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.

The Great People of Scandinavia

One of the things that makes me enjoy being here is the fact that the Swedes are a great people. I was reading my book about Sweden prior to coming here and it talked about the Swedes being a bit reserved. But what it should have said is that the people here are very pleasant and helpful. And friendly. Not in the "Hi-how-are-you-I-just-met-you-and-we-are-now-best-buds" kind of way. It's more subtle, but very sincere and real.

And apparently it's not just the Swedes. The Norwegians are the same. Or at least the Norwegians I got to meet. The fact that practically everyone in Sweden and Norway can speak English very well, so it's quite easy to communicate with and relate to them.

Here are a few memorable stories:
  • The first time I had to take the train to Malmo, I didn't know how to use the ticket machine. I asked a couple of women standing next to me if they could assist me. They immediately smiled and helped me work the machine. One of them even helped me count my change when it came out of the machine!
  • After I moved to my apartment, I was running out of clean clothes. But I had to wait for my relocation agent to help me understand the washing machine manuals. She passed by my flat before work and I didn't have time to wash my clothes then, so I waited until evening. But when I tried using it, it wouldn't work. I tried calling both my landlord and my reloc agent, but neither were picking up their phones. I was really running out of clothes at that point, and if I waited to call them the next morning, they might not be able to pass until a day or so later, and by then I would've run out of clothes. So I bravely looked for an adjacent room with the lights on, and I rang the doorbell. A guy answered and I explained my predicament - "my washing machine is not working and I can't read the Swedish manual" - and asked if he could take a look to see what I could do to get it to work. He figured out that my machine wasn't connected to a water source yet (I was a bit embarrassed actually), but the fact that he came out of his own room at around 9pm to help out a stranger was actually kind nice of him to do.
  • I was looking for sugar in the supermarket once, and I didn't know where it was. I asked one of the employees there if he could tell me where the sugar was. He actually volunteered to walk with me to the correct aisle. Then when I was faced with all the different boxes of sugar, he actually stayed with me for a bit to explain the differences (the packaging was all in Swedish).
  • When we were in Bergen, my mom and I were walking from the Domkirke to the Mariakirken. On our way, I looked down at my map to see how much further we had to walk. A woman right next to us saw me look at my map and she said "Do you need any help?" I am pretty good with maps and knew exactly where we were so I told her we were fine, but I was very pleased that she volunteered to help us out.
  • My mom told me that on the night she came back to Lund from her Madrid-Lisbon trip, she took the train from Copenhagen and had to switch trains in Malmo. There was a train leaving Malmo for Lund very shortly after her Copenhagen train arrived, and so she ran for the train so that she wouldn't have to wait for the next one that would come after maybe 20 minutes. She had a few bags with her, and while running, several people around her kept asking her if she needed help with her bags. The train conductor apparently even held the train 'til she got on it (it's not like she kept them waiting for so long).
And that's really just the tip of the iceberg. I have two Swedish friends here now, plus all the receptionists in the hotel I stayed in for two months (I pass by there every so often to say hi). Each time I talk or hang out with them, I always have a wonderful time. The conversation is always fun and easy and unpretentious, and not just with them but everyone else. The bottomline is that practically every time I've interacted with a Swede (or Norwegian), it has always left me with a very positive impression. It definitely makes staying in this part of the world a lot more pleasant and comfortable.