More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dissecting Big Brother 06 - An Examination

This post is not about criticising Big Brother, its just a discussion on a show that interest me at the moment. You may be suprised to hear that I actually watch it. That doesn't necessarily mean I like it, but I do watch it.

When Big Brother first started 6 years ago, it was a worldwide phenomenon. It was riding on the crest of reality TV started by Survivor. I must admit, initially it was a different idea and I thought there was great potential for it. I, like a lot of other people, followed that first series quite closely and got to love and hate the characters inside the house. Scientists and Psychologists were touting the show as a sociologyical study. That wasn't entirely far from the truth in that first season. The contestants did not know what to expect and neither did the public. This allowed for as natural an interaction between the housemates as possible in a very artificial environment. However, when you think about it more, it wasn't a true sociological experiment. Everything was so controlled, and the fact that Big Brother told the housemates what to do and when, meant it was just a drama. It's a drama with a loosely written script that allowed for improvisation on the part of the "actors". For it to be a true sociological experiment, something along the lines of the Truman show needs to be implemented. The characters have to know nothing about the situation they're in and react to situations naturally.

Following series of Big Brother were just reality TV shows. Any claims of sociological experimentation was dropped. It was just trash TV at its best. The contestants going in knew what they were up for. They all wanted their 15 minutes of fame and any money and prizes they could get out of it. Most contestants are totally fake. None will admit to just entering the House for the money as the public will view that in a negative ways. Those who are honest and admit to that get punished by the public and evicted. Hence, housemates learn to play the game, since Big Brother is just a game after all, and say they're going into the house to look for "love" and to have "an experience". If I could get a dollar for every time someone said "I'm going into the house for the experience", I might be able to buy Apple shares hehehehe. Exactly what "experience" are the housemates trying to look for inside the house. You can meet the same types of people in your normal life and interact with them exactly the same. The fact that you have to nominate your housemates for eviction is just a bonus I guess. I wonder how many would be up for the "experience" if there were no cameras or money involved. I think you will find that people up for that challenge will be a lot more eccentric and different to the current contestants.

So far, it may sound that I'm against the show. That isn't exactly the case. Many people may call it rubbish and at times I would tend to agree. However I would say to the critics, if you hate it so much, just turn off your TV. You do have that power. I choose to occasionally watch it. The show always hooks me in at the start of every season with all their claims of world first this and that or some new "twist". Most of the twist are so pathetic its not even worth the paper the idea was written on. So usually I watch the first few episodes and the last few just to see who wins. Despite not watching religously, I might catch a bit here and there and still get to know the people. Usually I have a favourite who I do want to win. However, I'm not fanatical to the point that I start fighting with other people because they criticise that housemate. That's just taking it too far. How can you possibly feel that much emotion for someone you don't even know and who will never know or care about you. Those fanatical fans need to look at things in perspective. Your own friends and family around you are the important ones, not fictional characters on a TV show.

So what exactly does Big Brother provide you're asking. Well in my opinion, Big Brother provides viewers a chance to feel superior. The contestants that are chosen are generally obnoxious and not exactly model citizens. Big Brother also gives us a chance to be able to judge people and get away with it. In fact, you are encouraged to judge people and "vote out the ones you hate or annoy you". It gives mild mannered viewers a chance to explore their alter egos and be totally critical in most cases and judgemental. There will be many conversations at the work water cooler along the lines of "Did you see how stupid....was on Big Brother" or "How arrogant was....last night".

This year, the contestants that have been chosen have been the youngest ever. Their ages show through in how immature they are. I'm not saying I'm an old wise man, but the House just amplifies every unintelligent act or word they produce. The conversations this year have been as complex as Paris Hilton's mind. Discussions have just been about "who's hooking up with who" and a LOT of talking behind other people's back. There haven't been many discussions on world issues, politics or new emerging technologies. Its just been a good old backstabbing session, mixed in with a serving of arrogance, a dollop of ignorance, a pinch of sarcasm and a drop of fakeness.

I dislike every housemate so far. I have not warmed to any of them as in past series. But yet, this year has been when I have watched it more than any other year. Its because of what I said earlier, watching this year's Big Brother has given me the opportunity to feel superior to these housemates who I regard as totally shallow and arrogant. I am judging them without really knowing them, but thats what the show is encouraging us all to do. We can vote out who we hate. There are forums to express your views. The show is probably edited in such a way to make them all look fairly stupid. Having said that, there aren't exactly many doctors, lawyers, engineers or nuclear physicists in the house. There are many forms of intelligence, but a pre-requiste for it is to be able to listen and absorb what others have to say. From what I've seen, this year's group is all about I. There's an I in WINNER but no I in LOSER. The group is so self obsessed and that is a very digusting trait. The best example was yesterday night, Danielle was stroking the Dino's ego so much that she must have got blisters on her mind. However he just kept saying "tell me more about me" (in a half joking manner) and then went on to say that "To be honest, I hardly know anything about you. I've been so busy watching everything in the House and thinking about myself because of my ego". Classic! So egotistical that he couldn't see past his own nose.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

All Hacks Indoor Soccer Team Vol 807 & 808

All Hacks,

In this first match against C.C, the good news filtered through that we had won by default and didn't have to play. That was good considering I was possibly not going to make it since I was having dinner with my mum (it was Mother's Day after all).

With the second match against Shaolin, once again I was hoping that we would have a default win. It was just so cold outside and after having dinner, I just felt so sluggish. When the game started, our team only had four players with a substitute playing for us. A few minutes in, Anisha and Javier arrived to bolster the team number to 6.

We started off quite well matching Shaolin move for move. In fact, we had the bulk of the opportunities in the first half. However, numerous great moves ended with terrible shots at goal. As the game wore on and Shaolin interchaning between their team of 10, we just started to run out of legs and slowly but surely they got ahead. The match just lacked intensity the whole night for me, I just felt so tired and didn't want to move. The match drew out with Shaolin winning 4-2 after a late penalty goal from Anisha right on the buzzer.

On a separate note, a few of us (Justin A, Adrian, Harinder, Masum, Huy, David and myself) met up to watch the Australia Greece friendly. Because dinner took an eternity for the Greek restaurant to make, despite us being one of two groups in the restaurant, we got to the pub just in time to miss the goal from Skoko. However, the extended dinner meant that the 7 of us went through 2 bottles of red. Then at the pub, Harinder, Masum and I proceeded to down about 5 beers during the game. By the end of the night, I was a little drunk. While some of us become tired and quiet and drunk, i.e me, Harinder and Masum became extremely loud and funny. Hahaha, the whole trip home those two proceeded to talk crap about anything and everything. Hopefully everyone got home safely but I haven't heard from Justin A or Adrian yet but they didn't drink too much so should have got home safely. Thanks to Huy for drivin Harinder, Masum and I home.

Lets organise some more pub meets during the World Cup, although I may skip the 2am and 5am matches unless Australia make it into the second stage.

"If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to witness it, did it really fall" Well similarly, if a high pitched noise is played and no-one can hear it, did it really play. See if you can hear this clip. I could with the volume up really high and its extremely annonying.
High Pitched Noise

And for all you nerds out there, test you Internet Addiction
Internet Addiction

And for those who have read and watched the Da Vinci Code, I'd love to hear some feedback about what you thought, especially on the differences between the book and movie.
Da Vinci Code Review


Movie Review: X-Men 3: The Last Stand

X-Men 3 is the latest installment in the X-Men franchise that have been adapted from the Marvel comic books. The first X-Men movie was a trailblazer, it started the ball rolling for many comic book adapted movies, such as Spiderman, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Elektra, Catwoman and Hulk just to name a few of the popular ones.

The first X-Men movie was very good. The first movie contained a strong central storyline on the emotionally lost and cynical Wolverine (played beautifully by Aussie Hugh Jackman) who slowly discovered his powers and was slowly brought into the world of mutants. Also there was the good versus evil aspect where we knew who the good guys were and that they were fighting evil that was trying to take over the world.

In this latest installment of X-Men, I couldn't really tell who the good guys were. I was flipping between who I should support. The whole movie was quite a mixture of strange events that didn't seem to join together too well. Firstly we got the reprise of Jean Grey, who it turns out didn't die from the last movie. According to Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart), Jean's unbelievably strong powers must have "created a telekinetic field around her when all the water dropped". Writers for Days of Our Lives take note. That's another idea you can use to bring back a dead character who supposedly drowned. Anyway, Jean is confused and basically has split personalities, the normal her that can control her powers and the "Phoenix" her that can't control her powers and will kill everyone.

With Jean's revival, there is a battle on to take control of her and her powers for personal use. Jean firstly does some destruction to show how great her powers are. This basically involves Famke Jannsen, who plays Jean, to stare into the distance and have her long red hair blown about and her skin to start thinning so you can see her veins. Thats the extent of the acting that Famke has to do in this installment. Jean lets rip and I'll just say that a couple of characters won't be getting a call for X-Men 4. Or maybe they'll make it after all and be saved by some sort of magnetic force field that protects them.

So Xavier wants to protect Jean by limiting her powers while Magneto (played by Mr Versatile himself Sir Ian McKellen/Gandalf/Teabing) wants to utilise her powers to fight a Government that wants to "immunise" mutants so that they will no longer have their special powers. A host of different mutants wage into the battle over what should happen. There are all the old characters such as Iceman, Rogue, Mystique, Pyro and Storm (a heavily underused Hailey Berry, who having won an Oscar for her great portrayal of a drunk women is now playing such a light role) to new characters such as Dr Henry McCoy (played by an unrecognisable Kelsey Grammar) to Juggernaut (played by a massive Vinne Jones). The mutants divide into those who follow Magneto and want to wage war and those who support Xavier and Dr McCoy and want to find a diplomatic way.

After lots of great visual effects that audiences seem somewhat immune to now, well I am anyway, we get battles over the mutant vaccine. The movie has taken a long time to set up to this point, and to be honest, I don't know what they were really trying to say. They showed how Jean was powerful from when she was young, cut to a new charcter called Angel who is a mutant and whose father happens to be a minister and who wants to administer the drug. We also get Magneto saving other mutants and trying to convert them to his cause. There is also some supposed tension between Rogue (Anna Paquin with a slight Kiwi accent) and Iceman over not being able to touch each other due to Rogue's power. So Rogue is torn between whether to take the vaccine or not. So if all this is confusing to you now, it was just as confusing to me. The story didn't have a strong enough central story and all these side stories are just vehicles to show all the characters powers I think.

On to the main story, I was even more confused there. Who was I supposed to be supporting. Firstly you don't like the "homo sapiens" as Magneto calls them because they are trying to force the mutants to conform by changing who they are. But then you also hate Magneto and his group because they are killing people to try and obtain the vaccine. Then the X-Men, Wolverine, Storm, Dr McCoy, Iceman, Shadowcat (she can walk through walls) and Colossus (he's really strong) are mutants themselves but kill their own kind to help the humans to supposedly protect this vaccine that won't be good for them. So I was just sitting there and thinking who am I suppose to be sympathetic to. In the end I didn't really feel like supporting anyone, though I did have a soft spot for the original X-Men in Wolverine and Storm.

The movie also ends quite abruptly with such a cop out. After building up Jean as such a great power and how she is struggling internally to fight her demons in "Phoenix", it just ends with such an easy and unprobable solution. Lets just say it was totally unsatisfactory and totally not what the characters would do. Even the very end where you would think some things would get wrapped up better, its just ends with a stupid montage.

Overall this movie doesn't stand up to the quality of the previous two. It lacked the stronger storyline and despite these movies always being pretty light on emotional connection, this one was worse. The special effects were stunning as usual but felt like they were used to replace story. This movie had some bits of humour which was rather staged and lacked the more natural humour especially in the first movie. Overall I was quite disappointed and just confused.

Overall Rating: ** 1/2 out of 5.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Soccer…Oops Football: Australia vs Greece

Firstly the whole soccer versus football debate. I’ll just weigh into to it and say, why not call it football like the rest of the world. Yes we already have a “football” code in Australia, but that’s referred to as Australian Rules football or Aussie Rules or AFL. If you live the New South Wales or Queensland, football probably means Rugby League. Even then the Rugby Union purists say that Rugby League shouldn’t even be called rugby, its an insult to the name. Since all the other football codes have another more accurate name, why shouldn’t the game of soccer be called football in Australia like the rest of the world.

Secondly the game yesterday between Australia and Greece was heavily publicised in the media, but when it came down to it, really didn’t mean much. The fact that Australia won 1-0 is great (too bad Emmanuel and John) but had Australia lost, there would have been excuses that they were using the game as a World Cup preparation. Greece having stunningly and unbelievably (I gave my work mate John odds of 1-100 at the time, thankfully he declined or I would have been broke) won the European Championships, do not have that aura of a great team yet. Their win in the Euro Champs was great for them and sport, a rags to riches tale, but they have been unable to back that up by qualifying for the World Cup. The real test for Australia will be when they play a “friendly” with the Netherlands. The Dutch team have also made it into the World Cup and will be taking the game very seriously as well. They will be using it as a full scale dress rehearsal for matches in the World Cup. You don’t want to take losing form into such a big tournament. You want to start using these friendlies to get as match tough as possible.

Australia is a much improved team under the guidance of Guus Hiddink and will give the Dutch team a good challenge I think. Hiddink has done great work previously having taken the Netherlands and South Korea to the final stages of the World Cup. With his first attempt guiding Australia, he has done what no other coach has been able to do for Australian football for more than 30 years and guided the team to the World Cup. The Aussie team has become much more disciplined and that has paid off. Unless you are ultra talented like the Brazilian team and have so much skill and flair, you have to play tight and look for your opportunities. And as they say, attack always starts from defence. So if you can get your defence right, you can play on from there.

Realistically, Australia is in a pretty tough group in the World Cup. They will most likely lose to Brazil, but if they can get away with a 1-0 or 2-0 loss, they are still a chance at advancing into the next stage. They will either have to beat Japan or Croatia, which is no easy feat, and at least get a draw from the match that they don’t win. However, being the optimist, I will predict (and hope) that Australia will make it into the second stage of the World Cup.

Go the Aussie Football Team...the Socceroos hehehe :-). Looks like the team may have to change their nickname if they want soccer to be known as football. But the Footballroos just doesn’t sound right.

Above: The joyous Socceroos after John Aloisi scored the penalty to get Australia into the World Cup.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mobile Phones - Necessity Or Nuisance

I had read recently on Miss Meep's Guide to Living that Miss Meep had lost her phone and found that she didn't really need it. Eventually her phone turned up in her husband's shoe in the car boot. All of Miss Meep's friend were saying that she can't go without a mobile, what if there are "emergencies"? I then also read an article in The Age newspaper that said the line between work and play is being blurred more and more by mobiles. People are now conducting "busyness" during their off time.

I must say that I was a convert to the mobile revolution about the middle stages. I knew that I wanted to have a mobile very early so that I could "keep in touch" with friends but my parents said I didn't need one. Eventually, I convinced my parents that I needed the phone for "emergencies", such as occasions when my dad came to pick me up from high school and couldn't find me. If I had a mobile, I could ring home to say that I was going to be late and that he should come later. I could've used the public pay phone but then how would I have got my mobile :-).

Keeping in touch with friends just entailed calling people that you see everyday and saying the same old thing. A mobile during the teenage years really is a way of staying in the loop with others. Although it was just as easy to call you on the home phone, people won't because either that wasn't cool since you are being monitored by your parents or you might be on the internet (dial up back then) so they couldn't get through. Any plans to go places may be switched at the last minute and you won't be notified, hence missing out. The article talks about people sending SMS and saying that someone cares about them. I've seen many people, especially girls, who instigate lengthy SMS conversations just so that they can hear the "Dood Dood Dood Dood Dood" sound of the SMS, signifying to all others within earshot that they are popular and wanted.

I must say that I never really went through that mobile needy phase too much. It lasted a few months after getting my first phone but I soon saw how pointless and expensive it was. Eventually I really did use my phones to make needed calls only. I really would be quite lost without my phone. It's not a matter of life and death but it does make life much easier for me. It's like a safety net that you can rely on and also a tool to better your social life. The fact that you can ring and find people instantly and tell them something is very useful. Finding people at meeting points is easy, changing plans is easy, organising spur of the moment events is easy and the occasional emergency that does come up can be dealt with. I've thought that I had lost my mobile a few times and that just made me so sick. It wasn't losing the actual phones but all the contacts in them. It's silly but somehow it feels like you might lose touch with the friends that you don't regularly see. Hence I have made a copy of the numbers on a file stored elsewhere. Am I a tragic or what? I can't help it, I really need my mobile.

In terms of work, I initially made the mistake of giving my mobile number to my work place because one colleague said that he needed to be able to contact me on this project we were working on at the time. Well I emailed him my number and specifically asked him not to pass it around. Months and months later, I get an email carbon copied to me that had my mobile number. Somehow that intial email I had sent months ago had circulated so that the new project managr of the project I was working on had my number. If it was a work mobile, I wouldn't mind. But this is my private mobile that I don't want to use for work. Eventually I got a new contract and number and now I do not give out my number for work purposes, only to friends at work who call me for private matters.

Mobiles may mean many different things to different people but its hard to deny that in this day and age, a lot of social and business decisions are conducted on the mobile. Some people truly may not need it, but others would be lost without it. I have one and it doesn't cost me much to keep as I'm not one of those crazy people that make hour long calls on the mobile. I keep my calls short and only use it when necessary. So for me, a mobile is a NECESSITY that I WANT. :-) Spot the irony! So who has studied the Kotler model of needs and want today students???

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Karaoke Asian Style

On Saturday, I went to karaoke with friends to a new place recently opened in Glen Waverley. I thought it would be bad since the whole building looked so small and I was wondering how could they possibly squeeze a karaoke place upstairs. However to my surprise, despite the rooms being a bit small, it was otherwise quite good. The place was clean and didn't smell of years of spilt alochol and cigarettes, had good toilet facilities (you really need good toilets after you drink too much for either the excretion of fluids or regurgitation of solids if you get too drunk), good song selection, very good widescreen TV and best of all, cordless microphones. The cordless mic is perfectly suited for karaoke venues. No more tangling of wires trying to pass the mic around or spilling drinks by knocking them over with the microphone cord and best of all, no slightly drunk people tripping over the cords and sending themselves and half the contents on the table flying across the room and onto other people.

As you can see from the photo above, Asians go to karaoke where they get their own private function room and sing with their friends. I go to karaoke quite often and love it. I love singing, usually badly, although I do sing a few songs well. We also love to play our Asian games at karaoke that all get more fun the more drunk you are. Asians in general are really into karaoke and know so many songs. Everyone knows all the lyrics to even really new songs that are just released. In Asia, music videos are always accompanied with lyrics and everyone learns the lyrics by heart very quickly. Karaoke DVDs are also very abundant and people sing at home on their own systems even. I must admit that sometimes I crank up the system at home and start belting out a few songs just because its fun.

The games we play at karaoke can be spilt into two type as follows:

*Hand gesture type games - They involve shouting out various actions or numbers and the loser being the one who does what the other person shouts. My favourite is the "Guessing Finger Game". Each person holds out their fist and take turns to shout out a number multiple of 5 between 0 and 20. You can either keep both hands closed, open one hand or open both hands. If the number of exposed fingers is equal to what they shout, they go again. Two correct guesses in a row means the other person drinks the beer. The game gets better the more drunk you are. You may shout 20 and only open one of your hands, meaning that the maximum number of fingers can only be 15 even if the other person opens both hand. Since this game is played at a very quick pace, its hard to think properly sometimes. You can really feel yourself struggling to control your hands the instant they shout the number so as to avoid losing.

*Dice type games - They involve guessing what your opponents have or trying to get the best combinations. You can probably just see one of the dice cups on the table in the photo. Its the black plastic cup facing downwards where 5 die are underneath it. The dice game are just too hard to try to explain with text and would take me two whole pages to do so. So lets just say they are fun and all involve a bit of luck and skill.

While some people are playing games or chatting, whoever's song comes up quickly stops playing and starts singing. There is a lot of competition to get your song on actually. Whoever has the remote controlling the song choice normally picks quite a lot of songs for themselves. Then someone else takes the remote and programs all their songs. So occassionally after one person has sung too much, songs are inserted in and queue jumped so someone else can sing. There are a lot of unintended duets or threesomes since a lot of songs are known by many people and all want to sing. Even if you picked a song does not guarantee you get to sing it, although usually you do. Its a dog eat dog world in karaoke, if you want to sing, you grab the mic.

By the end of the night, I had consumed many many beers, was a little tipsy, had a sore throat and nearly no voice. I also consumed lots of junk food typically provided at Asian karaoke places such as fried chicken wings, fried fish balls, fried spring rolls, fried samosas, fried squid balls and fried chips. I think you can see a theme, everything is fried. However I had a great time and can't wait for the next karaoke session. Its good value for money when you think about it too. You don't actually pay a cent for the room and equipment. The place does impose that you spend a minimum amount on food and drinks though. By 4am, we had all well and truly sang until we had no voice left. We were troopers though and were singing right until they stopped the machine as usual. :-)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code


Ok so if you've read on, I assume that you have read the book and/or don't care about knowing the slightly different ending in the movie.

So lets start at the beginning. Firstly I have read the book twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. I don't believe in any religion so the whole religous aspect didn't disturb or upset me. I just saw the book as a great mystery/thriller story with very clever use of art and history.

The movie adaption in my opinion doesn't get anywhere near the brilliance of the book. Maybe it was because I was carrying too much anticipation or that I already knew the story. Although, when I read the book the second time, I still remembered the story clearly but yet I still enjoyed it. I think the difference comes down to the book being able to give you so much more detail. I think there is a saying that "genius is in the detail". Despite the movie running for over 2.5 hours, it still wasn't able to capture the background exposition told in the book that made each character more real, the slight jokes that brought a little humour, the slow incremental solving of the clues and just letting you know how the characters are feeling at certain times.

Firstly the casting as a whole was quite unexpected to me. The casting of Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon was a strange choice in my opinion. Tom Hanks just doesn't feel like a Robert Langdon. I imagined Langdon as being more handsome and more scholarly. I guess I thought Langdon would look more like Viggo Mortensen with glasses or something like that, a hero type character. Also Sophie Neveu played by Audrey Tautou I always thought was blonde for some reason. I don't know if they mention her hair colour in the book but thats what I keep thinking. Teabing I always imagined as a tubby character. Silas was more or less how I imagined him. Alfred Molina as Bishop Aringarosa just made me want to laugh each time. He reminds me of a character that used to be in the sitcom "Spin City" with Michael J Fox, the funny guy who did the press conferences. Having said all that, I think most of the performances are good, especially Tautou. I think Hanks just looked lost throughtout the movie and I didn't really believe him, maybe because he didn't fit my hero character profile so my opinion is not that objective. Also just as an aside, what has happened to Hank's face. The years have not been kind to him. He actually looks rather scary. His eyes have started to sink in and are quite close together and his forehead just seems to go on forever. Has he had some plastic surgery that has gone wrong?

The movie plot sticks quite faithfully to the book. Langdon is called to a crime scene where the Louvre museum curator Jacques Sauniere has been murdered. Sauniere is lying on the ground like the Vitruvian man, with his arms and legs apart like a star shape. Since Langdon specialises in symbology, the French police lead by Bezu Fache think he may be able to help. As it turns out, the police suspect Langdon is the killer due to the message that Sauniere left on the ground with Langdon's name. Sophie Neveu comes to the aid of Langdon because she believes that her grandfather, Sauniere, thinks that Langdon can be trusted by leaving a crytic clue telling her to find him. Langdon and Neveu end up going on a treasure hunt where they try to find the Holy Grail and in the process uncover lots of truths. Along the way they enlist the help of Teabing, a Grail fanatic who turns out to be the bad guy and wants to reveal the truth about the Grail to the world and in the process threatens to kill Langdon and Neveu.

The movie doesn't change any of the main plot lines, but it does make minor changes for the worse I think. For example, the biggest and worse change happens at the end. Rather than making Sophie the real grand daughter of Sauniere as in the book, they say she was adopted. Also her grandmother and brother are not alive. I preferred the book version where her grandparents separated her and her brother so that one of them would be safe and carry on the blood of Jesus should people try to harm them. Rather than both Neveu and Langdon slowly realising that Sophie is the royal bloodline of Jesus through Sophie's brother recognising the wooden rose box and then Sophie's grandmother recognising her, in the movie Langdon all of a sudden gets this idea that Sophie is of royal blood from thin air. Utterly unbelievable. And then he goes on to tell her that "Oh, you're the descendant of Jesus", which was more comical than enlightening.

The movie just lacked the details that make the book what it is. You don't learn about Langdon's past relationship failure and why he was initially hesitant to get close to Neveu. The chemistry between Tautou and Hanks was totally lacking in the movie as opposed to the book where they get quite close, with small touches of the hand and suggestive looks at each other. You don't learn as much about Sophie's life as a kid and how she used to solve all these puzzles and her relationship with Sauniere. You don't get more thorough analysis of each clue and how to solve it. Paintings are not discussed to show all the various anomalies that they each have. For example, in the Last Supper painting, there was no discussion of how there is a hand that seems to be holding a knife floating in air apparently belonging to none of the deciples. We don't learn about the Madonna on the Rocks painting and what Madonna holding a baby signifies etc etc. Even how Langdon and Neveu escape from the Louvre was so easy, they basically just walked out without anyone stopping them. They left out the lovely scene where Neveu threatens to destroy an invaluable painting unless the Louvre security guard put down his gun and get down on the floor and put his hands behind his back. That scene was a classic. The security guard had been working in the museum for many years and he was also attached to the paintings and knew how much they were worth, in terms of money and history and so was wanting to protect them. Another good scene that I liked was when Teabing poisons Remy (his butler) at the end by giving him an alchoholic drink that he had spiked with peanuts, knowing that Remy was allergic to peanuts. However, in the movie, Remy just dies after drinking the alcohol and you just assumed he got poisoned by drugs instead. These examples just goes to show that the book is far superior in my opinion. It just isn't possible in a movie to show so much since you just can't describe all this with pictures. A picture may be worth a thousand words as Langdon said in the movie, but it fails to deliver the characters thoughts to the viewer and lengthy exposition dialogue that works in a book just looks and feels boring in picture.

Overall, I would say that it was an ok movie but just failed to live up to my expectations. It didn't deliver anything fresh or different from the book to make it better. Any changes that the movie tried to make didn't add to the story but instead detracted to it. The fun of slowly solving all the puzzles has been removed in the movie and the process is so much quicker. Langdon solves the Crytex so easily and instead of finding a smaller one hidden inside, he already finds the paper with the clue. All the many double meanings of the clues that Sauniere leaves behind are not explored. If you haven't read the book, you may see the movie differently. However, as I have read it, I already knew what was going to happen and just didn't get excited about it. I still recommend seeing the movie to get a general idea of the story. Then go and get the book and read it carefully looking up the paintings and places on Google like I did and you will enjoy the whole experience so much more.

Overall Rating: *** out of 5.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Pandemic Spreading - By Reporter Thanh

Today, yours truly, courageous reporter Thanh will go into the heart of the trouble spots and reveal a new pandemic that is spreading across the world and threatens the whole way in which we live.

This pandemic does not discriminate between race, religion, gender, age or even weight. If it keeps going at the rate it's currently at, what kind of society we have left in a few years time will be anyone's guess. So what is this new pandemic I hear you ask, bird flu? No. Terrorism? No. AIDS? No. Its food sampling, yes you heard correctly, food sampling. If food sampling continues, the whole fabric of society will be stretch until it breaks.

So what is food sampling? Well food sampling is the act of robbing a seller of profit in the dishonest act of sampling food that you have no intention of buying. I've seen it been done before, by people of all ages. Little kids learn this bad habit from their parents. Parents learnt it from their parents. No one is immune to it. Everyone is exposed to this every day of their life.

So today, I will be visiting the two places where food sampling is most prevalant and expose this pandemic that could turn the economy upside down. Firstly I am at the fruit shop, where food sampling is rife. Even for the 10 minutes that I've been standing here, I've seen 5 people walk past and steal cherries, grapes, lychees and mandarins. None of them had any intentions of buying. No, they merely saw an opportunity to gain something through illegal means and took it. Just because the item seemed small and cheap, they felt that it was ok to steal. Shame shame.

A recent episode I witnessed on food sampling went as follows: Disclaimer: Please note that the conversation was in Chinese and below are transcripts roughly translated by myself. Any implied meanings that you took from this translation is no fault of mine and are those of your own making. Therefore no responsibility will be taken for any damages caused to the reputation of Asian Lady Shopper or Asian Lady Shop Owner.

Asian Lady Shopper goes to grab a lychee to try.
Asian Lady Shop Owner: What you think you doing?
Asian Lady Shopper: I'm trying a lychee.
Asian Lady Shop Owner: No no no, no trying at this shop.
Asian Lady Shopper: But how I know fruit is sweet.
Asian Lady Shop Owner: I tell you my fruit sweetest of all shops here.
Asian Lady Shopper: But every shop owner say that too.
Asian Lady Shop Owner: Ok Ok, you try, but then must buy half kilo.
Asian Lady Shopper: But what if not sweet, I don't want to buy.
Asian Lady Shop Owner: Ok you try but tell you kids keep hands off.

Asian Lady Shopper tries the fruit and then says its not sweet. As Asian Lady Shop Owner walks back inside shop, Asian Lady Shopper takes handful of lychees and passes to kids and walk away. You see what I mean, this food sampling has gotten out of hand and is starting to turn people into criminals. What next, people will be sampling caviar?

So to my second location today, the supermarket, otherwise known as food sampling heaven. Around every corner there are alluring enticements for the food sampling addict (FSA). First there is the fresh fruit like at the fruit shop. But not only fresh fruit, there are dried fruit as well. And nuts of all kind. The FSA takes a plastic bag and heads to the dried fruit and nut bar. He opens the bag and looks around to see if anyone is watching. Since no one is watching, he dips his hand into each of the containers and grabs a bit of everything. But instead of putting them into the plastic bag, he pops them into his mouth and pretends to be sampling the goods. Once he has filled up to his desires he moves on.

The next section is the deli. The FSA grabs a number from the machine which he never intends to use. While pretending to wait for his turn, he starts to sample the cheeses on offer, and then the hams and salamis. When his number gets called out, he discretely scrunches up the ticket and throws it away and walks on.

Next on the hit list is the salad bar, otherwise known as the all you can eat buffet. Once again, the FSA repeats his act like at the dried fruit and nut bar. He grabs a plastic tub and pops a bit of the potato salad, coleslaw and pasta salad into the tub. Instead of closing the lid and going to pay for it, he casually takes a few pieces out and samples it. He then samples some more until there is nothing left in the tub, to which he discards the tub into the bin. His work for the day is done, and he retreats home full and content knowing he didn't have to spend one dollar to get full.

If this new pandemic of food sampling is allowed to continue, small shop owners will start to lose money. They will keep losing money until the point where they can no stay open. The FSA will then all target the large supermarkets, who will in turn also starting feeling the pressure and eventually have to shut down. Then where will we all get our groceries from. We will then all start to starve and can't work, bringing down the whole economy. So every citizen has to start doing their job and stop FSA in their tracks. Unless someone is going to buy something they sample, they shouldn't be allowed to steal.

That concludes this ground breaking report on the newest pandemic to sweep through the world known as food sampling. Its report Thanh signing out and hoping you all teach the children, the future generation, to not sample food unless they are going to buy some.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Some Pet Hates At Restaurants

I was talking to my friend Justin about a bad lunch I had at Bo Bo's in Pinewood. This brought up the topic of what we hated at restaurants. Well here are of few of my pet hates at restaurants.

* Waiters not bringing you ice water - Even after you ask for it many times, some always seems to "forget". Its not a case of them just forgetting I think. They are probably told by their bosses to sell as many drinks as possible since that is where easy profits lie, but if a customer wants water, they should get it. After asking quite a lot of times at some places, I think its all a conspiracy. Whats worse is when you have ordered drinks and they still don't bring you water.

* Restaurants not giving change - Some places seem to assume that if there is a few dollars extra, its tips for them. NO, this isn't the case. By law, they need to return the change and then its up to the consumer to decide whether they want to tip. I always tip if service is good but don't need to be forced to tip by not getting my change. At one place I had to ask why they didn't give me my change and they just said they made a mistake. Yeah right, when it happened again the next time, I knew this was a dodgy tactic they used since some people may not ask for their change back since its so little.

* Restaurants charging ridiculous amounts for tea and corkage - In regards to tea, I'm mainly talking about Chinese restaurants. Although it is customary at most Chinese restaurants to bring you tea immediately and its free or they charge a small once off fee for the whole table, some places charge by the PERSON. This is utterly ridiculous since they ask you immediately what tea you want and since you haven't had time to look at the menu yet, you don't know they will be charging you by the person. Places that do this without letting you know beforehand won't be getting my patronage again.
With corkage, charging up to $15 per person is too steep. The corkage is probably there to discourage people to bring alcohol but what if the restaurant doesn't have the wine that you want. If you don't want to let people bring their own alcohol, why not just say BYO is unavailable rather than have people bring their own only to discover how much the corkage is. And what exactly are their options, just leave their wine under the table and not open it when they were all ready to drink it.

* Waiters not double checking your order - Which means that after everyone's meal has arrived, one person at the table is left without anything to eat because the waiter forgot their order. This means that if everyone else waited for the missing meal, their own meals would get cold. If everyone else went ahead and ate, that person will be sitting there watching everyone else eat and then vice versa.

* Restaurants that don't let you split the bill - Whats with this. How hard can it be to let each person pay separately. Aren't we in the age of technology now where all places use electronic registers. It can't be that hard to punch out a few separate bills.

* People not washing their hands after going to the toilet - This one isn't about the restaurants but instead the customers. For example, yesterday night I saw a guy go to the toilet and then just walk straight out. UUUgggghhhh. I'm no germ freak but why wouldn't you wash your hands. You're about to go back out into an environment with lots of food, touch lots of places with your dirty hand as well as eating your dinner with those hands. No wonder those lab studies always find urine and faecal germs on people's toothbrushes even.

These are a few of my hates that I can think of now. As usual, please disagree if you like. Leave comments on what some of your pet hates are.

All Hacks Indoor Soccer Team Vol 805 & 806

All Hacks,

For our match against Dangerfield F.C, our own "Jason Akermanis" in terms of his mouth, Justin A, returned from his hiatus for his first match this season. Even though I arrived early to practise with him, he still gave me shit when I had arrived at the time I said. Apparently this was not enough practise time for Justin A.

With the game, our defence was shaking at the start and conceeded 3 goals in the first half. However, we showed some fighting spirit and goals from Anisha and a penalty calmly converted by Masum saw us back level. I took forward the ball and pounced on a rebound pass to put us in front. As previous nightmares of losing yet another close match started to surface after Dangerfield scored a goal to level late in the match, our now much more reliable Justin showed what he was made of, jelly. His legs were starting to wobble as he made some great saves and then started to cramp. But he kept limping along and lasted out the match.

In our second match against Con and Friends, our precious child Justin A had again suffered an injury and was absent. Justin A suffers more injuries than a heavy weight boxer, minus all the boxing, which only leaves a heavy dead weight hehehe. If it seems like I'm giving Justin A a lot of crap, its only coz he gives me so much, so if you're going to give it out, you gotta be prepared to take it too.

This match was also Ajay's 50th. A decent sized team turned up with Harinder making his first appearance for the season. We looked like we were going to cruise to an easy win when we led 3-0 after the first half. Ajay kept the recent tread of scoring in milestone matches going and put a nice goal through. However, Ajay was going to be involved in another pivotal incident. Con and his friends managed to get back into the match via goals from 3 penalties. The referees bad calls were then starting to annoy us and when he let the other team substitute with less than 3 minutes in the game, Ajay protested to death ears. This got him fired up and he went in hard with a tackle giving away our fifth foul for that half, resulting in a penalty for Con. The gods knew we were unfairly dealt with and made sure Con didn't score the penalty shot. We held on to win a very memorable and exciting match 4-3 and give Ajay a great win on his 50th.

Here are some fun youtube videos.

Evolution of Dance

Super Mario Bros Live

Robot Sumo


Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Cat In The Hat

Tonights post will be something a bit lighter and more fun. I've decided to post some silly photos of myself. Its nearly Winter here in Melbourne and with my new shaven bald head, I need to wear hats when I go out because my head gets really cold.

So the poll for today is, which hat looks the best?

1. My Criss Cross (this brand was all the rage ten years ago) Baseball Cap

2. My very French "Oui Oui" Beret

3. My burglar's Beanie

4. My RWC (thats rugby world cup for you non-sporting people) Heineken hat.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What Do You Want Out Of Life?

What do you want out of life? A big picket fenced house with 2.4 kids? Fulfilling your life long dream and do something you always wanted to do?

For the last 2-3 weeks, I've mainly been this moping object floating around the place. I just feel bored (which isn't quite the right word) or more like unmovtivated, restless and just generally tired. I know its partly due to being physically tired because I sleep too late but I think mentally as well. Tired from what, I have no idea.

So what are the things that are causing this restlessness. Its not entirely work because thats not too bad. Even my argument with someone at work isn't really making me angry or unhappy. In fact, I have totally forgotten about that incident and it doesn't even bother me now. All this restlessness comes from not being sure what I want, from life, from work, from others. I am totally confused at the moment.

Let me start with this blog even. When I started this blog a few months ago, I was all full of enthusiasm and hope. I still like writing in this blog but a bit of that enthusiasm has disappeared, possibly to be expected. Initially, I thought that as well as doing something I like, I might be able to generate some revenue from this blog and maybe eventually work from home full time on this blog. I hear you laughing at how naive I was, but that was what I believed. I thought that I would start getting hundreds of dollars each month from ads. However, after trying very hard to generate traffic, it wasn't working so I gave up on that train of thought. This was a disappointment to me intially, but then having found that there were dedicated readers such as Afrobev, Coralmoon, Danielsan, Princess Chloe and Choo Choo, I felt much better to know that some people were taking some time out of their day to invest a very very small personal interest in my life. This has made it all worth it to keep blogging. But still, that hope of achieving "success" with this blog after putting so much work into it initially has been dashed. Its not even the money that I'm thinking about, its setting myself an aim to achieve something and then not really succeeding.

The other thing that starting the blog has done has opened up my mind. I've been reading so many things lately, from other people's blogs to links on people's blogs that I then keep researching. I have learnt so many things from these explorations. I've also heard other people's opinions and views on all types of issues that I might not normally be in contact with. People from all walks of life are expressing themselves for everyone to see. It has truly been an eye opening short journey so far. To use a photograph analogy, I've gone from the telephoto lens to a wide angle lens and the horizon has expanded but at the same time, the close objects have also been blurred as well. I don't know what it is I want now since my view on life is in the process of being reassessed.

Even as recent as just last year, I was happy to watch a lot of TV, read my science fiction books and buying DVDs and CDs made me very happy. The actual act of buying the DVDs game me a lot of pleasure rather than what the actual movie was. It was a sense of achievement, that I had earned my own money and could now afford to buy them. Lately I haven't bought any DVDs or felt the need to buy anything. Instead, I spend most of my money going out with friends and truly enjoying people's company.

My interaction with people has also changed due to changes within myself. Like I have written in a previous post, I used to be way too nice for my own good and became an unwitting "carpet mat" for people to purposefully or accidentally step on. Positve changes in myself have resulted in people acting differently to me. I'm more upfront with people and tell them if they are doing something that annoys me or makes me unhappy. I have also been much more conscious to not waste time and be fake to people that give me nothing in terms of enjoyment or are merely trying to use me. I now focus my energy on building stronger relationship with thouse that I care about and worrying less about people I might offend because I'm not everyone's friend anymore.

Another thing that I have been thinking a lot about lately is what is the purpose of life, not the whole grand scheme of things but just my own personal little world. We are all stuck in this so called "Rat Race" where the faster we run, the faster the wheel turns. Somehow, this thought disturbs me a lot. Why am I working in the job that I am currently at. To make money so that I can buy a picket fence house? Probably. I don't mind owning a nice house since I would feel comfortable in it and that would make me happy. But why does it have to be so hard. How come we can't do something that we love and still be able to achieve our materialistic dreams. How can you get out of this Rat Race and run your own race. Well, you need to run extremely hard in the rat race so the wheel falls off its ball bearings and breaks free.

Also, how can we improve ourselves and make life interesting. Ultimately, knowledge is the only thing that we gain that can't be taken away from us and can be cherished forever. I've just started reading Trev's blog and on it he has a Te Chu saying, "Jia Gow Lau, Oh Gow Lau" translating to "Eat til you are old, Learn til you are old". I liked it so much that I decided to "borrow" it and use it here. I like to learn new things and find that I am totally committed to it and am almost obsessed with it for a few months but never continue with it. I see how committed some people are and can do something and keep expanding on it until it comes to fruition, such as Choo Choo owning her own restaurant. Thats so inspirational but I just can't see myself doing that and it makes me disappointed. I just seem to lack that tunnel vision to focus on one thing and pursue it vigorously. Is this a sign of failure, that you can't see things through or just someone who is constantly curious and is searching for more exciting stimulus. I see that lots of people around me are going back to uni to study, which seems like a good idea but then I think of the assignments and it changes my mind. Also do I really want to study more Engineering or something that maybe be more fun like "TV viewing habits of couch potatoes pre-reality TV". Maybe it just comes down to me being lazy and wanting things that are exciting and new but also easy.

As you can see, this post has been so scattered in thought. I don't know what is bugging me or what I want. Maybe I just need a long holiday to refresh my mind. Hopefully this is just a phase that will pass. I'll probably be thinking how stupid I was to be writing all this a month later when I'm cheering Australia on in the World Cup at 3am in the morning.

Well if anyone has any possible answers to what my problems are or what you yourself want out of life, leave some comments or drop me an email. Talk to you all again when my mind next explodes with all these strange thoughts of life.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me And My Bold Head

Firstly its my birthday today, hooray. Its my birthday and look what I’ve done to myself below.



Before you jump to conclusions, no, I’m not having a quarter life crisis as my friend Clayford suggested. Also, it wasn’t a birthday prank gone wrong. I got my head shaved for the Leukemia Foundation Shave For A Cure fundraising. I got people to sponsor me to shave my head. All the money went to leukemia research.

I’ve had very short hair cuts before but never a complete shave. I must say, you can definitely feel the wind on your head. Also, people love to rub your head for some reason. I think it’s similar to people rubbing a pregnant woman’s tummy. It must be some strange remnant of our genes that can be traced back to the cave man days, who knows.

Back to the topic of my birthday, I haven’t celebrated my birthday (except my 21st) since I was 10 years old. Asians don’t really do the whole party thing, unless they choose to follow Western traditions. Even then, its usually only when you are young and want to have parties because the other kids at school are.

For young Asians, on your birthday you will get a bit of money that they can buy anything with and told to respect your parents and study hard at school. Nowadays, I may go out with my family to eat dinner and some years may get a present. I never say no to presents, so if anyone wants to give me a present, I’ll gladly accept.

I think now birthdays are just another reminder that I’m getting older. But the last few birthdays have also been a time reflect on my life and things that I have learnt. It’s a good time to think about all the things that you do have and be grateful for that rather than what you don’t have. I think I also have to start thinking more about my future and what I want to do professionally. I’ve just been sailing through work so far and haven’t thought too carefully about what path I want to take in my career. It seems like everyone around me has gone back to study at school again, so I may need to think about doing that too to keep improving myself. I also have to think about my future financially, start investigating investment options or possible business ventures. As with everyone else, I also want to retire when I’m forty and live the rest of my life in comfort without having to work. Here’s to dreaming anyway.

Here is an original birthday lyric written by me that you may use to sing to yourself when its your birthday too.

Happy birthday to me,
I am full of glee,
I hope I stay that way,
Until one hundred and three.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Robot Sumo Competition

Last year at our work place, there was a robot sumo competition where employees built a robot that would fight sumo style against others. I got some videos of it courtesy of my work mate Mark, and now am able to post them since YouTube lets you put unlimited videos on the web.

The robots are fully autonomous, no one is controlling them with a remote. They sense the border of the competition area and the other robots themselves and decide what to do depending on the software written by the competitors. I was on a team but our robot came *cough cough* last. The winning robot was the Zipponator, the robot that won in Robot Sumo 4 video. It had a very powerful vacuum sucking it to the ground. The Zipponator beat the bowl shaped vacuum sucking robot as seen in Robot Sumo 1 & 3 because the other one's engine blew in the first round of the finals and created a whole lot of black smoke. It was a great day and lots of fun!

Robot Sumo 1

Robot Sumo 2

Robot Sumo 3

Robot Sumo 4

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Super Mario Brothers Live

If like me, you've had a less than good week, here's something that will cheer you up and put a smile on your face. If you have played computer games before, you will probably have played Super Mario Brothers. Here is the live amateur stage version of the whole first level. Enjoy!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Clash of Cultures and Generations

My friend Tom (not his real name but he gave me permission to write about his story) has been having quite a few problems with his parents of late. Parents and their children always argue, it's the law of nature. But I think the situation gets worse when you grow up in different cultures to those of your parents. It makes it even harder sometimes to see their point of view since its so isolated from the majority of the society you are living in.

My friend Tom was born in Australia to a Chinese family, a situation much like myself, except I arrived in Australia at a young age. I think Tom and I live in a very conflicting situation sometimes. Since we grew up with two sets of values, sometimes its hard to know which one is correct and should be followed.

Tom has strong opinions about what he wants to do, and his parents have another set of opinions. For example, recently Tom bought a house, which I thought was great and congratulated him on. Instead his parents criticised him for buying an old house in a bad suburb. They asked him why weren't they consulted before he bought it. Tom thought that it was his money and he should be able to do as he pleased.

Its misunderstanding like these that cause more arguments. In Australia, young adults are much more independent and feel they should be able to do what they please with their own money. However, in traditional Chinese cultures, young adults still consult their parents on a lot of issues and I guess his parents are still expecting that.

Tom said that he tries to communicate with his parents but its made even harder since he doesn't speak good Chinese and they don't speak good English. Its a case of "Chicken Talking To Duck", a Chinese saying meaning that two very different animals are trying to communicate, inevitably unsuccessfully. I don't find the situation with my parents are as bad since they are more understanding of most things and also I speak good Chinese so can articulate what I want to tell them. I guess in time, Tom and I will probably see where our parents are coming from when we're forty, but until then, keep "quacking" Tom. :-)