Monday, June 28, 2010

Gone Chopin

It's funny how I hated Chopin when I was a teenager with piano lessons and practice sessions forced upon me. Chopin then was all trills and trouble, more stress than soother. But now, it's the Chopin CDs I automatically put on when I want soothing music.

This year's installation of the annual piano festival had a largely Chopin theme, in line with his bicentennial. I missed most of the week-long concerts though, as I work weeknights, and could only go on the final night, which had little Chopin. But it was OK, that night featured Piotr Anderszewki and he played Bach (English Suite No5) and Beethoven (Piano Sonata No31), my favourite B-boys.

I had the last seat at the end of the row, and on my left, an empty seat separated me from the guy who sat two seats away. It was as if he had bought three seats for himself, he had a nice space of an empty seat on either side of him. In a full house, at that. Halfway through the Bach, I was amused to see him playing air piano along to the music. He got up to leave even before the lights came on for the intermission. And he never came back. Strange guy.

There was also Schumann in the line-up, and it wasn't until I leafed through the programme that I realised Schumann was born in the same year as Chopin. Which means that this year is also Schumann's bicentennial. But he's been completely overshadowed by all the fanfare over Chopin. I knew it right from the start, that guy was trouble.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's all in the brain

I knew there had to something more to straight women getting along with gay men than just shopping for shoes together. We've both got more nimble brains.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Still in the spirit

Succumbed to football fever and got dad a birthday cake in the shape of a pitch. He was delighted. He pointed out though, that the goal posts were missing.

That there are cakes in the shape of a football pitch already says something. Actually, Pizza Hut has a rectangular pizza also decorated with toppings that makes it look like a football pitch. But it would be too much to give dad fast food for a birthday meal. Even though he would probably like it too. :p

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spirit of the season

I found this book lurking on the library shelf in the economics section. A most serendipitous find, given World Cup season. Or cuppo mondiale, as a friend calls it, because it sounds more grandiose that way. (But then again, he's an English prof so I guess they talk like that -- hi, J!)

The book does explain tribalism and all that hooliganism stuff. What it doesn't explain is why any human with a Y chromosome on this planet is currently obsessed with the World Cup.

At least I'll have a good book to read when L is watching football.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bag boy

I left my bag lying on the floor as I sat at my desk, and was going to start packing it with all the things I needed to take in with me to work. Rupert came into the room and decided that he was going to use it as a cushion to sleep on. I couldn't interfere with his comfort. The bag will probably smell of dog tomorrow, and my colleague sitting next to me may even wrinkle his nose. But I'm letting this sleeping dog lie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I want more

To have the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (ASMF) play here is already a big deal. To have Joshua Bell perform, an even bigger deal. To have Bell lead ASMF, well that just about caps everything. And two for the price of one, at that.

The first time I heard ASMF in a live recital was more than 20 years ago when I was a teenager (well, maybe a little bit more than 20 years ago then). I don't remember them as a large orchestra. They were a chamber group then. Perhaps there was woodwind but I don't remember a brass section then, and definitely no timpani. Well now, they're more like a symphony orchestra, quite capable of taking on Beethoven -- Symphony No 7 on opening night, and Symphony No 4 on the second night -- "angry music", as L calls Beethoven.

We went on the second night. It was a lovely concert but ended somewhat abruptly -- no encore, no nothing, despite a standing ovation at the end of the evening. A gentleman sitting next to us said that he was there the previous night, and not only was there an encore at the end of the evening, there was also one at the end of the first half of the programme, before the intermission -- which is pretty unusual. L thinks that Bell wanted an early night. Or maybe he thought we were Philistines -- there was scattered applause in between movements in the pieces. At the end of the night, there was a queue for autographs but signing was restricted to just 30 minutes. Yup, the man probably wanted to knock off early. Can't really blame him -- he didn't so much lead the orchestra, but danced to them. I still can't believe that he's my age, he looks like a 20-year-old kid!

We enjoyed the concert very much, but were rather disappointed -- cheated, even -- that there was no encore. When I first heard ASMF all those years ago, it was the encore that stayed with me over the years, whatever else they played has been long forgotten. The encore was Pachelbel's Cannon, and I remember that they dedicated it to someone in the music world who had passed away then. I had heard the piece countless times before then (and I've heard it countless times since, mostly as a wedding processional, and only lately, at a state funeral for a former deputy prime minister -- which will probably do it in for the next person who wants it in a wedding). ASMF was the first time that I heard it live. You know what they say about snapshot moments -- that one vivid moment that will stay in your memory throughout your life. ASMF and Pachelbel was one of those moments for me. It was then that I realised how much a live performance can add to a piece that you only knew as a recording. When you're a teenager still trying to decide whether you prefer Bach or Bon Jovi, that can leave a lasting impression.

I still like both Bach and Bon Jovi, and I even see a Bach structure in Guns n Roses' November Rain, much to the amusement of a professional rock musician I once told that to. But that's another story.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I finally geddit

To stay topical on the World Cup:

Off-side Rule explained for women (courtesy Bill Shepherd)

You're in a shoe shop, second in the queue for the till. Behind the shop assistant on the till is a pair of shoes which you have seen and which you must have. The 'opposing' female shopper in front of you has seen them also and is eyeing them with desire. Both of you have forgotten your purses. It would be totally rude to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the shoes.The shop assistant remains at the till waiting. Your friend is trying on another pair of shoes at the back of the shop and sees your dilemma. She prepares to throw her purse to you. If she does so, you can catch the purse, then walk round the other shopper and buy the shoes. At a pinch she could throw the purse ahead of the other shopper and, *whilst it is in flight* you could nip around the other shopper, catch the purse and buy the shoes. Always remembering that until the purse had *actually been thrown* it would be plain wrong to be forward of the other shopper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

We win

Dad was going to have one of his mates over to watch the World Cup opening match on Friday night. At the last minute before the guy was coming over, he phoned to ask if his girlfriend could come along. Of course. And could she bring her girlfriends? Sure.

Then dad thought to remind him to tell them that two dogs live in the house, so they could come as long as they were OK with dogs. Then one of the women suggested to dad that he shut the dogs up in another room.

Dad erupted: Why don't you sit in another room? The dogs live here, you don't.

Nobody came. Mexico and South Africa drew. The dogs won.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Everybody's Irish

The food court next to the shopping mall down the road has a somewhat international flavour -- there's Japanese, Korean and Italian food, alongside the local Chinese, Indian and Malay specialities.

But O'Braim Aneka Selera? Would that be Irish Malay food? FWIW, they were offering mee siam (all right, I'll translate for my overseas friends -- hi B and M! -- vermicelli in a tamarind gravy) andtahu goreng (deep fried squares of tofu with a peanut sauce dressing). Those dishes on the display counter are different types of epok epok (deep-fried half-circles of short crust pastry, with different fillings of sardine or curried potato). (Hungry yet?) Not a whiff of Guinness.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Don't drink and drive, navigate instead

I should have a tag on fun items spotted on supermarket shelves.

OK, it makes sense to call a beer with 11.6% alcohol content the Maximator. But Navigator for regular-ish 8.4% beer? Would you trust a navigator who's under the influence? Better than a driver, I suppose.

BTW, their non-alcoholic beer is the Liberator (and it comes in a can half the size of the Navigator and Maximator -- presumably those who watch their alcohol intake are also watching their calories). Although some would question how liberating non-alcoholic beer really is.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Some story

I hope the cock and bull ends at the label and that the wine is really something.