It's coming up on National Day, Singapore. That's the 9th of August, but the evening news has started the nightly trivia quizzes to win tickets to the National Day Parade, and the flags are coming out. Some apartment blocks have similar Singaporean flags hanging from better than half of the apartments already, and there's two weeks and change to go. This year's National Day Parade the last one to be held at the National Stadium; they're replacing the Stadium with a Sports Complex. The evening trivia quiz isn't all that hard; it's along the lines of ``When was the National Day Parade first held at the National Stadium?'', and the question is posed immediately after a report on the history of the National Stadium. (The correct answer is 1976.)
As part of Singapore's bracing for the World Bank meeting and other transient rich guys clogging up the hotels later this year, Singapore's running a ``Go the Extra Mile for Service'' campaign, in which people are encouraged to write out little business card-style forms for people who provide superior service. They're open-minded about who's in the service industry, too; the GEMS card blanks have even turned up at the department's office. And now this has been spun off into a local series, Spirit of Service, intended to show off ``Service Heroes'' who go beyond what people would expect.
In the first episode, they put a hidden camera in a restaurant praised for its service. Then they had a bunch of actors show up just before closing time and be perfectly awful, demanding, indecisive, impatient customers. The manager was patient and courteous even as the actors verged on Monty Python character-style obnoxiousness. He passed, and they explained what they were doing and proclaimed him a ``Service Hero''. Extra commentary is provided by Ron Kaufman, who wrote the menacingly-titled Up Your Service!, who would remind me less of a Batman villain if he ever blinked or didn't bug his eyes out or ever modulated his voice away from ``Can you hear me over there in Port Moresby?!''
Trivia: In spring 1601, the English East India Company bought a ship from Earl of Cumberland's, the Malice Scourge. The Company renamed it the Red Dragon. Source: Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Giles Milton.
Currently Reading: Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteen Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.