Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Sunday, January 05, 2003
On New Year's Eve, my last full day, I went to Greenwich with my sister and brother in law.
At the Royal Observatory, I looked through a replica of a 1774 telescope, only to see Pluto in all its glory, in full colour. With ears, tail, ears and all. Someone has a sense of humour, apparently. I also got to try using a quadrant, and there was a corner about the stupid Powder of Sympathy way of finding longitude. When I was done I had a look around the National Maritime Museum.
We had lunch - at 3pm or so - at a place called 'Saigon Buffet' which supposedly served Chinese and Vietnamese food. In fact, there wasn't any Vietnamese food at all, and there was beef and chicken curry too. It was awfully cheap though - £5.50 for a weekday lunch (12pm-6pm), and there were about 40 things to eat, though there is this odd 10% surcharge on Valentines Day and Mothers Day.
Exiting Covent Garden tube station later, on my way to watch My Fair Lady, I heard an announcement - "Customers are advised that there are 193 steps. This is equivalent to 15 storeys". No wonder I got so winded in 2001 when I got sick of waiting and decided to climb all the way to the top!
At the theatre, some people were obviously struck with compulsive photo taking syndrome, for I was asked by *2* couples, one elderly and the other consisting of 2 young women, to take their pictures. And at the end of the wonderful show, the cast came up for their second bow just a little too early.
It was interesting contrasting the musical technology used in HMS Pinafore and My Fair Lady. The late 19th Century show has a static stage, but in the latter the floor keeps moving and props fly down from the ceiling.
The good thing about watching shows in London is that NO mobile phones ring. Not that I've heard. Yeh! However, people like to clap at inappropriate times, so sometimes the dialogue is cut off, or the beginning of a song cannot be heard.
The night of New Year's Eve was pleasantly warm, but there were many Bobbies at Embankment and many young people running around deliriously, many clutching bottles of cheap alcohol (mostly champagne).
I got cheated of 50p at Canary Wharf because the machine swallowed my money and wouldn't vend anything or give it back. Looking at the LCD, I saw that it had already swallowed £23.90 of hapless consumers' change before I'd been conned. To add insult to injury, calling the hotline, I was told - twice - by an automated voice that calls from mobiles were chargeable, so I gave up.
The next day - New Year - the train was full of young people coming from the party at the Millennium Dome. They all were bleary-eyed and were dazed and wasted. I wonder how many did drugs or got lucky the previous night. And in the next carriage there were people dressed as high school basketball players and cheerleaders. Weird.
At Heathrow, I decided to try Dr Pepper again. The first and previous time I'd sampled it was in Hawaii and I recall it being so vile that I threw the rest away. I thought, 'Surely it can't be so bad a second time?', and indeed it wasn't. It reminds me of artificial cherries, among other unspecified things. Does it really contain pepper?
"Its unique flavor comes from the blending of 23 fruits, none of which are prunes." - Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc.
It now behooves me to decide whether F&N "Freaky" Fruitade or Dr Pepper is the worst drink of all time.
The flight back was very crowded, so I couldn't spread my legs as I did on the flight to London. We got ice cream again - instead of the cheap Nestle Crunch type, we got Losely Natural Flavour Ice Cream (the same brand as what I ate during HMS Pinafore). I also got to read the New Straits Times on the flight back - it's rather parochial, covering Malaysian stories of no import (I'm not interested in the ins and outs of the latest Khalwat case), and the selection of World News pathetic. It is also very biased in its writing. The 'Life and Times' section is rather good, though, with a wide range of topics.
Some idiot stole the Men's and Women's cologne in one of the aircraft toilets. Must be a kiasu Singaporean. Lucky no one stole the toilet seat covers. There were no sanitary pads or tampons to steal, though. It's rather stingy of MAS not to provide them, actually.
I got a free upgrade to Business Class on the way back to Singapore. 40 mins, but nice anyway. Must be to reward me for my steadfast loyalty to Ma-laysia Airlines!
There was this crazy woman running around with a one strapped top and a half thigh long skirt one night.
I saw the Kingfisher Book of Evolution going for £14.99 at Greenwich's Maritime Museum. Maybe I could've bought that for my MO :)
I got 3 Cadbury's Creme Eggs. Mmm.
The confectionary machines in the Underground stations are really nice, but they need drink machines too.
There were these ads for a "School Disco", one of the weird concept parties. Basically you have these grown adults going to a disco in school uniforms. Altered ones, rather. In the ad, there's this girl whose white blouse is tied under her breasts, is playing with her tie and is wearing a microskirt. I saw some people going to one of the School Discos on New Year's Eve. The males look disheveled and typically have ties that aren't tied properly, pants that are too short, untucked shirts and weird shoes. The females dress like the girl in the ad, and I saw one with thin knee high socks (this isn't a Japanese School Disco!). Maybe it's a fetish.
Maybe I will make a company selling funky tudungs in the future. The ones they have now are just so plain and boring.
Why do Airline Stewardessed have to wear so much makeup? They look like dolls or, dare I say, harlots.
My jet lag on the way to London was much worse than what I got when I returned. Wrong sequence of events, I say :(
Cheapskate enough to get me to bring toilet paper to London, my sister got me to mail her postcards for her from here. Bah.
My 13 SMSes suddenly became 2 when I returned my father his SIM card :(
[In Canary Wharf station toilet] Surveillance cameras in constant operation (!)
Suicide Bomber Barbie! Ultimate empowerment.
Someone: anyway i've lost most of my confidence in the military thanks to you.
Me: you're welcome
but just what did I say
Someone: no, it's just the thought of people like you having to defend us. i mean, you have soft toys in your bunk
Me: umm, I can let the sick patients cuddle my lavender scented bear!
Someone: this isn't helping
Me: don't worry, you can go to the S-Cube seminar next year!
Security, Survival, SUCCESS!
Someone: the s-cube is lousy... there are 2 words on the same plane
the third one ought to be on the yellow face
Me: they claimed that each dimension had to be of an equal size so the tube wouldn't topple over
evidently they don't know basic physics
larger surface areas make it more stable
supposing it were a wide, long, low cube (with security being the lowest dimension).
it'd never topple over
anyhow success is more a result of survival and security
Someone: like, whatever. it's not aesthetically pleasing. it's badly photoshopped
and i think they're running out of ideas. it's soo obvious they just picked the nicest sounding s-words
Me: well. these are bureaucrats
they need to hone their skills at rebuffing troublesome malcontents like me
please follow in my footsteps and suan the guy
Me: the guy who will be trying to brainwash you
I wonder if he still remembers me
*wistfully* in an odd way I'm actually rather fond of him
he managed to dissemble and ignore the points I was making, bringing up irrelevant qualifiers
The Associate believes that all religions are prone to misinterpretation (if the true interpretation can ever be grasped at, which he denies) and that socio-economic-political-historical-cultural factors affect the extant and popular interpretations of any doctrine.
On the other hand, while Gabriel acknowledges that while everything is subject to interpretation to some degree, certain philosophical doctrines are inherently more rigid than others, being spelt out in black and white rather than being left ambiguous, and injunctions are injunctions, however one chooses to view them. Furthermore, minor points of polemic in certain places are more prone to uncharitable and condemnable interpretation, resulting in a Pareto degradation in the amount and quality of free utility and happiness in the world. Even considering the wider social context and demographic in which these doctrines are applied, it is demonstrably harder to justify a libertarian, non-radical perspective which is compatible with such doctrines. Such doctrines are fundamentally unable to remain more equitable and less injurious to others who do not follow such doctrines in certain issues when compared to other contending doctrines.
Gabriel is a a Bear of Very Little Brain, and big words bother him.
It will be obvious to all but the most unenlightened reader why we have phrased our issues in such a manner.
Transcripts of our long debate are available upon request for readers who wish either The Associate or myself to clarify our positions further.
Gabriel would like to add:
For further reading, you way want to view a Liberal Muslim Website (the most Liberal that Gabriel has found in his virtual travels), which shows that Islam is really not as intolerant as it is usually expressed, and a supposed Muslim-Christian dialog page which is not as cheery, happy and jolly as it is made out to be on the front page, but which nevertheless does have some excellent points for all and sundry to ponder over.
On the former, your may rack your brains over the injunctions to engage in Wife Beating, wonder why polygyny is permitted, albeit with caveats, but not polyandry. On the latter, you can see how they try to slime and discredit by bringing up all the terrible things Mr Mohammad is said to have done (whether he did them or not is another matter), like marrying a 9 year old girl when he was 53. Anyhow, he made no claim to be sinless, so whatever he did was not necessarily grounds for doing the same thing.
Gabriel has, with you, reframed and restructured your post, such that it rises, soaring like a Phoenix, from the ashes, in more than its accustomed splendour and glory]
Two Jews are sitting on a bench, reading newspapers. One notices that the other's paper is a vile, anti-Semitic rag.
"Why read that trash?" he asks.
"Well," says the second, "I used to read a paper like yours. But it was too depressing: all that news about suicide bombs and Ariel Sharon. My new paper, on the other hand, is full of good news: apparently we control Hollywood, own all the banks, dominate American politics."
Probably the best of the Christmas articles:
That's what they want you to believe
Dec 19th 2002
From The Economist print edition
Why are conspiracy theories so popular?
WHO crashed those planes into the World Trade Centre? Israel, obviously. Mossad must have known that their country would profit from a surge in American hostility towards the Arabs, who were set up to take the rap. Shortly after September 11th 2001, the consensus on the Arab street was that only the Israeli secret service could have managed such deadly precision. Corroboration was quickly found in a report that 4,000 Jews who worked in the twin towers had been secretly warned to stay away that day. (*For the record, around 300 Jews and 100 Muslims were among the 3,000 victims. The origin of the rumour was probably a report in the Jerusalem Post of September 12th, which mistakenly said that 4,000 Jews had "disappeared" in the disaster.)
This was not the only interesting theory bandied around the souks. The doyen of Egyptian pundits, Hassanein Heikal, blamed the Serbs, noting that they were mad about losing Kosovo. Others fingered home-grown, Oklahoma-style extremists, or a plot by America's military-industrial complex, ever hungry for new enemies to boost defence budgets.
One fellow in a Cairo café told The Economist that the culprit was clearly not al-Qaeda, but rather something called al-Gur. Was this, perhaps, a terror network still more murderous than the Bin Laden gang? No. On closer listening, it transpired that the evil al-Gur was bent on avenging not some wicked Yankee geo-blunder, but the theft of the 2000 American presidential election. "It's obvious," declared the café sage. "Who else could have wanted to hurt George Bush more than his rival, the former Vice-President al-Gur?"
The citizens of Cairo may be skilled at concocting diabolical scenarios, but they are not the only ones. Plenty of Africans from further south pooh-pooh the conventional view that the virus that causes AIDS originated with monkeys. It was cooked up in an American lab, of course, to kill black people.
Many Asians, including the prime minister of Malaysia, blame a clutch of Jewish financiers for causing their economies to crash in 1997. Some Jews, meanwhile, equate Amnesty International, which often criticises Israel, with the Nazi party. Credulous Indians see the hand of Pakistani intelligence behind everything from train crashes to cricket match fixing, and many Pakistanis return the compliment. Slobodan Milosevic, smug in court at The Hague, has testified that the 1995 massacre of 7,000 unarmed Muslims at Srebrenica was carried out not by Serb militiamen, but by French intelligence. Less whimsically, China's government launched its vicious campaign to crush Falun Gong in the belief that the movement, whose stated aims are to improve its devotees' spiritual and bodily health, is a dangerous cult bent on subverting the state.
Americans like a good plot too. The assassination of John F. Kennedy still generates a thriving industry, complete with a thicket of suggestive websites (see article), books, college courses, one big-budget movie and a whole vocabulary of arcana. (If you don't know what is pictured in frames 112 and 113 of the Zapruder film, or wonder what the Grassy Knoll is, better stay quiet on the subject.) A 1991 poll showed that, three decades after the president's murder, 73% of Americans still think he was a victim of conspiracy.
Such fables are nothing new. American pamphleteers in the 1790s warned of a plot by atheist, libertine Illuminati and Freemasons to concoct an abortion-inducing tea and "a method for filling a bedchamber with pestilential vapours". The bestselling book of the 1830s was a racy confession by a repentant nun detailing a scheme by Catholics to undermine Protestant morals. At around the same time, Samuel Morse, better known as the inventor of Morse Code, exposed an Austrian plan to install a Hapsburg prince as emperor of the United States. In the 20th century, Americans feared reds more than royals; hence Joe McCarthy's witch-hunts, and the popularity of Father Charles Coughlin, who told radio audiences that "Masons and Marxists rule the world".
In "Under Western Eyes", Joseph Conrad wrote that "to us Europeans of the West, all ideas of political plots and conspiracies seem childish, crude inventions for the theatre or a novel."
Some modern scholars go further, arguing that the conspiracist habit is a sort of disease or syndrome. The "paranoid thinker", instructs material from a course at the University of Rhode Island, is "rigid, victimlike, cowardly". This contrasts with the traits of the "rational thinker", who is "open, flexible, empowered, strong".
Daniel Pipes, the author of two books about conspiracy theorising, describes the classic grand theories - such as those about Masonic or Zionist or Papist plots for world domination - as:
a quite literal form of pornography (though political rather than sexual). The two genres became popular about the same time, in the 1740s. Both are backstairs literatures that often have to be semi-clandestinely distributed, then read with the shades drawn. Elders seek to protect youth from their depredations. Scholars studying them try to discuss them without propagating their contents: [with] asterisks and dashes in the first case and short extracts in the second. Recreational conspiracism titillates sophisticates much as does recreational sex.
Mr Pipes does good work in skewering anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists, but his recent founding of "Campus Watch", a website devoted to "outing" pro-Arab academics, emits a whiff of burning books.
Belief in conspiracies is not necessarily foolish. Some are real. The Holocaust, for example, actually happened, though few believed it before the camps were liberated. Consider also the Bolshevik revolution of 1917: a small group of violent fanatics seized control of a large empire, as millions of their victims could testify, were they still alive. Businessfolk conspire, too. Adam Smith, a man to whom The Economist accords considerable respect, once wrote that: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public."
That some conspiracies are real, however, does not mean that they all are. As a tool for explaining how the world works, conspiracism has certain drawbacks. It inhibits trust: if everyone else is out to get you, better have nothing to do with them. It dampens optimism: if "they" are sure to frustrate your plans, why bother doing anything? And, of course, it leads to harmful errors, such as the belief, once popular among Africans, that condoms were yet another ploy to reduce their population.
The evolution of theories
So what is the attraction of conspiracism? For starters, as grand unifying theories of geopolitics go, it is simple to grasp. In ill-educated societies, that makes it appealing. It is also impossible to disprove, because any fact that does not fit the theory can be dismissed as a trick by the conspirators to throw ordinary folk off the scent.
In countries with opaque and authoritarian political systems, rumour is often the only alternative to official news sources. If the people in such countries remember falling victim to real conspiracies, they may be inclined to attribute fresh misfortunes to a similar cause.
Take more or less anywhere in the Middle East. The very borders of countries such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are a product of the 1916 Sykes-Picot accord, a secret agreement between Britain and France to divvy up the region between themselves, despite earlier British pledges of statehood to Arabs. In 1917, war-pressed Britain sought to curry favour with the growing Zionist movement by promising a "Jewish national home" in Palestine. The Palestinians, nine-tenths of the territory's population at the time, were not consulted. Thirty years later, when the UN voted to give Jews 53% of the land, the 13 "Eastern" countries that objected were overruled by 33 "Western" countries, which between them ruled over some 120 future members that surely would have voted otherwise had they been able to. Small wonder Palestinians see the world through a lens of victimhood.
In the West, conspiracies have, for some reason, tended to fail, and so fade from the popular imagination. Who now frets about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a gang of Catholics failed to blow up Britain's Parliament? Or the doomed Carlist uprisings in 19th-century Spain? Or the European anarchists who assassinated seven heads of state in the 1890s, to no avail? Or the Watergate scandal?
In Iran, by contrast, people still seethe over the CIA-backed coup of 1953 that toppled Muhammad Mossadegh, a man much loved for having dared to nationalise British oil interests. Syria and Iraq have suffered a dizzy sequence of successful plots and counter-conspiracies, ending with the pair of Baathist coups in the late 1960s that installed their current ruling cliques.
Half the governments of the Middle East trace their origins to coups. In a sense, conspiracy is the region's only real form of politics, which can make it hard for Middle Easterners to understand the dynamics of open, democratic societies. Hence, for example, the Arab tendency, as the French say, to "occult" America's generous backing for Israel. Aiding the Jewish state infuriates hundreds of millions of oil-supplying, American-product-consuming Arabs and Muslims. So why does America do it? It must be a conspiracy by the Zionist lobby, or perhaps a plot to divide and rule Arabs to control their oil, or part of a Christian crusade against Islam.
Blaming others for one's troubles may be emotionally satisfying, but it is a counsel of despair. Stella Orakwue, a journalist, writes in the New African that: "Today, [Africa] has to remain in deficit so Europe and America can maintain their obscene wealth." Given that Africa accounts for less than 2% of global trade, this is hardly an adequate explanation of why the West is rich and Africa is poor. And without understanding why their continent is poor, Africans will find it harder to grow rich.
In extreme cases, conspiracy theories can cost lives. Osama bin Laden genuinely seems to think he is fighting a Zionist-Christian-materialist assault on Islam. Adolf Hitler sincerely believed he was ridding the world of a Jewish menace. Many Serbs were convinced that the Muslims of ex-Yugoslavia were out to annihilate them. And many Rwandan Hutus, informed by their leaders that the Tutsis were planning to kill them, were happy to follow orders to pre-empt this threat.
I am aware of my cultural and racial prejudices that colour my pereceptions of other races. However, most of the time this manifests during more nationalistic and political type of arugments - for instance, I find myself becoming oddly defensive of Malaysia at times, despite the numerous indefensible positions Malaysia assumes:) For isntance, I admitted that the government was stupid to ban Brad Pitt, and I freely admit that a lot of the PAS doctrines are ridiculous. And I have very strong racist feelings (Racist, as opposed to religious bias. Not QUITE the same thing)
But in issues of religion, I can safely say that I am almost completely objective and neutral, despite a slight sneaking bias towards Buddhism for its philosophical elegance.
And as for complicating your argument I do so because you're bringing up wrong points, and not backing them with evidence of your own. I submit that if we were to bring the record of our debate to any objective adjudicator, they would award the argument to me for having the better case.
And in all honesty, I AM tying all my points back to a single basic argument, while you are just heaping out individual snipes and points without any overarching coherence.
Look. Put it this way. Can you prove to me that Islam is MORE susceptible and MORE prone to misinterpretation and hijacking. Independent of cultural and social defaults and factors? If you're going to say that your "gut" instinct is that Islam is more irrational and wrong than Christianity, then any argument is futile. Agreed?
[Ed: Ah, but I never said ANYTHING about my gut instincts.]
But if you say you can logically prove it, then that's when the argument truly begins.
It's like saying that 2 + 2 = 5 is not as wrong as 2 + 2 = 47,231 - you have to objectively show that one proposition is further off the track than the other. (although it's hard to objectively gauge "futher off the track" when religion is concerned, I admit, so this may be a bit of a wrong metaphor)
Concessions are one thing -but lest you let pride master you, let me remind you of my real feelings in this matter: "i but marshal a fraction of my powers towards this pitiful debate. to use more would be a waste... i'm just providing practical criticism in case you meet another foe - it'd be embarrassing for me to have admitted i sparred with one of your feeble standard."
[Ed: Unlike you, I don't need to keep piling layers onto other people's arguments and complicating them till they you hope they give up, confused, annoyed and irritated by the disparate irrelevant trains of thought, none of which are less than a mile from the original topic of debate.
Unlike you too, I don't have perfect recall skills.
The thing is, for every point I bring up, you heap endless quantities of qualifications onto it to nullify it. If we proceed like that, no point I make will ever be valid.
This is unfair. You're a Uni student. And a debater too.
I have a mere Higher Secondary Certificate, and have been in atrophy for 13 months.]
The amount of research that I've had to do...
"and i note that you remain silent under my withering onslaught
yet another opponent's fallacies silenced and defeated by **** **'s noble debating crusade for truth."
At least I got some concessions from him:
"Parables .. good one. I had to think a fair bit and actually dig up some old notes before I could answer you."
Bodiam Castle is one of the quintessential ones, alongside places like the Tower of London and Crac des Chevaliers (or, as I prefer to spell it, Krek des Chevaliers) Bodiam's visage is familiar, its sheer walls rising from the moat. Inside, however, it is less complete and its dilapidated state is more evident. Furthermore, it was rather muddy and wet that day, so my shoes got sullied and soaked. I should've brought my stout pair of outdoor walking shoes (as I observed many other visitors to the sites I went to doing, changing into them just as they exited their vehicles).
Before we left Bodiam, we had National Trust Elderflower Sorbet. Wonderful!
Then we drove down to Hastings. Or rather, the site of the Battle Of Hastings, a town which is, very imaginatively, called "Battle", built around Battle Abbey (which was built by William the Conqueror to do penance for the blood he had shed in 1066), sited on top of Senlac Hill.
Though it was drizzling and very windy, I deigned to take the "Battlefield Walk", which took me and Kheng Hwa across the battlefield. It was very wet and muddy - if Bodiam was bad, this was 5 times as bad. At the end, just before we left, I espied two people who'd dressed up in period dress in the gift shop - a Norman Knight (with arrows for demonstration purposes) and a Saxon Huskarl (who looked a little sad because the American Tourists didn't want to talk to him, being fascinated with the more glorious and chainmail clad Norman).
At night, I saw La Boheme. It's the first opera I've watched, I think, and I don't think, after this, I want to watch any more. I hate constant vibrato, I couldn't understand what was going on despite having read the plot outline in the program before the show and I dosed off a few times. The music (the only thing I could understand) was okay, I guess, appropriate but not very striking. Or maybe that's because I wasn't awake during the nicer songs.
Yeah, I'm lousy. I'm not an Opera Person. I think I prefer Aeschylus, Sophocles or Aristophanes, at least from those of their plays that I've read.
I know that most or all operas were written for a popular audience, and the combination of song and action is meant to keep you occupied so you won't fall asleep - which is partially why opera is the or one of the most popular aspects of "High Culture" today. It is also understandable (if you understand Italian or have memorised the English version of the script, at least), unlike the bulk of extant plays which are arty-farty/angsty/deliberately obtuse.
On the 30th, I popped into the British Museum to see what was new since the time I breezed through its halls and saw everything. There was an Albrecht Dürer exhibition, of his Renaissance art, which I would've wanted to see but the queue was too long. There were also two minor items - one of Graphic (lit) War Scenes in Islamic Literature and the other of some minor trinkets that Charles Mason had unearthed in Afghanistan. Neither were very impressive (but then, I have high standards).
Outside the British Museum, I had a hotdog. It was £2.50 - 50p more than in 2001! I expressed my concern to the vendor and he claimed that the rates the council was charging were ridiculous and kept going up. Right.
After that I trudged down to the Science Museum for the James Bond exhibition. Only to be informed it was fully booked until 5:30pm. Apparently only a limited number of people are allowed in each time. Maybe they're afraid someone will steal the shoe with the knife in it. Anyhow later, after my sister advised me to eat out instead of returning home for dinner, I went to the ticket booth for the James Bond exhibition again, only to find that it was sold out for the day :(
So I ended up browsing the immense hulk of the Science Museum. Among other things, I saw ploughs, Arabic chocolate, a V-1 and a sword that Japanese doctors used to carry (they used to carry swords? Wow.). The place was just overwhelming. I had some time to spare after I got weary of the Science Museum, but I cared not to look at Victorian tables, footstools and steel grates at the Victoria and Albert, so I went to my show have an early dinner before my show - a McChicken Premiere. Very nice, it was, with salsa, sour cream and chive sauce and a focaccia bun.
That night, I viewed HMS Pinafore at the Savoy Theatre, burnt down in 1381 by William Tyler and friends, where it was first performed. Now, why anyone in the Royal Navy would christen a ship after a piece of female outergarment is beyond my comprehension, and I didn't see any of the cast, female or otherwise donning pinafores either. Maybe Gilbert and Sullivan were trying to send subliminal messages about cross dressing and transsexualism, seeing that the show features strapping young men prancing around in sailor suits.
The show was pleasant and funny and - thank god - there was little vibrato. Nice music, and from a 125 year old show too. Some of the jokes were a little corny though, some sailors -did- salute wrongly (not that I care, this is simply a POI), and for all the 'rank doesn't matter' talk, the ending reinforced the conception that it does - very much so. And there was the hearty British nationalism, with all the patriotic ditties. Twas worth queueing up for 45 mins at tkts (formerly known as The Official Half Price Ticket Booth)
Anyhow, the bar offered free ice, water and lemon slices - a nice gesture on their part. And during the intermission, there was ice cream being sold at a very reasonable price - £1.50 for 125ml of Loseley Strawberry Ice Cream, and the usher was very helpful and helped me throw away the empty tub.
The car my brother in law rented lets the driver control the radio from his right side. Wah.
I thought Britain had moved to the metric system in the 1970s. So why do they still use miles and yards on their highways to measure distances?
People seem enjoy life more in Britain. I saw very few skeletal figures compared to Singapore, and a good deal more cellulite too :)
The woman sitting behind me at La Boheme put her legs on the seat to my left. Gah.
What are all the "open" buttons on London Tube Trains for? They're totally useless and non-functional (except on the Docklands Light Rail, which isn't strictly part of the underground).
I swear that there were more Americans than British present in London. The demographic breakdown was roughly: Americans, British, French. And there were many PRCs too.
The Savoy Hotel is so exclusive, there are 2 armchairs in the toilet adjoining the male cloakroom. Do people actually sit there and smoke their cigars?
My feet hurt many afternoons :(
"Wow! Welcome to the Azn.nu! We have lots of free services just for ASIANS only!" Haha.
Me: I don't know who Heidegger is :) and don't know much about Nietzsche. He said "God is dead". His first name was Frederich. And was German (I think). That's most of what I know :)
He Who Must Not Be Named: Your knowledge of Nietzsche is stunning - and, disturbingly, above average for most singaporeans.
Later: "your insolence and sheer insensitivity is refreshing at times."
The preceding covered more than half of the remainder :) The end is in sight!
Saturday, January 04, 2003
After he'd run off to meet his mother, Andrew and I wandered to Borders. I saw Zhixiang walking forlornly looking for books on architecture so I crept up behind him and stalked him for a while, revealing myself only when I got bored. We talked for a while, and then Xiaoshi strolled by with what looked like small stones strung on 2 strands of her hair. It was only towards the end, when she had to run off, that I realised that the 2 things hanging there were her earrings. Serendipitous coincidences indeed. (And Andrew agrees with me that Wang Yi's appraisal was very wrong indeed :) )
I saw a man riding pillon behind a woman on a motorcycle today. Ooo.
The Body Shop is evil, despite preaching its mantra of Corporate Social Responsibility. They have no price tags on most of their merchandise, so you have to ask the staff for the prices (or find out at the cashier and be embarassed and buy something that is overpriced). Almost as bad, there is no fine print written on their "Weekly Special" sign, so you don't know that, to get the product at $5, you need to buy something else. I was really tempted to ask them what the cheapest product in the store was. And as I was browsing, the saleswoman tried to convince me to get the $44.90 1 litre "family pack" of bath gel. Bah.
Bought in Borders today:
Fast Food Nation
The Nanny Diaries
Why Do People Hate America?
I'll probably get down to reading them in a few months. This is why I don't go to the library often - I usually leave the books lying around for the longest time before starting on them.
For his seventh birthday, Michael Wong-Sasso got down and dirty, totally trashed--well, you know.
The grade schooler is passionately interested in garbage trucks, compost and recycling -- and dreams of being a trash hauler when he grows up. So he convinced his parents to bypass the usual kiddie venues and toss him a party on Saturday at a real dump.
Landfill operator Browning-Ferris Industries agreed to the unusual plan, and set about preparing an odor- and trash-free spot on the edge of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in suburban Los Angeles, wheeling in piles of fresh dirt to accommodate 82 little feet.
Michael and 40 of his friends were so happy as they scampered over mounds of dirt, pushing a variety of toy back hoes, bulldozers and dump trucks. The kids also made animals from homemade clay and recycled materials, and got an up-close tour of the landfill, Sophia Wong, Michael's mother said.
"In addition to that we had a ranger bring live animals native to the landfill. He brought ... a black widow spider, a python, a stuffed rattler, a falcon, a dwarf rabbit. He brought pine cones and showed where some had been eaten. "
Wong and Sasso are restaurant owners and never had a special interest in trash until Michael, at age two, began showing an unusual interest in trailing garbage trucks through the neighborhood, his mother said, noting that "trash" and "truck" were among his first words.
"As a 4-year-old he wrote a book about our local trash collector, Gilbert Gregory, and what he does during his daily route," she said.
On their return from their trip, the father asked his son,
"How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad."
"Did you see how poor people can be?" the father asked.
"Oh Yeah" said the son.
"So what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.
The son answered,
"I saw that we have one dog and they had four. Our dog's a pedigree and his coat's shining and free from lice and ticks. He goes to the veterinarian for a checkup every half a year and his gut is free of worms. He's going to live a long and healthy life. Their dogs are all mongrels, 2 are lame and the other 2 are blind - the family was too poor to remove the cataracts from their eyes. They're so full of parasites that you can see the ticks jumping up and down from a metre away. Eeek!
We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden. It is clean and crystal clear and we swim in it every weekend. They have a creek that has no end - it's muddy and stinks like someone tipped the entire contents of an outhouse into it. I think I saw a dead rabbit floating on it, and I hear the last guy who tried swimming in it got dysentry and died a horrific death!
We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. However, we can always go out to the park and enjoy a nice evening, while their landscape is horrific to behold, having suffered the depredations of farming. I remember my history - parts of their lands look like the Dust Bowl of the 1920s.
Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. I really pity the master of the house. He must have a whole lot of gardening and weeding to do. However, I saw the landlords coming to collect the rent, and they can't pay, so I think they're going to be evicted soon. The farmer may have to sell his family into neverending slavery and work for the rest of his life trying to pay off his debts. This is all due to the law that Congress just passed in favour of all the rich farmers, which leaves the poorer ones struggling to stay afloat. Luckily, we are rich and politically connected, belonging to several lobbies so never will we be so hit.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. However, our home is manicured and furnished, while their fields are overgrown. And I don't think I'd want to spend a night outdoors there. They have wolves out there: ferocious, slathering beasts.
We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. Their hourly wage hardly compensates for their time, and their masters bully and cuss at them.
We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We get Black Sea Caviar to eat, enjoy pasteurised chocolate milk and have sweet juicy corn, but they have only bitter rye bread to eat everyday, with a slice of rancid cheese a week sometimes if they're lucky.
We have walls around our property to protect us, but wolves and burglars can terrorise them at anytime, while their friends are in farms tens of kilometres away.
"With this the boy's father was proud. Then his son added, "Thanks dad for showing me how lucky we are."
Too many times we read inspirational tracts and forget the reality of the situation. What is one person's worthless object is another's prize possession. The grass is always greener on the other side, until you GET to the other side and truly experience all the horrors attendant.
NB: If the farmer was so poor, how come he has so much land?
--- Adapted from a post I made in a forum after being disgusted by all those disingenuous inspirational stories
After Dover Castle, we went to a spot with a supposedly good view of the White Cliffs of Dover, run by the National Trust. It was rather disappointing. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps the images of the dazzling white cliffs that you always see are doctored or maybe the best view of the shimmering cliffs is when you take a ferry from Calais, but the cliffs looked dull, even greyish at parts, to me. The National Trust scones with clotted cream and preserve were nice, though, as was their ice cream :) Now I know how they can survive without government money (even maintaining mostly houses and gardens is somewhat expensive).
After that was Canterbury, a short drive away. For some reason, it closed ridiculously early, at 2:30pm or so, and when we arrived, the last visitor - a Japanese, had just entered. Luckily, my sister, having guided there in the past, knew some side entrances, so we sneaked in ever so quietly, and she gave me a mini-tour of the place. At certain areas, medieval grafitti is covered with glass panels to preserve it. Pretty ironic - yesterday's nuisance is today's historical evidence. I wonder if modern grafitti will be, 200 years from now, preserved under synthetic-fibre panes too.
There was much less stained glass inside Canterbury Cathedral than I thought there would be, it being expensive to make, and it doesn't help that much was smashed during the Reformation. Where the tomb of St Thomas Becket used to lie, only a candle remains, its single flame the sole reminder of the erstwhile tomb. Smashed during the Reformation too!
After that I went to St Augustine's Abbey, which had very slippery surfaces. As usual, English Heritage provided excellent audioguides, though I didn't manage (or bother) to listen to all of the recordings.
Wandering through all of the places that I've been yearning to visit since Primary School really makes me aware of how much of my touch I've lost *frown*
Last for the day was this former church, converted into a place where the Canterbury Tales are retold with the aid of Animatronics. Well, 5 of the tales anyway - probably the more amusing ones. And at the end you get to vote for which tale should have won. I must get down to reading the rest of the Canterbury Tales someday. The book is actually lying somewhere in my sister's room, and I've tried reading it before, but I got put off by the irritating rhyme scheme - AABBCCDDEE ad nauseum.
We had some fish and chips, and I a Chocolate Orange McFlurry (I think) before heading home. Through the trip, we didn't eat out much, as my sister likes to cook (and it is cheaper to eat in). Also, she was showcasing all the nice prepared food available there (Yorkshire Pudding! Though the reason why it is called Pudding when it is savoury eludes me. Probably the same reason why Mincemeat Pies are sweet. Weird English).
Saturday was a glorious sunny day. We went first to Avebury. The town is built right smack in the middle of the henge. It must be rather spooky living in the town of Avebury, with all the stones and menhirs around you - some extremely close to your house. And from a distance (and in suitably photographed postcards), it can be seen just how nicely the village fits into the stone circles - the old ditch marking the border of the henge can be seen, so. My sister and brother in law were very pleased with Avebury, not having been there before, and they remarked that it was better than Stonehenge (something I doubted and vigorously denied after seeing the latter later) since you could actually go up to, and touch, the stones.
On the way to Stonehenge, we went hunting for White Horses. Reading a 70p pamphlet that I had bought, I was disappointed to find out the the oldest White Horse dated from the 18th Century (AD, naturally). I'd always been under the impression that the Celts had carved them out of the soil (well, there was -one- White Horse made by them, but some idiot thought it didn't look like a horse and dug a new one - the oldest extant one today - to replace it). After some searching, we found one hidden under the shadow of a hill rather far from the road - the Pewsey White Horse. I suppose it would have been glaringly obvious if the sun had been shining on it, but as it is, we almost missed if, if it hadn't been for my eagle eyed searching.
Stonehenge was impressive, being the only major structure in the locality. Pity that there was a rope cordon, but I suppose it's necessary so idiots don't go and write "Tom was here" on the altar stone, or hack some chips off one of the lintel stones for keeps. The audioguide was magnificent, even by English Heritage standards, and this time I listened to everything they had to say, though I did know more than half of it already (Yeh, I haven't deteriorated that much yet).
Further down the road was Salisbury. Old Sarum, being on the outskirts of Salisbury, was the first stop. While my sister and brother in law went to play with a cat, I trudged across the bridge, with the 40 foot deep chasm (the defensive rampart) yawning below me, into the grounds of the keep. It's a pity that the castle is in ruins. It must have been magnificent in its heyday.
Later, we went down to the town of Salisbury itself. Leaving my sister and brother in law to her shopping, I went to Salisbury Cathedral. In theory, you don't need to pay an admission fee to enter, but the way they arranged the cordons and entrances, you have to pass by what looks suspiciously like a ticket booth, with a list of "suggested" donation amounts for Adults, Students and Children. Bah. Despite their efforts, I was one of the few I saw who donated there. At the door, anyway.
Salisbury Cathedral was built in only 38 years. Of course, this is probably largely due to the fact that they plundered a lot of stone from the cathedral that used to stand on the site of Old Sarum, but nonetheless 38 years is quite remarkable, and it meant that the cathedral was actually built in 1 style - Early English Gothic, and wasn't a mish-mash of architectural styles. When I entered, a marriage was taking place, so I had to wait a while before going to look at the pews and the organs. In the chapter house of the cathedral, I finally saw one of the four extant copies of the Magna Carta, and the most readable of the 4 too. Despite it being almost 800 years old, it is remarkably well preserved and wonderfully legible.
While waiting for my sister to go to Evensong, I was browsing in the local Past Times. I bought a Oscar Wilde Quote T-Shirt (I've nothing to declare but my genius - New York Customs, 1882) for someone :)
Later I attended an Evensong service, which I believe is unique to the Anglican church. My brother in law has been dragged along by my sister. I pity him sometimes, being dragged along by her to so many things he is not interested in. I dare say that he has forced himself to take an interest in some of them, just so he will not be bored out of his wits :)
On the 29th, my sister didn't feel like coming along, so it was just my brother in law and me. The first stop was Lullingstone Roman Villa. We sort of got lost on the way there due to poor signage, but we eventually made it there without significant delay. The ruins of the villa are rather well preserved, and as usual there was the informative EH audioguide, but as the villa had been promoted on the merits of its mosaics, I was expecting something rather spectacular. In the end, I saw rather intact, but slightly dull mosaics of 'Rape of Europa by Jupiter' and 'Bellerophon riding Pegasus killing the Chimaera' (or Chimera, as I prefer to spell it).
It's such a pity that we don't have Fanta in Singapore anymore. It isn't quite as rich as Root Beer, nor does it have as much character. In fact, sometimes it's rather too acerbic, but it's welcome anyway.
The classic McFlurry flavour, Oreos, isn't available in Britain. Pity!
My brother in law always drives my sister around, and she always scolds him when he misses a turning or gets lost, so I asked her why she didn't take over the wheel. She replied that she'd crash the car. So one can't navigate, and one can't drive. A perfect combination :)
This gate will be locked at 4pm prompt (sharp)
Heron Quays is now re-open (re-opened)
Brother in law:
[On a Friji fresh thick chocolate flavoured milkshake] This tastes really vile... give me some more
[On the National Trust ice cream] Too bad Battle Abbey is English Heritage, or we can try another ice cream.
And that was about 2/9 of the remainder of what I have scribbled :)
Being a perfectionist in certain areas, I went to debug the mystery of the wrapping on Balderdash.
After a short while, I'd pinned the problem down to this block of text, hammered out by He Who Must Not Be Named (naturally):
"It also occurred to me lately that I only blog when in narcisstic,play-with-locks-of-hair-while-self-mutilating -and-watching-lazy-cigarette-smoke-trails-as-mind-locks-into-depressive-brooding- anti-heroic-moments-of-darkest-despair-when-the-light-of-the-world-seems-crushed-by- onslaught-of-stupidity-and-misunderstanding-by-unwashed-philistines-unable-to-appreciate- my-greatness-or-the-profound-depths-of-my-suffering-soul kind of moods. That might explain the rather unbalanced portrayal of my mental states through these entries. I'm depressed, really a very happy chappie. Really."
Apparently essay length chains of hyphenated words do not go down well with Mozilla. Ahem.
This is bug 95067 - very long words in table cells do not wrap (such as hyphens).
Most of the trip, I enjoyed balmy October weather, so I happily walked around with 2 layers on top and one below. I've always been more sensitive to heat than to cold - which is why I delight in visiting temperate countries when it's a season other than summer.
I wonder how people in temperate countries survive during summer. The whole infrastructure and mindset in those countries is geared towards defeating the Cold, so in summer, it must be terribly sweltering without air conditioning ; yet another reason why I prefer not to visit temperate countries in summer.
I'm still very much a sucker for those people who go around asking you for money to buy something to eat (and who, in all probability, go and buy drugs or alcohol). While I was waiting forlornly for my Sulyn and Kheng Hwa to pick me from Paddington Station - almost all public transport being closed on Christmas Day - this man of African descent approached me to ask for money to eat, and me, not having the heart to refuse, gave him a pound. I think I shall carry around excess field rations the next time I go to places where the likelihood of bumping into this sort of people is high and when they ask for money to buy something to eat, I'll just give them the big packet of "Pineapple Rice With Chicken". Hah!
When I entered my sister and brother in law's flat, I was struck by the relative neatness of the living room - it only looked like a "pigsty" (mother's descriptive term). However, when I stepped into their bedroom, I was confronted with a "warzone" (another of my mother's descriptive terms) - even more ravaged than what their bedroom in Singapore had been like. Apparently the living room had been okay only because they'd spent a night cleaning up before I arrived, so. The ultimate proof of the disarray that their room was in - they refused to let me take a photograph of it!
My mother has wonderful communication skills. Before I left, I'd been appalled at the amount of baking/cooking material that she alleged that my sister wanted me to bring to London, but my mother claimed that my sister wanted all of it. On seeing all the rubbish I'd brought, my sister declaimed that she had not asked for at least half of the stuff. My mother had just made me take to London the remainder of the cooking materials that my sister had left behind!
On closer inspection, one packet was of some Italian walnut bread (or something), which had come in a hamper (ie not my sister's) and was EXPIRED. But the one that topped the lot was a packet of Cajun Chicken and Potato Wedge seasoning/sprinkle which my sister had bought in... you guessed it - England. My mother also told my sister that I didn't like the crisps that she was shipping me, and that she shouldn't ship anymore - totally untrue ; I love them, I just have a lot here already. She must be hallucinating.
On Boxing Day, many places were still closed ; I don't really blame them - compared to Singapore, they have much fewer public holidays, so I suppose even the blue collar workers want a 1-2 day break over Christmas. Anyhow, in the morning I visited a wonderful Aztec exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, a "once in a lifetime opportunity" (bah). The Aztec feather art was really magnificent, as were the statues - I still remember the one of the skeletal figure with his liver hanging outside his abdominal cavity - and the audio tours were quite fun too - I experienced most of both the "Family Tour" (Read: Tailored for Kids, with excerpts from the cassette tape journals of some guy who putatively visited the Aztec Empire in 1521), which was quite fun and self-ironic really, and the "Adult Tour".
After that I went to torture my legs by doing one of the London Walks. As with the last one, this Walk was fun and informative. Oddly, the guide for the walk was American :) We were told the story of the Statue of a Lion, made of Coade stone, that stands as Westminster bridge. Apparently the stone is well nigh indestructible and its formula not been duplicated since the original was lost when the woman who cooked it up died. Apparently, this tidbit is de rigueur among London tour guides and interestingly, a book my sister has, Eccentric London by Benedict le Vay, rubbishes this. But I digress horribly.
Another tidbit that was dropped to us: In 2000, all the Japanese tourists who visited London somehow got it into their heads that the statue of Boadicea that stands near the Houses of Parliament was of Margaret Thatcher. On hearing that, we all burst into uproarious laughter. This anecdote is so strange, it might even be true!
Intelligent me hadn't brought my camera, and before the walk started, I tried to go all the way to Canary Wharf to get my camera, but gave up a while after running out of the station because I knew I wouldn't be able to make it. Anyway, in the end there wasn't anything that I'd have snapped a photo of, me having taken pictures of the general Westminster area except for the back-street saloons in 2001. Or maybe it was just an unconscious separation of my photo-taking urges, so I wouldn't feel so bad about not being to take any.
Aside: Most of my photos are scattered, anyhow, and I rarely look at them. In my life, I might *just* feel the urge to smile forlornly at them once or twice, so taking photographs shouldn't be *too* important to me. Furthermore, compulsive photo taking disorder disgusts me, so I tend to gravitate to the other extreme. Really memorable scenes will forever be imprinted in our minds, so what's the point of photographic records, really?
I'm rambling horribly.
The origins of the white round-coloured splotches continue to puzzle me. The most plausible explanation is that the splotches are actually ossified gum - but do Londoners really chew that much gum? And are so many of them so inconsiderate as to just spit it on the pavements?
It's so nice to just walk into big supermarkets - a Tesco, Sainsburys or even Asda, and be overwhelmed by the range of produce and products available. You can get by without cooking at all, with all the prepared meals that they have for sale. Too bad they don't sell Root Beer (though I *did* see one brand of it hidden somewhere on one shelf).
Apparently Disgusting Chick (perhaps better known to laymen as 'Groovy Chick') her not only a line of stationery, but a range of food products too. Wonderful. And she has friends - Disco Diva, Cool Dude and others. ARGH.
On the 27th, I visited Dover Castle. I would have had to pay for admission, but the man at the ticket booth claimed that since my sister and brother in law were life members of English Heritage (which they aren't), I could go in free. He was so confident that we didn't want to argue with him, so :)
Dover Castle is really quite splendid. Having been useful to its occupants through to the 1980s, it is not in the state of disrepair that many other castles are in. The place was advertised as having a "Saxon Church", but when I reached the church I found that most of it wasn't Saxon in origin. So much for seeing splendidly preserved Saxon architecture. Twas from Dover, too, that Dunkirk was planned, and we got a rather thorough tour of the World War II tunnels. The view of the English Channel from the crest of the hill on top of which the castle is perched was rather stunning, though it was rather spoiled by the town of Dover far below and its port (with breakwaters that extended far beyond the shore).
This is just a tenth of what was left scribbled on my little piece of paper when I started this post. Scary, ain't it? :0
Friday, January 03, 2003
I had a hair cut today in camp at my unit barber. ARGH. He mustn't have been feeling very jolly today. My hair, and the hair of others who visited him, looks horrible (like someone put a bowl on my head and then shaved what the bowl didn't cover). Not that I care very much, but I paid for the haircut, dammit. It was actually okay the last time. Maybe he had a bad day.
I also found out that the 46 SAR barber practices 3rd degree Price Discrimination. Gasp.
"Her mother, Madam Kintan Beyo, 35, added: 'My child has reached puberty, I instructed her to put on the tudung. That is my decision.
'Even if she doesn't want to wear the tudung, I will force her to wear the tudung forever.'"
Sigh. That's so repellant. I agree with the government's stand, actually (See? Who says I'm anti-establishment just for the sake of it) - if you want to be enrolled in a public school with rules, you have to follow them. Especially if you don't have to pay school fees. Though the Singh exemption is still a glaringly unjustified omission - the government tends to go along with colonial inertia when it suits them.
Busts to get a boost through dance
BANGKOK - Thailand's Health Ministry will launch a troupe of specially trained bosom-enhancing dancers on Valentine's Day to show women how to boost their bustlines without resorting to ill-fitting and often expensive bras.
Ms Pennapa Subcharoen, deputy director-general of the ministry's department of traditional medicine, said Thai women had been bombarded with images of big-busted women via the media and many felt they were inadequate.
'Many women are not aware that wearing an appropriate size of bra and regularly taking bosom-firming dance can make their wish come true,' she said.
'So we are training 12 pairs of instructors to teach women how to take care of their breasts and we plan to launch (lessons) on Valentine's Day.' --Reuters
Also: All classrooms in the new PJC campus will have names which must start with the letter P. Some suggestions: "pernicious", "paganostic", "pathalogical", "petophobic", "phoneisa", "plonk", "polio", "procrastination", "promiscuity", "puritan", "phenology", "petard", "poppycock".
Amusing sounding book: Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
2 reviews of a book Ban Xiong borrowed - "Darwin's Black Box (The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution) by Michael J. Behe ©1996 The Free Press, New York" : Praise and a Rebuttal
Somehow I find the latter more convincing :)
[On my haircut at 42 SAR's barber on a bad day] I don't know. [You] remind me of some cartoon character from Dragonball.
I just love the year end Economist issues. The Christmas specials are always so delectable.
What's more, they're putting all of them online for free too. Whee! Those I -especially- favour have an asterisk beside them.
*The post-communist Karl Marx
*Barbie: a life in plastic
The future is Texas
*The fight for God
Trucking in Africa
*That's what they want you to believe
Who killed JFK?
Eating out in Vietnam
Nomadism in Mongolia
It's a dog's life
Learning from the Republicans and the Tories
The champagne industry
The earliest ambassadors
*In praise of clutter
*The cult of the gym
Fast food in the dock
Are we getting enough sleep?
The English language across frontiers
SAJC is damn fast in posting their Orientation pictures - they go up on the day they're taken.
The J1s all look nonchalent at the prospect of being strangled by the striped tie for a year and 8 months.
In fact, they have high quality photos of so many of their school functions. So much more on the ball than the RJ Photographic Society :) (Though they don't include any pictures of their new campus under construction)
Thursday, January 02, 2003
At the rate I'm going, I don't forsee myself finishing this post anytime soon
Going into the departure area at Changi when I left, I saw a policewoman with long hair. Apparently my source is wrong about hair requirements.
The outbound flight was gloriously empty - no one was behind my row, nor to my side, so I had 3 seats to myself. No one wants to fly to London on Christmas Day (and with good reason too - there's almost no transport available). I believe the last time I flew in an aircraft this empty, it was around the time of the Gulf War, on a flight to Tokyo.
Ma-laysia Airlines really keeps improving. It gets (sorta) better each time I take it, and it's still cheaper, flying via KLIA, than many other airlines. The only thing is the Halal food and the announcements in Malay that usually more than 90% of the passengers don't understand. At least they don't court death by reciting the "Trouble Prayer" before every flight, as does Gulfair. I wonder if they're still losing money.
I was quite surprised to get a letter, before I left, from my parents. Well, I suspect it was mostly from my mother, and my father affixed his name to it, but it's a nice thought nonetheless, especially coming from their often reticent and distant (at least compared to non-Asian) facades. It was quite forthright and had the usual parently advice, but I'm surprised and dismayed that they *still* think that the purpose of "Improve Your English" is to get back at people I don't like. There were also some allusions to certain unpleasant matters. Sometimes I wonder if they know more than they're letting on.
Perhaps I am under a spell. I swear that I adjusted my watch back 7 hours when I was flying to Heathrow, and adjusted it forward 8 hours when I was returning to Kuala Lumpur. Weird.
I usually do not send cards or gifts to people.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not only because I'm lazy. The twin perils of sending out solid evidence of your tidings are that you will have to make a list, but will inevitably leave people out and feel bad and/or offend them, and that you feel obliged to give things to people you don't want to.
This time, I only got 4 people things. Maybe 3 people. I'll see if someone misbehaves :) Hee hee.
Ger tells me this Chinese High boy asked them where the toilet was, and he bowed to them before and after asking.
H.M.S. Pinafore: Song No. 10 -- Act I
A British tar
A very imperialist and idealistic song, but nice to listen to anyway :) I'd have included the full lyrics, but the formatting wrecked my layout, so.
I'm an Ordinary Man
"I find the moment that a woman makes friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. And I find the moment that I make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. So here I am, a confirmed old bachelor, and likely to remain so."
Well after all, Pickering, I'm an ordinary man,
Who desires nothing more than an ordinary chance,
to live exactly as he likes, and do precisely what he wants...
An average man am I, of no eccentric whim,
Who likes to live his life, free of strife,
doing whatever he thinks is best, for him,
Well... just an ordinary man...
BUT, Let a woman in your life and your serenity is through,
she'll redecorate your home, from the cellar to the dome,
and then go on to the enthralling fun of overhauling you...
Let a woman in your life, and you're up against a wall,
make a plan and you will find,
that she has something else in mind,
and so rather than do either you do something else
that neither likes at all
You want to talk of Keats and Milton,
she only wants to talk of love,
You go to see a play or ballet, and spend it searching
for her glove, Let a woman in your life
and you invite eternal strife,
Let them buy their wedding bands for those anxious little hands...
I'd be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling
than to ever let a woman in my life, I'm a very gentle man,
even tempered and good natured
who you never hear complain,
Who has the milk of human kindness
by the quart in every vein,
A patient man am I, down to my fingertips,
the sort who never could, ever would,
let an insulting remark escape his lips
Very gentle man...
But, Let a woman in your life,
and patience hasn't got a chance,
she will beg you for advice, your reply will be concise,
and she will listen very nicely, and then go out
and do exactly what she wants!!!
You are a man of grace and polish,
who never spoke above a hush,
all at once you're using language that would make
a sailor blush, Let a woman in your life,
and you're plunging in a knife,
Let the others of my sex, tie the knot around their necks,
I prefer a new edition of the Spanish Inquisition
than to ever let a woman in my life I'm a quiet living man,
who prefers to spend the evening in the silence of his room,
who likes an atmosphere as restful as
an undiscovered tomb,
A pensive man am I, of philosophical joys,
who likes to meditate, contemplate,
far for humanities mad inhuman noise,
Quiet living man....
But, let a woman in your life, and your sabbatical is through,
in a line that never ends comes an army of her friends,
come to jabber and to chatter
and to tell her what the matter is with YOU!,
she'll have a booming boisterous family,
who will descend on you en mass,
she'll have a large wagnarian mother,
with a voice that shatters glass,
Let a woman in your life,
Let a woman in your life,
Let a woman in your life I shall never let a woman in my life.
A Hymn To Him
Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating vacillating,
calculating, agitating, Maddening and infuriating hats!
Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up like their father instead?
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you're with them, you're always at ease.
Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?
Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?
Why can't a woman be like you?
One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then there's one with slight defects;
One, perhaps, whose truthfulness you doubt a bit.
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!
Why can't a woman behave like a man?
Men are so friendly, good natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find.
If I were hours late for dinner, would you bellow?
If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?
Would you complain if I took out another fellow?
Why can't a woman be like us?
Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so decent, such regular chaps.
Ready to help you through any mishaps.
Ready to buck you up whenever you are glum.
Why can't a woman be a chum?
Why is thinking something women never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
Straight'ning up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don't they straighten up the mess that's inside?
Why can't a woman be more like a man?
If I were a woman who'd been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub over flowing?
And carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I'm going?
Why can't a woman be like me?
- looking for someone's bloody head spiked on a gibbet, hanging from the Tower of London.
- trudging up interminable passages in the labyrinth that is the undergound
- getting drenched in the light, intermittent patter.
- striding cheerfully through the crisp, cool October-weather air
- snuggling, 3 people, in a Queen sized bed
- nice McFlurry flavours like Terry's Chocolate Orange and Crunchie
- using a 3rd Century BC Chinese Lodestone Compass to find a vaguely precise direction for south east, dancing wildly, thrusting my fist in the air and screaming, "You can't get me while I'm here. Hah!".
Back to the reality of the nightmare. Just under 17 months and 2 weeks more to go.
At least I look forward to seeing my dear colleagues again :)
More detailed blog about trip will follow in time.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
Damn, I am loath to fly off and return to Singapore. And Sungei Gedong the night of the 2nd.