The world of alternate history

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“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” – Kazuo Ishiguro

As a book lover, I try to read books from different genres, both fiction and non fiction. Recently, I discovered ‘alternate history’ (abbreviated AH) – a genre of fiction, usually set in worlds in which historical events happen differently from how it did in reality. It is more like a sub-genre of science fiction and historical fiction.

I probably read more historical fiction than Sci-fi. I enjoyed titles like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and of course, Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. 

Sci-fi is my favourite movie genre but I seldom pick up a sci-fi book, until I came across Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Set in postwar Britain, but in an alternate universe in which biological technology has advanced more rapidly than in our world. If you have not read the story, (this is a bit of a spoiler), the story’s main characters are clones raised to be adults in order to be harvested for their organs.

The fascinating thing about the AH genre is that it allows the authors to ask “What if” of history. According to Steven H Silver, alternate history requires three things: 1) the story must have a point of divergence from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing, 2) a change that would alter history as it is known, and 3) an examination of the ramifications of that change.

Here are some popular books that you may have read or heard of that fall under the genre of alternate history

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell — by Susanna Clarke

11/22/63 — by Stephen King

The Man in the High Castle — by Philip K. Dick

Making History — by Stephen Fry

1945 — by Robert Conroy

My waking hours

I’ve got facebook notes, IM messages and emails from friends and some of the blog readers asking if I am “alive”. Of course I am. I am just spending a little too much of my waking hours at work the last few weeks.

This is usually what happens when you are in a new job, a bigger role and everything’s new. You spend every possible waking hours trying to read alot of information, talking to many people, think and think about how to make various things work to make sense.

The good news is, I have learnt so much in the last 3 weeks about everything mobile and of course, the big purple house. I am attached to the mobile business division of the company called Connected Life, managing the communications for the Asia region. Before this job, I was spending my time exploring the whole web2.0 (thus the creation of this blog and signing up at a whole load of social networks) and not paid much attention to the mobile space. The last few weeks opened up new perspectives on social media on the go. (hopefully, I can start sharing more when I settle in).For now, I am happy with a brand new BlackBerry Curve and unlimited data access! For those who have followed news at CES and heard Jerry Yang’s keynote, (and I am not promoting the company’s product) but my brother and I are having alot of fun with the new beta Yahoo! Go 3.0.

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Try it or read more about what others wrote. This is the case of not having to even provide links, do a quick search for Yahoo Go 3.0 and you get endless pages of news/ blog links. Wonderful thing to do communications/ PR for a brand like this. I am excited!

Hosay Lah! Time to rekindle old interests

Hosay Lah! where “Hosay” (in Hokkien) means Good! And very good indeed was last evening’s event at The Substation, celebrating their 10th Anniversary of Moving Images.

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(left): we all sat in the little theatre -old school style without air con but very excited
(middle): the crowd flooding the entrance of The Substation, eating, mingling and chatting with the film makers
(right): Jacen Tan and Jon

Jon and I went to support Jacen Tan’s latest film, Zo Hee (Hokkien for making movies), under his hosaywood production. Jacen and Jon were ex-colleagues and I was just there to rekindle my old interest in films and the arts. Not many people know that I actually first graduated in designs, spending a year plus studying films and photography. Some ex design school/classmates included the now renowned film maker, Royston Tan (a year, my senior), the highly talented Victric Thng (my ex-classmate) and Randy Ang (ex-classmate – we recently found each other again on Facebook). Well, I moved on to do other stuff and these guys are obviously doing really well and coming up with great, creative works that make Singapore proud.

Back to Jacen. I was really impressed with his latest two short films (Zo Gang, and its sequel, Zo Hee). Definitely not filmed with a huge production budget but they captured local culture, flavour, lots of humour and clever script. Jon also appeared in a short section as the Ang Moh busker. I asked Jacen, when is the next film coming up and he said, “hmm.. need to take a break!”

So, while we wait for Jacen to take his break, enjoy the film I am attaching below. More of Jacen’s work can be found on YouTube and hosaywood.com

From 7 to 10 December, 5 to 10pm, people who are interested to support or take a look at what some of our local film talents had put together, pop down to The Substation, admission is free! You can also show your support by donating (any amount)!

For more interesting local film stuff, check out this real cool site – www.sinema.com or join the facebook group to be updated with the latest news.

1,2,3,4,5.. I can count the times I’ve been there

library@orchard (pt 1)

I have not been writing much lately (the last post was written 31st October) although I’ve been replying people who dropped their comments. I’ve been trying to finish up various events in my current company, take a break and start my new job! Thank you all my dear friends and blog readers who sent me emails, IMs, messages on Facebook to check on me. Well, the blog is still here and I am still writing!

In the midst of all the madness at work, I signed up as Citizen Reporter with the National Library Board to write ANYTHING about the library@Orchard that is scheduled to close down end of this month. Ivan Chew , the rambling librarian alerted me to the library’s initiative to encourage bloggers as well as library- goers to contribute our thoughts and document any pictures/ videos as we move into the final weeks of the library.

I love books, I am addicted to buying books (my mum called me the book shopaholic). I love reading and I am about to request for a new room to store just my books in the new house. However, while many of the citizen reporters wrote about how they love the library@orchard and how they would miss it, I have to admit that, given my mad working schedule, I seldom have the luxury of time to browse and spend time at the library.

I used to spend most of my weekends (and even birthdays) at the libraries. Favourite libraries were the ones at Bedok, Marine Parade, Geylang East and the old National Library. The stylishly designed library@orchard is positioned as the first niche public library in Singapore with a lifestyle concept and focused on providing collections and services targeted at young adults between age 18-35.

I am dutifully visiting the library@Orchard this weekend to capture any interesting things I can find there! Jonathan is going with me and I know he’s going to be stuck at the graphic novel/ comics section while I attempt to bug the librarians and whoever I can speak with to find out more.

Watch this space in the next 2 weeks for more updates about the library@Orchard!

Meantime, while waiting for my next post, check out what other bloggers wrote about the library:-

On a side note, I think it’s a nice (Library 2.0) initiative to invite various local bloggers and book lovers to document the last moments of the library@orchard.

Look! No ads on the blog!

Recently, someone asked me if I would like to put up some ads on this blog and earn some money. I said no. The person asked “why not?” For a few seconds, I was not sure how to reply. I went with a “well, I like my blog’s cleanliness as it is now and don’t want any banners to spoil the look.”

The question, however got me thinking about the much discussed topic of ads on blogs. I know how search monetization works, read about Payperpost and the usual ad banners. There is also the “bloggers’ endorsement” on various products and blog endlessly about them. So, my question is, should bloggers (1) put ad banners all over their blogs? and what are the motivations behind them? (2) endorse products or services and blog endlessly about them?

The following are views from 3 different blogger friends’ (Kevin, Jason and the(new)mediaslut) on the topic of advertising on blogs. Wish I had done it in iChat/ video style, but oh well, for now just read the straight forward Q&As:-

1) Do you have ads on your blog/s? What kind of ads?

MediaSlut: Yes. Put advertlets banner ads on it

Jason: I signed up to Nuffnang so I don’t get to choose the type of ads to put up. However, they did assure me that the ads put up will be ‘family friendly”

Kevin: Not that I know of… so no.

2) Do you think bloggers should endorse a company’s products / services and put ad banners on their blogs?

MediaSlut: If you are talking about banner ads from google and advertlets or nuffnang, the advertisers can be so random that you don’t know who it is. Sometimes the blogger don’t ever see the ad at all. If somebody from US visit the Singapore based blogger, the visitor might see a ad for the US. But because the blogger is Singapore based, he won’t see the ads at all.

But if you are talking about product endorsement, why not? If the blogger really likes the product and says he likes it, why not? So far, usually most bloggers will only endorse the product they really like. Those they don’t like, they will just reject it.

Kevin: As much as we genuinely do it through word of mouth, blogs shouldn’t
be any different. Just like in real life, going overboard with it
might mean losing friends (readers) …

Jason: …it is a win-win situation for both company and individual. Companies get write ups from a customer’s perspective and individual gets new toys. However, it could be a con as the individual may be pressured to write something nice about it to get more toys to endorse in the future.

3) As a blogger, do you think you will be pressurized to blog about
your “ad clients”?

Kevin: ... If you made a commitment, you’ll have to follow through. Otherwise I’d stay clear of advertising as much as possible since it might not be what I usually talk about on my blog.

MediaSlut: To be honest, most bloggers will be more than happy to blog about their advertisers. But they don’t just blog about the advertisers’ product.. Some do it by writing their own experience with the product, or issues regarding the product. But whether they will be critical of their sponsor’s product, I don’t think at the moment they will be.

This problem is similar to the print publications of media1.0. The culture here is not ready to accept criticism good or bad.

Blogs are, however, designed different than print magazine is that for every post, there is a comment field. So the advertisers should react to a critical post by engaging the blogger via comments, not threatening to withdraw ads.

Jason: Absolutely not, but I guess more on increasing my posts to get more unique visitors. However, after receiving money for the first
campaign, it really isn’t worth it… $2.88 for one week…yeech!!


4) Beside money, why do you think bloggers agree to endorse certain products or agree to put ads on their blogs?

MediaSlut: Most bloggers have day jobs, so money is a side income. If it is a product, say a mobile phone, and u let the blogger play with the phone and review it, they will be happy.

Kevin: They could endorse because they could simply like the product /
service. I find this more likely the case than putting up ads, which
is another thing altogether. Endorsing creates an emotional
attachment, advertising doesn’t (or perhaps fakes it).

This is an interesting topic and bigger issues, concerns, business models etc to look at so, I am happy to hear more thoughts from other bloggers. Meantime, the following few links are some other posts I picked up:-

One of my favourite posts on the topic – by Mitch Joel and Ed Lee

Mr Endoh’s post on why he is giving up nuffnang

Jason Kaneshiro’s interesting thoughts on choosing between advertising or readership for the blog

Yawns, next speaker please

I have no intention to blog today, I need to watch this addictive tv series but as I was glancing through my RSS feeds, I read my favourite author, David Meerman Scott’s really interesting blog post and thought I’ll share it here…

Titled “How to recruit great speakers for your conference (and avoid the terrible ones)” David wrote

In my experience, these awful speakers come in two main categories:

> Those who are chosen by conference organizers because they signed up as a “Platinum Sponsor.” These speakers assume they have the right to bore audiences because they paid for it.

> The second group are “big names” (such as a company CEO). Because these speakers are chosen for their brand value (“hey, he’s CEO of XYZ Company!”) instead of their ability to hold an audience with a compelling presentation, these speakers often suck big time. When one of these big names steps up to the podium, the audience is anticipating something extremely interesting. But then within five minutes of some inane nonsense about how their services work, half the crowd is playing blackberry. Ugh.

Over the years, I attended many conferences, events, summits etc and sat through alot alot alot of very very very boring presentations. If they are FREE,  well, then I guess I can forgive them (I usually got up after 10 minutes and try to excuse myself and go make some coffee outside the conference room and wait for the next speaker to start). For those conferences that I had to pay to sit in, I often feel totally cheated if the speakers were really bad!

As PR folks, we sometimes have to find speaking opportunities for our clients and David is also right to point out that, there will be times, some clients are given speaking time slots because they are big sponsors (but that does not make them great speakers).

David highlighted this interesting conference that asked its “potential speakers” to submit a short YouTube video on a topic that will inspire, and be relevant to the audience. Attendees get to vote who they want to listen to at the conference. The ones with most votes get invited with an expenses paid for trip and a speaking slot at the conference.

I totally love the idea! All conference / events organisers out there, NOTE PLS! Some form of “screening” will be great.

Usually out of a group of 10 speakers, 6 are crap, 2 have some interesting products (so, we just sat there to find out what’s new) and only 2 will be truly brilliant.

The success of a conference often lies in the quality of its speakers. I’ve sat through some really great presentations though and one of them was by Mitch Joel and the other speaker I totally adore is the person I listened to every week – Pastor Joseph Prince who is an amazing speaker!

Yahoo!! and Pressies!!

The recent weeks have been really great for me. Some close friends already know that I am joining Yahoo! in the next two months. I seldom blog about anything personal but I figured it’s a great news (for me at least) and I am really excited so I am sharing it here.

Please don’t send me many emails, IM messages or Facebook notes to ask about “insider news” about the company. Champagnes, whiskies, dark Goldiva chocolates are very welcomed though.

Today, I received a big gift box from my one of my dearest friends, Kevin who is currently still stuck in US with his phD program. The content of my gift: a huge book, Revolutionary Wealth, a real cool design magazine, GOOD (anniversary issue), a Sci-Fi series – The Triangle, a nice but very noisy musical card (it says, “you gotta sing the song that’s in your heart… and my song goes Yahooooooooo!!!!!) and a hilarious Elmo (it’s hilarious because it laughs funny when you press the tummy). Alright, no champagnes and chocolates but the thoughts count alot! Thank you, Kevin!

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