Thursday, June 30, 2016

Astonishing dance duet by Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe

Wow, this just absolutely takes my breath away. We've seen something like this in Asia's Got Talent with Gao and Liu but because this particular performance of the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe isn't constrained by time, they are able to slowly build towards and extend some jaw-dropping and mind-blowing sequences. Particularly impressive is that en pointe turn that the woman does on the man's head! Or check out the mind-blowing balancing act she does at 6:03, still on his head! This is a truly stunning display of balance, control, flexibility, strength, musicality, and elegance. IMO, there just aren't enough superlatives to describe this magnificent dance duet.

video uploaded in youtube by Patrick S├ębastien

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June hodgepodge

The last month or so has been filled with a lot of tabletop and board gaming. Most of the time, it involved playing games at someone's place but I also did get to visit DyceNDyne once. I got to play many games for the first time. Quadropolis, a city-building game, was quite interesting and I am happy that I ended up in second place while playing with a group of people who had played it before. Dixit is a bit of a strange game which involves being on the same wavelength as other people in the group. Sheriff of Nottingham is like a bluffing game but also depends quite heavily on the cards you end up getting so I didn't quite enjoy it. Princess Bride is a card game that I didn't quite enjoy because it depends quite heavily on the cards you have and it's quite easy to get majorly screwed by someone else but it makes for interesting interactions I guess. :) Bruges is another game that requires you to amass the most points by building houses and canals and having the most powerful and influential people and in the two times that I played this game, I ended up a close second and a big winner. Cool!

Of course, I also got to play games that I have played in the past like Viticulture, Rococo, Orleans, 7 Wonders Leaders, and Istanbul. What I have noticed is that no matter which group of people I play with, I have a good record of placing second or even first place, at least in the games that require you to rack up and win the most points. In fact, I'm on a bit of a winning streak as I have won the last 2 games I played (Istanbul and Bruges). I also won 4 of the last 6 games I played (I also won 7 Wonders Leaders and Orleans) and ended up in second place in one (Quadropolis). Princess Bride was the only game I lost (so maybe that's why I don't like it so much haha).

Apart from enjoying playing these games, it's great that I got to do with many different sets of friends. I played with my (ex)co-leads of our CSR organization at work, my travel buddies, and my gaming friends. In fact, I now have even more gaming friends because I got introduced to a new set of them last weekend. That means there will be a whole lot more tabletop and board game playing in the near future.

Of course, it wasn't all about games. :) It also involved dinners and drinking. I met up with Joh and Raffa for dinner in Brera Delicatessen in Savemore Acacia Estates and after dinner, Mike joined us for coffee and dessert at Brewhilde. As if that wasn't enough, we decided to organize dinner again, this time in XO 46 Heritage Bistro at SM Aura, this time with Alvin as well. I also got to hang out with my friends Jim, Rose and Lawrence for drinks at Skinny Mike's. It was the first time I got to hang out with them since we went to Baler so it was great to catch up (and plan the next trip).

I also realized recently that I just used my 500th voucher. (Actually, I am now up to 501.) The unfortunate bit is that I missed using one voucher. I thought I had used up all of what I had but I realized there was one voucher print-out that was stuck in the middle of a lot of other documents. Too bad. Of the 531 vouchers that I have purchased over the years, I missed using only 30 of them. That's not a bad percentage. In any case, I have no purchased a dozen more vouchers that are valid until the end of the year so hopefully my percent usage goes up over the next few months.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Singapore shopping trip

Earlier this year, I figured I needed a new point-and-shoot camera when a dark smudge started appearing on the upper left corner of the photos I took while in Boracay. (I have now realized that may actually be due to my habit of slotting my cameras into my pocket which may end up causing damage to the lens.) I also realized that the camera I got for my mom to replace the one that was broken doesn't take good indoor photos. So I ended up using the need for new cameras (again) as an excuse to travel to Singapore to visit my friends there.

After figuring out what features I wanted and doing a lot of research and I ended up getting the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ110. While its focal length is a bit higher than what I wanted (25mm instead of 24mm), it has 10x optical zoom and a 1" sensor, making it good for low-light shots. For my mom, I decided to stick to Canon (since she is used to it) and got her the Canon Powershot SX710 HS with its impressive 30x zoom. Cool! I got the Canon at Best Denki in Takashimaya because it was the only shop that still carried this camera model (it had a pretty big discount) but I got my Lumix at Funan, which apparently is closing at the end of the month. I also ended up getting a couple of power banks and a card reader.

Of course, I ended up hanging out with a lot of my friends while I was there. I joined Anna and Majel for dinner at Kog and Ina's house and Kog and Ina very generously prepared roast chicken and paella. I met up with Gi for coffee at Cedele before we joined with the rest of the gang - Pau, Pia, Hannah, Anna, Che, Tim, and Steph - for dinner in L'Entrecote. I had brunch with Denise and Kleng at Common Man Coffee Roasters. I met up with Tim in Marina Bay Financial Center for some coffee before we walked over to the Fullerton Bay Hotel so Tim could meet up with some of his friends there. (It was my first time in the hotel and it is really beautiful).

I joined Jenn and her friends for dinner at a Bak Kut Teh near Clarke Quay MRT before heading to 28 Hong Kong Street for drinks. I met up with Sarah and Dawid and their family. The bonus was that Sarah's sister Iz who is also my friend was there at the same time and she joined us for lunch. I hadn't seen or hung out with her in years so it was awesome to see her along with Sarah and Dawid. And of course, how could I not mention watching Damien Rice in concert at the Star Theatre. Cool!

Another highlight of this trip was the fact that I flew Singapore Airlines. I managed to get a big discount which meant that my flight ended up costing about the same as one I would get from a budget airline. I also finally managed to watch Deadpool (I felt it didn't live up to the hype) and London Has Fallen (despite the bad reviews of this movie, I actually quite enjoyed it.) This was the first international trip I took in since 2013 and I am really glad it turned out to be an amazing one.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Damien Rice Live in Singapore

Wow, I'm still in a state of disbelief. Last weekend, I got to watch one of my all-time favorite musical idols, Damien Rice, perform live in Singapore. To say that I am overjoyed that I saw this supremely talented Irish singer-songwriter in concert is a huge understatement.

It seems like I was really destined to see this show. A few months ago, I decided to travel to Singapore to meet up with friends whom I haven't seen in a while and also to buy new cameras (more on this later). After I finalized my travel plans and purchased my flight, I messaged one of my friends and asked him when he was free to meet up. He then told me that my trip coincided with Damien's concert - he was a fan and he knew I was too - and asked me if I was interested to watch. I immediately said yes. He helped sort out tickets for me and the rest is history.

This show was a fantastic treat for his fans as it showcased everything we love about him and his music. He played music from his studio albums O and 9 as well as from his latest album My Favourite Faded Fantasy. He even tossed in a song from his EP/compilation album B-sides. Check out his setlist here. His voice was raw and emotional and soft and powerful. It helps too that he has an incredible range and amazing control, and I think he sounds even better live than on the recordings. His guitar-playing was expressive, explosive and exquisite, and it took the whole audience along a mesmerizing journey through heartbreak and hope.

I don't know what it is about sad music that I find so compelling but this is precisely why I am such a fan. Damien's songs are steeped in pain, melancholy and anguish and hearing him perform them live just made me love them even more. Many times during the concert, he would slowly build a song up into a dizzying and impassioned crescendo - often accompanied by a dramatic light show - before suddenly snapping it back into a poignant stillness, making the storytelling just that much more effective. I'm a huge sucker for that and I loved every single minute of it.

What made this concert even more special was that he performed alone on stage. He did have light, sound and equipment technicians and a crew that made sure things went along smoothly, but Damien was a one-man band that night. No other musicians, no back-up singers. To add volume and layers to his sound, he made use of a looper pedal, allowing him to back himself up. I had never been to a performance like this before and as my friend said after the show, it was a masterclass in solo performance.

Some of my favorite moments that evening: when Damien got the entire audience to sing in harmony and perform back-up for him during Volcano (I was in the section that sang "volcanoes melt you down..."), when he asked everyone to go to the front of the Star Theatre during the encore (I ended up being right up at the edge of the stage and Damien was standing practically within arms reach), and when he ended the evening with two of my favorite songs of his - Rootless Tree and The Blower's Daughter. Here is a video I took of him performing what is one of his most popular and beloved songs (the video is missing the first two lines of the song):

I was so blown away by the concert and the experience that I was practically speechless for several minutes afterwards and I couldn't wipe the big smile off my face. It was an intense and emotionally charged evening and even now, days later, I still feel ecstatic. Damien Rice is a truly amazing and immensely talented singer, songwriter, musician and performing artist. I will surely keep an eye out for any concerts he may have in Southeast Asia in the near future because I absolutely want to see him perform live again.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

La Cocina De Tita Moning closes its doors

Sad news. One of my favorite restaurants, La Cocina De Tita Moning, served its last meal to the public last May 31. I had been here many times before and it was always an enjoyable experience for me to dine here with my family or with my friends. When I found it was closing, I decided I wanted to visit at least one more time. There wasn't enough time to sort out a proper meal here - in fact, the place ended up being fully booked for its last few weeks of operation - so I instead decided to buy some take-out items. Naturally, I decided to get their sensational Bread and Butter pudding.

Bread and Butter Pudding from La Cocina De Tita Moning

I got the large one for my immediate family and I got the picnic size one for my grandmother. I also got a couple of bottles of their delicious Salsa Monja as well as one big jar of Quezo de Bola spread for my immediate family and one small jar of Quezo de Bola spread for my grandmother. I will truly miss this restaurant and its amazing food, great ambience, and fantastic service. Hopefully, their heirloom recipes will once again be available to the public in the future.


It's unfortunate how many of the restaurants where my family and I celebrated important events together have now closed in the last two years: Adarna, Brasserie Cicou, Tin Hau in Mandarin, Prince Albert in Intercon, and now La Cocina De Tita Moning. At least my family did get to experience these places while they were still up and running.

Monday, June 06, 2016

What a French Open that was

Congratulations to Garbine Muguruza for winning the French Open title, beating Serena Williams in straight sets 7-5 6-4 to claim her first ever Grand Slam tournament trophy. This isn't the first time that Garbine beat the legendary Serena. In fact, I first learned about Muguruza when she upended Williams in the second round of the 2014 French Open (also in straight sets). 2 years later and she does it again, but this time, with larger stakes.

Serena herself was going for her 22nd Grand Slam title and her 4th French Open title. While I am certain she will eventually pass Steffi Graf's current Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles, since I am a Steffi fan, I am relieved that Graf's record will stay with her for just a while longer. This could have been a massive win for Serena since it would have allowed her to tie three of the most impressive Graf records: (1) Steffi has the Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, (2) Steffi is the only player so far to have won each of the Grand Slam events at least four times, and (3) Steffi is the only player so far to have defended her title in each of the Grand Slam events at least once. Since I am certain that Williams will break Graf's 22 Slam haul record and she will also break Graf's women's record of 186 consecutive weeks at #1 (she is just 14 weeks away from achieving this and there is no one who seems capable of taking the #1 ranking any time soon), I am happy that Graf gets to keep a couple of her records for a bit longer.

That said, more records were made on the men's side. Novak Djokovic finally completed his Career Grand Slam by winning the only event that has eluded him, beating Andy Murray in four sets. As if that wasn't enough, Novak just achieved a non-calendar Grand Slam as he has just won the last four majors. He is now in a tie for 5th overall (with Roy Emerson) for the most Grand Slam titles - only Federer, Nadal, and Sampras have more but he is now only 2 behind Nadal and Sampras and he has a strong chance of surpassing that number.

Furthermore, he has now won the first two events this year, making him a contender for the Calendar Grand Slam, a feat only five other players - male and female - have achieved in history. And with this being an Olympic year, he also has a shot at matching Steffi Graf's legendary achievement in 1988 of a Golden Grand Slam.

Boy, this year is shaping up to be a very interesting one with so much at stake and many records at risk of being broken. Good luck to all the players.