E@L and some of his colleagues were in a meeting all afternoon yesterday with two Head Office bigwigs (head of design, and ex-president) who were there to tell the wonders of what they had been doing all these years to justify their stay at the Fullerton Hotel while the our corporate profits tank. [No, they're not tanking, actually. Stock prices are up 15% in the last three months. You should have bought in 2008, as should have E@L. 300% recovery. Anyway, /digression.]
They only spoke Japanese, but their slides were in English. Nevertheless they read each line, or E@L gathered they did by the tracks of the laser pointer, in Japanese. Then each phrase they had spoken had to be translated for us, and the translator also used a laser pointer to go over each point on the slides carefully. Tedium. Once, the speaker and the translator got a bit lost / confused. They chattered on in Japanese while they perfected the oral translation -- for 4min and 35secs. For the ONE SLIDE - and it was already written there in English. How do I know it was 4:35? One of my colleagues who i thought was taking notes but was actually working on next week's training schedule, timed them. E@L was wondering which of us would get shot when we were the first to stop clapping after one of Stalin’s four hour speeches.
Turns out these guys weren’t all that boring, deep down. After a tea-break they got into some much more interesting freestyle speeches. AND it turns out one of them could speak English moderately well after all! (There’s 4:35 of my life I’ll never get back.)
They had graduated up to near-god status in the medical ultrasound world from their base experience designing washing machines, all those years ago [Tom Stoppard reference]. This caused a suppressed snigger up the back. Not because there is anything wrong with this company's washing machines, they’re quite good in fact, it’s just washing machines don’t have printers, and neither does our latest ultrasound model.
However the main guy said, interestingly, that he went to design school with the most famous unknown legend you’ve never heard of, Fukuda Tamio, who was the key design consultant whose famous(?) 1993 report to Samsung triggered a major turn around in their industrial philosophy, by pushing for higher emphasis on design for convenience, not just better technology. This was in their mobile phone business - back when they were battling Motorola (remember them) and not Apple.
According to legend, as recounted to E@L yesterday, Samsung Electronic’s President, Lee Kun Hee, read Fukuda-san’s report on a flight from Seoul to Frankfurt and was so charged by it that he called for a meeting of 200 executives from around the world in Frankfurt in just two days time, to discuss its implications and the turn around in thinking it demanded.
“Change everything except your wife and children,” he famously said, in a what we would now call a sexistually [new word!] discriminatory speech, to the jet-lagged execs on that landmark day.
And the rest, E@L’s acquaintances, is history.
Speaking of discrimination...
Yeah, so there had been 18 odd people of various ethnicities sitting, fascinated, in the room. A dozen approx at the boardroom table and six less important types (like E@L) up the back in chairs against the wall, passing secret notes and giggling, like at the washing machine and printer hilarity. When the slide said “circuit bore”, it was not a self-disparaging comment on the travelling roadshow lifestyle of the speakers, but a misspelling of “circuit board”. Stop laughing, ow, my jaw hurts, my belly is in cramps from this punitive tsunami of amusement and jocularity.
This morning E@L sees one of those people, a guy from the adjacent office, walk through OUR office on a short-cut to the toilet. Sigh, They do it all the time. One day, someone’ll catch E@L in mid snooze…
E@L asks his cute (but married) Chinese colleagues - who had been sitting next to him at the back wall yesterday - if she knew the name of that senior guy, the Indian man, who E@L sees all the time but could never remember his name since they were first introduced two years ago, who works in the office next door, important, finance maybe, the man sitting to Yai-Wan.
CBMCC: What Indian man?
E@L: You know, the Indian guy. The balding one with glasses. Is it Danesh?
CBMCC: There was no Indian guy there yesterday.
E@L: Of course there was. The guy next to Yai-Wan. [In this instance E@L’s memory was clear - Yai-Wan is also cute.]
CBMCC: That was Takazumi-san.
E@L : No, there was an Indian guy BETWEEN Yai-Wan and Takazumi-san.
CBMCC: There was?
E@L : … You just don't see brown people, do you? They're not real to you. It's like they’re some sort of non-people.
CBMCC: Noooo (laughing)... I didn’t see anyone, because Tim was in the way, that’s why. I really couldn’t see him.
E@L : I KNOW you couldn’t see him! That’s my point! It’s because he’s of the melatonin enriched races isn’t it? Because of the colour of his skin! He might as well not be there. Singapore will have 9million in 2125 and you won’t even see 3million of them! You Chinese are just so… so fucking… so racist!
She was pissing herself laughing at this btw (it's the way E@L tells 'em), couldn't believe she didn't see him, but it was due to where she was sitting. Yeah, right. Like there were thousands of people crowding the room.
E@L: Oh Singaporean, why li dat so racist one?
CBMCC: (hitting at E@L with her tiny fists) Nooooo! It’s not like that!
E@L had left a bottle of Australian (Victorian, no, even better: Bellarine Peninsular!) white wine in the freezer overnight. Accidentally.
BWOE, it was meant for a quick chill, but he opened a bottle of red in the interim and forgot about it.
He found it this morning. The (composite) cork had protruded a bit but else-wise, fine - as in: nothing had exploded.
Now, on an empty stomach, with no idea what to have for dinner except a handful of cashews, after the wine has been thawing all day, E@L takes a sip...
Sooooo, is this mild wet-nappy* aroma predominant because the wine has been frozen, or was the freezing incidental to the fact that it was already an 8 years old Pinot Gris? Not all that fond of wet nappies, but you know, E@L has tasted worse. It is all a quest. Life is a quest - never stop. Bad wine, good wine, sometimes you just don't know until you vomit it all up on the coverlet at 3am on the couch in a stranger's house in mid-winter, your surfboard at your side.
The red wine was, on retrospect, crap as well, huck spit, he found on tasting a half-glass of the left-overs before he moved on to test the white. (No he doesn't always finish the bottle once it has been opened! Usually, but not always.) Sarth Effrican - shudder!! Who brought that rubbish to E@LGHQ?
OK, E@L is off to find something more substantial than nuts to eat. Um, he means drink.
* E@L needs to take a wine appreciation course so that he might have some less ill-refined terminology in his oenological vocabulary for such olfactory descriptions.
He made no answer, but only indicated with his eyes a feminine figure. It was a young girl of seventeen or eighteen, wearing a Russian dress, with her head bare and a little shawl flung carelessly on one shoulder; not a passenger, but I suppose a sister or daughter of the station-master. She was standing near the carriage window, talking to an elderly woman who was in the train. Before I had time to realize what I was seeing, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling I had once experienced in the Armenian village.
The girl was remarkably beautiful, and that was unmistakable to me and to those who were looking at her as I was.
If one is to describe her appearance feature by feature, as the practice is, the only really lovely thing was her thick wavy fair hair, which hung loose with a black ribbon tied round her head; all the other features were either irregular or very ordinary. Either from a peculiar form of coquettishness, or from short-sightedness, her eyes were screwed up, her nose had an undecided tilt, her mouth was small, her profile was feebly and insipidly drawn, her shoulders were narrow and undeveloped for her age — and yet the girl made the impression of being really beautiful, and looking at her, I was able to feel convinced that the Russian face does not need strict regularity in order to be lovely; what is more, that if instead of her turn-up nose the girl had been given a different one, correct and plastically irreproachable like the Armenian girl’s, I fancy her face would have lost all its charm from the change.
Standing at the window talking, the girl, shrugging at the evening damp, continually looking round at us, at one moment put her arms akimbo, at the next raised her hands to her head to straighten her hair, talked, laughed, while her face at one moment wore an expression of wonder, the next of horror, and I don’t remember a moment when her face and body were at rest. The whole secret and magic of her beauty lay just in these tiny, infinitely elegant movements, in her smile, in the play of her face, in her rapid glances at us, in the combination of the subtle grace of her movements with her youth, her freshness, the purity of her soul that sounded in her laugh and voice, and with the weakness we love so much in children, in birds, in fawns, and in young trees.
It was that butterfly’s beauty so in keeping with waltzing, darting about the garden, laughter and gaiety, and incongruous with serious thought, grief, and repose; and it seemed as though a gust of wind blowing over the platform, or a fall of rain, would be enough to wither the fragile body and scatter the capricious beauty like the pollen of a flower.
“So — o! . . . ” the officer muttered with a sigh when, after the second bell, we went back to our compartment.
And what that “So — o” meant I will not undertake to decide.
Perhaps he was sad, and did not want to go away from the beauty and the spring evening into the stuffy train; or perhaps he, like me, was unaccountably sorry for the beauty, for himself, and for me, and for all the passengers, who were listlessly and reluctantly sauntering back to their compartments. As we passed the station window, at which a pale, red-haired telegraphist with upstanding curls and a faded, broad-cheeked face was sitting beside his apparatus, the officer heaved a sigh and said:
“I bet that telegraphist is in love with that pretty girl. To live out in the wilds under one roof with that ethereal creature and not fall in love is beyond the power of man. And what a calamity, my friend! what an ironical fate, to be stooping, unkempt, gray, a decent fellow and not a fool, and to be in love with that pretty, stupid little girl who would never take a scrap of notice of you! Or worse still: imagine that telegraphist is in love, and at the same time married, and that his wife is as stooping, as unkempt, and as decent a person as himself.”
On the platform between our carriage and the next the guard was standing with his elbows on the railing, looking in the direction of the beautiful girl, and his battered, wrinkled, unpleasantly beefy face, exhausted by sleepless nights and the jolting of the train, wore a look of tenderness and of the deepest sadness, as though in that girl he saw happiness, his own youth, soberness, purity, wife, children; as though he were repenting and feeling in his whole being that that girl was not his, and that for him, with his premature old age, his uncouthness, and his beefy face, the ordinary happiness of a man and a passenger was as far away as heaven. . . .