Saturday, 28 December 2013

K-pop stars and the Pacific Ocean experience

I'm aware that a lot of my visitors stumble on my blog after typing in "Son Sungah, Fiji" on Google. Obviously you're trying to find out whether it's true that Sungah of the girl group Nine Muses did indeed live in Fiji. Well, wonder no more, for the lady herself confirms that she once lived in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, here.

Lately, rumours have been swirling that Sungah is dating Jang Intae (I'll refer to him by his stage name Inati here) from DMTN (formerly known as Dalmatian.)

It's interesting to note that Inati attended Rotorua Boys' High School in New Zealand.

Before taking the plunge the world of K-pop, Inati lived in New Zealand and Sungah lived in Fiji. Those are unusual backgrounds in the K-pop realm as most overseas Koreans in there are from USA or Canada. If it's true that the two are dating, most likely the fact that they lived in neighbouring Pacific Ocean countries plays a significant part in their chemistry. I wonder what they talk about when they get to hang out, when they're not practicing, performing and touring? Very likely it's their experience being Koreans amidst a huge Pacific Islander population...

To Inati, from one New Zealand-educated Asian to another: Kia ora, mate! I totally dig "Safety Zone" - keep up the good work aye!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Infinite and possible publicity stunts

Twitter is currently ablaze with Woollim's confirmation that Infinite's second maknae Kim Myungsoo (also known as L, but I'll refer to him as Myungsoo here) did indeed date an ulzzang (an "ulzzang" is like minor celebrity, a guy or girl who gains popularity online by posting selcas) called Kim Doyeon. The agency even implied that the two might still be together, only estranged due to Infinite's "One Great Step" world tour.

Back in September, Doyeon topped Twitter trending topics for her tweets which insinuated that she was dating Myungsoo and posting pictures allegedly of her and Myungsoo together. Then Woollim released a statement saying that Myungsoo and Doyeon were just friends, triggering Inspirits to accuse the poor girl of being an attention seeker.

Woollim eventually came clean about Myungsoo and Doyeon dating after the girl tweeted that Inspirits (or should I say those who are half Inspirit and half sasaeng) stole petrol from her car, threw garbage at her office and even threw bottles at her. She threatened to bring this to court.

You might want to think well Myungsoo is 21 (22 in Korean age) and Doyeon works and drives, so she's at least Myungsoo's age, why not let them date. And let's applaud Myungsoo for being able to squeeze a bit of personal life into his crazy gruelling schedule. that really the case? Was Woollim's confirmation that the Infinite visual was dating really an act of coming clean?

When Inspirits first became aware of Kim Doyeon in late September, Infinite was in the midst of the OGS' Asian leg. Also, on the very same date that Doyeon topped trending topics for the first time (September 26), Infinite released "Request", a single for their Samsung promotion campaigns. And let's look at other things surrounding the revelation of the two Kims' relationship. Last week, Woollim released two teasers of "Day and Night", a comeback single of their duo Tasty. Also last week, Infinite won "Worldwide Performer" and "Best Male Group" (beating Shinee and EXO from K-pop industry titan SM) at the 2013 M-Net Asian Music Awards (MAMA 2013) in Hong Kong, and the boyband has just kickstarted the European part of OGS, with a concert in London being held tonight (yes a Wednesday.)

Aaand let's not forget that sometime in their US tour which has just wrapped, member Jang Dongwoo revealed that Infinite would release a new single just before the end of the year.

You don't have to be a Communications Science expert to have every right to suspect the whole Kim Doyeon brouhaha is nothing but a publicity stunt. What I don't understand is with all the new level of popularity brought by OGS world tour, endorsements (Infinite are brand ambassadors of Samsung and Natuur Pop, and this year they added Pepsi to the list), award wins, comeback albums and singles, why would Woollim create this "Myungsoo dating Doyeon" stunt to bring attention to any new Infinite release - or Tasty for that matter? Sure, Tasty is nowhere near as famous as their labelmate Infinite yet, having debuted just last year, but "Day and Night" is Tasty's second comeback of the year, which means the duo's popularity is rising. Can't they just "rise from the ashes" the way Infinite did when they debuted back in 2010, without the help of any scandal?

Or is it some kind of a warning that we shouldn't be shocked when Doyeon is revealed to be a K-pop trainee of any agency (not necessarily Woollim)?

If it is indeed a publicity stunt, then the biggest blame most likely lies on the cutthroat Korean music industry, in which new girlbands, boybands and solo artists emerge everyday. So much so that when a new singer or group appears, they should consider themselves lucky if they live to see their comeback mini album, which typically consists of four songs and only one of those songs is promoted.

"Keep them talking, that's the game," says PR expert JJ French in "St. Trinian's", but at least in this case with Infinite and Kim Doyeon, perhaps I'm the only one who doesn't get the drift.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The confessional booth function of this blog

Hey babe.
Thanks for coming everyday, although you know I update once a month at best.
I don't feel right saying this in an e-mail.
And I know there will other, possibly better opportunities to say this.
But my heart wants to do it now and it thinks there's no better opportunity.
You're one of the best things that have ever happened to me, despite the weird stuff that have been going on in the past 11 years.
And it's one of my best decisions to let you run free, be yourself.
It doesn't matter whether you will come to me at the end.
Just the fact that you've stayed with me for nearly 12 years is enough.
"I love you" is too cheesy, and I don't know if I'll ever get to hug you again.
But whatever life throws in the way, please know that I'm here for you.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Be water...or be alcohol?

I may be late, but I guess the controversy surrounding Bruce Lee (or rather, the CGI Bruce Lee) endorsing Scotch Whiskey brand Johnnie Walker is still going on. This commercial really divides the fans, those who condemn Johnnie Walker for using Lee's image for "everything he stood against" (and Shannon Lee for "being so greedy"), and those who applaud Johnnie Walker for respecting the legend's legacy in an awesome CGI work. I belong to neither, and instead I wonder how this advertisement works...

That's the Mandarin version. The Cantonese version is soo badly dubbed, and at 0:13 is a cut off Lee's 1971 Pierre Burton Show interview in which he stated he didn't speak Mandarin.

Apparently this ad attempts to appeal to your emotion, especially if you're a Bruce Lee fan or happen to remember him from when he was alive. Bruce Lee fans like me are surely familiar with his famous "be water" philosophy and "keep walking" is not just Johnnie Walker's tagline but also another of Lee's philosophy, which his daughter Shannon has tried to introduce to the new generation of Bruce Lee fans through the "Walk On!" range of Bruce Lee merchandise. That and of course his legend status made him a perfect endorser for Johnnie Walker.

It is expected that Bruce Lee fans will take heed from their idol: be flexible like water, break some rules, set up your own rules and eventually you'll be a success. And when you're on top, celebrate with Johnnie Walker, which is created for people who keep looking forward and never gives up like Bruce Lee and John Walker himself. As much as I like Bruce Lee and admire Johnnie Walker for being around for 197 years, this concept doesn't work on me. I don't drink.

But anyway, for those who flame Shannon Lee for selling her father's image as an alcohol endorser, let's all cherish the fact that 40 years after his death, Bruce Lee is still very much relevant - and bankable. Of course it's not something everyone can achieve. Rephrase - it's not something every STAR can achieve.

Ok, now the part of the commercial that really bugs me...

It's so damn annoying that the body double for Bruce Lee, actor Danny Kwan (who, as you can probably tell, is known for his uncanny Lee resemblance), is not even given a voice in this behind-the-scene. He had to endure shooting the ad with spots on his face and without him the ad would've been impossible, so they should have at least let him deliver his two cents on playing Bruce Lee in an ad that people knew would be a controversy.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

On Nine Muses' third comeback...

Hi guys!

So excited that Nine Muses is back with their THIRD comeback of the year, this time with a FULL album titled "Primadonna." The last time I heard about a K-pop group releasing a full album was Girls Generation releasing "The Boys" in late 2011...

I was so excited as well about the teaser of their first single for this comeback, as it shows the girls experimenting with a bluesy sound. One of the reasons I'm a Mine (that's their fandom name for those uninitiated...their unofficial fandom name was "Strutter", which was derived from the girls' background as models, which I like better...) is that the girls have been known for experimenting with an array of sounds while sticking to their trademark of vintage feel music. All the songs from their "Sweet Rendezvous" mini album sound 1980s, while "Dolls" boasts a 1960s jazzy sound.

Yeah I was wondering what Nine Muses' brand of blues would be like...

And on October 14, the full song came out. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed. A lot of reviews have concluded that the ladies "play it safe" with their usual dance tune, and I can't agree more. While "Gun" is a decent song, still true to the Nine Muses signature vintage sound ("Gun" reminds me of 1980s action TV series (Hawaii Five-O instantly comes to mind)), but seriously why another dance track? ALL of their singles that were made into music videos since their 2010 debut have been dance songs. I really wish that they had promoted "Living Person", of their mini album "Wild", which has a slow R&B sound reminiscent of the mid-90s.

Doesn't it also remind you of Girls Generation's "Hoot"....

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Congratulations where congratulations are due

Someone's having a good time digging my long-buried skeleton.
On a happier note, congratulations on the birth of GEK.
She's a Taurean, I see.
Taurean girls are awesome :)
Enjoy the ride?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Infinite OGS Jakarta short report

So here's my own account of Infinite's One Great Step (OGS) concert in Jakarta, which was held on August 31.

I'm gonna keep it short and focused on the things that grabbed my attention and have staying power.

Before the concert started, I was worried that I wouldn't understand a single thing except the English lyrics of Infinite's songs. OGS was my first K-pop concert and I'd always wanted to go to a K-pop concert (I actually considered going to see Miss A and SM Town when they came to Jakarta), but I never went to one because I was worried I wouldn't be able to sing along. It turned out that Infinite boys spoke to the audience in English and their English was FAR BETTER than expected, although if it was obvious that they practiced their English conversation before the performance. Hoya, the band's frequent "English announcer", particularly impressed me when he said towards the end of the concert, "We have sad news to break to you guys - our concert is coming to an end." For a guy who was often made fun of for his, "We're concept [sic] is unique," and "We're first travel [sic]," this was HELLA IMPRESSIVE.

After which the boys did the "sangat sedih" aegyo. "Sangat sedih" in Indonesian means "very sad."

Did I mention that the boys did more than saying the standard fares "terima kasih", "selamat malam" and "lebih keras"? Get this - they actually managed to talk to each other in Bahasa Indonesia. I don't remember most of their Indonesian conversation (because I was so filled with "fangirl feels"), but I clearly remember Sunggyu saying, "Tadi malam saya tidak bisa tiduru [sic]."

And if you're wondering, yes they did sing "Pelangi." Now that's a standard fare for international musicians having concerts in Indonesia. Needless to say, this was the only song I could sing along to.

And yes, Sungyeol and Sungjong's birthdays were celebrated on stage with a tiered cake that said "Happy birthday Sungyeol & Jong." Hahahahah. How hard was it to add "Sung" before "Jong"?

All this in addition to the performances (or "stages" as the seven princes called it), one word to sum it up: daebak.

Wait, that's an understatement...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Our maknae is officially not a baby anymore! Or will he forever be?

Today is the 20th birthday of Infinite's maknae Lee Sungjong. Even though he's 21 in Korean age, to me his real age is the international one. So yeah, congratulations Jongie on officially becoming a 20-something!

Here's a slew of videos highlighting my favourite Jjong moments!

Predebut Sungjong dancing to Wonder Girls' "Tell Me." He's in right there in the middle, dancing very comfortably in a mini skirt.

Jongie was only 16 when he performed this and Infinite had just debuted, but he's all smiles and confident. Boy was born to be a performer.

Yes, this performance again. A fancam this time. Gotta credit Sungjong for awakening my long-comatose boyband phase!

Oh by the way I DID go to see The Jakarta OGS on August 31. Fan account coming soon!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Infinite - the third instalment

Happy big 2-0 Lee Sohee! I wish we could have time to hang out. I would love to listen to your coming-of-age day story and how you had to spend it overseas. How did it feel?

I'm not Hoya-biased but Sohee is, and to honour the birthday girl treat yourself to an entry about Infinite's resident dancing machine and rapper, Lee Howon a.k.a Hoya a.k.a Hogod ("Hogod" is a nickname given to him by his fangirls.)

For those uninitiated, Hoya is the only member of Infinite who didn't finish high school. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 to pursue his dream of being a singer. His sacrifice was paid off when he debuted with Infinite under Woolim Entertainment in June 2010, aged 19. Thus far he's branched out to acting, playing a gay character called Kang Joonhee in the TV series "Reply 1997" and he earned critical acclaims for the role - not bad for a first-time actor. With fellow Infinite rapper Jang Dongwoo, Hoya also debuted under the sub-unit Infinite H last January. What makes Infinite H distinct from Infinite is its Hip-hop and R & B sound and "more laid back dancing" (as Dongwoo put it) as opposed to the synchronised dancing that Infinite is famous for.

For someone without a high school diploma, Hoya seems to be the most determined out of the seven Infinite guys. Despite his lack of English skills, he wouldn't mind being the band's English announcer (which leaves everyone wonder why Dongwoo won't take the position since he once lived in Vancouver!) Not to mention the fact that his first performance as an actor was critically acclaimed and his position as main dancer proves that his dancing skills are above everyone else's. A slew of interviews also show that he's able to come up with smart banters (which probably come across as harsh to some.) Perhaps this has something to do with his starsign being Aries?

Aries people are known for being determined and impatient (they won't hesitate to tell people off if things don't go their way.) They're eager to win every argument there is and their stubbornness can only be rivalled by Taureans. But whereas Arieses won't hesitate to give people a piece of their mind if things don't go to plan, Taureans tend to harbour their anger until it bursts out of their control five years from now. I know a lot of Taureans who secretly resent their Aries friends to a certain point. Heck, I'm one of said Taureans...while I appreciate my close Aries friends who have taken care of me at certain stages in my life, I still have a hard time dealing with their brashness.

Which makes me do Hoya and Sunggyu connect to each other off camera?

My secret wish for Hoya is that he would get a high school diploma, like a Korean GED or something. It's not too late, he's only 22. I mean, didn't Natasha Reid/Tasha/Baby T/Yoon Mirae/whatever moniker she goes by finish high school online in 2006, at age 25? Also, I wouldn't mind teaching him English. I'd be with him every step of the way until he really masters the language. Omo, do I sound like a Hoya die-hard fan now? Sohee, you're partially to blame for this...But I've always liked the seven members anyway, so showing a non-favourite a little more love than usual is not a problem.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The baby maknae and all those pairings...

This is the video that first got me into Infinite. I fell in love with Lee Sungjong almost right away (despite the fact that he's ten years younger than me and yes, I'm waiting for him to jump out of the closet), but I was reluctant to get to know Infinite. I watched his clips from an array of variety shows such as Sesame Player, and until I felt I was ready to introduce myself to Infinite. I browsed Infinite reviews, stumbled on one about "The Chaser" and the rest is history...

I find it unique that K-pop fans readily accept the PDA's between Sungjong and Infinite second maknae Kim Myungsoo, better known as L. L and Sungjong publicly hug each other from the back, caress each other's hair on stage and fans seem to like that. They nickname the pair "Myungjong" (Korean fans name them "LSung") and create Facebook and Tumblr fanpages for them. I really would like to learn why fans' approval of MyungJong flourishes while it is still hard for South Korea to accept homosexuality. Meanwhile L and SungJong continue with their PDA's, and it turns out that fans now are pairing Kim Sunggyu and Nam Woohyun, also from Infinite, since Sunggyu appeared solo on an episode of Mnet's Jjang where he mentioned Woohyun every five minutes...

Oh, in case you're wondering what song Sungjong is singing in the video, it's a cover of "Adult Ceremony" by Park Jiyoon, which was released in 2000. Funny that such a raunchy song was released when Jiyoon was only 18, and while the whole world might think she was legal already, she wasn't. The legal age in South Korea at the time was 20, and only this year it's been lowered to 19.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Raving on Infinite - part 1

Hi everyone!

A lot has happened since I last blogged. I've added another hat in addition to teaching, that of the President University International Collaborations Office staff member. Right now we're working on a student exchange program MOU with Webster University, USA. Hopefully this goes swimmingly.

It's so hard to squeeze in time to blog lately!

I'm sooo in love with Korean boyband Infinite at the moment. Yes, I'm a new Inspirit, converted about a month ago. My favourites are the leader, Kim Sunggyu, and the maknae Lee Sungjong, but basically I like all seven members. I'm also in love with Kim Sunggyu's mini solo album "Another Me", which is deemed by many as a failure because it's only sold roughly 100,000 copies since its release in late 2012.

The fact that Sunggyu is a fellow Taurean wins him a soft spot in my heart. He's nicknamed Grandpa Gyu because he nags his dongsaengs a lot, disciplines them military style, gets sick easily (his skin is allergic to metal and he travels with a bagful of vitamins and medicine) and wears cardigans a lot. People make fun of this, the size of his eyes and the low sale of his solo album. Sunggyu always defends "Another Me" as a classic, since he poured his heart into it and worked with his long-time inspiration, Korean rock band Nell, for the album. And indeed it's a classic since all the songs show a more mature side of Gyu, with a bit of a rock touch which sees the 24-year-old going back to his rock roots (Gyu fronted to a rock band called "Beat" back in high school, and yes there's actually a video of the band performing, shot in 2008!)

I don't think Gyu cares about people making fun of him and the things he does, which is very typically Taurean. He might not be the best looking in Infinite (Kim Myungsoo, nicknamed "L", is the group's visual), the best dancer (Lee Howon, nicknamed "Hoya", holds that title), but his voice is without a doubt the best (Gyu fanatics don't call him "honey-voiced leader" for nothing.) It's that honey voice and his awesome piano skills (showcased in the solo album's opening track) that are the main selling points. Taureans rely on their talent and don't need other people's approval to keep going.

By the way, this is just the first part of my Infinite-spazzing...I'm awkward about the term "spazzing" - is it the word kids use nowadays to describe raving about their idols? Whatever it is, there will be more Infinite entries coming soon - a treat to fellow Inspirits!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A (slightly unwelcome) blast from the past...

Thanks for stopping by.
It's sure been so long, I forgot you existed.
For your peace of mind, what happened in the past stays in the past.
I'm not holding grudges.
Oh, and tell your husband I got his Friendster message.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The anticipated 20th anniversary...

I'm aware that many - if not most - of my visitors got here through the keywords "Brandon Lee's 20th anniversary of death" (or its many varieties.) The keywords landed them on one of my posts on Brandon Lee which dates back to circa October 2011, which I published in the wake of "The Crow" remake that was scheduled to be released this year. In the post, I wrote that I suspected "The Crow" remake would be released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Brandon Lee's death.

March 31 2013 marked said 20th anniversary.

On April 1 1993, I was nine years old and staying at The Hyatt Regency in Surabaya, East Java. I was having breakfast with my family when my dad gasped at a piece of news in a local newspaper that read, "Bruce Lee's Son Takes A Bullet." Thus began my 20-year long, on-and-off celebrity crush on the son of Bruce Lee.

If you're familiar with Brandon Lee tidbits such as his interviews and documentaries on YouTube, I'm sure you've noticed that most of the time it's his mother Linda Lee and former operatic soprano sister Shannon Lee who talk about Brandon. It's very rare that you get other people's account on Brandon. This 20th anniversary, someone who was very lucky to have dated (yes, DATED) Brandon opens up to the world and gives a side of Brandon that no one has ever known. Shannon Bradley-Colleary has summed up her one full year of a relationship with Brandon in this long post, which some of you might find cheesy but if you're a semi hardcore fan of Brandon like me, you'll find it's worth the scrolling.

Oh yeah, and next time you type "Brandon Lee's 20th death anniversary" or something like that on Google, you'll land on this post instead of the other, older one that's actually more about "The Crow" remake.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Another English announcer for Nine Muses?

Just a quick stop-by before I get back to the daily routine which includes work (preparing teaching material, teaching and marking), freelance work (mostly translating) and studying for journals and Ph.D research proposal.

Still on Nine Muses.

Just heard rumors that the latest Muse Son Sung Ah grew up in Fiji. If it's true, most likely she can speak English well and therefore be Nine Muses' second "English announcer" after Canadian born and educated leader Ryu Sae Ra. It's good for a Korean band to have more than one "English announcer." If you haven't noticed already, a typical Korean band has a leader, "the face of the group" (or "visual member", one who's considered the best looking), main dancer, main vocalist, Japanese announcer and English announcer. English announcers are usually those who were born and raised overseas, but in several cases it's members who were home-grown who teach themselves English either because their managers appointed them to be English announcers or they plan to expand their (usually solo) careers overseas - or both (Big Bang's Taeyang comes to mind.)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

A different kind of marketing ploy...

Happy new year everyone! And congrats on surviving 21/12!

I didn't get to fulfill my 2012 resolution of posting 45 entries. Eleven years down the road, I've lost most of the drive to blog. I have some entries that I meant to finish and are still in the draft right now, but I'll probably end up deleting them.

Anyway, I opened 2013 with a bang that is a new job. Starting January 3 I teach Cultural Diversity to first year International Relations undergraduate students at President University. This is my first experience teaching university students and, not gonna lie, I took the job because lecturers have more opportunities to win overseas doctorate scholarships.

Anyway, just found out that there's a documentary about Nine Muses, a not so well known Korean girlband I wrote about a few entries ago. The doco, titled "Nine Muses of Star Empire" (Star Empire is their record company), was released in November 2012 and premiered at 2012 Melkweg Music Documentary Competition in The Netherlands. The documentary shows a far less glamorous side of K-pop that many are unaware of, where wannabe stars are treated more like possessions than human beings.

What ticks me about it is that the documentary was released in November, a month before the scheduled comeback of Nine Muses. Many wonder why Star Empire has allowed Suk Kee Lee and Min Chul Kim, directors of "Nine Muses of Star Empire" to release a film that sheds light on the dark side of today's biggest sub-culture that is K-pop. One wonders if the doco is just a publicity stunt leading to the girlband's comeback, which is postponed to January 24 with the single "Dolls"? Hmm...

Here's a trailer of "Nine Muses of Star Empire" for your vieweing pleasure.