Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home sweet home.

Time flew a little too quickly for my liking. And I'm due back at work tomorrow. Sigh.

However, Tokyo was extremely enjoyable. More details in a later entry, but to cut a long story short, the subway is freaking crazy, I'm totally awed by the peak hour traffic ( human, that is ), great food practically oozes from every street, Disneyland is absolutely magical, and I'm one of the lucky few who got to see Mt Fuji in all its snow-capped, unclouded glory ( woohoo! ).

Culture-wise, I have to say it wasn't as "flowery" as I expected ( based on stories told to me by friends who've been there ). Maybe it's because of the weather -- freezing by my standard -- hence the paucity of daring dress sense among the locals. I did, however, witness the occasional nut with the barely-there mini-skirt ( one of which offered an excellent view of white panties on the escalator ), loads of leather boots and stiletto heels which can double as deadly weapons, and a large chunk of heavily made up schoolgirls at a McDonald's outlet in Shibuya ( but they were very nice and helped me figure out how to work the kooky soap dispenser in the toilet ).

Anyway, I've realized how pathetic it is to be able to catch the latest film releases only when I'm travelling. So I recently managed to watch the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lake House, The Devil Wears Prada, You Me & Dupree, and Superman Returns ( you'll be amazed how early Krisworld starts, so be sure to turn it on even when the plane's still climbing ). Also caught North Country and The Corpse Bride at a certain countryside hotel ( because they had ZERO English channels, yeesh ).


Didn't like the Pirates sequel. Someone please tell me what the heck happened at the end 'cos I fell asleep.

Superman Returns was o-kay. Still prefer the originals ( I and II especially ).

You, Me & Dupree was entertaining, but essentially fluffy stuff.

North Country is terrific.

The Corpse Bride is excellent.

The Devil Wears Prada is superb. Simon Baker is gorgeous in this movie, yow. :)

The Lake House is sooooo bloody good I bought the DVD today. ( A few of you probably consider it dumb mush, but I have a very soft spot for Keanu Reeves and think he did a wonderful job here. )

Other important updates:

The latest season of Nip/Tuck is on Channel 5 every Monday at 11pm. Super-dark, super-twisted -- I love it. :)

AXN is also showing reruns of seasons 1 and 2 in the same timeslot. But they repeat at 3am in the morning, in case you want to set your timers.

Reruns of Numb3rs ( the best episodes ) air Tuesdays at 11pm ( AXN ). Must not miss.

Gotta get some shuteye now. More updates next time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review of Rockapella's concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, November 15th 2006

For more info on the group, drop by their official website.

In a nutshell:

1. It was awesome!

2. I love the crowd!

3. Chris Botti should've performed here instead of the Victoria Theatre ( sorry it's a major grouse of mine ).

More Details

I went to the show with no expectations whatsoever, and came away with only the highest regard and admiration for this quintet of hugely talented musicians.

The performance kicked off to a rousing start with an upbeat number which I assume is one of many of their original compositions. Of course, being a newbie where this group is concerned, I'm unable to tell you the titles of these songs, which were scattered throughout the evening.

However, I will say that they're all very enjoyable, with catchy melodies and sincere deliveries.

Hence, I shall comment mostly on the covers, which IMHO were EXQUISITE.

Having grown up listening to many of these classics ( you name 'em -- The Drifters, The Temptations, Ben E. King, Sam Cooke -- thanks 100% to my mother, whom I consider a foremost authority on truly good music ), I found myself grinning from ear to ear as the night progressed and the guys wheeled out hit after hit after hit.

Early in the repertoire, Stand By Me made an appearance, to the audience's immense delight ( that's when the whooping and cat-calling began :)). John K. Brown's gorgeously rich tenor vibrato soared to the heavens, and I especially love how he chose to lighten his tone during the 2nd "darling" in the line "so darling, darling stand by me" ( most versions I've heard usually belt that word from beginning to end ). The overall a capella arrangement was flawless, with just the right mix of soul and doo-wop. Coupled with the grand yet intimate venue ( I can't stress enough how much I LOVE the Esplanade ) and soft lighting ( a dim stage with dark luminous blue hues ), the piece was just positively... magical.

The very next song lifted my spirits even further, as curly-haired redhead Kevin Wright did his rendition of Under The Boardwalk. Kevin, by the way, is my personal favourite in the group. His voice is higher-pitched than John's, but I'm totally blown away by its quality and control. ( It was mentioned that one of the guys appeared on Les Miz on Broadway -- can someone confirm whether it's Kevin? ) His performance of this Drifters classic was pitch perfect and divine.

Lead member Scott Leonard is also a terrific singer, but he definitely excels at winding the crowd up and proved to be the main joker of the group, amusing us with his account of a trip to Chinatown, even managing to be understood when he said "Happy to meet you" in garbled Mandarin ( heh heh! ). Plus, he's clearly the most exuberant dancer of the bunch, never missing a step or showing any sign of fatigue even after the show hit the 2-hour mark.

Then there's George Baldi, who's well-known for being one of the original members of an ensemble which later became Boyz II Men. He's Rockapella's equivalent of Barry White, all deep booming bass and smooth grooves. He put his vocals to good use on Motown numbers, but surprised us all when he demostrated amazing range with a falsetto performance of Dolly Parton's ( or should I say, Whitney Houston's ) I Will Always Love You. Excellent stuff! :)

Last but not least, we have Jeff Thatcher, the self-professed "Mozart of spit", whose energetic mouth drumming kept things moving at a swift pace. Although he didn't speak a word ( kinda like Teller in the magician duo Penn and Teller ), his personality still shone through, especially during a solo bit that had me wondering how the heck he breathes through all that beatbox-ing.

As you can see, they're all very accomplished. Other noteworthy performances include covers of My Girl, Up On The Roof, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Wonderful World ( the Sam Cooke piece with the famous "don't know much about history" lyrics ), Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Do The Hustle.

Humour was a major feature throughout, with a hilarious skit involving a hapless couple in the audience. John Brown came strolling towards the back of the auditorium then shook hands with a gentleman seated a couple of rows behind us ( seems the 1st of the tiered rows is a lucky position -- Patrizio Buanne stopped by during his concert too :)). He asked the guy to stand up, and when he did, John took his place and began to flirt with his female companion, to loud cheers from the crowd. Haha! She was a good sport and obliged when John invited her on-stage. Perched on a stool, she calmly answered questions about her profession, then got a 3-song serenade of Motown tunes, lucky woman! The Rockapella dudes had a ball vying for her attention, with John kneeling beside her and placing her hand on his head, and George using his baritone to full use. The best attempt came from Scott, who pushed the others aside then gyrated his guts out while she stood, laughing and blushing. And I absolutely adore the part where Scott pretended to lead her off-stage then stopped and began to sing the opening verse to Ain't Too Proud To Beg, which states "I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go". Did anyone catch that? :D

The 2nd half got really rowdy towards the end, and the fellows happily granted us not 2, not 3, but FIVE encore songs! The best of the lot, I think, was the calypso number with a light Jamaican flavour. Beautiful!

There were 3 standing ovations, and they promised to return very soon for another show. I didn't stay for the autograph signing session though, being exhausted from a long day, but I will certainly go see them again.

If only they'd performed a few Christmas songs. Would've liked to hear their versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, In The Still Of The Night, and ( wooo ) O Holy Night. Perhaps they can do some Broadway the next time round? How about On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady ( my all-time favourite song from a musical )?

Thank you for a great evening. Rock on, guys!


I leave for Tokyo this weekend, and am being inundated by numerous recommendations and purchase requests.

Am greatly looking forward to it! Poster arrived today -- looking good. :)

One Last Thing

I meant to write about this last week but never found the time.

Anybody recall a Sunday Lifestyle feature article about how local women in their 30s and 40s find it difficult to get dates / mates?

I personally found it derogatory and biased. Who did this reporter talk to???

Let me state, for the record, that there are MANY single women who are perfectly happy living their lives without a ball and chain called "a relationship". Within the medical profession alone, there're successful surgeons, paediatricians, ER physicians, internists etc who travel the world and engage in some really hip pursuits without griping about how lonely / incomplete they feel ( they don't, by the way ).

If you're financially independent, emotionally secure and lead a fulfilling life sans boyfriend / husband / offspring, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that and who cares what society thinks?

And by the way, I suspect only Singaporean / Asian men consider age a disadvantage. Westerners have a much more favourable view of older women, which I certainly appreciate.

Singlehood has its privileges. Settling down doesn't mean you have to settle. :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Europe Continued: Dolomites Territory Posted by Picasa
Special Announcement

Just doing my part to help drum up support for the Singapore Medical Association's collaboration with Club Rainbow.

Called the Rainbow-of-Hope Doctors' Pledge, proceeds will help fund a new Club Rainbow Family Care Centre and efforts to extend support to more than 500 needy children.

One of the highlighted perks is double tax exemption. And you can donate via cheque or credit card ( the latter allows for accumulation of points ).

Just bear in mind that there's a deadline -- 15 November ( next Wednesday ).

Response has been encouraging, but the medical community can certainly do better, and no amount goes unappreciated.

So... hope you'll find it in your heart to make a contribution to this worthy cause.
Just download the form, fill it up and fax it to the number provided.

Thanks. :)

Ahh, Venice

Did I mention that I was really disappointed by the place when I visited last year?

But reading John Berendt's exquisite memoir, The City Of Falling Angels, brings back fond ( if grime-covered ) memories, and only because Berendt is a writer of the highest class.

He remains at the top of my list of favourite authors, and for good reason. I admire his dedication ( he's churned out only 2 novels within the past decade ), and always find myself smiling or chuckling at his uncanny ability to capture human quirks with an ingenious choice of words and a flair for great comedic timing.

Highly recommended, but not when you're cramming for an exam. ( Yikes, haha. )

Tokyo Awaits

Itinerary settled.

Poster being printed.

I'm darn excited.

Photos once I return.