Day: 18/07/2014

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Hmm. I haven’t been wholly convinced by Linkin Park’s albums since Minutes to Midnight, and The Hunting Party is no exception. Granted, it still sounds pretty darn good, but it doesn’t stand out like Meteora or Hybrid Theory did.

Furthermore, the talk about the album was that it was to show everyone what rock is all about. Maybe using my UM Pro 30s to listen to a rock album made it boring, but it didn’t really jump out at me as a cut above other rock albums. Maybe I’m asking too much of them; the switch back to classic rock is much welcome after two albums of experimental sound (that I do enjoy, but just not my cup of tea).

Also, it feels like the the music has been heavily affected by the loudness war. I heard Ghost Stories by Coldplay right before this, and it sounded pretty well mastered. This? It sounds compressed and dare I say it, a little lifeless. Maybe the copy I have wasn’t rendered properly, but a quick listen on Spotify tells me that it’s probably not.

Oh well. You can’t expect every album to turn out fantastic. So far, Linkin Park has avoided producing a dud despite moving between different sounds across a few studio albums, and kudos to them. Keep rocking!

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Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Woah.

I heard Magic when it was released, and it was a sound that I immediately associated with the earlier days of Coldplay; a sound I love very much. I can’t say I liked Mylo Xyloto and its contemporary pop sound, because it seems like a backwards step for the band. It didn’t feel like Linkin Park’s experiments with different sounds; rather, it felt like they were trying to make more money by going for a more mainstream sound.

But with Ghost Stories, it feels like Coldplay have gone back to their roots. And it’s produced an album I can listen to all day long. Bar one or two tracks, the songs all hark back to the days before even Viva la Vida; days when Coldplay was a little moody, a little introspective, and raises goosebumps on my arms.

Don’t go back to that awful pop sound again, Coldplay. Leave that to the Justin Biebers and Miley Cyruses of the world. Give this backwards-looking, old-fashioned, conservative fan more of that classic Coldplay.

Sony Xperia Z2

I’ve been waiting to re-contract my mobile phone plan for months now, and I had debated getting the HTC One M8 or the Sony Xperia Z2. The title of this post gives it all away; I went for the Xperia.

The debate was pretty much settled a month ago, when I actually wanted the HTC One. All reviews pointed towards the HTC One being just that little bit better, and with almost equivalent prices upon re-contract, it was a no-brainer. However, when it was time to actually buy the phone, the prices for the Xperia had dropped while the One’s price went up. The price differential was almost S$120.00, and that meant the Sony for me.

So far, I’ve been quite pleased with the phone. After the pain of fixing up contacts and transferring game data, the phone has been functioning like a champ. The battery life is godly compared to my HTC One X, and I found myself testing out the waterproofing more than once. The freedom to actually run water to clean the phone is something extraordinary.

And it’s a phone that deserves constant cleaning, because even if it’s unwieldy, it’s a gorgeous piece of technology. Recently, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with beautiful things (mainly headphones, if I’m honest), and the Xperia Z2 is definitely one of the prettiest phones. I hate the Samsung Galaxy aesthetic, and the LG G3, while better, is still plastic. Only the HTC One trumps the Xperia in this regard, and it’s one of the (minor) reasons I wanted the One.

I don’t have the eagle eye needed to judge display accuracy, and photo-taking is not my thing, so those are not concerns for me. The phone runs quick enough, and importantly feels like an upgrade to me. I’ll be wholly satisfied if the charging port was not under a flimsy cover that also protects the micro-SIM tray, which seems like a huge liability. Thankfully, Sony did include the magnetic charging port, which means that I’ll only have to open up the cover once in a while (once my magnetic cable arrives, at any rate).

Should I have waited for the new iPhones? Given the integration between OSX 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8, it would have been a great match with my MacBook Pro. But I never liked the claustrophobic iOS ecosystem. Funny I say that as an MBP user, but OSX is far more open. I hate the idea of having to jailbreak. Maybe in the future, when it’s time for me to re-contract my plan and get a new phone.

The one phone that I do regret not waiting for is the OnePlus One. Given the specs and the price, it’s probably the best phone out there. But it’s limited, invite-only, and I don’t know if it’ll even come to Singapore. As for rumours about the Xperia Z3? Bah, I can’t be bothered to wait months for a phone that will have minimal upgrades on the current model.

For now, I shall enjoy molesting my new phone…

World Cup 2014

Well, the World Cup has been over for some time now, and it’s only now that I’m blogging about it. That shows you how much I really care about the thing (also, work). Despite my love of football, international matches never held any interest for me beyond scouting for the next big stars. Coupled with the late-night nature of matches, I was adamant about not sacrificing sleep to catch the matches.

Throughout this tournament, I found myself watching out for the results of underdogs like Costa Rica, Algeria and Mexico. It’s always fun to root for the underdogs when you are not emotionally invested in any team, and I have to say, well done Costa Rica! They made it to the quarter-finals, and very nearly had a chance at playing Argentina. This shows you that what a football team needs isn’t necessarily a star, but plenty of teamwork, good tactics, and a willingness to fight for each other.

This is most evident in Germany, the team that eventually triumphed over Argentina, the epitome of a one-man team (besides Portugal). Truth be told, Germany does have its fair share of stars, but they never dominate the team like Messi or Ronaldo do. Everyone contributes, and the path to World Cup victory was not just the work of one or two players, but everyone in the team.

Germany’s success only highlights the terrible state of English football. Given that I follow the EPL, it’s inevitable that England team news features prominently for me. Their recruitment of Hodgson after his debacle at Liverpool was mocked by all Liverpool fans who know that he’ll fail at the big jobs. When he brought the team that everyone was hoping to see the World Cup, he was praised for it. Really? That’s all it takes?

1 point from 9 says it all. And even after all that, Hodgson remains in charge. The ‘promising’ displays at the World Cup are somehow enough justification for that miserable exit, when other coaches have quit immediately after losses. Prandelli quit when Italy were dumped out with England; Hodgson defiantly says he’s not quitting. Well, England, prepare for even more mediocrity at Euro 2016 then.

As for other upsets and embarrassing exits, Spain has to qualify as one of the worst. 5-1 to Netherlands was a score no one anticipated, but in truth, it was coming eventually. The Spanish team has been dominating international football for a good 6 years, far longer than any other team has really done before. A good chunk of their players come from Barcelona, who themselves have been at the top for so long, the less amazing days before Guardiola’s rise all but forgotten.

But even the best will age, and the 7-0 drubbing over two legs by Bayern was proof that even the infallible will crumble one day. It’s not like Spanish football won’t rise again; they have a huge crop of highly talented players knocking on the door of the first XI. But it’s the end of an era of wonderful, sublime domination, and all respect for their ability to stay at the top for so long.

But Spain’s collapse was nothing compared to the semi-final horror show that was Brazil vs. Germany. It was a pasting of epic proportions, with records broken everywhere. The best part was that Brazil’s Ronaldo scored his 15th and final World Cup goal against Germany; Klose broke that record when he scored what is probably his final World Cup goal against Brazil. Kudos to Klose, who keeps breaking international records despite indifferent club form. A man for tournaments indeed.

After that 7-1 mauling, it’s clear that Brazil are nothing special indeed. The way they scrapped to the semis is what some call the ‘mark of champions’, but that’s usually about league competitions, not tournaments. The magic was gone for a while now, and in a way, I’m glad they didn’t call up Coutinho, who had a brilliant pre-season game against Brondby. To be at the end of a 7-goal drubbing, at home, in a semi-final of a competition you had every expectation of winning…it’s soul-crushing.

That could well be one reason why Brazil could only limp home to 4th, losing 3-0 to Netherlands. The other reason could be David Luiz, and PSG must really be hoping he’ll be far less adventurous when he starts footballing duty in France. Chelsea must be laughing their way to the bank at that ludicrous sum they got for Luiz, whom most people believe only went to PSG because Thiago Silva demanded for his Brazilian partner there.

With the World Cup over and the most deserving team winning, the footballing world returns fully to the madness of the transfer window. Liverpool have been doing some good business, and in a way, I’m relieved that Suarez is gone.

Finally, I leave this curious little set of coincidences here, to highlight how maybe, it’s fated that Germany win their 4th World Cup this year. After all, Italy and Brazil both had 24-year waits for their 4th titles as well, the same gap that Germany had between their 1990 and 2014 triumphs…

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Blame Game Unfolds After Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

Well, at least we know what happened to this one.

This is a real tragedy, but in the end, it’s going to end up being the excuse for further conflict in Ukraine.

TIME

Updated 7:55 p.m. EST

Ukrainian officials blamed a “terrorist action” for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday, while pro-Russian separatists, who said they do not have weaponry advanced enough to shoot down an airliner, accused Ukrainian forces of causing the crash.

The Boeing 777 was flying at around 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all 298 people on board. That updated number, revised from 295, came from a Malaysia Airlines statement posted late Thursday, and reflects that there were three infants aboard the flight. The nationalities of those aboard, per the airline, break down as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 8.25.54 PM

An adviser in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on his Facebook page that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made radar-guided missile system known as the BUK. Ukrainian officials have denied that Ukrainian military forces were involved.

“MH-17 is not an…

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Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding

Someone complained about these? Seriously, how is a depiction of gays any worse than Fifty Shades of Grey?

I want to buy MDA’s words. I really do. But I don’t think they have to pull titles down just because of a few complaints. Frankly, I think there weren’t even any complaints…

TIME

State media censors in Singapore have banned the sale of an Archie comic book for its frank presentation of gay marriage, a matter that remains socially taboo and legally verboten in Southeast Asia’s most developed state.

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) censored the comic book, first published in January 2012, earlier this year, but the ban is only just now coming to light — a week after another state agency removed three children’s books promoting tolerance of same-sex relationships from the national library’s shelves.

The third installment in Archie: The Married Life, one of several spinoff series in the multifarious Archie universe, features the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character whose creation in 2010 earned writer Dan Parent a GLAAD Media Award last year. (In the latest volume, Archie dies taking a bullet for Kevin, now a U.S. Senator.)

As critic Alyssa Rosenberg noted Wednesday in The Washington Post

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