Monday, 9 April 2012

The Singapore National Collections Online

The Google Art Project - the NHB Collections
If you haven't already done so, check out the National heritage Board Collections online.  These are part of the much broader Google Art Project which aims to capture the finest museum collections from around the world.

The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries.Users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and you can even build your own collections to share.

So even though I am far away from my 'happy hunting ground', the Asia Civilisations Museum and National Museum , I can still enjoy their collections from the comfort of my study.
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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tutu Much

Image: Singapore Dance Theatre
The much anticipated tour of the Singapore Ballet troupe to Malaysia has been curtailed due to a late imposition of a sanction and more conservative elements of the host country labeling the ballet costumes as obscene.

Now while it is true that traditional ballet costume brings a new interpretation to the "the battle of the bulge", it should not be forgotten that this discipline uses the body as a form of creative expression.

Hence the tight costumes which show off the poise and grace of the movements to a greater degree. And I hasten to add, there is nothing inherently obscene about the human body.

History teaches us that the greatest Civilisations are those that celebrated diversity, welcomed innovation and encouraged cultural expression.  It also teaches us that those who follow a great dynasty by trying to impose restrictions, narrow the breadth of personal expression and punish those that step outside the norm are doomed to failure.

The earlier courts of India, China and Europe bare testament to the rise and fall of dynasties that were alternatively embracing and then restrictive in their rule. Singapore under the former PM Goh Chok Tong underwent a cultural renaissance of its own in the 1980's. Malaysia by comparison seems to be getting more conservative and restrictive despite the best efforts of its current Prime Minister, Najib Razak.

However the Tutu Tale doesn't end there. The Malaysian government in response to the universal derision that this ban engendered has been quick to say that "it did not receive a permit application for a Singapore ballet troupe to perform here despite organisers claiming the performances had been barred with no reason given".

Now I find this very hard to believe, even though the Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim has personally stated that he "“I love all forms of the arts and theatre. Ballet should be encouraged".

Someone, somewhere, clearly decided to withhold the license for the Singapore Ballet to perform. The troupe applied for the license months before it was due to tour and had performed across the Causeway for the last two years without causing a ruckus.

The end result of this spat is that 'Ballet Illuminations', for this is the name of the performance, will not be illuminating anyone in Malaysia over the weekend.
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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Today's Print - Web

Roger Smith 2012
Click on the image to see a larger version
The last spiders of summer have vacated their home and the broom is covered with the gossamer capsules that once sustained life. Autumn is upon us.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Junket Junkie

As a child I remember junket for what it was; a less than salubrious, congealed substance that masqueraded as dessert. A poor man's custard if you will.

If you have ever eaten a raw oyster then the sensation of it sliding down the throat was somewhat similar, with a markedly different taste and a lot less effect on the libido..

'Junket' in casino terms means something entirely different. A Junket is a organised group of gamblers, which is typically organised by the casino to attract players and this usually mean an increase in high rollers.

So it is not surprising that shares in Genting Singapore have surged 8.6 percent . This past Friday Singapore decided to license two Malaysian junket operators which will see high rollers coming across the Causeway - come to think of it they will probably fly in by private jet.

According to a report in TodayOnline, the licensing authority "does not intend to let junkets dominate the gaming business here and vowed to take a "cautious approach" to ensure criminal activities, which junket operators have been linked with, do not creep into the Republic's casinos."

Mind you, the government has had its hand forced a bit as it would appear illegal junket operations have been in place for a while. A Japanese businessman who is being sued by Marina Bay Sands over a $2 million gambling debt claims that he gained access to their VIP gaming rooms through a Nevada-licensed junket operator. It is not uncommon for illegal operators to get kick-backs from a casino so it is appropriate that Singapore's' Casino Controlling Authority takes a really dim view of such activity.

Now that they have two licensed operators there will be a modicum of control, but I doubt if it will remove the problem of illegal operators entirely.

And lets face it, without the profits from the two casinos (masquerading as 'resorts') the local economy in the global downturn could 'turn to custard'.
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Today's Print - Mushrooms

Soft Mushrooms
Roger Smith 2012
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Friday, 16 March 2012

No Money For Bunny

Til the deceased rabbit - Photo Uwe Meinhold/dapd/Associated Press
Is is common place form museum, zoos and other non profits to think up events and activities that will replenish their beleaguered coffers.

In this zoos have a distinct advantage; the opportunity to parade warm and cuddly live animals to an adoring public.  'Panda-monium' may be an extreme example but it shows what can be achieved on a global scale when there is a clear strategy to raise funds by using the collection in novel ways.

So it is no surprise to learn that an East German zoo planned to do something similar with a mutant rabbit.  This furry creature was born without ears making it even more 'adorable' according to the media releases.  A big media event was planned to introduce the bunny to an adoring public.

Alas things went terribly awry. Til, for that was the rabbit's name, meant an unfortunate end giving new meaning to the old saying "Til death does us part".

Those of us who have worked with the media know just how fraught the relationship can be.  For many years I worked in a museum and my first appointment was that of Exhibitions Officer, at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch.  One of my duties was to keep an eye on camera crews from the various media organisations sent in to cover major exhibitions and events.

It was a never ending battle of equipment and cables in close proximity to to precious art works.  It is simply amazing the amount of 'stuff' and hangers-on that are needed to produce a 30 second clip that will appear on your television news every night.

No doubt the filming of the German zoo event faced similar challenges and the adage 'never take a backward step' should also have applied.  The cameraman who was setting up to do some advance filming did so, killing the star of the show instantly.

A new media release was hurriedly issued claiming that the rabbit did not suffer unduly as a result of  this mishap.

"He was immediately dead; he didn't suffer. It was a direct hit. No one could have foreseen this. Everyone here is upset. The cameraman was distraught."

I am sure he was.  What had been planned as a major crowd puller for the zoo turned out to be a requiem for all downtrodden rabbits.
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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chikungunya Choo Choo

As I write there are up to six hour delays once again with the MRT system.  This time the fault is an electrical one in an Outram Park tunnel so if you were planning to travel from Dhoby Ghaut to Harbourfront (as we often did) then you are out of luck.

Singapore's MRT system is one of the most efficient in the world and certainly one of the cleanest but in recent months it has been plagued with faults, much to the consternation of the local population.

It and the associated transport network play a key part in keeping Singapore competitive and the 'Little Red Dot' as it is affectionately known, has scored highly once again in the most recent Global City Competitiveness Index conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

New York and London took first and second places respectively and Singapore came in a highly creditable third, and by far the most competitive within the Asia region.

The report also states that size alone does not determine a city’s growth potential. While some megacities, such as New York and Tokyo, are immensely influential, there are smaller ones, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which have established themselves as globally competitive centres in recent years.

The top 32 Asian cities are all forecast to grow by at least 5% annually between now and 2016 and twelve of them will grow by at least 10%.

Singapore ranks particularly well in terms of its physical capital (ranked joint first overall), financial maturity (joint first), institutional effectiveness (6th), environment and natural hazards (joint 8th) and global appeal (4th). For locals, none of this will be surprising, given the city’s efficient transport, lean bureaucracy, safe and clean environment, and its increasingly highly regarded reputation

Another determining factor of competitiveness is the health of a county's citizens.  Singapore's quality of healthcare is first class, albeit the fact that for most, one has to pay for the cost of this privately.  But being situated in the tropics also means the prevalence of tropical diseases and it is a constant battle to stop mosquito-born and other diseases.

Chikungunya is a particularly unpleasant malady with no clinically-approved vaccine or treatment yet available.  It affects the joints, muscles and brings on a sudden fever when first contracted.  Most people recover in a week, but it has been known to linger on in some patients and even to kill others.

The good news of the day is that a team of A*STAR scientists have achieved a chikungunya breakthrough. They have "found a specific biomarker which serves as an early and accurate prognosis of patients who have a higher risk of the more severe form of chikungunya fever".

Such scientific breakthroughs are repaying the investment made by the Singapore government in research and technology.

So congratulations to my favourite country for these two auspicious achievements - science and competitiveness. Now if only those MRT faults could be cured.........
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