peteg's blog

The UNIX-HATERS Handbook

/noise/books | Link

A classic, but somewhat dated now. The chapter on X11 was quite amusing when I was actually using X11, but now it just makes me glad I've slipped that particular noose, and most of the other ones. I wonder how they feel now that their shiny Macs are powered by UNIX.

Kingsley Amis: The Old Devils

/noise/books | Link

What a crock. Still more proof that the Booker Prize (awarded to this book in 1986) is worthless; out of the books I've read, I think they got it right, just twice, with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. According to the back of the book, the Guardian said:

Crackling with marvellous taff comedy ... this is probably Mr Amis's best book since Lucky Jim.

Setting the bar this low is hardly an endorsement of anything else he's written. Unlike Martin Amis he didn't seem to have the courage to just run with it.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Director's Cut?)

/noise/movies | Link

The full version, with the there's-not-gonna-be-a-T3 ending.

Trung Nguyên, corner of Nguyễn Đình Chiểu and Nguyễn Thiện Thuật, D3.

/AYAD/HCMC/Cafes | Link

This one's a bit like the old Century Tavern / Bar Century in Sydney; the downstairs is nondescript, but upon winding up some stairs one finds a hermetic air-conditioned room containing several smokers, with a curved series of windows fronting the street corner. The view here is of a steel telegraph pole, from which a thousand wires emanate. The decor is somewhat similar to both the Century and the standard-setting Trần Hưng Đạo joint.

The upstairs looks like it's setup for karaoke... mirrorballs, lights, those spinning light things.

Addendum to last post: I should emphasise that Trung Nguyên coffee is similar in style to what is found on the streets of Việt Nam, albeit brewed-on-your-table in one of those cute filters they use. Some street vendors only get hot water in the mornings, and so by the time I visit them they only have half-day-old black sludge in a Coke bottle.

Old Sonys die, replaced by Shure e2c, news at 11.

/noise/music | Link

Yep, fast times in Hồ Chí Minh City. After the right driver of my (model number lost to history) Sony earbuds died, with more urgency I went looking this afternoon for a pair of headphones that would do some kind of justice to the Dirty Three's Indian Love Song (there's some great dynamics at the start and towards the end) and fit into my pocket. Now, in Hồ Chí Minh City electronics comes in two kinds: authentic expensive stuff and cheap knock-offs. The range at the bottom is huge and uniformly crap, and if one wants something decent one has to fork out and moreover search damn hard.

So, after visiting twenty or more shops selling rubbish, including an abortive and attitude-souring trip out to the "electronics market" in District 10, I headed back to ezone on Tôn Thất Tùng in D1, an apparently unofficial Apple store. They sold me these Shures for $US90, a remarkably modest $US25 markup on Amazon's price. They didn't take Visa, so I had to find an ATM and hand them a brick of cash.

If anyone believes that a fully free market is the solution to the world's ills, then I suggest they come here and try to buy something at a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame. Given the weak state of IP, consumer protection and related laws, the usual signals (brand names, trademarks, price, shop location, etc.) are highly unreliable.

As for the headphones themselves, well, they fit so snugly into my ears that they will surely cause me to have an accident while walking the streets of this town. Conversely eating, drinking or even talking with them on is mildly unpleasant, as one's skull becomes (even more of) an echo chamber.

Oh yes, the most pointless Dirty Three song ever: someone, somewhere, recorded them covering Leonard Cohen's Suzanne for a radio show. I have the evidence in the form of a WAV.

88 Minutes

/noise/movies | Link

At Galaxy Cinema on Nguyễn Du with Loan. Not bad, but the climax is a bit of a let down. Al Pacino is a bit too old for this kind of schtick.

War on Democracy

/noise/movies | Link

Perhaps better titled John Pilger's War on Democracy, in the tradition of The Chaser. While I wholeheartedly agree that the issues he highlights are worthy, I struggle with how weak his evidential requirements are. I don't doubt that one could make an almost-identical movie about John Howard's Australia, full of "national security is all" crackpots, and people whose aspirations are stymied. (Just ask any arty type.) His allusions to "secret documents" no longer cut it, if they ever did; put them on the internet, etc. etc.

Vaguely ironic to me is that Vietnam is undergoing massive poverty reduction (etc.) without political instability or a Western-style democracy.

Most interesting is the cult of personality that Chavez has cultivated. Little is made of his recent move to suspend the parliament, while much is made of the coup's move to do the same.

I don't think John Pilger is dishonest; I think the case is strong enough that he could focus on root causes and what's-to-be-done rather than drilling us about the American Empire. (Obviously it exists, and has done so since at least World War II; just look at the major international institutions, especially the economic ones.) It's too much like a Michael Moore movie without the humour.

Zwartboek (Black Book)

/noise/movies | Link

Dare I say this is Verhoeven's best since Total Recall... The plot is a little clunky at some points, but overall it's very well constructed.

Cà Phê Thềm Xưa, 371 D1 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, Q1.

/AYAD/HCMC/Cafes | Link

Loan's usual, due to it being a garden cafe and relatively close to DRD. It's part of a chain (I think of three) that includes the one our In-Country Manager Chị Lan took us to, in District 3, back in July. I've got to track that one down...

Trung Nguyên Cafés.

/AYAD/HCMC/Cafes | Link

Hồ Chí Minh City is a place to buy coffee, with vendors on every street and every alley (presently exchanging a foreigner's five kilođong for the caffiene-and-sugar hit of a cà phê sữa đá) and all the hotels (the Legend Hotel charges $US3.50 for a very mediocre American-style drip coffee). Mai got me onto the Trung Nguyên cafés, which are apparently a Starbucks-style franchise. If there's anything to be said in favour of tariffs, Trung Nguyên says it; I have difficulty drinking street coffee now.

The problem with it being a franchise (and this being Hồ Chí Minh City) is the difficulty of getting a list of addresses for the cafés. Fortunately I can crib from here (and please excuse the erratic character decorations):

  • 1 Trần Hưng Đạo, District 1.

    Diagonally opposite Bến Thành Market on the roundabout. The first one I went to, with Loan one Saturday afternoon. My local, I have a table there. Don't be put off by the big love-heart on the door, the waitresses will take good care of you. Head upstairs for more of that 50s Art Deco feeling.

  • On the monster roundabout at the intersection of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm and Điện Biên Phủ at the top of District 1, opposite Mike's workplace, the impressive-looking Institute of Agricultural Science of South Vietnam.

  • On Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm between Nguyễn Đình Chiẻu and Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, District 1.

  • 1 Bủi Thị Xuân, District 1, opposite the park.

    Somewhat like my local on Trần Hưng Đạo but not as atmospheric. Mai steered me to this one.

  • Nguyen Van Chiem, next to the Diamond Plaza.

    Today it was closed for renovations which will clearly take some time.

  • 32 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1.

    Couldn't find this one, but the numbers go strangely on that street.

I haven't been to (and they may not exist):

  • 114 Ly Tu Trong, District 1.
  • 44B Chu Manh Trinh, District 1.
  • 349 Hai Ba Trung, District 3.
  • 150D Ly Chinh Thang, District 3.
  • 10 Nguyen Thong, District 3.
  • 46 Chu Mạnh Trinh, District 1
  • 2A Nguyễn Huệ, District 1.

Apparently one can purchase their coffee in Australia.

Bright Concert, Hồ Chí Minh City Opera House.

/noise/music | Link

Earlier in the week I stumped up 450kvnđ for a cheap seat at the Bright Concert, and this evening I waded through about half a metre of water on Lê Lợi to get to the Hồ Chí Minh City Opera House. The Darius Quartet were excellent, but I couldn't get into the arias.

The Terminator

/noise/movies | Link

Hard to get excited about this movie on a fourth or fifth viewing. If anything, Arnie has too many lines, and the special effects are ambitiously embarassing. The schmaltz is laid on way to thick, and Arnie has little opportunity to ham it up.

err... yes, I am watching too many movies again. I've still got to get to David Lynch's new one, and I saw Al Pacino's face on a billboard here, so I will probably venture back to the cinema some time soon.