Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Mold or Miracle?

A priest holds a reliquary containing a dark spot
that appeared on a communion wafer
 in 2008
I've never been much into miracles, nor would I was to decry anyone their faith, but reports out of Poland take the biscuit (should that be communion wafer?).

"Catholics in Poland gathered on Sunday for a special Mass celebrating what they see as a miracle: the appearance on a communion wafer of a dark spot they are convinced is part of the heart of Jesus. The communion wafer in question developed a brown spot in 2008 after falling on the floor during a Mass in the eastern Polish town of Sokolka. Two medical doctors determined that the spot was heart muscle tissue, church officials have said."

Well sorry... but any such edible wafer coming in contact with a floor trampled by hundred's of worshipers will develop dark spots over time, and those spots are more than likely mold or bacteria.

Microbe Zoo has probably found the scientific answer and in doing so also debunked another  'miracle' that the gullible fell for in 1263 - the miracle of Bolsena. Serratia marcescens seems the likely culprit, a common microbe found in soil, water, on plants and in animals.

The dark-spotted wafer was carried aloft in a reliquary by a golden-robed priest in a procession and was put on display in the town's church of St. Anthony as about 1,000 faithful looked on, according to a report.

My faith in the medial profession is also severely dented by their apparent preparedness to confirm the 'miracle'.
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On Song

Is it possible to fall in love with a voice? If it is then I think I have done so, especially as this voice emanates from the vocal chords of famous Chinese singer Song Zuying.

I have always believed that the greatest music expresses the mood, time and place from whence it comes; the raw gritty power of the blues from the black south, the moody classics from the Russian steppes and Scandinavia or the Mersey Beat which became the symbol for a generation free from the constraints of post-war concerns.

Light or Classical Opera are not amongst my favourite musical forms; in general I find them too highbrow for my liking.  Voices such as Pavarotti's have the ability to transcend such preconceptions and in Song Zuying I have found another who can impart true emotion.

How did I chance upon her?  Our local television has two Chinese language channels and tiring of the Rugby World Cup menu that is dominating our media, I switched over to one of them.  On screen was Ms Song's concert in Taiwan which had been staged in the Taipei Arena on May 7, 2011.

The Diva also moves in political circles according to the media release as she was a representative to National People's Congress, China's legislature, and now is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the NPC's advisory body.

Clearly a lady of influence, she is also a non-combatant Rear Admiral in the Chinese Navy through here association with the Chinese People's Liberation Army Naval Song and Dance Troupe. It is also widely rumoured that Song was at one time the favourite mistress of Jiang Zemin.

But first and foremost she can sing with the voice of an angel, be it classical Chinese classics, popular ballads or the Mountain songs so beloved by many Chinese.  She is highly regarded as a singer of Chinese folk songs and is a descendant of  the Miao, one of China's 55 officially recognised minorities groups,  whose singing and dancing talents are well known.

Her supporting acts of popular Taiwanese male singers, such as Jay Chou, simply weren't in the same class and they knew it. Chou is a fine musician but his voice is weak by comparison.

According to her biography Song Zuying  was born in a place regarded as the most romantic and legendary in China.   Wulingyuan in the western Hu’nan has been eulogized by many poets in Chinese history for its scenic beauty, birth of outstanding talent and the beautiful women born there. It is also an area of China regarded as the living place of the immortals.

Song Zuying, Plácido Domingo: "Love Song of Kangding" with Lang Lang at piano (2009)

The Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra and hundreds of highly skilled dancers, singers and supportive artists from mainland China made this a memorable concert for those of us viewing it on a television screen, half a world away from Taipei.
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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Gastronomic Delights

The culture of Singapore is largely wrapped up in large banana leaf, namely the rich variety of cuisine from otah otah to home grown soy sauce (and all other delicacies in between).

Satay Hawker - Singapore 1982
Personally I think it is difficult to beat the smell of cooking over charcoal. One of the earliest photographs I took of Singapore in the 1980's was of a satay hawker at the old Satay club, crouched over a small charcoal brazier.

There are a number of excellent 'foodie' sites in Singapore.  My favourites are as follows:

Singapore food: "So Shiok"!
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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Yes Coke Yes

Cocoa Cola has been noticeable for its clever choice of marketing slogans to promote its sales to target markets.  In 1886 the text was simple, "Drink Coca Cola".

By 1924 this had turned into "Refresh Yourself" and in the year of my birth it was "Where there's Coke there's hospitality".

Each year they trot out a new slogan and the current one is (believe it or not) "Life Begins Here".

Now this piece of information is clearly something that a substantial proportion of Singaporeans are not aware of. According to Today Online, 3% of the population copulate in the profound belief that washing their genitals with Coca Cola will prevent pregnancy.

Presumably this application happens before rather than after, giving new meaning to the expression "putting some fizz into your sex life".

I can just see the Cocoa Cola advertising gurus in the USA adopting this slogan for their 2012 campaign.

There are regional variations of the company's slogans as well. In 1980's Japan (a country not always known for its rigid translation of English) the thought of the day was "Yes Coke Yes", which seems strangely in context with the current Singaporean situation.

Mind you, another 3% from the Republic believes that "staying upside down for two hours" after sex has the same effect as Coke.

So I look forward seeing what rival Pepsi come up with. " The cola that makes you stand on your head" perhaps?

You might also think that given Singapore's push (and I use this word advisedly) to increase its population, the government would not worried by this misplaced belief in home-spun contraception.  Not so, there is a more serious side, the rising incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions in the country.
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Friday, 23 September 2011

Today's Print - Tulips

Roger Smith 2011
Click on image to see larger version
It's spring at last and the first tulips have raised their heads. I came across this group as I was taking my 'afternoon constitutional'.
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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Going Around In Circles

300Image via WikipediaThere is an old saying about going around in circles but apparently a power fault shut down the Circle Line in Singapore early this morning.  This stranded many commuters and school children who had planned to get in early.

However with usual MRT efficiency the line was operative by 9:15 am.  Compare this speed of recovery to the disaster that was Auckland's public transport on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup.

Twice as many as planned for turned up to take the train on that day and the public transport simply couldn't cope.

Determined that this fiasco should not happen again, the government commandeered the waterfront for the duration of the RWC event and of course all of those who are accountable are blaming each other!

One journalist has described it as a 'can of worms' which indeed it has been.  So in the context of Auckland's transport failures a four hour breakdown on Singapore's Circle Line doesn't seem that bad.
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Today's Print

Dancing Avocado
Roger Smith  9-2011
Click on image to see large version

Supernatural Mops

Singaporean media has been compiling a gallery of English translations and other visual faux pas discovered in China by its readers. Here are a selection.

Monday, 19 September 2011


The new 'toy'
I confess the have spent the morning 'gadget-fiddling', something I undertake every couple of years when a new mobile phone is purchased.

In Singapore people change mobile and smart phones as quickly as they change shirts, which is often in the sticky tropics.  The latest models available from Singtel or Starhub are a sight to behold. Every year sees more features and smarter product design.  The models available in New Zealand it has to be said are more utilitarian.

This was a case of 'needs must' as my previous iPAQ which had given sterling service died an unnatural battery death.

My mobile has become something I have relied on to organise my life over the years.  Where once upon a time you simply spoke to someone on a phone, now its tells you where you are standing at any given moment, prompts you to buy a coffee at a nearby restaurant, provides a camera so you can snap the accompanying muffin and share it with friends and lets you schedule what you will be doing for the rest of the week. Appointments such as 'attend gym' to burn of the muffin calories.

Hence the expression 'smart phone' which usually means that it is smarter than you, the Luddite who made the purchase.  There after all only so many apps that one can sensibly use in a lifetime.

My morning then has been spent taking the Google Android device out of its box and getting my spatulate thumbs moving in unison so that I can drag and flick the menu around the touch screen.

Mine's a Huawei device which just goes to show how Chinese manufacturing has combined with US know-how in the modern world.

Founded in 1987 in Shenzhen, this company now sells $US20 billion of its products annually in 140 countries - not bad going for a small enterprise that started off selling switches.

Of course the thing I really wanted to get working, I couldn't.  The camera told me I need an additional SD micro-card installed.  A quick rummage through the packaging again and no, I clearly have not got one of these.

A car ride to the local Dick Smith's electronic store followed where I purchased the necessary storage card, which had a retail price of $NZ32.

It was my lucky day as the price was discounted to $20 (reason given - old packaging) and the bargain came with some additional free goodies; a can of V energy drink, a soft screen cloth and a set of earphones and voice activated microphone in a clear plastic tube.

Frustrating as the above may have been, it was a lot more pleasant than the annual 'flu shot which I also had this morning.
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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Today's Print - Moon,River,Phoenix

Moon, River, Phoenix
Roger Smith 2011
Click on image to see the larger version

In celebration of this year's Moon-cake Festival I have used wooden molds as the inspiration for this print.
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Pee Power - The Answer To Nuclear Energy

It's a cow peeingImage by MrTopher via FlickrAccording to a recent article in Wired magazine, urine can be put to good use for generating power. A better option for power generation than nuclear perhaps?

It's just a pity that Iran is not building bovine reactors rather than their nuclear equivalent.

Singapore might also consider having a few cows in pasture to cut down on its energy costs.

According to Rachel Zurer in the latest issue of Wired, urine it can be used as an energy source for hydrogen fuel cells:

“Each molecule of urine, has double the hydrogen atoms of a water molecule and holds on to them less tightly. That means the atoms are easier to split off, promising a cheaper and more efficient source of hydrogen gas that H2O.”

Ohio University Professor Geradine Botte says that the urine from just one cow contains enough energy supply hot water for 19 houses.

So perhaps we can also save the geothermal capabilities of Rotorua at the same time by using "Pee Power"?

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Monday, 12 September 2011


A decade ago on September 11th. I arrived at my office in AUT and learnt of the news of the Twin Tower tragedy.

Its imagery remains with me still as does other seminal events such as the assassination of then President Kennedy and man walking on the moon for the first time.

Earlier generations had their own memory imprints; the declaration of war, Pearl Harbour, the airship Hindenburg disaster and the Holocaust amongst them.

In 1985, the wife of one of my best friends suffered a terrible accident when the mini car her husband slipped off a jack as she was underneath, holding a brake lining. Two things I remember vividly from this episode which left her facially disfigured but thankfully alive.

The first was my friend telling me how he somehow was imbued with 'supernatural' strength at the time and lifted the car from her unaided, in one movement. The second is that I painted a small shroud-like study in which I portrayed a devastated space, as my emotional response to what had happened.

Study - 1985
Roger Smith - mixed media on board
It was not a great painting - rough and deliberately crude in its intensity and muslin drapery. What I could never understand is the intuition that led me to include two towers as the central motif, viewed across an expanse of water?
On the afternoon of September 11th, 2001 I looked again at the image stored on my hard disk drive and wondered whether it was pure coincidence that I had produced this work featuring a city I had never visited, with its dark twin towers featured and a fiery sky? Or was it a premonition of events to come?
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Sunday, 11 September 2011


My local supermarket has got into the swing of the 2011 Rugby World Cup which is currently being staged in a variety of venues throughout New Zealand.

As we exited we were encouraged to take an cellophane wrapped lolly on a stick; naturally said sweet sported the All Black colours.  It also had a tongue shape which reminded me of an early example of Rolling Stone's cover art.

I have used both to produce this homage to Any Warhol and the rugby  team I support in the RWC tournament.
AB Supporter (After Warhol)
Roger Smith 2011
Click on image to see larger version
Meanwhile the "Brits" have been trying to commandeer our sheep in support of their campaign! See the video below

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