Monday, 20 February 2012

Today's Print - Life Has Different Stages

Life Has Different Stages
Roger Smith 2012
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Stringing Along

Yuriy Shishkov
This week in Singapore the world's most expensive guitar is on show; a jewel-encrusted beauty with an estimated value of $US90,000.

Not only is it on show, it is also on sale but the promoter is honest enough to state that it is aimed at South Eastern Asian royalty rather than the hoy paloy.  The article also states that the "the guitar wires are hand-hammered of fine silver".  I am presuming that this refers to the frets not the guitar strings themselves?

It is a far cry from my first guitar, an 'instrument' whose neck I crafted out of an old rugby goal post back in the mid Sixties.  I wrote about its construction in an earlier post but I can assure you there were no jewels adorning its frame.

The craftsman who made the Singapore Special is one Yuriy Shishkov, a Russian who works for the Fender Custom Shop.

Not all of his creations are made with royalty in mind; some are downright bizarre such as his 'gut special' which comes replete with intestines (below).

 "Midnight Opulence", for this is the name of the guitar on sale in Singapore, is well beyond my budget.

A more practical budget focus is provided this week by the Government who are aiming for a 'A balanced Budget for the long term', or so they say.  Certainly some political realities are being addressed in the 2012 document.  Less foreign workers and more community support for the elderly and disadvantaged feature.

The concept of senior group homes for the elderly without family support is a good one and much needed as more Singaporeans age and the traditional family support no longer features so strongly.
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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Flying High

I don't know about you, but I always like to think that the person piloting the aircraft I am travelling in is in full control or his or her senses. Snorting cocaine in the cockpit would not fill me with confidence about the chances of reaching my destination.

So it is somewhat alarming to read today that a third Indonesian pilot has been prosecuted for ingesting crystal methamphetamine. Putting the 'P' into pilot is a worrying state of affairs, in a country not renowned for its aviation safety record.

The airline in question is Lion Air whose motto just happens to be "We make you fly", although when they coined it, they would not have anticipated their pilots taking this slogan quite so literally, as is the case here.

Media reports that a month earlier, another Lion Air pilot had been arrested with an undisclosed amount of crystal meth in a karaoke bar in South Sulawesi, while two Lion Air co-pilots were arrested for possession of crystal meth and ecstasy last September.

In Indonesia the scourge that is crystal meth is known as "shabu-shabu".  Perhaps given the state of the airline industry there it should be known as "shabby, shabby".

Such was the state of civil aviation in the country that in 2007 when we were based in Singapore all of its airlines were banned by the European Union authorities and, as I worked for the British Council at the time, we were forbidden to use them.

Since then the ban has been gradually lifted but there are still a number of smaller operations that are clearly 'cowboy' outfits. One could always use alternative transport such as ferries but these tend to sink due to overcrowding.
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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Pink Dance

Pink Dance
Roger Smith 2012
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Today's Print - In The Deepest Pools

In The Deepest Pools
Roger Smith
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I have started a series using one of my poems as a starting point and translating it into a visual 'abstraction' using a QR Code generator and Photoshop.
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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Another Great Man Passes Away

Another of Singapore's Founding Fathers has died. Dr Toh Chin Chye was one of a small group of founding PAP members who with Lee Kuan Yew, S Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee forged a path to the prosperity and nationhood that Singapore enjoys today.

A sad day for all Singaporeans.
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Monday, 30 January 2012

Today's Print - Mood Shift

Mood Shift 2
Roger Smith
The sun is (finally) shining, there is new season stone fruit to be eaten, so why not!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Cycle of Decay

One tends not to associate concrete, that most solid of building blocks, with decay.  It is after all inorganic, unlike nature which encroaches upon it.

My trips to Asia in the 1980's brought home to me that concrete was no different from wood or any organic element; each was subject to the cycle of erosion and decay, it is just a question of time.

A first trip to Europe a decade was equally fascinating as layers of civilisation were stacked one upon the other, each using as its base the remnants of what had come before.

One enduring image I have kept with me are the remains of a mansion gate in Singapore's Oxley Road (incidentally the section address is 2 Lloyd Road as it is on a corner), named after Dr Thomas Oxley,the colony's surgeon from 1827 and just a little further up the incline past Lee Kwan Yew's home.

Gate Post - Oxley Road near the corner of Lloyd Road
Roger Smith
I walked past this post regularly during our trips back to Singapore to see family; past the Gurkhas guarding the former PM's home. These treks took place from 1986 to 2006, after which time we were living in Singapore ourselves.

Each time I walked past it the post looked a little more decrepit and overgrown in its constant battle with creepers and vines of varying thicknesses. Singapore being a tropical country has a heavy rainfall and warm sunshine all year round which means that buildings weather rapidly. Rain, wind, solar radiation including ultra-violet light and atmospheric pollution all take their toll.

It turns our that these gates and and empty section are all that remains of the grand house, Villa Austerlitz. Singapore's National Archives has some very good images of the house at it was and the former owners.

One 1913 photograph clearly shows the same post at left of the picture. The National Archives are a wonderful resource and the staff there do a tremendous job in recording and preserving documents and images associated with Singapore's history. One can even send a historic post card of early Singapore to a friend using their resources.

Villa Austerlitz with the entrance post at left
Source: Singapore National Archives
It is the textural qualities of decay that makes it so appealing through the lens - layers peeled back like an onion to reveal something of interest underneath. This street poster from a visit to Malacca is another such example.

Posters - Malacca
Roger Smith

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The Sacred Tree

Blocks- Changi
Roger Smith 2012
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This image is based on the large concrete blocks that are used as crane counterweights in Singapore. It could have been taken on almost any building site in the country but in this case it was out at Changi; on the site of the ill-fated UNSW Asia campus.

Within two months of the original photograph being taken the plug was pulled on the project. The same piece of ground was reclaimed by the government who had plans to build Singapore's fifth university on it.

Recent news reports suggest that they too will not proceed on the site.

There is an interesting aside related to this story. On the same site stood a tree that was believed by many of the local Malay population to be sacred. Offerings were frequently laid at its base to appease various deities. Not surprisingly people for the area were concerned for the tree's fate and assurance were made that it would be revered and kept safe.

Shortly after ground works commenced for the new campus, it was inadvertently knocked over by a contractor. Not a good omen and so it proved to be.

The Sacred Tree
Roger Smith 2007
Mind you, this is not the only spiritual site I came across during my time in Singapore. The practice of venerating certain places was widely practiced in earlier times and still continues in some places.

Each day I passed a clump of trees and bamboos adjacent to the food court in Commonwealth Avenue, by the Queenstown MRT. Inside this clump there was a largish open space in which a red oil lantern could be seen shining along with other small offerings.

Adjacent to the Queenstown MRT overpass on Commonwealth Avenue
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Friday, 27 January 2012

Singapore Moving Crew

Moving Crew - Singapore
Roger Smith 2007
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This image was taken on the now-defunct UNSW Asia campus in Tanglin Road.  The arrival of books for the library was a moment of celebration, which proved to be short lived.

Transport crews such as this one are an integral part of life in Singapore where there is a very transient population; foreign workers and Expats.

In our Queens condo there was not a week went by without a new container being parked outside the complex as people moved in or moved out.  There were also numerous, smaller removal vans which moved people back and forth from HDB's to the condo and on occasion, in an opposite direction.
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Monday, 23 January 2012

Today's Print - 'Merc'

Roger Smith 2012
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Going Bananas, Wet Leaves and Water Dragons

Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon, and as I write my many friends in Singapore and beyond are celebrating with their families over Reunion Dinners.

It was a time that I always enjoyed although it was also a time when finding an open coffee shop proved difficult. This year is most definitely a Water Dragon with flooding once again wrecking havoc in certain parts of Singapore in the past week.

Leaves - Tanglin
Roger Smith 2006
Sitting in my study in new Zealand, I decided to delve into my image archive.  Here is is a photo taken on the then Tanglin campus of the ill-fated UNSW Asia in 2006.  The tropical foliage and the fresh smell after rain is something one never forgets.

There will be many not staying in Singapore but leaving for Malaysia, Thailand or places further afield over New Year; an annual pilgrimage to be with, or share with, family.

Many of them will be flying Singapore Airlines; still my favourite airline despite the recent news that its new fleet of fifteen A380's are susceptible ;to cracks in the wings.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that European air-safety regulators are poised to mandate enhanced inspections in the wake of new cracks found on an A380.

None of this is very reassuring although the manufacturers have assured everyone that there is no imminent danger.

Finally a piece of news that surprised me, as our local NZ supermarkets have for many years been full of bananas from the Philippines.

The Philippines have just sent a trial shipment of fruit and vegetables (carrots, cabbage, bananas, papaya, squash and spices) to Singapore hoping to break into what they perceive to beg a lucrative market. For some reason I thought that produce from the Philippines was already readily available in Singapore - apparently not so?

To all my friends and family - Gong Xi Fa Cai.

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