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Sunday, April 26, 2009

But Then It Rained...

With such a short stay in Seoul, I knew I wouldn't have time to do much exploration. But on my last day, some meetings went quite well and fast my late afternoon schedule suddenly got cleared. I checked where I could go and decided to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace which is right at the heart of the city (I would have wanted to go to the Demilitarized Zone but I should have made arrangements the day before).

I was just starting to enjoy the taste of Old Korea when killjoy rain poured. Good thing the Korea Folk Museum was just nearby, so I still had some edutainment while waiting for the downpour to stop. It didn't. I took a cab to Namdaemun Market, one of the biggest markets I've ever seen, but it was raining so hard that going thru buildings and stalls became a burden. And besides, the stuff I wanted to buy were nowhere to be found.

So I decided to rest. But not easily though. I tried flagging a taxi for more than an hour without success. The drivers would not take me to the Itaewon area (reminds you of Manila drivers, eh?). So I went down the Metro, asked for directions (yup, more English speakers here than in Tokyo) and got back for a few Cass (beer) bottles before I called it a day.

Korean schoolboys on tour

... and more pics ...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AI Addict, Still?

That I am writing about it now (just after I got the internet feed from a wayward wi-fi signal here in Seoul), most probably confirms I still am. But let me qualify.

I admit I am a singing contest addict and will probably be for long. So I guess I will have to watch American Idol whenever I can and wherever I am, circumstances permitting. So the better the question could rather be, am I as crazily fanatical to the show as I have always been?

The answer is no. I have come to the conclusion that Season 8 contestants are the most boring lot. While they could indeed sing (how could they not after passing through the proverbial needle’s eye), they just don’t bring the same excitement as the others from past seasons did.

Allow me to speak my two cents as I make a roll call (including the recent kick-outs):

Lil Rounds – She definitely is a good singer. Problem is, she comes to AI after many other black divas have made their mark and against whom she could not hold a candle to (Fantasia, Melinda Doolittle, Jennifer Hudson, etc). If it were some other singing contest, I am sure she would do well and the judges will in turn not be as harsh on her.

Anoop Desai – Heard the studio versions of his songs and they sounded good. But not great enough. He’s like the one good singer you hear in a karaoke bar – you appreciate his talent but will forget as soon as next good singer shows off his wares. But still, I’m sure he will last longer in the public eye than Sanjaya.

Allison Iraheta – She rocks, yes. She may actually be able to end up having her own niche in the rock music world after AI. But is she ultimate Idol, material? That would be an insult to previous runners-up.

Matt Giraud – He’s got style and he does offer something different from previous wannabes. But he has not been hitting his high notes! Those were not smooth falsettos for chrissakes! For Pinoy enthusiasts, he normally does the unforgivable!

Chris Allen – His studio versions are actually good and he’s had many good moments. But if he wins, half of his votes would be due to his looks than his singing.

Danny Gokey – Great balladeer, no doubt. Edgy on one side but emotional on the other. But he belongs to the same mold as David Cook’s. And placed side by side against the latter, he surely will shrink.

Adam Lambert – Probably the man with the highest range ever. But American Idol? Come on! Listen to his studio versions and all he’s got extraordinary is range! Original? The man simply can’t follow instructions! The reason why the contestants are made to sing songs from a certain genre is to test their versatility. But if one is asked to sing a country song but performs a meditteranean rock instead, or a disco song but instead makes the audience cry, that is insulting and should not be praised.

But then again, it is crystal clear that AI has made its decision. Adam Lambert will be this year’s Idol. So regardless of what he does, he gets away with it. But this I foresee - as soon as he wins, he will have the same fate as that gray-haired soul patrol whatever Idol…who was that guy again?

To end, I submit that the best top ten ever was Season 7’s. Theirs I think, was the most talented, most diverse and most original lot. What say you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seoul, Revisited..

Am in Seoul now. For work. No DLSR camera.

Will come back to the blogworld as soon as possible.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Forget ME Not (God Forbid)

I am now scared. Really.

I used to just make fun of it, but now, it seems like a foreboding of grim things to come. I get worried sick just thinking how things would look like in the future.

Here's a backgrounder:

As I entered Honolulu airport, I followed the standard procedure of placing my handcarried items into trays. With one hawaiian bag in one tray, I placed my backpack and laptop into another. I was told to separate them.

As I retrieved my things, I was shocked to discover that my laptop wasn't there. I looked around. Still nothing! I approached one of the security officers and reported that my laptop is missing. It was then that I looked back at the x-ray machine conveyor. At first glance there was no more tray there. But it turned out that the conveyor goes downward, and lo, the laptop was there at the very end. I got it with a meek smile.

When I reached Tokyo, I queued for the immigration procedures which required fingerprinting. It turned out to be a breeze so I rushed to the luggage area so I could get home quickly. But as I was waiting for my bag to come out, I noticed that I was not carrying the bag containing most of my pasalubong. I frantically searched for it all around the airport lobby, retracing all possible stops I made. I was worried that if found, it will be confiscated and destroyed (which is standard procedure in many airports). I asked the ground steward of the airline I boarded to assist me and we even checked the immigration booth. Still nothing.

I was already resigned to losing the bag when from afar, I saw this man carrying a similar hawaiian bag. He was smiling. As he drew closer, it was the same Japanese immigration officer manning the gate I passed through. Apparently, I left the bag when I had to press my fingers to the reader.

Boy, I was embarassed!

So now, what has one got to do when he seems to suffer from a severe case of memory lapse? I tell you, those two incidents were simply representative of many other instances of extreme forgetfulness. Is this ominous of early Alzheimers?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cruisin', Surfin' Hawaii

A regular activity for tourists in Hawaii is a whale-watching cruise off Honolulu Bay. We took the one offered by the Star of Honolulu which promised to give a free return trip just in case no whales were spotted.

True, it wasn't easy to spot one. The yatch captain would normally holler directions as to where they were but the whales would already be gone when we check them. Below are the few shots I captured of the shy mammals.


Another thing that has always fascinated me is surfing in the giant waves of Hawaii. Not that I surf, but I have always been a fan of surfing movies. Good thing my host brought me to Northshore and other surfing hotspots. These are few of the shots I captured:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ahh .... Waikiki!

Waikiki Beach must rank as one of the most popular beaches in the world. It is right smack in yard of the City of Honolulu, thus creating a mix of the urban and natural ambiance. With such charm and accessibility, it would be no wonder when almost every square foot of its sand has been occupied when I paid my requisite visit.

I just walked the entire stretch of sand (I'm sure Boracay's is longer) littered with a lot of attention-getting sights (me donning my boardshorts and swimming would be downright embarassing he he).

But admittedly, I did feel like a voyeur as I clicked through the stroll. Na-conscious, he he.

So I decided to just randomly shoot from the hips. When I checked my harvest, these two pics were inadvertently recorded there. he he he. Gomen!

more pics here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

There was a time when I was a history buff (imagine: undefeated university history quiz champion during my entire stay at the Lyceum; national Rizal quiz champion).

And there was one date that I run across a hundred times during my readings - December 7, 1941. That day marked the sneak bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Army and killed more than a thousand soldiers and civilians.

It was thus but natural for me to make a visit of Pearl Harbor as among my priority activities while in Hawaii. So we went to the USS Arizona, the memorial for the ship where the most number of sailors perished.

The memorial is constructed right above the midsection of the sunken ship. Inside, the names of the casualties are listed.

Beside it are markers for the other ships that were destroyed in the bombing.

When one visits the Memorial, he will have to watch first a heart-wrenching documentary on the incident. And from what I observed, while the Japanese make-up the biggest number of visitors to Hawaii, not so many of them visit the Memorial. In fact, there was none during the batch I was in. That maybe was pure coincidence, but I guess I would understand if some Japanese will consciously avoid getting reminded of that day which have lived to this day "in infamy".

More discussions on the memorial here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aryo, On Bilocation?

Is it ever possible for a person to be in two different places at the same time?

Yup! I just did.

Check out my daily log:

April 8, 2009 - 12:00 p.m. : having lunch at my favorite Yoshinaya branch in Roppongi, Japan

April 8, 2009 - 12:00 p.m : enjoying a cup of coffee at the Starbucks in Walmart, Honolulu, Hawaii

(night shot of Waikiki Beach)

:-) I know. Corny desu...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sakura, Sakura and More Sakura!

Here are more pics of the cherry blossoms season in Japan. The flowers have all reached full potential and they will soon fall off the branches to litter the grounds. By next week, the trees will all be green.

I guess I had sakura overload this week so I will be out of Tokyo for a few days to catch a different ambience.

HAWAII here I come!

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Uneventful Day

Target : Fujikyu Highlands and Lake Kawaguchi

Mission: To shoot photos of snow-capped Mt. Fuji with the lake in the foreground, from atop a ferris wheel and of course, with lots of sakura.

Designated Partner: Ace photographer Totomai

Time spent: One entire day

Result: Failure - Mt. Fuji took cover, the lake was bland (no cherry blossoms) and it rained while we were at Fujikyu.

Prescription: Come again another day..

Friday, April 3, 2009