Friday, November 18, 2005

Essay Time

Get ready for a long one.

First Up

I need to get a few things out of the way. If you're female, you might enjoy this. :)

1. It's about time!

I always knew his chance would come, woohoo! What an absolute hottie. :D

First spotted him in "A Time To Kill", loved his performance in "EdTV", beamed through "The Wedding Planner" and "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days", and had a nice time ogling the tan and pecs in "Sahara" ( probably why I didn't suffer motion sickness during the 12-hour flights to and from Italy, heh heh ).

The big draws: That cheeky mega-watt smile and confident swagger which many have compared to "the other blonde bombshell" - Paul Newman. The unmistakable Southern accent coupled with chivalrous manners. A true story involving his revival of a passed-out middle-aged lady in a cinema ( told by the woman herself on an episode of "Oprah" - I caught the whole thing, and let me assure you that the account reduced all the women to mush :)).

And of course, who can ever forget that highly publicized scoop about Matt playing the bongo drums in the nude during a wild, wild party? No photos, unfortunately. :D

Congratulations, dude. And People mag, you made a great choice!

2. Vintage wine, in the flesh.

Exhibit #1 - I watched him in "Mobsters" way back in secondary school, and thought he dropped off the radar, until he made comebacks on "The Practice" ( episodes currently airing on local cable Wednesday nights, 10pm, Starworld Channel 18 ), followed by a major role on Grey's Anatomy ( which hasn't debuted here yet, but probably will - and soon, I hope! ).
Anyway, if you're hungry for more, read this.

Exhibit #2 - Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt recall my drooling sessions, especially when LOTR came by. Not to belabour a point, but I visited a film location in Wellington where Viggo previously lay on the shore of a lake with a horse ( Return of the King ), and also stole a touch of his Aragorn costume on display at the LOTR exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre last year.
Hope to meet him in person one day. :)

Exhibit #3 - Have always known he's the sexier of the Matt & Ben duo, despite being shorter and more introverted. Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of "Good Will Hunting" ( one of the best movies ever ), cold-blooded homosexual serial killer in "The Talented Mr. Ripley", naive and lovelorn in the hilarious ( though not exactly profitable ) "Stuck On You", and - my favourite - ultra-cool trained assassin Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy", this fellow has been among my top 5 fav actors list for a long time ( sharing space with Kevin Spacey, John Cusack and Edward Norton ).

Exhibit #4 - One of the best reasons to watch CNN, IMHO. :D Another Southerner, eloquent, intelligent ( appeared on "Jeopardy" ), gutsy ( almost got blown off the road during his coverage of Hurricane Rita ) and refreshingly bashful ( I caught his embarrassed blush during his Anderson Cooper 360 segment on CNN this afternoon - can't even remember what I had for lunch, heh heh ).
My mom keeps asking if he's married. I have no idea, but for the record, guys with prematurely greying hair ( e.g. Richard Gere, Steve Martin ) rank high on my list of attractive physical qualities. :)

Exhibit #5 - GAH! Spotted him in "The Bourne Identity" ( he played a fellow assassin sent to get rid of Bourne; get a load of that tense 5-minute scene where he and Matt Damon hunt each other in a field of tall grass ). Didn't think much of his follow-ups ( "Beyond Borders - vapid, "Arthur" - yawn ), but "Closer" was a revelation. His raw portrayal of a doctor prone to kinky sex tricks and super-foul language earned him a well-deserved Oscar.

Funny how lots of this year's guys are in their 30s or older. Yum, I say. :)

Jamie Cullum's Catching Tales

Track-by-track, as promised. Those in bold are my favourites.

1. Get Your Way

Riff: Bass- and brass-heavy baselines, with samples from an old big band record by Joe Williams, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.

Sleeve notes: "I didn't want corny pop lyrics but something Cole Porteresque with a contemporary feel. So it's about a gent taking a chick out with the intention of getting laid, but hopefully it's a little more sophisticated than that as well."

Lyrics snapshot: "Although my feelings are all juxtaposed / But the truth be told, I'm as fickle as hell / But gentlemen never kiss and tell"

Jammin': Not much, but the pumping bass and trombones / trumpets more than make up for it.

2. London Skies

Riff: Quiet, lots of guitar ( played by Jamie ), escalates to a rousing chorus.

Sleeve notes: "I wanted to express the idea that the grey skies in London weren't so bad. I often find some of the bad weather we have quite romantic, and on the song I try to be quite poetic about the 'ghostly ballet' of the fog and mist."

Lyrics snapshot: "Will you let me romanticise / The beauty in the London skies / You know the sunlight always shines / Behind the clouds of London skies"

Jammin': Lots of rock-ish strumming. Catchy song.

3. Photograph

Riff: A fusion of rock and pop ballad.

Sleeve notes: "This is about two snapshots I found...The photographs brought back very distinct memories."

Lyrics snapshot: It's just another story / Caught up in another photograph I found / And it seems like another person lived that life / A great many years ago from now"

[ blog author comment: I hear ya, man. :) ]

Jammin': Quite a large amount. You can easily picture him jumping all over the piano, kicking the seat back, tossing his head, etc. I love it. :D

4. I Only Have Eyes For You

Riff: The slowest track on the album. A very cool acid-jazz cover, coupled with a lazy, sexy vocal performance ( he's got a great falsetto, yow ).

Sleeve notes: "We wanted more of a pumping bass and a delayed electric guitar doing the Doo-wop part - more of a Massive Attack approach."

Lyrics snapshot: "My love must be some kind of blind love / I don't see anybody but you"

Jammin': Not the conventional sort, considering the leisurely pace. Good for chilling out to.

5. Nothing I Do

Riff: Uptempo swing piece in the tradition of "Mack The Knife", "Clementine" and "Artificial Flowers" ( ie. they all share the common trait of having really morbid lyrics set to deceptively upbeat melodies ).

Sleeve notes: "I love Kurt Weill, and the way that songs like Mack The Knife is the happiest sounding song about a serial killer. So I wanted a song like that - very uptempo but with lyrics about something really horrible."

Lyrics snapshot: "We were so drunk last night / When we had that stupid fight / You called me a / Useless, selfish prick"

Jammin': A very nice reggae bridge in between all the swing. Trust Jamie to come up with something as radical and ingenious as this. :)

6. Mind Trick

Riff: A beautiful blend of soul and pop. Jamie gives one of his strongest performances on this one.

Sleeve notes: "So we ( ie. Jamie and brother Ben ) put on some Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, had a few drinks and wrote the music in about half an hour."

Lyrics snapshot: "If there's music in the night / And it's really really right / It's the only thing I need / It intoxicates your mind / All your troubles left behind / So come on and take my lead / It's not just me who feels it / Music plays a mind trick / Watch me forget about missing you"

Jammin': Little bit o' blues, some prerecorded sounds of friends at a party.

[ blog author's comments: Highly enjoyable. Love blasting it in my car. ]

7. 21st Century Kid

Riff: Part anthem, part pop, part rock. The song Jamie's most proud of thus far.

Sleeve notes: "The optimistic part in the track is about holding out for the truth. I'm very proud of this song."

Lyrics snapshot: "Nothing is certain / Except a memory / And that's soon washed away / By a low sea"

Jammin': Definitely the pounding chorus. I like it, but don't exactly love it. Sorry, Jamie. :/

8. I'm Glad There Is You

Riff: Another cover, this time done in a conventional style. Very slow. Very quiet. VERY romantic. Turn down the lights, get a glass of wine, put your feet up, and close your eyes.

Sleeve notes: "So here it is very straight, just one take with the vocals and piano with a beautiful Geoff Gascoyne string arrangement."

Lyrics snapshot: "In this world of overrated pleasures / And underrated treasures / I'm glad there is you"

Jammin': None, but it's still perfect. :)

9. Oh God

Riff: A collaboration with Guy Chambers, who wrote a whole long string of hits with Robbie Williams years ago ( culminating with the excellent Sing When You're Winning album, which I feel is Robbie's best to date ). This is a piano-heavy "statement song", but really nice once it grows on you.

Sleeve notes: "It was right after the Asian tsunami, and after we got the main hook, 'Oh God, tell us when it's going to stop', it wasn't so hard to write the rest of it."

Lyrics snapshot: "We're looking at the stars / Without explanation / We contemplate as kings / And simple men on trial / Our little world's fragile"

Jammin': Would be inappropriate, so none here.

10. Catch The Sun

Riff: Cover of a famous Doves piece. Combo rock/pop, a bit of watered-down punk maybe.

Sleeve notes: "It's such a classic song and hopefully my version treats it well and does something different with it."

Lyrics snapshot: "Catch the sun / Before it's gone / Here it comes / Up in smoke and gone / Catch the sun / It never comes / Cry in the sand / Lost in the fire"

Jammin': Moderate throughout. My best comment on this would be that it showcases Jamie's remarkable flair for versatility and interpretation. Good song.

11. 7 Days To Change Your Life

Riff: Slow jazz. Longest track on the CD. And top on my list of favourites.

Sleeve notes: "This song is specifically about the people that try and sell you these miracle cures to change your life. I saw these long adverts in America when I was jet-lagged and hung over for various things like this and I loved the idea that there was this quick fix that would change your existence."

Lyrics snapshot: "I know sometimes your life is a bitch / So come purchase my easy fix / I've been there myself / Sad, fat and bald / But soon with my help, you'll have it all"

Jammin': Too slow for any to occur. But there's this line where he sounds as if he's going to say the f-word, but stops himself. He did this on I Get A Kick Out Of You on the Twentysomething album too. Obviously a habit of his - thoroughly amusing, especially the fact that they kept this "slip" intact for commercial consumption. :)

12. Our Day Will Come

Riff: My 2nd favourite piece. Dreamy opening, a potent reggae-jazz beat, perfectly blended with light yet full-throated belting from Jamie. Fantastic.

Sleeve notes: "... the thing that really made me want to do it is the opening groove. It's the coolest thing - a reggae, bossa-nova, pop groove - very different."

Lyrics snapshot: "Our day will come / And we'll have everything / We'll share the joy / Falling in love can bring / No-one can tell me that I'm too young to know / 'Cos I love you so"

Jammin': A very snappy bit in the middle featuring pure jazz piano - a little erratic, classically offbeat. Great stuff.

13. Back To The Ground

Riff: More soul and jazz. Infectious despite a bare arrangement. Clear hallmark of great music.

Sleeve notes: "I remember one of my old friends saying to me in the pub a few months back, 'You're the same twat you always were.' I love that phrase - this song is written in that spirit."

Lyrics snapshot: "When you're attracted to the danger / And tasting every flavour / Then bring it on and / Bleed yourself dry / Reality is twisted, your mind's getting shoplifted / Is there underneath / An innocent guy?"

Jammin': Possibly the best on this album. Bridge kicks off with a Maroon 5-ish beat, then the wurlitzer joins the ride and things just get crazier and crazier. You can hear Jamie laughing in the background during the whole bit. Yeeha! :)

14. Fascinating Rhythm

Riff: Another Fred Astaire cover like Singin' In The Rain from his 2nd CD. Highly original and exceptionally inspired.

Sleeve notes: "A verse in the original went 'The neighbours want to know / Why I'm always shaking just like a flivver'. Apparently a flivver is an old noisy car, so I changed that to 'Just like my grandmother' whilst we were doing the take. You can actually hear me laughing after that. Sorry nan."

Lyrics snapshot: "Got a little rhythm / A rhythm a rhythm / That pitterpats through my brain / So darn persistent, the day isn't distant / When it'll drive me insane / Comes in the morning / Without any warning / And hangs around all day / I have to sneak up to it / Some day I'll speak up to it / And hope it listens when I say..."

Jammin': Absolutely glorious. Jamie uses the piano's body as a drum, plucks at the strings, sometimes while pounding the keys at the same time ( I'm still trying to work out the physics in my head ). Love the drums - very snazzy. At one point, it sounds like Jamie's running his fingers across the piano strings - the sound's just absolutely amazing. Another piece I love playing on the car stereo. :)

15. My Yard

Riff: Think of this as the cooling-down phase of the album. Lovely guitar from multi-talented and accomplished Jamie. Catchy tune. Background history ( below ) had me in stitches.

Sleeve notes: "It started out as a very romantic thing and I came along and made it just about sex I'm afraid."

Lyric snapshot: "It's nothing fancy / Just a little couch and me / And conversation for your mind / So let's explore all the possibilities"

Jammin': Toned down for the conclusion, I gather. But it's a very sexy song, and I would love to see him perform this 'live'. I need a tissue. Or better make that a towel ( haha ).

Whew, it's finally finished. In short, it's a terrific CD, plain and simple. The sleeve notes are lots of fun to flip through - though diplopia-inducing. Jamie's matured in leaps and bounds since his last effort, and continues to stretch the limits of the jazz genre with his creativity and impish improvisations.

Shall leave you with this classic quote from the little guy:

"I thought maybe [this album] should be called Satan's Testicles, but that might have been a little misleading."

Go buy it. Now.

TV Treasures

If you missed them, then you can either:

1) check your cable catalogue for the reruns, or
2) miss out on some really great moments

For example:

Gilmore Girls - I've followed every episode from the pilot onwards, and Season 4 still captivates effortlessly. Lorelai's long-awaited relationship with Luke crashes and burns in the most devastating manner ( aargh! ). Rory finally takes the initiative and makes the first move ( yes! ). The latter's latest love interest is yet another very cute young guy, this time a fellow Yale student from a filthy-rich family, a self-confessed rascal with a string of ex-girlfriends, but drawn to the innocent and inexperienced Rory nonetheless. That scene at her grandparent's ballroom function left me breathless. Ahh, to be young and in love. :)

Numb3rs - The latest episode was a huge treat, with the Epps brothers chasing down a disgruntled railroad employee wreaking vengeance on the guilty parties. Of course, the main draw is always David Krumholtz ( younger sibling / math genius Charlie ) who grapples with the prospect of asking his grad student assistant to dinner. Wah lau, if I had a thesis advisor like him, I'd be the one dragging him out for a meal. :D

Monk - Undeniably the BEST installment EVER. I STRONGLY recommend that you catch the rerun if you can. I laughed so hard I developed pleuritic chest pain - which got worse a few days later during a very enjoyable conversation with 2 of my junior MOs over dinner in the staff pantry. It's a good thing though. :)

Project Runway - Terrific show, with flamboyant characters and immensely difficulty challenges. Eat their dust, Donald Trump!

House - This one really struck a chord, since House disdainfully stands up to the new Committee Chairman who's granted this honour only because of a hefty US$100 million donation. I love the way House dismisses the guy, because he knows he's just a spoilt brat under that expensive suit. Get a load of the scene with Hugh Laurie banging the table in sync with the theme from "CSI: New York". Priceless!

The Practice - Part 2 of a trilogy involving a high-profile murder. Dentist in a small town has an affair with a promiscuous woman. She's bludgeoned to death one night and he's spotted leaving the house in a distressed state. He denies he killed her, but the evidence ( however circumstantial ) doesn't bode well for his fate. Town judge and well, whole town in general, hate (1) dentist's mother, (2) big city lawyers, in particular, (3) Alan Shore ( the always excellent James Spader ). Patrick Dempsey is a pleasant surprise as the dentist, all thick black curls, chiselled jaw and doe eyes. Tonnes of intra-practice tension, little bit of fisticuffs, some illegal deal-making... too bad this is the last season leading up to the spinoff "Boston Legal". Never could stomach the latter, mostly because of William Shatner, blech.

Before I sign off, here's another blog recommendation. Literally stumbled upon it ( 'cos of the "doctors" in the title ), but worth reading because, if nothing else, it's written by members of the Pixar team. How cool is that? :)

I've been at this for 3 hours. Will save the rest for another entry - new MOs, streams of medical students with their idealistic spiel ( heartwarming but misdirected - you poor little babies ), and more photo-sharing ( including pictures from a friend who just returned from Italy ). Also gonna gear up for some Harry Potter action this weekend.

I'm just glad I got through the week in one piece.

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