31 July 2010

Neil And Chris, Actually

For Mr. B., it was one of the most important events of his life, at least for this year. To finally be able to watch Pet Shop Boys perform live on stage. This historic event occurred 29 July on a Thursday when the British synth-pop duo staged a one-night-only concert as part of their Pandemonium Tour.

While Mr. B. understood that British music is not as popular in the country he lives in, he also knew that he had to beg, borrow or steal for the show tickets that commanded almost US$160 apiece, super pricey for a pop concert. Along came an angel called Matt who was able to secure him 2 tickets – one for him and another for D.

Excited as he was, Mr. B. had a few worries – Will he be able to stand there for 3 hours without fainting or getting crushed (he had a fear of huge crowd!)? Would D. enjoy the show? Most importantly, would it be a full-scale Pandemonium show? Fast forward to the happy ending, Mr. B. was not only able to stand there for 3 hours, he jumped, danced, sang along, screams like any other Petheads, D. enjoyed the show (and also busy taking photos), and yes, it was the full Pandemonium show and it was worth it.

The show. Even when Mr. B. has seen number of clips from the various shows in the tour, nothing beats being there and watching it live. The show was a mixture of old and the new, more old than new. In fact, Pet Shop Boys performed more songs from their first 3 albums than from their last 3. Perhaps they understood that true Petheads are getting old and wanted to reminisce the old times. Not at all strange if one considers that Neil Tennant just celebrated his 55th birthday and Chris Lowe is 50. They also understood that they will always be remembered for West End Girls and kept this song for encore.

Every Pet Shop Boys show has a different theme, from the theatrical Discovery Tour to the very simplistic Live at Savoy show. Pandemonium sort of combined some of the very best of their shows. The stage was comprised of white boxes piled up to form a wall which were used to project videos or computer-generated animations. At different points in the show, the boxes were moved, collapsed, hung in mid-air, used as a platform for elaborate dance routines or simply thrown at each other (as in the culmination of the Jealousy dance). One can never really imagine how these simple white boxes can create great illusions that enhanced the music until one sees it.

Costume is also a big part of Pet Shop Boys shows as Neil and Chris are both known for their savvy fashion sense. For Pandemonium, the box idea extended to the costume with performers, Boys included, donned boxes on their heads. Neil looked great in his tuxedo while Chris got to show off his mirror jacket (literally a jacket with pieces of mirrors on it!). For their encore, they both came out with tall feathered hats, which is a bit funny yet cute.

Of course the most integral part of the show is the Pet Shop Boys music. The combined geniuses of Neil and Chris had, over 25 years, offered pop songs that made one wants to dance and cry at the same time. Earlier songs can be poignant, sarcastic or reflective such as Heart, King’s Cross, Why Don’t We Live Together, Suburbia. Towards the 1990’s their songs became brighter, more enthusiastic and positive. This is the era of Go West and Se A Vida E. They became more relaxed and sometimes a bit more daring in their choice of subject as reflected in songs like Pandemonium, Can You See Me Coming? Or All Over The World. It is worth mentioning that for this show, Pet Shop Boys performed one of their classic, What Have I Done To Deserve This?, without using a back-up singer like they used to but instead used the original track recorded by Dusty Springfield. Projected on the huge screen was the pixelated image of one of the world's most respected artist "singing" the song with Neil Tennant. It was a particularly emotional moment for Mr. B.

The show ended with 2 encore numbers – Being Boring and West End Girls. The first is considered to be Pet Shop Boys at its finest in terms of songwriting and the latter simply a classic that just had to be performed.

Mr. B. is still in cloud 9 days after the show. He viewed the photos that D. took and chose a few to make a slideshow video for me to share in this blog. More importantly, experiencing the Pet Shop Boys live brought back a deep sense clarity to him, of what it was like then, what it is like now, and what other possibilities there are in the future. His words, not mine.

Video Credit : Photos by D., Designed by Mr. B., Music and Lyrics by Pet Shop Boys

24 July 2010

Easy Eats #5 - Salmon Fried Rice (Thai Style)

Today I am featuring one of my favorite food of all - salmon!!! In case you don't know, salmon is very rich in protein, is high in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in vitamin D, which is why we bears love it so much. This one dish meal is also very easy to prepare and is very nutritious. You can add other ingredients if you wish but I gave it a touch of the Orient by adding Tom Yum Paste. Tom Yum is characterized by its distinct hot and sour flavors, with fragrant herbs such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers. Just use ready-made paste in a bottle available in most neighborhood Asian store.

I am dedicating this recipe to my Easy Eats fan, Miss Jenny, who I learned is a loyal follower of my recipes! Enjoy !!

3 cups cooked rice
Salmon, diced to 1 inch cubes
Frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrot, peas)
1 egg
2 tablespoon Tom Yum Paste
Salt and pepper
Chopped green onions for garnishing

1. Cook salmon cubes in very hot olive oil until half done.
2. Add in mix vegetables and stir fry for one minute.
3. Add Tom Yum paste and mix thoroughly
4. Scramble egg and pour into the pan and stir immediately.
5. Add in cooked rice and keep frying until dry.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Sprinkle with freshly chopped green onions before serving.

I like to have a tall glass of ice-cold coconut water to drink when I eat this to complete my Thai experience. Happy Eating! Don't forget to leave your message if you have any comments or requests!

20 July 2010

Annoying Humans

Some humans are just annoying. Sometimes, they don't have to do anything to you, or to others. They just have to be themselves and manage to annoy. One fine example is Russell Brand, not Sprout, Brand! One look at him and you want to punch him in the face. I am usually not a violent bear, but that is the effect of Russell Brand to me.

It is not hard to annoy Mr. B. There are a few people in his list that would make him lose his temper within a split of a second - example: a clueless waitress or store sales clerk. Unfortunately, on the very top of his list of most annoying people is someone he cannot avoid. Someone he has to see everyday. Mostly, I can read it in his face, when he comes home at night, the amount of time he spent with this annoying human during the day. If he looks happy, that means very little interaction occurred.

I told Mr. B. it's a fact of life he must accept - to have to see, live, or work with people you hate most. The secret to how to deal with it. And since Mr. B. is nice to me, I told him a few tips on how to respond to this annoying person:

1. After the annoying person's long rant, simply say "Oh, really?" then turn around and walk away slowly.

2. Imitate the way the person talk and laugh so he/she would get a dose of his/her own medicine. This would require some sort of acting talent but Mr. B. is good at that.

3. Ignore the person's calls, emails and messages. When confronted, say "Oh! Did you? Really? I didn't see/hear/receive it! Oh!" in an overly dramatic way.

4. When confronted during lunchtime, pick a very expensive place to eat and make this person pay. Make sure you order extra for take away "because you have to work late tonight."

5. When having to respond to this person's mails, write a very, very long letter using words that would require checking the dictionary to understand. This is a very good way to make the person dizzy.

See, the point is to make the annoying person go crazy. Once a person goes crazy, he/she cannot be annoying anymore because crazy and annoying do not go together.

Except for Russell Brand.

18 July 2010

Fame, I'm Gonna Live Forever

"Why could someone so annoying be so famous?" I asked Mr. B. during dinner.

"What do you mean? Who is annoying?"

"You know that young kid who sings Baby, Baby, Baby, oohhh! His video is annoying, he looks annoying, and he doesn't know what German is! I don't like him." I answered.

"But he has lots of fans and his record sold millions!" he explained. "You have to remember, he already had millions of viewers and followers on YouTube even before he started recording. It's a powerful tool to promote oneself."

"He is still annoying."

When I think about it, what Mr. B. said was true. There are so many humans who became instantly famous worldwide because of YouTube - Harry, who's brother Charlie bit his finger; Matt Harding, who dances around the world; Charice, the tiny girl with super big singing voice; Michael Buckley of What The Buck?, just to name a few. Some of them do have an agenda and plan to be famous, for the world to know what they do (regardless of whether they are good at it or not); but a lot of them became world phenomena by accident. Just because millions of people came across their videos and shared it to others.

Fame comes easy these days. Unlike in the olden times when people have to work hard to get notice. But then it can also literally be "15 minutes of fame".

Perhaps I should make my own video and post it in YouTube too.

16 July 2010

Everybody Loves The Minions

Sometimes, I am so amazed by the creativity of the human minds. Who can ever tell that an elite army of corn-kernel-inspired characters can dominate the world?

If you still don't know, the new 3D animated movie Despicable Me opened in the cinema making US$60 million in ticket sales on the first weekend, almost twice more than Twilight.

One of the crowd drawers of the movie is the battalion of evil-doers made up of innocent-looking yellow creatures simply referred to as "the minions". They do look cute and cuddly but their mischievousness can be compared to that of the gremlins.

Mr. B. has been waiting for weeks to see the movie and D. couldn't understand why those corn kernels appeal to him so much. Mr. B. insists on watching it in 3D to get the full experience.

Actually, I myself do not understand the reason behind their appeal but according to the news, a sequel is already underway.

I hope Mr. B. would take me to see the movie next week.

Photo credit : Despicable Me, Universal Studios

11 July 2010

Easy Eats #4 - Hot And Sour Ramen

I am not an advocate for packaged food. I always believe that food should be prepared fresh using fresh ingredients as much as possible. But then again, this is Easy Eats! It is the fact of human lives that they are so tired after a day's work that they barely have any energy to cook dinner. Today's feature couldn't be easier. It only uses 3 ingredients - instant Japanese ramen (noodles), instant hot and sour soup packet and an egg, real egg.

One portion instant Japanese ramen
One packet instant hot and sour soup mix
1 egg

1. Cook instant ramen in boiling water. It should be done in about 3 minutes.
2. While ramen is cooking, cook instant hot and sour soup mix according to instruction.
3. Drop an egg into the soup and stir.
4. Add in cooked ramen and serve immediately.

See? It probably took me longer to write this post than to prepare this delicious dinner! Happy eating!!!

10 July 2010

The Heat Is On

"You shouldn't be turning on all the air-conditioners in the house." I told Mr. B. today.

"Are you kidding? With this heat?" he said. It was about 38 degrees Celsius outside but the inside of our apartment was comfortable.

"You are contributing to global warming." I said sternly. "You are only making the weather hotter and hotter until one day even air-conditioners will not be enough!"

"I don't understand what you are saying."

"You see, air-conditioners uses refrigerants in order to work. These refrigerants are commonly used due to their superior stability and safety properties. However, it has been shown that these chlorine-bearing refrigerants reach the upper atmosphere when they escape. Once the refrigerant reaches the stratosphere, UV radiation from the Sun cleaves the chlorine-carbon bond, yielding a chlorine radical. These chlorine atoms catalyze the breakdown of ozone into diatomic oxygen, depleting the ozone layer that shields the Earth's surface from strong UV radiation." I told him.

"And just where did you get all these?"

"I just read it in Wikipedia!" I proudly said. "So you see, by making our house cool, you are actually making the Earth hot!"

"What an irony!" Mr. B. declared, then decided to turn the air-conditioners off. "I guess we should just make ourselves some iced tea and just sit still in front of the TV and not move so we won't perspire."

"That's a great idea!" I told Mr. B.

And it was. At least for the next 2 hours until we had to turn all the air-conditioners plus 2 more electric fans again. What a great summer!

09 July 2010

I Will Survive

The world loves Paul Oktopus. Who doesn't? He probably made many people rich in the last few weeks by helping them to choose the right team to bet big money on.

You might already know the story. Paul is an English-born octopus who grew up in Germany. He is said to be almost perfect in predicting the winning team in football matches. He is presented with two clear plastic boxes in his aquarium, each containing food. One box is marked with the flag of Germany and the other the flag of the opponent. The flag on the box chosen by the octopus is interpreted as being the predicted winning country's flag. Paul's accurate predictions for the 2010 FIFA World Cup have endowed him with the status of a celebrity. He predicted Spain to win this year's World Cup, something the Germans are not very happy about. Even the Prime Minister of Spain wanted to provide him with state protection in case some angry citizens might decided to cook and eat him.

If he gets it right again this time, he will be the world's most famous octopus. I wish I have the same talent too. It would be so cool.

05 July 2010

Places And Faces

After two weeks of recuperating from his post-travel syndrome, Mr. B. finally showed me the photos he took while he was in Prague.

"It is such a beautiful city." he said with relish.

"Don't say that when you didn't take me there!" I retorted. "I can see that for myself!"

Like Mr. B., I like traveling a lot. I like to see different places, see different people, try different food. But Mr. B. has this peculiar habit when he travels to another country. There are two important places he definitely has to visit aside from the usual tourist stuff - a church and a supermarket.

Although not religious by nature, Mr. B. would make it a point to visit a church wherever he goes. He says it is his way of showing his gratitude not only for the safe travel but also for the great blessing of having the opportunity to see yet another wonderful place in his lifetime. In Prague, he went to the Church of Infant Jesus and marveled at the intricate gold interior of the church. He never forgets to light candles too - for his parents, his siblings, nephews and nieces and most of all, to D. for the 7 wonderful years they have been together.

"So why to you visit supermarkets?" I asked him.

"I just like to see how other people live - what they eat, what they use - their daily activities. You can find out a lot about people from what they buy on a day-to-day basis. Don't you think?"

"I see your point. And I bet you also try out their various snack and sodas as well." I said flicking through the photos




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