Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adios, 2009

As the year finally draws to a close, I look forward to the start of a new one, and all the wonderful opportunities and experiences it will undoubtedly bring.

As always, I swear that I won't make a list of resolutions, but do so anyway. And no, the one I posted in an earlier entry is nowhere close to the real thing. :)

I did promise to review a couple of albums, so let's get that out of the way before 2010 officially begins.

Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment is a dazzling debut, full of bold melodies and even bolder lyrics. Boasting Lady Gaga and Pink as collaborators, the tracks are uptempo with heavy dance influences and radio-friendly tunes. From the opening number - the pumping Music Again - to the cheeky Strut and Sure Fire Winners, it's guaranteed to keep you awake, or jolt you out of whatever stupor you might be in.

I like to blast it on the way home after a night shift so I don't fall asleep at the wheel. How's that for safe driving, heh.

Personally though, I prefer the slower songs, where Adam's vocals truly shine and make you realize that voters made a big mistake with Kris Allen.

Track #5, Soaked, has Middle-eastern inflections which blend seamlessly with Adam's glory notes. A Loaded Smile drips with sensuality as he tenderly caresses each note. Sleepwalker has a darker edge, buoyed yet again by Adam's heartfelt delivery. And Aftermath allows the listener a chance to savour his lower register, which is, in my opinion, tonnes better than the higher octaves he's famous for.

But it is Broken Open which seals the deal. With its skeletal accompaniment, this New Age-flavoured track lays Adam's voice bare, producing an almost choirboy-solo-in-a-cathedral quality.

Little wonder he's beaten Kris severely in album sales. Don't suppose he'll come to Singapore for a concert?

Robbie Williams' much anticipated Reality Killed The Video Star sees him back in fine form, following the dismal reviews of Rudebox ( which I didn't think was that bad to begin with ). I rate this close to his best album so far, namely Sing When You're Winning, which launched chart-toppers like Rock DJ, Better Man and Supreme.

On Reality, Rob returns to his pop/rock/dance roots, complete with tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Lots of catchy melodies here ( I'm not the type to memorize verses ), with favourites including the hard-hitting Bodies, the obvious Pet Shop Boys-inspired Last Days Of Disco, an infectiously fun Do You Mind?, and the George Michael tribute Starstruck, where RW sounds eerily similar to the former, and the whole number is a dead ringer for an original GM piece titled Star People.

Again, will you please come to Singapore for a gig already? Haven't seen you since 2001!

Last but not least, Jamie Cullum's The Pursuit.
Definitely more mature, continuing his trademark preference for experimenting, but still not as enjoyable as his best work on Catching Tales.

He does good covers of Rihanna's Don't Stop The Music and Stephen Sondheim's Not While I'm Around ( from Sweeney Todd ); standouts include Mixtape and Wheels, mostly because of the interesting melodies and tempo switches.

My favourite of the lot, though, is Music Is Through, a 7-minute whopper that serves as a fitting finale. I've played it to death on the stereo. :)

Due to time constraints, I'm going to sign off here.

But I will say this before I go - if you have Starhub cable, watch out for 3 new TV series coming this month, namely Hung ( starts this weekend ), The Good Wife, and Glee.

Glee! Woohoo!

Happy New Year everyone. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Always a relief when I'm on standby and my phone doesn't ring. :)

This was taken from the Marina Mirage at the Gold Coast. Just 5 minutes' walk from Sea World, and looks like a hangout for rich people, many of whom come from the nearby posh hotels.

Ate at the Omero Brothers seafood restaurant, with its out-of-this-world Moreton Bay Bugs - tried the BBQ and Mornay dishes, plus a Max Brenner Chocolate Bar, serving an orgasm-inducing Belgian waffle sprinkled with chocolate syrup and served with a gigantic scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream. Thank you, M and P, for buying us such a wonderful meal! :)

There's an establishment just next door called the Palazzo Versace, which has an eye-popping marble floor in the sprawling lobby. I went in to use the restroom, heh. No security checks!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Great Video Clips

Unearthed these hilarious Viggo Mortensen interviews. :)

With David Letterman, Part 1 and Part 2.
The latter has a priceless story about duck hunting. LOL.

And with Jon Stewart. Key phrase: "4-hour erection". Heh!

Quite surprising to see VM's easy sense of humour. Don't think he's ever done any comedy before. Think he should start, like James Marsden did with Enchanted. Someone should also persuade VM to star in a musical. It's a talent that ought to be shared with moviegoers all over the world.

And... a clip from So You Think You Can Dance Season 4, of an unbelievable Bollywood dance routine.

They are such consummate pros, picking up the steps within a week yet looking as if they've been doing this their entire lives.
Joshua emerged the victor in this competition - was curious why when I read the result on the Net, but it's becoming pretty clear to me now. :)

After wearing out Adam Lambert's CD on the car stereo, I'm now blasting Robbie Williams' Reality Killed The Video Star.
Definitely his best work since Sing When You're Winning, which spawned monster hit Rock DJ, among others.
One of my favourite tracks, Do You Mind, has been incorporated into a very stylish montage. The song gets cut off halfway, but the "video" gets high points for looking really professional.

Full album reviews to follow at a later date.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That's A Wrap!

Better do this before I run out of opportunities. It's an annual tradition, after all.

So another year flies by yet again, and it's time to reflect on highlights from the past 12 months.

Was 2009 a good one? I would say yes. Not the best I've had - that would be 2005 - but on the whole, far from disappointing.

Best People

1) Hands down, Jason Mraz!

Finally got to meet him after being a fan for 6 long years, and it was worth the wait. Lovely guy, with an extremely bright future ahead of him. Hope I'll have the chance to say hello again the next time he drops by Singapore.

2) The Secret Service agents

A huge thrill, loads of fun, and some of the best conversation I've ever had.

3) Jenson Button

Didn't get to talk to him, but standing an arm's length away was good enough for me! Nice, humble chap.

4) Various handsome Australian young men

... whom I met on holiday. There's the sales staff at Sydney's Virgin Megastore who chatted with me; a beautiful waiter in Brisbane who's a tall version of David Archuleta, with impeccable manners; a delicious blonde cashier at Woolworths who insisted on giving me bags even when I didn't want any ( thought that was rather funny ).
And all the hot bods at the Gold Coast, where shirts are optional, and the guys love a woman's appreciative attention. Eating breakfast at a beachside McDonald's has never been more enjoyable. :)

5) The professors from Mount Sinai Hospital

Fascinating and gracious, had everyone practically eating out of their hands.
One's older and very distinguished. The other's pure eye candy. Good combination. :)

Best Experiences

1) The Dolphin Adventure at Gold Coast's Sea World

I've been meaning to write about this, but eventually decided not to. Keeps it more special that way.
But I highly recommend it to anyone who's game for a great time, loves dolphins as much as I do, and is a competent swimmer ( otherwise they won't let you participate ).

2) The Sea World whale-watching cruise

Not the most pleasant trip if you're prone to sea-sickness and the water's choppy, but in my opinion, just do it at least once. Even if you get violently ill like I did, you won't regret it!

3) Visiting Sydney & Brisbane

Travelling always makes the cut, and both cities were very entertaining indeed. Definitely helped that I've got friends there, and we were very lucky to meet lots of nice, helpful Aussies.

I especially love Sea World, with its awesome aquarium, dolphin lagoon, polar bear enclosure and sting ray feeding / petting area. It's almost as festive as Disneyworld, I kid you not!

4) Jason Mraz's gig

It was in March. Go to the archive to read my 5-star review!

5) The Bridge Project's The Winter's Tale

Not the best choice of play, but unprecedented in terms of sheer star power. Also in March, so check out the archive.

6) The emergency ultrasound workshop in Brisbane

Very inspiring, and made new friends in the process. Plus, I didn't have to pay for it!

7) The Society for Emergency Medicine in Singapore's Annual Scientific Meeting

What a mouthful. Got arrowed as organizing chair, but was assisted by a terrific committee, and pulled off a very successful conference.
Looking forward to the Mount Sinai Hospital professors' return. Need to bring them sightseeing again!

Best Entertainment

1) Glee

Okay, so I've only seen 2 full episodes overseas, but the music is what really gets me. Sure, they may consist of covers, but I have great respect for a cast that can make me actually like a hip-hop tune, when I would otherwise switch off completely.
You absolutely must listen to their version of Duffy's Mercy, and watch the YouTube clip of that dance the football team does to Beyonce's Single Ladies. A riot!

2) True Blood

Seasons 1 & 2 aired on cable in quick succession, and I couldn't be happier.
Alexander Skarsgard is such a pleasure to watch. :)

3) Dexter

I can't stop raving about this show. Season 3 is a stunner once again. Can't wait for Season 4 to hit our shores.

4) Ghost Hunters & Ghost Adventures

I'm such a sucker for supernatural stuff. With GH on hiatus on Starworld ( some stupid computer show took its slot ), I'm now glued to GA, especially since its team leader is much better-looking than most of the GH guys. An early episode had Zak being scratched by a malevolent spirit, in real time as the camera rolled. When a Catholic priest later exclaimed, "You provoked it on purpose? You're playing with fire!", Zak didn't even raise an eyebrow.
Wow. :)

5) American Idol

Haven't been so excited about a runner-up since Clay Aiken. Adam Lambert's album is bloody fantastic, go buy it!

6) So You Think You Can Dance

Mark Kanemura from the 2008 season is quirky sexiness at its best. Search YouTube - you won't be sorry.

7) Twitter

Kevin Spacey jumped on the wagon, and answered my tweets a few times, yes!
Edward Norton also started an account, and kept me coming back for more with his marathon training updates.
Too bad Viggo Mortensen, John Cusack and James McAvoy haven't shown up on the radar - yet.

8) Facebook

Set up my account, at long last.
Having a blast and connecting with friends whom I haven't seen in eons.

9) My cat

Late November marked our 1st year anniversary with Nemo, and he continues to bring joy and laughter into our lives every single day.
Nothing - and I really mean NOTHING - beats having a big fat purring cat cuddle up to you in bed on a rainy night.

10) Laurell K. Hamilton

Always exciting to discover a new author, especially if s/he has loads of novels for me to chew on.
Just finished her excellent short story collection. Will plough through the Vampire Hunter series once my journal article's done.
I have priorities, you know. :)

11) Lev Grossman's The Magicians

A rollercoaster ride with a likely sequel in the works. Violent, perverted and insane. Love it!

12) Clive Owen

A revelation in The International and Duplicity.

Plans For 2010


Helping the organizing chair with this. Expecting a turnout of thousands, and looking forward to seeing a few familiar faces from New York and Australia. :)

2) Holiday

Have picked my next destination, although I was outvoted by my parents. You'll find out what it is in 9 months' time.

3) Get promoted!

If I'm going to get tortured everyday, might as well get paid well for it.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My boss won't be happy with this, and my mom's been nagging me to "stop reading novels and get your journal article done already!", but I can't resist the public library, especially the one in my neighbourhood, which stocks a whole bunch of dark, Gothic works.

Hey mom, you need to share some of the blame for dragging me there to find books for you. :)

My taste this year has shifted dramatically, thanks to True Blood, and maybe partly due to the Twilight franchise hype. But definitely much more credit goes to TB.

I've read Grossman's Codex from a few years back. Found it so-so, and got completely lost in the last few chapters, so I didn't get his follow-up right away when it was first published.

Strangely enough, I came face to face with it a few weeks ago while looking for another author, and decided to give it a go.

Am really glad I did. :)

In a nutshell, The Magicians is what I'd describe as a very grown-up, very vulgar and very disconcerting version of the Harry Potter series. The characters begin their education at the age of 18, experiment wildly with everything from booze to drugs to sex and dangerous spells of all varieties, then embark on a perilous adventure to a Narnia-like world which is actually a milllion times more evil.

The central character, Quentin Coldwater, is richly yet delicately drawn. He doesn't have a tragic history like Harry Potter, but possesses his own personal demons, and is far from likeable in the conventional sense. He is egoistic, sulky, anti-social and unfaithful. But he also displays a great talent, earning a place in the fast-track programme at school, and wins the love of a fellow top student.

Ambiguity is the common thread among all the principal characters, with Quentin's close-knit group of friends garnering the most page-time. Girlfriend Alice is wonderfully interesting -- small in stature but huge in magical strength. Eliot is clearly gay and alcohol-dependent, but provides comic relief when least expected. Then there's Penny, the punky but super-uptight fellow ( yes, he's a guy ) who leads his friends to Fillory, a land which was originally thought to be fictional, but soon turns out to be frighteningly real.

The novel has garnered rave reviews from all the top critics, and it's easy to see why.
Grossman's style is abundantly peppered with words that make me reach for my dictionary, but maintains a smooth texture and never sinks into dullness. I love reading his detailed descriptions of Quentin's school, with its supernatural fountains, hidden passages and a marvelous welters board ( read the book if you need to know ). The characters' relationships are in a constant flux, and I enjoy the fact that each chapter brings an entirely new dynamic into play.

Humour is what won me over, with 2 references making me literally laugh out loud. One mentions Quidditch, and the other - of all things - The Karate Kid. Reading the line "wax on, wax off" during a most appropriate incident was priceless!

Where mind-boggling scenarios are concerned, there are too many to choose from. Just off the top of my head: 1) Quentin's audition for magician's college, 2) the many lessons the students participate in, 3) a beautiful rite of passage involving a trip to the South Pole, 4) the terrifying first encounter with The Beast and, of course, 5) their entire journey through Fillory, with a nail-biting confrontation with The Beast -- can't imagine how that will translate onto the screen, if someone ever decides to make a movie / TV series out of this.

Grossman's already juggling ideas for a sequel, as clearly indicated in the last page, when Quentin embarks on a new adventure.

Next time, I'll be sure to make a reservation at the library. :)

At the moment, I'm hooked on Laurell K. Hamilton, whom I knew nothing about until my eyes happened to glance over at a nearby shelf while searching for something else. All the early Anita Blake novels are on loan, so I decided to sample her short story collection.
So far, it's been an exhilarating ride!
Hamilton doesn't favour bombastic vocabulary like Grossman, but her simple and concise prose is equally evocative, and works extremely well in this format. She can flesh out characters in 20 pages flat, make you love or hate them, and make your skin crawl as well.
I'm only halfway through this, and have already encountered zombies, vampires, demons, lake monsters, elves, black and white healers, and violently persistent Cupid cherubs.
If your head's spinning, I don't blame you.
It's a rollercoaster, but the adrenaline rush is so worth it!

Another book I'm eyeing: Tom Holland's The Vampyre, which claims Lord Byron was a member of the blood-sucking family. Semi-fictional - I hope.
( And yes, I stumbled across it at the library. Heh. :))

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Photo Break

As I reach the last hour of a HORRIBLE night shift, my thoughts drift ( no pun intended :)) to the Sea World Aquarium.

This is just one of many photos taken at this wonderful place. I could've spent a couple of hours just standing and staring at the display, but not possible when you're with your mum, plus 2 other friends.

The variety of fish is staggering, and the reef an explosion of vibrant colour. Here's a female visitor doing some snorkeling, with a shark swimming around below her ( not pictured ).

Love the tranquil New Age soundtrack playing in the background. Dropped by on a Sunday so the place was packed with family groups. But the kids were very well-behaved, and everyone huddled in hushed awe.

A definite must-see if you're ever at the Gold Coast.

By the way, a big hello to the regular visitor from Google headquarters, whoever you may be. Always an honour to have any Google staff member show an interest in my inane rants. :)

Anyway, I just discovered that the Adam Lambert video has been removed from YouTube, due to copyright issues. Boo...

A consolation: YouTube now mysteriously works on my office computer, though I doubt this will last. So I'm posting another link for your viewing pleasure - something from So You Think You Can Dance Season 4, which I'm currently watching on cable's AXN channel.

So far, this is the one routine I remember and love. Mark Kanemura - the sexy dude in this video - transformed from a quirky dancer who did crab-like movements at his auditions, into an utterly believable Spanish Lothario.

I can't dance, but I do enjoy watching the pros do it. :)

And make sure you watch them salsa, yow!

Time to do an exit round.