Everything Else

Music 4 Mondays (4): The one about combat

Bodycombat is my chosen form of physical poison for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my older sister is rather fond of it and she had introduced it to me the day I started going to the gym. Ever since then, I had been spectacularly uninspired to try out other classes because I am determined to master combat first.

Secondly, the pure adrenalin rush that I experience during combat is deliciously addictive. Rather than just waving your fists in the air, the instructors make special effort to engage your imagination as well, pushing you to believe that there really is an enemy out there and hence, forcing you to exert full force in your moves. How much of a workout you can achieve is entirely up to you and knowing that you have pushed your limits is darn satisfying.

Thirdly, the music can be really good. I am the sort who likes running while plugged into my mobile phone (radio function — iPod is too fat to go jogging with) and it’s nice to vary the physical exertion by moving in accordance to the rhythm of the music.

Here are two tracks that I particularly like to bounce to during combat. The first is a bit of a surprise – Madonna’s Frozen from her Ray of Light album. The remixed version (not this one, though) is hauntingly good, with bits of tribal elements mixed into the electronic mash. I like it so much that I can actually remember the combination of moves that go according to the chorus: jab, cross, upper-cut, upper-cut, right elbow, left elbow.

The next is British girl band Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground. Technically, it’s not a combat track because it’s only played during cool-down but boy, do I associate this track with pain. We do push-ups here and hey, it’s not just push-ups! Imagine doing push-ups not in the standard up-down movement but in circular motion. Hello, iron arms needed here!

And then, there are the sit-ups. Again, not just regular sit-ups, but where you lie flat, clasp your hands and then lift your body up in circular motion, with your hands moving from above your chest to your knees and back in similar circular fashion. Trust me, it’s as difficult as it sounds. I usually just lie back flat after like a few times, while my crazy sister and Colleague Pinkbee continue at it for the nth time. Abs of steel, they have.

But it’s okay. One year later, hear me roar: I am Xena!
Ho ho ho.

[Let’s play tag! , , ]

The organised chaos

Fearless

When I was a child, I was such a tomboy.

I would go running off to the playground with my younger cousins (both boys) and we would spend our afternoons just devising “routes” and “stations”, completing round after round of physical exercise. I would climb, like the monkey that I am, onto the bars and swing myself here and there. I would jump down from the very top of the slides and make believe that I was flying. Or I would push my swing to the highest limit and throw myself off the tiny, rubber seat onto sandy pit, sometimes to detrimental (and painful) results. Sometimes, we would race against one another up trees and then fling our lithe bodies off the highest branches that we could scrape our way up to. Other times, we would scale our way up the rows and rows of letterboxes and perform acrobatic flips and jumps atop the cool, metallic surfaces.

But as I grew older, I shed the boyish self the same way I grew out my hair. I traded in my tatty Ts for pretty bouses. And in that manner, the vestiges of my fearless, feckless nature were gradually wiped clean by the forward-flowing of time. Responsibilities set in and the curious self takes a backseat to other, more “adult” issues like family and finances. My mind grew smaller and more timid, the sky no longer the limit to me. Dreams I had long ago, of marriage, family, career, travel moved further and further out of sight.

Can I find that devil-may-care attitude in me again? The insolence that may, or may not, be buried deep within the excess baggage, shattered memories and forgotten joys?

Dare I take that step forward, ignoring the risks, just to catch a whiff of fresh air?
Dare I sit back and wait patiently, believing that everything will come in its own time?
Dare I let myself stumble and fall blindly, in exchange for a new and unknown experience?
Dare I ask why the colour of the sky is not purple and why dogs cannot talk but bark?
Dare I sip from a mug of Guiness Stout despite its look of insidious poison?
Dare I endure the intense pain to get a tattoo on my behind just for the heck of it?
Dare I tell him that I would like his behind more if it is nice and taut?
Dare I start each day as if it’s brand new, with no care or thought of what happened the day before and what will happen a day later?

Maybe all it takes is for someone to bring out the curious child in us once in a while.
Could you be that someone?

Everything Else

Life defends

Dear London Bombers,

Congratulations, you have done it again. Does it fill you with jubilation that you could pull this off, albeit unsuccessfully, just two weeks after the first attack? Does it anger you to know that you did not manage to create a scene of mass destruction? Does it satisfy you now that you have tried to pierce through the psychological resilience of not just Londoners, but the rest of us living half a globe away?

But you know, if you think this is going to stop any of us from getting on with our lives, from supporting causes that go against yours, from ever visiting London or USA or wherever you threaten to destroy, think again.

Because by committing all these sins, you have planted the seeds of terrorism deep into our lives, unfortunately. And as we come to accept this as life, so our defence grows stronger. It’s like a virus attack on our bodies – our immune system identifies what the attackers are and then develops antibodies to fight them off.

And so, we will.

There is no deception
There is no leniency
Life fights, fights against life
for the sake of a new life
Ko Matsushita’s Life Defends

Health Goddess

I heart exercising

I am turning into such an exercise junkie.
After signing up with Fitness First, I find myself planning gym excursions on an almost daily basis. It helps that FF has a location just across the road from my current office.

It’s rather addictive, this whole gym business, especially Bodycombat classes. There’s always a new song to learn and the combinations of the moves keep both your body and mind active throughout the entire one hour. The good thing about this place is that the group exercise room is really small and the instructor can see each and every one of the participants, unlike California Fitness where it can get packed like sardines and the instructor is standing somewhere far away on a stage. But the good thing about California Fitness is that the gym-goers are usually young adults who are somewhat enthusiastic and enjoy yelling, which makes it a hilarious experience. And man, with the smaller room, I can see myself all too clearly in the mirror and I look like a praying mantis! It’s those long, bony limbs, I tell you.

But well, the regular exercise seems to have paid off. In the almost two months that I started gymming at least three times a week, my weight has almost moved to the 39kg mark. Given that I haven’t weighed myself in yonks now, that figure looks pretty good. At the rate I am going, it may not be too long before I finally hit 40. (Note to self: must continue eating five meals a day – right, Pinkbee colleague?)

I have to admit though, I am kind of a wuss. I have been wanting to try out Bodypump and Bodybalance classes but I lack the guts. Pump because I have no arm muscles to speak of. Back in my school days, I used to have problems lifting up the stupid medicine ball (if you spell it that way), my biceps and triceps are weak. Balance because, well, my flexibility is severely limited.

Okay, time to pack my things. And it’s off for combat class tomorrow after work!

Bodycombat

Shaaaaarr!

[Let’s play tag! , , ]

Everything Else

Music 4 Mondays (3): The one about chemistry

Okay, I admit it.
I totally forgot about the Music 4 Mondays entry last night.
But wait! I have an excuse. I came home late from gym and tumbled into bed immediately because I was wrecked by cramps. Yes, it’s that bloody time of the month again (pun totally intended) so there. I should put together a guide to PMS. Tsk.

Imogen Heap’s Goodnight and Go
All hail the music bible of The O.C once again, for this downright addictive show has thrown up yet another wonderful song and singer into the playlist of my iTunes.

Imogen Heap was once part of a British group called Frou Frou but unfortunately, as much as I like the name of the group, I have absolutely no inkling of who they are until this song. Imogen Heap has a mellow voice, sounding very much like a rough diamond. In fact, the unpolishness of her voice reminds me of Rachael Yamagata and Heather Nova.

Goodnight and Go is taken from her upcoming album Speak for Yourself and it’s one of those songs that give you an extra spring in your steps. Here, she laments: “Why’d you have to be so cute/It’s impossible to ignore you/Must you make me laugh so much?” But thankfully, it’s not one of those sludgy, sugary love ballad. In line with her electronica roots, this song is bouncy with catchy electronic beats and harmonies.

Imogen Heap is such a gem. I’ll be checking out her new album once it hits our sunny shores.

Liz Phair’s Why Can’t I
Liz Phair is a singer who is no stranger to controversy, given that her songs focus primarily on the topic of sex.

Why Can’t I, taken from her self-titled album, doesn’t really deviate from that vein, with lyrics that hint at sex (“we’re already wet and we’re gonna go swimming”) to the very blatant “we haven’t f**ked yet but my head’s spinning”. Plus, it talks about the dark thrill of infidelity, and the way two people just cannot help but be drawn together despite being committed to others.

But you know, this song is so catchy and boppish that I can’t help but like it. It’s heavy on the bass and guitars, which is a giant plus in my books, and I actually like her voice. Her lyrics are brutally frank and for some reason, I just identify with that pure, unadulterated need and longing for someone that she sings about.

Arts & Entertainment

In Song 2005

As you can see on the left-hand corner of the site’s header, this August sees the arrival of Victoria Chorale’s annual concert, In Song 2005.

The choir has been working hard for the past few months, such that practices often stretch well into the night on Saturdays. Yes, we hold our practices on Saturdays and while may think that it’s a sacrifice, we don’t see it that way, because singing is a passion to us.

As a performer, it often gives me a sense of satisfaction and joy to know that the audience sitting beyond the lights are taking pleasure in our performance. What’s more pleasing to know is that we can touch the hearts of young singers out there, those who are singing in their school choirs and dream of joining VJC Choir and Victoria Chorale one day.

But the journey down the artistic path has been uphill more often than not. We often face difficulties in getting financial help and sponsorship. And because we are just a bunch of ordinary folk, we don’t have the necessary resources and contacts to reach out to the masses.

It’s not that we are not a good choir — our track record speaks for itself. The fact is, we are a small arts group that’s largely self-funded, with little external help. And because we are a small outfit, without the “Singapore” or “National” in front of our name, the media generally does not pay much attention to us. This becomes a vicious cycle — the public does not know us and hence, companies are reluctant to plonk down a hefty sum of money on us, unsure if we can get them the eyeballs they expect.

We’ve been trying for the past five years, since I joined the choir, to change the situation by revamping the way we communicate with the media and the companies, but have only met with lukewarm success. While theatre and the like have received much more attention in recent years, the vocal arts area is still largely unknown and unexplored. Everyone knows of Ong Keng Sen and Glen Goei but does anyone know who Nelson Kwei or Lim Ai Hooi are? Does anyone know that the National Anthem was played at an international arena last year, when VJC Choir (they even have a wiki, scroll down) won the category that they had participated in during Choir Olympics?

The Olympics journey itself summarises the situation that we are in. I remember, very clearly, the enthusiastic and appreciative applause we had received, before we had even stepped into the competition hall. The audience had recognized and knew us to be a worthy choir. But the bubble was burst unceremoniously when we came home, and tried desperately to pitch our spoils to the media. Coverage was scarce, and even our own governing artistic body failed to recognize our achievements, until he shot off an irate rant to the Sick Times forum.

If we can cheer on Li Jiawei during her tournaments, why can’t we cheer on our own arts groups as well?

Perhaps the situation will change in a few years’ time, when the government’s vision of the Renaissance City bears fruit, when the arts become a part of the average heartlander’s life. But in the meantime, we will still continue making the music that we love and venturing overseas to stamp our mark on the international map.

To order your tickets for In Song, please visit here. I promise that it will be a good show.

Arts & Entertainment

The Half-Blood Prince revealed

I’ve just spent my Sunday afternoon holed up in my room devouring, well, Harry Potter (don’t laugh!). In case you have been living on Mars, J K Rowling‘s penultimate book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was launched yesterday at exactly 7.01am yesterday. According to the papers, there were fanatics who were queueing up outside Borders since Friday afternoon just to lay their hands on the book. I must be getting old because my first thought was, hello, you can, like, order the book online?

Apart from going to sleep at 4am (I started reading on Saturday night at about 1) and the occasional toilet breaks this afternoon, I never put the book down. It was that good. After the highly convoluted and sometimes confusing preceding Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince is simpler and dealt a lot more with the psychological and emotional aspects of Harry.

For one thing, it answers questions of how Lord He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named grew to become the scourge of evil (that sounds mild even to my ears), and the part that Dumbly-dorrr (points to you if you remember who called Dumbledore that) had to play in his life. The infinite wisdom of Dumbledore shapes Harry’s, and our, perception of Harry’s choices, actions and destiny, which will, of course, be played out in the seventh and final book.

The identity of the Half-Blood Prince is revealed at the end, though not to unexpected results. And here, you are forced to make your own judgement about a principal character who evokes contrasting emotions in you – fascination yet loathing, admiration yet repulsive, sympathetic yet revulsion.

And then, there is The Death. This time, the death is not as hyped about as Sirius Black’s, but it is in no way less significant or tragic. It is still the same – somebody who is close to Harry and whose loss he feels immensely, and it still makes you cry. But what is different is that his death (oops, did I let out anything) opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions and mystery and it actually propels you forward into the next book.

There is also a lot of focus on love in this book. Given that Harry and his friends are in the throes of adolescence, it is not surprising but it does seem rather awkward and abrupt. But well, according to Dumbledore, love is the greatest magic in the world and maybe with the love and courage planted in this tome and the others before it, the good will be able to triumph over evil in the last book.

I know that Harry Potter is a series that is supposedly meant for children but it still makes for an intriguing read all the same. There are darker themes and undertones which children might not be able to grasp fully and in light of the world we live in today, you can’t help but read and hope that Harry, the underdog and the boy who Lived, would be able to rid his world of evil the way we cannot.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince