Sunday, 23 May 2010

18th May 2010: Attending the London Première of "Kites", in Leicester Square

On Sunday 16th May, myself and several members of my family entered an extremely easy competition on a certain Asian TV network's website..and on Monday, we received confirmation via email that we had won! The prize was two tickets to attend the première of the "Bollywood" film Kites the following night. Now, gaining tickets to any sort of film première is kind of a big deal, but when you take into account that the main actor of the film, Hrithik Roshan, has been somewhat of an idol of mine for the past ten years, then this was indeed a VERY big deal!

After spending my morning frantically trying to finish off some work for uni, we arrived in Leicester Square around 4pm, eager to collect our tickets from the competition organisers. As we approached the cinema, we realised that the red carpet was being laid, and copious people had gathered to wait behind the long line of assembled barrages. We stood not far from the media, where a certain "he's-alot-smaller-in-real-life" journalist was filming a promo on the glorified material, several times over as he was being distracted by the crowd's chanting. Other TV and radio journalists prowled the excitable audience, finding people who were willing to talk about the film, as well as sing/sell their souls/have 5 minutes of ludicrous fame, which would probably haunt them in the very near future, in front of the cameras. I was also approached to do so, but politely declined, as I prefer to live life in the background, rather than be brought to the attention of others. I guess that's a reason why I admire actors and others performers.

Slowly, but surely, flags with the title of the film, were draped decoratively along the red carpet, much to the dismay of some (including myself), as this meant that they got in the way of filming and/or taking photos. Needless to say, this was not my only worry. We were surrounded by men who were constantly swaying and pushing, trying to edge themselves forwards to obtain a nearer position, and view of the goings-on. During the few hours that we spent standing outside the cinema, we were crushed into a cramp corner. Passers-by and people sitting in restaurants were baffled, and often enquired as to why there were so many Asians and media present in the Square, but they were in for a show, as we all were.

The music started, and a group of street dancers paraded the red carpet. The media lapped this up with much interest, as we all did - they oozed energy, and were effortlessly cool. This went on for a little while, before the presence of the security force suddenly increased threefold, and the cheers started; we all knew what time it was - it was time for the stars to make their way down. I'll be honest, I can't quite remember the exact order in which they all came down, as there was an air of frenzy. They included the main actress Barbara Mori, Rakesh Roshan (the film's producer and writer, and Hrithik's dad), the director Anurag Basu, the co-producer Sunaina Roshan (ie. Hrithik's older sister), Brett Ratner (editor of the "remixed" English version of the film), Suzanne Roshan (Hrithik's wife), the composer Rajesh Roshan (Hrithik's uncle, and Rakesh's brother), Pinky Roshan (Hrithik's mum) and Sanjay Khan (Suzanne's dad), as well as Gurinder Chadha, Vanessa Feltz and Kulvinder Ghir. I also noticed a certain figure surreptitiously slink down the pathway - it was Hrithik's cousin Eshaan. Not many people recognised him, as he isn't an active member of the Indian film industry, but as I caught a glimpse of him, my mind began having Lost-esque flashbacks of televised award functions, where Hrithik would win numerous awards, with his family proudly sitting with and supporting him, including his cousin. If I'm not mistaken, he used to have braces, but I digress..

As these figures proceeded, it was at this stage that the screaming started. Without even turning around, I knew that Hrithik was on his way. Even though I have had the delight of seeing him a few times before (but sadly never met), I swear that he gets better looking as time progresses. I was expecting the girls to be screaming, but it seemed that the men in the crowd were even more excited than the women - within the next few minutes, there was a lot of jostling as anyone and everyone tried to take his photo, film him and/or get his autograph. Even though I had brought two  drawings which I had done, with me to be signed, and was clutching a camcorder, sadly I didn't mange any of these due to the commotion of my fellow fans :(

Since we had tickets, we slowly crept away from the crowd to make our way to the cinema, and to our surprise, it seemed that all première attendees were to walk the red carpet too! It was somewhat surreal, but I quickly rushed through, whilst staring longingly at the masses of bodyguards who were enveloping the stars and ushering us away, as they spoke with the media. As we were seated in the rather large screen, surrounded by popcorn and bottles of water, passing glasses of champagne for the A-List, I noticed a microphone in front of the screen. An hour went by, and I didn't think we'd see any of the crew involved with the film in the flesh again, but they eventually came to the screen. The reason they had taken so long was the fact that none of them had ever had a première in London before, hence the delay - they were appreciating the whole experience, just the same as those who had the tickets to the screening.

As they came in, I quickly scrambled for my camcorder, and began filming. The ensemble proceeded to give a few introductory speeches, before the film was to start. The following video is the edited version of what I filmed inside the cinema - please bear in mind that I am a somewhat novice when it comes to filming and editing.

After their brief words, they slinked away, leaving the entire roomful of people starstruck and giddy. The film then began.. I won't post any spoilers about the film but I will say this - it's very beautifully done, stunningly shot with even more stunning performances from the entire cast. Furthermore, it has a bit of everything - romance, action, comedy... It can easily please all cinema-goers. Hopefully, I'll be seeing it again next week :)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Derren Brown: Enigma Tour

Derren Brown, originally uploaded by Brown Towers

On 9th April 2010, I had the privilege to see one of Derren Brown's Olivier award nominated shows from his Enigma tour, live at Milton Keynes theatre. The day leading up to the event was one of suspense, excitement and giddiness..and I hadn't even arrived at the venue yet!

My earliest memory of Milton Keynes was on a school "field-trip" (as they say in the US), where we were learning about how the town had been developed over the years. It was a whirlwind of Peace Pagodas, concrete cows and shopping centres. Since then, I have been mostly concerned with the shopping centres, especially during the Christmas period. Up until that day, I had never seen a performance at its theatre. To be fair, I'm not much of a theatre connoisseur - I can literally count on one hand the times I have been to a theatre to watch a performance. I should really make more of an effort to be a bit more cultured, and do this more often.

I arrived at the theatre nice and early, after consulting a series of instructions provided by Google Maps. The venue isn't too far from where I live, but I have previously had some bad experiences with said service, and wasn’t going to risk being late to the show. As with a lot of buildings in Milton Keynes, the theatre’s modern architecture was very stylishly conceived, and constructed. As I entered, I was greeted by the sight of copious padded, red chairs being occupied by fellow theatre goers, who were waiting in the foyer for the show to start. As I perched myself onto a grey cushioned pillar seat, I couldn’t help but notice that an orchestral version of “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” by the band Travis was playing in the background. It’s one of my favourite songs, evoking memories of troubled times. Some may think “why would you like a song that has negative connotations?” Well, the fact that I’ve independently overcome those events is what stays with me. As I sat listening to the music, tapping my foot along to the cello and violin sequences, I began taking in the attendees – they were mostly very young. No doubt, Derren’s spectacular sequence of shows, "The Events", caught the imaginations of the youth of this country, failing that, at least of this region.

A muffled and somewhat indistinguishable voice came over the tannoy (do people still call it that..?), announcing that the door for the show was now open. We all enthusiastically proceeded towards the room. I clumsily stared at the floor, looking for my row; I had gone too far down and had to retrace my steps. I eventually found it after bumping into a few people, and barely avoided stepping on a few toes. The place was enveloped by darkness, with a mixture of music being seamlessly piped into the room. A few minutes of darkness went by...but then the curtains raised, and the stage was revealed in all its glory. I’ve watched all of the filmed theatre shows on TV, and online, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the grandiose nature in which the stage was set. I’m going to have a girly moment here, and describe the decorative golden lettering used as divine. I suddenly began to appreciate where my seat was situated. I was sitting in the stalls, but not quite near the front. However, the seats nearer to the front were “below” the stage, meaning that those sitting in front had to crane their necks upwards, to watch the show. I, on the other hand, was sitting in a slightly raised area, which was elevated to the same height as the actual stage. In comparison with my house, the distance I was from the stage was the length of my living room, and in my opinion, it was perfect!

During the 30 minutes leading up to the start of the show, the anticipation grew. More and more people flooded in, with stomps echoing around. A few announcements were made in an eerily familiar voice…and the show began. Now, to be fair, I won’t be revealing any spoilers about the show, since I’ve been sworn to secrecy, along with all the other attendees; furthermore, what’s the point in me divulging all the secrets of the show? It would only spoil the fun for those who haven’t seen it yet, and ruin expectations. However, I do have it within me to reveal the following:

  • It is an astoundingly brilliant show that will take your breath away, and will surely stay with you for a long time to come.
  • Regardless of whether you are an avid fan of Derren Brown, hypnosis, the paranormal, “psychic ability” etc., or you are simply a casual viewer, you will be thoroughly entertained;
  • Derren Brown looks as sharp in a suit in real life, as he does on TV (seriously, those are some nice suits!). Moreover, Derren Brown IS as sharp and witty in real life, as he is on TV.
  • There is a lot of audience participation with the use of the infamous death-defying, flying Frisbees  - get in their way and catch them at your own peril! This concludes that the probability that stooges are used during the show is very slim. Moreover, it does not matter where you are sitting – if the Frisbee chooses you, you are coming down onto the stage!
  • Be prepared to hear a lot of simultaneous gasping, ascending from the audience, echoing throughout the entire theatre, like a giant reverberating…thing. Along with the gasps, there will be frequent shrieks of delight and surprise, laughter, and indeed much applause.
  • During the show, you will constantly be asking yourself, “how the **** did he do that?!” Come to think of it, this question will remain with you for a considerable amount of time after the show.
  • The show flows effortlessly between tricks and charming regaling by the man of the hour (well, 3 hours, to be precise) himself.
  • The finale is something very special J
  • Finally, everyone should go see it (caution: you may wet yourself with sheer glee).

On a slightly sour note, the night that I attended there were a group of obnoxiously loud theatre-goers sitting near the back, within one of the upper circle areas, who were probably teenagers who took advantage of the drinks bar. Derren referred to them as, excuse my French, “pricks” near the end of the show, much to the delight of the audience.

As the show ended, it hit me that not many people are aware know that they are actually able to meet the showman after the show, at the stage door. I watched as a vast majority headed towards the car park; initially, I wasn’t sure where the stage door was, but soon caught on after seeing a few keen fans walking around the building, clutching onto books and other DB-related paraphernalia. I followed suite, clutching onto a poster and a program, hoping I wasn’t to be molested by a passing bat – the lack of lighting in the outer “non-goers” area of the theatre is the only drawback of the beautifully designed MK theatre. A handful of people had gathered outside the door, possibly enough to fill a row in the theatre. There was a little wait which, once again, seemed to take forever; each flash of movement from behind the glass would cause us all to perk up, ready to catch a glimpse of the one we were waiting for.

Eventually, he came out. It was a rather surprising encounter – for one, this was the first time I’d seen him clothed in anything but a suit. He sported casual wear, including a dapper cap, which made him look, well, normal. Secondly, he was extremely friendly and rather humble. It’s difficult to deny that over the years Derren Brown has gained rapid celebrity status, through the increasing media coverage from numerous shows, live and otherwise; and rightly so – some say that he has redefined his field, and has confounded and intrigued the country (nay, the world) with his various illusions. As I waited patiently, the fans slowly dispersed until it was my turn to say hello.

We chatted momentarily about the show, and I revealed that this was my first time seeing him live and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hoped to do so again soon. I was feeling rather light headed after one of the tricks which the majority of the audience took part in; he reassured me that the effects would wear off fairly soon, and I would be as right as rain. He signed my program, and then my poster; the latter led to a discussion of a previous competition which had taken place last year, which was organised by the admin of his blog. There had been a few incidents which had taken place on Twitter, where those taking part got a bit “over excited”, and began bombarding him with tweets questioning what he knew about it. The truth was, as he reiterated on the night, he knew it was taking place, but was very confused about the whole issue as he did not know anything about what it involved as he was busy developing other concepts, such as his new book. I felt it was my duty to apologise on behalf of my fellow excited competitors, but he didn’t mind – he said it was all fairly reasonable, considering that it was a rather immersive experience. He thanked me for attending the show and acquiring  a poster, and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. We took a photo together, thanks to a kind young girl who offered after my own camera wasn’t working properly in the dark surroundings, resulting in an "epic fail", as the youth of the Internet say.

The drive home was one where I grinned like an idiot throughout the entire journey, silently recalling all that had happened in as much detail as I could. As I reached home, my light-headedness had swiftly turned into a full-blown headache; I doubt very much that this had anything to do with an after effect of the trick from earlier – more likely, it was the outcome of coming down from an extreme adrenaline rush from earlier at the stage door. After all, if you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m not naturally a chatty person, but at the stage door adrenaline definitely kicked in, resulting in me nattering at speed; truth be told, I surprised myself immensely.

I definitely encourage people to see this show at least once. After all, Derren does not do live theatre shows that frequently. As for for me, I will hopefully be seeing it again in May J

Edit: I managed to see the show again on 1st May at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham - it was as wonderful this time as in Milton Keynes..if anything, it was a bit more special this time as I managed to get onstage after being chosen by a frisbee!. J
I took a few  more photos of the stage. They didn't turn out that well, but I decided to have a bit of fun with the neon glow setting of Photoshop ;)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow Day, aka “Stuck-on the-Bus-For-4-Hours Day” - 18th December 2009

Snow covered fields, originally uploaded by soulmate02.

As with most days where I have an early start, I woke up at 5.30am. It had been snowing heavily overnight and a quick peek outside certified this. Truth be told, I wasn’t too keen on travelling. I checked the university’s intranet to see if there were any updates regarding whether campus was open; there were none. I braced myself before stepping outside. The entire garden was covered in snow, almost reaching knee high. The car seemed to be caked in more snow than the entire garden – after removing the majority of it from the windscreen to ensure safe driving, we departed.

We live on a side-road, and due to its “unimportance”, it had not been gritted, and was extremely icy. We slowly skidded down road after road, until reaching my bus stop. I was surprised to find that it was easier to stand on the icy pavement rather than sit in the bus shelter. Apparently, when standing, all your body weight is evenly displaced upon your feet, so it’s easy to stand. On the other hand, sitting on a miniscule bench at an angle means that your legs are left dangling in an awkward manner, resulting in your feet slipping and sliding all over the place. I was wearing boots to avoid getting my feet wet, rather than my usual sneakers, but this did not help my footing.

As I sat and stood indeterminately, I saw my bus go past on the opposite side of the road, ready to start the bus route. I glanced at my watch - it was running 5 minutes late. Considering the conditions, I thought that this was quite impressive. Half an hour went by, and I was still standing at the bus shelter, shivering in anticipation. The bus was now half an hour late. Other local buses had come and gone in that time. I had been asked several times if the buses were running, and if I had seen theirs. The answer was always the same – “yeah, they are running. I’ve just seen that bus, so another one will be along in a minute”. I should’ve been paid for this service, as I was more or less reciting the bus timetable of various buses.

Eventually, my bus came puttering along. As it stopped, I realised that I was the only person getting on it. Usually there are at least five of us; even on the bus, there was only a small handful of people. Another notion struck me as soon as I set foot on the bus: it was an old one. Usually, this sort of thing doesn’t bother me. Sure, I’ve spent £350 for an annual bus-pass, but as long as a bus does come and gets me from A to B, I don’t mind what kind of state the bus is in. However, on this day it made a difference; older buses don’t have proper heating. By this, I mean there are means of heating, but it doesn’t work.

The journey to town was slow and arduous, with drivers battling against the ice and sludge of the roads. A friend was texting me to know of the bus’s journey status, as he too was getting this bus today. As we approached his bus stop, I was stunned. Typically this open air bus stop is crowded with potential passengers, which frequently fills the bus, meaning that passengers at subsequent stops have to stand for the rest of the journey (around an hour or so). However, today there were only two people at the bus stop. Altogether, there were now seven of us on the bus. I didn’t blame all the people for not wanting to go into work/university today – weather conditions were atrocious, and all anyone really wanted to do was curl up in the warmth with a cup of hot chocolate.

As we reached the main route of the bus journey, we realised that it was closed by the police due to an accident (no doubt weather related). As the bus driver circled the roundabout four times, he contacted the bus company to ask which route he should take in order to ensure that those expecting the bus were able to catch it. There was a muffled response on the loudspeaker, and we continued down an unfamiliar road. As we carried on, the bus driver was unsure of where he was going, and asked us for help. A few of the passengers advised him to go down a country lane.

As we progressed up a hill, there was a car up ahead which was stuck in the snow – it was blocking the road. A few of the passengers got out and successfully helped push the car out of its rut. As they returned, the bus driver re-started the bus, but we soon realised that we were in fact stuck now. One of the rear tires had sunk into a pit of ice – this meant that it would only skid on the ice and not move out. The driver tried in vain to rev the engine several times, to force the bus to move, but this resulted in excessive friction caused on the wheel, leading to a “burnt rubber” smell. The driver decided to stop this tactic as we didn’t want to run the risk of bursting the tire.

As I looked around, I could see that we were more or less in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded my fields and trees blanketed by snow. My mind was cast back to my parents telling me about their home lands, where they would often see postcards and photos of snow-covered landscapes – this would often evoke feelings of curiosity and wonder. When they came to England, they were able to experience snow, but soon appreciated that aesthetics weren’t enough – they had never experienced such cold and somewhat crippling conditions.

The temperature in the bus was slowly reducing; if this had been a typical day, the bus would have been packed to the brim, thus resulting in a lot of heat. But today wasn’t such a day. The bus driver contacted the bus company who confirmed that they were sending an “engineer” to come and find and help us. Truth be told, we didn’t need one – there was absolutely nothing wrong with the bus. The only problem was its surrounding. All we really needed was a way to melt the ice, and get the wheel out of it. To make matters worse, a friend contacted one of our peers and we soon found out that the campus had been closed for the day, and all classes were cancelled; apparently, they had placed a message on the intranet just after we had caught the bus. Too little, too late.

As time went by, numerous 4x4 cars came and went, most of which were old Land Rovers. A brand new 4x4 Audi was seemingly struggling to get through the snow; considering that this was a new, high performance car, we deduced that its driver simply didn’t know how to drive it properly, and had only purchased it as it was a "trendy" car. A local farmer in his tractor with a plough attached came by several times; he was clearing the surrounding roads, and was helping to tow other cars. He offered to tow us, but as the bus driver contacted the company, he was told that we shouldn’t accept the help as the farmer could not be held responsible of any damage done to the vehicle.

Our only means of entertainment was watching a speeding minivan driving too fast up the hill, resulting in it skidding haphazardly and somewhat comically. Two hours had elapsed and we were still waiting for the engineer to come for us. Needless to say, we started to get annoyed. As the driver re-contacted the company, they were reluctant to talk to him on the loudspeaker, and asked to speak with him “more privately”; basically, this meant they wanted to talk to him on the mobile instead, so that the passengers didn't hear. After the conversation, the disgruntled driver told us that the engineer himself had gotten stuck en route to help us – we were abandoned. Our only hope was to wait for the farmer to pass by on his tractor again. Nevertheless, we decided that enough was enough and we chose to be proactive. One passenger reasoned that we weren’t exactly sure when the farmer would be passing again, so decided to walk to try and find help. Whilst he went, a few other passengers chose to gather branches and rocks. These were placed under the affected wheel to try and create a sort of traction ramp. Whilst the passengers and driver collected and assembled their resources, I stood by and took some photos of their efforts as well as the surrounding area.

The technique worked! We were on our way! We picked up the passenger who was still attempting to walk for help. We headed back home, but there was more trouble ahead. The road which had initially been closed by the police at the start of our journey was now open. As we drove across it, we hit heavy traffic. Another bus (form the same company) had broken down en route; on top of that, two lorries were stuck up ahead, blocking the road. I thought that the ordeal would never end, but luckily a friend was getting a lift from his spouse in the opposite direction, and I managed to get a lift too.

We had been on the bus for more than four hours, and I managed to get home around 12.30pm. Personally, I’ve always loved snow, despite how cold it gets, but this was the first time that I’d been “snowed out”. I’ll definitely think twice before considering travelling in snow. Whilst I was tweeting throughout the entire ordeal, I got a reply from a friend who lives in Germany - she stated: "..with a bit of snow England is lost". Sadly, this is an understatement, which I completely agree with. I still don't understand why we are completely lost when it comes to snow. Countries in Europe, as well as Canada, have to put up with copious amounts of year-round snowfall and they manage fine - why is it that we can't?  :(

Thursday, 17 December 2009

EndOfTerm = {((x, y), z) : ((N x N) x N) | ((x = fatigue) ^ (y = stress)) --> (z = short-lived relaxation)}

Stress Reduction Kit, originally uploaded by programwitch.

It’s nearing the end of the semester, with just a day go. It’s currently snowing very heavily; as I watch the carefree manner in which the flakes slowly float down, I can’t help but think that this is the perfect way to end the term.

Over the past few weeks, the pressure of it all was starting to take its toll. I had found myself in a constant state of fatigue, stress and anxiety, with a series of consecutive deadlines and assessments looming – so much so, that I’d noticed that it had affected my performance in various simple, everyday tasks. I tried to add simple comments to Java programs, and ended up with numerous errors. I tried to iron a t-shirt, and burned a hole in it (luckily it blends in with the design!). I tried to apply eyeliner, and I ended up poking myself in the eye. I tried to force myself to go to an early class, and I ended up going to the wrong one…in the wrong building…at the wrong time. You get the picture.

Even now, as I write this blog post, I keep pressing Ctrl+K (ie. the shortcut to compile a program) instead of Ctrl+S to save. Due to the excessive amount of programming I’m currently doing, I’m constantly in that frame of mind. It’s gotten to the stage where I’m looking at life completely differently as opposed to a few years ago. A lame example: instead of seeing a weekly shopping list, I’m seeing an array list.

Since completing work for my deadlines, I find myself more at ease, in a state of relaxation. Whilst I’m no longer exerting myself to the point where I’m self-imploding, I’m tending to notice more and more events taking place around me. A few of my peers were grappling with the exercises the morning of a deadline; needless to say, leaving three out of five tasks till the morning of a deadline is never a smart thing to do. I could tell that panic was setting in for them. Inane remarks were flying all over the place – my favourite being: “what’s a mutator? Is it the same as a method, or is it something completely different?!” For those reading this who don’t know, a mutator (and an accessor too) is a type of method in programming. This is, in fact, one of the first things you learn when introduced to Object Oriented programming – it is an extremely simple concept (this is coming from someone who isn’t particularly that strong at programming!) I knew for a fact that like me, these students had a test to take directly after the deadline. Attempting to finish exercises that you don’t even understand before a rapidly approaching deadline is not a good way to prepare for a test.

From this and my own personal experience, I’ve noticed a pattern which has unfurled – we tend to behave at our worst when we’re flustered, and things tend to go wrong when rushed or in a state of somewhat panic. As well as the example above, a prime illustration of this was a fire alarm the other day. You know the drill – everyone stops what they’re doing, gathers a few personal things, and leaves the building. As we not-very-quickly-or-silently left the building, I noticed that a few people had paused halfway down the corridor and went back in the opposite direction in which they had come. There were murmurs of “I forgot my memory stick/mobile phone”. As a student, I can understand the importance of these two items. One is the life-line of personal contacts, and one is a backup representation of an archive of your academic career. Whilst watching the small crowd shuffle backwards, I noticed that they all seemed to carrying quite a few items, such as bags, books, folders, paper etc. 

I later learnt that they were Masters students, and they obviously had a lot on their minds. Here’s me complaining about a few assignments and tests, when these real heroes of academia are silently pushing forward in their struggle to further their knowledge, and perhaps even making a difference in their chosen field.

I’m currently savouring the few moments of tranquillity I have this week. Sure I’ve got exams in January, and three weeks of “vacation”, during which I’m supposed to prepare myself, are going to fly by in no time and I’ll probably be in a state of panic once again, but I’m going to relish this as much as I can.