Saturday, August 26, 2006

US Open 2006

Women's Singles
Defending Champion: Kim Clijsters

Quarter I
Let's start with the most brutal part of the draw - top seed and two-time Grand Slam winner this year alone, Amelie is out to a Roger(05)/Martina (97), win everything but Roland Garros in a calendar year. She has the most difficult part of the draw, but didn't we say that for Roger last Wimbledon and he lost just a set en route to Slam Number 8?

Challengers that may rise to the occassion include Montreal and US Open Series winner Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina, showing he steely nerve on the hardcourts of North America; but more importantly on this year's comeback kids Serena and Martina. It's a good mix of past and present, of guile and power, of fitness and patience. All I'm asking for now is that the order of play fit my schedule appropriately.

QF Match: Amelie vs Martina

Quarter II
Maria Sharapova may have a difficult match against the other little sister in the opening round, but from then on, it should be smooth sailing - her draw is littered with injured players that it's almost going to be a forfeit: Mary, Nadia, Anna, plus Anastasia who, other than her claycourt final in hardcourt season, hasn't been playing well of late. But, I'm more likely to pick a player who can play badly over a player who might not be playing at all.

QF Match: Maria vs Anastasia

Quarter III
In contrast to QI, which featured great players that drew in the buzz, this section is gifted with players of the same talent, but of less stellar power. Of Svetlana, Jelena, Samantha, Anna-Lena and Elena, i truly doubt that a good deal of them will be station at the Arthur Ashe anytime. However, that will be no excuse for fantastic plays, if only they could all be consistent. The only player who has been consistent is Venus, who recently withdrew due to a wrist injury.

Do watch out for the opener with Chanda and Nicole, it would be nice to see Rubin play again.

QF Match: Nicole vs Elena

Quarter IV
It makes you wonder if how long will Lindsay still go on - I do hope that she still believes that that last Slam will come to her - pity that there are two relatively easy quarters, and she got the one that'll meet Justine in the QF. I'm sure that the schedulers will give her extra time to rest after New Haven, but she'd probably need more to get past the number two seed who hasn't missed a Grand Slam final appearance all year.

QF match: Lindsay vs Justine


Men's Singles
Defending Champion: Roger Federer

Quarter I
The Fed is fast approaching Pistol Pete's Slam record and looking forward to number 9, and that loss in Cincinnati just made him hungrier to win. No problems, until he meets Ferrero who finally got his game back on by reaching the Cincy Masters final (about darned rotten time!).

Four qualifiers are fitted in the bottom part, with James Blake, who started the year on high, but recently has been stifling through tournaments. Im expecting a Berdych-Blake matchup in R16, and Blake will win just to appease the crowd.

Do watch out for the all Brit-affair of Henman vs Rusedski. Winner gets tea time with Roger in 2R.

QF Match: Federer vs Blake

Quarter II
Perhaps my favorite part of the draw - it will always be drama considering Safin and Coria back in the mix, Nalbandian and Davydenko trying to salvage a good follow-up year, and this season's US Open Series standouts Andy Murray ang Fernando Gonzalez.

Gonzo has had his breakthrough in Flushing Meadows 02, but hasn't really gone all the way; Murray on the other hand gets a boost for defeating Fed and joins the company of Nadal as a member of the "I've beaten Roger"-class of 2006. Too bad though, they're slated to meet in 3R.

Haas has been quietly going working through the year with minimal fanfare, and perhaps with the draw opening up, this could be his time to shine.

QF Match: Haas vs Murray

Quarter III
Given the draw, the Andre Agassi farewell tour will not have the same pretty fairytale ending as the Pete Sampras Written Off-Resurrection gig of 2002. His first major task would be Pavel, then Melbourne runner-up Baghdatis. Expect a delightful match right there, and a tribute.

Life will go on with the rest of the draw though, a rejuvinated Roddick (thank you, Jimmy Connors) will find his footing after crashing out in Day One last year, Gasquet will rebound from a horrid first half 2006, Hewitt will outplay Fish in 3R, but it will be Ljubicic that will get on board the last 8.

QF Match: Roddick vs Ljubicic

Quarter IV
Honestly, there isn't much to choose from this quarter, save for Nadal. Ferrer would have been a good choice and would probably live up to his seeding, but the latest results don't bode well. Robredo has yet to prove himself on American soil, and Monfils' debut party hasn't exactly happened yet.

I'd love to put my money on Nieminen the Finn, he's much improved over the last year, but a pass to the final 8 is blocked by Nadal.

QF Match: Ferrer vs Nadal
Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ears Covered In Snow

Similar to what I wrote in my music blog - which is just more of a list, rather than an actual narrative - a warm cool breeze just swept into my CD collection, and it was all covered in snow.

No, I haven't seen the finale of Grey's Anatomy, but from what I've heard, it rocked. All I know was, they played this song by Snow Patrol - upon officemate Mau's suggestion, I decided to download it and pay attention. She was looking for somber, dramatic alternative bands, and, well I was just welcome to new music. Voila - fresh music off Eyes Open was just what I needed.

Have I actually mentioned on how I test music if it's good? In my books, there are two criteria in checking it: the driving test, and the earphones test. The driving test is pretty obvious, it's got to sound good in the car, either while you're going for a spin, or just in stasis due to the traffic jam. The earphones test means loading the songs into your portable music player (iPod, MP3 player, or whatever gadget you have), then taking it for a walk, a commute, or a simple sit.

This may sound a little too sensitive, but music has got to make you feel something. Listening to "Open Your Eyes" while riding an escalator has got to do more than take you to the second floor, but emotionally make you feel that your drifting - at least it works that way for me. The driving test compares the adrenaline rush of driving fast, with the energy and pace of the song; in traffic it juxtaposes the slow pace of emotions unravelling against the no-go flow of traffic.

Weird they might say, but it works for me.

ps. Best places to do the experience-music acid test? Airport. Trust me on this one.


Snow knows hot to play brrrrilliant music!

Eyes Open by Snow Patrol is awesome, and definitely ranks up there with the best buys of the year. Apart from the hits "You're All I Have", "Hands Open" and "Chasing Cars", other worthwhile tracks include "Shut Your Eyes", "You Could Be Happy" and "Open Your Eyes".

The lyrics are brilliantly written, the music delicately played. The duet was unique, as Matha Wainwright sang every line in unison with Gary Lightbody. One of my favorite songs, would be this one:

Take my hand, knot your fingers through mine
We'll walk from this dark room for the last time
I want so much to open your eyes
Cause I need you to look into mine

They are not the new Coldplay - they're much different. The sound plays between Keane and Switchfoot, but distinctly different. Now I'm really contemplating on getting Hopes and Fears.
Friday, August 18, 2006

Pictures, More Of Them!

Finally, the pictures are here! Do take some time out to check out my travel partner's Flick account, compare them with mine - then it will be obvious which one of us works for a multimedia outfit. Hehe.

monsterboy's photos
Joanne's photos

I've replaced the links. Do drop a line if they still don't work. =)
Monday, August 14, 2006

CD Shopping, Again

I did the semi-annual CD inventory last week, and I was somehow disappointed to know that I do not have 250 CDs. Not even close.

I'll be posting all of them, with a mini-review, or to add more traffic in my music blog, I'll probably just post it there. So, in order to add to CD drawer collection, I picked up the following over the weekend:

As The Music Plays by Bamboo
Why Try Harder by Fatboy Slim
Live 2003 by Coldplay
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by Arctic Monkeys
Bleed Like Me by Garbage

I think it boosted my CD stash to somewhere around 170.
I wish I had known that there was a direct flight from SIN to REP, otherwise, I wouldn't have ventured to KL to stay the night in. No regrets though, chalk this up to experience - besides, the panorama crossing Johor Bahru to KL was worth it.

So I said goodbye to my genial host, walked the perimeters of Ban San Terminal, picked up my ticket, and prepared to board. I met an English Couple, Rob and Natalie, who seem to be following the Coldplay World Tour, without ever catching them. While waiting for the bus to leave, Rob, Natalie and I picked up some food for th 6-hour bus ride. I got myself some dried mangoes and bottled water, while Rob got some cashews, and Natalie some dried apricots, which she decidedly called 'earlobes'.

Waiting my rocket, err bus to come. Note the hot-air balloon in the corner.

The earlobes were all right, but the dried mangoes were terrible - they tasted as sweet as the Subway plastic that wrapped my lunch this morning, with the texture of styrofoam that wrapped my congee snack 2 days ago. I sure hope that Natalie wasn't being polite when she said that she loved them. Rob on the other hand almost choked on his handful of cashew when I told them they weren't cooked. There goes my quota for spreading food terror on my first bus ride.

The sign says Welcome To Malaysia, but I say Goodbye snooty Singapore rules!

Fast forward to dinner, met up with Eu and Kat, who treated me to posh Bangsar, just off the KL city grid. Loved the banana leaf dinner, but not the papadums, sorry! After dinner was a bunch of drinks down the Bukit Bintang area, where we stood witness to some sort of robbery/break-in at a local pawnshop of sorts. My, their police works pretty fast out there, more fanfare though, but looks like they do a thorough investigation, so it was a bit worth it.

Dinner at Bangsar.

Number 8 Guesthouse - trendy, reasonably priced, much recommended!

I had really wanted to get some sleep in before my early flight the following morning, but two British people were chatting loudly in our dorm room - one of them wasn't even from our room! Let's call them Judi Dench the dorm-room-trespasser, who was busy talking with Monkey Boy. Their story was a bit a warning for travellers - Monkey Boy here was slipped some sort of date-rape drug while touring the Batu Caves. All he remembers was that he was fumbling at the police station, then lying back in the dorm room. Insert Judi Dench horrified face here.

Watch out for monkeys at Batu Caves!

Been to the caves last year, and all I can say is that 'Dem monkeys did it!'. Seriously, if those monkeys can pull down skirts, snatch your water bottles, and pose for cameras, they sure can slip drugs into your drink. Really.
Monday, August 07, 2006

Intermission: The Two-Week Soundtrack

Similar to what I did for Shanghai, I compiled a list of the music I listened to on the trip. I believe one way to enforce your memories is not only by preserving images and sounds, but attaching them to songs you can play over and over again. I still think of sharks and a moving walkway whenever I hear "Don't Panic".

Yellow by Coldplay - Bright yellow balloons dancing in the concert, and riding a hot air balloon

Damaged by Plumb - first heard at Han's house, went on to give walking around the Bayon a mystic ambiance

Stunt by Raindrops and Push The Limits (ATB Remix) by Enigma - nothing better than club music to add adrenaline to walking city tours

Love On The Run by Chicane - gunning highways and chasing sunsets around Thailand

In My Place by Coldplay - Sunset at Hat Rin

Life Is Beautiful by Jason Mraz - catching my breath from city walking

Song For A Friend by Jason Mraz and Say Goodnight by Click Five - my goodnight songs

Porcelain by Moby, 24/7 by Artful Dodger/Melanie Blatt and No More Tears by Modjo - standard sunbathing songs

Colorblind by Counting Crows, Remember To Breathe by Dashboard Confessional and Listen To Your Heart (Unplugged Edit) by DHT - music to play during downtime

Just some of my personal tips on creating a playlist for a trip include: Also choose songs you're not familiar with - this would create a totally new perspective on what you hear and see on a first time basis.
It's not what you think it is,but that really sounds interesting, doesn't it? But the roadtrip to Aranyaprathet, wasn't as amusing as you'd think it is. Let's see.

Let's start with "I'm a planner". Everything that I needed, I placed in a hardcover orange notebook. Hardcover, because I anticipated writing immigration cards, journal entries and incurred costs without the need for a table. It had photocopies of all my plane reservations, hostel accommodations, locality maps and preferred guesthouses. This little wonder was my best friend during the trip.

The road to Bangkok is afoot with dust and clay...

So, my trip to Bangkok from Siam Reap was very nice. The roads were non-existent, dusty, I felt that the the cramped minivan we rode in on was like a giant 8-ball being shaken by a kid waiting for a "Yes!", when all of us were shouting a thunderous "NO!!!!" everytime we landed on a pothole. Now you're asking, where is the nice in that?

Entrance to Bantay Srei. Note mademoiselle down in front.

Well, the day before, I was eyeing some very beautiful tourists at Bantay Srei. Bantay Srei is one of the out-of-the-way ruins from the temple and took about an hour to get to. The ruins maybe small, but what they lack in size, they make up in the beauty of its details. Anyway, there were four beautiful women roaming around the grounds, and from their accent, figured they were French.

Painstakingly beautiful carvings at Bantay Srei

There were four of them, the twins, with dark hair, Miss Nose Ring, and Miss Blonde. Miss Blonde was the prettiest of them all, pity that I wasn't able to a picture of her. Anyway, they sat beside me in the minivan - and changed seats everytime we had a stopover. In short, I got to sit beside all of them - hooray! I also had the chance of offering Miss France Blonde a wafer stick: "We alzo haf zees on Frawns" she says.

Painstakingly beautiful tourists at Bantay Srei

The only sustenance I had for that day was that pack of wafer sticks and a bottle of water. Since the ladies were busy playing musical chairs to get to sit beside me (haha), and I was furiously anticipating the results, I shoved the water bottle in my bag placed on my lap. Next thing I know, my pants were wet. Now, imagine me trying to dry myself beside those ladies. Not too embarrassing, because I don't think they noticed, but orange-notebook-that-holds-everything felt the deluge inside my bag . My journal entries that were barely legible scribbles were reduced to unreadable smears, and Lonely Planet Bangkok was soaking like Thailand during monsoon season.

Other than that, I followed the English couple that started the day wearing white shirts that now had the color of Cambodian clay stamped on their clothes,face and hair, to D and D Inn along the Khao San, backpacker ground zero for Southeast Asia.