Friday, 8 June 2012

FILM@LXG: Valhalla Rising

Yes, yes yes - we, the entire human population have watched The Avengers and have all been suitably gobsmacked by the stunning visual effects, the wise-guy script, the incredibly entertaining rendition of the Hulk, and a storyline that actually kept us enthralled for all of it's 2+ hours of screen-time.

Threading all the story tie-ins neatly together from the previous films, which in a sense served as a prequel to The Avengers, (namely Iron Man 1 + 2, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk), my main concern was how to incorporate Thor into the mix...

With origins and powers based almost completely around magic and mythology, Thor's character initially seemed at odds with the others who herald from a more reality-based world of science and technology.

Although The Avengers did manage to involve him satisfactorily in the script, if the true story (nay, legend) of Thor is to be adhered to, the fact remains that he is a God, and could in effect squash all those puny humans if he so desired - in fact more in keeping with the way his father Odin was portrayed in the Thor movie.   

Which is why, if you will now kindly remove yourself from the popcorn fantasy feel-good world of The Avengers, and follow me to a very different world - far, far away...

I have always felt that the subject and origins of Norse Mythology must be treated on celluloid as it was recounted in legend. In a landscape at the dawn of civilization; in a state of primal instinct; in a culture of mud and mist. Very few films have ever been made with this treatment; never really bringing to life the savagery of the Viking existence.

But Valhalla Rising changed all of that...

I would be the first to admit that my initial reaction was "WTF is this?!" The central protagonist is mute throughout the entire story. He is named One-Eye for obvious reasons, but none of the other few characters are ever mentioned by name. There are some exceptionally brutal scenes of violence; and some epically stunning visuals of harsh highland landscapes.

It seems like a complete contradiction to begin with, but director Nicolas Winding Refn has a cunning plan, solemnly unfolding his primitive world of life and death - until he rips you out of your comfort zone and plunges you into a harsh, unforgiving place where your next breath could very well be your last.

This is the story of One-Eye; in a sense it traces his personal journey from brutal beginnings to a brutal end.

There is an obvious comparison to be made here between his character and the one-eyed Odin, Lord of Valhalla. Some may even interpret Valhalla Rising as just that - the beginnings of a Legend, the origins of a mythology.

But it also could be seen as the eradication and demise of a pagan religion, wiped away by the onslaught of the then all-engulfing Christian Crusades.

Valhalla Rising is yours to interpret. It will do your head in - but in a good, thought-provoking way. If you give the film some justice and see it through to the bitter end, I'll guarantee it will leave you with plenty to think about, long after the credits have rolled...

Mr. C.

MUSIC@LXG: Dub FX & Stamina MC - Only Human

A loop station, effects pedals and a microphone - put 'em all together and you get DUB FX, the next generation DJ from outta Australia, who's been taking Cyberspace by storm.
Developing his own innovative sound and emulating well-known dance genres. Dub FX has collaborated with various rappers and musicians thar has now taken him on a musical odyssey around the world.

Recently touring India and Sri Lanka, he's also added some eastern flavour to his music.   

Even in promoting his work, Dub FX is completely independent, using only: live performance, word of mouth, internet social networking and a number of easily accessible free music samples.

All hail the Independent State of Dub FX!

Doing his thing with collaborator, Stamina MC:

Breaker Red.

STYLE@LXG: The Panama

If you're spending a lot of the time in the great outdoors, or indeed you live close to the Equator, you're going to need something to protect your crowning glory from the sun.

You need a suitable piece of headgear - and one that still exudes an air of stylish manliness. 

Baseball caps are fine - in their own specific, laid-back setting. But if you are to maintain that gentlemanly air, just walking down the high street, or attending an afternoon business meeting, or indeed wining and dining your better half at an exquisite open-air eaterie - you've got to up the stakes and go for a much classier option.

There are really only two choices here – the panama and the boater. Both have connotations that put off most men, whether of The Man from Del Monte or the Chap from the Boarding School...

The classic Panama, as worn by The Man, is stark white with a navy blue ribbon. Very sharp, very smart. But if we want something a bit more casual – suitable to odd jacket and chinos rather than a white linen suit – we can change the ribbon to a more casual brown, café au lait or mossy green.

Then wear the hat suitably so that the body tends towards tan rather than cream. For it will cook slowly in the sun, darkening the colour. There are models that are already more of an off-white, but they tend to be made with coarser straw and take away too much of the elegance of a good panama. Plus the other advantage of wearing the hat in, is it will become personal: moulded to the shape of one’s skull and dented in line with one’s misuse of it. This too will remove the air of starched men in banana republics.

If it looks a little dry or liable to crack through overexposure to the sun, give it a spritz of water inside and out. This should be done with any panama after a month or so of use.

The finest panama (made of course in Ecuador, not Panama) is the Montecristo. It is the finest because the leaf has been split into the greatest number of strips, creating a particularly tight weave. It is this weave that makes it flexible and therefore rollable. However, if you desire a more casual panama hat, go for the cheaper model with the larger weave. Or, indeed, the cheaper folding model with the distinctive line across its crown where the hat is folded. Both options will scale back the formality of what has to be a dominant summer hat.
  Again, as previously stated, it does take a certain air of confidence to carry off a Panama. Don't feel overwhelmed by it, or apologetic and shy. Your accessories are what you make of them, so wear that Panama at a slight angle, and stroll along as if you're the only one walking down that street...    


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

TheLady@LXG: Be prepared...

In every man's life, no matter how far he has travelled or how much he has achieved, there will always remain one inevitable, enigmatic, wonderful mystery...

She is known by many names, depending on our moods. For now let us simply address her as The Woman.

We can study her, we can examine her under a microscope. We can even spend an entire lifetime in her company, but we will never truly comprehend a woman. Even the best informed gentleman will only have a limited understanding of his Lady, depending largely on how much she chooses to divulge.

It’s like fishing in the shallows when there is a much deeper ocean just beyond your reach. A woman's depths can reap a rich harvest or reveal a deadly primeval monster. And that's why it is imperative, for your own good, to handle your lady with care.

So we figured the best source of advice when it comes to understanding women is not going to come from any mere male mortal. There is only one person who knows what women really want – and that, of course, is another woman.
In the upcoming weeks, a very special guest writer will join our pages. Style, beauty, psychology and people-watching are just a few of her myriad talents. She is a force to be reckoned with…

So look out for TheLady@LXG.

The League of Exceptional Gentlemen will never be the same again…

PAWS@LXG: Red Dog Rave

They say gentlemen prefer blondes...
I personally prefer redheads:
Cocoa - not to be confused with Chewbacca

MUSIC@LXG: Jack Steadman_Mong Kok

Musical proteges... Don't you just hate them? Mere mortals like us spend weeks just trying to master the chords to "(your choice of anthemic rock tune to impress friends with)" - and then along comes some early twenty-something genius who composes an entire album in the same amount of time.

Jack Steadman is the frontman of UK popsters, the Bombay Bicycle Club - who, in just a few short years conquered Europe and have now set their sights on the rest of the world.

How to describe their music... Indie Rock? Pop? Folksy? Well yes, all of them actually, and a little bit of Dance thrown into the mix as well. They are hard to categorize, and that's what makes them so interesting in a time of otherwise Tried and Tested, Copycat, Formulaic music...

But young Mr. Steadman (the rascal is just 22 years old) obviously has an Electronica itch that he has felt compelled to scratch - resulting in a string of solo tracks that just ooze ambient synth-pop sensibilities.

When a musician experiments outside of their comfort zone and takes their sound into new territories, either something magical happens, or it falls flat on its face. Thom Yorke of Radiohead did it wonderfully with his solo album, The Eraser - which had echoes of classic Radiohead atmospheres, with the added fragility of Yorke's stripped down electronica and bittersweet lyricism. Highly recommended by the way...

But with his solo efforts (album yet to be released), Jack Steadman seems to have jumped head-first into the realms of trip-hop, ambient dance and it quite honestly seems to have been an effortless transition. His rhythms, beats, samples and loops all gel to create a unique but instantly recognizable sound.

And for those closet human beatboxes in all of us (come on, own up) its almost impossible not to bust out a kick drum beat to some of his tunes... Check out "Mong Kok":   

When you listen to BBC's latest singles there is a definite electronic edge to their sound, so perhaps Steadman's influence is gradually steering them in that direction...

Meanwhile we wait with interest to see what the man himself will come up with next... If this is what he's producing in his twenties, God only knows how he'll be sounding in his thirties...

Sounds definitely worth adding to a Gentleman's playlist.  

Catch more of his tunes here:
Jack Steadman@soundcloud

- Breaker Red

Monday, 4 June 2012

DINE@LXG: Taratata Bistrot

In France, there is a saying from the old country; a word they use to sum up all the good things in life – happiness, contentment and good spirits. They call it 'Taratata', and today you can even experience its feel-good factor in Singapore.

Under the management of Chefs Philippe Nouzaillat and Bertrand Raguin, this self-styled French Bistrot opened its doors in early 2011, in Chinatown. 

From the moment you step foot into this little side-street incarnation of Paris, it’s not long before those feel-good vibes begin to take effect – the effervescent Restaurant Manager welcomes you like an old friend, and her small team of waiters quickly settle you down at one of the tables or cosy booth seats.

Taratata’s warm ambience can be almost entirely attributed to the partnership of its two Owner-Chefs. Although both Chef Philippe and Chef Bertrand both have over twenty years experience in the business apiece, and have both been Executive Chefs for some well-known Michelin-star restaurants across Europe and Asia, they created the Taratata concept with comfort and relaxation as two of the main elements. However, the most important driving force behind the venture is their friendship.

But two Executive Chefs sharing one kitchen? Surely impossible in a world so well-known for its big personalities and even bigger egos?

‘There is no room for Ego in our place,’ chuckles Chef Bertrand, ‘Philippe and I work together very well. We develop the menus together, and you won’t ever hear shouting or screaming or plates breaking in the kitchen – in fact we’re usually laughing and cracking jokes!’

In France, "to go to the bistrot" means to have a few drinks with friends in pleasant surroundings. It’s no wonder then that the Chefs also chose to christen their establishment “Taratata”.

According to Chef Philippe it is quite common to have two chefs sharing a kitchen back in France. ‘There are only four of us working the kitchen, so we are often multi-tasking and doubling up – but it works well. Our aim is to introduce good, wholesome French cuisine to Singapore, and for customers to enjoy it in an atmosphere where they can relax, take their time and unwind.’  

Explains Chef Bertrand, ‘There are already French fine dining restaurants in Singapore – and of course in these places you must dress a certain way; it’s very formal and dishes must be eaten in the correct way and in the correct order. In a Bistrot, it’s far more relaxed, and I think busy Singaporeans need that little time to escape and have a good meal, especially during weekday lunchtimes.’

With the goal of introducing traditional country fare to their customers, the Chefs have included some real specialities in their menu. Highlights offered as main course include a wonderfully meaty and herb-infused Toulouse Sausage, (inspired by a country recipe direct from a butcher in Toulouse!), and a generously thick Cod Fillet delicately sautéed and drizzled with butter sauce.

And of course, their desserts alone are worth the visit. The Warm Chocolate Cake is a delicious study in contrasting textures and temperatures – and the accompanying homemade Lavender Ice Cream, as unlikely as it may sound, is exceptional. The taste and scent of lavender is subtle, but totally transforms the flavour of the ice cream. It’s a delicate balancing act to get just the right amount of Lavender in the recipe. ‘We’ve tried and tested this over the years. If you put too much Lavender, then it won’t work; it’ll taste more like soap!’

Taratata’s menu is accompanied by a comprehensive wine list, made up of select French vintages. The restaurant is open every day apart from Mondays for lunch and dinner, and you’ll invariably find the two chefs popping out of their kitchen to meet and greet their customers.  These friends are definitely ensuring that it’s not just ‘Taratata’ by name, but ‘Taratata’ by nature...

Taratata, 35A Keong Saik Road (6221 4506). 
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 11pm