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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Trip with Jiekai - Part 12
Day 6 - Vienna (5/4)

In the morning, to forestall footrot I got 100g of powder (baby, the only type they had) from a pharmacy at a princely sum of €1,59. Gah.

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Frontage of Imperial Apartments, Hofburg Palace

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Roman foundations

The stallions of the Spanish Riding School train

At the Spanish Riding School, we saw the riders on their stallions, all carrying riding crops. I want to hit someone with a riding crop one day, preferably Jiekai since he's so cock.

The horses just trotted and cantered around the ring. How can people stand 2 hours of this, with almost no variation?! I thought we'd see some jumping, at least, or maybe the horses trotting 6 abreast. The most we saw in 45 minutes was one doing a low gallop, but moving at the speed of a trot; the synchronised hat removals of the riders; the equine equivalent of jogging on the spot; a horse trotting diagonally and a horse dancing - alternating between its forward right and rear left legs and the forward left and rear right legs. Then agian, this was only morning exercise rather than being a show itself. Bah. And maybe it livened up after we left. The best time to see the show is probably then in the last 1/2 hour.

We then went to see the Imperial Silver Collection, where lots of table gold, silver and porcelain was kept. It was overwhelming to say the least, even for those with an interest in tableware - especially considering most of it was sold off in the past.

The next stop was the Sissi museum. Now, I remembered from my 1998 trip that the Austrians had an obsession with Sissi - one of their last empresses who died in 1898. This time, I realised that it was because she was very screwed up. Her life was like a soap opera, and she was very queer - she had her last photo taken at 32, and her last portrait from life made at 41. Why? Because she wanted to be remembered as a young woman (... women). She washed her ankle-length hair with egg yolk and cognac (that's something to try next time), and was also reclusive, hiding her face from people. To top it all off, she died in a dramatic fashion, when an anarchist drove a file into her breast in Geneva.

She wrote lots of angsty poetry, which together with her eccentricity makes her sound like a Raffles Guy. Jiekai said if she had been born in the 20th century she'd have become one.

"Sighing, from my weary head I remove the crown,
Of how many good hours the staff of ceremony has robbed me today!"
- Court ball, 1887

Wikisource has more examples of her delightful poetry, but unfortunately it's all in German. I should've copied more down at the museum.

Meanwhile Jiekai's explanation for the Austrian obsession with her was much simpler: "chiobu". He also remarked that it's ironic that in the 21st century, girls call themselves Princess on their MSN nicks, while real princesses (empress, really, but the principle is the same) complained all the time.

In the museum there was her death mask, which for some reason was made of clay. Bah, the only death masks worth having are those made of precious metals or semi-precious stones. She also had a lot of very pretty dresses, even the black ones. Or especially the black ones.

The Imperial Apartments were nice, but nothing can compare to Versailles. No photography was allowed (bah). They really should wake up their idea, since it's so cheap to just fly to Versailles, where they allow photography.

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Audience Chamber
There weren't any security people roaming around, and I was encouraged by another snapper.

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Franz Josef's Study
The psycho woke up at 5am (4am?) everyday and slept on an iron bed.

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Fountain at the side of Michaelplatz - the prudish Austrians gave the figure a fig leaf. Uhh.

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St Augustine's Church

I tried to find Herzgruftel, where the hearts of the Hapsburgs are stored, but couldn't find it on the Hofburg location map, and neither was the street it was on. I asked people in the area, but got conflicting directions so in the end I gave up.

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Pictures can't quite capture the expanse and the feeling of standing in this place, carparks notwithstanding

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Maria Theresa monument
For some reason, all the monuments in Vienna are tarnished and dirty, and some of the buildings are dirty as well.

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Kunst History Museum

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After that, we went to Schönbrunn palace. Ditto about Versailles. A lot of material was repeated (eg How Joseph II persuaded his brother-in-law Louis XVI to undergo an operation to end his childlessness), which was probably why a combination ticket for it, Hofburg Palace and the Imperial Furniture Collection (wth would want to see that?!) was sold.

I was upset at paying €0.30 (€0.35?) to use this toilet, but this automation amused me.

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Schönbrunn Gardens Pool

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'Roman' Ruins

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An example of a tree with Cotton Balls on it

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Palace from the top of the hill

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The gardens were not as massive as Versailles's, but in some ways I preferred them, due to the running water and the less pretentious sculptures, and probably also because the sculptures had more colour (1999 storm be damned, perhaps).

There was also the Schönbrunn zoo, the oldest in the world, but due to lack of time and money we didn't go in.

For dinner, since Jiekai insisted that we let him use up one of his Vienna Card vouchers, we went to the Gulashmuseum so he could get a glass of schnapps. There, we learnt that the first three questions you should ask before sitting down at a restaurant are: "Is there a cover charge?" (it was €3,80 for both of us), "Do you serve tap water?" and "Do you accept credit cards?". Other than that, it was alright since the food was good. I had horse goulash, the underlying flavour of the meat of which I found hard to tell due to the flavour of the goulash - it was a generic red meat taste. At the end of the meal I tried to fill my bottle at the tap, but the basin was too small, so the place was still thumbing its nose at me.

We then went to watch another concert.

Große Solisten 5
Leif Ove Andsnes, Klavier
Robert Schumann: Vier Klavierstücke, op. 32
Bent Sørensen: Shadows of silence
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonate für Klavier As-Dur, op. 110
Modest Mussorgskij: Bilder einer Ausstellung
The bugger played the same 4 pieces throughout a whole year: the program was exactly the same in Chicago and Amsterdam (after the Vienna concert).

The Musikverein is very subtle in its "no handphones" message - you just hear a loud ring played over the PA system at the start of the concert.

€4 tickets were available for this as well, but I didn't think my feet could stand it after a whole day of walking. In any event, I didn't see anyone standing - they probably all sat down on entering the place.

As I expected, the Bent Sørensen piece was horrible. I don't think Leif Ove Andsnes liked it that much either - he needed a lady to sit beside him and flip the pages of the score for him (he must not have liked it enough to practise it a lot, but included it as the token "cheem" piece to impress critics). I think he hummed a la Glenn Gould during parts of the piece, which improved the piece somewhat (but then I don't see how the song could've been made any worse). During the piece there was also a lot of coughing - the most coughing of either of the two Vienese concerts I went to. I assume this meant they didn't like it either. I was much happier when the Beethoven came on.

Pictures at an Exhibition was played well (except for the Great Gate at Kiev, which sounded messy, but this is what happens when you make a piano do a full orchestra's work), but I much prefer Ravel's orchestral transcription. A piano, no matter how well played, can never produce as rich and varied a sound as an orchestra: the brightness and clarion quality of trumpets, the sense of volume when more instruments are brought into the picture, the light touch of clarinets and some percussion instrument I can't identify, the little flourishes for which 2 hands are not enough, the change in tone when the melody goes from the strings to the brass to unison and back again, the roll of drums and tonnes more besides. The work needs and indeed deserves this. Incidentally, the piece is an example of how you can convey emotion (and probably incorporate some cute musical tricks) *while* being aesthetically pleasing, so it reflects on people's laziness if they do the former without considering the latter - even Baba Yaga's hut is alright after a while, since there's some method to the madness.

I think I'd prefer more modular concerts (more shorter ones). In that way it's easier to listen to what you really want without having to buy a whole package, it's good for those with shorter attention spans (mine's not that long) and marginal utility will not diminish so fast.

I don't know why people like to leave concerts before they end. Then they miss the encores - Leif Ove Andsnes was incredibly generous and gave 3 (I don't know what the first 2 were, since his voice didn't carry as well as his music, but the first sounded Romantic, the second Classical and the third was Traumerei, the first part of which was a bit fast for my liking).

I should've gone to Paris before I turned 18, then admission to everything would've been free.

They have Mozart Manner Schnitten (flavoured wafers) also. Wth.

The Netherlands, Paris, Vienna, Munich and Nuremburg (probably the rest of Europe too) are all quite dog friendly. People bring them onto public transport, into most shopping centres etc. Practically, only the shops in the Muslim Quarter (Lombok) in Utrecht have "no dogs" signs on their windows.

For some reason I had a strong urge to shout "Alsjeblief" at service staff on concluding my transactions, and I did this several times over the next few days.

There were a lot of cock cars in Vienna also (even one with animal ears on it promoting "Lindt"). We found out that they were of the "Smart" brand. Jiekai informs me that he's found out that they're made by Daimler-Chrysler. The website urges one to "open your mind" (because only an idiot would drive the car otherwise).

There were swarms of companies offering tourist concerts, and the representatives were all waiting beside major tourist locations, ready to pounce on hapless tourists. Bah. As My Favourite Misanthrope comments, those are lousier than the real ones. Even if some of them do play in 18th century garb. The concert programs also read like a "best of" list, and you pay more for them (€30 was the cheapest student price for one - compare that to my €4 seats the night before).

There was some stupid "Calling Mozart" project, where 50 small pillars were scattered across "historic" locations in Vienna. On each, a quote by or related to Mozart was emblazoned, as well as a number, the calling of which would presumably get the quote narrated to you. They helpfully reminded the gullible that roaming charges would apply. To their credit, they said that WMAs streams/MP3s were freely downloadable on their website (http://www.callingmozart.at/).

There was an ad for German classes at the http://www.deutschakademie.com/. Unfortunately, that ad was also (only) in German.

I should've tried a Daim McFlurry in Paris. Ah well.

Rinderwurst is spicy. Bloody hell.

Cock files, or things for which I would've pelted Jiekai with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow:

- He didn't carry a proper student ID because he had 40 pounds of meal credit left on it. Hell, he didn't even carry anything with his date of birth (he kept leaving his passport in the hostels) on it, despite being asked for something with his DOB on it on multiple occasions (even though for some reason he travelled with his Singaporean IC as well). Luckily he was not made to pay adult rates.
- He threw a booger onto a Mercedes
- He threw a booger onto the sand ground of the Spanish Riding School training arena
- Jiekai: It's very easy to manipulate women.
Me: So why don't you do it?
Jiekai: Because I'm a very moral person.
Me: Right.
- In the gallery of Schönbrunn he danced the waltz with an imaginary partner.
- He kept going on about returning to every place in the future with his "girlfriend/wife", when he would be very rich and be able to do extravagant things like rent a horse carriage through Schönbrunn gardens, despite my pointing out that he'd never get the time, energy and money all at the same time, even assuming he would find a "girlfriend/wife".
- He walked out of the Spar supermarket with the basket. He says it's happened to him in Oxford at least once.
- He pretended that his right hand was playing Traumerei. I had to smack it.
8:00 PM Why My Vote Matters-A Dialogue With Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew LKY - Google Video

Mabel Lee, 28 - Editor & Presenter; Never voted: Is that the state that you, you really want, you know, Singapore politics to have, because, bearing in mind that your GRC system results in walkovers, you have a young generation of people who really don't care about politics - A). Or B), they are even fearful, if they do get to vote *chuckles from MM* they are fearful... talking about the old people and the young people who are fearful to vote against the PAP. So, is, is this the system that we really want?

MM Lee: Are you fearful to vote against the PAP?

Mabel Lee: Perhaps, yes, or honestly - a little bit. *chuckles from MM*

MM Lee: Why? Tell me why. What will happen to you, how we will know that you voted against us?

Mabel Lee: *helpless gesture* I think we all know the answer.

MM Lee: No no, let's pursue this. Because - I'm afraid. You tell me you've gone, through O levels, A levels, University, working in 938 live and you're afraid if you vote against the PAP something will happen to you?

Mabel Lee: Ah, well. Okay.

Lee Ching Wern, 26 - Journalist; Never voted: This is the impression the PAP has created.

MM Lee: You are spreading that impression. *confused noises from everyone*

Lee Ching Wern: You can ask everyone of us here.


MM Lee: You mean to tell me you have, you're one of the 40% who voted against the PAP and something happens to you?

Ken Kwek, 26 - Journalist; Never voted: I mean, I've never voted for that matter, but I mean - we talk to hundreds of voters in the course of our work, and it's either "no comment" or "if I vote against the PAP..."

MM Lee: Let's get down. What are the hundreds of voters? You name the hundreds of voters, a few of them. Tell me.

Ken Kwek: Well, I mean I can't name them-

MM Lee: No no.

Ken Kwek: By name.

MM Lee: No, you tell me who you've spoken to and they say "we're afraid to vote..."

Irony, thou art dead.

Why almost all journalists ah.

MM Lee keeps asking people to let him finish, but he keeps interrupting the others when they talk because he's trained as a cross-examiner. Hmm.
Trip with Jiekai - Part 11
Day 5 - Salzburg-Vienna (4/4)

supplemented with a few of Jiekai's pictures in lieu of mine, which have been lost for eternity due to his cockitude, for which I would've pelted him with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow in Munich.

tim: a few people got scammed at the sacre coeur the last time we were there
some big strong african man approaches you and asks you to stick out your hand. he wants to show you something
so he ties a colourful thin rope in an intricate pattern, on one of your hands. then when it's securly fastened, he asks you for money

they all speak english.
i didn't go to the sacre-coeur that time, but many other people went and they got scammed

one korean guy paid 25 EUR
one singaporean 2EUR

Me: pay for what

tim: pay him lah, then he'll let you go
suddenly a lot of other africans will surround you and ask you for money for the string

another singaporean 1EUR because he so happened to have a 1EUR coin in his pocket.

For some reason, Paris made me take a lot of photos (128MB worth of pictures and videos in 4 days). The subsequent days combined have less than that. However, since most of the pictures are better than the previous ones, this isn't a big loss.

1 person in my couchette cabin did not actually sleep in there. It was very weird. He put his bag in there and once or twice came to get something, but otherwise we didn't see him. Maybe he preferred sleeping in the aisle.

The Euraide office at Munich had a Korean sign on the door for some reason. Do so many Koreans visit Munich (2 of the people in my couchette cabin were Korean girls)?!

On the way to Vienna, we made an impulse stop at Salzburg, because Jiekai wanted to see Mozart's birthplace.

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Statue of Mozart

*Picture of the menu of a very pretentious restaurant on the way to Mozart's house*
This really annoyed (and amused me), IIRC because it claimed that famous people (especially Mozart and other composers) had eaten there for many hundreds of years.
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude, for which I would've pelted him with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow in Munich.

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Costumed man outside Mozart's house
I tried to persuade Jiekai to have his picture taken but he seemed to want a tip even though we'd paid to go in, so.

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Facade of the house

The house was a really horrible experience. First up, although it was run by a non-profit organisation which charged a €5 concession rate, they didn't allow any photos (wth).

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Kitchen in the house

The first room after the kitchen had a cradle in which a doll (presumably the baby Mozart) was lying. Ave Verum Corpus was playing in the air (it definitely wasn't as kitschy 8 years ago when I first visited the place).

A humidifier lay in the next room, which had alcoves in the walls where artefacts were placed. In 1 there was a toy rabbit peeking out, and in the other plastic butterflies were mounted. Meanwhile plastic blue bird were mounted fro mthe ceiling.

Another room had a clavichord (?) on top of which a cutout dog was standing. There was a cutout of a man with a rifle, as well as a woman. This was bad enough, but pressing a button on the wall made the dog move and bark and the man then shot him.

Basically Mozart's house-proper was horribly pathetic. There were few artefacts, no information on Mozart, his life, his music and his world and lots of kitsch. Downstairs there was a redeeming "special exhibition" where video clips were playing (the Queen of the Night from Amadeus was playing when I walked in, and other theatrical/cinematic clips were played), and some information on theatres and operas in Mozart's time, life on tour and paintings of him and his associates. Still, most of the information was peripheral to Mozart himself, like a book on violin playing by Leopold Mozart. I still walked out knowing almost nothing about Mozart's life and works than before I stepped in, even assuming I had no prior knowledge at all. About the only new thing I got was that he was made a Knight of the Golden Spear by the pope (the only previous musician to get this was Lassus).

"Is Mozart still alive" - Small American kid

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Horse fountain in Residenzplatz
Appropriately, there's hay around the fountain

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Festung Hohensalzburg

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Carriages in Residenzplatz

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Big chess pieces

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Dom Zu Salzburg facade
After Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and even the Domkerk in Utrecht the exterior especially was underwhelming. Still, it was a nice church, especially with the paintings inside.

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From my Plaak pics I'm quite sure this is where Bach was an organist (according to my Plaak pic captions it's 2:1 that it's Bach, not Mozart).

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Salzburg River

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Garden in Friedhof St Sebastian Wolf Dietrich Mausoleum, where the families of Mozart, Weber, Doppler and Nissen lie

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Pathway in Friedhof St Sebastian Wolf Dietrich Mausoleum

*Jiekai was tasked with writing the following account, but since he is properly floating face-down in the Vltava River with a knife in his back, I will have to do it*
On the train from Salzburg to Vienna, Jiekai and I met a really interesting character - Benjamin Christ. He gave us his name card, which advertised a Heaven on Earth site (http://www.letscreateheavenonearth.com/), and introduced himself as being in the business of "Prenatal Education and Spiritual Electroplating". I forgot how he described the former (something about influencing children before they were born) but he described the latter as strengthening the spirit (or something like that). He talked about dietary evolution - first you give up red meat, then chicken, then fish, then you move to raw food and finally you live on pure light (he claimed there were people who'd lived on light for many years). I didn't really mind the New Age stuff he spouted, but I switched off once he talked about how Hitler was a foreign agent. Jiekai went on to tell him about Roman Law (for which he got a Distinction) and talk about Tibet while I fell asleep - he was really happy since for once he'd found someone who didn't mind hearing him drone on.

In Vienese we saw many kebab shops, which seem to be permanent fixtures in all European major cities. In 1683, the Ottoman Turks under Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha were repulsed by a combined Polish-Lithuanian/Habsburg army from the gates of Vienna, turning back the Turkish tide which had hitherto threatened to engulf Europe. More than 300 years later, the battle has been lost, as the Turks have invaded the major cities of Europe with their kebab vans, kiosks and cafes, all serving the same depressing variations on the same theme - beef kebab meat (I'm informed that they've even crossed the Atlantic, and the Pacific to Oz). Most of these kebab shops also have the same poster featuring the same moustached Turkish man, which probably comes from a factory in Turkey. [Someone: do you drink? that could explain why you don't get the appeal of the kebab :) there is nothing like a good meaty kebab after drinks. soaks up all the alcohol]

For some reason we had quite a few Singaporean sightings. Jiekai met in the Louvre the same person from his junior class which we'd met in Amsterdam. And in the Musikverein in Wien we met a group of J8s. Uhh.

The Vienese are even more kinky than the Parisians. A whole wall of porn mags were on sale at a kiosk, including: "40+", "50+", "40 plus" and "Ladies 40 plus". All these are separate publications, btw, and one had confessions of some 70 (?) year old woman. There was also Color Climax, presumably imported from way north. Gotta love these Europeans.

The last time I'd been in Vienna I'd passed up on the chance to see Die Fledermaus. I'm not sure if that was a mistake, since at that time I was even more of a dilettante than I am now, and besides, I've fallen asleep at the only opera I've been to.

Quartett-Zyklus A 4
Küchl-Quartett, Stella Grigorian, Mezzosopran
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Streichquartett A-Dur, KV 169
Ottorino Respighi: Il Tramonto. Poemetto lirico für Sopran und Streichquartett
Ludwig van Beethoven: Streichquartett Es-Dur, op. 74

We watched this concert on 2 €4 tickets. The hall was quite small, but had excellent acoustics - it sounded like we were in the front rows. Even though in our original seats on the first (second) floor we couldn't see the performers, we could hear them perfectly well. It was even better when we moved to better seats when the concert started.

The playing was very intense, but then it was only a string quartet. The first piece was pleasant enough, being a Mozart. I didn't like the second, which sounded awful and basically was an example of the school of thought that says that instead of composing pleasant sounding music, you should show off how many "emotions" you can evoke with your music, and how many clever musical tricks you can squeeze in. To me, music is like art - first and foremost it has to be aesthetically pleasing, not about gratifying the egos of composers and/or performers who need to show off as to just how clever and skilful they are. Emotion and clever musical tricks are respectively the whipped cream and the cherry on top of it all - nice, but useless without the base dessert. The piece certainly succeeded in evoking emotions in me - chiefly those of disgust and revulsion.

During the interval one usher came up to tell me "It is not possible", pointing to the bottle of water I'd placed on the ledge. No doubt in Paris she'd have muttered something unintelligible to me in French.

Someone once told me that he'd rather listen to a CD than go to a concert, and that the only reason to do the latter would be to meet the performers. This is quite ridiculous, since it's like saying you'd rather look at photos of a place than be there.

There wasn't much coughing in Paris, but then there the masses were continuous - there was no significant pause in between movements. In Vienna there was almost no coughing - maybe people respect the sanctity of the Musikverein.

I saw at least one row of clueless and restless American teenagers below us, who kept whispering to each other. They'd probably have been better off going to one of the tourist concerts. There were probably also some other tourists, since I heard scattered applause in between movements.

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It was a joy to use a proper train toilet on the German trains.

I should set up a stall selling Dutch Fries beside the Austrian wurst man in Chinatown.

April is a great time to travel. It's neither too hot nor too cold, there're no huge crowds and most things open till later.

Cock files, or things for which I would've pelted Jiekai with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow:

- Despite having a camera 1 year newer than mine, most of his shots were lousier than mine
- "Whiner schnitzel". Perfect dish for him.
- In Salzburg, he started singing excerpts from the Sound of Music despite my warning him, so I had to do the Vulcan Death Grip on him
- He claimed that he hadn't seen any Chinese restaurants in Paris despite my sighting at least 3 when I was with him alone
- He reacted violently when I suggested that he ask for directions to the Vienese hostel, and justified this with his being male. Women may not be able to read maps, but at least they are capable of asking for directions.
- Me: One of the mysteries of the universe: Why is the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna?
Jiekai: Because it's an annoying little Ducky (Duchy)
- He bought the Vienna Card (€16.90) which came with coupons and discounts while I got the 3-day public transport pass (€12,00) because the discounts weren't combinable with student concessions and I knew we'd never get down to using the coupons (in the end we trekked very far out of the way to use one, and the other was near-useless)
- He asked to use my hairbrush
- He left the hostel room door even though there were people sleeping (multiple occasions)
- He talked loudly in the hostel room even though there were people sleeping (multiple occasions)

Another place to visit in Singapore besides Clement Chow Avenue and Beau Liao Road: Fuck Road (Foch)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Trip with Jiekai - Part 10
Day 4 - Paris (3/4) - Louvre, Night train

supplemented with some of Jiekai's pictures in lieu of mine, which have been lost for eternity due to his cockitude. Many of the Louvre pictures can be googled.

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One of the Louvre's policies that I strongly disagree with is how photography and videography are forbidden in the Apollo Wing and where the large format French/Italian paintings (maybe the largest paintings I've ever seen - I see what they mean by "large format") are kept (among others, the Mona Lisa). They claim that this is because this is the museum's busiest area, and that this is for the comfort of visitors. At least they have the decency to say that 35,000 works are on display on their website with photographs (I've a feeling they've a larger collection than that, but only have pictures of the more famous ones). Seeing idiots flashing away at a Botticelli fresco, I can't say that I didn't have sympathy for their policy, yet the proper thing to do would be to chide the idiots instead of depriving others of the enjoyment they'd paid so much for.

Assuming that the reason for the no-photography rule is that flash photography annoys people, what they (and all museums seeking to prevent flash photography) should do is to give each visitor (for a €10 deposit) 3 photography tokens which must be prominently displayed. Everytime a flash is seen, one token will be taken away by security personnel, but as long as at least 1 token is returned, the deposit can be claimed (let's not say that chances are not given). The threat of monetary sanctions should enforce photographic discipline on idiots. Of course, the fear of flash photography is not the only reason - Museums also want to sell more postcards. I understand then why photography is prohibited, but then although I understand why a cuckolded man might want to kill his erstwhile lover and her paramour, I do not necessarily agree with him.

There was a large crowd in front of the Mona Lisa, and I saw some people secretly videotaping the thing. Actually despite the mass of security personnel, it's possible to take a photo (even without doing it by brute force and snapping away until the fella comes to block your camera with his body) - there're just too many people in the crowd. Idiots, of course, flashed away and spoiled the market for the rest.

There were curiously few guards in the area where photography was disallowed - they only really strictly enforced the rule around the Mona Lisa. I was too tired and in too much pain to play hide and seek with the guards, though, and at first did not take any photographs despite what others around me did. However, seeing Jacques-Louis David's "The Sabines" revitalised me, making me forget my pain as it was too breathtaking and shiver-raising not to record for posterity.

*Jacques-Louis David - Les Sabines*
I can't see how taking a picture of this while sitting on a couch disturbed other museum visitors.
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Jacques-Louis David - Leonidas at Thermopylae*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Delacroix - Liberty leading the people*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Gentileschi - Le repos de la Sainte Famille en Egypte*
This is the first time I've seen the Virgin Mary breastfeeding.
Mine was better but it has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

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Winged Victory at Samothrace
Mine was better but it has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Coloured Greek vases*
You don't usually see these.
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Face masks - maine-et-loire*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

There was an Islamic art exhibition in the Louvre. There, I found my first banner in English (the other signs in English just point to the toilet and such - nothing introduces collections in English). Why? Because the collection was on loan from the Met in New York. Hah!

*Armoure dite "Quatre Miroirs"*
17th-18th Century from Iran
This is quite splendid Islamic armour
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

I scoured the Islamic Art collection for depictions of the Prophet. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any. The closest I could find was a portrait of Fath Ali Shah from 1805.

*Portrait of Fath Ali Shah from 1805*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

However, since depictions of any living thing are strictly forbidden in Islam (that's why the Bamiyan Buddhas were blown up), fundamentalist terrorists do not need any excuse to blow up their Islamic art collection. Hell, the whole of the Louvre can be levelled. [Someone: what i had heard (but dont remember exactly) was that the prohibition on the depiction of the Prophet and his companions came quite a few years after his death. also re depictions of living creatures, the prohibition created quite a bit of confusion when western scholars accessed islamic treatises on botany and zoology. the islamic scholars understood the depictions to be fantasy, the ang mohs thought those were real plants, etc]

*15th century pirated statue*
How novel! [Ed: If I had the picture I'd know what my comment meant]
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Donatello - La Vierge et l'enfants*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

There was a "tactile gallery" where reproductions of some works were located for the blind to touch. There was also a book there - both in French and in Braille (but not in English). The Louvre caters to the blind more than English-speakers, hah!

I've never seen so many painted Medieval and Renaissance sculptures, I think, as in the Louvre.

*Souabe - Martyrdom of St Catherine*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Gregor Erhart - St Mary Magdalene*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

Walking through the pre-classical gallery, I started walking as fast as possible to avoid the Greece Cycladic figures. I stopped briefly at some 'pithos'es, but I'd already seen what Schliemann claimed was Nestor's drinking cup, so.

*Figure of man from the late Archaic period, 540bc*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

A few sections of the Louvre were closed (I wanted to see Coptic Egypt, damnit) but it was nowhere as bad as the Met. Again, the British Museum is the best.

*Canova - Psyche and Cupid*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

I was surprised to find Neo-Classical Egyptian sculptures. I thought they only confined themselves to Greek/Roman styles.

*Anneau dit "De Saint Denis"*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Grand Salon - Napoleon III's apartments*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

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Napoleon III State Apartments

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Napoleon III State Apartments

It takes virtually no skill to be a guard in a museum. This could be the solution to French unemployment, especially the 50% unemployment among Muslim youths! The only thing is that it's extremely boring, so it may not stop more riots when new labour laws are implemented.

*Le mois de mai - Les chasses de Maximilien*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

Breasts in painting and sculpture are almost always perfect. They never droop, sag or have funny shapes. At the very most they're too small.

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I saw someone wearing very weird stockings - with silver lines running down them.

After the Louvre I went to try the famous Berthillon ice cream with Jiekai. It was mentioned in both our guidebooks as being excellent. He had honey nougat and I caramel, but for €2 (I paid €2.50 for a waffle cone) we were extremely disappointed. If nothing else, the scoops were tiny - even tinier than anything you'd get in Singapore. Also, the flavouring was not integrated with the ice cream itself but instead stood on its own; there was no creaminess at all. The ice cream also made us thirsty because it was too intense, delivering a big punch to our palettes instead of gently sliding in. Jiekai clams his most gorgeous and memorable dessert is George and Denvers' Cold apple crumble with ice cream opposite Christchurch College, Oxford.

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Dinner. I had rabbit (background), he had lamb.

We then took the night train from Paris to Munich, from where we would transit to Vienna. I'd booked a bed in a 6-couchette - it turned out to be on the middle level, and it was an interesting experience (one might recall that "May you lead an interesting life" is a curse in some parts). A normal 6-seat compartment was converted into a sleeping area, with 3 bunks on either side of the door. A ladder afforded access to the middle and top levels, but since space was limited it was a bit like Tarzan maneuvering inside of a chimney. As you can imagine, there wasn't space on the couchette to do much more than wiggle my digits without hitting the couchette above. At least there was a little webbed pocket to my right for me to place my personal artefacts. The bunk wasn't even long enough for me - let alone for tall European men. I now know how our coolie forefathers used to live.

*Picture of me in the couchette*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Picture showing how squeezy all the couchettes are*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

On the Eurail menu: "Time for a snack", "Wine for sweet dreams", "At the end of a long day" (drinks with 30-40% alcohol by volume)

Jiekai said that when he was on holiday he could talk freely, not needing to repress himself and shut up. I said that that was why it was not a holiday for me. I suggested he talk to the toilet bowl. He replied that the bowl wouldn't reply and insult him. I then resolved to ignore him but he said the best way to get him to shut up was to give him the blank, pissed, cold stare which girls give him when he annoys them. He then said in normal life he had to concentrate very hard to not be a cock. His lack of concentration on holiday, presumably, is what caused my memory card to disappear due to his cockitude.

Further to the point about quasi-private property - the Basilica of the Sacred Heart was built with public donations, so not allowing the public to take pictures when a service is not in progress is akin to collecting public donations to build the National Library in the 60s and then selling its bricks back to the public in the 00s (they can't say that photography is disrespectful, because they themselves sell postcards of the place in the shop).

The traffic lights in Paris are very weird. At many of them, when you press the button indicating a pedestrian has arrived and wants to cross the street, a French women starts repeating some line in French.

It seems in Europe taxes are always included in the menu prices. This is so much more convenient than trying to add 16% to the bill mentally.

French bread is generally so good you can even eat it on its own. Gardenia can go to hell.

Cock files:

- In the middle of a crowded Paris Metro train car he wanted to come up with derogatory names for people around the world. As I told him, "When I was younger people used to ignore me, and say, 'Do I know you?'"
- He kept charging ahead without making sure I was following
- When talking to people he often faces the opposite direction (like when charging ahead)
- He walked past Metro entrances on multiple occasions
- He didn't get off at the right Metro stop on multiple occasions
- "I know where I'm going". He then charged off for 13 minutes at a fast walk, and then claimed the restaurant had disappeared.
- "I know where I'm going" (multiple times)
- Not waiting for me to ask the conductor which day to write on the Eurail pass for the night train, he wrote the date he got on it (you have to write the next day's date)
- He almost cancelled his wrongly written date, but luckily I told him in time that this was considered fraud, and that he had to write a new date on the pass
HWMNBN: have you read the gospels of judas?

Me: no
to obusy

HWMNBN: There is one exception to the invulnerability of Christianity to historical refutation, and that is the resurrection of Jesus. If it could be shown through irrefutable historical and textual evidence that Jesus' followers stole his body from the cave and cooked up the story of his resurrection, then the spiritual project of Christianity would indeed suffer a mortal blow.

However, this is highly unlikely, and even if it were possible to prove this, it would still not diminish, for example, the vision of Paul on the road to Damascus nor the heroic martyrdom of Christians for their faith nor generations of Christian saints and scholars who have taught a vision of salvation that sustains and sanctifies one out of every three people on earth.

desperate apologia

Me: yes.
frankly, once they hit "demonic imitation" you know such piffling things as reality and logic won't stop them

HWMNBN: It is important, however, to distinguish the details of Jesus’ life and the belief in Jesus' mission. Facts may alter this or that historical verdict on the role of Judas or the life of Jesus, but no historical facts can deflect or damage the belief in Jesus as the Christ, which remains the central claim and enduring promise of Christianity.

that's as good as saying that believing in a lie works out ofr the best
although i must admit it's not an entirely untrue premise - most of the world's financial system rests on elaborate shared faith as well

Me: faith in something real

HWMNBN: *amused* real. right. work in an investment bank for a fe wyears, and you'll realise what an notional fiction most financial structures are.
but that's neither here nor there

Tonight my faith commands me and excites me to remember the going out of Egypt, the plagues there, the splitting of the Red Sea and the burning mountain where Moses received the Torah written in black fire upon white fire. If it were somehow possible to prove that nobody left Egypt, and that the miracles never happened, and that the law was cooked up by a bunch of priests in the time of David, it would insult my faith, but it would not diminish it, because the message of the Passover is a message of freedom, and freedom remains God's gift to all people. This is true not only because historical events from the Exodus to today proves it. It is true because the spiritual legacy of freedom cannot possibly be false.

Me: basically if you believe a lie it's alright
because you believed it sincerely

HWMNBN: as i said, what else are financial markets?:)
truly, at times like this, when i say i worship mammon, it's as much an expression of faith as a declaration of vocation

Someone: er... paul was a congenital liar who was shunned by most of the original disciples of christ

Me: hehe
pauline christianity

Someone: paulinism

Me: and he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy

Someone: it's all in the historical records.
almost all the remaining disciples of christ wanted to evangelise to the jews
they didn't really give a fig about paul's quest to bring the word to the heathens in the east
and they most certainly didn't tolerate paul's fanciful theorising

Me: it's post-hoc justification
"pauline christianity survived. therefore it must be right"
Trip with Jiekai - Part 9
Day 4 - Paris (3/4) - Misc, Louvre

supplemented with some of Jiekai's pictures in lieu of mine, which have been lost for eternity due to his cockitude. Many of the Louvre pictures can be googled.

*Place de la Bastille with the July Column* (This picture belongs to the previous day but I forgot)
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude. Jiekai's ersatz picture:

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In the morning, I left Jiekai and went to Notre Dame to take some photos, since I'd left early 2 days before to get my spare batteries. Unfortunately, those pictures have been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Notre Dame rose window*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

On the way from Notre Dame to the Obelisk, I finally managed to get a shot of the cock car after missing a chance to get it on film at least thrice! I also saw one parked later. Unfortunately, those pictures have been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude, but I've one picture of the car from Munich (IIRC). I wonder if the Pink Panther was released in France. Then again, we all know the French have no sense of humour.

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Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde
I had a better version but it has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude
I've seen the ones in New York and London, so it was fitting that I go see the last one as well.

*Fountain in the Place de la Concorde*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

I saw "Philosophie Magazine" at a newsstand. Trust the French. I also saw "Alternative economiques" - maybe it proclaims that a state with strict labour laws can have low unemployment. Surprisingly enough, that newsstand (near the Louvre) also had the Economist, so.

I then proceeded to the Louvre. In the museum card brochure, it'd said that Monday was one of its late days, when it would close at 9:45pm. There was a small chance that, on meeting Jiekai at 1pm, I'd agree to go out and get a famous Berthillon ice cream with him and walk a bit, but on arrival I found that they'd played me out and changed the late days. The place would then close at 6pm that day instead. I then resolved to spend the rest of the day there, completing my pilgrimage to the three great art museums in the world (the other two, of course, being the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

At the Louvre, flash photography is "strongly discouraged". That's a nice touch, but unfortunately there's no student price for admission (it's €8.50 as well). Actually it's quite ridiculous to charge €8.50 for a day's admission - the place is so big it's impossible to see in one day. What they should do is make the ticket valid for 2 or 3 days, so people can properly return to see all the exhibits. But of course that would impact their cash flow, so. For some reason, admission's free for those who're unemployed (on presentation of a document from the last 6 months). Perhaps they hope that visiting the Louvre will inspire people to work. Or maybe *that*'s why I saw so many people in the Louvre doing sketches of exhibits - it's the solution to their unemployment problems!

*Cour Marly - Hall with Neo-classical French sculpture*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude
While I was sitting on a chair in the Cour Marly, something very strange happened. A group of french girls happened by and one asked to take my picture. Who knows what it's being used for now? [Someone: maybe they come from a rural village and haven't seen a chink before. maybe they think you're william hung]

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Louvre Model

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Pyramid outside the Louvre

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Tomb of Philippe Pot - Robed pallbearers bearing the body of a dead Knight, with 10th Century sculptures.

*Colombe - St George and the Dragon*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Bontemps - Tomb of Charles de Maigroy (sp?)*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

I think the British Museum is the best of the 3 museums. There's no entrance fee, explicit or otherwise (read: The Met's Ticket Counter disguised as a 'Donation Booth'), most of the exhibits are not enclosed or encased (glass around the Rosetta Stone notwithstanding - luckily I saw it before the box came up around it) and everything is in English (damn French). Really, except for the must-see items, you get diminishing marginal utility from visiting the other 2 (not to say that I regret visiting them). For example, all 3 museums, IIRC, have a reconstructed Egyptian tomb inside of which are mounted carvings as they would've been in a real tomb.

*Fontaine de Diane*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Pilon - Vierge de Douleur*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Puget - Alexandre et Diogene*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Slodtz - Annibal*
Down with SPQR! (The photo shows Hannibal driving a SPQR standard into the soil)
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Duret - Vendangeur improvisant sur un sujet comique*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Dantan - Jeune baigneur jouant avec un chien*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

Falconet's stupid Cupid thing was here also (the sculpture of cupid with a hand on his chin that I saw in the Rijksmuseum).

*Puget - Perseus and Andromeda*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

There was a notice in one toilet about destroying unattended objects which the security personnel thought a danger to security. Perhaps they were afraid of what fundies would do after reading the Da Vinci Code and discovering that Louvre was a hotbed of blasphemous artefacts. Or maybe they feared Muslim fanatics destroying the Islamic Art collection (see below).

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Babylonian Cock. Khorsabad Sculptures (?)

The Code of Hammurabi was smaller than I thought - it was a bit taller than me. Somehow I had the impression that it'd be twice as tall. Perhaps important objects are magnified in the imagination:

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The Code of Hammurabi
For some reason the idiot took it from the side. Mine was better but it has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

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Even in the Louvre, almost everything was in French. This was particularly galling with the exhibits, which were all labelled only in French. Some rooms had information sheets, but not all (and running around trying to match the sheets to the exhibits is tiresome). In any case, there were as many English information sheets as German, Japanese, Spanish and the like. Considering that most people would want the English ones, this is ridiculous. Some evil museum staff member had also stolen the English information sheets from some rooms - I never knew that the dislike of English goes so far in France that they'd actually sabotage their own museums just to make English-speaking visitors feel miserable!

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Capital of a column of the Audience chamber in the palace of Darius I

Walk through the Egyptian Gallery

The Sphinx from the palace of Darius was the first coloured sphinx that I've ever seen!

*Mummified crocodile*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

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Preserved body (Mummy sans wrappings?)

*Stele for Thebes*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

*Osiris, 4th century BC*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

*18th Dynasty harp*
The amazing thing about this is that the strings are intact! Hurrah for the desert!
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

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Grand Sphinx of Tanis

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Kneeling scribe

The Egyptian gallery was so big that for the Pharaonic collection, it had a thematic circuit on one level and a chronological circuit on another. Uhh.

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Venus de Milo
Mine was better but it has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude

*Hercules et Telephe, 1st-2nd ap. JC (damn French can't use BC/AD)*
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

I think the Louvre must be the first place where I've seen Greek/Roman sculpture where the penises are not broken off. Wth.

*The Three Graces, 2nd c. AD copy from Rome*
I'm quite sure there's a Greek sculpture called The Three Graces, where their arms and probably their heads are broken off, but some reason the only reference I can find to a statue by this name online is the 1799 one in the Hermitage
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

Very nice caryatides from the Salle des Caryatides.
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

*Fireplace sculpture*
In the Salle des Caryatides.
This picture has been lost for eternity due to Jiekai's cockitude.

I don't know why so many French like to wear berets. I should've brought mine along. Black also.

Cock files:

- "Do I actually stutter?"
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