金曜日, 12月 31, 2004

A quiet evening

my new year's eve experiences have always been low-key. so, this year isn't any different. i don't do resolutions, really. this coming year hopefully brings new things my way. let's hope, anyway.

Happy New Year.

selamat menyambut 2005.

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note: currently picking up kingdom hearts where i left off in 2002. i think the pic above of the game characters fits the occasion, dontcha think?

木曜日, 12月 30, 2004

Sigue sigue sputnik

"if they invent a car that runs on stupid jokes, you could go far."

this was a real fast one (my definition of fast = one week) to finish. for the astute reader of this blog, murakami's sputnik sweetheart has been on the current read section for pretty much a while now. well, with my other activities (work+finishing FFX-2) meant that the book was left in the backburner.. i actually stopped reading at page 6, only to re-read the tome sometime last week.

murakami has done it for me again. like wind-up bird, i was hooked from page one six. i have never enjoyed reading this much since reading salinger's whingefest that was catcher in the rye. sputnik's about an unkempt cigarette-smoking college drop-out called sumire who is a writer of sorts, into kerouac and is in love. the story is narrated by a teacher (only known as K) whose relationship with sumire throughout the book appears pretty much platonic, although he wishes otherwise. then one day, sumire disappears without a trace in some greek island, and K needs to find out what really happened to her. murakami's storytelling delves into life's everyday mundaneness, and i'm not complaining. in some ways it felt like reading someone's blog. protagonist being woken up at 3 am due to incessant phonecalls, listens to mozart, has sex with his lover who is also his pupil's mom, makes pasta... see what i mean? the humdrum aside, i was anticipating murakami witticisms throughout the book (see quoted example above). with gems like these, you'd catch me smiling unawares to myself like a right idjit.

the story feels like some bizarre anime. whilst wind-up was downright strange, sputnik was more conventional, with the bizarreness left for the last couple of chapters. the story is peppered with references to western classical music and literature. you may wonder what is so wrong with that, but the story is set in japan and the book was originally written in japanese (supuutoniku no koibito). i can't recall anyone eating sushi or drinking kirin biru. it's tomato and basil pasta whilst downing a bottle of ice-cold amstel! it's like reading a malay novel where no one mentions siti nurhaliza (ok, bad example, but you know what i'm getting at). sputnik sweetheart is, at the end of the day, a love story of sorts, a little quirky yet endearing at the same time. i have stressed this before, i'm a simpleton when it comes to coming up with a description of the books i read, because i can't really give a critique as if i was writing for the new york times book review, can i? my one-word take on sputnik: enjoyable!

火曜日, 12月 28, 2004

Need for speed

all day today, MTV showed pimp my ride. you heard me right. it was pimp my ride for like 24 hours or somethin', topped off with the first of the new season. the first time i watched it was a while back, and if it was on when i channelhop i'd watch the antics of Q and his crew at west coast customs changing shitty-looking rides into ones that are tight. my favourite bit of the pimpin' would be the electronics, handled by mad mike, where you'd get to see a ridiculous amount of wattage and subwoofers installed alongside multiple videoscreens and ps2's. to think they'd put thousands of dollars of kit on a car that'd probably worth twenty bucks is simply... nuts.

two things, though:
  • i wonder if they pimp the engine. there were a couple of no-hopers which had actual engine overhauls. there's no point driving a tight lookin' car if the engine's wack.
  • security. all you need to do is tape each programme and suss out which neighbourhood these pimped cars are located. man, if i could think of that i wonder what the professional car thieves can do!Tinggal kenangan... when i was living in newcastle, my housemate had an escort which had a full RS cosworth bodykit (including wheels, recaro bucket seats, wood panelling... the works, except the engine was only souped up and not a proper RS cosworth one). even the police tailed him every single time, thinking the car was hot. not exactly unexpected, it was stolen 3 months after owning it, and the car was found a month later stripped to the bone. back to the programme, i do hope they also added state-of-the-art security systems to these pimped cars.


We had some really good times *sob*i used to own a white volvo 440 nicknamed rusty by my colleagues. another nickname it had was kereta kerajaan due to its white colour. come 2002, it was 12 years old and i was spending up to £800 in repairs in a span of 8 months. and the market value of the car then was like less than £200.

how i wished x-to-the-z could come knocking on the door to get rusty officially pimped then.

What did you get in the sales, then?

the christmas sales. whatever you do, avoid london's oxford street. when i arrived at 11-ish, the shops around covent garden had just opened. a few hours later, when i descended on oxford street, the crowds appeared out of nowhere. 99% of the shoppers were tourists.Oxford Street madness. i guess real londoners shop elsewhere. wherever that is. haha.

gila lah, macam barang free, as my ayah would say. some of my friends have woken up at 5am for the sale at next [oh, saya tak shop di next *dengan nada hidung tinggi*]. hahahaha. i just woke up, so don't take me seriously. please.

when i was a student, i had to really plan on what to buy in the sales as i receive a paltry amount of monthly stipend (duit untuk makan, bukan untuk shopping). when i started earning, i was like hell, yeah! lemme at 'em. as i get older (and hopefully wiser), i learnt the errors(?) of my ways and became more selective and get things only worth buying. to the point that yesterday, i only came back to sheffield with one small item. paid at a pathetic sale price that only had 20% off. i'd call it a token purchase. there you go.

covent garden in the morning was really nice.No Elisa Dolittle here. since most of the tourists were at oxford street (i'm sure), the place was almost deserted. the cafes had started to open. there was a string quartet followed by excellent operatic singing (familiar tunes but don't ask me which opera the songs were from, i'm not that cultured). the smell of waffles were drifting in the cold winter air as i wandered along the apple market section. just outside, a loud street performer was cracking jokes in front of a small audence. ted baker, diesel, and camper were open and the absence of a maddening crowd just made browsing so pleasant. one thing about the winter sale is the price actually gets lower by january time. the problem is, sometimes, what you really want would have been taken by then. it's only in the recent few years that i started to come to this part of town for the odd bargain at this time of the year. you have floral street, neal street and long acre in the vicinity. and if you are lucky, you get real good quality for cheap (with the brand to boot!). an example i can give is that i once bought a woolen black duffle coat from muji for £20 (original price £200 and no, there wasn't a large gaping hole in it) at their long acre shop.

met up with a couple of friends and headed off to bloomsbury for makan and borak. it was after lunch that we had to wade through a sea of shoppers. i had to seek sanctuary in places with less people (like borders) while my friends were busy checking out stuff i can't wear/can't buy/don't look good in at MNG.Enter at your own risk. regent street was pretty with the lights which for some bizarre reason had a the incredibles theme to it. it was then i was lured by the bright lights of apple's flagship store (they were still in MNG then... women! hehe). checked out the various iPods available. call me mad (or someone who experienced some kind of divine intervention), but after fiddling around with it, checking out the sound and so forth, i wasn't tempted to get in the queue to get one. i was tempted when i entered the store, sure. it'll only get outdated in time and then the 5th gen comes out. just like a mobile phone, only i don't wanna buy an iPod every year (it's not like you get a free upgrade)! i think i can wait until i am happy with the features they offer (ok. i actually would like a colour screen - read my comment in the previous post). went into a few more stores at the oxford circus area and carnaby street, but i wasn't impressed with the selection. just wanna say this: how many guys with W40 and L36 are there walking around? damn you. had a quick coffee then sadly had to part company as they had a prior engagement. off to cabut to st. pancras. and on the way, i took some pics of the rides they had at leicester square.

and a quick detour to the shops on long acre. again. hehe.

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quick rant: on the train, i had to put up with these two passengers talking on the cellphones. i know there's a quiet coach that i can go to. whilst i don't really mind people talking on their phones, i just don't understand why they had to talk so loud. hey, don't give me any crap about "i'm in a train, they won't hear me", 'cos it's bull. reminds me of the dom joly sketch with the large handphone and that irritating nokia ringtone. damn i hate that ringtone!

月曜日, 12月 27, 2004

The smoke

my resolve was temporarily weakened this afternoon.


The Apple store on Regent Street. Damn them! :)


i was in london today, just for the day to meet up with friends. did some catching up over lunch. entered a few shops and boy, was it mad. i am beat.

will write more tomorrow.

and thanks for today, you two.

:)

日曜日, 12月 26, 2004

Ain't no flanger tremolo chorus pedal

this was seen on jalan tanjung tokong today:

Sampan di tengah jalan. [Photo from The Star]

if this was penang, then i simply cannot imagine the devastation in sumatera, phuket, the maldives, sri lanka and tamil nadu, india.

Moh makan! (part 2): Tanjung Bas Malam*

what is inside this pau?
open and see laaa!
mmm! it has "kaya" in it...! i like!
how come you cannot eat pork? ... if i may ask...
because my religion says cannot.
what else can't you eat?
elephant, dog... cat...

-from lat's town boy


it's boxing day and unlikely most people here, i don't have any leftover turkey to make sarnies with. so i made pau.

as a kid we used to buy the tanjung malim pau at the simpang every time we ventured up north to taiping. after a while, we found out there's too much tulang and too little isi in it. now, with the highway, there was no reason for us to make a detour for pau. i had to make do with the overpriced and too-much-dough versions in kl. over here, i used to get my pau fix from wing yip, a large chinese supermarket in birmingham.Gambarajah 1: Radas memasak pau. to steam the pau, i overturned a little bowl and place it in my rice cooker which is filled with some water. i'd put my pau(s) on a little saucer and place it on the bowl. there you have it, a make-shift steamer. lately i just cannot seem to find any pau of the kaya variety, even in manchester. london has it, and it's a couple of hours by train to simply go and get pau. i decided to make it myself after a friend told me that there is this ready-to-mix flour mixture by some thai company.

Actually quite easy to make!

to make it from scratch you really need bleached flour (yang di-impot dari hong kong!) and gipsum powder. i can't be bothered as this ready-made flour just needs a little bit of water and vegetable oil. knead it and separate it into little balls (one box makes 12, i used half and made 8). flatten the dough and add the inti (i made beef curry, so i had 4 with kari daging and 4 with kaya, my favourite - also a rarity in the north!). fold the dough into a parcel and place a square-shaped piece of paper (i had the nasi bungkus brown paper from malaysia which is pretty handy) on top of the parcel. the smooth top of the pau is actually its bottom (get it?). steam it for 15 minutes and there you go. yum yum, if i should say so myself.

one thing, don't make it too big because it grows when it is cooked.

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[*] what i called tanjung malim as a little kid

土曜日, 12月 25, 2004

Goodwill? What goodwill?

i offer no apologies whatsoever for the final fantasy-related geek content of this entry. and to those who are interested in final fantasy but haven't played FFX-2 yet, please look away, as this entry contains spoilers.

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as i've mentioned previously, the weekend is the time for me to get some r 'n' r. kicking butt. done it. okay, it wasn't a case of sekali ketis, more like 5-6 kali ketis, berterabur tulang rusuk dia. well, at level 82 whaddaya expect? hehehe. ya, sayalah orangnya.

Y-R-P!

as with my previous experiences in playing FF, it feels sad finishing this game. for this i totalled about 86-ish hours of gameplay (i spent 124 hours on FFX), long because of all the levelling up of the charactersFight! and chasing around beasties around the globe in search of items that increase the character's attributes. where was i again? yes, sad because after all the hours spent on the console, you kinda get to know the characters (like reading a well-loved tale). furthermore, FF games are of the role-playing variety (RPG). therefore, developing the characters as you go along the storyline kinda makes it a little personal experience for the gamer.

FFX-2 follows after FFX, in which yuna, the protagonist, is trying to search for further evidence that her long-lost love is still around somewhere. together with a charlie's angels kinda posse called the gullwings, made up of rikku, an FFX veteran (ok, she's like... err, 17) who's a thief and looks like a cross between amy mastura and christina aguilera,Rikku, the thief. and paine, a mysterious leatherclad she-warrior with the biggest sword known to (wo)man. the gameplay is slightly different from FFX in which the three character can virtually change attributes by changing their... err, costumes. it took me a while to get used to the idea of playing some kind of barbie RPG. malibu yuna now turns into... you know the drill. as usual, i got addicted and started playing soon after finishing FFVII a couple of months ago. the story's ok lah. the gameplay is pretty good as it's not as linear as FFX. however, there is a little catch. certain tasks are needed to be performed and if you follow the walkthrough (yup, i used one... kiasu!) religiously, you'd get a 100% completion rate and you'd get to see the perfect ending after the credits roll. the usual creatures unique to the FF universe are around again, namely the chocobos,Big yellow chicken. Kweh! tonberries (mental!) and cactuars (lagi mental!). and as a grand finale, you kick some really biiiiiig monster's behind. just another day playing FF.

i finished at 96%, and got to see the better ending (there's also a mediocre good ending) and suffice to say, yuna got her beau back and all's well. in japan, they have a newer version of the game called FFX-2: international+last mission, where the gullwings have one last job to sort out before calling it a day. alas, it's not available in these shores. i'm not sure about malaysia, but i'm sure uncle low yat has some in store.

the game's directed by motomo turiyama and produced by yoshinori kitase, who also produced FFX and directed both FFVII and VIII. the music this time was not handled by nobuo uematsu but by noriko matsuda and takahito eguchi, which had a more bouncy, pop-ish feel. character design is again done by tetsuya nomura and concept art by yoshitaka amano (check this bizarre pre-orgy-esque piece out!).

They'll get a room. I promise.

there shouldn't be an FFX-3 as i feel they've stretched this as far as they could. sequel-wise, i look forward to the release of final fantasy VII: advent children, whenever that'll be, and the new FFVII spin-off, dirge of cerberus, on the ps2.

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picture credits: final fantasy insider and ffshrine.org, with thanks.

for another of my FF ramblings, read about it here.

金曜日, 12月 24, 2004

Going underground

Can they sing? Do I care? Hahahaha.

idlan, ash, jom aa. jom aa.

hahahaha.

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have a lovely christmas break, y'all.

水曜日, 12月 22, 2004

So what can I do you for today?

Styles for real men.today is my half-day and i decided to get my barnet trimmed to a manageable length. decided to try this new (it's been there for a year now actually) place just in front of the hospital. the chap did the job very well indeed, and i'll definitely be back in the future. i don't usually converse while i have my locks chopped. the cordial chat about how busy the day was and the weather would be about it. during the rest of it, i usually keep schtoom. you see, the experience of a haircut for me is a very relaxing one. i rather not talk. don't get me wrong. this ain't some weird fetish. the longer one takes to cut the hair, the better. the best bit of the haircut for me is when the use this little electric shaver to trim off bits near the ear and the nape of the neck. ooh yeah.

now. where was i....

Macho sialll...as a kid, my late mom would cut my hair. if fact, ayah would have my mom to cut his hair (i remembered my dad having a haircut in the kitchen of my flat in newcastle before my graduation day). the local indian barber used to charge like three bucks for a haircut in them days of yore. it's usually on the last saturday of the term holidays when all three of us would troop off to this place called ananda in the datuk sulaiman precinct. i guess that was where the electric razor thingy really started. i better say no more. hahaha. i never liked the razor they used (well, hygiene was never in my mind then - especially in this day and age when people worry about infectious diseases transmissible by blood). another thing which i hated was the bay rum that was slapped on the neck after the shave. how it stank! the last time i went for an indian barber experience was a couple of years ago, when i had my first experience of the neck massage and snapping, which was ok. i do worry sometimes, though.

remember how it was at school? the definition of short hair by the ministry of education was (and still is, i think):
  • the back length is to be at the level of the earlobes
  • the sideburns are to be at the level of the eyes
  • the hair length is to be shorter than 6 inches

there was one time in standard four when the head did a spotcheck and i was given a stern reprimand, "rambut macam kaldai!!!". what gives? i only had a haircut just three days before. secondary school inspection on sundays were worse. the offenders would get lopsided haircuts by the warden if you are caught breaking any of the three rules mentioned above. worst still, we were then (i was considered an offender once, and thank god i didn't get the compang-camping treatment) asked to get the haircut done by the weekly visiting barber who used the bluntest shaver known to man. our heads were roughly handled (oh yes. that's how people get haircuts. like in prison!!) and we'd leave the barber's chair with red necks (due to the blunt shaver). definitely not my idea of a relaxing day at the barbers.

when i first came to these shores i wasn't really sure how to give instructions to the barber. i know how to speak in english, thank you very much, but it was only then i knew terms like "take the weight off" and "i don't want it tapered on the back". with the added word "please", of course. i have to admit, in those first few years in the UK i sported a mullet. not as bad as bono's or someone who lives in a trailer park in idaho, but bad enough. i came to my senses when i was in upper sixth, and the ubiquitous public school short back and sides were it then. rah!

in university, i had to do what every respectable malay male undergraduate did. sport long hair, wear a leather jacket and smoke marlboros (lights and regal tak main la brader). by the time my hair reached my shoulders was in the second year of medical school.Durham, circa 1992. those were the days of nirvana and pearl jam, of course i had a shitty mark and sparks cardigan, ripped 501's and doc martens to boot. growing my hair long was absolute torture. it was bad enough, when the hair reached midway of its full length, it had the tanglung effect (read: ini misai ke tanglung?). also, i didn't really know how to take care of long hair. my hair is naturally wavy, and when it is long it'll be straight (due to its weight) with tangles at the end. hey, if i knew that hair could be straightened it'd probably look neater. so, it was more ian paice (yeah, i had kapak sideburns to go with it, man) than kurt cobain. before i even had a chance to show mom and dad my hair, i had to chop it to a respectable short back and sides again as i had started my clinical training. from that day on, it was short back and sides all the way.

styles? i used to have number 3 sides with the top worn up spiky like guile of street fighter (err... sonic boom!). i once went number one all round which made me look like a monk. i once kept it long again (as a doctor... shock! horror!) and it would only look good if i don't wash it as it will be straight, without the shirley temples toing-toings at the ends. nowadays, i prefer the fin (think fran healey, but a little longer). i've tried many different establishments since, from salons like essensuals (nice....) to local two quid barbers. this place i tried today is somewhere in between. as long as i can tell them exactly what i want and they know what they are doing, i don't really need to have a creative director of toni & guy to cut my hair.


火曜日, 12月 21, 2004

'Tis the season to be jolly

for this coming weekend, i will venture here:

The farplane's alive... with the sound of deaaatthh...

to kick this machine's ass:

Ungawah!

i know. i am kudo. i have no life.

月曜日, 12月 20, 2004

No Tan Dun

while walking back to the car yesterday after all that, i passed by bridgewater hall. i may have knocked my head falling down some (loads of?) steps 'cos i now listen to disagree bought tickets to see this chap play 5 pieces (yes lah, i know have heard of two of these composers! hehe) three days before my birthday:


unfortunately i have no idea who the pianist he's playing with is. i got front-row seats. i know with music you wanna sit in the part of the hall where the acoustics is at its optimum. i'm merely using my rock concert mentality of wanting to see the performer up close! i've only one cd of yo mama yo-yo ma's... what the hell, i'm gonna just wing it and listen on the night itself. it's music, not a bloody viva.

trabye, you would have loved to see this, man!

Dancing in the streets

Travel agent Santa...as i was walking through the streets of manchester yesterday, i braved the crisp winter air to watch some really good street musicians. the first was a chap sitting under a monument on st. ann's square playing his baby taylor. his singing wasn't out of this world nor was his playing. the combination of the simplicity of his strumming and his voice was just mesmerising as he played tunes by sting and the beatles, with some christmas stuff for good measure.

the other was this van morrison look-alike in front of zara and his strat. and hell, was this guy good. the neon would probably have peed in his pants watching this man play some really hard blues. his voice was absolutely superb, and he executed the fills and the licks with much aplomb. the x'mas shopping crowd was clearly enjoying themseves, yours truly especially. foot-tapping, head nodding and even a lil' twist was the order of the day for some.Bloody good bluesman! i took a one minute footage of his playing on my digital camera and if any of you who read this know of any free video hosting sites, i would really appreciate it, as it'll be quite nice to post this up on the blog!

what made me think was how brilliant some of these street musicians are and yet we get so much crap churned out by people with recording contracts being displayed in the cd racks at hmv and virgin, and played on the airwaves. this is the same here as it is back home in malaysia.

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and i also did the unexpected, spending some dosh on baju and kasut. they have sales before x'mas which is new to me. would've done more damage if it wasn't for the fact that my brain's reasoning centre got the better of me. scramn you, ash. scramn you. :)

check out some random shots i took, in between the fcuk's, reiss's and jones the bloomin' bootmakers.

日曜日, 12月 19, 2004

Paranoid penguins for the next year

Endearingly dark!went to the printworks in manchester with some mates for a post-meal film. just when i was going, "not jim carrey again, then this better be good", i have to say i really didn't expect to thoroughly enjoy jim carrey's portrayal of count olaf in lemony snicket's a series of unfortunate events. after the mask, carrey's antics became a tad same-y and increasingly irritating as far as i am concerned. i was told that the movie is based on the first three tomes of a 13-book series by one lemony snicket (yeah, i think he is daniel handler, supposedly being snicket's "representative") that has taken america by storm, a kind of american harry potter, if you may, albeit darker.

the story revolved around the three well-to-do baudelaire kids (the inventive, the erudite and the... um, kuat gigit) who'd just lost their parents in a mysterious fire. following certain incidents, they then had to move from one guardian to the next, three of them ably played by carrey (whose antics were bearable somewhat) , billy connolly (as the serpent-loving uncle monty) and meryl streep (as the paranoid/neurotic aunt josephine). the story was superbly told, however, with lots of hidden plots that to the end of it, a lot of questions remained unanswered. you know that you'll be expecting the sequel(s) to this one when that happens. the humour is pretty dark, reflected by the gloomy and retro-gothic (for example, the cars look like 50's style buicks with large mobile phones) feel to the story. it is set in america although the city looked like early 20th century london. you'd think this was a tim burton kind of fare (it was supposed to be directed by barry sonnenfeld). highly recommended, and watch out for cameos by jude law and dustin hoffman!

oh, there were the trailers to these films:

Penguins not in view.


Obi-Wan as a droid.


bloody funny one, really. must-sees for 2005!

土曜日, 12月 18, 2004

Light years

it's been a while since i clicked on the pearl jam rumor pit on their official sony site. i'm surprised it's still there, with them being signed to BMG now. i saw this, amongst the news regarding ed singing with the walmer high choir (molo sesh available at ten club now) and the new x'mas fan club single, in the current pit ish:

"Next year is going to be a wonderful year jam packed with Pearl Jam goodies to fill everyone's wishlist. Pearl Jam have been busy working on their next studio album to be released on the BMG label, and tour plans are in the works. Although it's still too early to give specifics, European fans can do some early rejoicing. :)"


could i take more pics like this next year then?

One fine summer's evening near Lancashire.

Virtual meow

if you look in the sidebar, there's a lil' bloggagotchi in the form of a white cat. its name? i've called it nyau nyau (just don't ask). i was bloghopping via atok's when i reached this blog and saw this... thing. unlike a tamagotchi, i don't have to layan nyau nyau's kerenah. don't worry. it's happy where it is, surviving on an ample diet of photons and electrons. and the odd neutrino and quark.

oh yes, it occasionally tells jokes. just don't be too hard on it, ya?

金曜日, 12月 17, 2004

Ka ke Sun Vulcan!!!

Mak iloi iloi!i'm sure you know of altavista's babelfish. well, it wasn't until i tried out the translator a couple of times i realised that the programme does a literal translation of the individual words of a sentence. yup, the sentence is not translated in context, with the wrong syntax and everything.

the japanese text in my profile is now re-translated into this:

"Me when the English weather obtains in me with my guitar the hamster シェフィールド and the time when you have lived the presently glass belt shifter which is based in the time Kuala Lumpur."


great. and you thought japlish was bad.

super miracle kick!!!

He didn't go sightseeing, dad

Run, Snowy, run! Before he gets you!

reading jordan's post reminded me of a tale ayah used to tell us. this was like the late 60's when he was working with the DID (JPT in today's money) in ipoh, when he asked a colleague of his what he did over the weekend after which he answered:

makan anyin.

ooo. makan angin mana?

bukan. makan anyin la.

ya la... makan angin di mana?

aiya. makan anyin. an-yin. woooah! wooah! woooah! itu masak dengan cili aaa... kasi minum dengan itu beer, itu lidah pun mau ikut woo*.


they used to sell it for like 60 sen per kati at the ipoh market in those days.

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*now you know where this came from.

月曜日, 12月 13, 2004

It's out

260g sahaja.

had a phone conversation last night where we briefly touched on the subject of sony's psp (specs here). well, it's out. and it's gone. the reasons i had for opting for the ps2 when i bought it was were the fact most of the games (then) were available on it (the xbox had less choice in those days, albeit of superior quality) and i wanted to play tomb raider final fantasy. i did think of the game boy advance at one stage (for FF: tactics advance sake more than anything else), but i thought of putting my well-earned dosh to better use. now, the ffVII spin-off, crisis core, will be on the psp.

shall i get this when it reaches these shores? *lalalalala*

金曜日, 12月 10, 2004

Warkah dari Belanda

i had a tiring break. i find that most of my vacations are tiring, where i need a post-vacation vacation to recuperate. december ain't exactly the best time for a sightseeing break in a european city. it's different when you go snowboarding in the dolomites or ice-climbing in norway (neither of which i do nor can i afford to). i think holland is best visited in the spring. rent a bike, cycle around and see the windmills, tulips and, err... clog factories.

Resting my kaki in front of the Rijksmuseum.

a few things i noticed/learned:
- dutch women (most of them) are quite tall
- the country is really flat!
- left-hand drive is so damn confusing
- sneltrein does not mean slow train

Amsterdam
the last time i was here, it was a whirlwind visit. ridiculously quick. if i had visited the rijksmuseum to check out rembrandt, this time it's van gogh. last time was purely McD's, this time i had to try a cuisine which is somewhat (remotely) local. i do play the tourist. i'd like to think i'm not a sickeningly touristy person but my travelling companions (past and present) may beg to differ. hehe. sometimes i find i can do better walking around town alone, but that means no pics of me with the background showing [name a famous landmark].

Keizersgracht, on the sneltrein, pigeons at Dam Square.

amsterdam's made up of a series of canals as you all know. one thing i find when i walked around was that the interesting bits (may it be shops or eateries) are mainly on the straat (jalan). this would mean i need to walk along a gracht (canal) to get to another street. i found this to be true at the western canal belt of the city.

don't get me wrong, the scenery's lovely. the quintessentially dutch facades of the buildings, the barges moored by the canals, the bridges. after the nth canal, it does get a little same-y. the city gets nicer as you go away from the centrum or medieval part. the oude zuid has the museums and a row of diamond merchant shops along paulus potterstraat. at the moment, one of the museums (the stedelijk, i think) is closed. the rijksmuseum on the other hand has its main front entrance disrupted by major construction on the stadhouderskade.

Rijksmuseum, Nationaal Monument, antiques row at Nieuwe Spiegelstraat.

makan dutch stylee. well, according to one friend, there's not much of an actual dutch cuisine. traditional dutch cuisine is mainly centred on meat, potatoes and veg. the lonely planet guide states that amsterdam ain't no food mecca but it does provide diverse choice. indonesian (obviously), argentinian steakhouses, italian, french, you name it. at the spui, there was this stall which sold haring - salted raw herring. unfortunately not my cup of tea. hey, even the sushi i eat ain't got anything raw. hehe. i'm not that adventurous. who do you think i am? anthony bourdain?

Apple pancake. *leleh*

so the next best thing that's dutch are the pancakes and apple pie. the place to get 'em were so far apart, i opted to have an appel pannenkoek (the best of both) at this lovely shop called the cafe singeltje at the bloemenmarkt (flower market). simply divine. pity the view from the window was not that great.

as our friend, jimmy C, professed, the frites are not to be missed.

Vlaams frites.

i've mentioned this in my previous entry and this was the only eaterie (of sorts) that i managed to try as recommended by my trusty lonely planet book. the vlaams fritehuis is simply a hole in the wall of a building on voetboogstraat, off the shopping precinct near the spui and kalverstraat. this is the place to get vlaams frites apparently (since 1887). for €2.40 you get a medium portion with the saus of your choice (there's satay saus too!). get the greenpepper mayo. hoho. itu lidah pun mau ikut dalam sekali ooo.

what's a trip to amsterdam if you don't go to the red light district. it is a tourist attraction and you don't need to be of the kerb-crawling sort or a hash-smoker to have a good laugh in de walletjes.

The red light district! Florist's truck near the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, porno emporium(!), the ubiquitous coffeeshop on Oude Hoogstraat, de Walletjes with St. Nikolaaskerk in the backgound.

you get touts trying to lure a hoard of chinese tourists (made up of mainly middle-aged couples) to live sex shows. the aquaria had women (and she-men) of various race, age (there was one who looked like the oracle from the third matrix instalment) and shape. whatever tickles your fancy! there were load of signs which said kamer te huur (literally means chambers for hire, as the prostitutes hire the rooms they occupy) - which i naively thought it meant something like come in here. despite being a relatively safe area, there were loads of guys who sell illicit drugs. they'd pass by you and utter words like "cocaine" under their breath. reminds me of the market scene in ali baba bujang lapok. i remembered telling my late mom about my visit to this (in)famous part of town. do you know what she said? "jaga-jaga sikit, nanti kena AIDS". i was expecting a lecture of a more religious nature. :)

as a parting shot, we went to sukasari, an indonesian restaurant on damstraat just off de walletjes. i didn't go for the rijsttafel (a nasi padang kinda fare, a la tapas) as most of the lauk is in fact... lauk, ie babi panggang/babi ketjap/serunding babi/sate babi. we had ikan bali, deep fried snapper and a udang sambal petai/lemak thingy (tak ingat nama!). i'm sure, like some of the malaysian restaurants in london, they won't really taste like real thing. sipi, sipi.

Leiden
the oldest university in the netherlands. scientists like van leeuwenhoek and huygens were from here. rembrandt was born here too.The volkhuis on Haarlemmerstraat. and apparently, i can get to see a real windmill (tourist yang amat jakun di sini).

well, there's like one windmill (de valk, a museum). loads of students. kinda like cambridge. except that leiden lacks any old buildings. oldest university? what gives? the leids universitair medisch centrum and some of the university buildings look as modern as the KLIA. the museum boerhaave houses many scientific/medical exhibits from as early as the 16th century. i have to admit that i was fascinated by the 17th to early 20th century microscopes that were on show. [geek alert!] apart from the small pekansari, leiden felt like a walk in downtown sunderland. i have to say i was a tad disappointed.

den Haag
The magnificent Hotel Kurhaus in Scheveningen.didn't do much in den haag (i found out that it's pronounced denaakh), apart from having the largest seafood platter i've ever had in this seaside restaurant in nearby scheveningen. [geek alert again] oh, yes. if you order drinks that have a piece of lemon in it, you get this cocktail stirrer like thingie called a stampertje. you use it to tenyeh the lemon in the drink so as to mix the lemon juice with the drink. clever. all this talk of food aside, den haag is otherwise a pretty quiet city. it looks dead after 5pm!

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photo credit: i took most of these pics on nik's fujifilm finepix 4900z. the rest were taken on my lil' finepix f420. more pics of the trip in the gallery later.

木曜日, 12月 09, 2004

Fucking hostile

One of the best guitarists heavy metal had known, and will be sorely missed.
R.I.P., Dimebag
1966 - 2004

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shot dead last night at a gig in columbus, OH. read about it here.

火曜日, 12月 07, 2004

Pannenkoek. Hmmmm... *leleh*

i'm done with amsterdam now. i've seen the places i wanted to see, and had my apple pancake. oh, not forgetting the famous vlaam frites (chips, belgian stylee) at voetboogstraat, as recommended by the lonely planet guide. so good that i went twice (had another "same, eh" experience that only ash and the neon understand, dagnammit). meandered around the lil' shops at negen straatjes on the west side and was disappointed by the flea market at waterlooplein (must've gone to a different one during my previous trip). tried to shop but i couldn't get to buy anything. nothing i need that i that can't get back in england anyway.

Grafitti along Spuistraat. Dutch facades in the Negen Straatjes area on the right.

i know this all sounds so dutch, but will write when i get back. i'm visiting leiden tomorrow. probably renting a bike and see some functioning windmills (and hopefully lembu friesian eh, bunkeye?). and see what the oldest dutch university looks like. and also more pics. dag!

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by the way, this is the most beautiful pussy in amsterdam:

Watching passersby on Damrak. Meow.

Sakit kaki

tired. never felt this bad since the days of shopping in singapore with my mom or london-red painting with mates. damrak was still seedy, the kebab i had in a shop in leidsestraat was a gazillion times better than the uk, van gogh's zonnebloemen and irissen are obviously sooooooooo much better (like d'uh, i know) than the one you get at student union poster sales (i somehow prefer irises then his sunflowers, so i got one for the living room) and pics. lots of pics. a mini disaster occurred but it will not be repeated again today. hopefully.

here's a little snippet of yesterday's walkabout.

Clockwise from top left: Bloemenmarkt,shops along Liedsestraat, lights on the Singel, shoppers on Vijzelstraat. C&A is still alive and well here!!!

more pics today as i'm goin' again. this time shops(?), markets(!) and pancakes, with apple pie a lil' later. dag!

日曜日, 12月 05, 2004

Kaas! Lots of kaas!

Edam kaas!hallo.

i am typing this entry in a mate's house in den haag. ja, i am in the netherlands. flew in from manchester this afternoon. i need a break, as it had been a stressful few months. need some r 'n' r.

the cleverest thing occurred as i was driving over the peaks to get to manchester. i left my usb cable for the digital camera. aaaargh just doesn't describe it. my mate's fujifilm camera's cable wasn't compatible despite the same make (well, different model i suppose). fakrawala.

anyway, i'll probably post more pics once i sort something out. so, in the meantime you'll have to make do with the googled image of edam kaas.

i was here like 10 years ago (train and ferry combo then). plane food was ok. it was a fokker. when i first heard of it, the images of the rickety malaysian airlines fokker friendship came to mind. thankfully, it's the jet version. phew. the train from schiphol to den haag was a little delayed (apparently an uncommon occurence) but it's nice to know you don't have to drag your ass far to get from the baggage claim to the train platform. it was dark when we arrived. had a chinese meal (we were recommended babi ketjap by a friend, but all we saw was kipfilet met cashewnoten, aka babi pangang). hahaha.

will get some rest now. amsterdam tomorrow, and will have to post some ansichkaart whilst i'm there among other things to do.

dag!

土曜日, 12月 04, 2004

Bikin muzik

i was looking through the newly uploaded pics of gempitafest this afternoon, and it reminded me of gigs long past. i've organised just the one with my mates shahid and firr two years ago.Kristin Kreuk wasn't there, by the way. we called it malam temasya pria mambo 2 (not exactly original, to the eyes of the original pria mambo organisers, ar least). and did it spark controversy or what. it was held in the evening following the malaysian sports meet, and we were blamed for encouraging potentially unhealthy activities (namely peri- and post-gig). as far as i'm concerned, i'm there just to play music. the bands and the punters were gonna come anyway, sports meet or not. the only reason we had it in the same evening was the fact that some of the bands came from far up north, and it was in their interest that two birds are murdered with one rock.

the pria mambo affair was pretty easy to sort out as we just played a gig up in newcastle the month before, and four of the five bands who played there were really keen to strut their stuff onstage again (that's pretty much the same anywhere: if you were to look at the gempitafest site, the guys are already talking about another gig next spring). all we had to do was book a small place and rent a bass amp and a PA.Access all areas. smaller venues are so much better, as even with a crowd of 40, it'll look packed!

every gig i have ever played in was with different bands (apart from suck and the blog's namesake). different bands because as the years went on, you meet different people (all my bandmates were malaysian students, go figure) and get into different sorts of music. i had played in tribute bands (one butterfingers, two pearl jams and one megadeth) and hentam saja lah bands. all of them were great experiences, some of which were better/worse than others. i've played indian restaurants and student union club-sized venues. i've used shitty ten-watter squier solid states and miked-up 100w marshall all glass half-stacks. and i've played to a crowd of 6 and in a packed joint. whatever it was, it was great.

so, here's to all you gigging boys and girls. keep on rocking in the (up to now) free world.

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for rants on a similar vein, go here and here.

金曜日, 12月 03, 2004

Let me entertain you

i've not blogged at work for absolutely ages. i don't really feel too guilty as: 1. there is no work (yet) 2. it's friturday.

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i saw the darkness on monday. trawled up all the way and back to the toon for that. seems a tad far, but i've done day trips before for the likes of dylan and oasis, no worries. firstly, watching justin hawkins et al live reaffirms what i thought of them as musicians. they are not a joke band. they rocked, yeah, fine; but they really can play. some may find justin's quirky falsettos annoying but his singing is indeed superb, in the rock sense. and he plays a mean guitar solo. where else can you get a frontman who also handles the majority of the solos (i've seen hetfield and corgan do occasional ones, but there ya go)?

they've done the 'toilet' circuit in their early days as a band and within a year their rise in the UK scene was phenomenal. they are currently doing their second album at the mo', and the punters will be able to sample their new material on their 2004 winter tour. i missed the first support act, do me bad things, and managed to catch the latter half of ash's performance. i always felt that tim wheeler's voice had always been a little bit off live, and i was proven wrong. gone is rick mcmurray's cringeworthy mohawk. the crowd rocked along half-heartedly as they played oh yeah, a life less ordinary, shining light and kung fu. they ended the set with burn baby burn, which i absolutely loved - the guitar riffs are class, as were the cheerleaders in the video.

Cock rock is back!!!

the darkness' set started off with an ABBA-esque overture (probably it was ABBA!) and they kicked off with a new song. givin' up and stuck in a rut led the crowd into more familiar ground. the stage was stereotypically that of a big rock band, with pyros to boot. dan had four marshall full stacks, two of each powered by gibson and (possibly) matchless heads; whilst justin used two mesa (?dual ?triple) rectifier full stacks. the guitar changes were not that many, with dan using mainly LP standards and justin playing further customised LP customs. nice.

Sparks over Ed.they played love is only a feeling and another (new) power ballad, with justin promising the crowd that it'll be strictly rock from that point onwards. justin's quite funny and really knows how to entertain the crowd with his antics. i loved it when he got the different sides of the arena to sing falsetto-ed bits of songs with him, preluded by the cliched oh-glasgow-were-very-loud-so-you-better-sound-louder encouragement. screaming "moooooother!!!" and "fuuuuucker!!!" was simply unforgettable. he's also a dab hand on the keyboard, where he fooled around with a short rendition of stevie wonder's i just called to say i love you and a fucked up version of lindisfarne's fog on the tyne.

Justin and Frankie.if there was one man in rock with the biggest balls in all rock-dom, i'd have to say that the title should be awarded to frankie poullain. man, with that bandana-ed small afro and the campest zapata moustache, he has my respects. he played a white gibson thunderbird mostly, and occasionally a fender precision. justin basically stripped down to mere basics by the fourth number, and turned pirate for black shuck.Take this, Bon Jovi! the cherry that topped the darkness cake was justin's solo on love on the rocks with no ice - playing a les paul whilst sitting on a flying white tiger. yeah! you can't be any more rock than that!

they ended the show with let the bells end (fnarr! fnarr!) and the arena crowd was later showered with glitter. no one/band this day and age would put on a show like the darkness. the band had once commented in an interview that rock 'n' roll cannot be taken too seriously. the music has to be great and they're out there to entertain. and entertained they did.

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for more pics and the set list of the newcastle gig, go here.