Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back on the gigging trail?

So I finally got to sing in a company event as an employee.

I say ‘as an employee’ because a few years ago, my band was actually booked to play in their Christmas party.

Anyways, our team of about 400 people celebrated our Christmas party at the Manila Peninsula a couple of weeks ago. The event organizers wanted the party to have an MTV awards theme and wanted some live music so they got some folks together to play as a band. Our makeshift band was supposed to (1) play a 10-minute long opening medley, (2) prepare a birthday song to perform live while the names of the December birthday celebrators were being called, (3) play some appropriate background music while the special awards were being given out, and (4) perform three full songs at the end of the event that would then lead into party music.

It took a really long time for us to figure out what we would do, since coming up with a playlist was a bit difficult. I had a list of songs I knew I wanted to perform myself at the end of the show, but selecting songs for the opening medley was quite challenging since about half the songs in the medley needed to be upbeat Christmas songs. Then we had to match the songs with the different vocalists (there were 6 of us) and then arrange the music such that we could play the best parts of six songs all in ten minutes with fairly decent transitions from one song to the next.

The other bit of a challenge for me was the outfit. The dress code was semi-formal, so my regular gig outfits of short-sleeved shirts would’ve left me feeling severely underdressed. With the help of a few teammates, I decided to go for a Justin Timberlake look – jeans, white long sleeved shirt, vest, skinny tie, fedora hat, and white sneakers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a vest, a skinny tie, a fedora hat, and white sneakers (or at least I didn't have cool looking ones lol). So I decided to buy all the articles of clothing I didn't have to complete my outfit (yeah, crazy...). When I finally got my look together, I felt it was worth it. Or well at least I thought so hahaha! Here’s a photo of me taken during the event:

We managed to sort everything out, and during the event, I ended up singing a portion of ‘This Christmas’ (Elliott Yamin version of course), a portion of ‘The birthday song’ by the Beatles, ‘Friday I’m in love’ by The Cure, and I closed out the event with ‘Beautiful day’ by U2. All in all, a pretty fun debut performance. And my outfit made it a bit more memorable, too. :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

More on Elliott's Ayala Malls tour: Market! Market! and ATC

(Well as you can probably guess from the lack of new posts, things have gotten quite busy for me these last several weeks. Anyways, with the long weekend I’m hoping to catch up with my blogging. Let me start by completing my stories about Elliott’s Ayala Malls tour in the Philippines last September.)

Market! Market!

On to Elliott’s third show in Manila – Market! Market! He had a great show in Trinoma and an even more amazing show in Glorietta the last two days, and by now we all knew that Elliott had a huge following in Manila and we were used to being amidst fanatical audiences who knew his music and his back-story. That Sunday morning, I fell in line outside Market! Market! at 930 (it opens at 10) with a few other Yaminoys. However, the line didn’t seem to grow much longer than that, and by 1030, there was no more queue at the ticket booth. We left Market! Market! at around 11, knowing that there were about 300 tickets left to be distributed.

When we got back there in the afternoon, not all the ticket stubs had been distributed and we knew that this show wasn’t going to have the same crowd support that the last two shows had. I guess it was coz the throngs of people that go to Market! Market! aren’t exactly Elliott’s target market. It was also a Sunday, which is normally rest day and family day for Pinoys. Finally, most of the Yaminoys had already seen him on Friday or Saturday (or both) and were most likely using Sunday to regain all the energy they lost from Elliott’s previous two shows.

As expected, the crowd wasn’t as loud or rowdy compared to Glorietta or Trinoma. Despite that, Elliott was still amazing. I managed to get another front-row seat with help from the other Yaminoys who managed to get better seats than me that morning and so I got to take videos of practically all of Elliott’s performances. I just missed out on the first one, Find a way, because so many people were coming in at the time and they all blocked my camera while finding their seats. Anyway, here’s a video I took of Elliott singing "Train Wreck", one of the songs from his album. If you took a poll of his fans and asked them which of Elliott's songs was his best, this would most likely win. Elliott himself says it's his favorite song from the CD. So I figured it would be cool to share this song, especially to people who might not have heard it yet.

The main thing I was looking forward to that evening, though, was the meet-and-greet. I was lucky enough to be given a meet-and-greet pass because of my affiliation with the E-train station. I head to the side of the stage, along with the four other Yaminoys who had M&G passes that night. I started rehearsing my line: “Elliott, it’s my birthday tomorrow and you coming to the Philippines is the best birthday gift I could have gotten” and I started thinking of possibly extending the conversation by mentioning that I was the one who requested for ‘A whiter shade of pale’ the previous night in Glorietta. It was finally my turn to have my photo taken with Elliott. I came up and was all smiles and he greeted me with a wide grin himself. We even half-hugged, although I actually forgot about it until I saw the photos later on. The excitement had apparently gotten to me, because when I started to talk to Elliott, all I could say was “Elliott, thanks for coming to the Philippines” hahaha. He responded with a very gracious “Thank you for having me!” So much for all that practice LOL.

Anyways, I had my photo taken with Elliott (you’ve seen it) and I left the stage incredibly thrilled! A year ago, I was wondering if Elliott would ever come out with a CD and if I would ever get to see him perform live and here I am, shaking his hand. Pretty cool, don’t you think?

Alabang Town Center (ATC)

This was the last hurrah. No more shows in Manila, at least this time around, after tonight. And the Yaminoys all knew this, so despite the fact that it was in far-away Alabang (faraway to most of us, at least), we all decided to leave work earlier (some Yaminoys even took a day off!) to make sure we made it to the show. And with knowledge that the audience reception in Market! Market! wasn’t as good as it had been in previous shows, we were hell-bent on making sure Elliott left the Philippines with a bang.

And that’s exactly how it turned out. The dozens of people in I<3ey shirts were buzzing with excitement in their seats, waiting excitedly for the show to begin. And when it did, the support from the crowd was unmistakable. The band stepped out on stage first, and when they did, they kept looking at each other with these “whoa!” looks on their faces, almost like they couldn’t believe how intense the audience reaction to them was. And when Elliott got on stage to begin his concert, the crowd erupted in unbridled joy.

The exhilaration never really waned throughout the entire show. The fans raised their arms, cheered him wildly, sung along to Elliott’s songs, and made sure he know how much he was appreciated in this part of the world. You could tell Elliott felt it – his big smile never left his face throughout the entire show and of all shows he had in the Philippines, he was most animated and energetic in ATC.

I was lucky enough to get one more meet-and-greet pass with Elliott. This time, there were seven Yaminoys who came up on stage at the same time. Then the organizers decided to let practically every Yaminoy go up on stage at the same time to have our photo taken with Elliott. It was unfortunate though that not everyone was able to go up (some folks got stuck minding our stuff) but the key thing is that in the course of Elliott’s mall tour, all the Yaminoys managed to get to meet Elliott. (photo taken from my friend Meg's camera)

There was one last thing that the Yaminoys did that night. We all waited around the stage exit for Elliott and his gang to leave. The plan was for us to sing ‘You are the One’, one of the songs from his album that he wrote but he never performed during his mall tour here. We were in fact thrown off by security – we thought he was coming out in one side of the stage and we were all staked out there, but we realized that Elliott and his gang exited from the other side. There was a mad scramble from people to catch up to Elliott, and we did as he was on his way out. There was still enough time for us to sing the chorus of ‘You are the One’. He actually didn’t see us anymore, but our voices were so loud that we were certain he still heard us. We actually confirmed that he did hear us, and according to his road manager, he was actually bummed that he wasn’t able to take a video of us singing it.

So that pretty much sums up my experience during Elliott’s Ayala mall tour in the Philippines. That his first international show, or series of shows, was set in the Philippines was such a blessing to his multitude of fans here. And the amazing reception Elliott got here proved that he made the right choice. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Elliott's Ayala Malls tour: Trinoma and Glorietta

I've posted in great detail about each of Elliott's shows. I am guessing that you aren't all that interested in that much detail (but if you are, click here) so I'll just do a bit of a summary. (Please note though that this summary is still not that short LOL. Come on, how do you expect me not to write a lot about this once in a lifetime experience? =) )

Show #1: Trinoma

This was on Sept. 21, a Friday. Early that morning, I find out that the ticket stubs for the seating area were gone 40 minutes after Trinoma opened. That was unbelievable! I didn't realize Elliott had that many rabid fans in Manila. Anyways, I didn't want to drive through crazy Manila traffic during Friday rush hour so I decided to take the MRT. Since I didn't get to line up for a ticket at 10am, I figured I would just stand outside the cordoned off area. But one of the other Yaminoys actually had an extra ticket and she gave it to me, so I got to sit with the rest of the Yaminoys. That made it a lot more fun (save for the fact that there was this woman who was unreasonably upset that we were all having a great time - she was enraged by the fact that we were standing up and having our photos taken when in fact Elliott wasn't even on stage yet!)

Anyways, when Elliott came on stage, he got a massive reception from crowd. He ended up singing about 8 songs from his album, including 'Wait for you' and 'A song for you', the song that got him through to the top 3 in American Idol, plus 'In love with you forever', one of the bonus tracks from his itunes album. He encored with what seemed to be a very impromptu 'Moody's Mood for love', another song that put him on the map during season 5.

The meet and greets followed, and Mel and Jo managed to give Elliott the Yaminoy welcome gift - a mini-me doll of Elliott. He apparently was so pleased with it that he put it up as the main photo in his myspace account.

Show #2: Glorietta

Sept. 22 actually started way too early for me for a Saturday - I headed to Glorietta at 930am before it opened to make sure I got ticket stubs for me and my mom, who is also a fan and was going to watch with me that day. I managed to borrow Joh's Ayala Discount Card because discount card holders would be given 2 tickets instead of 1, and the first few discount card holders would get a meet and greet (my mom wanted to get an autograph and well of course so did I). I pulled in my friend Anne, just in case they wouldn't honor that rule, in which case there would give only one ticket stub per person.

I missed the free meet and greets for the Ayala Discount card (they did give me two tickets though in the front-most area) and so I had to buy 2 CDs to get ensure my mom and I both got autograph-signing passes. We made the cut this time, and I treated Anne to brunch in Heaven and Eggs (she did have to wake up early on a Saturday and oblige my craziness). I head back to Glorietta where I met up with my mom. Yam had fallen in line early and saved us seats, so we ended up in the front row.

Now if we thought Trinoma was fantastic, Glorietta took it up a couple of notches. The audience reaction throughout this show was incredible. He opened with "I'm the man", which was one of the three songs from his album that he didn't perform the day before. One of my favorite moments that night though was during one very short lull in between songs. Elliott was quiet, the audience was quiet, and I was in the front row. So I used that opportunity to shout out my request: "A whiter shade of pale!" That was one of his other bonus tracks from the itunes album, and he sings it really well. He hears me, looks in my direction, smiles, points towards me, then he says "That's a good one" then he puts his hands together in front of him, bows a bit and says "Thank you." Woo-hoo! My first conversation with Elliott LOL. Another highlight of the show was his performance of "A song for you". Some of the Yaminoys will say his rendition in ATC was the best, and maybe vocally it was, but there was something unmistakably magical about his "A song for you" that night that I felt wasn't captured to the same extent in any of his other shows. I managed to take a video of it - it includes his opening spiel wherein you can hear the amazing crowd reception he gets even while he's just introducing the song.

(sorry for the video quality, I used the wrong resolution setting in my point-and-shoot digicam).

After the show, the autograph signing went a bit too quickly. I think there were way too many people there and not a lot of time. I'm not sure if my mom got to talk to Elliott but I wasn't (the guards take the CD jacket from you and pass it on to Elliott while you aren't even there yet, and by the time you are in front of him, they are passing you the jacket and moving you along).

But an amazing thing happened after that. We ended up giving Monet, his road manager, a Yaminoy shirt and we had our photo taken with her. She then walks backstage, walks back out, and tells us that Elliott will take one photo with us. We were ecstatic! She goes backstage again, and a few moments later, Elliott comes out wearing the Yaminoy shirt! We all screamed LOL. He makes his way towards us and we start shaking his hand, saying stuff like "thank you for coming to the Philippines". Some of the Yaminoys even got a hug. Monet then took a photo of us using Marie's camera, and then another one with Elliott's camera.

Coming soon: tales from the Market! Market! and the Alabang Town Center shows!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Elliott in Manila!

Hi folks. Sorry for being quiet for the last few weeks. As you might have realized, Elliott was just in the Philippines for his 5-show Ayala Malls tour. As a dedicated fan, I managed to watch all four shows in Manila:

  • Trinoma on Sept. 21
  • Glorietta (with my mom) on Sept. 22
  • Market! Market! on Sept. 23
  • Alabang Town Center on Sept. 28

And let me tell you, if you thought he sounded fantastic on TV while watching American Idol, or while listening to "Wait for you" on the radio, he sounds so much better live! Elliott coming to the Philippines was truly the best birthday gift I could've gotten. The icing on the cake? Check this out:

(photo courtesy of my friend 'Wandergirl'. Thanks a lot for this!)

Woohoo!!! Imagine. A year and a half ago, I could only dream of getting to see Elliott perform live once. Now, I've done the following:

  • watch him perform live FOUR times
  • get him to autograph my CD (my mom got an autographed CD as well)
  • meet him, shake his hand, and have a quick chat with him on FOUR separate occasions
  • have my picture taken with him
  • be part of TWO group photos with him along with the other Yaminoys

I'll be posting more about Elliott's visit to the Philippines over the next few days. But in the meantime, let me leave you with this video I took of Elliott performing my favorite song from his album, "One Word". (This is slated to be Elliott's next single in the US. Hopefully they start playing it in radio stations here soon; they are currently playing "Movin' On")

(Something's wrong with the image display so just click on the play button in the center of the video to get it to work)

If you haven't gotten his album yet, it is now available in the Philippines so make sure you get a copy! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Capping off my Dutch experience

One final note about Amsterdam, it is the bike capital of the world. There are practically just as many bikes as people in this city with a population of 750,000. Amsterdam with all its canals and narrow streets wasn’t built for cars, and having a radius of about 5 kilometers makes it perfect to travel through the city by bike. The many bike rental companies make it very easy for tourists to get in on the action. Anyway, here's a photo I took of one of the most massive bicycle parking lots I have ever seen in my life! (I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually was the world’s largest.)

And while we’re still in the topic of Holland, I’d like to leave you with a very funny video I found on the net. Apparently, some Dutch Idol wannabes were asked/told to perform Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the best’ during the half time of some football match. I don’t think the people in the crowd knew what they were in for.

Uploaded in youtube by user Haenf

There are so many things that go wrong here that I don't know where to start LOL. It always cracks me up each time I watch even if I've seen it so many times already. The youtube user who uploaded this video entitled it 'Pop Idol losers torture football fans'. Quite appropriate, don't you think? :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

More on my Amsterdam trip

Here are a few more anecdotes and photos from my weekend in this Dutch capital:

Perfect weather for touring... NOT! :)
You can't see the actual rain here, but the sight of cloudy skies, umbrellas, jackets, and raincoats should indicate that the weather conditions were not the most ideal for traveling. My friends Daniel and Marieke did tell me though that at least I got to experience Amsterdam the same way that most Dutch people. Apparently rains there all the time.

Getting lost

I got massively lost looking for Hotel Wiechmann the day that I got there (thanks to Glenn for letting me know about this hotel. Since I decided to go here a bit late, virtually all of the budget hotels I could find online were fully booked already). I had an option of spending €10 to get on a special bus that would bring me to the doorstep of my hotel, but since I had the I Amsterdam card that gave me free bus rides for 48 hours, I decided to find my way via public transportation. I get off at Princengracht, check out the house numbers (I was at around 400) and I checked my hotel address – it had house number 1016 (or so I thought…). I figure that I’m fit enough for the long walk, so I start heading towards 1016.

I keep walking along Prinsengracht, until I get to the end of the street which was the Amstel River. But the house numbers were still at 900. I probably have to go over the river, I thought. I walk to the nearest bridge a couple of hundred meters away to get across and when I do, I see that the street name was now New Prinsengracht, and the house numbers had changed. I was confused. So I call the number of the hotel to get info. Apparently, what I thought was the house number – 1016 – was the postal code. The house number was 332. F*ck!!!! That was practically where I got off the bus! This meant I had to walk all the way back, and then some. Argh!! By the time I got to my hotel, I had spent about an hour and a half walking with all my stuff, and I was tired and soaked in sweat.

So when I got there at around 130pm, I check in to my room (for which I had to walk up three flights of stairs) and fell asleep for about an hour or so to recharge.

What I found quite charming about this hotel, and I would find out later on that a lot of budget hotels in Europe had this setup, at least the warmer months, was that they had an electric fan (in lieu of air-conditioning which was more expensive and not really needed for maybe three quarters of the year).

Freebies with the I Amsterdam Card
I also availed of some freebies and discounts that my I Amsterdam card provided: I got 20% off for a raw herring sandwich in Jonk’s Herring Cart which I had for lunch (taste-wise it was good but texture-wise was certainly not my cup of tea), after which I had free coffee from La Place market-style restaurant. Later that evening, on my way to my final canal tour that day, I availed of the free croquette roll from Van Dobben. And I have to say, even if you don’t have an I Amstedam card, you should try to find this eatery and try the croquette roll. It is really really good!

The I Amsterdam card also offered free entrance to the Holland Casino. I had never been to a casino before so I thought it would be a good experience to go inside. However, after falling in line, I was told I needed to have my passport with me. My I Amstedam guide book said I just needed a valid ID so I thought my driver’s license would be sufficient and I left my passport in the safe in my hotel room. I thought about whether I should back to my hotel to get it. To help me make my decision, I asked one of the security guys there if it was allowed to take photos inside. He said it wasn’t. Since I wasn’t going to be gambling (no money…), the only reason I would want to go in was to have my photo taken inside. And since it wasn’t allowed, I figured it wasn’t worth it for me to go back to my hotel and get my passport.

Right next to the Casino is this large chessboard (it's quite interesting that the chess set is complete. If this was in the Philippines, it wouldn't be very long before the chess pieces started disappearing one by one in quick succession). Each time I passed by this area, there were people playing. The couple playing here actually had to abandon this game they were playing because they had a boat to catch.

Which Canal Tour to take?
The difference between these tours, aside from the starting point (Holland International begins near the central station while the Rederij Noord-Zuid tour kicks off near Holland Casino), is the way that the commentary is made: Holland International has a recording that is timed perfectly with the boat ride while the Rederij Noord-Zuid tour has live commentary given by the guy operating the boat. I’m a big fan of live commentary since it is more personal, so I have to say that I enjoyed the Rederij Noord-Zuid tour more. If you could take only one canal tour, I recommend this one. Of course, if you avail of the I Amsterdam card, you don't have to make a choice since you get a free pass to both.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dutch treat

Even heavy rain couldn’t stop me from having a blast in Amsterdam. I mentioned in a previous post how it was storming during the weekend I spent in this Dutch capital, but I checked the weather report prior to my trip and so I was prepared both physically (jacket and folding umbrella in tow) and psychologically (I knew what to expect so I was definitely not going to be upset if the weather didn’t cooperate).

Before I got there, I had only four points of interest – the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank house, and going on a Canal Tour. But after going to the tourist information center upon arrival at the airport, I found out that it would be much better for me to get the 48-hour I Amsterdam card, which would give me free entrance to almost all museums there (save for the Anne Frank house) as well as free rides on public transportation and even a couple of canal tours. If I couldn’t spend time outdoors, then I would milk this card for all it was worth by visiting as many museums as I could.

I arrived on Friday mid-afternoon and decided to study my I Amsterdam Card Guidebook to see which places I had free entrance to, which of them I would like to visit, what their opening times were, and where they were located. I then mapped out my sightseeing plan. Since there wasn’t a lot of time left on that Friday, I opted to see three places: the Houseboatmuseum (which was just down the block from my hotel), and both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, which on Fridays remain open until 10pm.

There are about 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam. The Houseboat Museum gives you a bit of an idea of how it is to live in one of these houseboats. It was actually quite cozy inside, but I have to say that I don’t think I could live here – every time another boat passed by, it rocked the houseboat a tad bit, but enough to make me slightly seasick (or, well, canal-sick).

I then headed towards the Rijksmuseum. I strongly recommend a visit here when you are in Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum houses mostly paintings, although it also has some historical artifacts and sculptures as well. What made my trip here very memorable was the free concert I managed to catch inside. At around 6pm, I heard an immaculate soprano voice singing operatic solos while accompanied by a piano. I head over to the adjacent hall where the music was coming from and I learn that there was a concert there at 730pm (actually, there was one every Friday night of June), and museum goers could watch it for free. It would last about an hour, so that meant I wouldn’t have time to visit the Van Gogh museum that night, but I decided that the concert would be worth seeing and I could just head to the Van Gogh museum the next day. It was a great concert (I felt so cultured afterwards LOL). I also have to say that the acoustics inside that museum hall were magnificent.

The next day was one of the longest touring days I’ve ever had. I got up fairly early, around 8, had a hefty breakfast, then I ran through the following itinerary:
  • De Nieuwe Kerk, which is the second oldest church in Amsterdam, dating back to 1414
  • De Oude Kerk, which is Amsterdam’s oldest monument dating back to 1250. You can’t really tell from the outside, but this church has a very high ceiling. You are also warned when you come in to take care when walking around because the floor is a bit uneven. Additional interesting piece of info – behind this church is the red light district. Talk about your ironies.

  • Ons' Lieve Heer Op Solder, or Our Lord in the Attic. If I remember what I read about the museum correctly, in the olden days when Protestantism was the predominant religion in Holland, Catholic churches were “prohibited” from being built. However, the Protestants were a bit more tolerant and thus allowed Catholics to build churches as long as the fa├žade did not clearly indicate that it was indeed a Catholic church. As such, this Chapel in the Attic actually has a gable house exterior.
  • Foam Photography Museum (FOtografiemuseum AMsterdam). During my visit, the galleries displayed photo exhibits from four different photographers: Lise Sarfati, French street artist JR, Jacques Henri Lartigue, and Rob Van Der Nol.

  • Museum Willet-Holthuysen. This beautiful house, located on the bank of the Herengracht canal, used to belong to Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, whose last will was to turn her home into a museum so as to keep the family name alive.
  • The Van Gogh Museum, which contains hundreds of paintings, drawings, and even letters of Vincent Van Gogh. There were also works from other artists. It was during this visit that I realized I am not one of those people who appreciate Van Gogh’s art style. I do like some of his earlier works, but for the most part, his art doesn’t really reach out to me in the way it does with most other people.
  • Rederij Noord-Zuid Canal Tour. By now, most museums were closed. But the two canal tours were still open so it made sense to get on these canal tours at the end of the day since all you had to do was sit on the boat and see the sights.

  • Holland International Canal Tour. My I Amsterdam card gave me a free pass to both canal tours so I decided to take both. Holland International operates until 10pm during the summer so I took this last.
I got back to my hotel at around 1030pm before I realized that I hadn’t seen the Red Light District yet. I asked the night-shift receptionist (a really tall, friendly, and pretty Dutch woman) how to get there (30 minute walk), and if it was safe to walk there (it was). I decided not to take any photos since I wasn’t sure if I would get in trouble if I did. But it was certainly an, er, unique experience walking around in this area. I finally get back to my hotel at half-past midnight, cleaned up and fell fast asleep.

I was planning to visit two more places on Sunday morning before I had to head back to the airport at around 12 noon. But after doing tourist-y stuff from 10am until past midnight the day before, I was so tired that I decided to sleep in a bit more on Sunday morning and just visit Anne Frank Huis (or the Anne Frank House). I read in my book that you need to make your way here right when it opens at 9am to avoid the long queues. I didn’t make it by 9 – I got there about maybe 45 minutes later – and true enough, the queue was already around the corner. It took me about half an hour to actually get inside. But when I did, it was worth it.

So after two churches, seven museums, and two canal tours, I bid farewell to Holland, bringing with me lots of wonderful memories. At least now I can say that I have been to Amsterdam, and not just the airport (through which I have had to make dozens of connecting flights in the past). Would be nice to pay a visit again in the future. Hopefully with better weather. :)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Gearing up for Elliott's arrival

Few changes with respect to Elliott's concert schedule here:

  • Sept. 21, Fri - Trinoma (7:00pm)
  • Sept. 22, Sat - Glorietta (7:00pm)
  • Sept. 23, Sun - Market! Market! (6:00pm)
  • Sept. 26, Wed - Ayala Mall Cebu (6:00pm)
  • Sept. 28, Fri - Alabang Town Center (6:30pm)

(image courtesy of Marie. Thanks, Marie!)

This is the same image you see on Elliott's huge billboard advert along Edsa.

It's too bad that his ATC appearance is now on a Friday instead of a Saturday. It means that if I want to catch that last show, I need to leave the office early and brave Friday evening traffic - on payday no less. To make matters worse, I believe that there is work being done on South Super Highway. Maybe I can just work really late on Thursday night so I can leave a lot earlier on Friday. Anyways, it's still a few weeks from now, so there's time for me to figure out what to do.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thriller, Cebuano-style

This video has gone viral, making its way into so many people's inboxes and being blogged and written about by so many people, whether Pinoy or not. It has in fact been featured on both CNN and BBC. The originally uploaded video on youtube has more than 6 million hits already. If you haven't seen it yet, then here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Video uploaded in youtube by byronfgarcia

Apparently, the purpose of this is to aid in the rehabilitation of these prisoners. What impresses me here is the fact that about someone (or some people) managed to organize about 1,500 prisoners and get them to learn and perform together. And this "Thriller" performance is not the only dance they do. Click here to see other videos on youtube.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Copenhagen: Day Trip #2

My train mishap, which I wrote about before and which you can read about here, happened on my second trip to Denmark. My initial itinerary was supposed to be the following:

  • 12-2: Head to Helsingor to visit Kronborg Castle
  • 2-5: Late lunch + trip to Louisiana Museum
  • 5-6: Return to Copenhagen
  • 6-7: visit the Round Tower, which is open til 8pm
  • 7-8: take photos in Ameliaborg Castle, and have one more photo taken in
  • 8 onwards: have dinner in Tivoli and walk around
Unfortunately, I ended up in Kronborg Castle by 2pm and in Louisiana Museum at 330pm. And by the time I got back to Copenhagen, I was way too tired and hungry to do the rest of the stuff, apart from having dinner in Tivoli and walking around in it.

Anyways, I am still glad I did get to visit a couple of places. Before I left the Philippines, my friend Anne told me I should visit the “Hamlet castle”. During my research, I learned that Hamlet castle was actually Kronborg Slot, is sometimes referred to as the Hamlet Castle because apparently, Shakespeare patterned the castle in his play Hamlet after Kronborg Slot.

The Louisiana Museum is also worth a visit, not only because it has a good collection of art (mostly contemporary) but also because it has a beautiful garden with unique modern art sculptures all around the garden. From there, you have a good view of the beach which is just right next to it.

The biggest mistake I made though was that I thought that you could walk right up to the beach from the museum gardens, and at 4:45pm (15 minutes before the museum would close), I decided to walk towards the beach and passed through a revolving door that said Exit only. I was tired and spent and paid little attention to that sign up until I had crossed to the other side, during which time it sunk in that now I was no longer in museum grounds. Sh*t! So instead of being able to take photos in the beautiful gardens, I was now walking quickly along the beach to try and get back into the main entrance. But apparently the way back to the main entrance was a long walk, and with very little time left before the museum would close, I just decided to walk along the beach. I also took this photo of the beautiful landscape next to the museum.

I was back in Copenhagen by around 7pm, but before having dinner, I decided to walk down Stroget, to take some photos that I was unable to take during my first day trip. Stroget is Europe's longest pedestrian street which goes from the Radhuspladsen (or City Hall Square) to Kongens Nytorv. Walking down this street, you will see lots of great European architecture, souvenir shops, big Brand-name stores, and even a few squares and fountains. Here’s a shot of an interesting fountain in Radhuspladsen.

I finally grab my buffet dinner and a Carlsberg beer before walking around in Tivoli. I didn’t get on any of the rides since my Copenhagen day pass only included free entrance to the Tivoli ground but not into the rides. But anyway, I’m not an amusement park type of person and there was no way I was getting on the rides without friends with me (plus, I was exhausted) so I decided to just take some snapshots of the many rides there. This is apparently the highest carousel in the world

Despite all the troubles I encountered with transportation during my second visit, my trip to Copenhagen and Denmark was still a lot of fun. I would love another chance to visit though, so that I can see the few sights that I missed when I was there, such as Amalienborg Slot and the Round Tower. And also to have a better photo taken of me at the Little Mermaid. =)

Monday, August 06, 2007

More on my first day trip to Copenhagen

Here are a few more interesting photos and stories I took on my first day-trip to Copenhagen (might be better of course if you read my previous post about my Copenhagen trip first).

I took this in one of the rooms of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Check out the floor. I’ve never seen a museum with a multi-colored checkerboard floor like this:

My trip to Copenhagen came a day after a European Cup qualifying match with Sweden. It was an intense match that was tied at 3-3 with a minute left during regular time before a crazy series of events resulted in the referee awarding Sweden with a 3-0 win. How so? Well, with a minute left, a penalty was awarded to Sweden that somehow enraged one of the Danes watching the match, so much so that he went on the pitch and tried to punch the referee. The ref decided to leave the pitch which led to the game being abandoned, and after about ten minutes, the officials ruled that Sweden would win that match 3-0. Crazy, ey? Well, as it was the day after a huge match, quite a few areas in the capital were actually littered with beer cans. That includes the grass surrounding this statue in the middle of Kongens Nytorv (or the King's New Square) where thousands of fans gathered to watch the game from a large TV that was set up in that area night before.

I also spotted a bike in the bottom of one of the canals. I just hope that no one fell into the canal along with it.

But that’s not the only foreign object I was not expecting to see in the water. This guy was swimming in the canal, but what made it worse was that it was in the garbage-filled part. I guess I wouldn’t mind swimming in this canal, so long as it was not in this part where lots of trash was floating around. Why this guy was in there, I have no idea. But his friends were cheering him on.

There also seemed to be a bit of a fracas in one of the restaurants along Nyhavn while I was there. There were two guys being held down on the ground by people who seemed to be civilians. Either that or they were security guards of police officers in plain clothes. Anyways, there was broken glass all around, and two of the guys – one of the guys being held down and one of the guys doing the holding down – had blood on them. In a few minutes, a police car came and two officers stepped out of the car and handcuffed one of the guys before he was led into the back of the car. A few minutes later, another cop car came and the other guy got handcuffed and led into it. I asked one of the waiters what happened and all he told was “wrong people.” I decided not to probe any further than that. I also decided not to take any photos since it didn’t feel appropriate. But it was a very interesting experience for me to see something like that.

I do have this photo of two interesting looking trees, though. I saw them while walking from Rosenborg Slot to the Little Mermaid sculpture.

Copenhagen: Day Trip # 1

Based on what I read about Copenhagen, I decided two days would be enough for me to experience everything I wanted to see and do in this capital of Denmark. But since it is only an hour away by train from Lund, I decided to take two day-trips instead of staying overnight there. That way, I wouldn’t need to spend money for a hotel.

So I took my first real trip to Copenhagen on a bright sunny Sunday. I say real trip because I had been to Copenhagen a few times prior to this, but only to the airport, which for me doesn’t count as an actual visit to that country.

I started off my day by spending some time in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This Museum houses the personal collection of the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries, Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914). It contains numerous brilliant and interesting artworks and ancient relics from all over the world, and entrance is free on Sundays which made the trip even better for me. My favorite part of the museum was the sculpture section, and it is definitely worth spending some time appreciating the sculptures of Rodin and French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeux.

(This sculpture is entitled Ugolino and his Sons)

My next stop was the Christiansborg Slot. They were doing some renovations to the main tower as you will see in the picture below. I decided to take the guided tour in this royal palace and in the process, learned a few interesting things about Denmark and its rich history. For instance, one of their past kings, Christian IX, is considered to be the father-in-law of Europe because his many children ended up as royalty in different European countries. You can read more about him and his family here (it really is quite unique).

I then walked over to Nyhavn, or the new harbor, where you can find lots of interesting places to eat. I was thinking about eating in one of the restaurants that lined the canal, but I decided I didn’t want to spend too much on food, so I ended up just looking around and taking photos, and having a hotdog and Coke Zero for lunch.

After my quick lunch, I head towards Rosenborg Slot. It is located right in the center of Rosenborg Park. And as it was a bright sunny day, the park was littered with people lying on the grass and basking in the mid-afternoon sunshine. I actually got shouted at by a guard for having my photo taken at the Treasury building using my tripod, which I didn’t know was not allowed.

I rounded up my day with a visit to – well you guessed it – the Little Mermaid. Or Den lille havfrue, as it is called in Danish. I mean, a real tourist-y trip to this lively city would not be complete without having your photo taken in this landmark. I’ve read that you will always have a fairly big crowd gathered around the Little Mermaid, and it was true when I got there. Nevertheless, I managed to get quite close to it and have someone take my picture.

My only issue with this trip was the fact that I didn’t have time to get a haircut before I got there. My hair was still okay at the start of my trip, but towards the end of the day, the wind and my sweat had made my hair a mess, so I’m not all too pleased with my photos, or at least the ones taken of me beginning late-afternoon LOL. Yeah, yeah I know, I’m vain. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On holiday

Well it's been a while since I have updated my blog - probably the longest it hasn't been updated this year. And it will continue to remain not-so-updated for the next week and a half because I am currently on holiday. I'm currently in Iceland, and will be here for one more day before I head off to Vienna.

I could actually write more about some of my unbelievable experiences in Iceland but I'm too tired and will continue to be too tired as all my days are absolutely jampacked. I think that I could actually do with a holiday after my holiday to get over the fatigue LOL. But it really has been great. So stay tuned and more stories and pictures of my adventures in a couple of weeks time.

(I just realized, I still need to put up my Denmark and Amsterdam stories and photos... this will indeed take some effort LOL)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Elliott Yamin in Manila!!!

Oh my God! I can't believe it! Elliott Yamin, my season 5 idol, will actually have 5 shows in the Philippines in late September! I read about it in the etrain station yesterday and I have been extremely excited ever since! (I've gotten a very good night's sleep already and yet I am still just as thrilled today as I was yesterday.)

The announcement:

Hey everybody!....I hope all is well, and I want to apologize for taking so long since my last blog!...So, let me just start off by saying THANK YOU!!!!..My first ever solo tour was a major success!..What an amzing experience!...and I couldn't have done it w/better people!....MAD PROPS to Ollie, Aaron, Russell, Joonie, Felix, Ron Mussara, Josh Hoge, and Steve Miller!...I"m totally missing that stage guys!...THANKS to all of you who came out and showed so much love and support!....good news is we're all coming back out for the 2nd leg in early October....a little later than expected because my schedule is pretty jam-packed til then!...I'm already back in the studio recording Christmas songs for my Target exclusive record....on July 3rd, I'll be performing acoustically in Orlando w/my good buddy Tony Reyes @the XL 106.7 "Red Hot & Boom" 2007 @ Crane's Roost Lake Park...then, I'll be in D.C to perform live on PBS for "A Capitol Fourth"-the countries biggest 4th of July celebration!...check your local listings for the specific airing times!...another acoustic performance is set for a radio event in Portland, OR on July 26......National Anthem @the San Francisco Giants game on July 29th..... then, I'm probably going to release my 2nd single sometime in August...maybe Sept...then, I'm trying to block out a tentative TV tour schedule during the month of August...I've also planned a 5 show tour in the Phillipines in late September!....and in between all of that, I'll be lending my time and support to the Oscar Meyer "Sing The Jingle, Be A Star" well as the JDRF and Childrens Congress here in the U.S and in the UK!....whew!...okay, so I know that's a lot to take in all @once....but trust me, all dates...along w/new pics, videos, and songs will be posted right here on my page in due time!**************************************I also want to take the time to thank all of radio, and most of all YOU, the fans for making my 1st single a bonafide HIT!'s been a magical ride thus far and I couldn't have done it without yall!.."Wait for You" is going to be featured on the next "NOW25" album to release later this summer!....also ned to thank yall who have been voting for my video on the vspot on VH1! are the reason it actually debuted in the #1 spot!Until nxt time....Take care and God Bless all of you!

I had to let out a loud yelp when I read that, and everyone around looked at me to see what was going on. I had to explain in the best way possible without them thinking I am a nut hahaha but well who cares. I am a nut!

I think the Philippines will be the first country he has a show in outside of North America so it is absolutely great news for the Yaminoys (Elliott Yamin's Pinoy fans hehehe). He spelled Philippines wrong in the announcement but that's forgivable - a lot of my international colleagues spell both Philippines and Manila wrong, and they've been working with the Philippines and Manila for a long time!

Show dates:

  • Sep 21 2007 8:00pm Trinoma
  • Sep 22 2007 8:00pm Glorietta
  • Sep 23 2007 8:00pm Alabang Town Center
  • Sep 26 2007 8:00pm Ayala Mall - Cebu
  • Sep 28 2007 8:00pm Market! Market! Mall

(thanks for the info, nice)

Sept 23 is a Sunday so I should be able to make my way to Alabang Town Center! Yahoo! And I guess I should be able to make my way to most of those shows apart from the one in Cebu. I can't believe how excited I am about this. I am acting like a kid haha. Oh well.

Go Elliott!! Can't wait to see you in September!

(P.S. "Wait for you" is continuing to do very well. His album has now sold more than 283,000 copies in the US! Mark, I can't wait to get the CD I asked you to buy for me in the US :))

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Sin city"

As I mentioned in a previous post, June 22 Friday was a holiday in Sweden. So I spent the long weekend in Amsterdam.

I need a couple of days to sort through my pics and stories. But let me share a couple of stories in the meantime.

First, it's amazing what checking the weather report can do. I saw early last week that the weather in Amsterdam for the entire weekend would be bad. Thunderstorms from Thursday to Sunday, it said. And I got a bit deflated. After all, no one wants to be on holiday when the weather is horrible. A bit of rain is acceptable. But not thunderstorms.

The plus side is that I knew what to expect, and I planned around it. Took my jacket and umbrella with me, and decided to spent most of my time indoors. Amsterdam has a truckload of museums, and so I would end up wet only when I was heading from one museum to another. The fact that I knew what to expect and had prepared for it made me ready to deal with the awful weather. So when I got to wet and wild Amsterdam, the heavy rains did not dampen my spirits nor reduce my enjoyment.

The other thing is that for the first time, I felt a huge huge cultural difference. As you probably know, marijuana is legal in Holland. And you can enjoy it in practically every coffee house and bar in the city. The thing is, pot has such a distinct smell, and I imagine that unless you are taking it, the stench is a bit too overpowering that you wouldn't want to enjoy coffee in a place that reeked of it. Which sucked for me because I love hanging out in cafes, and Amsterdam is the first city I couldn't do this comfortably in.

Walking through Amsterdam, you end up catching a whiff of pot at every corner and you also see lots of American and British "kids" (most probably on summer break) hanging out in these coffee shops. Despite all this, Amsterdam is a must-visit. It is easy enough to pay little attention to these "distractions" and enjoy this capital city with all its canals, beautiful gable houses, and interesting museums.

More train woes

Copenhagen is only an hour away by train from Lund, so I've taken a couple of day trips to this capital of Denmark and a few areas around it over the last few weeks.

I'll spend a bit more time talking about my amazing experience there. But in the meantime, let me recount another very eventful train-riding experience.

It happened on my second trip to Denmark. I spent my first day going to the touristy sights in the capital, so on my second visit, I decided to take a trip to Helsingor to visit Kronborg castle and swing by the Louisiana museum along the way. Then when I get back to Copenhagen in the afternoon, I would visit a couple other places before swinging by Tivoli at the end of the day.

As it turns out, my plans all went awry due to problems with the trains.

First, I was supposed to take the 8:17am train from Lund which would bring me to Copenhagen shortly after 9. Since the Tourist Information Center opens at 9am, the line wouldn't be too long just yet. But the train from Lund was delayed by close 20 minutes, and for some reason there was a change in schedule and the train no longer went directly to Copenhagen. So I change trains in Malmo. The Malmo-Copenhagen train was supposed to leave at 8:53am but it was delayed by about 10 minutes. Then I made the mistake of getting of at the airport before realizing that all trains that pass through the Copenhagen airport actually head straight to the City Central Station as well. So I lost about another 10 minutes which meant I arrived in Copenhagen at around 945am.

By this time the line in the tourist info center was quite long. I finally got the info I needed to visit Kronborg castle and Louisiana museum shortly after 10am. I head back to the central station to take a train to Helsingor, but I get back there at 10:19am and apparently the Helsingor train had just departed at 10:18. Damn!

The next train was at 10:51am, which meant I had more than a 30-minute wait (thank God for my ipod). The train leaves about 5 minutes late, and my estimated arrival time at Kronborg Castle was now shortly before noon. But after a few stops, an announcement is made in the train and everyone starts getting off. I had this "duh" look on my face and one of the Danish guys on the rain explained to me that the train had to stop due to some technical problems so we all had to get out. I asked him what time the next train would be available and he said no one knew. A few more announcements in Danish were made, and the guy told me that they had no clue what time the next train would come but more buses were being made available. He was about to head out to take the bus when I asked him if he was going to Helsingor, and apparently he is. So I ask him if I can just go with him since I had no clue how to get to Helsingor by bus. He was nice enough to agree. (Another one to add to my growing list of helpful and friendly Scandinavians!)

The problem with this bus is that it stopped everywhere and took so many turns that I only go to Kronborg castle shortly before 2pm. I spend some time taking photos here before I decide to take the train to Louisiana museum. There was a 2:45pm train but this was delayed as well. So I decided to take the bus to the museum. But everyone was now taking the bus. So it got really delayed too. I finally get to the museum at around 3:45pm and it closes at 5pm. Note that at this time, I have had only one croissant to eat the entire day. There was a cafe in the museum so I figured I would go around the museum first then head to the cafe shortly before it closed to get something to eat. I spend under an hour looking through the museum and when I get to the museum at around 4:40pm, it had apparently closed. Sh*t!

So now I was tired, sweaty, hungry, and dehydrated. But I just wanted to get back to Copenhagen. So I once again took the bus to the Helsingor station, get on the train at 6pm (finally, it was on time!) and get back to Copenhagen at 7pm. I ended the day with a massive buffet dinner that cost roughly P2300 (I felt that after my day, I deserved it, even if it is was pricey) and a calm walk around Tivoli.

I must've spent about 10 hours that day either in transit or waiting for transportation to arrive.
Not the most ideal way to experience a new city. Of course, I still believe that Copenhagen is a beautiful city with lots to do and definitely worth a visit. Good thing, too, that this was not my only trip to Copenhagen. Maybe I can try to squeeze in another visit before I return to Manila.

Here come the Fuzz

If you still have a chance to see 'Hot Fuzz', go see it. Of all the movies I have seen recently, this has to be my favorite by a mile.

(Okay, granted, I haven't really seen that many movies recently. :) But still, I am highly recommeding this film.)

This summer, we had four "part threes": 'Spider-man 3', 'Shrek 3', 'Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End', and 'Ocean's Thirteen'. Apparently all of them did quite well at the box-office. All of these movies are showing here now apart from Shrek 3, which will be shown here in August. I figure it's because they will be dubbing it in Swedish for the young kids who speak only Swedish.

I was hoping to get to watch all these movies coz I don't want to miss out on what are supposed to be some of the biggest films of the year. But 'Pirates...' and 'Ocean's...' both came out at a time when I started planning out-of-town trips - in the last three weekends, I have been to Copenhagen twice and to Amsterdam. And I also figured that I would rather save the money for my planned summer holiday in Europe (I am taking a week and a half off work in July to visit Iceland and Austria). Then I can just buy the DVD in Manila later (would cost the same as watching them here anyway.)

Hence, of these four movies, I only got to see Spider-man 3. And as easy to please as I am, I was quite disappointed in this third installment in the web-slinger big-screen series. I loved Spider-man when it came out, and Spider-man 2 did an amazing job on building on the storyline laid out in the first movie and taking it a step further. Unfortunately, Spider-man 3 seemed to take two steps back. Character development left much to be desired. I normally enjoy a movie when I can understand what motivates the characters and why they would choose to do certain things. Spider-man 3 failed in that respect. The inconsistency of the characters throughout this film left me confused and disbelieving. I guess part of it was that I had high expectations because I enjoyed the first 2 parts and also because there was so much potential with having Spider-man face the New Green Goblin, the Sandman, and Venom all in the same movie. I guess it was too much to ask for two new characters and the dynamic between two others all develop well within 2 hours. A waste of P700 if you ask me. I should have just waited for it to come out on HBO or AXN.

On the other hand, I would definitely recommend 'Hot Fuzz'. What the heck is this movie, you ask? It was actually created by the same team that gave us 'Shaun of the Dead'. 'Hot Fuzz' is about an over-achieving cop in London who is doing such a smashing job in London that this superiors, who feel that he is making the rest of the police service look inept, transfer him to a village in England that has the lowest crime rate in the country. Of course, when he gets there, strange things begin to unfold.

What's great about this movie, just like 'Shaun of the Dead', is that it is such a fresh, hilarious, and well-written comedy, and if you like Brit humor you will certainly enjoy this. I am thinking about some scenes in 'Hot Fuzz' as I write this blog and even now just the memory of those scenes is making me laugh. On top of this, unlike other similar flick, 'Hot Fuzz' actually pays homage to the genre (in this case, action movies) it is spoofing. To quote Simon Pegg, the co-writer and lead actor in the film, Hot Fuzz "lack(s) the sneer that a lot of parodies have that look down on their source material. Because we're looking up to it." The writers also know so much about the genre they are paying tribute to (check out the 'Cultural references' section in its wikipedia entry).

And as a final stroke of genius, 'Hot Fuzz' has such good character development that even if it is a spoof, it makes you care for the outcome of the lead characters. If you go see 'Scary movie' and the lead gets killed or mutilated, you laugh. But with 'Hot Fuzz' (as it was with 'Shaun of the Dead'), you would not want something bad to happen to the leads. You are emotionally invested in the characters, you root for them, and you want them to succeed and win out in the end. Try to see if it you can. I am certainly getting the DVD of this when it comes out!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You gotta love unassuming underdogs

Paul Potts won Britain's got talent! The show recently concluded and Paul Potts was declared the winner. And Simon's statement right before Paul's final performance seems to indicate that a recording contract is certain. Check out the announcement of the winner. I prefer his first performance to this one, but it's still great, and Nessun Dorma is just such an emotional piece that you can't help but be drawn in when you hear it being sung well.

video uploaded in youtube by myredroom.

And while we're at it, check out this video of Cas Haley from the other side of the world, as he auditions for America's got talent. This guy is exceptionally good! You would never guess that he could sing as well as he did. Perfect pitch, amazing vocal texture and control, impressive volume and projection, and really good stage presence. And he's got a pretty interesting back story to boot. I hope he wins. Or gets a really good recording contract. Talent like this can't and shouldn't go to waste. Check Cas out...

video uploaded in youtube by GWrocks09.

[SWEDEN] Under the weather

Chalk it up to tempting fate. Remember how I said it is hot here in Lund right now? Well, a couple of days after that, it started getting a bit cool, cloudy, and even rainy. Anyways, here is my lesson as to why pain to a certain degree is good. I've always been good with cold weather (or at least a lot better than most other people from the tropics) and I must've gotten used to the cool weather here in Sweden that during those cold days, where the temperature was going down to about 13 degrees or so, I still walked around in just a regular shirt - no jacket. It felt a bit chilly, but nothing that seemed to require warm clothes. It would have been good if I felt cold actually, because then i would have gone to work in a jacket.

Now, the days leading up to that cold and wet spell were quite hot, and the sudden change in temperature ended up giving me a really bad sore throat and a headache to boot. I had to miss my first work day yesterday, and if it weren't for crucial deadlines, I would've most likely missed work today as well. At least I've gotten to use the medical kit I brought with me. Unfortunately, I've run out of Strepsils and my throat still hurts. Hopefully, all the fluids I am drinking, plus the 2 liters of orange juice I bought will help get me better.

And I really hope I get better by tomorrow evening. Friday is a holiday here in Sweden, and I decided to spend the long weekend in Amsterdam.

I've been to the Amsterdam airport several times already, but I've never been there. So I felt it is as good a time as any for me to visit. Of course, as luck would have it, the weather forecast for the weekend is not looking good - thunderstorms from Friday to Sunday. Nice timing. In any case, at least I know what to expect now, so I am bringing a jacket and an umbrella with me when I head to the land of windmills and tulips. Then I'll just spend time inside museums to make sure I experience Amsterdam without having to get too wet.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Britain's got talent

Check out Paul Potts, an amazing amateur opera singer who auditioned in the show 'Britain's got talent. And he's got a great underdog back-story as well. He's been through a burst appendix, a huge tumor in his adrenal gland and a shattered collarbone. And he doesn't have the whole celebrity look going for him. But he lets his vocals do the talking.

It was quite amazing seeing the audience give him a standing ovation. Apparently, he's also been given three recording contracts already. Good job, Paul!

And speaking of which, check out this other contestant, Connie Talbot. Only 6 years old and yet such great great control of her voice, especially when hitting the high notes.

The way her voice goes up with no effort nor strain is something that the rest of those wannabe idols need to learn from. Simon is saying she is now a frontrunner, and we know how important it is to impress Simon now, don't we? Simply amazing!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

[SWEDEN] I never thought I'd say this...

...but it is hot over here!

Okay, today it wasn't - it was actually quite cool and windy. But today was a bit of an exception when you look at the past few weeks. I've put aside all my sweaters and light jackets since the temperatures are regularly clocking in at the 20-25 degrees Celsius range. Heck, yesterday it apparently hit 31! Before I arrived in Sweden, my research indicated that the temperature would be about 20 on average during the summer months, with a few days hitting the 20-30 range. So clearly the average temperature now is a lot higher than I was expecting. It's quite common now to see a lot of beautiful Swedish girls in their light and breezy summer clothes and a lot of guys in shorts and flip flops.

The problem though is that my apartment has a heater but no aircon or electric fan (or at least none that I can see). So I am actually sweating a tad bit as I write this blog post. I've had trouble sleeping a couple of times due to the heat I think and since I live on the ground floor right next to the street and right across the railway where trains pass by frequently, opening the windows when I go to bed is not an option.

Speaking of sleep, I've been having a lot less of it lately. Not only because of the heat, but also because of the light. The sun sets after 10 pm now and even at 11pm there is still a slight illumination in the sky. I'm glad that Lund is in the South of Sweden and far enough away from the Arctic circle. Otherwise I'd be having 24 hour daylight or close to it.

June 21 is supposed to the be longest day (summer solstice, if I remember my earth science correctly) so maybe I will take a picture of the sunset next week and see at what time the sky completely blacks out. Should be interesting...

[SWEDEN] Lund pictures

I just realized that I've posted pictures of practically every new place I've been to this year. Except my very own surrogate hometown of Lund! So here are some pictures I took.

I think this is the Cathedral school which is a block away from the hotel I stayed in for my first two months.

And here's the Grand hotel. There's a restaurant right next to it that has a karaoke night on Saturday evenings and I've been thinking of maybe heading there one Saturday night and singing along. But I'm not sure what playlist they have hehe.

Not sure what building this one is, but it's next to the Stortorget or Big Square. I've been to both bars at the ground floor of this building.

And these I believe are apartment buildings.

Clearly, most of the pics I've taken are of buildings. This next one is right next to the apartment buildings above but I'm not sure what it is.

The park I talked about in a previous post is on the right side of this picture. This was taken during winter so I need to head there again. The trees certainly don't look the same way now.

They are actually quite "old" I took them sometime in February or early March so the skies are not as bright blue when you compare it to the photos I took during spring and early summer.

More pics soon, including the university building, and I'll devote a completely separate post about the Domkyrkan which is Lund's main landmark.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back on track

Michael Owen spent practically the entire football season trying to recover from injury. He barely played for Newcastle during the recently completed Premiere league and I was worried that his career was practically over.

So I am absolutely delighted that Owen scored a goal in England's 3-0 triumph over Estonia in their European Championships qualifying match earlier today. He still displayed some of the quickness he used to be known for, and a lot of the instincts. Hopefully, with more matchplay, he can resume his place as the top goal-scorer of England in international competition (although he is only the 4th highest goal-scorer for the England team, he holds the record for most goals - 23 - in England team competitive matches: World Cup and European Championship games including the qualifiers). Of course, I am also pleased that England won. Especially since they are only 4th in their table, behind Croatia, Israel, and Russia. The point difference isn't too big so there's time to play catch up. But this 3-0 win definitely helps their cause.

Kudos as well to Sweden for absolutely trouncing Iceland, 5-0. They are now sitting atop their table, ahead of Spain, Northern Ireland, and Denmark. Speaking of Denmark, they actually played their qualifying match against Sweden in Copenhagen last Saturday, the day before I visited. And it was a very controversial match. The score apparently was tied 3-3 at the 89th minute - one minute of regulation time left - when one of the Danish supporters came down onto the pitch and threatened to punch the referee. The match was promptly abandoned and the referee declared Sweden the winners of that match with a score of 3-0. This is not the final result, however, as UEFA will investigate this matter and come to a decision on what the official outcome of this match should be. In any case, Sweden should remain on top of their group and that gives them a good chance of making it through to the European Championships.

Elliott Yamin #1 in Magic 89.9

I just found out today that Elliott's song "Wait for you" made it to #1 in Magic 89.9's daily countdown. Yahoo!!!

I know that Elliott's CD was not released in the Philippines, and I also know that as of the moment, there are no plans to release it yet (his album is produced by a new independent record label that was created pretty much to release his CD), so I am not sure how the radio stations in Manila got the record so they can play it on air. In any case, I think it's so cool that even if his CD isn't released in Manila, his song is still making waves on the radio.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

French Open substitute

As I mentioned recently, I decided to forego a trip to Paris to watch one day of the French Open last Sunday. So instead, I decided I would visit Copenhagen.

No pictures yet, as I haven't downloaded them. But the trip was, again, a very good one. And if you do take a trip to Scandinavia, you should spend a couple of days in Copenhagen. I was there for only a day, but I plan to visit again, maybe either this weekend or next, because there are a lot more places I would like to see and experience.

I'll hold out on writing about the different sights once I've sorted out my photos. And for the first time in a long time, I brought my trusty tripod with me so I do have a few photos that have me in it.

And while we are on the topic of the French Open, I'm glad that Jelena Jankovic, my new favorite player, has reached the semifinals. Unfortunately, she now faces a very in-form Justine Henin-Hardenne who is at her best on clay and is gunning for her third straight title (and 4th overall) in Roland Garros. Jelena has always given Justine trouble with tough three-set matches, but she has never managed to win so far. Maybe this will change tomorrow. I will keep my fingers crossed. And with Ana Ivanovic in the other women's semifinal (I think she can actually upset #2 Maria Sharapova), it may possibly be an all Serbian final in the French Open. Good luck Jelena!

My new best friend

I bought an ipod when I went to Manila a month and a half ago. I realized I "needed" one during my trip to Switzerland. While waiting in the airport, I had to pull out my CD walkman and my CDs from my bag for me to listen to music, and I realized that it was so cumbersome to have that kind of setup with a portable music player. My friend Tricia also told me that it's good to have an ipod because it's possible to move pictures from your digital camera flash card or memory stick to the ipod. That way, you will never run out of space in your digicam and you don't have to bring your bulky laptop with you when you travel.

So I finally got myself the sleek black 30Gb video ipod. My other friend Joyce told me she was so surprised it took me all this time to get myself an ipod (she would've thought that since I was so into music that I would have had one a long time ago already). And so far it has been my favorite purchase this year. I had it with me when my mom and I traveled through Scandinavia and when I visited Copenhagen last weekend. It also allows me again to listen to music while I work (I don't want to download mp3s to my work laptop) which is a good thing when I need to do routine tasks for long periods of time, like testing and documentation (the music I hear seems to be good ambient noise for me and allows me to concentrate more, go figure). So far it's just been the perfect companion. And I'm not even using it to its full potential yet - I've ripped only about half my CDs, I haven't uploaded any videos or downloaded podcasts, I haven't been able to use it to store pictures, and I haven't built any playlists or organized my music.

Unfortunately, I did my 'new best friend' a disservice yesterday. While walking to the train station I actually dropped it! I was horrified when it happened! Good thing it was in a protective felt cover but there's a small scratch now at the edge of my ipod. I seem to have this awful propensity to damage my favorite things. Can you say 'klutz'? Argh! Oh well. It still works and it could have been much worse - the ipod could have been broken with the fall. I guess I can live with the scratch.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

You have got to see this!

This is Phillip Chbeeb auditioning for "So you think you can dance" earlier this week. And man oh man he is frickin' awesome!

Watch out for: 0:25 to 0:29, 0:44 to 0:49, and 0:52 to 0:56.

Video uploaded in youtube by billandmony

Now if that didn't impress you, I don't know what will.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Idol talk

So American Idol 6 is over. I didn't get to watch it on TV while it was airing because it's about 20 episodes delayed over here. But I was able to keep tabs on what was going on. And I have to say I was very disappointed when Melinda lost. It was so clear that she was the best singer of all of them and she really did bring it every week. I think what was so disappointing was that on Top 3 week, Melinda was just so clearly on top of her game. It's not like she put in a sub-standard performance while the other two raised their games. No, she took it to them and should have gone out on top. Instead, she got voted off. There are several conspiracy theories going on again, of course. But after she left, I wasn't all that interested in the outcome. I just hope Melinda snags a record deal soon and her album sells at least moderately well.

Speaking of which, Elliott's CD has now sold more than 200,000 copies. Not in the league of Carrie (with an impressive 6 million albums sold + a few new awards to her name), Kelly, or Chris (having his song 'Home' take the place of Daniel Powter's 'Bad Day' during elimination has kept Daughtry near the top of the charts for weeks and has raked in more than 2 million albums sold). But when you consider that Elliott was essentially directionless prior to AI, sales of 200K is not bad at all. And there are good signs that he may end up selling a lot more. His amazingly rich and soulful performance on Idol during top 3 week gave his album a spike in sales, and radio play of his songs continues to steadily increase. Check out these numbers in the different Billboard charts this week (his CD has been out for 10 weeks already):
  • Billboard 200 albums: #29
  • Independent: #1 (5 of 10 weeks total at #1)
  • Internet: #16
  • R&B: #15
  • 200: #50
  • Hot 100: #35
  • Hot Airplay: #59
  • Hot Digital: #23
  • Pop 100: #24
  • Pop Airplay: #18
When you factor in the fact that his album was produced by a newbie independent record label, you have to be pleased with the success he is reaping. Hopefully when all is said and done, he reaches gold. Good luck, Elliott!

Another favorite former contestant of mine, Bo Bice, is supposed to release an album later this year, in August I believe. I'm not sure under which record label it will be released, but Bo had more control over this new album. His debut CD, "The Real Thing" was not very well-received mainly because the songs sounded a bit too pop and didn't have the edge that Bo constantly showcased while on AI4 (I personally enjoyed his CD though). Hopefully, this new CD can turn things around for him.

I also recently saw 'Dreamgirls' and I have to say that I think Jennifer Hudson won her Oscar and all those other acting awards, IMHO, by virtue of hype. If the award was for best vocal performance, I could understand (I still wouldn't agree, but I would understand). But she won for acting, and honestly, I felt that her portrayal of Effie White lacked the intensity and despair required of the role. The looks of love she gave Curtis lacked both passion and depth, and she did not display enough of the self-destructive nature that Effie had. Granted, her "And I'm telling you" performance was brilliant. But that was all of 5 minutes and not the entire movie. (And IMHO, I still feel that Jennifer Hudson's voice lacks texture and control. Her high notes are awesome and hair-raising, but when she's not hitting the top 2-3 notes in her chest tone range, I find her vocals too grating and forced. Also, her singing in Dreamgirls, while well-performed, still don't hold a candle to the Jennifer Holliday's original renditions.)

And while we are on the topic of AI3, I am very pleased that Fantasia is getting awesome reviews for her performance of Celie in 'The Color Purple'. Apparently, she is getting such positive critical acclaim for her debut performance on Broadway that people from all over America are buying tickets to catch the show while Fantasia is still on it. After the Hudson buzz due to Dreamgirls with everyone saying that the wrong person was crowned in AI3, it is great to see Fantasia do well.