Saturday, March 29, 2014

Musical journey (44)

Ever since the demise of The Nude Singer as documented in this post, the thought of resuscitating this character that most wonderfully blend my two loves into a single concept has crossed my mind frequently. However with the constant uncertainty at work which throws into question the place I could truly settle down and call home as well as the creeping-in of old age (with the associated jadedness and lethargy), the pursuit of my true interests (namely music and naturism) is always pushed to the back seat.

This all began when we moved to Melbourne more than two years ago and the blame falls squarely on the dying chemical engineering industry in Australia. This is why the urgency to move to UK where there is plenty of work for me has never been stronger. On that relocation front, I have had in my opinion a very good interview with the London manager a few weeks ago and now I just have to sit back and wait for news (if any). Life has taught me not to ever expect anything to work in your favour and I have used this pessimistic outlook to successfully protect myself from anguish and disappointment time and again. All I need to know is that I have tried my best to secure a good interview as everything else is totally beyond my control.

We are also moving from one unit to another in the same complex today. Sounds easy enough? It is not, as we are doing it ourselves without engaging the help of professionals and the two units are a little distance apart in two separate buildings. Oh well, such is life, and is just another thing we have to do that's all.

This month's musical journey is a clip from my Sydney days where the dreams and passion of The Nude Singer are still alive and kicking. How can I cast the practical side of me into the wind and start to have that fervour and appetite for life once again I wonder... In the mean time, enjoy this 2011-rendition of one of my favourite songs—Josh Groban's "When You Say You Love Me".

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hello (again) Singapore!

In my last vacation post (gosh it's almost the end of the first quarter of the year already, how time flies), I will share some sights and sounds of my home country, where I stayed for close to a week before my holiday ended. I had a great time catching up with friends and was so glad I could be the first guest putting up at my bestie's place. However the best thing about the trip back to Singapore was the chance to be close to my mum again. Although it was a short time, we managed to do all the things that we usually did when I was still living with her. It was as if I had never left. I am completely unashamed of being called a mummy's boy because I am and I feel nothing other than extremely fortunate to have a parent who loves me that much.

"LC Food Centre"... I wonder how LC (low-class) it is.

Another signage WTF-moment (it's everywhere if you look closer). Yes, shop theft is a crime but is that even an achievable act?

I finally know what these hanging CDs are meant for. Are birds really scared of them?

Booboo's name on the billboard, well at least the sound of it.

My first-ever blackout in the middle of a meal. Never has that happened during my 30-year stay in the country and then this.

Here is a clip of the blackout experience.

$8.50 for a full-priced movie and $4 with my mum's senior concession. Can you imagine the profit lining the pockets of the people running cinemas in Australia where it costs $20 or so for a basic non-3D movie?

The overcrowding of the public transport system is getting worse indeed. At least the attendants at the station didn't have to shove people into trains like in Japan... yet.

I first saw these ginormous fans in Sydney's Paddy's Market and thought it was quite a cool idea (pardon the pun). Now it seems like they are everywhere in Singapore.

The speed at which Singapore changes never fails to amaze me. For instance this train line (albeit only partially complete) just popped into service when it was non-existent the last time I was back a little more than a year ago.

Do you know how much I paid for this jacket in Tokyo? 13900 yen! To think that it is selling at a third of the price in Singapore?!?! Luckily there wasn't my size so at least it was not all bad. H&M is still one of my favourite shops though (I fell in love with it when I first encountered one living in America).

Look at what one of my fans sent me. He urged me to write a song for Singapore's National Day and this picture was one of his motivational tools.

I find "gourmet kebabs" very oxymoronic. If you see what kebabs are like and what purpose they serve in Australia, you will agree with me too.

All my favourite food that I can't live without (which means my Australian life is not really considered "living" as these are either non-authentic or non-existent on this continent). Examples include Singapore-style yong tau foo (top left), mee rebus (top right) and Indian rojak (bottom right).

More dishes not available in Australia namely fried ngoh hiang/prawn crackers (top left), Singapore-style popiah (top right), and kway chap (bottom left).

My favourite food in the world in the making. I never fail to salivate at that picture.

Tutu kweh (top left) is one of the little snacks I really miss (again non-existent in Australia). We have pandan chiffon cake here but at three times the price shown in the picture. At least booboo is getting better at making one now so that's at least a consolation.

The fabulous meal prepared by my hosts for me, my mother and her parents-in-law. Oil-poached cod (my favourite fish), pumpkin soup with home-made bread.

This is the closest I have ever been to a canine. This cute little dog (Tofu—owned by my hosts) really grows on people.

My bestie's jazzy rendition of this otherwise unbearable Chinese New Year song. This is the most modern take on this piece I have ever heard.

Here is what ended my three-week holiday on a warm and happy note. I will be back again soon enough people, don't you fret! This picture concludes my vacation series (finally!).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 7 - other videos)

Things have been crazy at work recently and I had to put sorting through my vacation pictures and videos on the back-burner. Thankfully the videos are now all done and here are the rest of the clips taken when I was touring outside of Tokyo (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Hakone). My next trip will definitely be with my boo (having him around would be SO handy as he is completely-fluent in Japanese) and it will be other areas like the prefectures of Hokkaido and/or Kyushu/Okinawa. In the mean time, I have these video memories to remind myself of how much fun I had and that I should revisit this wonderful country soon.

Ever wondered how these ultra-thin bonito flakes are made? Well here is the machine that makes it at Kyoto's Nishiki Market. The pre-sliced chunks of blackened fish were the things that amazed me.

Another machine at the Nishiki Market. This time it makes and packages little red bean cakes. With such small shopfronts, it is pretty impressive for them to house such complex pieces of machinery.

A walk through the Nishiki Market. One of the best things about market visits are the free samples on offer (it is best to visit on a hungry stomach).

Nothing fancy here. The giant moving crab just caught my attention and I had to capture it on film.

The street scene at a busy Kyoto intersection. It felt so different from the crazy pace of Tokyo.

This is Kyoto's famous Pontocho, a long narrow alley of really nice restaurants and bars flanking the Kamo River. I highly recommend this to all visitors.

The largest wooden building in the world a.k.a. the Todai'ji Temple of Nara, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I posted a picture of the deers of Nara Park previously but only with this video can you experience the real "problems" they bring. It is funny when it happens to other people.

Religious singing at Nara Park. I kept expecting a flash mob of some kind but it didn't come. Anyone knows the name of this religion?

The sulphur hot springs of Hakone. This guy working there must be totally used to the pungent fumes that he feels uneasy when he gets home where the smell of rotten eggs doesn't permeate the air.

The only onsen (hot spring) I went to during my trip. If you only have time for one, Hakone's Ten-Zan is the one you should go to. This is the open space shared between the onsen and the connected restaurant (where you can dine in bathrobes).

A 2.6 km stretch of shopping a.k.a. the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street in Osaka. I only made it three-fifths of the way (shame on me).

A street performer caught in the act in Osaka.

Pachinko madness (what pokies is to Aussies but on a much crazier level). I only managed to stay in that space for the duration of the video and I had to get out. The cigarette smoke and noise was simply unbearable.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 6 - Tokyo videos)

This next post in my Japan travel series shall consist of only videos taken in Tokyo. I find that pictures alone cannot capture the moods and sounds that are necessary to recreate that moment in time. Only with videos can memories be truly frozen to be savoured in the future.

The quintessential way to travel within the city. Tokyo is a place where a car really feels redundant.

The scene at a typical metro station platform. There is a greeter at all exit gates who greets anyone that walks past. Where else in the world can you find such service in public train stations?

This is a sample of the jingles heard before the train doors close, which are different for different stations. This is handy for people who cannot see which station they are at due to overcrowding in trains. I was told each jingle represents something unique to that area.

Shinjuku is the busiest train station in the world. I was shocked when I took an elevator from B6 to the surface to realise there are six floors. You can get totally lost if you don't know where to look.

I chanced upon this live performance at Akihabara, where electronics of all kinds are sold. There was not a single female in sight in the audience, only geeks. This singer must be really popular among the Tokyo geekdom.

Here are two clips of performances held at the Aisotope Lounge (the second clip features a drag trio who sings live and has their own albums—they are very good). Aisotope is a place where there is a different gay sub-culture compared to the other bars and clubs in the Shinjuku Ni Chome area. People there are young and showcase a very avant garde dress sense—definitely an eye-opening experience.

Pandemonium at the Tsukiji Fish Market. If only there were less people then I could actually get to see the merchandise on sale.

This is the street scene at Harajuku. The cosplay kids no longer surface there but how great would it be if they still did.

The countdown to 2014 at The Ring, the biggest gay party in the city.

This the full clip of all the "illegal" recordings I made during the countdown party (including the clip of the actual countdown). Filming is supposedly not allowed.

Walking in the CBD subway tunnel on New Year's Day. It was eerily quiet at the Nihonbashi station—strange but refreshing.

Meanwhile it was really bustling in Ikebukuro, where people flocked to on New Year's Day to soak in the festive atmosphere.

A walk through in Ikebukuro on New Year's Day. I love these exploratory walks for you don't know what you will encounter at the next corner.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 5 - Tokyo miscellany)

OK, let me resume the vacation picture series. Although I did not have my actual phone with me then (its screen was smashed and could only repaired during the Singapore leg of my vacation), I was so glad to have a standby smartphone with me. I hate using Apple products but the standby phone enabled me to snap up pictures as and when I liked and only with these pictures can my vacation story be complete. Many of these pictures were simply random shots of things that caught my attention and here they are.

Notice the four rows of handles for standing passengers on the metro? I can only imagine how crowded it gets during peak hours. It would be a sight though—seeing passengers being pushed into the carriages by station staff.

Two of the most famous cartoon cats in Japan. Since Doraemon has been chosen to be the Olympics mascot, I gather that Hello Kitty is still not as popular in comparison.

Daiso floor guide in Harajuku.With a whopping four floors, this mega store dwarfs all others.

Green tea mouthwash anyone? Only in Japan.

It seems Kinokuniya sells much more than books in Japan.

My two encounters with the majestic Mount Fuji. From Mori Tower at dusk and on the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto. I missed out on getting closer by not visiting Lake Kawaguchiko (one of the five lakes at the base of the mountain).

This is the ornament seen everywhere during the New Year period. I wonder what it exactly symbolises.

Pachinko madness in Japan. Very noisy and smoky inside, I seriously wonder how can people stay glued to their seats in such an environment for extended periods of time. This game must be really addictive!

I am surprised there is a rule against street-smoking because cigarette vending machines are everywhere. It is like not allowing someone to wank off to his favourite porn! Well at least there are many smoking booths around. And then there is this chuckle-inducing sign seen on the door of a smoking booth on the bullet train platform.

Ah... the soothing water-spraying toilet that cleans and massages. This is the thing I miss the most about Japan.

This was one of the rare times I encountered a gym. Yet the Japanese manages to stay so lean (I only saw one obese local man during the two-week trip). The world should learn from whatever they are doing to achieve this feat.

The smallest hotel room (in Higashi-Shinjuku) I ever stayed in—11m² of  pigeon-hole goodness. But it has everything you need so I cannot complain. With such a high premium on land in central Tokyo, this is the only way to go.

On the last day of my Japan trip I noticed this in the hotel room. I told myself I gotta get myself some of this erectricity!

It is a huge thing when trains don't run on schedule because trains are usually very punctual. "Person on tracks" was the reason—it must be an accident.

When I saw lots of men in women-only carriages, I realised this only applied during peak periods.

Although I know the Japanese drink a lot, I was still shocked to see how cheap alcohol is over there. AUD$12 for a bottle of gin?! And whiskey in gigantic PET bottles! These bottles were on the racks of every convenience stores.

"Adult" magazines and photocopiers aside, I was seriously impressed when I saw a public toilet in a 7-11.

To discourage disorderly behaviour in public, there is this peculiar policy in a lot of clubs in Japan. I was fooled on my first clubbing night but quickly realised it was an unenforceable rule. I ignored that ever since.

When I asked what the best gay dance party was for New Year's Eve, I was told this. And there I went. With this flyer, I managed to shave a third off the cover charge.

My first-ever countdown gay party. I was groped many times but was thankful that the group of really hunky local guys pulled me into their circle to gyrate and rub bodies with.

Random miscellany. Why do people want to know the elevation above sea level at train station exits? And with such low crime rates in Japan, I wonder how long have those "Wanted" notices stayed on the board.

More random miscellany. I didn't know QB House (ten-minute barber shop) came from Japan. Now I know.