Wednesday, June 29, 2005

FHM 'big-issue', new notebook, McD's Big Brother & Brighton

Check out August 2005's FHM. It is now available in three sizes. Not too sure whether this is a one-off stunt by their marketing division. They have the normal A4 size used by many glossies plus a smallish A5 - usually found in many women fashion/beauty glossies, plus a huge (A3?) size, similar to Hello or OK! (possibly smaller). The small one is too small. I can't believe Jenni is able to read those smallish Glamour magazine. The huge one is just too heavy. My preference would be the size (someone between A3 and A4) used by the now defunct JACK male magazine.

FHM August 2005

My grand aunt finally replaced her Pentium junk. Shown is a HP Pavilion ze2000, an entry model with Intel Celeron M 1.3Ghz, 40Gb Harddrive, 256Mb RAM and DVD+-RW drive. We got it from Staples. Okay it isn't a earth shattering model. My previous notebook, the Dell Inspiron 8000 with its 1Ghz PIII and 512Mb RAM with a UXGA screen beats the crap out of it and that was 3-4 years ago (I sold it 3 months later for a profit) but seriously though for the price (less than £500) it isn't a bad piece for someone like my aunt who only uses it for e-mail, Interweb and word processing.

HP Pavilion ze2000
Took this picture from the entrace of McDonalds at Leicester Square. They had a LCD screen on the wall with what seems to be constant live feed from their public toilet. It is true then what they say about reality TV shows like Big Brother, in their preparation for public acceptance on CCTV cameras everywhere.

McDonalds Leicester Square

I will be going down to Brighton this Friday for about a week to help Jenni move in to a new studio flat on Lewes Road. It will be further away from her office at Moulsecoombe but it will also be much nearer to town with easy access to a Megabus bus stop at St. Peter's Church and the train station. You can even see London Road's high street from her 2nd floor flat (although the church will dominate the view - blah!). Our favourite Thai restaurant also happens to sit almost directly opposite the flat.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Selfridges sale & Oriental city

Took this on Thursday. Stressful. But do check it out.

Selfridges Sale

New at Oriental City (map), an Asian interpretation of Western cuisine. Pictured is the pork chop with black pepper bean sauce with chips. Included for your £5.80 is a hearty bowl of soup, carrot, corn and broccoli plus a choice between more chips, fried rice or spaghetti. Great value.

Pork

Monday, June 27, 2005

Harrods sale

We were at Harrods today for the first day of sale. We got there at 5.30pm - way past its opening time of 9am. I didn't want to join the throng of crazy Oriental and American tourists. Those people are mad. We went straight up the forth floor and wondered around. Half an hour later we left the tills with a couple of tees in my bag (£35 for three pieces). Most of the clothes on the forth floor are at 50% with prices ranging from £10 to £50 for tees.

Harrods Summer Sale

We looked around at the sound & vision section on the third floor ogling at overpriced but highly desirable High-Definition plasma and LCD televisions. Then it was off to the second floor checking out the pet store, Waterstones book store and the luggage section. A quick look around at the perfume section on ground level before laughing at those at the Gucci queue, we left at about 6.30pm.

Harrods Summer Sale

An hour. Probably a record. I don't really like shopping at Harrods especially during their famous sale season, due to the number of mad dashing tourist population and the Sloane Street crowd of posh and toft shoppers - but it is a great place to check out for bargains. I managed to avoid the metro-sexual section of menswear on the lower ground floor - those shite are really expensive - but I might return 3 weeks later when Harrods switch to clearance mode (75%).

I am going to cut my card now.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bicester Village day out (sale)

updated with pictures

We were at Bicester Village today doing a little of summer sale shopping. This is a cluster of company stores selling last season's merchandise. So it is sort of sales of sales.

This is our fifth visit to Bicester after we 'rediscovered' it about three years ago. I am not much of a designer shopper prefering instead bargains to anything else which is why my favourite store is actually TK MAXX, a factory reseller.

M40

We left London at about 10am and drove up the North Circular Road and connected at Hanger Lane to the A40 where it was straight down to the M40. It's pretty easy really. You can also connect to the M40 through the M25 motorway.

Arriving at Bicester

An hour later we were at exit 9 (A41) to Bicester. It was cloudy the whole day, an amazing turnaround for the weather. The previous days had temperatures hitting 32C in London and it has since dropped to below 20C.

Bicester Village

Not much to say about Bicester. I am sure many of you who has been to London either for studying or visiting, would have been down here. There were many Malaysians of course (you can recognise them easily - they mostly carry Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior and Burberry bags, don't they know anything? Nobody wears Burberry now! Stop showing off!).

The Acorn, Bicester

We had lunch at the famous The Acorn pub. The restaurant side is operated by the Hungry Horse chain of pub restaurants. Good value for money. For a crisp fiver you could get a 8oz steak cheese burger with chips, salad and onion rings as side. I got that. Jenni had the All Day Breakfast while our companions for the day had roasted lamb joint and fish & chips. While we were getting drinks from the counter, Jenni met an old friend of hers from college who just graduated and would be returning to Malaysia this summer.

Cheese Burger at Hungry Horse

Re-energised after a hearty meal, we spent about five hours 'sight seeing'. I am not keen on 'designers' but couldn't pass the Paul Smith store. As some of you would know I am a keen admire of all things Paul Smith, especially his range of Paul Smith Jeans tees. I was on a tight budget so me got two of em tees only. I eyed a wonderful leather belt but lust turned sour when I read the price - 70quid after sale!

Bicester Village

The usual stopover at Diesel proofed fatal to my credit with another 25 leaving the bank towards the purchase of two tees. I am not complaining though. But I did stop myself from purchasing the nice pair of yellow sneakers at Campers. Damn I really want those.

Bicester Village

We were due to leave at 5pm and were to meet at the muster point Bose. But we lost a mate who wandered towards Pret-a-Manger. Can't blame her - this was her first time. We took 30 minutes to get her tracked down to which point we had a drink and then left for the 70 minutes journey back into congested West London finally having dinner at Oriental City, Colindale.


M40

Film Review: Kung Fu Hustle

Forget Batman Begins, the only film worth its money this summer is Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. Funny and witty this is the ultimate in the nonsense film genre, something of a speciality in Stephen Chow's CV.

The film centers around the fight between the Pig Sty and machete waving Axe Gang. Caught in the middle is loser thief Sing whose comical attempt at extortion triggered the attention of Axe Gang's warlords to the small village inhabited by a bunch of retired old masters.

Taking cue and inspiration from Roadrunner shorts, this film has been described as Matrix meets Crouching Tiger (ugh!!!) combined with the comedy wit of Airplane! and Tex Avery films by British critics. I don't know about the Matrix/Hidden Dragon (boo!!!) part other than the fight sequences were choreographed by the same guy.

The plot is nonsence but this is a Chow film after all. Growing up and watching his films as a kid this is the sort of bullshit film you would expect. How we all laughed throughout the fully filled theater. I never witness such a funnier film this year or the last especially when compared to the shit Hollywood factory churns out every month (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughen, Owen Wilson, Jackie Chan - why don't you all retire). It won't touch the older non-martial art films by Stephen Chow. Those were the classics. But it sure came close and with it blows all Hollywood'ised romantic martial art films away.

Film Review: Batman Begins

I couldn't tell you how disappointed I was with Batman Begins. I went into London IMAX with such high hopes that the auteur of Memento could command. With a stellar cast in Christian Bale (who was dynamic in American Psycho) and other notable British actos (Gary Oldman, Liam Nesson etc.), he should.

Through reviews I expected the first hour to be a history lesson in the origins of Batman hence I was prepared for ill acting by a young Bruce Wayne and bad philosophical pondering of Bale's journey in Asia. But what I did not expect was it would be so boring. I held on. I knew the good part would eventually arrive when Bale dons the mask.

I waited eagerly as Bale tored up Watanabe's Ninja Palace. I waited as he found his new Bat cave, obtained his new suit and boxy military vehicle. When the action did finally arrived I was crushed. The scene I most looked forward to - the police car chase scene - was so utterly mindless I actually slept through it for a minute. No lies here, but in truth it was partially because the theatre was so cold.

I am sorry but with all the hyped I found this to be an overrated film. Katie Holmes was a total miscast. I can't see how she can be taken seriously in Hollywood. No wonder what has gripped the nation's red top tabloids (and some) has been said to be a publicity stunt. The only notably good acting were by Morgan Freeman and Cilian Murphy but both had very minor roles. And Gary Oldman's usually intellectual and psychotic acting skills were of no use here as the good cop. And the plot was totally incoherent.

This would, sadly despite much hope, never be able to come even close to unseating the two classic Tim Burton Batman films. Some has stated that Batman Begins will be the darkest of all Batman films. It might visit in great details of Bruce Wayne's past, but sadly not noir or nihilistic enough. This summer, go watch Kungfu Hustle instead.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Grumble #6 : Tube rules

To the American accented lady (25-35) in beige carrying a black bag who pushed your way through the second door of the second car of the 23:27 west bound Central Line train from Bank station (ending at Ealing Broadway), just because it is late doesn't mean you have to be a bum and disregard the fundamental tube rule of letting passengers off the train first! Or cutting the queue. It was a long and tiring hot night and after having a couple of drinks all I wanted was to journey stagger back in peace (sleep) and not having to listen to your whining about working in London. Jesus.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gizmondo

A mate of mine recently purchased a Gizmondo portable gaming machine and let me had a go while on the bus. He had Stuntcar Extreme. It was okay I guess. I played Stuntcar Extreme when it was released on the Pocket PC platform few months ago so it wasn't anything new. The graphics (of Stuntcar Extreme) are nicer and smoother but nothing like the version for Intel 2700G multimedia processor. But Sony's PSP is still miles ahead in graphical capabilities. (Yeah this guy has all three major portable consoles now including the Nintendo DS - crazy!)

I am just waiting for Colors to be released which will take advantage of the built-in GPS chip. I played with the demo in their flagship store at Regents Street sometime ago and it was a blast. Sure there wasn't a chance to test the GPS function (because the device was fixed and they wouldn't loan me one). But Colors is the big game everyone is waiting for, much like Zelda is for Nintendo and Metal Gear Solid is for Sony.

Gizmodo
image: taken at Gizmondo, Regents Street

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Boris Johnson blogs

Despite having a blog under his name, Boris Johnson hardly ever blogs. Most of the posts are from Melissa. Today he did - on the subject of Racial and Religious Hatred Bill: Second Reading:

Today I am sitting in my boiling and un-air-conditioned office getting psyched up for an afternoon in the House of Commons.

We have before us an appalling bill, and because I have no confidence that I will catch the Speaker's eye, I want to tell you NOW roughly what I am going to say - or what I would say, if given the chance to speak.

Boris Johnson (Henley): "Mr Speaker I do not want to detain the House long, since so many of the points have of course been so eloquently made by my Hon Friends on the front benches.

I simply want to add my voice to the general and growing chorus of those who believe that this bill is bad, ill-thought out, and likely to do far more harm than good.

In trying to create a new offence, of incitement to religious hatred, I believe the government is on the verge of an almost mediaeval repression of free speech.

Excellent arguement Boris.

Bloody Foxtons Mini-Coopers, weekend excursions & an encounter with an urban fox

If you live around London you would have noticed the many Mini-Coopers operated by Ãœber-rich estate agent Foxtons. I first saw these cars back in 2001 (Italian Job - I didn't think much about it, I thought it was a bunch of Mini-Cooper fans who were going racing) when the company decided to use Minis as moving billboards. It also serves as an automobile for their agents driving up and down London scouting new flats for sales and showing potential house purchasers.

Their current 2005 livery is called the 'Camouflage' and is hideous, well especially when compared to the fairly okay 2004 'Hippie' version. But that's not all, one of them almost tried to kill me yesterday. It was a bloke wearing blue tie (=Tory voter?) and black suit, and he was driving up the inner roads of the leafy town. He was tearing down the corner into my lane so damn fast I had to jump to avoid his bloody car. I swore out loudly prompting disbelief gasps from London's more gentle residents (the incident happened outside an housing block for the elderly).

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This weekend I would be enjoying myself to the fullest. Jenni is coming over and we have a backlog of stuff to do. We need to watch Batman Begins (hopefully at London's IMAX - Batman Begins in IMAX format!) and Kungfu Hustle (at UCI Empire Leicester Square). We will also hope to attend Friday's or Saturday's Wimbledon (I want to hear Sharapova's yelps). This will totally depend on our ability to queue the evening before and the order of play. Depending on Wimbledon, Saturday or Sunday we may be going to Bicester, Oxfordshire for some shopping. We might continue all the way up to the Midlands if we have some time.

Then there is the usual excursions around London. We haven't been on the London Eye yet (we climbed St. Paul's two years ago and the view is amazing from there) so we might be doing it soon before (if) it relocates to Paris. Also depending on Wimbledon, we may attend one of the Wireless Festival days. The line up isn't that great but what can I do? Wish I could be in Glastonbury right now!

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I was awaken last night by an urban fox. Our area of London has loads of garden foxes but it was still a shock to find one outside my window. I didn't close the window and I heard rustling. Woke up and there was one staring at me - right there at the windowsills. The eyes blinked while it glowed in the dark before it scampered off. This isn't my first encounter with London's population of 10,000 foxes. I frequently come across them scavengingg around sometimes midnight or early in the morning before dawn. And their frequent mating screams (around 2-4am) gives me goosebumps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

'Metal Gear Solid' City Hideout

City Hideout

Via Coolhunting, 'City Hideout' from a Eindhoven based design studio OOOMS, is a:
"...portable temporary dwelling made to fit one seated adult. The collapsible metal box resembles the kind of streetside sheds that commonly house electrical devices such as streetlight controls, new-age parking meters, and small generators. The hideout can be easily assembled on any corner or rooftop as the ultimate urban camouflage."

"The most intriguing feature of this seemingly simple structure is the stark duality inherent in the design. When viewed as a form of escape and asylum from the city, a shelter from metropolitan neurosis, the hideout exudes an OK Computer-like charm, allowing its owner an opportunity to innocuously disappear amidst the bustle he can no longer handle. At the same time, the hideout's slits create the perfect condition for a new breed of urban voyeurism, suddenly casting its inhabitant as a pathological threat to all passers-by."

Living in London can be stressful especially if I need to be in the City where there are tens of thousands of crazy tourist, white collar suits, students and kids bustling about on the same street. This temporary dwelling is just perfect to take a sit around should anxiety kicks in. It is also a a pretty good voyeurism utility. I want one.

Grumble #5

Yesterday I received seven 'cold' calls from telemarketers in a space of three hours. I lost patience when the seventh call came in, I shouted: "I am not fucking interested in any new 3G mobile phones, insurance or whatever you are selling today. I don't even own a car. Now piss off and don't call back!" I am not proud of it.

I am not sure if such a thing is practiced in Malaysia so I will give a short explanation on how telemarketers operate here: Cold calls are automatically generated by computers and if you answer the phone there would be one or two seconds of silent before the call is transferred to a n available telemarketer.


With Caller ID activated, the phone would display the number as 'unknown' or 'witheld'. Normally you would think that it is wise to ignore calls that have no numbers but with many people switching over to 3rd party recaller systems such as One.tel, genuine callers (like my aunt, the bank or even the police) in recent times would have my Caller ID function display 'unknown' or 'witheld'.

Which meant that I would usually have to take almost every calls made to my phone. I once ignored a call twice assuming it was being made by a telemarketer but it was made by a made through his company's switchboard. Man was he pissed.

Summer Solstice

How did you celebrate the Summer Solstice? I woke up at about 4.30am and just lay by my bed looking out the window as dawn arrived. The wind was breezing through slowly blowing fresh morning air in. I went to the garden and had a cuppa, admired the sun (through squinted eyes).

Today is the longest day of the year. With a full moon no less. Wished I could have gone to Salisbury Plain and join the
thousands of other revellers celebrating the arrival of midsummer. Perhaps next year.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Martin & Irena, cannabis smoking in the park

I don't really like to blog about this kind of stuff, but this is the most seriously funny shit that I ever heard/experience hence the reason why it is here.

A friend of mine, a British guy age 35/36, has a problem. Well not really a problem since he has already made up his mind. But here me out. Let's just call him Martin. He has been living with this Italian lady for more than ten years now. They were hopelessly in love at first but are now starting to fall out.

The reason might amuse you. You see Martin only went out with this Spanish Italian lady whom, I will call Maria, because the lady (a Slovenian called Irena) he used to love moved to the States and married another bloke there. They have two childs now.

Recently Martin and Irena has resumed contact. Irena is having a relationship problem with her American hubbie and is contemplating divorcing him (if she can gain custody). Well Martin soon falls in love with her again. They e-mail each other constantly. Now when I asked him how would Maria (someone whom I don't like actually) feel about it he brushed it off and stated that Irena was his first ever love and if she decided to get back to him then he will dump Maria.

Irena flew over to Britain last summer and she and Martin (minus Maria) went on a two week break to the Isle of Wight. Maria actually has suspicion on Martin's activities for quite some time but she is adamant to stick with him (she also co-owns the 4 bedroom North London home they are staying in). It was pretty funny. Once I was over at Martin's place and he showed us a video of the Isle of Wight trip with Irena. They weren't holding hands or anything (at least not on video) but the closeness was evident. The funny part was Maria was viewing the video with us!!!

I haven't contacted Martin for a few months now but today I received a call from him. Apparently Maria will be flying to the states for a two week holiday. At first I thought that she wanted to confront Irena but then Martin told me that it was because she met some bloke of teh Interweb and is flying to meet him! I hear you...what the fuck is going on!? He was pretty serious when stating that he wants to marry Irena. The thing is if Irena does not get a divorce and move back to London then he will continue being with Maria. Weird isn't it?

I doubt he and Maria has an open relationship. Apart from Irena I know of no one else he flings with apart from a short time when he went out with a co-worker from the council office where they work together. As for Maria - who the fuck knows. Personally we don't really care much about Maria. Some of us even hate her (I don't know her well enough to hate her so I am pretty neutral in this - but I do know that she is a control freak).

There you go. My first gossip that I decided to blog about. What do you guys think? Should I mind my own business or should I kick Martin in his arse? He supports Chelsea after all so at least he is deserving of one.

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I was at the park walking back from a off-license (getting beer) and there was a group of five black blokes. A very familiar smell lighted my senses. They were smoking cannabis! Complete with glass water pipes. Right there at the park with the police station 200 yards away. The reclassification to class C sure does wonders. I chatted with them for a while and they offered me a 'taste' (not that I needed any) but I declined. I have been clean for many years, I won't risk a joint and get addicted/caught.
Finally a Sudoku Solver that I can hide on my mobile. Any idiots so challenges me to a game of Sudoku will not know what hit them. Usually I will just tell them to piss off and attempt a real puzzle (e crosswords) but now everybody is going Sudoku mad. Backlash anyone? Last I heard this dreaded puzzle has arrived in a Malaysian print. Good luck guys.

More here.

Nikon EM

Nikon EM

Was rummaging through my personal belongings and found my dad's old Nikon EM. This is an entry level SLR 35mm camera introduced in 1979. I am not sure what year my dad got this but it is still in pretty good condition. This is a great camera for someone like me who is interested in photography but lacks the ability to handle a fully fledge SLR. With the EM you only need to control the aperture priority while the exposure is automatic. What a no frills SLR!

Nikon EM

The EM's body is very lightweight. Made of durable plastic the camera feels very solid despite being much smaller than other SLRs (perfect for war photographers). The EM comes with cheap and light Nikon E Series lens (50mm - f/1.8). I love the way the shutter cocks itself and the satisfying sound the SLR makes when taking a picture. To wind the film, you would need to flip out the winding lever.

Nikon EM

Although it was an entry level SLR when first introduced I think the design has aged pretty well. Who knows if it might be a collector in 20 years time when everyone's gone 100% digital. But I do know that I have had some good memories with the EM.

Back in '95 I would use the EM (my dad wouldn't lend me his ultra futuristic
Olympus iS-3000 SLR) to capture images (I had no basic knowledge in photography - all I did was focus) of my home town for a school history project based on my home town. Because of the lightness it was easy to drag around hung on my neck why cycling through town capturing images of Chinese cemeteries and god knows what.

Here is a review on the EM.

Wimbledon, Formula One, Philips DVD+RW

Wimbledon begins today! And with it comes the curse of Wimbledon on London's weather. Yes after yesterday's record heatwave Thor decided to punish us with a little bit of rain, thunder and lightning. All this on the first day of Wimbledon. Still looking forward to the tournament. Depending on the play (and ticket availability), I might even attend Friday's or Saturday's event.

BBC Wimbledon blog

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Follow up to my Bernie challenge post - it looks like he really took it up. Heh. So what if the 'sport' is in jeopardy? They have loads of obscene money from doing nothing but 'risking' their life. Farcical? Maybe. Expected? Yeah. The only reason why such a debacle happened in the first place was the tyre regulations FIA put in place to reduce cost and speed. And the inevitable happened. Some might cry for Formula One today in disgust. I wasn't. I was elated. Formula One deserves to be in this position. It was shameful and they deserved it.

And I really won't blame Michelin for this. All of Formula One is to blame including Ferrari who were the only team to veto a compromise. Regardless it was a funny sight when I switched on the telly for the highlights at 12.30am. What a laugh. A sport worth millions and a bunch of rich adults who would not find a compromise. And that idiot Monteiro. So you won. Big deal.

Can't wait for the breakaway championship.

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This is from Comet. 25 Philips 4x DVD+RW media on a spindle for only £12.99 when I bought them a month ago. That is about 50p per disc. Not a bad deal considering it is a branded package. Comet had a pack of 5 Philips 4x DVD+RW (with boxes) for £10 so I think I got a good deal here.


I always use branded optical disc media because they never fail me. Learnt that the hard way a few years back when I got a couple of cheap Memorex CD-Rs and although the discs were kept in safe dry storage, a few months later most of them were unreadable. My Sony CD-R medias burnt three years ago can still be read despite all the scratches on them.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Father's Day", some typical ranting and then some

Today happens to be Father's Day. I talked to my dad yesterday and both of us agreed, Father's Day is just a 'US' thing. Something we don't really care.

During the run up to Father's Day, major retailers has been bombarding us with advertisements reminding us to get gifts for our fathers. The gifts were obviously suggested to be bought from said retailers. A store I passed by the other day was the Silverscreen's local high street outlet and had a giant banner which uses the Star Wars famous Darth Vader quote "I am your father" before suggesting us to purchase the trilogy DVD boxset for our dads. Not a bad idea, but my dad hates science-fiction films.

I am not against the concept of Father's Day, but the day itself has long since been hijacked by self interested companies who sees nothing more than to encourage us to spend money on more useless stereotypical fatherly gagdets like DIY products. The so called love your father message has been lost. Clever people will no doubt be able to see through all these shenanigans as I am sure most of you would.

Oh and the summer sale begins next week, so save your money till then.

My thoughts on Mother's Day.

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Watching last night's Channel 4 screening of the Donington Park festival (called Download now), I had regret I did not jump on the chance when an old old friend of mine asked me to come along. There was Megadeth, Slayer, Velvot Revolver, In Flames, Motorhead, Nightwish, Garbage, Lacuna Coil, Shadows Fall, Napalm Death and Anthrax, bands I would kill to witness.

But then again there was Feeder, HIM, Slipknot, System of the Down and Papa Roach. Granted they were scattered over at different stages and Donington is big enough to escape around should a crap band plays. The line up was weak. Feeder, yes, Feeder was headlining the Friday Ozzfest line up. I hear you mate - what the bloody fuck is going on??? But this is not surprising. Ozzfest has a knack of attracting less than ideal bands.

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Today's London temperature is 33°C with a high risk sun index. Enjoy it while it last.

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I am no Tory supporter but if Ken Clarke runs for Conservative party leadership and win (quite unlikely but I will blog on), then for the first time in many years we will have a Conservative party led by a fairly left wing (albeit a Conservative) moderniser who happens to be pro-Europe (yay!) while the Labour party is still being led by a fairly right wing moderniser.

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So today's Formula One race will feature only six cars? Ah...at least some excitement back into Formula One. Bernie, if you want the papers to start raving about Formula One, then you will do good by courting controversy and banning those cars with those French tyres.

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Speaking of le frogs, we were thinking of getting away to the nation populated by bourgeois pretending to be bohemians this summer but with the weather this hot how could you do so (remember how many people dies there every summer?)? I think I will wait till the winter chill sets in in January before escaping to the South of France only then.

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And finally...

On the subject of Savvy Vs Myvi: Who the fuck cares? Jesus, this is getting old. I have not actually seen either in person but both looks like Nissan Micra rip-offs, only uglier. And both continues the tradition of silly, weird and idiotic model names.

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According to this BBC test, the four aspects that make up my personality type are:

Spontaneous, Ideas, Heads and Extrovert

Summary of Big-Thinkers

  • Outspoken, ingenious and bored by routine
  • Think of themselves as talkative, curious and self-sufficient
  • May neglect the routine work required to make their plans successful

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Parliament Hill

According to the BBC, Parliament Hill was formerly known as Traitor's Hill and is the gateway to Hampstead Heath. The name is thought to come from being a place for troops loyal to the Parliament during the English Civil War.

If you pop down today to Parliament Hill you would be able to view Italian-American footballer turned sculptor Giancarlo Neri's The Writer. The Writer is a typical table and straight chair, the only difference is it isn't from Ikea and it stands 30ft tall. The set was installed early this month and will be left there till October.

Giancarolo Neri's The Writer on Parliament Hill

Giancarolo Neri's The Writer on Parliament Hill

Giancarolo Neri's The Writer on Parliament Hill

Giancarolo Neri's The Writer on Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

View from Parliament Hill

From the peak of Parliament Hill you will be able to get an unspoiled view of the City and Canary Wharf.

Hampstead Heath

Just got back from the Heath after a three hour hike/picnic there. It was a very nice day (still is) with the temperature around 31°C. There are nice breezes of wind. Wonderful for topping up my tan.

We entered through the Northen entrance of Hampstead Heath (Kenwood House).
Kenwood House was built in the early 18th century and now managed by English Heritage. It contains private art collections loaned to the House. Entrance is free. I have been there before and it is a typical museum with a couple of docents. If you are into high arts then you should probably make the effort to view the house.

Hampstead Heath

Kenwood House

Dog

Hampstead Heath

Cute

The Heath

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

The Heath is pretty large. It took us about 30 minutes to get from the Northern entrance down to Parliament Hill (south). But you will definitely need a whole day if you want to see the rest of the 800 acres park. Unlike other parks in London, Hampstead Heath is not a garden.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Freebie: Onitsuka Tiger wrist band

Onitsuka Tiger

If you happen to be in Carnaby Street, head to Onitsuka Tiger's new store on Newburgh Street where you can claim your free Onitsuka Tiger wrist band. I am a sucker for freebies (kiasu) which was the reason we went there over the weekend.

Onitsuka Tiger wrist band

I don't think the wrist band is made of leather although I am not sure. It comes in one size and has two buttons to allow for adjusting. On the center of the band a cool embossed tiger stares out. Then there are those words 'ONITSUKA TIGER by ASICS' embossed near the end of the band. Cool huh?

The store itself is pretty small and has a minimalist style. In addition to ASICS shoes you can purchase Onitsuka Tiger Ts, hoods, trousers, accessories etc.

BTW, if you are thinking of getting the yellow ASICS Tai Chi model that Uma Thurman wore in Kill Bill: Volume One then you will be disappointed. Sold out.

Onitsuka Tiger
15, Newburgh Street
W1F 7RX London

Tube: Oxford Circus

Software Review: Dilbert Dose-a-Day

Dataviz released Dose-a-Day a couple of years ago. Only recently have I obtained a copy of the Dilbert edition for Pocket PC. Installation is as routine as any Pocket PC installation through ActiveSync (the PalmOS version will install via HotSync, a HotSync conduit will also be installed). A PC sync program is also installed on the PC site.

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This is the screen you will be greeted on executing the application. The strip for the day will be shown. Because PDA screens are small you need to use your stylus to drag the strip or the hard buttons to view the next box.

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You can view past strips but not future strips (unless you cheat). The number of past strips are dependent on how many days of strips you allow to be synced onto your PDA at any one time or whether you have favourites. The options will be on the PC sync program.

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You can set display options on when whether Dose-a-Day be allowed to automatically power up. It won't power up automatically if you install the application onto an external storage card.

I own loads of Dilbert books and was lucky that there are some strips here that I have yet to read. There are a couple of classics too. At US$20 however, I wish Dataviz would put out 'refresher' strips on their site for those who owned this product for longer than a year.

If you are not into Dilbert, Dataviz also sells Golf by Gary McCord and Close to Home. All are compatible with Windows Mobile for Pocket PC and PalmOS.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Where is my British passport?

Just took the BBC's quiz based on questions drawn from the 150-page Life in the United Kingdom government book. Living in Blighty for seven/eight years this was easy.

Granted it was only 15 questions but according to the BBC I am entitled to a seat in Whitehall. Tony Blair, move over!


You can test your Britishness here.

You got 14 right!
0-5: Seat in Heathrow arrivals.... 6-10: Seat on the district council......11-14: Seat in Parliament.....15: Seat on the throne

Book Review: Mao: The Unknown Story



I have just finished Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang. This book reveals the true hidden nature of Chairman Mao and his China and the evil he is represented in China's past history. So far masks has been torn down by the author and her co-author, husband Jon Halliday.

To many, Mao was different from Stalin. He was different from Hitler. He was not a monster. He was the acceptable face of youthful defiance against authority. You can still see posters of Mao draping many students accomodations next to that of the iconic Che.

The books demolished many of the Mao myths such as the Long March, which the authors claimed, was a total sham. Mao did not lead the march. His policy of inciting terror into the Chinese population is also told here. Low moral from his own troops lead to dissent and schemes to rid of him.

Contrary to Marxist theory, Mao treated himself like a semi-deity, lavished himself in luxury and imperialist power. His communist peers saw through him but Mao was able to act on them. Many were rounded up, locked up and left to die. The story of Zhao Enlai, a slave so loyal to Mao, that he was not allowed cancer treatement and died, was sad. Mao like his idol Stalin, was capable to murder his fellow people in order to gain and stay in power. His second wife was left behind to be killed by Nationalists.

The insanity of Mao led to the death of millions of Chinese. Chosen successors were rid of because they lack his viciousness. Falling out with Moscow he arranged for Richard Nixon to visit China to no effect. The progressive Deng Xiaoping was installed then rid off as he started countering some of Mao's policies such as the Great Leap Forward.

All this if true makes the whole episode with Japan's unaccountability to its own World War II horror all the more absurd. China is rising as an economic power, but many of its own citizens are unaware how their modern country was built on the death of some 70 million people.

The book is told in the point of view of Jung Chang so there are elements of biased you wouldn't get from historical books. She conveys her anger to an extent you will notice her lack of objectivity. Mao: The Unknown Story is likely to be banned in China like Juan Chang's previous book Wild Swans.

Published by Jonathan Cape, £25

Choirfest at Central Hall Westminster

Last Friday we were invited to a choir at Central Hall Westminster. This was to be my first ever choir. I already had negative preconception on how choirs are like which was why I wasn't really looking forward to it. But I decided to give it a shot. It was a Friday night so we were all going to rub shoulders with Tory voting toffs.

And we got lost. Living in London for so many years meant that I knew we would get into trouble navigating London's many streets. And the area surrounding Westminster Abbey isn't a place I usually hang about. The last time we were in the area was last year's New Year's celebration when the police decided to shut down Westminster tube station and we had to walk the mile to Victoria station.

I got the leaflet from the box office. It is called Choirfest London. It featured a choirmaster called Frank Boggs who looks like James Cameron, a soprano called Angelique Clay and guest conductor Noel Tredinnick who looks like a Hobbit (from the photograph).

Choirfest

Because we got the cheapest ticket we were ushered to seats that has zero visibility of a single singer. Which was a little stupid because the hall was only 15% filled. After the first repertoire we moved to £12 seats (we paid £6). Unfortunately we were not thrown out.

And I will tell you why. It was rubbish. It was my first choir. And nothing on the leaflet stated that this would be a religious choir except maybe the word 'Spirituals'. Well you all know what I think about organised religion, so you should understand why I was displeased when they started singing about some guy called Jesus Christ.

Well anyway you can see how far my bias goes when it comes to the subject of organised religion that it can cloud my views on a simple choir. Some may say change the lyrics and you may like it but I disagree. This is something one can't just learn to like. Similarly you could force me as much R&B or Hip Hop bullcrap down my ears and I will still won't be able to accept it even if it contains lyrical contents that I would approve. It may be torturous but I won't succumb.

Central Hall Westminster

And this choir was simply bad. My grand aunt who attends many religious choirs agrees that the singing was rubbish (she refused to clap). Jennifer with her extensive knowledge in classical music critised the conductors and the organist. The American bloke sitting in front of me voiced his disapproval on such an amateurish performance. No wonder the hall was only 15% full - on a Friday evening no less!

To their credit I did manage to like one song. The classic Irish(?) song Danny Boy was sung by the choir sometime during the second half when I was almost sleeping. I have heard this song sung many times during the countless St. Patrick's Day events and in films such as Memphis Belle.

Music Review: The Tears - Here Come The Tears

Here Comes The Tears

This is the album that brings back Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson back together after their split back in the heydays of Suede. Despite what some may wish for, this is a pretty darn good 'debut'.

The album is filled with nice Britpop songs, a testament of what Suede could have been if they sticked together in 1994. Expression is still rooted in britpop with a great track in Refugees. Then there is Brave New Century, a glammy filler. Nonsensical band this isn't. If you like your Oasis or Coldplay then maybe this may further open your eyes.

The production is a little harsh, not perfect which is a good thing when looking for albums like this. There are a couple of misses but the majority are gems. The album finale, A Love As Strong As Death, a beautiful atmospheric subtle and amazing track.

Suede they may not be. It isn't 1993 again you know, but it is close.

Music Review: The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers

It isn't everyday you get to discover something totally different to listen to. But I did and I blame NME for that. I swore some time ago not to buy into any hype NME impose on us mortal souls. But I did not abide by my own bidding hence when I walked past The Magic Number's eponymous debut album, sure there was a little sticker there with another NME 2005 proclamation, and I bought it.

Ignoring the sight of a fat lady, the album is instantly my new favourite with the first track, Morning Eleven immediately drawing my attention. The band managed to successfully mix alternative rock with 1960s pop, soul and country to great effect (think Kaiser Chiefs). Beautiful yet simple to excite. The result it an exciting blend of melancholic joyous hippy jumpy music to put a smile on me on a day when the clouds decided to piss on us. It isn't all pop though. There are technical guitar solos that will put other guitar bands to shame (read= Oasis).

Do give this album a chance. It is a gem to forever keep. Lalala...

8.5/10

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Finally some sense from Malaysia's government

I totally welcome this initiative by the Malaysian government to distribute free condoms in order to combat the spread of HIV. Like it or not humans will always practice sex and if free condoms means someone is saved from a life threatening virus then so much the better.

The past two days Mrs. Blair has come under heavy criticism from some pretend prints such as
The Daily Mail (ugh...) for her trip to Malaysia next month. Now I am not a Cherie Blair fan but I am on the fence on this one. Cherie Blair while isn't free from scandal, she does support the abolition of the death penalty and her human right record speaks for itself (apart from her support from the illegal invasion of Iraq).

But then again Malaysia needs a good kick in the arse to realise that the country is in essential a pariah nation in the eyes of the world. And if Cherie cancels the tour to humiliate the government then so be it. Because it is shit like this that makes me mad.

Now so far I have kept my nose out of the so called Sarong Girl debate. My opinion is this: The media probably had the right to keep tabs on bloggers, that is what people in the media do anyway. And the Malaysia blogging community had the right to defend her.

But so far all I saw were childish behaviours accusing someone of bad journalism. Is that the best one can do? I am a hardcode liberal and believe in female's right to show of their bodies or do whatever they want, but somehow in my humble opinion this whole issue was started because the blogger in question was an attention seeker (like that Hustler bloke).

Music Review: Foo Fighters - In Your Honour

Foo Fighters -  In Your Honour

Can Foo Fighters ever top The Colour and the Shape or their eponymous debut? They seem to be trying? The new album comes with two CDs worth of mostly new materials. CD One will be the rock album while the second CD will be the acoustic album. I have been listening to the album for two days now digesting the music. Here is my review.

In Your Honour begins with the title track, a gritty introduction with a screaming Dave Grohl. It was an intense track unlike anything I would expect from a first track especially one by Foo Fighters.

Normal service resumes with No Way Back which style harks or the way back to their debut, a rock album full of beats and nice fast guitar. Maybe this should have been the intro? Best of You is definitely the Foo Fighter mainstream track. It is not hard, it was complex and it was great.

I won't go into details on the rest of what Disc One sounds like but it sounds but it kinda went downhill after DOA with numbers that seems to go no where. The production value is great, if not too much. They should have toned down a little bit and let the harsh music do the talking. It won't replace Foo Fighters or The Colours and the Shape as the defacto classic of the band but it is not too bad.

The second CD has a number of acoustic tracks. This shouln't come as a surprise. Dave Grohl's former band Nirvana has produced an acoustic filled album before. Try listening to Friend of a Friend (which was written when Dave was still at Nirvana) and you can hear the similarities.

I am not sure if Norah Jones is my cup of tea and I have to admit I wasn't pleased when I heard she will be dueting in a jazz number on Virginia Moon. It was interesting while it lasted. In fact the whole second disc was interesting but only so. I doubt it would reside on my permanent playlist and probably be consigned to my 'archive drawer' collecting dust.

The first CD is alright I guess. I shouldn't be complaining really, at least they priced the double album in a similar price range as a single disc album (three pence under a tenner). But alas this is no Foo Fighters classic, not even the first CD. It just didn't have the originality that they once were capable of.

CD1: 7/10
CD2: 5.5/10

Monday, June 13, 2005

Parkour : Jump London at Trafalgar Square

It is Architecture Week from the 17th June. The organisers has organised a couple of events at Trafalgar Square and last Saturday Urban Freeflow's Bam, Sticky, Hasan et al were there demonstrating their freerunning skills.

Parkour

Parkour

Parkour

Parkour

Parkour

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