Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Year In Review

As 2006 comes to a close, I realize it's been an exciting 12 months. Here's a brief rundown of my thoughts on an eventful period. :)

Great Memories

Two vacations within 4 months of each other made for quite a rush, but if you've never been to Bavaria or Tokyo, you're definitely missing out.

Met a bunch of great people -- natives and tourists -- ate way too much, and totally love the many different cultures I experienced.

Thank You Guys

To P, for an unforgettable stroll through Salzburg, filled with music, humour and harmless flirting ( haha ). You may say you're Spanish, but I'm still convinced you're 100% Italian. :)

To G, for a beautiful evening which exceeded even my highest expectations. You're quite the cook!

To K, for accomodating my requests every single time, just because you care.

To C, for your spontaneity and -- ahem -- admirable courage(!) during lunch in Hakone. But my parents like you, so no harm done. Hope you'll visit us in Singapore soon. :)

And finally, to M, who unknowingly and radically changed my perspective on so many levels, and who also provided a classic European moment by blowing me a kiss from beneath my room window one balmy evening. I wish you well, and who knows, if Fate permits, perhaps our paths will cross again someday.

Favourite Albums of 2006

1. New Vintage - Peter Grant

Hands down, no contest. I'm still blasting it in the car, and getting goosebumps every time. This guy is going to be a huge star. Just give him time.

2. Continuum - John Mayer

Completely blew me away with a sudden shift in musical direction. Bold, explosive, and sexy as hell. Come to Singapore quick!

3. Awake - Josh Groban

Another breakthrough recording which bodes well for this young man. Has taken a huge step forward and is guaranteed a long career ahead.

4. Mr. A-Z & Tonight Not Again - Jason Mraz

His latest is trademark JM, but the latter -- a 'live' concert album -- takes the cake. I dare you to listen to his stage rendition of Absolutely Zero and resist loving this guy.

5. Catching Tales - Jamie Cullum

A tour de force for Sinatra in sneakers. 7 Days To Change Your Life is astounding.

Best Concerts of 2006

1. Jason Mraz

Wah lau, without a doubt. The best I've EVER seen, actually. 2 hours of earth-shattering talent, wit, flawless vocals, with nothing more than a guitar and a few bongo drums for backup. Meeting him in person is now one of my missions in life.

2. Jamie Cullum

Superb jamming and an awesome medley of hip-hop hits. Put him in the Esplanade the next round.

3. Chris Botti

Another fellow who deserves to grace the Esplanade stage. Classy, gorgeous and works nothing less than magic on those trumpet keys.

4. Rockapella

A rousing debut, with many more concerts to follow, I'm sure. Word of advice -- don't waste your money on the Swingle Singers.

5. Robbie Williams

Well, the show got cancelled, but if he'd come here as planned, it would definitely be on this list, so this one's for you Robbie. :)

Favourite Films of 2006

1. The Lake House

Don't ask me why I love this so much. I just do.

2. The Devil Wears Prada

So excellent Meryl Streep is now my favourite actress of all time. ( Used to be Michelle Pfeiffer, but she's disappeared for a while. )

3. Brokeback Mountain

Surprisingly affecting despite the explicit scenes.

4. March Of The Penguins

An amazing piece of work.

Wish I had a #5, but I really didn't watch that many movies this year, and even fewer great ones.

Favourite TV Shows of 2006

1. Grey's Anatomy

I know what I wrote in my reviews in the you-know-what-publication, but comparing Season 2 of Grey's with that of House, there's no question who the victor is. The eclectic group at Seattle Grace Hospital ( which, interestingly, shares the same acronym as my workplace, hint hint ) may not be as quoteworthy as Dr. Gregory House, but they more than make up for it with sincerity, some really solid acting ( remember Katherine Heigl's heart-wrenching scene where she begged what's-his-name with heart failure to undergo a transplant? ) and - yum - Patrick Dempsey have turned the series into ratings gold, hitting the #1 spot when Season 3 debuted a few months ago.
Too bad TR Knight, who plays George O'Malley, is gay. But I still love him. :)

2. Numb3rs

Sorely underrated but one of the best shows I know of. Rob Morrow remains sexy 10 years post Northern Exposure ( rent it if you can ), while David Krumholtz melts my heart with his earnest smiles, soft brown eyes and (gah) honey-smooth voice. If only my Maths teachers were this cute.

3. Prison Break

Cheesy beyond cheesy, with giant loopholes everywhere. Yet immensely watchable, in no small part because of the enigmatic and delicious Wentworth Miller. If prison inmates were this good-looking, I wouldn't mind being their doctor either. :)

4. Supernatural

Another cheesy series, but again, extremely addictive because of the leads. Jared Padalecki is a perennial fave of mine ( being a Gilmore Girls alumnus and all ), while Jensen Ackles continues to grow on me during moments of pretty competent emoting. I also really like the guy who plays their dad ( but haven't learned his name yet ). This dude also had a recurring role on Grey's Anatomy, as the heart transplant patient Katherine Heigl's character falls for. He made me cry -- no small feat, I can tell you that!

5. Entourage

Ahhh, Jeremy Piven, you are the best reason to watch this show. From your speed-talking to your anxious tics to your head-spinning double / triple-crossing schemes, Ari Gold has become a legend in TV history. I hope you win another Emmy in 2007.

6. Nip/Tuck

After depressing me no end in Season 2, it has returned better than ever, with a serial killer on the loose, Sean's son suffering a mental breakdown after discovering his ex-lover was a transexual, Christian fighting a whole truckload of personal demons, and the addition of a Spanish colleague with bisexual tendencies to a troubled practice.

I like dark, twisted tales, and this is definitely top of the line. :)

Things I Look Forward To in 2007

1. Passing the exit

-- mostly so I don't have to &*^%$$# study anymore.

2. Visiting the US

-- intend to spend a mini-fortune on this trip, so let's make it a good one.

3. Charity work

-- has been in the pipeline for way too long, so I hope to make this a reality once and for all.

4. Partying a little

-- St. James Power Station and The Cannery look promising. But a return to the old watering holes would be good too.

5. Writing more

-- stay tuned...

So enjoy NYE, and here's wishing all readers a wonderful year ahead. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Season's Greetings!

I can't upload e-cards here, so click on this to sample a whole chunk of them and get your festive spirits up. :)

It's hard to believe that the year is ending yet again. Not as eventful as 2005 ( nothing can ever beat the whammy combo of Michael Buble, Peter Cincotti and Patrizio Buanne! ), but there were definite moments in 2006 ( Jamie Cullum, Westlife, 2 great holidays, a fistful of - ahem - interesting men, heh heh! ).

I'm always grateful for my parents who, apart from making so many sacrifices these past 3 decades, continue to earn my admiration and respect -- most recently for gamely navigating the Tokyo subways with me and actually loving it! They've sped down the Dart River in Queenstown, trudged through glacier territory, traced the paths of the LOTR cast and crew, walked miles and miles through numerous other countries yet kept pace with me with ease. Plus, no-one has ever successfully guessed their ages -- a huge compliment, IMHO.

Then there're my relatives and friends, some of whom have shared my deepest secrets and helped me through a few of the darkest moments of my life. What would I ever do without you all?

And of course, let's not forget the wonderful people at a certain ER, who work their butts off everyday but always find a moment or two ( usually when we congregate in the pantry ) to share jokes and bond through grouching. Ranks disappear and the chaos outside is forgotten, as we spend a few precious minutes relaxing and remembering that hey, we're bloody human too.

Last but not least, a special hug for my cat, who turned 9 just a few months ago. He remains my best pal, with an eerie knack for knowing when I need him most. We've been through so much together and he's never disappointed me once.

Find me a guy like that and I swear I'll marry him.


Have a blessed X'mas, and as always, my sincere thanks for reading.

Monday, December 18, 2006

X'mas in Ginza Posted by Picasa

Shibuya Madness - check out the crowd Posted by Picasa

Mickey & Friends Posted by Picasa

World Bazaar Posted by Picasa

Have Yourself A Merry Little X'mas Posted by Picasa
More Photos

Before my laptop mouse goes insane again. Note to self: pass exit, get pay rise, buy new computer to replace ancient 6-year-old model.

Oh yeah, and I still use dialup. The way I see it, why spend unnecessarily when you've got easy access to broadband at work?

In the spirit of X'mas, I've decided to post a few festive pictures.

Picture #1: Ginza district

Due to weather conditions, it was cloudy so the colours are significantly muted. Still, small X'mas trees lined the pavements, and you can of course see the famed Mikimoto Pearl store sign in plain view.

Not as celebratory as our wonderful Orchard Road though.

Picture #2: Shibuya

My favourite! Packed to the brim with young and old alike, all rushing around like mad lemmings, especially at the crazy 6-way traffic junction. Lots of neon, lots of noise, and the shops are just mind-boggling. Ate at a superb restaurant somewhere -- we just walked randomly and stopped when our stomachs told us to. Served delectable yakitori ( the sauce! ), shabu-shabu cooked in a heavenly spicy soup ( ahhhh! ), and a hot plate of some omelette-vegetable concoction ( perfect! ). All for less than S$20 per head.

Pictures #3-#5: Tokyo Disneyland

You may see a resemblance to some pictures in a certain publication due for circulation in the near future. But you simply can't beat Disneyland when it comes to the festive period, especially X'mas.
I smiled so much my face hurt. And the single day we spent there was hardly sufficient to fully enjoy the whole place -- we gave Disneysea a miss as a result of time shortage.
Will most definitely return, but not sure when.
Believe the horror stories about the Hong Kong version, and just stick to Tokyo ( if you can't see the original parks in the US ). It was a lovely experience from beginning to end, even though the crowds were massive.


CD recommendation for you, though brief.

Josh Groban's Awake is the latest album to spend time in my stereo, and having followed his career since his debut 4-5 years ago, this is by far his boldest -- and best -- work yet.

Besides mixing his usual Italian / Spanish fare with more mainstream English songs, fans will easily pick out a shift in tone -- lighter, more pop-friendly -- and a willingness to REALLY experiment -- collaborations with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Herbie Hancock, among others.

My fave tracks are all crammed into the last third of the disc, starting with #10 ( theme for Romeo & Juliet ), followed by the beautiful African-flavoured Lullaby and Weeping, a jazz/rock/bluesy Machine, and bonus songs Verita and Awake.

The title track has been repeated ad nauseum in my car, and I've yet to tire of it. An original piece by Josh, it is both tender and poignant. Terrific lyrics, a haunting chorus, supplemented by one of Josh's most nuanced performances ever. Just listen closely as he sings "So keep me awake / to memorize you / Give me more time / to feel this way / We can't stay like this forever / But I can have you next to me / today". Major goosebumps. :)

Lunch beckons.

Apologies to those I had to cancel on last weekend. Lousy flu kept me from consuming alcohol and gorging my brains out with friends. Looks like I'll be socially challenged till my exam is over next month. Not taking any chances.

But after that -- heh heh -- that's another story. :)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Feasting In Ginza Posted by Picasa

Nabe Heaven Posted by Picasa

Genghis Khan Munchies Posted by Picasa

Despite all the crazy shifts, the exhaustion, tension headaches, gastric pains and occasional doubts about whether my salary is worth all this pain and suffering, there're occasional moments when everything makes perfect sense.

Yesterday was one good example.

Conducted a 90-minute tutorial with a group of medical students currently rotating through our department, and surprise surprise, I actually had fun doing it. :)

Very animated bunch, enthusiastic and genuinely interested in emergency medicine. Attentive and knowledgeable, with quite a number of questions tossed my way ( even though I expected them to be half asleep since my session was preceded by a heavy ECG tutorial ).

When I asked how many are considering emergency medicine as a future career path, one guy answered, "Quite a lot actually". Some expressed disappointment that multiple appeals to the powers that be to extend the posting beyond its brief 3-week period have come to naught, but a few did appear interested in returning for electives. They even had queries about which Part I and II exams to take!

Following that fulfilling morning, I spent my night shift with 5 students who joined me from 9pm to 8am. Lots of energy, extremely helpful, keen to learn and very sensible. We even had a short tutorial at 3am on subarachnoid haemorrhage ( cold case from a few months back ). I tired out early -- major prawn parade, don't our elderly folk sleep anymore? -- but their high spirits never seemed to wane. Just wish we could've had a few major resuscitations for their benefit. But guess they should drop by on Mondays and weekends in order to experience ER madness in its purest form.

All I can say is: Thank you. I needed that little boost. :)

Another Thing

Shattered Glass, a film based on the true story about Stephen Glass ( a young reporter formerly at prominent political magazine The New Republic ) proved to be unexpectedly good. Produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, it stars Hayden Christensen ( Anakin Skywalker dude ), who does a decent job portraying an eager-to-please personality with a dark side ( pun fully intended :)).

However, I prefer to highlight his co-star Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Stephen's editor, Charles Lane.

Previously seen in The Man In The Iron Mask ( John Malkovich's son Raoul ) and Boys Don't Cry, he's much more prominent in this film, and turns in a compelling, memorable performance, for which I understand he received quite a few critical accolades as well.

It's been 3 years ( Shattered Glass was released back in 2003 ) and Sarsgaard hasn't hit A-list status yet, but like John Cusack ( my 2nd fave actor after Kevin Spacey, another non-A-lister ), he'll have no problems securing great roles and building up his fanbase. I'm definitely a new Sarsgaard groupie. What a terrific actor.

Last But Not Least

It's time to really get down to studying. 6 weeks. Arrgh!

But a fellow registrar's festive mood is proving contagious, so next weekend's drinking session with department colleagues is in the pipeline. Followed by a long-awaited dinner with JC classmates the next day.

Oh yeah, maybe I'll finally meet Mr 747 and pass him that World Cup jersey I promised, heh.

Tokyo Part 1: Food, Glorious Food


Photo #1: Our first lunch, at a restaurant in the Ginza district. Everything's in Japanese ( including the eatery's name ), but I can tell you that if you walk along Ginza Street from the train station past Mikimoto Pearl and spot Harry Winston on the opposite side, just walk a little further and you may stumble upon this place on your left. It's got a cardboard sign out front, and leads down a flight of stairs to the main area below. You must remove your shoes, but they've got these beautiful lockers with individual keys. That's about as much detail as I can give you.

Anyhow, this feast offered EXCELLENT Udon, tempura that melts in your mouth, and the best sushi I've ever tasted ( the seaweed wrap is just the right consistency ).

Price of meal per person: S$10-15 ( in the Ginza area! )

Photo #2: A traditional hotpot Nabe set, with the freshest ingredients ever. The portion was huge, and it took us an hour just to cook everything in a stage-wise manner. The broth is a super-tasty miso soup, rich in flavour yet low in salt content ( none of us developed any thirst post-meal ).

Location: Jap restaurant in the executive tower of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. No English name available, but there's a Nabe set display at the entrance so look for that.

Price: S$60 thereabouts. But bloody worth every penny. :)

Photo #3: Mouth-watering hot stone Mongolian-style cooking at a posh eatery near ( not within ) the Four Seasons Hotel. Went there as part of a guided city tour. The tour wasn't great, but the lunch more than made up for it!

Darn, I can't remember the name of the place. But the food was FABULOUS. Again, superb meat, cooked in a special sauce which is so fragrant my mouth began to water before I tasted anything. Just wish we could've had seconds, but no such luck.

Price: no idea -- included in tour fee.

Had many other delicious meals on a daily basis, but these are the ones that I snapped pictures of. I just ADORE Japanese cuisine.

Next post: images from my strolls through Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku. I kinda like the Tokyo subways too. :)