Friday, March 31, 2006

Long Overdue - Holiday pics: Day 1

I went on a ten day holiday to Europe last Chinese New Year with Chris and Terry. Our itinerary was to do four days Rome and four days Prague. Our first day saw us flying from KL to Amsterdam on KLM and then after a three hour transit, to Rome, arriving there on an early Saturday morning.

Nothing much to talk about Amsterdam's Schipol airport except it's really really big and its layout is more complicated than KLIA (if that's possible). Oh, and we saw a little dutch mouse scurrying around the cafe where we were having a cuppa. It was searching for some warmth in the near-freezing cold terminal (outside temperature was -4ÂșC!) and ended up basking on the floor vents that was spewing warm air.

The flight to Rome was pretty empty. Not many Dutch or Italians believe in catching the early flight, I guess. Oh, On the flight to Rome, they served the best yogurt I've ever tasted, Hero's Blueberry flavoured Fruit Yogurt. Absolutely delicious and absolutely sinful. ;-)

On arrival in Rome's Fiumiccino Airport, we took the train to Roma Termini (like taking the KLIA express to KL Sentral). Roma Termini is really big and busy, a bit like Pudu only more modern and cleaner. And everything is understandably in Italian. Luckily we figured out that 'Uscita' means Exit, otherwise we'd still be hopelessly lost in the building.

After finally checking into the 'pension' and taking a much needed short nap to recharge our batteries, we decided to get some fresh Italian air at the Villa Borghese. Villa Borghese is a whole Lake Garden's type of place complete with really beautiful parks, footpaths, galleries and of course, the Villa itself. It once belonged to a Roman aristocrat who amassed a lifetime of renaissance art by the likes of Bernini and Caravaggio and is now open to the public.... for a fee of course. On the right is a sample of what I saw in the gallery - a 16th century oil painting by German artist Cranach of the Goddess Venus and her child Cupid. I guess paganistic Roman mythology was still alive and well in Roman Catholic Italy back then.....

Ok, enough about the gallery. What was most appealing about Borghese was the park itself. Trees everywhere with jogging paths that snake sthrough some of the most scenic woodland (Italian style); no wonder the Italians look so damm fit and attractive. The weather, the parks, the coffee..... sigh.

Oh, there was this big comemorative sculpture dedicated to Goethe.... hmmmm.... funny, I thought Goethe was German. Anyway,the sculpture was breathtaking in its detail and and the figures were so lifelike because they had really interesting facial expressions, not exactly happy faces though.

See what I mean about the facial expressions?

On our way out of the park, we chanced upon a bunch of hippie types offering pony rides. Chris was tempted to ride one.... nah.... but anyway, the pony looks so cute. Hehehe

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What's in my iPod now.

I'm an iPod freak. And a sucker for commercial music ie. I can't get enough of the current pop music scene. I tried to be more 'cultured' and embrace classical music. I even bought the Dummies book for it. But try as I might, while it does soothe my savage soul after a hard day's work, Beethoven and Dvorak (pronounced as vor-zhak... see I told you I did my homework) somehow can't ignite the same passion that I have for pop music. So give me Kelly Clarkson anytime over Chopin and to prove it, here's what's been playing ad nauseum in my iPod these past few weeks:

1. "Must Be Doing Something Right" - Billy Currington
Billy who? Ok, here's the thing. I love country ballads and this latest offering by country's newest hunk is nothing short of heavenly. It's a typical dittie where the man sings about being clueless as to what a woman wants from him... but since she's with him now, he ... well... "'must be doing something right'.

2. "Check On It" - Beyonce
Don't you just love it when the former lead singer of Destiny's Child shakes it all for the whole wide world to see? I mean that bootee of hers should be insured for at least a million dollars. I love this song for its oh-so-catchy chorus and I am still trying to memorise the words to it so that I can warble my way into showertime bliss. Hehe

3. "Red Dress" - Sugababes
New 'babe Amelle Berrabah picks up where icequeen Mutya Buena (where do they find these girls - Greenland??) left off in the third single off the 'Taller In More Ways' album. It's a fun song in the way brainless UK pop songs are and yet, their credibility as 'serious' music makers seem not to have been dented one bit. And they say the Brits have no sense of humor.

4. "Dejate Llevar" - Ricky Martin
Leaving the emaciated look he sported in 'I Don't Care' behind, a slightly beefier Ricky Martin returns to a more familiar turf - latin-tinged pop manic in the vein of Livin' La Vida Loca and Shake Your Bon-bon. I absolutely love the video to this one especially the part where he lets a stream of milk flow across his torso all the way down to a billboard of a girl below him.... perhaps an allusion to the recent snafu regarding his 'golden showers' remark, hmmm?

5. "Walk Away" - Kelly Clarkson
And the hits just keep on coming for the original American Idol and Grammy Pop Vocal Album winner. This is yet another gem from her classic sophomore album 'Breakaway'. I guess breaking away from the 19 production house and Simon Cowell's clutches really is better for her career. Ruben and Fantasia, please take note.

Also-rans: "The Real Thing" - Bo Bice; "Sorry" - Madonna; "Tonight I Wanna Cry" - Keith Urban (told ya I am a sucker for country ballads! ); "Pretty Vegas" - INXS and last but not least, "Temperature" - Sean Paul.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Much ado about Brokeback

Ok, here's the deal. I think 'Crash' has got to be the worst choice for Best Picture the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ever made. It sits right up there (or down below) with other royal stinkers like "Shakespeare In Love" and "Dances With Wolves". And that they actually decided to ignore other more deserving nominees like Brokeback Mountain, Munich and Capote is beyond my understanding.

Brokeback Mountain: Admittedly, this is actually a rather simple story about two people secretly in love (lust?) despite being married to other people. While production values including the choreography was stunning (even better than Memoirs of A Geisha) and the acting was commendable (Michelle Williams was robbed!), what made this film work was its excellent direction by a very deserving Best Director winner, Ang Lee. Everything fell into place, from the sunrise drive down a dusty road opening scene to the now infamous "I wish I knew how to quit you" tearjerker moment, making Jack's And Ennis' heartaches as palpable as if you were really there. It's interesting to note that had the main characters been heterosexual, this film might not have received as much attention that it had. In the end, what made people sit up and take notice of this movie was sadly also the cause of its failure to win the Big Prize.

Munich : Any other year, Spielberg would have run circles around the other nominees with this taut and revealing thriller. I can say that it ranks among his best works, Schindler's List and ET. Eric Bana was a joy to watch as the conflicted leader of a Mossad-like squad of assasins investigating the terrorist killings of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Its subject matter was controversial to say the least and angered a lot of political groups both Jewish and Palestinian; perhaps that's why , in view of the current volatile political climate, the voters decided not to give this film any more attention that it already has.

Capote : The whole of this movie's brilliance can be summed up in one name: Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This brilliant character actor has been getting choice supporting roles for the past ten years in a string of Oscar nominated films like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain and my favourite performance of his, Boogie Nights. In this tour-de-force lead performance, he gives it his all and is so convincing, it gave me goosebumps everytime I watched the film. In any other year, Capote would have won Best Picture hands down but in a year so dominated by gay-themed films, it was invetible some worthy films would fall by the wayside. Well, at least it can boast of a Best Actor win.

Crash: Where do I begin on how undeserving this Best Picture winner is? From the annoying Officer Ryan played by an equally annoying Matt Dillon to the improbable yet stereotypical racially charged dialogue that the LA bigoted characters spout out like free candy, it was painful to watch and did I say Matt Dillon is annoying?

The Academy voters could have shown its maturity in taste and honoured a more deserving nominee like Capote or show that it does not shy away from controversial subject matters (Munich or Brokeback), but no, it decided that a bi-polar story of racial bigotry that's neither realistic nor engaging is the best movie released last year. What a cop-out.