Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Sometimes it is the things that don't happen, sometimes the things that do; words uttered, words left unsaid; letting go and wishing otherwise, not letting go and wondering if that ought be the way. All that matter, that don't; that should matter, that shouldn't. There may have been some hurt, there may not; there may be some regrets, but then again maybe not. Too much may have been expressed, too much may have been suppressed.

There may be goals, strongly desired, yet unreachable - for physical and mental limitations, for fickleness and uncertainty.

There are nights sleep might soothe the mind's incessant torture, but rest would not come easily. There are days music might lessen the gnawing pain in the heart, but the songs intensify the melancholy. There are moments tears might relieve the emotional turmoil, but tears will not form.

Maybe it is a lot of things, maybe it is nothing. Maybe it's just the weather.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Eric Woolfson's Poe

This DVD arrived somewhen last week. Yes, just weeks apart from my last purchase. This is the effect of having a friend-turned-"personal shopper" who willingly assists in buying and shipping goods home from online stores. It's made spending money a breeze - which, though not at all a bad thing since I only buy the things I really need / want - is so not "me". I grew up in a sort of none too well-to-do family... sure, we had enough to eat, decent clothes and a constant roof above our heads - all the basic stuff - but not much else. I've been trained from young to be extremely thrifty and careful with what I spend on, which, I sometimes overdo. For instance, I started to avoid eating meat during my college days because vegetables were a lot cheaper. I'm still not well-off financially, but I have enough to not have the need to watch too closely every cent I spend... and I'm now slowly learning to allow myself what makes me happy. A friend said, at 30+, if we already have a saving plan, we should feel comfortable to spend as we want. I told him to not bring up the matter of age. He said, fine, we have 30+ years left. Gah, he's right. But, I'm supposed to be writing about the musical... how do I always manage meander so?

Suppose I should give a little background on how I discovered this musical, which debuted in 2003, but that would be meandering even more, so perhaps I would go into that at the end.

I have not seen so many musicals, but do I love them! There are those which are more dance than song, those which are equal in both and these, which I prefer by far, with more song than dance. And the songs in Edgar Allan Poe are simply beautiful - deeply moving, profound and just so beautiful. The stage props and setup were minimal, in my opinion, and mostly cast in darkness, most of the time. I find it perfect in eliminating distraction from the music and the cast members' vocal performance. The musical tells the story of Edgar Allan Poe, poet and author, from when he was a young, unknown writer to his tragic death. Here's the list of songs:

1. Wings Of Eagle
- A still-unknown Edgar Allan Poe presents his writings to a magazine owner.

2. The Murders In The Rue Morgue
- Poe's detective story gains popularity.

3. What Fools People Are
- Poe writes a negative review of a piece by rival author Griswold, who is then angered.

4. Blinded By The Light
- The earlier days of Poe's life is revealed: he sings of the death of his mother and the loss of his first love, Elmira Royster.

5. Tiny Star
- Poe tends to his sickly cousin, Virginia, while his mother appears (in his memory) and sings a lullaby

6. The Pit and The Pendulum
- Poe composes this masterpiece.

7. It Doesn't Take a Genius
- Griswold is pressured by the audience at a recital to read Poe's latest poem, "The Raven".

8. Goodbye To All That
- Poe and Virginia marry =)

9. The Bells
- The ensemble sings of Poe's troubled mind.

10. The Devil I Know
- It has been ten years. Virginia sings of her marriage to Poe.

11. Tiny Star (Reprise)
- Virginia falls ill. Poe sings the lullaby to soothe her, but her condition worsens.

12. The Bells (Reprise)
- Virginia dies.

13. Somewhere In The Audience
- Poe grieves for Virginia.

14. Trust Me
- Griswold succeeds in convincing Poe to make him his literary executor.

15. Let The Sun Shine On Me
- Poe is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Elmira.

16. Train To Freedom
- Poe gets involved in a Railway campaign when he speaks against the company, and is beaten up by the Railway supporters.

17. Tiny Star (Reprise)
- Poe lies dying. The spirit of his mother appears and leads him away.

18. What Fools People Are
- Griswold writes a nasty obituary of Poe.

19. Somewhere In The Audience (Reprise)
- Elmira and the spirit of Virginia grieve for Poe.

20. Immortal
- Poe's spirit returns to sing of his immortality through the respect and passion the world continues to shower upon his work.

Steve Balsamo plays Poe extremely well. His acting is subtle - unlike the usual stage performing with exaggerated gestures and facial expressions - yet, powerfully convincing. He is able to very effectively project the array of emotions - love, grief, anguish - through his voice and his eyes, and I really do think that he's portrayed the character so well it is an achievement quite impossible to surpass.

It is way too easy to get carried away by Steve's stunning performance - I am fortunate I still could find enough attention to pay to the ensemble. The arrangements are fantastic and the harmony of their voices is almost perfect. All in all, this is such a gem of a musical I am surprised it hasn't gained more recognition. I'm sorry that I've only known it now, not sooner.

Well, I must admit I've never previously been acquainted with the late Eric Woolfson's work, and I only came to know about this one while watching YouTube videos of Steve Balsamo. How I came across this amazing vocalist is another (somewhat long) story, so I should not go into it - too much digressing for one post. The gist is, once I've heard him sing, I could not stop listening to him. The chance discovery led to a near-obsession, and soon I was scouring the web for his work. Such a voice! His voice - the quality, the control, the expressiveness, the 3.5-octave range... why isn't such a talented person more widely known? I'm sorry I've only heard him now, not sooner.

Seriously, someone give me a list of all the great voices I should be listening to but haven't heard!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pretty Cupcakes

Why we shouldn't buy them:
1. Really expensive.
2. Laden with food colouring.
3. Sugar paste (the fondant) is well... SUGAR.

So, we're basically paying a lot of money for decorative edibles that most of us probably don't want to eat, which translates to mindless waste.

Why we should buy them:
They make me happy. They make me SO happy! When I got them this morning, I spent several minutes staring at them, and the rest of the morning feeling happy.

Ahhh..... *still happy*

Monday, March 5, 2012

On A Real Positive Note

In all honesty, when I signed up at in 2005 (yikes... 7 years ago?!), I thought blogging was dumb and didn't plan on actually doing it. I only signed up under "peer-pressure" and narcissism - several friends were blogging and they kept telling me to do it because I love to write and I write so well (they said it!). *Ahem*

Then, I started posting pieces mainly as a means to vent the frustration that built inevitably from my 24 weekly contact hours with college kids. I got caught on the very appealing informality and anonymity (I now know many of you Readers actually know who I am, but really, neil used to be completely anonymous!) of blogging and there was no turning back. However, it is also worth noting that one of the other important motivating factors is Bee Ree - there's nothing like an avid blogger roomee to keep me company in this odd virtual world.

I am aware that many of my earliest posts were rants reeking with negativity and sarcasm. Sure, I wrote this post, but I wasn't being positive. I was just being as I always am - sarcastic. And... it's just dawned to me, as recently as a couple of hours ago, that I'd never actually written a sincere post on the bright side of my profession. I imagine I must've given the world the impression that I haven't an ounce of brain, or any backbone, for staying, now past 10 years, in my teaching job, which according to Ahem, is quite possibly the most horrible occupation conceivable.

As much as I can, I want to be positive. I want to see the good in all that life dishes out to me, in everyone I encounter, in everything that goes wrong. I make comedy out of mishaps, I even laugh and invite others to laugh along, at personal "flaws" I cannot rid (like being unbelievably prone to falling down despite having a supposedly low center of gravity from being so short). Therefore, I can't believe I've been so totally negative, blog-wise, all these while in this regard. I blame it on my subconscious mind.

So, here I will write an actual positive post - all the things that keep me going to work willingly, say, every 8 out of 10 working days.

Before I start, let me say this - teaching, in itself, is very rewarding. I love, and I do mean, love the feeling I get when after going through a difficult lesson, I find my class being able to answer my questions. I find it especially rewarding when some students pose questions that indicate that they'd not only understood the subject matter, but had actually been thinking about it. Most, if not all, of my issues with students stem from their attitude, not IQ.

To illustrate, there was a girl who took my course three times before she passed. I'll always remember her for being one of the best-behaved students I've ever taught. She attended every class, paid attention, did her all her work diligently and honestly and approached me often for additional guidance. After the first failure, she went a step further and attempted the problems at the end of every chapter from the textbook. To say I was impressed would be understating it. Yes, she was weak, she was perhaps in the wrong major, but she worked very hard and for that I was more than willing to spare for her whatever little time I had. I would imagine lecturing would be a dream job if the average students all have the attitude of this girl.

Still, I've had my share of good, fun students. I remember those who'd helped liven things up by occasionally cracking jokes, those who'd been happy to participate in my experimental learning methods, and those who'd made my work a breeze by adhering to deadlines and observing the rules. I particularly remember a class which had developed such a strong friendship amongst themselves they had a nickname for every person. Once, they wrote, beside each name in my attendance list, the person's nickname. Seeing the shock on my face as I got the list back, they laughed and told me they'd done it so I would remember them. I still kept that list somewhere, and I do remember them. And I remember a boy who, after being taught three times (different subjects) by me, felt comfortable enough with me to tell me how he's grown through the years, and how he's more mature then compared to when he first started college, and how he felt he was foolish to have not worked harder for his previous subjects with me.

When I moved from a college to a university, I had a pleasant surprise, for at the time, the students were mostly fantastic. A majority of them were sufficiently independent and well-behaved. I remember the time I had my class design and program games for their assignment - it was open-ended, theme-based rather than question-based. I wanted them to explore all that the programming language could offer and get creative. Most of the class came up with projects that blew me away... they had such brilliant ideas, such ingenious manners to work around limitations and obstacles, and shown so much diligence, interest and fervour in their work they delivered more than I'd expected, and from the impression I got, managed to have some fun while doing it too. It was a time when work didn't seem like actual work to me.

It isn't that I want to compare each batch with the previous, but one just can't help notice the declining independence, sense of responsibility and problem-solving abilities. I should wrap this up before I involuntarily slip into the negative... once more, I blame my subconscious mind.

So, there - despite all that I do not enjoy dealing with, I still enjoy teaching because I enjoy imparting knowledge. I am proud when my students learn what they have to learn, and learn to love learning. I am proud that some of them are alert and knowledgeable enough to point out mistakes that I make and am definitely proud of those with enough sense of humour to laugh (very loudly) with me when I wrote C++ code in a Java lecture. This is the real positive note of this aspect of my career.

Reader, if you were once in my class; if you enjoyed my lectures and felt they made a difference in your education; if are wondering if your teacher is proud of you... yes, she is. =)

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The Phantom of The Opera at the Royal Albert Hall DVD I ordered arrived 2 weeks ago but I only had time to actually sit and watch it from beginning to end (plus the bonus features!) yesterday night. I've been listening to music from the musical (the original London cast recording with Sarah in it, of course) so much, so often that I could pretty much sing along to every song, but I've never actually seen the stage production in its entirety.

Sure, I saw the 2004 movie with the Phantom, who wasn't old nor made to look ugly enough and who only learned to sing when he was cast, and a wide-eyed wide-mouthed Christine who totally cannot sing despite supposedly having singing experiences prior to the role. Still, I liked everything else about the movie - the orchestra, the set, the costumes, Patrick Wilson and even Minnie Driver's Carlotta.

So, back to this 25th Anniversary production - I love it! Sierra Boggess portrays Christine brilliantly. She has a lovely voice which she uses very well and projects all the right emotions beautifully through her singing and acting. In the scene on the roof of the opera house she looks so frightened and so helpless being haunted by the Phantom I wanted to cry; in the final scene where she takes leave of the Phantom, I actually cried... (or maybe it's just me being so easily moved to tears..) I like Ramin Karimloo's Phantom well enough - he is vocally strong and passionate, and shares a great on-stage chemistry with Ms Boggess. I find the Raoul guy wanting though... sort of not manly nor charming enough - the kind Christine should likely choose the horribly disfigured maniacal murderous musical genius over. I also find Meg a little too loud and irritating. Still, in spite of them, I totally love the show! The costumes are extravagant; the music is luscious and moving; the dancing is elegant and abundant without being overwhelming.

And, like icing on the cake, Lord ALW, the real musical genius, came on stage at the end and brought on the creative teams, the original company, and a very stunning and glowing Sarah Brightman! It's always so heart-warming to hear him call her his Angel of Music (because she is!) and watch them regard each other with so much respect, admiration and love. It's an even greater treat to have Sarah sing the title song with Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow and Colm Wilkinson - 4 gentlemen who were / are / will be the Phantom in different productions. Simply breathtaking!

Breathtaking! =)