Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Music List of 2009 Part 2

The Top Ten

As previously mentioned, it's an almost all-British affair for the top 10, save for a new act from Melbourne. This list is updated once per day until 2010 comes in.


10. Athlete - Superhuman Touch
Athlete leaves behind its melancholy wares and trades it in for a little playful synthesizer. Their 4th studio album, Black Swan Song, interestingly improves on their already rich discography.

9. Snow Patrol - Set Down Your Glass
and I'm shaken, and I'm still
when your eyes meet mine, I lose simple skills

Not an official single per se, but there is something calming, yet disarming about this song. I hope nobody steals this song for his/her wedding, I'm saving this one for mine.

8. Stars - 14 Forever
10000 drunken kids on field can't be wrong
the song must've been beautiful or they wouldn't sing along

This one played to my nostalgia of youth and one thing I missed out on: music festivals. Take me to Coachella, Glastonbury, Burning Man! Wish I had done that when I was young though, and as the song says, this song is indeed beautiful.

7. Coldplay - Lovers In Japan
This year's most spirited song; totally soaring Coldplay and salvaging an otherwise forgettable album. Brilliant seen live, with paper butterflies.

6. Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
To be honest, the placement of the song in the movie didn't help, but they were fantastic taken independently. Best soundtrack of the year, and this is it's crown offering.

5. Frankmusik - Better Off As 2
This year's most deserving new artist, and one of the most played in my walkman. This song tells all the electro-pop ladies that men can sing-dance-remix this genre too.

4. Frankmusik - 3 Little Words
A little Tom Hanks tribute in the video, a little ode to A-Ha in the music, and whole lot of 80s lighted the major music trend of 2009. Check out the debut album - it comes in 3 flavors: orginal, remix and acoustic.

3. Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa and Spinderella
Rockout/headbang song of the year. Starts quiet, finishes with a bang. Remember being all heady for a night out in town? This is the anthem to start your night right.

2. Snow Patrol - Crack The Shutters
The powerful yet comforting voice from Snow Patrol is complemented by their awesome songwriting skills. Here, they paint a heartwarming picture of being in bed, waking up beside the one you love.

1. Friendly Fires - Skeleton Boy
A gooey beat, a strange electro-shoegaze feel, and an kickass performance seen at Battersea Power Station. Most played and most loved song of the year indeed!
Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Music List of 2009 Part 1

This year has been one of the strongest years in music by a considerable margin. 2009's crop was definitely littered with powerful performances with the following highlights: strong 80s revival, neon techno, and a lot of emphasis on indie and well crafted lyrics.

Something in it for everyone, whether it's reliable Athlete or Jack's Mannequin, or emo favorites Dashboard Confessional, pop favorites Katy Perry (heck there's even Lady Gaga on this list!), I'm sure you're going to love this rundown.

Top ten recap to be released tomorrow, and let it be known, that no US artist made it to elite status.


11 Asher Roth - I Love College
12 Cobra Starship featuring Leighton Meester - Good Girls Go Bad
13 Black Eyed Peas - I Got A Feeling
14 Owl City - The Saltwater Room
15 Florence And The Machine - Dog Days Are Over
16 Kids In Glass Houses - Easy Tiger
17 Alphabeat - Fascination
18 Passion Pit - Little Secrets
19 Red Light Company - Arts And Crafts
20 Calvin Harris - I'm Not Alone
21 The Limousines - Very Busy People
22 Anberlin - Retrace
23 Jack's Mannequin - The Resolution
24 Hockey - Song Away
25 Pez - The Festival Song
26 Dashboard Confessional - Belle Of The Boulevard
27 Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream
28 Phoenix - 1901
29 Just Jack - The Day I Died
30 Ladyhawke - Back Of The Van
31 La Roux - Bulletproof
32 Matt Nathanson - Come On Get Higher
33 Kids In Glass Houses - Give Me What I Want
34 Jack's Mannequin - Spinning
35 Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
36 FM Static - Take Me As I Am
37 Katy Perry - Waking Up In Vegas
38 Sam Sparro - 21st Century Life
39 Phoenix - Lisztomania
40 James Morrison - Please Don't Stop The Rain
41 The Raveonettes - Last Dance
42 All American Rejects - I Wanna
43 Little Boots - Remedy
44 Army Navy - Silvery Sleds
45 Paramore - I Caught Myself
46 The Fray - Never Say Never
47 We Are Scientists - After Hours
48 Athlete - Rubik's Cube
49 Train - Hey Soul Sister
50 Friendly Fires - Relationships
51 Lady Gaga - Just Dance
52 Shakira - She Wolf
53 Empire Of The Sun - Half Mast
54 The Virgins - Rich Girls/Teen Lovers
55 Imogen Heap - First Train Home
56 Howie Day - Be There
57 Arctic Monkeys - Crying Lightning
58 Jesse McCartney featuring Ludacris - How Do You Sleep
59 Yeah Yeah Yeah - Zero
60 Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work
Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Holy Grail Of Tennis

Yup, after a long rainy day, frustrating train rides (the London undergound has routine maintenance service on the weekends, upgrading their facilities in time for 2012 - the Olympics, not the end of the world), I made it to SW19. In more simple terms, I finally got my arse over to Wimbledon.

Warning - Wimbledon is some 30+ minutes southwest of central London, and do not get off the Wimbledon stations. You hop off Southfields, and take a long-ish walk to The All England Lawn Tennis Club. It's a bit of a walk, and you can only imagine how massive the queues here during competition week.

That's Sharapova right there

The visit was a short one, as I spent the morning coasting around rainy London, and daylight was definitely fading. AELTC upped their tennis museum, showing the winners' trophies and the apparel worn during the tournaments. There's not a lot on offer with the museum, but there's a 200-degree theatre showcasing the science of tennis (Sharapova is athlete specimen), a 3d rendition of McEnroe, and video highlights from the singles finals from the last 30 years or so, with matching Rolex-style display boards.

To cap that little trip, here's a not so awesome view of Centre Court, with the roof.

too dark

well at least there was still enough light for this photo
Friday, December 04, 2009

The British Museum

My first reaction upon entering the British Museum was: Aha, Norman Foster! In reference to the brocaded circular roof radiating from the center court of the museum.

Norman Foster giving ancient civilisation a modern home

The second? "Ah, no wonder Egypt and Greece are so mad at the British Museum" The exhibits on displays were massive - as big as houses, and makes me wonder on how the transported and installed them. Starting off from walls and walls of Assyrian statues (got to love the beard), the gigantic bust of Ramesses, the Parthenon marbles, and ruins from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

That's one big horse!

This is my favorite museum so far - whilst antiquities and ancient civilisations are definitely not my strongest suit, this vast array on display is meant to wow any regular museum goer. Did I mention that this museum is free?

Lord Elgin's big marbles. If lost, return them to Greece!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009

London Museums

Everybody says it, London is expensive. However, people fail to highlight that most of London's museums are free. Bundle that with the abundance of parks (London is the greenest city on the planet - more space dedicated to parks and trees than anywhere else), you can fill in itinerary for three full days on the cheap.

Intense colours at St. James Park

Since my days were limited, I had to play my cards right and skip the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum as they were on the other side of town. Same fate went to Tate Gallery , as most of the sights I focused on were on the eastern bit.

A slapdash tour of The National Gallery on my last night in London was greeted by street performers, and the gallery I first entered hit the spot: Impressionism. At least half a day is needed to appreciate the masterpieces of Degas, Renoir, and Monet. There's a whole section for Titian, Italian Renaissance paintings, and other vast artworks in the massive building located on Trafalgar Square.

Steps leading to The National Gallery

I also managed to go into the Tate Modern, which houses the best collection of modern art I've seen so far. Beating out GOMA in Brisbane, Powerhouse in Sydney and Centre Pompidou in Paris (MOMA NYC, your fate will have to wait). Picasso, Lichtenstein, Mondrian are some of the work you'll find inside.

Last for this entry is the Westminster Abbey, which isn't technically a museum (duh, it's an abbey), but it's actually closer to a crypt. It's not free, but for 15 GBP, you get the tombs of English royalty while being assisted by Sir Jeremy Irons on the audio guide. Tombs of Elizabeth I sit side by side with her sister Mary I, and right across is her main rival, Mary Queen of Scots, her cousin. Also of note is the Poet's Corner, where tombs of Charles Dickens, Geofrrey Chaucer, Robert Browning, among others lay.

Westminster Abbey
Monday, November 30, 2009

Skipped The London Eye To Go To Work

After the wallet-rollercoaster ride incident, it's back to work for me. Work had kidnapped my boss into a meeting out of town, leaving me alone in the afternoon to write up my annual performance review.

Writing it should be easy (unlike to some folks who had to add a little sizzle in their steak, if you know what I mean), but with sweeping views from my desk like these, its very, very easy to be distracted.

With long queues at the London Eye, the choice was clear to stay in the office and ahem, work.

Believe it or not, that's lunch for me. Boo...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks Moazzam!

-continued from previous post-

First things first - cancel the credit card. Firefighting mode done, let's look for
that wallet.

Called the airline, nothing. Called the airport, still nothing. Slight glimmer of hope, they said that it takes 24 hours for a clean sweep of their satellite offices, but to me, that's just prolonging the agony.

I called the Heathrow office 2 days later, and, by Jove, someone had registered my wallet as found! A certain Mr. Khawaja had left his phone number with the airport authorities, and said that he had my wallet. So I immediately called the number, had a good talk with Moazzam Khawaja, and agreed to meet him in one of the tube stations outside the city.

After verifying that it was indeed I trying to claim my wallet, he handed everything to me, without a single cent lost! He works at the airport running a private car service, and he picked up the wallet in the parking lot dedicated to private carhires, where I must have dropped it as I boarded my car ride.

Trying to keep a grown man from crying in one of the busy streets of West London, I had to switch gears and gave Moazzam my standard CS hospitality gift: a replica jeepney. He said thanks, and simply requested to pray for his family.

I would like to think that I had racked up good karma points while in CouchSurfing but to have something like this happen to me is wildly unimaginable. So much gratitude, much thanks to Moazzam, and most of my trip wouldn't have been such an awesome experience if it weren't for him.

There is much to celebrate - that in this day and age, little acts of kindness steers our faith back to the human side of humanity. I'm normally overwhelmed by kindness by the end of my trip, but to start a trip with such a rollercoaster experience, I was sure that the next three weeks would be beyond awesome.
Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Lost My Wallet In Heathrow

Yes. That's how my 3-week, first-ever trip to Europe started. The busiest airport in the world (let's talk international arrivals). I was about to complain about how I did not sleep at all on the 20-hour journey (accumulating some 48 hours of no sleep), but this seems a bit more sensible to rag about, and definitely woke up my senses.

I've never lost anything in any of my travels, either by theft or by simply misplacing them, and this was the first one (Save for that shirt I "accidentally" left on Bondi Beach). However, I always try to play it smart - my wallet contains minimal cash, my credit card and my ATM card for emergency purchases. My company card, my backup credit card, and the rest of my money are stowed away in a difficult-to-steal and difficult-to-pickpocket bag.

Sadly, my wallet, like I said, had my ATM - so no more additional cash for me, and with the USD is treated like trash in UK+EU countries, I was good as broke. Worse, I had just drawn out some three hundred quid for the trip. It also had my driver's license and my office ID. And keys to my luggage. Drat.

I have this OCD-like habit of checking my pockets frequently, and I detected that something was missing halfway through the car ride into the city. I had assumed that I chucked my wallet inside one of my bags, and immediately checked them as soon as the car stopped in front of the hotel. With each bag that I rifle through, and empty, there was this sinking feeling in your gut that was saying, "It's gone!" As the last bag was searched and closed, I knew I was done.
Monday, November 16, 2009

A Preview Of Things To Come

5 GBs of photos, 4 rolls of film (yes, film!), 40 kgs of luggage carried for 1km in rainy Amsterdam bundled with a bad hangover, and 29 hours of continuous travel just to get home, I'll be all right.

This blog will be updated soon.
Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Year's Best Movie

I've been waiting for 500 Days Of Summer since I caught wind of The Temper Trap's new single, Sweet Disposition. After hearing the song, and seeing the movie trailer, I knew that this was one movie I couldn't pass up.

The film scores perfect marks on all fronts: charming, and offbeatly-romantic leads, am a fan of JGL, but was completely enamored by Zooey's lovely eyes and wondrous personality; a rocking and lifting soundtrack, featuring Regina Spektor, The Smiths, Feist; a non-linear narrative, set out in giving the viewer pieces of a puzzle meant to be put together. Director Marc Webb put out all stops in his narrative device, and even throws in a Sliding Doors-split screen style. Even the little touches in the movie connected with me on a personal level - architecture, and an IKEA date :)

The movie was released at Sundance, and gathered enough momentum to be fit for a limited release. It was supposed to have arrived last June, but since robots, wizards and other sequels were ruling the box office, it was only wise to move it to a later date.

It's the coolest movie of the year indeed.

No spoilers to be said here - but if you're looking for a great indie flick that mixes clever with cute; spirited with emo, then this movie if for you. This movie just made my all-time list (see a couple of articles prior to this), and is competing with Garden State in that genre.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Renewing Your Passport

My passport is about to expire, and from this blog alone, you can tell that I've been busy stamping them pages away. The passport has a shelf life of about five years, and my time to renew has arrived. I wanted to play it safe, and have a travel agent apply for me, and I have one piece of advice. Don't bother!

Renewing the passport will require at least one personal appearance at your local Department Of Foreign Affairs office. Here are some tips that will help you minimise the frustration, and make your visit hassle-free.

1. Download the renewal form at www.dfa.gov.ph . Fill it out before heading to the DFA, that way, you don't have to scramble looking for a flat surface to write on when you're there. This also means to have your requirements ready before trooping it to the office.

No one told me you can smile in the passport photo!

2. Lots of people trying to herd you to their stalls just outside the DFA. Some are agressive (too agressive) that they'll tug at you. Very strange. Ignore them, you have everything that you need listed out in the form anyway.

3. Secure an appointment slip, have your records verified, and a helpful DFA officer will assist you, and lead you to the proper venues.

4. When your appointment time has come, you will be led to the cashier where you will pay the processing fee (500 PHP for 14 days, and 750 for 7 days).

5. You will now have your details checked and inputted into the computer.

Total time spent at DFA? 1 hour and 30 minutes. I arrived 1230, in the middle of lunch time, and finished at 2pm.

After this, you can either pick up your processed passport on the given date, or have it delivered to you (the following day) for 99 PHP. I picked up my passport - arrived 1245, queued my pickup slip, and was done by 115. Very easy.

My friend, we have lots of travelling to do. I'm gonna get you dirty in no time....
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

I never really noticed it, but I was reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close on the week of 9/11. It's been a good 8 years since I saw that event covered live on TV, and I don't have to live in NYC to know how heart wrenching it must've been.

Foer's follow up to the successful and witty (in a broken English kind of way) Everything Is Illuminated, is a conversation between 3 persons who has lost someone they love in 9/11. Two parents and a son. You'd smile as how a 9-year old would invent things and ask silly questions, then probably be saddened on how a father would grieve to leave his son.

It's a quest, a diary, and a vivid monologue packed in 300 pages of imagery and text. Claims have been made, lauding it as one of the great 9/11 stories. Haven't really read much books about the tragedy, but, in capturing the heartache borne by people at such a young age, this novel comes, as it says, incredibly close.
Saturday, September 12, 2009

Parting Shots From Mountain Province

Here's the fantastic view fom Kiltepan Ridge just in time for sunrise. It's worth taking at 5 in the morning!

Good morning sunshine!

By the way, once your bus crosses the Mountain Province border, they immediately start playing country hits. I do not understand why. All the shops in Sagada? They play country music. Were they trying to give the place a certain ambience to match with the mountain breeze? Of they have developed a certain fondness for Kenny Rogers? Or...country music is 'in' and I didn't know it? Regardless, I seem to have found the culprit:

Local shops sell only country CDs!

Speaking of soundtrack, this trip has been brought to you by the following songs:
First Train Home by Imogen Heap
Fader by The Temper Trap
Love Is Colder Than Death by The Virgins
Rain Song by Calvin Harris
21st Century Life by Sam Sparro
Remedy by Little Boots

Finally, this Sagada will be best summarised by this now-infamous photo. Happy Sliding in Sagada!

The five guys on the trip were mostly newbies, save for visitsagada.com expert Benj, but that shouldn't have stopped us from doing the Cave Connection. Wait, I think it was the torrential rains that prevented us from doing so. There, a legitimate excuse. We opted for the regular cave exploration, and it definitely goes down on the list of "Best Hundred Pesos I Ever Spent."

Further down in to the caves

Going down the caves were dead on slippery, but after the initial 20 minute descent, you reach the non-slippery sedimentary rocks double as a very relaxing foot jacuzzi.

Though not a fan of rock formations hidden in the dark, Sumaging Caves in Sagada provided us with a rappel, lots of rock hugging, and plenty of interaction with the cavern. There was even a point where the guide had to lodge himself on the wall, then fling you down like a human vine (and you would be Tarzan).

Runner up reasons why this cave was more enjoyable than Palawan's Underground Cave: 1) it did not smell of bat crap; 2) the jokes about the rock formations were bad, but our guide was admittedly deadpan and honest at the cheesiness of it, we partially forgive him; 3) I did not have to carry the torch and the matching car battery to go with it!
To be honest, I can not remember when the last time I did a mountain/nature trek. Was it the infamous 10k Club up Makiling in 2001? Does the Great Wall count? Oh wait, there was that punishing set of wooden stairs in Sabang from a couple of years back. Either way, that Sagada weekend reminded me that nature trekking is fun; and being several pounds lighter makes it a bit easier for me doing the ascends.

Sagada is blessed with reasonable trailheads, you can do a warm up by following a cemented path leading to Small Falls, or cut your way through the rice fields to get there.

Echo Valley, home of the most accessible coffins (too easy I must add, the coffins within reach have been vandalised and ransacked) is a 15-minute walk from town center. You'll pass through a quaint cemetery, but small town burial grounds have a certain air of eerieness to them and a natural viewdeck to appreciate the area.

Animal head near the coffins Buried with your favorite, errm, easel?

The most rewarding trek so far has been the 45-minute stroll on the way to Marlboro Country. Initially branded as an opportunity to see wild horses, but don't expect to see one, there are only 3 left roaming the area. Horses or not, this is the ticket to go when in Sagada. This panoramic shot below does not do justice to the sublime 360 degree views.

mountain views all around
Fourteen hour buses normally suck the fun out packing your bags for the weekend. Good thing on me, I had a bit of experience, as I've survived 24-hour bus rides twice already. Besides, I miss-scheduled my leave by a week, and had nothing to do since I was transitioning from old to new job.

Going to Sagada isn't much of a hassle - take the 11pm bus from Manila, land in Baguio between 3 and 4 am, then wait out the remaining 2 hours for the first bus to Sagada.

On the road again!

Apprehensive folk worried about landslides and below par roads might be surprised that Benguet roads are well paved, and the Mountain Province section is not that bad, with lots of improvements happening. Plus, GT Lizardo Lines have buses that are in better condition to regular (no AC) buses here in the Metro.

Kennon Road has nothing on Halsema Highway

Arrival time: 1230pm with 3 stops, Baguio, and 2 small towns in Benguet. Payoff? fantastic mountain views left and right.

Travel approved!
Top 15 Movies as tagged from Facebook

1. Se7en by David Fincher
Greed, Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath take center stage in a series of serial killings.

2. Atonement by Joe Wright
Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy act up a storm of lies and romance in war-ravaged Britain.

3. Gosford Park by Robert Altman
A English acting royalty in a dry and witty whodunit set in the countryside.

4. Finding Nemo by Andrew Stanton
Dory steals the show as a forgetful fish on an ocean quest.

5. Garden State by Zach Braff
A quant story enhanced by a stellar soundtrack. Frou Frou, The Shins and Thievery Corporation in a handsomely (and Grammy-winning) album.

6. Amelie by Jean Pierre Jeunet
Lovable Audrey Tautou takes you on a whimsical and hearty tour of Paris in one of the best feel-good movies.

7. Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann
Polarizing with an in-your-face attitude of showmanship, this movie ushered a renaissance for the musical genre.

8. Starter for Ten by Tom Vaughan
Jeopardy geeks unite in a fun romp of quiz-show anxiety and college awkwardness.

9. Elizabeth by Shekhar Kapur
Anything with Cate Blanchett works for me - but this takes the cake for a strong potrayal of the woman behind England's Golden Age.

10. Ratatouille by Brad Bird
Learn from an animated rat how to cook, and strike a balance between your dreams, and familial ties in another Pixar hit.

11. Eurotrip by Jeff Schaffer
Scotty surely doesn't know in this hilarous teenage odyssey around Europe.

12. Wanted by Timur Bekmambetov
Sleek, sexy and just plain badass action movie that's leagues apart from their American counterparts.

13. Shakespeare In Love by Tom Stoppard
Three of The Bard's finest work rolled into joyous tribute to the playwright contribution to literature. The breathtaking beach scene at the end remains as one of the best closing shots I've seen.

14. The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan
The movie that launched high expectations for the director never to be matched again. Absolute tearjerker in the final car scene.

15. The Lord Of The Rings by Peter Jackson
Epic movie and the start of a trilogy that will keep you glued to your fantasy seats.
Monday, August 31, 2009

US Open 2009 Predictions

Too short to be a blog post, but too long for a tweet. Curse you Twitter!

Since I was out for a couple of days with no net access (more on that later), and I'm still catching up with my mails, here's a quick run down of the predictions I meant to do:

Federer vs Davydenko
Djokovic vs Roddick
Berdych vs Nadal
Del Potro vs Murray

Of note is Nadal's opening matchup with Gasquet.

Dinara vs Jelena
Elena D vs Caroline
Victoria vs Venus
Flavia vs Serena

Kim has a good chance of making it to the quarters, all hinged on how godd Venus will play. Same goes for Demebtieva's run to the final - it all depends on that 3R match up with Sharapova.
Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Rallies

First of all, I must say that it's been quite a while since I posted - more than a month! It's been a tremendously busy month, but no excuses. No travels, but here are some major gatherings that I attended recently.

One thing that I would let pass was to pay my last respects to Cory Aquino. The feeling of sadness was minute compare to the sense of gratitude and pride brought by a singular person. We have much to be thankful to her for these past decades: and it was truly felt on her last parade through the grateful city of Makati. That bright sunny day, enveloped in yellow confetti? We seem to have taken it for granted, but I'd like to call that freedom.

Goodbye Cory!
Maraming salamat po.

Was definitely in a great spot to say my "Thanks Cory!". But I guess you don't have to stand so close to her monument to appreciate her enduring legacy for our country. She may not have been the best president that our country has had, but it will take another generation to see someone as loved.


In weird news, I attended an El Shaddai rally, their 25th anniversary celebration. I've always been curious to check that out, and the view surprised me:

Music festival, here I come!

It was more Woodstock than I thought. Tents and campers, plenty of waving flags (that ubiquitous "ES panyo"), revelers in jeeploads and truckloads, and of course, plenty of singing and dancing. I remember complaining about (not having) Glastonbury or Coachella here, but if you're searching for atmosphere, maybe this will be an interesting substitute.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 Half Time Music Report

We're halfway through the year, and I'm just sharing the most interesting records I've managed for the last six months.

Forget that the group Passion Pit looks like the cast of Beauty and the Geek, it's the music that counts. Selected early this year as one of the breakthrough genre from BBC's Sound Of 2009, the album Manners delivers on the promise their EP Chunk of Change has made.

Synth-clap beats, a strangely innocuous falsetto, together with affable percussions; what not to like? Of course, an import from last year's EP, Sleepyhead is a catch, their first single The Reeling is an enjoyable hit, but my favorite is Little Secret. It's not a summer song (see previous lists), but it does stoke the happy fire on pouring afternoons.

French band Phoenix returns with a tribute to the classics, Frank Liszt and Mozart, and surely with references as good as the masters, expectations will be set high. I'm definitely impressed in the total feel on the album, it steps back from a Eurocentric exclusiveness, and opens its doors to a more global appeal. Lyrics are crafted as teasingly addictive (repetition abounds!), and an orchestration (sorry pun intended) of its beats to be sublimely catchy. Listen to the mysterious crescendo in Love Like a Sunset, the lovable singles 1901 and Lisztomania. Bonus points: Fences sounds oddly familiar. Anyone knows why?

Not really this year's release, but Friendly fires manages to bring the pulsating disco back into indietronica land. Listen to Strobe, Skeleton Boy, On Board and Photobooth.

I'm just too busy, and held up in anxiety. A new chapter awaits...give it a few days.

But in the meantime, I raide both middle fingers up to that jerk that stole my side mirrors again; it's the second time in 2 months.
Hewitt, Ferrero, Federer, Haas and Roddick in the quarters? Suddenly, it feels like 2003.

Just when we're all ready to hail the new kids Monfils, Tsonga, and much newer players Tomic, Cilic and Gulbis, my generation of players stepped on the brakes to say that they're not quite finished. The first week of Wimbledon has definitely been interesting: Andymonium, the debut of the retractable roof, Federer's military jacket (fancy) and waistcoat (ridiculous), the resurrection of Hewitt, the merit of Ferrero's wildcard, and the news that there is no news about Djokovic.

Admit it. It's gorgeous.

Hewitt vs Roddick

Yowzah, flashback to the early 2000s! Hewitt has summoned back his speed, the sting of the simplicity of his strokes, and found himself back into the quarters of a slam after three years. However, Roddick will see that solid ball striking, and raise Hewitt an improved backhand, faster movement on the court, possible dropshots, and a crisper volley. Roddick version 2009 in 4 sets.

Ferrero vs Murray

Murray expected a match against a Spaniard in SW19, but not against Ferrero in the quarters. It's been a great run for JCF, stringing deep runs in grass. Alas, he goes against the tournament favorite, and a loss of the hometown hero will not be treated fondly by the campers at Murray Mound. Save for his erratic scrape by Wawrinka, a dominating performance by Murray should come alive again on Centre Court. Straight sets still.

Djokovic vs Haas

Rematch of the Halle final. Though I feel that the Serb should've won that won, it's a perfect time to serve revenge here in London. Djokovic in an efficient 3 sets.

Karlovic vs Federer

It's a surprise that Karlovic hasn't maximised his booming serve, especially on a court that favors him. However, he's playing Federer, who can read service motions like no other (Roddick's power serve doesn't really help their H2H record). A comprehensive win, I predict, with impressive variety of volleys, passing shots and slices. Four sets to the Swiss. And please, I don't want to see that spanking robot dance anymore.

Semis and Final

Three of the top 4 seeds will make the grade, with Roddick crashing that party. Andy vs Andy should result in a thriller, and so will Novak vs Roger. It's another delightful men's semis this Friday, but I'll put my money on Murray vs Federer. I must say that I was definitely impressed by Murray's Wimbly performance, but he got wounded by the Swiss #2, what more from the Swiss #1? Still, history is ripe, and Murray has definitely shown his laurels (and not just Fred Perry's) that he is a worthy successor. It will be a monumental fortnight, a new roof, and a new champion, a new #1, and a bright future for British tennis. Ten thousand pound tickets for Centre Court will be on offer this Sunday.

Career Slam followed by surpassing the all-time record? Not just yet. Wait for Flushing Meadows...

The end of the British drought ends here.
Dinara vs Sabine

Let's call this a match of surprises. A fragile Dinara surprised everyone by getting the the quarters on her least favorite surface. Sabine makes good on her potential and surprises tournament favorite (at least behind the Williams sisters), Caroline. I'll play this one safe and go for the top seed in 3 sets.

Agnieszka vs Venus

Venus has been moving immaculately on beloved grass. There is no denying her a stroll to the final. Straight sets of course.

Francesca vs Elena

Well, call me fickle, and now root for Elena. She's cleaned up her act, and as a defending semifinalist, she should be able to follow that up with another final 4 appearance. Depends on which Dementieva shows up, but I'm hoping it's the same one that crushed Vesnina yesterday. Straight sets.

Vika vs Serena

I know I shouldn't - Serena hasn't been tested this fortnight at all - bet Victoria. But. Vika has a winning streak against the younger Williams (I'll consider Vika's retirment in Melbs as a win, hehehe) and even if Wimbledon is a favored surface for the Williams, I'm going to go all out and pick Vika. Two tight sets. If it lasts to a deciding one, Serena should prevail.

Semis and Final

There will be no stopping of Venus for a hat trick of her beloved Rosewater dish, but Vika will put up a fight in the semis before folding in her Grand Slam final debut. Expect more of her this coming hardcourt season.

Vika! Slamming debut.

We all know who's running away with the trophy...
Gentlemen's Singles
Defending Champion: Rafael Nadal

Such disheartening news that a repeat of last year's monumental match will not happen with defending champion Nadal saying 'pass' due to his knees. I hope that this is not the start of the end for the promising Nadal, a GOAT contender himself, but can't say that nobody saw this coming.

Quarter I

Replacing Nadal in his Q1 position is Del Potro, who's been showing pretty decent results over the Slams. A semifinal over at Roland Garros actually came as a surprise since he's more attuned to faster surfaces. Expect him to flourish here, and though he's been bumped up to avoid a Murray/Djokovic/Federer in the semis, his path getting there is very difficult. An opener with the clever Clement, ex-champ Hewitt, recent grass court titlist Tursunov, before the quarters.

The renaissance of Andy Roddick has been one of this season's underrated stories. Even his career-best 4R placing in Paris is a testament that he's willing to grind it out for the long haul. Save for that retirement in Queen's, mark your betting sheets for a shoutout to the American. If the injury isn't as bothersome, a run to the final may not be too far off.

QF Match: Tursunov vs Roddick

Quarter II

A soft draw for homecouurt favorite Murray - and the Brit press will be holding their breath for two, intense weeks. The local favorite has a chance to walk away with the title here (having taken home the trophy at Queen's Club last week), and pole position. The tabloids will be working over-overtime as the nation goes into a frenzy. Except for a swan song test from Safin, anything less than a final 2 showdown with Federer will be considered as a disappointing heartbreak. Can you just imagine the euphoria when Murray wins?

QF Match: Murray vs Simon

Quarter III

It's been an up-and-down 8 months for Novak Djokovic, with a win in the year-ender in Shanghai, a failed defense in Melbs, a sensation claycourt season, only to end in an early exit in Paris. A good placing, together with a reasonable draw in London should do the trick. After an upset loss last year, expect a rebound to form here on grass.

Over Blake and Cilic, I hope that the lanky Croat pulls through, paging Ivanesevic and Ancic.

QF Match: Cilic vs Djokovic

Quarter IV

A relaxed Federer (wouldn't he be?) was also gifted an easy draw. Expect an upset of Verdasco though.

QF Match: Tsonga vs Federer
Ladies Singles
Defending Champion: Venus Williams

It's a mad scramble in London as the ladies try the quick turnaround from clay to grass. With the field blown wide open, and after a much ballyhooed upset season last year, don't expect thing to change just yet: The Williams sisters are headed for a collision course on the last Saturday of the tournament

Quarter I

After the meltdown in Paris, and one of the ugliest finals I've seen in quite a while, Dinara comes in as the top seed, yet with very little expectation. Her draw has not been friendly either, she faces Nicole, Agnes, Alona and/or Amelie. And that's before the quarters. Me thinks that she won't survive all of that.

Caroline has been on a roll this year, but still coming up short in the big ones. Her title run last week should provide her a good footing on the lawns, but she will face sentimental favorite Kimiko Date twice her age). The great Dane won this tournament as a junior, and expect her to make a breakthrough here.

Side note for Roland Garros Champion Svetlana, she's got a great game to succeed on the grass, but why are the results not there? Let's see on where this one goes though.

QF Match: Amelie vs Caroline

Quarter II

As mentioned in the intro, Venus stands out from an inconsistent field, she may have spotty results through the year, but doesn't she just stroll along the courts of Wimbledon, and take the title, which is her namesake?

The Serbian slump is fully represented yet, but expect one of them to put up a fight, Jelena, you've been quiet all year.

QF Match: Venus vs Jelena

Quarter III

Any news on Vera's ankle? Hopefully it holds up, she's got a pretty draw, and has the game to go deep. However, the lack of match play, might impair her. On the upside, her draw is relatively easy, with no real contenders. Sorry Elena D, that star seems to have fizzled out, as it was a stellar run indeed for the first quarter of the year. An upset from Alisa Kleybanova might be in the works.

QF Match: Vera vs Dominika

Quarter IV

Previously, on the last Grand Slam ... contenders were filled on the last quarter of the draw, and Serena Williams to come out blasting full force. Expect a continuation here, Maria, despite a recovering shoulder, still willed herself to the quarters, and my pick for the quarter, Victoria Azarenka, looking forward to a making an impression.

It's a such a temptation to put my money on Vika - her aggressive game, and feisty play suits the lawns of SW19, but her path to the semis is to have back-to-back wins over Serena and Maria. That's a lot to ask, but just in case she does surprise us all (including herself), she's the favorite to win the title. I'm going to go safe though, and count on Serena to bring home the whole thing - it's been a while, since she took home the title here.

QF Match: Victoria vs Serena
Saturday, June 13, 2009

Greatest Of All Time

Best ever!

So I've been a bit delinquent in updating this blog - so much that I missed my QF predictions for Roland Garros (never missed one, even when I was backpacking). I blame my busy sched, combined with the stringent internet filters in the office (BOO!).

Anyway, I popped the bubbly (Coca Cola) after Roger Federer's historic, record-match 14th Grand Slam win. It finally happened, too bad that Nadal wasn't across the net when that happened. Many will label Roger as the best ever, but I feel a bit irked for those who immediately labelled his win in Paris as an empty victory.

Retorts such as "he has a losing record against Nadal", "I don't wanna call him best ever until Nadal calls it a career" right Roger winning match point resounded with nothing but sourgraping. Nothing wrong with the statements mentioned - they are all valid, and definitely make a point,Rafael Nadal is definitely GOAT candidate. What annoys me is the immediacy of it. Federer finally won the title missing in his resume, after being stopped by Nadal for 4 straight years, and that is the congratulations he gets. I give the man props for being consistent, and being a beauty to watch the sport. Fed has made tennis look elegant and rhythmic, and perhaps that's his strongest case yet.
Just before the summer ends, and exactly just before the rains come pouring in, CS Manila had its first Summer Scramble. I've always wanted to be in the Amazing Race, but this time, I had to step back and organise one for my beloved travel group.

Since I was a TAR fan, and had a pretty good idea of sights in the city, druming up ideas for the race was not as difficult as most people would thin it would be. Plus having the experience of running a virtual The Amazing Race isn't so bad in creating challenging tasks.

I'm sure people have blogged about the event, and it's really great hearing it from the racer's point of view. We've got
AJ, whose narrative was the most comprehensive I've seen yet; Greg, whose photos were just gorgeous; and Ryan, whose video blog was just hilarious.

So let's give it a different outlook - let's take it from the organiser's perspective. I must say, my photos are the worst ones, good thing my friend tagged along to be the semi-official photographer.


Creating the challenges were easy, took me about 3 hours to write them all up in an Excel file after Lilliane mentioned the idea to me. The difficult part was testing it. Though we tested the race in parts, a full dry run never managed to be squeezed into my schedule.

* to be continued *
Your Final Task:

There are seven photos here. Arrange them chronologically, the way you visited them. You will come up with a 7-letter code (ie. BDCAFGE). Use that as a password to the file you will download below (use capital letters). Good luck!



Photo A
Photo A

Photo B
Photo B

Photo C
Photo C

Photo D
Photo D

Photo E
Photo E

Photo F

Photo G
Photo G
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roland Garros 2009

Women's Draw
Defending Champion: Ana Ivanovic

Quarter 1

Debuting as the top seed in a Slam, Lil Sis Dinara has made great strides the past couple of weeks in claycourt tuneups. She is definitely ripe for a major win, with two finals appearances in the past 12 months. However, the 'can-she-do-it?'' mentality can not be ignored. Her draw is littered with the dangerous Jie, Indian Wells winner Vika, and defending champion Ana. I'm betting once she survives these two tests, another final show is in the offing.

QF Match: Dinara vs Vika

Quarter 2

I would like to call this section the 'free-for-all' part of the draw. Venus' path to the final 8 is brutally difficult, plus we're playing on clay, which has never really been her strong point. She opens with Bethanie, then potentially takes on Sabine, followed by specialist Gisela, a resurgent Amelie, or last week's finalist, Alona. Either way, it's a grind through and through.

Nadia, also in a renaissance, while compatriot Vera looks like she has fully recovered from that ankle injury of hers. And did I mention someone named Maria Sharapova is unseeded in the draw? Two QF spots definitely up for grabs here with no clear favorites.

QF Match: Alona vs Nadia

Quarter 3

It would've been so easy to pick Jelena Jankovic here, if only her recent results were good. Her grinding and retrieving skills would have been fit for the red dirt, but her coach gave up all of those skills for muscle an power instead. She will be facing Caroline, my favorite rising player of the moment. Clean striker plus an excellent cross-corut drop volley. She's a looker too :)

The lower section of the draw features players I can't just reliably put my betting horse on. Daniela, Elena D, Marion and Francesca. Depends on breakfast, but it's hard to predict if any of these talented players will bring their A-game to Paris. I'll pick Elena (again!) just for sheer favoritism.

QF: Caroline vs Elena

Quarter 4

Serena hobbles into Paris, but don't let that stop her from trying to capture the title here - it's the only Slam she has won once (4xAO, 2xW, 3x US). She believes she's the best player on tour, and rankings don't really matter. It's a less humble Nadal-fortitude, but the right one. She doesn't play for show, but plays to win. She'll have to summon up all her magic to create a fantastic run in the City Of Lights, and her draw is far from easy. Flavia lurks in 4R, and perhaps an upset by Chinese Shuai is not too improbable.

My pick for RG 2009? Svetlana Kuznetsova. It's hard to put money on here (see reference to the rest of the Russian Squadron), but it's about time to pay respect to her excellent claycourt skills, plus she finally won a title in Stuttgart. That should count for something.

QF Match: Svetlana vs Flavia


Men's Draw
Defending Champion: Rafael Nadal

Quarter 1

The introductions should sound like this: In the red corner, undefeated in Paris, with only 5 losses on clay, stands Rafael Nadal. His quest for 5 straight wins is definitely the talk of this season. He however, was not gifted with an easy draw. He gets Ferrer and Verdasco in the quarters. Then again, this is clay, and he is Nadal. Should be an easy pass into the second week.

Lone unseeded 2008 QFinalist Gulbis has had a trashy year following, and though I will be cheering for him, I don't expect that he'll get past the second round yet again.

QF Match: Nadal vs Verdasco

Quarter 2

Murray has go to be the biggest question mark to tennis quadrumvirate this Grand Slam. Nadal and Djokovic have turned out consistent results, and Federer comes from a spirited win in Madrid. Murray, whose been the star to watch since late last year, was nowhere to be found. So, where does that place him in Paris? In a really dodgy part of the draw - he faces claycourter Chela in the opening round, then Tipsarevic in or Montanes further on. It could be the on/off Gonzalez or usually off Safin later on, or French favorite Simon. Murray shouldn't really worry about the 4R/QF, it's either he goes home early, or he makes it to the semis, where Nadal awaits.

QF Match: Cilic vs Youzhny

Quarter 3

In the light of Murray's rise to #3, and Federer's slump *at* #2, it was DJokovic who was forgotten. Lo and behold who has put up a consistent (runner-up) charge this summer. Two RUs, 1 title and 1 SF. I'mm definitely impressed on how he's built up the endurance and resistance to last that long on the dirt, plus his very close SF loss in Madrid puts him in this Slam's short list. His draw is relatively easy, and wait for the fireworks to come on the second week.

QF Match: Monaco vs Djokovic

Quarter 4

As mentioned above, what does Federer's win in Madrid do? It puts the rivalry back into full swing, it puts Roger as part of the contender's list, but it doesn't change the fact that Nadal is heads-and-shoulders above the competition. Federer better save energy for that SF clash with Djokovic, and his relatively easy draw makes tennis fans salivate for that encounter. Hopefully that winner of the duel wins the whole tournament.

Oh by the way, given Roddick's good form on clay recently, I expect him to win 2 matches on clay - something he's never done since 2001.

QF Match: Melzer vs Federer
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer Music MMIX

No, not a typo, but if you were listening to your Grade IV math teacher, that's Roman numerals for this year. What's burning up my portable music player?

1. Skeleton Boy by Friendly Fires
2. The Festival Song by Pez
3. I Love College by Asher Roth
4. Better Off As 2 by Frankmusik
5. Lovers In Japan by Coldplay
6. The Saltwater Room by Owl City
7. Fascination by Alphabeat
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Suzhou In A Day

My Suzhou visit was a bit annoying on many fronts - the weather was ridiculously wet (and very cold at that) therefore making my walks in the park turn into galoshing through puddles. However, walking from the train station towards the city center I was offered a refuge from the rain - the SUzhou Museum. What was supposed to be a ten-minute toweling off turned into a two-hour stroll in their quaintly distinct museum.

Did I mention that the entrance was free? The beautiful museum was design by the renowned IM Pei, creator of Bank of China in HK, and that glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. What I liked about the building was it had empty little corridors that let light in, those pockets of water that characterise the city it represents, yet all in a modern IM Pei-kind of presentation.

I wasn't able to see much of Suzhou that day, but a rundown of the museum definitely made this section of the trip worthwhile.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hutong Mania and the Great Duck Quest

Something must be said of the distinctive hutongs or courtyard complexes that fill Beijing. A whole lot of them are being demolished to give way to new, more dazzling complexes.

A roaring greeting to you!

There's a whole lot of them north of the Forbidden City, just nearby HouHai Park and Drum and Bell Towers. The area has been developed to a commercial area where you can have dinner some drinks, while nestled in the hutong district. Though this may effort may sound contrived, let me point you to a more authentic hutong district that's a bit harder to find.

The hutong and my shoulder

Searching for the best Peking Duck in town may be in the famed Quanjude Restaurant south of the Arrow Tower but there were three signs that made me veer away from the store:

1. A Lonely Planet un-recommendation for being overly hyped and frantically busy
2. It's ridiculously poncy facade
3. A McDonald's delivering food to the store - through the front entrance nonetheless

We followed hutong lanes not found in the map, but eventually found Li Qun Duck Restaurant. Why we didn't hesitate entering the restaurant despite its rather homely surroundings:

Homely facade

1. Well it was homely and most probably authentic.
2. In typical asian fashion, your success is measured by the photos of important visitors hanging on your wall. I saw a former Philippine ambassador and Jet Li. I'm in!

Emergency ducks on standby


3. We were greeted by these duck drawings. Nothing says "top notch" other than having kids graffiti your neighbourhood with duck doodles.

Big duck drawing gets my approval. Thanks Abi for modeling the post-duck cholesterol high

Post duck review? It was excellent and oh-soo-hearty (dripping in fat and oil). Yaiks!