Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Incoming Bull Run

28th January 2009, Wednesday

So the Lunar New Year came and gone...work resumes on this day but a truncated week should see us still buoyed in festivities mood surely....

The new year brings in what they call the "golden ox" but the wave of retrenchment in many sound companies like Caterpillar and Pfizer surely seems like the ox is trying to replace human in terms of employment...Ultimately we just had to slog like an ox to ensure we have a job to keep the money in by the end of the day.

The preparation of the New Year didn't started off on the right foot when yen rate as compared for Singapore dollars rose to unprecedented (or at least since I start noticing the rate because of traveling to my motherland) rate of 1.72!
While really setback on my plan of exchanging at 1.55 just weeks ago, it also resulted in my good friend over at La Tendo to increase their new stock according to the rate.
However that was not the sole excuse to jack the price of a set of prized item figurines (Part 1 out of 11) which I had my eyes on to collect for this year to $210 for mere 7 figurines...and each is barely as tall as my right thumb?!
I'm sure it was down to terrible assortment issue that the lads resorted to such exorbitant means but still I just couldn't help ranting about it...surely not worth to pay so much...money saved in such hard times for sure...

Pretty much the same old routine for the next few days just a change of schedule and scenery here and there....
Met up some relatives who we had not seen for a while now and I developed a sweet tooth over the course of the few days and now it seemed body was inflamed with the heatiness from all those New year delicacies.
Dialed "999" for the 1st time in my life to get the police to inspect a rampant stomping of the door of my Malay neighbors a level below us which woke the family at 12 midnight on the 1st day of the New year. Turned out it wasn't loan shark or a drunken man as we fear but our inconsiderate neighbors themselves as their grandpa with hearing impairment had padlocked the main door...don't they know of a technology called telephone?!
Got a ride on my brother-in-law's luxury toy, his BMW wagon which was surely a state of the art and comfort included....
Played some mahjong with the family when Lady Luck smiled on my old man and my missus who were just picking the game as of late...talk about beginners' luck...

The coming year by some almanac fortune-telling would be quite okay for those under the year of horse with our lucky color white (yes....white socks everyday). Need to curb on my temperament and seemingly I will meet my fated benefactor...let's hope so....

Meanwhile with the New Year gone, all I can look forward to now is the start of a new S League season and of course my trip to Japan in 2 weeks time....

Japanese word of the day: ウシ ~U-shi~ (Ox) Yah better not blow it off like a bull in the china shop this year

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Hawaiian Affair at Goodwood

19th January 2009, Monday

This year's Dinner and Dance theme was an "Hawaiian Affair" with strong reference (wonder did they paid the legal rights to Disney) to the 2002 animated feature, "Lilo & Stitch" with Hawaii as the backdrop of the story.

Unlike themes like Masquerade (unless I had visited Venice or Water 7) and Shanghai Night (not into oriental clothing) in the past years, this year theme allowed me to just dig out this really old Bossini Hawaiian shirt and complete with my favorite (and only decent pair) bermudas from Uniqlo 3 years ago and a pair of flip flops, I couldn't had wished for an easier time to dress up for a DnD.

The event was scheduled to start at 6, but my usual procrastination saw me sashaying to the ballroom of Goodwood Park Hotel by 7 with my colleague CH, whom I encountered while surviving the mad crowd in the Orchard MRT stationon a Friday evening.
With the complimentary garlands as well as the coconut drink on the table, the organizing committee surely went a great length to build the mood.

Our table were slowly occpied but only XY came earlier than us as the event kick started with a Stomp-like performance from the organizing committee which did got the crowd going.
Then there were the Hawaiian duo (who look suspiciously like Eastern European because of their features and accents) entertaining us with some Hawaiian dance and got some rather drunk staff up to play drums and learn some dance moves as well.
The generous "flesh" display was something to drool at, with the night's theme some ladies in the crowd were also dressed to the occasion the whole evening surely is a feast for the eyes especially the all-ladies table across us...
The event company this year were helmed by a rotund emcee who reminded me abit of the late MC King.
He was quick-witted but too many local anecdotes which can be running dry at times...

The mass games were quite fun...Your truly was the bane of my group, causing us to lose because of a wrong choice of apparel to wear during the relay.
One of our bosses, the Chinese one were thoroughly high with alcohol and didn't shy off from publicly taunting the opposition which was a great fun to watch...once again inclusive of the directors, it's good to see the fun-loving nature to these people who meant business most of the time during office hours.
Then there were the best dress competition which we saw a deputy director up for the awards for a 2nd year in a row, well at least he bothered to put in effort for the occasion.

The climax boils down to the lucky draw with a 42 inch Plasma TV the main kitty.
I had my eyes on the leg massager but in the end got a slow cooker....better than nothing you say?
Well it was quite a hassle transporting it from the hotel to the MRT station before calling the missus to pick me up.
In the end, the slow cooker was not much used for Mom nor anyone or put up for auction, yet it was a pity to throw away...perhaps must find time to donate it to Salvation Army or something.

A rather enjoyable DnD despite the lack of some personnel from the past and surely will be missed by more in the coming year...

Japanese word of the day: 海岸の衣類(Beachwear) I would veto for a Bali night next year followed by Caribbean or Maldives one in the future.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sengoku VS Sangokushi

13th January 2009, Tuesday

Men are bestiary creatures and the yearn to engage in wars had been testament of that point for thousand of years....
Lately the Israeli army had been displaying new tricks against the tacky Hamas militants at the Gaza strip which the entire world seek a ceasefire real soon.
Personally I am thoroughly anti-military, and if there are no wars, there might be no need of self defense thus no army..Yoohoo...but you and are know it'll never happen.

However I do like to watch military movies...not really for the large scaling killings or genocides but during such turbulent times, we tend to see extraordinary people risen to prominence, some even as martyr...

Over the weekend, I managed to whet my appetite for some romantic (not in terms of actual romance but more like spicing things up) take of some ancient history of both Japan and China.

First up, the new taiga dorama "Tenchijin" from NHK...
2008's "Atsuhime" was a huge success and saw the meteoric rise of main actress, Miyazaki Aoi. The tale which told the main patriarch who oversaw the bakumatsu and the end of the Tokugawa shogunate reign ended rather bleakly after the 50 episodes run with many main characters passing away at such tender ages...
Tenchijin brings us back to the Sengoku jidai closely associated to 2007's "Furinkazan". chronicalizing the story behind Naoe Kanetsugu, a loyal retainer serving 2 generations of the Uesugu damiyo, most notably Uesugu Kagekutsu who he was made to grow up with.
The opening scene was set at the familiar Osaka Castle (which we had been of course) when one of the great damiyo, Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to woo Naoe who he had great admiration for to join his camp only to be rejected boldly as he pledged his allegiance to his donno, Kagekutsu despite the lure of wealth and even the threat of death.
Episode 1 mainly started with his youth as in the regular fashion of previous taiga doramas when he was forced at the age of 5 to assist Kanetsugu, himself only a few years older in grooming to become a competant sucessor to Uesugu Kenshin.
The 5 year old boy had a great performance and one surely felt for him to made to leave his parents at such tender age. but we all know this is the making of another great man.

Once again NHK managed to gather an ensemble cast to make this series a must watch. Great actors of various generations were selected to build a chemistry on screen perhaps for once in a lifetime opportunity.
Tsumabumi Satoshi, the other half (or ex) of Shibasaki Kou, who renowed for his acting ability since "Water Boys" and stepped into the lead role of Naoe comfortably.
The 2 Uesugi damiyos he served are heavyweights themselves. Abe Hiroshi was truly convincing as Kenshin while Kitamura Kazuki (of Akihabara@Deep and Yaoh) fame was a solemn Kanetsugu, the latter would be a crucial cast for most part of the series for sure.

Even within the first episodes you'll see many familiar faces from the doramas you had watched ut just can't link the name to, for example Naoe (or when he was young was known as Yoroku)'s borth mother was reprised by Tanaka Misako, who was a great actress as a mother in shows like "2nd Chance" and "Brother Beat".
Many top tier young idols were roped in for his series including Oguri Shun (no intro needed), Shirota Yu (Tezuka in Prince of Tennis, Rookies), Koizumi Kotaro (former PM son, Gokusen 3) and Tamayama Tetsuji (Brother Beat).
Surely such masculine series need some gentle feminine touch how about the likes of Tokiwa Takako (20th Century Boy, Beautiful Life), Fukuda Kyoko (To Heart, Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake), Aibu Saki (Zettai Kareshi, Triangle), Nagasawa Masami (Proposal Daisakusen, Last Friend) and Kimura Yoshino (Over Time, Perfect Love).

Such eye candies make a history lesson less sleep inducing for sure and of course very eager to see how these characters get out of the predicaments during war and rise into prominence...

IN the 1st episode, there was a mention of Zhuge Liang is the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper to Liu Bei's Big Dipper.
It truly was a surprised that they drew a referance to the Three Kingdom history of China which is coincidental that on Sunday I caught the 2nd part of the epic film "Red Cliff" (has it been half a year already?!).
It carries on where the story ended the last time with Cao Cao's troop managed to build in strength at the base across the red cliff with his naval forces looking decent despite they hailed from the inland North.
The weaker alliance between Sun Quan's army and Liu Bei's feeble force had to plot whatever means to fend off the arrogant Northerners who claimed to be carrying out the Court's orders.

For a good hour or so, there were more tactical on the paper with Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang working their wits which is perhaps the best part of this 2nd half.
The part with Sun Shang Xiang infiltrating the Cao's camp and report everything via doves to the allies was a bit far fetched; she even made friend with this blockhead who was promoted as a commander because he can kick soccer well (and he looks uncannily like that blockhead hubby of Faye Wong).
Of course, my most hated involvement of Lin Zhiling as Xiao Qiao was pretty okay in the end as she played to the main outcome of the war as John Woo had wanted it.

Overall the actual breakout of the battle was what people anticipated and with the help of CG, it didn't fared too badly at all.
I like the part when John Woo put the light that Cao Cao was a motivator to his army and he showed compassionate side when talking about his youngest offspring.
I also fancy the intensity the Sun Quan's army felt when their commander asked them about their will and not to fear death
The aftermath of the battle with the field covered with perished soldiers and Zhao Yun mentioned, "There was no winner, everyone lost" was quite relevant to the context of why there shouldn't be war but those with powers just don't give a hoot.

Think John Woo did the best he could with an endearing piece of literature based on an important part of Chinese history.
He jazzed things up which might led to some frowns from avid fans of the story...
Kudos to the cinematic exposure with the CG, the massive battle ensemble and the details of the costume, backdrop and weaponry, but I really don't think this is a classic...

Anyway still good to catch up abit on how people of great importance of the past rose to the occasion when situation requires them....

Japanese word of the day: 戦士 ~sen-shi~(Warrior) Who is your favorite actor to be a notable warrior of the past? I would think Abe Hiroshi more than Tony Leung

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

7th January 2009, Wednesday

Over the course of the last week as the year draws to an end, you can see plenty of award show or year-end or countdown gig in Japan.
The line-up of artists generally remained the same...from the usual A list to those with a good performance or breakthrough act for the year.
In 2008, there was an 8 year old girl Ohashi Nozomi and 2 60 something uncles Fujioka Fujimaki who broke into the scene circa July 2008..the song "Gake no Ue no Ponyo", the theme song of the latest Studio Ghibli theatrical production of the same name.

Since conceptualized in 2006, grand master Miyazaki Hayao and his lads from Studio Ghibli had been back to the drawing board for yet another comeback after his son's failed project "Gedo Senki (Tales of the Earthsea)".
A story which Miyazaki sensei came out with when staying with a friend at Tomonomura and took him 170,000 hand-drawndrawings to make.
It was perhaps the movie with the biggest box office netting in Japan but then no Studio Ghibli productions fare too badly (yes even Gedo); everyone knows the excellent track records for sure.

Here in Singapore, there are a bunch of rabid Studio Ghibli fans perhaps me, my wife and my La Tendo chums could be part of that demographic group.
On Saturday, much appreciation from Bryan and Yanhui who gave us a movie treat for the birthday gifts we bought them; the timing however was near midnight when we took like one of the last train to town which was really an experience.

Despite the show time, the theater was all packed with many local fans alike to discover the magic of the sea creature known as Ponyo.
101 minutes later many of us were bought by the simplicity Studio Ghibli had delivered with Miyazaki's beautiful visual extravaganza.
The story which resembles Little Mermaid's wish to be a human was very well written without any beating round the bush.
The typical environmental message was strongly heard when the seabed at the opening scenes were polluted by human activities while the former human father of Ponyo, Fujimoto plotting a revenge on the human race.
Ponyo is an infectious little sea pixie who resembles Mei from "Tonari no Totoro" and watching her all drained and exhausted from using her powers, one just can't stop giggling and for the missus, the eyelids getting as heavy as hers.
The tsunami thread mill for Ponyo as well as when she expands Sousuke's toy boat are just scenes to behold.
The old world seas creatures which appear after the flood also revealed the amount of research done and surely up the alley of those aqua-enthusiasts.
The couple beside us were having a great time chatting about the storyline but ourselves as well as Vincent and Miyano at the other side too enjoyed so much we couldn't stop chatting about it.

The nice flow of the storyline was well complimented by the enchanting music by Miyazaki's old chum, Joe Hisaishi who also written the theme song of the movie as mentioned and seen below:

Personally I prefer this over "Howl's Moving Castle" but "Laputa- Castle in the Sky" is still my all time favorite Ghibli movie... I know Miyazaki-san is nearing seventy but I do hope for more quality stuff from him in the future

Japanese word of the day: 崖 ~ga-ke~ (Cliff) There's a scene of flashing signaling between Sousuke and his father at sea which reminds me of my navy days

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Monday, January 05, 2009

2009...what will it bring?

5th January 2009, Monday

After a good fortnight of leisure time at the comfort of home, staying up playing Football Manager till the wee hours and slept till noon, it's back to waking up at 6 in the morning, 5 days week at work doing routine stuff, mad rushing for public transport and fought valiant among the dark force of Unruk Hai on the platform...hey that pays for my livelihood, so no qualms...just slowly need to get the groove back...

I knew I had problem falling back to sleep at 12 midnight so to have ample rest the next day, but I didn't anticipate a bout of insomnia which at this point as I am typing this, I'm amazed that my eye lids managed to be kept open.

2009 at work seemed to be very much like the latter quarter of 2008 with projects piling up and datelines to meet as my team trying to appease all the bosses and collaborators.
I still see Shitty Green but not for long as he would be residing in Boston for almost half of his time...It is still sketchy who will take over...But the prospect of anything good looks bleak (appraisal, bonus, promotion et al) but at this climate, I'm just glad to have my job and I'm willing to pledge my allegiance for a long term any day.
The annual dinner and dance will be round the corner as well; great time to interact with our direct colleagues...well surely not as fun without BY's persistant worries about who to sit and what not, but still mandatory to show my presence somehow.

Back to work also means back to working out which I really need as for the past 2 weeks of lack of boisterous physical activities, I'm starting to feel my age...Stepping on the threadmill today, my stamina had decimated to nothing, but I have faith I can build it up again.
IPT is just a week away to...just want to get done with it as well as another daunting trip to Kao Hsiung and I don't want to hear no more from the forces for the rest of the year.

Chinese New Year at the tail end of this month, when we bearly welcome the new year...while mood is not there once again but for the likes of our folks, we just had treat it seriously...
Perhaps another tour of the households of the La Tendo clique is something to look forward to...surely won't be a long weekend (from Saturday to Tuesday) to savor

The new year brings new footballing extravaganza..in the local flavor...
After the despondent loss to Vietnam in the AFF Suzki Cup semi finals, the Lions now have a daunting task to qualify for the Asian Cup with the mighty Iran as well as Jordan and Thailand awaiting to skewer us...but we will hold the believe we can conquor them all.
S League begins in early March, and things are buzzing at Hougang Stadium for our beloved Sengkang recently...sure positive vibes to keep us so excited...

Then there is the Japan trip which is very much conceptualized and waiting to be delivered...
We are hoping for an amazing free fall of yen rate for the next few weeks now...*crossing our fingers*

All in all, 2009 remains uncertain times...I'm not too optimistic neither do I have ground to be pessimistic...Just hope I would stay off any radar of unwanted and tacky affairs and lead my comfy life as I want to....

Japanese word of the day: 好まない(reluctant) Reluctance to come back to work reuslt in insomnia..sure is scary

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