Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

We caught the blockbuster!

Our friends' wedding was at the Spring Valley Chinese restaurant at Mid-Valley, so halfway through, Kenzu made a disappearing act and came back an hour later with 2 tickets for the midnight show, the last 2 tickets, according to him. He didn't appear too estactic about having successfully procured the tickets especially on the first opening Saturday night, so I was a bit suspicious and asked to look at the tickets. One was for the seating B13 and the other H13....... I pondered for awhile, then looked at him quizically. My husband smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders. Those were the last tickets, he didn't have a better choice..........

Anyway, after dinner, we went home to rest for an hour and in time for me to lull Zerlynde to sleep before going back to the cineplex to catch the 12.30 screening. We grabbed a burger each from McDonald's (the dinner although held at a very elegant location, obviously was not too apetising), then made ourselves comfortable in our respective seats (6 rows apart) in preparation for our 2 and a half hour viewing.

Enough has been said about the movie, so I shall not embarked on a review of it. I have read the book and I liked it, a lot. The movie is neither a let-down nor exactly that superb. I am glad I watched it but you won't catch me in the cinema for a second viewing. That morning when I reached home after the movie, it was nearly 3.30am. I took my illustrated edition of the book down from the cabinet to do some checking. The movie was more or less faithful to the novel but for a few points. I promised myself to read the book again, just to spot the discrepancies. It is definitely much more exciting and thrilling reading the Da Vinci Code than watching it, despite Tom Hanks, despite Audrey Tautou..........

Regine Velasquez

My Regine Velasquez album called Unsolo arrived all the way from the Philipines last week. It has the Please Be Careful With My Heart which I was talking about sometime ago. Also, it contains that duet version of The Perfect Year from the Sunset Boulevard which I accidentally came across on the radio some 5 years ago and have been searching for since.

So, I am at the moment a very happy person indeed.

American Idol

I don't normally watch the American Idol. In fact, I've only watched it twice. Once, many months ago and the other time some ten days ago when the 3 finalists were competing to make the finals.

Taylor Hicks is CRAZY. He is OUTRAGEOUS. And he looks like a very pleasant and down to earth chap. I heard him only once during that night when he was competing against one other man and a woman who mesmerised the whole world with her Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

And the result shows we don't need another Mariah Carey. We need someone different. So, I think Taylor Hicks deserves to be an idol, even though he dances like he's constipated, because he has the courage to be different, to be crazy and to be outrageous. Afterall, we can train someone to sing beautifully but we can't train someone to be mad.............

Shopping, shopping and more shopping

Mum, Zerlynde and I went to KL again 2 weeks ago for 6 days. I principally went down to attend a friend's wedding, then found out Metrojaya Bukit Bintang's on sale. So.......... We went crazy for 4 hours, or at least I did. Spent the entire time at the children's department, grabbing stuffs from Baby Guess, Poney, Cape Cod, etc. mostly at 50% discount. Luckily there's a toy department on the same floor, so Zerlynde was kept amused and busy, watched closely by mum and the maid, freeing me to scan through everything at lightning speed. Hubby came to pick us up at 7pm. I told him how much I spent and he "marvelled" at my "cleverness" in cutting my shopping cost to half, or so I chose to justify and believe........

The following day, we were at it again in One-Utama. Not many shops were on sale, so I refrained from buying too much. I did the prudent thing of ear-marking what I wanted and promised myself to "come back" for them during the Grand Sale end of July :)

At the wedding, a friend mentioned that Sogo's THE place to go for kid's stuffs. So on Sunday afternoon, I dragged my mum there again. We managed to get more stuffs, all at 50% off :) As usual, Zerlynde had her own gala time at the toys department. Since mum had an appointment at the masseur at 3pm, we only spent less than 2 hours at Sogo (in spite of which, I managed to buy no less than 10 items of clothing ;)), so that evening, we returned there again to finish our task. Hubby went with us in the evening and spent the entire 2 hours at the household department (don't ask me why!), while I babysat Zerlynde so that mum and Kitty were free to browse in the ladies department. Zerlynde was kept very amused by a train set for 20 minutes, so I decided to buy the set for her, rationalising that whenever I need the 20 minutes break in future, I can resort to the train set for assistance :)

The next day, we went to KLCC. I wanted to go to Isetan principally to check out the sale and also because I was given some cash vouchers by a Bank for some referrals. Most stuffs were at 0nly 10 - 20% discount, so I refused to buy anything. (except for a gift for my niece whose birthday is coming up soon) I saw some really lovely Sesame Street t-shirts for babies at the Sesame Street counter and were so very tempted to buy them. But mum said no, I must wait for the Grand Sale. Okayyy.........

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Zerlynde kept busy at Isetan

Bought a few books at Kinokuniya, only those at 20% discount, the so-called Gems of the Month. One of the featured authors was Hari Kunzru. As he was placed side by side with Rohinton Mistry in the catalogue, I decided to try him and bought both his The Impressionist and Transmission, the latter I managed to finish reading last week. Also got Oscar Hijuelos' The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love and John Banville's The Sea, the former Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the latter Winner of the Man Booker Prize. Got Zerlynde 2 Maisy books. Oh! I also got Kawabata's Cold Mountain which I read last weekend and will form the subject-matter of my posting on another occasion.

Zerlynde is 21 months old........

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Not too pleased about having to wear her Hello Kitty head band

K is for Kite

I was singing the alphabet song to Zerlynde on Sat afternoon, the version from Richard Scarry's Best Learning Song Video Ever, which goes like this... "A is for apple, B is for bed, C is the crown that you wear on your head, D is for daisy, E is for eye, F is for fish you can catch it if you try. G is for goose, H is for hat, I is for ice-cream I really like that, J is for jump, K is for.....", then I stopped, I've forgotten what K is for....

Zerlynde kindly reminded me...... "Kite", she said.

:) :) I was so impressed.............

Then I continued singing up to the letter "S", then stopped, puzzled, not remembering how to go on. Zerlynde saw my confusion, and she laughed and laughed, at me.....

Great.......... I have a daughter with a wicked sense of humour......

Monday, May 15, 2006

Richard Scarry

I first introduced the Richard Scarry animation to Zerlynde when she was barely one year old. She has truly loved them since. It's such a funny sight looking at her while she watches especially the Mother Goose one. She's so familiar with some scenes that she practically acted them out at exactly the same time as the characters in the animation, saying "please", "hi", "bye", screaming out loud, weeping, waving her hands, nodding, shaking her head and doing all sorts all at the right time. She even kisses me everytime mother kisses Huckle goodnight. Now if this alone is not an incentive for me to accompany her each time she watches this animation, I don't know what is...

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A great way to introduce or underscore the value of Mother Goose, this video uses a simple story about Huckle Cat's search for his missing friend Lowly Worm as a platform for enjoying the famous rhymes. While his mother sings lullabies, Huck wishes on a star that he could find Lowly soon, a wish that carries over into his subsequent dream of traveling through Mother Gooseland. There he meets familiar characters--Old King Cole, Little Miss Muffett, Little Bo Peep--who sing their own rhymes. It's Old King Cole who sends Huck directly to Mother Goose for help. This is a good video for assorted ages. Toddlers are easily enchanted by the cadence and rhymes of Mother Goose material, while the 2-to-5-year-old set can enjoy the story, too. The rest of us can appreciate the wonderfully busy animation and the touching tale of a boy's search for his friend. --Tom Keogh

Needless to say, Zerlynde learned about shapes and quite a few words from the Best Learning Songs ever and I am quite sure she learned the actions to the songs "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" from this video as well.

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A painless way of learning a few things about shapes, numbers, letters, opposites, and good manners, Best Learning Songs Video Ever is an engaging treat for young kids who love music. The story finds Huckle Cat and his buddies putting on a backyard variety show that draws the entire town as an audience. With Huck as master of ceremonies and Lowly Worm as stage manager, the children of Busy Town entertain their families and friends with tunes about the fundamentals of an education. Besides Hilda Hippo's ABC song, there's Oly Owl's melody about shapes, and Alex and Anna's song about opposites. There's much more, including a couple of golden oldies such as "If You're Happy and You Know It." A real winner. --Tom Keogh

Audrey Hepburn Collection

One of my recent pet purchase was a Audrey Hepburn Box Set. It contains 19 of her films; The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), Funny Face (1957), Love in the Afternoon (1957), Green Mansions (1959), The Nun's Story (1959), The Unforgiven (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), The Children's Hour (1961), Charade (1963), Paris-When it Sizzles (1964), My Fair Lady (1964), How to Steal a Million (1966), Wait Until Dark (1967), Two for the Road (1967), War and Peace (1972), Robin and Marian (1976) and Always (1989) and a bonus soundtrack from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

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Granted, I have before the purchase seen more than half of her films, but it is a wonderful feeling to own a complete collection packaged beautifully.

I indulged in Love in the Afternoon last Thurs. Hmmm.... all I can say is Audrey Hepburn's never dissapointed me as yet...

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Anecdotes from http://www.audrey1.com/films/love.html
Based on a popular novel by Claude Anet set in pre-Bolshevik Russia, the story had the ring of Gigi and Sabrina: sophisticated Don Juan falls for innocent young beauty. It was reworked by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond-the first of their legendary script collaborations to make the playboy even more cynical and the girl even more naive: Ariane became the cellist-daughter of a private detective and would fall in love with the rich libertine being investigated by her father for marital infidelity. The mise-en-scène was shifted from Russia to Paris, and the title spiced up to Love in the Afternoon.
Wilder tried to get Cary Grant as Audrey's costar, but he considered himself too mature to play romantic scenes with a woman in her twenties - one of the reasons he had turned down the Bogart role in Sabrina. The solution was Gary Cooper, despite being older than Grant, seemed unconcerned about the twenty-eight-year age gap with his leading lady. Wilder's solution to the problem was to frequently keep Cooper in the shadows, with the result that few of the movie's stills highlight Cooper, while Audrey positively glows in the prime of her youthful beauty.
According to Barry Paris, "Hepburn was filmed to perfection by William Mellor (A Place in the Sun). The final "farewell" scene, with Cooper scooping her up into a moving train in fine cowboy fashion, is a classic. But audiences and critics alike had trouble accepting The Age Gap. Despite the aid of gauzy filters, Cooper still looked old enough to be her father, which made the plot look more like a tawdry affair than a romance. It was "among the bleakest, most melancholy of comedies," said American Film. "Cooper's face is often in silhouette, making it appear that Hepburn has fallen in love with a shadow. Which, in essence, she has." To thwart charges of bad taste and bad morals, a voice-over was added at the end, assuring viewers that they were headed for the altar. Even so, in Spain several scenes were censored, and in France its name reverted to Ariane because the American title was considered too suggestive."

And after reading Wayne Koestenbaum's article in the London Review of Books, I am now including Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris in my Wish List....

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

My Soi Chek

My Soi Chek (literally youngest father's brother) was back from Melbourne for a visit last month. We spent 5 days with him in KL before returning to Penang for the rest of his 18 day trip here. It was a lot of shopping and eating for us in KL. Soi Chek was missing his hawker food since he was last back in Penang in 1998. So we had to make do with PJ SS2's Curry Mee & Hokkien Mee and Desa Sri Hartamas's Penang Village's Char Koay Teow before we came back for the real thing in Penang where he feasted on Jawa Mee, Lam Mee, Laksa, Fried Oysters, Assam Prawn, Steam Pompret (Teow Chew style) amongst other things....

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Dad and his brother, our Soi Chek

We also threw a buffet dinner for him at home where we invited all our relatives to welcome him home. He was greeted by many new faces as many of his nieces and nephews had since his last visit kept themselves busy pro-creating....

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It took Zerlynde approximately 10 days to warm up to his "Su Kong". Toward the end of the trip, she had warmly accepted him as one of her family members and had obliged him with the occasional kisses and hugs. And for many days after he'd left, when asked about the whereabouts of "Su Kong", she twisted her wrists and said "Su Kong bye bye, no more"....


I played some Maisy VCDs for Zerlynde last night. She absolutely loved them and went "Maisy, Maisy...." as soon as she woke up from her nap this afternoon...

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Learn the alphabet with the much-loved Maisy and her friends Tallulah, Charley, Eddie and Cyril. Maisy's ABC offers young children a delightful first encounter with the alphabet. Each letter is introduced by both its name and its sound.
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Maisy, Tallulah, Charley, Cyril and Eddie love to have fun with water. Join them as they go for a swim, blow bubbles and even play with dolphins and penguines!

Zerlynde at 20 Months

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Keeping Zerlynde Occupied

Zerlynde's one of those toddlers who needs to be kept occupied all the time.........

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Stepping on her Musical Mat

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Learning about Sizes

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Experimenting with Sand

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Experiencing the Sea Breeze

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Having a Swell Time at ToysRUs

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Fiddling with her Maisy's Pop-Up Playhouse

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Role-playing with Belle whilst watching Beauty & The Beast

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At Kid's Gym at Bangsar Shopping Complex

Books Recently Read

David Lodge – Home Truths (1999)
One can finish this novella in an uninterrupted sitting of 2 hours. Beautifully crafted and plotted, and so very different from the “bestsellers” one normally gets these days, I bought this book from Carrefour for RM9.95, less than one-third of its normal retail price, what a bargain!
Not to be missed also are his Changing Places (1975) and Small World (1984)

Dan Brown – Angels and Demons (2000)
I started this book about 5 months ago but never got round to finishing it till recently. I supposed after the sensational The Da Vinci Code, this novel, undeservingly overshadowed, didn’t seem all that exciting to me. But objectively speaking, it’s really a good novel to have for reading on those boring evenings despite the unconvincing twist toward the end.

Isabel Allende – Of Love and Shadows (1984)
Another book that was started months ago. No thanks to its uninteresting beginning, I stopped at page 13 and was uninspired to continue the book until recently when I ran out of reading materials at home. But once the momentum was kept going, I found it to be rather engaging. Isabel Allende is an expert in weaving very intricate plots around a host of interesting inter-connected characters. And like her other novels, her writings were sprinkled with touches of both realism and magic throughout. So, it’s a book worth mentioning afterall.
Her other novels include Eva Luna (collection of short stories), The House of the Spirits, Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia.

Anita Shreve – A Wedding in December (2005)
I was craving for some light reading and remembered Anita Shreve for her romanticism. One finds the ingredients normally used in “chick-lit” here. An enjoyable read nevertheless. And there’s no occasion to pause and ponder anywhere in the book. A perfect companion for those lazy afternoons when one doesn’t want to think at all.
Overall, nothing compared to her “The Last Time They Met”, Shreve’s most intriguing novel ever, in my opinion. I also like her “The Pilot’s Wife” albeit predictable and her “All He Ever Wanted”.

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette – Cheri and The Last of Cheri (1951?)
Not the kind of stuffs I’d normally read but for the fact that I found this book in “Pay Less Books” and paid RM3.00 for it. Turned out to be an absolute treasure. Colette was one of the most celebrated French writers of the 20th century and was acclaimed master of the delicate art of love. Her other finest works include Gigi and the Claudine novels.
I read in an article in the London Review of Books lately that Audrey Hepburn was discovered by Colette to star in “Gigi”.


I told hubby about Zerlynde's fascination with Elmo of late. So, he brought home a Double Fun Giggle Ball for her on Thurs night. Zerlynde was almost asleep when daddy arrived. She immediately got up and showed off her Sesame Street Giggle Sound Station to daddy who on the other hand produced the new toy from the large carrier bag to give to her. Mummy then quickly cut off the plastic attachments while Zerlynde looked on impatiently. She was so very much amused to see Elmo wiggling and uttering "peekaboo, peekaboo" at the same time and looked around at all of us grinning ever so happily. And due to her excitement, she didn't go to bed till past one, a record!! Tsk, tsk.........

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This Giggle Sound Center is a fun toddler sound effects item. Press any of the 15 buttons, knobs or slides to hear silly sound effects. The lights in the middle flash differently every time a button is pushed.

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This soft, plush Giggle Ball combines two characters , Elmo and Cookie Monster on each side. Press one of the characters mouths to make the ball bounce around and giggle! Press both mouths together for great character banter, bouncing and even more giggles! With two switches per ball, both characters give you fun phrases and giggles.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Please Be Careful With My Heart

Nothing pleases me more as I am driving than when I hear a nice piece of song on the radio.

This afternoon, I couldn't help smiling and singing along to Please Be Careful With My Heart when I heard it on Light n Easy. I used to listen to this song repeatedly on my cassette player in the late 80's early 90's lying on my bed in Pooley Hall at South Woodford.

But this version I heard earlier didn't sound like the original Jose Mari Chan version that I was used to. It sounded more refreshing and I just couldn't tell who the vocalist was although later the name Regine something was announced.

I checked google later. Regine Velasquez did sing this duet with Jose Mari Chan in his Constant Change album. But I am quite sure the one I heard this afternoon was slightly different from the version in Constant. Could there have been a later version recorded?

Heart Evangelista and John Pratts apparently recorded a cover much more recently but unfortunately I didn't manage to download a sample.

So looks like I have a mystery to solve here..........

Anyway, for what it's worth, click here to listen to the original version of this song of first romance. Enjoy your reminiscence...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Silk Harmony Factory

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I am of two thoughts about this novel.

It has a promising start and I was totally absorbed by the plot and the characters initially. Halfway through the book, however, when I was reading the diary entries by Snow, I was greatly disturbed by the apparent inconsistencies running through the writing. I remember flipping the pages to check certain details, playing detective. Alas, the consistencies remained and were at certain parts too great to be acceptable.

Granted, I later learned that the inconsistencies were deliberate, Tash Aw’s intention being to show his readers how assumptions can be misleading and how events are perceived differently by different people.

Still, in my opinion, it is unsatisfactory that the whole story cannot be weaved together in its entirety.

This is clearly not something Sherlock Holmes enthuthiasts will enjoy.

The English Patient

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I finally got round to watching this Winner of 9 Academy Awards. Hubby who watched it many years ago told me it's B-O-R-I-N-G! I am inclined to differ in my opinion. At the very least, the breathtaking cinematography is worth a mention. (And how did I fail to recognise Colin Firth in the first half of the movie??!)

Admittedly, I had difficulties going beyond the first chapter of the novel by Michael Ondaatje, Booker Prize winner nevertheless. Perhaps now that I've watched the movie, I'll find the book easier to digest...?

Who is Zerlynde's latest favourite animated character?

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Somehow, the babies got their hands onto a copy of the animated Mr Bean VCDs lying around at home and that's the beginning of a love story... They screamed for "Mr Bean" now instead of "Barney"

I was looking at some CD-roms in a shop in 1-Stop Midlands a couple of weeks ago when Zerlynde came walking towards me with a CD-rom in her hands muttering "Mr Bean, Mr Bean.." Indeed, she was clutching a copy of Mr Bean in her tiny little fist! How she managed to spot him amongst the hundred of other CD-roms there is beyond my comprehension.........

Peking Duck

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Sometimes I crave for Peking Duck. So, last week, Nick and I went to Zhong Hua restaurant at One-Stop Midlands for lunch to fulfill my such craving. We ordered one whole dish of Peking Duck and some tiny little dishes of Tim Sum. I can now still remember the heavenly taste of the crispy duck skin in my mouth…..hmm…

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ah... Delightful Scones

My hubby and I used to think that E&O Hotel serves the best scones in Penang. Not any more! This afternoon, I stopped by Winter Warmers to have a cup of English Breakfast Tea. Couldn’t help ordering the Scones as well, which was served in 2 with butter, strawberry jam (topped with a little of those fancyful sprinkles which obviously caught my attention) and whipped cream garnished with slices of apples and oranges. They were lovely to look at and a delight to taste. The scones were baked to perfection with a hint of a rose essence. I am absolutely sure mum will love them......

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I didn't have my camera with me this afternoon, but this picture
taken from the net is close enough

Click HERE for more details on Winter Warmers

Black Jade aka Lin Tai-yu

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One of the most sentimental fictional characters I have come across is Black Jade (Lin Tai-yu) from the Chinese literature “Hung Lou Meng”, also known as the Dream of the Red Chamber or The Story of the Stone.

She was first mentioned to me about a decade ago when my “Soi Chek” (youngest uncle) came home for a break from Melbourne. What he told me roused enough curiosity for me to search for and read an English translation of the book immediately thereafter.

Lin Tai-yu was so sentimental that one of her pre-occupations was to gather the fallen flowers, put them into muslin bags and then buried them in her flowers’ burial mound, sometimes weeping in part from the occasions of the farewell feast of the flowers.

In essence, The Story of the Stone deals with the theme of love and sentiment. How it begins is absolutely magical.

A piece of stone was endowed with supernatural powers after having been given a spark of life by the divine hands of a Goddess. It has since then been given to wandering about the universe. One day, it came upon a Crimson Flower growing by the side of a rock. The Stone was struck with the great beauty of the fairy flower and assumed the task of caring for it and feeding it daily with sweet dew. Under this tender care, the Crimson Flower thrived and continued to absorb year after year the cosmic essences of Heaven and Earth until it too acquired supernatural qualities and transformed itself into a beautiful fairy goddess. She was grateful for the care lavished upon her by the Stone and was unhappy because she did not know how to repay it. She used to say to herself, “I can’t pay him back in kind since he has no need for sweet dew. Perhaps I can repay him with my tears, should both of us be sent down to the mortal world”

Sure enough, the Stone and the Crimson Flower were soon incarnated together into the mortal world. Hence, begins the Story of the Stone………….

Click HERE to read the novel online.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Occasional Joys of Driving Alone

I saw a rainbow at the horizon on my way home today. It is on occasions like this when I am reminded that if I paid more attention, there're joys abound waiting to be discovered.