Sunday, September 25, 2005

LCCS Flag Day

Ok, I know this sounds pretty absurd but I actually sold flags this morning! Wow! Haha... No kidding! The last time I did it was in Primary 5 man, so that's a pretty long time ago.

Anyway this time we had a flag day for my church's LCCS. It's a community service provider for student care. Ok anyway I won't bore you with the details, but oh boy, it sure was a tiring experience to stand at one corner and attempt to squeeze coins out of stranger for three and a half hours!

The very ironic thing was I usually have a certain "fear" for people looking out to exchange stickers for coins, but this very morning I became one of "them". Well, I tried to really nice about it, really! I did! But it was rather interesting to see the reactions of different people, ranging from the ice queen response to the "Sorry I don't have coins" one-liner. Right, you don't have coins when you just stepped out of a cab??

Haha! Ok, but anyway, I've actually picked up a few tips on how to politely refuse to throw a few coins into a bag. Usually it's a polite smile and a quick wave of the hand that seems to work best. Heh heh! So here's a tip for those of you who avoid flag collectors like the plague.

So I was doing fine for the first two hours; human traffic was pretty good and some were pretty willing to chip in for charity. Then, this elderly auntie suddenly materialized at my left, carrying a plastic bag of tissue paper and selling the three at the standard "market rate" of $1.

Ok, that doesn't look very good, does it... A young man trying to snatch business from an old auntie. That just didn't look good, so I moved further down. Oh I was stationed at Bishan bus interchange by the way, near the kiosk which sells newspapers. Then, ten minutes later, a gang of pretty young office ladies started infiltrating my area. No prizes for guessing where they are from... I'd say either Citibank or AIA. Haha!

Well, they were -rather- distracting. Plus they kept haggling on to people (or rather, men) and not letting go, so I had no choice to but move again. Well, slowly but surely tiredness set in and after three and a half hours I was ready to pack up.

For most of that time I was pretty spontaneous, greeting and approaching people for donations. Perhaps I was too enthusiastic for my own good, so the next time round (if there IS a next time round) I'll be adopting the soft, statue-like approach.

Anyway, when I was back home in the afternoon it was back to the blah teaching routine (well I didn't teach last Saturday cos I had a show at Esplanade), then slept again 'cos I woke up really early. Well, remember, I'm back to my 5am to 1pm sleeping routine!

I'm leaving for Genting & KL tomorrow night, and I have absolutely NOT packed yet. I haven't even arranged with Engie where and what time to meet. So much for being prepared, eh. I hope I can find my passport!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Reprise...

Five minutes to five in the morning, and there's absolutely no one on my MSN list online. Well, those that are are on Away... Not too entertaining, huh!

Spent the entire day watching LOST episodes (I'm all the way till episode 19!), playing Advance Wars: DS and Geist. Yup, catching up on gaming now! Pretty fruitful, eh? Haha...

Gonna hit the sack soon. Yikes, I'm falling into my 5am to 1pm sleeping routine... again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Quills

What was supposed to be a short trip down to SRT to collect something turned out to be a long, fruitful day yesterday. After I was done at SRT I met with Engie in town for lunch, and we had Japanese at this quaint little place in Far East square. Recommended! Food was pretty damn good!

After that, we then proceeded to carry out some retail therapy for ourselves, and helped ourselves to a few more calories (actually it's more than just "a few more") through a dessert "break" at Baker's Inn. Most satisfying.

Oh, and I also found (by chance) and bought Mindi Abair's new CD! Ok, well, it's released in 2004 but it only hit Singapore shelves recently. I've reviewed it in the "ME" section so do check it out, she's really awesome. Young and talented musician, she definitely is!

Looking good on her album cover!

Later in the evening I went to watch luna-id's latest production, Quills, with Aik Wee. My friend Darren Ng was doing sound design and trusty Engie doing wardrobe. To be honest I enjoyed the play much more than I thought I would. Really noteworthy was the set design (amazing stuff, really), as well as Rehaan engineer & Lim Kay Tong's performances.

Darren also did some good stuff on the tablas (which were performed live). I never knew music could sound so good in SRT. The last time I had my Ocean Butterflies "graduation" concert we had nightmares with the sound system.

Samantha Scott-Blackhall scored yet another winner this time round, though I must admit I was more wowed over by her previous direction, One-Sided Wall. Script-wise, however, Quills provides for engaging 2-and-a-half hours of entertainment and macabre humor.

Of course, who wouldn't be attracted by the dark tales of The Marquis de Sade?

"Yes! Primal desire -- that's unchanging! Every man from Paris to China feels the same urgent stirring in his loins."
- The Marquis

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Sound of Thunder

A Sound Of Thunder. I'm sure many of you must have started to take notice of this newly-released film, starring Ben Kingsley and Edward Burns. Yet, what exactly is the sound of thunder? If this movie is any indication then it's the sound of moviegoers thundering towards the exit, demanding their money back. Yes, the movie is that bad.

If the term nightmarish is any sort of indication, then that term would be pretty close. Yet before I continue my rant, I must come clean and say that the concept of this movie is good, and Ray Bradbury's short story (of which this movie is loosely based upon) was a good one.

Yet, it's only solid concept that the filmmakers went the furthest. This movie is so bad that Ray Bradbury might as well wish he could invent a time machine so that he could go back in time and NOT write the short story, thus preventing this movie from ever being made.

Five minutes into the show we're introduced to an absolutely ghastly looking dinosaur who probably feels pretty lousy that his cousins from Jurassic Park (made in 1993, mind you) look so much better than him. That's gotta be bad. Ok, then lets talk about the horrible green screens. Which are the background CGI shots of 2055 Chicago City.

Green screens are just about the most basic thing in the world of CGI effects. Even the CNN live weather channel has a better looking weather map of Afghanistan than this movie. But no, the actors here look like they are walking on a treadmill with zero depth from the background and themselves. Don't forget the "futuristic" cars, which look like they were designed by a 2 year old with a Lego set.

That's how bad the green screens were. It really makes one think where did the $80 million production cost went. $80 million, mind you. That's about S$134.5 million. As mentioned earlier, I actually like the concept of the movie - the butterfly effect - the theory that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings can produce long-term effects on a dynamical system.

But all these were marred by absolutely horrific CGI effects, unconvincing sets and really low-quality props. I nearly laughed when the liquid nitrogen guns first appeared on screen; they looked like a supersized toy gun you can pick up at your local pasar malam. And what bothered me also is it doesn't care to explain why killing one butterfly resulted in the world being taken over by horribly rendered CGI creatures.

The script also drags all the clich├ęs out and leaves the actors to cover them. There is the greedy CEO, the disillusioned scientist, the noble hero, loyal sidekick and even a corrupt official. Yet, how Academy Award Winner Ben Kingsley ended up as part of the production is still baffling me. And laughably, the movie goes so far as to sacrifice the only major African-American character as a distraction to hungry monsters so the white people can run for their lives.

Add all these up, and you have just about the cheesiest film of the year!

Dinosaur-hunting with futuristic-looking Super Soakers.


"So, what do you say? Like my new poofy white wig?"


"Damn! I still can't find that pair with the dog poo stuck beneath!"


I recall the days where PlayStation 1 cutscenes looked better.


Great job guys, it's the year 2055 and your hi-tech guns still don't have attached flashlights.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rev Controller!

Indeed, revolutionary times are just round the corner. Nintendo just revealed the controller which will be used for their next-gen console, the Revolution. And this time round, they're making sure everything that goes along with it is revolutionary.

Looking like just a simple remote control is only the surface. Peel off it's layer and one will discover it's rather unique functionality.

The controller for Nintendo's upcoming Revolution home console system is a cordless remote-control-like device designed to be used with only one hand. Two small sensors placed near the TV and a chip inside the controller track its position and orientation, allowing the player to manipulate the action on screen by physically moving the controller itself.

For example, you could slash an in-game sword by actually swinging the controller from side to side, turn a race car just by twisting your wrist, or aim your gun in a shooter by pointing the controller where you want to fire.

Now that's real innovation, suited for the next generation of revolutionary consoles. Nintendo has always made itself clear that it doesn't want to follow the paths of Microsoft & Sony, and this time they've really dealt their hand of good cards.

The Rev controller also comes with an "add-on" component, the analog left stick. Fans of FPS games will be intrigued to how this works: the analog stick controls movement, but instead of holding down a button to look around, you simply point the other controller in the direction you want to aim.

Exciting times, eh? And here's the best part: the Rev is completely compatible with the standard GameCube controller for older and not-so-old games. Just stick one into the Rev set and you're good to go.

In these fast-paced times of gaming technology, two words that really stand out and appeal to gamers are: backward compatibility. And it's because of this that the Xbox 360 will crash and burn in time to come. The PS3 will be able to play games all the way back to PS1, and the Rev will have online functionality to download games all the way back from the NES era.

Perhaps Nintendo has really struck gold this time. We can only wait and see...

Nintendo's next-generation console: The Revolution.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

MRT Jitters...

Some folks seem to have a real talent. Only some, not all. Yet, this talent can be found in varying lengths, from young to old, both men and women. How this talent is acquired still remains unknown, though.

The talent for being able to stand right in front of MRT doors despite two, huge yellow lines and three pretty damn big arrows plastered on the floor for every single entry/exit point. Incredible, isn't it?

Common courteous behavior would generally incline towards letting people off before boarding the train; common sense would tell you that. Nevermind, SMRT is nice enough to draw arrows and lines on the floor for us, yet some people are thick enough to just blatantly ignore these "directions".

Take him for example.

He pretends that the yellow lines and arrows on the floor aren't obvious enough because he's busy focusing his eyes on the small characters of his newspaper. What an original idea. Guess he must be pretty desperate for a seat.

But lets not stereotype these uncles and aunties as "seat-grabbers". Take a look below.

A young, sophisticated-looking lady! Desperately vying to enter first, so much so that she has to "distract" herself by reading a book, then in a very "blur" manner, position herself right in the middle of the door! You can't get any more obvious than that, I assure you.

Let me not start on how nobody seems to even care about standing to one side of the escalator to let people who are in a hurry pass. Everyone has this terrible mentality that since no one does it, why should I. Interestingly, commuters at stations like Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place seem to stick to the keep-left rule more often. Guess they really do spare a thought, since fellow office workers need to rush past them least they get fired for being late.

Unfortunately this courtesy never seems to be extended at Sembawang, where I live. SMRT has had its best intentions when they launched courtesy campaigns and drives like these, but unfortunately I'm sure a lot of people agree that it has been quite the failure.

So remember, the next time you decide to utilize our modern and efficient metro system, please keep to the left (for crying out loud)! You don't really need to hold hands with your significant other on the escalator and block everyone else, right??

And please, please, don't block the entry/exit points. I always use a good strategy to counter people like these, so if you're a responsible metro user then please feel free to adopt. Everytime you're about to get off the train and you see someone standing right in the middle, exit really slowly. Take your time. Put a little frown on your face as a reaction to the person blocking you in front.

Slowly weave your way out so that others at the right and left of that inconsiderate person will be able to move in first, and the person who blocked you will likely end up last to enter. It's a solid plan, ain't it?

I've been to the subways of Beijing, Bangkok and KL, and commuters there aren't as ugly as some of us fellow Singaporeans. So why should we be?

Oh, by the way, there's Going To Extremes tonight on the National Geographic Channel (Ch11), 11pm. Don't miss it! :)

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Snow Queen

Working with Dick Lee is always an inspiring journey through and through. Today was the last day of the SRT workshop and it has been a wonderful learning experience for me.

I first worked with Dick Lee three years ago during the annual National Day concert at Esplanade, and again the next year. During this workshop, however, I managed to work closer and witness first-hand some spendid stuff: whenever there was a need for a music cue or sound design, Dick just needed to be on the keyboard to come up with something fantastic on the spot.

His ideas have really been a learning point for me in terms of composing and working with a pre-written melody. Also, I've managed to gain a few insights and tricks in terms of sound designing for musicals which I'm sure will come in handy in the future. Tips from the composer for Forbidden City and Snow.Wolf.Lake oughtta be good!

Everything was a very creative process and it was just fun to watch and learn how quick a song can be churned out from just playing around. Darren Ng did a fabulous job with the music as well, and this time round he has really influenced me with his stylistic "dissonant" compositions. Now major sevenths, diminished eights and minor seconds are quickly becoming my best friend.

The Snow Queen runs in Nov, and Tracy has asked if I'd like to play for the show. I would really hope to play, so she's offered to get someone to write in to MINDEF and see if I can differ my NS for the show. Hope that works out. If that bloke managed to get differed to play video games at WCG, I'm sure my case is possible! Fingers crossed!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mongolian Recollections 2

There's this absolutely smashing travel documentary, it shows every Wednesday at 11pm on National Geographic (Ch 11). Titled Going To Extremes, it's a travel show that chronicles the adventures of Oxford geography teacher, Nick Middleton. At each destination he pushes the limits of adventure and reaps really wonderful experiences.

Tonight was the start of a four part installment which covers the Silk Routes, and today's episode was particularly on the Gobi reigon. To be honest, ever since I returned from Mongolia, I've been pretty fascinated by everything Gobi, from the Altai mountains to Przhevalski horses.

Scenes where Nick stayed in a guest ger whilst in the Altai Gobi (which is in Mongolia) brought back fond memories: sitting in a circle in a ger having a wild meal, that essential stove in the middle of a ger, juggling a hot stone between hand to hand before eating (the hot stones were used to cook the meat).

Outdoor sleeping in the Gobi at -25 degrees C consisted of building a campfire, throwing stones inside, then fishing the stones out and arrange a bed of sand on top to form a makeshift warm and toasty bed. Ingenious, isn't it!

Nick also explored other parts of the Gobi, travessed through underwater cave streams, climbed 350m tall sand dunes and got drunk on homemade Chinese wine. Just the sort of travels I'd love to do... In time to come... :) Next week's episode is on Nepal, so stay tuned! You should really consider checking it out if you have National Geographic on cable.

More information can be found here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bimmer

Haven't had to chance to update for abit... Been rather busy for the past few days. Right now I'm doing an SRT workshop for musical theatre, but I'm just the workshop pianist lah. Haha! SRT pays well, so whenever anyone lands a gig with them there are no complaints.

We're working on a freshly-written musical with some pretty funky music by Darren Ng. All his dissonant style of writing is really influencing me now... I'm coming up with music cues that sound dissonant myself! Some people from Young Co. were at the workshop; and one of them recognized me as Mariel's ex-squeeze. Not something I would prefer... So unglamourous!

We're going to have a open-door review on the last day (Friday), so till then I just have to sit there and get stressed out by Dick Lee as he attempts to confuse me with as many music cues he can insert as possible.

Over last weekend I rented a DVD titled Bimmer. It's a Russian mob flick, but a VERY good Russian mob flick. I ever read fleeting reviews of it in the papers some time ago as part of the coverage of some film festival, and it turned out to be pretty entertaining.

The movie was directed in a Tarantino-esque manner, but only Russian style. Raw violence (but not over the top), gritty scenes and corrupt cops paint a very stark and realistic scene of today's Moscow and the surrounding area, which is where the film is set in.

The story talks about a band of four young Russian men who carjack for a living. When one of them accidentally kills an undercover fed, they are forced into hiding using their latest loot as transport, a BMW 7-series. Bimmer is slang for a BMW in Russian. It then chronicles their harrowing brushes with dysfunctional law enforcers, street gangs and truckers.

In the end they plan for a final heist, which goes all awry, when it never occured to them to sell their most treasure possession in the first place: their Bimmer. Which is what the cops were looking for in the first place.

I found the DVD in some forlorn, pitiful rental shelf at the store, so it must more of a stroke of luck. Ok, I know all the movies that I've "featured" on my blog recently got positive feedback, but trust me, I watched Herbie last week and it was pretty so-so, I didn't bother featuring it on my blog.

Alright, it's not that horrible, but I guess possessed cars aren't really my thing. Haha! Some stills from Bimmer:

"Quick! Get him out of the car before his blood stains the leather!"


"Punk! You crossed the line when you mistook my BMW for a Honda!!"

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Chilly Sauce

And today I chanced upon yet another striking example on how the English standard in Singapore is on a steady decline. This evening, whilst picking nectarines from the fruit section at Sun Plaza's NTUC, I chanced upon this packaged box with two words (and the NTUC FairPrice logo) displayed on the side.

Yeah, they probably figured that the airconditioning within the supermarket is so excessively cold sometimes that some of their sauces started to feel chilly. A haunting thought, isn't it. Someone needs to proofread their boxes, I can be the first employee. Really.

So anyway, yesterday I met up with Ling and we went to the very ulu Sembawang Shopping Centre for lunch at Pizza Hut. She figured the $5.95 student deal was too good to miss, and so did I, so we went for it. It works out to about $7 per person plus taxes (just remember to bring your student card), which is actually cheaper than a decent plate of pasta at Pastamania. Grab it while the offer lasts!

I've been trying in vain to get my grubby hands on a BradyGames guide for Xenosaga Ep I (not II), but so far Kinokuniya, Borders and POPULAR at Northpoint have proved unsuccessful. I don't even know why I thought POPULAR would carry it. If anyone has an old copy that they're looking to sell off, please let me know. Thanks! No one seems to care about the older games anymore...

Chilly sauce, anyone?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Staying awake...

Mmmh... Didn't sleep at all last night. Not that I'm trying to play hero or anything, but I figured that the only way to stop myself from waking up at 2pm everyday is to not sleep, then get so tired that I fall back into my night-time sleeping routine. Hope this works.

I've begun the arduous task of defragging my laptop 'cos it has become ridiculously slow over the past few days. Despite not having the required 15% of free disk space for the Defragmenter to "function efficiently" (I only managed to free up to 11%), I hope this speeds my laptop, if only just a little.

Meanwhile the rest of the night was spent wasting my life playing Ghost Recon 2, which turned out to be pretty entertaining. Hehe. Ok, gotta go take a cold shower before I close my eyes. Need to go to LaSalle-SIA and collect my cert, 'cos they cleverly misspelled my name on the original. Smart.