Ally

Archive for February 2010

School’s out (though off to a bad start, but let’s not lament on that) and I am chirpy about the prospects the holidays bring! One of the tasks I’ve promised to take up during this 7-week break is to kick off a Julie & Julia inspired bake cycle, where I will try to pick recipes off the net and hit the kitchen. You know, since I’ve put cooking off since the stone age. Unfortunately.

Now, baking seems a little less daunting than cooking considering ingredients are in controlled measurements (no more or no less), hence explaining my bold venture. As for why steam and not bake? Ah, this little aspiring baking for leisure troll falls short of an oven. (You know what to get me for my birthday friends. 😉 )

Ok, therein we begin with… Bake cycle #1: Steamed (Soda) Cupcakes!

I got this interesting recipe (apparently longstanding since my mom knows it) from a blogger who prepares this as a petite lunchbox delight for her husband and some more for her kids’ meals too. Figured the idea of adding soda into cupcakes sounds like parcels of children’s laughter, I took up the challenge.

Admittedly, it was made up of merely 4 ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar and soda. Pretty simple right!

Simple as it might be, I still got my mom’s help here and there and even got flustered when I didn’t warm up the steamer in time to send those cups of joy for some final fluffing. Approximately 20 minutes later, I ended up with 2 trays and a bowl of these delights.

The end result was a spongy texture, with a holey top. Draw it nearer to your nostrils and you would inhale whiffs of raw egg whites. Now I understand why essences have to be added into baked goods so as to mask the said smell, which could clearly be off-putting to many (I found my appetite to be momentarily waning for it. 😛 ).

On a final note, if you are tempted to pinch these delectable dense cakes straight from the steamer, hold your devouring pangs! They are best eaten cooled, slightly warm at least. If not, the cakes will stick like glue to the sides of the cups. This will result in wastage and wastage of cakes will not be tolerated.

You know where I am getting at. 😉

I am an oddball and proud to be one.

I left the house in quite a hurry as I forgot my mobile phone and was rushing to catch the early bus. However, I proved to be a slow runner (and not the one to beat the pedestrian crossing when a red man is glaring at me) this morning as I missed the early bus anyway. Interestingly enough, as I was running home I remembered coming across 2 ladies who was staring at a grass patch and vaguely remembered them talking about a certain “rabbit”. Being the stop-and-smell-the-roses-and-die kind of person, I raced ahead and took no heed to what their focus was on.

It was only when I returned home that my mom told me about an abandoned rabbit who was left out in the open, in a cage. If it was a case of bringing the fur ball with floppy ears out for a breather, it would be the strangest sight yet. I mean, if those were the owner’s intentions, wouldn’t he or she be nearby? (Or next to the cage at least.) As far as I heard, the rabbit was there for a couple of hours.

Luckily today was cloudy and barely a rain cloud in sight.

Consequently, my mom told me to take a peek when I was by the lift lobby again, later in the afternoon. No rabbit to be seen.

To that, I wonder what happened to it.

In any case, I hope it has found a better home. Wherever it might be. 🙂

I could sit in a corner all day today. With my back up against the wall, I feel almost infallible yet, hollowed. I guess it is self-doubt is welding a spade and digging a bear cave in my chest.

Tomorrow’s the first day of the final exams for the semester. As with all exams, I wish for the day never to arrive. Ever. However much you have prepared before seems to be an unlikely line of defense for the battlefield of questions that are to come, and that is what scares me the most. This insufficiency, this… self-doubt. You can’t brush it off your shoulders nor can you hold a decent persuasive conversation in your head to convince yourself everything is going to be alright.

Potential cure? Distractions. Distractions seem timely. Unfortunately, distractions are a temporary deterrence to the main issue at hand. As so, it is fleeting. Oh so brief.

Then, what should I do? Wait. Waiting’s probably the best cure for the moment. In hopes of quelling the incessant fear that runs through my veins like a slow poison. (18 hours, 24 minutes and counting.)

Well, like the saying goes: “If it happens, it happens.

Embarrassingly enough, when this song first hit the local airwaves I was convinced it was a new single from The Script. It was only when I watched the music video was my jaw was grazing the floor and I went, “Oh.”

Further research later, I found out this song was originally recorded by The Script and due for a Japanese release of The Script and a B-side track of their We Cry single. God, no wonder the similarities in style of composure and background beats!

What a fool I can be.

Anyway, Kris has, admittedly, some Danny O’Donoghue husky vocals going on which made the tune bear semblance to The Script‘s rendition:

If you must ask for my opinion, The Script beats Kris‘s rendition hands-down as Danny O’Donoghue has a huskiness of honeycombs. Bring on my biscuits and English tea!

Alright, back to the music video. It starts with a dull, blueish-grey tint which is comparable to Timbaland’s Morning After Dark and CSI:NY episodes. Frankly realistic and hard-hitting. If said hue is to channel a ‘death’ vibe, by golly it was working somehow.

Also, the junkyard setting is oh-so-reminiscent of Berlin’s Take My Breath Away:

It’s the work of the draping plastic sheets, that’s why. (As I speak, I am having weird thoughts about Dexter Morgan’s rituals…)

Kaboom! In one flip of a switch, Kris powers up a larger-than-life countdown clock. As the seconds tick by at light speed, he ends up strumming the guitar, smashing his fingers on the piano keys, strumming the guitar then smashing his fingers on the piano keys…

Eventually, dawn approaches and he shoves his mic stand aside to join the rest of the junk in the scrapyard. Goodbye useless piece of upright metal. It is sunrise and boy is Kris going to embrace it. Walking into the brand new day, the video comes to a close.

Final comments:

The concept for the music video comes as a great surprise, especially when it stars Kris Allen. I expected the setting to be simply Allen with a guitar in tow by some hilly countryside. Nothing prepared me for a flare welding Allen and a junkyard. For that, I praise the creative directors of the video for not conceptualizing a friendly and familiar setting, much akin to Kris’s boy-next-door vibe, to fit the already radio-friendliness of the song. Brilliant.

However, the idea of a digital clock is soon to be over-utilized as it was first seen in Madonna and Justin Timberlake’s 4 Minutes and now in upcoming Korean sensation 4 Minutes’ Hot Issue videos. Galactic with a cutting edginess to it no doubt, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to be accused of “recycling”.

In sum, this video deserves a 3.9/5; as saved by the clever use of Math in the lyrics: “We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to turn it all around or throw it all away…”

Timbaland’s Morning After Dark versus If We Ever Meet Again: It is the battle of the elusive plots!

If there is anything I am able to appreciate fully and capably, they’re music videos with a storyline. However, there will always be the sure fire winners like Shane Ward’s No Promises, and then there are the initially born winners to misguided losers. Gladly, in the case of Timbaland’s two recent videos Morning After Dark and If We Ever Meet Again, there are the mind-blowing songs to deflect any negative feelings and scalp scratching moments you may ever have.

Let the chow down begin!

First up, Timbaland’s Morning After Dark:

Recently, there has been a slew of supernatural-themed TV series (True Blood, The Vampire Diaries) and movies (The Wolfman, Twilight, Twilight: New Moon, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), even music videos (Backstreet Boys’ Straight Through My Heart); so much so you can’t help but think those Interview With The Vampire days have been given a new lease of life, modernised in every way possible. Good thing all the abovementioned productions all have sense knocked into them. Now, what sets Timbaland’s Morning After Dark music video apart?

Seemingly meaningful lyrics with a virtually meaningless plot.

Ok, girl exits home and she is instantaneously sniffed out by supernatural beings (I’m guessing vampires) who wants her life. Why? No idea. Maybe she has some spectacular power like Sookie Stackhouse, the kind where vampires and ghouls wish to exploit? Erm.

That’s not all. Timbaland and his posse, Nelly Furtado and SoShy pops out in a kitchen and metro respectively. Apparently, they are her guardians. Who are they exactly? No idea either. I mean, are they werewolves, cats, lizards or whatever being that took over MJ in his Thriller video?

Perplexing I say, perplexing.

Secondly, girl and get-up. Doesn’t it look a tad bit Nelly Furtado-ish? I can’t put my finger on which Nelly Furtado look she is going for, but it looks like one from her I’m Like A Bird days. Furthermore, with the dark hair, it was no wonder that I did a double take at her before decidedly affirming that she is not Nelly Furtado (she wasn’t singing).

When Nelly did appear in the video, I was even more appalled for all the wrong reasons. One, I could not make out what in the world she was singing about due to her voice being heavily synthesized. Two, her voice was downright annoyingly screechy thanks to the synthesizing. Three, what is a gorgeous looking lady doing in a kitchen?!

Someone jump out with the big ending reveal please.

Ah… So said Nelly look-alike was making her way to a date. Some club it is… there he is! Hello date. They dance for awhile then the camera flashes to a ferocious dance circle and hello scary sister. A woman in fire hydrant red lipstick stares the girl down in absolute distaste for her inappropriate club outfit a bloodthirsty fashion on the dancefloor, the girl is instantly spooked and leaves her date pronto. Out of the club, out of sight.

Meanwhile, our singing duo (SoShy and Timbaland) AKA protectors of unknown girl stand by grooving and taking in the scene. She’s leaving? Oh! Let’s proceed to the back alley way and continue singing. Never mind about Nelly, she’ll finish the dishes then join us for drinks later.

More dancing by SoShy and face contortion by Timbaland later, the girl briskly walks to a fountain and flashback to the time when she was hanging out by the bar and the bloodthirsty girl on the dancefloor and her pendant. Soon, the same pendant design is imprinted on the girl by the fountain. Lo and behold, she is a…

Cult member? Born vampire/werewolf? Drug addict on hallucinogens?

Whatever the reason, the plot made even less sense after the grand ending. If there was ever one, to begin with.

(To date, Morning After Dark has over 4 million views on Youtube. I wonder how many of them are as confused as I am…)

Next on the chopping block, Timbaland’s If We Ever Meet Again:

A demure beginning; promising, promising. Cue music and all eyes on the abstract artwork. Oh, man and woman. I wonder where that leads to…

Turns out, she stole the artwork, displayed it at her apartment then attends a wedding or luncheon goodness knows as all focus was on the couple. She meets him again and pretty much reads his mind about him snagging an old lady’s gem (ruby?)  necklace. The poor elderly folk runs to the balcony and gestures wildly at her bare neck while hysterically screaming, “Someone has stolen my necklace!”

Now, this part I only caught after watching the clip for the 10th time, where he places the stolen necklace in a drawer. Her drawer. Apparently, he too broke into her home and deposited his stolen treasures at her place. What, are they just clever thieves or exes? Do they already know each other?!

Later, girl tiptoes into the same gallery where she has stolen their abstract artwork from and goes on to steal a golden globe. The gallery manager is one tiptoe too late but is alerted of the theft anyhow. He rings up the police and the law caught up with the man instead, who for god knows why was parked outside the gallery.

Moon gazing maybe?

She, just in time to watch him being interrogated by the police outside the gallery, engages in some deep thought then turns back to return the stolen golden globe. Erm, where’s the gallery whoever in charge? Isn’t he supposed to be by the exhibit of the stolen artifact or close by to wait for the police? She blatantly waltzed in and out of the gallery as if he gave her a key to their back door.

Security fail.

Oh, seems like their local newspaper has reported about the stolen painting and the police begins their probe on the matter. Starting with, the man. Don’t know why he was suspected (fingerprints from the necklace theft?) but they retain him for some time before Little Miss Globe Stealer said something to the authorities to make them change their minds.

Eventually, he is released and the pair reunites on the streets.

Yes yes, I see it already. If we ever meet again right. A song about coincidences and mistaken identities. Ah, insightful.

As for the conclusion, I believe the song is transitioning to another one? Explaining the sudden change in tempo and lyrics. For the break-in, hmmm, a conspiracy on the side of the authorities to raid her apartment without a search warrant? Heaven knows. All I know is that it was a lousy round-up of the story and if more than anything, it explained nothing.

Major plus points in the video? Mesmerising Katy Perry in a Waking Up In Vegas inspired white suit (Elvis much!) and Timbaland in a trench coat.

Other than that, If We Ever Meet Again falls face flat next to Morning After Dark in plot development.

You have a horrible boyfriend and you need to let off steam. What better way to do it than hit the sauna with a 15-women posse and have a dance-off with the man later! Female Korean drummers excluded.

After watching the 3.28 minute clip for the 5th time, I am more than determined to comment on it. First of all, bless the anticipative steady tempo of the drumming for the first 5 seconds. Probably caught your attention long enough to stick around for Shakira’s opening lyrics, “First floor, room 16…”. More on the deep heaving and exhaling later.

5 seconds in and we’re treated to our first glimpse of Shakira and her 15-women posse all decked out in white in a sauna. No idea why they are clothed but by golly it must have been sweltering enough for the lady to be holding a rolled up towel! Oh, my bad. It was a scene transitional prop; the kind you throw towards the camera that viewers are utterly captivated by it they have to stop and stare then boom! New scene.

In a clever relation, we see dolled up Shakira brandishing a white rolled-up towel and hurling it in the direction of a potentially emotionally wrecked man. In one skillful catch-and-release, the towel was banished to a corner by the man. There we begin our dance-off!

Interestingly, this dance genre is known as Contact Improvisation. For a moment, I got thought it was jazzy, tango-inspired version of Capoeira, then I remembered Capoeira is a non-contact art form. So what is Contact Improvisation? Basically, it is a dance form where the  point of contact between 2 dancers are to spark off an impromptu dance move (them taking turns to dance) and like the name suggests, no prior choreography involved. Personally, I enjoy watching the dance as the unpreparedness really showcases a dancer’s creativity and awareness to space and most importantly, their partners. Also, the fluidity of the movements and how each dance piece is a story-teller transforms each dance into a masterpiece.

Okay, back to the video.

Simply put, Shakira and her man (b-boy Daniel “Cloud” Campos) engaged in a show-and-tell of their rocky relationship, the endless fights and yup, the kiss-and-make-up moments. Some segments of the dance were particularly sexually-charged, but the rest was pretty much frustration, frustration, frustration.

What I liked most of the video are the nuanced slow-mo highlights, especially when Shakira, off the bed,  twirls him off her arms and takes on a matador stance and her hair is being suspended in mid-air. “Stunning” left my lips for the 100th time.

However, what confused me for this video is her use of the Korean drummers and that hypnotic hip action in the Egyptian bathhouse scene. Was it because of the electro-latino beats and use of the snare drums (sounded like them) which produced this multi-layered, multi-textured tone and therefore creating a multi-cultural feel to the rhythm?

In any case, it was a fun infusion all round and yes, the video became entertaining in a non-mainstream kind of way. It really felt as though it has more depth than it turned out to be. Hmmm, I ponder.

Lastly, the “oh”s which were peppered throughout the tune gave it an orgasmic aura. If you thought the video took a creative direction with its bed scene, oh boy any gaping holes are patched up with the cosmic, orgasmic “oh”s.

All in all, I rate this music video a 4.5/5 for a 3.28 minutes well-spent. Pleasing for the eyes, man candy in view and ever meaningful for the dance fanatic. Missed by .5 because I couldn’t understand the existence of the Korean drummers.

Oh yeah.

The head chef from hell is back. Reigning superiority in all 4 corners of the kitchen. Gosh, if someone could strip his ugly veneer and reveals what is eating at him all this time.

Aigoo!

Sidetrack: After much fruitful searching, I have found out the title of the cooking programme Sae Young is hosting is Table Of Chef.

Now for the real deal.

The episode started on where it left off, at the pedestrian crossing. The face-off ensued and the strangely even-tempered side of Hyun Wook appeared once again. I have no idea what in the world is going on.

Anyway, Yoo Kyung proceeds with her life by spending the night downing glasses of Soju. She must have skipped the street fare as she stopped for a couple of instances to throw up along the sidewalks after. Then, she ran into Kim San. No clue as to how he coincidentally bumped into her; unless he was stalking her all that time.

Again, the Kdrama coincidences are flaring up.

He probes her about her heavy drinking and questions the reason behind it. “Were you fired?” Oddly, she struggles to keep her pride intact when she is around Kim San, unlike the countless of times she would appear in La Sfera despite her being fired by Hyun Wook multiple times. More on that later.

He decides to end his playful interrogation and lightens the mood by getting her “clean up after her puke”. She seems slightly more at peace and satisfied with herself for the rebuttals and casual talk.

At the time when the women were in their drunken stupor and sauntering along the sidewalk, Sae Young is once again featured — now pounding a treadmill. Then, a blast from the past reveals a tiny slice of her history with Hyun Wook. Hmmm, I wonder if he has any conscience for firing canoodling kitchen staff…

Thereafter, Hyun Wook walks into the same fitness center (24 hour gym. I. Am. In. Love.) after Sae Young has left. Eh.

This is yet to up the ante of weirdness. Kim San appears before Sae Young (Again! His first was at her book signing session.) at that hour of the night. My mind just trailed off the time when Hyun Wook mentioned that a woman meeting a man at such a late hour is to “sleep together”.

God how this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Ok, so maybe he was not stalking Yoo Kyung but dropping by to visit Sae Young as he was informed of her whereabouts? In any case… Don’t these people sleep?!

Tweet tweet went the little birdie by the window sill. It is morning! Hyun Wook arrived at work bright and early, pleased at himself of getting rid of her other sex in his workplace. Ah, the sweet sweet taste of victory and misogyny. Lingering, savoring.

Ah! Hyun Wook had a rude shock when he swung open the door to his locker. Yoo Kyung has taken residence in it, claiming it is the roomiest of them all. She pleas and whimpers a “I want to make pasta”. Honestly, this is when Hyun Wook is seriously pushing his character to its limits. “Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!” Never mind his unfriendly demeanor in the kitchen and his misogyny antics. What annoy me in the constant need to punctuate every sentence with a yell. I mean, for goodness’ sake. I CAN HEAR YOU. No need to scream to exhibit your superiority in the work place. I could go on all day with his actions…

Thankfully, but with little salvage to his annoying character portrayal, he nurses Yoo Kyung’s cramped legs. I like how he switches in and out of his head chef and civilian role. Being from care-less to caring. But still. The bad boy temper has to go. Pronto.

In a flurry of events, Hyun Wook calls for a change in the day’s recommended specials. This sends the restaurant out of total control, causing the kitchen staff fumble and a horrible backlog of orders. The waitstaff has even screwed up the specials. Nothing will do. Will La Sfera survive past today?!

Fear not! Hyun Wook called for back-up. Apparently, they are some sidekicks of his, a plan he devised from time immemorial. If he was taking over the kitchen, he was going to do it a lady at a time, then drive the male staff nuts to leave too.

After cries of “Si, va bene!” (also known as “Yes, Chef!”), the 3 sidekicks kicked into action as soon as they hit the frying pans. God how these professional know-hows made Yoo Kyung cower into silence. Her dignity is running thin, but it is apparent from the furrow of her brows that she is persevering to the very end. Whether he likes it or not.

You go girl!

Ah, the boys take a night out. By boys, I meant the newbies, head chef and new kitchen assistant. Oh wait, he just promoted the kitchen assistant to an assistant pasta chef 3 days after he started work. Injust! Yoo Kyung slaved for 3 years before getting to the place she is in now! (Technically, she is fired but I like to think of her as an assistant pasta chef. Let’s face it, the new kitchen assistant has A LOT to learn.) The boys sipped on their beers and pondered over the current situation. I am glad one of the newbies spoke up on women’s tenacity to hack the demanding work environment but Hyun Wook decidedly turns a deaf ear to the matter.

How angsty.

In parallel, the other male kitchen staff sits down for a meal at another restaurant. I like how this 2 rivaling camp in the kitchen is going on. All the challenges and aggravation. Oh, the men sure know how to fist-fight their way to righteousness and that is what I am waiting for!

Back at La Sfera, Yoo Kyung holds a pity party for herself while slurping on pasta. She assures herself that her cooking standard is qualifying to serve at a customers’ table. You can see she really wants the opportunity to showcase her budding talent. Oh dear…

Round 497 of in-your-face you-don’t-belong-here drama between Hyun Wook and Yoo Kyung. I admire her sheer determination. If I were her, I would have huddled in a corner of a dingy apartment with a box of tissue paper and cry myself to sleep night after night, till I grow sore from it. Despite the adversities, she insistently reports for work and Hyun Wook ignores her every step of the way.

Oh, also she made up her mind to fill the new position as a kitchen assistant.

Bother, bother, bother.

After that, the newbies cordially introduced themselves to the existing crew and failed. The latter is clearly displeased with the new management as the sous chef approaches Yoo Kyung with some words of advice, “You heard him, leave! Leave if you still have some pride in you. Even a 3 year old knows how to kick up a fuss when a toy is being snatched from him.” She remains transfixed and speechless.

Later, Kim San pops out from nowhere, demanding for a delivery of pasta personally cooked by Yoo Kyung herself during the restaurant’s prep time. Sensing something amiss, he probes her about her job at the restaurant. Finally, she admits to being fired. However, he goes on to press her for an Al Olio. Initially uncertain, she caves in and resolutely makes her way to the kitchen to prepare the portions. A waitstaff tries his best to talk her out of it but to no avail.

Just in time, Hyun Wook also pops out of nowhere and takes up the challenge to prepare the best Al Olio for delivery. If he loses, he will resign. If she loses, she gets out of his kitchen. For real. The battle ensues and the two chops, fries, shows off some culinary acrobatics and viola! Out spun 2 plates of Al Olio. Only difference? Hyun Wook’s was gracefully kept warm by a silver food cover while Yoo Kyung, by a chinese noodles take-out delivery box. She snagged it from her father’s noodle shop.

In a painful submission: Hyun Wook 1, Yoo Kyung 0.

The two race to the finish line with their take-out methods and arrive at the office building. Eh, no good is going to come out of this delivery. Sae Young was about to share an on-screen time with Hyun Wook. After that flashback, I think the two are better apart for now…

Back to the pasta, a waitstaff who accompanied them lifted the cover of Hyun Wook’s dish, only to reveal a magnificently twirled and towering Al Olio. At the meantime, Yoo Kyung busied herself by presenting her plate of plain pasta tossed with oil and sauce on-site.

Presentation-wise: Hyun Wook 2,  Yoo Kyung 0.

Everything hit a downward spiral thereafter as Hyun Wook’s Al Olio had way more strengths than Yoo Kyung’s. Furthermore, I have to agree that fine dining pays more attention to presentation than how the food actually tastes, so with that, Yoo Kyung noodle toss seemed off-putting and much too household for the fine diner.

Hyun Wook won the bet.

Once again, he raises his voice at the end of his statement: “In my kitchen, no women!” God, has the man ever heard of full stops?

In a finality, Yoo Kyung drops to her knees as Hyun Wook leaves in an elevator by himself, more frustrated than content. Sae Young and Kim San worriedly looks on from a distance.

Indeed, no rest for the wicked.