Monday, 31 December 2007

2007: Requiem of Retrospection

12... The deafening sound of the clock tower strikes to mark the end of the day.
11... But the significance of the moment lies in much more than the end of the day, for the end of this day also represents the end of this year.
10... As the clock strikes 12 this midnight, what will you see? What will you hear?
9... Will you be able to hear beyond the sounds of the crowd counting, the whistles, the cheers and the chimes of the clock tower? Will you be able to look beyond youths jumping, people smiling and children laughing?
8... Will you be able to see the events of the year that has past before your very eyes, the life that you have lived in the last 365 days and the memories that you have made in the given hours?
7... Will you be able to look back at the year, and ask yourself, "What did the last year, 2007, mean to me as a person and to my soul?"
6...When you have a Millenia to live, Retrospection plays an important part as your moments are defined not so much by the time that has passed, but more so by the moments that are made. Listen carefully, beyond the sounds of the bells and the whistles, and maybe, just maybe, like me; you'll be able to hear the sweet sounds of the Requiem of Retrospection.
#5... To Drink the Wine from the Winner's Cup

I've been a hardcore gamer for the last 19 years, "hardcore" in every sense of the word, beyond a shadow of a doubt. But sadly, this assurance remains largely in the confines of my own mind, and in the loss of translation to another, the begging question would always be, "Really, how hardcore is hardcore?"

In 2007, this point, title and identity has been resoundingly proven, albeit to a measly crowd of 30 people, but still, it is a point proven to some others, and most importantly, to myself. I practiced, I played and I won - by a landslide - in an small-scale competition, mincing through the biting Performance Anxiety, and showed that, when it really came down to it, I could step up the the pedestal and prove that I am indeed the meanest son-of-a-gun this side of the square in Geometry Wars (and many other games too).

While Pride makes the most of the cake, the icing on top of it comes in the form of the Prize, a spanking new Nintendo Wii to continue relishing the sweet taste of victory; and relish I will, as I continue to pummel deeper down into the spirals of Passion with the new-found prize.

Maniacal, I know.

Related Post(s): The Prize of Passion




#4... Our Hearts Draw a Dream

2007 has also been a more than optimistic year where affairs of the heart are concerned.

After teasing me with light sprinkles of the possibilities of Romance in the earlier half of the year, Destiny went into full swing in the latter half of the year.

Sending to my doorstep a gift of starking differences and a tinge of nostalgic similarity, Destiny literally baited the experiential in me to take a blind shot at the impossible. And from that first shot onwards, Destiny played the role of the guiding hand to the raging whirlwinds of Romance, whistling in harmony with my Dark Charisma and Vampiric Charm.

A couple of months later.... and then there was 5.

Reflection of Impossibility

Related Post(s):
Conversational Chemistry, Al Dante Trattoria: Love for the Lighter Taste of Love, Top of the M: Curtain Call
#3... Big Trouble in Little Tokyo

2007 marked a fruitful year for travel as well. Even though there was only 1 trip made the entire year, it would be safe to say that it probably ranked in my Top 3 vacations in my entire lifetime (and that is saying a little something, I would guess).

I remember the feeling of the wind on my face on Mount Fuji, I remember the sounds of the soothing Kegon Waterfall at Nikko, I remember the taste of Kobe Beef, I remember the breathtaking night scene from Tokyo Tower and I sure as hell remember the laughter that rang through the rooms, the hallways and the buses with the company that I went with.

But ironically, if there is 1 thing, 1 moment, 1 experience that I would REALLY remember Japan for, it would be the night that I got lost on the streets of Tokyo alone. I can still vividly replay the memories in my head.

Walking through the quiet streets with my jacket fully-zipped up to battle the chilly night wind. I remember using my broken Japanese to find my way around after the whole debacle. I can remember the mental struggle I had; whether to settle down somewhere safe to wait the night away, or to embrace the adventurer in me to continue exploring the new frontier.

I'm glad I chose the latter, for I'm glad that I penned a story to tell for the ages and made a memory that would last a lifetime.

Yes, I am THAT damn cool.

Related Post(s):
Vampire in Japan: Day 10 /11 - Beautiful Disaster, Vampire in Japan Series
#2... Moment of Glory

2007 is... the year that marked the end of my academia after a gruelling 25 years.

As I stood at the foot of the steps to the stage, I could feel it, the flipping of the last page of the Academic Chapter in my life, after a total time of 16 years hitting the books, it was finally time to bid a sordid farewell to the hurried flipping of pages the night before the exam, days of sitting in front of the monitor to rush a project deadline, trying to make one's presence felt in tutorial classes just to have your name remembered to get a little more favour from the tutors (which sometimes mean a little more points as well)... things that will surely not be missed.

But this particular close also stubbed the flames of leisure that fuelled the given-and-not-earned long vacations, it marked the end of the carefree life of juggling your own free time as you deem fit (most of which I saw fit to spend on gaming), and most importantly, the end of the official reasons to be sitting in the same room with the friends that I've made over the years. These are the times... that will surely be missed.

But as I took a deep breath with my retarded-looking hat in my hand, I knew that this day would eventually come, and in 2007, this was the year in which the day came that I cut the reins of Academia to embrace the full-fledged freedom thereafter.

Curtain Call

Related Post(s): Graduation: Moment of Glory




#1... Live the Dream

"I wanna be a fireman."

"I wanna be an astronaut."

Dreams... we all have them. And when we were younger and less jaded, our dreams seemed a lot closer to reality. But with the Sands of Time, the harshness of reality slowly chews away at the lucidness of these dreams and we can do nothing about it except to see it fade away and slip out of our grasp.

I remember the day, when I was 18, sitting at a nearby MacDonald's with my then-girlfriend, and I told her, "I want to be a Game Designer, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there." I felt an extremely strong conviction then, and I guess it must have showed in my eyes, as I saw a slightly startled look in her's when she saw it; probably a stark contrast to the usual glint of non-chalance I cast.

Fast-forward 6 years of my lifetime, 4 years of Tertiary education, 25 job-applications and 100s of games played later... despite all adversity and doubt, despite the torrent tides of influence of the people around me, despite the shadows of doubt cast by Practicality on the colours of my dream, here I am... finally... Living the Dream, in 2007.

True, the road is still shaky, as uncertainty paves the way of the future, while material temptations sometimes serve to detract me from my cause. But despite all this, to be able to realize an Ideal, to be able to March to the beat of your own Drum, to be able to live a Life of Passion; is a surreal fact in itself, especially given the circumstances around me.

And no matter what the years to come may shape this base of realized-ideals into, whether the dream will stand or stumble, regardless of how long it'll last, 2007 will be remembered as the year that...

...I Lived my Dream...

With my Back on my Future

Related Post(s): The Price of Passion, The Perks of Passion

..... and I am not Ready to Wake from my Dream just yet...

Monday, 24 December 2007

Top of the M: Curtain Call

21st December 2007

"So are you gonna tell me where you're bringing me for dinner yet?" she asked.

I teased her a little longer and skirted her question, holding her hand and guiding her into the all-too-familiar Meritus Mandarin.

"Top of the M?!" she exclaimed, in a semi-cackling and semi-cracking manner, perhaps knowing roughly what to expect from a previous entry she read.

"Actually darling, you can choose to dine in anyone of the 6 restaurants here," I said, breaking the silence of the ascent, "but I would highly advise you to choose the Top of the M."

"Why?" she asked.

The lift came to a halt as the doors opened and we exited into the familiar Observation Lounge. We made our way up the slightly spiraling staircase and were guided to our reserved table, under warm candlelight and Christmas-decor to top it off.

"I can feel the rotation," was the first thing that she said upon sitting down, obviously referring to the subtle rotation of the floor beneath us. I felt a sense of Deja Vu come over me as I saw a mirror of my initial reaction from an alternate perspective.

Deja Vu

"How long does it take for the restaurant to rotate 1 whole round?" she asked, while we waited for the our food to arrive.

"Hmm, 1 or 2 hours, I think." I answered, realizing that I have never really paid attention to the rate at which the skyline changes as the restaurant rotated. I looked out of the window, keeping silent for a moment. I've always loved viewing the Night Scene from a vantage point, and the 360 degree panoramic view only served as the frosted-icing on the cake to the bright Christmas-lit landscape of Orchard Road below.

Thought is Sexy

The moments of silent pondering were promptly interrupted with the arrival of the usual appetizer, the oven-baked Escargots. As always, the herbal aroma of the Escargots were immediately-alluring from the very moment it was served. And it was indeed a joy to be able to introduce and share the tantalizing taste of the 6 vineyard snails with the lovely company.

"I know it's a little hard to try to imagine that you are eating a snail, as in 1 of those things that you see crawling on the ground. But trust me, these are no ordinary snails, these are specially- bred vineyard snails," I told her, as I fed her the first bite. She bit the bait, and instantly, from the look in her eyes, I could tell that she was convinced.

The main courses arrived at the table in their piping-hot splendour. "You know, darling, Venison is probably the closest that you can get to beef, without 'losing fortune'," I said cheekily, making a subtle innuendo about her family's religious belief against the consumption of beef.

"Mmm, it's really nice," she said, ignoring my comment and proceeding to cut me a slice. I put the Venison into my mouth, chewing on a slab of tender medium-grilled meat with a tinge of Cranberry sauce. The unique taste of the meat and fruit elements fell right in line with my pre-notion of wild and rather exotic taste of French Cuisine.

But the real sleeper-hit came on the plate of my main course, the Roast Duck. "You know darling, Duck at the Restaurant is DAMN different from your normal coffee-shop duck," I recalled telling her when she was giving me the look of skepticism about my choice of the main course while we were placing our orders.

And my point was more that proven with my choice. The medium-roasted duck meat was a perfect balance of tenderness and firmness, proving to be just nice for my personal taste. The skin on the outside was perfectly roasted, not straying too far from the texture of the fabled Peking Duck, while the Tomato Paste on the top helped to take away some of the usual smell; adding up to a killer combination that still had me salivating for more long after I was done with the dish.

"Mmm, you're right, it really is DAMN different, it's like 2 totally different kinds of meat," she said.

"Good evening sir, would you like to hear any particular song?" said 1 of the trio of mobile musicians, as he came to our table, through a distinctively foreign accent.

"Do you have any song in mind, darling?" I asked her, staring straight into her blank face and lost eyes.

Sensing that I was not going to get an answer anytime soon, I prompted the musician, "How about 'Love will Keep us Alive' by the Eagles?"

"'Love will Keep us Alive'? A very nice song, sir." He replied.

The classic guitar solo started as the pitch perfect vocals of the trio rolled in and serenaded the lyrics of one of the most classic love songs of all time (some might argue that the lyrics are exaggerated and such, but then again, isn't that what the classic love songs are all about?). Her eyes shifted from side to side, sensing that all the attention was on our table, her cheeks were rather tense as she tried to hold her emotions down.

Much Better Singers than I am

I grabbed her hand under the warm candlelight, and amidst the beautiful lyrics and the haunting melody, I mouthed two words, "Happy Birthday," as I felt the muscles in her delicate hand relax and her tensed facial muscles crack up into melting into a gentle smile.

Evidence of Romance

"So, now are you convinced that I'm charmingly romantic?" I asked her cheekily.

"I've told you before, it's actually quite easy to tell that you can be romantic if you want to," she said.

"Is it really THAT obvious? I seriously wonder why." I said, as the Seven Sins graced us. The Seven Sins was a supreme indulgence to say the least. An assortment of 7 different kinds of chocolate desserts, it would be more than enough to overload the tastebuds (and sweet teeth) of 2 with its amazingly rich flavours. Fortunately, we both were choco-holics and we entire relished the 7 uniquely different flavours of chocolates on the platter.

Seven Sins: More than Aptly Named

"You know darling, I know that you said that you almost always get a cake every year on your birthday. But well, I didn't get a cake for you, but I can at least offer you a candle to blow out," I said, after the dessert.

"So make a wish and blow," I said, grinning idiotically as I pushed the candle on the table top towards her.

"Really?" she asked skeptically.

"Yes, really," I said, continuing to beckon her.

Makeshift Wishes

"2 hours," I said. As I signaled to the waiter for the bill.

"Huh?" she said.

"2 hours is how long it took for 1 entire rotation," I told her, as the waiter came over.

"Is it true that you will be renovating after the New Year?" I asked the waiter, as I was signing the bill.

"Yes," he said. "31st is our last day, and we will be having this big Gala Dinner and Masquerade Party."

"So what is going to happen to this place after that then?" I probed further.

"Oh, this place is going to become the Chatterbox, at least for the next 2 years. The plan after that is to bring back the French Cuisine, with Vietnamese Cuisine 2 years later," he patiently explained.

"It's a pity, I will really miss the French Cuisine here," I said.

"Thank you, sir." He replied.

Black on Black

As we made our way out of the restaurant, I was reflecting on the words that I had just said some moments back. It was an understatement to say that I would miss the French Cuisine, or rather, it was an understatement to say that I would miss the French Cuisine alone; because I would miss so much more about the place than the award-winning French Cuisine. I would miss the candle-lit ambience, the serenading musicians, the revolving landscape, the fragrant Escargots, the Seven Sins... I would miss the Memories, all the memories that were forged in that very place... I would miss it all.

Christmas Cool

But when it's all said and done, there is at least one thing that I can take solace in. And that is the fact that before the Curtain Call of this brilliant and extravagant award-winning French Restaurant, I managed to make one last memory that counts, one more meaningful memory to have, to hold, to share and to reflect upon... and there probably is no better way for the Curtain to fall than with a final stand and a haunting finale.


Friday, 14 December 2007

Hush, Isolation

"Ticket for one, please." I said to the cashier.

I made my way into the cinema, with my hands full with a box of popcorn, a large coke and a promotional packet of Twisties tucked under my armpit. I located my (usually-preferred) aisle-seat and snuggled up in the chair to obtain a position comfortable enough to last me through the next 2 hours or so.

I am no stranger to this form of solitude and isolation, especially not in film-watching. I remember that some of the best films that I've watched were under these solitary conditions... as my memory takes me back through the scenes of The Departed, The Prestige and now this.

The movie opened to a deliberately slow start, setting the mood and ambience for the context of 1960s Shanghai, as the main characters are introduced one at a time, without much explanation. The classical plot layout of starting in the middle of the plot's timeframe and filling in the pieces before and after.

The rational behind catching films alone is a rather simple one, which is simply taking the perspective of putting the appreciation of the film over the company that comes with it. While I do believe that movies are a great way to spend time with some form of company, circumstances occasionally hinder the availability of company within the confines of a movie's scheduled run-time. So between the lack of company and the slipping of the cinematic-experience of an under my radar, the movie-buff in me would choose to go with the former.

Newcomer Tang Wei's presence in the movie grew on me over the course of the film. While initially spending more time analyzing her physical attributes, including the colour and shape of her nipples; as the plot continued to play out, I found her easier to connect to. Wang Lee Hom on the other hand, delivered a rather safe and one-dimensional performance. As for Tony Leung, his performance was spectacular as usual, only further cementing his position as the best actor this side of Asia; handling his role of charismatic cruelty with great conviction.

Even though company in film-watching can play a part as important as the supporting cast in a movie, like having others spread the infectiousness of laughter when watching a comedy, or having sharing the "Hoos" and "Has" in a mind-blowing action film, thought-provoking deep films are actually perfectly suited to be watched in solitude, leaving you to swim in your own thoughts as the plot unfolds, and to harvest the the nested subtleties sown by the director.

The fabled sex-scenes in the movie were rather artistically done, unsurprising considering having Lee Ang at the helm of the film. While serving as an erotic display on the visceral level (there were times that I was really asking myself if they were REALLY having sex); on a functional level, the sex scenes depict the connection and vulnerability of the characters. Going a step further into the symbolic layer, the placement, progress and portrayals of the sex scenes lie in parallel to how the characters' relationships develop; representing the shift in power and emotional leverage of the characters.

On a socially symbolic level, the act of catching a movie alone is often unspokenly frowned upon and somewhat a social taboo in our mostly Asian society. Somehow, seeing someone watching a film alone almost immediately causes the relation to terms such as "loner," "loser" or "weirdo" (I'm sure I could easily be branded that if I wasn't as well-groomed as I am), rather than more positive terms such as "movie-buff" or "film-critic."

For some reason, in our society, seeing someone do certain activities alone, such as dining or watching a movie, will lead to the assumption of the person being social inept more so than to the conclusion that the person is confident and perfectly comfortable with himself / herself to relish these experiences entirely based on their own merits. It is also interesting to note that these assumptions are more easily branded upon fellow Asians than it is with Caucasians; for some odd reason, its perfectly fine for Caucasians to walk into a cinema alone without garnering raised eyebrows, but not so much for Asians on Asians. Perhaps, it boils down to te socially innate assumption that Caucasians are more confident in general, or at least enough to remain unphazed by the raised eyebrows.

Speaking of which, my eyebrows were raised in doubt and question by the time the camera panned on Tony Leung's tearful eyes as the credits rolled. While the backbone concept driving the entire plot was not exceptionally original or intriguing, and the pacing of the plot development was a little uneven; the overall execution of the story devices and the character development was immaculately done and enough to be entirely believable and relatable to. As mentioned in media, Lee Ang's masterpiece is a work of art that will leave the viewer with a deep impression and still pondering about the choices made by the characters long after the credits have rolled.

And to this, I am glad that I chose to catch the movie in solitude. On a personal note, I feel that there is something rather soothing about watching a movie alone; without the need to take occasional glimpses of your company to check if he/she/they are falling asleep, without the need of having to consider passing the popcorn out of courtesy, without the distraction of wise-cracks from the company. Leaving one in the Hush of the Isolation, battling with one's own thoughts in sync with the screen events, to be able to fully digest all the little nuances, and to be able to entirely immerse oneself into the director's vision and direction.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Oosh: Jinxes & Diamonds

29th October 2007

The deafening sound of the crushing metal rang through the air as we both sat upright in our seats. "Did I just hit the curb? Oh shit! Tell me that I didn't just hit the curb," she said, as I remained silent, partially in shock, partially in tactful denial.

But the denial could only last so long, as the nearby valet came over and knocked on the window, telling us, "Erm Ma'am, I think you didn't see the curb on your left, you have to reverse your car out of there first."

She did as she was told, reversing her car to the piercing sound of the metal being scratched as the car moved into a safe spot. We both alighted with bated breaths, mentally preparing ourselves to see the disaster, but our hearts only sank deeper (her's much more than mine) when we gazed upon the huge deformation on the back door and the deep scratches that spanned across two panels of the door. It was definitely more than enough damage to remove the brand new polish of her 2-day old Red Suzuki Swift.

"I'll kill you if they tell me that their fully booked, after all that has happened. It's all thanks to you and your stupid choice of wanting to come here," she said, as we were waiting to be seated. I remained silent. Fortunately, my life was to be spared a little longer, as the captain showed us the way to our seats, a little table under a tentage set up in the midst of the garden.

Lit by warm candlelight against the greenery of the garden, the ambience proved to be soothing and luxurious. Scanning around the vicinity, I caught love-birds and expats sitting out in the middle of the garden, portraying an image of a mid-summer's night dinner in the garden, one that we of the tropics do not fully relish.

"You know, I am surprised that you are more concerned with wondering how to hide this from your mum than the actual heartache of wrecking your 2-day old car," I said, in my typical brutal honesty.

"Well, I've been in worse accidents before, like some really bad ones. Wait, let me show you," she said, as she browsed through the photos in her phone to show me an even more worthy debacle.

Convinced, I said, "Well, then I am surprised that you are taking it somewhat optimistically. If I were you, I would be damn pissed and jittery, by now."

"Hey, says who, I damn feel like crying now, but I just don't want to spoil the rest of the night," she said, as her words rang with truth from the watery look in her eyes. She's always been a strong one, or perhaps just blindly optimistic. Whatever it is, for as long as I've known her, she's been a self-proclaimed escapist and has been more than able to dodge the pessimism in her path time after time.

The Seafood Sampler Appetizer arrived just in time to ease the weight of the moment. While measly in terms of portion, what was there was mouth-watering enough to warrant the monicker of "appetizer." The prawns were fresh and succulent, the salmon was suitably smoked and the tuna with avocado was surprisingly tantalizing to the tastebuds despite its overly-greenish appearance (by my standards).

Her phone rang again during the course of the appetizer, as I reached into my pocket to attempt to dig mine out for a routine check. But my pocket was unexpectedly empty as I started to look under my chair and table for my phone.

Seeing my frantic actions, she asked me what I was looking for. I told her that I probably had dropped my phone, and it could be in the car, or maybe not. She beckoned me to go back to the car to look for it, but I was reluctant; partially due to the distance from the carpark, and perhaps partially because there might be some form of silent comfort in company if she knew that she was not the only one who had something bad happening to her, despite the insurmountable difference. But being the selfless angel that she was, she convinced me to take a walk back to the car to at least find some peace of mind over dinner.

I returned relieved and to the scent of my main course aptly placed in front of my seat. Wasting no time, I sliced into the Beef Tenderlion to sample the wellness of the meat. Perfectly medium with a juicy finish. The brown sauce proved to be ample and provided much-needed flavour to the staple taste of mashed potatoes. Her Lamb Shank was well-prepared as well, with the meat tenderly roasted with a pink centre. But beef beats lamb any day for the Vampiric tongue though.

"It's just me, right?" she asked over dinner "I mean, its just my bad driving thing, right? And not like I'm cursed or something, right?"

"Uh, would you actually prefer it to be that way?" I questioned her question.

"Yeah, I would rather it be something that I can control, than something I can't," she said.

"Yeah, don't worry, it's just you." I assured her.

"Then again, it may be this whole thing about us knowing each other for 7 years now, and it might just be some 7-year curse thing that is causing us to jinx each other," I said cheekily, as she looked on unamused.


After dining, we took a stroll around the place to check out the decor of the surroundings. Oosh essentially consist of a luxurious open-mansion portion, complete with an overhanging balcony and a little pool / fountain, and also a lavish garden with a rather elaborate pond to top it off. While most of the areas were mostly are for drinks, they were somewhat segmented into different classes based on the crowd. While the mansion looked to hold expats and executives with long glasses socializing, the balcony and garden areas served more intimate purposes, with friends sitting in sofa clusters or under little wooden pavilions in the midst of the garden. With such an ambience, it is little wonder why Oosh is the one of the forerunners of the revival of the Dempsey Road district.

Post-dinner, a little drive took us to a cosy Ben & Jerry's further into Dempsey Hill for a much-needed sugar-rush after the entire debacle. Wooden cottage-like decor finished with an almost authentic fireplace, this branch of Ben & Jerry's proved to be the most appealing yet, for just whiling one's time away on ice cream. Perhaps its a treat to compensate for the inaccessibility of its location, or a reward kept to the those privileged enough to be able to find wheels into the depths of Dempsey Hill.

An excellent live-duo sang the songs that both she and I were familiar with, classic rock ballads that we both shared a love for. "You know, as much as I think she is a damn good singer, I think they're a little too young, and somehow lack the soul for these kinda songs."

She was right, they lacked the soul alright, probably lacked the jaded-soul that she and I had to fully appreciate the meaning behind the lyrics. A better half of my bitter soul was cultivated in the last 7 years of my life, in her constant presence. Peiwen and I have somehow managed to share a non-committal yet always dependable "special" friendship that has endured the changes that both of our characters' have undergone over the last 7 years.

If all the people close to One touches one's Soul in one way or another, then Peiwen has been playing the part of my CONSCIENCE, always patient, mostly moralistic,but never judgmental, Peiwen more than makes up for this vacuum in my dark soul.

Genuine Smiles by the End of the Night

On the ride home, I asked, "You know, of the 5 closest friends in my life, 4 of them are female. So that makes 4 Queens and 1 Jack. Now then, if you had a choice, which Queen would you be?"

"Well, I'll go with the Queen of Diamonds," she replied.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because Hearts can be broken, but Diamonds are Forever. Haha." She replied wittily.

Forever indeed.