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Friday, June 25, 2010

furniture Food

On Tuesday, I was at the Curve to chill out. Its one of my favourite hangout spots when I'm alone, because I can either kill time reading at Borders or use the free internet at Starbucks. Of course, that's in addition to other things I could do such as window shopping or watching a movie at the cinema.

I went there at about 3 o'clock, and I hadn't had lunch yet. Deciding where to eat at any shopping mall is always such a pain to me. I'm not really the kind of person that likes to spend a lot of food outside unless I purposely went outside for some nice restaurant or cafe-like food. Spending a lot when I'm eating out means spending more than RM 15.00 for me. Even spending that much already hurts a bit. Its times like these where I wish there was a nice hawker centre right around the corner.

Thinking about it, the place that I could probably eat something for the cheapest price would be right next to the IKEA cashier checkout lanes.

The IKEA Snack Bar

Even on weekdays, plenty of people frequent this place for a hot dog that usually if not always features a fresh toasted bun and you can put as much ketchup and mustard as you want at a nearby sauce station. Some also go for the curry puffs or the soft serve ice cream, and everything sold off that snack bar doesn't disappoint for the price you'd pay. How much exactly?

Well, whatever it is, you won't be paying any more than RM3.00 and that's a big break for anyone who's hungry and on a budget in a shopping complex. I've had hot dogs there many a time, but today wasn't going to be one of those times. Unfortunately, a hot dog wasn't going to cut it for me. I hadn't had lunch. I wanted a real meal.

IKEA apparently has a solution for that too, and it has become a real hit ever since it opened a few years ago. IKEA has a cafe on its first floor, located at the end of the IKEA tour route of the floor. Its immense popularity has seen the place become a full house every weekend during meal hours. What's the big deal about this place?

IKEA Cafe's menu board right at the enterance

For one, it serves as a bit of a compromise between eating at a restaurant and a fast food outlet. When thinking of cheaper food when at places such as The Curve, Mid Valley or One Utama, the nearest food court or fast food outlet comes to mind. Doesn't McDonalds and KFC have a lot more people in them compared to Tony Roma's? For those on a very tight budget, admittedly, this isn't the place to go. Still, if you were willing to pay RM 10.00 for a movie ticket at Cathay Cinaplex, you could probably afford a meal here.

They serve a small variety of main dishes, but they do bring enough quality to rake in the customers. Still, I've always had a favourite, and to me its the best thing that's come out of the IKEA cafe, which is their beef meatballs.

My favourite on the menu.

It's priced pretty competitively. RM 5.00 for five pieces, RM 10.00 for ten pieces and RM 14.00 for fifteen pieces of meatballs. They're all accompanied with the same amount of fries, which isn't small I tell you. As I said, all their main dishes should make for a relatively filling meal.

Similar to the fast food concept, the food has already been cooked, and its just scooped up and served to you over a counter.

From October 2009 up until July 2010, they've been having a small promotion on Tuesdays where they'll sell ten pieces for RM 9.00. Take note that like fast food outlets, these prices are not inclusive of the extra charges, probably tax.

Unlike fast food outlets, dishes don't come with a drink, but you can get a glass (for soft drinks) or a mug (for tea/coffee).

Anyway, I got down to my just under RM 10 meal, and I was pretty satisfied. It kept me well away from any food until dinner, when I went back there again to meet with Felix, haha!

I can't help but love those meatballs. Somehow, it's always a must for me to have them whenever I come back to KL.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ear Accessory

I've never pierced my ears, neither do I want to. Things like earrings don't appeal to me. I've never had anything stuck into my ears, except the sweet soft padding of my earphones or headphones.

I can't quite remember the day, but I have a feeling its been less than a year since I bought my Philips headphones. They performed rather well as far as I can remember but then I started to encounter the ever so 'popular' problem of being only able to hear from one ear. However, if I toyed around with the cable enough, I'd somehow mitigate that problem. I wasn't going to buy a new one. I'm the kind of person that tries to use things until they're well beaten into the ground, haha!

The final straw came though, when my headphones broke! I guess my head's a little too big and I stretched it too much. That's all my fault though, I'd hardly blame the manufacturer for something like that.

I disposed of them in UTP, as I packed up my things and moved back to my home in KL. Hence, I'm now without a headphone. Not having one doesn't seem to be a hindrance in the day, but it means I can't pump up the volume at night when people are sleeping. Also, once I do get back to UTP, I wouldn't really want to share unwanted noise with my roommate, whoever that will be.

Having settled for mediocre headphones in the past, I wondered if I should be willing to let go of enough cash that would get me something that people might slap the tag 'quality product' onto. I thought about Sony, but I've figured them to be more of a 'cosmetic' electronics company rather than a high performance product manufacturer. I remember asking several people a long time ago about what brand they'd recommend, and the name Sennheiser came up numerous times. You can't nearly put enough tags that say quality of German products, and that got me thinking a little.

The German born audio gear manufacturer.

I paid a visit to the ALL IT store at Ikano and took a look around. I didn't want to go straight to see Sennheiser, but the other brands on display such as Sonic Gear and the like didn't really seem to instill much confidence. Finally, I did look at the Sennheiser's on display and my heart took a little cut to the surface as I looked to see how much was the cost of those little things. Take a look:

They had a range of small to medium sized headphones at ALL IT.

Well, which were you focusing on more, the product or the price tag? For me, I was fixated on the price tags straight away and the numbers were really mind blowing. There was absolutely nothing priced below RM 150.00, talk about premium prices.

Well, if you were wondering, I didn't buy any of those, so I did leave empty handed, except maybe for the lcd screen cleaning kit that I needed. Its rather nifty, and it does work.

Just spray the cleaning solution onto the micro fiber cloth (blue) and wipe your screen in circles. I just realised though, I have no idea what the cream coloured cloth is for.

Anyway, that still left me with the problem of deciding what earphones or headphones to get for myself. I was also left wondering why I always encounter this problem of having to buy new headphones, always being struck with the 'one-ear-working' phenomenon.

As far as I was concerned, I had handled all my headphones with care, not dropping them and the like, but why did I still encounter the 'one-ear' issue? I got a little insight on that when I met Felix later on for dinner at the IKEA Cafe. I told him about it, and he taught me something I didn't know at all.

When headphone cables are pulled even just slightly longer than its length and we hear that sound as it jerks, something becomes loose. Just repeat it a few more times and headphones can be ruined. It can also happen if you pull out the cable too hard apparently. I didn't know it could be that easy to damage headphones. I guess I need to watch out more for that next time, although I don't think I did that a lot.

Still, that doesn't solve my dillemma, what headphones should I buy? Can anyone help?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

animated Advertising

Advertising is becoming so much harder nowadays, since consumers are a lot more educated than they previously were. Consumer associations, health conscious buyers and so-called green enthusiasts have made us very alert to tacky advertising. It makes the slimming pill advertisements of yesterday the most blatant form of a public lie that would have been believed a long time ago.

Knowing this, people, consumers are a lot more 'aware', not just as consumers, but as people. They're growing more emotional, more intelligent, more sophisticated. This makes it hard to capture the attentions of people who have set their expectations very high of what makes something fantastic.

I've read before that in America, due to technologies such as TiVO, people can skip advertisements altogether, which makes it even harder for companies to capture viewers attentions. So how then can visual advertising work in an era where we can choose not to see all these things?

TiVO allows Americans to skip TV commercials altogether

The answer, make advertisements people want to see. People love to see witty advertisements or comical ones, so much so we just glue ourselves to the screen because we want to know what the advertisement's about.

There're some though, which look better in the cinema than they do on television. Three dimensional animated advertisements look superb in the theatre. I remember watching the Coca Cola happiness machine advertisement for the first time and it was so brilliant.

A scene from the first Coca Cola Happiness Machine commercial

Creative and original, making a vending machine to look like a whole new fantasy world, having a simple coke bottle to appear like a son being sent off to another world. It was one of those advertisements I didn't want to turn away from but repeat over and over again. You can see it here on YouTube.

That was the first animated advertisement I saw in the cinema, and that was a few years ago. Lately, this fashion of cartoon-like animated advertisements has come back to the Malaysian cinema, and it hasn't disappointed at all. Twisties Malaysia released a new advertisement, using what seems to be a very similar graphical engine to the Team Fortress 2 game and that was simply fantastic as well.

Twisties City features a living bag of twisties being chased around by elements of a fantasy city that mimics Malaysia in a few ways, notice the Twin Towers?

Its been released by Twisties Malaysia on YouTube as well and it has garnered a total of slightly under 3000 views, which is pretty good for a Malaysian video, it should very well be more. Check that out here. I've made it one of my favourite videos too, haha!

Twisties wasn't the only one, as Kraft did something rather similar to that Coca Cola commercial to promote its new product, Cheezels Biskitz. You'd probably have seen it on television once or twice. If not, go to the cinema, haha!

The Cheezels Bizkitz commercial:

Its things like those, that if I knew they'd be played before every movie screening, I would never want to be late for a movie, ever.

Disclaimer: The Cheezels Biskitz commercial belongs to Kraft and I do not own the content in any way whatsoever.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

quadruple R

Regular rest and relaxation routine during in between semester holidays are what every varsity student goes through. Final exams have ended, and everyone's gone back for the long break. Some go on a quick tour of an island or faraway place, but they eventually end up back in their homes for the long remainder of the holiday. I wonder what their daily routines are like then.

As for me, almost every weekday's been the same. I've been watching a lot of live football matches during nights and early mornings. Before and in between the football matches, I seem to be playing on my laptop most of the time. Of course, meals slot in somewhere too. I hardly eat breakfast, since I usually never wake up in time for breakfast. Watching football matches that end at 4.30 a.m. in the morning usually result in me waking up at 12.30 noon!

Being on the laptop probably at least seventy percent of the time, time passes pretty fast when I'm playing a relatively old game, Red Alert 3: Uprising. I really loved that game, just reinstalled it after exams ended, so I've been having loads of fun with that. Apart from pc games, surfing the web is what I do the most, like the rest of us I guess. The only difference between me and you probably is that I don't use social networking sites like facebook.

Thankfully, there's a bit more variety on days when I can use the car, or weekends when I get out more than 5 kilometres away from my house. One Utama's always my favourite destination when I do get the car. Its nice to go to a mall that has two cinemas. I've been frequenting Rock Corner as well, listening to some of the compilation jazz albums they're selling, they're quite nice. I just wished they were cheaper so I'd find them more reasonable to buy.

Anyhow, I've got to change this 'routine' a bit. Its getting a little too unproductive. There're three things that can change that, doing up my final year project, putting in more time on my guitar, reading my bible more too. Holidays alway provide the perfect incentive to slack on just about everything, hopefully I can turn that around. There're only about 5 more weeks to make it count for something.

Friday, June 18, 2010

religious Food Governance

I was reading through the smaller news stories on the 'England' news section of BBC News and I found a rather interesting story. Do take a read, it's not a very long article.

Well, anyone who knows me well knows that I love meats! Of course, pork is no exception to the list of meats I really like to eat. Its texture and flavour certainly are a world of difference than that of chicken and I definitely favour it over beef on any day.

In Malaysian public markets like in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, pork sellers are usually allocated specific sections to sell their meats.

With pork being such a popular meat across the globe, it has become an important ingredient in certain trademark foods. Two very simple examples that're relevant to Malaysians are Char Siew Pao and Bak Kut Teh. Those who have eaten them before definitely know that pork is a crucial ingredient in the dish and that it would be quite literally impossible to reproduce the same taste with some other meat. Another Chinese cuisine, a buffet style of dumplings, dim sum also requires pork in many of its dishes.

Of course, we know that Muslims may not consume pork, among several other things such as duck (from what I understand Muslims may not eat animals that live on land and water). Of course, there're other restrictions but refraining from pork is the restriction that society is most familiar with.

Unfortunately, in such a circumstance, it does become rather difficult to share certain cultures, especially in Malaysia, where food is a giant part of the local culture, as it probably is in many other places too. Knowing this, some Malaysians have produced alternatives to these non-halal foods so that the Malays of the nation can at least have a taste and a little insight into the food culture of other races, the Chinese in particular. More often than not, chicken is deemed as the alternative ingredient to replace pork.

Perhaps for the Malays, the results are rather satisfactory as they bite into a chicken meat dumpling. However, for someone like myself who is not a Muslim, unfortunately the taste cannot begin to compare. That's the reality. Still, one can most certainly claim that life doesn't end with pork. Muslims are living proof if you need some. If you ask a Chinese to forgo pork for the rest of his life, he'd probably cry though. I know I might, and I'm not Chinese. Nonetheless, I think that 'sadness' has more to do with controlling indulgences than not being able live without pork.

Pork sellers at the Taman Tun Dr. Ismail market

Getting back to the news article published by BBC news, bacon is the food in question. Now, I believe most if not every person on the planet would agree that bacon is sliced pork, full stop. If you look up the meaning of bacon in the dictionary, it is described as meat from the back side of the pig. If you've been eating bacon all this while and you don't know where it came from, well you know now.

In this case, a religious scholar by the name of Maulana Naveed Ashrafi apparently said that he was concerned that efforts in producing turkey bacon that tasted like pork bacon would tempt Muslims and eventually lead them into eating what is prohibited by their belief. Coventry farmer, Rod Adlington professed that he was merely meeting the demand from stores for the supply of quality turkey bacon. He went on to say that there was a good market for it from three segments, the halal market, pork-free market and slimming market.

An Islamic Studies lecturer working in the United Kingdom was of the opinion that so long as there is no pork or pork elements in the turkey bacon being produced that it 'should be okay'. I suppose those three words don't quite instill confidence as it does border somewhat on compromising values. Some may ridicule suggestions that turkey bacon would influence Muslims to start sneaking pork into their homes but the evergreen saying, 'one thing leads to another' cannot be ignored. I think it is fair to say that when you taste a little, you'll want more, and you'll want the 'real deal'. Nobody likes a knock-off.

Of course in this case, there was no big ruckus, as it was simply a Muslim stating his opinion and it didn't involve any debate about changing a law or banning turkey bacon or anything of the sort.

I do wonder, what do you think? If you were a Muslim consumer, would you buy this product knowing full well that it tastes just like pork? If you were a food and health official in a Muslim nation, would you approve this product? If I were Muslim, I'd probably approve it and buy it too.

As far as I'm concerned, the prohibition rule isn't about not eating something that tastes a certain way, but just abstinence from a specific food. I think choices should always be left in the hands of the individual and not robbed away from them upfront. Its such things that actually cause people to want to rebel in the first place.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

review Rubbish

I wrote something related to this not too long ago, although I didn't focus much on it. I shared my thoughts on what makes a good movie for a viewer, and it really boils down to each person's preference and not the word of one man.

A movie reviewer may give two stars out of five for a movie, and it will successfully discourage a lot of people who haven't watched it to stay away from it. Still, there may be a few people who'd like to judge the movie for themselves and watch it anyway. A leader of a government, organisation may give a rousing speech that the rest of the world may applaud, but it does not necessarily reflect the truth accepted by the masses residing under their rule. Do you rely on moving pictures on a screen or printed material to believe?

What I'm saying is, what we watch and what we read, doesn't always reflect the reality of things. Most of the time, you only really understand what something really is when you experience it for yourself. There are many things to, that aren't published to the masses, but can be a real personal joy when you discover it for yourself. I'm sure indie music lovers would agree with me.

I no longer read movie reviews that are published by newspapers or entertainment magazines. I've found they put two stars and lacking review on a movie, which I then go on to watch and enjoy myself. However, like many, I do ask friends about movie's they've watched that I haven't. They're all familiar with this question, "Was it good?"

One of the reasons we all prefer asking people close to us, is because their tastes are probably a lot similar with ours in comparison to a reviewer we've never met. Still, sometimes, our friends experiences remain theirs, not ours. In addition to that, sometimes when people explain things to us, certain details get lost in translation and we still don't get the best picture. So what can you do? The best way is always to experience it for yourself.

This is why sometimes I get to watch movies a number of people don't care to think about, movies like 'Basic', 'Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium', 'The Skulls' and come out rather satisfied. Ten years ago, the word 'cricket' would probably never have been found or at least it wouldn't have been a popular word in the sports section of any local prints. However, even before then, I discovered it for myself and it remains one of my favourite games even if 99% of Malaysia doesn't give a hoot about it.

Another real life example I can share with you that explains you shouldn't trust reviews a 100 percent are numerous match reports on the ongoing 2010 FIFA World Cup. Since I'm following the competition, I do read some of the news and updates that are on ESPN's Soccernet website. Now, I'd just watched the game between Ivory Coast and Portugal, and boy was it a good game to watch. There were many exciting plays from the Ivory Coast, Gervinho was particularly impressive with his runs, and it made for some good entertainment. Cristiano Ronaldo had a blazing shot early on in the game that just hit the crossbar, and there were plenty of other fast action moments, and tense build ups that made it a match worth watching. That's what it felt like for me.

The Soccernet reporter had this to say in a portion of his write up that was supposed to be dedicated to the man of the match. Here's how it read:

One of the commentators of the game said, "Entertainment was not on the agenda today" and he was quite right. In truth, no player did well enough to merit the award and a match that promised much, delivered little.

To be honest, I do wish that I could drop this reporter off a building. The game may have been goalless, but I believe those who watched the game would agree it was a good match, and that it certainly delivered more than 'little'. I don't know which commentator that reporter heard, but it certainly wasn't the one that I heard on my television. Furthermore, I could've easily given the man of the match award to Gervinho. Also, both sides played positive football, and I'll say it was definitely more entertaining than what was a boring final between France and Italy four years ago.

The reason I didn't like that was because I really believe that reporting was poor and gives a ridiculously wrong impression of how that match went on. It could lead a lot of neutrals following the competition that couldn't watch the game to believe that this year's World Cup is a totally boring one, which is just sad.

That's why, please oh please, see it for yourself. Don't let someone else tell you the story they didn't write. The only way to enjoy art is to view it for yourself and get immersed in a personal experience. After all, who enjoys talking about food more than they do eating it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

camp Kangaroo

Australia train hard ahead of their first game at the 2010 FIFA World Cup (source: ESPN Soccernet)

Australia's not the most famous nation at this year's FIFA World Cup, they're certainly not favourites to do well for the most part. It wasn't until recently that Australia's gained a little more popularity on the international footballing scene, as they joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in a bid to have a slightly easier qualification route to the FIFA World Cup, instead of having to vie with a South American team in a playoff game.

As much as they aren't a popular team, recent times have show that they're not a nation to disregard in the arena of the globe's most popular game. They seem to be slowly trailing on the heels of the United States of America who have also slowly begun to gain respect as a footballing nation, with several of their first team players plying their trade in Europe, England mostly. I'm sure those who watch English football are familiar with the names of Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.

Not the most popular emblem in Australian sports.

Australia of course, are riding on the back of play maker, Tim Cahill. He is not alone though, as Australia have several others they can call on that have good footballing experience in the form of people such as Lucas Neill, Mark Bresciano and Brett Emerton.

The Australian star, Tim Cahill speaks to the press in South Africa (source: ESPN Soccernet)

I'm not a fan of the Australian national football team, so why am I writing about them?

To be honest, I didn't plan to blog this entry until I saw a World Cup programme on television about Australia's fans. For a country that I believe many aren't convinced will do well, many of their fans certainly aren't showing much doubt, and have really done something quite extraordinary in committing to their national cause.

What I saw on my television screen was a cricket ground that was filled with tents and I was wondering what on earth did that have to do with the World Cup? Well actually, Australia's supporters organisation called 'Fanatics' have set up their headquarters inside the Kingsmead cricket stadium in Durban!

Homepage of Australia's biggest sports fans: http://www.thefanatics.com

This is some really crazy news, I've read some online Australian news and I found out that there're approximately 250 tents set up around the ground to host around 1500 fans! Some talk about the importance of unity in a team, take a look at this for unity of team supporters! An estimated 6000 Australian fans have travelled to the World Cup finals. I'm sure more of that 6000 would've joined that camp had there been more space!

250 tents in Kingsmead Oval (source: ESPN Cricinfo)

They're all camping out together, and I really think its a fantastic setup that Fanatics have organised for Australia's faithful. That camp is going to be a permanent fixture for a month! They're not just staying there, they've got all sorts of entertainment setup within the stadium and they've even got Fatboy Slim coming in to perform a concert for the crowd from down under.

I've got to say, it really sounds like a dream experience for a sports fan, it certainly looked that way from what I saw on the World Cup news channel on Astro. I would love to be part of such and experience!

Anyhow, some of the German players have been a bit loose on the tongue, undermining the Australian team, saying they believe Australia will just sit back and defend. I wouldn't be so sure though. All the best to Australia and their fans, it should be a cracking game later on this morning. I'm staying up to watch that one.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

korean Apples

Ever since watching Korean variety shows and videos of Korean girl pop groups as of late, I guess I'm slowly starting to re-ignite my interest for things related to South Korea. I even started reading Korean news every now and then, since I was curious about the country, to know a little of the culture I guess.

From watching shows, I figure Koreans love everything Kimchi and that Korea doesn't exist without it. Also, in contrast to being 'serious' asians, they seem to have a very comical and open side to them as local pop stars and divas make an appearance on variety shows and reveal a side of them that Americans would probably never do in an effort to mantain that 'suave' image.

Then, there's also the notion about Koreans that they have a very strong mentality, which gives them a boost in doing whatever they set out to do well. I even remember The Star newspaper reporting about the recent Thomas Cup whereby among the reasons cited by the Malaysian players for their failure was that South Korea and China were a lot more prepared mentally, and it was something I didn't find to be out of the ordinary from the two countries.

I guess the strong mentality and determination's led to the rise of a few corporate giants from this country, namely companies such as Hyundai, LG and Samsung. Certainly, a lot of people did not see, predict or anticipate the rise of Samsung as it started as a company that was pretty much a knockoff producer.

People have taken notice of this South Korean quality, and guess what, it has a big part to play in what just might become everybody's most wanted, most coveted new toy, the iPhone 4. Some of the most important components are made by Korean manufacturers, and to be honest, I do feel happy that Asian companies can reach a level where they've been trusted by arguably the best IT company of the moment to make what makes their products tick.

Made in South Korea?

You'll be surprised how big South Korea has a part to play with this new product, check it out here.

Also, its not the first time South Korea's had a say in Apple's products, here's a little history lesson: A Memorable Deal for Apple and Samsung?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

fresh Features

I've always liked blogger for it simplicity, which I believe is in tandem with the idea concepts companies such as Google and Apple are going for. Still, I've been dissapointed with the default templates (which are arguably still the best among many) because I felt the space for the main body text was too narrow. I've always wanted a wider space, especially for my other blog.

However, Blogger's just launched their new Blogger Template Designer, which has made adjusting all these things a lot more user friendly!

This is a new feature that I just discovered and it really is a great user friendly blog design tool! If you're using blogger, you can access this feature by clicking the 'Design' link on the top right corner of the page on the navigation bar:

There are some great new default templates to work with, and you can customise a number of things rather easily, background colour and so forth.

Here're some of the neat new features, which are divided into four categories, namely Templates, Background, Layout and Advanced:

The template chooser is not so different than the previous one, where there're a limited number of simple preset blog templates for you to choose from, and you can select what I'd call a 'quick scheme', giving you the option to choose several presets that suit the selected template.

Next, background images and colour themes can be selected. Similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, Blogger has set a number of suggested themes for you to choose from. It is similar to the choice of different presets to a template in the previous feature I explained.

Now, this was the feature I was most happy with, finally bloggers can easily adjust the width and height of the blog! The great thing about this, is that it allows you to adjust the width and height for both the main body and the sidebars, which is really great and shows Blogger didn't skimp when thinking of how to implement this particular feature.

Lastly, advanced settings are mainly adjusting colours for the different kinds of text that will appear on your blog such as post title, blog title, page text, links and so forth. It is also a feature inherited from the previous design feature of blogger, but it is easier to navigate through this new function, and like the first two features, there are suggested preset colours for you to choose from if you're like me, and aren't into figuring out which colour from a palette you need to select.

The only thing I feel that Blogger really missed out on, was adjusting the alignment of blog headers, where we all put custom pictures to give our blogs a personalised touch. One disadvantage of changing the width of your blog, is that it will not accommodate for your blog header. It seems that Blogger has used a default setting whereby the blog header is aligned left and not center, which would make more sense in my opinion.

Nonetheless, it's still a great design tool, and I haven't wasted any time in using these new features, so go ahead and check out a new lease of life I've given my collector blog, CStar WarsE right here!

P/S - The new Blogger Template Designer features are not usable on old and custom made blog templates, so if you want to make use of them, select a new template from the new design tool application.

Monday, June 07, 2010

half Year End

It's been a very long time since I've actually written how I've been doing on this blog and now seems a good time to do that, since I've got the time to just sit down and write about what has happened.

Half a year has passed and there's been quite a number of memorable moments. For the first time, I went down for a random trip with a good friend of mine to Penang. We'd wanted people to come but everyone turned us down so it just ended up with two of us and we did have a good time.

I don't think we went to the most spectacular places on the island but somehow, just having company can make up for a lot. I guess spending time with Khye Shin does mean a lot to me, since he's practically the closest friend I have now, even if we don't talk that much. I've pretty much lost contact, or the 'closeness' I had with some other schoolmates, perhaps university friends as well.

The beginning of the year marked my return from KL back to Tronoh, signalling the end of my blissful 8 month internship with PETRONAS Carigali. Its funny to think, in January that I blogged about leaving KL and now I'm blogging back in KL since I've left UTP for my semester break. Time's just rocketed away and I'm ever so close to my next birthday.

The time when I really felt a new phase began was when the semester started with the FYP 1 bang, with everybody rushing to get an approved project and get a good start on what's been deemed by UTP students as the most important subject of our student lives. I struggled plenty with mine, but God's grace granted me favour in the eyes of Ms. Emilia that I am thankful for.

A visit to the beach with Kylie, Javier, Yen Pinng, Mei Le and company was the first time I'd been to the beach for a rather long time too, a refreshing time at that. I remember convincing a very skeptical Mei Le to come along, and indeed she admitted she enjoyed herself. The waters of the seaside and the view of the large ocean really has a soothing effect.

the Beach Crew

One change in my UTP life was that I hardly played sports as much as I used too in all my earlier semesters. The most I've done is to jog a few times, even then, I don't think the number of times I've done so reaches more than 12. Joining in a game of futsal with people I didn't even know was what I did at most. So much for exercise.

One thing was constant, my eagerness to play in a band, and Sour Stripes gave me the avenue to prove I could play music well. Determined people found in Witton, Shawn, Marvin, Xuan Hui, Timmy and Hafiz and Yap did just that. There were crazy amounts of night practices, countless discussions as to what to do, and how to do it. There were ideas that'd been worked on for quite a while and then totally discarded. Playing a gig to a hostile crowd at UniKL was a bittersweet experience that just humbled us as a band. Finally, we got to play at UTP's largest hall to UTPs largest crowd to achieve second place at a competition, right behind a band that played good music too.

Sour Stripes (wished I had the videos with me)

Out of all my subjects, I found Corporate Ethics to be my favourite, as group discussions and open ended in class questions on ethical dilemmas allowed me to voice my opinions. Apparently, that gained me some sort of favour with the lecturer, Pn. Khalidah to the point that some people were secretly saying I was her pet. Honestly, if Malaysians just spoke up more instead of being so timid, I don't think I'd have gotten that title. I didn't really like the lectures that much, nor the tests we had, but I just liked it as a subject. Again, for the first time, in a long time, I scored the highest during the mid-term test and the overall course works marks, which did make me very happy.

Somehow, everybody including myself suffered from some sort of withdrawal syndrome throughout the semester, not really taking our studies very seriously. I can't pinpoint the reason out of the few possible ones, whether it was because we had no desire to study after having a successful and enjoyable eight month working stint, that we were finally in our final year with only ending studies in our minds, or the simple fact that we had a lot less subjects to study for compared to the early years that gave us a lot more free time than usual.

Still, we worked to finish our assignments, tests, and of course study like everyone else to get through our final exams. Noticed how I used the phrase 'get through' instead of 'do well' in the exams?

Also, that semester also was another important timeline, as it was the last time I'd probably see people like Teck Kiong, Yen Pinng, Jenny, Gowri, Javier and Witton, not to mention Kuo Chun as well. They're currently preparing for their internships, and by the time they return to UTP, I'll have finished studying there. I guess for me, it felt the most awkward to know I wouldn't be seeing Yen Pinng, again.

Some of the people that have left me already

The reason being that we did form some sort of partnership in how Amity Glow ran itself and I have a lot of respect for that person. She's shown a lot of very genuine and unconditional love to the people around her, and I know I've been one of those to receive that. It is a little sad to have to let go of people like that. Of course there are those such as Javier and Witton as well that I've grown closer to because of Seven Sweet Surrender and other music endeavors. Both people have a good intent and they're both people that aren't commonly found.

With departure of the old, there's also the coming of thew new. I blogged before about Rachel being interviewed by PETRONAS and I'm so glad for her that she passed the interview, and she's in UTP right now as I type this. It'll be nice to see that familiar a face when I go back to UTP. I'm sure she'll have a spot to serve in church as well, since she's done so much with SIB(KL). I'll be looking forward to serving alongside her in due time.

Right now I'm here, enjoying the comforts of my home, the uninterrupted internet, my Star Wars action figure collection, air conditioning, a really nice bed, satellite television and the like. The commodities of a modern home never cease to please a man who's come back from a foreign place.

Of course I've gone out as well to see the sights only a city can give. One Utama, The Curve, Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang, Lot 10, Berjaya Times Square. All that's left for to visit is Mid Valley and Pavillion, hahahahaha. I know there're quite a number of people in UTP that wouldn't like to live in KL, I'll let you know right now, I'm not one of them, hehe. I'm certainly one person that likes an urban environment.

Walking around shopping malls isn't the only thing I've done though. A few days ago, I joined Yvonne and co. for badminton. It really was the kind of thing I've wanted to do, a sport I actually enjoy playing while getting a good sweat. They've asked me to join them on Wednesdays and I think I'll be doing just that, haha!

Well, in one blog post, I suppose I've summarised my year so far rather well. I just have one semester left, a short six months before I leave UTP. Looking forward to that actually. I wouldn't mind leaving now really. Still, there's much to do and hopefully it'll be a good six months preparing for a new stage in my life. I remember I said in cell a few days ago, I couldn't believe I'd have to join Jeannie's class of people soon, ahahahaha. =b

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

movie Merchandising To Big & Small Kids

Its funny, my last entry was about movies, and this one is too. Its not intentional, but its just something that came up while I was going around KL today. I've arrived back in KL a few days ago and today I decided to go around the city for a little Star Wars action figure hunting, a hobby of mine I've picked up since last year.

So, with that in mind, I'm mainly hunting down places that sell toys around the city. As of right now, I've been to almost every place I can access by train, with the exception of MidValley because I'm not really keen to wait 25 minutes for a train that reaches there in 5 minutes today. That means I've been to Berjaya Times Square, Low Yat Plaza (there's one collector hobby shop there), Sungei Wang and KLCC. I was at One Utama the day before too.

As I was going around Toys R' Us branches, departmental stores and random hobby shops, I was reminded of how merchandised a society we live in.

Not too long ago in 2007, Transformers that was inspired from the cartoon world of old was released and that sparked a whole lot of merchandising, especially in the collector toy industry. Two companies, Takara Tomy and Hasbro released a flush of robot action figures of various sizes,in an attempt to reach consumers of all income levels. Everyone has kids, so I guess they figured they should try and reach every one.

Big models such as those in the photos above easily reach the RM 200 mark, whereby a grade smaller costs an average of about RM 100 or so, plus minus. Even the smallest grade I've seen costs about RM 30, and its smaller than the Star Wars action figures I've bought for that price too. If you wanted to collect several of these, how much would you be spending?

More marketing efforts saw the release of different versions of the same model, another common gimmick. Doesn't it remind you of how Apple sells the iPhone? With the release of the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, merchandising got even heavier. Today, I can tell you that the Malaysian market is oversaturated with Transformers toys. Even common stores such as Toys R' Us are carrying models that used to be unique only to specialist hobby shops. How long has it been since the last movie was released? The toys still fill retail shelves today.

Then, there was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a revitalisation of another old cartoon classic. Before the movie came out, all the old toys of G.I Joe started popping up on shelves, even vintage collections started appearing on retail displays.
Of course, when the movie did make its debut, a tsunami of G.I Joe action figures stormed the shelves at retail. Again, an over saturation of the market over time saw action figures being eventually sold for RM 20 minus ten cents a piece (beginning of 2010), when they were originally priced at RM 40 minus ten cents!

Today, some new figures have been released, and toy retailers even have the cheek to price it at RM 50 minus ten cents. Ridiculous! Even the hottest collectors would pass up such an obvious price hike. See for yourself:

So that means, G.I Joe action figures used to be priced at RM 40 minus ten cents, then RM 20 minus ten cents, and now RM 50 minus ten cents! What do you think the price should actually be? Don't you think this 'price progression' is absurd?

Next, a little on Ben 10. Seriously, whoever created this show definitely made it with merchandising in mind. This was another phenomenon that flooded toy stores with its huge variety of Ben 10 alien figures since the character can change into a gazillion forms.

The benefittor in this case Bandai, your dear Gundam maker which is another story of merchandising all on its own. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, all were single characters that DC had to put together as one to make profitable, well Ben 10 creaters were smarter, putting all the characters into one character, in one show. That's called being cost efficient.

Each action figure costs approximately RM 27 minus ten cents.

Iron Man 2, with all the different armour being shown in the movie, toy makers took the opportunity as well to make all the different kind of Iron Men models that could possibly exist and market it the same way that was being used to promote Ben 10 toys.

Then, there's something which brought me to actually write this entry, Toy Story 3. The premier of this movie is more than a week away and already toy stores have sections at the front of their stores dedicated to Toy Story 3 toys!! Even before this at the end of last year, toy stores seemed to be stocking up on old Toy Story goods and I was wondering why until I found out there was going to be a third installation to the Toy Story franchise. This time, toy makers are pulling out all the stops. Hasbro and Mattel have really got it made. Even LEGO is into the mix. Can you imagine?? Lego!!! Lego sets based on this movie are already on sale! Check out the pictures I have:

Somehow, with all this going on, you can't help but think that toy makers and retailers are genuinely greedy, as they charge astonishing prices even when their goods are produced in astonishing amounts is plan ridiculous in my opinion (don't they have economies of scale). I've even heard that some Transformers collectors have temporarily quit because they feel that there's just too many toys, and even so, prices are over the top.

You know what's funny? It's that some of these shows originated from toys. What that means is, in chronological order:

1. Toy line is created.
2. Toy line is used to create a comic/show/movie.
3. Movie/show/comic inspired by original toy line is used to create a NEW TOY LINE.
4. Loop steps 1-3 (future).

When you look at that, that's innovation in profit creation and retention. It really is all about industry, where rights to art are bought by somebody so they can make money out of it.

Still, I appreciate that it opens an opportunity for people like me to collect memorabilia of my favourite movie series, Star Wars. However, with such marketing techniques that toy makers employ to grab your money, its important as a collector to prioritise your purchases and spend wisely. It's something I'm learning too.

Before I end, guess what else LEGO has been trying to capitalise on lately:

Have you watched the movie yet? If not, go film your own movie with these LEGO sets, hahaha!