Monday, November 30, 2009

Pure Adrenaline Rush

30th November 2009, Monday

A really thrilling long weekend for me at least, maybe even a bit imprudent with the expenditure.

Everything started on Friday with Hari Raya Haji being a much welcomed break after a tumultuous week dealing with Shitty Green and his insolent demands for his project.
I had made plans with CS as mentioned previously weeks before as he tried to sell me "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves".
Before embarking on my journey to his place at Serangoon North Ave 1, I had got a setback with regards to the official bluetooth headset which is the most crucial tool for online gaming via Playstation 3.
A mutual gamer friend, BH had fell short in snaring that item just days prior and it seems like the chance of me getting that on Friday looked bleak.
However a quick stop by at Funz Center after buying the movie tickets at Cathay Cineplex, I was delighted to see a restock had taken place and I wasted no time to snag one off the shelf.
In fact I should have bought a couple more as later we realized.

Before having my hands on to the Naughty Dog produced game, it was the usual series of trailers for upcoming games which CS had scoured from 3 PS network.
EA's "Dragon Age Origin" had tingle the heart strings but it was "Final Fantasy XIII" had indicated why it was a game worth waiting for.

"Uncharted 2" definitely was engaging and really work on the treasure hunting factor which made it so appealing.
The graphics were stunning, gameplay accessible, storyline solid, characters likeable and dialogues quirly.
No wonder it received all the accolades since its release.
Before I knew it I was 1/3 through the game as CS had a quick nap along the way.
He did demonstrated the online multiplayer mode which was seamless and relishing the prospect of endless hours of fun especially when now we can communicate using our bluetooth earpiece.

We caught Roland Emmerich's spanking new disaster movie, and the mother of them all, "2012".
It was a movie that made my poor wife wept uncontrollably as she pondered on the prospect of that same scenario happening in the reality, knowing there was no where we could run and hide.
The movie packed with non-stop roller coaster ride as Emmerich and his crew just banged on fast paced action to keep audience on the edge of their seats while laughing wryly on how on earth could the main protagonist, the author reprise by John Cusack could dodge so many near deaths.
It sort of made us overlook how porous the storyline actually was but overwhelmed by the CG-made spectacle.
It definite was one of Emmerich's better films of late and I rated it better than "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" combined.

Saturday was spent solely at SITEX, the final of the 4 big IT conventions our tiny island hosts in a single year.
The objective to venture east to the Singapore Expo for it was to net a reasonably-priced portable hard disk drive.
There were definitely plenty on show with the likes of Seagate, Toshiba, Western Digital, Samsung etc hogging the limelight.
But with a real sage in the form of CS by our side to state that Western Digital should be more trustworthy because of the country of its origin and we were thrilled to net a 2.5" WD Passport with 750GB space which should last me a while.

We were joined shortly by TW. It was the first time since his wedding that the three of us got to meet up and sparks flew there and then.
TW had been captivated by "Dragon Age Origin" and had been harping over it meanwhile we had a rib on CS when he came clueless on how to undergo his marriage proposal.
The missus was urging on the discussion of the likely destination for a much anticipated 2010 Japan trip, a tenth anniversary commemoration for "Tokyo Wreckers".
However it was not the right place and the right time.

We headed back into the claustrophobic-ward off Exhibition 5 & 6 as TW wanted to have a look at the laptop available, he would like to get for his wife.
Instead it was us who made a purchase with a Belkin Tunebase FM with Hands Free, a great tool for the iPhone or even iPods when cruising in the car.
The gadget meant to plug in the cigarette lighter allows the driver to charge his iPhone while listening to the songs stored in it using an unused frequency to amplify on the car audio system, while also enable incoming call to be received hands free.
It was an ideal gift for the missus for an early X'mas as she had been scouring high and low for such a device and at a reasonable price we just grabbed it.

This was after taking into consideration of the location of the cigarette lighter which was less accessible on the usual.
We put CS in the stress chamber when it looked unlikely for a while that the connection could be properly made.
The wager would be if it failed he would be left stranded in the Expo car park in the pouring rain, of course it was going to work in the end.

Our next stop was the Ikea Megastore at Tampines.
I had never been to this outlet since its opening a couple of years back despite being a great supporter of the affordable Swedish furniture manufacturer.
The main objective for us would be looking for a new workstation chair as the situation looked more chronic when my fat ass managed to break a foldable chair the other day, itself a replacement for the actual throne early this year.
In the end we had the eyes on one with an extended back rest by the model name of Markus and at $399 looked a steal as similar models would cost much more elsewhere.
However I would not want to jump the gun and give leeway for more searching for a longer shortlist.
The missus was also mindful of what the plan to convert Sis' room into her personal workspace once she moved out to her own place.
A nice white bookshelf with classy glass door seemed perfect but there was always going to be space constraint.

En route to drop my close buddies off to their respective residence, TW suddenly prompted an interest to get online for our "Uncharted 2" party which basically jolt CS into life.
My wife even obliged to turn to Ang Mo Kio where TW could pick up the game and the bluetooth headset from Funz Center.
Suddenly a ray of hopeful glare shone on CS' nonchalant face as he was jittery that it might not work out as we inched closer and closer to AMK Hub.
My wretched mouth spewed the possibility of the headset would be sold out and by sheer ill fate that was the situation when we got to Funz Center which was back to starting comment that I should had stocked up on in when a friend might in need of one.
It turned out to be a fruitless hunt for the AMK region as I even contemplated in borrowing from Chan who was stranded at La Tendo at that juncture.
As we trudged disappointing back to the shopping mall, TW made a last resort as he made his way to the Sony shop in Bishan Junction 8 to look for one while we sent CS home.

Along the way both of us got the missed call from TW who brought us the heartwarming news that he had successfully snared a piece from the shop and our plan for a late night online rendezvous looked palpable especially with Peiling not in the household at the Fus.

We began the online frenzy at the stipulated time of midnight as CS had to lower his volume considerably with his other half getting some well earned sleep after a week of hard work.
We did had many sleepovers dabbling with console games while sports genre is the one that usually allowed us to play side by side but for real multi-playability with such an eye for details only wi-fi or lan connection is able to support.

TW has a penchant for Monster Hunter Portable which allowed him and his mates to meet up to go hunting together but soon it would be likely to be addicted to hook online to the PS3 and with games like "Uncharted" and in near future "Lost Planet 2" allowing seamless game play online.
Our shenanigans of killing computer generated military drones carried on till the wee hours of Sunday before we felt enough was enough.

The next day a text message from CS revealed that he surely had the hunger for more, so expect yours truly to reacquainted with my decades-old buddies on the virtual realms soon.
It was also bodes well that the missus had fun watching us fooling ourselves in the game while helping me solve treasure hunting problems in the game too.
Japanese word of the day: オンラインゲーム(Online Game) We sure had picked it up a bit too late

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Monday, November 23, 2009

AFA 2009

23rd November 2009, Monday

Two straight days of waking up early standing all day long in a convention hall filled with rabid teenage anime loving critters ain't the best way to spend the weekend...Welcome to Anime Festival Asia 2009!

The event arrived in a crescendo of disgruntles for hiking their entrance so waywardly ($15 for a single day entry and $25 for the 2 days which was so many times higher than the $5 and $8 last year).

The exhibitors had to foot a high cost for 2 days rental which was why the usual suspects like Toys n Toys did not even bother showing.
As for our dear ol' La Tendo, the booth was exactly the same size as last year but was a stand-alone complex this time round as seen below:

Ready for action

Despite being embedded in the heart of the part they called the AKB (akiba) Town, there were few and far between competitors for the trade they were dabbling in.
Bandai hogged much of the space, ruled by the despotic Sheng Tai Toys who barred other retailers from selling Bandai products.
Bandai really went all out to display their up and coming as well as recently released gashapons, plastic models, children toys and what not; and together with Danny Choo's Tokyo Toy Show which featured GSC and Max Factory s' figurines, it was an attraction for local collectors especially those who had never been to an event like Wonder Festival.
Speaking of the famed otaku blogger, his presence was felt since day one as he saunteered the hall during the set-up.
Shedding his usual Storm Trooper suit, Danny was almost unrecognizable except for his horde of mindless fans.
KKnM like LT took 4 stall space and segregated into sections for their own products, COSPA collaboration and introducing a battle card game. As usual a beeline was formed on regular basis over at their side.
Passion Toys were in cahoots with their usual accomplice, Takashimya and had an ominous feel to it this year as people reported seeing a certain Stephan Sing from ODEX lobbying for their new venture in Dakimakura (Pillow case) with anime characters printed on it, they realized they can never bank on selling lackluster anime series to people no more.
There was one other figurine retailer by a sheer unknown name of "Robo Robo". Beside engaging in a price war for GSC's Saber Lily with La Tendo, their list of items looked to be of a private collection status.
Some booths just pique my curiosity in their involvement.
Our direct neighbour was Simply Fun who sell official DVDs of films brought in by Encore Films which usually dabbles in Japanese and Korean affairs. They had a bundle offer for the entire repertoire of Studio Ghibli productions but only Ponyo on the Cliff was in my wishlist for now.
There was also a OIO Frozen Yogurt booth just adjacent from us which would be the favorite snack bar during the two days except the yogurt making machine was constantly down for repair while the sales coordinator were donned in the worst outfit possible: a black & white (like Yin Yang) one piece dress which revealed too much of their elephant thighs.

Stephan Sing thought Domo-kun can help atone for his sins

Last year LT sold some printable chocolate and this year Tay-chan's friends came in full force and left many bewildered of their participation.
But at least they drew slightly more interest than Brother International who was there to sell printers while Singpost made their presence felt promoting some Oyako-TOFUman.
UCC Cafe had good response for their Evangelion cans while CTC Travels should garner enough interest for their affordable otaku pilgrimage trip to Japan.
But the biggest seller of them all was this stall which we nicknamed as the weaponry lair selling mock weapons in replica of those famous swords found in series like "Bleach" and "Fate/stay night" at as cheap as $30, no wonder the swords were going off the shelves like hot cakes.

Sales over at La Tendo had not be as brisk as last year but we were in awe of the turnout as we had expected to be much dwindled due to the exorbitant admission ticket but boy were we wrong.
I always knew that the event was set to attract anime lovers from the region but Vietnam and New Zealand were definitely the furthest my imagination could bear.
The wealthy Indonesians came with their wad of thousand dollar notes but no one in the retail scene was complaining.

There was a burgeoning corner for anime studios as Tatsunoko Pro and Project I.G as well as local producation company Storm Lion this time round.
Animax, the premier cable anime network in Asia had an impromptu dubbing studio to fulfill some amateur seiyuu dream of the fans.
The karaoke booth definitely got the crowd going but had hurt many eardrums over the course of two days.
However the biggest draw was not surprising to be "Moe Moe Kyun", the faux pas maid cafe the organizers cooked up and had suckers queuing all day long for a taste of their forbidden burgers...
The maids did not even bother to entertain random photo snaps from casual patrons.

One of the special guest for the event was professional cosplayer, Kaname.
He was invited here as a judge for the cosplay contest as well as an emotional experience-sharing session in his famous Cloud Strif outfit from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children.
Kaname with his entourage dropby the stall on Saturday afternoon as his attention was snared by the sight of a Gurren Lagann Revoltech on the official poster, perhaps a scheme as he was donning in the Kamina setup.
At first no one recognised who he was until the commotion among the stall patrons who went trigger happy with their digital cameras.
It got Karen gaga too but she was forbidded from taking a picture with him but Lady Luck was shining on her as Kaname was to purchase the stipulate Revoltech which yours truly rummaged for him and in return of a small token of discount, Kaname obliged a personal picture with Karen.
She well Kaname-gaga from then on and stalked his whereabouts for the remainder of Sunday.
She was sore not to have a chance to replicate that fortuitous occurence with Kaname in his mesmerizing Cloud attire.
Well in the end it was a fruitful trip for her.

Kaname at La Tendo with yours truly at the background

The main draw of the event was the "Anisong Festival" which spanned both evening featuring Mizuki Ichiro (Aniki) and May'N from last year but were joined by the likes of Nagakawa Shoko (Shoko-tan) and Fukuyama Yoshiki from JAM Project.
I missed the entire second day concert as I had to attend Cheryl's wedding banquet but the fact that they barricaded the stage with thick black drapes, in order to block easy viewing like last year, it was not very accessible unless you pay a hundred odds bucks to be on the front rows or willing to join the long queue.
I did sneak in to catch a bit of Hatsune Miku from Vocaloid in action, anticipating a hologram like figure which Bryan claimed.
In the end, it was a wastage of our precious time when it was poor quality video footage but aptly a 15 minutes intermission between Shoko-tan when her horde of fandom took a piss and Aniki.
The Anisong warranted the high cost for the event and I am sure next year the organizers would make it even grander. If they actually bring in JAM project (including the entire band), I might think AFA 2010 will worth every penny.
Nice pictures of Anisong can be seen @ Danny Choo.

The aftermath of the event was the bunch of us carrying our worn out bodies for the remainder of the week.
Without the presence of Vincent and Miyano, it was not the same but it ain't too bad especially our usual poking fun of some absurd cosplayers including a really obese Squall Lionheart and a poor paper-mache Kamen Rider Decade Monster.
Bryan had good fun getting his "exclusives" but the biggest winner might be Karen.
The missus joined us for the second day and was enticed to stay and not heading for her seminar and definitely her point of catching up old time with the gang certainly was valid.
Seeing the cashier being overworked certainly warmed the hearts even for us the helpers and overall the success of AFA 2009 might had saw the organizers laughing to their banks despite Bryan's incessant loathing it certainly served as a platform for a much bigger money-bleeding machine in the last year of the decade.

A job well done

Photographs by Kaname-crazy Karen
Japanese word of the day:詐欺師(Swindler) I wonder if Bernie Madoff is the chairman of the organizing committee with his Ponzi scheme

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Mid November Already?

16th November 2009, Monday

After a nonchalant week of sitting around, going for tea breaks and reaching home before 6 pm, it was back to more routine life, not that I am complaining.
In truth the low-key ICT as the officer in charge mentioned was more for familiarization and my role together with a regular accomplice (who lives nearby and thus the free transport) was to be a guiding light.
In certain aspects especially in imparting what to expect for the overseas training at Kao-Hsiung, we did fulfilled that role.
At the end of the 5 days ICT, we were awarded the medal for good performances...but we are still half way there and an ominously long trip to Australia was hovering across the horizon for the likes of myself in 2011. DAMN!

The weekend was pretty light-hearted and suited my taste in the sense that I could just glue myself in front of my PC, playing my game, writing my tale and just rummaging through the stockpile of shows I had to watch.
Some of the movies I had caught up like "District 9" was sheer classic and one of the sleeper hit for the year while "(500) Days of Summer" really glistered with the performances of leads. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.
There was this slapstick French pierrot style comedy, "Rumba" which was a breath of fresh air as well.
Ending a soggy Sunday evening with the missus off to Kuala Lumpur again with "South Park" was a blast especially with the obnoxious Eric Cartman getting his antics in the right places.

On Saturday it was the cantankerous clash between ASEAN rivals Singapore and Thailand with a place in the 2011 Asian Cup at Qatar at stake.
Foo was holding his horses to see if he could make it for the match but ultimately he did not update me on his status and expectedly he was a no show.
In truth he did not miss much as our boys put out an insipid performance and meekly surrendered to a much superior Thai team, putting their qualification in jeopardy even before traveling for the return game on Wednesday.
The fallout was anything but pleasantry with fans pouring in with less than encouraging comments on local forums and other form of media, voicing their dismay and surely we can blame them.
It was back to the usual shenanigans of finger pointing of the fans not being supportive enough and are a bunch of glory hunters from the team while the team filled with foreign talents lacked the passion and what not; eventually the whole fiasco became a laughing stock to our neighbors who gloated on our expense.

It was easier said than done at times as the quality of professional footballers here had reached its plateau and no new upstarts were ready to make the step up sadly.

Back to work and the team was swamped with the new assignment since last week.
It was time consuming as anticipated but not as daunting as it seems.
The only problem might be the sheer amount of samples to be handled with and at the worst time possible.
My team partners would be clearing the remainder of the annual leave left in the crypt before bringing half the total over to the new year by these few weeks and they knew I would ghosting in and out for the final few weeks as of the past, something I wonder if the boss would frown upon.

The Anime Festival Asia would be round the corner and despite the anticipation level was well reduced from the inaugural edition, it is still interesting to keep up with what's in the scene since I had really lost touch with the anime world despite still stocking the figurines.
Of course the La Tendo gang would/should all be there with the exception of Vinny and Miyano who would be bringing the school kids for another Japanese culture exchange trip.
Doubt the wallet would get lighter by the end of the 2 days events but you never know.

The wallet would surely be lighter after Cheryl's wedding banquet that's for sure on Sunday.
Selina and her beau had confirmed their non-appearance, so Foo and Michelle might be the only viable familiar faces but I can never count the chickens before they hatched.
At least the missus was willing to truncate her seminar thingie to accompany me for it.

An appealing long weekend for the last week of the month and I have already promised CS to have a serious time, going through the prospect of getting "Uncharted 2" a game he could not stop waxing lyricals of and eager to get more people into the multiplayer mode which was the real gist of the PS3 game.
I am certainly looking forward to get my console working again but Football Manager 2010 is another attention stealer plus I could not give up on my adventures with the current FM...
Gosh I wish I had more time on hand!
Japanese word of the day: 予想(Anticipation) Always good to have some things to look forward to

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Meeting Neil

2nd November 2009, Monday

So October went with a whiz and November arrived with what promises to be a month to meet celebrities sandwiched by the event that never failed to retract the strain of perkiness in me...In-camp Training.

As mentioned the weekend was one I had to get used to having the entire apartment to myself.
It was Halloween and gusty wind and incessant raining plagued the latter part of the day.
There was a relentless wrong number from a young lady so adamant that someone with a name I had not heard in my entire life was living here.
The ringing was persistent to a state I had to lift the handle of the phone in my parents' room to get crazy girl off my back.
From this experience, I knew I hated to be alone in the house, especially in the evening.

I had major plans for Sunday.
First to La Tendo, then perhaps China Square Central where Chan was publicizing for his new trade before making my way to Victoria Hall where the Neil Gaiman symposium was held.
The evening was set to have the Wrecking squad gathered for a chat session including having a look at the pictures me and TW took from our respective Japanese trip.
However most of the plan went down the gutter before daybreak.

CS got a bout of fever which saw him bedridden so he was out of the equation.
TW then told me he could pick me up at Bishan, which meant that I can put La Tendo on the backseat for another week.

In the end I was fetched at Ang Mo Kio as he had time left after dropping his new bride to her father's place.
The usual jam on CTE was hindering our smooth ride but we were way ahead of schedule.
By the time we had reached Funan Center where he parked his father's MPV, we had an hour or so to burn.

So we just strolled around the IT Mall and mainly had a glance at what's in store in the game shops.
Then we had a chat with some beverage at Jolly Bean when he gave an insight of his much enjoyable Japan honeymoon which saw him and his missus traveling from Kansai to northern tip of Japan and then to Kanto.

Before we knew it it was 1.30pm and we made headway to Victoria Hall which was stone throw away from our location.
It was blatant a queue had been found which followed the perimeter of the authentic concert hall.
The event as we queued for the tickets weeks earlier was meant for 300 persons or so but now it inflated in volume due to overwhelming popularity of the author whose works transcend many media including comic and movies as well these days.
The final tally of people attending the question and answer session was close to 900 as it filled the hall to the brim.

Neil, in his signature curls and black outfit met with vociferous cheering from the country he labeled "highly organized".
He gave us an insight of what he had been working on, including a "Journey to the West" self journey project, his short film and breeding of honey bees back home in the States.
But in his usual morbid fashion, he started rattling off about having no regret if he was to lose his life from an tragic airplane accident as he was one of the few people in this world who had accomplished almost everything he had set out for.

In an exceptional eloquent fashion, Neil Gaiman was not as reserved or moody as one expect from his style of writing and his stories.
He could keep rattling on some of his past experiences and some of his view which never failed to perk up the driest topic available.
His encounter with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki when he had a day off from his "Stardust" premiere schedule in Japan was really a dream comes true for many and we felt it could be the fact that great artists then to adhere nicely together, the likes of Gaiman, Alan Moore, Miyazaki, Yoshitaka Amano etc.

The Q&A session was pretty short (thank goodness the few questions from our local cohort was pretty deep and came from extensive research, thus not pulling the face down of fellow countrymen) as the bulk of the time would be taken for the autograph session held outside Art House and Neil was ready to indulge to the request to all the hundreds of ticket holders even though only one item allowed for signature, that would look to take a long time.

A long time indeed as TW & I were near the tail end of the beeline which stretched to where the famous Sir Stamford Raffles statue which marked where he alighted was.

It was exceptionally humid with sporadic glare from the unsympathetic sun, but fortunately it remained reasonably dry.
The long queue did not look very much like shrinking for the first hour and the crew was kind enough to offer everyone packet drinks to recover some bodily liquid lost through profuse sweating and saliva waste from chatting; much like that crew behind us.

The group led by this guy in insulating turtle neck sweat top spoke with a pretentious American accent but later we found out to be from Hong Kong.
When a friend came identifying them as "Death", "Desire" et al, we knew this group of cuckoo-head surely had took the obsession too far.
Throughout the queue, they went on talking shit literally about comic and something else which we did not bother to decipher but every enunciation just got on our nerves.
It did not make things better when they kept shoving TW on his back.

After 2 hours we barely got near the facade of the Art House building and we deduced that Neil was signing very patiently.
We also made up many possible situations from which the crew would cut the queue just before us and then continue straight after us.

Before we knew it was 5 plus and Foo who agreed to meet us for dinner had already arrived at Funan Center where we supposed to rendezvous at 5pm.
Upon hearing we were queuing for Neil Gaiman, he got enough premonition that we most probably could not make it in time and left soon after.
It was a wise choice as by 6.30pm we finally got int the front pouch area where we named as the "White Arch of Happiness".

As tired, hungry and mentally disturbed from the incessant conversations going on at our rear, teh sight of Mr Gaiman at the autograph booth just bring our spirits up.
Apparently he was a very obliging author who would fulfill your request of an autograph, handshake and even photo-taking.
The last part we felt we could do without but the way he made every signature so special had made the wait well worth it and one could now understand why he is known as the "superstar" in the literacy scene.

By sheer surprise, the main guy helping him keeping the flow of items to be signed as an old Navy training mate of mine and as we were too engrossed speaking about how wretched Navy ICT can be I had forgotten to shake Neil's hand but it did not matter.

By 7, we left for Funan Center well satisfied and in need of food.

After lingering around to search for a Swensen outlet which was not there, we settled for Mac Donald which was the fastest as he was running out of time to fetch his wife.
He guided me through his daily adventure in Japan and despite me making such great number of trips to the country myself, I was still captivated by the places they went and the food they had.

Sadly he could only stop at day 7 before we left for home on a Sunday which was hogged by 3 hours in a long, unmovable queue in front of a group of over-the-top chatty Neil Gaiman fans.
Japanese word of the day: (雑談 Chat) Some people just could not shut up

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