One of the advantage of living in a multicultural country like Malaysia is that we get to celebrate more public holidays than homogeneous countries like the States. The upcoming Chinese New Year and Awal Muharam holiday stretch is just one of the example. While many would be taking this opportunity to travel out of time to be with their family, I am unfortunately stuck on standby duty so that my Chinese colleagues get the chance to celebrate the festival. I guess that it just fair since they did the same for me the last AidilFitri holidays.
Being on standby means that I cannot go out of the KL city limits and would need to have my mobile active at all times for any calls that might come in. I have not received any calls during the holidays for the past few years and I hope that the same goes for this year. Other than just waiting around for the call, I just have plans to go through my backlog of unwatched DVDs, unread comics and unplayed PS2 games. I may even take in a film or two if I can muster enough energy to move the wide load also known as my arse between bouts of vegetating in front of the TV.
One thing that I can at least look forward to during the holidays is attending a private screening of “Brokeback Mountain” organized by a fellow blogger. I just hope that I don’t embarrass myself by bawling too much while watching the movie everyone is telling me is a big tear-jerker. For someone who still cries at the ending of “E.T” and the “Dawson’s Creek” finale episode, this concern is a valid one indeed.
Gong Xi Fa Chai everyone! Have a happy and safe holidays with your family and friends.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Tiara Jacquelina and Stephen Rahman - Hughes
- February 7 & 8 – Previews @ 8.30pm RM30 (EXCLUSIVELY for Student, Senior Citizen, Disabled)
- February 9 to 26 – Shows @ 8.30pm (normal price)
- February 12, 19 & 26 – Shows @ Matinees 3.00pm and 8.30 pm ( both normal price)
RM 150, RM 100, RM 70, RM 50 & RM 30
Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur
A heart-rending tale of unrequited love Puteri Gunung Ledang the Musical is a veritable feast for the senses. A moving tale of two hearts that cannot become one; adding depth and drama that will surely become a classic of the 21st century.
It presents a musical extravaganza that can only be experienced live. Fusing the old with the new, the result is a contemporary, enthralling show with a distinctly Southeast Asian flavour. Contemporary ethnic beats and cool choreography combine to provide a spectacular experience that will keep audiences glued to their seats.
Tickets available at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.
For more information, please visit www.ticket2u.biz or call hotline at 03-4026 5558
Monday, January 23, 2006
(picture curtesy of Amazon.com)
I bought the CD thinking at first that it was the latest CD release by Michael Bublé whom I am not shy to admit that I am totally smitten by from the very first time I heard his music. It was only when I got home and opened the plastic wrapping that I realized that it double disk package with an audio CD and a DVD of his live performance that was televised as part of the PBS TV “Great Performances” series that they showed last year in the States. Having only heard him sing on his CDs before, this impulse purchase was turning out to be better than my other impulse purchases.
The first disk of the set was an audio CD containing 8 live recordings of Michael Bublé’s songs from his televised performances. The audio on these recordings were crystal clear including the rambunctious sequels from his audience in attendance during the recording. Michael continues to prove why he deserved the accolade of the new great crooner of the new generation with his wonderful performance of the popular standards on this disk. While there were no new songs in this CD collection, it was a refreshing listen to hear them performed in a live performance. It was clear on hearing this live recording that Michael sounded as good and in tune in a live performance as he did in a studio recording.
Moving on to the meat of this set, the DVD contained 18 songs performed live in front of an audience at the Wiltern LG Theater in Los Angeles. The appropriately art-deco inspired venue was a fitting intimate setting for Bublé to bedazzle his fans with his energetic performances. Backed by his touring band of musicians, Bublé showcased songs from his 2 well received albums with the ease of a seasoned performer and the great crooner that he indubitably is.
For most of the time he was on stage it was clear from the DVD that this crooner from Vancouver was feeling good and was almost bursting out in exuberance. He had very good rapport with his audience who clearly loved him. At one point of the performance he even rushed through the audience shaking hands, giving hugs, accepting kisses and at least at one point, as he admitted himself, getting his posterior groped by the audience. It was hard not to go through the DVD without breaking out smiling at his antics.
His charm and charisma was further enhanced when he lets his wonderful smooth vocals loose on the standards that have made him famous. All of his best known songs were performed live on this DVD including my favorites like “Home”, “That’s All”, “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “You Don’t Know Me” and “How Sweet It Is” among others. He even tried his hand on “This Love” by Maroon 5 to show that he could also do pop songs if he wanted. The intimate setting and small stage was thoroughly filled by his stage presence that it was nothing short of mesmerizing to watch.
To help out on some of his performances, Bublé invited guests like Laura Pausini for "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," Josh Groban and Chris Botti (dvd bonus) for "Song for You" who were all magnanimously talented and gracious. Bublé’s interaction with his guest was as charming and gracious as the person himself. It was wonderful to see how they fed off each other’s energy in their performances.
To round out this wonderful DVD disk, they have included a bonus performance of “Song For You” featuring Chris Botti and a backstage pass feature on how the live performance was planned. It was very refreshing to get to know Michael Bublé as a person from the interviews that was included in the backstage pass bonus documentary. This was clearly a performer who was enjoying what he did at the moment and it was hard not to be impressed by this young talent.
With a running time of almost 2 hours, the “Michael Bublé – Caught in The Act Live Performance” DVD + CD set was turning out to be a fairly enjoyable impulse purchase. Crystal clear audio and video recording of a charming, charismatic and energetic performance from this wonderful crooner are just a few reasons why it is easy to recommend this set to fans of Michael Bublé. Short of being able to attend one of his live performances, this set is an enjoyable alternative at least until he comes to our side of the world for a performance.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
(picture curtesy of Amazon.com)
“Space: Above and Beyond” (S:AAB) was a short-lived television show that was originally aired on US television during the mid 90’s while I was there finishing my degree. I remember watching the premier episode and was hooked on the series almost immediately after that. Unfortunately for me back then, the series was only at mid season when I completed my degree and had to return back to Malaysia. A few years after that, a local television station picked up the series and I finally able to watch the episodes that I missed the last time I saw the series in the US.
Like “Star Trek” and “Babylon 5” , S:AAB appealing storylines and engaging characters quickly endear the series to a groups of hardcore fans. Thanks to the internet, fan groups started putting up websites supporting this TV series almost immediately after the first few episodes aired. I was personally privy to this development in Malaysia when a group of the show’s fans, myself included, got together to share our appreciation of this show was shown on Malaysian TV. The fans of the show would group themselves as squadrons like the main characters on the series and I think that for the Malaysian chapter of the S:AAB fans were called the “Firebirds” squadron. We all had made up call signs based on a type of bird and were given ranks based on how long you have been in the group. It was my first time being in any type of fan group and I still remember the times that we did managed to get together quite fondly today.
Ever since the DVD market expended to include the release of TV series on DVD, S:AAB continued to be one of the well beloved shows that has always been on the top of any DVD release wishlist. It was a show that the fans wanted to watch again and hopefully relive the excitement that they remembered from the time it was originally aired. The show’s fans were further encouraged after the success of the DVD released of another short lived sci-fi TV show, “Firefly”, whose sales number was impressive enough to convince them to produce “Serenity” which was a feature film continuation of the cancelled series. The fans patience finally paid off when the DVD set for “Space: Above and Beyond – The Complete Series” was released in late 2005.
“Space: Above and Beyond – The Complete Series” DVD set compiles all 24 episodes of this series that chronicles the trials and tribulation of a group of young US Marine Corps Space Aviators thrown together to serve together as the “Wildcards” squadron when Earth finds herself at war with an alien civilization in 2063. With an ensemble of characters that came from diverse backgrounds and personalities, audience followed their journey week after week through several interesting and thought provoking storylines as they progressed from green recruits to becoming a decorated fighting unit. The first season of this show, which regrettably became the show’s only season, ended with a wonderful cliffhanger which left the team suffering heavy casualties and had only 2 surviving members.
While the DVD set has been largely anticipated by the fans, I have to say that the final product was a disappointment. Unlike the more recent and better produced “Firefly” DVD set, the video quality of some of the episodes were borderline unacceptable and suffered greatly at being packed into the double-sided disk. Several scenes especially on disk 1 side A looked like a pixilated copy of the original most probably due to the compression that they had to put the source material through to fit 4 hour episodes on one side. While the video quality noticeable improved in the latter episodes on the DVD set, this defect was enough to ruin the experience to reliving the series for me.
Fortunate for the set, the same could not be said for the audio quality of the DVDs. Each sound effects and dialogue lines were reproduced clearly in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. I wished that they had taken the same care of the video quality as they did with the audio quality. The difference in quality between the two aspect of the DVD set was too pronounced to ignore.
The biggest crime that the makers of this DVD set made in the eyes of fans of myself was the crime of not knowing their own product. The most glaring of examples is the inclusion a shot of the Babylon 5 space station in the menu selection screen for every disk when the two shows were not even related. The lack of any bonus material to speak off other than several TV spots for some of the episodes was also a big disappointment for the fans who would have appreciated a commentary track from the creators explaining the final fate of the characters that they loved from the show.
All in all the DVD release was a very disappointing one that is hard to recommend to anyone other than the fans of the show. Substandard video quality and lack of special feature presentations unfortunately would not make this set appealing to buyers who the makers hoped would help to repeat the sales numbers enjoyed by the “Firefly” DVD set. While I am thankful that I at least am able now to see the show that I still remember fondly on DVD, I sincerely wished that they had done a better job of producing the set. It was very disappointing to see the horrible treatment that this wonderful show continue to receive till today.
Monday, January 16, 2006
I was just minding my own business at the malls last Saturday afternoon when a smartly dressed young lady came up to me and asked me if I was willing to participate in a market survey that they were conducting. After making sure that I wasn’t setup for some televised prank ala “Candid Camera” (I’m that paranoid when it comes to strangers), I asked for more details about what the survey was about. It seems that a famous food-chain was testing out a new product and was looking for some public feedback about their new product. Having never been in a new product development food tasting study before, I was intrigued enough with the idea to agree to the offer. Although I may look like the type of guy who never turn down good food, I’m actually quite finicky about the food that I would eat so this was not done without a little bit of apprehension on my part.
They brought me over to the area where they have the food testing session set up and started with some preliminary questions. They started off with a few demographic questions and proceeded to get first impressions of the product from the descriptions and photos that they gave me. I won’t actually say here who was doing the product testing just in case it was suppose to be confidential but suffice to say that they were testing out a new pasta dish to add to their current menu. It was all good at that point for me. The product looked appealing, the description of the product was intriguing and pasta just happened to be one of my favorite food to eat in the world.
Once the pre tasting questionnaires were completed, they brought me a single portion to try out. Before I did, I was asked to eat a piece of plain crackers and a cup of plain water to cleanse the palate I’m guessing. My first impression of the dish was the lack of aroma that I was expecting from the ingredients that they said was in the dish from their earlier description. I could tell that they have not had a tester like me before that day since I had to explain why I was sniffing the pasta that was served to me. I don’t know if it’s just me but I do like to savor the aromas of something that I have never eaten before to try to figure out what’s in it and set the expectations of what I think it should taste like. I know that some people absolutely freak out when I do that in public.
The first mouthful was a disappointment because it was so off from my expectation of what it should be based on my first impression. I almost choked on the second mouthful as my throat started to revolt against the vile excuse of a pasta dish that I was trying to swallow. This was the first time in my life that I had to say no to pasta. It tasted like under boiled yellow noodles with some shrimp and vegetables, sprinkled with bits of raw garlic and dried chili flakes and then smothered with uncooked peanut oil. It was criminal to even call it pasta because it tasted no different from the oily instant fried noodle mix that they sell at the grocery shops. I was expecting for a light, tart, clean tasting and healthy dish but ended up tasting the worse thing I have ever tasted this year.
The marketer was clearly surprised at the extent of my reaction that she even called her team leader to sit in to hear out my feedback. I guess that some people can stomach the swill that they were trying to serve more that I could. We proceeded to go through all the questions that they had post tasting and I gave them more feedback of what I thought was wrong with the product. At that point, I felt that it was my duty as a concerned citizen not to allow this half-baked idea of a dish to be consumed by customers of this food chain in the future. I think that I spent almost more than half an hour giving all my feedback to them. It was lucky for me that the marketer team leader seemed very attentive to my feedback and asked all the pertinent questions to get the most of our session.
At the end of it, they asked if I would be willing to be a volunteer in future product testing. I jokingly told them that I would as long as they don’t try to poison me with bad food like this one. I left my business card with them and agreed that they can contact me for future food testing as needed. In a way, I’m doing my part in the civic duty of making sure bad food never makes it to the menu of the eating establishments in this country.
It beats signing up to join the Army at my age.
Monday, January 09, 2006
I'm planning to go back home to my parents place in Selayang right after work today. I actually wanted to take today off but a new project just came across my desk that unfortunately had to start off today.
C'est la vie.
To all readers, a Happy Eid Adha and have a safe celebration (or time off whichever the case maybe) with the family.
I am very proud to report that my second attempt at making dodol has been a resounding success. Taking the lessons from my previous attempt, I think that I’ve corrected all the things that I did wrong the last time. Since I gave the recipe for the dodol I made the last time, I guess I should put down the corrected one here as well.
For those who are not familiar with dodol, the closest foreign equivalent that I could think of is soft taffy.
Dodol (Malaysian Soft Taffy - makes about 5 kilos)
1 kg glutinous rice flour
100 g plain rice flour
750 g palm sugar
750 g brown molasses sugar
Thick coconut milk/cream from 10 coconuts
Salt to taste
Pandan (screwpine leaves)
Preparation (prep time: 5 hrs)
Place both palm sugar blocks and brown sugar in a pan and pour in water until it covers all the sugar. Knot about 5 pandan leaves and place into the pot with the sugar for aroma. Boil on a medium heat setting until all of the sugar has dissolved into a thick dark syrup. Remove syrup from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Add a tablespoon of salt to half of the coconut milk and pour the coconut into a large heavy bottom cast iron wok (the “kawah” in Malay). Knot another handful of pandan leaves and put it in with the coconut milk. Heat the coconut milk on a medium heat and stir continuously to avoid burning the milk. After a hour or so, a thin layer of coconut oil will start raising to the surface and bits of the coconut milk will start to clump together.
Strain in the room-temperature syrup mixture to the boiling coconut milk and continue to stir. Mixture must be continuously stirred at this point to incorporate the syrup and the coconut milk together without burning them. In about half an hour, the coconut milk clumps will dissolve again into the syrup mixture and a thin layer of coconut oil can be seen rising to the surface again. Remove the knotted pandan leaves from the mixture.
While the syrup and coconut milk is being heated, mix the glutinous and plain rice flours with the remaining half of the coconut milk. Mix well and make sure that there are no clumps of flour in the mixture. Once mixed well, strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour into the hot syrup and coconut milk mixture cooking in the kawah. Take care not to splash the hot mixture when pouring the flour mix in. Stir the mixture well with a wooden cooking paddle to ensure that everything is evenly mixed.
The resulting mixture will almost immediately start to thicken as it is continuously stirred on a medium heat. The sides of the wok should be scraped for the bits that get stuck there as the mixture is stirred. Take care not to let any bits of the mixture to burn as it will leave hard bits in what is suppose to be a smooth texture candy. A “lift and fold over” technique seems to work best in making sure that the resulting dodol is cooked evenly and the texture remains smooth.
The dodol will darken considerably during the cooking process changing from a light mocha color to dark espresso color. The aroma of the dodol should be a mellow sweet smell instead of a sharp burnt sugar smell. The dodol is fully cooked once it can be easily scraped from the sides of the kawah without leaving any bits behind, the dodol mixture can be pulled up from the kawah without breaking and can be rolled between the fingers without burning them. The cooked dodol would also feel slick to the touch and looks shiny to the eyes with the coconut oil that is the by product of cooking the coconut milk for hours. A thin layer of coconut oil should start to pool around the dodol to signal that the dodol was now cooked and ready to be taken off the fire.
Transfer the cooked dodol from the kawah to a flat shallow tray to cool. Remember to spread the transferred dodol evenly in the tray to ensure that it cools evenly and that it would have almost the same thickness when cut. The cooling dodol will also start to release the coconut oil that would pool on the surface. Tilt the tray a bit to drain the excess coconut oil but do not remove too much of the oil as the dodol could be too dry without it.
Cut into bite sized pieces to serve.
Learning from the last time I tried to make dodol, I knew that I had to increase the amount of coconut milk that I used this time around. I also reduced the sugar that I used as I wanted a less sweet version of this Malaysian favorite candy. I guess a good way of remembering the recipe would be 1 part flour, 2 parts sugar and 10 coconuts for 5 parts dodol. It should be the same proportions if you scale them up but I’m not too sure if the same works when you scale down the recipe.
The addition of the plain rice flour to the flour mix was new this time around and was something that was suggested by my mother. By adding the plain rice flour, the resulting dodol was easier to cut and was not as chewy to the bite as it was before. Just a little bit of the plain rice flour really made the difference.
Cooking of half the coconut milk until it started to release the coconut oil also made a big difference in the final result. The dodol that I made this time around was much darker, softer and smoother in taste and touch. I was a bit apprehensive about the growing pool of coconut oil that was coming out of the cooking dodol but after learning that it was how it was suppose to be and that the excess oil would be drained away then it was a welcomed sight indeed.
I can now safely say that I have made the dodol dish that is a close approximation of what my late grandfather used to make. Of our extended family, we are the only one of the family branch living outside of Johor who would still be carrying the tradition of making the dodol for festive occasions. It’s a tradition that I am now very proud to shoulder and carry on knowing that it has a long history behind it. While it might not be the true recipe for the dodol that he used to make, I like to think that somewhere my late grandfather is looking down and approving the way that I choose to honor his memory.
Next traditional dish that I’ll be tackling next would be my maternal grandmother’s recipe for “dodol pulut hitam” (black glutinous rice dodol).
Friday, January 06, 2006
My copy of Frank Miller's Sin City (Recut, Extended, Unrated) DVD came in the mail yesterday and I’m really looking forward to finally watch it. Due to the nature of the material, it goes without saying that it was not shown in the local cinemas during it’s initial run last year. I purposely skipped buying the first release of the DVD because there were already news of an extended version being released when the first DVD went on sale. It was a good thing that I waited because not only do I get the same material from the previous DVD release on disk 1 but I also get an extended cut and a whole boatload of new material created exclusively for this DVD set on the second disk. They also included a copy of the original graphic novel that inspired one of the segments in the movie. It would be fun to compare the scenes on screen with the ones out of the book and see how that closely they repoduce the printed images.
I have not sit through the whole DVD yet although I did initially plan to do so this weekend. Seeing that I will be spending this coming weekend at my parent’s house and going for a second attempt at dodol-making for Aidil Adha, I may not be able to find the time to sit thorough the whole set. Not being able to view it on my own home theater setup at my apartment would also be an additional mark on the minus column of viewing it this weekend.
I guess that a review of the DVD set will have to wait for another day.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
First entry of the year.
New Year 2006 has come and gone. I didn’t do much over the New Year break as I didn’t really made any special plans to mark the occasion. S did came to my apartment seeking refuge from his in-laws and we spent the night watching both (the one at Dataran Merdeka and KLCC) live New Year Eve concerts on TV before he had to leave at around 11pm. I guess he wanted to make sure that I didn’t drown myself in my Ben & Jerry’s since I haven’t actually called him for a while.
Watched the fireworks at Sunway Pyramid from the balcony of my apartment when the clock struck midnight. Whoever planned them this year did a pathetic job at it. They usually put up a better display than this the other times that they had fireworks but this occasion pales in comparison to the ones they did last year.
I actually wanted to put in my first entry of the year with a new look to the blog but somehow I’m lagging behind in the site face-lift effort. I blame the new laptop that the company has “graciously” assigned to me to replace my old laptop just before the New Year break. My new laptop is a beauty with 1GB RAM, the latest Intel Centrino chips, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 14.1” of SXGA screen running on a 64MB ATI Radeon graphics chip. Suffice to say, I’ve been trawling the dungeons of “Dungeon Siege II” for almost all my waking hours these past few days and it has never looked so sweet.
What’s in store for 2006? Blog-wise, unless something interesting worth mentioning happens, I’ll continue putting up previews/reviews of items that I have run across may it be DVDs, movies, music or TV shows. I definitely would be trying to recap the next season of “Malaysian Idol” if they are still planning for a 3rd season after the debacle of last season’s final result (btw, Nita rawked rings around Daniel during both New Year concerts). Although I’m finally putting in Astro in my apartment this year, I don’t think I’ll be recapping any of the Akademi Fantasia stuff because they are already sites that do a much better job than I could ever do.
Personally, I have one or two projects in the works but I don’t want to put anything here at the moment for fear that I might jinx them. I may write more about them once the details are firmer.
Thanks for continuing to stop by.