Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Long Live Life

I know I said I wanted to write a review on an album that I just got, so here it is:

This is Coldplay's latest award-winning album (yes, I know, it's been out for a year already), entitled Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. It's their fourth studio album after 2005's brilliant X&Y. The band wiped the floor with the others at this year's Grammy Awards, nabbing seven nominations and walking off with three wins, including Best Rock Album and Song of the Year (for Viva la Vida).

So why does this particular copy have a different cover from the original (the one with Eugine Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People)? Because this is no ordinary Viva la Vida.

No, this is the deluxe version called the Prospekt's March Edition and includes the eponymous EP, which adds eight new tracks to the original ten.

The main album starts off strong with the lush instrumental track, Life in Technicolour (a complete version with the vocals is in the EP), leading into the dark Cemeteries of London. 42 is by far my favourite track of the album, with three parts - a deep, mysterious piano-and-strings opening, a brooding instrumental middle piece complete with fast-paced drumming and an uplifting final bit. And of course, who can forget Viva la Vida? The upbeat song about a former ruler reflecting his past glory always brings the spirits up on every listen. Violet Hill, on the other hand, brings the band a bit closer to its rock roots with the thunderous guitars. Bringing up the rear are Strawberry Swing and Death and All His Friends. Despite the ominous title of the latter, both these songs are joyous and rousing, a brilliant end to a glorious album.

The accompanying Prospekt's March EP complements Viva la Vida well, and they should - the songs on it were meant to go on the latter but were finished too late. Although there aren't many standout tracks apart from the fit-for-arena Glass of Water and the neat-but-ultimately-too-short piano piece Postcards from Far Away, they are a pleasant addition (apart from a slightly questionable and unnecessary rap section by Jay-Z on Lost+).

There are some minor problems, however. Although Chris Martin is an accomplished falsetto singer, his experimentation on singing in a lower pitch on some of the tracks, particularly on Yes shows that he is perhaps quite uncomfortable in that part of his vocal range. Also, sometimes his voice sounds muddled, almost like he's mumbling.

Still, it's hard not to like this album. It's so grandiose and atmospheric when it's at its best that you can't help but get carried away. Sure, some of the lyrics are downright gibberish, but who cares when the music's this good?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to Buy a Present

Today's my sister's birthday, so it's my family obligation to buy her a present. Now, I'm not exactly the best person at this sort of job, because first and foremost, I'm not a great observer - I never, ever keep track of people's likes and dislikes (which probably means I'd be the world's worst boyfriend, but I digress).

Which made the whole thing a bit of a nightmare. I mean, I know my sister is a bit of a fashionista, but what should I get her? A bag? Accessories? Clothes?

My head span for a while, until I got round it using simple logic. Now, I have to warn you again that I'm not exactly an expert at such things, but I do think these tips will help you the next time you're stuck in a mall looking for the right present.

The first thing a prospective buyer needs to get into his/her head is that you have to get something you wouldn't mind receiving yourself. Of course you also need to consider stuff such as gender and age, but you get what I mean. Do you think someone would be happy receiving a shoddy toy you paid a fiver for at Petaling Street? Would you? Exactly.

With that in mind, you then have to decide exactly what to buy. And one of the most popular gifts people get are clothes. Nice idea, you may think, but there's a caveat: never, EVER buy clothes unless you are absolutely sure of the person's size. Sure, some shops let you exchange clothes in case you've inevitably bought the wrong size, but it would be a complete waste of time, effort and most importantly during these times of environmental awareness, petrol. And even if you get past this hurdle, there's a problem.

I never liked people buying clothes for me, because they rarely ever get it right, even if they know me rather well. There's so many things to consider - the type of clothing, the style, the cut, the colours, the materials, etc. - that there's every chance you'd get one, maybe all of them wrong. To be honest, I'd rather give the recipient the money so that they can go shopping on their own (all this goes for shoes as well).

Another favourite is stuff such as snow globes and music boxes. Another no-no. The whole point of a present is for it to be used and appreciated. Those things are nice, I admit, but it's only a matter of time before they are assigned to the back of the shelf as dust-collecting fodder. Not the way you want your birthday present to be treated, is it?

If your recipient is a girl, you might be tempted to buy make-up and fragrances instead. Which brings me back to the point I made above. Yes, presents are supposed to be used, but they're also supposed to be a lasting reminder. Which is exactly what a disposable is not - the stuff eventually gets used up and the container is thrown away, never to be seen again.

So, you might be thinking, you'd probably be better off buying accessories (bangles, necklaces, the lot) for that girl. However, girls usually have drawers full of them, so unless you know EXACTLY what to get, your present would likely never see the light of day again. Ditto handbags.

Purses and wallets are relatively safe buys, as people usually go through them one at a time. They're especially safe when their current ones are showing some wear and tear. But like I've been stressing so many times on this article, know what your recipient likes. Don't make the classic mistake of buying a pink purse for a girl who hates pink.

Boys (or men who have the mental age of 6, like me) like to receive toys and electronics as gifts. But tread carefully - if you're getting a toy, get your facts right - their favourite action movie, cartoon, car or aeroplane. You don't want to get a 1/2-scale figurine of Superman for a Batman fan, do you?

As for gadgets, you need to know what sort of gizmo your recipient is looking for. An MP3 player is only cool to someone who hasn't already got one/is looking for one. Otherwise you'll run the risk of buying something that's inferior to what they've already got. And keep in mind that us boys can be quite fanatical about certain brands and reject anything that is even remotely related to other manufacturers - if I got Philbert a Sony Vaio, for instance, he'd be quite livid...

So there, those are my non-expert tips for anyone who's ever been stuck finding presents. Of course, I'm only talking about the usual here - if you wanna get someone a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, he/she would most likely be more than happy to have it. And if you have the time (which I didn't), consider making your own present - the recipient will really appreciate the time and effort you put into it. Last but not least, I hope this helps you like how it helped me, whoever you are. Good luck. And feel free to voice out in the comments whatever you disagree with.

Oh, and the present I bought for my sister? A white Vincci purse. She likes it, thank god. Thanks to Priya and Pui Yin for helping me choose the present!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

That was when I ruled the world...

Review coming soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

*kitty = kit lens

Yes, I've just returned from the Sony Service Centre with my trusty 18-70mm!

And the first miracle is, it's all covered under warranty. There was a brief misunderstanding about the computers not updated on the extra three months I should've got when I registered the camera, but other than that it was smooth sailing.

The second miracle is, the lens feels fantastic - tighter and smoother in operation, as though it has just made the trip off the assembly line. The Carl Zeiss can wait (and my wallet can relax).

The third miracle is, they've even found the time to replace the loose rubber grip!

So, satisfied, I went to KL for a class presentation. Got 2GB of RAM while i was there. Got back, disassembled my Mac. Ten minutes later, with the 'mini put together again and two RAM sticks slotted into place, I ran it for the first time.

Well, when I said "ran", what I should've said was "flew", because that was exactly what happened.

Having double the memory meant that tasks that were once a pain to deal with became a breeze. Photoshop? iPhoto? GarageBand? Pah! My rejuvenated Mac mini laughs in the face of all this pettiness.

And the best part? It cost less than RM100. Power to the economically-hampered!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"If you don't mend it, I'm gonna bone your dog."

Back on the blog for a while.

You may remember, if you've actually been following this pathetic, lazily updated blog, that last year my well-used 18-70mm Sony kit lens had what can only be described as a nervous breakdown every time I put it on my DSLR. Then it got fixed. And now it's back.

Same symptoms: sticky focus ring, vibrates wildly when affixed to the camera. Already sent to Sony Centre at Mid Valley - its second visit in barely half a year. Hoping, no, praying it's still covered by the warranty.

This lens seems like it's on its last legs - doesn't feel as smooth, and the rubber grip has come loose. I can already see the Sony salesman trying to drag me towards his stash of Carl Zeiss.

This is gonna take a big chunk out of my MacBook Pro fund...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things you can't take with your own DSLR.

1. Your own DSLR.
2. Your entire lens collection.
3. All your memory cards.

P.S. I'm finally 18. Now stop telling me I'm underaged.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Never mind the bollocks.

It's Malaysian Studies. Lecture was boring and full with absolute bullshit, as usual, made worse by a stand-in lecturer who sounds like he's constipated. Suddenly, a message rings in. It's Philbert.

"Just met Pei Hau. Damn ironic bugger went to Naza [exotic car showroom] yesterday. Saw this guy with two chicks walking out as he was walking in. Bugger looked familiar - was Razak Baginda. Bloody hell, blow up Altantuya and still can go buy car..."

I fired back.

"Ironically, I'm at a Malaysian Studies lecture. Or, more accurately, a BN propaganda event."

P.S. The race is on. Damn, she's gorgeous.