Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Musical Review

The musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is full of all the fun and magic you'd expect, if you've ever seen the 1968 film version of Ian Fleming's story. After receiving excellent reviews at the London Palladium for four years, and Broadway for one, the show is now on tour. It is in Singapore now (one season only), and will be here for another week or so.

The highlight of the show is the fantastic special effects. I usually am more captured by the music and dance of a musical (to be expected, right?), but I have to say that the flying car in this one was really an amazing feat, and it really captured the magic you want to see in a performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There were plenty of other spectacular effects, but the car was by far the most dazzling thing to watch. Fitting, I suppose, since the whole show is named after her.

That said, there were some excellent performances too. Richard O'Brien has been highly praised in his role as the Child Catcher, and he certainly lived up to the acclaim in last night's performance. His voice is good, but it is his physicality that most impresses me. He just looks sinister when he dances about the stage.... but sinister in a funny way. What he brings to the role is ideal for the Child Catcher, and will set the standard for how the role is to be performed.

For me, though, Truly Scrumptious stole the show with her voice. She stood out as notably the best singer, followed by the Baron and Baroness. I thought Caractacus Potts was good, but it is hard not to think of Dick Van Dyke's memorable performance in the role in the film.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is directed by Adrian Noble. I couldn't help but call to mind his production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (which I've seen on film and use in class when I teach the play) while watching this musical. It seems that his flair for the spectacular is something that never wanes. It certainly makes for a fun night at the theatre.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is showing at the Esplanade in Singapore until December 9. You can find more information about what's showing at the Esplanade at their website.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Travel Writing Competition

A friend recently sent me an email about a travel writing competition called The Wild Places, Wild Journeys Writing Competition 2008. I am working on my submission at the moment, and thought it was worth spreading the news about the competition here too.

The word limit is 1200 words, and the deadline is January 11, 2008. The prizes are attractive, including a place in a week-long writing course at the Arvon Foundation's Scottish centre, Moniack Mhor, near Inverness. You can download the entry form at the website.

Good luck!


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A New Eating Spot in Woodlands (Singapore)

I wrote a few months ago about a new eating spot I'd found called Botak Jones. While I was in the US, a few friends found that Botak Jones had a new branch opening up in Woodlands. The other night, we visited the new spot, and found it just as good as the Ang Mo Kio location. In fact, the manager of the new spot remembered us (he was at Ang Mo Kio when we were there), and came over to chat for a while.

The new location is at Woodgrove Shopping Centre, in the foodcourt (the one inside the shopping centre, not the one facing the road). The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and the service is excellent. That is just what I look for in a meal when I am out with your friends.

Check out this map for directions to Woodgrove.




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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Free Music and Cheap Food

The most recent Bluegrass Night in League City, Texas, hosted by the Bay Area Bluegrass Association, was lots of fun. There were several very good performances. The guitar and banjo school that opened up the evening with performances by their students was much better than that description makes it sound. I was especially impressed to see Daniel Roy, the Texas State Banjo Champ, play. He was very, very good.

And the music just got better as the night went on. There was some gospel singing by a group from Porter, Texas, and the highlight of the evening was No Strings Attached, a top-notch bluegrass quartet. They write a good deal of their own music, and were impressive enough that I bought a CD before leaving the event.

Besides the performances in the main auditorium, there are a number of rooms booked throughout the building where musicians can go to jam. There were a lot of people with guitars, banjoes, mandolins, and all in the rooms jamming with other musicians. It was a lot of fun to walk around and watch.

And of course, the cheap food was great too. Bar-B-Q, nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, and all that sort of thing were available for reasonable prices. It created a relaxed, family feeling to the event. It was a great place to bring the whole crew, and many people did just that. There were lots of small children, as well as many grey heads. The atmosphere is one of fun and family, and it is definitely worth the price of admission. ;-)

The event is held each month, except in May and December. It is well worth your time to visit Bluegrass Night if you are in the League City area on the third Saturday of a month.



If this sort of event sounds fun to you, you might also enjoy the music reviewed at Pinhole's recent post.



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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Literary Travel

Literary tours have been popular with some travelers for a very long time. When I lecture on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, we always spend a little time talking about how a whole tourism industry has grown up surrounding the author's work. It's much like what we see happening with the Anne of Green Gables series.

I've found a website that specializes in literary tourism for travelers who are interesting is such journeys. There are group or individual tours available. Stretching from Twain's Mississippi to Dante's Italy, there are all sorts of literary tours available at literarytraveler.com.




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Friday, November 16, 2007

Singapore Poetry Slam

I have been doing a little thinking about poetry and its place in the public arena these days, and that brought to mind for me the very popular poetry slams going on in major cities all over the world.

Singapore is one spot that is trying to increase the visibility of poetry on the cultural front. There are many activities to encourage reading and writing poetry, especially aimed at young readers and writers. Stomp Cast is one of the bodies that is really on the forefront of organizing events like poetry slams in Singapore. (And the English as it is Broken section of their site is lots of fun too!)

There is a regular poetry slam at Velvet Underground at Zouk the last Tuesday of each month.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eco Travel

I came across a blog raising the question, "Would you be willing to pay more for green travel?" The stats at that blog surprised me. I would have expected a somewhat higher number to indicate a willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly travel. After all, I've been hearing all over that eco tours are big business these days. I would have thought that responsible travel would be a farily big priority for frequent travelers, especially as backpackers (a big tree-hugging group) might skew the statistics.

As I read on in the entry, though, it began to make more sense. The reasons those polled gave for an unwillingness to pay more makes some sense to me. I won't go into details (go read the blog post for that), but it began to seem to me that responsible travel isn't going to be achieved by simply waving more money its way. It is going to take more than just a monetary commitment. It is going to need thoughtful planning and consideration. And, really, for many people that just means more hassle.

And of course, if we aren't that willing to spend money, how much harder is it going to be to motivate us to put in the effort?



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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Refelections 2007

Republic Polytechnic Wind Symphony is presenting Reflections 2007: Viva La Symphonie.

The show will be on 8 December at 7:30 pm. It will be held at Republic Polytechnic in the Republic Cultural Centre (Studio). Tickets are $7 each. (You can book online through Gatecrash.) It will be a mix of "serious" and "pop" music, including songs by Teresa Teng (which should be lots of fun!)

You can find more information at their website.

If you've not yet been to the new facilities at Republic Poly, this is a great chance to see the Republic Cultural Centre. It's a beautiful facility, and there are many great shows appearing there all the time. I will try to keep you updated about what's to come!



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Monday, November 12, 2007

Bluegrass Night

This Saturday, November 17 at the Johnny Arolfo Civic Center (300 W. Walker; League City, TX), is Bluegrass Night in League City. And, it will be the last show until 2008. But don't worry, the great music will revive again after the holidays.

Each month, the Bay Area Bluegrass Association organizes this gig. You'll get a good sampling of the area's best bluegrass, and there are raffle items and bluegrass merchandise for sale too, along with good (and cheap) food. (No alcohol.) At every show, door prizes are available.

The main feature of this month's lineup is No Strings Attached. Cypress Creek will also be performing this week. The show starts at 6:30. If you are a musician and would like to play, just show up early.

Shows are the 3rd Saturday of every month of the year, except May and December. Visit the Bay Area Bluegrass Association website for more details.




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Friday, November 09, 2007

Ad Space on Travel Blogs

This blog receives offers for ads from time to time (you can see my disclosure policy for a little more insight on that.) The offers can range from a few dollars to a fair bit per post (though the ones for a few dollars are much more common).

One of the most flexible ad companies I know of is Pay Per Post. They have a special system where advertisers can contact me directly to arrange for advertisements, and they will take a much smaller commission that what is generally kept by ad companies. You can click on this tabe if you'd like to consider advertising here:

PPP Direct


If you are wonering how to get started posting ads on your own travel blog, you can click this tab:


You will be given the opportunity there to do a review of my blog. When it is approved (which will take about 30 days), you'll receive $7.50 for posting the ad, and I will receive the same for introducing you. I think you'll be very pleased once you get started too. There are lots of opportunities, and yet you don't have to flood your blog with a lot of rubbish. PPP looks for good quality blogs, and has some fairly high standards for the posts they will accept.

I'll get back to posting travel related entries in my next post. But I did want to let you know about these opportunities, whether you are looking to advertise on travel related blogs (and/or blogs on other topics), or whether you'd like to post ads on your own blogs.


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Concert at the High School, but not a High School Concert

I got to attend a concert at the local high school tonight (or one of the 7 local high schools within a half hour drive from my parents' house), but it wasn't a high school concert. Nope, it was professional all the way.

Joe Scruggs was onstage with his show that he likes to take on the road. If you've not heard Scruggs before, you don't know what you're missing. His kids' songs are some of the funniest I've ever heard, and the show was enjoyed not only by the kids in our crowd tonight, but by us grown-ups too (and we had the little ones outnumbered, in our family). The music Scruggs plays is fun, his voice is good, but the real draw to his work is the humor. It reminds me a lot of the work of one of my favorite bloggers, Pinhole. The lyrics of the music always keep my whole family laughing.

I was surprised to see that the Joe Scruggs concert was held in the local high school auditorium tonight, but I was pleased too. I was pleased that he's kept his show close to the crowd, staying very near to the kids who love his music. It was, for the most part, a pretty low-tech show, using puppets, music, and humor to please the crowds. I really loved that about the whole program.

This served as a really good reminder for me to stick to the habit of checking out the smaller-scale local programs when I travel. It's easy to get distracted by the glitzy programs and ads for the big-name shows, but the smaller programs are sometimes the best place to see real life when you are on the road. I sat tonight in the audience thinking, here in the town where I grew up, that this show would make a great outing for travelers (especially those with kids). It was "touristy" at all, but Scruggs would give a visitor to the area a real feel for the sorts of humor and entertainment that delight local audiences here.

And so that reminds me not to overlook similar shows in areas to which I travel.



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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Adventurous Spirit

This is a great little video clip about the adventurous spirit of today's Chinese traveler. I have found this to be very true of people I know in China. There is a real eagerness to see their home country, especially those spots off the beaten track.



Doesn't riding a camel out in the desert sound like an exotic vacation?



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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Thai Cottage

Thai Cottage, on Bay Area Blvd. just off of I-45, is one of the best Thai restaurants I've been to in the Clear Lake area. It is pretty obvious that the place is very popular when you see the long line that forms at lunch time.

The green curry shrimp is my favorite dish on the menu, but it seems that their entire spread is very wide, very authentic, and very appetizing. The peanut dressing for the salad is excellent, as is the peanut sauce chicken and steamed vegetables. The cashew chicken is likewise a mouth-watering dish. In fact, I haven't seen a single dish yet that I didn't like there. And that's saying a lot, because the lunch menu alone has at least a dozen different main courses to choose from.

You don't have to take my word for it. There are plenty of other reviews to help you decide too.

Visit the Thai Cottage website for more info, including maps to the various locations.




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Friday, November 02, 2007

The Changing of the Guard, Arlington Cemetery

Usually at the ceremony for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D. C., it's a very quiet and solemn affair. It's been a few years since I was there, but I captured a video that day that was pretty interesting. Just as the ceremony was wrapping up, a choir began practicing for a competition that was going to take place later that afternoon. The choir's singing made for a very nice soundtrack to the changing of the guard ceremony. I've extracted the audio here and put it with some other clips of the ceremony as a whole.

If you've not seen the changing of the guard before, it is something I always enjoy having a chance to see. I love having a chance to walk through the Arlington Cemetery for half a day or so. It is a spot well worth visiting.




My apologies for the shaky quality of the video. I was a bit far away from the tomb, and had to use a higher power zoom than I normally like for video. It turned out cold and windy that day (and snowed later that night), so my hand wasn't quite as steady as I'd like for a video.


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

When Politics Prevent us From Playing

It's a sad thing when politics prevent us from enjoying our playtime. I was just reading about the sad situation in Sri Lanka caused by the unrest of the Tamil Tigers.

I have some favorite holiday spots that I've been advised to avoid from time to time because of political unrest. There are even a few spots I've not yet been able to visit, having had trips to those places canceled because of violence in the area. It's a sad thing when violence between people keep others on the outside, preventing an enjoyment of good things together. Even worse, the violence can keep us from having a chance to learn about and enjoy some places that we might really like to see.

I've not made it to Sri Lanka yet, but it is one of those spots I'd very much like to see... conditions permitting.


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