Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Portrait of Donny Osmond

I grew up with Donny Osmond. Shocking, wasn't it? But it's true. In the late 1960s, the Andy Williams Show and the Donny & Marie Osmond Show were regular features on local television while I was on the other side of the tube watching them weekly from the comfort of my home in George Town, Penang.

Knowing that in those days, the syndicated variety shows were often seen on Malaysian television years after they were produced overseas, Donny Osmond came across as very young when compared to my age then. Thus, I was rather shocked recently to learn that he is only three years younger than I. He's not even 60 years old!

This record, Portrait of Donny, was released in 1972 at which time he was already a veteran performer aged 15 years old. Obviously, with songs like Puppy Love, Hey Girl and This Guy's In Love With You, the album was targeted at his millions of female fans in the United states.

The picture which the record company used on the cover of the record showed a Donny Osmond who, I suspect, could possibly be one or two years younger than his actual age then! Do I still hear pre-pubescent American girls still swooning and screaming away at their teenage idol? Oh ho ho ho...

Side One: Puppy love, Hey girl, Going going gone (to somebody else), I've got plans for you, Promise me, Let my people go
Side Two: All I have to do is dream, Hey there lonely girl, Big man, Love me, This guy's in love with you

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Cock and hen year

I haven't displayed these two cups for a very long time...

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Rolf Harris: All together now

Let's not get distracted by the legal problems facing Rolf Harris - he is now serving time in a UK prison for indecent assault on four female victims - and appreciate his positive contribution to the music industry. In September 2007, I had written about his record, The Best of Rolf Harris, which is a compilation album containing some 14 songs from his vast repertoire that had spanned a career of television shows.

More recently, I managed to pick up another compilation album of Harris', containing 12 songs from his shows. Of these, only two songs were replicated; therefore I guessed that it would still be a jolly good buy. However, having spun the record later at home, I have to give this album only a mixed reaction. The first side of the record was very enjoyable but the second side wasn't. I have to admit that I was getting bored and feeling more anxious for this side to finish playing as soon as possible. So what were the songs on this album?

Side One: I've lost my mummy, Gosport Nancy, Waltzing Matilda, Click go the shears, Wild rover, The court of King Caractacus
Side Two: I'll be hanged, Botany Bay, Maximilliam Mouse, Six white boomers, The overlanders, Wild colonial boy

FOOTNOTE: Since I had somehow failed in September 2007 to list the songs that featured in The Best of Rolf Harris compilation album, I suppose this is as good a time as any to do so:

Side One: Two little boys, Tie me kangaroo down sport, Hurry home, Big dog, Bluer than blue, Carra barra wirra canna, The court of King Caractacus
Side Two: Jake the peg, Fijian girl, I know a man, Nick Teen and Al K Hall, I've lost my mummy, Sun arise, If I were a rich man

And as for The Definitive Rolf Harris, the featured songs in the compact disc were: Two little boys, Tie me kangaroo down sport, Court of King Caractacus, Iko iko, Waltzing Matilda, Wild colonial boy, Botany Bay, Click go the shears, The wild rover, Big dog, Carra barra wirra canna, Sun arise, War canoe, Nick Teen and Al K Hall. Jake the peg, Six white boomers, Sonny, Tie me huntin' dog down Jed, Two little teardrops, Sylvie, If I were a rich man, Letter to Narelle, Stairway to heaven.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Mondo Rock: Come said the boy

The first time that I had come across this band known as Mondo Rock was on a compilation compact disc of Australian music which I had picked up while holidaying in Western Australia some years ago.

There were good tracks on that CD featuring various Aussie acts such as Midnight Oil, Little River Band, Crowded House, INXS, Cold Chisel, Savage Garden, Rick Springfield, Dragon, Kylie Minogue, Men At Work, John Farnham, Australian Crawl, Russell Morris, Masters Apprentices, Sherbet, Split Enz, Mondo Rock, Axiom, Ted Mulry Gang and yes, even the Bee Gees, spanning the years from the late 1960s till the 1980s. Heard of them? Yes? No?

Anyhow, Mondo Rock's name sprang up again when I was browsing through the second-hand vinyl records at Joe's Mac in the AmCorp Mall earlier this month. I came across the band's fourth studio album which was called The Modern Bop. I flipped the cover over and among the 10 titles on the back, the name of the second song, Come Said The Boy, sprang out at me. Another bell rang. That was exactly the same song that was picked for the Australian Legends compact disc. Without a moment's hesitation, I included this record into my "must buy" list.

I must say that my spur-of-the-moment decision was well worth the RM17 that I put down for the purchase. There was not a dull moment in the 10 songs. I never got tired of playing this record and I was certainly give it a few more spins before putting it away in the cupboard.

Side One: Lovers of the world, Come said the boy, Happy families, The modern bop, Take me away.
Side Two: Baby wants to rock, Flight 28, Marina, Cost of living, In my house.

Come Said The Boy was a rather controversial song. When it was released in December 1983, the song was banned by many radio stations in Australia because of the suggestive lyrics. Despite the absence from the airwaves, Come Said The Boy became the band's most successful single, peaking at No. 2 in the Australian music charts.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Hollow assurance

Just days after I had written about my wife's harrowing experience with the fraudulent usage of her credit card in Singapore, Bank Negara Malaysia came out with an assurance that "contactless cards cannot be cloned or used for unauthorised transactions by fraudsters." What bunkum! It's a hollow assurance that cuts no ice with either my wife or me. Neither does it cut any ice with my friend in Kuala Lumpur who had not one by three credit cards compromised.

While fraudsters are running wild in the country stealing electronic data from the newly-issued RFID-based credit and debit cards in the country, this is just a plain old-fashioned denial and misinformation that such electronic theft is impossible, or at the very least, very difficult. The fact that it does occur has been brushed aside. Whatever for? The central bank should request the card issuers in the country to educate their card holders properly on the best way to safeguard their electronic information, not dismiss the threat of theft.

Only thing is, it is not a threat. It happens, because with the proper equipment, skimmers can steal electronic information from as far away as 30 feet. The thieves don't have to stand close to you; they don't have to brush themselves against your body or your bag; standing 30 feet away is as good as standing closer to you.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Joe's Mac

Over a course of two visits to Kuala Lumpur - once in December last year and more recently, earlier this month - I have picked up several second-hand vinyl records from the Joe's Mac shop at the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya. Those weren't the first times that I had set foot into this interesting shop but from my delightful experience during the past two visits, they wouldn't be the last, if I can help it.

Main reason is because of the wide range of second-hand records I found there but the other reasons would be that I found the records clean enough - Joe and his staff must've cleaned them up after acquiring them from the sellers - and there were very little surface scratches too.

Nevertheless, I still had to resort to cleaning up the records in my own way after I had returned to Penang in order to remove most of the surface noises, namely, the pops and crackles. And I must say that the resulting sound was marvellous. I couldn't have been more satisfied. I'll try and describe the records I bought in the next few weeks but in the meantime, excuse me as I play them through my hifi system first!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Beware your new RFID credit cards

Christmas 2016. My wife received a Christmas present on the 25th of December last year. Not quite the sort of present that you would expect on Christmas Day, though. We were just about to leave the Nandaka Vihara Buddhist meditation centre at Cherok Tokun on that day when she received a text message on her mobile at 1.48pm. Two minutes later, another text message came in.

Both SMS carried similar messages: that her credit card had been used for two transactions. Now, the problem was that her credit card was with her, in her purse. She told me about the messages which, at first, I dismissed as a scam message. Then she showed the messages to me and I became alarmed. These weren't scam messages; these were real notification messages from UOB Bank.

I asked her to telephone the Call Centre number on the back of her card. At 2pm, she spoke to one of the call centre staff there to report the incident and immediately, her card was stopped. When we got home, I deduced that the transactions had taken place at the Swissotel The Stamford and my wife decided to call the hotel in Singapore to alert them, even telling the hotel manager of the time that the transactions had taken place.

Not satisfied with these actions, she later called the bank's Call Centre again to seek assurance that her card had indeed been blocked. She also inquired whether a Police report should be made but was told that there wasn't a need for that. However two days later when she spoke to someone at Bank Negara Malaysia's branch in Penang, she was advised to lodge a Police report. So we had one done at the Perda Police station and with this report filed, she then emailed a formal written complaint to the UOB Bank's Customer Advocacy & Service Quality department, with carbon copies to Bank Negara Malaysia and, for good measure, the Consumer Association of Penang too.

Her parting words to UOB Bank's CASQ were, "I shall hope that you will commence investigation immediately to determine how my credit card account came to be debited with these two transactions. I am very concerned and wish to say here that I am not responsible, and shall not be responsible, for these transactions and will not be paying for them." Definitely. Why should she be paying for them when these fraudulent transactions were not made by her?

This was a new RFID-based credit card that she had received not too long ago. The activation of this card was made in September, I think, and since then, she hasn't been making much use of it, preferring to use another credit card that offered her more benefits. So, this card had remained mostly in her purse. How then could her credit card details be stolen? How could her credit card be duplicated or cloned and used physically? Aren't there security features on a credit card that can alert merchants if it is cloned? How do banks account for the unused cards in their possession? How can we safeguard our credit card details in future? During the process of delivering new credit cards to the cardholders, what steps have the banks taken to ensure that the courier service personnel are trustworthy? What sort of measures are there to protect consumers who are victims of fraudulent card usages? These are just a few of the more urgent questions that need to be addressed not only by us, the consumers, but also by the banks and the authorities.

Anyway, on Wednesday, UOB Bank telephoned my wife to inform her that the Swissotel in Singapore has not put in their claims for the two transactions. Presumably, based on my wife alerting them on Christmas Day itself, they might have already taken action on the person or persons who had tried to book themselves into the five-star hotel. I really hope so. And I hope the hotel had also reported the incident to the Police over there. Such frausters should be caught and put away.

As a footnote, I must add that one of my friends in Kuala Lumpur was also hit by this RFID credit card scam recently. Also, my son told me that one of his superiors in the company he's with was also affected. So apparently, my wife's was not an isolated case. We all have to take real good care of the credit and debit cards in our possession as these are now all RFID-based cards.

A second footnote: the Police constable at the Police station told my wife that this was the first such case that had come to her (that is, the constable) notice. Perhaps, victims have not been making reports to the Police. In my opinion, they should because once more reports come in, the commercial crime division may be in a better position to pressure the banks to tighten up on their security measures especially during the delivery process which I suspect may be the weakest link.