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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Straw poll:

How old do you think this girl is? She plays a 14 year old in Matchstick Men.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Highlight below for the answer:

DOB:18 September 1979

Well it sure fooled me. On hindsight, though, "Now, she CAN'T be 14. Her features are too well defined for that.". Ahh, the benefits of hindsight.

Anyway I suck. More than half the people I polled on ICQ guessed at least 20. Bah.

Comments from the IMDB boards:

"When I first saw the commercial for Matchstick Men, and Nicolas Cage said something about a 14 year old daughter, I thought it was a joke - she looked at least 21, maybe more. But when I actually saw the movie, I did believe that she might be 14. Her face makes her look like she's in her 20's, but her body was a child's body: very small breasts, and a lack of body fat that's typical of barely-pubescent children. It was easier for me to believe that a child could have an adult looking face than that an adult would have a child's body, so I accepted her supposed age. I'm sure she could do well playing adult roles, though, if they dressed her to make her look a little curvier. She was a very good actress."

"I'm glad to find out that she isn't 14 years old, as depicted in Matchstick Men, because honestly, I was having dirty thoughts about her, and I would feel weird if she was really 14. Phew! Glad to know...."

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Perfect piece of software - Complete, bug-free, amazingly compact, and it does *exactly* what its designers say it will. And it's free!

Bush Sr.'s 'message' to Bush Jr. - Former President George H.W. Bush, has given his own most treasured award to Senator Edward Kennedy... The father lived his life in the service of moderate and intelligent internationalism. His manners were always meticulously courteous, as he wooed even critics overseas to see the American position. He was even-handed in the Middle East and thus brought the area to the verge of peace for the first time in history; he was capable of using force but preferred to do it supported by coalitions of friendly states, thus cementing international cooperation. The son seems to have made posturing against his father's accomplishments and beliefs his life's work.

U.S. Troops Order Comfort, With Fries on the Side - Soldiers Looking for a Taste of Home Make for a Booming Business at Iraq's First Burger King

Bush's 'spirit' cursed with black magic, tossed into river

Censorship : To Cut or Not to Cut? - "When the sons of our soil are of legal age to bear arms and die for our country, but deemed not mature to handle the sight of breasts, I am puzzled... When license plates bearing the SEX prefix are given a pass, just because they might convey certain connotations and 'offend' certain individuals, I am puzzled."

All Good No Bad - "what the market loved best about Singapore was what was absent: Politics. The country has quite literally traded politics for wealth, with its most prominent political thinkers endlessly reminding the world that "Asian values" prioritize economic achievement over civil liberties.

"The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means." --Georges Bernanos (1888-1948), French novelist and political writer.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

My Grand Tour of England and Wales - Part 6 of 6

Day 11 - Lord of the Rings-Kensington Palace-British Library-Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

On Thursday, I went to look at the Lord of The Rings exhibition which was being held at the Science Museum. The ticket was expensive - 9 pounds 95, plus 1 pound for Internet pre-booking, without which getting a ticket would've been impossible, as for last year's James Bond exhibition. The exhibition was fantastic, though it being advertised as being a travelling exhibition that would make only one stop (London) in Europe, leading me to suspect that it may come to Singapore with a ticket price substantially below what I paid.

Many props and costumes used in the film were on display, and I could ogle at them closely. The weapons all had tediously verbose inscriptions on them, but maybe they aid in battle, so. And of course there was the trivia: some of the Riders of Rohan were women with beards glued on them, and Viggo Mortensen bought his horse after filming because he'd grown so attached to it. There were also many "making of" videos. Among them, Gollum and Andy Serkis saying lines side by side, with hauntingly similar facial expressions (a testament to their face modelling and motion capture software) The way they "filmed" the battle scenes was intriguing - instead of modelling each soldier individually, they made each soldier a semi-sentient autonomous agent, with pre-defined fighting styles and behavior.

However, they were careful not to show or say anything about Return of the King. Coupled with the removal of some items which were being used for filming of Return of the King, that made the exhibition somewhat incomplete. Also, there were no chairs, so when my feet were finally giving out after viewing much of the extensive exhibition, I had to sit on the floor.

After the exhibition and in the underpass on the way to the tube station, I saw one of the rare violin buskers (you don't find any in Singapore). He kept playing the first part of Bach's Chaconne, which led me to suspect he didn't know the latter parts. My curiosity piqued, I dropped a pound and asked if he knew any Paganini. He tried playing Caprice 24 but unfortunately only managed the introductions, before being stumped and saying he needed "practice".

Leaving the busker behind, I got conned by the tube as a train didn't go where it was said to go, but eventually I ended up at Kensington Palace.

Looking at furnished interiors and Edwardian royal exhibits does not normally raise my eyebrows, but Kensington Palace was rather interesting. Ossified rituals notwithstanding, the ostrich feather plumes worn by the female wax models were cute, and it was amusing to learn that the men wore 2 sets of stockings to prevent their leg hair from being visible, and carried to court hats that couldn't be worn. In a special exhibition of Diana's dresses, commentary was available for every single one of them. I didn't want to go mad, so I skipped the commentary for most of them.

My next stop was the British Library. The exhibition "Painted Labyrinth - the World of the Lindisfarne Gospels" was on, and to flesh out the exhibition, they sneakily included a lot of non-Lindisfarne related material, going so far as to include material from China and Japan in a "Beyond The Known World" section. After a short while browsing, though, my feet gave out and I had to retreat to a place where I could sit. When I'd recovered sufficiently, I scurried hurriedly through the "Treasures of the British Library" gallery, because somehow I was under the impression that it closed at 6pm. The gallery was an eye opener as it had many significant (a term I used to diss in Sec 2, for it was overused and overrated, but which is appropriate here) objects, like the text of Beowulf, a Gutenburg bible and the last 2 copies of the 1215 Magna Carta (so now I've seen all 4). By the time I'd looked through everything, my feet were giving out again, so I couldn't look at the exciting-sounding "Rare Books and Music" gallery.

Collecting the ticket for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the last musical I was to watch, was my last task. For 25 pounds or so, it came with a free dinner (yet another lastminute.com deal) at "Break in the Border", an American restaurant beside the theatre. Here, not only did I not have to cajole the staff for water, but 2 cups came to me, the former with ice cubes and a slice of lemon - a pleasant contrast to the previous day's dinner. My appetiser was a trifle small - "half a rack" of ribs turned out to be only 3 bones' worth: maybe the ribs were of a piglet. The main course was adequate though, and tasted fine, and the person who planned the menu was very considerate, including a vegetarian option. I saw that there was a children's menu for 2 pounds 95, which sounded suspiciously cheap, but didn't pursue the matter.

While killing time before the show, I saw a sign outside a cafe advertising what must have been the cheapest English Breakfast in the world. A set with "2 Fried Eggs, Bacon, Cumberland Sausage, Grilled Mushroom, Baked Beans, Tomato, Toast" was advertised as selling for 50 pence. I was more than a little suspicious, so I went in to look at the menu and the real price was 4 pounds 95. I asked the man at the counter, and he agreed that 50 pence was "not possible". However, the lettering of the price looked genuine, so it was unlikely to have been stuck there by a vandal. One possibility is that the sign used to say 4 pounds 50, but someone removed the "4". However, the current price was 4 pounds 95, so the owners must not have bothered with correcting the sign in the long period of time since the vandalism (since there was a price increase in the interim), perhaps reasoning that it'd draw customers. In fact for all we know, the fake price could have been put there by the owners themselves to con customers!

In contrast to my seats for Joseph and Bombay Dreams, I got a seat in the "Upper Circle" for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Now, I've sat in Circle seats before, but I never knew "Upper" Circles existed. Sitting in my seat and looking down on the stage, I felt dizzy and the air seemed rarefied (or maybe it was the large crowd and poor ventilation). Further, there was so little leg room I feared getting Deep Vein Thrombosis (Economy Class Syndrome) In front of me was a binoculars for hire, for 50p, like in the Apollo Victoria. This led me to wonder if the 50p was a deposit, to be returned when the binoculars was returned, as it would be tedious to go around to all the seats to collect them, there was no slot in the holder to remove the coins from and because if not there'd be no incentive to return the binoculars.

Sitting at the top did have its perks, though, For one you can see the lines of the trapdoors from that dizzying height. Luckily, when the show started, many of us in the "Upper Circle" moved forward, as did I, so I finally could see the whole stage and stretch my legs.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:
- They made fun of Bulgaria - on the map "Vulgaria" was located approximately where Bulgaria is today
- They praised the English: "We have to be less Vulgar and more English"
- The parts where the dogs ran around on stage were fun. They're coming up with more and more gimmicks for musicals these days.
- There were many pointless numbers which were just excuses to dance and sing (ala Spirited Away excuse to draw)
- Why does the Baroness of Vulgaria hate children so much?
- The hissing of the Childcatcher is irritating
- This show was the most crowd-pleasing of the three. Probably was the children cheering.
- The female lead kept trying to sing like Julie Andrews. The one in the movie did that too, so maybe it was deliberate
- At least they didn't affect fake modesty and run off the stage after a first bow

When I got back I was hungry, so Hwa kindly drove me to the Chinese takeaway. The spring roll I bought from there, though, had leek inside. Argh.

Back to Singapore

I didn't see the point of taking a 30 pound airport shuttle, so I took the tube to Heathrow, something Jie and Hwa were somehow dead against doing. It was tolerable though and didn't take too long.

At Heathrow I was bored so I tried, for the first time, one of those prize grabbing machines which readers may know better as the "UFO Catcher". I was tempted by the watches and the 5 pound notes in casings which were up for grabs, but I was wondering what the catch was, as was this guy looking on. After 3 tries, I realised. Aiming the grabber is not that hard in and of itself even though you can only move in 2 directions, and once each too, but the casings (I was aiming for the 5 pound notes) were slippery and the grip of the grabber was awkward and lousy. So in the end I gained nothing except knowledge of how these machines make money.

Looking in the bookstore, I noticed that among the varied selection was a porn mag "for women" (niche market?) and smut for men, mostly S&M, at the top shelf of the "thriller" section (the most suitable place for those, I suppose).

While waiting for the plane, this teen girl took a picture of her teddy bear with a camera in its lap, and smarties beside its hand. She said her bear had been to New Zealand, Germany and some other places. Her mother then remarked that she felt embarassed. Maybe I should have brought Blue Bear out.

KLIA had an interesting sanitiser in the toilet. Basically it sprayed liquid onto a tissue which you would use to wipe the toilet seat. In retrospect this makes a lot of sense because, since Muslims use water to wash their butts after defecation, the water you often see scattered on the toilet seat is of dubious provenance and the seat should be sterilised.

Misc notes:

At King's Cross St Pancreas station, there was an ever-so-subtle sign about CCTV, anti-social behavior and public toilets being available above.

Jiggling looks awfully uncomfortable. I wonder how people can stand it.

I got asked for spare change again. I asked the person if he had anything to eat, and when he replied in the negative, I gave him an extra stuffed honey mustard chicken roll which my sister had given me for lunch but which I'd not eaten. Last I saw as I was walking away, he was unwrapping it. Later, another person accosted me, but he was more disheveled, less in possession of his wits and was using a Guiness mug (of all things!) to collect change, so his face just read "drunkard".

Why, for photographs in their portfolio or profile (at least in theatre programmes) do people like black and white shots? Is it so we can't see the makeup so easily?

I think there's something wrong with my brown walking shoes. Even my SAF boots don't stink as easily though they extend past the ankle. Maybe they're infected with fungus.

Why are orchestra conductors all men?

In the end I saved 107 pounds 35 pence with my Great Britain Heritage Pass. That's about S$308, so I doubled my investment.

Clapping during performances is really annoying. Not only does it drown out the performers, you show contempt for the performer's sense of timing (then again for modern performers, this contempt may not be misplaced), some people can't clap properly, and the audience never knows when there's a ritardando or accelerando, and the clapping then becomes out of sync with the performance.

Apparently Ma-laysia Airlines was voted one of the world's top 5 airlines in a 2003 global survey. Wah. But I think this was for Business Class only - in Economy Class, to save money they give plastic cutlery instead of metal. Or maybe this is a "security" measure after 9/11. Bah. It's not even a steak knife. There's one thing I absolutely abhor about MAS though - their interminable advertisements for KLIA, played on long haul flights into KL.

Muslims are very considerate. A larger proportion of their television broadcasts (as compared to the "West") have someone translating into sign language in a small box in the corner of the screen.

The reason why people who dye their hair blonde are instantly recognisable as having done so is that dyed blonde hair, unlike naturally blonde hair, is of a uniform shade, where naturally blonde hair has substantial colour texture.

Much has been said about Muslims using water and their hands to wash up after defecation, but I find that using toilet paper in conjunction with this method is ultimately cleaner than using toilet paper alone, and results in less discomfort and inconvenience later.
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