Friday, November 30, 2007

Winter Escapade Ep. V

That's the stuff that art dreams are made of: a Paperchase boutique store that's not one, not two, but three stories high. Impressive, isn't it? Well, definitely stuff you can't find back home. Daph brought me to Paperchase today along Tottemham Court Road so she could get some art stuff for her art project for this week.

That's taken from the, uh, 3rd floor.

Everything you could possibly think of that's art-related, they have it. Christmas being round the corner, they also stocked up on numerous Christmas decorations and such, of which I got some to bring back for mom. If she's putting up the Christmas tree this year, that is. I got a couple, uh, balls and stars. Coated with lots of glitter.

Monji, you'd be glad to know they actually have a Caffè Nero in Paperchase itself, on the second floor. As well as at least two more Caffè Neros along Tottenham Court Road itself. I seem to be seeing everywhere ever since you started craving them on Monday. How strange, eh? And there are also two more on Oxford Street. Just in case, you know.

Oh, and just mostly for fun, here's a linear view of Oxford Street from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus. This looks pretty handy, doesn't it? Click here. So let's see, Inn Noodle is actually quite a decent place to get your fix of la mian; Daph & me had dinner there today. Then there's Waterstones, the bookstore that looks like a library you could find in Hogwarts.

No. 143 houses Japanese-brand of cream puffs that's insanely popular in Singapore, Beard Papa. Haven't got any, yet. In fact, I've never tried any before. Heh. No. 187 has muji, with all their very functional, utilitarian yet exorbitantly priced stuff. I'm still eyeing their £120 coat. Very nice.

On the other side of the street, there's No. 100, GAME. Yup, it's as self-explanatory as it gets; it's a UK-based video games retail company that sells loads and loads of video games. That's what I need: speciality! I do remember, however, stepping into the store excitedly when I was first here in September only to have the store clerk tell me, "Sorry mate, you can't buy anything in this store except for PSP and DS games due to NTSC/PAL restrictions."

Oh, great. Like who really, really buys PSP and DS games, right? Eh, Vik? Nic? Albert? Justin? Heh heh. I suppose browsing will just have to do, for now. Unless I get a PAL system Xbox 360 too? Hmm.. Anyway, it'll be Paris come this weekend. Which means we're leaving tomorrow night. And boy, am I all set for my very first Disneyland experience at 22. Oh, for the love of all things good, finally!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter Escapade Ep. IV

Tuesday night, Mich, Krys, Elias, Daph & I trooped down to Whitechapel for some movie fun. Only, I was too tired to really, really enjoy the movie. Which was quite a pity, considering we went to watch a Wes Anderson arthouse flick: The Darjeeling Limited.

This movie's premise is basically a comedy-drama portrayal of a journey through India by three brothers, played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. All three are on a "spiritual quest" to find solace and unity among each other, after having not spoke to one another for a year before the trip. This quest, however, doesn't fail to tumble off-course in no time, with hilarity and drama ensuing as the three brothers try to overcome each other's ego.

When they come to a realization that they have become literally stuck in the innermost recesses of India, they decide to embark on another unplanned course of their journey, taking them full circle to where they first began. As with any Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited continues to include many of Anderson's signature themes and styles. Forbidden love, parental abandonment and/or death, sibling rivalries.

All's good and interesting, however, I was already quite tired out that day so I did doze off at certain bits of the film. Not good! Curiously enough, movie theatre seats here have really little leg room. Which I suppose isn't too comfortable for the european man's physique, is it now? Nevertheless, I must say I quite enjoyed the movie. For some reason Daph seems to think Adrien Brody is hot (I think he's just alright), so I guess that was a little bit more eye candy for her!

Yesterday, I decided to hit the outdoors for abit. Well, that's only because Foi invited me to go do something which I've never done in my life before: ice skating! That's right, I've never gone skating on ice before. Well, I do rollerblade abit, but I'm not good at that either! But, I suppose since I had all the time in the world, and we would be going to an outdoor skating rink, I readily agreed.

Foi and I went to the outdoor skating rink located right beside the National History Museum. You can view photos on my Facebook album here. This staking rink had a special viewing platform for spectators and visitors, where Foi and I grabbed a quick lunch of sandwiches, chips and beer (yes, beer!).

Our skating session started at 2:45pm and lasted for an hour. When I was strapping on, I was actually feeling pretty nervous. I was already coming up with a good contingency plan on how to fall gracefully, which I felt would be very possible. However, once I got on the ice, instinct kicked in and I managed to actually stay topside throughout. Having gone rollerblading before did help quite abit in maintaining balance, turning and so on.

Foi was great in slowly prodding and guiding me along; she's better than me by a mile. Although she hadn't skated for 10 years (according to her!), she looked pretty smooth. Ok, she did fall once, though. It was my fault, however; we were going too fast and my left leg accidentally hooked her right!

Fifteen minutes into it, I was pretty steady and good to go by then. There were times where I almost slipped but it seems easier to recover for a loss of balance as compared to skiing or rollerblading. Strangely enough, I thought I'd be freezing my face off on the rink, but it seemed warmer when I was skating away. Having the Natural History Museum as a backdrop really livened up the entire atmosphere, giving it a very festive mood. Pity I won't be spending Christmas here!

After we were done on the ice, we went for some really good fish & chips right at the courtyard of the National History Museum. They actually have a website for their food. Check out

Foi & I ready to hit the rink.

Trying to get the hang of it!

Not quite "Disney on Ice" standard yet, but getting there!

Foi going crazy over, uh, fish & chips.

For dinner, Daph, I and her friend Mei Shi went to this placed called 97 in Chinatown for dinner; they serve the best Peking duck pancakes and bubble tea! (I went there once earlier when I was here in September). After that, it was time for another musical: Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre!

::sidenote:: I just suddenly realized as I'm typing this that Laura Michelle Kelly was playing Mary Poppins before she came to Singapore to do A Twist of Fate with SRT. Pity I couldn't catch her as Mary. The character of Mary Poppins is currently played by Scarlett Strallen. Kelly, on the other hand, is currently playing Galadriel in the musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which I intend to catch while I'm still here.

Before stepping into the theatre, I was slightly apprehensive about watching another family musical with nanny themes, but was I so foolish to think that I wouldn't enjoy Mary Poppins. It turned out to be one of the best musicals I've ever watched, right up there with Miss Saigon which I caught in Melbourne earlier this year.

Admittedly, I must say that the songs aren't the best, although they are extremely singable and get stuck in your head most incessantly. For this production of Mary Poppins, it was the set design, flying rigs and choreography that really, really amazed me. There is a particular scene during the song "Step In Time" where Bert actually walks up the side walls of the stage all the way to the flyloft where he sings literally upside down.

Choreography and costume designs were fantastic, especially for the signature song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". This production of Mary Poppins is directed by Richard Eyre, with Matthew Bourne as co-director and choreographer. Scenic and costume design is by Bob Crowley, and James Dodgson does musical direction.

For the ending scene, Mary Poppins rises up into the air, and, through some amazing rigging, proceeds to hover above the audiences seated in the circle. Yes, she was literally flying above me. Priceless! The kid in me really exploded at that point, I must admit. Definitely worth every penny of my £30.

To be honest, I'm going quite crazy on wanting to watch tons of West End musicals. Maybe because everything is so inaccessible back home. Back in Singapore, when musicals like Oliver Twist came, or when local musicals like Cabaret came out, there was a huge furore massive and publicity blitz. Over here, productions like Rent, Chicago, Billy Elliot, Grease, Hairspray and so on run on a regular, daily basis with very healthy audience attendance. And this is barely scratching the surface, mind you.

After the musical, the whole gang (i.e., Daph, Mich, Vince, Elias, Krys and me) went down to this bar called Edge at Soho Square for a couple beers to finish off the day. It turned out to be a gay bar, but we had plenty of fun nonetheless. I managed to get the bartender's Facebook contact and email, much to Daph's chagrin. Heh.

We're not much drinkers, really!

Today, on the other hand, has been pretty stoic, we slept in today as Daph had no school. We ate in and had some of Daph's aglio olio and pretty much lazed the day away. It's approaching about late afternoon now, but we might head out tonight for, uh, shopping? Oh yeah, baby!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Winter Escapade Ep. III

Shops ahoy! That's right, shopping, shopping and more shopping. To say the very least, I quite enjoy shopping. I've been going rather misty-eyed as of late, eyeing plenty of chic winter fashion items that are just everywhere: Zara, Urban Outfitters, GAP, muji, and the list goes on.

And to kick it off, I bought an awesome mandarin collar long blazer from Zara. Ok, it's rather thin so it rather defeats the purpose for keeping warm, but hey at least I can still use it in Singapore. That, however, set me back by £119. Ouch. I've been looking around to get a local number soon, since I'm going to use plenty of it next year anyway. So yeah, I'll put up my UK number as soon as I get one.

Met Monji for lunch yesterday at this speciality roast duck restaurant down at Chinatown (right) called Four Seasons (image here). And fantastic duck, it was! I tried some hot and sour soup as well, and we ordered some really kick-ass kailan. Lunch was a slow, relaxed affair; we spent slightly more than two hours in the restaurant!

After that, we went walking around Leicester Square and Covent Garden, popping into many one of the alluring boutique shops to check out for more clothes to buy. Never enough, I say! At the same time, we tried looking for discount tickets for whatever musical we could watch later in the night.

Covent Garden market was every bit pretty and beautiful as I've heard it to be. Snaking alleyways leading to shops, punctuated by numerous small plazas occupied by buskers make up most of Covent Garden market. Not to forget the glorious glass roof interior! Monji brought me to this quaint cookie place (image here) to try out her favorite Ben's Cookies: crispy on the out side, chewy on the inside! They have a logo that looks like a sketch out of a Roald Dahl book.

Monji and I then went to get our discount tickets from this (apparently reputable) discount shop at Leicester Square tube station, where we managed to snag Sound of Music tickets for an affordable £35 each.

Shortly after, we met up with Daph, Foi and Patrick for dinner. It was back to Chinatown for dinner, this time however we went to this Korean place. Monji and Foi got abit mad with the soju, so it didn't take much time trying to convince them to do a cross toast (see picture below).

After dinner we headed down to the London Palladium to catch The Sound of Music, my first ever West End musical! And boy, was I duly impressed. The opening chorus of Preludium during the opening scene at the Nonberg Abbey already took my breath away. Never had a seen such an impeccable chorus of singing nuns!

The instantly-likable character of Maria Rainer was terrifically played, and the von Trapp children were even more amazing. Orchestrations for the numbers were crisp and effective, and each cast member's singing including the ensemble and swings were crystal clear. What's really amazing was the set design though; set changes were clockwork accurate, seamless and exceptionally smooth. Adding on to a superbly-design set, it provided for much visual entertainment!

This production of The Sound of Music was directed by Jeremy Sans, with Michael Lloyd as MD and starring Connie Fisher and Margaret Preece as Maria Reiner and The Mother Abbess respectively. Children's Musical Director is Ros Jones, with dance and vocal arrangements by the late Trude Rittmann.

Foursome hitting the theatre!

Monji & me freezing up at Covent Garden.

Bottoms up!

This morning Daph and I headed down to do something really touristy: visit Madame Tussauds! Naturally, the cameras came up soon enough and we starting snapping away crazily! I managed to get a combo ticket package which covered both Madame Tussauds and the London Eye. There're plenty, plenty of photos that we took here, so I've put them up on a separate Facebook photo album here at

Some highlights, though. Enjoy! Heh heh.

Hamming it up with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.

After a training session with Owen and Beckham.

Ok, I'm getting sleepy. This whole winter sunsets at 4pm business is really making me lethargic. Was supposed to go ice skating with Foi today, but I just asked her to postpone it. I'm way too tired! Might be going to watch The Darjeeling Limited tonight at Whitechapel with Daph, Mich and the rest. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Winter Escapade Ep. II

The weather has brightened up slightly, with day temperatures hovering between 5 to 7 deg C. It's been great being able to meet up with Monji and FoiFoi the previous day, where Foi brought us to this gorgeous place where she works for high tea. Really classy stuff!

The place was The Landmark London, an upscale 5-star hotel located right across Marylebone Train Station. Foi currently works in this lavish, luxurious hotel as a waitress, but for that day she, along with the rest of us, were guests!

Well, guests with plenty of privileges, I must admit. Her colleagues were really wonderful, nice people who really went out of their way to make our dining experience nothing short of regal. Of course, with afternoon tea menus ranging from £30 to £40, you could be assured of pristine, impeccable service and food quality! The restaurant is, of course, the Winter Garden, located right the middle of the hotel's 8-storey glass atrium.

We were spoilt silly with two free bottles of Rose Taittinger Champagne (for just the five of us), passionfruit martinis, mojitos (best I ever had), as well as high-grade cognac that cost, ready yourself, £51 per glass. Yes, that would be, erm, S$152 per glass. All was on the house, of course, thanks to Foi's very generous colleague and bartender.

After generous, repeated helpings of sandwiches, freshly-baked scones and French pastries, and not to mention a good deal of alcohol at 6pm, we were pretty stuffed. Ok, the group photo. Oh, I'll be posting up a couple more pictures when I get back. I'm using Daph's MacBook Pro now and I'm sorely unfamiliar with the interface. Click here and here for more photos of the afternoon tea.

That's the entire gang from L to R: Lee (Foi's colleague who also works at the Landmark), Patrick (who's doing his postgrad in nanotechnology at King's), Foi, Monji and myself!

Yesterday Daph & me headed down to Charring Cross to check out Trafalgar Square, as well as visit the London Artists Book Fair 2007 at the Institute of Contemporary Art. 'Twas my first time to an art book fair, as far as I can recall!

The book fair was pretty interesting, with independent as well as established artists, institutions and art societies are gathered in one place to put their best works on display. I saw quite a number of really, really impressive works. The works on sale very pretty pricey though, with most items starting from at least £5 for the really small stuff and up to £150 for the top-end, extremely limited works.

The Society of Bookbinders had their own exhibit, and I was pretty damn fascinated by all the creative and ingenious ways of carrying out the basic act of bookbinding. One even had the carton cardboard of an orange juice box as the cover! I got Daph a nice red leather-bound book, with a black leather strip as a clasp. I'm lazy to put up a photo of it though, heh. I actually quite like it myself but I suppose she'll definitely have more use for it than I do!

There was a project by this group called Map X Out that was taking place at the fair. This group is a gathering of four designers who use the concept of mapping to approach their designs and works. At their exhibit, they have a huge map where visitors are allowed to, using a certain approach and sequence, draw a series of lines that trace their present time and location, birth place, place of residence and the geographical location of the book fair itself (i.e., London) to form an intertwining myriad of lines and stickers.

You can visit their blog at for more information as well as to check on their work. Now that the book fair is over, their final result will be out soon; I hope I can still spot my line!

Ah, also, I managed to take a 360 degree photo as well as some night shots of Trafalgar Square whilst standing in the middle. Hope this works, check it out!

We also managaed to squeeze in a couple hours to check out The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. This gallery, founded in 1824, houses a vast collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. It was quite surreal to see famous paintings like Holbein's 'The Ambassadors' and Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' live, only a couple inches from your face.

You should have seen my reaction when I saw Holbein's famous work, 'The Ambassadors' from the lower right hand angle. The picture of the skewed skull painted in anamorphic perspective was so apparent and defined; truly fascinating!

Alright, I'm going rather nuts trying to work my way around Daph's MacBook Pro. I'm getting technologically unsavvy, I swear. Gonna head off now, meeting Monji for lunch in Chinatown in a bit! Hopefully we can catch Sound of Music tonight. More updates coming soon!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Winter Escapade Ep. I

It's cold. Fricking cold!! I should have never underestimated how cold it would be, gosh. When I landed this morning, temperatures were hovering around -2 to -3 deg C, definitely not what I was expecting! But at least my flight was uneventful and smooth, thank goodness. Managed to catch two movies on the plane: Die Hard 4 and Knocked Up.

I managed to do some hardcore shopping yesterday even before I got here! At a heartland shopping mall called Causeway Point, no less. First, I managed to get myself a new 65L backpack. About time, actually. My current 55L one was already starting to tear abit, and I was definitely not too comfortable about coming here for almost 3 weeks with a pack that could potentially rip wide open.

I was quite hopeful to get a Deuter one, but those Germans really know how to make expensive backpacks. A 65L one would cost nearly $300. In the end I settled for something else which looked, felt and carried just as good for somewhere around $200. Sigh, the things we do to pay for branding, ya!

Then came the big self-bought pre-Christmas gift -- I finally got it! A new digital camera. That's right, my old Olympus MJU µ400 has finally expired, after a long and faithful service. I'll miss that camera! What's new on the menu, though, is a spanking new Canon Digital IXUS 860 IS. Very, very sexy, trust me.

And yes, the wide-angled lens makes cam-whoring a whole lot easier! Heh heh. Definitely looking forward to take some good shots here with it.

Well, it's been pretty chilled out since I landed. Extremely chilled out, actually. (No pun intended, really!) Daph came to pick me up from the airport once I touched down. Getting to Oxford Circus using the Tube was quite a long-suffering affair, really. Engineering works meant we had to switch a couple lines and take a longer route, and our situation was exacerbated by having to freeze our faces and hands off whilst waiting at the platforms.

I managed to catch a nap for an hour or two, so I'm feeling pretty good now. It's been indoors all the way since I got here though; it's really freezing outside and the both of us are feeling really lethargic. Mmm.. Dinner should be at ASSA if everything goes according to plan. Looking forward to that!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Outlets for Entertainment

I've been getting my movie fix recently, having watched quite a number of them over the past two weeks. Which is good, I'd suppose, considering how over the past two months I've been missing out on movies which I really would have liked to watch!

Beowulf was highly entertaining for me, and I thought it was quite the digital animation spectacle. In fact, before stepping into the movie theater, I had absolutely no idea that it was an animated film. I watched the trailer for that film earlier before, and even then I still thought it to be a live-action movie. How blur can I get!

So, anyway, 10 minutes after Beowulf started, I still thought it was a live-action movie! Seriously, I could hardly spot the difference. Zarinah leaned over to me and said, "that is an animated woman!" And I kept insisting, "Nope, she's not! No way!" It was only after a while did we both come to a conclusion that we were watching an animated flick!

Sugar & Spice, on the other hand, was a must-see in my book as it starred my darling actress/singer Erika Sawajiri! This movie retells a boy's coming-of-age story of falling in love for the very first time. No doubt his love interest is worthily played by Erika Sawajiri! Erika looks mightily sweet and adorable as usual, and male lead Yuya Yagira's boyish character makes them quite the lovely couple.

Having recently just finished a gripping Stephen Leather novel, Hot Blood (left), I've been quite fascinated by the whole Arab/Iraq/terrorism issue. Hot Blood is an excellent novel about an undercover cop who puts himself in the firing line by going to Iraq with his former SAS colleagues to save his friend, kidnapped by Muslim extremists, from being executed in front of a video camera.

The Kingdom was quite the similar movie, with many common premises. It being a fantastic action flick notwithstanding, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner pull of superb performances onscreen. The storyline is harsh, gritty and gripping, and is inspired by the bombings at the Riyadh compound and the Khobar housing complex in Saudi Arabia.

Lastly, there's also the much-hyped over Ang Lee movie, Lust, Caution. This incidentally happens to be the first R21-rated movie I've ever watched. Pretty slow, huh! I didn't expect much when I first stepped into the theater to watch this, but I was pleasant surprised by how in-depth the story and characters were developed into.

Wang Lee-hom looks good on-screen, by the way! Although I kept expecting him to suddenly burst out in song in the middle of the movie. His signature vacant stare just begs for the tune of Forever Love to start playing in the background! Tony Leung is just the effervescent actor as usual, and having him play the villain just quantifies his stoic masculinity.

Well, that's about all the movies I've managed to squeeze time out to watch. This week is a crazily busy week for me, so I doubt I'll be watching any more until I board my flight on Friday night and gorge myself on airline entertainment-provided movies!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

LP Live!

Linkin Park, live in Singapore, 13 Nov 2007 -- be there, or be square! Once again, LP never failed to dazzle and rock the crowd, this time featuring new songs from their latest album Minutes to Midnight.

Coincidentally, LP was touring Bangkok for a one-night only one day after I left Bangkok! I would have definitely gone to watch it if not for the fact that I had to return earlier. By all rights, I was prepared to miss their Singapore leg too, due to the fact that I had ADMM rehearsal today. But, by a stroke of good luck, I was informed yesterday that the rehearsal would be held in the day and not at night, which meant I was good to go!

So Albert and me trooped down to SIS, joining a whole throng of LP fans as we packed up the arena. The last time I saw LP live in Singapore was at the Padang quite a number of years back, so it was good to be able to watch them again live.

LP has actually grown up with me since my secondary school years -- I remember being in a band and attempting to do LP covers like In The End and Pushing Me Away. You know, really old stuff from their breakthrough album, Hybrid Theory. Then Reanimation came out, and I listened through every track appreciating each single remix.

But, back to tonight's concert -- it was truly a blast, hands in the air, head-banging, shouting back lyrics to every song (BOTH the rap and the singing bits), screaming your lungs out. Albert was quite the hysterical audience member himself, I must say. The concert got off at a pretty late start (nearly 40 mins late), though it wasn't entirely unexpected. Thing was, I was so tired out before the concert started, I actually dozed off on my seat. But once it commenced, I snapped awake in an instant!

Speaking of seats, this is one concert I truly regret not getting freestanding tickets. I remember the last time going to watch Fort Minor in concert last year -- I bought freestanding tickets even though I only knew one or two Fort Minor songs. I just went because I was expecting Mike Shinoda to do at least a couple LP songs, and they did!

Before tonight's LP concert kicked off, there was a huge stage curtain draped in front of stage, so everyone's view of the stage was pretty much blocked off. However, every time a guitar strum or drum snare beat emanated from behind the curtain, the freestanding crowd went crazy! Although I have a pretty good hunch that it was just roadies toying with the crowd!

LP's song selection and repertoire for the concert was, for me at least, a very good mix of old and new -- they covered songs from Hybrid, their sophomore album Meteora, as well as the latest one Minutes to Midnight. It's really awe-inspiring to hear lead vocalist Chester Bennington sing live -- such raw power and energy!

Mike Shinoda tinkled on the keys for a couple of songs, and paired up with Chester to do a fantastic ballad rendition to two LP songs each -- Breaking The Habit and Pushing Me Away. I was rather worried when, towards the end of their encore segment, that LP had still yet to perform their latest hang-banging feel good hit, Bleed It Out. But truly did they save the best for last! Though I would have loved to hear their extended live version which they have previously done at other concerts, one which focuses on Rob Bourdon, LP's drummer.

On a sidenote, turntablist Joe Hahn seems to have lost considerable weight since I saw him all plumped up in videos of LP's live concerts with Jay-Z, when they were touring Collision Course. Good on him!

Here are a couple of photos Albert and me took -- barely anything decent though. His phone camera sucks, and my phone battery was dying so I couldn't use the camera function. I think I really need to get a proper camera soon.

And there you have it, a dazzling good night of nu-metal and rap rock, brought to Singapore courtesy of Linkin Park. Great show, and great job! I'm really looking forward to what sound LP decides to move on and experiment for their next album. But I am really confident their musicality and style will never be lost in transit, and that they'll always have my deepest respect and adoration. Can't wait for the next time they're in town!

Monday, November 05, 2007

COD 4 Geek-out

I play games too quickly, and too obsessively! Only yesterday did I very coincidentally chance upon a copy of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare at the Comics Connection shop downstairs from my place at Sun Plaza. I was rather caught by surprise, actually, as I didn't really expect the game to be out so soon.

But nevertheless, I snapped up this highly-anticipated game knowing full well that I have yet to thoroughly play through Beautiful Katamari, Halo 3 and Harry Potter OOTP. COD4: MW turned out to be an excellent game with great variety. The last game I played in the COD series was COD 2, and I wasn't too impressed with that one. (In fact, I only played through the single player campaign once through and now I'm looking to sell it for CHEAP. Please let me know if you're interested!)

Because of my disinterest in COD 2, I actually skipped out on COD 3, thinking it would be pretty much the same as everything previously offered. But COD 4 has definitely reinstated my faith in this game series.

Having completed the game in two sittings, I went on Xbox Live to try out the online multiplayer. Puzzling enough, there were only 279 people playing COD 4 online worldwide when I went on last night! (That would be Nov 4.) Only then did I just go on Wikipedia to do some quick searching: COD 4 will only be released on November 6, 2007 in North America and three days later on November 9, 2007 in Europe. It will come out in Australia on November 7, 2007.

Amazing, ain't it. How a small Comics Connection shop in some neighborhood mall manage to put a copy of COD 4 on their shelves for sale (whether knowingly or not!) still marvels me! So as of now, I have officially completed COD 4 when most of the world (or, rather, the other bunch of gamers who aren't in the lucky 279) have yet to get their grummy hands on a copy!

(Yes, Albert. I've finished the game! Eat that!)

Some real impressive highlights of the game was being able to play as the gunner of an AC-130 gunship and cover friendlies while they attempt to exfiltrate. For those who are interested to know, the AC-130 gunship is the ground attack airplane which they used in Transformers to take down Scorponok. Playing as the gunner allows you to fully choose between your armament of 20 mm M61, 40 mm L60 Bofors and the kickass 105 mm M102. Also, your HUD is displayed in realistic black hot or white hot thermal imaging, your choice!

Another highlight of the game was crawling through the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation in a flashback mission set 15 years back. You play as part of a two-men spec ops team sent in to assassinate a Russian nationalist weapons dealer, and for the mission you are decked in a ghillie suit from head to toe, enhancing camouflage. I'm sure for those who have played the COD 4 demo released on Xbox Live Marketplace will know what I'm referring to!

For this particular sniping mission, it employs more than just standard run-of-the-mill sniping gameplay. Here, you'll have to listen closely to your superior officer cum spotter, with only one chance at taking the shot. And that's only after you observe carefully wind speed, atmospheric conditions, bullet speed and so on.

Another favorite of mine was getting to fire a FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missile, which I'm sure is a first for any FPS game. Getting to see it in action (albeit animated) really makes you wonder how devastating it will be like to see one being used in, for say, the Iraq war.

Here's the E3 2007 trailer for the game, so if you have an Xbox 360, it is definitely a must-buy! This game is a strong contender for Game of the Year status, though Halo 3 seems like a tough one to beat.

Okay, back to COD 4 to trawl Xbox Live for some online matches so I can get a slight head-start with leveling up! Or at least I hope to! For those of you playing Hellgate: London, let me know how good it really is! I would really love to have a go at it but unfortunately my PC is nowhere near capable of running that game! (Or any other game for that matter!)

In other non-gaming news, I'm almost finished the the novel The Kite Runner by Afghanistani American author Khaled Hosseini. It is stunning, awesome and touching. Please read it! The movie is out soon! (Trailer can be found on YouTube here.)