Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Film Experience

Justin Ng lent me his classic, slightly stiff, but still working amazingly well Nikon F-401s, released 1989, to... well revive and play with.

My very first roll of color film, Fujifilm Superia 400, ended up with only 24 frames exposed because my geh kiang brain apparently refused to accept the image of the huge 36 printed on the box of the roll. Slightly smarter with my second roll, Kodak's highly regarded 400CN B&W film,  I exposed all 36 frames to some rather striking results. You'll find my efforts in this Facebook album (don't worry it's a public album whether you have FB or not!)

After that I wanted to try more pro films, so I bought Fujifilms Pro 400H and Reala 100. The uncle who sold me these two rolls (at $9.50 each I think I was cheated but well he was nice) sad that the 400H was particularly good for portraiture (ie. face) shots and did badly (or perhaps flatly) in landscape shots, leading me to be reluctant to snap at... anything that isn't a face. I got to finish this roll today at Shutterjourney's film outing, and I gave in to a few landscape shots, but for once my album will mostly be faces (yay for that). The Reala 100 on the other hand is the ultimate in fine grain and color reproduction and vibrance, but at only ISO 100, requiring plenty of light to shoot and capture well.

At TripleD, the lab we sent our rolls to, I decided on the Italian Solaris 400. Just to try it out you know.

Then I went with a few of the gang to Orient Photo at Sim Lim, and noticed the Kodak Ektar 100. Like the Reala 100, it is Kodak's ultimate color film.

So I just had to buy it.

The Solaris is currently loaded in the camera now. Once that is finished, I'm really looking forward to a shootout between these two rolls. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A cab driver's job

Ever since voiced out my discontent through Twitter, I have strangely started noticing alot of people complaining about the same topic. The last came in yesterday from Adrianna Tan of Popaghandi fame.
Have had nothing but awful taxi drivers all day who don't know the way, and who play Donnie Osmond and Gloria Estefan.
@skinnylatte, 8 Aug 2010 2030h
Ok so I don't actually mind hearing Gold90FM all the time (I'm uncle that way), but I do personally have an issue with cabbies who are all but clueless about the roads of Singapore.

It's quite a widely known fact that as far as the Singapore society and economy is concerned, people often turn to taxi-driving when a bad economy leaves them without a job and unable to find another. It should be even more widely known that we've seen a major economic crisis even before the turn of the millennium, so it's not like this is the first influx of taxi drivers we have seen. We've had corporate-turned-cabbies since 1998 (when 256kbps broadband was blazing fast), but this problem only started about last year and got really bad in the last 3 months.

So what is in a cab driver's job?

Do you think a cabbie's job is only to step on the accelerator and depress the brake at appropriate times in a life-preserving fashion? Because excuse me but that is a zero-dignity job anyone could learn to do, save for the bloody expensive vehicle they are operating. And I have always had some amount of respect for cab drivers as a profession, because they, until 2010, know the roads of Singapore best, or have at least taken it upon themselves to do so. All they ever ask nowadays are "Where's that?" or "How to go?"

I don't know, you're supposed to be the expert, you tell me.

Am I being too demanding this way? Because to me I'm only expecting the driver to know his or her job. The same way I'd be appalled if a finance executive asked, "This one is plus or minus?" or if an IT guy tried to stick a LAN cable into a telephone port.

If a cabbie were to ask me for my suggestion, I being the techie guy would obviously suggest getting a damn GPS. Garmins can cost up to $400+, but it's the most sensible investment for your job, even more so than just that person with a car who doesn't want to get lost. Assuming you know the route, or traffic conditions, you know when to disregard the GPS's directions. If you totally don't know the way, then 4 out of 5 times (being conservative here) the GPS would deliver what is indeed the most straightforward way to the destination.

Not only can I vaguely recall seeing less than 5 GPS units this year, I've had more than one taxi driver who can't even be arsed to pull out a street directory (or probably even have one in his cab).

Flag, cab stops, hop in.
Me: Hort Park, please.
Cabbie: Where's that?
Me: Hort Park... Or do you know Henderson Waves?
Cabbie: Where's that?
Me: You don't know Henderson Waves.
Cabbie: No.
Me: Just drive.

But wait. There's more.

Flag, cab stops, hop in.
Me: Pulau Ubin Ferry Terminal.
Cabbie: Where's that?

At this point my blood almost froze. Or maybe it almost popped out of my veins boiling. 

Me: You don't know how to get to Pulau Ubin Ferry Terminal?
Cabbie: Ubin is the one over at the... the Naval base isn't it? Or the one at Tanah Merah?
Me: I don't know, you tell me man. I want to go to Ubin.
Cabbie: There's only one jetty to Ubin.
Me: Yeah great, take me there.
Cabbie: Yeah that's the one at the Naval base then. 

He was referring to Changi Point Ferry Terminal being near the Changi Naval Base, but I don't even go there often, how the hell would I know?

Cabbie: Or you want to go Tekong is it?

I nearly had a heart attack early on a rainy Sunday morning.

Me: Just drive.

Yes, you notice I ended both scenes with "just drive". It's not for dramatic effect (well, not just for dramatic effect), but it's what I always end up saying. And I can afford to say that because I always have Google Maps on my phone, and even when I didn't have a GPS chip in my phone, I could at least depend on cell triangulation. Now think about those folks who can't even wrap their head around the idea of paying for access to the Internet via mobile phone. They have a higher chance than us kids of knowing the route to their destination, but what if they don't? They're either stuck like that, or have to find another cab, or bug someone for directions on the phone.

So what is it for cab drivers? Are you pissed off with mean customers? Because you do know that is a vicious cycle. If some customers are mean to you, and you decide to be mean back at them, they'll start being mean to other innocent cabbies, and it all spreads like a zombie virus.

You're doing this because you lost your job, you're bitter and can be bothered? Then perhaps you better start bothering now, because if the zombie virus spreads so far that the public is so disillusioned with cabs, and profits fall, your dear company will be shooting pink slips out the same way those priests fling paper offerings all over during funeral processions.

Can me an uppity customer, but as much as it may suck to be you, you are essentially still in the service industry, and have the most direct interaction with customers out of the three public transport services in Singapore. Think of the tourists who hold Singapore in such high regard. You say "Who gives a fuck about tourists?" But just like your dissatisfied local customers, they contribute to your pay at the end of the day, and the only way you are getting out of the slump of cab driving in Singapore is if enough of you can realize the gravity of the worst-case situation you all are headed for, and do your small part to raise the impression of taxi driving in Singapore. It's not the end of the world to be a cabbie, but it soon will be if you don't buck up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Epicenter @ MBS

I'm going the grand opening of Epicenter at Marina Bay Sands on Friday morning, and I was reminded of this long long long overdue post about their media opening that happened sometime ago. We were given a tour of MBS (what was open anyway) and even shown into a business suite. Get this, every suite has an iPod speaker/alarm/radio thingy! Seems they spare no expense when it comes to the business class. So all that's left now is to somehow sneak a peek into a normal consumer room (and perhaps presidential suite too). I wonder if Epicenter had something to do with it...

But back to that, this Epicenter isn't the biggest around (that wouldn't have been wise too considering the relatively remote location of MBS), but I guess it will do well for 1) hotel guests in need of accessories, 2) casual shoppers walking around the Shoppes, or 3) some crack-induced combination of 1 and 2.

We had a game where we were supposed to list the names of 10 songs based on about 10s of a song. I rocked at classics and classic rock but totally died at modern pop. As usual. Winner got a complete set of leather iPhone covers... those with the country flags designed onto them at back.

Anyway, there was a lucky draw at the end of the event, and look what I got! :D

It's an iHome iPod/iPhone speaker worth like $500! I really can't justify paying so much for a consumer-ish (ie non-audiophile grade) speakers, but I definitely can hear the clarity in them. It's too bad that most iPod speakers are crazy expensive. If you are prepared to pay for a good iPhone hi-fi set, you will make a safe investment in iHome (not that I have heard the others).

Waiting to see what's in store at this Friday's opening! (I'm personally hoping for an iPad. 32GB. 3G. Thanks)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Rare Example

This comes abit late, but last Friday, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend Sony Singapore's event for the launch of the Walkman 252, effectively the second generation of the very recognizable W250 portable player.

There was a bombastic routine of sporty teens rollerblading about with the player, showing how sporty it looks, how clingy it is, how water-resistant it is. They disappeared and shortly returned bearing units for everyone to take home and keep. Everyone was pleasantly surprised and left happy people.

Ladies and gentlemen I'm no PR guru, but here's my greenhorn take on it. This was a great PR strategy, but like a Final Fantasy limit break or DotA ulti, it can't be used often.

It's great because the PR agency (or brand company... you never know who makes what decisions these days) did not commit the elementary but painfully common mistake of trying to attract guests to the event by dangling an expensive goodie bag in the invitation. If you are doing this to traditional media, it's their job to cover the product and they will turn up anyway. And if you are doing it to bloggers, they will, with the exception of a rotten few, think it cheap and insulting of the agency/company to attempt to lure them in like that.

What they did do however was reward those who bothered enough to turn up with a highly unexpected gift of the product itself - not the thumbdrive or messenger bag or press kit in a fancy folder that regulars in the industries would come to expect. Equally importantly, this gift was not accompanied by any sort of implicit or explicit demand to cough up an article or blog post about this hawt new item - just the usual "Go on back, have fun with it, stress it out, tell us and your readers what you think about it if you would."

On that happy note, such a strategy can't be executed too often because it spoils event regulars. It's simple Pavlovian logic - come once you get surprised with the product, next time you get it again, and again, and the fourth time you will go to the event at least subconsciously expecting another gift, if not explicitly waiting for it.

Which brings us to the next point, cost. In this case the W252 is heavily marketed as a secondary, sporty, portable MP3 player (even more so than your usual one). It is not meant to replace your iPod or Creative, it is meant to be one or two things less to carry when you go for a simple jog around your neighborhood. It is also marketed as relatively cheap to go with the rest of its orientation (because how is anything from Sony cheap right... saying that makes me want to laugh at a laptop screen, but that is the fact. Well, their fact.) At S$129 a piece, it has always been too pricey for me (even me) to justify a purchase, even though the 250 was the only player I'd ever taken a serious interest in apart from Creatives and more recently iPods. But giving away for free about 15-20 of these units are a huge PR cost by any measure, and concordantly a far more expensive gamble (hope I'm using that word right). And it's just not practical to do the same for flagship MP3 players that cost thrice this price, or the latest smartphone with the latest OS and the latest ergonomic design, or the latest laptop with the latest chips and cards.

Mind again that such a giveaway doesn't guarantee the company any good thing in return. It creates a very good, higher-than-average chance of attendees excitedly blogging about their latest toy, but there's no telling the exact outcome of such a bold move. Still, applying this strategy tactically will show your attendees that you care about their support and sacrificed time enough to lavish something big on them once in awhile, as way of thanks. And it wouldn't harm to mention that somewhere in the MC or director's script too.

Good job to Hill and Knowlton Singapore. And Sony Singapore. Really lah, I dunno who's idea it was. But you pulled it off.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poker Cards

Ever since I started on Zynga's unhealthily addictive Facebook poker about 3 months back, I've been steadily gaining interest in the game of Texas Hold'em. Along with that quite naturally followed an interest in poker cards out there. I dug my old pack of Aladdins that I used 2 years back when my clique in uni got momentarily obsessed with bridge. But I've often heard that Bee cards were the best there was, so ever since I realized I liked poker, I've been on a borderline hunt for them. After a whole month of searching I finally found them in the 6th and 4th floors of Plaza Singapura.

From left to right are the various card packs I have... the Aladdins are the most comfortable to use probably because they've been used and thoroughly abused for many years. It has a great durable feel to it. The blue Angel cards I picked up along the way are made in Japan. As with all card packs I have it is linen-finished, but that does not seem to show in this as much as the other two red packs, which are both US-manufactured. The Angel cards therefore have a smoother feel to it. The last one is my latest addition, the premium edition of Bee cards. The linen or cross-hatch finish is most apparent in this pack, resulting in the highly-praised quality of these cards. You can see the difference in the close up below. They cannot compare to the Aladdins only because the Aladdins have been seasoned, and I think given time the Bees will do better than the Aladdins. I actually have one more pack of Bicycle cards, which WSOP has chosen for their brand of choice, but it's more of a show set and something I don't want to wear out. It's called the Tragic Royalty deck and I bought it because I love the halloweenish ghoulish gothic design of it.

Maybe I'll get the official WSOP deck next...

Here you can see the back designs of the 3 card decks close up, as well as a close up of the King of Spades, which I picked because it has the most color (well all kings have the most color but picked spades just because). Unlike the other two the Bee card's red is more maroon as compared to Aladdin's and Angel's bright crimson. And this must be a conscious decision on Bee's part because we know from the card back that they are well capable of printing crimson red, and crimson red helps in quickly identifying red suits in a jiffy. But maybe they just want to be different. The cloak of Aladdin's king is also slightly different from the other two, I wonder why since this is a their regular deck and not some premium thing.

I think I'll enjoy the Bees the best. Once they get seasoned. Any one with tips on that?