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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Saturday, 10 September 2011


I am fully supportive of the Singapore's tough drug laws and it therefore comes as no surprise to read that a NZ pupil has been nabbed in Singapore drug bust and will be dealt with by the courts.

It would appear that a reasonably large group if international students had been purchasing and smoking pot; they should have known better.  Singapore laws are well known by those who live there but maybe a flick or two of the cane will reinforce the message.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Going Up, Going Down

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambr...Image via WikipediaThe annual QS University rankings have been released; a time when most tertiary institutions prepare their PR releases in advance and hope for the best.

This year as in previous years no university from Asia or Oceania ranked in the top twenty.  The first Asian institution to score is the University of Hong Kong at #22, followed by its Tokyo equivalent at #25.

The first entry for Oceania is the Australia National University which follows on from Tokyo at #26.

Congratulations to my former employer NUS which has jumped up to 28th. They must be very pleased that their investment in research and quality staff is paying off.

By comparison New Zealand's top university, the  University of Auckland, has fallen14 places to 82. Not exactly a trend to crow about.

The rankings are based on research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.
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Monday, 5 September 2011

The Times They Have Changed

With the Rugby World Cup starting this week in New Zealand it is easy to forget just how ingrained the sport is in New Zealand culture.

Here is an image of an early rugby team in the 1890's.  These come from the area that I now live in, although the playing jerseys have changed somewhat from what they were more than a century ago.

Howick Rugby Team circa 1890's
The playing fields have also improved vastly, judging by the foliage in this picture.

And Botany Road which fronts our mews development once looked like this:

The Hattaway family outside Hawthorn Dene, Botany Road, south of Howick, ca 1880

By 1988 the gardens of this historic cottage were overgrown (below) but the site and house has since been renovated and is now a restaurant run by a Mr Song.

Overgrown gardens in 1988
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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Today's Print - Crabs Flying

Crabs Flying
Roger Smith 2011
Click on image to see larger version
See more digital art and photography at
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Saturday, 3 September 2011

New Digital Art Portfolio

Book Worms

Wheelock-backImage via Wikipedia
Two things that Singaporeans love used to be a sale and good book.  While the first remains true the second is now a matter of some debate.

The large book selling chain Borders closed its Wheelock Place outlet in Singapore and the sale attracted thousands, looking for 50% off bargains. People stood in the pay queue for up to  two hours.

Wheelock Place is a strangely designed building on Orchard Road, largely overshadowed by its newer and flashier neighbour, the Ion Mall.

Wheelock is one of those places with confusing levels of escalators so a visitor finds it difficult to navigate to the lower levels but once there you can enjoy the subterranean walkways under the main thoroughfare, escaping the fierce midday sun.

Border's closure in Orchard Road leaves it with one remaining outlet in Parkway Parade but it too is reportedly up for sale.  Its demise is symptomatic of the decline of print with the modern generation choosing to read from their digital tablets.

Wheelock is named after the Hong Kong development company that bought over the property from the original failed owner.

Also buying up property are the Chinese but they are doing so globally. A Mr. Huang Nubo is hoping to purchase a large chunk of Iceland and transform it into a high-end resort. Losing 300 square kilometers of their small country to an overseas developer is not going down too well with Icelanders but given the parlous state of that country's finances they may have few options left.

At least in Iceland they will have built in spa possibilities with the odd volcanic eruption doing away with the need for imported theme parks.  The spa business in Singapore by comparison is going through a rough patch with creditors lining up to get their money back from the failed True Spa enterprise.

Meanwhile the new president of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan has been sworn in and apart form being "deeply honoured, humbled", has pledged to protect the country's financial reserves.

One would sincerely hope that this is so, although there remains disquiet in some quarters about the President's former role as Chair of the GIC and the corporation's bad choices of investment in 2006 & 2007 under his stewardship which wiped millions from the fund.

This observation needs to be balanced by the GIC's fund management over a wider period of time.  According to an entry in Wikipedia, over a period of 25 years to March 2006, the annual rate of return on the foreign reserves managed by GIC averaged 9.5 percent in US dollar terms, and 8.2 percent in Singapore dollar terms. The average rate of return over global inflation was 5.3 per cent per annum.

To the new President's credit he was one of the few in power at the time who vehemently opposed the building of casinos in Singapore.

Commerce in Singapore is always in a state of flux and as Borders closes its doors a new chain, Swedish retail fashion giant H&M, are opening theirs. Needless to say there is a queue forming some 20 hours before opening.

And last but not least; Singapore's own answer to the Yeti has been spotted once again. The "Naked Man of Sengkang" has reappeared in a lift lobby much to the consternation of the residents of Block 124. The citizen journalist who captured this rare sighting is on record as saying "Not sure if there was something wrong with him or if he was an exhibitionist".

My theory is that he was in such a hurry to join the  H&M queue in town that he forgot to dress.
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