"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Quote of the Post: "Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely- read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely." - Hesketh Pearson, Common Misquotations (1934), Introduction

***

Tasmania Travel Journal, Part 3:

General Comments

In Launceston there was a night tour available to go and see Fairy Penguins (aka Little Penguins). But unlike for the more popular and commercialised Penguin Parade on Phillip Island near Melbourne, non-flash photography was allowed on this one, unlike for the former (for which they're still offering a semi-lame explanation).

In Singapore, my mother's room is like a freezer, but overseas she dresses like she's in the arctic. Go figure.

Aussie coins are wretchedly big and heavy.

Apparently guilingao contains turtle :0

Day 5 - Launceston

In the morning, I felt that there was a buildup of pressure in my alimentary canal. My mother claimed that it was due to over-consumption of carbonated drinks, though past empirical evidence had shown no correlation between the two.

At breakfast, I didn't eat much - perhaps a few grams of scrambled eggs, a few baked beans, a small sausage, a poached egg minus the yolk and a small bowl of cornflakes. On returning to the room, I wanted to spend an hour or so huddling beneath the blankets and feeling sorry for myself, but my parents, not understanding the concepts of fixed and variable costs and the old adage "penny wise, pound foolish", forced me to go on a 3 hour long Launceston city tour because it had "already been paid for". Using similar logic, I suppose I would have had to go even if I had just been discharged from hospital following a car accident.


For the first part of the tour, I didn't feel so bad. We visited the City Park and saw an enclosure with Japanese Macaques.

After a while on the replica tram, though, I started feeling sicker. Listening to the guide drone on with obvious pride about the town's 19th century buildings (including one in which anaesthesia was used for the first time... in Australia), which Launceston had a lot of since they stopped tearing down in 1950, didn't help, since 19th century buildings do not impress me if the only thing they have to recommend them is their age (you need 17th century, or at the very most 18th century buildings to do that).

The tour ended at some pub-restaurant, with a complimentary hot drink. My parents wanted to each lunch there, but by this time I was already so sick that I had lost my appetite. Letting my parents enjoy their complimentary drink and eat their lunch, but not consuming mine (pity, since it had already "been paid for"), I strode out of the restaurant and headed to Cataract Gorge.


Just "15 minutes walk from the centre of the city" (it took me maybe 10), Cataract Gorge was a sight to behold. The chairlift across it was proclaimed as (according to which source you read) either the longest single span (you knew there had to be a qualifier, didn't you?) chairlift in - wait for it - the southern hemisphere (Hah! Fancy that. And as if Zimbabwe and Argentina are much of a competition) or in the world, which apparently has had a 100% safety record since its opening in 1972. At least they weren't as implicitly dishonest as the people who proclaimed the chairlift at Arthur's Seat "Victoria's longest chairlift".


The chairlift cost $7 for a one-way trip and $8.50 for a return ticket, and one of the men operating it told me that there was a trail to return to Launceston from the side of the gorge from which I'd disembark, the "Zig Zag track", which would only take 5 mins longer to walk than the main trail, so I decided to try it, wanting to look at the view and scenery from and at the other side.


I was conned. The damn thing was actually a hiking trail: rocky and uneven, wet and muddy in many places, so steep in many others that I had to climb down rather than walk or step down, with no signposts along its length and with numerous side trails branching from it at various parts. Once again, I felt the characteristic heart pounding in chest, lungs gasping for air, waves of heat emanating from my body feeling that I seem to be getting at least once during each recent holiday.

After I finally emerged from the wilderness, I skipped Penny Royal Gunpowder Mill due to a lack of time to go to the Queen Victoria Museum at Royal Park. I was rather pissed off because my Fodor's 2002 Australia guide had said that admission was free, but when I went there I discovered that since their opening of another premises at Inveresk, they had started charging A$10 in a joint ticket for admission to both places, and I didn't particularly want to see the exhibits at the other place.


Besides seeing Tasmanian Devils, I also wanted to see Thylacines, albeit stuffed ones, and saw 2 I did. The museum also had a bronze age bracelet and spearhead - with no note as to where they had filched them from, a collection of stones (so now I know what such funky rocks as malachite, galena, aragonite and crocoite crystals look like) and the largest collection of snail shells that I had ever seen. Just like the Singapore Science Centre, they also had a sneaky money-raising exhibit, disguised as a scientific demonstration: what you do is drop a coin through a slot, and it will roll around a vortex, accelerating as the distance it travels each cycle lessens, until it reaches the bottom of the vortex, and the diameter of its orbit is almost zero - then it falls through a hole and is collected at the bottom of the apparatus, to be collected by the janitor at the end of the week.


The most exciting thing in the museum, however (besides the Tasmanian Tigers, of course) was the "No Touch Sanitary Unit" made by Initial. Notice how the motor keeps the lid up without you needing to use your hand. Ah, the wonders of modern technology!

Later, I was walking in the shopping district and I saw "scrunchie ponytail holders - also can be used as a bracelet or anklet". Bah. It's evil marketing like this that makes people screwed up.

Day 6 - Cradle Mountain

This day we went to Cradle Mountain National Park, along the way passing through and stopping in Sheffield, a town with many murals.


Thanks to Cradle Mountain being further inland and higher in altitude than Launceston, it enjoyed snowfall from time to time, like the day before we arrived and the day we were there.


I think I hadn't seen snow since Plaak, and its novelty had not worn on me (and still hasn't). With all the luscious, clean snow, it was a pity I had no one to have a snowball fight with (I threw a snowball at my mother but she didn't get the hint and only complained that it was painful).

Day 7 - Launceston

Our coach back to Hobart was scheduled to depart at 3:30pm, so we had about half a day to wander. I wanted to go off somewhere earlier, but my father said that he wanted to go there as well, so we should go together. I waited for him and we left later with my mother, but then they suddenly decided to go off in a completely different direction, wanting to walk through the park and recce the (short and distinct) route to the bus terminal for our afternoon transfer. So once again, I set off on my own, despite the paranoid protests of my mother, who was afraid that "something might happen".

Since I had the joint ticket for admission to the other premises of the Queen Victoria Museum, I decided to use it, even though the exhibits there weren't exactly captivating. There was an art gallery of ghastly modern art, for example. Even one of the better ones wasn't exactly impressive - in "Girl reading" (1955) by Jack Carington Smith, the girl looked more like a boy.

On our arrival back in Hobart, it was already 5:30pm or so, so it was cold and dark, and we didn't want to take any chances with what food outlets were open on Sunday closing before we got our dinner, so I lugged the luggage back to the hotel while my parents went to eat at Fish Frenzy and pack dinner for me. It wasn't quite as nice packed, but somebody had to lug the luggage back to the hotel and check in.

Day 8 - Hobart-Melbourne-Singapore

We flew Jetstar to Melbourne, but this time I didn't miss hearing my boarding sequence number, so I had time to examine how Jetstar didn't have as many characteristics of low cost airlines as I thought it should have:

- it had an inflight magazine
- there were reading lights
- instead of a plastic covering at the headrest, they still used the classic disposable paper cover
- there was a tray table for dining

We had almost 5 hours to wait for our connecting flight from Melbourne to Singapore, so I got to know all the airport shops very well. At one of them, they were selling weird CDs:

- "Mystical Orbits - The music of HILDEGARD von BINGEN and BIRGITTA of SWEDEN with Rumi poems."
- "The Holy Grape CD - BAROQUE & RENAISSANCE WINE DRINKING MUSIC for connoisseurs."
- "Drive to Work - The music of ANTONIO VIVALDI and HAIKU MEDITATIONS for traffic jams."
- "Get fit with JS Bach - Listen to divine music and Follow 11 illustrated exercises."
- A "Slow Down Madly Romantique Kit", including a CD with 18th century music and "ancient fragrances" (rose, jasmine, ylang ylang and sandalwood) to smell when listening to the music

Our flight back to Singapore was on British Airways. BA's "World Traveler Plus" (aka Economy Plus) Class lets you play video games from your seat, but normal Economy doesn't have any. Bah. Also, there are no individual air-conditioning vents for each seat, so we were very hot throughout the flight. However, the adjustable headrests on BA Economy seats are better than the ones on Emirates; on Emirates the headrests can be moved in the same direction that your head would move if you shook it vigorously. However, when you lean on the headrests, they tend to fold back to their original positions, so this is very annoying. On BA seats, however, the headrests can be moved in the same direction that you would nod. Thus, when you lean on them, they are firm and do not collapse.

As with Qantas, I liked BA's censorship policy. It wasn't explicity stated, but I inferred that it was similar to Qantas'. For example, "Something's gotta give" was rated "12A" - "May be unsuitable for children under 12. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult". Its content was not so explicit as to deserve the next highest rating of "15" - "This film may have a fairly adult theme. It may contain some scenes of sex and violence or some bad language".

So children over the age of 12 were treated, on the flight, to a brief shot of Diane Keaton's frontal nudity. I recall that when the same show was screened in Singapore, albeit under a PG rating (which actually means almost the same thing, for I doubt children under 12 watch movies alone), we did not get to see her aged teat, due to Singapore's insensible attitudes regarding non-sexual nudity.

Singaporean censors seem to think that glimpsing a female nipple will suddenly magically corrupt our youth. Somehow, though, exposing the rest of the breast is okay - just make sure to cover that brown bud or you'll lose that PG rating! It's also fine to make explicit references to sexual acts and activity, or even to show people in the act of coitus, as long as no female nipples can be seen. In an ironic way, I guess it is analogous to many Singaporeans' hypocritical Victorian attitudes about prurience - they publicly condemn and revile it, but secretly revel in debauchery in private. Similarly, prostitution is legal here while porn is not (the reverse of the situation in most countries. Interestingly Singapore is probably the only non-Communist, non-Muslim country to ban porn).

I was reminded of the scene in Goodbye Lenin where a West German was walking around the apartment naked. The scene was totally non-erotic: arguably it was just social commentary by the director about the decadence of the West Germans who walked about naked at home in blatant displays of immorality. As was the clip from a porn video of a woman licking whipped cream from her unnaturally huge breasts; it expressed a negative opinion about pornography (or at least that mindless variety) and painted it in a bad light.

Incidentally, I wonder what rating Eyes Wide Shut would get under the current movie rating system. The first impression it probably gave everyone was of being a graphic depiction of various mass orgies disguised as an arthouse film, due to its esteemed director. In reality, content-wise the film is as far from being a porno flick as it is possible to be, especially given the graphic sexual content in most modern media. Not only is it coldly unerotic, greatly disturbing and thus libido-dampening: the film promotes the good old fashioned values of fidelity, trust in your spouse and the futility of participating in mass orgies, even if they are quasi-religious tantric rites. Surely this is what our government, soundly grounded in traditional Asian Values (TM), wishes to promote? Anyhow, rating something R(A) or R21, if you prefer, just makes it more desirable and thus more widely watched - exactly the opposite effect they are presumably aiming for. And as a side effect, it increases piracy, so the movie industry suffers as well.m
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