Thursday, February 26, 2009

My last shot at a long-standing dream?

I checked out the tennis page on CNN Sports Illustrated the other day as I do often. And I was stunned by the piece of news at the top of the page:

"Agassi, Graf to rally first under Wimbledon roof"

My eyes widened and I immediately clicked on the click to read more about the article. Apparently, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi will play an exhibition - dubbed "A Centre Court Celebration" - along with Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters in Wimbledon on May 17. Holy crap!

The event is being staged in order to test the playing conditions in Wimbledon Centre Court with the new roof and air management system. Wimbledon starts in end-June and I guess the organizers of this most celebrated of tennis tournaments want to gauge how things will be in Centre Court once the roof in place. That way, there won't be any surprises, and any problems with the playing conditions can be identified weeks before the tournament starts.

I have actually watched Steffi Graf play live once - an exhibition match against Kimiko Date in Tokyo, which was part of Graf's farewell tour in late 1999-early 2000. But I have always wanted to see her play in a Grand Slam event. Obviously, I didn't have the cash at the time Steffi was playing so I never got a chance to watch her compete. And this exhibition isn't exactly a Grand Slam event, but it will be played in the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. Considering that Steffi is retired and no longer plays competitive tennis, this really is the next best thing.

What's more, she will be playing with her husband Andre Agassi as well as Henman and Kim Clijsters. I have actually supported and rooted for all these players at some point in my tennis fandom so it'll be great to get to see all of them share the same court (Wimbledon Centre Court!!) and play with/against each other.

Tickets will be sold at 10am UK time on March 12, and I will hope that I am lucky enough to get a ticket. If I do, I will figure out some way to fly to London. My pockets aren't exactly bursting at the seams with money and there is a global financial crisis right now so frivolous spending should be kept at a minimum, but this has been a dream of mine for such a long time now and another opportunity like this may never come again so it'll definitely be worth it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Falling Slowly (from the movie "Once")

Here's a very beautiful song called "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

video uploaded in youtube by user FoxSearchlight

This song never really got into the mainstream but it's claim to fame is that it won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007, beating out music from "Enchanted" and "August Rush". It never gained popularity here because the song is not really mainstream and the film "Once" wasn't shown here. I first learned about the film when my friend Michele suggested to me that I watch it, saying that I would most likely enjoy the music in it. My friend Chari got it for me as a birthday gift last year and I've listened to it (especially this song) a lot of times already. I also got the DVD of the film, although I have yet to watch it.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Liverpool just drew against Man City last night, which now means that Manchester United are seven points ahead of them and sitting pretty at the top of the league table. I don't want to throw the towel in just yet, but I don't want to be bitterly disappointed either so I'm going to hope for the best but expect the worst. Well, not really the worst. The worst would be if Liverpool to drop from 2nd place. I would be gutted if that happens.


After five trips to the Oscars, Kate Winslet finally nabs the best actress trophy. I was hoping that Meryl Streep would pull an upset but I do have to say that I am still quite happy for Kate as she does deserve to have at least one Oscar - I mean, this was her sixth nomination! I especially love the bit in her acceptance speech where she says "I think we all can't believe we're in a category with Meryl Streep at all." I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that Hollywood will realize that Meryl will return to the winner's circle at least one more time.

I was really happy too that Sean Penn for the best actor trophy. I had a feeling that if there would be any upset, it would be in this category. Mickey Rourke had been winning every other award, and I felt that Sean Penn deserved some recognition for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. I do feet for Mickey Rourke though because I'm not sure how many other chances he will get to be nominated (this was Penn's fifth nomination and second Oscar).

And may I say that the opening act from Hugh Jackman was incredible! I thought for a second he wasn't going to be given a standing ovation but there was just some delay. :) That performance is worthy of some award too (maybe an Emmy or a Golden Globe? LOL)


Okay this bit of news is a week old but Rafa Nadal managed to increase his lead over Roger Federer by reaching the finals of the ATP tournament in Rotterdam. It could have been an even bigger lead had he won, but he ended up succumbing to a knee injury and losing in three sets to a very in-form Andy Murray. Unfortunately he loses a bit of his lead over Federer because he had to withdraw from Dubai due to his injured knee. Roger withdrew from the same event due to a back problem, but since he lost in the first round last year, he doesn't have any points to defend.

I do hope Nadal gets enough rest and strengthens his knee soon. The clay court season is coming up and he has a whole horde of points to defend. It would be absolutely great if Rafa can win the French Open this year. If he does, it will be his fifth in a row. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My third Habitat for Humanity build

I first volunteered for Habitat for Humanity almost a year ago. I joined the corporate social responsibility club we have at work a little more than a year ago, and on March 23 last year, we had our first trip to a Habitat for Humanity site, where volunteers moved hollow blocks and cement mixtures from one place to another, allowing skilled workers to focus on the actual house building rather than on the smaller stuff.

Since then, I've gotten really involved in this corporate social responsibility (CSR) club, so much so that I've been elevated to initiative head. I have three other co-heads (great people with whom I really love working) and it's amazing that our CSR initiative now has the full support of our country management. we now have projects and programs meant to contribute in the areas of environmental sustainibility, economic development and philanthropy, and educational achievement.

Last Saturday was our first company-wide activity for the year: another build for Habitat for Humanity. We had over 60 volunteers participate and it was great. There was a lot more work to be done this time around. we were broken into four groups. although two of the groups ended up merging. The first group painted the steel components of the roof. The second group poured the cement mix into the walls, and the third group, which I was in, did all the heavy lifting - hollow blocks, sand, and cement mix.

Of all my three trips to a Habitat build, this was probably the one where I had the most fun. Mainly coz we had more volunteers than in the past. But also because we were involved in the latter stages of house building so you could more easily see progress. my group moved enough cement mix to allow the builders to complete three floors in three different houses. It was amazing to see really, and I think as the day wore on we actually got faster and faster with respect to moving the cement mix. It was also great seeing how much higher the walls had gotten due to the great work of the volunteers pouring the cement mix into the hollow block walls. There were so many roof components that were fully painted by the end of the day.

This was also the first time that we all had name tags (I guess we have learned from past experience as well). And seeing the name of the person standing next to you made it so much easier to make new friends.

Of course, considering the fact that I haven't had any exercise in a long time, I feel like I've been beaten up today. My back (upper and lower), biceps, shoulders, and even legs feel extremely sore, almost like I was beaten up LOL. unfortunately, I wasn't able to hit the spa today to get a massage, so I plan to get one tomorrow instead. Nevertheless, all the pain is worth it. Not only did we get to help build houses, I also got to meet a lot of new people.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Of Movies and Music

Over the weekend I realized that I had bought several DVDs that I haven't watched yet so I figured I should start watching some of them. Didn't really have enough time to watch everything though. I did get to see "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". It was okay (good enough to watch but it wasn't 'wow'). Definitely darker than some of the previous ones. I was expecting thought that a specific lead character was going to die in it. And when this character didn't die, I thought that they maybe "sanitized" the film version so that people don't start hurling things at the wide screen. So I texted my friend who I know is a huge HP fan and she told me that this character dies in the next film.

I also got to watch "Borat" and it definitely lived up to all the expectations of hilarity. It bordered on political incorrectness (or maybe it even crossed the line) but in a way that made you feel how utterly insane it is to be bigoted i.e. you were more laughing at the stupidity of the jokes and the person making them rather than at the target of the jokes. There were definitely several very memorable moments in the film - I was driving earlier today and remembered one of the scenes and I started chuckling in the car. It really is such a crazy movie, and definitely worth seeing. Just make sure you are ready for some crudeness and lewdness and slapstick beyond compare.

I also recently got the order I placed in Amazon. I had it delivered to my friend John who lives in the US and when my other friend Me-ann went to the US for a business trip, she was able to get my amazon delivery from John and bring it to Manila. Part of the package included Damien Rice's "O", Bell X1's "Music in Mouth", The Editors "An End has a Start", Outkast's "Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below", and Sennheiser CX-300-B Earbuds. I managed to load all those CDs to my ipod before I went to Bangkok last weekend but I haven't really been able to digest the entire albums. Mostly I listened to the songs I already knew from these albums. Today however I got to listen to the Bell X1 album in its entirety and boy am I glad I picked up that album. It's amazing! Every song is at the very least good. And all the songs tie up nicely together, giving the album a very strong identity. It's not available in the Philippines, so if you are interested, you can get it from Amazon.

I've gone halfway through the album of The Editors and it's pretty solid as well. It's always great when you have friends who recommend great music to you (and it's even greater that a lot of the songs in these albums are on youtube so I can sample it before I decide to get the album). In any case, I'm really pleased with my recent CD purchases. And my noise reduction earphones are pretty cool too!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bangkok Dangerous

No, I don't mean the movie (I was told that the film, which starred Nicolas Cage, was not very good). I mean the actuall city where I spent a long weekend last week.

I've been to Bangkok twice before, but on both occasions I never really got to go around. The first time was for work. I was there for four days but it was mostly long days that were capped off with team dinners. The only place I got to visit was MBK (the mall) to do some shopping. The second time I got to visit Bangkok was by chance. I was flying from London (was on holiday there) to Vietnam (straight to a project kick-off) on September 11 2001, the day of the terrorist attack on the US. As I landed in Bangkok to catch my connecting flight to Vietnam, I was told by the ground crew that my boss had called them to tell me that I needed to stay in Bangkok until our company travel ban was lifted. It was lifted early the next day, but that meant I spent one night in Bangkok. Again, not enough time to see anything.

That definitely was not the case last weekend. I met up with my friend Tim, who has been to Bangkok and Thailand so many times already that he was the perfect tour guide. Our time was spent going around the city with Tim showing me the many interesting sites and bringing me to some really good restaurants to have some great food. I had never been in a tuktuk before so we made sure that I get to ride in one.

We also met up with some friends of Tim and even made a few new friends. Some of these new friends we made took us to an extremely cool night spot. Apparently, it was the house of the owners of MBK - they decided to convert part of their house to a hang-out place. The weather was beautiful, which was really good because this hang out place was outdoors. We spent a few hours here just chilling, drinking wine and rum coke and having shisha (strangely enough, it was my first time to try it, despite it being available in so many places in Manila). After that, Tim and I headed to a club to have a few more drinks...

Probably the most interesting photo I took during the trip was right before we hit the club. Talk about your king of the road (and check out the tail light - literally...)

It was really more like a chill weekend than a dangerous one LOL. Bangkok is definitely a very interesting city. I wouldn't mind paying it another visit, although if I had to go to Thailand again, I'd opt for a trip to the islands like Koh Lanta or Koh Samui.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Barely scraping through

I was in a club last Saturday while Liverpool were playing Portsmouth. They very barely got through. Once again, Torres saved the day with his late goal in added time. But I have to say that Portsmouth lost that game more than Liverpool won it.

I have to say I'm glad that they got through that match. They were in danger of losing. Portsmouth were up a goal twice. And with them losing recently to Everton in the FA Cup (man, that was painful), I was really scared that Liverpool were on their way down. So this win was really good for them. Hopefully it will jump-start a revival. They are still 5 points adrift of league leaders Man Utd so they need to be in their best possible form the rest of the season.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sesame Street Classic: Flower

If you watched Sesame Street a lot a few decades ago, then you might find this youtube video just as nostalgic as I did. It is a simple yet powerful video of a flower, with Antonio Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D Major, 2nd Movement playing in the background:

video uploaded in youtube by user mstatz

I found this video a couple of years ago when I was still based in Sweden. During that time, I spent a lot of time searching for interesting videos on youtube and at some point found myself searching for Sesame Street videos.

I find it very interesting what kind of emotions I feel while watching this clip. Obviously it brings back so many memories of when I was a kid. I find the simplicity of this clip to be very powerful. Showing us the different parts of a flower in great detail makes you realize how easy it is for us to overlook the many tiny fragments of beauty that can be found in things that we take for granted because they are always there. And the music! Leave it to Vivaldi to create a masterful stroke of beauty with this incredibly emotive piece.

It's unfortunate that there is no DVD currently available of all these old Sesame Street clips coz I would certainly get one. I'm pretty sure that thousands of other people also would.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A great sporting day

Not only did Rafa Nadal win the Australian Open but Liverpool also snap their 4-game winless streak by beating Chelsea 2-0 in Anfield. It was Torres' two goals both scored in the dying minutes of the match that gave Liverpool the win. They are still two behind Man Utd (who also have a game in hand so they could go 5 clear) but at least they didn't fall back even further behind.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Nadal wins Grand Slam title #6!

Rafa Nadal wins the 2009 Australian Open, beating Roger Federer in 5 sets 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. Woo-hoo!! :)

photo courtesy of the Australian Open website.

Some interesting figures:
  • Rafa now leads Roger in their head to head, 13-6
  • Rafa also leads Roger in their Grand Slam final head to head, 5-2
  • Rafa has won the five matches they played against each other
  • This is the first time Nadal has reached the final of a Grand Slam event played on hard court
  • Nadal's career five-set record now stands at 12-3. Clearly, he's not a guy you'd want to get into a fifth set against.
The level of play was not as high as in their Wimbledon 08 clash but it was just as tense for the most part. Federer was not at his best, which was good for Nadal because he seemed a step slower and marginally weary, most likely due to his 5 hour 14 minute semifinal match against Fernando Verdasco. A lot of people, including myself, thought that Nadal would not be in good enough physical shape after that. A colleague even commented last Friday, as the Nadal-Verdasco match got into the 5th set, that Federer would kill whichever of the two he ends up meeting. How wrong she was!

Nadal now has 6 Grand Slam titles. And he's only 22. When Federer was 22, he had 1 Grand slam title (Wimbledon 2003). And with Federer amassing a multitude of records already, it's interesting that with this win, Rafa actually achieved something Roger has not - win a Grand Slam event on three different surfaces (grass, hardcourt, and clay).

Of course, the question is how many years Rafa can play at this level. His style of play is so physically demanding that it won't be easy for him to have the longevity that other tennis legends have. But I guess it doesn't really matter. With 6 Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces and a #1 ranking, he is assured of a place as one of the best tennis players in history. He may not be the greatest ever. But he certainly is the best right now.

Congratulations, Rafa! :)