It’s the Time of the Month … Do Check Out Other Reviews at McGraw-Hill’s Site Too

This is my second contribution to McGraw-Hill Education Asia’s website on the topic of Business and General Reference.  Do check out the reviews written by other established local organizations such as The Straits Times and TODAY.  Each month, they select a set of books to be featured.  If you are looking for inspiration on your next reading, it is a good place to start.

PS. This is not a sponsored post.

Related Entry: These Are the Days That Put a Smile to My Face

Woot?! Nominated for Best Review Post @ Ping.sg? (And a Touch onto My Review Philosophy)

Best Review Post

I got shocked out of my socks when Sylv dropped me a comment that one of my reviews has been nominated for the Best Review Post.  Wow, how did that happen?  OK, please vote for me only if you think that I am worthy of the title and it’s not too much of a hassle for you.  I don’t wish this to be a popularity contest and I know some of you value privacy, not wanting to leave digital footprints in the Internet.  In this gigantic blogosphere of Singapore, I am certainly very humbled even by getting nominated especially by this lovely community called Ping.sg.  And here is the post that you may have come across back in June.

I have been procrastinating for years when it comes down to writing a few paragraphs on “About Me”.  “About Me” is very commonly found in almost all the blogging sites.  I can write posts that consist thousands of words but yet when it comes down to “About Me”, I don’t know what to write.  Ever since I have created the “About Me” page temporarily with my email address and my mugshot, statistics tell me that more and more readers click onto that page.  It has become so significant that I have decided to write something about me over the weekend in under 250 words, which is kind of impossible if you know my style.  The final version has a 330 word count.  Quite an achievement for a start.

I reckon in recent years, one third of my posts are reviews of some sort, be it as books, or music, or movies.  And hence, I have been pondering if I shall include my review philosophy into “About Me”.  Right now, probably not as I wish to keep that low word count.

If you notice, I don’t give rating for all my recent reviews.  My philosophy is very simple: just because I give a perfect ten to a book or a movie or a music album doesn’t mean that you would love it.  Because I am me and you are you and you are not me.  What I can do though is to highlight the good and the not-too-good and you then decide if it is a zero or a ten, if the good works for you, and if the not-too-good is the deal breaker.  You rate it, not I rate it for you.  The most I can do is to categorize the reviews because I am aware that there are genres that some people may not be interested in.

And as careful as I can be, I try not to publish any spoilers for the movies.  Non-fictional book reviews are OK, I think, to read like book summaries because for those who may not have the time to read, it is good for them to learn something.  And if the readers have decided to read the non-fictional books I reviewed, I hope that my reviews act as a reinforcement to what they are going to read, a challenge for them to think ahead.  I personally am torn when it comes to fictional books.  On one hand, I shall not give out any spoilers.  On the other hand, some do visit my site to, as an illustration, research on how best to position a certain book to the students (such as “The Fifth Child By Doris Lessing – Horror Or Tragedy? You Decide”).  Hence, the for fictional books, my style is in as much as possible, highlight the themes and not too much on the storyline.

Writing music reviews is both easy and tough.  Easy in a sense that I have no holding back on what I can write.  Spoiler restriction does not apply to music albums.  Tough because it is hard to describe sound.  And more often than not, I have to hunt for music videos to complete my reviews and they are not easy to maintain either.

I learn that some reviews have hit rates far beyond my own domain’s hit rate.  Some topics are time sensitive, some are not.  Some are popular, some ain’t.  Till today, I am still learning on how to write a good review.

And I am so glad to have you readers to be with me on this journey of mine.  This nomination of mine is for you!

No Eye Candy’s 1st Female Guest Drummer (July 4)

Ever since our 2nd drummer has decided to spend more time with his new baby – which our band No Eye Candy fully understand and support – for the last two months, we scrambled to look for guest drummers to jam with us, to explore the possibility.  Guitarist Jason called in his friend for help and so did Bassist Cynthia.  Last evening, Cynthia’s friend Wieke who was born in the same country as her (i.e. Indonesia) joined us.  Time to pay our favorite studio Stone Jamz a visit.

It is hard to look for new members.  We don’t do cover songs or religious music (that is popular amongst the local community) and we work on the songs that I write.  Somehow there is a mutual respect and admiration on our domain specialty formed between the three of us – Cynthia, Jason, and I – since November 2004.  And we do have a certain practice tempo we commit, however infrequent it may be.

Before I go on, below are the captions for the pictures on the left.  Photos taken by Jason’s wife Selrol.  A big thanks to her as these pictures captured the essence of our session well (next time I must take some pictures of her).  Too bad, the battery of the camera went flat fast.  Lesson learnt: always buy original battery!

[1] Our cool bassist, Cynthia.  [2] Our 1st female guest drummer, Wieke, and she referred to her iPod during our break to look for some inspirations I guess.  [3] Our guitar god, Jason.  [4] That’s me.  Nice shirt eh?  My new shopping loot.  [5] OK.  Jason almost remembered the chords of our entire 5-song set.  Almost.  [6] We certainly are still amazed that such a petite lady can create such a deafening drumming sound!  Wieke is creatively amazing.  She has transformed some of our songs beyond our band’s recognition!  [7] Notice a huge white ring that Cynthia wore?  Well, while the boys were at Sim Lim side shopping for amplifiers and cables, she went shopping for accessories.  [8] I did look intense.  How did Selrol manage to capture this?!  I look scary.  I am a beast.

At times I would imagine how a new or guest member sees our band.  A band that is still finding its way, still full of rough edges?  A package of songs that are dark, at times gloomy but nevertheless radiates a sense of genuine emotion from the soul?  Songs and music arrangement with no defined structure and the same song never sounds the same every time we play it?  Perhaps all of the above and more.

I am personally unsure if someone will commit to our band in the near future (though I would certainly welcome that idea with open arms).  But in this transient beauty of being able to collaborate with different artists, different talents and be taken to a different height, it is one helluva journey that I’d love to take, any time.

Wanted – OMG, It’s Angelina Jolie (with a Gun)!

Though I must say, the focal point is at James McAvoy instead.  But still, I simply love Angelina Jolie with guns (think “Lara Croft” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) and I love her attitude too.  One of a kind, truly.

You’ve got to have quite a strong stomach to take in those over the top intensive scenes that have the pace and the music to match.  My recently self-diagnosed sensitive stomach did give me some warning signals on and off throughout the show.  I guess that is a good indicator on how intense “Wanted” is.

Yet another comic book adaptation and it is created by the Scottish graphic novelist Mark Millar.  Something different from the typical American comic book style I suppose.  A kind of strange storyline that involves a thousand years old organization called The Fraternity and these assassins – who have some sort of superhuman abilities I suppose – take in order from a textile loom coded with the target’s names under the microscope.  What a strange concept, to kill as dedicated by destiny to keep the Universe in balance. 

There is nothing much to say on the acting or character development of “Wanted”.  Is it entertaining?  Yes.  How so?  There are enough surprises within the plot to keep the film moving.  Some of the computer generated images and sequences are just jaw dropping.  Time slows down, at times reverses, to depict some physically impossible moments.  Some scenes are just comical.  Lots of blood for sure.  But if you have got the stomach and in for some fast pace intensified entertainment, why not?

I won’t even mention about Angelina Jolie’s sexy back from shoulder to … oh well, I missed it while reading the subtitles.

Kidding!  Ha ha ha!

My Friend Made It to Workers’ Party’s CEC (And Another Friend Made Partner)

What a bizarre week!  First my sister got hitched.  Then my old friend of more than a decade whom I have worked with officially made it to the partner’s rank in a major accounting firm just yesterday.  On the same day, I saw another old friend of mine whom I have also worked with featured in our afternoon newspaper Today.  I guess my “Wanted” movie review ready to be published has to wait, same for a new book review.  As for that not-too-successful v-blog mini-series, that will have to be postponed for another week.

I won’t dwell too much onto my sister’s engagement.  You just need to scroll down to read the previous post.  Except, I finally managed to talk to my ma in Hong Kong on the phone and spent 18 minutes trying to explain what my future brother-in-law does in real life (to my parents, it is important to articulate that to the people around them).  I mean, look, my Cantonese really sucks after decades of neglect and attempt to explain what Portfolio Management means to my ma is really hard.  Try explaining risk hedging, diversification, quarterly results, exchange announcement, technical analysis, financial instruments, equity investment and etc. is close to impossible.  I hope I got the message and reassurance across that my future brother-in-law kicks ass (Benny, you owe me 18 sure work buy tips for that 18 minutes of hard work and I am putting my life savings onto that).

Back to my friend who has made partner.  Well, I always tell people that if you don’t see yourself becoming a partner one day, leave the consulting business once you’ve learned all that you can and want (like me).  This is how the business works: the partners milk their people dry, milk their clients dry, and they become very rich.  As simple as that and I gather one day I can write a book on my old trade skill.  In case if you wonder, the word “milk” actually comes up during account planning in the both the consulting firms I’ve worked at.

But of course, within this business, there are always carrots at the end of the sticks.  If not, why would anyone want to sell their souls to the business putting work as the first priority in life?

My old friend and I have gone a long way.  Back to the days when I was literally living off a suitcase.  In the beginning of my career, my overseas assignments were long and in between, I got nowhere to live.  And he didn’t mind me occupying half of his storeroom when I was out-of-town, staying at his place temporary when I was in town.

OK, I must say he is (or perhaps was?) not that popular at work and that seems to bug him.  I always tried to tell him that even an US President only needs and perhaps only has 51% of the people’s vote.  And I did learn a few things from him.  The word ‘politics’ at work seems to have a negative connotation.  Then again, it is whether you are benefiting from it or not that ultimately makes you a hero or a villain in the organization you are in.  Learn the rule of the game and, oh well, bosses always take priority.  As for my friend, he does it well and I am truly happy for him.

Now, let’s talk about my friend Choong Yong.  The moment I saw his picture on the paper when I was inside HMV, I couldn’t contain my excitement and messaged some of our mutual friends immediately (good things must share, that’s my philosophy in life).  Choong Yong runs his own IT consulting business for years and recently, he is appointed as Workers’ Party’s new Central Executive Committee member!  Part of the ‘renewal process’ so as to speak.  And he looks so young inside the news clipping (far right in the picture above).  One unnamed mutual friend of us does admire Choong Yong’s ‘walk the talk’ attitude and I agree.  I couldn’t help but to crack some jokes of course (about this young pretty girl he was photographed with) and nothing beats Mark’s funny response: Is it the one with the headline titled “Convicted, but now blaming his ex-lawyer”?  I laughed so hard inside HMV.  That headline was right next to Choong Yong’s piece.

When I congratulated him via sms, we exchanged a few words.  “We are still friends right?” he asked.  Of course!  My vote to PAP (the governing party) is purely because of my admiration to our Prime Minister.  And our PM happens to be in my GRC.  Hence, I wouldn’t need to scratch my head to choose between voting for the opposition or that who-is-his-name?  The one who is probably responsible in letting the terrorist in captive walked away from a detention camp, and the recent lapse at the Customs got me bang my head onto the desk.  I also did learn something from that minister though.  Whenever I screw up at home, I always say to Cynthia, “Look baby, that was an Honest Mistake.”

Anyways, I am so proud of the people around me.  I wonder what shocking news I may hear tomorrow.  A friend of mine is landing on the moon?