Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sound Recollections: ‘Apache over Singapore’ by Joseph C. Pereira

Apache over Singapore by Joseph C. Pereira is subtitled ‘The story of Singapore 60s music’. The first of 2 books, Volume 1 covers the first five years of the decade which saw the local music scene reach a level of activity unparalleled before or since. Bands like The Quests and The Jets vied for places on the Singapore and Malaysia pop charts alongside The Beatles. Major labels like Philips and EMI were snapping up local bands to recording contracts. Even an act with no recorded output, Ronnie & The Burns, could sell out a concert at the Singapore Conference Hall.

Author Joseph C. Pereira devotes individual chapters to major acts of the period, and serves up an encyclopedic document on the bands and musicians: from the stories behind their formation and dissolution, to the respective discographies and even shows and tours undertaken. Being a latter period band member himself, Pereira is able to offer insights on the sounds and methods of the day. While the movement was undoubtedly catalysed with a plethora of bands imitating The Shadows, there was no shortage of creativity and experimentation as the musicians developed beyond simple party shows. New sounds and technologies were eagerly adopted, like the fuzzbox (as used by the Rolling Stones) and 16 track recording equipment (this at the time when the Beatles were recording on 4 track). For an idea of the proficiency of the time, consider Jimmy Appudurai (Meltones, Motif) commenting on his guitar tone: ‘I used a 1962 or 1963 Strat and the studio’s Dynachord amplifier…A clean split sound, from the bottom toggle switch, mixed in between the last 2 pickups.’

As the stories of the bands unfold, so too is a picture of Singapore society woven indelibly as backdrop. This was still Singapore the exotic third world port of call, a cauldron of British colonial expatriates, American personnel on R&R from Vietnam, and seafarers unleashed on shore leave. Within the local populace, gangsterism, communism and racial friction would soon rupture the fragile social fabric. As Patrick Seet of the Echo Jets recalled, trouble makers sometimes showed up at gigs and caused bloody fighting on the dancefloors, and for the intimidated bands, ‘the only thing we could do was to keep on playing’.

Emerging too from the narrative are reminders of a bygone era, where youths flocked to Sunday Tea Dances, and movie theatres such as the Lido and now defunct Capitol hosted live band and variety shows. This in part sustained the demand for beat bands, which would fill nightclubs and venues like the Singapore Badminton Hall and National Theatre in a way the present-day Esplanade Theatre would surely wish. It consequently made Singapore an exporter of performers to the regional entertainment circuits in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Vietnam, a mantle since assumed by the Philippines.

Reading between the lines, one is struck by a sense of excitement and possibility in the air at the time. Consider the story of The Flying Phantoms: a jamming band which took an on-looking schoolboy as singer - within several months of formation they were performing on national television! And those who think the Asian consumer market is a contemporary phenomenon may reflect that, back in the sixties, local bands were having their string backing tracks recorded in Holland, while The Crescendos, fronted by Singapore’s first teen superstar Susan Lim, was charting in the Philips International Top Ten alongside The Four Seasons and Dusty Springfield.

More than just a memento for nostalgic aficionados, Apache over Singapore serves up loads of fascinating anecdotes while enhancing our peripheral vision of a pivotal period in Singaporean history. Groovy indeed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Books on Globalization

Here are several recent titles addressing the challenges and opportunities of globalization in various fields:

Asian Cities: Globalization, Urbanization and Nation-Building by Malcolm Mckinnon. Asian Cities challenges Western paradigms of urban growth with a fresh and stimulating look at cities in developing Asia. It questions the status accorded globalisation in explaining contemporary Asian cities, arguing instead that they are being transformed by three major forces - urbanisation and nation-building as well as globalisation. The latter two are not dependent variables of globalisation, although all, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, are shaped by capitalism. The book reaches beyond the usual focus on metropolitan centres to examine urban life in a sample of middle-sized cities representative of hundreds of such urban centres throughout the Asian continent. An introductory chapter outlines the arguments and introduces the sample cities. Chapters two and three explore two principal facets of urbanisation: the material transformation that comes in its train and the impact that it has on the lives of the newly-urbanised. Chapters four to seven explore the way that the national framework shapes cities - including business enterprises, migrantion, travel and commercial popular culture. In a final chapter the book surveys likely trends in Asian cities over the next quarter century and considers the implications of the study for our understanding of globalisation generally.

Globalization: Power, Authority, and Legitimacy In Late Modernity by Antonio L. Rappa. Second 2011 edition of this exploration of the nature and impact of profound changes which are taking place in today's world of late modernity. The pivotal impact in Asia of US patterns neo-liberalism is overviewed and analysed often with reference to Singapore. The chapters look at: money, terrorism, culture, norms and values, technology and population, and war. Bibliography and index.

Fluidity of Place: Globalization and the Transformation of Urban Space by Naoki Yoshihara. Fluidity of Place presents an interdisciplinary conversation with theories of space-time, place and globalization at the cutting edge of social theory. Focussing on the construction of urban space in the context of hyper-mobility, Yoshihara examines the social relations that form place in a globalized world. The first half of the book discusses globalization theory and looks at place in relation to the fluidity brought about by recent technological advances. The second half details the construction of understandings of Asian mega-cities, particularly Jakarta, and examines the realities behind narratives of overurbanization in light of globalization and the concomitant fluidity of place. Yoshihara makes a compelling argument about the competing claims to place in a world where the nation-state has lost control of its borders.

The Poor under Globalization in Asia, Latin America and Africa edited by Machiko Nissanke and Erik Thorbecke. Globalisation and poverty are two of the most pressing contemporary international development issues. Despite the enormous potential of globalisation to accelerate economic growth and development, through greater integration into the world economy, the spread and transfer of technology, and the transmission of knowledge, its impact on poverty reduction has been uneven and even marginal in some regions. Both the prevalence and depth of poverty in many parts of the developing world remain unacceptably high. This volume presents thirteen studies selected from the three regional conferences organised under the auspices of UNU-WIDER. They illustrate the differential effects of globalisation on growth, inequality, and poverty in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Distinct processes of institutional and socio-political change, as well as significant differences in initial conditions, such as natural resource endowment, the quantity and quality of human capital, institutional framework, and the quality of governance, have had diverse effects on the poor in these regions. Focusing on distinct manifestations of globalisation and their affect on poverty, these case studies cover the spectrum from broad macroeconomic regional and country analyses to micro-oriented village studies in each of the three continents. This volume clearly illustrates that the impact of globalisation on poverty is extremely context specific, reflecting the heterogeneous and complex nature of the globalisation-poverty nexus.

Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand by David M. Engel and Jaruwan S. Engel. Changing perceptions of the interrelationship of injury, legal process and negotiation, and religious relevance by people in a changing area of Northern Thailand are explored in this socio-legal study. The book includes two detailed case studies, field observations in the mid-1970s and again in the 1990s, as well as court records of industrial accident claims. The authors indicate that there is a pattern in which the law is seen to be increasingly remote from what actually happens or is perceived by those injured or otherwise involved.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Books on Asian Art

These are five recent additions to our well-regarded collection of Asian Art titles:

Mongolian Buddhist Art: Masterpieces from the Museums of Mongolia - Vol.1 Thangkas, Appliques And Embroideries Part 1 And 2 edited by Zara Fleming and J. Lkhagvademchiq Shastri. Mongolian Buddhist Art: Masterpieces from the Museums of Mongolia presents for the first time 441 masterpieces of Mongolian Buddhist art from five major Mongolian museums: the Bogd Kahn Palace Museum, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, the Erdene Zuu Museum and the Danzanravjaa Museum. Selected by the Centre for Cultural Heritage in conjunction with the curators of the participating museums, these pieces were chosen for their religious and historical importance, their aesthetic and technical quality, their uniquely Mongolian characteristics and their rarity. Volume 1: Thangkas, Appliqués and Embroideries is divided into eight chapters - encompassing within these three media the visual realms of the Buddhas and his disciples, mahasiddhas, Indian, Tibetan, and Mongolian scholars, previous reincarnations, yidams, dakinis, protectors and sacred architecture. Although constrained by the rules of Buddhist iconography and strongly influenced by Tibetan art, the Mongolians have succeeded in creating many works that are uniquely Mongolian, a highly expressive and vibrant tradition that can be seen in this volume. Dating from the late 17th to the 20th century, these examples provide rich materials for the present and future studies of Buddhist art and its heritage in Mongolia. This very substantial volume is itself divided into two separate parts and sold in a slip case.

Uncommon Wisdom: Works by Chng Seok Tin from 1966-2011. This catalogue of Chng Seok Tin's works was published in conjunction with an exhibition held at the Nayang Academy of Fine Arts in 2011. Chng Seok Tin (b. 1946) studied art in Singapore, UK, France and the US. Her works include drawing, painting, collage, mixed media, textile, photography, ceramic, sculpture and installation. She has held 25 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions in Singapore and abroad.

Sanyu: Catalogue Raisonné Oil Paintings: Volume Two by Rita Wong. Sanyu (1901-1966) was a Chinese artist from Sichuan province who lived and died in Paris. Integrating traditional Chinese aesthetics with Western modernist tenets, Sanyu has created a unique painterly language that is all his own. Dedicated to discovering as much as possible about Sanyu, the author has interviewed Sanyu's friends and gathered records pertaining to Sanyu's life. This is the second volume of her catalogue, which in addition to listing Sanyu's works, attempts to construct Sanyu's life in the form of an extended chronology.

Sequenza: Ho Chee Lick's New Ink Work edited by Teo Han Wue. This catalogue of Ho Chee Lick's (b. 1950, Singapore) works was published in conjunction with the exhibition Sequenza held at the Art Retreat Museum. It showcases the remarkable work of a contemporary Singapore artist working in an ancient traditional medium. Includes essays by Stephen Adiss, Low Sze Wee, Choy Weng Yang and Wang Zineng.

Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two Decades of Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia 1991-2011. Assembling over 70 works from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, this exhibition showcases the visual brilliance and conceptual purpose of recent Southeast Asian practice. Providing regional comparisons, it illuminates the common themes, aesthetic approaches, and conceptual tendencies that have surfaced since the early 1990s. Commonalities coming to the fore include story-telling, the meshing of idea and visual seduction, and a belief in art-as-social-voice. Arguing for a view of the region's visual production on the region's terms, the curatorial references used to contextuatise the pieces are mined in Southeast Asian history, geography, and culture. The exhibition proposes the confluence of recent political history, profound social shifts, and artists' confidence vis-à-vis their deep-rooted cultural baggage as significant to the creation of the visually potent and conceptually original art of the last two decades.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Distribution Title - The Mythical Emblems of Gragodon Part 1

The Mythical Emblems of Gragodon, Part 1 is a fantasy-adventure epic novel. Far into the future, the Earth has undergone many cataclysmic upheavals. A new breed of humans inhabit the world with other evolved life-like forms. A struggle for supreme power ensues, which results in the famed mystical Gragodian Emblems being recalled from their secret sanctuaries. In this volatile setting, three young prices from their respective realms are charged with the task of coming together to battle the machinations of the evil perpetrators. Will any or all of them fall by the wayside in their quest to overcome the evil of the times.

About the Author

Venkataraman Gopalakrishnan is an ex-banker. He currently grooms primary school students for the Olympiad Mathematics Examinations in Singapore. Eight entertaining years have already passed in the conceptualization and near- completion of this trilogy and the last part will come to a close in the coming months. An erstwhile avid reader himself, Gopal nowadays puts in much time in writing his books. He lists J.R.R. Tolkien’s unique style of writing and the portrayal of his magical characters.

Gopal found inspiration for his first novel while doing a series of character sketches about an imaginary plot on a coach trip home from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. His interest eventually took flight and he now takes to writing with fervent zeal. The author currently resides in Singapore.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Here are five new distribution titles:

Five Blessings: Coded Messages in Chinese Art by Estelle Nikles Van Osselt. This gorgeously produced book reveals the hidden meaning behind motifs in Chinese decorative arts. When any Westerner looks at Chinese art, it is immediately apparent how much the depiction of animal and plant life differs from its American or European equivalent. This exceptional world teems with flowers, trees, birds, fish, shellfish, and insects, mixed with fantastic creatures or figures taken from legend and mythology. Various motifs can appear together in one scene, and if the viewer understands the language, the images are charged with symbolism. This absorbing study explores the rich symbolic language of exquisite works in ceramic, jade, lacquer, glass, and silk from the world-renowned Baur Collection. With bibliography.

Tracing the Past, Drawing the Future: Master Ink Painters in the Twentieth-Century China by Yang Xiaoneng. This substantial volume examines a crucial turning point in the development of Chinese ink painting in the twentieth century, a change represented by the beautiful and innovative work of four artists, Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), Qi Baishi (1863-1957), Huang Binhong (1864-1955), and Pan Tianshou (1897-1971). With careers spanning over a century of radical change in China, these artists were instrumental in propelling the ancient tradition of Chinese ink painting into the modern era in the face of compelling Western influences. As a group, their work represents an alternative approach to questions of relevance and modernity. This lavish book illuminates the context in which these artists worked, describes their overall contribution to the history of Chinese art, and highlights their individual ideas and achievements. In his introductory essay, Xiaoneng Yang offers a brief historical background for the evolution of modern Chinese painting. Richard E. Vinograd analyzes the "alternative modernism" represented by these artists, each of whom worked in the brush-and-ink idiom, confronted the shift toward practices of the West, and gave new life through this confrontation to cherished traditions. Essays devoted to each artist are followed by individual entries discussing their works. Featuring more than one hundred works of both painting and calligraphy by the four artists, the book, which is published to accompany a traveling exhibition, also includes a glossary, an index and detailed bibliography.

Wood Sculpture in Nepal: Jokers and Talismans by Berrand Goy and Max Itzikovitz. In the 1980s, enigmatic wood masks, similar to those worn by Siberian and Eskimo shamans, began to appear in Parisian galleries that specialized in exotic art. Only the customary red wax affixed to the objects indicated that their origin was in fact Nepal. Art lovers, fascinated by the masks' expressions and the thickness of patina, enthusiastically began to collect them, though they were still shrouded in mystery. In this beautifully photographed book, Bertrand Goy and Max Itzikovitz set out to uncover the history of the masks and to determine their place in Nepalese culture. The authors also investigate western Nepal's unsophisticated, anthropomorphic wood sculptures, which can be seen today in temples, on bridges, and on the outskirts of villages. No one knows if these are protective effigies or tribute to divinities from an antiquated religion. With an insightful text and striking imagery, this book attempts to pull back the veil on one of the world's most cryptic art forms. With bibliography.

On Marginal Spaces: Artefacts of the Mundane by Peter Benz. This photo essay book is a whimsical contemplation about the things that we don't notice in our environment. Born of a quest for beauty, profundity and recurrences, Peter Benz's photographs and essays about urban objects and spaces are of especial interest to researchers of visual culture, urban studies, architecture, photography, design, art and philosophy. With bibliography.

Chinese Posters: The Iish-Landsberger Collections by Stefan Landsberger and Marien Van Der Heijden. Opening with a brief introduction to the history of graphic arts propaganda in China, this volume presents the posters chronologically, illustrating the change in subject matter following seismic changes in China's history and development. These posters are a valuable record of China's challenges and fears as well as a reflection of its cultural mores, and are a legitimate and fascinating aspect of China's artistic history.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Books on Porcelain

This is a selection of our large collection of books on porcelain:

Symbols On Chinese Porcelain: 10,000 Times Happiness by Eva Strober. The decorative details on Chinese porcelain are admired especially for their striking beauty, but the symbolic language hidden within them is less well-known in the West. From the very beginning until today Chinese culture has encompassed an enormous wealth of symbolic motifs, not only as ceramic decorations but also in painting, on textiles and varnished objects. Motifs bringing good luck like colours and numbers, mythical beings, animals and plants represent the striving for cosmic harmony, health and beauty, a long life, wealth, a happy marriage and numerous male descendents. The intellectual playfulness and the pleasure of deciphering are traditionally an important element of the appreciation of art in China. This publication shows around 80 masterpieces spanning 1000 years. They belong to the internationally significant collection of Chinese ceramics at the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof, the Dutch National Museum of Ceramics. The 'hidden' meanings of these objects' symbols have been explained and interpreted for the first time. An indispensable reference book that not only presents the most important and interesting Chinese porcelain objects from the Princessehof collection, but also constitutes a 'handbook' of Chinese symbols and visual imagery.

Chinese Porcelain.  This compact hardback offers high quality illustrations of single exampes of Chinese porcelain artefacts of different styles and periods. Provenance details and a short note accompany each of the 100 or so articles from different sources or collections.

Iznik Pottery by John Carswell. Some of the greatest glories of Ottoman art are the luxurious ceramic vessels and splendid tiles made to decorate newly founded mosques and palaces by the Turkish pottery at Iznik (ancient Nicaea). Their designs combine purely Turkish motifs with elements ingeniously transposed from imported Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. This book tells the story of Iznik ceramics through a wealth of illustrations, including 83 colour and 25 black-and-white and line illustrations. Most of the pieces are drawn from the world-famous collection of the British Museum. With index.

Mounted Oriental Porcelain in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Revised Edition) by Gillian Wilson. Beginning in the Middle Ages Europeans mounted exotic objects such as oriental porcelain in settings of precious or semiprecious metal as a tribute to the rarity and value of the pieces. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, it became increasingly fashionable in Parisian society to decorate the interiors of houses with Far Eastern materials such as lacquer and mounted porcelain. The marchands-mercier, the merchants of the luxury markets, devised settings of silver, gold, and gilt bronze, many examples of which are in the collection of the Getty Museum and illustrated in Mounted Oriental Porcelain. In this revised edition, thirty-two items are catalogued, ranging in date from 1665 to 1785. Gillian Wilson, curator of decorative arts at the Getty Museum, provides commentary on each object, along with information on marks, provenance, exhibitions, and publications. The introductory essay is by the late Sir Francis Watson, who was director of the Wallace Collection in London and surveyor of the Queen's works of art.

Ethereal Elegance: Porcelain Vases Of The Imperial Qing - The Huaihaitang Collection edited by Peter Lam Y.K. This exhibition catalogue, published by the Art Museum, showcases a total of 143 pieces of imperial porcelain vases of the Qing dynasty, selected from the Huaihaitang Collection of the world-renowned collector, Mr. Anthony K. W. Cheung. Production of porcelain reached its peak in the Qing dynasty. While inheriting tradition, the Imperial Factory of Jingdezhen also revealed its creativity and refined ceramic technology. This catalogue features an array of such masterpieces, highlighting the fine craftsmanship and the extravagance of the imperial collection. With slipcase.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Books on Education in Asia

This is a selection of books on education in Asia:

Education as a Political Tool in Asia edited by Marie Lall and Edward Vickers. This book offers a fresh and comparative approach in questioning what education is being used for and what the effects of the politicisation of education are on Asian societies in the era of globalisation. Education has been used as a political tool throughout the ages and across the whole world to define national identity and underlie the political rationale of regimes. In the contemporary, globalising world there are particularly interesting examples of this throughout Asia, ranging from the new definition of Indian national identity as a Hindu identity (to contrast with Pakistan's Islamic identity), to particular versions of nationalism in China, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. In Asia education systems have their origins in processes of state formation aimed either at bolstering 'self-strengthening' resistance to the encroachments of Western and/or Asian imperialism, or at furthering projects of post-colonial nation building. State elites have sought to popularise powerful visions of nationhood, to equip these visions with a historical 'back-story', and to endow them with the maximum sentimental charge. This book explores all of these developments, emphasising that education is seen by nations across Asia, as elsewhere, as more than simply a tool for economic development, and that issues of national identity and the tolerance - or lack of it - of ethnic, cultural or religious diversity can be at least as important as issues of literacy and access. Interdisciplinary and unique in its analysis, this book will be of interest to scholars of political science, research in education and Asian Studies.

Education Reform in Singapore: Critical Perspectives edited by William Choy and Charlene Tan.  Many ongoing developments in the world of educational theory and practice are considered in these 15 thoughtful essays on the processes of reform and reevaluation of Singapore's education system at present taking place. Eight papers deal with institutional reform, three with school leadership and teacher development and three with organisational management.

Education in Vietnam edited by Jonathan London, Jonathan.  Vietnam is a country on the move. Yet contemporary Vietnam's education system is at a crossroads. Rapid economic growth has permitted rapid increases in the scale and scope of formal schooling, but there is a prevailing sense that the current education system is inadequate to the country's needs. Sunny assessments of Vietnam's achievements in the sphere of education have given way to a realisation that the country lacks skilled workers. Some have even spoken of an "education crisis". These are not abstract concerns. What is occurring in Vietnam's education system today has broad implications for the country's social, political, economic, and cultural development. Featuring contributions from scholars and policy analysts from within and outside Vietnam, Education in Vietnam addresses key issues pertaining to the political economy of education, the provision and payment for primary and secondary education, and the development of vocational and tertiary education.

Education, Economy and Identity: Ten Years of Educational Reform in Thailand by Audrey Baron-Gutty and Supat Chupradit.  This IRASEC study of educational reform in Thailand is based on field study mainly in the North of the country and focusses on the changes and reforms which have followed the 1999 National Education Act. Chapter 1 on curriculum implementation uses data collated by Chiang Mai University. Ethnic minorities and identity/cultural tensions are then discussed. The pattern and intergration of vocational and technical education and the role of local "Fix It Centres" are then exposed. Then the potentials and possibility of implementing "co-op education" at tertiary level are raised. The final critique calls for the implementation of fundamental rethinking and changes to enable firm patterns of "co-op education" to meet the needs of "knowledge-based" society. Bibliography and glossary.

The Changing Role of Schools in Asian Societies: Schools for the Knowledge Society by Kerry J. Kennedy and John Chi-Kin Lee.  Walk into a classroom in Tokyo, New York, London or Rotterdam, and the similarities in structure, activity, purpose and style will outweigh differences in language, dress and ethnic characteristics. Learning is regulated and rationed, teaching is a process or one-way transmission of knowledge, students need to be docile and conformist, assessment needs to sift and sort the bright from the not-so-bright, and rewards will be given to those who successfully negotiate this regime. But are these the kinds of places that can meet the needs of the 'net generation'? This volume is concerned with the debate about the nature of modern schooling in Asia. Traditionally schools are historical constructions reflecting the social, economic and political needs of the societies that invest in them. As Asia faces the challenges posed by the 'knowledge economy', its schools have taken on a new and quite different importance. This informative book outlines the broad policy contexts in which these transformations are taking place and the practical strategies that are needed to meet this objective. The authors argue that the future of Asian societies depends on a transformation that requires a fundamental restructuring of schools as we know them while maintaining their long-held cultural values. This book provides an overview of educational issues in Asian societies, establishes a broad theoretical framework in which these issues can be understood, contextualises issues by providing country case studies, and acknowledges the important role of culture influencing educational priorities.