services vented their spleen on the SQ Facebook page.

It's a great pity that the best airline in the world is being subjected to such ridicule and knowing the country as I do, heads will surely roll.

SQ must be losing a lot of custom and money as a result of this amateurish web offering.  For a country that prides itself on being at the cutting edge of digital innovation the new SQ web site sends all the wrong messages. I would love to know which company built the new web site for them?
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