Dispicable Me

Well, Despicable Me is a kid's movie. And that's that. Not recommended for adults.


Social Network

Apparently Social Network won some early film award... I'm too lazy to even look that up.

Saw the movie last week and didn't like the whole movie at all. As PNW said, "why did they make all the characters so un-likable in that movie"? Well, perhaps it's because all of them are filthy rich and we are not.

The movie starts with Mark Zuckerberg being dumped by his BU girlfriend and then he runs across the Harvard campus to his dorm room so he can blog his revenge and start Facemash. That 3 minute sequence alone lost me. Why did we need to see him run through the campus? What was that awful techno-like music in the background? Why is he still running?

Aviator, by contrast, is a much better fantasy biography movie. There was a constant struggle to judge Howard Hughs throughout the movie.

The Social Network didn't have any of that struggle. Mark Zuckerberg was obsessed with making himself part of an elite... and nothing else. Maybe he cared about people being able to connect with each other? Help people find long lost friends? No such mention in the movie. It was one man on one mission only...

Ultimately, did I feel that I learned anything about the characters in the movie? No. It lacked depth and I think there will be a much better movie about these Internet founders when everything is said and done. I do believe that Zuckerberg is a douche to his friend Eduardo (who himself is quite a douche too), and that's about it. Just couldn't take any of the other fantasy themes seriously. Anyway, a movie on Jobs, for example, would be sensational since he has done the ups and the downs and his personality is strong (Mark Zucherberg, on the other hand, only has a strong personality... for now).

Not recommended.


A trip down food memory lane

I've been on a surprise US recruiting trip for my company the last 12 days or so... all on a carry on suit case. And no camera. Needless to say, I am in pain.

But, it does give me a chance to chase food memories in Chicago (I just reread my post... good times!)... In four days, here's what transpired:

Arrived in Chicago on Tuesday morning. Went to Gibson's for steak. The 22 ounce Chicago Cut was a bit too much so I settled for the 10 ounce Filet Mignon. The surface was way too crusty and it seemed that the meat was simply sub-par. And the $14 Turtle pie for 10 people only came in one size. Arg!

Tuesday dinner, met up with b-school friends at new restaurant Gilt. Great restaurant with great food (Bone Marrow toast, pork belly, roast chicken, and some spicy pasta were all memorable and worth another try)... see? You want to see pictures, right? Me too.

Wed lunch. I was hoping to have Apple Pancakes at the Original Pancake House to honor 2R. It was not to be - I had lunch at the GSB cafeteria.

Wed dinner. Planned to meat up with Bainees at Frontera Grill. Wait was too long, so we walked pass Michelin 2 star restaurant NAHA, and ended up in Italian chain Maggianos. At least the lobster pasta was really good.

Wed night. After Maggianos, I met up with BSLW and PP at the Wit Bar. Drinks were okay. Conversations were great (I miss b school so much). And the best was the making out couple sitting across from us. Actually, not sure if they are a couple, if you know what I mean.

Thur lunch. Fogo de Chao with GSB friend. I had 10 pieces of bread, at least. Good times. Meat was great, but why do they insist of giving you double portions? I want to sample more meat. And more bread. Did I mention I ate 10 of those at least?

Fri lunch. Planned to pass by Hot Doug on my way to Kellogg. It was not to be with the super long line outside the restaurant. I had some left over turkey sandwich after my presentation.

Fri dinner. Joy Yee in Evanston. Nuff said... (not in the most complimentary way... it is Evanston afterall).

At least I caught a good movie in The Next three Days.


Red,Waiting for Superman

Oh, I forgot the best reason for going to theaters in the US of A: 2fers!!!

My only regret for this 2fer is that I paid for Red and didn't contribute to the box office of Waiting for Superman.

RED: As a rule, when Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (and Helen Mirren!) are in the same movie, you should go see it. I had no idea this was a DC Comic movie. Bruce Willis is still Bruce Willis, doing his squinting routine and "I need to look both surprised and confident at the same time" look. Malkovich is absolutely off the hook funny. Oh, and there's that hot housewife from Weeds (she can't act - but the role she got was perfect for her... in fact, I'm pretty sure she's still playing the drug dealing house mom role in this movie, awed by all the acting talent that has surrounded her). Anyway, a rule is a rule. Recommended.

Waiting for Superman: Thankfully Red was actually funny. Waiting for Superman is a depressing documentary about the education system in the US of A. It is broken, and it doesn't want to fix itself. Thankfully the director offers a glimmer of hope with all the new types of schools that greatly expose the deficiencies of the US public schools. The only problem: there aren't enough of these new schools. Nonetheless, I hope public school administrators and teachers see this movie... they will become obsolete unless they start to address the problem: that education is about the kids and not about the adults.


The Next Three Days

I do miss theaters in the US of A. In Hong Kong, movie watching is complicated - you must first reserve tickets ahead of time. Who plans to watch a movie a week before it is released!?

Anyway, it's a lovely feeling when you can just walk up to the movies and have no idea what might happen in the next 2 hours. When the theater was filled with Wizard dressing Harry Potter fans on its first night of release, I chose to watch The Next Three Days starring Russell Crowe.

The story: Russell Crowe, a middle school teacher, insists that his wife is innocent of a murder that has put her behind bars for life. He is on a mission to break her out of prison. That's right, Wentworth Miller is replaced by Russell Crowe in Prison Break.

But it is a surprisingly good Prison Break on the movie screens. Instead of focusing on HOW Crowe is going to break his wife out, the movie follows Crowe's struggle to make ends meet and his commitment to the cause. The first hour is in fact rather slow as you can imagine... but quickly builds amazing tension entering the last half and hour or so. Does he do it? Does he not do it? How far is he willing to go? How is he going to pull this off? Is he going to make it?

Forget how realistic that a middle school teacher can break out his wife from prison. It doesn't matter. I enjoy movies like this one - more on the person and peoples involved and less on actions (See Unstoppable). Highly recommended.


Salt, Blind Side, Unstoppable

Now here is a trio of forgettable movies:

Salt: At the start, you see a naked Jolie being tortured by some North Korean agents. Well, you don't actually see it, cus she's in a very dark room (why does torture always happen in a dark room?). Anyway, she's released and 3 years later she is a Russian spy killing Russian presidents and US presidents and trying to launch nuclear missiles to wipe out the US... or was that Russia, I can't tell. WHAT!? Not recommended.

Blind Side: Arg, I had such hope to see a great Sandra Bulluck performance. I saw an average performance of a role that she should master. Otherwise, it was a simple feel good story that just felt okay with me. At some point, I want to see some real Oscar worthy movies! (Hurt Locker, An Education did not meet expectations). If you like predictable feel good stories, recommended.

Unstoppable: Well, classic Denzel movie. He's a 28 year railroad veteran trying to stop a train with dangerous chemicals running straight towards a populated town. The only thing missing is his drinking problem and family struggles and his angry side. Oh wait, he was asked to retire early at half benefits - yup, that's gotta be his fuel. Actually, forget about this movie. Not recommended.

You know, I really enjoy taking pictures and writing... it's too bad that I haven't done either for such a long time. Let me try to extend this.


Inception; A-Team; Robin Hood

I was a bit disappointed with the highly anticipated Inception. I guess therein lies the problem: highly anticipated always leads to disappointment.

Anyway, the premise is quite simple: Leo is a dream hacker and can plant viruses into one's brain. The planting virus business can be quite dangerous and has led to the death of his late wife... which has in turn, from time to time, interfered with his projects. Leo needs to overcome his own created problem, team with some other hackers, and finish the next big task. My head is spinning already. Maybe I should watch it twice... Slightly recommended.

A-Team: it's so ridiculous it is awesome. Since when did Liam Neeson do movies like this...? The guy from Hangover can now just make any movie, I guess. Recommended.

Robin Hood: Russel Crowe in Gladiator 2! Little John is played by Keamy in Lost. I can never forgive Keamy. Why is Kate Blanchett in this movie? How did the British army just go from one place to another in a blink of the eye? Why would the King be in the front lines? Who are the orphans running around? Arg. Not recommended.

Oh yeah, I got married (twice!) and then went on my honeymoon.... must be back on this blogging business.


Circle of Life

Today is Oct 9, 2010, a Saturday that I had to spend at the office because of China's ridiculous holiday schedule. My G1 made a ping sound and vibrated once. I ignore it. After 10 minutes, it does it again. I ignore it. 20 minutes later, after finishing some of my work, I pick it up to see what emails I get.

The first was my friend Eddy and his wife Emily welcoming a beautiful little baby girl to this world.

The second was my grandmother leaving this world.

And there you have it, the amazing Circle of Life in back-to-back emails...


I need to blog again

Just because I haven't blogged in a month doesn't mean I didn't do anything... in sequence of the last few months.

An Education: I thought this would be better than The Hurt Locker. It was not. Now I have to turn my attention to Precious to see if there was indeed an Oscar worthy film. An Education is a classic "too much expectation" movie for me. At the core, the movie was a fun but simple depiction of when the poor meet the rich. The poor will always be "too simple, too naive" because they weren't exposed to the life of the rich. On the other hand, the rich will always be taking advantage of its inherent advantage. The girl in the movie is quite refreshing. Recommended.

Iron Man 2: not bad for a robot vs. robot blow it all up movie. Barely recommended.

Lost: I admit, it got a little dusty at home during the finale. It's too bad the series had to end like this... I felt there was still a lot of potential in it and it had a very loyal following. Unfortunately, it wrapped up in a very rushed fashion. Recommended.

Flashforward: I think I said I would boycott the show because the whole story line was just stupid to me. Well, TF convinced me to keep watching it with her. Let's just say I'm glad it is canceled after 1 season. Shouldn't they offer an alternative ending for season 1 when there is only season 1?? Anyway, the acting was horrible for the most part and the story just didn't have any punch to it. Not recommended, although the idea was great.

The Cove: this is what documentaries should be about. Facts and more facts and not opinionated pieces like Michael Moore. Don't get me wrong - I really do enjoy Moore's documentaries - it's just that sometimes his facts seem a bit far fetched to be making a political point. The Cove, on the other hand, is black and white. You may disagree on how dolphins think about being in captive, but you cannot argue with the slaughter. The Cove is a powerful documentary and I prefer it over all the so called OScar films this year. Highly recommended!

Liar Poke: Yeah, I'm about 10 years behind the time line. Awesome book with a strange similarity to the current financial crisis. Can we all agree that capitalism breeds greed and greed breeds financial crisis? And can we also all agree that this is not a bad thing? Highly recommended. And I need to read the Big Short.

Green Zone: Matt Damon is a soldier on a mission to uncover state secrets! Sounds familiar? That's cus it is. Okay, I think we all know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Let's just move on. Recommended if you like Matt Damon. Else, not recommended.

Shrek Ever After: Sure, it was fun. Poor Shrek. Sometimes men just need some space to be men. Recommended.

大兵小将: a surprisingly good Jackie Chan feature where he plays a deserting soldier and not his usual general figure. This small potato runs into a bit of luck and takes the opposing general, played by an inspired pretty boy Wong Lee Hom, prisoner. He tries to take his new found luck home to claim the prize of 5 acres of land so he can be a farmer again. Evil forces have other ideas. Recommended... tho don't expect any Jackie Chan stunts.

International: Clive Owens and Naomi Watts in conspiracy theory investigation on a bank that helps bad guys deal arms and fudge with money. Awful premise still mastered by Clive Owen's crunched face and Naomi Watt's partially stare down. Not recommended.

Oh yeah, I'm getting married in 5 days!


Lazy blogger

Holy xxx I haven't had a single thought in a month... er... I mean I haven't had time to blog. Between preparing for a wedding, job, move, it seems that I cannot spare even the slightest time to blog.

Must change.



曾荫权,高官们,中央: 516我不投票,不等我不支持废除功能组别。不要因为投票率低你就自鸣得意。

我不投票,只是因为不支持公社两党的做法 (process)。但我跟他们追求的结果(results)是一
致 的。我支持真普选,支持废除功能组别。



There will be Blood (Movie, don't worry)

Watched There will be Blood (IMDB) last night. I remember watching the 2007 Oscars and being totally bored because I didn't see much of the movies. But then the Oscars intrigued a little me so I watched "No Country for Old Men" on a plane ride (See review). I also wanted to watch There will be Blood so I waited three years to do that. haha.

Much less complicated than Old Man, Blood tells of a story of a the self-made man on his way to his fortunes, and the trail of bodies he left behind. On the surface, it's a story of the struggle between money and faith. Dig a bit deeper and I think it's really about the sacrifices one makes in pursuit of one's destiny, as in self made destiny (oxymoron?). The final 5 minutes is a classic must see and I couldn't have enjoyed it more... it was one of those moments where you watch a movie and you think, "ah, the world is right". Yup, now you have to watch it till the end! heh heh.

As usual, money wins over everything else.

Daniel Day-Lewis, by the way, came out of nowhere to give a classic performance as our "hero". Really mastered the role. His voice was especially good... somewhat close to (gasp) Sean Connery.

Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine was the typical "I remember that face... where did I see him" actor that captures my mind for half the movie until I figured it out. He did okay as a over zealous priest.

Anyway, the movie was pretty good I thought, but for some strange sound editing. It is really odd that a good movie would be shadowed by its sound effects... maybe it was supposed to build some emotion for the audience. I just felt bothered and, frankly, annoyed at the sounds in the movie. Other than that, it is a good movie.

Recommended. Especially the last 5 minutes.


Shutter Island

I'm still confused about Shutter Island (IMDB). So is he crazy or what?

Just kidding. Was a bit disappointed with the whole set up. I love the point where they say that labeling a person crazy is the best way to make sure nobody believes the person, as the vicious cycle will continue with the person vehemently defending himself, further proving that he is crazy.


So, Leo, at the end, is crazy... I guess as the audience, you just have to shoulder that suspicion all the way to the end. It's a decent movie, but I personally think there wasn't the need to keep going in circles to mark Leo's route from normal to crazy and back again. And all the "mental patients just need more help" talk during the movie were all categorically thrown out with Leo's execution. Or was that the irony of the movie (that Leo thinks they can't be saved)?

Oh well... not recommended, though I must say Martin Scorsese does a fine job in making thriller movies.

Sushi pictures... from Yasuda

Four people sent this NY Times article to me. So I thought I'd re-post some Yasuda pictures.

And I just made myself very hungry. There's a better picture for the Uni... but the other Uni wasn't as good as this one... and as a rule I cannot get myself to post good pictures of not the best food (or at least give you clear warning).

Posted by Picasa


Bad entertainment...

I'm waiting for TFs call to see if she got on the plane to Hong Kong alright (WOOHOO! Finally!)... so I resorted to watching movies on TV to pass time.

Assault on Precinct 13: someone asked me the other day, why do good actors make bad movies? Well, I say cus they really aren't that good. Great actors and actresses look at the script and has the intellect to say no to bad ones. So count Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Hawk, and Gabriel Byrne out of the "good actor" list. How can a movie about 10-20 cops trying to storm an old police station in a snow storm to kill the mob boss who is going to rat them out and are deterred by a "I've made decisions that killed my team members so I'm going to drink and drug myself to oblivion" cop be successful? (Yes, that was all in one sentence)

Nope. Not successful at all. Highly not recommended.

Super Crunchers: say this about Freakenomics - they really pioneered the "let's put some interesting research on a book and dumb it down so people understand what academics/business people do" genre. Now there's a flood of books that say the similar things. Hey guess what? Data can tell you a lot of things! REALLY!? Noooo way. Yeah, really. It can.

And yet I'm still fascinated on how Harrah's comps a person their room when they loose a lot on the tables to keep the customer "happy". Yup, just that part. I'll recommend flipping through the book, finding a few headlines that interest you, and read those sections only.

(Hey, a book review, how about that!?)


Hurt Locker... It's Complicated...

I've always wanted to combine movie names into sentences... Hurt Locker, It's Complicated... actually, it's not. Quite a simple movie

Hurt Locker (IMDB): You know what I really really don't understand? Why is Avatar mentioned in the same sentence as Hurt Locker in Oscar talk? Actually, why is Avatar mentioned at all? Sure, it's a visually stunning movie, but it's really a pretty dumb one (my review).Taking this a step further, why is Hurt Locker mentioned in Oscar talks anyway? I liked the movie overall... much better than Avatar... but it's not Oscar worthy. Not that my opinion matters... didn't Titanic win an Oscar over As Good As it Gets, Good Will Hunting, LA Confidential, AND The Full Monty (I had to look that up: damn, how did he WORST movie win best picture!?).

Anyway, back to our war movie. In a nutshell, our hero's job is to disarm bombs in Iraq and he loves his job and can't get away from it. Yup, what you read will be what you see. To me, the last 10 minutes of the movie is the best part and may have been the make or break between award and not. Some people just love their jobs so much nothing else matters. For others, the priorities are different and they just care about other things more. Sure, loving the military job makes him like a cowboy, but isn't every other job the same? Why do bankers work till 4am every day? Why do consultants endure 5 days of hotel room over a night in his own? Money talks... but there's a passion that keeps people going as well. And our hero just loves the thrill of working in the battlefield over everything else. Nothing wrong with that.

Now I want to watch An Education... still in search of the true Oscar winning.

Oh, recommended movie, even though I was slightly disappointed.

It's Complicated (IMDB): a very fun movie with Meryl Streep leading the way. All around good performances by all - especially Alec Baldwin - and an enjoyable movie. Highly recommended for a good 2 hour laugh.

The Consultant Lifestyle

In order to avoid a potential 3 hour commute from HK to SZ during the long weekend (alas, it happened the day before, damn it), I stayed with my consulting friend in SZ for the night at the Futian Shangri-La.

And you know what... I miss that lifestyle immediately. Walking into the grand hotel lobby, with everybody smiling at you, nice room, nice shower, all the toiletries, the neatly tucked bed, all the TV channels, food at a touch of the button away. And the miles and starwood points....! Sick. Why would I think that?

Then again, I went to sleep at 1130pm, and I think my friend pulled an all nighter. Okay then. On with life.


The new blogspot

I love the new blogger user interface called blogger draft: user friendly, easy to use, all the options. As such, you see the new josekin blog page. Something I could definitely show my colleagues. It always amazes me how Google puts out free and good products all the time, and trusts that more Internet means more money for Google. Arrogance, perhaps? Or just simply too much cash?

Sadly, Google has left China after refusing to censor its searches in accordance with Chinese law. Even more sadly, my life becomes much more difficult when I cannot access Google in a timely fashion. Google maybe a distant #2 to China's Baidu, but for professionals, Google results are far far far better than Baidu's. Arg. Just have to patient with the on again off again Google pages.

I disagree with Google's decision. Their mere presence has helped many people find information they otherwise wouldn't have found. If "do no evil" is truly your purpose, by your leaving actually encourages evil. At the same time, I'm sad that the Chinese government still has to censor results. Can't trust the people to make their own judgments huh?


Taiwan Documentary

Watched the premiere of a Taiwan Documentary on an author's book - 龙应台‘s 目送一九四九。

I've heard that the book is really good. I will read it in the future. James got a signed copy, so I guess I'll grab that off him at some point.

The documentary, in my opinion, wasn't that good. It really just tried to record the writing of the book... I understand that a documentary should be recording the facts, but I also think that it should have a point of view. With many many heart-felt moments of people who have had their lives turned up-side-down by a invasion followed by a civil war, there were plenty of opportunities to tell a story. I don't buy the director's view that "we don't want to tell you what is right or wrong; we want to present you the facts and leave you to draw your own conclusions". The whole thing was just put together with no real theme or story.

What did impress me was the amount of Mainland students who turned out for the event. They all came ready: read all the books, had all the questions, and were very well spoken during the Q&A. As the author said herself, the most important is to have a critical mind and find your own answers. I hope these students at least took that away from the premiere.

I still would encourage people to watch the documentary. It has a lot of heart-felt and touching moments. Just don't expect too much. And read the book if you can.


Alice in Wonderland

Geez... tough weekend. First an awful experience at restaurant SML. Now Alice in Wonderland (IMDB).

Remember I wrote about movies in 3D before (plus a brief review on Avatar)? Basically, I thought the customer experience wasn't good enough - and probably best suited for kids and teenagers. Alice in Wonderland doesn't qualify for either.

Even if it were regular price for a 2D experience, I still wouldn't like the movie. It was all show and no substance, even with Tim Burton at the helm and Johnny Depp leading the charge. First, the show: the sets were stunning, depicting a Wonderland that is fantastic... from the different characters to the dreaming castles and woods. Then, the substance: not much of a story, and you can't blame the original short story either since Burton made this a continuation story (Alice is 18 or something). Not much of character development. Not much of anything really.

Somehow, I get the feeling that the studios figured they could ride the 3D wave a bit and push anything 3D with some big names down our throats. Damn. Very soon, audiences are going to wise up and reject paying this type of premium mediocre movies.

Not recommended.


Awful restaurant...

Okay, I found a restaurant that sank lower than Aquavit (see experience during restaurant week a while ago).

It's an establishment called SML in Times Square. SML stands for Small Medium Large, which are sizes available for all their dishes. I think the owners had this in mind:
  • Shitty deal
  • Medium shitty deal
  • Large shitty deal
Anyway, the food was acceptable in general. It was my second visit (I knew I shouldn't have gone in... but I had a good reason, see below)

Mom and I arrived at SML at 9pm, after all other restaurants in Times Square had a line outside (9pm!). The server showed us an outdoor space that looked quite comfy... sure, we'll sit there. 1. I need food. 2. It has a nice breeze.

You have to place your order inside (they can't serve people in open space, which is not part of the restaurant). Fine. We ordered two pasta and a dessert. The dessert came within a minute. Doesn't make sense, but it can sit and wait for the pasta, I guess. Mom's pasta came (okay, a bit salty) first, and we waited for mine. And waited. And waited. I told mom to go ahead and eat hers first. Went back to the cashier to ask about the pasta. He said must have lost the order and went to the kitchen to hurry it up. 10 minutes later, I'm still waiting. So I canceled the order, wolfed down the dessert, and left. No real food in my stomach, I lost all my appetite.

It's Friday, and all I want is a decent meal with my mom, and SML ruined it. I will never go back there ever.


Late marriage

As I looked through the employee manual... if you "marry early," you are entitled to 3 days of vacation. If you have a "late marriage," you are entitled to 13 days of vacation. Naturally, I quickly look up what is the definition of "late marriage"...

After 25. Damn!



It's been a while since I've seen a really good Hong Kong movie. This award winning film (Crystal Bear at Berlin Film Fest) would qualify in the really good club. I love the simple story being manifested in the most simple and subtle ways. Simple, like how the family had to physically keep their home together through the typhoon (hurricane, for you Americans). Subtle, like the the communication of the whole street was through one phone in the garment shop, or like how the tree trunk is used as a table during dinner. Nothing over the top. Just life.

And so life keeps going on, and you just keep faith.

A special thanks to the actors who did a magnificent job, especially the mother and the younger son. Impeccable performances.

The movie almost died midway due to insufficient funds... and now it's going to make a lot of money due to the award and the curiosity caused. So my question is, why did it have to be an award for a movie to be recognized and rightfully profit from its hard work? Should the "goodness" of the movie be able to help it sell tickets in the first place?

Sigh, Hong Kong.


Squat toilets...

Something that continues to bring a smile to my face for no rational reason whatsoever is the squat toilets in my new office. For those who are unfamiliar with a squat toilet, just image the toilet seat on the ground. It's not that bad or disgusting... it's just different way of going.

Anyway, before my first day, during my interviews, I've used the standing toilets before and they are quite nice, with a large window that overlooks the entire Nanshan area (Shenzhen's version of Silicon Valley, if you will).

So on my first day of work, when I was ready for the stall, I was shocked to see a squat toilet upon opening the door. I opened another one: squat. And another: squat. And another: squat. That's 4 out of 5... arg... I was so disappointed that I just went back to my desk. I'm not squatting with my nice suit and shirt on.

Fast forward to my 7th day of work. We're meeting a foreign firm, and I went to the meeting floor - again, shocked to see that they have a sitting toilet!!!

Turns out the 5th stall I didn't open was the sitting toilet. Haha.


Starting a job at Tencent, Shenzhen

Well, if you've read this post about Bills Gates interviewing me and the actual disaster, then you might have figured out that I'm heading to some sort of tech firm. That firm is Tencent QQ, the MSN/Facebook/Twitter of China. You might laugh at Facebook's current valuation of $11B (see range), but Tencent is no laughing matter, publicly traded and valued at ~$35B.

Anyway, today was the first day of work. And here comes the obligatory Good Bad and Ugly:

The Good

  • I have to leave the company at 630 to catch the shuttle bus back to the HK border; so, yeah, I now have a natural time to get off work
  • No lap top, no Blackberry
  • The team seemed very nice, and things seemed efficient (the internal portal has so much info it's a bit overwhelming)
The Bad
  • How can no Blackberry be good!?
  • I don't understand why the wall of a cell has to be against the window. Can I saw off the cell wall?
  • Food options are going to be extremely limited... unless I'm brave enough to eat on the streets

And the Ugly

  • It's a 1.5 hour commute minimum
  • And the most painful part is the immigration. Rule #1: don't be a foreigner. Rule #2: don't line up behind clueless old people


New York Restaurants

This is a long long long awaited long long long post. Epic. Food porn. I hope. I've spent 6 months eating in NYC. Here's the report card. I thought I'd quickly put the restaurants into categories to make it easy (Somewhat similar to Chicago Restaurants):

(Note: I can't afford some of the true top notch places... so there won't be the Alinea (yum yum yum) equivalents such as Per Se, Ko, L'Atelier, etc... and I'll try to include some better pictures from the meals)

Best food, best value for money, you must visit, etc etc
  • $$$: Peter Lugar (Porterhouse for 2; see review)
  • $$: Eleven Madison Park (lunch, lobster, why don't I have a review!?), Jean George (lunch, seafood; see review), Katz Deli (mmm... hot pastrami; see Deli face off 1, 2, and 3), Nobu (Restaurant Week menu, black cod; see review), The Modern (Restaurant Week menu, duck; see review), Cookshop (Calamari, food you shouldn't miss)
  • $: Shake Shack (Burger), Di Fara (Pizza, see review), Bill's Bar (Burger, Milkshake), Artichoke (Pizza), Habana Cafe (Grilled corn)
If you want real steak, you go to Peter Luger
Jean George's lunch is a great deal with top notch seafoodEleven Madison Park served the best lobster I've had all my life
Also on the "the best" list from Eleven Madison Park - Caramel Chocolate Cake
Black Cod Miso, the bread and butter of Nobu (their sushi is good but not worth the price)
The Modern (In MOMA) makes excellent duckDessert was excellent as well
Katz's pastrami sandwich is really one of a kind... tho very expensive for a sandwich!
Cookshop had one of the best calamari I've ever had. It was unassuming at first, but really surprised me when I ate it. Nice little gem hid near High Line Park
Shake Shack has one of the best fast food burgers around the country... better than In 'n Out... tho their Black & White milkshake were suspect twiceNot sure why I have a soft spot for grilled corn from Habana Cafe... mmm... grilled corn
It is a true pleasure to watch Master Dom at work in Di FaraDi Fara pizza - where Italian food conquers TF
If someone else is paying, you're getting some of the best food around
  • Yasuda (Yasuda's station, omakase of course; see review), 15 East (Uni on squid ink pasta needs more uni), Del Frisco's (any cut, really, but with foie gras butter... damn)
Much like watching Di Fara's master do his thing, you have to watch Yasuda do his
Yes, the uni fell off... but it gave me good orgasm
One of the high of high times at Yasuda: Toro
Yes, Yasuda deserves four pictures. Custard sushi was one of its kind: I have never had anything quite like this (and it was very very very good)
15 East is a hidden gem... the uni was way too small on the squid ink pasta, but oh was it so yummy
Good food
  • Priced right: Junior (signature cheesecake), Nook (brunch or lunch), King's Papaya (iconic hot dog), La Esquina (Mexican), Dessert Truck (bye bye, sigh), Gascogne (one of the best creme brulees I've had, simple french), 26 Seats (duck, simple french), Clinton Street (to die for pancakes), 2nd Ave Deli (see review), Num Pang (SE Asia sandwiches, see review), Fivepoints (brunch, food you shouldn't miss), Yakitori Totto (Japanese BBQ, food you shouldn't miss), Tabla (Donut with trio sauce), Momofuku Noodle Bar (Chicken lunch), Hagi (Japanese bar food), Porchetta (Prochetta), Barney Greengrass (Sturgeon scramble... my goodness), Tartine (brunch), Gramercy Tavern (lunch; see review)
  • Over priced: Norma (any sweet brunch dish is super super excellent), Grimaldi (pizza), Isabella (brunch), Fatty Crab (Asian fusion, crab), DBGB (brunch), Babbo (Italian that impressed TF), One if by Land Two if by Sea (Seafood), Sambuca (Tiramisu, best in NY)
Junior cheesecake... it's a landmark, a tourist trap... and it's goodA hot dog is a hot dog... but a Papaya King hot dog... now that's something else. Best bang for the buck meal in the city, perhaps!Gascogne's creme brulee... I almost forgot this gem. Absolutely perfectly done. And the french food (and wait staff) ain't bad either
Clinton Street Baking Company and its Blueberry pancakes have people waiting for hour(s): it's worth the waitThe donut at Tabla was out of this world... and its Asian fusion sandwiches aren't bad eitherChicken lunch at Momofuku may be a difficult reservation to get... but it's worth the trouble if you like moist and flavorful chicken
Hidden gem: porchetta at Porchetta is juicy and the meat is done impecably
Unfortunately, I only went to Gramercy Tavern once - the meatball was excellent
Sweet brunch from Norma's is great and overpriced; stay away from savory stuff
Who can say no to Sambuca's tiramisu?
Decent food
  • Priced right: Smorgas chef (Swedish chain, sure why not), Ipuddo (Ramen, roasted peppers, not worth the 2 hour wait though), Kyotofu (Tofu-based dessert), Won Dee Siam (Thai), Van Leeuwen (Ice cream), Alta (Tapas), Caracas Arepas (S American sandwich), Jewel Bako (Sushi)
  • Over priced: Le Pain Quotidien, Luxee (bye bye), Crumbs (cupcakes), Max Brenner (hot chocolate, dessert), Bubby's (pancake, brunch), Zaitzeff (burger), Ma Pache (Asian fusion)
Ippudo's wait is totally not worth it... but you can get the roasted peppers at the bar (I suggest leaving after you eat them... maybe add the pork bun)

TF likes Crumb's Red Velvet... and I think we probably had about 30 cupcakes in 6 months. It's yummy but a little steep at $3.5

I'm a sucker for good brunch
  • Penelope, Prune, Balthazar (Bread basket!), Cafe Orlin, Petite Abeille (waffles look amazing, but the savory stuff is not to be missed), Stanton Social
Stanton Social had some nice little dishes... but very expensive, as are most brunch places in New York (thanks, Sex in the City)
Only if someone pays you (Just take my word for it)
The totally overrate Carnegie Deli... and they dare charge a supplemental charge for shared sandwiches... I feel bad for the tourists. Go to Katz!
AJ Maxwell's "half cheesecake" for our restaurant menu... WTF
Sorry I had to end on a bad note for food, but I feel like you need to know these things. Probably missed quite a few restaurants I've been. Oh well, if I forget, it's probably not that good anyway. Hope you enjoyed this!


Meat on the conveyor belt

I just completed a health check for my next job in China. It has to be done at a designated hospital in Shenzhen, so I had to make quite an effort to go there.

The first visit in the early afternoon was a failure. They only open 8-11am (WTF!?).

So I came 10am the next day. And I now understand why it's only 8-11am. You enter the building, tell them what kind of health check you need. Then:
  • The nurse gives you a form
  • You are directed to a place to have your photo taken
  • You stick the photo on the form and fill in your details
  • Nurse takes the forms, gives you a card, and you enter the "health check area"
Which really is a huge conveyor belt with a lot of people on it. Blood sample, urine sample, x-rays, external check, internal check, ear check, throat check, eye check, height, weight, blood pressure. Bam, I'm done. The whole process took about 30 minutes... and there were hundreds of people on the conveyor belt. Amazing.

Take the X-Ray room for example. I lined up behind a girl. The nurse told her to take her necklace off, tells her to go inside the X-ray room, stands in front of the X-ray. Doctor turns on the machine, and I see her heart pumping and her lungs right on the doctor's screen (I'm still lining up). Doctor looks at it, stamps a "Seems to be no problem" stamp on the girls form, she's out, and it's my turn.

And for once, I know what meat on a conveyor belt feels like: just get this over with quickly and life is good.



Well, it's your typical HK Donnie Yan kung fu movie:
  • Conflicted hero is betrayed by his friend
  • Great evils are also at work
  • Hero finds friends
  • Hero seeks meaning in life
  • Fight
  • Evil loses
The fight scenes are good... but how can the top dog working for the king not be able to beat a woman called 脫脫 (Strip strip... if you will)? Come on, now.

Why blog

Someone told me that blogs are for those who are afraid of being alone, and that through blogging they can at least feel like they are attached to the world.

Perhaps. I blog partly due to self indulgence and partly for vanity. I think my opinions are important, so I blog about them and hope someone notices/agrees/disagrees. haha. Yup. That's about it.

A few days ago, good friend AL forwarded to me a post from his Facebook network about my blog. That's what I'm talking about! Random stranger finding my opinion useful! Thank you, Lawrence Gutman! (To Ernie, Carnegie Deli should not be mentioned in the same sentence as Katz and 2nd Ave Deli. It's not even an argument... told you I blog due to self self self)

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Movies... etc

Crazy Heart (IMDB) - well, the only consolation from the unfortunate Wolfman was that we went for a 2-fer and saw most of Crazy Heart. We didn't finish the movie cus we were too tired and we left at 2am. Basically, it's a Wrestler wanna be with more light hearted moments. Pretty good movie through 1.5 hours.

I didn't finish the movie, so it's hard to recommend it... although I will say this: Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are perfectly casted while Colin Farrel was horribly casted.

Valentines Day (IMDB) - look at the cast. Gather your breathe. WOW. Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Jessica (Alba and Biel... WOW WOW WOW), Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Taylor Swift (!?)... damn! Anyway, it's your typical valentines day flick I guess. Funny and witty through out, I enjoyed most of it. The only knock I have is the relationship between Kutcher and Garner - clearly a rebound that is the worst idea. Female audience squealed when the gay couple was revealed. And I loved the Roberts story.

Sure, I'll recommend it for couples. It's not like you can get away from it if your gf asks, right?

Whip It (IMDB) - saw this on the plane. It's a Juno repeat! Cute movie with rebellious teenage daughter has to decide between a passion and her former life. Apparently, Drew Barrymore directed this. Not sure why that would be a selling point. She also played a crazy and violent girl in the movie - fitting. Anyway, Ellen Page does some spectacular work again. Recommended.

Love Happens (IMDB) - hmm... this came out when I was in NYC? I had no idea! It's a story about life and death and how people overcome their griefs. Unfortunately, they wrapped it around a romantic relationship (no sparks between Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Anniston at all) and that just destroys the movie. Plus there are all these subtle and not-so-subtle product placements in the movie, which I greatly resent. I believe in product sponsorship. I don't believe in rubbing that in people's faces. Not recommended.


Robuchon Macao

When mom asked if I wanted to visit Macao's art collection from the Forbidden Palace and also I.M. Pei's new building, I was hesitant. But when she mentioned lunch would be at Joel Robuchon Macao, I immediately said yes! Macao we go... for the only Michelin 3-star restaurant in Macao. (HK has 龍景軒; while I didn't visit 龍景軒, I did visit its ex-chef's installment at Mongkok's 添好運 - see review abt a month ago)

Decor - very formal tho the patrons (namely, me) were more casual. It was homely and each table were flanked by four very lush sofa chairs that were very comfortable. Some tables and built-in sofas that seemed too luxurious and comfy for a restaurant.

Service - attentive but not great. We had to ask for water a few times. In general, they lacked a genuine knowledge about the food and the preparation. Very good at reading off the paper, not so much when asked more about it. And the dessert tray waiter must be a trainee or something. He needed better English, Cantonese, and understanding of the dessert dishes he is presenting.

On to the food:

The bread basket could have easily been the highlight of the lunch. As you can see, there were quite a few to choose from. The bacon bread was quite memorable - with strips of bacon twisting its way up on perfectly baked bread. The cheese bread was also very nicely done. It's hard to find good bread in Hong Kong, and Robuchon really nails it.

Amuse was oyster with vanilla foam. A wonderful start to a meal, mixing freshness with a hint of aroma.

For the appetizer, I ordered the foie gras dish. The curled pieces were all foie gras, so it was a pretty generous portion. I should have written down the different sauces, because they were the key to the dish, complementing the richness of foie gras perfectly. I thought it was a bit too much food though. Eating 5 to 6 pieces of rich foie gras may be luxurious, but certainly not the best to activate the taste buds.

I got the Buta no Kakuni as a main course. It was decent. The pork was done perfectly and the sweetness showed itself quite nicely. The condiments on top, however, missed the mark - the flavors didn't mixed well and I was left with a sour aftertaste. I also tried my brother's lobster with walnut sauce, and it wasn't very good. A bit overcooked and dry, it was no match for ones I've had in New York at Eleven Madison Park.

Dessert was generous - you get to pick four out of this truck. (Not discussed is the not-so-memorable pineapple and the over-the-top chocolate caramel cake)

Everybody agreed that the pistachio cake was the best among all the desserts. Moist, flavorful, and good for pictures. (Not so much about the golden pieces that accompanied most desserts... arg... we're not in China!)

I actually liked the Napolean even better. Nice and light and a perfect ending after the heavier pork entre. The crust: easily cut but did not crumble too easily. The fillings: flavorful without being overwhelming. There was a slight toasted honey taste as well that I couldn't really place but certainly remembered.

All in all, it was a decent meal that unfortunately didn't meet all my lofty expectations. Dishes were all decent. However, ultimately, the sequence and entrees were so-so and the service was definitely not up-to-par. You expect more from servers at these top restaurants. At $495 (USD 65), it's quite steep for a 3 course meal. Nonetheless, at least I can now take Robuchon off the list of places I need to eat at!


The Wolfman

(IMDB) Thumbs down, way down. I know you get paid handsomely, but Sir Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro should be really choosing the right scripts for themselves. Do you think they look at the finish product and say, no way, I shouldn't be associated with this movie? Well, I think Hollywood should start including this clause in actor contracts:
  • After the final touch up, the 5 highest paid actors and actresses in the movie should watch the movie once, consider its impact on his or her career, and then have the option to pull himself or herself from the movie. Insurance will cover part of this cost for the producers
Then maybe they'll cast the folks more appropriately.

Not recommended, especially those with a faint heart.

Wing Squad

Well well... Superbowl means the return of the Wing Squad! After I thought WS died along with my move to Chicago in 2006, it came back in 2007 ("SuperBore"), 2008 (Another WS outside of Boston), 2009 (I watched the whole damn thing in Chinese).

This year, it's actually the 10th Wing Squad (WSX) gathering. And we're doing it in Boston, where it all began at Tufts.

The site of WSI, II, III, IV, V, and VI - The Summit. Good times.
WSX would not be complete with homage to the Jumbo
The Great and Only Wing Works, where mutation and hair happen
Yup, these are the wings
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Anyway, despite an expected poor showing from SG, the Wing Squad prevailed once again. And the Peyton Manning face made a dramatic return to sports. So it's good times all around and hoping for a successful WSXI.