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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision Song Contest 2008

What do you get when you combine the following things:

Laser show, smoke machine, wind machine, fireworks, flames, terrible costumes, costume changes, fake tan, fake breasts, bottle blondes, bad facial hair, bad hair cuts, jumpsuits, angel wings, brides, pirates, synchronised dancing and finally singing.

A fantasy porn film I hear you say. Well, not quite, but close. You get this years Eurovision Song Contest. This contest has been going on for more than 50 years so it definitely has staying power. I love it. It's become a cult show in Australia. I don't know whether the Europeans, contestants and audiences, take the show seriously. Whether they do or not, it doesn't make it any less funny. The commentator, Terry Wogan, definitely takes it as a bit of fun. His commentary is so funny. He just says it how he sees it, which is to be a bit sarcastic.

This year's contest has been run and won. We've got a delayed telecast in Australia so I've avoided finding out the winners. I've just watched the singing part of the show and here are some of my thoughts and awards.

Best Use of the Wind Machine: There were a lot of acts that tried to utilise the wind machine, but no one could compare to Germany. The four girls with their flowing wings sang through their whole song without missing a beat, despite a gale force wind blowing at them.

Best Use of Fireworks: Many groups used fireworks to highlight their routines. But the clear winner was Finland who had fireworks going the whole time, and even the sound of the fireworks was incorporated into their song.

Best Use of Lasers: Strangely, only a couple of routines used lasers. Maybe lasers are new and some artists aren't up with the dramatic effect of them yet. Sweden were the only country to utilise green lasers to their fullest, with the lasers fanning across the stage for the end part of the song.

'Best' Hair Cut: There were many many shockers here. But I can't go past the Armenia dancer guy with his horrific mullet, despite Iceland putting up a strong fight with the guys looking like they were Vulcans from Star Trek with their awful long hair.

'Best' Costume: The competition for best costume was extremely fierce. Bosnia and Herzegovina did their best with the lead singer in a crazy apple encrusted skirt and the backup singers in bridal dresses. Finland tried too, with the guys in tight leather pants with the zips showing. Azerbaijan were really dramatic in their angel wings and devils costumes. But the prize has to go to Latvia for being so dedicated that everyone was in pirate costumes.

Best Falsetto: Strangely, it was all the guys that were using the falsetto. The Israeli guy tried his best, sounding like a girl, but his falsetto wasn't that strong. Finland, Russia and Denmark all tried their best. But the undeniable winner was the Azerbaijan angel guy, whose falsetto was so powerful that I'm sure he could crack glasses with it.

Best Display of Breasts: The category was hotly contested too. There were breasts, some most likely fake, on display wherever you looked. The German girls were out there. Poland was really out there. But the Spanish dancers were the outright winner, with all 6 of them displaying their best assets.

Best Costume Change Mid Song: There were a few costume changes, mainly the women singers ripping off their outer dresses to show a skimpier inner dress. But Georgia took it a step further. When a large piece of material was pulled over the whole group, they all managed to change from black costumes to white ones.

Best Transvestite Looking Singer: This category was an easy one. There were a few possible contenders, but hands down winner was Sweden. She looked really scary.

Weirdest Act: This was a tough tough choice. There was some truly awful strange acts. In the end, I had to go with France, with the guy singing this ultra strange song and at one stage inhaling helium from a balloon to get his chipmunk voice.

Best Synchronised Dancing: Virtually every act had some form or other of synchronised dancing. My favourite though was definitely Ukraine. The four male dancers worked well with the leading female singers. Their unison was spot on and was very good.

Best Act: Finally, we come to the all important best act category. And by best, I really mean best this time. Romania gets an honourable mention. Their song was enjoyable and the guy's voice was opera quality. However, the girl singing with him ruined the song. The Finnish group with their hard rock song was actually good too. It was an enjoyable song and the lead singer can really sing. Portugal was good too. The only large girl on stage the whole night was a really good singer. My three favourite acts were Denmark, Ukraine, Russia and Norway. Denmark, Russia and Norway were good pop songs sung by artists who actually emoted during the song. The Ukraine song was a very good dance song.

If I had to pick a winner purely from the performances, I would probably go with Denmark. However, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most politically affected voting systems of any contest. Countries that have strong ties vote for each other as regularly as your bills arrive. However, does anyone really care who wins. I for one don't. It's all just a bit of camp fun for me.

Ok, I'm going to check out who won now. Well, I just read the telegraph report and Russia won. But the most interesting part from that report is that Terry Wogan, Mr Sarcastic himself, is disappointed that the show is so clearly biased and not fair. I thought that Terry, with his own sarcastic commentary would take the show with a grain of salt and just enjoy it for the fun that it is. It's not a competition, it's a musical stage show. A competition implies fairness, and we know this show is anything but fair. Hopefully Terry won't stop commentating on this show though, his commentary is a part of the fun of the whole thing.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Core Personality

We say we are changing constantly as we get older. This is true, but at the same time, we really don't change that much. We have a core personality that really doesn't change too much for most people. You can mold that personality to fit into different situations, but when it comes down to it, you will resort to what is comfortable for you.

For example, I will never ever be an ultra confident extrovert no matter what I do. But that doesn't mean have to be a shy quiet wall flower. At work, I have learnt to push myself to speak out and give my opinion. I've also learnt to stand up for myself and back my own judgement. All these things come with learning and experience. Having encouragement from people has also helped me greatly. I'm very lucky at have some great friends and work mates.

Similarly, I've also taken that work confidence and applied it out of work too. I am much more confident when I interact with people who are not my friends. I will never be able to just dominate a conversation with unknown people, but I will put in my opinion occasionally. But at the core, I am who I am, which is a fairly introverted person.

It was interesting to see that the core personality traits of some friends from high school who I hadn't seen in a while were still there. Regardless of how much their lives have changed, I could still pick out the people who I knew all those years ago. Only now do I see those traits much more clearly.

I guess it's only through experience that you can pick people's personalities more clearly. The friends that you have kept in touch with over the years, and who you will keep in touch with in the future, are clearly people with personalities that you like. When I was younger, I thought everyone was a friend. It wasn't until I got older that I started to see very clearly that some people are just rotten and have really bad personality traits. I no longer feel the need to try and be friends with those people and don't bother wasting my time. With age really does come wisdom, or at least a bit more clarity in ones judgement and ability to not be afraid to be disliked.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Old School Days

I've been chatting, or more accurately emailing with an old friend from high school and uni days. It's amzing how much things change, and yet also how little things change. This person used to be one my good friends, but yet we sort of drifted apart during uni and eventually even lost touch. But as fate would have it, we've once again met up.

I'm going to meet this friend soon for dinner just to catch up. But from our email chats, it's like no time has passed in one sense, and also like a lot of time has passed in another. A lot has also change in terms of our lives, but there are still some constants, which are the shared memories that we have of our old school days. We both reminisce about the good old days (we must be getting old) and how much fun it used to be. We discussed why we sort of drifted apart and it's just due to people moving on. But now that we've met up again, I think this time we will keep in touch for sure.

Back when you're at school, you get thrown together with other kids that are your age. You will be friends with some just because you are constantly in the same environment. It's after you leave school that your friendships get tested. Once you change geographical locations and also meet other people in the big wide world, it's when you really know who you friends are. Having said that, sometimes you stay in touch with people who really aren't your friends, but that is extremely rare. I, for one, would not actively seek to communicate with people just for the sake of it. Why waste time on people you don't care about when you can use that time for people you do care about.

But sometimes, like in this instance, we just drifted apart without realising it. Only after you realise the lost do you fully understand what you let go. However, the lesson is to not let it happen again.

One funny thing that has come out of our email conversations is gossip about our old school friends. It turns out that a lot of people didn't get along. It's strange how the bleeding obvious is so hard to pick at the time. The saying about how it's so much clearer when you're not involved in something is so true. Now that we are wiser, we can look back and really see who the real friends were. The others just happened to be there due to circumstance. Apparently, there was a lot of fighting and bitching that went on that I didn't know about. It happened less with us guys than the girls, but it didn't mean we were all friends. I haven't kept in touch with all my old high school and uni friends because I've realised that a lot of them never were my friends. I actually find some of them to my disliking as I've gotten older and seen them for what they are.

I've carried my slightly tougher stance of people at work. I can't even be bothered wasting my time talking to fake people at work. I don't need them to like me. I will be civil to them and work with them, but apart from that, we just happened to be chucked together for a moment in time doing a common task for money. There are some people at work though that I do feel are real friends and who I will give my attention to. So far, I've gotten to know quite a few of them for a number of years now and I still like them, so that's a good sign that they are friends. Whether I will still keep in touch with them when I leave this job is unknown. I suspect I will keep in touch with a few of them.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

With So You Think You Can Dance Australia finishing, I can now concentrate on writing others things on this blog. As regular readers would know (I actually don't think there are many regualar readers besides a few friends, such as Anonymous but I'll just write it assuming some of you are secret stalking readers), I love analysing people and social behaviours of people. I think I'm a fairly observant person and hence can pick up little things that people do off guard that really shows their true self.

One of my favourite blogs is PsyBlog. I've been catching up on many of the articles and there a quite a few I want to discuss. I'll start off with the article that Familiarity Breeds Contempt.

Basically, the study shows that the more we know about people, the more we tend to dislike them. When given only a few details about a blind date for instance, we will like them as we can imagine they are a million things. But the more we know about them, we may find personality traits that we just dislike about them.

As we tend to dislike many more people that we meet throughout our lives than like people, what makes people continue to try and build relationships. Well, its because those relationships that do work are worth so much and we hold very dear. When you do find friends and loved interests who have traits that you really like, you can gain so much from those relationships.

Good friends are hard to come by. It is by chance that you will meet people, and there is an even smaller chance that you will like them. Even when you like them, there is again a smaller fraction that you will really get along with. Hence, with really good friends, I tend to have high expectations of them. I expect them to act and carry themselves how I would act. But that isn't how everyone works. Which means at times that I will be disappointed. I have to learn that everyone is different and I can't put my own expectations onto them. It is hard to accept but there is a reason that particular people are my friends, and it's not all because they are exactly like me. That would be boring. It's the fact that others are different and bring something else that I like that I am friends with them.

As I have written previously, you may not be friends with people forever, but for that moment in time, you're both travelling in the same direction and share something. Just make the most of that and be happy while it lasts.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Movie Review - Iron Man

****** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ************

Iron Man is the latest movie from Marvel Comic, following in the illustrious footsteps of Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil etc. This film is a blockbuster in the same vein as the other films. It has big stars and lots of effects. Like most of Marvels films though, it still retains a good story line that manages to make the film more than just an action film.

Iron Man is about a superhero who slowly discovers his own humanity after a life changing event and decides that he needs to give back to society and help out where he can. Iron Man is actually billionaire Tony Start (played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr), whose company makes industrial weapons for the military. He is your typicial playboy who is also a genius. His revolutionary weapons is what has helped the US win the war, or so we are led to believe at the start.

On a trip to Afghanistan to explain about his latest missile, Tony is captured by a terrorist group, who obviously are meant to be portraying Al-Qaeda. Tony wakes up to find that his heart is now this metal pacemaker type thing. His fellow inmate Dr Yinsen, who was the one who saved Tony with this electromagnet pacemaker that keeps the shrapnel from perforating his heart, are told to make the missile by this terrorist group. The first thing that Tony builds is an arc reactor to power his pacemaker and hence dispense with the heavy battery. Tony devises a plan to build a suit of armour, which will be powered by the arc reactor. Using the powerful armour, he can escape. His plan works out and he manages to escape. However, the initial plan to leave with Dr Yinsen didn't work out. Yinsen sacrificed his own life to save that of Tony's. This act makes Tony realise that he needs to do more to help others.

After Tony returns to the US, his first act was to call a press conference and state that his company would no longer make weapons. This sends his company's stock tumbling, as well as infuriating his company partner Obadiah Stane (played by a very old looking Jeff Bridges). The company puts a freeze on Tony from wokring. During his time off work, Tony starts to investigate building a better version of the suit. There is a lot of hilarity when Tony is experimenting with the suits. There is even a side gag with one of robots that go throughout the film. Tony starts to build a better and better suit, finally settling on the final version after much testing.

Tony asks his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow in an unsual supporting role) to find out where his company's weapons are going to. He learns that they are actually being sold to the terrorists. So Tony dons the suits and goes and destroys the terrorist.

The story starts to unravel about now and we learn about the link between the terrorists and Tony's company. We also learn about why Tony was captured. Needless to say, the story ends in a good versus evil battle. I won't spoil it by telling what happens. But let's just say that it isn't exactly a twist and is fairly obvious who the bad guy is. But this doesn't detract from the movie. The movie as a whole is very well done. The story has got a lot of gaping errors that we have to just believe or it won't work. But if you can let the story slide a bit, you will really enjoy this film. It is a mix of action, comedy and some drama.

I think the actors all did a good job. Robert Downey Jr is really charismatic and carries the film really well. He can do the dramatic as well possessing great comedic timing. Jeff Bridges does a solid job. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is quite good as the timid asisstant. The love interest in the movie is between Downey's Stark and Paltrows Potts. There is a on/off thing going between them during the whole feel, and it works well. Even right at the end, we're not sure if they will get together. Overall, this is a good film, up there with the other Marvel movies. The effects in this film is fantastic. The robotic effects were so intriuging for me. It tooks the Transformers robotics effectst to yet another level as there were lots of close up shots of how the suit interacts. The flight sequences were also very entertaining.

Rating: ****/5

Movie Review - U23D

I've only really started to listen to U2 in the past year and a half after a friend introduced me to them. They're his favourite band, and now U2 are also my favourite band. I knew a lot of U2 songs already, but to discover all their gems has been a fantastic experience. They have been the only artist that has remained on my Ipod throughout. I keep going back to their classics time and time again when I just want to hear some good music.

I first saw a trailer for U23D while watch Beowulf (also a 3D film) at IMAX. At the time I remembered saying how I wished I could see the U2 film. The trailer didn't have a date for the film. Finally, I happened to chance on a Wikipedia entry about U2 recently and it showed that their 3D film was already broadcasting in the US. A quick check of the IMAX website showed there were limited sessions on. I was so disappointed when I missed U2 live in Melbourne a couple of years ago. This 3D film was going to be the closest I could get to seeing them live.

I asked my U2 loving friend to go and we went to one of the sessions. The film is about U2's Vertigo tour. It was filmed over about 9 concerts I think in South America. They needed to get various camera shots to be able to compile the 3D effect.

I already own the Vertigo tour DVD and have watched it many times on my 42" LCD TV. However, to see the 3D version in the ultra massive screens at IMAX, I was blown away. The realism was amazing. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullens Jr loooked so close and the emotions on their faces were so clear. The crowd was absolutely pumping and I was getting right into it. I was tapping my feet and singing along. I was totally absorbed in the experience. It's not quite virtual reality, but it was fairly realistic. You feel like you're part of the crowd, but with prime seating. You could see hands wave virtually in front of you. When Bono lent over and sang, he was right in your face and was singing just to you it seems.

The movie covers most of the concert, minus the talking parts. U2 performed all their hits, each song being performed brilliantly. There were so many recognisable guitar riffs. As the songs would start, I would already know which song it was. They are truely a brilliant band. And for most of us, we won't be able to see them live. So this 3D film is the next best experience. The IMAX sessions are over now, but the film is still being shown in some cinemas. If you are a fan, you will love it. If you aren't a fan, you'll still recognise a lot of the songs and enjoy it.

Rating: *****/5