Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Switzerland - Part 1 / TV Show Updates

I returned to Singapore 9 days ago, and proceeded to suffer for the next 5 days from severe jet lag, headache and nausea.

It sounds terrible, I know, but here's the thing: the tour itself was great, but the after-effects felt like withdrawal symptoms.

The jet lag was surprising. If I can adjust to 12-hour time zone differences ( U.S. ), 6 hours ( Switzerland ) should be a breeze.

I think this particularly bad phase has a significant contribution from the acclimatization process. When you're exposed to 5 degree Celsius weather daily for 2 weeks, getting hit with 32 degrees, plus haze and oppressive humidity, can't be good for you.

The other unexpected post-holiday reaction: extreme depression upon starting work. This has NEVER happened post-vacation before, not even when I loathed coming back home from France, which I LOVE to death. That year, I was practically euphoric when I stepped into the ER after 3 weeks away. This time, I felt like killing myself. I'm not joking.

I've been trying to figure this out, without success. But looking through the photos I took ( like this one of Lake Lucerne ), I guess despite not experiencing as much passion for Switzerland as I did for France, there may be some underlying emotion that I'm unaware of, which then bubbled to the surface upon coming home.

Weird, yes. And it had BETTER NOT happen again. I can't take it!

Another lovely feature of Switzerland aside from its breath-taking scenery and relaxed pace of life: minimal noise.

Even in the major cities - Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne - I don't recall hearing much in terms of traffic or human chatter. My mom even commented today that she doesn't remember any screaming babies or children. Strange, eh?
So I guess the noise factor is also related to my post-trip pain. The decibel levels in Singapore are atrocious!

The 2nd photo is of Lake Brienz, where we made a very brief stop to stretch our legs and do a bit of shopping. This shot turned out to be one of the best from the entire tour, even though the actual place wasn't that spectacular.

But I really love this picture. It illustrates perfectly everything I enjoyed about the trip - nature in all its splendour and serenity, inviting you to sit and marvel in awe at God's creations.

I definitely felt very close to Him, especially when our coach went weaving through mountains and valleys, or when we stayed at inns perched at high altitudes, and mountains greeted us every time we stood at our window.

My favourite is, without a doubt, Grindelwald. But more on that in a later entry. :)

Here's another photo I especially love, also from Brienz. You had to be there to appreciate the moment fully. I happen to have a weakness for water fowl, and when they're present in large numbers, I can stand there watching them forever.

Ahh, it was such a beautiful morning. I shall never forget it. :D

Part 2 will follow soon.

Something else that's dear to my heart: Dexter Morgan.

Season 7 premiered in the U.S. on 30 September, and thanks to the Internet, I've been able to catch 2 episodes just hours after they aired.

It is, hands down, my favourite TV series ever. Sure, it's had ups and downs, but no other character appeals to me more, and I hope Michael C. Hall wins an Emmy soon before the show ends after season 8.

It's hard to top season 4, which won guest actor John Lithgow a well-deserved Emmy for his role as a vicious serial killer, and provided some of television's most nail-biting plot developments.

Season 7 has a rather jerky start after season 6's jaw-dropping cliffhanger, but according to People magazine, things pick up after episode 4, so I'm looking forward to that!

Apart from the TV series, I'm also an ardent fan of Jeff Lindsay's novels, which are completely different from the small-screen adaptation ( only season 1 comes close ). Each medium offers different rewards - the books are hilarious, but glaring loopholes abound. The TV show is thus superior, thanks in large part to Hall's spot-on portrayal of a complex character, adding more layers with each new season.

In fact, I love Dexter so much I keep wishing he'd find a soulmate so he can vanquish all his inner demons and finally lead a normal life. No more fun for us viewers, but his happiness is much more important!

Dexter's relationship with his foster sister, Deb ( played beautifully by Jennifer Carpenter ), was veering toward the romantic ( though one-sided ) on TV, but remains purely platonic in the books. I'm a little ambivalent about this, but considering the fact that Hall and Carpenter used to be married, it's nothing short of amazing how convincing their on-screen performances are. No animosity at all - trust me, I'm scrutinizing their every move haha. Someone give them their Emmys already!

God I love this show. :D

Another big fave - The Good Wife. Followed this from season 1, and it just keeps getting better and better. That said, many series tend to peak in season 3 or 4, so I'm not sure if the writers can keep this up. I certainly hope so. :)

The cast has always been the big draw for me, but 2 episodes into season 4, it's clear that the writing team is upping its game tremendously. The cases are riveting, but the banter is top-notch. And let's not forget the subplots, ranging from the law firm's financial troubles ( $60 million, no less ) and Alicia Florrick's ( Julianna Margulies ) complicated marital issues, to her husband's heated run for Governor ( challenged by the deliciously sinister Matthew Perry, aka Chandler from Friends ) and law firm P.I. Kalinda's S&M-tinged entanglements with her terrifying husband.

Also, the cast is one of the most uniformly good-looking I've ever seen. Margulies is 46 but has never been more glamourous, and the men ( Chris Noth, Matt Czuchry, Josh Charles, Alan Cumming ) are all actors whose work I've followed for many years, and they age magnificently.

Please, if you aren't watching The Good Wife yet, this is the time to start!

A couple of new programmes to highlight, the first being Elementary. Also 2 episodes in, and I'm hooked. The main reason is Jonny Lee Miller, who plays Sherlock Holmes with a jittery, wild-eyed anxiety that works surprisingly well. Forget about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dry mysteries, Robert Downey Jr's heroics and Benedict Cumberpatch's regal disdain. I'm a fan of RDJ's modern take, but JLM is sexier, radiates far more intelligence ( and at least makes sense, in contrast to BC's incomprehensible ramblings ), and demonstrates the most vulnerability ( undergoing drug rehab; father never visits but instead hires a paid companion for him; has a strange fear of playing the violin, his face contorting with pain at the mention of the instrument ).

By the way, JLM played the leader of a serial killer gang in Dexter season 5. He was FANTASTIC. :)

My sole grouse about Elementary: the honestly inappropriate casting of Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson.
First, she looks like a pure Chinese, so what's with the ang-moh name?
Second, Liu is famous for firecracker roles ( Ally McBeal, Charlie's Angels, Shanghai Noon ). Watson is too calm, too dour, too withdrawn. Is she going to be like this for the entire series?
Third, the 'companion' plotline is ludicrous. I'm quite open-minded about stupid or insane stories as long as they're fun and well-written ( e.g. Dexter, Suits, American Horror Story ), but a skilled surgeon giving up her medical career to become a babysitter? Come on...

No matter. I will continue to tune in for JLM alone. The crimes are nowhere as challenging as those in Law & Order, The Closer, The Good Wife or The Practice, but I'm hopeful that things will improve.

Besides, JLM takes his shirt off quite regularly. Sherlock has an older brother, Mycroft. Will he appear at some point? Will he be equally hot? :)

The last of the new shows I'd like to rave about is Major Crimes. A spin-off from The Closer ( which I love immensely ), it has kept most of the cast intact, with a few new additions in the form of Mary McDonnell ( lead character Sharon Raydor, above in the grey jacket and blue skirt ) and Graham Patrick Martin ( as key witness and troubled teen Rusty Beck, on the extreme right ).

Already at episode 8, the series received a lukewarm response when it premiered immediately after The Closer ended ( 7 successful seasons, mind you ). And I admit I wasn't pleased either. Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda Leigh Johnson was widely acclaimed ( scoring Emmy nods ) and a veritable firecracker, while McDonnell plays Raydor with a whispery voice and unflappable demeanour. Johnson had a propensity for losing her temper and banging tables during interrogation; Raydor rarely bats an eyelid at anything.

Here's where Martin plays an important part. Rusty was introduced in the series finale of The Closer, portraying a hustler whose run-in with a serial killer placed him under protective police custody. Initially cared for by Johnson, her departure from the major crimes division for personal reasons results in Rusty being transferred to Raydor.

What seemed like an irrelevant subplot has transformed into a huge revelation. Rusty's misfortunes make him highly suspicious and rebellious, yet as time passes, his bond with Raydor deepens in a heartwarming manner which is thoroughly believable.

Episode 7 made me reach for multiple tissues when Raydor located Rusty's biological father and the latter misinterpreted her kind gesture as an attempt to get rid of him. There's a tense exchange as Rusty's insecurities escalate into sheer panic, and Raydor is obviously distressed by his meltdown. This is the first time Rusty lets down his guard and shows his true age ( only 16 ), with Raydor uncharacteristically losing her composure as well. Truly heart-breaking, and GREAT TV!

Martin's 20, but still looks like a kid. I predict great things ahead in his acting career if he makes the right choices.

Thanks for reading this long entry. Was feeling inspired. Another effect from the Swiss trip? :)

To conclude, a photo dedicated to pure indulgence ( haven't done that in a while ). You know who it is, right? Smack yourself on the head if you don't. Heh. :D

Till next time...

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Swimming With Sharks Review

VERY good indeed. :)

Hope I can post an entry about my recent trip to Switzerland. Once I get over the jet lag and headache / nausea induced by the awful local weather, blech.