K-Drama Review: Woman of Dignity is Awesome!

Recently there is a new JTBC Korean drama that caught my eye, which is none other than Woman of Dignity starring Kim Hee-Seon and Kim Sun-A.

I only started watching after reading about its phenomenal ratings in the news reports, and I got hooked just within the first ten minutes of the show.

This story revolves around the lives of two women, namely Woo-A-Jin acted by Kim Hee-Seon and  Park Bok Ja acted by Kim Sun-A. It showed how one’s life goes from the bottom to the top, while the other falls from grace.

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Synopsis

This is a story that is centred on a rich but rather dysfunctional family. Basically Woo-A Jin is a dutiful daughter-in-law of the rich family who leads a luxurious life, however her life slowly came to shatters following the arrival of the new caretaker whom she employed to take care of the ailing father-in-law. The new caretaker Park Bok-Ja deliberately seduced the father-in-law and soon lay claim to her new status as his wife much to the disbelief of the rest of the disapproving family members.

Great start to drama with a hook

I really like intense fast-paced dramas with scheming women and this drama totally fitted the bill. I’ve got to say that this drama has a rather special vibe as it is sorta quirky, at times funny, yet with a sinister undertone.

There is always this sense of mystery and creepiness, probably because it started by revealing the morbid ending, which showed a luxuriously dressed Park Bok-Ja lying in a pool of blood.  The drama than went into flashback mode that slowly depicted how Park Bok-Ja went from being a caretaker that purposely entered a family to seduce the father for money ended up being murdered. Because all the family members have issues and were really against the manipulative caretaker, all of them could very well be the murderer so the show really keeps the viewer guessing as to who is the one who really did it.

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Kim Sun-A was impressive in her rendition of the manipulative caretaker Park Bok-Ja that slowly climbed her way up in Woman of Dignity.

Kim Sun-A was fantastic as Park Bok-Ja

Kim Sun-A was extremely good in her portrayal of this cold-blooded and two-faced caretaker who bluffed her way into a rich family and succeeded in securing the heart of the father-in-law by pretending to be innocent and sweet. Seeing her manipulate the  feelings of all the family members was exasperating yet strangely addictive to viewers. In a way you feel sorry for the father-in-law who whole-heartedly believes in her, yet you can’t help but want to see just how bad she can become and how much of a disaster she can bring to the rich pampered family.

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Kim Hee Seon looks beautiful in all scenes of Woman of Dignity.

Woo A Jin was the embodiment of female empowerment

Meanwhile, Woo A Jin was just as good as Park Bok-Ja was bad. She might be the rich daughter-in-law in the top level of society, but she certainly has a kind heart. Because of her goodness, it was hard for her to see how manipulative Park Bok-Ja was until it was too late to rectify the problem.

In face of a new enemy married into the household, and a husband who cheated on her with a woman whom she was nice to, her seemingly perfect life was ruined. It is refreshing to see how a rich and pampered woman stayed strong and went about righting the wrongs in her life such as putting the cheating husband and the adulteress back in their place and steering Park Bok-Ja into the right path.

Questions left unanswered

With only 4 episodes left to go, there are still many questions left unanswered. Why is it that Park Bok-Ja is so adamant about marrying into this family? What secrets are she keeping? Did Park Bok-Ja know Woo A-Jin previously? Who exactly killed Park Bok-Ja?Are there any twists awaiting us?

I am eager to find out all the answers, and I truly hope that the scriptwriter and director won’t disappoint us, not when the drama has been going so well so far!

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How to Take Part As An Audience for Taiwan’s Variety Show 綜藝大熱門

Recently, I went on my yearly trip to Taiwan and decided to try my luck in applying to be part of the audience for the live recording of 綜藝大熱門 hosted by Jacky Wu at Set TV.

I regularly watch 綜藝大熱門 so I am aware that their staff often posts updates about the show and requests for audience on their Facebook page. And so I checked their FB page diligently about 2 weeks prior my trip to see if I could possibly make it for any of their recording sessions when I was in town. And about one week after my registration, just 5 days before the recording,  I received this email from someone named “Bird Bird” lol who told me that I was selected and that I could head to the TV station on that night for the recording session!

Set TV isn’t at a very accessible location and I took the train to the nearest station before cabbing over. Costs about 120 NT.

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Set TV station in Taipei.

We were asked to wait opposite the Starbucks at an open space which I think was a carpark at 7pm. I was prepared to wait for maybe an hour before any staff will appear to bring us to the studio but I was pleasantly surprised to see a staff appear on the dot to bring us upstairs.

Yay!

When we reached, we waited behind the set but we were all peeking to look at the performers rehearsing. And so I spotted Wang Renfu from 5566 practising his singing and dancing.

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Wang Renfu from 5566 rehearsing his dance before the official recording.

After about 10 minutes of waiting, we were brought to the seats and given placards with hearts on it. Basically for the episode that I participated in, it featured celebrities singing and we needed to grade them for their performance. If the performance was good, we were expected to hold our placards up. For a celeb with the worst grade, there will be a penalty.

Soon after, the hosts came in!!

Lulu was very thin in person, and in fact her head looked very big on her skinny frame.

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Host Lulu came in and said hi to the audience.

Jacky Wu looked slightly older in person.

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Chen Han Dian and Jacky Wu chatting before the recording started.

I am quite impressed with the fact that the entire recording went very smoothly and quickly without any retakes. However watching the recording made me realise the importance of sound and graphic effects later superimposed on the footage cos it felt less funny when I watched it in person without those graphics moving about to highlight the witty parts as compared to watching it on TV.

The entire recording was over in about 45 minutes and we were then brought out to make room for the next batch of audience for the next recording.

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Tasty and Authentic Asian Eats in Chicago

I’ve always enjoyed Asian food a lot more than western food, be it Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese. Therefore I really cannot quite get used to food in the U.S even though Chicago is already considered quite a foodie paradise.

I’ve tried the famous deep dish pizza twice and both times I couldn’t finish simply cos it was way too cheesy and filling for me. In fact, both times my husband and I only ate half of the pizza even though we already ordered the smallest one. Another time, I went to eat in a relatively popular Japanese restaurant here, and in the end the sushi that was served had cheese in it too.!!??

Thankfully, there are still hidden Asian food gems in Chicago that serve authentic Asian food at affordable pricing and these are my go-to comfort food whenever I’ve had enough of my Chipotle rice bowl or my own not-that-delicious homecooked food.

1.Cheap Korean Eats  and fresh sashimi – Joong Boo Market

I first went to Joong Boo market because of the $25 sashimi promo every Wednesday. At $25, you get about $70 dollars worth of sashimi if you were to buy it in Japanese restaurants. In fact there were so many pieces of sashimi that I even had enough to cook it for fish porridge the next day. At $25, the sashimi slices are decent and fresh.

Not just so, you can also get $2 korean dumplings at Joong Boo market which are quite filling and tasty. If I were to go to Joong Boo for grocery shopping, I will usually eat in at the every-busy Korean eatery whereby each dish is about $6 to $8. And you don’t even have to tip!

I love the soo doong boo served in Joong Boo market! Spicy, savory, and hot and piping!

2.Authentic Malaysian/Singaporean cuisine – Serai

How can I explain my joy when I discovered Serai in Chicago? Only opened in 2015, and helmed by Malaysian bosses and chefs, Serai is just way too authentic. I was so happy when I had my first plate of belachan kangkong (water spinach) in Serai. In fact, every single dish that I have tried in Serai tasted even better than what I ate in Singapore haha. I am still salivating over the Char Kway Teow. Located in Logan Square, the only con is that it is a bit too far from my house!

3. Aroi Thai food – JJ Thai Street Food

I love love Thai dishes. I love the assortment of flavors in each mouthful: the sweetness, the sourness, the saltiness and the spiciness in Thai cuisine. Unfortunately a lot of the Thai food I’ve tried in Chicago are either just plain spicy or plain sour. It is really one-dimensional in taste; not tasty, yet pretty expensive. Therefore I’m also really glad to find JJ Thai in Chicago. The dishes are not really what you will expect from Thai food, cos you don’t see the typical dishes like Pad Thai and pineapple rice but all the dishes sold are incredibly tasty with that authentic Thai flavor.

For me, I really like their papaya salad, which tasted exactly like what I bought off the streets in Bangkok, except that it is about 10 times more expensive of course. I also like their meatball rice noodle soup. The meatballs are slightly peppery and seems to be handmade. The plentiful beansprouts in the soup are a bonus and adds a slight crunch to each bite. The braised pork rice is good too! Sometimes the pork isn’t as flavorful as I like, but I think it is good enough. I must be contented.

4. Oishii sushi – Ryo Sushi and Nami Sushi

I haven’t really tried a lot of sushi places in Chicago, cos I really don’t have that much money to spare but at least these two that I’ve tried tastes pretty good and they are not THAT expensive.

Actually both Ryo Sushi and Nami Sushi’s standards are about the same in my eyes. The rice is not dry or hard, and the raw fish in the sushi are juicy, thick and fresh. I like that Ryo Sushi has a lunch special whereby you can even get a sushi set at about 10 dollars, which makes it pretty affordable.

5.Affordable ramen with yummy braised pork – Noodles by Takashi

I’ve tried quite a lot of ramen places in Chicago, including those that are very popular, highly reviewed or those that have made into the top 10 list in Chicago. Even so, I wasn’t extremely impressed. Yet, surprise surprise, I find myself going back to Macy’s (State Street) food court many times just for their miso ramen.

Actually for food court standard, the ramen isn’t considered cheap at about 10 to 12 dollars each. However after factoring tips and all, it is still a few dollars cheaper than most ramen restaurants. To me, it tastes no different from the ramen I buy from Japanese restaurants here.  It is flavorful ( though it can be a bit salty at times) and the braised pork is really tender. Oh ya, the fried rice sold at this stall is surprisingly good too. If you get a “member card” from the stall, you can also redeem a free bowl after 8 meals.

6.Flavorful hotpot – Little Lamb Hotpot

Even though Singapore is incredibly hot and humid, I still have a penchant for hotpots cos I simply love drinking hot soup too much. I love the process of slowly dipping my food into the tasty soup and chatting with friends as the food begins to boil.

And given that fact that Chicago is cold most of the time, it makes it all the more suitable to have hotpot. Thankfully, Little Lamb Hotpot never fails to disappoint me. With food ordered ala carte, it is slightly pricier than the other Chinese hotpot restaurants that offers buffet hotpot at about 16 dollars per person. However I believe that when it comes to hotpot, quality really matters over quantity at times.

Having tried out really cheap hotpot lunch specials at Chinatown, I decided that I rather spend 30 dollars more just so that I can have a very satisfying hotpot meal at Little Lamb.

Firstly broth is the most important part of a good hotpot experience and the Mongolian spicy herbal soup is really good. Not too spicy, but with enough kick to it, and there is a slightly exotic herbal taste. The mushroom soup is pretty good too. I could taste the mushrooms in the soup.

Unlike many hotpot restaurants that serves frozen food or meat that still have ice on it, Little Lamb Hotpot has more handmade and fresh items. I really enjoy their handmade fishballs, grilled potato and pork dumplings (or should I call it potstickers?) Their handmade noodles also taste very good after you cook it in the spicy mongolian herbal soup.

A hotpot meal for 2 costs about 50 dollars after tip. And usually I still cannot quite finish the food and will pack a few items back to cook for dinner. So if I think of it as 50 dollars for 2 meals, then it isn’t really that expensive afterall. Little Lamb Hotpot is where I go everytime I feel like pampering myself.

Another good hotpot – Little Sheep Hotpot

Recently, another contender for good hotpot popped up in Chinatown, it is very close to Little Lamb Hotpot, and even the name sounds similar! One is a sheep, the other a lamb. HAHA.

Actually, I still prefer Little Lamb’s broth and ingredients, HOWEVER Little Sheep Hotpot is considerably cheaper, and the thing is, Little Sheep’s broth and ingredients are pretty good too. It is not like it really paled in comparison to Little Lamb. (OMG all the sheep and lamb is making me very confused.)

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The $10.95 set meal in Little Sheep Hotpot. Includes noodles and rice too!

One good thing about Little Sheep Hotpot is that they have a set meal which costs just $10.95. It includes the soup, lots of veggies, one type of meat, dipping sauces, and a few meatballs. I say it is a very good deal! Because half the time I can’t even finish it!

It also has an all-you-can-eat option, at $20 plus, however I don’t eat that much. The set meal is already good enough. The ACYE option would be really great for those with big appetites though.

P.S: realised that I typed this out long ago and forgot to publish. So I’m publishing it now!

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What I Will Miss Most About Leaving Chicago

Now that I am one month away from returning to Singapore, I am actively looking for good pastel classes in Singapore so that I can continue pursuing my hobby. BUT there are absolutely no results.

Seriously?!

And this is what I will miss most about leaving Chicago. The ample choices for adult art classes, priced at affordable rates. Everything in Chicago is about double the price of Singapore’s, after factoring in the currency conversion. Only art classes are half the price that of Singapore!!!!

I now feel very thankful that I spent quite a lot of my time taking art classes in Chicago, each class is 3 hours long, costing less than 50 SGD. After researching on Singapore’s art classes, I realised that it can easily cost 100 SGD for a 1.5 hour class. RIDICULOUS! And thing is, the teachers charging such prices don’t seem that good either judging from their portfolio on the website. SIGH. I have a feeling that I will go back to the rat race, and lose touch with my artistic pursuits once I’m back in Singapore.

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Review of Korean Drama “Defendant”

Just finished watching hit Korean drama “Defendant” and I am truly blown away by this gripping and intense thriller which made me suffer from anxiety attacks at times cos it was just so exciting!

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The concept of this drama is quite interesting, basically it is about a prosecutor who wakes up one day and discovers that he is suddenly in jail with a death sentence for murdering his wife and child. Unfortunately he has no memory of it as he suffered from amnesia, and it is a drama of him trying to make sense of his situation and escaping from this nightmare bit by bit.

I thought the first 20 minutes was quite blah, as it just featured the main lead being a prosecutor catching criminals, but thankfully I persevered on because after that it was a total rollercoaster ride.

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The show showed things from the defendant’s point of view so viewers were kept in the dark together with him when he was suffering from memory loss, and as a result it makes things very interesting for viewers, piquing our curiosity as to what exactly happened. Did the defendant really murder his wife and child even though he loves them so much? But all evidence points towards him, and he even admitted to the murder before he got his amnesia. So what truly happened? Can the defendant really be trusted? And how is he going to get out of this situation? All these questions were answered bit by bit throughout the episodes and all episodes were fast-paced and action-packed.

It helped that there was a formidable opponent/antagonist in the drama who happened to be a total pyscho, but a rich and powerful one, which means he can get away with anything, thereby always preventing the protagonist from truly escaping from the nightmarish reality.

Focused Plotline

This is a drama with zero romance, and is very much focused on the defendant trying to prove his innocence, and the antagonist trying his best to prevent him from proving his innocence. I like that the storyline is very focused, and every single one in the show acted quite well. I also like the moments of camaraderie among the prisoners, and the occasional comic relief they provided which alleviated the very intense mood of the whole drama.

10/10 drama

I watched “Defendant” after watching “Voice”. I thought “Voice” was good enough, but “Defendant” blew me away. I feel that “Defendant” is still a tad more intense and gripping. And I think it is a drama worthy of getting 10/10. It is just how good it is.

 

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3-Day Itinerary in Washington DC

Just came back from a 3-day trip from Washington DC! It was supposed to be the cherry blossoms’ peak blossom season, but alas, half of them were damaged due to a sudden snowstorm just a few days before I arrived. -____-

Day 1: Alexandria Old Town, Holocaust Museum, Tidal Basin, H street 

  • Arrived at Ronald Reagan Airport
  • Took Uber to Alexandria Old Town, VA which was just about 15 minutes away
  • Shopped and ate along King Street in Alexandria which was touted as a must-visit in many reviews I read online, all waxing lyrical about its lovely cobblestone street and European vibe
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King Street in Alexandria VA. 

  • Took metro train from King Street station to Smithsonian station
  • Visited the Holocaust Museum.Was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the museum was. I was afraid that it would be too educational and boring, but it turned out to be pretty emotional, with great videos of interviews with survivors sharing their personal stories. Very touching and definitely worth visiting.
  • Walked to Tidal Basin to check out the supposedly blossoming cherry blossoms
  • Felt underwhelmed by the lack of flowers and was too lazy to check out the memorials around Tidal Basin, therefore I only looked at Jefferson Memorial from afar haha
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Jefferson Memorial at Tidal Basin.

  • Finally checked into our AirBnb accommodation near Noma metro station, and walked to H Street which was supposed to be a hip street with loads of dining choices
  • Specially went to the famous Maketto which serves Taiwanese and Cambodian cuisine but was deterred by the lack of Asians dining there, and the overall edgy vibe of the place. Left to find the equally famous Toki Underground for ramen. But was once again deterred by the extremely noisy and edgy vibe of the place. All I want is just a hot piping soup of ramen!! Finally settled on this Chipotle-style Asian cuisine fast-casual restaurant called Pow Pow which tasted surprisingly good!

Day 2: Capitol Building, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Union Market

  • Woke up bright and early to visit the famous Capitol Building which I had booked a free tour of but unfortunately still reached late and missed the tour -__-

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  • Toured the exhibitions and thought it was pretty boring. Heng that I missed the tour.
  • Went to the Library of Congress which was connected to the Capitol Building via an underground tunnel
  • Basically a place with good architecture and nice to take pictures of, but still kinda boring in my opinion.
  • Walked to the National Gallery of Art which was a total must-see in my opinion and one of the few attractions that I actually had interest in.
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Even saw an artist copying the Master works in National Gallery of Art.

  • Had a good time checking out the different paintings, including gorgeous vibrant Impressionist works by Monet and Renoir. Loved the museum shop with interesting trinkets and pretty souvenirs.
  • Walked to the nearby Museum of Natural History. The exhibitions will probably interest someone with a curious eye for everything. For me? I just felt kinda bored. To me, the saving grace was the National Geographic Exhibition which displayed award-winning photographs of animals in the wild.
  • Visited the Union Market which was supposedly a must-visit for foodies. Thankfully the market met my expectations and had about 20 stalls of different cuisine. A ramen stall in particular really stuck out cos it just looks kind of out of place there with the owner displaying a lot of Asian seasoning on the shelves. In spite of its nondescript exterior, the ramen was pretty good! It was a tad oily, in fact the broth was covered with a film of oil 0.5 cm thick, but the broth was really tasty and addictive.

Day 3: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Chinatown, Smithsonian Postal Museum, Union Station, U Street

  • By the third day, I already felt quite bored. There is just this many museums I could visit and I’m not that keen in outdoor activities when it is just so unbelievably sunny, with the sun scorching on my sensitive skin.
  • Decided to head to the National Portrait Gallery located at Chinatown metro station. Actually it is a bit boring because not everyone with a portrait there is famous to me. In fact I don’t know a lot of them. To me, the biggest draw were the portraits of all the US Presidents.
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Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper’s work on the left.

  • The American Art section was in another wing and I enjoyed this a lot more than the Portrait Gallery because there is a bigger variation of paintings. I mean it gets old after a while if you just see faces one after another in the entire gallery. After I started taking art classes, I really enjoyed visiting art museums a lot more. My husband said I’m pretentious, but I really hope to learn something out of looking at the brushstrokes and painting styles of the Masters.  I still don’t think I really digested anything, LOL, but one can always hope.
  • Headed to Daikaya another famous ramen shop in the vicinity. I really love ramen! Very comforting food. It was pretty tasty, and the serving was big but somehow I preferred the one I ate in Union Market.
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Some miso ramen from Daikaya.

  • Boarded train to Union Station and visited the lesser known Postal Museum which was right beside the station.
  • The museum is quite quiet but well-curated. In fact I think it is quite miraculous how the curators can put together so much content and artefacts all revolving around the postal service. My favourite part was making my own stamp using the stamp-making booth that allows you to take a selfie and design it. Oooh, there were also free postcards where you can write on it and mail it out at the post office in the basement.

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  • Walked around Union Station. Meh.
  • Boarded metro to U street for the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl that every single DC website recommends. Had the famous half-smoke Chili Dog and it was indeed juicy and flavorful.

Having spent 3 days in DC, I will say it is actually quite a boring vacation destination if you are not someone who is into culture or educational stuff. And I really am not such a person. Most of the attractions are along the National Mall, which means one museum after another. For me, I only selected museums and monuments which I think I will have a higher chance of enjoying, and I think this is the way it should be. It is quite impossible to just cover all the museums within 3 days. I didn’t even visit the White House! Haha. Simply cos I just have no interest and energy to make my way to the White House just to snap a picture in front of it.

Till my next trip then!~

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C-Drama Review: Eternal Love, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花

After binge-watching on the latest hit Chinese period drama Eternal Love, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花, I’m finally done with it!!!

Omg, this is seriously such a surprisingly captivating and addictive drama, with good leads, good acting, acceptable special effects, good script and good cinematography!

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Beautiful stills of the drama.

This is essentially a drama about deities and their love lives whereby the story is adapted from a book, with the female and male lead fated to be together as their paths cross in different lifetimes, though of course with a lot of heart wrenching mishaps along the way.

First and foremost, I must totally gush about the male lead Mark Zhao who acted in two roles namely the Warrior God Mo Yuan and Prince Ye Hua. I’ve never seen him act before and never found him especially good-looking, but he totally blew me off with his superb yet subtle acting in his rendition of the two characters in this drama.

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Mark Zhao acting as Ye Hua. Look at that pair of eyes!

It has been a long while since I’ve been impressed by anyone’s acting, and he really really engaged me and captivated me with his acting. He emoted the feelings of the character so well, that you really feel pain for him when he feels pain, happiness when he feels happiness. Sometimes when actors cry you do feel sad for them, but when Ye Hua cries, you feel agony for him. He is able to just really pull at the audience’ heartstrings with every small twitch of his facial expression. Did I just say how impressed I was by him?

Apparently many netizens were initially disapproving of him being chosen for this role, and criticized how ugly he is with his long hair. But he totally won the audience over with his acting and there is now this newly-coined term “plastic-surgery acting” to describe his acting which is so miraculous that it can transform how you perceive his looks. To say the truth, I also thought he looks pretty weird with long flowy silky black hair with his rather gruff and manly face, but after a while I just got used to it.

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Oh no! Stop crying Ye Hua!

I really love reading netizens’ comments after I finished each video, and I realized that about 70% of the comments were all about how superb his acting was. So it is official. He really acted darn well in it, so well that I still can’t stop gushing about it after so many paragraphs.

Actually the female lead Yang Mi also acted pretty well, but it is just that Mark Zhao’s performance is more stirring. But at least Yang Mi managed to hold her own against him.

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Yang Mi acting as a high-ranking fox deity.

I have to give kudos to Yang Mi for her portrayal of the different personalities of her role: during her youth when she was impetuous and cheerful and crossdressed as a guy; when she lost her memory and became a meek mortal; when she became the formidable high- ranking deity.

This drama’s success is definitely in part due to the chemistry between the two leads. I mean, for any love drama, you definitely need to have the audience root for the two leads to get together, to overcome the challenges for a happily-ever-after. I’m always afraid of dramas being destroyed just because of weird choices of the couple pairings because it is hard to root for the protagonists when you don’t even like them!

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case for Eternal Love, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世. I do enjoy seeing the male and female lead together, and my favorite scenes always involve both of them together in the camera. Their love scenes when they first met were very cute cos it is the first time the audience got to see the sombre Prince Ye Hua loosening up in front of a girl that he likes for the first time in his life. Of course after that things got complicated and involved lots of misunderstandings and tragedy but it was still very engaging.

In fact I felt quite impatient when I see subplots on Bai Feng Jiu and the Dong Hua Di Jun cos they are just not very important to me, though judging from the comments I read, there were many people who really love their love storyline too.

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To me, the part about Bai Feng jiu trying to replay Dong Hua’s help in saving her life through serving him and trying all sorts of ways to get into his good books, in which her idea of 报恩 (repaying one’s debt) is to chase after him and fall in love with him is a bit ridiculous in my eyes.

But all in all, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is quite fast-paced; there is always something happening to push the plot forward, there are enough antagonists who cause trouble and make you want to root for the protagonist while cursing the antagonists, enough lovey-dovey sweet moments that make you want to giggle and smile to yourself, enough heart-wrenching moments to make you feel sorry for the obstacles the male and female leads have to go through.

After watching so many period dramas, I think this definitely ranks as the top 3! In fact, I think I like it even more than 琅琊榜 maybe because this is a lot more romantic, and maybe cos I’m won over more by Mark Zhao than Hu Ge. Haha.

Verdict: 9/10

This drama is a MUST-WATCH! And be prepared to go gaga over Mark Zhao after you see his portrayal of Ye Hua and Mo Yuan.

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Drama Review of Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu 月薪娇妻

Recently, I’ve been reading about this manga inspired Japanese drama Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu that apparently took Japan and Taiwan by storm. The premise sounded interesting – paying for a “wife” who does all the housewife chores. Given how many housewives generally seem to feel resentful about doing so many chores that take up so much time and effort, but never being compensated for it, I guess this is a rather interesting topic and probably hit a nerve, thereby resulting in its popularity.

Storyline

The story basically revolves around the female lead Mikuri Moriyama who has good educational attainment but couldn’t get employed, ending up as a part-time cleaner for a stoic single man Hiramasa Tsuzaki  who’s never had a girlfriend before. The female lead ended up proposing entering a marriage contract with her employer, leading to a win-win situation for both whereby he could finally appear “attached” while having someone trustworthy to do the chores for him, and her landing a full-time job and getting paid for doing housecleaning and cooking which she does pretty well.

Naturally both of them fell in love with each other as time passes and the drama chronicles the misunderstandings and challenges they faced in light of coming to terms with their own feelings.

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Review

As in the case with most Japanese dramas, I feel that they handled the emotions of the character quite subtly. Yet, I was able to comprehend all the feelings of the characters even without them having very in-your-face dialogues or exaggerated expressions. In fact I felt that the characters had depth to their personalities, and there was a complexity to each’s character.

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The female lead Mikuri Moriyama is someone who’s never had much success in work in spite of a good education background. She’s the one that is let go of when the company she worked at needed to retrench someone. In love life, she was rejected by her first boyfriend for being smart-alecky and liking to assume how people behave. As such, she is someone who really hopes to be appreciated and wanted by others. And probably someone who hopes for security. That’s why she fell for the incredibly stoic but reliable Hiramasa Tsuzaki who was observant enough to praise her for her housekeeping abilities and who gave her the acknowledgement that she had probably always craved.

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As for Hiramasa Tsuzaki, he is a “professional single male” who always knew that he wasn’t the most popular guy, and had come to terms with being single forever. He has self esteem issues and so he escapes from love by telling himself that he doesn’t need love and doesn’t need a partner. So when Mikuri Moriyama, someone so kawaii appears to be attracted to him, he chooses to avoid it, and tell himself that she actually doesn’t like him, just so as not to get his hopes up and ends up getting disappointed for being rejected.

Wow…I’m amazed at how much I understand the characters. Haha.

I think Japanese dramas are such that they aren’t exactly the most entertaining, there are times when there are laugh-out-loud moments, like when Hiramasa Tsuzaki is being totally clueless, but it could be pretty subtle, and even slightly boring at times.

To me,  the male lead is the one who captured more of my attention, cos although he is not at all good-looking, and probably because he is not at all good-looking, I find him quite believable as this rather uncool single man who gets nervous easily when around a girl whom he is attracted to. His rendition of the character is pretty funny. As for Yui Aragaki who acted as Mikuri Moriyama, I personally couldn’t quite see anything particularly good about her acting, but I have to say she really does look cute and pretty.

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The whole premise of the show is pretty much dependent on the chemistry and development between the two leads. And then them trying their best to hide from friends and family that they are in a sham marriage. I would actually prefer it if it was slightly more obvious as to why the female lead fell for the male lead though, cos it was kind of sudden for me.

Frankly speaking, the whole entering into a marriage just so that you can legitimately pay someone to do your household chores isn’t very logical to me either. But then again, it is inspired by a manga. And so of course, anything can happen.

This live-action adaptation does have a rather strong manga/anime feel to it, with typical wacky funny scenes which i think only Japanese can pull off without being cringeworthy.

I think the first few episodes were quite interesting because it is based on a rather novel idea. In the middle, it became quite funny, due to the interactions between the lead,but it got slightly boring towards the end.

I don’t find the drama addictive, but it is still quite an interesting drama to watch if you have time, or if you want to know what exactly is the hype all about.

I will say 7/10.

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The Helplessness of Living In U.S. with no English skills

Why will anyone in the right frame of mind move to the U.S. when they obviously do not know English? This is one big question that I often ask myself when I see the older Chinese immigrants in Chicago. Because of a lack of English skills, there is no way to communicate with Americans. And because of the lack of ability to communicate, there is obviously no way they can get any job except for those that are more menial in nature.

The weirdest thing is, they came when they are no longer young, meaning they left their comfortable lives in eg. China, Hong Kong where they have no problem communicating with anyone, to a foreign country where they cannot communicate and have to try to find a job, most likely accepting a job that doesn’t pay that well, and is way tougher than their original job in their homeland.

Of course people say that they come to America to chase the American dream. But is it considered a dream life when you have to leave your comfortable job in your homeland to work as a cleaner in the U.S. albeit with a slightly higher pay, also with a higher cost of living?

I have spoken to these Chinese immigrants, and many a time the feeling I gathered when I spoke to them was that they are not happy in the U.S. Naturally. They cannot communicate; they cannot even express themselves when they were treated unfairly!

There was a janitor I spoke to who actually worked as a factory’s department head when he was in China. But when he came to Chicago about 10 years ago, he had to work from the bottom, settling for temporary jobs such as factory packer, Panda Express cook, janitor etc.

The reason why he came to U.S.was actually quite noble. He came for his son’s sake. He thought that his son would want to move to the U.S. in search of a better life. And according to him, the parents of the child have to live in the U.S. for 10 years before they can sponsor their child over. So he toiled over the years, waiting for the day that his son will join him in Chicago.

Yet the ironic thing is, when his son finally attained approval to move to the U.S, his son had already settled into his job in China and formed a family, therefore with no more intention to move to the U.S.

When I spoke to the janitor, something I felt strongly was his resignation to his fate in the U.S. That he will just have to keep toiling to make ends’ meet and hopefully one day save enough to head back to China to reunite with his family.

Recently, I also witnessed two Chinese immigrants being spoken to very condescendingly by their boss due to their subpar English skills. The boss’s behavior was absolutely appalling.It was downright demeaning. And it was humiliating. Yet the two immigrants could not rebut him or defend their rights, simply because if they did, they might lose their jobs, and if they lose their jobs, they might not be able to find another one. And this is incredibly sad.

It is a loss of dignity for the sake of their rice bowl.

Which begets my question again: Why don’t they go back to their original country?!!!

Is such a life really better?!

It has always been my view that one should go where one is wanted. The standard of living might be slightly lower in their original country, but one’s dignity is still way more important. I also hope that people can have a more caring heart. I mean, we are all humans,there is no need to treat others so condescendingly!!

 

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Interesting or should I say weird people you see on Chicago’s CTA Train

People who skimp on train fares

This morning, as I was scanning my Ventra card to pass through the train gantry, I spotted a man squatting down and squeezing through the gantry so that he did not have to pay the train fare. Interesting. That guy probably did this all the time, cos he looked very at ease doing it, and it took place all in less than 5 seconds.Such behaviors probably happen all the time in Chicago, but it was my first time witnessing it today.

If this were to happen in Singapore, I bet the staff in the control station will do all they can to stop you and nearby commuters will all stare at you. Whereas this morning in Chicago, no one batted an eyelid.

People who pee on the train/platform

Just a few days ago, while I was waiting for the train on the platform, I heard the sound of water dripping. I thought it was the ceiling that was leaking water and turned around to check it out. And oh man, what I saw instead was a man standing right beside me, with water “spraying out” from his pants. Thank goodness his bottom was partially blocked by a pillar, and all I saw was water spraying out. I immediately turned and walked away as quickly as possible.

One thing about boarding Chicago’s CTA train is that there is often a strong stench of pee in the cabins which is really pretty disgusting. But it was my first time witnessing someone peeing in broad daylight, when there were so many other passengers around.

People who ask for money

In Chicago, (or perhaps in the whole of the US?), it is pretty common to see panhandlers and I have had my fair share of meeting these lovely people who have absolutely no qualms about asking for money from strangers. I’ve seen panhandlers walking from one carriage to another, asking for money along the way. I’ve seen a panhandler who launched into a monologue about his state of despair and why he needed money. I’ve also had people asking me to help sign for some petition?(I think), before telling me that after signing it, I need to pay. So far, I’ve never seen any commuter dish out money to them before though.

Talented Musicians

Well, although it all sounded quite bad so far, there are still some positive experiences in taking the CTA train. For me, I really like entering the train platform to be greeted with soothing live music from the buskers. I remember the sense of calm that washed over me when I heard the melodious notes of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” on the quiet train platform on a particular Sunday morning. For some reason, that scene really stayed with me, and it became one of the strangely poignant moments that I will remember about Chicago.

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