More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All Laid Bare

Firstly, how long has it been since my last post? It sure has been a while. I haven't really felt the urge to write. I guess being busy at work and also going quite consistently to the gym has meant a lack of time and energy to sit down and write. Oh well, this blog was always meant to be a way to say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it, so here goes.

The interesting topic of privacy and how the Internet has changed people's privacies forever is currently on my mind. Unless you're living under a rock, it's hard not to have some Internet prescence whether you like it or not. I'm sure we've all Googled ourselves, and seen what comes up. The fact that one's life can be viewed by everyone can be problematic. Actions that seem like good ideas at the time (Paris Hilton and "that night vision video") can be available for anyone to see. Unlike a hard copy of something, once out in cyberspace, it's hard to ever completely remove.

The growth of social media like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Friendster etc has meant that more and more of our private information is floating out there. And the ironic part is that most of the time, we put it up myself. I must admit that I have quite a lot of information floating out there about me. I have a Facebook account, I blog about my thoughts, I'm on forums. The problem is that although technology has advanced, society is still yet to catch up with it in terms of our behaviour. Just like the medical field which has advanced to cloning animals, the ethics and people's attitude towards it is still in chase mode. The same exists for online expression about oneself. We do it without thinking about all the possible ramifications and how the information can be used, or sometimes misused.

Only slowly are people starting to realise that an online image can affect one's real life image and life. Numerous news reports have surfaced about people getting fired from their jobs after posting Facebook messages about their work. Relationships have been broken up due to one partner seeing photos of their significant other with a third party. For some reason, our minds have not yet come round to the fact that whatever we do online is there for all to see, and the consequences may come a long time after we've acted.

This whole situation has piqued my interest because of a work mate, who I've gotten to know lately. His interest (as he calls it) in all aspects of other people's lives troubles me slightly. It just seems unnatural to be so interested in other people's lives. I call it nosy, but he disagrees. We may both be right, as I'm projecting my views on his actions according to my own feelings. But recently, he's started reading my blog, and that's brought to my attention how figuratively bare I am as I've written a lot about myself on this blog. So while he will know a lot about me, I won't know much about him. That somehow makes me feel vulnerable. I guess it comes back to our primeval instincts as the more you know about someone, the more advantage you have over them and hence can win any battles.

In modern society, battles could take the form of creating bias between friends, gaining the upper hand in office politics, bullying others online or any other number of advantages. I'm not saying that he would do that, but his increased knowledge of me does give him an upper hand should he choose to. Why this troubles me now as opposed to previously when other friends read this blog as well puzzles me. Whatever I've written isn't exactly state secrets and I was happy for people to read previously, but yet now I feel uneasy about this particular work mate reading it. I think it's because my biased view that no one can genuinely be so interested in other people's actions without some alterior motive is clouding my judgement. The fact that we've also gone from not talking to each other to "best-friends" (as we both jokingly state all the time) in a month means that I don't really know whether I can trust him yet, while at the same time we are expecting each other to answer questions truthfully on a variety of topics. Therefore, I see his increased knowledge of me as something that I should fear.

It would seem the easy solution to protect oneself is just not to divulge information online. But that too contradicts with human emotions. Naturally, most people crave attention, and like being talked about by others. The way to do that is to talk (or write) about oneself and let others know. Most status updates on Facebook are self ego stroking displays. The more cryptic the message, the more people will inquire about it as human curiosity kicks in. That is exactly the outcome that people want, so to gain attention, you have to lay a bit of yourself bare (figuratively) for others to see. This act is regularly brought up by musicians, who say that a song they write exposes themselves and it's a very scary thing. If people hate it, it's a part of you that they're hating. Hence, there is a fine balancing act between giving out enough information to gain attention, and yet witholding some that you don't feel comfortable with people knowing. Knowing where that line is is the difficult part.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Gaining Wisdom With Age

I thought that the older you get, the more wise and assured you're suppose to be. But I think people forget to tell you that is a huge gap in the middle where you're more confused than ever.

When we're little kids in primary school, we are so sure of ourselves. We think that we're invincible and can one day do anything. Only as you get older do you realise all the limitations that society put on you. From a young age you are taught about what you can't do, as opposed to what you can do. Those with motivation and drive will break through those barriers and achieve greatness. If Barack Obama believed what he was taught and that a black man can never ascend to presidency, we wouldn't be where we are now.

Once again, another birthday has created more doubts in me that I care to have. It's strange as when I was in primary school, I believed that I could do anything and that I wouldn't have to work by the time I was about 35. That's still a number of years away, but now I realise that dream will most likely not come true.

My latest depressive sojourn was set off by my own good intentions. A friend of mine was really depressed as many things in his personal and professional life are going wrong right now. My intentions to cheer him up ended up not working and me getting depressed about the direction that my own life is heading.

I'm someone who tends to focus on the now and current. That, supposedly, is a good way of living as you focus on the good and tend not to mull in the what if problems of the future. However, that means I lack a general overall plan of where I want my life to go. I've started to wonder what legacy I would leave behind. The ego in me can't help but centre everything around myself, no matter how insignificant it is in the scope of the wide world. My friend John says that it doesn't matter as we will all die eventually and it won't matter what legacy we leave as we won't be here to know it. That is very true and logical, but at the same time, our human ego can't help but want our life to mean something and influence that of others.

People that have kids leave their kids behind. At least they've made an impact on one person's life in a very dramatic way. But what if you don't want kids? Can you leave behind a buildings, a company, a piece of art, what do you have?

This brings me back to now, confused still. This feeling will pass as usual, but it seems that with each year, I'm slightly more confused that wise. Is it because I'm asking more questions that I'm getting more confused? Is that wisdom? Hopefully I'll know the answer in 30 years time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 Finale

I had all intentions to blog about each episode of SYTYCD S2, and haven't done the first review I had all intentions to keep going. However, as with all good intentions, they don't always turn out the way you want. A work trip to Brisbane meant I missed two weeks of the show, and from that point on, I just didn't feel like writing about it anymore.

I still watched the show religiously though. My early favourites were Penny and Charlie. I kept supporting them every week. But when Penny got injured, something changed. The magic was lost and Charlie wasn't the same without Penny. The two of them were greater together than the sum of the parts.

Now, tonight is the finale already. Time has just flown by. Amid much dancing, I think the four best dancers have made it to the final. Ben and Amy have never really captured my attention. Previously I would have said Charlie was a certainty to win, but Talia has just timed her performances so well that she is vying for top spot.

What's my prediction. I would like to say Talia as I think her technique is superior to all of them, and also her emotions in portraying each story of the dance in the past few weeks have been the best all season. However, being a reality TV show watched mainly by young teenage girls, the old adage that girls don't vote for girls will probably hold true and Charlie should win. Whoever wins, it's been another great season of dance and I hope they have more in future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 - Top 20

It's back. After my obsession last session with the show, I've decided to continue writing about each episode and giving my opinions. Feel free to disagree and add any discussions or correct my errors.

Pania and Ben
Style: Contemporary
Song: Talk Like That by The Presets
Choreographer: Marko (from Season 1)

Pania and Ben are a couple that I've taken a liking to already. They both seem genuine (as much as I can tell from watching them on TV anyway). Their contemporary routine was performed quite well and I was surprised how well Pania adapted to the style with her Hip Hop background. I really like this Presets song so I was bopping along to the routine the whole time.

Talia and Emmanuel
Style: Cha Cha
Song: Hound Dog by Smokey Joe's Cafe
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison

Well, Jason Gilkison's routines were a highlight last season. He did some amazing stuff. This routine would have been very good if performed by two techically better Ballroom dancers. However, Emmanuel's technique was a bit lacking I thought. I did like his charm throughout the routine. Thalia had good extensions but again, I didn't really think so got the steps all correct.

Lamb and Timomatic
Style: Lyrical
Song: Rainbow by Elisa
Choreographer: Travers Ross

This routine was as the judges said quite hip hop like. I thought they both did a good job and I'm a fan of Lamb's. They both hit the steps quite sharply and I really liked this song. I thought the routine was good, but the judges didn't seem completely won over by it.

Amy and Damien
Style: Broadway
Song: Puttin' On The Ritz by Rufus Wainwright
Choreographer: Adam Williams

I thought that Amy and Damien would tear this routine up but it didn't really work. The start was bit slow with all that stuff on the stairs. I was waiting for them to get into it. When they did, I thought that some of Amy's moves were quite awkward actually and disagreed with the judges. On the ballroom type moves, Damien was good, but other parts he was a bit lacking.

Ash-Leigh and Stephen
Style: Rumba
Song: My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
Choreographer: Sandro Catalano

Sandro, who partnered Patty Newton on Dancing With The Stars choreographed this Rumba. I have to say that the choreography wasn't fantastic and the dancing was even more woeful. It all felt so fake. I haven't really warmed to Ash-Leigh at all as she doesn't seem to posess much personality. And I hate Stephen. He seems like a bit of a smart alec. And the song, hmmm, didn't work. Whereas Jason Gilkison used a Celine song last season in his Waltz that Jemma and Rhys did so great in, this song sucked the life out of the routine as the dancers couldn't lift up to the notes.

Penny and Charlie
Style: Hip Hop
Song: Single Ladies by Beyonce
Choreographer: Tiana Joubert

Before they even stepped onto the floor, I was already smiling. There is just something so endearing about both Penny and Charlie. They were my favourite guy and girl after the audition stage and they've been paired together. I've taken an instant liking to them, like I did with Demi and Jack last season. And its' weird, but once you pick a favourite, it's hard to get swayed away from it. So probably all my assessment of them will be very biased, but that's what opinions are about. Having said all that, I thought their routine rocked. They hit it hard and worked really well as a pair together. This was my favourite routine of the night, and the Beyonce song is just so damn catchy.

Kat and Danny
Style: Lyrical
Song: Liorindo (Crying) by Angelo Badalementi
Choreographer: Debbie Ellis

Kat reminds me a lot of Rhiannon from last season, but not as fake. She and Danny did a very good emotional routine. I really liked it and the song really soared with the dancing. This song complimented the routine rather than overpowered it.

Max and Jesse
Style: Contemporary
Song: Kids by MGMT
Choreographer: Shaun Parker

If the crowds reaction is anything to go by, these two will definitely be in the bottom three. I haven't really warmed to either of them at all. Max got heaps of coverage during the audition phases but she grates on me, I just don't like her. Their routine lacked any pizzaz and they don't really seem to like each other either.

Gianne and B.J
Style: Quickstep
Song: Sparkling Diamonds by Moulin Rouge Cast
Choreographer: Leanne Bampton

Leanne Bampton of Dancing With The Stars fame (I couldn't believe last year when Jason Coleman goes "I've never heard of Leanne", did he miss the whole Dancing With The Stars phenomenon or wasn't he allowed to say) choreographed a very fun routine again. Gianne and B.J also have a huge likeability factor. They both did a good job although B.J's footwork was a tad messy at times I thought. But the fun of it all help mask the errors.

Chanelle and Loredo
Style: Jazz
Song: Poker Face by Lady Gaga
Choreographer: Project Moda

The routine was quite a smart routine by Project Moda. It was also executed quite well, with both of them hitting it quite hard. However, I haven't really formed an opinion either way about both of them yet.

It was a great first show and most couples did really good. My favourite was definitely Penny and Charlie's routine. That was closely followed by Kat and Danny's emotional piece. Bottom Three Predictions: *Ash-Leigh and Stephen *Max and Jesse *Chanelle and Loredo

Of Christmas, New Year, Concerts, Gym, Facebook and Fires

It's been over two months since my last post. That is definitely the longest period I've had not posting since I started blogging. It's not that I've lost the mojo for blogging, just that time is just such a commodity now. Many a times when I read, see, hear, realise, think of something, I say to myself "I should blog that". I even start writing the blog in my head but just never get round to writing it and then I can't be bothered anymore. I guess another reason is that although I write this blog to please myself and gather together my thoughts, I do want feedback and discussion on some topics and with such a small audience on this blog, I'm just not getting that, so have been less inclined to post. Anyway, enough of the excuses, here's a summary of some thoughts and events that have occurred in the last couple of months.

Obviously the Christmas and New Year period was extremely hectic. Lots of BBQs and dinners to enjoy, mixed in with shopping pre and post Christmas. With the country in the grip of a financial crisis, Christmas shopping did seem quieter and less hectic than previous years. I picked up a few work shirts, jeans and t-shirts.

During the Christmas period I also went to a coupld of concerts. Alicia Keys was amazing, a true musical genius and entertainer. Her concert was a non stop party basically. She was well supported by Jordin Sparks. I also went, and feel free to make fun of me here, to see Delta Goodrem. Yes yes, soppy soppy. I didn't intend to go, but a friend had a ticket to offload when someone else pulled out. We struck a deal which involved a discount and Seinfeld DVDs thrown in and thus I went. The show was better than I thought and Delta really does have a fantastic voice. She was also surprising funny and interacted well with the crowd.

I also joined the gym in the month of December. I finally just dropped into my local one day and joined up, after saying I would do so for years. I hated the first couple of weeks, as I knew I would. But as time has progressed, I've become really focused at the gym and work out really hard. The first couple of weeks, I was only doing everything half hearted and kept whinging and laughing. But now, I'm getting quite hard core, and am reading fitness magazines. The gut is still present but I am definitely aerobically fitter and anerobically stronger. Now I just need to lose the fat around the muscle.

Another thing that I finally joined was Facebook. After much nagging from many friends, I caved in and joined the masses. The first couple of days I went and added heaps of people. Although I still didn't add people I knew but disliked. I don't find Facebook that particularly addictive. The good part is that I have reconnected with some friends that I would like to see more of from now on.

Finally, I couldn't finish this post without talking about the tragic fires that have devastated Victoria. This is the worst fire in history, but people are banding together to help out. At times, humans can sicken me, but with tragedy usually brings out bravery and commraderie, which makes me think that humanity has a chance. Please donate what you can to the Red Cross to help out others in need.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Of Obama, Mumbai, Guitars, Reunion, Financial Crisis and Christmas

My posting on this blog has become less and less. I'm not even sure anyone regularly reads this blog anymore. Anyway, here goes some meek wrap up of my thoughts (that I can remember off the top of my head now) for the last month.

Firstly, the election of Barack Obama as American president brings new hope to a country that is slightly losing it's gloss. I was happy when Obama was elected as I think America, and the free nations of the world need some change.

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai once again reminded the world that it's innocence was lost on September 11th 2001. Nowadays, the way to get a message across is to hurt many innocent people and make as big an impact as you can. It's such a shame that these extremists think they only way to get their message across is through terrorism. These attacks also highlighted how the coverage of them has shifted. With the rise of social networking sites and the access to Internet, these new dramas are being broadcast to the world almost instantly by netizens posting on their own blogs and networking sites. It gives us, the voyeur and observers, such a closer sense of reality.

On a lighter note, I recently bought Guitar Heroes world tour. This game is so much fun. I'm getting better at playing the guitar but still am awful with the drums. I just don't have the co-ordination to keep separte rhythms with different hands and also my feet. I am really loving all the rock songs and can't believe I haven't listened to more rock in the past.

Speaking of the past, I went to my 10 year high school reunion. I was a bit nervous about going, fearing that no one would turn up or everyone would have changed a lot. But my fears were alleviated when I turned up and a lot of others were also there. Almost everyone was still recognisable and hadn't changed much in personality. It was comforting to know that as much as things change, people are still pretty much the same as they were back then. A good time was had by all reminiscing about our past and catching up on what was currently happening. And as usual, everyone promised to keep in touch. But I know that we won't. As we all said, if we were all still friends, we would have stayed in touch. But at least with sites like Facebook now, people can keep in some form of contact.

With the reunion, there were lots of questions about what jobs we were all doing and whether the financial crisis had affected it. Fortunately, everyone was still employed, despite this impending crisis. Things have changed so much financially this year and it would be scary times for many. Jobs, mortgages, savings and investments are all under threat. With so many companies crashing, it's a more subdued time leading up to Christmas this year.

Despite the financial crisis, we should all spend for Christmas as spending is what will stop this crisis. I've gone and been ultra prepared and bought all my presents already. I'm doing my bit to help the financial crisis, I hope Santa gets me an Iphone in return. :-)

I shall try to update this blog more, that's if anyone is reading. If not, it'll be a good record for myself when I look back in the future.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Managing Expecations

When I saw this article in the paper about companies cancelling Christmas, or at least Christmas parties, it made me think of how our expectations drive our perception of how good or bad something is.

Companies don't need to provide a Christmas party, but they do to reward employees and thank them for a year of work. But really, we all get a salary already and the Christmas party is a bonus that a company gives as a sign of goodwill. Goodwill is an intangible assest but can really make or break a company. A good reputation is worth a lot in life and business.

so because we all expect a Christmas party, even though it's not guaranteed, when it gets cancelled, we feel ripped off. Yet, if we were to not expect a Christmas party, and we get one, we're excited. And if we don't get one, we don't feel disappointed.

There's a saying that if you never expect anything, you will never be disappointed. But that in itself is a rather pessimistic way to live life. Life is all about expectations and what opportunities will come our way. Without expectation, human endeavour would be stifled. Without expecting more, we would not strive for more.

Sure, having expectations means you sometimes get disappointed, but when you're expectations are met or exceeded, there is an ever greater thrill. I'm was absolutely thrilled when I recently got some money back from my tax return. Sure, I could reason that it was my money to begin with, but as far as I knew, that money was gone, and now all of a sudden I'm getting some of it back. My expectations was that I wouldn't get any money back, but my expectations were exceeded and now I'm very happy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Indoor Rock Climbing

We had been hearing Phuong talk about her rock climbing for a while so finally we all got together one weekend and went to see what all the fuss was about. We went to the Nunawading branch of the Hard Rock franchise. After learning the safety procedures on how to properly clip in when climbing and belaying (the person with the hold of the rope at the bottom to catch a climber that falls), we went off to the smaller walls to practise what we had learnt. We were all a bit hesitant at first but once we got going, it was so much fun. When we had mastered the small walls, off we went to tackle the big ones, probably a good 10 metres high at least. There were varying degrees of difficulty, with some walls that really hung out so far only the advanced climbers could do them. After a few tiring but fun hours, we had managed to really test ourselves and everyone vowed to get fitter so we could do the harder walls.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Travel Abroad - Britt Lapthorne's Tragedy

Travel abroad, especially alone, is many young person's dream. It's the chance to learn things by yourself and have new adventures. However, Britt's Lapthorne's tragedy is a sobering reminder that travellingn overseas is not always fun and games.

With new places obviously comes new dangers. Everything is unknown. Here you are, all alone, usually with a very bad grasp of the language and culture. You may offend someone without even knowing it, and you can never guess how other people will react. An account by Tracee Hutchinson of her own travels paints a scary picture for a lone traveller. At one stage, Tracee had guns pointed at her for wandering down the wrong street. If she was unlucky, who knows what may have happened.

It hasn't been confirmed that Britt's death is due to suspicious circumstances yet, but I think it would be unlikely that she would go travelling only to commit suicide. Her story is the classic nightmare of a young person travelling overseas who may have been the victim of some pychopath. Movies like Hostel and especially Wolf Creek play on this fear within all of us about encountering trouble abroad. Wolf Creek scared the heck out of me because it was so chillingly real. It was based on a real life story and the fact that I knew it could happen really sent chills down my spine.

I hope they find out who, if anyone, killed Britt and give them the appropriate punishment. It would be sad to think that we can't travel to foreign lands to explore and not feel safe.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hawthorn Premiers 2008

Hawthorn are Premiers of the 2008 AFL footy season. The Hawks definitely were not the best team during the season. Anyone who half followed the season would have seen that Geelong were the most dominate team, having easy wins and only losing one game. However, the youthful Hawks team stood up when it mattered most. While Geelong were making uncharacteristic mistakes and missing many goal opportunities, Hawthorn took all their chances and broke the game apart in the championship third quarter. It was a fairytale ending for the Hawks, winning their first premiership in 17 years. All the tough decisions made by the club to appoint Alastair Clarkson and to recruit young players and mould them has worked out better than they anticipated. With the current team, I think the Hawks will be strong contenders for the Premiership for the next few years.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Taken Out By A Hole In The Wall

It's debatable which show on Australian TV is currently the dumbest show. But I would like to present two leading candidates. Watching these shows could seriously induce a coma. There's more life in road kill than these shows.

So the two shows I nominated are Taken Out and Hole In The Wall. Taken Out is a reality dating game where one guy stands on a platform and is judged by 30 girls. The girls get to see about 2 minutes worth of videos all up about the guy and decide whether he is the "one". Hole in the wall is even simpler. Contestants try to squeeze themselves through a foam cutout wall that is moving towards them while wearing skin tight full length silver suits. If they should happen to not fit through the hole in the wall, they get dumped into a swimming pool filled with ice. Talk about TV being the idiot box.

I have watched at least one episode of these two shows, so I feel I have earnt the right to bag them big time. Which studio exec thinks that these two shows can actually entertain audiences. Taken Out makes Perfect Match look like a love story between Romeo and Juliet, while Hole In The Wall makes It's A Knockout look like The Battle of Gettysburg.

Suffice it to say that I am no fan of these shows. I'm just trying to determine which show is dumber. What show do you think is dumber? Discuss.

From Best Man To No Man

*** All names have been changed. ***

My friend Joshua was telling me a funny story about his friends wedding. Joshua was asked to be best man at his friend's Mike's wedding. He had gone to get fitted for his suit and asked to organise the Buck's party. Mike's fiancee, Renee, had talked to Joshua and told him to organise a really wild Buck's party for Mike initially. Then a few weeks later, she rings Joshua and tells him that the Buck's should be the night before the wedding.

Joshua was starting to get confused. If you have the Buck's before the wedding, you can't really do much and get drunk all night. Finally, Renee asks Joshua to organise something small and not too crazy as she doesn't want the groom to be drunk on the wedding day. So Joshua said that he considered organising a poker night at Crown and then maybe lawn bowls the next day.

One day, out of the blue, Mike rings Joshua and tells him that Renee would rather have no Best man, and that Mike would take care of the Buck's party arrangement himself. In the weeks that follow, Joshua finds out that another person was asked to be Best man, then dropped, then another asked, who refused, and finally, a ring-in during the last week was asked.

What a crazy situation that was. Joshua went from being Best man, to not being in the bridal party, to being asked "So, are you still coming to the wedding". All this and he still doesn't know what he did wrong.

There are theories aplenty. Most of them involve Renee, who seems a bit like a control freak. Upon my only meeting of Renee, I already said that she will have Mike by the balls when they get married. Little would I know how soon it would all show. Mike was apologetic to Joshua at the wedding, but Joshua didn't avoided Renee so doesn't know what she thinks.

This whole series of events was rather strange and funny. What was Renee trying to achieve by first telling Joshua to get Mike drunk and to party hard at the Buck's party, and then telling him not to get Mike drunk and to take it easy. What was Joshua's fatal mistake in all this when dealing with Renee. Was Renee clearly just indecisive, or did she not get the response she wanted when she first told Joshua to organise a crazy Buck's party. Was she using reverse psychology and wanting him to say that he would organise a small party? All is still unknown to today, except the fact that Joshua and Mike's good friendship is now pretty much ruined. And all thanks to a jealous/controlling/vindictive(???) wife?

Wicked - Australian Production

I first heard about Wicked on Ugly Betty. Betty mentioned how she really loved the show over a few episodes and it was a common interest between her and the guy she couldn’t have, Henry. Finally, they got tickets to go watch the musical and end up being in it. At first, I have to say that I thought the story looked a bit strange from the few minutes that I saw on Ugly Betty. I mean, who wants to know more about the Wicked Witch of the West. She used to scare me when I first watched Wizard of Oz as a small child.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go and went and got the Broadway recording of the musical. I thought it was a bit strange at first and really didn’t like it that much. But as I listened to it more and more, it really got me hooked. I was still a bit confused to the whole story, but the songs were good.

When I heard that Wicked was coming to Australia, I thought I should go and see what it’s like. I’m glad I went as it’s a fantastic stage show with humour, romance, action and lots of singing and dancing obviously. Basically, the story centres on the relationship between Elphaba, the Wicked witch, and Glinda, the Good witch. It precedes the Wizard of Oz story. To find out more, read the Wikipedia Wicked article. It explains the story and everything related to it in much more detail than I ever could. I’m going to discuss my experience and thoughts about the show instead.

Let me start with the actors. All of them do a great job and were excellent throughout the show. Most were equal to, or possibly even better than the Broadway cast recording. Amanda Harrision, as Elphaba does a absolutely amazing job playing the role and living up to the high standards set by Idina Menzel from the original version. Menzel did win a Tony for her performance so Harrison had very big pointed shoes to fill. In a couple of numbers where Harrison really hit the high notes as in No Good Deed and especially in Defying Gravity, the crowd was rapturous and applauded with ferocity. Not to be outdone though, Lucy Durack as Galinda, and later Glinda was also outstanding. Durack’s vocals aren’t as strong, but her comedic timing and phrasing was perfect. She had about 90% of all the funny lines in the show, and the lines were very funny. The two leading ladies were definitely the stars of the show. The story centred around them and they definitely delighted. I loved the interaction between them and it is a great pairing.

An all star support cast that includes The Phantom himself, Rob Guest, and Idol contestants in Rob Mills and Anthony Callea also helped to lift the show even further. I was surprised that I wasn’t repulsed by Rob Mills as Fiyero at all. He was actually very good. His voice lacked a bit compared to the Broadway version by Norbert Leo Butz. The highs that Butz’s achieved in numbers like Dancing Through Life and As Long As You’re Mine wasn’t quite reached by Mills. Mills voiced even cracked during one high note in As Long As You’re Mine, but that was a very small problem. His acting was actually good and carried the story along.

Rob Guest was excellent as The Wizard, bringing a sense of kindness and evil. At times I didn’t know whether to sympathise with him for wanting a daughter or hate him for manipulating everyone. Anthony Callea was a funny Boq. Callea’s excellent voice meant that he was probably the only character, vocally anyway, that exceeded the Broadway recording that I had been listening to a lot.

After seeing the live show, the recording now makes complete sense. Having the songs put into context and the story weaved around it, I can now fully appreciate the story. The end is a small surprise, although I did see it coming. I guess it was the ending that everyone would have wanted. But the journey to that ending is rewarding as it is essentially about friendship and true friendship can overcome many obstacles.

I recommend that you go and see it and discover how all the characters in The Wizard of Oz came to be what they are. It gives a new, fresh, nice spin to a well known and loved story.

Motivation Gone Missing?

Well, it's been a month or so since my last post. No, I haven't gone on holidays or been without Internet. I've just been busy and lazy and have not posted. It's strange because I keep saying to people in real life that I should blog about this or that but never get round to it. I'm not sure what the exact reason it.

I think one reason could be post Olympic syndrome. The Olympics was like a drug that I was hooked on (watching day and night since I recorded all the day sessions on my hard drive and watched them at night) the Olympics. I'm recovering from the lack of sleep physically, but also recovering mentally.

The Olympics is the epitome of human sporting endeavour, and with it carries so many feel good, as well as heartbreak stories. We, the viewer are taken on many emotional journeys and I think it takes it out of you a little. I was so impressed by some of the stories and so inspired at the determination of some athletes. This in term made me motivated for the two weeks that the Olympics ran for. However, once it was finished, I felt a little empty. This emotional fuel that I had been running on was gone. It made me reflect on what I am striving to achieve, and it made me feel little. I haven't sacrificed like these people. I haven't done the hard yards. I'm just lazy.

The realisation that I hadn't really pursed my dreams made me demotivated, and hence even more unwilling to do anything. Well, I'm getting over that and life has resumed. But damm those athletes. Their brilliance is addictive and makes us all feel so much inferior. I applaud them for their determination and just wish I had a quarter of what they have. Is there a miracle drug for that?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony

I am a huge TV couch potato sports fan. So the Beijing Olympics 2008 is my ultimate indulgence. I will just sit in front of the TV for as many hours as possible in a day and watch every sport imaginable. I'll even watch the Equestrian dressage and Air Rifle shooting. Those aren't exactly the most high profile sports, but I only ever watch them four years.

For me, the Olympics are the epitome of sports. They may not be as pure as how they started out in Greece all those hundreds of years ago, but they still hold something magical for me. The endeavours of elite athletes working towards this ultimate goal is to be celebrated and enjoyed. There are always so many feel good stories that come out of the Olympics. Heroic stories of people's battle against the odds to pursue their dreams.

This year, 2008, the Olympics is being held in China. After so many years of shutting themselves from the rest of the world, these Olympics is likes China's debutant ball, annoucing themselves to a global audience of billions. There could be no larger debutant ball. No expenses have been spared in orgainising this massive party. China have gone all out to show their best face to the world. Planning for the stadiums finished before schedule, the city of Beijing was cleared of cars, smog, spitting, beggars etc.

The theme of grandeur of this whole Olympics was amazingly highlighted in the opening ceremony. No one watching the opening ceremony would have any doubts about the intentions of China in making this the biggest Olympics ever.

So on to the opening ceremony itself. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and there were so many moments where I just had to say "Wow". I would say that it is one of the best opening ceremonies ever, if not the best. The history of China was presented through the dynasties with spectacular visual dance routines.

Everything about the whole ceremony was massive, mirroring the current political, and economical situation that China is currently in. I think the fact that George Bush, the first American president to visit an Olympics outside of their own country in 30 years, proves the might that China now holds.

The ceremony kicked off in a dramatic countdown, using thousands of drummers performing in military precision. That military precision would be evident all night, with dancers portraying scholars, rural minorities, opera actors, kings and queens. At one stage, a large ancient Chinese typewriter device was bobbing up and down to create these wonderful patterns had me thinking a massive machine was being driven by a computer. Only when the dancers underneath it emerged did I realise it was all being done by man power. Again, this parallels with China current industrial boom, where almost all the worlds consumer devices are being made by millions of hands in Chinese factories.

The theme of using a paper scroll that kept being added to throughout the dynasties was a clever idea. The scroll sat within in the largest LCD screen I have ever seen. The LCD screen covered nearly the whole length of the field, a good 100 metres long. It showed beautiful images of paintings and Chinese art through the ages.

Needless to say, the fireworks display was beyond imagination. China does produce most of the worlds fireworks, so organising fireworks was surely the least of their worries. The firework was cleverly used in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. A man did a horizontal walk across the whole lip of the stadium, which was used as a backdrop for the torch relay images. I don't know if the images were projected onto the stadium or if it was another huge LCD screen, but whatever the case, it was stunning. The man finally lit the tip of a firecracker, which blazed in a huge flame and went on to light the cauldron. Spectacular and so fundamentally Chinese. I'm sure every Chinese child has at one stage lit a firecracker and could totally relate to it.

Overall, it was a really great opening ceremony and I'm hoping for two weeks of great sport, mixed in with emotions of joy, laughter, sadness, anger, disappointment and love. Human kind will be on show for all the world to see.

One World, One Dream.