One of the highest buildings in the world, the World Trade Center, has strange long grooves on its face...
"Those are the railroad tracks that will take you up to Heaven," an elderly homeless man eagerly explained to me while standing on the corner there.
"All the way up to the Heaven?" I wondered. "And what about gravity? It still works, doesn't it?"
"You gotta have remarkable personal ambition to overcome gravity," smiled the old man. "Everyone in this town has the ambition to go all the way up. When I was still a young fella I tried it myself, but I wasn't strong enough. I only got the first quarter of the way up, then I fell down. That's why I have a limp today. Since that time I've just been standing down here and looking up."
I looked up, too. Alas! There, at the invisible horizon, those grooves seem to converge...
"One more thing, young lady," said the old man. "If you wanna go up, you can use the elevator."
Truly, the wisdom and experience of old age is very hard to beat.
May 26, 2005
My personal experience with Taiwanese road signs (of lack thereof) as a driver leads me to the conclusion that road planners here uses these rules to decide where to place their signs:
- Place directional signs to a place in one direction, but not the opposite direction. (one must drive past without seeing any sign, make a U-turn, then see sign on other side of road)
- Place signs to denote distance to an exit at great distances (e.g. 5km, 3km, 2km, 1km), then don't put any at the exact place to make the turning. (assume the driver is either local or has strong sixth sense)
- Use different English spellings for the same place, prefably on the same road. (e.g. Ilan, Yilan, Yihlan)
- Place English signs at random, for decorative purposes only. (since the locals can read Chinese, right?)
Take this example by RichyLi:
The left picture shows the entry to the viaduct displaying the words "ChangAn E. Rd.", but the exit (right picture) only has the Chinese characters (長安東路), no English! Chia lart siarl~
English signs an obstacle to foreign businesses
The Taiwan government has recently been trumpeting the slogan of globalisation and strengthening English language education, and hopes to "double tourist arrivals" by 2008. But according to foreigners here, too few and incoherent English signs are currently the main obstacle facing foreigners in Taiwan, and should be given more attention.
Mr. Gao, an American engineer who works in the Hsinchu Science Industrial Park, remarked that if Taiwan wants to globalize and attract more business travellers, more effort must be made to improve English signs across the island. He feels that English signs are still not widespread enough, and "pose a significant barrier to for non-Chinese speaking foreigners who wish to do independent travel or set up a business in Taiwan".
In addition, the translation systems used by different places produce inconsistent English location names, which Mr. Gao thinks is a big test to foreigners. "The Taiwanese may think that a difference of one or two letters doesn't make much difference, but to a foreigner, he might think that these are two different places." He hopes that the spelling for location names can be standardized, so that different spellings for the same place doesn't appear on the same road.
ASWJ Editor Mr. Wood thinks that as a native English speaker, requiring every country on Earth to use English might be a bit arrogant, and travelling in a place where English is not spoken can add a certain "feeling of adventure". But if Taiwan wants to develop its tourist industry and double the number of tourists, "we need more English on bus stop signs, road signs and menus", which would undoubtedly be of a great help to foreign tourists.
May 25, 2005
Now is it me, or do I sense a pattern here? When the gahmen decides on a name for a new campaign, they have recently been quite fond of the "*! Singapore" naming formula, where * denotes a verb or phrase to describe the aim of said campaign (prefably in ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS AND IMPACT)
Past examples include:
- SING! Singapore
- SWING! Singapore
- READ! Singapore
- To encourage Singaporeans to speak up and voice their views to provide feedback for the government to formulate poilicies - SHUT UP! Singapore
- Be more patroitic and loyal to the country - SHUT UP! Singapore
- Be a "stayer", not a "quitter" - SHUT UP! Singapore
- Be more creative - SHUT UP! Singapore
May 24, 2005
Why Taiwan Matters
The global economy couldn't function without it. But can it really find peace with China?
Want to find the hidden center of the global economy? Take a drive along Taiwan's Sun Yat-sen Freeway. This stretch of road is how you reach the companies that connect the vast marketplaces and digital powerhouses of the U.S. with the enormous manufacturing centers of China.
The Sun Yat-sen is as bland as any U.S. interstate, but it's the highway of globalization. Though it snakes along the whole west coast of Taiwan, the key 70-km stretch starts in Taipei's booming new Neihu district of high-tech office buildings and ends in Hsinchu, home to two of Taiwan's best universities, its top research center, and a world-renowned science park. Along the way, the Sun Yat-sen leads to some of the most important but anonymous tech outfits in the world: Asustek Computer, whose China factories spit out iPods and Mini Macs for Apple (AAPL ); and Quanta Computer, the No. 1 global maker of notebook PCs and a key supplier to Dell (DELL ) and Hewlett-Packard. You'll also find Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSM ), the biggest chip foundry on the planet, an essential partner to U.S. companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia (NVDA ). Dozens more companies dot the Neihu-Hsinchu corridor. There's AU Optronics (AUTO ), a big supplier of liquid-crystal display panels, and Hon Hai Precision Industry, which makes everything from PC components to Sony's (SNE ) PlayStation 2, and which is a fast-rising rival to Flextronics International (FLEX ), the world's biggest contract manufacturer. Taken together, the revenues of Taiwan's 25 key tech companies should hit $122 billion this year. Taiwan's success is also China's. No one knows for sure how much of China's exports in information and communications hardware are made in Taiwanese-owned factories, but the estimates run from 40% to 80%. As many as 1 million Taiwanese live and work on the mainland. "All the manufacturing capacity in China is overlaid with the management and marketing expertise of the Taiwanese, along with all their contacts in the world," observes Russell Craig, of tech consultants Vericors Inc.
Impressive stuff. Yet for many people around the world, Taiwan evokes only one thing: the standoff between the People's Republic of China, which considers the thriving democracy as just one of its provinces, and Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, who has made little secret of his dream of one day declaring Taiwan independent. This cross-strait drama is now in a tense new phase, played out with dramatic effect in recent weeks. First Beijing passed an anti-secession law authorizing an attack on Taiwan in case it moves towards independence. Taiwan responded with a massive anti-Beijing rally. Then came the shocker: The late April visit to the mainland by Lien Chan, Chen's chief political opponent and chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT). As millions of Taiwanese and Chinese watched on television, Chinese President Hu Jintao shook hands with the opposition leader at a lavish state reception in Beijing. After Lien returned to Taipei on May 3, Hu's government sweetened its PR offensive with more goodies, including a plan to ease restrictions on Chinese travel to Taiwan, lift tariffs on some Taiwanese agricultural imports -- and send two giant pandas to the Taipei Zoo. To add even more surprise, Taiwanese President Chen, despite some of his supporters' fury at Lien's visit, inserted himself into the dialogue. Chen agreed to send a message to Chinese President Hu through another opposition leader, James Soong of the People First Party, who was scheduled to start a China trip on May 5. Hu seems to be counting on his contacts with the opposition to increase pressure on Chen, forcing him to accept that the island is part of China. But that's a concession Chen's unlikely to make.
Real reconciliation thus seems a long way off. Yet any serious attempt to lower the tension would hold huge promise for the executives who run America's IT industry, which depends on Taiwan for so much of its goods. A shooting war between Taiwan and China would be catastrophic in human terms. And for the Western companies that have built their fortunes around Taiwan, the damage would be a direct hit to the global economy and the Digital Age. "It would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off," says a top executive at a U.S. high-tech giant. Couldn't U.S. industry develop sources of IT supply that don't involve the Taiwanese? "That's like asking, 'What's the second source for Mideast oil?' says this exec. "You might find it, but it's going to cost you." Insiders estimate that it would take a year and a half to even begin to replace the vast web of design shops and mainland factories the Taiwanese have built. "The IT model is not one built on second-sourcing," says Ken Wirt, a top executive for the handheld business of palmOne Inc.
Not that Taiwan and China aren't also extremely pragmatic. Throughout this turbulent spring Taiwan Inc. hasn't missed a step. For instance, Acer Inc., the PC maker, increased sales by 40% in March; its models are among the top five sellers in the world. Dell and Hewlett-Packard will source $10 billion and $21 billion respectively from Taiwan this year, estimates Chicago-based consulting firm THT Research, which tracks contract manufacturing. Apple is boosting its order book from Taiwan companies by 28% from a year ago, to $5 billion. Quanta on Apr. 8 announced a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to cooperate on research into the next generation of computing. Despite a cyclical downturn that has hurt profits, TSMC has embarked on a $2.6 billion ramp-up to produce more custom-designed chips than ever. Compared with a more specialized chipmaker such as Intel, "we have maybe 100 times the number of product lines," says TSMC chairman and CEO, Morris Chang. "It takes a very special expertise."
China may threaten Taiwan as No. 1 IT supplier. But for now it's Taiwanese engineers who provide ever-more-ingenious solutions to manufacturing and design conundrums. "In Taiwan, people say the U.S. understanding of outsourcing is backward," says Victor Zue, co-director of the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. "It feels more like the Taiwanese are outsourcing marketing and branding to the rest of the world."
The island's high-tech industry has had to improve its skills sharply to get where it is today. Barely a decade ago, Taiwan made components or assembled machines designed elsewhere, and was only a marginal player in more lucrative segments of the electronics industry. Today its companies are increasingly proficient at original design, and dominate manufacturing in key categories. In LCD screens the Taiwanese have passed the Japanese and rival the Koreans. Taiwan is tops in routers, notebook computers, and cable modems. The PC industry "has really consolidated around Taiwan," says John A. Antone, Hong Kong-based head of the Asia Pacific region for Intel Corp. (INTC ), which has 400 engineers at work on the island. "That's just where the best engineering is done."
How does Taiwan do it? Lower pay helps. "You look at the engineering costs in the U.S. and compare them to Taiwan's, and we are talking about one third of the cost," says Kai Hsiao, director of global procurement for greater China at HP. Visit Taiwan-owned factories on the mainland, and you will find that assembly line wages average $120 a month.
But Taiwan's advantage goes way beyond cheap labor. The island combines an entrepreneurial culture with effective government involvement. The Hsinchu-based Industrial Technology Research Institute is a collection of labs that works closely with local companies. It has 4,300 engineers striving to match the best that the West, Japan, and Korea can offer in fields such as microelectronics and optoelectronics. The government-backed Institute has alliances with scientists from MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. Companies such as TSMC and cross-town rival United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC ) have their origins in ITRI technology.
The result is one of the deepest reserves of high-tech talent in the world. It starts with figures such as Chang, who was present at the creation of Taiwanese tech. Walk into Fab 12, TSMC's multibillion-dollar facility in Hsinchu, and off to your left you'll see a giant portrait of the chairman sitting, pipe in hand, in an armchair. Surrounding him are scenes from his life -- as a child in Hong Kong, as a student at Harvard, and as TSMC chief at the company's debut on the New York Stock Exchange. But the silver-haired Chang, 73, isn't done yet. He's still working hard to beat rivals UMC in Taiwan and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) in Shanghai. He's also pushing Taiwan's politicians to build up the island's schooling. "I wish we had a world-class university," he says.
Chang and other tech leaders blend Western values -- Chang took liberal-arts classes at Harvard before studying mechanical engineering at MIT -- with Asian culture. One minute Jonney Shih, Asustek's 52-year-old founder, will be discussing Six Sigma best practices and the next minute he'll be evoking the Changshan snake described in Sun Tzu's Art of War. When attacked at one end, the serpent counterattacks with the other. "We need that kind of fast reaction," says Shih.
The quick reflexes of Taiwanese like Shih make all the difference. Unlike Korea, where Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. dominate, Taiwan is composed of smaller and nimbler outfits. When Taiwanese companies get too large, they tend to spin off businesses and refocus. Hence, in 2001 computer maker Acer Inc. begat consumer electronics company BenQ and LCD panel maker AU Optronics. The Hsinchu-based chip design houses spun off from UMC include MediaTek and Novatek, a designer of chips for LCDs.
Some of Taiwan's most important tech companies have also grown by acquiring technology from elsewhere. Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. (CMO) licensed LCD technology from Fujitsu Ltd. (FIJSY ) and hired top engineers to come up with the rest of the expertise it needed to become a leading LCD producer.
All these businesses excel at serving corporate customers. Eighteen months ago, after Intel had made a big bet on Centrino, the wireless Internet system for notebook PCs, the American company sought out a partner that could quickly get Centrino computers to the market. So Intel teamed up with engineers at Acer. Within three months, says Acer CEO J.T. Wang, they not only came up with a high-end Centrino notebook sold under the Acer brand but also mid-tier and even entry-level PCs using Intel's new technology.
Taiwanese companies will do just about anything to please customers. When Quanta was first working on what promised to be a hot new design for a top client, it had to work in total secrecy. Quanta executives guaranteed the U.S. customer that all work would be done in the middle of the night. They even had the assembly line draped in concealing black. Other Taiwanese companies combine discretion with an ability to handle even the smallest orders. HP's Hsiao says he places orders for as few as 10 PCs of a specialized configuration. The Taiwanese can process and ship such an order in 48 hours. "They can change direction overnight," says Hsiao.
This do-whatever-it-takes ethos has led Taiwan's businesses to move to the mainland at astonishing speed. "In 1999 we had about 300 employees" in China, says Alexander Lee, head of operations for Asustek in Suzhou, China. "Now we have more than 45,000." Issues of loyalty don't enter the equation. Acer CEO Wang recently asked his own Taiwanese suppliers if, as good citizens, they'd keep some production in Taiwan. "Their answer was: 'No way,"' he says.
The Taiwanese also play a vital role for rivals on the mainland. Liu Chuanzhi, chairman of Beijing computer company Lenovo Group Ltd. (LNVNG ), which just completed its purchase of IBM's PC division, says Lenovo sources components from Taiwanese companies. According to THT Research, Lenovo even buys notebooks from Quanta, Compal, and MiTAC. Liu says that's not the case.
Most important of all, the Taiwanese are the real developers of China's semiconductor industry. Chinese companies such as SMIC (SMI ) depend on squads of Taiwanese executives for knowhow. TSMC is still far ahead but it is starting to focus on China, too. The Taipei government has allowed TSMC to invest $900 million for its own plant in China.
In effect, Taiwan is hoping to control design and innovation while giving over much of its manufacturing to China. When U.S. companies come to Taiwan today, they say, "'This is what we want. Do you have it?"' says Billy Ho, president of MiTAC, which makes smart phones, PDAs, and servers.
Increasingly, the Taiwanese do. Two years ago, MiTAC decided to upgrade the PDAs it sells under its own brand name as well as under several different names in Europe. In discussions with the sales team, Ho recalled how, when he lived near Birmingham, England, he would get baffled by the layout of the city streets. A PDA with GPS, the satellite-controlled global positioning system often found in cars, was the answer. Today, MiTAC is No. 3 globally in PDAs, behind only Dell and HP.
The Taiwanese know they're good at such innovations. But they also know they are being squeezed on price even while they are under relentless pressure to be more creative. "Margins have come screaming out of the PC business because products have become very commoditized," says Michael Marks, CEO of Flextronics Corp. Net margins at Asustek have fallen to 6.4%, from 19% in 2001. The company's 2004 net profit of $484 million was 7% lower than what it was in 2001, although sales nearly tripled in the same period to $8 billion. Both Quanta and Compal have suffered from falling profit margins too, despite fast-rising sales.
Some analysts also wonder how long the Taiwanese will have the edge in chips. "I don't think Taiwan is in the driver's seat anymore," says James C. Mulvenon, co-author of a 2004 Rand Corporation study on Taiwan's and China's chip industries, which concludes that European and Japanese chipmakers will provide China with technology the Taiwanese refuse to share.
One way out is to find new markets. "We have to get into the next wave of products," says Ray Chen, president of Compal. "It can be TVs, cell phones, home digital media centers. We don't know yet." To do that better, Compal plans to double its R&D team. Quanta's beefing up too. In its $20 million partnership with MIT, Quanta is looking at using artificial intelligence to link digital devices that have different operating systems. Quanta boss Barry Lam also identifies autos as a promising area. As control and display systems in cars go digital, the Taiwanese can apply their expertise in making complex components for small spaces.
The other way to stay ahead for Taiwan is to create its own brands and maintain solid margins by delivering better performance and design. A leader in the branding effort is BenQ, which has its own brand of thin-screen TVs and MP3 players. Since its launch in 2001, BenQ has stressed in-house design to make its branded products stand out. Manfred Wang, who runs the BenQ design center, leads a team of 70 designers who have, among other things, come up with a PC monitor whose base can be folded up against it, taking up much less space in shipping. "Our designers are aware of the manufacturing process and that's a big advantage," says Wang, who learned his skills in Germany and once worked at Porsche.
At the heart of Taiwan's effort to reinvent itself is the government research institute, ITRI. It's into everything from new wireless networks to nanotubes that provide backlighting for displays. It's also trying to mix the hard sciences with something softer. Enter Room 131 of Block 53 on the main campus, and you'll find the Creativity Lab. The place looks more like an advertising agency than a high-tech center, with its stuffed animals and a comfy couch for a staff that includes artists, psychologists, and an anthropologist, in addition to engineers. The idea is that getting techies together with liberal arts types will help designers think more broadly, says Wen-Jean Hsueh, a PhD in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology who is the lab's head. "We know we have strong manufacturing and engineering," she says. "But we have to look beyond this."
Even this fresh effort has to build on Taiwan's engineering corps, which can't expand enough to meet all of Taiwan's needs. With so many companies expanding research and development, "we have to fight very hard to get experienced guys," says Hsiao-ping Lin, head of Faraday Technology, which specializes in chip design services. He hopes to hire Indian engineers, but adds, "in the long run, we will set up an R&D center in mainland China."
That shift to China is understandably of great concern to Taiwan's political and business leaders. But it may be inevitable. "The market here is so much more important than Taiwan's," says Lawrence Ho, the Taiwan-born owner of online music startup 8LaNetwork Inc., which has its headquarters in Beijing's trendy Jianwai Soho district. Ho also appreciates how hard his mainland employees are willing to work -- as many as 90 hours a week.
Taiwan clearly has lots to worry about, but it's also renowned for its resilience. Intel's John Antone compares Taiwan to long-distance runners who are being challenged but who are still in the lead. "As long as they're committed to run very aggressively," he says, "I don't see anyone catching them." Competitors be warned: Taiwan will do everything it can to stay in the race.
By Bruce Einhorn, with Matt Kovac in Taipei, Pete Engardio in New York, Dexter Roberts in Beijing, Frederik Balfour in Shanghai, and Cliff Edwards in San Mateo, Calif.
Whatever happened to 'smart' China?By William Stimson
Tuesday, May 24, 2005,Page 8
Chinese are smart people. There's no doubt about it. I wondered why the European civilizations and not the Chinese discovered America, and invented the airplane, the car, the computer and almost all the rest of modern civilization.
Whatever happened to "smart China?" I've lived in Taiwan for more than two years now and I think I've found the answer -- not from Taiwan, but from China, which looms menacingly over this free little nation.
This speak volumes about how China got to be so backward and why it may well fall behind again. To give an example, a Chinese official recently rejected reconciliation with Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp, saying it must first stop opposing Beijing's policies. The actual words of the official: "The premise for communication is not opposing the central government's policies."
In other words, "We'll talk to you if you say what we want." How familiar such nonsense is to anyone living over here in Taiwan. The Chinese put it this way to us, "We'll negotiate with you over your sovereignty only if you first accept you have none."
Such wording says everything about China's backwardness because it's a veritable mirror image of the contract those governing the country have with their own people.
The way the leaders of China operate is by not giving anybody a choice. This is the subtle logic to statements such as, "We'll negotiate only after you accept our position." They mean, bluntly, "You do as we say." These are the terms used by a tyranny.
The same goes for, "We'll talk democracy so long as you neither demand nor expect it." Such is the contract of a tyranny with its people.
Illogical though such a contract may be -- the billion-plus smart Chinese, their long and rich cultural tradition, and their large and diverse nation -- it makes perfect sense. With such stratagems as information control, for example, and the punishment of individuals who slip up in what they say or write, a handful of old men can keep over a billion energetic and smart people preoccupied.
To continue strangling that great nation and that great people, China's leaders make sure that, at least on some level, things stay in a confusing, undefined and undeveloped state. That way no one in the country has quite the time or energy to notice that the nation's leaders are robbing it blind. Whatever money, nice houses or prestigious positions those in power may be grabbing for themselves or their families, that they are indeed doing so is the least of their crimes and certainly of scant importance compared to the far greater evils they perpetrate.
The ultimate disgrace that can be stooped to by someone with a smart mind who has scratched their way to the top, is to deprive someone on the bottom who has so little to begin with and so much to offer. In doing this, China's leaders have not just robbed China, but they've robbed the world of China. How sorely the world needs China's vast intelligence, resourcefulness and imagination -- the genius of its ordinary people. When you look at all that tiny little Taiwan has achieved, you get a hint of what the vast China is capable of.
What's the use of being so smart if you don't have the sense to use that gift towards higher purposes?
I'd rather be comparatively more stupid than them any day, but have the foresight and breadth of vision to care about a government by the people, for the people and of the people -- and about mechanisms of accountability that periodically sweep the crooks out of office and therefore out of business.
The Chinese know they're big and they're smart and are convinced the future is theirs. But they could be wrong. The future does not belong to the big or to the smart, after all -- but to the free.
...Anyway today has been weird, at 3 some guy ringed the bell. I went down and recognized it was my sister's former boyfriend. He told me he wants to get his fishing poles back. I told him to wait downstair while I get them for him. While I was searching them, he is already in the house. He is still here right now, smoking, walking all around the house with his shoes on which btw I just washed the floor 2 days ago! Hopefully he will leave soon...
The chilling entry still remains, and it's somewhat strange yet sad to see so many posthumous comments left for the victim, which include long-lost friends and acquaintances. I wonder if they have broadband in heaven?
May 20, 2005
This weekend Technorati tracked its 10 Millionth Blog. It is a chinese blog, on mblogger.cn, and it appears to be a blog talking about glassblowing, with some really cool pictures. Unfortunately I don't read Chinese so I can't tell what the commentary is about, but so far, the blogger has put in short biographical information in English about each glassblower profiled.
May 19, 2005
Carrom men with gu-niang strikers
Total volume of music files on my computer:
1.82 GB - 403 songs, 1.1 days of music
The last CD I bought was:
A Day In New York - Morelenbaum & Sakamoto
Song playing right now:
Simplesmente - Bebel Gilberto
Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
1. The Look of Love by Diana Krall
2. True by Spandau Ballet
3. Airport 10:30 by David Tao
4. Herido de Sombras by Ibrahim Ferrer
5. O Amor Em Paz by Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto
Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:
The High Levels
May 18, 2005
May 17, 2005
According to their website, Global Voices "is an international effort to diversify the conversation taking place online by involving speakers from around the world, and developing tools, institutions and relationships to help make these voices heard."
The podcast is a series of short interviews with bloggers all over the world from Iran, Nigeria, India, Scotland (Steven) talking about how their blogging experiences, and through their blogs, how their offer an alternative source of news about their respective countries as opposed to the often America-centric perspective of the likes of CNN. It also mentions podcast.net, where podcasts from across the world are listed in a Yahoo-like directory. Under the Singapore directory is a lone entry of who else but mr. brown!
Interestingly, Rebecca MacKinnon of Global Voices, who was a former CNN Beijing and Tokyo bureau chief, recalls why she resigned from CNN to join Global Voices:
CNN television news is really the past, in terms of the way it is done right now. I was being told things by my bosses like "Your expertise is getting in the way of doing the kind of stories we want on CNN."
Basically they wanted me to cover my region more like a tourist, and the fact that I had been living in Asia for a decade and I had a lot of personal insights and knowledge about the region was actually too complicated, they felt, for the viewers. They'd rather I cover the place sort of with a "Gee-whiz, aren't these Japanese strange" kind of tone.
The reason why I became a foreign correspondent was because I wanted to bridge gaps. I wanted to help Americans understand what it's like to be a Japanese person or what it's like to be a Chinese person and why Chinese people react to events the way they do. That means you have to cover events not like a tourist, but as somebody who is getting inside the heads of the locals.
But I felt more and more that my job was not bridging gaps but in fact my bosses were asking me to reinforce stereotypes, which is why I eventually decided to resign from my job at CNN.
Think about that the next time you watch the world according to CNN.
May 16, 2005
(SINGAPORE) Too much direction and control by officials managing the bidding process for Singapore's integrated resorts (IRs) is counter-productive and could compromise the quality of the final product, says Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.
Mr Wynn, creator of some of the best-known IRs in Las Vegas, has praise for Singapore's fundamental strengths of good governance, safety, a world-class airport and laissez-faire economic policies - as well as the choice of the Marina Bayfront site for an IR.
But he is critical of what he sees as micro-management by 'bureaucrats' on several issues leading up to the submission of bids, particularly design-related issues. 'There's an awful lot of control and direction in the documents we've received which, frankly speaking, is unsophisticated,' he told BT in an exclusive interview in Las Vegas.
'It's control and direction given by people who've never done this before. I don't think it's appropriate to tell someone: Give us an attraction that's irresistible, that will reach into India and China - but we'll tell you how to design it.'
According to Mr Wynn, for instance, the requirement to submit line drawings by Sept 30 won't serve a useful purpose. 'By definition, anything done by Sept 30 will be a partially finished product,' he said. 'Everybody will make big promises and have fancy drawings. But you can't tell from a drawing or a rendering what space moves the human spirit. You have to be in it to understand.'
Mr Wynn's resorts in Las Vegas include The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Bellagio and, most recently, the US$2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas - billed as the world's most expensive and up-scale resort. He also has a gaming licence in Macau, where he is constructing a resort due for completion next year. His company, Wynn Resorts is among the 12 remaining bidders for one of the proposed IRs in Singapore.
Mr Wynn told BT that Singapore government officials also want to know 'exactly what the show (in the resort) will be'. But it took more than three years to create shows such as the sellout O show, currently running at The Bellagio, and Le Reve, showing at Wynn Las Vegas, he said. The creation of such shows involves intricate choreography, music and lighting effects and is often an organic process over a period of time and perfected after audience feedback 'If I'd ever tried to describe the O show on a piece of paper to someone, they'd have laughed at me,' he said.
Rather than trying to specify detailed design requirements in documents, Mr Wynn suggested that Singapore officials visit Las Vegas and see the work done in the resorts there. 'Infer from what you see what you like,' he said. 'Don't issue thunderbolts of wisdom from the top of Mount Olympus. You're talking about the people of the world and what makes them go. That's the ballpark we play in. Running the government is the ballpark they play in. Those are two different games. Both sides have to be open and flexible. 'Telling us to go get a world-class architect with no specific name is not the way to go about it. On the other hand, telling us 'show us your work' and then asking us how to create something in Singapore as best we know and in a way that's not repugnant or antithetical to the sensibilities of the city is a perfectly valid instruction.
'And if someone does something that's offensive, you reject it, plain and simple. But you don't tell an expert how to do an expert's job. You ask.'
Mr Wynn said he accepts the rules governing the bidding for IRs. But according to him: 'The question is, do the rules interfere with the creative process? The question is, can we keep the promise to Singapore? There's a very definite agenda on the table here: We want to change Singapore's tourism profile from 5 per cent of GDP to closer to 15. Ultimately, this is not between me and the government, it's between me and the public'.
May 13, 2005
THE BLINDING WHITE cords flowing out of my sublimely waxed ears say it all: I'm in no mood for talking, and my income bracket makes cumbersome CDs so unnecessary, so Second Wave. With thousands of songs from my iPod at my polished fingertips, I can now walk through life effortlessly, angelically, shielded by the anodized aluminum of my futuristic listening device. I can strut with confidence and disinterest past those in my chosen path. I'm cut off from your dirty world by my ear buds and their enhanced sound and noise-suppression features. I'm a creature of advertising, a walking cliche with 25-minute skip protection and Volkswagen dreams. Shit, my profile even resembles the faceless, platonic form in the billboard.
May 10, 2005
I've never paid much attention to the saying that "having a baby in a family livens up things", until she popped up in our lives a fortnight ago, all 2700-plus grams of tiny her. Great things come in little packages, and she was one mini parcel of joy that brought smiles to everyone that laid eyes on her angelic little face.
One little cry, and the whole family would scramble to her in emergency mode, only to crowd around her to watch her slumber peacefully with 101 different expressions as she played about in dreamland.
May I present my niece, Amy Lin Yi-Chieh.