Friday, May 15, 2009

European Magic Contiki Tour

Pammy & I just returned from a whirlwind tour of Europe, courtesy of Contiki! 8 countries in 10 days! It was our first time visiting Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. Pammy was able to get a postcard from each country and mail it to her god-child Hailey. Our Contiki group was about fifty 18-35 year olds, made up of mostly Canadians, Aussies, Americans, a couple Indian couples, a few Eastern Europeans, and a very entertaining Japanese fella :) Greeted by "Decent Days And Nights" at the start of each day, here are the highlights of our trip:

England (London):
- Billy Elliot the musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre
- Tiny hotel room with an even tinier bathroom
- Cliffs of Dover on the way to ferry into Europe (Port Calais, France)
- Ferry was huge - parking below and three levels of retail shops + cafes! (Pammy nearly got run over trying to catch the coach during deboarding)

- Pitstop, first taste of Belgian chocolate

The Netherlands (Amsterdam):
- Canal cruise
- Red Light District and "Coffee Shops" (I wanted to get an "I love Coffee Shops" shirt, but there was none left in my size)
- Bicycles: Lots and LOTS of bicycles!
- Anne Frank House

Germany (St. Goar, Munich):
- Rhine River
- Birkenstock
- Beer steins
- World's Largest Cuckoo Clock
- Hofbrau Haus (Pork knuckle and enormous pretzels!)
- German beer YEAH!!!
- Bike tour
- Glockenspiel (11 minutes of your life that you cannot take back *HEHEHE*)
- Canal surfers
- Rory's storytime about Hitler
- Rory's lederhosen
- Toilet seats that rotate during self-cleaning

Austria (Innsbruck):
- Swarovski crystals
- Golden roof

Italy (Venice):
- Gelato, gelato, and more gelato!
- Three words you need to know: Ciao, Grazie, Prego
- Three signs to look out for while getting lost in Venice: Al Rialto, Per San Marco, Per Academie
- Gondola ride
- Murano glass-blowing and Burano lace-making
- Little frogs that look like poop
- Must emphasize "cafe" with latte, else you get just milk *HEHEHEHE*
- An Italian cappucino = an American cafe latte, with regards to taste.

Switzerland (Lucerne, Stanserhorn):
- Swiss alps
- The lovely smell of cow manure, cows with cowbells
- Mt. Stanserhorn and marmuts
- Very brief glimpse of Lake Como
- 15 minutes of a terrential downpour + hail
- Lovely cruise on Lake Lucerne
- Chocolates of all kinds

France (Paris):
- Musee de Louvre et jardin
- Tour Eiffel
- Champs Elysees
- Latin Quarters
- Arc de Triomphe
- All the croissants and crepes you can eat :)
- Moulin Rouge
- Rory's storytime about Napoleon
- Sean's squeezing in our ginormous coach into a narrow entry way at the Louvre
- Sean catapulting coach into the famous roundabout!
- It is worth paying Euro 1.50 for a clean toilet.

Parting words from Pammy: "My gelatos were worth every Euro!"
Parting words from Emma: "Avoid sitting next to a coughing old couple on a plane"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Idol Season 8 (Week 10)

And then there were three. And in the end it should be Adam and Kris.

1) Adam Lambert - Terrific on both songs. He knows how to pick apart a song, highlight the hooks, and makes smart calls on where he puts his signature changes.
2) Danny Gokey - Didn't care for the first performance (Paula picked a bad song, sorry). Vocals good on the second song, but performance lacked sincerity. He likes to hear himself talk, and it is rather irritating...
3) Kris Allen - I would've loved to see some creativity on the first song... it was very blah to me. But he absolutely delivered on the second song - he actually made me like a song that I detest hearing on the radio... now THAT takes an artist! :)

American Idol Season 8 (Week 9)

Am catching up with my DVR once more - a week late! Generally I was a bit bored with the Rock Week performances... it was the Adam & Allison duet that was the highlight for me.

1) Adam Lambert - Not extraordinary, but consistently good -- he can do no wrong.
2) Danny Gokey - awful on the screeching - sounded like a dying animal!
3) Allison Iraheta - boring solo performance, but lots of energy on the duet :)
4) Kris Allen - love the song, but nothing really creative.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

American Idol Season 8 (Week 8)

I always look forward to how contestants would perform on Big Band week. Some of the very best musical scores and jazz-infused tunes are from this genre... lots of brass & percussion, and clever harmonies. If you can't appreciate the fantastic melodies that came out of the 40s/50s, then you simply cannot be a complete musician. This is that one genre where you need to appreciate the voice behind the words, and the artistry within the lyrics themselves.

1) Adam Lambert - I can't help but chuckle everytime he opens his mouth, because it continues to confirm that he is simply too good for this competition.
2) Danny Gokey - actually for the first time, I liked his arrangement more than the other four performances (yes, even more than Adam's - whoa, did I just admit that?!?)
3) Allison Iraheta - a little Gershwin with an edge. Nice. What's sad is that she can't get enough votes. Maybe it's coz she looks like that lucky troll with the red hair that the grannies bring along to Bingo night?
4) Kris Allen - didn't dazzle me, but his talent on interpreting simple songs and peppering it with a unique style, now clearly shows. And it is very refreshing to see a different kind of brilliance.
5) Matt Giraud - he totally missed the mark. Some stuff in there I actually cringed at. One who cannot hold a solid note for five stinkin' seconds, riffs. A purist will not riff on a powerful note.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Idol Season 8 (Week 7)

Although the theme this week was disco, I found it to be a week where we got to see the personality of every contestant actually come through their performances, regardless of whether the performance itself was terrific, mediocre, or awful. Out of the seven performances, there were only two I didn't really care for...

1) Adam Lambert - a song the Bee Gees wrote for Yvonne Elliman. I love the Bee Gees' songwriting and melodic ingenuity. To me the Bee Gees INVENTED the good part of "disco". I have always wanted to hear a melancholy rendition of this tune, because it is in fact lyrically a melancholy song! BRAVO!
2) Danny Gokey - didn't hate it, and strangely, it was distinctly Danny. I do like his voice.
3) Allison Iraheta - again, not bad. Right pick. Pammy and I looked at each other, and said "hot sauce"? HEHEHEHEHE... please enunciate Allison :)
4) Anoop Desai - this is ONE tune that should not have been slowed down. No.
5) Kris Allen - fantastic arrangement. If the voting gods say no to Adam in the end, it is because they are reconsidering Kris.
6) Lil Rounds - I have seen enough.
7) Matt Giraud - unfortunately this is the kind of song and arrangement that suits him best. This is the best he can do for himself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

American Idol Season 8 (Week 6)

Quentin makes great films, and his movie soundtracks are terrific -- but his opinions have no place in a "singing competition". Actually looking at Quentin sometimes makes my stomach curl...

1) Adam Lambert - who can even sing like this?!? He is unbelievably good.
2) Danny Gokey - one of my favorite tunes, and there were spots where his voice was distinct and made a hair or two stand on my neck.
3) Allison Iraheta - not bad... but never compare her to Adam.
4) Anoop Desai - this pleaseths me.
5) Kris Allen - when I first heard this tune on the radio, I didn't love it instantly.. it sounded different and odd. The second listen I found it to be outstanding. Kind of how my opinion of this boy has changed. Kris is like love at second sight, not first.
6) Lil Rounds - "Just because you can sing, doesn't make you an artist!" - Pam snapped at the TV after watching Lil. Yes, please no more extra Rounds.
7) Matt Giraud - too many runs and riffs can RUIN a song, Mr. Sourface. Learn this now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

American Idol Season 8 (Week 5)

Will have to cut this short, so I can watch the results show saved on the DVR:

1) Adam Lambert - standing O well deserved! Very haunting rendition of a beautiful song.
2) Danny Gokey - HUH?!?
3) Allison Iraheta - I remember that Constantine sang the same song, which became his one memorable performance. Allison did an even better one, though I won't tag it as THE memorable performance for her.
4) Anoop Desai - ok.
5) Kris Allen - didn't hate it actually... but didn't love it. Still, should keep this dude around a little longer.
6) Lil Rounds - must go.
7) Matt Giraud - this is pretty much the kind of stuff he ought to be singing.
8) Scott MacIntyre - continuing stomach pains...