Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No, I most definitely won't!

Just to piss people (and myself) off, I've changed my blog music to Will You. I am so bloody sick of this song already!!

Yeah, Happy National Day everyone. Or whatever.

Monday, July 30, 2007

False Alarm

Indeed it was, this afternoon, quite the false alarm. Charles got a call from K asking where he could get Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Naturally, of course, I thought K was kidding, so I took the phone from Charles and blabbered into the phone, "Eh! Singapore don't have sia! Must go overseas then have!"

"No leh, I saw this girl walking on the street carrying a Krispy Kreme plastic bag with a box of doughnuts inside."

"Yah right.. Aiyah she probably got it from overseas! I also can walk around in town carrying a Krispy Kreme plastic bag with box inside!" I replied.

"No leh! I'm serious, I'm quite sure somewhere around here have!" (I didn't know where K was around at that time, then.)

"Yah right! If Singapore got Krispy Kreme and I don't know, I'll eat my own shit!"

"Nevermind! I go walk around and find!"

At this point of time my Krispy Kreme obsession became the better of me and I actually started to think K might be right. "Ok, ok! I go online now and check if Singapore really have!"

And of course, it turned out to be a very, very false alarm with me stupidly falling for it. Then again, there's absolutely NO WAY that Krispy Kreme will come to Singapore without me knowing way in advance!

Anyway, I did some checking and snooping, and I realized that even now it is highly unlikely for a Krispy Kreme franchise to be set up here in Singapore. Here are a couple reasons why:

1) The starting net worth requirement to start up a Krispy Kreme franchise is US$1 million.

2) You have to prove that you have, or will have, financial assets or sponsorship of US$30 million, AND submit a plan to open a further 9 other stores in 2 years.

3) ALL stores must only be in Singapore. Neighboring countries won't do.

So, as you can see, it's pretty tough! Sigh, but if only I had the capability and financial power to open a Krispy Kreme franchise. First stop would be beside that pretentious Donut Factory store in Raffles City (I'll sell so many KK doughnuts, put Donut Factory out of business and then take over their store space!). Next stop would be an outlet in SAS. The students will flock to my stall in droves!!

Plus, I'll eat my own doughnuts everyday until I get sick. And I'll introduce my local durian filling KK dougnuts! Hawt!!

I just finished reading a fantasmically touching novel by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini is a Afghan-American author, and this is his second novel after his first bestselling debut, The Kite Runner. This book was, again, found quite by coincidence.

I was browsing in Times bookstore the previous weekend and I saw this book lying on top on a table of latest releases, so I just picked it up, read the brief synopsis behind and decided to buy it. The fact that there was a 20% storewide discount that day sure helped too!

Hosseini's compassionate storytelling and his sense of personal and national tragedy, which is the state in which Afghanistan is in right now, is haunting and vivid. How Afghans have lived and survived through decades of bloody coups, bitter wars between factions and totalitarian Taliban rule is still a mystery to me.

Indeed, Hosseini manages to give us readers another glimpse of a world that we know little about but frequently condemn and discard; where oppression, though strife, goes unnoticed in the rest of the world.

The story covers the lives of two women; Mariam is the scorned illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman, forced at age 15 into marrying the 40-year-old Rasheed, who grows increasingly brutal as she fails to produce a child. Eighteen later, Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, a smart and spirited girl whose only other options, after her parents are killed by rocket fire, are prostitution or starvation.

Against a backdrop of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies in an asymmetrical battle with Rasheed, whose violent misogyny—"There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten"—is endorsed by custom and law. I'd hate to spoil the ending for you, but the bittersweet conclusion to this tale is nothing short of perfect and truly tear-jerking.

Majestic, sweeping and emotional. A definite must-read!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ill Fortunes

It sucks to be sick, that's for sure. Coughing non-stop like a mad hatter, regurgitating phlegm every five minutes, nose dripping like a leaky tap, chills snaking through the entire body..

And loss of appetite. Which sucks! I love food too much to have a loss in appetite! Anyway, I hope things turn out for the better. I just uploaded an album of my photos from Bali on to Facebook here, so feel free to have a view or two. The underwater shots are pretty entertaining!

My family celebrated mom's 48th birthday on Thursday evening with dinner at Soup Restaurant. Ok, I gotta admit -- I love that place to bits. Never bores me to eat there! Needless to say, the 10-course dinner consisted of a whole lot of food. Great way to keep your weight in check!

National Day is drawing closer, and each day passes with more trepidation and dread. Really, I wonder why do we all even bother sometimes. Take the NDOC show that we're currently rehearsing for example. It's a M1 Lite + Original Dance show, and honestly I think the only bit worth watching is the OD segment.

The M1 Lite is a modified one consisting of mostly National Day songs that have been sung rotten over the years, plus a collection of the definitive 1988 songs "Count On Me Singapore", "Stand Up For Singapore" and all that. Well, no offense to Clement -- I know he's a really good songwriter/singer. It's just I can't help but wonder why are a bunch of artistes who couldn't possibly give a shit about National Day singing songs to a bunch of audiences who probably don't even give a shit about National Day either.

Ah well, some things we will never figure out, I guess.

Bed's a-calling now. Gotta teach at Simei at 9:30am tomorrow. Talk about gung-ho!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Absurdity In Motion

It is already bad enough that musicians and artistes, more often than not, usually get the shorter end of a stick when it comes to practicing their art and craft, all the while trying to get bills paid and food on the table. And then we get emails like this posted on Arts Comm:

So, first of all, the fees of $48 per night is ridiculously low. Utterly, unbelievably low. And not only that, the musician has to bring his/her own instrument! (It's funny how the poster writes "only instrument and cable". God, what more could you ask a musician to bring?!)

So, let's assume it's a keyboardist (I'm bias!), and she goes down all the way with keyboard in tow. It'd probably take her plenty of dedication not to have to take a cab there and back, given that she doesn't drive and has to handle her instrument all by herself. Jeez, if you factor the cab fare in, the musician will probably be earning next to nothing!

And next, the poster asks for someone with experience in performing in public. Now that's just plain absurd. At those god-forsaken rates, how could you possibly expect someone experienced in performing to take up your job offer?!

I could go on and on with my rant, but this topic has already been discussed, debated and dissected by multitudes of artistes before me. It's just sad to see that over all these years, nothing much has changed. This issue has been chewed and spit out so many times, driving musicians and artistes to the very brink of desperation.

Still, there will always be the odd one, who'd do anything for free. I've seen those. So if the poster gets an interested reply, I wouldn't be too surprised. Some people will really do ANYTHING at the expense of a musician's self-worth.

Sometimes I wonder why I haven't quit already!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Crimson Rest

Met up with Ying Ming and Val again at their wedding tonight at the Shangri-La. Also, I managed to sneak a couple peeks at the photo slideshows and a video from the wedding at Bali which were presented during the wedding; can't believe it's already one week since their Bali wedding! Managed to show them their Wii boxing video. :)

Time really flies. I've been getting four hour nights the entire week, I'm so tired I'm ready to crash.

Cheers to fatigue!

Meng Yee, Leonard and myself were talking about planning a trip to either Scotland or Spain from 1st to 16th December. I made Meng Yee promise not to back out of this trip, so hopefully it bears fruit! Heh. Ah well. All's still a long time away, but I'm sure the end of the year will come beckoning real soon.

2007 seems to be the fastest year I've ever experienced in my life.

Alright now, my bed awaits!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Corner Bookstore

I've been actually busy reading the past month. Yup, I've managed to make myself fall into another one of my reading binges, which doesn't happen very often I tell you. The thing is, once a book grips me, I can hardly bear to put it down. Tomorrow's the big release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so that should keep me busy for a couple days too!

One which I just finished was an excellent book by Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes. This is actually my first Jodi Picoult novel, which I picked up by random when I saw it on the the bestsellers bookshelf at Popular bookstore.

The story revolves around a boy, Peter, who since young has been a target of severe non-stop bullying due to his inability to fit in. His childhood friend and the main protagonist of the story, Josie, also deserts his company when they move to high school after shallowly deeming him unworthy to hang out with.

As a result, Peter snaps and on the morning of March 6, 2007, goes on a wild shooting rampage in his school that leaves ten people dead. Throughout the book, continuity switches back and forth, providing a thorough insight into Peter and Josie's childhood history, as well as depicting the events that led up to that ill-fated day.

Strangely enough, this book was released on March 6, 2007 (as a tie-in to the storyline), which was only slightly more than a month before the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007. Alot of plot details and descriptions in the story regarding Peter were a haunting mirror of what was covered in the papers about the shooter Cho Seung-Hui. Apparently, there was reportedly "a wide number of responses from people who had read the book, including those involved personally in the shooting, said that reading the novel helped them understand something otherwise senseless".

Another book that I just recently finished is a Zhou Weihui novel, Shanghai Baby. This novel created quite a stir in China when it was first published in 2000, and her book was banned with copies being labelled as "decadent" and pubilcly burned.

Finding this novel was actually quite by coincidence. I was at the airport in Bali waiting for my return flight, and knowing I was going to be bored out of my wits on the plane I went to do some last-minute browsing at the bookstore. Shanghai Baby caught my eye, so I bought it. The story tells of a year in the life of aspiring writer Nikki, nicknamed Coco for Coco Chanel, and her tempestuous relationships with her artist boyfriend, his friend Madonna, her novel, and her married German lover, Mark.

The book offers a very brash and frank look at turn-of-the-21st-century independent Chinese women in pursuit of their own lives and dreams. The writing here is deft, and Wei Hui's lyrical and poetic metaphors are dotted throughout the book like little gems among a concrete Shanghainese landscape.

Of course, I would never have the audacity to read a full-length Chinese novel; mine was a English translated version. I haven't seen it selling at bookshelves here in Singapore, but it definitely is a highly-recommended read. A movie tie-in has also been almost completed, with Bai Ling portraying Coco. This movie is awaiting release, which is due this year in 2007. The author, Wei Hui, was educated at the eminent Fudan University in Shanghai, and has published several short story collections. This book remains banned in China.

Turning to gaming, I've been having my fill of epic space shooters in the form of Project Sylpheed. This game is based on the popular shooter franchise Silpheed, which dates all the way back to the mid-'80s and was given a complete HD makeover for an exclusive release on the Xbox 360.

This game is published by SquareEnix, the geniuses behind the wildly successful Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts franchises. However, it has drawn a considerable amount of criticism from games who accuse it of trying to detract gamers; SquareEnix was not involved in the developmental process of the game at all, but rather it was developed by Game Arts. Microsoft Game Studios will be publishing the US release; no surprise there as they try to take another huge bite into the monopoly market.

Ever since Star Fox: Assault, I have not touched another space shooter until Project Sylpheed. Project was a game which I bought on impulse brought on by my intense need to shop for something every time I step into a Comics Connection shop, but thankfully I wasn't disappointed! The story itself is quite breathtaking, done out in a pseudo-RPG style. Gameplay graphics and framerate is excellent, and might even be a problem for SDTV gamers not using a component cable. Cutscenes are clean, detailed and well-rendered, and they developers have even managed to slip in a storyline of somewhat epic proportions in the 5-10 minute cutscenes that play between missions.

Replayability is good due to some well set-up achievements for the Xbox 360, and one will likely spend hours and hours trying to get the hardest achievements and rack up Gamerscore. All in all, an excellent blend of anime, guns, death, love and justice!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Glass Chapel Musicians


A photo taken during our trip to
Bali for Ying Ming & Valerie's
wedding. Photo by acclaimed
wedding photographer Gabriel
Mendez, who takes excellent
wedding shots.

From playing songs for the
bride's father to sing along to
imbibing copious amounts of
alcohol and the couple's cliff villa,
Ritz-Carlton Bali has been
amazing, stunning and
place to hold a wedding.

Indeed, every bride's dream
come true!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Crank the Escalator!

This was spotted at the Ngurah Rai airport at Denpansar, Bali. It really made Eleanor and me start scratching our heads. Here goes...

Like, uh, since when were escalators not automatic? Aren't they such marvelous inventions because they're, in fact, automatic? Don't they move on their own?

Or maybe, could you imagine yourself using a manual escalator? One which only moves with a crank which you have to mobilize yourself? Now that would be hilarious!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weekly Review

So, tired.. Have been averaging about 3 to 4 hours of sleep per night for the past week. Fatigue is really getting into my head! Last weekend, mmm.. I had four weddings over the last weekend. Two of which saw my friends getting married!

First was Feri's wedding on Saturday at Foo Chow Methodist Church. Being the ever-professional musician, Feri decided to don a tux instead of a usual suit for his wedding. And who would've guessed, such a tall macho man breaking down during his vows! There was definitely no lack of touching moments. Congrats, dude!! It was nice to see my LaSalle-SIA ex-classmates again, there were quite a number there at the wedding. Melissa, Rain, Daniel, Caleb, Ivan, Jessica, Matthew.. Sigh, how to not reminisce about the good old kopi-at-tanjong-rhu days??

After the wedding Melissa, Rain and myself went to Tea Cosy at Eclectic Attic, Plaza Singapura for some coffee and cake. Yeah, as if we hadn't already ate so much at the lunch reception, right?

Xiaoling and me. She really hasn't aged a single bit, man!

Melissa! Love the hair. Miss you! Your wedding next, ya? :)

The other friend who got married over the weekend was one of my closer primary school friends, Evon. It was such a shocking surprise when she first called us to tell her she was going to have her ROM with Danny, that we initially thought it was a joke. Anyway, that day Lingna, Yiling and myself headed down to her ROM. Evon was looking stunningly resplendent in her white gown, of course.

Photos of her ROM on my Facebook album! Here are a couple ones. As you can see, even brides have the ability to look goofy sometimes. It's ok, really.

Yiling and her unbeatable kawaii poses.

Lingna couldn't hide her envy about not getting married herself.

We all couldn't resist giving it a go!

The other couple weddings were gigs I did with ALD. More info on those weddings on our journal here. So, really, there so no shortage of a busy weekend yet again. The past few days have been interspersed with some piano teaching here and there. I'm secretly enjoying my current teaching respite -- quite a number of my students have gone back to their home countries for the summer so I'm not teaching them this month!

Who would've guessed, too, that I actually went clubbing again last night! And I actually went to one of those dreaded (for me, at least) Mambo nights at Zouk and stayed all the way till closing time, i.e.: 4am! Met up with Ena and her crazy secondary school friends. Oh wait, did I already say they were crazy? Haha! Will put up some photos when I get them from E.

Ah, movies now. More and more movies to watch everyday, I tell you! The last four movies were, again, another very diverse collection of offerings from Hollywood, The Philippines, Japan and movie-meister Quentin Tarantino himself!

So, I was out with Shannon one Saturday night and we were just trolling about town, searching in desperation from cinema to cinema for a place that would still accept us for Tranformers, all in vain of course. So we decided to settle instead for some guerrilla filmmaking and B-grade actors (in the manifestation of Kurt Russell) from Death Proof.

And to be honest, yeah, I actually liked it. Tacky lines, terrible Kurt Russell acting, kick-ass car chase scenes, gruesome deaths.. Everything which just simply screams moviemaking indulgence. Thankfully, Quentin Tarantino does indulgence very well! Everyone actually clapped and cheered at the end of the movie.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros is a Filipino-made movie, about a 12-year-old gay who comes from a criminal family falls in love with a handsome policeman. I had my initial misgivings before stepping into the theater, but I actually emerged satisfied. This film is actually one of the most unexpected delights of recent years, anchored by a central performance from teenage actor Nathan Lopez that is dazzlingly mature and breathtakingly charming.

To see how a such a close-knit family, even though living on the wrong side of the law, cherish and support each other despite poverty and harsh living conditions is indeed touching. This coming-of-age love story is indeed a bittersweet journey for the soul. And Sharon, thanks for bringing me to watch this movie. I was far from bored ok!!

Tranformers, in all fairness, is downright cool, spectacular, cool, cool and cool. I think there isn't much to be said. Probably 1 in 2 Singaporeans have already watched this one. Apparently evening screenings for this show even NOW is still pretty much sold out. What's new, though, was that I watched it at GV Vivocity for the very first time. I'm so slow and outdated, I swear. I watched it at the GV Max theater.. Wasn't too bad!

Steamboy was one movie which I had always wanted to catch, but never really had the opportunity to do so. So, the previous Monday when I dropped by Darren Ng's place to chill out and I saw that DVD sitting beside his TV, I thought I too had finally catch it! So, thanks to my trusty PLAY! machine, I rented it.

Oh, a non-related point -- PLAY! has upped their rental prices for the Latest Releases category from $3.50 to $3.90!! Gah!

So, anyway, anyone familiar with Katsuhiro Otomo's works will remember Akira and how well-crafted the movie was, embracing the then-popular cyberpunk genre. Steamboy, however, employs a genre called steampunk. It's quite interesting, actually, to see how beautiful characters in this alternative world embrace their lives, making one think how would it really be like should this really happen in real life.

Speaking of good anime films, I have yet to watch The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (right). I really hope Cathay's still showing it, and hasn't ditched that movie in favor of screening Transformers and Harry Potter.

I'm finally off to Bali tomorrow. Hopefully I can come back with a decent tan of sorts! Should be fun! The Ritz can't be that bad, right? Note to self: must remember to check out the gym! Haha! I hope tomorrow's check-in with my keyboard (and not forgetting the stand) will go smooth. Wished they had one there prepared for me instead, though..

Big plush beds, comfortable duvets, lush pillows.. Seriously, what's there not to like about hotel beds! Hopefully I can get to really sleep-in for one morning or two on those beds. God knows I need all the rest I can get!

Sun, sand and sea!


Monday, July 02, 2007

Wedding Season

Wedding season starts in full swing this month all the way to Oct/Nov, with the first culmination point being the very auspicious 07-07-07! With numerous weddings lined up for July, it should be quite the festive mood, for my life at least. Anyone game for a 08-08-08 wedding?

At this point, do check out one of the most touching and moving wedding moments you can ever expect to see. This is taken from Lea Salonga's wedding, showing her singing her breathtaking song Two Words before saying her wedding vows to her husband Robert Charles Chien.

Those who know me well enough know how much I absolutely worship Lea Salonga, and given another lifetime I'd really love to be in Robert's place, of course. But nevermind that for now, just watch the video and get your Kleenex ready on standby!

Now isn't that the sweetest ever? God, if I had a wife who could sing like that to be I know I -WOULD- consider myself to be the luckiest man alive! Now that's how a wedding should be like! For more footage from the 2004 wedding, click here.